Tuesday, December 3, 2013
In general I try to avoid what other critics have to say about a film before I see it. Sometimes I have a general idea of the critical consensus, but in the case of The Counselor I knew nothing. I was shocked to find that the majority of critics had ripped it apart. It would have been surprising enough only for the fact that it was directed by Ridley Scott from an original screenplay by novelist Cormac McCarthy (his first produced). McCarthy is, after all, one of the greatest contemporary fiction writers in America. It also features a phenomenal cast of highly capable actors. Mostly my disbelief registered so high because I thought The Counselor was just wonderful, exemplifying the very best of what McCarthy accomplishes in his novels.
I’m not even sure there’s much point in having a critical view of a movie like Man of Steel. What exactly does it add to the conversation? When an indie or an arthouse film is bad, at least it’s bad in a way that still contributes something to cinema. When big, bloated action films are bad – and most of them are – they’re just plain bad. And anyway, they’re not made for people who actually try to put nuanced thought into their movie watching.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners spends two hours being so good it comes as a bit of a disappointment that the resolution is so utterly conventional. For an investigative thriller it is almost unbelievably contemplative. It’s a movie that is more content to get into the minds of its characters than to dutifully land on action beats at the appropriate moments, although the action does arrive, often ferociously.
I sort of remembered Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg’s film about a woman who gets mixed up in the dealings of the Russian mafia in London, as a much more significant movie the first time around. The stakes felt much higher when I saw it on its initial run in cinemas. Maybe this is a movie that really loses something once you know who is who and what their real motivations are. When you don’t know what’s coming, the film really feels dangerous because the Russian mafia might do anything to anyone at any time.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Oliver & Company, inspired by Dickens' Oliver Twist, was Disney's predecessor to their animated musicals renaissance a year later. With songs by Billy Joel, it paved the way for The Little Mermaid and The Lion King.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown brought great international success, and a first Oscar nomination, to Pedro Almodóvar.
I always had a soft spot for the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged, a contemporary update of Dickens' A Christmas Carol with Murray as a cold-hearted TV executive who learns the meaning of Christmas through lessons delivered by a ghost played by Carol Kane, Bob Goldthwaite in the Bob Cratchit role. Also with Robert Mitchum, Karen Allen, and Alfre Woodard.
Is a three hour running time for a romantic drama a little indulgent? In general, I’d say it probably is, but there’s no one size fits all answer. If the story is suited to it and it’s compelling enough to carry you through, then why not? The French drama Blue Is the Warmest Color, winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, takes cinematic romantic love to rarely touched emotional depths. The epic length didn’t feel so long to me, which must be viewed as testament to the humane and sensitive direction by Abdellatif Kechiche and the incredible and brave performances by the two female leads, Adéle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
People make a big deal out of actors packing on or shedding the pounds for the sake of a role. Think about De Niro in Raging Bull, Christian Bale in The Machinist, or Tom Hanks in Cast Away and images immediately come to mind of an altered body paired with a great performance. It’s easy to conflate physical transformation and great acting or to think that the one causes the other. I suppose it helps the actor get into the mind of the character in some cases, but regardless, the actor still has to do the work in his head even after the physical aspect has taken root.