Friday, July 25, 2008

Dr. Strangelove


Kubrick masterfully balances a straight faced comedy about the sort of people and the sort of situation that don't seem to merit the comic touch. The committed performances and cinematic realism makes the scenario feel unnervingly real -- even the absurd bits of comedy end up feeling absolutely believable -- all a masterful set-up for the even more unnerving and unsettling and unbelievable-because-of-what-he's-saying, but believable-because-of-the-set-up final speech of Dr. Strangelove.

+++1/2

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dark Knight


Christopher Nolan's sequel exceeds his excellent reboot of the Batman franchise in faithfulness to the mythology, in coherence of story-telling and in creative choices. The story of a complex love triangle, of the nuances of good and evil within institutional life and without (particularly the ugly and heroic outlaws -- Batman & Joker) all are bound together in a well paced story, impeccable art design, and psychologically rich writing and acting.

++++1/2

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Paris, Je' T aime


A festival of shorts all celebrating love and paris, albeit many different aspects of both. This seemed like the absolutely perfect date movie both because short films have such a remarkable ability to stir up conversation (and these are Great Short Films) and because so much about love and relationships is articulated and undermined in these moments.

++++

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

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Using gorgeous photography and staging to document horrific images and events, Morris pieces together a coherent narrative about collective fantasies and how they develop, by interviewing and analyzing the photographs taken by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib, the themes he manages to masterfully explore include: the complexity of human motivation, the partiality of visual representation, the ways that structures of oppression manage to replicate themselves within isolated enclaves, and the (sometimes unexpected) agency and victimage that defines the anxieties of being a woman in the army. I was disappointed that Morris allowed the character of Grener to function as such a pure villain in the story; it seems like in a story about the ambivalence and nuance of motivation and morality, the Standard Operating Procedure of Hollywood Filmmaking (where villains are purely villainous and reinforce audience faith in moral clarity and violent retribution) should not proceed unchecked.

+++1/2

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WALL*E


I loved WALL*E despite the humans: I loved it for it's outrageously, unbelievably realized mise en scene of a trashed version of earth, I loved it for its bold choice to embrace cinematic storytelling for such long, unflinching sequences, I love the subtle message that Even-A-Machine-Will-Learn-That-Love-Is-The-Answer-If-Left-to-the-Tutelage-of-Human-Trash, I love that Trash-Made-With-Love stands out against the wasteland of consumption and pollution and mindless mechanization, I do find WALL*E himself delightful, and I love that such a dystopian parable can muster such hope from its characters and for its audience. While I initially loved the joke about fat, lazy humans addicted to television homogeneity, I found that it wore thin and unbelievable later when these same humans tried to stumble and lurch toward a too-realistic and difficult kind of agency, but let's not dwell on the downside, because this animation and story are definitely worth your time.

+++1/2

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Persepolis


This coming of age animated feature manages to be subtle, honest and devastatingly beautiful, so I'm not sure why I never felt profoundly moved -- I wonder if it is the sort of movie that will seep into my soul gradually, though. I most loved the style and textures of animation: using such iconic and magical imagery to depict events and places so full of the ugliest things humans can do to one another seemed a perfect illustration of the ability of storytelling to both fully articulate and hopefully transcend the mire of the human condition.

++++

Saturday, July 12, 2008

12 WAYS TO SAY I'M SORRY


Technically I really appreciated the narrative structure of this film, the narrator device, the actors-in-multiple-roles, the breezy, believable, middle-class-professional mise en scene, but ultimately these elements failed to amuse. I'm open to the possibility that my non-Canadian status is what rendered the jokes impenetrable to me, but I suspect that they were just insufficiently conceived or developed (like the jokes about United Statesians which I was ready and willing to laugh at, but which were also under-developed).

+++

available on hulu

Giant


This epic tale of Texas chronicles the lives of privileged millionaires and the subtle ways that American Culture gradually consumed and homogenized so much of their culture; at its core, the film turns on the relationship between Texas Billionaire, Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) and his Eastern Millionaire wife, Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor). While their chemistry and conflict do a good job making some dramatic unity out of the epic sprawl of this story, I could attach emotionally to anything -- performances, story, cinematography or even thematic points -- despite all of the above being admirably executed.

+++

Friday, July 11, 2008

WALKING ON THE WILD SIDE

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This near perfect short manages to exploit a simple premise with utterly perfect comic timing, quirky chemistry, physical humor and utterly cinematic articulation. This short should be canonized for such brilliant execution of such a simple premise.

++++1/2

available at hulu.com

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Born on the Fourth of July



Tom Cruise's performance was the best thing about this rambling, unfocused, over-scored epic coverage of the Vietnam War. Though the visual images were arresting, Stone's inability to find any significant Unity in the story irreparably ruined the sccript's ability to carry the audience's concern across a genuine narrative arc (as opposed to achieving the POP! and WOW! emotions that come with well-arranged cliche's).

+++