Enter the Void 7/10
If you can't take first person camerawork or themes that are characteristic of the New French Extremity, stay far, far away from this film. It is initially engrossing but at the same time suffocating and claustrophobia-inducing. The first 10 minutes are like a weird acid trip. Being inside Oscar's (Nathaniel Brown) head is not a fun place to be. The cinematography during the transformation that he undergoes is clearly influenced by "2001" (and perhaps some psychotropic substances). The remainder of the film is an unfocused, time-jumping, stream-of-consciousness haze as Oscar is forced to relive his past over and over again as a passive spectator. The ending, however, is well-executed. In fact, the beginning and end are rather brilliant. I just wish that there was more happening in between. Just as in other Noé films, the plot is lacking compared to the mood and visuals.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
R.I.P. Captain Beefheart
Eerie. I was just listening to Trout Mask Replica this morning when I came across this news. A huge loss for anyone who is a fan of experimental rock.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Kids Are All Right 7/10
I tried to dismiss this film initially, but I ended up really enjoying it. The plot is unusual: it's just your typical lesbian couple whose children want to meet their artificial insemination sperm donor father, which leads to a mid-life crisis, story. There really aren't films that explore similar themes and feature such a stellar cast. I am sure that there will be Oscar buzz for Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. I think Mark Ruffalo's performance is overrated, but apparently there is Oscar buzz for him as well. Mia Wasikowska is also great in her nuanced portrayal of Joni.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Easy A 7/10
If high school sucked for you, just be glad you didn't go to Ojai North High during the age of text messaging. Ordinarily, I would have stayed far away from this sort of movie. But after hearing the buzz about Emma Stone's performance, I decided to check it out. And I'm glad that I did. Emma Stone is a bona fide star who has a certain edginess mixed with girl-next-door appeal, like Lindsay Lohan before the coke. Her John Hughes-inspired random musical number is a nice homage. The movie is hilarious and is among the best in the genre since "Mean Girls". It's a cautionary tale about how precious one's privacy and reputation are and how even the perception of indecency is sure to ruin you in the digital age.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Rabbit Hole 7/10
I'm not sure why director John Cameron Mitchell has taken so long in between directorial efforts. This is his best film since his debut, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch". "Rabbit Hole" is a sad and uncomfortable examination of life after the tragedy of losing one's child. The pace is a tad slow at first, but it is an adaptation of a Tony Award and Pulitzer Award-winning play that takes some time to develop. Nicole Kidman gives a powerful, understated performance as the mother, Becca, who grasps at ways to cope with the tragedy. She is receiving well-deserved Oscar buzz. Aaron Eckhart and Dianne Wiest also give respectable performances. It opens for limited release on December 17, 2010.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Youth In Revolt 7/10
For wacky and weird, just add Steve Buscemi. Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Long, and Steve Buscemi = winner for awkward, offbeat ensemble cast. I must admit that I had pigeonholed this earlier in the year after seeing the ridiculous trailer, but I gave it a chance after seeing the cast and directing credits. I am pleased to report that it is nothing like the dime-a-dozen crap that opens most other weekends. Youth In Revolt is part Zwigoff, part Godard, and maybe a smidge of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson. It is a clever mix of coming-of-age tale, farce, screwball comedy, and teen romance based on the C.D. Payne novel.
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Black Swan 9/10
There is a thin line between perfectionism and insanity. Darren Aronofsky immerses the viewer in the world of the dancer, where performance anxiety is routine and one is always looking over one's shoulder. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman in a mesmerizing and Oscar-worthy performance) is a fragile ballerina coddled by an overprotective and infantilizing mother. Her perfectionism attracts the attention of ballet director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel in a brilliantly creepy performance), who on the one hand encourages her poise and controlled form for the role of the White Swan but on the other hand, finds difficulty cultivating the looser, more seductive form required for the role of the Black Swan. He believes that he can coax this performance out of her, and Nina pushes herself to meet this expectation. She endures the director's rebukes, her mother's suffocating attention (and career-associated guilt trips), the knowledge of what happened to the company's former star ballerina, and the arrival of her rebellious understudy, Lily (played surprisingly well by Mila Kunis). Despite all of these obstacles, as Leroy tells her later, "the only thing standing in your way is you." Aronofsky distills themes from "All About Eve," "The Red Shoes," "The Wrestler" (his companion piece with similar themes from 2008), and of course the Swan Lake ballet itself, with imagery inspired by early Polanski (i.e. "Repulsion," "The Tenant") and Cronenberg (i.e. "Videodrome"), as well as deft use of black, white, and red color and moody chiaroscuro. While it is not quite as disturbing as "Requiem for a Dream" (few things are), it is just as visceral and engaging and is probably Aronofsky's best film.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Inception In Real Time (video)
Good stuff. Watch it before they take it off YouTube.
Can't wait to get my Blu-Ray, pre-ordered from Amazon for just $18!
Sunday, December 05, 2010
Fish Tank 8/10
I started watching Fish Tank knowing little about it other than the fact that it had won the BAFTA and the Prix du Jury at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Mia (Katie Jarvis) has a rebellious potty mouth, likes breakin' (well, trying to, at least) to Eric B and Rakim, and tests the limit of everyone's patience. It is an incisive and depressing look at everyday life in lower class England through the eyes of a teenage girl aspiring to be something more; but is dancing the answer? Her mother's boyfriend tells her that it is and he encourages her. But she pretends to hate him, even though on the surface, he seems to be more like a parent to her than anyone else has (including her mother). His intentions, however, are not entirely clear.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Exit Through The Gift Shop 8/10
Banksy directs this subversive and satirical (pseudo?)documentary about the rise of an eccentric shopkeeper and "filmmaker" as a not-so-bona-fide street artist. It doesn't matter how much of it it true. It is a fascinating commentary on the exploitation and commercialization of street culture and street art. It's like "F For Fake" for street art.