Saturday, August 30, 2008

Waitress



I think that the lush production values, mythically american mise en scene, and conventional narrative structure allows this film the latitude to perform some of the most dazzling subversive moral advocacy imaginable: the film manages to structure a place of ambivalence in us toward extra-marital affairs, and (even more subversive in american culture) a preference that the guy not get the girl at the end. I'm not just referring to the pie when I say that this is third wave feminism at its most delicious.


+++1/2

Metropolis


The classic German Expressionist tale of oppressed workers enslaved to machines, industry & elites, charts failed attempts by the workers to shift their own destiny, and finally redemption for them when the son of the overlord falls in love with one of their own. Of course I left out the robot, the riot, the flood, the chase sequence, the horror film genre and the outrageously creative sets (influencing sci-fi visions of the urban future from Blade Runner to Star Wars to Batman and Minority Report), so while ultimately delivering an outrageous amount of bang-per-buck, the film ultimately feels unsettling in that repressive unchallenged assumption that the world's best helper is the rich, educated white man.

+++1/2

Friday, August 29, 2008

Karate Kid


This eighties classic coming-of-age film has become laughable because of how much it embraces the popular culture moment of its' release, but the quiet way it interrogates race, gender and class, give its Rocky-structure-storyline a bit more punch. The cinematography and pacing almost sustain the film despite it's melodramatically evil villains and occasional cheap shots at ethnic stereotyping humour.

+++

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bright Future


A story about two disaffected friends in an angst-producing low-wage job offers a few twists before it pays off the premise in a way that feels poetic and just. The visuals vibrate with saturated pop hues and carefully filmed carelessness while the pacing and the sets and the music map out an experience so specific and unusual that just living in this world for 92 minutes made me a salivating fan of this new Kurosawa.


++++1/2

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bible Salesmen


This classic Mayles brothers piece follows a group of Salesmen as they sell expensive illustrated Bibles to catholic parish members, first in a Boston neighborhood and then in a Florida neighborhood. The film is patient and honest and the images that emerge seem archtypally American - the lone ranger meets the death of a salesmen in suburbia.

++++

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters


KING OF KONG articulates contemporary form of documentary filmmaking chronicling American subculture with one of the most compelling storytelling efforts I've seen. The filmmakers accomplish the astonishing feat of *both* showing some of the most idiosyncratic and self-involved ambition in a light that is alternately absurd, frank, outrageous and compassionate; the story that emerges carries the audience along a quest that seems so mythic and yet so middle-class American that the emotional payoff (both disappointment and elation) feels completely earned.

++++

Monday, August 18, 2008

Volver


Almodovar tweaks the melodrama in all the right ways -- adding a touch of suspense, a hint of fantasy, and fantastic performances by all involved. This story about women's work, lives and survival requires a willing surrender to the glamourous conceits of contemporary Chick Flicks, but once ceded, the payoffs are both satisfying and indulgent.

+++1/2

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Redbeard

redbeard

Kurosowa's uplifting epic about an urban doctor's honest work resulting in pay-it-forward ripples looks subtle and beautiful in the camera work and the performances of the major players. The bit players fulfill conventions from all sorts of more mainstream and popular Japanese movies, and occasionally the musical swells seem overwhelmingly Western and like Emotional Telegraphs, but the long takes, gorgeous sets, deep focus, and complex mise en scene work make it more than worth it to invest the 3 hours this movie demands.

++++