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Archive for September, 2011

***1/2 out of *****

Car chases and pregnant pauses.

During a Brooklyn sneak-peak of his new film, Nicolas Winding Refn made one seriously revealing aside: The director of Drive can’t drive.

The comment, made during the post-screening Q&A, says a great deal about this movie. Here we have an Americana action flick about an ace driver directed by a Danish man too scared to get behind the wheel. Drive is American mythology, concentrated and processed by a European outsider. Refn gives us an Eastwood-like hero, strong and silent, the American open road, car culture, and the story of a man who commits unspeakable violence to protect a woman. Switch the setting and the era and we’d have a western. Or a film noir.

And it works, for the most part. Both pulpy and moody, U.S. and Euro, Drive is a crowd-pleasing entry in a genre rarely seen on the big screen: the action drama. The film takes both those words seriously. Drive develops a rich, vivid world before it blows it all to hell.

The movie centers around The Driver (Ryan Gosling), a mythical man with no name who works in LA as a Hollywood stunt driver, mechanic, and getaway driver. Gosling knows his cars like the archetypal American tough guy. Like horses to a cowboy, guns to an assassin, cars are a mere extension of the man. In a near-wordless series of exchanges, Gosling befriends his next-door neighbor (Carey Mulligan), a young mother whose partner sits behind bars. Gosling, though he’d never show it (more on that later), grows to care for Mulligan and her son. The two lurch toward romance — that is, until Mulligan’s boyfriend (Oscar Issac) abruptly returns from prison. Isaac owes a large sum of money from his time in prison, and so he enlists Gosling as his driver in a plot to hold up a pawn shop. And then Drive — pick your verb: gear-shifts, U-turns, hydroplanes — into territory I shouldn’t reveal in a review. (more…)

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Life after September 11

Ten years ago, as I watched the world being reinvented on high school televisions, a single thought looped through my head: Please, please, please don’t let them be Middle Eastern.

I was 16 years old. Back then, the world orbited around me. Most of the time, if I wanted, I could ignore its events. They couldn’t pierce through the TV screens and newspapers and into my life. They remained abstractions, never palpable. I despised George W. Bush, but his actions never hit me on a personal level. He didn’t outlaw the Beatles, weird jokes, or AOL Instant Messenger. He didn’t make it a crime to spend my Sundays watching NBA double-headers. He didn’t reinstate the draft. He was an intangible source of anger. I could stuff him into a suitcase, when I wanted, like most of the world’s proper nouns, names, and events.

But September 11 was different. Tuesday morning, seeing those towers fall in my eleventh grade social studies class, I witnessed a world event and felt it. My thousand little freedoms weren’t a given anymore. I feared what was to come: Not another terrorist attack, but an all-out assault on my ethnicity, my family’s religion, and the values I held dear.

All those fears came true. (more…)

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