Sunday, March 23, 2008

Fix


Ferris Bueller meets Trainspotting in this kinetic 24 hour film about a socially conscious documentarian brother and his drug-addicted brother trying to raise enough money to enter a rehab clinic before the judges orders run out. The beauty of the cinematography, the difficult-but-well-executed narrative style, the menagerie of intriguing characters and the complexity and poetic parallelism of the sibling relationship, all more than overcome the movie's occasionally overly-stylized and on-the-nose moments.

++++

How Ohio Pulled it Off


This documentary chronicles how the 2004 presidential election was compromised and how Ohio voters impeached Kenneth Blackwell, the man ultimately responsible for that compromise in his 2006 bid for senate; in doing so, the film champions the ultimate power of grassroots movements to correct corruption in political processes. The film is well paced, the story is transparently narrated and even though this doc suffers from the (often fatal) problem of being issue-centered instead of focused on one particularly empathic character, it manages to be engaging and intriguing from start to finish.

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++++

Saturday, March 22, 2008

August The First



When Tunde's father returns after ten years of absence in Africa for a graduation party, the family suspects he's up to no good and together spend the rest of the movie trying to discover his malevolent intention. The diegesis of the gently fading suburban home, the subjective and improvisational photography, the impressively organic editing, the depth of the characters and the (mostly) subtle performances all serve the story well, but after the films midpoint the hysterics go up, the plot twists start to feel contrived and the resolution feels too neat.

++++

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly



Schnabel's film beautifully balances the tension between the idea that a long slow death offers both the beautiful opportunity to puzzle over the beauty and meaning of one's life and it offers the tragedy of watching all of your relationships stall and frieze and drift away from your control. The art direction, cinematography and pacing worked together so well that I genuinely forgot myself and the theatre-going several times -- joining my heart and hopes utterly with Jean-Do.

++++1/2

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Son the Fanatic



A middle-aged immigrant taxi driver watches in astonishment as his only son becomes an Islamic extremist; his only happiness comes to him through a friendship with a high class prostitute. The perfectly structured story and the inobtrusive production values allow the relationships to lay out a complex and nuanced description of contemporary relationships between idealism and opportunism, between democratic values and traditional values, between blind faith and fractured hope.

++++

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl


Who knew that "sweet," "gentle," & "heartwarming" would describe a small northern town supporting the sex-doll delusion for one of it's residents? The performances engaged me, loved the art direction, the cinematography left me disappointed, the premise was astonishing, the actual structure of the story was only good; the stakes never rose after an early decision in the second act, so the emotional plateau the film stalls on feels gentle and heartwarming and even makes a good point about community and collective projections, but lacks the engine that the story could easily have had.

+++