My Introduction to a Series of Essays on The Rules of the Game

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“The awful thing about life is this: Everybody has their reasons.”—OctaveThe Rules of the Game

Perhaps no other line in La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game) acts as a fairer summation of the movie’s plots and themes as this one, spoken by Octave, the intervening old man in a complex game of youth, love, and social impetus.  It is only fitting, in a meta-filmic sort of way, that Octave is played by the film’s writer, producer, and director, the man that most would consider the greatest of all French auteurs: Jean Renoir.  It’s like the author’s own film commentary, nestled into the screenplay itself, cozily and conveniently. Continue reading

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Grand Illusion (1937)

Where Jean Gabin portrayed a doomed working class hero in Le jour se lève, in Grand Illusion (La grande illusion), he played perhaps the most hopeful symbol of the victorious proletariat that French Poetic Realism would ever come to offer.  Grand Illusion uses his character as but one of several others showing the disintegration of the old world, and the rebuilding of a new one after the earth-shattering imbalance of World War I.  It tells the story of humanity, divided vertically by borders and divided horizontally by social class.  It tells the story of the war that shattered these distinctions: gone were the days of gentleman’s battles, glorious deaths, and the rules of the game.  A new world order, one more unified in both suffering and success was being born.  Out of this carnage and pain could come a new type of freedom, one both symbolic and practical, one that would elevate the lower class and destroy the arbitrary divisions that threatened humankind. Continue reading

Le jour se lève (1939)

“A killer! Now there’s something to gossip about! Sure, I’m a killer, but killers are a dime a dozen! They’re everywhere! Everyone kills! They just do it quietly, so you don’t see. It’s like sand. It gets deep inside you.”

So exclaims Jean Gabin’s famous proletarian hero from his apartment balcony to the curious masses below in Marcel Carné’s 1939 masterpiece, Le jour se lève.

Many critics, when asked which movie acts as the quintessential example of film noir, would say The Maltese Falcon. When asked which film most exemplifies the precepts of the screwball comedy, many experts would likely tag It Happened One Night.  When it comes to the American Western, they likely cite Stagecoach.  Well, in my opinion, if you were to ask which film most embodies the general characteristics, images, and ideas of French Poetic Realism, the answer would be  Le jour se lève. Continue reading

Ranking and Analyzing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (as of June 2016)

Around this time last year, this blog experienced more traffic in one weekend than it did for the entirety of 2015.  I could take personal affront at that, but I won’t.  Obviously, you liked what you saw.

With that in mind, here is my updated countdown of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Several new chapters have been added since last year’s countdown, and my opinions have, slightly, changed as to how I want to rank these chapters.  I hope that you enjoy what you read.

(If you read this special last year, feel free to skip to the bottom of this page to begin the countdown.  That’s because I’m just going to recycle the same article from last year.)

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#26: “Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant” (2011)

 

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The Marvel Cinematic Universe contains five short films to go along with its television shows and feature films.  Most people wouldn’t even go to the lengths of including these films in an MCU countdown, for one because they are clearly marketing materials designed to increase DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and for two because they are mostly pointless and of questionable quality.  This fails to recognize the nature of the MCU as a universe though.  These stories exist in that universe.  So, they must be included. Continue reading

#25: “Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” (2011)

Here we are, the first divergence from the order of films that I took in my 2015 edition of this countdown.  Where the penultimate spot last year was occupied by “Marvel One-Shot: Item 47”, this year, it will be occupied by “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer.”  I’m sure you’re already reeling in shock; but there is far more to come, so brace yourself.

Remember that quote from Brian Winderbaum, which I used in my review of “The Consultant”?  He said that the goal of the Marvel One-Shots were to create “a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it’s a way for us to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features.”  That the One-Shots are about characters is the probably the most important thing to take from this.  And one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, undeniably, Agent Phil Coulson.

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#24: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Here is yet another discrepancy from the order of last year’s countdown—and this one probably the boldest.  Last year, I was content to follow a simple, preconceived rule: the Marvel One-Shots would populate the last five rungs of the ladder, regardless of whether or not any or all of them may have, on the merits, a good case to be better than one of the television seasons or feature length films.  Upon review of last year’s countdown, however, I realized that this was not a good policy.  A movie, however short, should not be penalized merely by length or the way in which it is distributed.  Would I slight Chris Marker’s La Jetée or Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon because they were short?  Absolutely not.

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#23: “Marvel One-Shot: Item 47” (2012)

Perhaps the most unique and original of the Marvel One-Shots is “Item 47”, the story of Benny and Claire, who find the last remaining piece of Chitauri weaponry after S.H.I.E.L.D.’s clean-up of the Battle of New York in The Avengers.  Benny, who has figured out how to use the weapon, is convinced by Claire, his girlfriend, to use it to get them rich.  From there ensues a fun montage of bank heists that show that the pair is amateurish at best, but finding success using this unparalleled piece of weaponry. Continue reading