A Year in Movies

What We Thought About What We Watched in 2013
Film Reviews

Commonweal movie reviews from Richard Alleva and Rand Richards Cooper in 2013.

Devices & Desires

Leo Tolstoy hated theater, or at least the more stylized varieties of it. The author of some well-received plays as well as his much more famous novels, the Count despised Shakespeare, ballet, opera...

Raw Spaghetti

The director Quentin Tarantino loves genre, the grungier the better. His first three films, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown, are gangster movies—or, rather, gangster mutants, for their...

Class Photo

Most Americans forty or older will recall the 1989 case of the young woman brutalized by a rampaging mob of teenagers while jogging in Central Park. Coming amid soaring crime rates, the attack...

Pillheads

About fifteen minutes into Silver Linings Playbook, its hero, Pat Solitano—played by Bradley Cooper—is out jogging near his Philadelphia neighborhood when a young woman he met at a dinner party the...

A Nation of Two

 As part of my annual catching up with Oscar, I overcame my reluctance and saw Michael Haneke’s Amour. Haneke’s preoccupation with cruelty, both physical and psychological, typically makes for heavy going, and inclines one to approach any film of his titled “Amour” in the dread expectation of some appalling irony...

Walled In

Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, oversees counterterrorism and intelligence gathering in Israel and the Palestinian territories. It also bears responsibility for protecting politicians, a...

Roaring Mad

When I heard that Baz Luhrmann was filming The Great Gatsby, I gagged. Sure, the Australian director’s feature debut, Strictly Ballroom, was a delightful piece of camp, but this was followed by...

Words & Deeds

The German-Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906–1975) lived a life emblematic of her era, a casualty of Hitler’s rise to power who emigrated to the United States and became a...

Fearsome Correctives

At the outset, James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now looks like a throwback to such 1980s teen comedies as Risky Business and Say Anything. Based on an eponymous novel by Tim...

Weightless

I can’t recall a film released to more unanimous critical joy than Gravity, Alfonso...

An Everyday Nightmare

The 1853 book Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup, a black freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery, retails so much cruelty, physical and mental, that any movie adaptation...

All At Sea

Can a movie be both thoughtful and electrifyingly exciting? I think Captain Phillips is. Its omniscient camerawork makes you feel like a helpless god viewing everything from every...
And Everything Else Film-Related

Other articles, essays, and posts on movies that appeared in the pages and on the website of Commonweal in 2013.

A Good Gatsby

One curious biographical connection between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Baz Luhrmann, director of the new film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, is that they went to a school with the same name. Fitzgerald...

More evidence that Terrence Malick is the best

Terrence Malick's latest film,To the Wonder, still hasn't been released in the United States. I'm a huge Malick fan--see my earlier post on Days of Heaven--so I was already excited to see the new movie, which features Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem.After hearing how Malick asked his...

The Trouble with 'Zero Dark Thirty'

Controversy attaches to Oscar nominations as reliably as it does to American actions in combating terrorism (which isnt to equate the type or degree). Rarer is the case when it overlaps.The absence of Zero Dark Thirty director Kathryn Bigelow from the nominee list for best director has some wondering whether something...

Is Roger Ebert in heaven? Is Pope John Paul II?

Deacon Greg Kandra points to the funeral mass held today at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral for film critic and cultural omnivore Roger Ebert, and takes issue with celebrant Fr. Michael Pfleger for suggesting to the mourners that Ebert could be in heaven. It's not that Ebert had a somewhat unconventional view on...

Philomena and Notre Dame (Caveat Lector: Spoilers)

I saw the movie Philomena last weekend: It is a movie about an Irish woman who had a baby out of wedlock, and  was coereced into giving up her little son nearly half a century ago by the nuns who took her in. She ends up collaborating with a posh English journalist to find out what happened to him:  As it...
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