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100 Best of the 21st Century?

"Carol >>>>>>>>>> most of these movies" - Clarence

"The more I see these snooty lists, the more I get turned off of by film critics. What about Lord of the Rings, The Hours, The Devil Wears Prada..." -Jono

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - The movie you're hoping to see every time you go in the cinema" - Jeremy

 

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Wednesday
Feb042015

Tweets o' the Week, Film Bitch Awards Best Villains, More...

It's a combo post. We start with a random assortment of delightful tweets for those of you who don't use the twitter machine or those who do (it's easy to miss things on twitter. So impermanent!).

This collection features my most popular tweet ever (Spoiler Alert: It's about Best Actress), Joel Grey's coming out, the only Super Bowl tweet that mattered to me as well as a little detour into all time favorite movie villains.

In a related announcement I've updated the Film Bitch Awards with this year's nominees for Best Movie Villain of 2014. It wasn't until I was done writing it that I realized that one could safely say "My what big eyes you have!" to virtually any of them. They range from the literally petrifying Owl Witch (pictured above) in Song of the Sea to the 1/8th* metal Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes gone Russian brainwashed assassin. 

*Okay, okay, your arm is probably not an entire 1/8th of your body -- I'm not a scientist! 

Here we go... 

MORE AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb042015

Sundance Quick Takes: Ten Thousand Saints, Results, Experimenter

Michael C with a roundup of three Sundance titles we haven't discussed yet.

Ten Thousand Saints
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Ten Thousand Saints makes the mistake of thinking that merely by placing their characters adjacent to interesting times, interest will rub off them. Saints does a beautiful job evoking Manhattan in the 1980’s touching on the Tompkin’s Square Park riots, the CBGB music scene and more. The problem is that foreground is populated with a singularly uninteresting cast of characters working through a coming-of-age formula we’ve seen executed with more spirit and vitality in countless better films. The lead actors do what they can with their thin wisps of character, none too successfully. There is Hugo’s Asa Butterfield, True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld, and Emile Hirsch as the front man for a hardcore straight edge band. Together they deal with unintended pregnancy, drug overdoses, and confused sexuality, except the characters are too underdeveloped to carry any but the slightest dramatic weight and the material never feels connected to the time and place in any meaningful way. The final impression is that the film could turn the camera in any direction and happen upon a more compelling story. The big exception to this is Ethan Hawke’s riotous supporting performance as Butterfield’s pot-growing absentee father. It’s not quite enough to save the movie but he certainly saves a fair amount of scenes. It’s another career high point for Hawke, who has been on a roll of late. He’s not enough to recommend Ten Thousand Saints alone, but those who do see the film will be grateful for his every second of screen time. It's a nice reminder that Hawke has a surprisingly robust range and can deliver in films not directed by Richard Linklater.   Grade: C


Results
Andrew Bujalski’s Results gives Kevin Corrigan’s off-kilter energy a terrific showcase as Danny, a middle-aged schlub still wallowing in misery following a divorce, with no clue how to spend the millions he has unexpectedly inherited. When an offhand impulse to get in shape brings Danny into the orbit of the Power 4 Life Gym a very laid back romantic triangle forms between Danny, Guy Pearce’s self-improvement mantra spouting gym owner, and Colbie Smulders’ intense type-A personal trainer, whose toned figure interests Danny way more than the prospect of his own potential fitness. After Bujalksi ingenious, bizarre Computer Chess a detour into rom-com land might seem like an odd career move but Results is less interested in running its characters through a formula, than it is with loitering in the spaces between plot points, riffing on the idea of self-improvement while letting the actors’ clashing energies ricochet off one another. Smulders is an ideal romantic lead, with a brightness and intelligence that brings a jolt of life to the material even when it’s idling in place. Pearce is the least engaging corner of the triangle, but it is nice to see him in a role that requires a light touch and its consistently entertaining to watch his hyper-efficient persona clash with the zonked-out messiness of Corrigan. One could tell Results to take the advice of its characters and tighten up, but sometimes it’s satisfying enough to watch three lonely people take the concept of self-improvement to heart and make baby steps towards happiness. Grade: B

Peter & Winona star in ExperimenterExperimenter
The centerpiece of Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter is the infamous Milgram Obedience Experiments, recreated here with a series of famous faces playing the unsuspecting subjects. The experiment was an attempt to delve into people’s willingness to defy authority if it conflicts with their conscience, and to put it mildly, the study’s findings were alarming. The vast majority of subjects were willing to suppress their moral concerns to extreme degrees, administering  what they believed to be a series of painful electric shocks to an actor pretending to yowl in pain, just because they were instructed to do so by a man in a lab coat. It is inherently fascinating material. The question is, “What illumination does Almereyda’s film add that you couldn’t get from, say, watching footage of the experiments on YouTube?” I'm afraid the answer is "not much". Experimenter takes on the structure of a biography. We watch Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard, limited to one note of academic detachment) get married to Winona Ryder, carry out unrelated experiments, deal with the ensuing controversy from the obedience test. Almereyda tries to liven things up with bold theatrical touches, breaking reality to stage a dinner party to look like a play and parading an elephant through one scene (which I believe symbolically represents the holocaust). But despite the effort this material still comes off as filler placed in a film that has nowhere to go once it makes its initial points. In the end the film informs us the Milgram Obedience Experiment is still taught to first year psychology students, still causes controversy, still referenced when discussing atrocities. Unfortunately, these are things most of us interested in seeing Experimenter will know going in. Grade: C-

 

Tuesday
Feb032015

In One Month... Hit Me Baby One More Time

In exactly one month we'll spin on the mountaintop, run round gazebos, wear playclothes made of curtains, and hide from the Nazis together for the 50th anniversary of THE SOUND OF MUSIC. It began its record breaking run in March of 1965. If you adjust for inflation it's the third biggest hit of all time after Gone With the Wind and Star Wars. Fine company to be in.

Have you ever thought about what your favorite shot from it is? Or which shot best represents the movie as a whole? You know how to take a screen cap. You know where this is going right? We'll start with The Family Von Trapp but later we'll get colorful with Dick Tracy, funky over Magic Mike, and creepy via Repulsion, and lots more ... Dates TBA.

Break out the bubbly because "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", a ton of fun all spring and summer, returns March 3rd. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb032015

Thoughts I Had... While Staring at the Best Actress Luncheon Photo

They are my sunshine... my only sunshine... they make me happy when skies are gray ♪ ♫

Oscar did real good by Best Actress for once, huh?

It's almost like they color-coordinated their outfits and all agreed that Julianne should be the focal point. But will any of them actually vote for her or does everyone in the Academy vote for themselves?

Spice up your life [From left to right: Posh, Sporty, Ginger, Scary, and Baby]

Have you voted yet on who SHOULD win?

COMMENT FUN #1: Which clip should they use for each Actress at the ceremony?

COMMENT FUN #2: Quick --  trade roles for these actresses. If they had to play someone else's role who would it be? I'm betting Pike could do early onset Alzheimers since she has that ability to completely empty out her face. Enigma! We've already seen Marion in a differently abled wheelchair bound romance so it's easier to picture her as Mrs. Hawkings. Hmmm what else.

I'm the one standing in the background painted gold [/fantasy]

I've also added in the "how'd they get nominated?" percentages* on the chart for your pleasure

 

*for entertainment purposes only. No one can know the deepest hearts of Oscar voters. Perhaps not even Oscar voters themselves. 

 

Tuesday
Feb032015

In Conversation: Oscar's Documentary Class of 2014 (Part 2)

Welcome back to The Film Experience's look at this year's Oscar documentary nominees. Glenn Dunks is again joined by Daniel Walber of Nonfics in this second part looking at the once maligned and controversy-filled Best Documentary Feature category. If you missed part one then go read that first - our thoughts on Wim Wenders' The Salt of the Earth were not echoed by you, the readers, but that's what makes this all so fun. If you're a fan, check out discussion from last year about the 1989 winner, Common Threads.


Daniel: (cont'd) The way [Virunga director Orlando von Einsiedel] orchestrates it all, particularly in the thrilling climax, is what sets it apart. In a way that makes it not unlike Last Days in Vietnam (Glenn's review). Both films take a single sequence of events, in that case the 1975 evacuation of Saigon, and tell its story with several different perspectives. I’m not sure the strategy works quite as well for Last Days in Vietnam, which is also the only nominee this year made up primarily of archival footage. Do you think that has something to do with it?

Archival power, Roger Ebert and our own ballots after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb032015

Curio: Thrift Store Paintings Reimagined

Alexa here. I'm a self-professed lover of thrift store art: paint-by-numbers, portraits on velvet, Margaret Keane wannabe prints, Warner Sallman's Head of Christ, the cheesier the better. So illustrator David Irving's current project has me feeling a little "why didn't I think of that?" envy:  David collects old thrift store prints and paintings and, in his words, "re-directs" them by adding well-known characters or objects into the scene, many from the world of the movies.  The works operate as sly collages that conflate the two worlds (almost) seamlessly.

Here are some of my favorites... 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Feb032015

Sundance: Don Hertzfeldt Peers Into The "World of Tomorrow"

Michael C. here. I couldn't wrap up my Sundance coverage without writing about this gem from one of my favorite filmmakers.

Fans of Don Hertzfeldt know there is little point in describing the plot of one of his films.  His animated shorts operate on the director's unique blend of absurdist humor, philosophical wonderings, and sophisticated visuals masquerading as crude scribblings, not on traditional story beats. So when I say his new short, World of Tomorrow, is spectacular, right up there with his best work, you just have to take my word for it, so difficult is it to capture its odd appeal in words.

Hertzfeldt took on World of Tomorrow as a quick project between two massively ambitious undertakings, the upcoming Antarctica, his first full length feature, and It's Such a Beautiful Day, his recent triptych of shorts which combined represent one of the new century's indisputable masterpieces. It's a testament to Hertzfeldt's artistry that a project the filmmaker dashed off, relatively speaking, is still such a marvel.

World of Tomorrow represents two notable firsts for Hertzfeldt. It is the first foray into computer animation for a filmmaker that has spent his career as a champion of practical in-camera effects, and fittingly, this expansion into digital also marks his first attempt at science fiction. This new short is of a piece with Hertzfeldt's It Such a Beautiful Day trilogy and before that his The Meaning of Life, all films fascinated by the idea of what it is to be human. World of Tomorrow focuses on four year old Emily (voiced adorably by the director's own niece) who is contacted by a clone of herself from the future that proceeds to whisk her away for a tour of the universe many centuries down the road. It's a dark picture the film paints, but as usual, Hertzfeldt maintains boundless amusement at what a strange species we are, with our refusal to acknowledge our smallness in the universe, and the way we deliberately create technology which robs us of our humanity. All of it is delivered with Hertzfeldt's distinct carnival of non-sequiturs, surreal tangents, and odd beauty that can make you laugh one second and bring you to the edge of tears the next.

Don Hertzfeldt. Image via Criterion CollectionWorld of Tomorrow defies its classification as short, packing in several feature length films worth of ideas into its trim twenty minutes, covering everything from the perils of discount time travel to the benefits of programming robots to fear death. It is a film that once seen is not easily forgotten. It is a must-watch for fans of Hertzfeldt's. It is also a must-watch for non-fans, so they can get on board with one of the most exciting voices in film.

Grade: A