Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No Country For Old Men


An old-timer sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) follows the trail of a psychopath assassin(Javier Bardem), while Moss (Josh Brolin), the everyman hero, tries with all his might to hold on to the drug money he accidentally found while hunting in the desert; the formula of Moss chasing the money, the assassin chasing Moss (a few more hit men chasing Moss & the assassin) all set the sheriff up perfectly to recite (with deep meaning) my favorite verse from the Bible - the more you try to hold onto something, the more you will lose it.

But the austere photography, dense plotting, the gorgeously and subtly grating score, understated performance and impeccably paced movement across the wasteland of Texas do not point toward the clarity of a single proverb; in fact only one character in the film knows any sort of purity, and in the end, the only kernel of hope is all but eclipsed by the darkness of moral ambiguity.

Mrs. Brown


This period piece nails each by-the-book convention of the costume-drama genre: lush landscapes (the Scottish Highlands), patiently conveyed formalities of the aristocratic class, lavish wealth articulated through artful props and costumes, and British actors suppressing loads of emotion. Most admirable here is the focus on the unlikely (historically confirmed) relationship between Queen Victoria and her rogue highlander servant, John Brown; the two gain great satisfaction from each other's vigor and honesty, and while her life grows richer at the expense of his increasing devotion to her, we leave convinced that the wealth of their friendship transcends any other wealth articulated in the film.

The Passenger



A reporter weary of his life chooses to abandon his own life in favor of the life of another; the same weariness finds him again and threatens to defeat him. Though his journey through the Italian countryside with a beautiful, spirited, and game woman offers all kinds of adventure and possibility, the only acceptable ending for Antonioni is an inconclusive, and off-topic ellilpis...

+++1/2

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Deliciously Photographed Interiors

Wong Kar Wai's 2046

Wong Kar Wai's In The Mood For Love

Wong Kar Wai's Happy Together

Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice

Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums

In America

Blowup


(already reviewed once)

Thomas, the lead character of the film, remains the spine of meaning despite the plots insistence on genre defying conventions (an inappropriately long first act, several macguffins litter the story, and an ending that rewards the first act in a way that almost shrugs off the action of the second act). He wins at least a few moments of self awareness from the bizarre events of the film: he understands that his obsessions with decadence and self-promotion have eroded his ability to say anything truly important to those immediately surrounding him, he understands that his own vision/perception (the thing he trusts most as a photographer) may not only be faulty (since his first perception of the moments on the ridge were peaceful perceptions) but may in fact create realities themselves (the gun? the body? the face in the bushes?); all questions that we, the viewers are implicated in, in the final shot just before "THE END" announces the film's completion.

++++

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Helvetica



While the interviews with designers, historians and cultural critics felt like a delightful grad seminar on steroids, the real beauty of the film came in the stunning montage sequences. Finding helvetica in real life allows the filmmakers to make beautiful visual points about the ways that fonts are and are not transparent, are and are not coercive, are and are not manipulated by designers, printers, advertisers, CEOs & government officials.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Superbad


This flick doesn't flinch at being derivative, instead it takes tropes from other R-rated comedies and holds onto them a little longer than we'd expect, but not longer than we enjoy. Strong performances give heart to this mish-mash of genres and tropes (the buddy movie, the sexual coming-of-age movie, keystone cops foibles & the end-of-high-school John Hughes specialty), the tender moment near the ending when the filmmakers manage to both bracket and exploit all the homoerotic subtext and yet sustain one of the most sincere moments of intimacy in the genre.

+++1/2