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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in Reviews (245)

Sunday
Oct192014

Review: Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

An abridged version of this review was originally posted in Nathaniel's weekly column at Towleroad. It is reposted here, with their permission.

 

A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing. Not what is said of that thing." 
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of Birdman, Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) as befits its duality perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what is film criticism or its more popular cousin, after-movie conversation over dinner drinks or online other than conversation that attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether

... which is not unusual in Birdman.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct172014

How To Get Away With Turning Your Procedural TV Into Gay Porn.

I was going to quit How To Get Away With Murder with this fourth episode but I may have to keep watching from the sheer ridiculousness as well as the fascinating case study of Anything Goes in contemporary television. If you replace all the female characters on this show with gay men (as you could well do with only 1% of your imagination since all the characters are so broadly drawn) this would be the gayest show that ever existed. Sorry Queer as Folk, Sex & The City and Looking.

ABC had promised jaw-dropping with their promos for last night's episode once you heard 'Viola Davis's last nine words'. Those last nine words included the word "penis". Hey, they're the ones who said "jaw-dropping" not me! Naughty naughty. (For the record my jaw did not drop but it did open wide for a long chortle. It's either really terrible writing or A+ lurid paperback but either way it amounts to the same thing) Viola's quotable send-off turned out to be so gay and so trashy that it exemplifies the young series better than I could ever hope to.

The last nine-words were...

 

Why is your penis on a dead girl's phone?

The most important word in that sentence is penis because How To Get Away With Murder is obsessed with them. Let's recap their communal cock collection after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct172014

Review: St. Vincent

 Here's Michael's weekend review of St. Vincent, currently expanding to more theaters...

There is a moment in Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent where it looks like the film might deviate from the relentlessly predictable path it’s been traveling up to that point. Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) is the runty new kid at school, so of course he immediately picks up a squad of dedicated bullies, and of course they manage to locate him in a parking lot while he waits for the return of his crabby, neglectful babysitter, Vincent (Bill Murray). Movie law dictates that this is the cue for Vincent to swoop in to put a hurting on the bullies, thus revealing a new likeable side to this misanthrope, and sure enough Bill Murray’s seedy guardian shows up on cue. Only instead of intervening, he leans against his broken down old jalopy and lights up a cigarette, with Oliver getting the snot pummeled out of him all the while.

Is Vincent really going to just sit there and do nothing, we wonder? Does he side with the bullies? Does he think this will build character? Or is it that Vincent doesn’t think the eleven dollars an hour Melissa McCarthy’s single mom neighbor is paying him to watch Oliver while she works triple shifts covers rescue operations? Is it possible this guy is a genuine bum and not the cuddly curmudgeon we are expecting? 

More...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct132014

NYFF: A Second Look At Foxcatcher

The NYFF concluded last night but we've got a couple more pieces for you. Nathaniel reviewed Foxcatcher briefly at TIFF and here's Michael's much more positive take on it...

If it’s true that great storytelling unfolds in a way that is both surprising and inevitable, then Bennet Miller’s Foxcatcher appears at first glance to be missing half of the equation. The most surprising thing about the spare script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman is how shocking it isn’t. We can see the impending tragedy coming from miles away. Only the film’s characters seem blind to the descending shadows. Tremendous piles of money have a way of obscuring vision like that.

Based on the real events leading up to a 1996 murder, Foxcatcher’s first images show the incredibly rich at play with their pets, sitting atop thoroughbred horses, surrounded by hunting dogs, etc. It’s appropriate for a film about the unfathomably wealthy John du Pont’s attempts to keep champion wrestlers Mark and David Schultz as his own personal possessions. 

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) doesn’t require much convincing to take du Pont up on his offer...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Oct082014

AHS: Freakshow "Monsters Among Us"

The shadows that had sheltered me were banished by the blinding light of scrutiny. I knew I was about to enter the gates of hell but like the inescapable pull of gravity there was nothing I could do about it.

Sarah Paulson's opening monologue to the fourth season of American Horror Story: Freakshow is rather how I feel about AHS itself. It's hellish, purposefully, and I feel a gravitational pull to watch even though I never love it. Grande Dame Guignol (also known as Hag Horror), a wonderfully stylized actressy subgenre of horror, was dead until Ryan Murphy revived it but his take on it is way too fused with the Slasher, the grossest and most obvious subgenre of horror that refuses to die. 

This first episode of Season 4 begins promisingly enough with a patient average shot length and plentiful mood, though did we have to lift the Under the Skin score wholesale for what appears to be Elsa's (Jessica Lange) actual theme music this season? (I know the world is in love with Jessica Lange right now but Scarlett's ___ might well devour her whole.) Elsa recruits Siamese Sisters (Sarah Paulson as Dot & Bette) who murdered their mother. Meanwhile a scary clown with Leatherface like add-ons to his face (g-ross) in what appears to be a costume that hasn't been washed in years starts stabbing people gruesomely. He doesn't seem to belong to the actual Freakshow. We meet a wide cast of characters but Angela Bassett and her three breasts, Michael Chiklis as the Strong Man and Denis O'Hare as someone are as yet unseen. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct062014

NYFF: Mike Leigh's Exquisite and Frustrating 'Mr. Turner'

NYFF coverage continues with Michael C on Mike Leigh's latest 

When a film like Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner comes along you find yourself wishing you could take back all the “great cinematography” praise you tossed around so cavalierly on other films so that the words can carry more weight now that you really need them. Ideally, so far in 2014, one would have only applied the same praise to Darius Khondji’s work on The Immigrant. OK, yes, Under the Skin’s Daniel Landin also. It’s been an exceptional year.

Not content to merely display his paintings, Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope manage to permeate the air with the aura of J. M.W. Turner’s art. Some of the film’s images produced audible gasps at the screening I attended. The glory of the visuals grant Leigh and company the freedom to dispense with the many of the usual biopic clichés since we understand so much about Turner’s passion just by looking at the screen. Mike Leigh’s latest simulates what it might be like to see the world through the eyes of the great painter. This element alone makes Mr. Turner essential viewing.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Oct042014

NYFF: 'Jauja' Loses Viggo (And The Audience) In The Wilderness

NYFF continues with Michael C on Jauja starring Viggo Mortensen

Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja does so many things that critics complain films don’t do, I feel obligated to love it. It has a rich sense of atmosphere. It’s thoughtful. Alonso composes his frames beautifully, and he has the patience to hold on them until every last ounce of meaning has been wrung from the image. It does all this and more, so why was it that by the halfway point I was hoping the projector would break down so I could bolt for the exit?

I think it has to do with the fact that Jauja is made with near total disregard for the audience, and I don’t mean its glacial pacing. If a film is going to be this impenetrable, in fairness, it should contain enough ideas to occupy the audience’s mind while the action on screen is making the slower parts of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry look like Jurassic Park. Jauja contains ideas enough to support your average short film. There’s only so much symbolism about colonialism one can extract from Viggo stumbling alone and confused through the Argentinean wilderness, and for me Jauja’s pulse dies about the fifth time he pauses to refill his canteen. Jauja doesn’t illuminate or challenge so much as it gathers a group of potential story elements into a bundle, ties that bundle to a balloon and then watches placidly as the whole thing floats off into the distance. Not even a late film swerve into the surreal is enough to jolt a heartbeat back into the proceedings. 

Most of the film’s ideas (and 90% of the plot) are frontloaded into the film’s opening act. Details are sketchy but we can be sure that Viggo plays a Danish army captain traveling with his beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Ingeborg, to South America in the late 1800’s. He’s a surveyor, there to aid the military’s attempts to carve civilization out of the wilderness, but that mission quickly takes a backseat to the job of shielding his daughter from the swarm of military men who take an immediate and unwholesome interest in her. When Ingeborg runs off with a handsome young soldier Viggo grabs his saber and sets off into the Argentinean wild after them in what appears to be the start of a dark chase movie but is actually a plunge into an existential void.

Jauja must be working for some viewers since it won the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes. It certainly plays with the confidence of a film that turned out exactly as its maker intended. Outside the rarified air of the international festival circuit Jauja would probably be most at home as an installation projected on the wall of a modern art museum where patrons can be free to ponder Viggo speaking Danish and staggering over rocks until they feel they have gotten everything out of it they are going to get. (15 to 20 minutes is sufficient). As a movie, it reminds me of the classic intellectual defense of “You have to listen to the notes he’s not playing.” To find Jauja a rewarding experience you have to appreciate all the movie Alonso did not make.

 

 

 

P.S. It’s pronounced “How-huh” and it refers to the Spanish term for an idyllic utopia. How this relates to the film, like everything else in Jauja, is a bit tough to pinpoint. Jauja screens Tuesday October 7th (9 PM) with Viggo in attendance for a Q&A and Thursday Oct 9th (6 PM)