In the Family – 4 stars
The American answer to A Separation. This film represents everything that is right with American independent cinema. Just when I get depressed that people like Mark Duplass and Lena Dunham are about to take over the world, a movie like In the Family comes along and makes me fall in love with cinema all over again. This film is long and somewhat challenging to initially get into – the acting is a bit off, the cinematography static and confining – but if you just stick with it, the writing sucks you in and by the end you’re left in awe at what you just watched. This is by far one of the best films I’ve seen this year and a triumph for smart, thoughtful cinema.
The Big Country – William Wyler (1958) light spoilers
Unbelievable. Grey, intelligent people taking part in grey, intelligent scenarios. Well-written, not a cliche in sight (a common and refreshing trait for Wyler). Filmed on real locations a healthy amount especially for this time period, they even bust out some hand-held for the final showdown! Seriously, almost every character is a blissful mixture of hero/villain, especially the two rival gang leaders… and Gregory Peck is just such a straight up legit dude, to a fault even. What is not to a fault is how straight up the film is in a world where most narrative things are neutered and pandered to idiots, this treats you like you’re an actual person, a rare and esteemed pleasure.
This is about as good as a non-leone western gets in my book, another feather in the cap of the criminally underrated Wyler.
7 Women (John Ford)- Terrific film, far better than I expected it to be. 4/5
7 Women is amazing, G-Legs. It’s a real shame that it’s not out on DVD, but all the extant prints are pretty horrible as far as I know, and the expense of restoration would be pretty big. Bancroft is stunning.
It definitely deserves to have a DVD release. I recorded it on tv and it was pretty good quality, and the version available on youtube is pretty good too, but I can’t stand watching films on the computer.
CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING — 2.5/5
I wanted to like it, I really did. A promising start that turns into another of those goddamn story in a story meta things about the nature of storytelling and cinema and all that, and I just couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Rififi – 4/10
Has the shell of Bob Le Flambeur or Touchez Paz Au Grisbi, but not the soul, with less interesting characters and more emphasis on “the heist”, and the boring aftermath of “the heist”… aka, shit that couldn’t interest me less. Didn’t care about anyone or anything in the film, these french noir heist films in the mid 50’s sure do like to stick to their little formula.
But that heist sequence is amazing. I saw Rififi about 8 years ago; remember almost nothing about it except that heist.
I’ve seen so many “heists” in my day, you’d have to do something pretty fucking absurd to snap me out of the coma I’m auto-induced into once the “planning the heist” meetings begin…
DEN: I think Beatty’s problem is that he takes too much time off between projects, and they are generally not worth the wait. After Town and Country, people really started questioning his judgement, and the reality is that neither Beatty or Redford have much cred with the younger generations, so it isn’t like audiences are waiting for them to release new films.
i like Bulworth, but imo it wasn’t the film it could have been, and i don’t think it has aged that well.
If… (Lindsay Anderson)- A good film, especially since I don’t normally like political films, but the ending is pretty annoying. Sure it’s open to meticulous analysis but it still left me feeling unsatisfied. 3/5
Nothing Sacred (William Wellman, 1937) – rewatched this great Technicolor screwball comedy, ahead of its time, not only because it explores the public and media’s obsession with celebrity, but also because it includes the extraordinarily prescient line “Oliver Stone is worse than radium poisoning!”
Yes, the newspaper editor character is named Oliver Stone, and he has occasion in the film to compare himself to radium poisoning.
The Magnificent Seven- 3/4
THE QUIET DUEL (Akira Kurosawa’49)- 4/5 Last time I saw this was 15 years ago on a grainy PAL transfer cassette. Good performances by Mifune and Shimura, a little melodramatic but that was expected.
SHAME (Steve McQueen)- 5/5
Zodiac (Fincher, 2007) – 5 out of 5
@ FLIP TROTSKY
That is rather serendipidous, isn’t it? I mean I do admire Stone but you can’t beat premonitory incidents in older films like that.
The Organizer Monicelli 8/10
One of the better Criterion releases in some time. Well worth reviving.
“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” — Antonio Gramsci
—> CD: “That is rather serendipidous, isn’t it? I mean I do admire Stone but you can’t beat premonitory incidents in older films like that.”
My ears nearly dropped to the floor when I heard it! “Oliver Stone is worse than radium poisoning four times over” is the exact line, if I remember correctly. In 1937! I wonder if Stone’s parents named him after the character as a bit of a joke. :-)
And I do like a couple of Stone films, I should admit, though I also think he can be pretty awful.
The Cabin in the Woods – 4.5/5
What a great surprise. Most fun I’ve had in a theatre in a very long time.
Not to be confused with the found footage sub-genre that has permeated horror. An Australian horror film done in a documentary-like reflective family remembrance of losing somebody and coming to terms with that loss, even when there are questions left unanswered. More in the vein of The Others in a ghost story that is both off-beat and a real sense of dread.
Grave of the Fireflies – didn’t quite break my heart the way it did for most people, but this was a very effective and very human story of two siblings simply trying to survive in the midst of the shittiest of conditions. Solid. 4/5
The Magician (1958) – Bergman
Ah Bergman, you just might be the greatest filmmaker who ever lived. And what a blu-ray from Criterion… the opening is flat out jaw-dropping. Gorgeous, gorgeous film… It has it all, great soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, classic Bergman cast, throw in a little “silence of god”, mystery/science, faith/logic, a rag-tag traveling group of performers, even a slightly conflicting (in a good way) comedic tone…throw in a little “magic”… and whalla. The full package, similar to Fanny and Alexander in that way. Stunning!
Piccadilly with live performed score: 6/10
They do this thing at the Berklee School of Music where they take an old silent film, and have a score composed and performed live by students at the Coolidge Corner theater. It’s awesome. They did it before with Sunrise and Battleship Potemkin and I’m sorry I missed them.
This film does a lot with sex and racial politics that films didn’t tend to do much in the 1920s. It uses actual Chinese actors, whereas most films from the time have Asian characters played by white actors with their eyes half closed. The observations the film makes are as ahead of its time as a film like Pandora’s Box.
I would have scored it higher but I feel the ending undercut the buildup. The live score was very good and I hope to take advantage of this next time they do it.
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors 7/10
Great camera shots, great sound, but they don’t jive with the rather standard, somewhat dull plot and characters.
“They do this thing at the Berklee School of Music where they take an old silent film, and have a score composed and performed live by students at the Coolidge Corner theater”
That sounds awesome!
“I would have scored it higher but I feel the ending undercut the buildup”
People tell me that taking points off a film if the ending is sucky is a nitpick. And that if the film gave me pleasure throughout I should just forget about it. Sometimes I do, but if the pleasure I got from the film was it’s storytelling then I will criticize it (Red River).
I totally agree with you on Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. But the images, shots, and sound held my fascination in such a profound way that I ended up loving it (for the most part)
“I’ll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you’ve got a hit. Find an ending, but don’t cheat, and don’t you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you’ll be fine.”
The Avengers – 3 stars.
Not as good as Iron Man but better than Captain America. I couldn’t follow what the hell was going on but who cares, it’s a comic book movie! The Michael Bay/Transformers stuff was embarrassing but Ruffalo and Scarlett were great and there was enough cheeky dialogue to keep me interested.
> Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors 7/10
> Great camera shots, great sound, but they don’t jive with the rather standard, somewhat dull plot and characters.
To me, downgrading Paradjanov because of the ‘dull plot’ is like downgrading Robert Frost for ‘dull plot’. It’s confusing poetry with prose.
I agree in general, but the exception is when the bulk of major plot points depend on the ending.
That’s not quite what I’m doing. I’m saying that the craftsmanship of the cinematography wasn’t backed by the things it was representing. There was no synthesis of style and content, there was style stacked on top of content.
A counterexample is In The Mood For Love. The basic plot is pretty dull, but there’s a perfect synthesis of style and content, so it works really well.
The Kid with a Bike (Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2011)
A foster child fairy tale wrapped up in realist attire. There are moments of unblinking honesty that rival L’enfance nue, but the genius of Kid is that it collapses the ideal progression of a parentless child (from a state of confusion and denial to maturity and acceptance) in the space of 87 minutes.
The content of Kid probably cuts too close to the bone for me right now to give a measured take on it, but I was very pleased.