Monday, June 16, 2008

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story


While I love most of the players here (Jake Kasdan, Judd Apatow, John C. Reilly, etc...) I was keenly disappointed in how closely this film keened to both the structures and conventions of Walk the Line; it felt less like a satire and more like derivative tripe. Perhaps this reading emerges from the impressively accomplished singing, songwriting and filming, on the other hand, it more likely emerges from my natural predisposition to scorn satire as a waste of the energy and resources it takes to make a film -- I never *laugh hard* enough to make a *walk hard* worthwhile.

++1/2

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Five Obstructions



Lars Von Trier challenges Jorgen Leith to remake his classic film The Perfect Man: the result is a compelling exploration of the relationships between the artistic process and constraints, but not (as Von Trier hopes) a convincing explication of Jorgen Leith's psyche. The films Leith makes, though, more than make up for Von Trier's phoniness.

++++

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl


I never realized how profoundly we expect an Uplift from a good Costume Drama until I watched this film, which I might re-title: The Tragic Unspooling Of The Boleyn Siblings Because of The Class-Grubbing-Greed of Their Upwardly Mobile Father (subtitle: with an uplifting, yet dramatically unseemly twist at the very end). I loved Kieran McGuigan's photography, and found all other technical and artistic elements to be well-executed; I was ultimately disappointed, though, in the film's inability to commit to a protagonist and (the profoundly related) inability to commit to a genre (tragedy or uplifting-costume-drama).

+++

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Margot at the Wedding


Baumbach's exploration of a loving (?), dysfunctional (!), surviving (?) sibling relationship -- includes nuanced, multilayered characters, a particular, believable world of social and geographic relationships, a conflict with rising stakes, and just the right moments stitched together onscreen to create a nuanced, ambivalent observation of a family in transition. With the possible exception of the too-on-the-nose tree-arc-ending, I loved every moment of the story, with particular affection for the performances of the actors and the ability to capture such telling performances on film.

++++1/2

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Rio Bravo


I never would have predicted how much I enjoyed this film -- this Western manages to be more of a buddy movie and a romantic comedy than a shoot-em-up, epic metaphor for foreign relations or imperialism or the triumph of the individual by-way-of a Good versus Evil battle. I found everyone delightful, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson & (!) John Wayne; the screenwriting includes a brilliant marraige of well-constructed plot & characters with long histories and great nicknames.

++++

Monday, June 02, 2008

Shane


A morally ambiguous outsider (Shane) arrives in a tiny settlement town hoping to find some peace and quiet, clearly something he hasn't been experiencing; when it becomes apparent that the peace of this town is premised upon a subtle, inarticulated oppression and tyranny, the stranger takes it upon himself to challenge the status quo, even though it means losing his shot at peace. While I occasionally found the child's performance to be grating and sentimental, the restraint of the rest of the performances, the beautiful construction of the shots and scenes and the patient pace of the movie drew me in, so that the final words (of the child) were both affecting and satisfying.

+++1/2

Forgetting Sarah Marshall


I prefer my laughter to be twinged by sadness, and that seemed to be this film's speciality: a pathetic dumped boyfriend finds out that he is neither pathetic nor lonely, but once the dumping girfriend realizes these things, he may have screwed up a better thing than he had before. The film is driven by story and character, not particularly cinematic to the eye, but definitely built to be watched by a crowd; once again the Apatow crowd manages to make a lewd morality tale, out of a barely-tweaked-formula piece -- the ending is the right length and includes satisfying payoffs, but the fast-foward six months resolution always feels like cheating to me.
+++1/2