Frame of Mind: Rants and Raves
It seems to be of little concern to Jim Jarmusch, the common journalistic shorthand that labels him as some "high priest of hip." He seems actively to be courting the title in fact, with Only Lovers Left Alive, the most languorously cool movie of his career (amidst stiff competition). It is a love story, intrinsic to which is the fact that Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are vampires (their third wedding was 1868) whose relationship has strengthened and deepened to a near-mystical level over the years; as has their knowledge and appreciation of science, nature, and cultural figures and artifacts, allowing for the fetishisation of all kinds of musical instruments and equipment, books and literary figures: an impossible level of hipness attainable only via several times a normal human lifespan. And of course they dress to kill, and wear sunglasses at night.
The sound of bones crunching against a tree, as a man's body tumbles down an unforgiving hill; not once, but twice. This is the sound that haunts you after watching Lone Survivor, superseding the gunfire, explosions, helicopter propellers, and painful screams of four men being ambushed in Afghanistan by Taliban forces. It could easily go unnoticed, this sound, if it were not blatantly on display, or if the scene was anything less than horrific. The success of displaying the carnage, the way in which each man's body was pummeled, bruised, battered, and riddled with gunfire, is to show the perseverance they displayed, the outward courage of these Navy SEALs, that takes on an entirely new level of empathy from the viewer.
While the first Thor – released in 2011 – was a suitable introduction to the Marvel Comics character Thor, it was also a fairly tepid approach to what is one of the more cosmic members of the Avengers team. Up until that point, moviegoers had been treated to a Marvel world that existed in a realm where most of the superheroes seemed plausible, if not completely believable. Iron Man was a guy rich enough to build himself a super suit, the Hulk a man who was caught on the wrong end of Gamma radiation, Captain America a super soldier, and so on. Thor, on the other hand, is the God of thunder, and literally occupies a completely different realm from those previously mentioned characters.
As the years go by it seems ever more likely that Dario Argento will never rescale the inspired heights of his '70s output, the hysterical horror and steely set-pieces that more than make up for wooden acting, distracting dubbing, and leaden exposition. Mother of Tears had its moments and gave one cautious hope in 2007; Giallo (2009) was familiar enough to be comforting; but while Dracula 3D feels reassuringly like an Argento film on plenty of occasions, it fails to play to his strengths, hamstrung by half-hearted literary faithfulness, strangely perfunctory in its murders, and unbalanced by far too much downtime.
Reconstructing the last day in a man's life was the difficult task put to director Ryan Coogler with Fruitvale Station. The events leading up to Oscar Grant's untimely death on New Year's Day 2009 is the basis for the story, the sensationalized media frenzy that came afterwards is left out of Fruitvale Station, giving the viewer an opportunity to know Oscar as the man he once was, and was trying to be for his family. His death caused a media uproar, shook the San Francisco Bay Area, and continues to influence the politics of how police officers act, and react, in situations. Oscar was unjustly killed by a Bart Officer coming home on New Year's Eve; a death that could have been avoided, as was seen by millions thanks to cell phone videos taken at the scene.
LAFF Film Review: 'Europa Report' Will Make Science Fiction Fans Euphoric (Dir. Sebastián Cordero 2013 USA)
Found footage has a secure home in horror movies, and with Europa Report the science fiction genre gets its best found footage film to date. From director Sebastián Cordero, his first English-language film Europa Report tells the story of a privately funded space mission to one of Jupiter's Moons. The hope of the crew, and the company behind them, is to find signs of life--albeit at the molecular level in the ice or water; or nothing at all. Europa Report takes place far in the future, where technology makes it possible to send astronauts into space for years at a time without the use of the sleeping pods the genre is so fond of, a la Alien.
There are scary movies, and then there are SCARY movies. The Conjuring fits into the latter category as it will undoubtedly frighten you to the point of laughter, make you squirm in your seat, cover your eyes, and wish you had left the lights on in the house because you will be afraid of the dark when you get home. The Conjuring is the horror movie we dream of, because its a hark back to an older style of horror filmmaking, before torture, excessive blood and guts, and the like took over cinema screens, and found-footage too.
The unhappy, bored housewife dilemma is no longer confined to narrative storytelling about heterosexual couples thanks to Concussion, a movie that gets a great deal of things right with representation, but falters when it comes to the scandalous underbelly of its story.
The blessed event of pregnancy, made unforgettably horrifying in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, has found yet another outlet to promote birth control with first-time Director Brian Netto's Delivery. Written by Netto and Adam Schindler, Delivery uses the found-footage motif to tell the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy's road to parenthood, as the stars of a new reality show, "Delivery."
Alice Winocour’s 'Augustine' Has Commitment And Quiet Charisma From The Stars; It's Just Not Very Interesting
Augustine is one of the harder sorts of films to write about, being handsomely mounted, with appealing leads and an interesting story, a minimum of pandering or condescension towards the audience, and fully aware of the ramifications of its subject matter. The problem is, it’s just not very interesting.
Assault On Wall Street is one of the most confounding movies you could ever watch; although I am not necessarily suggesting you watch it. Set amidst the most recent financial crisis in the United States, it tells the story of a man who has every possible negative outcome occur in his life stemming from the crisis. He loses his life savings due to a shady investment in commercial real estate, has a lien placed upon him because of the investment, loses his job, his home, and to make matters even worse his health insurance cap is reached, amongst other things. The loss of health insurance is an important part of the story as his wife needs post brain tumor therapy and without the insurance coverage they must resort to using their credit cards. The credit card debt soon piles up, the interest rates rise, and suddenly yet another problem is added to the list for the couple. The onslaught of negativity Assault On Wall Street delivers is far too much for a casual viewer, made worse by what the film does as the solution to Jim's (Dominic Purcell) problems--he becomes a domestic terrorist.
Film Rave: Favoring Style Over Substance, Baz Luhrmann's 'The Great Gatsby' Is A Frenetically Paced Extravagant Affair
Oh, the green light. If you have read the novel "The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you are well aware of the green light, and everything it stood for in the story. It exists in the most recent film adaptation by director Baz Lurhmann, The Great Gatsby, coupled with an exaggerated quality of decadence and style like only Lurhmann can create on screen.
Rushlights is a twisted tale of lies and deceit, with a host of characters that get more shady by the minute. This is, of course, the extreme fun in watching Rushlights' story play out on screen. The twists keep coming, the momentum never slows down, and the near-pulpiness of the movie only helps matters.
Film Rave: Eron Sheean's Fascinating And Horrifying Genetic Mutation Tale 'Errors Of The Human Body'
The subject of genetic mutations is enough to evoke fear in anyone. The lack of control humans have over their genetic material, and what horrors may exist in its intricately woven thread, is a subject science fiction and horror cinema happily investigates. In his feature-length film debut, director/co-writer Eron Sheean ventures into the territory of genetic research, that of bio-engineering, to deliver a fascinating and horrifying tale in Errors Of The Human Body.
There is a great deal that can be inferred by writer-director Juan Solaris' Upside Down, depending on the context in which you view the film. At the simplest level it is a love story about two people from different stations in life who desperately want to be together even though it is forbidden--a tale as old as time. Another possibility is to see Upside Down as commentary on social politics, the have's and the have-nots constantly at odds with one another and the sole individual willing to risk it all to bring about equality. There is one more route you can take, that of a historical recalling and a fantastical glimpse into post-war worlds--as the two worlds created in the movie resemble greatly historical photos of post-WWII Germany or Poland versus the untarnished industrialized and thriving West. With so many possibilities Upside Down can easily please a variety of viewers, what it cannot do is uplift the viewer as it fails to delve deeply enough into any one theme, one idea, or one clear vision to warrant greatness, just mild amusement and a deep want for greater meaning that never comes.
After ten years of working on Blancanieves, writer-director Pablo Berger must have had mixed feelings about the appearance of The Artist last year. That film’s runaway success was undeniably a useful ice-breaker, however, for they are similar beasts, modern silent films made (largely) according to the conventions and constraints of the 1920s. Berger even gives Uggie a run for his money, with a perky rooster named Pepe.
Another year has gone by at FilmFracture and it has been full of great movies, mediocre trips to the cinema, and some downright awful wastes of time. With that said, here are the best and worst movies of 2012, based solely on their Production ratings (how they faired in other categories may have been better, or the same, click out on the titles to see for yourself). I must warn you, our choices for the best movies may come as quite a shock--who would have thought a Troma picture would make a best of list?
In the wake of the release of Fox Searchlight’s long anticipated Alfred Hitchcock biopic, appropriately called Hitchcock, a different production about the master of suspense has flown under the radar. Home Box Office, in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Corporation, has made their own Hitchcock film, The Girl, which focuses on a darker side of the influential director.
Dreamworks Animation has given moviegoers some of the most treasured animated franchises; from the Shrek and Madagascar series of films to Kung Fu Panda's, as well as How To Train Your Dragon and the highly anticipated upcoming sequel coming 2014. Their newest film, Rise of the Guardians is based on a series of books by William Joyce called "The Guardians of Childhood" that brings to life a world where Santa Klaus (voice of Alex Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (voice of Hugh Jackman), Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy (voice of Isla Fisher) exist to keep the world safe; they are The Guardians and it is with the belief of children around the world as to their existence that their powers remain in tact. There is one other fabled character who has never been given much attention in the modern age, or any age for that matter, Jack Frost (voice of Chris Pine). Rise of the Guardians is Jack Frost's story as to how he becomes one of the Guardians, while assisting the others in saving the world from the evil Boogeyman (voice of Jude Law).
AFI FEST 2012 Film Review: Post Tenebras Lux (Dir. Carlos Reygadas Mexico/France/Germany/The Netherlands 2012)
Carlos Reygadas burst on the scene as an unapologetically pretentious arthouse director with Japón , and gained instant renown/notoriety in the circles that care. This was cemented with Battle In Heaven , but the calmed down Silent Light  won over many of the off-put. For Post Tenebras Lux, however, he returns to his first inclinations with a vengeance.
Barbara’s elliptical beginning delivers the eponymous heroine, a doctor, to a provincial hospital in a seaside town. She is just released from some unspecified incarceration, and still under surveillance from the implacable secret police. Only gradually do we realize that this is East Germany in the early 80s, and only gradually do we warm to Barbara’s sour trout face and hard, defiant, watchful eyes.
Xavier Dolan stretches out with his third feature, not just in budget and length, but in matching his emotionally high-pitched material with an equally bravura style, and in tackling a subject less frequently seen on screen even than the tortured mother-son relationship of his début éclatant, I Killed My Mother , or the MMF love triangle of Heartbeats . He remains for the first time behind the camera, ceding the demanding lead role to veteran French actor Melvil Poupard – he started aged 9 with Raúl Ruiz – who gives a subtly restrained and highly appealing performance in Laurence Anyways.
The rather lovely tone of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is set from the beginning, in a poetic voiceover prologue about a widowed huntsman in Africa, accompanied by a beautiful, simple piano piece, and dripping in that peculiarly Portuguese saudade.
Caesar Must Die is apparently a small, simple film, with one straightforward aim: to remind the viewer that lifers in a maximum security prison in Rome, no matter their crimes, remain emotionally valid and susceptible human beings. Yet to achieve this, the veteran Taviani brothers take on one of the most nebulous issues of them all, the power of art, via that most enduring of artists, in the prison production of Julius Caesar.
This is really quite a silly film, Piéta, albeit played totally deadpan, from the portentous and only-just-relevant title on down, as a punky young loan enforcer goes around crippling the poor machinist clients who cannot pay their exorbitant interest. The appearance of a silent, nicely-dressed middle-aged lady amidst the fantastic detritus of the industrial tenement setting forces him out of his lonely, cold-blooded routine, and awakens suppressed mother issues that will leave him unable to do his job, and wide open for revenge.
AFI FEST 2012 Film Review: Leviathan (Dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel US/UK/France 2012)
Leviathan is a fantastic audio-visual experiment, presented as by the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The emphasis is on the sensory, so to get the other out of the way, it is filmed entirely on and around a commercial fishing vessel and yes, it’s a hard life for these fishermen, with much of their work machinelike in its mindless repetition, and mostly at night (happily the fish-gutting is filmed with some discretion; the removal of ray wings less so).
This is unashamedly unconventional, but in a fan rather than snooty way. Using (mostly) just diegetic sound from the post-production of a fictional mid-70s Italian horror movie, Peter Strickland has followed his superb debut, Katalin Varga , with a largely non-narrative nightmare hymn both to the electronic soundtrack experiments of that time, and to the gorgeous analogue gear that made such arcane chantries of the era’s recording studios, with Berberian Sound Studio.
Thus far Daniel Craig's James Bond films – Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace – have been a mixed bag. While the former was a successful reinvention of agent 007 the latter threw most of those intriguing concepts away in favor of a humdrum story about water being our most precious resource. However, despite the inferior quality of Quantum of Solace there was a belief that Craig's Bond was still a viable hero, one that could be redeemed. And thankfully MGM too saw fit to keep the property alive with Craig, and will this week deliver the third Bond adventure for Craig (23rd for Bond), Skyfall.
There are pockets of whimsy in the Ken Loach filmography, but following 2009’s Looking for Eric, he seems more fully than ever to be embracing an Ealing-inflected lightheartedness. The Angel's Share starts off in reasonably familiar territory, as a succession of poor, unemployed Scots have their petty crimes recounted in court, and the community service sentences passed down. All crew cuts, tracksuits, and impenetrable Glasgow accents, the stage is set for some grubby grim-up-northness, but Loach’s film turns out to be anything but.
If nothing else, Brandon Cronenberg has been quite unafraid to make a film that could pass for an earlier one of his father’s. Antiviral boasts a fertile premise that ties biological interference to celebrity obsession, is very handsomely mounted, and features a fine, committed performance from Caleb Landry Jones in the lead. But the title rings hollow as an antidote to the modern woes depicted on screen, or as representative of any of the characters’ actions or motivations – like the film itself, catchy, but little more than superficially thought-provoking.
It should be noted that the original title of Olivier Assayas’ well-received Something In The Air is Après Mai. For a film set in France in 1970, that inevitably means “after [the extensive riots of ] May 1968”. Let it be clear, however, that this is neither a political film, nor a film about politics. The Assayas surrogate takes part in high school revolutionary activity, and the context is being heavily used to sell the film of course, along with the implications of autobiography. But that title also means “after school got out in May”, because it’s basically Assayas’ “What I did in my summer vacation 1970” and it goes something like this:
Abbas Kiarostami has gone to Japan, and why not? Like Someone In Love is less obviously tricksy than his last, and his first outside of Iran, Certified Copy ; and it reveals a little more of what was obvious all along – that Kiarostami’s interests lie in people, identity, and communication (between characters, and with the audience), rather than in cultural specificity. This is no more a film about Japan than the last was a film about Tuscany, or the others – really – are about Iran.
In Leos Carax’s rather wonderful and fantastic new film Holy Motors, there are several points at which one may wonder what is real. The answer is none of it, and all of it. It begins explicitly as a dream, after all, in a cinema, with Carax the dreamer himself; but it is a dream of life, of possible lives, and a dream of the very process of cinema.
When Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival the immediate reaction from critics in attendance was that of high praise. The festival jury agreed, bestowing best actor awards to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix and best director to Paul Thomas Anderson; and, as is expected at the Venice Film Festival, a scandal erupted over whether the best picture Golden Lion went to The Master or Kim Ki-duk's Pieta [NY Times Artsbeat]. The admiration for filming on 65mm (to be seen on 70mm in theatres) also gave The Master an immediate boost is likability because in a dying world of film usage in lieu of the cheaper digital format a movie made on 65mm is rare beyond measure. The usage pays off as The Master is breathtakingly beautiful with its expansive extreme wide shots and uncomfortable close-ups that last far too long and cause one to stir in his seat from the intrusive nature of the shot. The trance inducing score with its methodical rhythm only further creates an almost ominous feeling surrounding the entire film, creating a place in time that is haunted by the ghosts of the characters. The technical aspects of The Master are not what will have people talking after seeing it, and the scandal in Venice has since been forgotten, as the praise for The Master continues--but the worthiness of such praise is complicated, as The Master's success or failure resides in a viewer's own perception of the material, and the material presented is difficult to process.
Ridley Scott's newest film Prometheus (2012) has raised a great many questions, and provided few direct answers for moviegoers. This piece seeks to uncover some of the mystery surrounded the unanswered questions in Prometheus while analyzing the information provided in the film. It contains spoilers, and ideas that are solely those of the author and is not intended to be considered factual in its basis. Unless you completely agree that is, and then of course, it holds truth; more truth than you could ever imagine. Now, let's have some fun figuring out Prometheus.
A writer's words can project their soul onto the page, for the world to embrace, admonish, or when such words reveal a love story beyond measure to provoke a wealth of emotion. Passing off another's work as your own is the cruelest act a writer can commit; in The Words, Bradley Cooper's character Rory Jansen does just that. But the truth behind the motivation of Rory to use another man's story in order to become a published writer is not simple. The complexity of Rory's tale tests morality, as it also reveals the truths behind the fact that having told a story may be more important than who actually wrote the story. The Words is a complicated dialogue on morals, on truth, and most of all a love story that makes the aforementioned inconsequential.
Politically charged documentaries are a dime a dozen. Documentaries of a satirical nature, that also say a great deal about world politics in an informative, engaging, and humorous way are less common. Danish Director Mads Brugger ventures into the territory of political documentary satire, or a political farce, with The Ambassador. Mads opens The Ambassador by stating, "Here ends my life as a Danish journalist." His new life venture is to become an African Diplomat, for bags of diamonds he claims he can smuggle out of his new found country as a Diplomat. His country of choice, thanks to the ease of achieving Diplomat status with the right amount of money, is Liberia. His target is the Central African Republic (CAR), a little known country to the rest of the world but a place full of what Mads wants most: blood diamonds. Mads Brugger uses his style of documentary storytelling that he calls "performative journalism" to share his experience. In performative journalism he creates an "absurd caricature of a corrupt diplomat, with hidden cameras, black-market credentials, and razor-sharp wit." The experiment is a success, to say the least.
In director Till Schauder's documentary, The Iran Job, American basketball player Kevin Sheppard travels to Iran in 2008 and joins the Iranian Super League, Iran's equivalent to America's National Basketball Association. Although Kevin's professional career has been spent overseas playing in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, China and Israel, living in Iran initially makes him very nervous. His worry, shared by his parents and his girlfriend back home, is warranted considering Iran's reputation of being one of the world's most feared countries, a safe-haven for Islamic terrorists, and suspect of being in constant development of nuclear weapons. From the very beginning of the film director Till Schauder establishes America's rocky relationship with the foreign country via old press conference footage of former President George W. Bush and Senator Hilary Clinton condemning president Ahmadinejad's calling for the destruction of Israel. Schauder also films various Iranian neighborhoods with huge anti-American street art displayed upon their walls. As if living in an "enemy" state isn't nerve-wracking enough, Kevin is being paid more than any other player to ensure the first year team, A.S. Shiraz, makes it to the playoffs.
Greed, blackmail, sex, and...butter. These are the four components that make-up Director Jim Field Smith's quirky movie aptly titled Butter. Set in the oh-so-americana State of Iowa, where State Fairs do indeed still exist, there is the royal family of butter carvers, the Picklers. Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) has been the Iowa State champion of butter carvers for the past fifteen years, his crowning achievement's include 'The Last Supper' and 'T-Rex Eating Girl', plus the impressive 'Shindler's List'. It is his wife Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) who has been by his side the entire time, making sure Bob achieves greatness, and doing her part to maintain the utmost of poise as the First Lady of butter carvers.
Robert Pattinson smells like sex...that is what director David Cronenberg makes clear in Cosmopolis, his new film starring Robert Pattinson as the paranoid corporate tycoon Eric Packer who is destined to fall prey to his own created schizoid demise. Adapted from the highly acclaimed novel "Cosmopolis" by Paulo Branco, Cronenberg's screen adaptation pits Pattinson against his own known screen persona, the vampire, baiting him to come forth and prove he is more than a cool and distant undead male desperately seeking affection and empathy for his cruel deeds. But Pattinson's Eric is exactly the same typographical character in Cosmopolis; the only difference being his thirst is not for blood but for money, security, and power.
British filmmaker Bart Layton came across a story that appeared more fiction than truth. A 23-year-old French-Algerian man had stolen the identity of a missing Texan boy, some three-and-a-half years after his disappearance. A master con-man, Frédéric Bourdin was in need of a new identity, being wanted by Interpol for his crimes and finding himself without any options left in Linares, Spain. A master manipulator, he posed as a missing teenager and was taken in by the Linares police after tourists phoned in their finding a scared and troubled boy. The events that occurred afterwards are outwardly shocking, and the story Bart Layton creates on screen of this real-life happening is absolutely intoxicating to watch.
Models. The word alone can send women into a panic of self-doubt and conjure body image issues galore. What is it about models that makes women intensely insecure? It is not the models, the women to be exact, that perpetuate this reaction in women but the manner in which cultures substantiate that a model is the ideal, the embodiment of perfection. To be beautiful one must look like a model. This is of course an impossible feat for a woman as we cannot all look the same way, nor should we want to--and we do not all have access to make-up artists, personal trainers, nutritionists, and all of the other necessities that go along with a life in front of the camera. The societal pressures to be perfect, to be model-like, is a constant sociological problem that has been addressed in numerous documentaries. Have you ever wondered what the aging model thinks about the entire situation? How they handle growing older in a profession that glorifies youthfulness and admonishes aging? Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders has assembled some of the biggest fashion models from the past 60-years to discuss these questions, and more, about their life as part of the modeling world in About Face.
You may want to bring some ear plugs for this, because Neil Young Journeys is a concert film shot in a style so loud and yet intimate that you may be taken with the fear of getting hit by some of the legendary rocker’s sweat and spittle. Filmed in May 2011 at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall, Young is in peak form, playing his classics and new material with passion and verve.
Denis Côté, DP Vincent Biron, and producer Sylvain Corbeil have created a singular (beast of a) movie with Bestiaire. Offered the chance to shoot at a rather tired safari park in rural Quebec, Côté decided to make an experiment, to find new ways of making images of animals.
The sounds are heard around a burgeoning middle-class street in Brazil’s Recife, half of which used to be owned by silver-bearded patriarch Francisco, but which is now mostly tower blocks. First-time feature director Kleber Mendonça Filho reworks some of his shorts material to lay out a mosaic of life on this particular, present-day street, both aurally and visually, centered largely on the extended family who have always lived there. The camera wanders through a playground of kids, or spies on a kissing couple near a rooftop below. Other extras and kids pop up from time to time – the kissing girl even gets to answer to her called-out name later on – but the film concentrates on a relatively small handful of characters, following them through the inconsequential mundanities of everyday life.
At every film festival there always seems to be one movie that strikes you as a viewer more so than any other. For the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival the honor goes to Director Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear. The promotional image for Teddy Bear displays a hulking figure of a man, bodybuilder Dennis (real-life super-heavyweight bodybuilder Kim Kold), curling his biceps in front of a mirror with a barbell weighted far more than most people could carry with both hands. Dennis is covered in tattoos, rippling with muscles, and looks nothing like the gentile man you come to know in Teddy Bear--a juxtaposition of a title if there ever was one to the striking figure of the man it refers. But Dennis is all heart, a sweet-natured man who yearns for love but is painfully shy.
Presented by the Director himself, William Friedkin, Killer Joe played to a full house on the second night of the Los Angeles Film Festival 2012 and the entire room was laughing out loud, enjoying every minute of this dark and twisted tale. As Friedkin puts it, "It's a comedy by the way, you must not freak out."
The advent of cinema created a world where artists could create moving portraits, an artistic medium not bound my any form of limitations. Rarely a film is created that holds a transgressive quality, the ability to move you completely out of your comfort zone and violate the standard laws of filmmaking. Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, has done just that, and more. Beasts of the Southern Wild may be classified as a magical realist film, wherein the real and the fantastic exist in the same place, simultaneously, and without pure distinction.
When Drag City announced a couple of years ago that they were releasing a long-lost early ‘70s album by a band you never heard of, named Death, comprising three black brothers from Detroit who made punk rock years before anyone else, the knee-jerk reaction was to assume this was just hipster bait. But your (my) knees should know better, for Drag City can be trusted by and large, and the band and their story are truly worthy of their unusual, if belated, place in the pantheon.
It has taken over two years for Charlotte Brandstrom's Wallander: The Revenge to gain theatrical distribution in the U.S., and it has been worth the wait. The film is a continuation of the highly successful novels written by Henning Mankell that feature the main character Kurt Wallander, a Swedish police detective. Instead of merely adapting one of the published novels, a fete that has been done to nearly all of them, Mankell created thirteen new stories featuring Wallander, starting with The Revenge being released theatrically and the following twelve episodes will be released on VOD and DVD, all with a running time of 90 minutes.
Hide Away is the simple story of a man who buys an old ship and fixes it. Even the main characters are simply named the Young Mariner (Josh Lucas), The Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell), and The Waitress (Ayelet Zuerer). The movie is not so much concerned with complicated plot lines as it is with the straightforward metaphor of man as a broken down vessel. The film relies on performance and mood to bring the myth to life, which unfortunately is not altogether successful. The actors give their all in an attempt to salvage the shipwreck and Director of Photography, Elliot Davis, is able to find sadness in nature throughout all four seasons of the year, but none of it is enough to compensate for the bare-bones script. Dialogue is replaced with silence, which would be fine if the rare conversations that did take place weren’t so wooden. The actor who sells the boat to the Young Mariner could’ve been easily substituted with a robot. The film also dwells too long in the territory of the vague. The audience’s patience wears thin as we await any hint of the Young Mariner’s back-story. When finally revealed it then turns out that the secrets should have stayed hidden as the scene is melodramatic and underwhelming. Major turning points in the plot also feel overly convenient and unearned.
Tanya Wexler's Hysteria makes its point as a lighthearted comedy about the invention of the vibrator once a woman breaks out into an aria from “La Traviata" after receiving hands-on stimulation from her doctor. Hysteria is not the average romantic comedy, nor is it a biographical account of how the vibrator was invented in London, circa 1880. The Victorian prudeness is front and center in Hysteria; you will never hear the word orgasm spoken by any character, especially the prim and proper Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who believes his method of curing hysteria in women is to "relieve tensions in the womb" by manual stimulation of the clitoris, another word unspoken of in the film. It would be inappropriate to consider that women suffering from hysteria, a condition affecting the majority of women during the era that has them depressed, suffering nymphomania, anxious, or generally feeling malaise, is to in fact pleasure them sexually. Their husbands would be mortified to think they were not pleasing their wives, or that they should.
A hand-held camcorder accepts the task of portraying the first-person account of an event. It records the action, and by doing so records to memory what happened on a specific day, at a specific time. Lovely Molly's director Eduardo Sanchez pioneered the use of the first-person camera, commonly called found-footage, in his debut film alongside Daniel Myrick, The Blair Witch Project. The found-footage technique is grossly overused in cinema today, and nearly every horror movie employs it now--the low-budget aesthetic is just that, made on the cheap and eaten up by audiences. Sanchez uses his pioneering technique in Lovely Molly, taking the audience on a journey through Molly's lens over the course of a year. The opening scene of the film starts at the beginning with newcomer Gretchen Lodge as Molly, distressed and shaken speaking into the camera on 10.16.11 stating "it wasn't me" and that she is "not in control anymore." The initial performance by Lodge in this brief scene relates the fact that she is going to be the defining core of Lovely Molly, and you are immediately hooked.
According to Wikipedia, mumblecore is a term used to describe American independent films produced in the 2000s characterized by low budget production values and amateur actors. Those looking for an example of the genre need not look any further as "amateur" can certainly be used to describe this particular interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy. Everything from the cheesy kung-fu fight scenes to the cheap special effects to the Yiddish rip-off of Eminem’s "The Real Slim Shady" makes watching Romeo And Juliet in Yiddish almost unbearable. It’s a fact that director Eve Annenberg employed non-professional actors and so credit must be given to her for molding her cast into acceptable performers. It's thus a shame when sound difficulties often muffle the dialogue, an unwelcome distraction even when subtitles are present. The film does sport a variety of excellent exterior shots, whether it be outside of JFK International Airport, walking the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or hanging out at Coney Island. Interior sets however, such as a scene set inside an airport security office scream for an art direction makeover. With its obvious budgetary restraints, it’s safe to say that technical excellence is not the movie’s drawing point.
The rock music festival, a staple event in every culture, country, and a right of passage for many a youth yearning for days on end of unadulterated partying, live-music, and the possibility to connect with like-minded attendees. There are a few such festivals that take place every year, made iconic over time for the spectacle they create. One of the largest resides in Scotland, "T in The Park", over the course of 3-days during the Summer. It was there, in the Summer of 2010, that Director David Mackenzie shot the film Tonight You're Mine; completely on location and with the full cooperation of festival director Geoff Ellis.
In a new exclusive series, FilmFracture will take you behind the scenes of Hollywood's inner sanctum. Like a fly on the wall, we will hear the actual conversations between directors and the movie producers after first screening a film. Ever wonder what the studio thought after seeing Casablanca? Star Wars? or Ishtar? Me too! And now we can learn together.
How did we get these transcripts and recordings, you ask? That's not important, and I'll thank you to stay out of my affairs.
The first installment of the series features Waterworld, Titanic, and No Country For Old Man.
The romantic comedy genre doesn’t leave room for too many surprises. We know that at some point a boy will meet a girl, the boy will do something foolish and lose the girl, and then the boy will eventually get the girl back with a heartfelt speech, or a symbolic gesture of some sort. And vice-versa for every Kate Hudson and Katherine Heigl movie, of course. As viewers we know this going in, and all we ask is to be entertained along the way with characters that ring true, humor that’s original and acting that is believable (ahem, Ms. Heigl). Luckily, the writing team of Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel seem to be well aware of the potential pitfalls of the rom-com. Just as they did with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Stoller and Segel have crafted another original, witty, and charming story with The Five-Year Engagement.
It all sounds pretty French: teenage boy falls in love with his older aunt, attractive, smart, and been around the block a few times, as incarnated to perfection by Béatrice Dalle. The expected dynamic is subverted, however, even obliquely in the opening scene, and the well-worn elements of such a relationship are treated as though anew, with little interest in misplaced teenage priapism.
Since founding the COUM Transmissions collective in the late sixties, via Throbbing Gristle’s invention of industrial music, and numerous highly provocative music and art shows (sex, gender, physical alteration, domination and extremity being constant themes, with a smattering of black magic), Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has dedicated herself to exploring the (off-)limits and possibilities defined and denied by societal taboos.
Each year Russell Espinosa watches every film released in theatres; and each year he takes the time to write up an epic "best of" list. Here it is for the year 2011, and while some of his choices may seem typical, others are an interesting surprise. Enjoy!! - Kathryn Schroeder
The AFI FEST presented by Audi is fast approaching (3-10 November, 2011), and with much of the program already announced, a healthy number of interesting titles are already trailing good word of mouth from other North American and European fests. One such is Alex Ross Perry’s second feature The Color Wheel, winner of the Narrative Award in Chicago: following the oddball backwoods Pynchon riff Impolex (2009), he this time ditches surrealism and heads straight for mumblecore land.
After well-received stops at Cannes, Toronto and New York, the fourth feature from I’m Gonna Explode director Gerardo Naranjo is set to represent Mexico in fine style at AFI Fest presented by Audi, starting November 3, 2011.
Torn from the headlines, Miss Bala pitches beauty queen aspirant Laura into the murky world of the Tijuana drug cartels – it’s the title of Miss Baja California she’s going for, but bala means “bullet”, plenty of which are expended before the end of the film. The real-life Miss Sinaloa (also named Laura) was indeed arrested for her association with the Mexican drug gangs, but this is no docudrama. Laura here is an innocent, drawn into the underworld through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and buffeted from dangerous situation to dangerous situation by the twin expediencies of self-preservation and having no other choice.
Director/producer Athina Rachel Tsangari’s reluctance to be lumped in with some nebulous Greek New Wave is as understandable as the categorization is inevitable. She has been producing the work of Giorgos Lanthimos, and her second film as director shares with his Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011) not only strong tonal and thematic similarities, and an interest in linguistic distortion, but also the cool white light of Thimios Bakatakis’ camerawork on the former; Lanthimos even takes the supporting role of in cast’s quartet.
Disney is a company synonymous with the art of American animation. From their Golden Age fairy-tale adaptations such as Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan to their innovative computer animated hits such as Toy Story and The Incredibles, it seems impossible to think of Disney as anything but a giant in the industry. There was however a time when Disney’s dominant standing was in question. Throughout most of the 80s, a series of unsuccessful feature length films along with the competition of independent animators such as Don Bluth caused Disney to fall on rocky times. In 1989 however, Disney reclaimed their title as the top animation company with their groundbreaking work The Little Mermaid. This would lead into Disney’s Silver Age, cementing the companies place as the dominant force of 90's American animation. Now, more than a decade later since these films were released, Disney has made plans to re-release their Silver Age classics in theaters, remastered and in 3D. Their second offering of this series is the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast, the first animated movie in history to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best picture and the second classic of the Silver Age.
Emerging from the recent trend of independent horror in British cinema, Ben Wheatley’s small-scale gangster massacre Down Terrace made a bit of a splash last year. His latest, Kill List, ups the horror ante and finds a natural home in the AFI FEST’s Midnight Movies strand this week (festival runs November 3-10).
Shakespearian plays have been adapted for the screen time and time again. "Othello", "Hamlet", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Tempest", the list goes on an on and the familiarity for a viewer with these stories is established before they ever enter the theatre. "Coriolanus" is a lesser know, and lesser adapted, play Shakespeare wrote. Well-known actor Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) in his first directorial effort has adapted "Coriolanus", with a screenplay by John Logan into a modern-day political film, while maintaining the original shakespearian dialogue.
Laure's family has recently moved to a new suburb in France. With her short blonde hair and ambiguous features it is unclear on first meeting Laure on screen if she is indeed a boy or a girl. This of course begs the question, "what makes a person look like a boy or a girl?" Laure prefers the walls of her bedroom to be blue, and her parent't happily oblige. She wears long shorts and t-shirts, never a dress. Her short cropped hair is typical for a boy of her age, as is her lack of girly attributes like barrettes. When she speaks her voice does not carry high or low, with no indicative speech markers of either gender. But Laure is a girl by birth, she just happens to not outwardly portray feminine characteristics and in turn her first meeting with a local girl, Lisa, results in the misunderstanding that Laure is indeed a boy; and she does nothing to correct the situation.
It is a little alarming to hear people describe Takeshi Kitano’s latest, Outrage (Autoreiji), as a return to form, since it comes off the back of his masterpiece, Achilles and the Tortoise. What they means is that it’s a return to the straight Yakuza genre with which Kitano started his career, and into which he has injected some interesting elements at various subsequent points. Not so much here, which from anyone else would be fine, but from him is a disappointment. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly efficient gangster film, told at the usual slow-steady pace, laced with black humour, and boasting some particularly unpleasant moments of violence.
A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).
An exquisite salmagundi of moral grey shades, A Separation explicitly hands off judgment to the audience in the opening scene, as Simin and Nader sit before a judge and address directly to camera their cases for and against divorce. She wants to emigrate, to raise their daughter, Temeh, away from the difficulties and repressions of Iran, whilst he does not want to leave his Alzheimer’s suffering father, but must provide consent for the daughter to travel. They agree to a temporary separation whilst this is worked out.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
It’d be best to be prepared before going into this, for a long slow evening. Amongst the various aims of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is the conjuring of the strange all-night atmosphere experienced by a group of officials in search for a dead body, based on the experiences of his co-screenwriter, Ercan Kesel, a doctor who partook in a similar investigation when serving in the same remote village region as depicted in the film. Another of Ceylan’s aims is an explicitly Chekhovian tapestry of apparent banalities, everyday concerns, and the passing of time, that will bring various of the characters unhurriedly to life, and add up incrementally to a portrait of something like life itself.
This is really a one idea movie, but it’s a very good idea (taken from a short story by Tom Bissell). Nica and Alex are young travelers in Georgia, engaged to be married, who depart on a trek with mountain guide Dato. And then Something Happens. To explain the Something would be to spoil the impact of the film, but one of its major problems is that to create that impact, for the first half of the film virtually nothing happens at all. The second problem is that virtually nothing happens afterwards either.
Sokurov concludes his Moloch trilogy, on evil and power, with a loose adaptation of Faust. So loose, in fact that one would be hard-pressed to recognize anything of the original save the name of the protagonist. He’s still a doctor, but poor, neurotic, and, after a while, fixated with a very young girl named Margarete. It is for a night with her, rather than for unlimited knowledge, that he finally signs the Mephistophelean pact late on in the film, and rather than the smooth persuader who will inevitably triumph, this Mephistopheles is a vile, goatish moneylender named Mauricius who ends up buried beneath boulders in a place suggestively described as “far away and very high up”.
Giorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth caused quite a splash last year, so many were eager to see what queasy weirdness his latest would offer. Alps is barely less weird, somewhat less queasy, and just as opaque. Even more than his last film, it also teeters on the verge of being merely affected.
A real Hollywood oddity, this is a cracking carnival noir charting the rise and fall of hubristic mentalist Stanton Carlisle – Stanton the Great – from cheap clairvoyant-act barker to quasi-religious swarmi, to.. well, that’d be spoiling it, but by the look on Tyrone Power’s face, he knew it had to be.
This is most definitely a film, a wonderful, essential conjuring of something from nothing, a necessity for the film-maker, and the selfless defiance of a repressive regime. The Iranian government has banned director Jafar Panahi from film-making or from leaving the country for twenty years, and at the time of this film’s making, he was appealing a six-year prison sentence; it was smuggled to Cannes on a flashdrive hidden in a cake. For what can a film-maker do if not make a film?
In an alternate universe, a Turin Horse will become the name for a movie that turns out to have nothing to do with its title. Slow-cinema maestro Béla Tarr’s latest (last?) opens with a blank-screen voiceover relating the semi-apocryphal story of Nietzsche’s madness-inducing encounter with a mistreated carthorse, and declares that “of the horse, we know nothing”. Cut to a carthorse, trudging through a hellish swirl of mist. But this is not necessarily the same horse, we are clearly not in Italy, and the film soon lets the animal retreat to the background, in order to focus exclusively on the slow, hard, regular days of the old carter and his daughter. He has an apostle’s beard and a mop of grey curls, frequently backlight-haloed, and the use of only his left arm; she has a hard, handsome face, tight-mouthed and dead-eyed, beneath long wind-whipped hair; and they live a life of emptiness and hardship in a stone croft on a barren plain.
Every year at AFI FEST there are films placed in the Special Screenings section of the program. They are films with distribution in place, and will become available for the general public to see in the coming weeks or months. Jeff, Who Lives At Home was a part of this special screening section and will be opening in theatres in March of 2012 thanks to Paramount Vantage. The newest film from The Duplass Brothers, who have been festival darlings in the past with The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and last year's Cyrus, is in the style of The Duplass Brothers who like to make movies about people and relationships, with an offbeat sly humor. Jeff, Who Lives At Home keeps with their traditional themes, and continues to provide the more subtle, and not so subtle, humor we come to expect from them.
Making himself known as a man who enjoys making movies about damaged souls in uniform, Director Oren Moverman departs from the military of his 2009 film The Messenger to focus on a cop in the Los Angeles Police force in Rampart. Taking place during the Rampart scandals of 1999, scandals that forever changed the Los Angeles Police Department, when police officers were implicated in acts of misconduct, including planting evidence, unprovoked beatings and shootings, perjury, and covering up evidence. These were dark days in the city of Angels, and amidst all of the greater scandal Rampart takes a look at one officer's own personal struggles, on the force and at home.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: Carré Blanc (Dir. Jean-Baptiste Léonetti 2011 France, Luxembourg, Russia, Belgium, Switzerland)
As a feature film directing debut, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Carré Blanc is sure to make a strong impression on the filmmaking community, and the impressionable audience member who wanders into this dystopian view of the world's future. Shown as part of the World Cinema section at the 2011 AFI FEST, Carré Blanc is a relatively short film by festival standards, at only 80 minutes, but the impact of the film, both stylistically and theoretically, will have you thinking about it for much longer.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: With Every Heartbeat (Kyss mig) (Dir. Alexandra-Therese Keining Sweden 2011)
Writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining's With Every Heartbeat was presented at AFI FEST 2011 as part of the Breakthrough section. Keeping in line with the excellence of Swedish films of the past, and present, Keining presents an intimate portrayal of love being found in the unlikeliest of places and at a time neither person expects--the two people in question just happen to be women, one openly gay and the other engaged to a man. A true triumph for the LGBT cause, the film portrays love as love is in it's natural form, disregarding much of what could have been a proclamation for equal rights on gender issues that only makes its a stronger piece of filmmaking in the process.
The main draw of Hanaan is its ethnic exoticism: a Korean cop in the urban/industrial wasteland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is certainly not something you see every day (Stalin forcibly relocated thousands of Koreans to populate the USSR’s Asian republics). The story feels well-worn, however – like something from an American movie, as one character observes of a stakeout – with the ups and downs of drug addiction providing automatic pathos but few surprises.
What with the whole skin transplant element of Almodóvar’s latest, it was no great surprise that in his capacity as Guest Artistic Director of this year’s AFI Festival, he should pick as one of his personal screening choices, the wonderful medical horror film Eyes Without A Face.
It is a most unusual film, in story, tone and the inclusion of a remarkably unsettling face transplant – in part for the slow, tense, medical precision with which it is presented and conducted – which must have been goodness-knows how shocking in 1960 when the film was released.
AFI Festival-goers who caught Nacho Vigalonda’s Time Crimes a couple of years ago knew that it was a good bet to mark their diaries for this year’s screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. They were not disappointed.
The irrepressible Vigalonda explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.
It boded so well. The credits play over a serene beam of moonlight on the water, while an excerpt of Tristan and Isolde tinkles gently; then we’re thrown into a noisy neon Malayan karaoke club/shack, where an unexpected, very public murder is followed by an even more unexpected, somnambulant Ave Maria. But Chantal Akerman, taking Joseph Conrad’s first novel, goes nowhere near such stylish flamboyance again and delivers much that is expected, and much that is unexpectedly unsuccessful.
There’s always some good weirdness to be found in the Midnight Movies strand at film festivals, and my top tip for the AFI FEST sponsored by Audi, starting this week, is the fantastically trippy Beyond the Black Rainbow. Let me be clear: this film has not been picking up fans at previous festivals, with complaints ranging from “deathly dull” and “unnecessarily lengthened student short” to “retro-hipster counterfeit” and “complete crapola”. It’s slow and derivative, with a jarringly misjudged ending, but far as I am from an ’80s nostalgist, I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with it.
AFI FEST 2011 Film Review: The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo) (Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne 2011 Belgium, France, Italy)
A new film from the Dardennes brother is always cause for celebration, particularly in Cannes where they just keep being given prizes. This year it was the Grand Jury award for their latest, Le gamin au vélo, and it’s been a popular title at numerous festivals since, finally rolling into Hollywood for the AFI FEST this week (November 3-10).
In 2006, Director Chris Paine debuted a documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, with much acclaim. The documentary focused on the destruction of electric cars, like the EV-1, by the major automobile companies. Questioning the motivations behind the sudden extinction of electric vehicles, and the move back towards gas run automobiles and the dependence on foreign oil it was a harsh look into the reality of big business. Now five years later the topic is examined once again, from a drastically different viewpoint. In only five years the automobile industry has made electric vehicles a priority, and four are on the road today. Chris Paine's Revenge of the Electric Car traces the steps three major car companies, GM, Nissan, and Tesla, as well as an underground environmentalist who is converting gasoline vehicles into electric ones.
Film Rave: Martha Marcy May Marlene (Dir. Sean Durkin 2011) as presented by the LACMA/Film Independent Screening Series
Presented as part of the new film series between Film Independent and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Martha Marcy May Marlene marks the second event in the series. The moderator for the evening was Elvis Mitchell, esteemed film critic and curator at Film Independent; and to the audiences delight quite friendly, engaging and funny with his opening address. After giving a brief synopsis of the film, and throwing in a well-received joke about star Elizabeth Olsen's famous sisters, matters turned to watching the film in LACMA's spacious Bing theatre.
Inspired by the life story of ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno, who has spent 25 years with the BiAka pygmies of Central Africa, Lavinia Currier’s film aims partly to parallel Sarno’s work: that is, to bring to world-wide attention the wonderful and complex music of the forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. The BiAka’s music is as rich and well-practiced as any other such heritage in the world; possibly even more so, structured around an unusually long 64-beat cycle, and incorporating the natural sounds of the jungle as an integral part of the harmonious, pulsing music.
Bucky Larson: Born to be A Star is releasing this Friday, September 9th, 2011 in theatres across the country. In an attempt to see what "buzz" surrounded the film I turned to Twitter. Here are some of my favorite's tweets, and possibly the source of the best laughs of the year:
Semper Fi: Always Faithful is a documentary chronicling the struggle to make the public aware, and the Marine Corps/Government admit to their gross negligence in dealing with contaminated water at a variety of Marine Corps, and other, military bases across the United States of America.
The 1960s, a time of free love and drugs aplenty. The "hippie subculture" of this era took root around 1965, spawning a worldwide counter culture movement that still has remnants in today's society. How this new subculture was established, and spread so quickly around the globe, can be attributed to a variety of factors. Ask those close to the movement and they may have one clear answer to give you, "it all started on the bus."
That Raúl Ruíz describes his new film as his most theoretical might seem a bit daunting. He’s made over 100 movies in 30 years and they’re all pretty theoretical, from The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (1979), to Time Regained (1999). Plus, the new one’s a four and half-hour nineteenth-century drama.
The Superhero, a modern-day myth of a man, or woman, who protects the innocent. Or more humorously, according to the Urban Dictionary's number one definition: a person who is looked up to, fights crime and looks good in tights (the latter is not a must). The image of a person in tights, or some sort of costume that masks their face from public view so they may lead a normal existence outside of the crime fighting world is a common visual for the superhero. It is also common, and deemed sane, to understand and reason that superhero's do not exist in reality. There are no superpowers, fancy gadgets, cars that can turn into boats at the flip of a switch or palms that shoot spiderwebs so one can swing from building to building. The man of steel is fictitious. Even Batman, who has no actual "superpower" cannot be real. But what if there were superheroes?
Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend concerns Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two young British men who meet at a bar one Friday night and embark on a 48 hour affair. Haigh’s emotionally honest scripting and the pitch-perfect performances by Cullen and New lend poignancy and unexpected intimacy to this story of a brief but powerful affair.
It is astonishing – incomprehensible, even – that local indie drama How to Cheat should have won the acting prize for its ensemble at this year’s LA Film Festival – the leads of Sawdust City, for example, were far more deserving. True, the acting is one of the least bad things about the film, and if star-acting is the trick of making the character become the actor as opposed to vice versa, then across the handful of films of his I have seen, indie everyman Kent Osborne is certainly a star, and one of the most charmless onscreen today.
The iconic image of Henry Spencer from Eraserhead floats across the screen as the short film How To Make A David Lynch Film begins. For all the ways this man looks just like Henry, a true Lynchian fan knows it is not; this man is an impostor, and something is awry. This trickery is of course done on purpose by Director Joe McClean for this is a film about how to make a film like David Lynch makes a film, and what better way to begin such a fete than with Lynch's illustrious main character from his first feature film.
Splice may not be traditional, but the film is all the better for it. Of course, you may not like it. You may buy a ticket and walk out of the theater cursing my name for this recommendation. So be it. The backlash on message boards is already as strong of the film's critical support. It's been accused of being anti-science, pro-rape, anti-women, ablist, misogynistic, as well as the usual filmgoer complaints of "dumb" and "boring." But if you want to see something that doesn't challenge you at all, that doesn't care about the psychological complexities of its characters or the moral and ethnical implications of their work, a film that doesn't give a lick about science or scientists, then please, don't see Splice.
The opening credits are accompanied by still photographs of a bank robbery. The music melancholy and foreboding. The final title frame is a portrait of the animal kingdom. The lion standing tall amongst the other animals. The films title hovers for a moment over the portrait and we immediately realize this is a film about power and dominance. What we do not yet know is how the film will depict the destructive nature of such power and it's fleeting existence.
The infamous French Gangster Jacques Mesrine's life is chronicled in a two-part film that attempts to show the man behind the media sensation that he became as French Public Enemy No. 1. Part One, aptly titled Killer Instinct, begins with Mesrine's return from Algeria in 1959 to France. It chronicles his rise to a life of crime that included bank robbing, murderer for the mob, kidnapper, and a most entertaining master jail break artist. Over a span of 20 years he would become both the most wanted criminal in France and a celebrity, as shown in part two Public Enemy #1. Leading to a fitting end in a hail of gunfire at the public Place de Clichy in 1979.
[Excerpt] Taking a good look at Joaquin Phoenix at this point, and to be completely blunt, you can only think he has suffered some sort of mental break and emotional breakdown. His appearance alone is upsetting as he has gained a considerable amount of weight, has a beard that is overgrown and mangy, his hair is a knotted mess that may or may not have been washed in the past month, and even his clothing are in tatters. He smokes far too many cigarettes, partakes in various recreational drugs, drinks large amounts of alcohol, enjoys the occasional hooker or groupie and looks like he has not had a decent nights rest in years. His attitude is sometimes positive and carefree but in a moment may turn to angry, paranoid, or loopy. Phoenix is a mess, and taking him serious when he is in this condition is a difficult task. Then again, we do not know the real Joaquin Phoenix, as he made quite clear in the beginning.
Certified Copy is a movie about its ideas more than about its plot or even its characters. Director Abbas Kiarostami is renowned for utilizing the tight spaces of everyday life, like the insides of cars, to give us scenes of daily life unfolding at its natural pace. Couples talk, their conversations full of pauses, hesitations, parried opinions and careful retractions.
[Excerpt] The typical summer Blockbuster requires little to no thought, just a set of eyes on an empty vessel ready to be taken on a roller coaster ride. So a mid-July film that actually demanded one to utilize his/her brain cells was a pleasant surprise. More than a smart summer movie though, here was a movie that evoked thought. As normal Joes and Janes, we often go through our lives uninspired; we wake up, drive to work, clock-in, clock-out, sleep, and repeat. Routine breeds a society of unenthused zombies so when something as alarmingly original as Inception comes along audiences wake up to life as they allow awe and wonderment to reenter their imaginations.
[Excerpt] Boyle and editor Jon Harris construct a dizzying montage of the present and the past (Aron conjures happier memories of time spent with his girlfriend to prepare him) that is at once shocking, terrifying, gruesome and, as embodied by James Franco's performance, triumphant. The filmmakers bend over backwards to elicit emotional reactions during the sequence, although Ralston's recollections of a failed relationship with a heretofore-unseen girlfriend never gripped me. Instead, it is the physically visceral power I found most convincing. This scene--and indeed, the final twenty minutes of the movie--is so emotionally overwhelming, my palms are sweating just recalling it.
As the camera swoops along with Aron climbing up and over mountains, in small gorges and caverns, it is a fluid molding of man and lens. The camera's eye is one with his movements, it sees what he sees, and gives the viewer a clear view of what he is encountering or about to. The pivotal scene, when everything changes for Aron and his life-changing journey begins, is caught from below. His legs are rooted in a small crevice between two mountains, he is preparing to climb down into the crevice, mere feet away from the side of the mountain he wishes to propel down. His entire trip has been leading up to this climactic moment and his anticipation and excitement is at the highest peek. Then, in a haunting twist of fate, a loose boulder changes everything, and his body is sent sliding down into the cavern. His arm is wedged between the boulder and the mountain side and he cannot free himself. The camera zooms out from Aron's dark claustrophobic cavern to the wide, lonely, and uninhabited expanse of desert/mountains. Aron is completely alone. The clock now begins to tick.
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