June 19th (Cinema) - With each film Terrence Malick pushes the boundaries of narrative film making and The Tree of Life continues this trend. It is a project of pure ambition and earnestness and like anything made of that substance it has its areas where it falls short. The most glaring is the uneven narrative that plagues it at times. Watching it you will be confused and frustrated, but like any piece of art you will get out of the experience what you put in to the experience. Any of the flaws pale in comparison to precisely what it manages to accomplish. This is as pure as cinematic expression as you will find in narrative film making. Terrence Malick does not speak in classic structured story telling and dialog and to judge it based on such seems misguided. Instead Malick speaks in visual storytelling. His images are constructed in a way that speaks things words and plot cannot. Each scene is a picture of that time filled with all the truths and deceptions that lie within. As the adage goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and it's application goes a long way to describing The Tree of Life. Malick is able to recreate a childhood that everyone regardless of where or how they grew up will relate to. The scenes at the beginning of the universe are deeply powerful and literally made my jaw drop. There is a framework laid for the thematic elements but what exactly that entails is up to interpretation due to the deeply personal nature of the film. It will vary from person to person which is part of what makes it so magical. If you keep an open mind and let go of any preconceptions of what this film is supposed to be there will be much to be gained. While it may not be treated as such initially, over time I truly feel The Tree of Life will be hailed as a masterpiece for the ages.
June 25th (Cinema) - Admittedly I am a huge Conan O'Brien fan and I also attended his tour so this was something firmly aimed towards me and it did not disappoint. While it is mainly a tour documentary with footage of him and his staff forming the show as well as parts of the show itself it does have a central focus aimed at displaying Conan's need to perform and show his inability to even stop performing once the show ends. We also get some insight to Conan the person which first and foremost it focus on him as a perfectionist and how that impacts the people around him. While it definitely doesn't demonize Conan, at the same time it does not hold back from showing him in a less than saintly light at times. Overall though the film is hilarious and I laughed during it more than I have watching any film in years. If you like Conan this is a must see.
June 26th - I never thought I would say this about an Alfred Hitchcock film, but this was disappointing. Right from the outset this film felt rushed. I never understood the stakes or the mysterious "state secret" hanging in the balance and at no time is there a sense of character for anyone. Annabella's murder in the beginning was something I never got over as well since it makes no sense she would be killed with a knife in her back and yet they would wait outside for Hannay the next morning to kill him. The film is well made and the scenes of Hannay escaping in the Scotish countryside are especially good. The dialog is as always with Hitchcock strong as welll as the acting with Robert Donat anchoring with a charming performance. Most disappointingly, however, was the complete lack of suspense throughout. At no time did I feel there was any danger since the cops and the spies were so inept Hannay was able to avoid or escape so easily.
June 27th - Watching this I couldn't help but think about how Mia Hansen-Løve has been influenced by Olivier Assayas. She uses the same effortless camera moves, tight editing and is able to recreate such wonderful intimate moments between family and friends. While there are a few loose ends brought up which are not fully explored, the story does a wonderful job of helping to understand the characters. There is remarkable restraint for a young filmmaker to refrain from using some cliche and tired images for this type of story. Most impressive is the fact that this is a sad and tragic story that is very true to those emotions, but at the same time does not dwell on them and is also able to show hope and understanding. I am very much looking forward to what else is to come from Mia Hansen-Løve.
June 28th - Many films have been dumped into theaters since the financial crisis in an attempt to make money off the anger and frustration many people have felt at Wall Street and corporate greed. All irony aside, this is one of the best. It takes the complicated nature of why the financial crisis happened and how and explains it in a way that makes sense to the viewer, but doesn't dumb it down or over simplify things. I was impressed with the fact it started at the beginning when deregulation occurred with examples to paint a whole picture of what caused the failure as well as providing Iceland as an example of deregulation causing an economy to collapse. It start out as a sobering and objective look into the causes of the collapse, but towards the end it begins to get one sided. Some of the interviews, although compelling are pretty one sided either demonizing the person or making them seem like an angel. There are valid and honest reasons provided to support the claims made so it doesn't play as being totally biased towards one side. It plays out like a average person trying to understand and document the subject, so it makes sense with the more information uncovered the more outraged the tone. You never get the sense that the film makers came in with some sort of agenda they wanted to for fill.
July 1st - Classic Hollywood Westerns and John Wayne films have never been my favorite, but I try to give them a chance every so often. I didn't find Rio Bravo to be the masterpiece that others do, but I none the less did find it entertaining. The main things I dislike about classic Hollywood Westerns are on display here as well. The bright colors, clean and pressed clothing and the overall cleanliness of the surroundings which are a stark contrast to the thematic elements that the genre plays with. Rio Bravo, in its defense, downplays these thematic elements in favor of some surprising humor. This is what helped keep me interested and was the part of the overall entertainment that is missing from most classic Hollywood Westerns (at least the few I have seen), but it also created some huge and distracting tonal shifts and it becomes that much harder to feel invested with the more dramatic parts. With a 141 minute running time the film does drag in parts and could have used some more editing in parts to help with some of the pacing. All the things I disliked aside, I still enjoyed watching it and there was enough interesting characters and of course that wonderful Howard Hawks dialog that he captures so effortlessly.
July 2nd (Cinema) - There are the making of some strong material here if they would have spent more time working on a better script. Some more time editing to hold the story together better and help the pacing and prevent the uneven narrative was also needed. Michael Fassbender once again gives a wonderful performance and gives Magneto the depth that the character needs. James McAvoy, Rose Byrne, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawrence also give standout performances although January Jones is miscast as Emma Frost and doesn't have the arrogance that the character needs. While it did play a bit like a train wreak with a sprawling plot barely held together scene after scene they kept it together long enough for them to land the ending. They really nailed the theme and the spirit of the X-Men franchise in those moments at the end. While it doesn't reach the heights of X2 it is heading the franchise in the right direction after the disastrous X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Perfectly enjoyable if forgettable.
July 3rd - Many films are based on the old adage "War is Hell" but this is one of the few that delivers on that statement. There are no glorified battle scenes or acts of heroism found here, only suffering and death. It is a powerful film that will leave a deep impression of the horrors and tolls of war. Elem Klimov shots the film often from the first person perspective of Flora and puts you right there on the ground with him. When Flora gets his hearing damaged we also hear the ringing and all the sounds and conversations muted as well. Each frame right from the beginning until the end makes you feel uneasy. There might not be much joy in the film, but there is a lot of truth and realism. It truly is an experience.
July 7th - Sergio Leone does such a wonderful job of capturing the feel and look of the old west from the buildings and setting all the way down to the mannerisms and clothing. It also sidesteps some of the prat falls of the genre by avoiding a shoe horned in love story or an overly sympathetic and moralistic character for us to relate with. Instead this feels like an authentic tale told with authentic people during an authentic time. The iconic score by Ennio Morricone sets the mood right from the beginning and helps give the film an epic feeling, and it truly is epic. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a culmination of the genre zeitgeist that decades of Westerns established. The only fault I find with the film is the dubbing. Certain scenes are really bad and you can clearly see the actors mouth moving out of synch of the dialog and becomes very distracting. While this is film that fits firmly within the genre it also is a work of art that stands up on its own.
July 8th - Typically when plays are used as the source material for a film the problems lie in how uncinematic the end result turns out. To Philip Seymour Hoffman's credit, he avoided the hurdle and the visualization scenes work nicely in the format. It doesn't feel like a lifeless point camera and shoot actors acting in backgrounds exercise which is commendable. The part that fails is usually what play adaptation get right, the characters. They are so uninteresting and bland and we never get a good sense of who they are or what they want. It is tough to feel engaged in a film that revolves around characters when we just don't care for them at all. Just because there a portrait of two dichotomous relationships does not mean there is something to say. The work must be done to build these relationships or at least help us to understand who these people are and what makes them tick. The use of the Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes songs are so out of place (although they are really great songs). The minimalist piano score used at parts works so much better with the mood of the film, but I have a feeling someone looked at the final product and panicked feeling that putting some excellent songs might help give it some life. Even more deadly is the fact Jack Goes Boating isn't even slightly funny. There are no laughs to be found. Even as an intellectual or quirky comedy it doesn't work. The acting has been praised by many people, and it certainly isn't the problem, but I still find it hard to praise even if it isn't the actors fault because of how little I cared about who they played. Even with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan who are actors I really admire.
July 9th (Cinema) - This is truly a personal work that Mike Mills has created with his own unique voice and heart. This is a tale rife with sadness and misfortune but at the same time humor and joy. These emotional shifts helps show the duality of human nature and the contradiction of our actions where what a person wants and thinks might actually be separate from what they say or do. These moments are embraced and are what makes the film feel so honest. While the film has a quirky sense of humor it is used to enhance the material and never gets in the way of the sincerity. Ewan McGregor is fantastic in the film playing a character that is dragged down by his sadness, but never losing the humor and charm lying underneath. Mélanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer also are fantastic giving the same depth and personality in their performances. The editing of Olivier Bugge Coutté also deserves much praise for the way he cross cuts between time in a very organic and fluid way. Mike Mills shows great maturity and earnestness in Beginners and hopefully it will not be another 6 years until we have a chance to see another film from him.
July 12th - In Bruges has a little bit of something for everyone. There is comedy, action, drama, tragedy and even a little bit of romance. The problem though is that each aspect seems underdeveloped and is not able to stand on its own. When you combine all these fragments together it does not equal a whole. The dry and dark comedy is the strongest aspect, there are some very humorous moments, but some other moments land with a thud and it isn't executed well enough to carry the whole film on its own. The best aspect is the performances of Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes and Colin Farrell. They are having a blast and really bring it throughout the whole film. There isn't anything egregious with In Bruges, it is just done with broad strokes and will appeal to most people, but lacks the depth to be anything special.
July 15th - Although I am not familiar with Herman Melville's novel, Leos Carax is adapting some dense and difficult source material, and to his credit he does not shy away from it and does not take the easy way out. In the beginning they establish a relatively normal straight forward prestige film where Pierre has a normal life as a writer in a large house and is getting married to a beautiful women. This is seemingly done to contrast the insanity that Pierre ends up encountering, but the beginning lasts too long and does not do an interesting enough job of planting the seeds of where the film is heading. When Pierre leaves that life behind, we have no clue why he does. There are some interesting ideas here involving writing, the creative process and sanity but they are not fully developed and end up being more confusing than interesting. I have enjoyed Leos Carax's other films and this is material that is well suited to his sensibilities and style as a film maker, Pola X just doesn't work.
July 16th - A great psychological thriller that weaves a suspenseful tale. The ending is very effective and makes great use of light and shadow to enhance the suspense and leaves you on the edge of your seat for what happens next. The whole film is done with a light touch, while there are some twists and turns in the plot they aren't overly complex and each one happens organically in the plot. It doesn't explain everything away instead only giving you the information when you need it and in some using your assumptions against you. Like all great suspenseful films Diabolique establishes a straight forward story where you feel you know everything is happening, but then at a point it turns this certainty on it's head and you, like the characters have no clue where it is heading or know what to believe. There is a minor detail of the ending that bothered me and calls into question the role and worth of the inspector character, and the middle the film does drag and could have used some trimming. Other than these minor qualms Diabolique is a very chilling old school psychological thriller.
July 19th - In the beginning Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an comedic homage to an old school noir film but it slowly evolves into a buddy cop action comedy. It seems that Shane Black was more comfortable with the buddy cop genre and the further along the film goes the more it becomes dominated by it. Towards the end there are a bunch of gun fights and a car chase and it plays against the the noir elements established in the beginning. If they would have stuck more with the neo-noir themes and visual cues it would have been much better. Robert Downey's character is by far the most interesting and Val Kilmer's is just a soundboard for him and propel the plot forward instead of it occurring organically. Robert Downey left on his own to figure things out would be much more interesting. Lots of things like the narration, use of flash backs and gay jokes while either funny or interesting at first end up being gimmicky and slightly annoying. Despite all of this Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is hilarious more often than not and it is worth seeing for Robert Downey's performance. Michelle Monaghan gives a good performance as well. As a comedy Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is worth seeing but as a neo-noir it falls flat.
July 22nd - Lovers of the Arctic Circle feels very similar to Amelie with its eccentricities and coincidences but grounded with the visual style of Kieslowski. The relationship between Otto and Ana is portrayed as a circular force of nature that can not be stopped. When they are together there are large gusts of wind and violent storms and when they are apart fate is bringing them back together. When dealing with love and fate there is always the danger of treading into overly melodramatic and overly quirky territory and Lovers of the Arctic Circle does cross this line at times although it always finds a way to cross back over. I was impressed with the scope of the film starting with their childhood and spanning into adulthood giving each period the proper time to development. They focus on the relationship between Otto and Ana but also show the consequences such a relationship has on their families. The editing does a wonderful job of compressing time often telling the story slightly chronologically out of order or telling the same events from the different characters perspectives but never becomes tedious. Julio Medem has crafted a lyrical and stylish fable like story of death, life, love and destiny.
July 24th - It has always struck me how similar each one of Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales are but yet how each one is unique. While each one is always an examination of the moral codes and ethics of a bourgeoisie man involving the opposite sex, each one takes a fresh perspective and set of circumstances. His films are so unassuming avoiding music, close-ups, flashy editing or other more obvious cinematic techniques. This helps establish an intimate atmosphere with the viewer that he uses to set up a series of conversations between characters or a character thinking to themselves. When people speak of the mundane, philosophical quandaries or even personal revelations it feels grounded and true thanks to this intimate atmosphere. The beginning of Chloe in the Afternoon felt a bit more mundane than some of the other Six Moral Tales but once the plot starts to get set in motion it has the same intelligence and insight that the other films do. It may not be a flashy and stylish, but that doesn't make it uninteresting.
July 27th - Night and Fog takes a detached and almost surreal approach to Nazi concentration camps. While typically taking a detached approach to material tends to distance the viewer, when documenting content that is as horrendous and inhuman as Nazi concentration camps there really is no other approach to take. There is no other way to display something the rational mind just cannot comprehend. Alain Resnais composes the film to prevent you from being complacent with what you are seeing but at the same time holds back to prevent it from becoming just shock and awe. These atrocities speak for themselves and Resnais is mindful to adhere to that. Although most everything is well crafted I felt the music often used felt inappropriate. I am glad they didn't go in the direction of an overly ominous score since the images speak for themselves, but often times the music was the standard composition that would go with a classical Hollywood film. I would have rather they exclusion music altogether and let the haunting voice overs be the only sounds of the film. Still, it is very powerful and has clearly influenced many other WWII films. Night and Fog creates a record of the images of these concentration camps that are unique to cinema. It is a powerful and important record of a history that should never be forgotten.
July 28th - Trust is an over-exaggerated look at families and relationships in the solemn way only Hal Hartley can present it. There is a directness in his style and writing that is refreshing. This is no more apparent than in the dialog which is the center piece in the film and it is wonderful. There is a great cadence to it and the characters say things and speak to each other with a refreshing truth. Adrienne Shelly and Martin Donovan both do a wonderful job acting and fully embrace the characters. The acting of some of the peripheral actors is a bit amateurism especially when compared and acting in the same scenes as the lead actors. It may be quirky and a little too serene at times, but it maintains a fascinating balance in tone between dark comedy and pathos that is both unique and fascinating.
July 29th - My Dinner with Andre is a film about Wally and Andre and their dinnertime philosophical conversations. It is written by the actors themselves largely based on their own experiences and mimicking their own conversations that they had with each other. Such a premise would seem to be boring and repetitive but thanks to Louis Malle's subtle touch he avoids these problems. This is where the subtle and nuanced camera work pays dividends for the film. There is a slow zoom as a person starts to reveal more and more about themselves or a slow pan to the other person if they have a reaction of if they start talking. When the topic is changed it cuts to a scene of both people almost as to create a reset. This helps create a sense of movement and momentum to the conversation. With two stationary people it is important to prevent the viewer from getting bored or keep attention from waning. The one thing that bothered me is the fact in the beginning Andre dominate the conversation talking about his stories and interpretations. While some of the stories and points he brings up were interesting it becomes Andre's sermon and he comes off as pretentious and egotistical and I found myself unengaged at times. While it sets up the frame of the discussion of the film it goes on too long. When the film really hits its stride is when Wallace and Andre start engaging each other and there is a back and forth of ideas. This is when the film starts to venture into an area that I felt hits on some deeply philosophical and intellectual areas. I can't see anyone watching this not thinking about deep philosophical quantities about their own life. Whether you think all the is bullshit or you hate the characters it will get you thinking. Isn't that the point of great art, to make you ponder and wonder about existentialist issues?
July 30th - The Adjustment Bureau is a very unique concept that can setup some really interesting material, that is why it is so disappointing how uncreative it is. The adjustors where so bland and uninspired. They took all of the mystery away by portraying them as bureaucrats working for a faceless boss right from the offset. It would have been nice to shroud them in some mystery at least in the beginning. I know they are the physical manifestation of destiny for the characters to fight against, but they could have at least tried to make them more than a mechanism of the plot. The only thing that works is the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. They have such wonderful chemistry together and you buy the fact they would rally against their fate for each other. Stylistically it is your standard Hollywood film. There are some sleek establishing shots sprinkled here and there but mostly it is the generic camera work and cinematography put together with lots of cuts. As the plot unfolds the whole thing feels uninspired and cliche with the idea of love conquers all being driven into the ground. Then there is the anti-climatic and sudden ending that helps to keep everything on message. There was potential in the material, and the leads give it their all, but the people making the film don't seem to want to put the work in to flesh out the interesting ideas of free will vs destiny and are comfortable with it being your standard Hollywood romantic melodrama with a sci-fi twist.
August 4th - Right from the prologue I knew I was in for an uphill with that "no reason" manifesto. Great films may not explain away everything, but there is always enough context to draw a conclusion. Therein lies the problem, without any reason for anything to happen, why should we care? The best conclusion I can draw from the prologue, the meta aspects and the mishmash of other types of genres that this was supposed to be a satire about modern film itself. Saying that though, I feel like I am drawing that conclusion for Quentin Dupieux and am giving Rubber too much credit. I typically like ideas that are unique and different, but Rubber just isn't as clever as it thinks it is and constantly seems as it is playing at something instead of actually doing it. The few random scenes that are shot well and have good music seem like it is playing at being a artful indie. The exploding heads and shower scene seem like it is playing at being a horror film. Having the actors break the fourth wall and an audience watching the story with the tire unfold seems like it is playing at being meta. Rubber has an amusing and absurd conceit that just never materializes into something substantial at any point. A conceit alone does not a film make.
August 5th - A good psychological drama of the adventure of three people to find gold and how the greed and lust of such riches can corrupt absolutely. Humphrey Bogart gives, as usual, a magnetic performance as a man descending into paranoia and madness. Bogart doesn't do subtle, but he does strip away the coolness and does a good job morphing himself over time into an unlikeable villain as the film goes on. Walter Huston does a good job playing the pragmatist while Tim Holt holds his own as the conscience. The real strength is John Huston's screenplay. The pacing is great, keeping the adventure moving while giving the plot time to develop. There is a theme that the seeds are planted from the beginning that starts to bloom as the film goes on. It evolves very organically from the plot and characters. Even at the end they avoid hammering home the point, instead confident that the writing did its job. Each setting in the film felt and looked authentic. At times it relies too heavily on the acting, art direction and writing to carry the film instead of the cinematography. It would have been nice to get some more cinematic focus to provide some additional visceral moments to bring out the strengths. An undeniable classic that has stood the test of time and find a way to be adventurous while also being smart.
August 6th (Cinema) - Romantic comedies tend to be a waste zone nowadays with so many manipulative and cliche ridden films. Crazy, Stupid, Love tries to circumvent these problems by being smarter and more perceptive than those films giving a more honest depiction of relationships, but it still succumbs to overly dramatized moments towards the last third of the film. A speech at a junior high graduation is the worst offender of this spelling everything out and wrapping up the themes and plot. Most of jokes land and the laughs for the most part are done with smart writing and humorous character interactions instead of just being punchlines. Towards the end though it does tread into some convenient plot turns with manufactured comedic situations which strike a false note. The ensemble cast does a wonderful job with strong dramatic and comedic performances throughout. Steve Carrell plays the awkward Cal so well with humor and empathy. The performance that stood out the most was Ryan Gosling playing the womanizing Jacob with the charisma that the character needs, but always underlying it with a hint of sadness. It strikes a good balance between the humor and drama and comes up with moments that are genuinely touching with thoughtful characters despite indulging in the excesses of the genre. Most importantly, Crazy, Stupid, Love is lots of fun even if a bit slight.
August 9th - The Temptation of St. Tony is a mix of Bergmanesque themes of morality and faith, the long takes and camera work of Béla Tarr and the aesthetics and surrealism of Federico Fellini. The film is an amalgam of the styles and techniques of these great directors creating something that feels unique rather than just an imitation. The surreal and strangeness of the story causes the viewer to scratch their head as to what is occurring plot wise at times, the visual story telling does such a wonderful job of portraying the mood and atmosphere that you always feel what is happening and what it means although you might be confused as to why. While this is the charm of the film it does cause scenes to not flow together particularly well and are disjointed and many times you feel like you are playing catch up with what is happening. The Temptation of St. Tony will not be for everyone, but it is experience that feels both similar yet completely unique at the same time. Estonian filmmaker Veiko Õunpuu shot the film in his home country and marks an emerging talent. This is the first time I had seen a film from either the director or country which is always heartening to be able see different perspectives and places.
August 12th - The history behind Salt of the Earth as being one of the first films to portray Feminism as well as being Pro-Union during McCarthyism causing it to be blacklisted is almost remembered more than the film itself. It is undoubtedly an important film detailing the plight of women and Mexican-American workers at that time. It is firmly within the Neorealist context with it's social message and portray of realist people. The aesthetic qualities are firmly also in line with Neorealism with its documentary quality, use of some non-professional actor, authentic settings and sense of intimacy. This helps us feel their struggles and triumphs as we are side by side with them every step of the way and are equally as inspired when they are. This does work against the film in the middle when the plot stalls and the message stagnates. Without anything else to focus on I did find myself loosing interest. It could have used a trim at these points to help the pacing. There are some aspects that come off a bit propagandist. The management and police are made the villains far too easily from their attitude and actions without any sort of reason. Salt the Earth ultimately succeeds despite its faults and stands as an important historical documentation of its time.
August 14th - Ariel isn't a film I necessarily disliked as much as there just wasn't anything that particularly impressed me. The aesthetics and story were so dry and stilted that it never really amounts to anything particularly meaningful. I certainly admire the directness of Aki Kaurismäki's style but everything becomes so understated and subtle that it does not feel like there is anything to say. There are moments that have their charm and it is funny at times with its dark sense of humor but overall I just couldn't get interested in the film. The triviality of life is always an interesting subject in the hands of an auteur, but Ariel ends up becoming just as trivial as the events that it is portraying. This is my second Aki Kaurismäki film and the general consensus of my thoughts seems to indicate his style may not be for me. I admire his sensibilities and some of the camera work, but there just isn't enough in his films to shake off a feeling of apathy I have towards them.
August 16th (Cinema Rewatch) - What more about The Big Lebowski can I say that hasn't already been said. An insanely quotable film full of some wonderful lines and dialog. Absolutely hilarious and is just as funny whether it is the first time or the twentieth time. The cast does a wonderful job and Jeff Bridges gives what I consider to be the role of his lifetime. While it could just as easily skated by on the comedy, dialog and acting this is a Coen Brother film and as usual it is well rounded and well made. There is a great irreverent story here that works as well as a neo-noir as it does a comedy. It is also well shot and features the wonderful Roger Deakins cinematography. The fact that The Big Lebowski is the total package is what makes it a more rewarding experience each time you see it. I was really excited to be able to see this on the big screen. It is always great to get a chance to see a classic in the format it was intended.
August 19th - Skeletons is an original and imaginative story of two people who exorcise people of their secrets. They do this by finding places or things that have a residual energy and entering their memories and telling the secrets afterwards. While it sounds like high-concept the actual act of entering people's memories is instead the driving force of the characters, plot and thematic elements. For the procedure itself there is a low-fi approach similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where they use stones, older and outdated looking equipment and of course lots of paper work. Also, like Eternal Sunshine, there isn't a supernatural or scientific explanation given and they treat it as very matter of fact and straight forward which helps make it more plausible. This also helps create an air of mystery towards the events. The mystery helps the direction of the plot to be not as easily identified which is certainly a strength but at times it plays too coy with certain elements. At these points the it becomes slightly annoying that the writing is purposefully leaving out details. While Skeletons avoided a heavy-handed approach to the material taking a more subtle approach to the thematic ideas, it did feel like they missed some opportunities to have something definitive to say. The ending left something to be desired as well. Nick Whitfield showed a flare for visual story telling at parts especially the scenes when Davis escapes into a memory of his childhood. Overall he did a good job crafting something intelligent and fresh. While there are some area where it falls flat, there an impressive base to build his next film off of.
August 24th - This is a heart-wrenching documentary looking the trials and tribulations of a husband and wife Chinese migrant workers as well as the effect that it has on their children. It takes a very even handed non-judgmental approach to these people's lives. Instead of relying on talking heads or a voice over that explains everything, the film makers had the conviction of their subjects to let them tell their own story through their words and actions. There was a trust that the camera was capturing moments that speak for themselves and it absolutely comes through in the finished product. Because of this the film feels like a truly authentic piece of work. When there is a huge blow up with the family we feel uncomfortable. When there is a huge mass of people waiting to get on a train we feel claustrophobic. However, that authenticity backfires slightly at the end. The way that it ends at a critical point of these people's lives leaves you hanging. Life never has the closure one would find from a narrative film, but it wouldn't have been so jarring if it didn't feel incomplete. Still, it is a testament to the power of the film that I cared so much about these people that I felt disappointed that there wasn't more. Rarely do you see a documentary with this level of honesty.
August 26th - La Belle Noiseuse is a chronicle of the artistic process shown through an aging artist trying to complete his masterpiece. It traces this process all the way from the inception of his inspiration to begin his work to the point where he feels the work is finished. The tolls, both mental and physical, are show that this process takes on the artist and his muse as well as their loved ones. While Jacques Rivette shows the allure and value of such a process, he is not afraid to strip the sexiness and glamor from creating art and instead portraying it as methodical and tediousness. At just a shade under four hours this is the same approach Rivette takes on the film itself, grand and powerful, yet also slow and monotonous at times. It is a double edged sword, while it helps immerse the audience in the process on display, it also at times borders on alienating them. The end result does make everything worthwhile, with an ending that says as much about art as it does about human nature itself. Jacques Rivette shots the film in a very naturalist way. While there is nothing very showy, he finds the subtle way to make the studio and the surroundings seem so mysterious and imposing, but as Frenhofer and Marianne work together it slowly starts to become more intimate and inviting. It happens so slowly that at first you don't notice it until it almost seems to be a different place. This is the type of film that you need to stick with watch and reserve judgement at the end. Those with enough patience and a curiousness about art and the artistic process will take something away from the film. It is unfortunate that all of Jacques Rivette's earlier works are not readily available to watch. He has always been an auteur who's films I have been dying to watch and after watching La Belle Noiseuse my interest is only further validated.
August 27th - After being absolutely charmed with Midnight in Paris I have been resolved in attempting to watch more Woody Allen films since it is a bit of a blind spot for me. Although I haven't seen many of his films, Crimes and Misdemeanors so far has been my favorite. It is a coalescence of the two types of Woody Allen does so well. There is the smart romantic comedy of a struggling documentary film maker in a failed marriage pursuing the typical Allen manic pixie dream girl and also the stark and philosophical drama of a rich and privileged man fighting against his mistress from revealing there relationship to his wife and unraveling his life. While the stakes and scope of the layer tales are polar opposites, Allen gives equal attention and time examining the human morality and the consequences of their choices. These events matter to these characters so there is no reason to treat them any differently. Morality and choices, no matter the scope, are important. While I might have made it sound a bit stiff and overbearing, in typical Allen fashion it is also genuinely funny and he always finds a way to not let the comedy get in the way of the drama or devaluing it. His other staples are here too, the numerous references to cinema, the offhand Allen comments and the sharp and witty Allen dialog. I feel that this is his best cinematic film with some wonderfully shot and lighted scenes in addition to great camera work. The editing moves between the tales seamlessly and there is great execution of flashbacks. I feel that the wonderful voice over of Professor Louis Levi from the film sums it up best: "Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of the creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe."
August 31st - You Wont Miss Me is a character study of Shelly who soon after being being institutionalized is still struggling with her life. Everyone knows this type of person, easy to anger and lash out, self involved and looking for love in the wrong places. There aren't many character studies for this type of person which is what makes it so interesting, but the film goes out of its way to make Shelly so unlikeable and completely irredeemable. For this to work you need to shed some sense of empathy or understanding for Shelly, but the film doesn't even try and seems to deliberately make her and everyone else as unlikeable as possible. Stylistically it is as big of a mess as the character. There is digitally shot footage that makes up the main crux of the film but between each film there is a scene of a psychiatrist talking to Shelly or Super 8 footage with meditative music and a voice over they want so badly to be poetic while Shelly rides a motorcycle or walks down the street. There is even a hidden camera scene where Shelly refused to stop smoking in a hotel lobby. The whole film is a failed attempt to be more formally ambitious than other Mumblecore films. It is a bold approach and idea, but it never ends up amounting to anything. You Wont Miss Me combines the worst tendencies of Mumblecore and low budge indie films without any of the aspects that make them exciting.
September 2nd - A wonderfully elegant film about an elderly women trying to find poetic inspiration while her life is collapsing around her. Poetry is another in a long list of wonderful South Korean films. Jeong-hie Yun gives a fearless performance as the elderly Mija. She plays the emotion complexities of the character perfectly while not neglecting the subtleties of her psyche. I liked the fact that the other supporting characters were kept at a distance from Mija, but the way they handled her grandson and his friends parents reaction to the horrific incident seemed a bit off. Even from Mija's perspective everyone seemed far too accepting. Chan-dong Lee has created a beautiful film that applies a light yet firm approach with both his writing and direction. Often times it will lull you in with the visuals into the moment the same way Mija is experiencing it. There is a close kinship between Chang-dong Lee's films with the way the story unfolds in a very natural and gradual manner. The reality of the ideas and thoughtfulness of the themes is what makes his films so meaningful. While the drawback of this style is Poetry is at times slower and handles some of its more expository elements in a clunky manner, the gains outweigh this by creating a deep and tragic portrait of a women truly learning to look at the world right as it starts crashing down around her. With a focus on the aesthetic of life and the aesthetics of the film itself, Poetry is not just the subject of the film, but a representation of itself.
September 3rd - 13 Assassins takes place at the end of the era for the samurai while a group of 13 samurai go on a suicide mission to kill a sadistic tyrant. While it is a throw back to classic samurai epics, it is a remake of another film of the same name and there are some direct comparisons to Seven Samurai, the approach is more consistent with The Sword of Doom with the extreme violence and the unsentimental way it portrays samurai. Of course, with a Takashi Miike film it is also something that has a style of it's own. The film really stumbles in the beginning getting everything in place and setting up the story. There are many characters thrust onto the screen and an attempt to explain the complex political environment as well as the status of the samurai all at once. It is a whirlwind of exposition and gets very confusing. Once the film starts to focus more on the samurai and their code as well as establishing the villain it is much more successful. The ultimate test of the film is the third act battle scene and that is by far the best part. The battle is wholly satisfying and epic. I was also impressed how well they crafted a cat and mouse game between the two sides. Instead of it being some huge slashing of swords and yelling while the camera spins around they did a good job of infusing a sense of strategy. Visually they changed it up as well using different camera angles and framing. While it does hide some of the deficiencies of the film, the place where the opportunity was the most missed was the lack of focus on character. There were only 3 of the samurai they really explained who I felt invested in, and for the case of the hunter Kiga what they did was really confusing. There would have been more suspense if they would have done more defining who each samurai was and making them into a real person.
September 4th - Aguirre: The Wrath of God is Werner Herzog's dark poem to madness and obsession. From the first moment until the last he festers this atmosphere with the guerrilla style of shooting that seems like the camera itself is going mad with the harsh surroundings. The imagery captured throughout the film is so powerful and profound. Herzog's themes of man vs. nature have never been better portrayed than those shots of the conquistadors battling against the rain forest. Of course, in the end, the cruelty of nature is only matched by the cruelty of man himself. The wonderfully eerie music helps this atmosphere even further by making the surroundings and people feel ethereal. Klaus Kinski as Aguirre is absolutely frightening as you see a man quietly disconnected with the events and people around him as well as an absolute madness in his eyes. In particular is the scene towards the end when he wanders into the frame and looks directly into the camera as he makes his frightening diatribe. All of this combines to make the film completely mesmerizing. You can't take your eyes off the screen for a second as the story fades into the background and the mood and atmosphere take over. A completely unique and interesting way to make a film that was the template for films like Apocalypse Now and The New World. This is a wonderful example of the power of cinema to enthrall the viewer with an idea and feeling without having to solely rely on a structured plot.
September 9th - Sidney Poitier gives a terrific performance playing his character with understated dignity and intensity. Not to be outdone, Rod Steiger delivers another great performance as the temperamental police chief. At first these characters are completely incompatible and polar opposites. As the film progresses however, we see them develop a respect for each other, while contentious at time, but still work together for the benefit of each other. This is a wonderful analogy for the main theme of the film that overcoming racial divisions can be achieved for the benefit everyone. The first step is to see each other as human beings. It handles this analogy very well, not coming off too preachy, but at the same time shows its importance. While the mystery and investigation make up the plot and serves as the mechanism for the analogy, Norman Jewison insists on trying to showcase this part at times over the characters and analogy which causes it to be uneven. The mystery itself was pretty thin with clues and plot points showing up at convenient times and places for the characters, in some cases walking right into Rod Steiger's office. When they finally revealed who the killer was, I don't even recognize him or why with the poor job they did of establishing it. There was a palpable atmosphere established for Sparta of a hot and muggy small southern town filled with ignorant and comically racist people. While this portrayal spoke truthful to people at the time and still does to a certain extent in a historical context, it still feels like the easy way way to cultivate the analogy and less than sincere in context of what the film is trying to achieve. There are moments where the dialog is powerful with some very memorable lines, but there are also just as many moments where the dialog does not have the impact that the script thinks it does. There were also some poor decisions made for camera angles and techniques that are in contrast to the gravitas of the film. I can't help but feel like In the Heat of the Night could have been a masterpiece with the writing and direction in the hands of more talented individuals, but I still found it engaging and entertaining with a complex theme to cover up it's flaws. I can't imagine what it must have felt like in theaters seeing such a visceral moment for the times when Sidney Poitier slaps back a pompous white rich man.
September 10th - As usual Howard Hawks effortlessly shoots the film and creates such a natural flow with the camera. The camera is never intrusive and is always where it needs to be. There is always a sense of beauty and grace, but yet also adventure when it comes to Howard Hawks' films and Only Angels Have Wings is no exception. The flying scenes in particular still look grand and thrilling. Hawks manages to create a great deal of suspense in these scenes as well. The main problem is the film is a cobbled together version of the typical characters and plot lines you see for films of this era. The spunky and beautiful women being inexplicable attracted to the aloof but charismatic man. The mysterious old flame coming back in the hands of another man. There are also three different major subplots relating to the flying part of the film. Combining them might have been a good way to prevent things from becoming too familiar, but there are so many plot strands lying everywhere and none are fully developed. It is to Hawks credit he is able to weave them together in a way that isn't as fragmented and confusing as it could have been, but none of the plot threads really stick with you since they tend to disappear for a long period of time. The main plot thread seemed to be the relationship between Grant and Jen Arther, they focus on it a great deal in the beginning, but she disappears for a long period of time and when she pops up again the opportunity was already missed to build their relationship. All of these plot threads involve so many characters and the acting really shines to make each character their own unique interesting person. Only Angels Have Wings isn't bad, it is in fact quite enjoyable, but despite Howard Hawks' talent there just isn't enough that develops to really stick with you once the film ends.
September 12th (Cinema) - Meek's Cutoff takes a group of settlers navigating the Oregon Trail and portrays this hard and punishing journey in a way that seems entirely authentic. Everything from the conversations right down to the clothes that they wear. Kelly Reichardt takes a naturalist approach to the aesthetic of the film. The camera often doesn't move and when it does the movement is so slight and moves at the rate of the characters it isn't noticeable. Most of the film seems to have been shot with natural light causing pitch black nights and a sun-drenched natural glow during the days. The film moves at a slow but deliberate pace with minimum dialog and a huge emphasis on placing the characters in their surroundings. Time is deconstructed with long takes and the familiar environment literally causes scenes to bleed into each other. The characters enter into this trace like state as they walk on the trail silently with blank faces and from the aesthetics of the film the audience falls into this same trance. It is projected in a 4:3 aspect ratio cutting off much of the sides of the screen creating the same peripheral vision of the characters. You can't help but feel what they seek resides in the black space on the screen. The acting is all very natural and real with Bruce Greenwood and of course the wonderful Michelle Williams leading the way. All of this causes some time for the film to build and establish itself. It may not grab you right away, but once it does it holds you in the palm of its hand. Meek's Cutoff is a deconstruction of Westerns. It doesn't try to fetishize this time or these people as great explorers of the frontier or even as people on a death march who have an obscene amount of things go wrong. Instead they are treated simply as people trying to get where they are going. Kelly Reichardt has used the power of cinema to make something haunting and ambiguous, but yet also touches on some universal humanist themes. Each frame is beautiful with lots of effort and thought applied. The images from the film will stay with you.
September 16th - Having been spellbound by Andrew Dominik's Assassination of Jesse James, I wanted to give Chopper a try. I knew Chopper was a much different type of film, but sadly that statement extends to the quality of it as well. It based off of the real life ex-criminal Mark Brandon 'Chopper' Read. As such it feels like the aim is to be a character study of a psychopath, but we really don't get a good sense of his character from the film. We don't come to an understanding of what makes him tick or even what type of a person he is. Nothing really gels into something more meaningful than showing how crazy and bizarre he is. Although it came later than Chopper, I couldn't help shake the feeling that Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson examines the same type of character in a similar way and is much more successful character study and is much more interesting. There are some strangely absurd moments that seem intended to be darkly comic but instead it stopped me from being able to take Chopper and what was happening too seriously. Chopper is not without it's merits however. Eric Bana does a wonderful job playing Chopper. He plays him with the right amount of paranoia and insanity, but still with the charisma that shows why people are so interested in him. While the film is very raw, you can see Andrew Dominik's talent as a film maker start to shine through. His ability to work with lighting is very strong. He is also able to create some good montages playing with the speed of the image and music. It will be interesting to see what happens with Cogan's Trade when it comes out next year. That films themes and tones more closely resemble Chopper, but I am hoping more of the polish and composure of Assassination of Jesse James is applied to that film.
September 17th (Cinema) - Contagion creates a completely realistic and believable epidemic by showing that technology has made the world smaller, but it also made us more vulnerable to an epidemic. Soderbergh puts a lot of emphasis of how germs and diseases are transmitted and almost relishes on lingering a shot on a handshake or on an object that someone had just touched. It does a great job of creating a terrified view of the question: How do you stop a disease when simple human contact is the contagion? While sitting in the theater I couldn't help but think of who else had used the cup holder, or sat in the seat and flinch a bit when someone near me had coughed. Contagion is made up of the viewpoints of various people throughout the globe as they deal with the epidemic. The film does an admirable job of juggling all the different narratives with each one having its own unique set of characters and circumstances. While having so many perspectives caused each one to be a bit underdeveloped, pieced together they create a mosaic of how humanity reacts and deals with an epidemic. The problem is the overall ideas drawn are a bit shallow and the ability to really empathize with those ideas are lost amidst the shifting of perspective. In the back of my head I couldn't help but think this premise and approach would have worked better as a television show. There is a great ensemble of acting talent on display and while Matt Daemon, Kate Winslet and company are all good, Jennifer Ehle is the one that steals the show. I have always felt Soderbergh is at his best working within a familiar genre that he is able to make a little off-kilter. He has a tendency to try so hard to be an auteur and do so many cinematic stylistic things that it becomes distracting, but with things like Contagion he sits back, relaxes and doesn't try to do too much. The result may not be overly ambitious, but it is right for the material. Soderbergh does get a chance to play around with the focus of images which is something that sets it apart visually. Contagion is smart and interesting with enough thrills and intelligence to hold viewers attention, but it doesn't evolve into anything more meaningful.
September 17th (Cinema) - Drive is an American film in the same spirit of much of the wonderful cinema coming from South Korea nowadays. Nicolas Winding Refn, like the great South Korean auteurs like Chan-wook Park and Joon-ho Bong, has created an action film that rallies around beautiful mise-en-scene and visceral story telling. Drive is most definitely an action film with some very violent moments, but those moments are so sudden and so overly graphic it doesn't feel like it actually happened. It is a beautifully shot film with dark and brooding cinematography. In particular there is a surreal sequence in the elevator where time appears to stop that is among the best scenes this year (and if you have seen the film you will know what I am talking about). Refn wonderfully captures the Los Angeles landscape and makes it a character in the film. Each scene is a wonderfully composed shot and each one matters and builds upon the last. There is a very unique synthetic score used as the pulse of the movie that throbs during the action sequences, but also when things quiet down it turns to an ambient score to underscore the quieter moments. Dialog is sparse, instead letting the acting and visuals tell the story, but were dialog is used they make it count. Drive is a neo-noir told with modern fairy tale archetypes. The driver is the unflappable and brave knight that will storm the tower in his armor of a satin silver jacket with his scorpion emblem to save the beautiful princess in distress played by Carey Mulligan. Bryan Cranston is the squire that aids the knight in battle. Albert Brooks is the evil wizard pulling all the strings while Ron Perlman is his scarey and intimidating dragon. Ryan Gosling anchors the film giving a tremendous performance as the unnamed driver. He is so stoic and silent throughout the film. The way he reacts to people and things happening around him, it almost seems like he is an alien from a strange land. The way the film represents violence is a reflection of the way he sees it. The driver never relishes in or enjoys the violence, but it is a side effect of what the knight must do. Carey Mulligan gives another effortless performance and right away you can't help but feel nothing but empathy for her just by looking in her eyes. The rest of the cast is very good as well, with Albert Brooks showing why we should all miss having him act in more films. Drive is that rare film that offers all the thrills and excitement of a studio action film with the cinematic prowess and acting of a art film.
September 19th - This was a good film noir that was the forerunner for Bonnie and Clyde. Although story wise it doesn't offer a whole lot of new territory, it instead focuses on the two characters. They do a great job of creating an interesting and realistic femme fatale as well as a withdrawn man that is drawn to her without making him seem too dopey. The interaction between the two characters also feels real and truthful. Peggy Cummins and John Dall both give good and charismatic performances. Where it lacks in story however it makes up with a keen eye towards the visuals. There are frequent long takes where the camera is stationary in the backseat at the same eye level as a passenger would be which helps bring the panic and suspense as the couple flees from a robbery or gets into position for their next robbery. There are also some very impressive crane shots worked in at interesting points. There are some scenes that seemed to be nothing but filler and didn't have much of a purpose. Quite a bit of time was used in a very dry courtroom scene in the beginning to set up John Dall's obsession with guns at an early age which stalls the film a bit in the beginning. Some tighter editing could have been employed for these scenes. Gun Crazy isn't the quintessential film noir but it is fun and does have some interesting perspectives of a couple on the lam heading for destruction.
September 23rd - Kind of a forgotten film of the 70's realism counter culture period. While it deserves a higher profile than it is remembered for, I can see why it hasn't really resonated. While it is rather predictable and formulaic the film smartly focuses on the moments when as they are happening and tries to disregard as much the progression of events. Rarely do you ever see the characters walking to their next destination and any discussion they have of their plans is usually brief and most of the time circumvented by Jack Nicholson's character which helps you understand the perspectives and mentality of the characters in the film. The part that was bothersome is the fact they built up showing Randy Quaid's character as having emotional issues and a compulsion to steal and all of that falls by the wayside as soon as his two escorts start showing him a good time. The fact that rooted psychological problems can be alleviated by "living a little" seems far too simplistic in a film trying to portray a complicated world. It also undercuts any impact that any potential growth for that character. The one thing that really stands out is Jack Nicholson's performance while he does chew the scenery at times he gives the film the jolt that it needs. Hal Ashby is always a sure hand as a director, but he always shoots and edits his films pretty straight forward and this is no exception. The approach isn't bad for the material but it doesn't help leave a strong visual mark in the minds of the viewer. There are some laughs and poignant moments in addition to a subtle idea hinted at about the oppressiveness of institutions, but there just isn't enough to get a whole lot out of The Last Detail.
September 24th (Cinema) - Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin deserve a lot of credit for Moneyball being successful. While an abstract sports concept may not be the ideal basis of a film they get around that by making the film a compilation of scenes surrounding the people and events in the book. The most successful scenes are the ones with Billy Beane and Peter Brand and how they architect the 2002 Oakland Athletics. In fact with the exception of clips of the 2001 ALCS to set the stage there are very few actual scenes of baseball being played and instead chose to focus on those aspects done by Billy Beane behind the curtain that the public doesn't see. It was a refreshing way to do a sports film and helped give Moneyball a very unique take, but eventually the focus does stray away from these aspects and focuses more on the individual games, although to the credit of the Bennett Miller he chooses to never rely on too much recreated footage using instead a combination of actual clips for the game or recreating small at-bats or moments from those games. The writing does a successful job of explaining the circumstances that led to the concept of moneyball and convincing the viewer of its importance. Where the script falls short are the scenes that are supposed to provide the pathos, Billy Beane's relationship with his daughter and flashbacks about his failed attempt to become a ball player. While the scenes weren't bad it did cause the film to lose track of the narrative and stall some of its momentum. The humor helps to hide some of the flaws. There are some truly funny moments between characters and some of the wonderful and witty Aaron Sorkin dialog as well. Bennett Miller provides a sure hand as the director. He will never do anything stylistically overly impressive, but at the same time he will not do too much and become distracting. Wally Pfister's cinematography helps to add a level of realism to the visuals without resulting to cheap handheld of pseudo documentary tricks. Brad Pitt and the rest of the cast give solid performances. Pretty low key and entertaining, but at the end it is hard to shake the feeling that the attention and money might have been better spend on a more engrossing and personal story.
September 25th - There are some wonderfully shot and gorgeous scenes throughout the film. Each one is a breathtaking view of placing man within nature and in particular there are scenes at a part of the film in a cave that are absolutely phenomenal and left me breathless. As wonderful as the visuals are, for a minimalist film with sparse dialog and structured plot the visual story telling needed to be relied on greater. When the film leans on the visuals, mood and atmosphere it is completely fascinating and engrossing, but there are also times where the dialog and structured plot start to take the focus and it is those moments where the film struggles and the alternating of the two becomes frustrating. It is always nice to see a film maker trust his audience, but some of the symbolism was lost on me. For the life of me I don't know what to make of the monkey spirits and although they looked good, it started to become really distracting and shocking that the characters didn't have a stronger reaction to them. Maybe some of it was cultural or I am not smart enough but I did find myself lost and confused at times. While I don't need everything spelled out for me, I always want enough there that I can at least feel like I have an understanding of what is going on. This was a tough one, as much as I respect Weerasethakul and his style and creativity, I didn't connect with this film and understand it as much as I did with Syndromes and a Century. There were images from the film that lingered in my mind and on a re-watch some things might start to come together a little more, but as much as I wanted to enjoy it I felt too lost during it to truly take away everything I expected.
October 13th - Bill Hicks has been a comedian I have admired for some time now ever since a friend of mine played one of his shows for me. His standup was so raw and honest, but still really funny. There was a bite and intelligence to his shows that were almost as much a sociology statement as a comedy show. The film does a decent job of documenting Bill as a person and also a performer, but it is lacking many of the qualities that he exhibited. The main thing that was irksome was the animated sequences employed throughout the film. Trying to avoid a barrage of talking head interviews the film makers employed lots of animation sequences that amounted to moving a still photo across a digitally created background. It is certainly a more innovative way to handle a documentary, but those sequences looked cheap and horrendous. The sad part is that there was some interesting early footage of Bill performing and some nice and touching interviews with friends and family that were limited to instead resort to a cheap gimmick that wasn't needed. In the last half of the film they drop the animation and let the standup speak for itself and the film becomes much more insightful. The best part of the film is at the end with Bill's cancer diagnosis which is genuinely touching. I can see someone who doesn't know who Bill Hicks is or is not very familiar with him or his comedy using this as a jumping off point, but I found the animation so egregious that other than the early footage and insights the film provided about his last day, the end result is quite disappointing.
October 14th - The Unloved is a story of Lucy, a nice but sad and withdrawn 11 year old girl that social services takes from her abusive father and she enters a group children's home. The entire film is told from Lucy's as she struggling to understand and adapt to her surroundings as well as the situations of her parents. Molly Windsor plays Lucy and she does a wonderful job of playing a little girl who is suffering the solitude and loneliness of being on her own. You can tell everything you need to know about the character from looking at her face and her piercing blue eyes. The Unloved is clearly a very personal and intimate account of some of the same experiences and feelings that Samantha Morton encountered as a child. Because of the intimacy of the films perspective and her reluctance to easily classify Lucy's parents, the children at the group home or the workers at the group home as monsters or purposefully neglectful everything feels frighteningly real and honest which makes the film even more harrowing. When there are tough scenes Morton refuses to move the camera so we are stuck in the same situations that the characters have to endure. Morton seems to have picked up a few things from working with Lynne Ramsay and Michael Winterbottom as she uses many tracking shots of Lucy as she navigates her uncertain world with ambient music to accentuate the ethereal feel from her perspective, but Morton falls a bit too much in love with these shots and repeats them too often and it starts to lose its effectiveness as well as hurts the pace of the film after some time. Samantha Morton is a wonderful actress and with The Unloved she shows great skill behind the camera making a heart breaking film about a young girl being cast aside by no fault of her own.
October 15th - Nostalgia for the Light documents the Atacama Desert in Chile that is an unique environment with it's dry and clear air for astronomers to make discoveries in the sky as well as archeologists to uncover artifacts in the brittle soil. When they explain what makes the region so special and show such wonderful and beautiful depictions of the sky the film hits on full cylinders, but Patricio Guzmán is clearly more interested as using the Atacama Desert as a metaphor for Chile itself and it's buried past. It is an apt and important metaphor to put on film and is something very personal for Guzmán, but the focus starts to become dominated by Pinochet's state terror and the victims buried in the dessert from his camps and the struggle of the survivors families to find their remains. Eventually the film morphs from documentary to cinematic essay and while it undoubtedly has something important to say, it becomes really dry and slow and the metaphor starts to become thinner. I found my attention waning at those points which is unfortunate because there is something valuable being said.
Uncreative Name's rating:
A document of what I watched this year with some of my rambling thoughts and opinions about it.