Thursday, December 31, 2009

Up In The Air


Ryan Bingham embodies a new version of the American Dream - placeless, unfettered upward mobility - he travels around the country firing people until he runs up against two threats -- the internet's promise that even airlines and frequent flyer miles can be obsolesced by it's placeless promise of progress and the threat of a woman who seems his perfect match. Reitman is at his best in this film -- the stylistic strength he's shown before is intact, but here, they reach much more maturity, depth and evenness.

++++1/2

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The TV Set


Though I've been a longtime fan of Jake Kasdan, movies made about Hollywood, and Network (to which TV Set develops many homages), this film never felt worth my while, with the stakes of mass dumbing-down vs. middle aged comfort for our Judd-Apatow-alike-Protagonist, it felt a bit too kitchen-sink, and ultimately not serious enough about the serious points it would like to make. The ironic shrugging tone didn't fit well with the classically tragic ending - maybe I like my dark comedy a bit less broad and ultimately, actually, serious about something.

++1/2

Where the Wild Things Are


In my mind it doesn't matter that this film is an adaptation, with a tone this singular, a story this simple, characters this rich, and visuals this delightful, it works with a cinematic panache that I've never seen in a children's story before. Until I loved my way this movie, I don't think I was fully cognizant of the truth obscured by almost all children's movies, but embraced by this one: Life is disappointing and sad, but that doesn't mean that it can't also be full of meaning and beauty.

+++++

Monday, December 28, 2009

Inglorious Basterds


Tarantino's Nazi-Revenge-Fantasy interweaves the quests of three delightfully warped human beings as their goals become interlocked in a nail-biting, suspense-driven finale. While the brilliance of this film is evenly realized in the writing (structure!), the direction (the mise en scene! the camerawork!) and the performances, the joy of watching it is a pure human cinematic experience; every moment I found myself caring so much, wanting so much, fearing so much, and over and over again? delighting so much.

++++1/2

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fog of War


I didn't expect to like Robert McNamara as much as I did in this documentary that explores what he has learned about war through his involvement in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Errol Morris is at his best, using visual tropes that are both inventive and unexpected while carefully crafting a nuanced portrait of a man that is both hard to resist and hard to embrace.

++++

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Zombieland


This film is predictable in the best ways you can imagine, with strong characters making every moment worthwhile, and an exhuberant pace and visual style that keeps the audience's mind far from the Zombieland of media-saturated contemporary life. While the film hints at deeper darker meanings, it never belabors the points, nor does it make the connections perfectly, but it's fun... really fun.

++++