Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Best of 2014: #6

"Whiplash’s asks whether that is a fair price to pay to be immortalized as one of the greats. The eagerness with which Andrew burns up pieces of his humanity in order to stoke the fires of his talent suggests he has reached a troubling answer. More troubling still, the levitational thrill of watching his talent reach its full expression makes it more difficult to disagree than we might be comfortable with. Whiplash fearlessly tackles these complex issues while delivering electric performances and some knockout scenes of drumming. It’s powerhouse filmmaking and it announces the arrival of a major talent in Chazelle."

Monday, January 19, 2015

Best of 2014: #7

"I wanted to linger in the world after the story was over, exploring the corridors of the hotel, eavesdropping on conversations, examining the props. Anderson wants us to feel the wistfulness of watching something beautiful go away forever so he gives us a wholly original world with which we can fall in love. We know something of that loss when the lights come up in the theaters and this world fades to black. It's this soulfulness that the Anderson non-believers will never understand. And it's the reason I know I'm going to revisit The Grand Budapest Hotel many times in the future."

- from my Original Review

Best of 2014: #8

When they put together the career highlights for Lithgow and Molina Love is Strange will feature prominently. Gay or straight, it's rare that we find a relationship in movies that feels so authentically lived in. We can feel the balance they've settled into over the years. Ben depends on George's sturdiness, George adores Ben's sweetness. Love is Strange picks up well after most movie romances have ended and finds the beauty in forging a connection with someone so strong you can't sleep without their body beside you in bed. By the film's end they are afforded a moment to look back on a life together, see each other for exactly who they are and decide that, yes, they are glad they decided to be with this man. Other loves story's would be lucky to come within a mile of such poignancy.

- from my Original Review

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Best of 2014: #9

"Without all the off-the-shelf plot stuff to worry about We Are the Best! is able to take its time watching how these girl navigate the rocky shoals of early adolescence. They deal with boys, inadvertently hurt each others feelings, and battle the pervasive fear that everyone else will develop and become normal while the forever stay exactly the ill-formed weirdos they are now. And through it all there is the simple joy of yelling "Fuck you!" into a microphone. We Are The Best!  made me silly happy. Walking out of the theater I made a mental note to slip a copy to my nieces when they enter their teens." 

- from my original review

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Best of 2014: #10

"Thrillers like Jeremry Saulnier’s Blue Ruin live or die by the quality of their plotting. Events must unfold with an airtight logic, each dreadful event spinning inevitably out from the last.  The suspense evaporates if we feel the character being pushed by the writer’s hand instead of being pulled helpless forward by their own irresistible urges. Blue Ruin pitiless screenplay meets this standard and then some. It is an uncommonly absorbing film that goes on a list with other great tales of venality and murder like of Blood Simple and One False Move. And if isn’t necessarily the equal of those masterpieces, it is awfully close"

- from my Original Review

Friday, January 16, 2015

Best of 2014: Runners Up

11. Force Majeure
Countless European art films purport to reveal the cracks in a marriage, but few can claim to do so while being as brutally funny as Ruben Östlund's merciless comedy about the collapse of one man's ego when the survival instinct prompts him to abandon his wife and children in a moment of crisis.

12. Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher plays like a Ghost story in which the characters have not yet died. Greig Fraser’s icy cinematography seeps into the viewer’s bones and finds imagery that speak for its inarticulate, emotionally closed off leads, be it du Pont sitting in slack-jawed gloom in a room full of trophies, or the entwined violence and intimacy of brothers wrestling. Foxcatcher isn't the most viscerally satisfying film, inevitably it has left some audiences cold, but it’s one hell of a tough film to shake.  - from my original review

13. The Guest

Watching Adam Wingard’s The Guest lets the viewer experience what it would be like to fish an unexpected masterwork out of a bargain bin full of trashy VHS horror movies. The film is a superior example of what Rodriguez and Tarantino attempted with Grindhouse, at once a glorious homage to the horror schlock of the late 70’s and 80’s and a skillful subversion of the same. - from my original review

14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Matt Reeve's film bucks the trend of disposable sequels and reboots and proves that terrific films can come from the most unlikely source, provided they are made with as much skill and intelligence as this. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes quite unexpectedly turns out to be one of the smartest political films of recent years.

15. Two Days, One Night

Over the course of the titular days and nights, Sandra goes from coworker to coworker to plead her case in an attempt to eke out a nine-vote majority. It’s an ingenious structure for a movie, allowing the same basic situation to be rotated and examined from a variety of angles. The Dardennes sensitivity for how people behave in these situations is exquisite – from my original review

Five More Terrific Movies

  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Pride
  • Gone Girl
  • Ida
  • Obvious Child

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 Snapshots

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review: Selma

Selma’s portrayal of the appalling violence endured by protesters is heart stopping in its immediacy. I don’t think I will ever forget the image of a policeman on horseback emerging from a tear gas haze brandishing a whip at fleeing protesters. But where a lesser film would see such material as an end on to itself, Selma uses it as the jumping off point to a wider, more complex picture. The film recalls Lincoln in its depiction of the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes historic change possible, but DuVernay's is the sharper, more disciplined affair, lacking Spielberg’s weakness for schmaltzy emotional crescendos. The script by Paul Webb, reworked by DuVernay, doesn’t shy away from making pointed political critiques either. Scenes contrasting King’s organization against a less effective local civil rights group make an unambiguous statement about the need for protests to be media savvy in pursuit of tangible political goals...


Best of the Decade So Far 
2010 - 2014

1. A Separation

2. It's Such a Beautiful Day 

3. Black Swan

4. The Social Network 

5. Before Midnight 

6. Moonrise Kingdom 

7. Beasts of the Southern Wild 

8. I Am Love 

9. The Babadook 

10. Drive 

11. 12 Years a Slave
12. Under the Skin
13. The Master
14. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
15. Boyhood
16. Frances Ha
17. The Wolf of Wall Street
18. Selma
19. Oslo, August 31
20. Inside Llewyn Davis
21. Four Lions
22. Bridesmaids
23. Weekend
24. Melancholia
25. Meek’s Cutoff

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

The idea of Gods and Kings as some kind of modern, not-your-grandfather’s Ten Commandments is a particularly rich bit of hypocrisy since Exodus amounts to little more than a riff on that Cecil B. DeMille staple. Rather than do its own world-building, Exodus carelessly hacks 90 minutes of screen time out of the 1956 version, patching it back together with clunky dialogue fixes meant to fill in all the epic storytelling you are not seeing. Characters spend a lot of time clarifying plot points the script failed to make clear in earlier scenes, like when Ramses claims that his mother (Sigourney Weaver) has always had it in for Moses even though Weaver is little more than a mute prop for the first 45 minutes of the film. Much of the plot, from the rivalry between Moses and Ramses to Moses's rushed romance and marriage, is covered in this "Wait, did we forget to mention this important plot point" fashion.

I’m no great fan of the Charlton Heston version of The Ten Commandments, but at least DeMille had the conviction of his hokey beliefs. Exodus doesn’t believe in anything except maybe the overseas box office value of large scale CGI destruction. It shuffles lifelessly from scene to scene with a lethargy better suited to portraying forty years wandering the desert, rather than the epic tale that precedes it. Its biggest innovation to the DeMille version is to drain it of all its delirious high camp folly and overwrought melodrama. You know. The fun...

Monday, December 8, 2014

Maleficent Tweet-a-thon