On the left side: film stills from the 1964 movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars by Byron Haskin. Using a mix of optically composited special effects and shots taken in California’s Death Valley, they imagined into existence a landscape in beautifully stark images, filmed in the widescreen Techniscope format, that lend a visceral immediacy to this tale of survival’s sense of melancholy and isolation.
On the right side: photos taken by the Mars Curiosity rover, the most complex spacecraft ever sent to the red planet, joining rovers Opportunity and Spirit. Curiosity is equipped with over ten times the scientific instruments than its predecessors to aid on its two-year mission to learn whether the Martian environment could have been favourable for microbial life.
Cover artwork for the Criterion Collection edition of Kindergarten Cop
Historically, the policier and the family comedy were two distinct categories. Then, in 1990, Kindergarten Cop gave us all a lesson in genre revisionism. With muscular sensitivity, Hollywood’s last action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger embodies detective John Kimble, who is compelled to go undercover as a teacher of five-year-olds in order to catch a ponytailed drug dealer. Though it’s distinguished by pulse-pounding suspense, a Crayola-bright palette by cinematographer Michael Chapman (Taxi Driver), and trenchant observations about education in the Bush I era, the film’s emotional center is Schwarzenegger’s gruff yet good-tempered interaction with a class full of precocious scamps, including a tumor-forewarning death-obsessive and a genitalia expert. By leavening a children’s film with enough violence to please even the most cold-hearted bastard, director Ivan Reitman shows that he refuses to color inside the lines.
If I were choosing a director to make a film about the end of the world, von Trier the gloomy Dane might be my first choice. The only other name that comes to mind is Werner Herzog’s. Both understand that at such a time silly little romantic subplots take on a vast irrelevance. Doctor Johnson told Boswell: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” In the cast of von Trier’s characters, impending doom seems to have created a mental state of dazed detachment. They continue to act as if their personal concerns have the slightest relevance. Von Trier has never made a more realistic domestic drama, depicting a family that is dysfunctional not in crazy ways but in ways showing a defiant streak of intelligent individualism.
La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In), Pedro Almodóvar’s new suspense thriller.
From a review by Phillip French:
The Skin I Live In is a skilful piece of storytelling that reorganises time and, in a characteristic Almodóvar fashion, challenges our preconceptions about everyday life and personal conduct. The title takes its central character’s profession and turns it into a metaphor for our bodies, our identities, our perceptions of ourselves. Skin is what contains us and appears to define us and, indeed, a crucial scene sees Robert’s wife mortified by looking at what has happened to her face. But would a transformation of our appearance or, more radically, the reorganisation of our bodies make us other than we know ourselves to be? As in all the films of his maturity from the mid-1990s onwards, Almodóvar, while often appearing camp and frivolous, memorably explores profound emotional and intellectual matters. He does in this cool, elegant and moving film, beautifully lit as usual by cinematographer José Luis Alcaine.