Friday, November 23, 2007

Hot Fuzz


A masterfully written, directed, acted & filmed comic cop caper that cleverly combines the genres of buddy movie, fish out of water, and a conspiracy afoot. The film mines every comic possibility available (from slapstick to deadpan, from irony to pun, from mixed identity to old school stereotyping) but handles the main characters with such truth that we're absolutely encouraged to laugh with not at the "good guys" and while all the villains grow increasingly arch, they're all wrapped in such scathing statements of social satire that we're really laughing at their social roles and institutions, not them particularly.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Marie Antoinette



I believe Coppola's film functions as more than a third-wave feminist re-construction of a much-maligned historical figure, I found this movie to be a brilliant social critique. Very intimate cinematography paired with a hyperbolist's sense of STYLE help bring us gradually close to a version of Marie who could not possibly be culpable for her excess -- her world is so indulgent and insular that her privilege seems natural; so, in the dark final moments, when we feel torn by our empathy for her and our understanding of how severely her privilege has cost other people -- we, in the top ten percent of the world's wealth, with the most lavish, decadent lifestyle on the planet -- *must* feel implicated in her sin -- our decadent lives are premised on just the same sorts of insular, self-absorbed indulgence as Marie.

++++

Modern Times



The structure of this classic weaves together visual jokes, narrative repetition and episodic humour in a style that no longer exists in cinema, but toward a social critique of forces that seem more familiar and contemporary than bygone and irrelevant. The forces of mechanization, industrialization, the depersonalization of the workforce, the collective aspiration toward upward mobility, the obsession with material consumption, and the obsession with romantic consummation all seem as topical as they were in the 30s; only now the formal elements of non-sync sound and black and white film make the picture seem like a chillingly prescient parable about the definitive sisyphusian trajectory for American Culture.

+++1/2

The Secret of Photo 51



This documentary about Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering female scientist whose pivotal photograph of the structure of DNA earned some greedy, thieving male colleagues a Nobel Prize and her? nothing -- works not because of its innovative approach to filmmaking; the formal elements hit by the numbers marks and read like a standard made-for-PBS-film. The story works because of the compelling themes, conflicts and ideas it evokes for the serious viewer.

+++

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thank You For Smoking


A tobacco lobbyist, blinded by hubris, is fooled by a reporter and puts Big Tobacco at risk; when he loses his job, only his son can remind him of his true talent / conceit -- his ability to make an argument -- which saves his neck and lets him escape the whole shenanigan with nary a scratch. While I enthusiastically loved the way that this film was shot, felt that the performances were both true and engaging, I found the writing to be laboriously expositional and not driven forward through the fundamental element of dramatic writing -- conflict.

++1/2

Monday, November 05, 2007

Old Joy


This quiet cinematic meditation on old friendships feels much more than it says; the camerawork celebrates the closeup and the slow sculpting of time in forests, on roadtrips and in conversation. The filmmaking is both masterful and effortless and very content to be discreet in the claims it makes on our attention and toward any truth.

++++

I can imagine a tagline: all the feeling of SIDEWAYS, none of the plot.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Knocked Up


In some ways this venture could be a sequel to or a cousin of 40 Year Old Virgin, but that's not to suggest that this installment is hackneyed or cliched by any means; I found the performances to be surprisingly subtle, many scenes moved in interesting directions and the characters, while downloading their templates straight out of popular culture formulas, manage to infuse the stereotypes with life and truth. Production employs standard Hollywood conventions to maintain invisibility and push the story, themes and performances to the fore, and while Act Three was too tepid, rote and un-earned for my tastes, it didn't feel offensive and it was executed well.

+++1/2

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time Regained


While I have only started to read Proust, my sense thus far is that this film is a faithful adaptation (no small task given the monumental, rambling ruminations of Things Remembered), though I am not confident that those who loved the book will love the movie. The nonlinear structure, the dream-like mise en scene, and the dependence upon gradually cyclically returning motifs demand patient, generous viewing which may require not only a love of Proust's themes (of memory, love, loss, betrayal, bells, light, and carefully manicured settings), but also a well trained cinephile's eye.

+++1/2