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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: The Rite and Nora’s Will

The Rite (Two and a Half Stars) U.S.; Mikael Hafstrom, 2011 Exorcism movies are intended to scare the hell out of you, and The Rite is a classy, but forgettable example. Purporting to tell us a true story, about the devilish experiences of a Chicago priestly novitiate — the not-that-sure-of-his-vocation Michael Kovack (Colin O’Donoghue), who…

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Wilmington on DVDs: Lebanon, Shock Corridor, Dances with Wolves, Sherlock Jr. and more

We are inside an armored tank with four Israeli soldiers, in Beirut, in the throes of the Lebanon War. The battle is a raging hellfield punctuated with death, only barely comprehensible to the men or to us. Israelis battle Arabs battle Phalangists (Christian Arabs). The streets pop with gunfire. You can’t tell civilians from killers. The tank is hot and stinking and so small, the four can barely move around — tempers flaring, nerves frayed — as they roll though the streets, and peer through a periscope or gun sight seeking traps to avoid, enemies to kill.

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MW on Movies: The Green Hornet, The Dilemma, Another Year, The Illusionist, and Mon Oncle

The Green Hornet (Two Stars) U. S.: Michel Gondry, 2011 The Green Hornet is a comedy-action extravaganza done in a deliberate pop art/ironic style by director Michel Gondry — a pseudo-Marvel super-movie about a super-hero who’s also a rich little schmuck. It’s also about the schmuck’s super-talented Asian sidekick, their sexy Girl Friday, who has…

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MW on Movies: Army of Shadows, The Social Network, Hotel Terminus … and more

It doesn’t get your motor racing in the usual way. Army of Shadows transpires in a gray world, bleak, chilling, full of the shadows of the title, where night is often falling, or has already fallen. And it’s done in a manner that suggests men (and a woman) who know they will die, who are dead already, but still stubbornly refuse to submit.

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An Inside Look at the NSFC Awards 2011

The National Society of Film Critics — the most prestigious (dammit) of all the country’s numerous movie critic groups — met for their 45th annual voting meeting last Saturday at Sardi’s in New York City. And it was The Social Network all over again. (I write these awards stories every year in a kind of…

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MW on Movies: Season of the Witch and Country Strong

How are we supposed to handle the idea that Cardinal D’Ambroise, faced with a decision that he thinks might actually end the Black Plague, recruits as the witch’s main guards to her trial, two deserters who don’t believe in witches? And then backs them up with a swindler, a wispy priest and an altar boy who wants to be a knight?

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MW on DVDs: Howl, Doctor Zhivago, Gone with the Wind, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, The Quintessential Guy Maddin

The movie is about art and society, but also about how the American justice system is supposed to work — how it’s meant to protect the rights of all, and to balance opposing claims: in this case, the rights of the public not to be disturbed, against the rights of a great poet to disturb them. One leaves Howl inspired by both the spectacle of the trial of the poet and the uncommon poetry of the trial.

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Wilmington

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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