Friday, November 30, 2012



Wonderful animated feature about a young African slave who escapes and finds himself on a mission to 19th century Paris...accompanied by his beloved pet giraffe. In a hot air balloon.

Nicely drawn and a sweet story that should appeal to children of all ages.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

9000 Needles


Pretty interesting piece on an athlete who suffers a brain stem bleed, loses most of his faculties, runs out of insurance and heads to China for a 12 week acupuncture treatment. Which helps. By the end of the program he has regained much of what he lost and appears to be well on the road to recovery.

This film forces us to question the easy assumptions about traditional medicine we have been taught. Central to the program was the caring supportive attitude conveyed by the staff of this institution...a more holistic approach to healing than pills.

Thought provoking.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012



Lighthearted, very funny piece on several people who have become obsessed with returning to and colonizing the moon. Clever, slick, gently mocking in tone it gave these folks the time and space to expose themselves to us as well-meaning fringe-dwellers...a but deluded perhaps but decent nonetheless.

Nice use of music and intertitles. A fun freak show.




The story of a young man on work release from prison who is assigned to help pick up bodies of the recently dead. He was abandoned shortly after birth and wrestles with demons and rage mostly by shutting down and dealing with the world with a detached affect.

Strong lead performance, nice, tight pacing and cine showcases the humane treatment of troubled youth in a Europe seemingly more civilized than the US. Solid film.


All Together

France     Jane Fonda, Geraldine Chaplin

A group of elderly long-term friends decide to move in together to share the perils of old age with people who care instead of strangers. Problems arise which are used in the film for comedic effect.

Charming, breezy, light-hearted look at aging among the upper middle class. Helped a bit by the two female leads and the novelty of them performing in French.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Miranda July

This is my second time through this one. Her films are called precious and twee...and they are...but...there's something about her sensibility that draws me in. Her on-screen persona either attracts or repels viewers (the former for me). It's also obvious to me that she isn't this person...she has written, directed and starred in two feature films...which requires focus and fierce dedication.

The world she creates is one I'd like to be living in...where confused but well-meaning people muddle through the shoals of sexual desire and connection as best they can...with malice toward none.

There's a self-conscious oddness to her work (films and short stories) that should be off-putting but isn't. I hope she continues.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tomorrow When the War Began


Aussie Red Dawn. This seemed a bit more juvenile than its inspiration. It took a lot more screen time for the kids to get with the guerrilla program...which felt like filler.

But I'm carping because this film was idiotic at its core and nothing they could have done would make it anything other than light entertainment. With killing.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Cafe de Flore


Unusually sophisticated drama involving a breaking family intercut masterfully with another story involving a single mother and her downs son set decades ago.

Quite confusing for much of the film wasn't until the latter part that the situation became clear. Fine performances all around. compelling stories. outstanding editing with several nice montages. A first rate film with a realistic take on divorce, separation, life changes.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wagner and Me


Stephen Fry leads us around the rehearsals and production of the Ring cycle in Germany. Strictly for fans of either.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Escape Fire


Yet another well done indictment of America's 'health care' system. This touched on all the usual topics and did a good job but nothing will change the fundamental problems until we address the perils of living in a greed-based value system.


Hitler's Children


An original notion: Israeli filmmakers dredge up the holocaust yet by featuring the children and grandchildren of the top monsters of Nazidom. These included Himmler, Goering, Hoess, Hans Frank. The unique slant cast a certain complexity to the over-familiar story which gave it a resonance lacking in so many of the others. The reverberations of evil spread more widely than we normally think.

That complexity was undercut with scenes at Auschwitz with Israeli schoolchildren weeping in a patent attempt to sway the audience's perceptions. The story of WW2 is getting ended over 65 years ago...but there exists a minor industry churning out these 'remembrances' - several a year - ensuring the centrality of Jewish suffering in the world's eye in spite of the fact that far more Russians were killed by the Nazis.

This film was extremely well produced but ultimately couldn't escape the taint of propaganda.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012



A young art student suffers a breakup and consequent insomnia so he takes a job at an all night supermarket where he acquires the ability to stop time, undress all the pretty girls in the market and sketch them...without them knowing.

This was like a pre-adolescent daydream...puerile and embarrassing. It didn't help that the protagonist was a wimpy, mewling 'boy' in the truest sense. I felt badly for the actors who were called upon to stand stock still naked for the various scenes. I also found it offensive that everyone in the market looked like a playboy model.

This will be a big hit with adolescent boys...and their older ilk.


Young Adult

Charlize Theron

This was written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman...the team that gave us the successful Juno. This film doesn't come close to that one in appeal. It's an attempted black comedy about a 37 yo self-centered prom queen who learns that her high school sweetheart has ended up with a better she goes back home to screw his up.

Asinine premise...unpleasant to watch. CT hit the right notes for her character but the setup worked against her. Not funny. At all. Or amusing. Just unpleasant. An unnecessary ordeal for the viewer.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Rear Window


The core idea here holds up very well but this time I found Stewart's character something less than endearing. In fact I thought he was a self-centered jerk. Rotten toward Grace, dismissive toward Thelma...just a cruel asshole. This greatly tempered my enthusiasm for the film.

On the other hand the voyeurism, camera positioning and the thrilling sense of mystery and danger was very effective and allowed me to watch all the way through.

I suppose we were meant to forgive Stewart because he had been incapacitated for weeks and it was hot but mostly because he was Jimmy Stewart for god sake...who could hate this guy? I could for one. Grace epitomized her name and anyone who was mean to her moved to my shitlist.


Saturday, November 17, 2012



This was really bad. Clearly more Disney than Pixar. Loud, crass, stupid. A cartoon for 7 year olds. Any attempt to create a spunky female heroine was abandoned somewhere along the way. Completely lacking in charm, whimsey. Every character shouted or hammed it up.

Much was made of her hair. Yup...great hair. So what?

Pixar looked like it was going to create a new form...intelligent American animation. But the disneys have dragged it down to their lowest level. Damned shame.


Friday, November 16, 2012



Fine piece on a real-life horse whisperer. This guy comes across as a secular saint...having overcome a horrendous childhood to become a firm but gentle and understanding adult. He's on screen and talking for much of the film and when it was over I wished it could have continued. Now there's a recommendation.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Assassination Games

Jean-Claude van Damme

Expensive, well-produced and shot 'action' film. This was formulaic but slick enough that I didn't care. Satisfying diversion for a rainy day.


Deadline at Dawn

Susan Hayward

Interesting back-lot mystery from 1944. A nasty woman is found dead and a growing coterie of night people schlep around NYC trying to find the killer. A naive sailor is initially suspected but nobody believes this including him.

During this period studios were pumping out dozens of B pictures like this one. This had snappy dialogue, not very believable storyline, good acting and a happy ending. It could serve as the quintessential 40's noir.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Place on Earth


True, re-enacted story of a group of Ukrainian Jews who hid in a cave underground for an extended period during WW2 and thus survived. Almost the whole film was shot in the dark....a serious flaw. Plus the survivors were interviewed on camera so there was no drama.

A marginally interesting film about survival under extreme circumstances.


Finding North


Solid, disturbing report on the level of hunger in America. Echoes the famed 1968 CBS documentary and shows how since that time it has gotten steadily worse. This kind of doc will only be seen and internalized by those who already care...the ruling class will continue their savagely predatory ways until they are forcibly stopped. And this is one issue that could prompt a rebellion. When people watch their children starve they act.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gregory Crewdson


Straightforward doc on a photographer who stages elaborate scenarios meant to be mysterious and provocative. And they are. Interesting and informative.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

Steve Martin, Carl Reiner, Rachel Ward

Wonderful film. These guys lovingly create a 40's Sam Spade-like private eye yarn and sprinkle in cleverly done interactions between Martin and various classic films. Both a tribute and a terrific piece of entertainment. Made me laugh out loud many times.

Just a gem.




Odd case of a man who was beaten badly in a bar fight, lost most faculties, had to re-learn to talk, walk, etc. During his long semi-recovery he took to photographing military stories using stills of plastic toy figures.  The work was nicely done but this guy's pretty fucked up, if no longer dangerous or violent.

Interesting peek into a damaged mind...a bit too long though.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dirty Girl

Juno Temple

Fun teen comedy that started out being outrageous and smoothly shifted to sappy and touching. JT easily carried the film which gave her a wide range of emotions, attitudes in which to shine.

Great supporting cast...Mary Steenburgen, Milla Jovovich, DwightYoakam...looked like everyone had a good time with this project. Silly, stupid and cliched but for some reason I didn't care. Even had a ridiculous happy ending.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Satellite Boy


Two young Aboriginal boys set out on a quest, have a series of adventures in the outback, achieve their goal, make it home and set out on the rest of their lives.

Almost an after-school special. The kids were likable, the scenery outstanding but this was targeted at an audience much younger than me.


Dormant Beauty


Fast paced, hyper-modern treatment of the "pulling the plug" controversy a la Terry Schiavo. The first hour was shot in the dark with long lenses and speed editing. Gave me a headache. Eventually though the director settled down and focused on his characters and came up with several scenes that soared.

There were political elements, Catholic church influences, personal histories and one lamo love affair tossed into the mix. Plus a woman junkie...who provided a knockout scene.

So overall a mixed bag. An intelligent, complex film with a real payoff.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Radio Unnameable


Straightforward piece on Bob Fass and WBAI...New York's hippie dippie free form station. He started a late night show in the late 50's and was a pivotal figure in shepherding the 60's into being.

Many events shown trace the history of the counter-culture movement...from the sweet "fly-in" at Kennedy airport in the early 60's to the brutal Chicago and NYC police riots that represented the establishment kicking back and stomping the young peoples' dreams into the pavement.

Times changed, the station changed. At this point it all looks so glowy and nostalgic...but there was a time, a brief time, when many thought the world could be wrestled from the militarists and set on a better path. Twas so long ago...


Tuesday, November 6, 2012



This is the story of a sad, tormented 34 yo closeted gay doctor. People around him try to help but he prefers moping around, closed in and hurt. There was nothing new or interesting about the film. Many of these gay-themed films emerged starting in the 80's and by now it's all been said. This one didn't add anything to the mix.

Very appealing lead.


The Well-Diggers Daughter

France   Daniel Auteuill

Lovely, old-fashioned story taken from a novel by Marcel Pagnol. It's a cross-class romance set just before the start of WW1. Scenes and events unfold patiently - one careful step at a time - which gives the film a resonance missing in these hyper-quick-edited times.

Exterior scenes glowed with magic hour light. The innocence and naivete of the female lead may have been exaggerated but may also have represented the reality of rural France in that era. Her swain was presented as a selfish, heartless pig until the very last minute...a jarring note which came across as a flaw.

Still...I was willing to accept the resolution of the story because of all that had gone before. Akin to My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle. Wonderful stuff.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Like Crazy

Felicity Jones

Nice take on a young couple trying to maintain a long distance relationship. Separated by a continent, an ocean and bureaucracy they try but it proves too difficult to keep a hot flame burning when most of their time is spent apart.

Interesting time jumps made the film seem compact...just the important scenes were shown in a five year relationship. Asymmetric affair had her committed...him not so much. His character was passive and vague. She was the initiator at every stage...he just sort of moped along. The ending was very doesn't conquer all...not even its participants.

Star-making turn by Ms Jones. She is beautiful and charismatic. She lights up the screen in every scene.  He (Anton Yelchin) didn't.

A movie love affair that hewed closely to real life.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Another Country

Korea   Isabelle Huppert

A really idiotic film. Several short stories, all featuring the same players in different personae frabbing around a holiday resort.

Pointless and stupid. I kept waiting for something intelligent or insightful or worthwhile to kick in. It never did. A waste of time and a good actress.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

God Bless America

Bobcat Goldthwaite

Sharp, lacerating take on the current state of the media nation. We follow a schlub who's had enough takes on the task of killing folks who deserve it. Along the way he picks up a demented, violent 17 yo female sidekick with a long list of possible victims. Somewhere near NBK, Falling Down and Bonnie and Clyde. But played for laughs and wicked satire.

Much of this was pointed and effective: TV clips showing crude behavior served up as entertainment, mean political pundits, people talking in movie theaters or who take up two parking spaces(?)...

Some great rants every now and then by both leads that really hit the target. The many killings are absurd and weirdly satisfying. Who doesn't want to murder those ubiquitous protesters from that Baptist church who hate gays and jews?

This guy's made several films that didn't work. This one has some weak moments but taps successfully into the disgust many feel toward the dominant media-saturated "culture."

Killing Kardashian anyone?


Friday, November 2, 2012

I Killed My Mother


No he doesn't actually kill his mother but the extremely contentious relationship between the teenaged protagonist and his mother is as disturbing as any ever put on screen. Written and performed by Xavier Dolan...this is a semi-autobiographical film about a coming-out 16 yo gay kid with some issues.

The fights here are more extreme than those between George and Martha in Virginia Woolf. Very hard for the viewer to evoke sympathy for either character. By exaggerating their behavior beyond believability Dolan highlights his own perception of psychic pain at the risk of alienating his audience...all of whom walked in willingly to a film with this title.

No fun to experience...but unforgettable.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Long Shot


This follows the trials and tribulations of a young man who was born with only one hand and wants to pursue a basketball career. Although true the film follows a traditional dramatic fictional arc and will satisfy those for whom this structure is fresh.

He came across as a good kid but I do wonder what it was like being followed around by a camera crew for several years while in high school...


A Matter of Life and Death

David Niven    Powell/Pressberger

This was done at the end of WW2 and it reflects the preoccupations and concerns of that time: mass death and the likelihood of an afterlife.

DN is a pilot who jumps from his plane w/o a parachute but before he does he connects with a Yank radio operator and 'falls in love.' He survives the fall by mistake which creates a problem in heaven...proper accounting and all that. It all comes down to a trial in heaven with the opposing counsel being Raymond Massey and Roger Livesy. Guess how it resolves?

Some neat sets and matte work. There's a stairway to heaven that's a giant escalator with statues of historical notables (Plato, Newton, etc) along the way. Beautiful Technicolor in the earth-bound scenes. But this is so idiotic, so painfully naive, so sadly revelatory of British sensibility at the time that it's impossible to take seriously today. It lives as a curiousity.