Morning Glory was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote the script for The Devil Wears Prada, and the films are – barring incidental changes – basically the same. Both concern ambitious, naïve idealists who, by chance, find themselves within spitting distance of attaining the dream they had just about discarded. Both pictures are well-paced and sprinkled with sharp, appealing verbal zingers. Both pictures are driven by the give-and-take between the naïve idealist and the crusty, cynical old pro the idealist inevitably wins over. And both pictures are total crocks of shit.
Morning Glory opens on Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), who works a grueling job as a cog in the machine of an extremely early morning news show. She's the prototypical comedy heroine: the intelligent, do-gooder - with no life apart from her job - who needs to lighten up. We see Becky botching a date with a good looking guy ...
Dogtooth, Fish Tank
Dogtooth occasionally seems overly constructed to win kudos from critics who’ll praise it for its ambiguity and impressive formal achievements. This picture is loaded with moments that can point to virtually any metaphor of your choosing, and the film has a hyper-controlled claustrophobia that could have people racing to their computers so as to be the first to attach the adjective “Kubrickean” to it. Yet that control ultimately pays off in one astounding, authentically classic sequence, and writer-director Giorgos Lanthimos doesn’t play that superior, distancing game that Kubrick was so often over-praised for. The actors here, given the circumstances, give disturbingly human performances.
The picture concerns a couple, called only Father (Christos Stergioglou) and Mother (Michele Valley) who keep their three children, called only Son (Hristos Passalis), Older Daughter (Aggeliki Papoulia) and Younger Daughter (Mary Tsoni), enclosed in their large house and grounds, raising them under the pretense that the ...
I tend to grow irritated with descriptions of movies relying on the “it’s X meets Y” shorthand, as it’s that sort of laziness that encourages the production of most of the beyond-dull schlock we find ourselves watching against our better judgment. That in mind, allow me to indulge hypocrisy: the day after I caught up with last year’s Stone it occurred to me that the picture played as if a scene from Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway had been stretched out to fill an entire film and then directed by Ingmar Bergman in the dullest, least expressive mode of his career. To be clear, Bergman, as far as I know, has never made a film as aggressively un-noteworthy (or inexpressive) as Stone.
There’s an early moment in The Getaway where a jailed criminal’s wife sleeps with an official in order to win her husband a parole that was otherwise not happening. ...
As a youngish writer with his finger theoretically on the pulse of film culture, I’m obliged to tell you that The King’s Speech – recently nominated for twelve Academy Awards – represents everything that’s stodgy and lame about the Oscars. The picture, I’m supposed to tell you, is producer Harvey Weinstein’s latest naked attempt to capture the Best Picture statuette – an ambition that has been watched with particular interest/irritation by the media since the Weinstein-produced Shakespeare in Love’s win over Saving Private Ryan in 1999. And, truthfully, The King’s Speech is exactly all of those things, but it’s an enjoyable bit of pseudo-prestigious malarkey – an excuse for talented British actors to play dress up and trade sometimes colorful bon mots. It’s the sort of picture that older people might say that Hollywood usually doesn’t release anymore, except it does – two or three times a year, usually over ...
The Green Hornet (2011)
Casual moviegoers will see The Green Hornet expecting an okay winter time-killer, while the more aggressively cinema-inclined might see it for the possibility of a curious collision of wildly different and distinctive film sensibilities. And, truthfully, the cinema people almost always screw themselves this way – unreasonably hoping that something that looks like a piece of cookie-cutter garbage will surprise because of the talent behind the scenes. Occasionally that rationale is proven to be reasonable – and Robert Altman’s Popeye, Tim Burton’s Batman, and The Wachowskis’ Speed Racer can be said to be examples – but more often than not the sensibilities in question either took the money and ran or were gobbled up somewhere by the studio machine. The Green Hornet is somehow both types of huge commercial action movie at once.
There are two major problems with The Green Hornet: it has absolutely no point beyond commercial concerns, and ...
Best Picture. Wild Grass – Alain Resnais, the legendary director of a few films I actually can't stand (Hiroshima Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad) has more recently been applying his formalist tricks to more conventional stories of mortality and romantic displacement and confusion. Wild Grass is a master class in cinematic beauty: in camera placement, score, and heartbreaking/gorgeous cinematography. The proper plot as it were – a roundelay of obsession and misplaced objects, etc. - is mostly a pretense for an eerie celebration of...everything.
2. Carlos – the kind of sprawling epic global blow-out that Olivier Assayas has been flirting with for some time. Édgar Ramírez, in the male performance of the year, reveals the terrorist, more commonly known as Carlos the Jackal, as a ballsy, grandstanding fraud. The picture can be read in a number of ways, most obviously as an exploration of the endless, labyrinthine world corruption that ...
Mother and Child, Cyrus, The Fighter, Tiny Furniture, Despicable Me (2010)
Last month, I wrote a piece for Slant about a Claude Chabrol double-feature that was issued on DVD (which you can find under Elsewhere, if you are so inclined) and included was an interview with the now-deceased giant of French cinema that contained a sentiment expressing pointed distrust of the family unit, which Chabrol’s pictures frequently criticized. I don’t recall the specific quotation, but I believe it had something to do with the family being a “vile, hypocritical institution”. It certainly can be; the disease of the family institution – for many of us, at least – is that we can’t detach ourselves from it as we might from other potentially damaging environments, even if we should, without potential considerable guilt and turmoil. Most of us, under the best of conditions, are helplessly perverted to one degree or another by our family or whatever serves as the family surrogate.
True Grit, Winter's Bone, The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Parents seemed to haunt the cinema of 2010 more than usual, as it seemed that every third picture I saw somehow involved a complicated or fractured or broken relationship between a parent and child. Two of the best pictures I’ve seen this year turn on the theme of a child seeking resolution for a missing father who is either certainly or probably dead, and both feature striking performances by young women who will almost certainly move onto more major things. And there are about ten other interesting pictures - one discussed below - that play with a fractured family dynamic.
If you asked me what I thought of the Coen Brothers ten years ago, I would’ve told you that they’re an intelligent, talented team who make pictures that are sometimes wonderful and that are sometimes suffocated by their own cleverness. In other words, I would’ve given you the rap ...
Black Swan (2010)
Black Swan isn’t really concerned with ballet, despite a plot that would seemingly claim the contrary. The picture, on the surface, is about a pretty yet severe young woman named Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), a dancer in a New York company who, like all the young dancers in the company, yearns for the lead role in the forthcoming production of Swan Lake. Yes, Swan Lake is done to death, but this production, says the company’s director, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), will be stripped down, visceral, immediate. Nina, a perfectionist who has (probably necessarily) pared her life of anything unrelated to dance, has the precision and dedication that the role of the pure White Swan requires, but can she capture the spirit of the other half, the self-possessed, manipulative Black Swan?
Nina’s most threatening competition - after a red herring involving a strikingly curt young woman whom the ...
Harry Nilsson, Unstoppable, Fair Game, 127 Hours, Robin Hood, Love and Other Drugs (2010)
December is the month of people making lists of things, and I won't pretend that I don't enjoy, to an extent, such lists. What I don't enjoy – however – is the structure that can essentially force amateurs such as myself into seemingly consuming most of the year's pictures in six-ish weeks while months such as February, March, and the summer, for a different reason, remain essentially barren, with the interesting releases of those times reserved nearly solely for the critics to discuss among themselves. But, this is a soapbox, I assume, for another day, if at all. So I will once again indulge a number of short, short reviews to keep up, and to keep me from disappearing for the site for weeks at a time as I write for others while seeing as many pics as possible.
Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) is ...