Arts Review

Jon Stewart’s Rosewater: Fatal sins of omission

By Joanne Laurier, 21 November 2014

Stewart, host of The Daily Show, has written and directed a film treating the Iranian government’s incarceration and torture of a London-based, Iranian-born journalist in the immediate aftermath of the 2009 presidential election.

Distortion and dishonesty: Ukrainian films at the Cottbus Film Festival

By Stefan Steinberg, 20 November 2014

The Festival of East European Cinema in Cottbus, Germany has been an annual event since 1991.

Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work: A biography of the remarkable actor

By Charles Bogle, 19 November 2014

Susan L. Mizruchi’s work uses the late actor’s extensive book collection, along with film scripts, research materials and notes for films, to deliver a complex and believable Marlon Brando.

Still The Enemy Within: The 1984-85 British miners’ strike according to the pseudo-left

By Paul Mitchell, 15 November 2014

The central problem with the documentary is its promotion of the state capitalist Socialist Workers Party’s perspective, which lets the Labour Party and the unions entirely off the hook for the betrayal of the miners.

The Death of Klinghoffer dramatizes 1985 hijacking of Achille Lauro

By Fred Mazelis, 14 November 2014

John Adams’s opera is a worthy addition to the contemporary operatic repertory.

Atlanta Symphony musicians agree to concessions after nine-week lockout

By Fred Mazelis, 13 November 2014

The latest contract follows a pattern across the US, but there is also growing anger at the corporate stranglehold on culture.

HBO’s Olive Kitteridge: Why are these people so unhappy?

By Joanne Laurier, 10 November 2014

Adapted from Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, HBO’s miniseries Olive Kitteridge deals with life in a small community on the coast of Maine.

“Give me something to do”

The literary impact and social concerns of American novelist Dave Eggers

By James Brookfield, 3 November 2014

Without wanting to oversimplify, one presumes that the general sympathy with which sufferers are treated in Eggers’ novels is owing in no small measure to his own experiences.

Fury: What is “realism”? What is an “anti-war” film?

By David Walsh, 1 November 2014

David Ayer’s morbid and militarist film follows an American tank crew, led by Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt), in the final days of World War II in Europe.

Three darkish comedies: Birdman, The Skeleton Twins and St. Vincent

By Joanne Laurier, 30 October 2014

Birdman deals with the washed-up star of a super-hero franchise. The Skeleton Twins portrays two siblings trying to overcome a painful psychological legacy. St. Vincent features a misanthropic Vietnam veteran who forms a life-changing attachment.

Pride: The UK miners’ strike through the distorted mirror of identity politics

By Robert Stevens, 29 October 2014

Matthew Warchus’ film about the 1984-85 conflict has been well received in Britain and was the third highest-grossing release on its opening weekend.

The Cut, a story of the Armenian Genocide

By Hiram Lee, 28 October 2014

Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin returns with a story of a family torn apart by the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

The Death of Klinghoffer premieres in New York

By Fred Mazelis, 22 October 2014

Despite vitriolic attacks and demands that the performance be cancelled, John Adams’s work went on as scheduled at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night.

David Fincher’s Gone Girl: The lady vanishes

By Marcelo Arias Souto, 22 October 2014

Gone Girl wants to be a psychological study, a black comedy about the upper middle class, a social critique and a satire of media sensationalism. A few aspects are intriguing, even accomplished.

Citizenfour documentary on Edward Snowden premieres in UK and US

By Robert Stevens, 20 October 2014

Speaking of the NSA and the intelligence apparatus, Snowden asserts, in Laura Poitras’ documentary, “We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind.”

The Gary Webb story in Kill the Messenger: Shedding light on CIA criminality and conspiracy

By Joanne Laurier, 17 October 2014

Michael Cuesta’s film tells the story of the journalist whose 1996 investigative series, “Dark Alliance,” uncovered ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and massive drug peddling by the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras.

The Gold Mine by Kelsey Waldon: Life, more or less

By Dylan Lubao, 16 October 2014

Kelsey Waldon sets out to tell small-town stories in her debut album.

The legacy of postwar Polish filmmaker Andrzej Munk

By Dorota Niemitz, 13 October 2014

Munk, part of a generation of Eastern European artists struggling to deal with the postwar situation, was able to create a humane and authentic portrait of his times.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 5

99 Homes, Shelter and harsh American realities: Filmmakers inch their way toward important truths

Director Ramin Bahrani: “The villain is the system”

By Joanne Laurier, 10 October 2014

99 Homes deals with the foreclosure and eviction crisis, Shelter with the homeless. Also screened was a documentary about a Mexican citizen 30 years on death row, The Years of Fierro.

Snowpiercer: A new ice age and its consequences

By Muhammad Khan, 8 October 2014

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s latest film tackles environmental catastrophe and social revolution.

The Boxtrolls: A cartoonish glimpse of class society

By Zaida Green, 6 October 2014

An underclass of trolls takes on the wealthy and corrupt White Hats in the new animated film from Laika, the Oregon-based studio.

Calvary: An Irish priest threatened for another’s crimes

By Christine Schofelt, 4 October 2014

In the opening scene, Father James (Brendan Gleeson) takes confession from an unseen man who recounts being sexually abused by a priest as a child, and informs James he is going to kill him “Sunday week.”

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 4

Iraqi Odyssey and other pictures of the modern world

By David Walsh, 2 October 2014

The film, directed by Iraqi-Swiss filmmaker Samir, attempts to interweave the complex saga of the director’s own family with the larger history of Iraq over the past half-century or more.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 3

Drone warfare in Good Kill

and a roundtable interview with writer-director Andrew Niccol and actor Ethan Hawke

By David Walsh, 26 September 2014

New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Niccol has taken on the subject of drone warfare in Good Kill, featuring Ethan Hawke, Bruce Greenwood, Zoë Kravitz and January Jones.

New York Public Library exhibition on US entry into World War I

By Fred Mazelis, 25 September 2014

“Over Here: WWI and the Fight for the American Mind” describes the way in which propaganda and mass media “were used to shape and control public opinion about the war” a century ago.

Video: WSWS Arts Editor David Walsh speaks on the 2014 Toronto Film Festival

25 September 2014

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival presented a number of films about the foreclosure crisis and homelessness as well as about drone warfare.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 2

Phoenix and Labyrinth of Lies: German history and other complex questions

By Joanne Laurier, 24 September 2014

Christian Petzold’s Phoenix and Italian-born Giulio Ricciarelli’s Labyrinth of Lies are both skillfully made, intelligent films that delve, in quite different ways, into the legacy of German fascism.

Grave of the Fireflies: Two children fighting for survival in wartime Japan

By Elle Chapman, 22 September 2014

Produced over 25 years ago, the Japanese animation feature is a unique and emotionally intense story set in Kobe during the last months of World War II.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014—Part 1

Something different in filmmaking

By David Walsh, 18 September 2014

A number of remarkable films were screened at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, out of a total of 284 feature films and 108 shorts, from some 80 countries.

Common’s Nobody’s Smiling: A murky offering by the Chicago rapper

By Nick Barrickman, 16 September 2014

The tenth studio album from Grammy award-winning rapper Common attempts to grapple with gang violence and social misery in his hometown of Chicago

World War I remembered through British art

Truth and Memory at the Imperial War Museum, London, until March 2015

By Tom Pearse, 6 September 2014

A major retrospective at the Imperial War Museum London features the work of British artists sent to capture the reality of the First World War.

Willie Nelson’s Band of Brothers: A songwriter returns

By Hiram Lee, 2 September 2014

Country music icon Willie Nelson marks a successful return to songwriting with his latest album.

HBO’s True Detective: Gruesome doings and deep-going pessimism

By Christine Schofelt, 28 August 2014

Presented in an almost painterly fashion, the first season of True Detective offers up a sad picture indeed.

Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight: Keeping life at a distance

By David Walsh, 22 August 2014

A famed illusionist (Colin Firth) is brought in to expose a young clairvoyant (Emma Stone), but instead begins to have doubts about his own rationalistic world-view.

Rich Hill: A story that “could be told in hundreds of towns”

By Joanne Laurier, 20 August 2014

The documentary, directed by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, movingly chronicles the lives of three boys living in an impoverished, rural southwestern Missouri town.

New Met Opera contract sets precedent for further givebacks

By Fred Mazelis, 20 August 2014

An all-night bargaining session produced a four-year deal based on “equality of sacrifice.”

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood: American lives over the course of a dozen years

By David Walsh, 19 August 2014

Using the same cast, the writer-director filmed sequences once a year for twelve years, centering on a boy, his family and their surroundings in east and central Texas.

Lucy: A little knowledge is apparently a dangerous thing

By Hiram Lee, 16 August 2014

In Lucy, Scarlett Johansson is a super-powered intellect fighting to take down a Taiwanese drug cartel.

Lockout deadline at New York’s Metropolitan Opera extended

By Fred Mazelis, 14 August 2014

The third delay in the lockout threat points to the danger that concession agreements will be reached with the Met unions.

Get On Up: The James Brown story

By Joanne Laurier, 14 August 2014

Tate Taylor’s film biography attempts with considerable success to penetrate the James Brown phenomenon. As the famed American singer-performer, Chadwick Boseman is mesmerizing.

Comic actor and performer Robin Williams, dead at 63

By David Walsh, 13 August 2014

Williams was found dead on Monday at his home in Tiburon, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, having apparently commited suicide.

Delaware Art Museum sells masterworks to pay construction debts

By Andre Damon, 12 August 2014

Last week, the museum, home to a unique collection of English Pre-Raphaelite and American realist art, sold one of its signature pieces, Isabella and the Pot of Basil, by William Holman Hunt.

Bruce Weber’s Detroit: “Projection” as truth?

“I was really thinking just of my picture, instead of what life is really like”

By Seraphine Collins, 8 August 2014

The exhibition of the well-known fashion photographer’s work opened June 20 at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and will run through September 7.

Sage Francis’s Copper Gone: A critic, but frustrated

By Nick Barrickman, 6 August 2014

Francis is best known for his passionate vocal performances and thought-provoking lyrics that express understandable anger at the conditions of modern society.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, or Yawn of the Planet of the Apes

By Kevin Martinez, 4 August 2014

The original Planet of the Apes (1968), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, with Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowall, was fairly silly, but it was not mean-spirited and had a certain humor to it.

Interview with Professor Ian Duncan on Sir Walter Scott: The novel “as a kind of total environment of human life”

By David Walsh, 31 July 2014

Ian Duncan is the author of an introduction to a Penguin Classics edition of Waverley and currently teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

Mad Men, season seven, first half: A step forward for US television?

By Charles Bogle, 30 July 2014

The AMC series, about an ad agency in the 1960s, has attracted a great deal of attention for its efforts to recreate the social atmosphere and circumstances of those years.

Lost for Life: Children locked away in America

By Joanne Laurier, 28 July 2014

The film’s web site reports the staggering, and scandalous, fact that more than “2,000 people in the US are serving life-without-parole sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles.”

New York’s Metropolitan Opera threatens August 1 lockout

By Fred Mazelis, 26 July 2014

The board of trustees is demanding that musicians and other staff pay for the financial difficulties of the opera company.

The Passenger depicts the Holocaust and its aftermath in opera form

By Fred Mazelis, 25 July 2014

This “lost opera,” written in the late 1960s, deserves a permanent place in the repertoire.

Below the surface of Louis Theroux’s LA Stories: City of Dogs

By Charles Thorpe and Norisa Diaz, 23 July 2014

Theroux’s new three-part series provides glimpses of the social crisis in Los Angeles, but the documentarian’s approach prevents him from probing very deeply.

Cut in funding for English National Opera

By Margot Miller, 19 July 2014

As a proportion of total UK public spending, a miniscule 0.5 percent now goes to the arts.

Detroit Institute of Arts on track to become wholly owned corporate subsidiary

By David Walsh, 17 July 2014

The DIA has received pledges of another $26.8 million in donations from various major corporations and banks toward its goal of raising $100 million as part of the so-called “Grand Bargain.”

Prasanna Vithanage’s With You, Without You: The human impact of Sri Lanka’s communal war

By Wasantha Rupasinghe and Panini Wijesiriwardane, 14 July 2014

Vithanage’s film is a serious artistic effort and reveals how the decades-long communal war affected human relationships.

Interesting music in 2014 so far

By our reporters, 12 July 2014

World Socialist Web Site music reviewers pick some of the more interesting albums or songs released in the first half of 2014.

HBO’s Remembering the Artist: Robert De Niro Sr. and Ida

By Joanne Laurier, 10 July 2014

The 40-minute documentary on the postwar American painter Robert De Niro, Sr. is a delicate and moving homage, in which his son, the actor Robert De Niro, figures prominently.

Two hundred years since the publication of Waverley

Sir Walter Scott and the drama of history

By David Walsh, 9 July 2014

Monday marked 200 years since the publication of Waverley, a novel by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), an event of genuine artistic and intellectual significance.

Veteran soul singer Bobby Womack dies, aged 70

By Richard Phillips, 8 July 2014

One of the few remaining old-school soul singers still working, Womack left behind a remarkable body of work in rhythm and blues.

The career of popular songwriter Gerry Goffin (1939-2014)

By Hiram Lee, 7 July 2014

Lyricist Gerry Goffin passed away in June at the age of 75. Together with composer Carole King, he wrote many of the better known pop hits of the 1960s.

… And Then You Shoot Your Cousin: The Roots satirize the hip hop world

By Nick Barrickman, 30 June 2014

Formed in 1987 in Philadelphia, The Roots have produced some of the more interesting and oppositional music in hip hop.

“Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video” at New York’s Guggenheim Museum

By Clare Hurley, 28 June 2014

The work of the African American artist (born 1953) has been widely praised for its examination of race, gender and class. “Class” now comes in a distant third.

Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys: The story of The Four Seasons on screen

By Joanne Laurier, 27 June 2014

Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort is a film version of the popular musical that premiered on Broadway in 2005 and revived interest in the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera demands major givebacks from thousands of employees

By Fred Mazelis, 27 June 2014

The ruling elite is demanding complete control over all aspects of cultural life.

Eli Wallach (1915-2014): Major character actor of stage, screen and television

By Fred Mazelis, 27 June 2014

The actor’s career spanned 65 years and intersected with the work of many leading figures in the film and theater worlds.

“Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York

By Clare Hurley, 25 June 2014

As an artistic movement, Futurism was not much more than an Italian variant of other European modernist trends.

Prolific composer and master jazz pianist Horace Silver dies at 85

By John Andrews, 24 June 2014

Horace Silver, the noted pianist and composer central to the hard bop school of jazz, has passed away, leaving a legacy of outstanding recordings made during the 1950s and 1960s.

Entre Nos (Between US) and Red Father: Aspects of US life and history

By Joanne Laurier, 23 June 2014

Entre Nos dramatizes the plight of a Colombian immigrant and her two children in New York City. Red Father, a documentary, recounts the life and career of Bernard Ades, a lawyer and longtime member of the Communist Party.

The Metropolitan Opera’s censorship of The Death of Klinghoffer

By David Walsh, 21 June 2014

The opera company’s decision to cancel its global video and radio transmission of John Adams’ work is a scandalous and cowardly capitulation to right-wing forces.

At the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto

Making sense of human suffering: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore — Terror and Beauty

By Lee Parsons, 21 June 2014

Two of the most prominent British artists of the modern period—a rare and unlikely pairing—are brought together in this exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

A great Soviet film about World War II

No more war! The anti-war message of The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

By Dorota Niemitz, 19 June 2014

The film is a story about two young people, Boris and Veronica, who are in love and plan to get married. Their plans are postponed when the German army invades the USSR in 1941.

A further comment on The Cranes Are Flying

By Wolfgang Weber, 19 June 2014

The Cranes Are Flying was a great success in East and West Germany, as it was in the Soviet Union.

Classic jazz from Detroit’s Royal Garden Trio

By Hiram Lee, 16 June 2014

The Detroit-based Royal Garden Trio perform classic jazz and popular songs from the 1920s and 1930s. Their work deserves a larger audience.

Ruby Dee, American actress and activist, dead at 91

By David Walsh, 14 June 2014

Dee won Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk and Screen Actors Guild awards during her remarkable acting career, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for her role in American Gangster (2007).

Beyoncé, the new album

By Matthew Brennan, 14 June 2014

Though not a huge deviation, Beyoncé is musically a bit more experimental than her previous albums.

Satchmo at the Waldorf in New York: The life and times of jazz great Louis Armstrong

By Fred Mazelis, 12 June 2014

A one-man show in New York reveals something of the man behind the myth about an iconic figure in jazz history

So Bright is the View: A serious film from Romania

By David Walsh, 4 June 2014

Estera, a middle class Jewish girl in Bucharest, has to make a choice between pursuing a job in Atlanta, working for a nouveau riche thug, or joining her mother in Israel.

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Film portrait of an American radical iconoclast

By Fred Mazelis, 2 June 2014

The newly released documentary on the life of writer and social critic Gore Vidal has much to recommend it.

Utopia: A confronting but politically flawed documentary

By Susan Allan, 31 May 2014

John Pilger presents a stark picture of Aboriginal disadvantage and oppression but blames racism, not capitalism.

Belle’s moving and enlightened story (and The Immigrant)

By Joanne Laurier, 30 May 2014

Amma Asante’s film recounts the remarkable 18th century story of Dido Belle, a mixed-race girl who ends up in the care of William Murray, England’s lord chief justice. James Gray’s The Immigrant is set in New York in 1921.

Sun Kil Moon’s Benji: Life and death (mostly death) in small-town Ohio

By Zac Corrigan, 27 May 2014

The latest album from Mark Kozelek, who records as Sun Kil Moon, concerns the often tragic lives of the singer’s friends and family members.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part four: Manos Sucias, Freedom Summer and others: Bitter social conflict present and past

By Joanne Laurier, 26 May 2014

A film about Colombia, a short conversation with its director, and a documentary about the civil rights movement in the 1960s, among other things.

Pharrell Williams’ Girl troubles

By Hiram Lee, 24 May 2014

Following last year’s successful collaboration with Daft Punk, producer and performer Pharrell Williams has returned with Girl, a hit album of his own.

Orson Welles: An “unfinished artist” in an unfinished century

Event marks 80 years since theater festival in Woodstock, Illinois

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 23 May 2014

Welles remains one of the most remarkable figures in the history of the cinema and theater in the 20th century.

Interviews with critics and film historians about Orson Welles

By David Walsh and Joanne Laurier, 23 May 2014

During the recent celebration in Woodstock, Illinois, commemorating 80 years since the Todd Theatre Festival organized by Orson Welles, we had the opportunity to speak to a number of the presenters and participants.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part three: Bad Hair, School of Babel, South is Nothing: Struggling in a harsh reality

By David Walsh, 21 May 2014

It is difficult to conceive of a serious artistic treatment of life today that avoids the economic realities and pressures relentlessly bearing down on the overwhelming majority of humanity.

“We won’t let anybody fool us”: Tune-Yards’ Nikki Nack

By Hiram Lee, 17 May 2014

Indie-pop band Tune-Yards has returned with a strong follow-up to its 2011 release Whokill.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part two: Tamako in Moratorium, Standing Aside, Watching, Three Letters from China: Greater urgency from Japan, Greece and China

By Joanne Laurier, 16 May 2014

Several films screened at the San Francisco film festival this year shed light on the dire physical and emotional impact of the global economic crisis on the lives of the general population.

Threat of closure held over heads of San Diego Opera musicians, workers

By Dorota Niemitz and Norisa Diaz, 14 May 2014

The closure threat is being used first and foremost as a means of transforming the company from a thriving cultural institution into an operation run on profit-making lines.

Vibrate: How good is the best of singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright?

By Hiram Lee, 13 May 2014

American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has returned with a new best-of collection.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2014

Part one: There is realism, and then there is realism

By David Walsh, 12 May 2014

The recent San Francisco International Film Festival, its 57th edition, screened some 168 films, including 100 or so fiction or documentary features.

British actor Bob Hoskins (1942-2014): “When you’ve got something to give, give it without hesitation”

By Paul Bond, 10 May 2014

Hoskins was a fine performer, never less than watchable, and able to combine vulnerability with explosive anger.

Diego Luna’s Cesar Chavez: An uninspired film on farm workers’ leader

By Kevin Martinez, 10 May 2014

The film concerns the efforts of Chavez (Michael Pena) to unionize farm workers in California’s Central Valley during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Out Among the Stars, a “new” album from Johnny Cash

By Hiram Lee, 7 May 2014

Out Among the Stars collects material recorded by country music legend Johnny Cash in the early 1980s and never before released to the public.

The Long Way Home: Sydney Theatre Company signs up with the Australian military

By Richard Phillips, 26 April 2014

The play effects concern about the plight of psychologically and physically wounded soldiers, while whitewashing the Australian military and covering up the criminal nature of the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan.

Bioshock Infinite and the video game phenomenon

By Theo McLean and David Walsh, 17 April 2014

The third in the Bioshock series of popular video games, Infinite follows thematically in the footsteps of its predecessors.

Captain America—The Winter Soldier: So much noise and action you almost fall asleep

By Joanne Laurier, 15 April 2014

This is the latest film installment featuring Marvel Comics’ character Captain America, one of the most prominent and patriotic superheroes introduced in American comic books in the World War II era.

New York City radio drive collects 2,500 musical instruments for public school students

By Fred Mazelis, 14 April 2014

The used instruments were accumulated in a ten-day drive conducted by classical station WQXR that ended on April 7.

A concert of twentieth century masterworks by Britten, Bartók and Shostakovich

By Fred Mazelis, 11 April 2014

The program performed April 2 by the New York Philharmonic was a powerful demonstration of the heights reached by classical music in the first half of the last century.

Artistic resistance to the US-backed juntas

Losing the Human Form: A seismic image of the 1980s in Latin America

By Armando Cruz, 10 April 2014

The exhibition, presented in Madrid in 2012 and recently in Lima, Peru, is a fascinating compilation of works from the 1980s that voiced opposition to the militarized regimes in Latin America.