Tuesday, July 31

Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)

[The following is my July entry for Blind Spots.]

Some Came Running opens with antithetical moods. Lush but subtle color paints the bus ride of a soldier returning from World War II in warmth, a gentle portrait of the prodigal son on his journey back home. But the CinemaScope framing and portentous music from Elmer Bernstein undercuts this sense of idyll, inserting a sense of tension and conflict before anything has happened. The incongruity of these moods instantly undermines any audience expectation and generating a level of uncertainty in what will follow. For another filmmaker, such unsure footing might be the sign of weak technique and structure, but Vincente Minnelli ingeniously sets to undermining his own frame before he's put anything of note into it.

Soon, the tension becomes clear. The bus driver wakes the soldier, Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra), whose grogginess turns to sober apprehension when he learns he has been brought back to his hometown. When he gets off the bus, a ditzy Chicago girl, Ginny (Shirley MacLaine), gets off with him, mentioning how he was so good as to rough up her abusive boyfriend back in Chicago and bring her along. Dave's bewilderment over her, and his clearly unwelcome return home, reveal that this ostensibly happy moment is the result of a night of blackout drinking. As Dave puts up in a nearby hotel until he can figure out what to do, he finds himself drawn into a world dictated by insipid proprietary norms and both undercut and fundamentally supported by a vulgar underground.

Dave's reluctance to come back to Parkman stems from his brother, Frank (Arthur Kennedy), who tossed his brother into a boarding school when they were young so he could go off and live his own life. In the interim, Dave wrote some novels that went over like lead zeppelins and joined the military. Meanwhile, Frank married, got rich and became a respected member of the community. When Minnelli moves away from Dave's outrage at being within 50 miles of his brother to the brother himself, he clarifies Some Came Running as a work of sly suburban satire. For if Dave reacts to being in Parkman with anger and resentment, Frank responds to his brother's return with barely concealed panic, freezing with a sunken stomach when one of his customers in the jewelry store jovially tells him the good news.

Whether intentionally or not, Dave soon proves his brother's fears of social embarrassment founded. With Ginny often in tow, Dave finds the cracks in this postwar, middle-class heaven and sinks into a seedy underworld of booze and carousing. Dave pairs up with a local drunk, Dillert (Dean Martin), a card sharp hellion who drifted his way to Parkman and stayed because something caught his eye. Perhaps, in his stupor, Dillert saw past the mirage and got a gander of the underbelly teeming around all the small town conservatism and social climbing. His overt loutishness, though not romanticized, is preferable to the composed behavior of Frank and his wife, Agnes (Leora Dana). At least Dillert is honest in his Dionysian irascibility. In the surface world, David goes to meet with his brother and the sister-in-law who resents him for writing an unflattering character in one of his books based on her. But before Dave arrives, Minnelli eavesdrops on the couple as they prepare for him. Agnes rails viciously against Dave for his social slight, and the hollow smile and pleasantries she foists on her husband's abandoned brother when he does show up are made that much more false and vile for showing the petty anger they thinly mask.

One of the most striking elements of Meet Me in St. Louis, Minnelli's great 1944 musical, was its patience, its willingness to simply ingratiate itself with its central family without introducing conflict until late in the film. The tensions in Some Came Running are more immediately apparent, yet the director displays the same relaxed sense of narrative pace. The juxtapositions of Dave's bitter forthrightness and Frank's social posturing, and of the two distinct yet connected worlds they represent, do not produce enough conflict on their own to propel a narrative. Instead, Minnelli allows a mood to build, one of characters trapped in a constricting society, even (and especially) those who see themselves as outside it.

As the narrative takes a great deal of time to unfold, Minnelli communicates primarily through his direction. Famous for his florid use of color, Minnelli tones down the brightness of this movie, casting the frame in more subdued tones that link the fa├žade of bourgeois comfort and success with the dim underworld where Dave spends so much of his time. His fondness for framing interiors in sharp diagonals likewise generates vague, subconscious uncertainty. Not as outlandish as some other '50s melodramas that dug under the skin of postwar conformism, Some Came Running nevertheless feels most like the precursor of David Lynch's postmodern forays into the surreally stylized dark heart of suburbia. Some Came Running especially shares Lynch's conviction that the unseemly pits of thugs and outsiders are not an outlying manifestation of a "normal" community but that such normalcy is the outgrowth of that monstrous realm looking to disguise itself.

Gradually, Minnelli strings out the faintest burbles of trouble. The audience gets a few pointed references to Frank's loyal—too loyal?—secretary; the loose love triangle of Ginny's unreciprocated feelings for Dave and Dave's unrequited affection for Gwen (Martha Hyer), the schoolteacher who admires Dave's writing but finds him a repulsive human being; and the emergence of Ginny's gangster boyfriend. Yet these details do not suddenly turn the film into a plot-driven vehicle, instead serving to flesh out the character dynamics and the overall sense of discontent and hypocrisy. Only at the end, in a vivid carnival sequence that acts as a showcase for the possibilities of CinemaScope, do the wisps of plot converge in a gut-wrenching finale all the more horrific for being sudden yet, in retrospect, justified.

As much as Minnelli's aesthetic perfectionism guides the film, he allows the actors to truly sell these beats of social malaise and, finally, tragedy. Sinatra transfigures his eternal rakishness into defeatism, his natural cool and defiance still intact as Dave but perverted from hip loner to just lonely. When Frank makes a half-assed, condemning remark to his brother that he wishes he could say he was sorry, Sinatra places the perfect blend of contempt and regret in his reply, "Yeah, I wish you could, too." Martin, fresh off his split with Jerry Lewis, plays his typed role as the heavy drinker, but he displays his character's richness in only a few choicely parsed phrases that speak to the benign stubbornness that motivates the good-natured vulgarian.

Best and most affecting of all is MacLaine, who plays her character as emotional collateral damage to the petty bickering of the film's small conflicts well before she becomes the literal collateral damage in the final burst of true danger. MacLaine holds nothing back, not checking Ginny's airiness so that when we get to see the way Dave treats her, the revelation that he never treated her nicely, that the poor girl just cannot understand even the most obvious, withering sarcasm, cannot be seen as surprising even as to see it turns the stomach. In the film's rawest scene, Ginny, at last fed up with her own cluelessness, goes to visit Gwen and practically begs the other woman to just make sense of Dave. Her blunt, ragged pain tears through Gwen's propriety and moral superiority, undermining the safety and illusion of the social game everyone in Parkman plays better than anything Minnelli does with the camera. So radical is her unpretentious, unvarnished honesty that she breaks from the suffocating surroundings where no one else can, and it is not for nothing that the seemingly loose girl who arrived in garish colors at the start of the film ends wearing virginal white in the explosion of Technicolor around her. Dave worried that the town would not accept her when they got off the bus, and he was right, but only because she represents all the innocence none of them have, and as such her moral break from the morass around her must soon be followed by a horrifying physical departure that eradicates the sole gleam of hope and humanity in either of Parkman's parallel worlds.

Saturday, July 28

Before Sunset: 3rd Conditional


This excellent activity was provided by Vera Babat, from Uruguay. Here are a few words she provided us with about herself. Thanks for your contribution.

Our institute's web is www.infusionenglish.edu.uy

I'm a psychologist with 12 years experience teaching teenagers and young adults. I love preparing lessons using authentic materials.
Love films that make students think as it's a great chance to think critically on certain issues.




Before Sunset | starring Ethan Hawk /Julie Delpy

Just listen to the Waltz and write the lyrics down. Don’t freak, it’s not that difficult. What do you think the situation is?

Now complete the lyrics with your notes and listen again in case you’ve missed anything. Then, compare your version with the subtitles! Finally you can enjoy the image!

Let me sing you a waltz

________ _____ ____________ , ______ _____ ______ _____________

Let me sing you a waltz

About this _______-______ ____________

You were, for me, that night

Everything I _____________ ______ ______ ____ ___________

But now you're gone

You are _____________ gone

_________ _______ ________ to your island of rain

It was for you just a one night thing

But you were much more to me, ___________ _____ _____ __________

I don't care what they say

I know _________ ______ _______ _____ _______ that day

I just want another try, I just want another night

Even if it ____________ __________ _

_______ ___________

You meant for me __________ ___________ ____________ anyone I’ve met before.

One single night with you, little Jesse, is ___________ ____ __________ __________ __________________

I have no bitterness, my sweet

I'll never forget this one night thing

Even tomorrow ______ ___________ ___________,

my heart ________ __________ _______

_____ ___________ ____ ______

Let me sing you a waltz, Out of nowhere, out of my blues... Let me sing you a waltz ... About this lovely one night stand

Let’s see who they are. Discuss: what do you think would have happened if they had both gone to Vienna that December?

Watch this scene on a boat; write down the sentences in which they discuss how different their lives would have been.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now, make at least four sentence

s on your own. Consider these points

* her grandmother

* not exchanging phone numbers

* she not showing up in Vienna

* his book

* his wife getting pregnant

* the way he thought about responsibilities

* getting down of the car

to the deli on his wedding day

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Predict the ending. What do you think might happen? What would you do if you were them?

Watch the ending. Describe briefly the plot, its style and your personal opinion on the movie.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

This is the sequel of “Before Sunrise”. Read this extract of the review on the movie “Before Sunset” written by Peter Travers for Rolling Stone Magazine

In 1995's Before Sunrise, Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American traveling in Europe, had one night of sex and conversation in Vienna with Celine (Julie Delpy), the French beauty he met on a train. To some, the film was meandering and talky. To others (me included), the film was bliss, a rebel experiment by the two actors and director Richard Linklater (Slacker, School of Rock) to create life as it happens -- screw the Hollywood gloss.

Before Sunset picks up nine years later. Jesse, now a best-selling author, is giving a reading at a bookstore in Paris. Celine, now an environmental activist, walks in. The conversation continues for ninety minutes, in real time, before Jesse must catch a plane home to his wife and son. Linklater follows the lovers -- who had promised to reunite in Vienna in six months and never did -- from cafe to park to boat to Celine's apartment. Those who hungered to see more of these two will be mesmerized. There is something uniquely unforgettab

le in the way Linklater, Hawke and Delpy (equal collaborators on the script) find nuance, art and eroticism in words, spoken and unspoken. The actors shine. Hawke is funny and touching as Jesse describes the harsh truths of his seeming success. Delpy likewise shows the toll of diminished expectations on the still-luminous Celine. But in each other's presence, the two rediscover a frisky youthfulness. Delpy scores a tour de force as Celine re-creates a Nina Simone concert that leaves Jesse entranced. You will be, too. Before Sunset casts a spell only a fool would want to break.

(Posted: Jun 16, 2004)

Now, based on your short description and on the review, write for homework a review on the movie for a magazine. If you need further help, you can rent this movie as well as “Before Sunrise” and watch them with subtitles in English!

You can also visit this website for a good review on this movie and also to learn more on how it was shot. Visit: http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/spring2004/features/paris_day.php

Good luck!

WORKSHEET

MOVIE SEGMENT DOWNLOAD - BEFORE SUNSET

TEACHER’S

Before Sunset (starring Ethan Hawk / Julie Delpy)

AIM: IF CLAUSES, MODALS AND MODALS PERFECT. + FILM REVIEWS AND LISTENING.

SHOW FROM 1:08:30 TILL 1:12:55

PUT THE SUBTITLES OFF!

DON’T GIVE THEM THE WORKSHEET YET.

Just listen to the Waltz and write the lyrics down. Don’t freak, it’s not that difficult.

Now complete the lyrics with your notes and listen again in case you missed anything.

Compare your version with the subtitles!

Let me sing you a waltz

Out of nowhere, out of my thoughts

Let me sing you a waltz

About this one night stand

You were, for me, that night

Everything I always dreamt of in life

But now you're gone

You are far gone

All the way to your island of rain

It was for you just a one night thing

But you were much more to me, just so you know

I don't care what they say

I know what you meant for me that day

I just want another try, I just want another night

Even if it doesn't seem quite right

You meant for me much more than anyone I've met before

One single night with you, little Jesse, is worth a thousand with anybody

I have no bitterness, my sweet

I'll never forget this one night thing

Even tomorrow in other arms, my heart will stay yours until I die

Let me sing you a waltz

Out of nowhere, out of my blues

Let me sing you a waltz

About this lovely one night stand

WHY DO YOU THINK SHE MIGHT HAVE WRITTEN THAT SONG FOR HIM?

Let’s see what the situation is. PLAY FROM 0:1:40 TILL 0:12:35

ELICIT ALL KINDS OF SENTENCES USING IF CLAUSES.

WOULD YOU HAVE GONE? DO YOU THINK SHE WOULD HAVE GONE TO VIENNA IF IT HADN’T BEEN FOR HER GRANDMA’S DEATH? WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED?

WRITE QUESTIONS AND THEIR SENTENCES ON BOARD.

Let’s see what they think about what their lives would have been like if they had met each other in Vienna that December. Take notes on what they say!

WATCH FROM 0:46:24 TILL 0:53:17

Now, make at least four sentences on your own. Consider these points

* her grandmother

* not exchanging phone numbers

* she not showing up in Vienna

* his book

* his wife getting pregnant

* the way he thought about responsibilities

* getting down of the car to the deli on his wedding day

WRITE THEM ON BOARD. ANALYZE STRUCTURE AND DISCUSS IF CLAUSES.

Watch the ending. WATCH FROM 1:12:55 TILL 1:16:37. What do you think might happen? What would you do if you were them? Describe briefly the plot, its style and your personal opinion on the movie.

WHAT DO YOU CALL A PIECE OF WRITING ABOUT A MOVIE THAT IS PUBLISHED ON A MAGAZINE? DISCUSS MAIN CHARACTERISTICS, LAYOUT, REGISTER, ETC.

Read this extract of the review on the movie “Before Sunset” written by Peter Travers for Rolling Stone Magazine

In 1995's Before Sunrise, Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American traveling in Europe, had one night of sex and conversation in Vienna with Celine (Julie Delpy), the French beauty he met on a train. To some, the film was meandering and talky. To others (me included), the film was bliss, a rebel experiment by the two actors and director Richard Linklater (Slacker, School of Rock) to create life as it happens -- screw the Hollywood gloss.

Before Sunset picks up nine years later. Jesse, now a best-selling author, is giving a reading at a bookstore in Paris. Celine, now an environmental activist, walks in. The conversation continues for ninety minutes, in real time, before Jesse must catch a plane home to his wife and son. Linklater follows the lovers -- who had promised to reunite in Vienna in six months and never did -- from cafe to park to boat to Celine's apartment. Those who hungered to see more of these two will be mesmerized. There is something uniquely unforgettable in the way Linklater, Hawke and Delpy (equal collaborators on the script) find nuance, art and eroticism in words, spoken and unspoken. The actors shine. Hawke is funny and touching as Jesse describes the harsh truths of his seeming success. Delpy likewise shows the toll of diminished expectations on the still-luminous Celine. But in each other's presence, the two rediscover a frisky youthfulness. Delpy scores a tour de force as Celine re-creates a Nina Simone concert that leaves Jesse entranced. You will be, too. Before Sunset casts a spell only a fool would want to break.

(Posted: Jun 16, 2004)

READ AND COMMENT.

Now, based on your short description and on the review, write for homework a review on the movie for a magazine. If you need further help, you can rent this movie as well as “Before Sunrise” and watch it with subtitles in English!

For advanced students: e-mail this link: http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/spring2004/features/paris_day.php for a more in-depth review and interview on this movie.

Friday, July 27

The Purple Rose of Cairo: Reported Speech

This is one of my all-times favorite. This scene is great to practice reported speech.




Watch the segment and check who says these lines in.


T - Tom

R - Rita

C - Cecilia



1. ( ) I was in an Egyptian Tomb

2. ( ) I'll wait for that glass at the Copacabana

3. ( ) It's nothing, I'll be OK.

4. ( ) Draw my bath.

5. ( ) I can't wait to get out of these clothes.

6. ( ) I am very impressed.

7. ( ) You've been here all day.

8. ( ) This is the fifth time you're seeing this.

9. ( ) Come here quickly

10. ( ) Who are you?

11. ( ) I'm free.

12. ( ) What's going on?


Now rewrite the sentences above, using reported speech:

Example:

1. Tom said (that) he was in an Egyptian tomb.

2...........................................
3..........................................
4..........................................
5..........................................

WORKSHEET

MOVIE SEGMENT DOWNLOAD - THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO



Answer key: 1. T 2. T 3. R 4. R 5. R 6. T 7. T 8. T 9. R 10. T and C 11. T 12. C



2. ( T ) Tom said he would wait for that glass at the Copacabana.

3. ( R ) Rita said it was nothing, She would be OK.

4. ( R ) Rita told the maid to draw her bath.

5. ( R ) Rita said she couldn't wait to get out of those clothes.

6. ( T ) Tom said he was very impressed.

7. ( T ) Tom said she had been there all day.

8. ( T ) Tom said that was the fifth time she was seeing that.

9. ( R ) Rita told Tom to come there quickly

10. ( T and C) Tom (Cecilia) asked Cecilia (Tom) who she (he) was?

11. ( T ) Tom said he was free.

12. ( C ) Cecilia asked what was going on.

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)

Christopher Nolan's Batman films have seriously, sometimes ponderously, probed the ramifications of superheroes in the "real" world. Batman Begins used its rusted, humid underworld as a petri dish for urban bacteria into which its hero was injected like a test cure. The Dark Knight followed up on the consequences of that hero's success, replacing the low-level scum with a bigger, badder force that wreaked such havoc as a direct result of Batman's presence that one was left to wonder whether his presence made life for the people better or worse. The Dark Knight Rises inverts that thematic dynamic to explore what happens in the hero's absence.

TDKR picks up eight years to the day after the conclusion of The Dark Knight. On the anniversary of Harvey Dent's death, the mayor (Nestor Carbonell) holds a commemoration that flaunts the aggressive clean-up campaign waged in the late district attorney's name, one that has, apparently, rid the city of organized crime. As the mayor, then Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) give their speeches, a shadow watches from above. Not the shadow of a bat, but a man, and a broken one at that, the silhouette of a cane and the bent shadow of the person holding it suggesting not Batman's imposing, fearful, symbolic strength but just a hobbled man. Such has become Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), deteriorated physically from the strain of his days as Batman and mentally from the trauma of losing the friend in whom he believed and the woman he loved. But as another character tells Wayne not too long after, "There's a storm coming," one that will require the man to become a legend once more and handle a greater evil than ever before.

That evil comes in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy), a thick-muscled, gas-masked terrorist who stands in stark contrast to the wiry Scarecrow and Joker of previous films. Bane is as capable of plotting absurdly complex, large-scale destruction as his evil predecessors, but he also has the bulk to go one on one with Batman's own bruising style of combat. His careful calculation does not innately terrify as does the Joker's erratic unpredictability, but Hardy ably works double time as a mastermind and, essentially, his own henchman. Furthermore, Bane's rationality, however severe and intolerant of failure, does prove alluring to the hordes of impoverished average citizens swept under ledgers in this supposed golden age for Gotham, and where Batman once had to contend with nothing more than a handful of devotees, now he must face down an entire army of riled lumpenproletariat.

Nolan's blockbusters are all defined by an inability to trim, and The Dark Knight Rises suffers from more bloat than any of his other, overstuffed features. Before the Bane/Batman conflict even surfaces, Wayne must crawl his way back to fighting form, as well as deal with his ailing company, suffering losses from a mothballed clean energy project. The latter involves the investment of one Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), who also doubles as a possible love interest for Wayne. And then there is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar who specializes in ripping off the rich. Nolan dangles Kyle out not only as a potential love interest but a potential villain to boot. Oh, and then, there is a Gotham police officer, Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an orphan who knows that Bruce Wayne is really Batman because of some kind of orphan Shining and wants Batman to come back after Gordon gets shot. Oh I forgot, Gordon gets shot early in the movie. These plot points stretch the narrative as it is, and Nolan eventually expands each of these strands until the film bursts at the seams. Nolan delights in playing chessmaster and trickster with his narratives, but he has so many pieces to move here that, despite the film's hefty runtime, large details fall through the cracks and time in general passes in the blink of an eye, a key flaw for a film that works best when emphasizing both the arduously slow journey of redemption and the breathlessly tight timeframe in which that journey must be undertaken.


Explanations and clarifications of all these plotlines come through atrocious sound mixing, which buries dialogue and only occasionally gives any force to the more grandiose sound effects and score. The muffled dialogue would matter less were Nolan willing to let the images speak for themselves, but expository dialogue rears its head at every turn. When Cotillard's Tate reminds Wayne of their stalled project, she starts offering so many details she threatens to launch into a history lesson of fusion itself at any second. Characters offer up life stories with the slightest provocation, halting an already unwieldy behemoth. In the film's most unintentionally hilarious scene, one character launches into an overexpository description of a nefarious plan (one filled with already known details and sufficiently visualized with intercut shots of the action being related through speech) as the clock literally runs out of a major threat. But with fewer than three minutes to deal with a huge danger, Batman, Kyle and Gordon all stop and listen to this other character monologue.

Yet if The Dark Knight Rises indulges the very worst of Nolan's tendencies as a filmmaker, it also expands upon his most appealing traits until even the flaws are subsumed into some kind of declarative auteur statement, even if Nolan's style is altogether too banal for such a thing to even be possible. Nolan's blockbusters all mistake scale for composition, but here he gets so grandiose he almost bridges the two. The opening sequence, of a mid-air kidnapping continues to stress the director's fetish for realism in ridiculously outsized stunts, yet for once Nolan embraces the sheer lunacy of what he shoots, setting the mood for his most successful fusion of huge spectacle and vague plausibility yet. Greatly aiding matters is a level of action coherence heretofore unseen in Nolan's work. At last, his close-combat filming achieves a genuine visceral effect because the director holds back just enough to let the audience follow along. Nowhere is this better seen than in the first brawl between Batman and Bane, which highlights Bane's strength and speed against the lumbering Bat and adds a level of savagery to each sick thud the villain lands on a formidable icon who suddenly looks so very weak.

Elsewhere, Nolan brings back some of the loopier visual stylings of Batman Begins, especially in a tossed-off mini-sequence of Batman and Catwoman prowling the sewers looking for Bane, Catwoman distracting patrolling thugs as Batman pulls some Bat-tastic moves like upside-down grabs and a zig-zagging run in the dark illuminated only by the flash of gunfire. Late in the film, Wayne spends some time in a literal pit of a prison, its Escherian properties clearly dear to the director's heart. Nolan also has a ball when Bane's plan comes to fruition, plunging Gotham into a social uprising that bypasses Occupy for the French Revolution and makes for some of the best images of the entire trilogy. Indeed, nothing else in the film is so evocative, striking, and wonderfully insane as Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy) sitting atop a massive dais passing kangaroo court judgments on Gotham's wealthy. For a series that has only gotten more literal-minded as it has worn on, such brief breaths of ingenuity hint that somewhere in that fussy brain of his, Nolan actually has an imagination.

These rare moments of respite become all the more treasured as the plot wears on and spirals out of control. Yet the ramshackle sequencing of the lugubrious plot is, to this writer anyway, inexplicably charming. Writing in total CYA mode, the Nolan brothers attempt to satisfactorily map out not only the various character and narrative arcs of the film but the muddled politics of this saga. The Dark Knight Rises offers evidence to support any reading. Batman, the billionaire hero, intervenes in a populist revolt and sides openly with the police in a street war. However, Bane's manipulation of Gotham's underclass stands in sharp, vile contrast to whatever disillusionment the people might feel. The most admirable, if wildly inconsistent, quality of Nolan's Batman films has been that of consequence, a rare trait of most comic book movies, with their weightless CGI and flippant bombast. Nolan does not come down on any one side of his many contradictory messages but demonstrates how actions ripple out and mingle until blame and righteousness matter less than simply solving a problem that has gotten out of hand. True, Nolan makes this point less through thoughtful examination than simply throwing everything he can at the screen, but he nevertheless ends up breaking down the simplistic good vs. evil conflict of so many superhero movies, including Nolan's last two.

Nolan's best diversions, however, involve the space he gives to his actors. Bale's entropic performance as Wayne/Batman has always been the least dynamic element of these films, but his withered, defeated entrance in this film (and in the aftermath of a fight with Bane) clarifies that iciness as the mark of a man who has been broken since childhood. His literal shattering in this film is not a horrifying twist; it is the inevitable, physical bookend to the emotional devastation from which a little boy never recovered. Oldman, Freeman and Caine make it look almost too easy, especially Caine, who milks a part specifically written to wring tears from the audience for all it's worth. But once again, it's the antagonists who command attention. Hardy adopts a high, almost cheery voice that conflicts with his thick frame and obscured face. Before he sets in motion his attack on Gotham, he jovially praises a boy's on-the-nose singing of the National Anthem to himself ("What a lovely, lovely voice!") And though his eyes generally look well beyond everyone into a thousand-yard stare of simmering fury and cold thought, Bane reacts to the first sighting of the Batwing with a look of curiosity, nonverbally asking, "Where does he get those wonderful toys?"

If the movie belongs to anyone, though, it's Hathaway, who steals the screen along with Martha Wayne's old pearls with a half-turn and backflip out of Wayne Manor and never gives it back. Hathaway plays up Selina's weaponized sensuality and captures the character's irritation with her own morality, so used to self-preservation that she cannot ever do the right thing without a hint of exasperation. Plus, in the morass of the film's politicking pile-on, only Hathaway manages to fully exhibit a clear social perspective as well as a change of heart communicated in a few glances of disgust and contemplation. Hathaway already proved her talent for portraying ambiguous, unpredictable characters in 2008's Rachel Getting Married, but it is no less thrilling to see her show it in a genre (and for a director) that typically has no clue what to do with women.


Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises does not address some of the fundamental flaws of this trilogy. For a director who loves intricate mastermind schemes, Nolan does not particularly stress Batman's intelligence and ability to outsmart his foes, choosing rather to highlight Batman's ability to have 280 pounds of muscle and punch people in the solar plexus. And how sad it is that the one example of long-term planning on Wayne's part—the sonar grid of The Dark Knight—is far and away the low point of the entire saga, a sloppily executed and morally dubious setpiece.  Nolan also lets his plots get away from him, and it is not to his credit that The Dark Knight feels like two films crammed into one and The Dark Knight Rises could be its own trilogy. Finally, this closing chapter builds off Inception to suggest that for all Nolan's supposed ambition as a mainstream filmmaker of ideas, his greatest desire is to helm a Bond picture. The Prestige, with its modest scale, perfectly interlocking mechanics and almost accidental profundity, remains his greatest film, indeed one of the greatest of the last decade. Yet The Dark Knight Rises is certainly the "most" Nolan film, a work that blends his talents and faults until distinguishing between the two becomes a pointless exercise. This near-three-hour film splits attention among a handful of major characters, all but two of whom, Wayne and Gordon, are brand new. It ties up every loose end it can even as it leaves major logic gaps unaddressed. It devotes a huge chunk of time to a political subtext that suggests any insight at all only through a barrage of surface-depth ideas. And frankly, this damn thing makes no sense on thematic or narrative grounds. And yet, on this thin foundation Nolan builds a behemoth, and what charm the film has lies in its ability to teeter incessantly without collapsing.