Daily Archives: May 14, 2017

Gremlins (1985 review)

This review, featured on the cover, appeared in the December 1985 issue of Video Times. I was living in Santa Barbara at the time, and not long after it came out, I met Joe Dante for the first time, in Los Angeles (at a party given by Todd McCarthy); he’d recently read this review, and, as I recall, told me that he liked it. — J.R.

Gremlins ***

As a producer and director, Steven Spielberg seems limited to two subjects: power and magic. The power that interests him is, of course, the power that he commands, and the magic is that of his medium. Put these together and add the input of director Joe Dante, another film buff, and you get a movie about movies, triple-distilled. And the curious achievement of Gremlins is that it makes such self-absorption commercially viable, at the same time that it refuses to conform to any single, sustained social meaning. Much as the depiction of Vietnam in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was designed to placate hawks and doves alike, gremlins is cleverly contrived to please skeptics as well as believers, optimists as well as pessimists about the American way of life. Thanks to a disconnected episodic structure that suggests several separate movies crammed together — a strategy that re-creates the fragmented, discontinuous flow of TV watching –  viewers of Gremlins are invited to chart out their own justifications for enjoying Dante and Spielberg’s treasure trove.… Read more »

Exiles in Modernity

From the Chicago Reader (November 7, 1997). Taipei Story is showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center today at 5 pm. — J.R.

The Films of Edward Yang

By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Taiwan is somehow within the world system as its citizens are in their city boxes: prosperity and constriction all at once; the loss of nature….What is grand and exhilarating, light itself, the hours of the day, is nonetheless here embedded in the routine of the city and locked into the pores of its stone or smeared on its glass: light also being postmodern, and a mere adjunct to the making of reproducible images.

– Fredric Jameson, “Remapping Taipei,” in The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System

These people have so much money stuffed up their ass it’s beyond belief! You know, in ten years this place [Taipei] will be the center of the world. The future of Western civilization lies right here. And you know what the odd thing is? We used to study history–the 19th century was the glorious age of imperialism, right? Just wait till you see the 21st century… — English character in Edward Yang’s Mahjong

The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away.Read more »