Twenty years ago this week, Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects opened in theaters, and everybody lost their minds. It ended up redefining the “twist” ending, becoming a kind of shorthand for a left-field, eleventh-hour plot development that reconfigures everything that’s come before. But it was neither the first nor last movie to do that ending, or do it well. …Read More
After I watched the first four episodes of House of Cards‘ third season, I noted that the Frank Underwood who had wormed his way into the Oval Office was a Frank Underwood who had lost his fundamental sense of purpose. A week after Netflix unleashed the 13 latest installments of the Underwood saga, that opinion still stands. But one plot development promises to pull the show out of its directionless (and worse yet, boring) nihilism — not by altering its pitch-black DNA, but by giving its darkness a more constructive outlet.
There’s nothing like watching a relatively serious, seemingly well-researched episode of machiavellian political TV, getting self-congratulatory about how you’re managing to understand the political jargon and follow weaving plots, feeling wholly immersed, feeling nearly like a very intelligent fly on a White House wall — only to have Kevin Spacey turn to you, swat you off the wall and back onto your couch, saying something heinously on the nose about power vs. money. All House of Cards watchers know the experience of the show’s winding narrative being unceremoniously broken by a jowly sideways glance at the camera; if you are, for some reason, a proponent of the controversial style choice, try watching all instances of the show’s pseudo-Shakespearean fourth wall-breaking back to back.
House of Cards‘ Frank Underwood gets his fair share of Macbeth comparisons, but the show is something of a tragic figure in its own right. It simply doesn’t know what it wants to be: is it a slick, cynical look at Washington — The West Wing, with pessimism? Or is it a shamelessly over-the-top melodrama that just happens to be set in and around the White House — Scandal, with swearing? House of Cards’ greatest weakness has always been that it tries to be both, and even when it commits to one vision over the other, it’s bound to sacrifice some of its core appeal. In the case of Season 3, that means prioritizing the former over the …Read More
This week, the Criterion Collection is releasing a double bill of the mid-‘60s Westerns The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind, a treat not only for fans of revisionist Westerns and director Monte Hellman, but also for those who admire Jack Nicholson, here seen in two terrific performances that predate his breakthrough in Easy Rider. There’s a specific kind of pleasure in revisiting the early work of actors who would later become famous — not the roles that made them stars, but their earlier, quieter gigs, in which we glimpse an actor just trying to do good work, yet already exhibiting the spark that would mark them for fame. Here are a few of our …Read More