Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sad But True....

I have abandoned this blogger interface to blog over at WordPress. I'm not abandoning blogger altogether. I still appreciate so much about her ethos, but WordPress is really great too.

If you want to read my reviews....check out the new site. (I'm still catching up on writing a ton of reviews...so more content should be emerging.)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A Serious Man


Many frustrating and terrible things happen to Larry Gopnick in this deeply spiritual movie situated in a very particular place and time - 1967, Midwestern, suburban, Jewish America, and while the ending is more Biblical than Hollywood, it doesn't make the movie any less satisfying for the *serious* viewer. The production design is a wonder; the storytelling is Coen Bros. at their finest; I honestly don't have a complaint about this movie; not one.

++++1/2

(I may go up to five later: I just don't want to be rash. I'm trying to be a serious man here, you know? And sometimes my reputation as a hyperbolist gets in the way.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You Won't Miss Me



This film dares more and achieves more than the Joe Swanberg films (which are its close, mumblecore-inbred-cousins), travelling through an impressionistic personal journey with a young woman battling the twin demons of mental illness and unrealized (unrealizable?) acting dreams; unlike Swanberg's visions, there seem to be genuine problems and issues here (as opposed mundane drama circulating amongst young hipster boho's), and director Russo-Young also seems willing to be more cinematic than the average mumblecorps film. Ultimately, though, I did not like this woman (Shelley, the protagonist) -- I could not bear her nor muster compassion for her self-destructive and self-deluding narrative -- and so, in reflection, the innovations in the storytelling seemed as self-indulgent as she was.

++1/2

Friday, May 21, 2010

The United States of Leland


It's rare that I can find so many faults with a film (awkward transitions, heavy exposition in the dialogue, writerly voice protruding into the dialogue in ways both pedantic & exposition-y, too many two-shots, uneven handling of narrative time, loads of voice over) and yet, in the end, *really* like it. I liked the subtlety of the ending, the stellar performances all around, the stubborn refusal of genre-convention; in some ways this network-narrative tale of the underside of suburbia is studio/indie cinema at its best.

+++1/2

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Eraserhead


I'm not sure why it took so long for me to watch this classic, but it was one of the most off-putting, hilarious, brilliant, unnerving, enjoyable films I've seen. Henry Spencer lives in a shadowy, overwraught post-industrial dystopia and when his girlfriend reveals that she is pregnant, the two of them must care for a hideous squalling baby-like, alien-like creature which ultimately is too much for either of them to bear; but articulating plot does nothing to explain how perfectly Lynch captures real human interaction patterns & deep, desperate emotional urges & the way that fear trembles at the edge of almost everything that humans do together -- beautiful, absurd, hilarious, awful.

++++1/2

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tokyo Sonata



Kurosawa's melancholy sonata intertwines repression, disappointment, and failure in the most inevitable and beautiful arrangement of post-corporate suburban japanesse angst that one can imagine. The subtle stains of his horror roots lurk and surface throughout the first two acts, but when they come to their cathartic fruition, he maintains a masterful insinuation of his (typical) urge supernaturally horrific disaster in a series of outlandish disastrous intertwined experiences; all of which find a satisfying subtle resolution.

++++

Friday, April 09, 2010

Thelma & Louise



I'm so glad that I returned to this great road-trip, come-uppance, getaway, feminist film; the way the performances, script and directing manage to employ every genre cliche in the book, and yet spin them in fresh fierce directions makes every moment worth the ride. Are all road trips this much like a string of pearls, delightfully meandering journeys punctuated by beautiful poignant moments?
++++

Friday, April 02, 2010

An Education



Jenny meets David at precisely the moment that her wide-eyed wanderlust leads her haplessly into his fanciful empire of worldly delights where she learns to ask worthy questions of her formal education and her middle class destiny; while the story has a satisfying arc, those worthy questions are unworthily brushed away with arguably one of the most hegemonic voiceover endings ever used to sell-out an indie flick to a uplift-greedy mainstream art house audience. The period elements are sumptous, the performances of Seymour, Molina, Mulligan and Saarsgard are particularly subtle; overall a delightful taste, but dangerous to swallow.

+++1/2

The Hurt Locker



In this procedural drama thriller about a cowboy-of-a-bomb-diffusing-specialist in vaguely-anywhere-Iraq, every episode of suspense produces precisely the sort of suspense we hope for in such a film; side benefits include a conceptual tour of the varieties of everyday tension typical (?) of Iraq and an assurance that the realest of the real American Men, while they may have some gooey marshmellow-y inside, their essence is as leathery and sinewy as their exterior. I can't imagine a better marriage between camera work, direction, performance and mise en scene for *this* script; I'm just a little surprised that a film with so little *depth* can sweep so many awards in the film industry.

+++1/2

Friday, March 19, 2010

Z



After a peaceful presidentially-aspiring senator is brutally murdered in a public place, the militarized government and the radical resistors work (respectively) to cover and reveal the sources of his murder, while a plodding deliberative judge sorts through the zigzagging evidence. This elegantly-crafted, politically-tinged, historically-rooted, oscar-winning film careens from broad comedy to procedural thriller while breaking every Robert McKee story rule ever pompously dictated and keeping the audience in its cinematic grasp every moment.

++++1/2

Daytrippers



When Eliza finds a suspicious note beside her husband's discarded pants, her working class New Jersey family decides to accompany her into the city to find her husband and find some answers; while their mishaps feel a bit like familiar-indie all-in-a-day conventions (by now), the performances are subtle and the plots gentle ambling toward its inevitable-feeling ending, *doesn't* feel predictable or telegraphed - just true. The filmmaking is unselfconscious and allows the actors and the story to take center-stage, and with a cast this good, any other choice would be a sin; particularly commendable is the inobtrusive and yet none-too-hipster use of music, reminding that music can just serve an indie story, not serve as a token-cum-advert for the next soundtrack album of the month.

++++

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sunshine


When astronauts take a nuclear payload to attempt to ignite a dying sun, the challenges they meet turn their spacecraft into a drifting space-version of SURVIVOR, with the stakes higher in every imaginable way. I found the pacing and dramatic tension to be clearly from the GOOD Danny Boyle oevre, loving the mise en scene, the characters, the plot roller-coaster, but was most bumped by the question (subtly?) introduced by the antagonist: is God speaking through a Freddy Krueger-style prophet of apocalypse or through the welcoming light of a needy mother sun?

+++1/2

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Moon


This dystopian fable combines important elements of 2001 Space Odyssey and Solaris in a meditation about aloneness, longing, memory and hope as they affect a solitary hydrogen3 miner on the lunar surface. I was surprised by how riveting and grueling this story managed to be while also remaining so patient, simple and focused; a beautiful sinister score underscores subtle and demanding performances, filmed, and directed with a precise balance of beauty and tragedy.

++++1/2

Monday, February 15, 2010

Diabolique


This haunting film precisely crafts a perfect murder mystery in the uniquely specific world of a French boarding school just after the war. Rarely have I felt so tense and suspenseful during such a patient stylish movie; it's a feeling and a world I'd choose again and again.

++++1/2

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Suture


This clever, meticulously-shot drama about identity, lost and regained (?) should have been a thriller and then it would have been amazing. As it is, many of the elements are a good film are here: an interesting story, solid performances, decadent sets, but for me, it was too: perpetually self-aware, posturingly stylish, and slow-without-the-suspense-it-needed-as-an-engine.


+++

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GINA, AN ACTRESS, AGE 29


This short feels as natural and unaffected as any short film I've seen -- the performances, the mise en scene, the direction -- they all work together to serve the simple, rewarding story. Gina, a new actress, finds herself in an ethically shady pay-the-bills gig, and then needs to find a way to retain her own sense of truth.

++++1/2

This Sundance short, by Paul Harrill, is available now at the Auteurs.

The Motel

Thirteen year old Earnest wants to leave the hourly-rate motel that his immigrant Chinese family owns; he wants to go the awards dinner for the honorable mention; he wants to make it with his teenage friend who waitresses at the nearby Chinese restaurant, but despite everything he wants, he really doesn't have much of an idea of who he is or what he should be doin', until a mysterious lothario named Sam arrives and complicates his world even more. The naturalistic style, the subtle dark humor and winning characters everywhere make this coming-of-age, fish-out-of-water story a delight to engage.

++++1/2


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days


This story is simple, quiet and direct, and because it manages to retain such a dignity and continuity it's impact is devestating. The production values are so inobtrusive because such care has gone into developing the mise en scene, the performances and the choreography of the cinematography; together, all help achieve the remarkable restatement of: how profoundly unfair women's experiences have been and are -- and how the politics of our bodies orient us to the world.

++++1/2

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The International


The spectacular climactic shootout comes slightly too early in this film, and the dramatic tensions, though well constructed, never quite match the gory splendour of the midpoint of the film. I'm disappointed that critics and audiences generally panned this smart, complex thriller and hope that it's not indicative that indeed, the viewing public has been so "dumbed down" by this genre that they cannot accept this meatier fare; conversely, Twyker occasionally flashes a bit too much bling, exceeding even Bond's flair for fantastic, with a particular jones for contemporary architecture (a fetish I took pleasure in, but I'm still not sure it served the story).


+++1/2

Friday, January 15, 2010

Four Eyed Monsters



I came to this movie in the same kind of intertextual swirl that most of its audience did and I had my reservations about solipsism and narcissism beforehand. Ultimately the pace and the honesty mingled with the artifice and the pretense worked in exactly right proportions for me to care -- all the way until the ending -- which -- I am less enthusiastic about...

+++1/2

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Raise the Red Lantern


This stunning chronicle of one year in the life of a new Chinese concubine manages to work partly because of the meticulous artistry in the grand costume-drama tradition, but also because of the (subtle, almost invisible) point of view that is cultivated. We stay so close to our protagonist that each mistake and horror and hope seems ours during the second half of the film.

+++++

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Conversation

Harry Caul tries to live a life below the surveillance technologies (since surveillance is his job) and below the threshold of moral evaluation (he does his job well; he's not responsible for any outcome other than quality) -- when he recognizes that his work may indeed contribute to a great evil, his attempts to undo what he has done become increasingly difficult. This film puts a near-perfect story structure in the service of masterful camera work, startling audio recording and editing and fantastically contained performances.

+++++

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Adventureland


When James realizes that his champagne education gave him some significant misperceptions, landing him in a carnie job at a local amusement park instead of on a summer-long European tour, he tries to make sense of his identity and direction through an emerging relationship with the bad girl in the next game booth. The film managed evenly matched script, mise en scene, cinematography, music and performances, opening by hitting every genre expectation on the note, but morphing into a much more subtle soft-peddled fruition.

++++