“Margin Call” by J.C. Chandor

When the Music Stops…

The first scenes of J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call, chilling as they may be, are merely a prelude to a nightmare.

Imagine a busy Wall Street office. The camera follows two grim-faced women as they go down the hall. The women are on a special mission. Many employees of a huge financial company – eighty percent of the trading floor – are about to get fired. The Board has ordered a bloodbath at or near the bottom of the food chain.

Seth and Peter, young analysts in Risk Management, can see the firing squad and start to panic. If they could, they would disappear into some hole. One of their bosses tells them to calm down and get back to work. This seems like sound advice. Their situation, precarious at the best of times, depends on a thousand things beyond their control, so why panic? As it turns out, they stay alive, at least for now.  Read More →

“Footnote” by Joseph Cedar

Chasing the Wind

Some people believe life is ruled by fate, which implies a predetermined order of things. Others say fate is just pure chance, suggesting we live in cosmic chaos.

Fate or chance?

No one has a clue, and no one ever will. But that’s okay. What matters is that sometimes the consequences of either are absurd.

So absurd that all we can do is watch and laugh our heads off. 

Read More →

“Alice” by Krzysztof Mąkosa (short story)

The following is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

To Gosia

 

 

Alice

 

 

1

It happened suddenly, like an accident, in the fall of 1994.

Alice, a young woman he didn’t know, left a short message on his answering machine. She was a fan of Robert Lipkowicz, the Polish poet. She majored in Russian studies somewhere in California. She had his number from Mme. Bonté, Lipkowicz’s literary executor. 

Soon he found out more about her. Read More →

“The Best Offer” by Giuseppe Tornatore

Nothing Is What It Seems

Like many excellent films, The Best Offer (2013), Giuseppe Tornatore’s psychological thriller, is a variation on a well-worn theme.

He is rich, successful, sophisticated and, as his name (Oldman) suggests, past his prime. A great art expert, he can tell a forgery from the real thing because, as he says, the forger can’t resist the temptation to add some personal touch – an unsuspected stroke or an unimportant detail – by which he ends up betraying himself. In short, there is always something authentic concealed in every forgery.

If the greatest forgers can’t fool him, who will?

She, on the other hand, is mysterious, fragile, alluring, and young enough to be his daughter.

When it’s all over he changes beyond recognition. Read More →

“Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen

The Art of Concealing Art

I’m sure you’ve noticed that a work of art, in order to be hailed as great by critics and academics (not that there is much difference these days), must be divorced from reality, involved, uninvolving and plain boring. Don’t you ever get the eerie feeling that the purpose of contemporary art is to punish us for sins we haven’t committed? Think of all the extraordinary, enchanting and exhilarating books on which you’ve wasted your time and money. Take contemporary classical music: Doesn’t it make you want to explore other kinds of music, or stick to the old masters for as long as you live? Contemporary painting? Oh no, not that again! Read More →

“Nosferatu the Vampyre” by Werner Herzog

The Most Abject Pain

Werner Herzog grew up in the Bavarian Alps without running water, a flush toilet or a telephone. When he was young, he was so eager to make films that he stole a camera from the Munich Film School, claiming he had some sort of natural right for a camera, a tool to work with. As a full-fledged artist, he promised to eat his own shoe if his friend completed a film.

And he kept his promise.

When the film premiered, he boiled his shoes and ate one of them in front of the audience.

During the work on Fitzcarraldo, Herzog and his crew, including indigenous Amazonian Indians, hauled a three-story 320-ton steamship up a muddy 40-degree hillside in the jungle. Somebody asked Herzog if it wouldn’t be wiser to quit. How can you ask this question? he snapped. If I abandoned this project, I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that. I live my life or I end my life with this project. (…) Without dreams, we would be cows in a field. Read More →