Those were perspectives put forth in particular times, and they inspired fervent debate and disagreement. However, we, in successive generations, do not have to take sides for or against any man: we can look at their reasons and their results and take what is useful as the changing times demand. We can affirm classical studies and vocational training, democratic participation in the larger world and attention to particular communities, and nonviolence when it is sensible and violent self-defense when it is necessary.
Political Film and Conversation: Elia Kazan’s Wild River and Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land and Zero Dark Thirty, In the Land of Blood and Honey, and A Bottle in the Gaza Sea.
Is there enough beauty and knowledge in the world? What are the virtues we want to cultivate and celebrate? What pain do we want to ease? Where there is injustice, do we want justice? What kind of culture do we want to live in, and with? Many people do not understand art, its technique or its mission, but art conveys living experience and contemplation of life better than almost anything else.
A Tragedy of Passion and Power: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, directed by Joe Wright
It is amazing how much content there is in this glittering work. The love of Anna and Vronsky is not the only love in the film. Levin, a great friend of Anna’s brother, a man with a country estate, is in love with Kitty who was infatuated with Vronsky, until Vronsky met Anna; and Levin has a drunken, rebellious brother, a radical watched by security forces, who married a woman who worked in a brothel.
Life is Good, but Good Life is Better: Julia Loktev’s The Loneliest Planet, featuring Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg
The natural beauty of a regal wilderness and the charm of an old culture are captivating, but the film, inspired by a Tom Bissell story, “Expensive Trips Nowhere,” turns on the kind of tale of challenged love that anyone could see himself or herself in.
Everything Costs Somebody Something: Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, and Brit Marling
Miller is a useful fiction in Arbitrage, a film that shows what happens when a man’s sense of his own power begins to lose touch with reality: a great business deal fails, the contradictions in his private life become obvious, and his social position is threatened.
Open Government versus Imperial Presidency versus Terrorism: Twilight’s Last Gleaming
The film was inspired by Walter Wager’s novel Viper Three, a book that did not have an explicit political theme; and it was adapted by Ed Huebach and Ronald M. Cohen, giving the director Robert Aldrich the kind of material with social resonance that he wanted to deal with. That political vision attracted other participants.
Follow Me into the House, Dude: End of Watch, a police film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena
Brian and Janet do get married; and their wedding dance is a howl of fun—and the comments that Mike makes as a toast confirm the ceremony as a communal ritual, and Gabby’s ribald comments are amusing, sisterly, useful. It is all a sweet interlude.
In Prison for Stealing a Loaf of Bread: Valjean (Hugh Jackman) in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables as illustrated in a film by Tom Hooper
It can be hard to feel intimate with characters that are always in song supported by an orchestra, but the actors give compelling performances that draw the viewer closer even as some of the music pushes one away.
Shadows of Terror and Comfort on Dark Cave Walls: Adam’s Rib, Antony & Cleopatra, Argo, Bully, The Cabin in the Woods, The Dark Knight Rises, East of Eden, Killer Joe, Liberal Arts, Our Beloved Month of August and more
One takes a survey of the past and present at different times, trying to ascertain merit: and here, I consider Adam’s Rib, An American in Paris, Antony and Cleopatra, Argo, Bully, The Cabin in the Woods, A Clockwork Orange, The Dark Knight Rises, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, East of Eden, Farewell My Queen, Fur, Garden State, Killer Joe, King Creole, Liberal Arts, Midnight in Paris, Notorious, Our Beloved Month of August, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Portrait of a Lady, Rosewood, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Shawshank Redemption, Silent Souls, Sparkle, Splendor in the Grass, and more.
Polymorphous Perversity, for a Laugh: Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a true-life comedy feature about friendship, death, and gossip
In Richard Linklater’s Bernie, the people who lived in Carthage, Texas, and knew Bernie Tiede and his friend and patron Marjorie Nugent, are presented, their testimony that of witnesses, full of fact, gossip, insight, and wit. Genuine observation is mixed with criticism and delusion.