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Showing posts from 2013

Top Christmas Movies List

Okay, clearly I'm the kind of person who likes a little quirk with her Christmas. There's a few facts about me you should know before you take any of my recommendations:1) I hate Santa. Seriously. I'm convinced that the tradition, however kindly and warm-hearted it began, has become a tool for undermining the true faith and confidence of child-type persons everywhere. Santa=Satan. Just call me the grinch and get over it. I'm absolutely what the Grinch would be, if he had been raised Calvinist. The Grinch is also not on this list.2) I have a severe distaste for Frank Capra. It's a Wonderful Life is NOT on this list.3) I have never seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and I didn't see A Christmas Story until I was well too old to think it was funny, or develop any warm memories.That's at least five Christmas Classics that aren't making this list. You're bound to think one of them is the shizzle. Are you still with me?Let's get started. …

Last Kind Words (2012)

I'll be honest: I watched this film because I adore Brad Dourif, and I'm happy to say this film shows him doing his best thing - shouting "No!" and curling into an agonized ball. Well done. I am satisfied.As a horror film, this movie is creepy enough, I suppose. People act violently, unkindly, and unpredictably. Truly, though, Last Kind Words was much more deeply tragic than frightening. The pace was slow, and the scenery artistic. The whole thing just felt so sad. All the misery, the pathetic lives, all the perpetuated violence, made the film feel whistful, and heartwrenching. It was too gentle (in plot progress, if nothing else) and too human to frighten me. It reminded me of lynch photography (for obvious reasons), and struck me not for its supernatural/unnatural danger, but for its entirely understandable, if sometimes overwhelming, pain. As Sam Winchester says once, "they're just people!" And people do horrifying things to other people. And it brea…

A Haunting at Silver Falls

This 2013 (remarkably recent) film possesses a fine example of my favorite pet peeve - the failed beefgeek. Seriously, putting an over-tanned beefcake in pathetically large and decades out-of-date glasses does not make him capable of performing geekery. If you want us to believe your character scored over 2400 on the SATs, hire an actor capable of pronouncing technobabble, and then GIVE HIM TECHNOBABBLE. (I mean, provided you can write it. If you can't write it - just stick to what you know. Write average characters). Really. Technobabble is SEXY. Why do you think we all go nuts for Benedict Cumberbatch? It isn't his cartoony lips, I swear. It's what comes out of them.Although: points for making your character look incapable of slapping somebody hard enough to make a sound.Sorry to start a review on a low-note. As a thriller and a mystery, this film passed! It was at least average, if not slightly above on the "smart protagonist" score (that chick was written str…

They

This 2002 horror story was entirely adequate, although (and this is difficult to say, because I have always hated people who say this) not actually very frightening. The storyteller/director made an interesting decision to keep the nature of "them" and the fate of their victims from the audience until the last few moments of filming. That decision makes sense, because the explanation doesn't allow for the characters to discover it: they're not some legend that can be googled, which is a nicely realistic, if sort of frustrating touch, because it doesn't allow any intellectual movement - which impedes plot movement. We WANT to know what things are and what they want. Words like "eat us" are thrown around, but without any kind of substantiation, even at the end. People just disappear, after being very, very frightened. Although understanding the nature of a thing makes it less frightening (which clearly isn't the direction to go, here), even progress t…

The Internship

This priceless gem is about two old guys who teach some geeky YAs that the only way to be truly happy and find yourself is to have (at least) one wild night of sex, alcohol, and violence.I'm interested in the parallel between the BBRCs and the drunk/vulnerable scene, but I'm not a fan of comedies generally. Don't ask me to gush, because you won't like the liquid I choose.

Monkeybone

This review is NOT approved for all audiences.
I'm not sure there's much to be said for a movie about a guy who animates his phallus. I'll keep it short.Although the physical acting was solid, and Brendan Frasier and Bridget Fonda both offered entertaining performances (if somewhat unexciting), the images were too much Roger Rabbit and not enough Tim Burton, although the sets and effects were often full of potential. I mean it was necessarily juvenile, but that fact itself made the story unemotional. It became impossible to identify with the characters, which is a huge tragedy, because Bridget Fonda. She always oozes sympathy and wit, and in this role, though we clearly took her side, she merely filled a generic "girlfriend" slot.Let's talk about the gender issues. Clearly, if you're going to turn your penis into a cheeky monkey (so many things wrong with that sentence), you have to be a guy, right? Because Freud was right: women don't have one.Dude.Th…

The Ladykillers

It's not quite a heist film. I mean, it very much is. I mean, sort of. There's certainly a heist, and some good planning, but I think the heist film genre requires the thieves to be the protagonists, which they are, I mean the good guys, which they're not. Sort of. I mean. . .

I don't think this film needs a review. It's a dark comedy classic. Sir Alec Guiness spends the entire film doing a brilliant Alastair Sim impression, and Peter Sellers does as little acting as possible, which still leaves him 100% chameleon, though not looking very comfortable as a flashy, gun-toting thug.The place at which the character of Mrs. Wilberforce is possible fascinates me, though. The setting is contemporaneous with the film's production, so early fifties. The writer was American (Missouri, according to IMDB), though he lived in England to write his screenplays. His admiration of the Victorian woman is incomparable. Was he borrowing a stereotype, or did he personally like to ja…

Flypaper

I love heist movies. It's why I've seen Now You See Me at full price twice in the last month, despite my temporary lack of income.Flypaper had a ridiculous premise, and turned out to be lots of fun, as films go, but there were too many swearwords. It's a stupid reason to dislike a film, and yet, the language was so strong it distracted me from the characters, and from the plot.But it's realistic!Yeah, and in real life, swearwords distract me from characters and plot, too. That's what they're for. It's all camouflage. Swearing, verbal obscenity, is designed to bury meaning in adamance. Dialogue, in film and literature, is always stylized. The "um"s are cut out, and so are most of the expletives, because when used too liberally they inhibit storytelling. They dilute the English language. Like that old 90's valley-girl stereotype, who can't finish a clause without adding a "like."So, while the story was interesting and the movie was…

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

For clarity: this isn't a movie. It was a mock-vlog reenacting Pride and Prejudice. It was set in California, and brilliantly updated. But I did waste a lot of time on it, and it deserves critical attention. It was an ambitious and well-executed project.Things it did well: 1) captured the family trauma and separation anxiety that even the novel seems to make light of (I got all misty - several times). 2) made Lizzie a dynamic, maturing character rather than the static wit of Austen's novel (this contrast is clearly arguable). 3) updated the social conditions without sacrificing too many finer plot points (marriage became interchangable with business relationships). 4) brought familial affections to the foreground ahead of romance as part of the "updating." 4) ended drama/trauma with surprise and humor. 5) the female costumes. Brilliant.Things it did badly: 1) Collins and Darcy were both clearly beefcakes in business suits. That works great for most casual audience me…

Holiday

Having seen this film perhaps three or four times, I expected to drift through on my enjoyment of Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, but the family dynamic made me slow down and pay attention. The father is a stock character: a stereotyped arbitrary authoritarian-style parent, right down to the now-cliched mispronouncing the potential son-in-law's name when upset. It's the Seton siblings that got my attention.The three siblings are Linda, Julia, and Ned, in chronological order of ages. Linda is, of course (Hepburn), the heroine. As the actors play it, Julia is the only dynamic character (ostensibly). Although atttiudes shift between the three, Julia rides the waves of audience disapproval toward new heights of aloofness. Linda garners all of the sympathy with her deeply pathetic self-sacrifice and dedication to non-money-based ideals. Ned drinks, which wouldn't have endeared him, but he also supports Linda verbally, and woos the audience with his musical talent and bitter h…

Woman Times Seven

After The Bicycle Thief, I was surprised to find another de Sica just sitting on my Netflix queue, and I decided to give Italian neo-realism another shot. Although much more amusing, Woman Times Seven (starring Shirley MacLaine), in a series of humorous vignettes, betrayed a frustrating mysogyny. These women are fickle, and easily flattered. They are willful, but weak.The film is not neo-realism. The shots were well-scripted, and carefully edited. But the soul of situation still emerged. You might enjoy it. And Peter Sellers, and Michael Caine, and a few others. . .

The Bicycle Thief (1948)

I watched it for class. It's a great example of Italian neo-realism. Unless you're interested in the cinematography, I see no reason to put yourself through this, though the reviewers on Netflix seemed to like it a lot. I don't know why. It's realism, so the artifice of American melodramatic tensions, and emotional payoff don't appear at all, though it's ideologically stable, if somewhat momentarily inconsistent.

L'illusionniste

Sad. Sad, sad, sad. This animated feature, about an unsuccessful magician and the girl who believes he's truly magical, ends on an abruptly "coming of age" moment for what seemed to be static characters, rather than working towards a long, dynamic shift. I found the animation entertaining, and at moments beautiful, and comical, and for those who think "sad" is "happy for deep people," this should be your nirvana. I think happy is happy for anyone who can reject postmodern angst.The story, really, is about the magician, not the little girl. He craves adoration, but can only get it by fooling a child. His rejection of such trickery at the end seems to indicate his freedom from some kind of addiction. It's meant to be hopeful, but it means that the storytellers portray the child, as she grows into a woman, as frustratingly naive, and ultimately hopeless. She simply passes from one kind of belief in magic into another, while the magician moves from a …

Battleship Potemkin

I made a serious emotional mistake. This silent film from Sergei Eisenstein (1925) was assigned by my professor for a discussion of montage in film, and Eisenstein's abrasive montage style. Watching the film was not any kind of mistake; it's an intelligent film, if you overlook the broad propaganda. Eisenstein uses several different cutting techniques to create different kinds of montage, all for the purpose of Attractions; of shocking the audience with defamiliarization, and a quick sequence of synnergistic images (images which seem unrelated, extra-narrative, but combine inside the viewer's experience to indicate a third, further idea). Eisenstein wrote about his theories, and of course I got to read it.Battleship Potemkin was often difficult. Images of raw meat, violence, and long, geometric cuts all make the experience somewhat less than full of wonder. Also, the montages often felt like a mental assault. But it was clever, and artistic.Totally coincidentally, a film I…

Jane Eyre (1973)

This is the worst version of Jane Eyre I've ever run across. Though the novel was, in several moments, melodramatic, nowhere does the script necessitate chewing the scenery. And yet, I could see teethmarks.PASS. 1 out of 10 for picking a good book, and an eternity of hell for what they did to it.

Broken Blossoms

Now begins a new and exciting era of film viewing; a graduate-level film theory course, and the films it necessitates. I shall become insufferable on the subject of film.This abnormally depressing specimen by D. W. Griffith fascinates me for a few reasons. The colors shift from blue at night, sepia indoors, and red in China. They're nonspecific (the whole screen changes color), but fascinating shifts with interesting meanings. Dark blues (violet) in the street. . . What Does It Mean!?The scenes in China are strongly anglicized, I'm sure. The scene of the chinese family, the father giving children coins, feels English. The leading man's mission to convert the Anglo-Saxon is just European orientalism with the roles reversed (in London, he has a conversation with an English missionary, to emphasize the irony). Did the Chinese bother to convert the English to Buddhism? It doesn't seem an evangelical religion in the slightest - very welcoming, but not proselytized.The lead …

Broken Blossoms

Now begins a new and exciting era of film viewing; a graduate-level film theory course, and the films it necessitates. I shall become insufferable on the subject of film.This abnormally depressing specimen by D. W. Griffith fascinates me for a few reasons. The colors shift from blue at night, sepia indoors, and red in China. They're nonspecific (the whole screen changes color), but fascinating shifts with interesting meanings. Dark blues (violet) in the street. . . What Does It Mean!?The scenes in China are strongly anglicized, I'm sure. The scene of the chinese family, the father giving children coins, feels English. The leading man's mission to convert the Anglo-Saxon is just European orientalism with the roles reversed (in London, he has a conversation with an English missionary, to emphasize the irony). Did the Chinese bother to convert the English to Buddhism? It doesn't seem an evangelical religion in the slightest - very welcoming, but not proselytized.The lead …