If memory serves, this review provoked more hate mail than anything else I ever wrote for the Reader, very little of which engaged with my actual argument — a response I tend to correlate with this country’s unreasoning and irrepressible infatuation with and worship of serial killers as virtual religious icons (roughly akin to rock musicians who die of drug overdoses). But according to the Reader, it is also one of my most widely read Reader pieces. It ran in the November 8, 2007 issue, a little less than four months before I retired from the paper. — J.R.
No Country for Old Men | Written and Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
November 8, 2007
By Jonathan Rosenbaum
The first thing we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds a concentration camp. —George Orwell
I tend to get flustered when people ask me what I look for in movies, so I’m wary of theorizing too much about what other people want from them.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (March 22, 1991). — J.R.
One of the most underrated films of 1990, representing Corman’s directorial comeback after 19 years, adapts Brian Aldiss’s intellectually ambitious novel about a 21st-century scientist (John Hurt) who finds himself in Geneva in 1816, where he meets Mary Shelley (Bridget Fonda) and her famous fictional creations, Frankenstein and his monster. Far from a total success (and apparently hampered by some studio recutting), this metaphysical reflection on technology with SF and monster-movie trimmings is packed with wit, originality, and eccentricity. If you missed it the first time around — which wasn’t hard to do, given its perfunctory promotion and distribution — you should definitely catch it. With Raul Julia and Michael Hutchence. (Music Box, Monday, March 25)
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From the September 1, 1987 Chicago Reader. Criterion is releasing this film on a Blu-Ray with many extras. –J.R.
Try as he might, writer John Sayles has never been a natural filmmaker. But this sincere 1987 account of a coal miner strike and subsequent massacre in West Virginia in 1920 is so conscientiously detailed and so keenly felt and imagined — as well as attractively shot, by Haskell Wexler — that he deserves at the very least an A for effort. Simpleminded yet stirring, his depiction of a community of local whites, migrant blacks from the Deep South, and immigrant Italians gradually joining forces against the company bosses and their henchmen, under the leadership of a pacifist organizer, offers a bracing alternative to complacent right-wing as well as liberal claptrap. If Sayles’s bite were as lethal as his bark, he might have given this a harder edge and a stronger conclusion. But the performances are uniformly fine: Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell, Kevin Tighe (perfect in dress and physiognomy, but strictly one-dimensional as scripted), James Earl Jones, and Sayles; the regional accents are especially well-handled. 133 min. (JR)
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