The Road Often Taken

Over the years these grisly post-apocalyptic scenarios have become a dime a dozen in film and literature.  When award-winning author Cormac McCarthy decided to put his spin on the idea with his novel The Road, people took notice.  By focusing on a father-son relationship instead of the usual action and horror that lends itself so well to post-apocalyptic tales, McCarthy received mountains of praise for his stark, horrific fable.  Now, just in time for the holiday film season — and honestly, what screams holidays with the family more than a cannibal holocaust? — director John Hillcoat (previously responsible for the grim Aussie western, The Proposition) delivers his adaptation of McCarthy’s celebrated novel to the big screen. Continue reading

The Winter of our Discontent

Okay, so 2009 has been a fairly solid and entertaining year for films thus far…but is it just me, or is there very little to get excited about in these last few months?  Last year, 5 of the 10 films to make the top ten list for my annual Davies Awards were released in the final two months of the year.  This year, there’s nothing that has me as excited as I was last year about Doubt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon or Revolutionary Road — films with pedigree, class, all-star casts, interesting stories — you know, the type of stuff Oscar loves.  It seems every piece of Oscar bait was withheld until those last few weeks of December last year (let us not forget The Wrestler as well).    Hollywood spoiled us.  Yet…maybe there will be more of an element of surprise this year, and there will be that little film that comes out of nowhere  — and I’m sorry, folks, but you can’t tell me that films like last year’s Slumdog Millionaire or this year’s Precious came out of nowhere with all that highly manipulative prepackaged positive buzz and carefully platformed release schedules designed to maximize profit.  2009 has been full of surprises — who would’ve thought that Inglourious Basterds or District 9 would’ve been so good — so I’m holding out hope…and here’s my buzz on what films might become those diamonds in the rough.

Lest I remain discontent…here are my most anticipated films for the Winter Season 2009/2010. Continue reading

The Covered Bridges of Bucks County

With fall winding down, this past Sunday was potentially the last nice day to do a day-trip of this nature.  The plan was to tour the Covered Bridges of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Below are some of the photos I captured.  Why so few pictures of the actual bridges, you ask?  Well…we go lost thanks to lousy directions,  Bucks County’s willfully eccentric and confusing system of back-roads through the hills and countryside and non-GPS friendly points of interest.  The roads frequently change names, and some stop dead only to appear miles down another road and running perpendicular to their original selves.  Genius!  If anyone can tell me how to get to Cafferty Road from Dark Hollow Road, a small reward might be paid.  If you do this tour and absolutely must see every covered bridge, my only suggestion is to kidnap an actual native of Bucks County to be your guide. Continue reading

Cinematic Culture Clash

I believe it was Chaim Potok who once said something to the effect of “all great literature is about the clashing of cultures.”  In his novel, The Chosen, his insular idea of culture clash was an Orthodox Jewish boy befriending an Hasidic Jewish boy.  I think the same can be said of great cinema, though independent filmmakers often take a more volatile approach.

Below are four films that have passed through my Netflix queue this year that I believe deserve to be singled-out, praised, buzzed about…chosen.  All four are in a way about the clashing or melding of cultures and the effects that has on individuals, and three of the four are from directors with immigrant heritages.  Three of them have a good chance of making my top ten list for 2009, while another (from 2008) is in the running for my top 25 of the decade.  As is often found in independent films, with lower budgets and tighter focus on achieving a personal dream, filmmakers hone in on story and character with often startling results.  Low profile or lost in the shuffle either due to foreign origin or lack of widened stateside distribution, they deserve a larger audience, and those selective cinephiles who routinely uncover them have a duty to pass on the word.  Queue these up, post haste. Continue reading

America by Walker Evans

Walker Evans (1903-1975) was undoubtedly one of America’s greatest photographers.  His black-and-white images stand as time capsules of an America now gone but still familiar.  Evans is best known for his iconic images of sharecroppers hit hard by The Great Depression as part of his work for the Farm Security Administration.  During my recent visit to Cooperstown, NY and the Fenimore Art Museum, I was able to see their amazing collection of Walker Evans’ photographs.  I was struck most not by his most famous images from the Dust Bowl and America’s Heartland, but by his images of America’s East Coast during the same time period.  His photographs of people and places spanning the hardened core of America’s original thirteen states from New York City to Atlanta captured an America that was shell-shocked but resilient, an over-developed and industrialized stretch of the Eastern Seaboard that was crumbling and decaying but populated by survivors — an America that would eventually pull through the Great Depression and produce the Greatest Generation defined by their heroic actions in World War Two.

Here are some of my favorite images from Walker Evans: Continue reading