Sunday, April 13, 2014
I guess the hokeyness of the Biblical epic film was just waiting for a rebirth. We could count Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ as the start of a new wave, but it’s more torture porn than uplifting. When Darren Aronofsky decides to tackle a Bible story, even when granted a mega-millions budget by a major studio, you have to expect something a little beyond the ordinary, if not quite extraordinary.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
It’s amazing how, not even being a fan of baseball, I can still be moved by the nostalgia that drips off Field of Dreams. I hadn’t watched it since I was a kid, and I remembered it as being sort of overly sentimental and hackneyed, but as an adult, as a grown man who has learned to appreciate America and history and our collective cultural consciousness, Phil Alden Robinson’s adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s fantasy novel stands out as a modern cinema classic.
Sunday, April 6, 2014
The biggest release of the month was Field of Dreams, still considered a sports movie classic starring Kevin Costner as a man compelled by voices to build a baseball diamond in his mid-west cornfield. He believes he was being guided in order to bring back the disgraced Chicago Black Sox - the eight players banned for life after taking money to throw the World Series in 1919. But the end has quite a different surprise in store. Ray Liotta plays "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and James Earl Jones has some wonderfully well-spoken lines and one classic speech about the timelessness of baseball.
Monday, March 31, 2014
There were scattered moments in Denis Villenueve’s Prisoners that hinted at the atmosphere and experimentation he employs in Enemy. The lingering shots of trees, emptiness, or recreational vehicles were indications of a different kind of filmmaking. But where Prisoners was a fairly conventional story presented with touches of auteur sensibility, Enemy is moving toward full-blown independence. If Prisoners was dark and atmospheric, Enemy is downright funereal.
Sunday, March 30, 2014
In the documentary Tim’s Vermeer, a graphic artist and techno-geek named Tim Jenison posits a theory, also held by art historian David Hockney, that 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer painted his compositions using a combination of lenses and mirrors to so accurately represent the photo-natural colors and lighting of his subjects. Jenison takes his hypothesis to obsessive extremes by attempting to painstakingly recreated Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” using methods that would have been available to the artist in his own time. He rebuilds the room where the original was painted. He builds the furniture, has the costumes made, and very carefully places everything just so.
Saturday, March 29, 2014
I’ve just written about Rushmore and touched on the great stylistic difference between Wes Anderson’s earliest films and the techniques he uses in his latest. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a great example of how Anderson’s stylized world, whimsical flights of fancy, and self-conscious artifice have grown and joined together to blend into a harmonious vision.
I was a true Anderson enthusiast through The Royal Tenenbaums, but he lost me until Fantastic Mr. Fox, which struck me as the absolute perfect representation of what he has always tried to accomplish. The Grand Budapest Hotel has brought him back completely into my good graces and though it contains moments that are so previously Wes Anderson-y that it risks becoming a parody of his own style, it somehow reached me in surprising and new ways.
Friday, March 28, 2014
I'm sort of sneaking this in even though we're fully three months into 2014. I just haven't really had the chance to get around to it in the last six weeks. But here it is officially - my top ten movies of 2013.
1. 12 Years a Slave dir. Steve McQueen - An all-around brilliantly executed movie and with the added bonus of being not only historically, but contemporarily significant. This is arguably the best slave narrative in the history of filmmaking. It gets the number one spot not only because it's a great film, but for its unparalleled historical significance.
2. Her dir. Spike Jonze - A beautiful, warm, and honest romance. The only thing the movie lacked for me was a real emotional hook. I was right there with it all the way through its marvelous production design and perfect screenplay. But it never had that emotional elevation moment for me.