Archives For May 2012

Anyone who’s ever been to a film festival knows the value of a short movie. Not a short film, mind you. A short, feature-length movie. Something a little over an hour, but definitely under 90 minutes. I love that kind of movie. Well, not every short movie is great, but I love the idea of a short movie.

Sure, sometimes Lawrence of Arabia demands four hours. And occasionally a Lord of the Rings movie will need three. I get it. As a lover of TV I don’t begrudge a movie for being long, but I often approach it as a chore or a mission. A mountain to be conquered. For example, I recently acquired the Criterion Blu-ray of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and have been meaning to watch it. But what’s this? Fanny and Alexander is a bajillion hours long? I suppose the blow is softened by it technically being a TV mini-series with actual episodes. But I’d still prefer to watch those episodes in close proximity, which isn’t always easy in a busy house.

Short movies offer so much more than just taking up less time, though. Click to read more.

The First ‘Les Misérables’ Teaser Washes All My Fears Away

I cannot being to tell you how much I love Les Misérables. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best novel ever written, and it also inspired the greatest musical I’ve ever seen and listened to. When I heard Tom Hooper, the director of The King’s Speech, was going to be adapting the musical to the screen I had some serious concerns. The casting only furthered my concerns. Was Hooper going to go for celebrity and prestige over actual quality?

Since then I’ve come around a bit. The casting of Samantha Barks as Eponine went a long way, as did learning that Hooper was planning on recording as much of the singing as possible live on set. That’s a tricky thing to do, but if done right it can bring so much more depth and emotion to the performances even when the singing isn’t 100% note perfect.

Judging from this first trailer, that is exactly what Hooper has been able to accomplish. Anne Hathaway is a pretty great singer, but she’s no Lea Salonga or anything. But Hooper, by recording live and valuing the acting over the actual voice has coaxed true beauty out of his Fantine. Between the crushingly emotional rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, and the stunning, bleak visuals, I no longer have any serious reservations. Of course, it could end up not working, but in terms of my anticipation, all my worries are gone. Move over, Dark Knight Rises, I’ve got a new most anticipated movie of 2012: Les Misérables.

What are your thoughts on the trailer? Are you turned off by the more “actor-ly” singing style? Are you as excited as I am? Let me know in the comments.

I don’t get it. Every image I see. Every trailer released. Every piece of information I get. I look at this new Spider-Man movie and think, “I should be so excited for this movie,” but I’m just not. It doesn’t make any sense. All signs point to it being a cool movie, and likely the best Spider-Man movie so far, and still I’m not excited. What’s happening?

I was never a fan of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. I liked the first film, thought the second one was boring, and the third film is a hot mess. When Sam Raimi left development on what was then Spider-Man 4 I couldn’t have been more pleases. A script by Zodiac‘s James Vanderbilt, directed by (500) Days of Summer‘s Marc Webb, starring Never Let Me Go‘s Andrew Garfield and my Superbad crush, Emma Stone? The Amazing Spider-Man was sure to be a step in the right direction. The weird part is, judging by the trailers, I think the movie is going to deliver.

So why am I not excited? Click to read more.

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how we in the online community should respond to jerks and trolls. In it I said that we should stand against it. Not feeding the trolls, but calling them out and making it clear that their kind of discourse is a poison.

Cut to: The comments section at the A.V. Club. I love the A.V. Club. I adore it, particularly for their TV reviews. On last night’s review of the latest episode of Girls, Todd VanDerWerff showed us all how it’s done. His ‘A’ review of the episode was met with a flurry of comments, but one in particular caught his ire. The person left the comment, “If you’re sporting a mug like Lena Dunham, you’d better be really,really fucking funny. Unfortunately…”

VanDerWerff’s response was epic.

People, this is how you deal with trolls. Now, maybe you don’t always have to respond with such length, but the message is important. Instead of ignoring trolls, or letting them draw you into an argument, just call them out. Click to read more.

Spoilers! for Mad Men Season 5 up to Episode 11!

Mad Men’s central character, Don Draper, used to be the coolest guy in the room. That may still be the case for the most part, but Season 5 has painted Don in a new light: the out-of-touch, middle-aged businessman. The generational gap has been a major running theme this season, embodied most clearly in the age gap between Don and his new wife, Megan. But while this theme has been played in the forefront, in the background we’ve seen a more subtle change in Don which came to a head in last night’s episode, “The Other Woman”.

In the past, Don Draper has been defined by his relationships with women. Specifically, Don has been the great philanderer. His approach to the women in his life has been primarily one of domineering, almost always sexually. Don controls the women in his life, or at least, he used to. The first break in this trend was marrying Megan. Not only are they far apart in age, but Megan represents the opposite of his previous wife, Betty. Where Betty was quiet and obedient, Megan is loud and upfront. Both characters often act like petulant children, but Betty usually displays this trait by being cold selfish. Megan is more primal, prone to lashing out in fits of rage. Don could control Betty. He can’t control Megan, and he doesn’t totally seem to want to. Part of what seems to appeal to him about their marriage is Megan’s unpredictability. She adds spice and vigor to his otherwise dry life. It’s not just Megan, though. Click to read more.

If there’s anything that last night’s episode of Girls proved, it’s that Judd Apatow‘s true home is television. The writer/producer/director is famous for The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, but his roots are in programs like The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show and Freaks and Geeks. Now, I love what Apatow has been exploring with film. He’s made some great movies himself, and though they’re flawed, films like Funny People are remarkably honest comedies. Girls, the show created by Lena Dunham, is Apatow’s first foray into TV since Undeclared in 2001. While Lena Dunham is clearly the creative mastermind behind the show, one look back at Tiny Furniture reveals a slightly different sensibility at work in her newest venture.

The most recent episode, ‘The Return’, makes it obvious that the Apatow style has bled into Dunham’s work. First of all, the episode lists Apatow as a co-writer, which is signal enough, but that also shines a light on Apatow’s influence as a producer on the rest of the series. While I did enjoy Tiny Furniture a good deal, it suffered from an overriding air of melancholy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it made the film feel like it was taking itself ever so slightly too seriously. Judd Apatow’s work has always had hints of melancholy, yet he always balanced that out with goofiness to bring out honesty in his characters instead of depressing self-indulgence. This is what he brings to Girls and it’s reminded me how much I’d love to see him make TV his focus again. Click to read more.

I’ve been light on posts lately, though I promise I’ll be picking up the pace soon. In the mean time, in lieu of actually writing new material I’ve decided to re-post a piece from my old site. Hope you enjoy it.

SPOILERS! for Shutter Island coming up!

Shutter Island was released in 2010 to positive audience response and the highest opening weekend box office of any Scorsese-directed feature. Strangely, the film barely got a pass from the critical community. Many commented on the impeccable filmmaking employed by Scorsese, but it seems that many also dismissed the film as a piece of genre fluff with a cheap twist ending. Unfortunately this dismissal ignores the incredibly deep character study at work in Shutter Island, and the twist is simply the key to unlocking our protagonist’s disturbed psychological state.

Some films require only one viewing to fully appreciate, but I propose that Shutter Island is not one of those films. It’s a film that uses first impressions to unnerve the audience and provide a thrilling ride through the noir genre. A quick look beyond first impressions, though, reveals a complex examination of the nature of violence, madness, monstrosity and guilt. In fact, there’s so much guilt present in Shutter Island it probably represents the ultimate Catholic nightmare. A first viewing is perfectly fine for entertainment, but a second viewing is necessary is to discover all the detail hidden in each moment of the film before the climactic twist. Click to read more.

Watching Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film I was left to think about the power and importance of film as a medium as well as art as a means of expression. The “film” is a documentary following a day in the life of Jafar Panahi while under house arrest for propaganda against the state of Iran. While the film certainly has political undertones it mostly explores the stress Panahi faces in not being able to make films and express himself through his art. But those political undertones are extremely important. They set the tone. The idea that even the making of this “film” could be an extreme risk for Panahi pervades every scene. In the background we can hear a steady stream of helicopters, gunfire and explosions, and most ominously those sounds intermingle with fireworks going off. There’s a persistent feeling that the good can lead to the bad and vice versa. It’s unsettling, but also intriguing.

In considering This Is Not a Film, which I had hoped to see for quite some time, I realized that the title is only half-joking. Sure, technically it’s a film. Even beyond the technical it’s a film; it features a structure, an interior context and a narrative of sorts. But really, it’s more of a document than anything else, which makes sense since it’s a documentary. It resembles something like memoir mixed with an article. I can certainly call This Is Not a Film great, and everyone with even a passing interest in the world around them should watch it. That being said, I have difficulty calling This Is Not a Film a “great film.” An odd distinction, I know, but I can’t help making it, and I think it stems from the inherent contradictions of the documentary format. Continue Reading…