Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Kristen Stewart

Nicely done melodrama about a 14 yo high school girl who is raped at a party and becomes a pariah among her peers for trying to report it. She tells no one, buries her pain inside and struggles to continue.

Much of this played like an after-school special...with caricatures of adults, teachers and parents, as teens would see them. But KS turns in a strong performance that easily carries the film. Since she is nearly mute she must do with posture and facial expressions.

Cartoonish last 15 minutes was crowd-pleasing but unrealistic. But by that point the film had won me over.


Monday, October 29, 2012

The End of Time


Intriguing, partly successful film. Unfocused, discursive provocative...many stunning visuals, interesting, creative sound design...

We start out at Cern and muck about the LHC. Then we trip all over the world...India, Hawaii, tropical forests, telescope installations...get mind-blowing close-ups of volcanoes complete with sound, lava flows, bizarre landscapes. We get to watch a corpse burn in India...for some reason...

Roughly similar to Samsara...the viewer participates in finding the meaning of all this. What is time? What is its purpose?

A bit too artsy for a film posing serious questions. Idiotic final scene where the filmmaker interviews his own mother about the meaning of time. She hasn't a clue. Me neither.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Diversionaries


This film shows the struggle for what should be included in text books used in the public schools in Texas. Evolution and history are the two main battlegrounds.

It's essentially educated, thoughtful people against reactionary religious morons. This being Texas the troglodytes win, thus condemning a generation of schoolchildren to ignorance.

Stories like this make me feel there's no hope for mankind. True believers of all stripe, political, social or religious, have been mankind's curse since forever. Their absolute certainty in whatever belief system  they espouse leads to suppression, violence and social retardation. I find it grimly amusing that they demonize secular humanism... arranging society for the good of humanity.

One guy here says the combination of ignorance and arrogance is deadly. Yes it is.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Wall Street Conspiracy


Particulars and details of several fraudulent tricks the 1% dreamed up when the oversight of regulators (adults) was removed in the 90's. They lied, cheated, stole peoples' pensions, bankrupted small companues and generally behaved like demented 6 year olds. Because they could.

So it goes...


Friday, October 26, 2012

The Hunter

Willem Dafoe

Pretty engaging Australian film set in Tasmania. A man is sent to hunt one of the last Tasmanian Tigers for a multi-national. He runs afoul of locals, gets involved with his host family, gradually loses his sense of mission and ends up fighting for his life in the wilderness.

Great scenery and sense of place. The arc of the story was predictable...well done but felt like it had been done before...many times. Watching it moved me from curiousity to engagement to what was becoming indifference by the end. A good film...solid, competent...but ultimately forgettable.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man


A perfect story...told perfectly.

This is the way we all wish life worked.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Orchestra of Exiles


The story of B Huberman...Polish violin prodigy who escaped from Germany in 1935 and founded the Palestine symphony orchestra. Inspirational but I suppose of necessity very pro zionist which cast a dark shadow on the celebration.

Minimal mention of the people who were already living there, who are depicted as mindless  obstructionists...similar to the attitude of the europeans who came to North America. Also no note taken of the violence it took, and takes, for the settlers to maintain their hegemony over this troubled land. The focus was entirely on music. Selective history lesson.



Ron Fricke

Another gorgeous travelogue/social commentary by the maker of Baraka. He seems to have found a comfortable range of images...from the exotic to the pedestrian (usually speeded up) accompanied by some lovely music.

These two films are nothing more than eye/ear candy...but stand as the equivalent of Lindt chocolates - truly exquisite works that can be appreciated by anyone, anywhere. That said, I found my attention wandering when the focus was on landscapes after a while. When he brought human faces in it worked better.

Still this was a luscious treat...it pleases me that there's room in pop culture for something like this film.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Photographic Memory


Another Ross McElwee home movie. This guy has spent most of his life with a camera lens pointed squarely at his own navel and periodically releases "films" taken from that footage. I guess he thinks others will share his fascination. Maybe they do.

He comes across as a nice guy...a bit wimpy perhaps but decent. This time he features footage of his son who has become a sullen, obnoxious 20 yo and dad laments that they are no longer pals. I wonder why. No I don't.

We also get to France to re-trace his adventurous years tooling around in a microbus, smoking pot and screwing an exciting French girl. But forty years on she's an old lady...dommage.

His career is a never-ending display of solipsism.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Girl Model


Very sad piece on the recruitment and abuse of young Russian girls in the Japanese modeling industry. These young girls (we follow a thirteen yo) are promised wealth, exotic travel, glamour but are housed in tiny cubicles, shuffled around to auditions and if they don't connect with designers are shipped back home penniless and wiser about the ways of the world.

It's a cruel, shallow meat-market business and even the people who are making a living at it see it for what it is. We also follow the recruiter here who is a piece of work. She hated the business when she modeled and now she lies to innocents to bring them in because it gives her the means to pay for a glass-walled house in Connecticut.

After this and the doc on Anna Wintour it's hard not to feel contempt for the whole fashion industry...where the superficial rules.


Saturday, October 20, 2012


Christian Bale, Emily Watson

Futuristic society which looked for all the world like the one conjured by Orwell. "Feelings" were criminal because they lead to wars, etc. So everyone had to take drugs to stifle their emotions. The state had exclusive right to use violence (duh)...our hero is one of the enforcers...charmingly called clerics.

Pretty simple-minded...very Matrix-like in look and tone...over-the-top shoot-outs where dozens get killed. The film was well done but would appeal mostly to 12 year old boys. Helped some by the skill of the players and slick direction/effects but still adolescent.


The Big Picture


Slick modern-looking film with an intriguing story line. A sarariman finds out his wife is cheating, accidentally kills her lover, disposes of the body and takes over his identity because that guy was a photographer and this is what he always wanted to do.

The filmmaker then takes the story in unexpected directions...some of which hinge on the adage...oh what a tangled web we weave...

Nice locations, strong secondary characters, sharp editing rhythms. Well done film for adults.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Forks Over Knives


Hard core advocacy/propaganda piece for a vegan lifestyle. No animal-derived foods. Period. Only plant food allowed. No meat, fish, dairy, eggs. Essentially humans as ruminants.

I dunno. I don't doubt that what's called here the western diet is stupid and harmful but these guys go too far in this film. The claims made seem over-cooked...eg. up to 80% of all disease would be eliminated if we all just switched.

I still think moderation in all things is a saner life course. Balance, harmony...that's the ticket.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Toy Story 3


I had heard that this was the best of the series and damned if it wasn't true. This team captured magic here...tapping into the poignance of the stages we pass through in our lives and the things left behind...as well as comedy, intrigue, adventure, romance...innovative animation, brilliant colors, suspense and an ending that touched the heart.

Together the three films in this series rank among the finest animation ever done.


Monday, October 15, 2012

When the Sea Rises


Unusual, ultimately charming story about an itinerant entertainer, plying the small towns of northern France, who picks up an admirer who follows her from show to show and eventually becomes her lover. She is middle-aged, well past her prime, with a stable family somewhere...he is an overgrown child with some apparent issues.

This works because of the skill and appeal of the lead...Yolande Moreau. It also intrigues because of the folkways on display...from parades with papier-mache giants to her bizarre act which to my eyes was incomprehensible. She wore a half-mask and broadly enacted a post-crime scenario that had audiences laughing and me bewildered.

But the scenery was lovely and the lovers' dynamic worked so the time was well spent.


Sunday, October 14, 2012


Matthew McConaughey, Harvey Keitel

Nicely done WW2 action flick. Not as good as Das Boot but just a notch or so down from what is easily the best submarine film ever made.

Packed with incident but they still managed to create characters with individual identities. Based on several true cases of efforts by the allies to steal the German enigma secrets. Excellent effects, exaggerated pyro, nice sound design, sets and tracking shots through the sub.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Vanishing on 7th Street

Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo

This started with a good premise...something caused most of the people in the world to disappear leaving behind only their clothes, glasses, false teeth, etc...but never really came together to tell an intelligible story. Whatever caused the disappearance also took away electricity, battery power but left little exceptions otherwise the entire film would have been shot in the dark...which it largely was.

Four were left alive but we never find out how or why. In fact the puzzle of the film is why we would want to watch something kept so deliberately vague and unresolved? I'm fine with ambiguity but this went too far. Couldn't fault the cast who gamely tried the best they could with inadequate material.

This script needed some help. Too bad...everything else was solid.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Largo Winch

France   Kristen Scott Thomas

Slick professional international thriller. Most of the film is one long chase of one kind or another...all of them beautifully staged and shot. Occasional quiet moments are used to explain what the hell is going on...lots of complications, double cross, triple cross, etc.

The lead (Tomer Sisley) was great. In the new standard meme he can take an enormous level of punishment and keep on ticking. Several spectacular locations, stunts. Of course there was never any doubt about the outcome but it was fun getting there.


Thursday, October 11, 2012


Guy Pearce

Great trash. Absurd story, non-stop violence, damsel-in-distress storyline, outrageous locations and villains, incredible escape, lotsa funny lines that had me LOL.

Who could ask for anything more?


The Sound of My Voice

Brit Marling

Interesting take on cults by the writer of Another Earth.

We follow a couple who secretly join and tape a cult built around a woman who claims to be from the future. This played like an over-extended Twilight Zone episode and would have packed more punch if it ran 45 minutes or so. Still it was engrossing and featured an end sequence that justified the time spent.

BM also stars and easily commands the screen. She's talented but may need to find a writing collaborator to bring her films up into the higher ranks. As is there are some good ideas but her films lack the zing they need to be really compelling.


Damsels in Distress

Greta Gerwig   w/d   Whit Stillman

Another delightful oddball satire from that dissector of preppie-class absurdity. Comedy from America's chattering class by one of its sons.

In this film he stretches out into the surreal and will alienate many but if you are willing to give his characters time they become more and more endearing. GG pulls off a very difficult feat...treading the line just short of obnoxious. A few laughs in here but mostly the kind of subliminal chuckles that tickle just beneath the surface.

He ends the film with a wonderful full-on song and dance homage to the Astaire/Rogers silliness from the 30's. Kudos.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Art of Getting By

Emma Roberts

Generic formulaic NYC teen yarn. Built on the completely new...boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl...trope. Brilliant! How do they come up with such fresh ideas? I guess that's a good way to generate suspense: use a formula that's been done a billion times and keep the audience guessing...are they nervy enough to do that again?

Tune in and find out. Now for the weather...


Monday, October 8, 2012

Whisper of the Heart


Superb work produced in the 90's by Studio Ghibli. It captures the essence of adolescence...its questing, insecurities, false hopes, crushes, fascinations, sense of beauty, injustice...the whole shebang. All wrapped in a visually delightful package.

This is as fine a work as animation has yet produced. Moving, insightful...a recognition and celebration of life itself.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Times and Winds


Poetic, pointed examination of life in a rural, isolated mountain village. We follow three pre-teens as they suffer the injustices heaped upon them by the older generation who have suffered the same fate by their own parents. The film is organized around the five daily calls to prayer...we get the sense that these lives, these fates are timeless, ever repeating as the wheel of time turns.

Spectacular cinematography coupled with a dramatic score by Finland's Arvo Part gave the film a depth and universality that took it out of the realm of anthropology into philosophical ruminations of the meaning and purpose of life. Frequent shots of the various characters lying apparently dead in natural settings helped root the film in the metaphysical. As did the excellent steadicam shots following characters as they wove their way through the cobbled streets and between broken stone walls. These people were seamlessly presented as part of their landscape.

Not much plot. Character development was scattered and sometimes confusing. But for those with the patience and an interest in serious artistic filmmaking this is a winner.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Only Angels Have Wings

Cary Grant, Jean Arthur     d/   Howard Hawkes

Fast-paced, event-packed melodrama from the Columbia studio machine in 1939. Set in an unnamed South American hellhole, this tells the story of a ragtag flying operation trying to win a mail delivery contract. If only they didn't have to go over that pass...

Nothing in this film was believable but that wasn't the point. The point was delivering exotic entertainment to a nation weary from ten years of economic suffering and anxious about the forthcoming war. The film fairly dripped testosterone...men were men and women were accessories...death, broken limbs, shootings...nothing stopped these guys from completing their appointed rounds.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Water Lilies


Quiet, intelligent treatment of adolescent female sexuality. We follow three 15 yo girls as they muddle through a confusing period in their lives...a time of inchoate desires, shifting alliances, unrequited loves and experimentation. The nexus is a girls' synchronized swim team...a smart choice by the writer since the near-nudity exacerbates their desires.

Almost no adults appear on screen and very few boys. The focus on these characters is intense and revealing. Their individual personalities are clearly drawn. Red herrings are used to surprise us...and them.

This kind of film would never get made here. Not enough "action." Just real life.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence

Engaging film with many nice touches but the way the game was actually played out was puzzlingly at odds with its terms. This was presented as a game of all-against-all lasting for a set time which meant each contestant had to try and kill any other he/she encountered. Or be killed. Yet almost from the start some formed alliances and tracked down others. How in the hell did they think this was going to play out? There had to be mass betrayal. Who could possibly trust whom?

Also...there were many quiet moments in the film after the game began when Catniss seemed to be oblivious to her surroundings...tending a wounded friend, sleeping for two days. Wouldn't a game like this require extreme vigilance? How could anyone possibly relax...even for a minute?

The first hour was a broad parody/condemnation of centralized control and media. Much of this worked in an obvious sort of way. Stanley Tucci's MC was fun as he wildly exaggerated a game show host. The mocking of fashion and design trends also made me laugh.

But focusing our attention on this one girl made the outcome inevitable and took away any real suspense. Did anyone in the audience think she wouldn't survive?

For a better, if far more violent treatment of this same concept see Japan's Battle Royale. This is games-light compared to that.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Lily Collins, Taylor Lautner      d/ John Singleton

This was a totally preposterous movie. Even for a contemporary action film. The plot was absurd, chases, escapes, romance, climactic scenes, plot resolution and final sweet moment...all ditto. Nothing about this film was even remotely believable. Even as a cartoon it pushed past the limits of credibility.

This was not a cheap production and I find it dismaying that someone (Singleton?) was able to raise the money to get it made, marketed and distributed. If this is where the American movie audience is then I'm living in the wrong place. Or maybe, quoting Brian Wilson...I just wasn't made for these times...


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt    w/d Rian Johnson

Time travel film which relies heavily on big sound, car chases, explosions, etc. That said, within the narrow range of workable scenarios available to this type of story this one eventually settles down and tells a compelling yarn which builds to a spectacular climax.

About a third of this film should have been eliminated and the introduction of the premise presented to the audience in a better way. Once we got past the SOS dystopian near-future and moved the story to a remote farmhouse the script focused on people and personalities and began to come together. Unfortunately the lead was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who projects almost nothing and is unsuitable for this type of action-oriented film. Nice supporting work by EB and BW with a bizarre, unnecessary part contributed by Jeff Daniels, of all people,  as the bad guy. And an extraordinary performance by a young boy named Pierce Gagnon who rocks the screen in a few well-chosen scenes...helped of course by BIG SOUND. Great staging of the CGI scenes.

Nice film overall...quite a ways from Brick.


Monday, October 1, 2012



Fair to poor treatment of the major lies fed to the sheeple for the last 100 years...the Fed, 9/11, wmd, etc. While everything this guy said was true the presentation was jumbled up to the point of incoherence. This film would only make sense to those who already knew and believed what he was saying.

Note to would-be filmmakers: if you have a speech impediment have someone else do the narration for your magnum opus. You'll alienate fewer people.