Archive for the 'film' Category

Superfantastic 'Inglourious Basterds' Review at The Auteurs

Fairy tale from the start, complete with a little big bad wolf (or hawk, as it is) sent to blow a house down, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is, as should be expected, of the Grimm lineage: crass and bloody and tragic and funny, at most events twisted. It opens with a smack-you-scatty pointer title card, “Once Upon a Time In Nazi-Occupied France,” to tell us Tarantino sees World War II as just another Leone epic, maybe, with better dialog; another vaguely cartoon setting to pile on film references and cruelty, with little regard for real world historical accuracy. Our auteurist auteur favors the faith that the cinema is its own history. —Ryland Walker Knight

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I have to watch all of Tarantino's movies again now.

Saw Inglourious Basterds last night and it made me wish I’d paid more attention to all of Quentin Tarantino’s other films instead of always being like, “YEAH, Tarantino, good, but not my shit” because Inglourious Basterds is so my shit. It’s split into chapters, the first of which has a subtitle of “Once upon a time…” Having read nothing about it before going in, I scribbled excitedly in my notebook, “fairy tale?” And yes, it’s a fairy tale. The moral of it would be “guard your imaginations (and your cinema).” It’s about “killing Nazis,” of course, but it’s just as much about cinema itself. The latest propaganda film, Nation’s Pride, from Hitler’s second in command Joseph Goebbels (the real filmmaker and Propaganda Minister under Hitler), provides the narrative’s drive from the middle to the end, making quite clear for anyone who didn’t have the chance to study Third Reich cinema in college the utter seriousness with which it was treated. The Basterds—a group of Jewish-American soldiers who use guerilla tactics to kill Nazi soldiers—are, in the film, avenging the presence of Nazis and Hitler in our imaginations, completely breaking them either physically or mentally. Brad Pitt’s Aldo the Apache is the kind of American character Americans love (unapologetically brash and badass, with a hint of anti-intellectualism) and you will fall for it on a giddy, visceral level. But the SS officer Hans Lander who is Aldo’s opposite—a prim polyglot who treats “Jew hunting” as simply an occupation at which he is very, very skilled—is also extremely pleasurable to watch.

It’s the smartest, most entertaining movie I’ve seen this year and I see a lot of fucking movies. I’d say more but I don’t want to spoil anything big for anyone because I assume you’re going to go see it right now.

A review of Tetro that truly gives it its due at The House Next Door. I plan to see it again when it comes to the Cinema Arts Centre.

Wringing My Hands Over a Movie I Wanted to Love

Gallo, Ehrenreich

Gallo, Ehrenreich

Francis Ford Coppola’s second film of the decade, Tetro, offers much in the way of visuals and star-gazing, but the story—which could have been a compelling tale of resentment in a family of artists—disintegrates into something you’d expect from a Lifetime movie. Walking out, I was stunned by its resolution, and have spent a few days trying to see a larger picture in which it makes sense. I’ve got nothing.

It’s worth seeing, though, for its virtuosic direction and humorous moments, which are exceptionally true-to-life and beautiful. You’ll wish there were more of those, that it had been a simple story rather than a reach for something grand. The use of retro fashions in a contemporary setting to underscore the timelessness of the theme of familial power struggles is also wonderful (I loved this about another recent film about blood bonds, The Brothers Bloom, too).

The most engaging part of this movie is the acting, as it stars people we don’t often see and a couple of brilliant new faces. Vincent Gallo (the only name billed on the poster, which really amuses me) has many detractors: I am not one of them. I once wrote 8 pages off the top of my head on his directorial vision. The part of Tetro—a writer tortured by an overbearing father—is perfect for him, and a great opportunity for him to enter back into the cultural consciousness after a few years of obscurity post-The Brown Bunny (his H&M ad campaign is another such chance). Does anyone do neurotic, irritable, hypersensitive, aloof, and totally lovable like him? Don’t think so. Maribel Verdú, usually in all-Spanish films, is charming in the somewhat whimsical role of Miranda, Tetro’s girlfriend and former psychiatrist. Rodrigo De la Sarna of The Motorcycle Diaries is hilarious in the minor role of Tetro’s affable friend Jose. Much has been said about the performance of Alden Ehrenreich as Bennie, Tetro’s younger brother, and it is all true. Bennie’s vulnerability shines through even when he has found some success, and you never question whether anything is more important to him than Tetro’s love. It is his ability to portray this about the character throughout his experiences in the film that almost makes the conclusion sensible. Almost.

I will probably go on for a few more days hoping to magically have a better opinion of the movie, because it really is gorgeous and I can always appreciate the vision of an auteur, but for now I’m still sighing and scratching my head.

Examined Life Further Examined

from The New Press

from The New Press

Examined Life, directed by Astra Taylor (who also made 2005’s Žižek!, one of my favorites) is easily one of the best things I’ve seen this year. In it, eight philosophers respond to Socrates’ statement that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Its companion book is now out, and I believe it includes the full transcripts of the philosophers’ discussions that were cut down to 10-minute segments in the film. Are you as pumped as I am?

If you’re still into magazines (and I admit, I felt a little ridiculous purchasing one), Astra Taylor is in the summer issue of Venus Zine, with fellow refreshingly atypical ladymag-lady Ximena Sariñana on the cover.

Below the fold is my review of the film.

Continue reading ‘Examined Life Further Examined’

GO SEE 'SUGAR'!

sugarImmediate reaction:

It is a gorgeous, delicate film that will break your heart and make you very upset with Major League Baseball’s exploitation of (specifically) Domincan baseball players. Apparently, every team has an “academy” in the Dominican Republic where players go to try to make it to the United States. The only English they are taught has to do directly with baseball, and they’re given no grammatical context that could help them communicate effectively off the field. Sugar’s experience is contrasted with that of an American player who was drafted out of Stanford, and another older Dominican player, Jorge. After Jorge is released, Sugar says he’s “not a horse,” that they should allow him time for his injury to heal, and that’s the turning point. They both find community in the end, but what’s so fucked up is how difficult Sugar’s road was despite the fact that all along, he was playing a game, and one he loved. Algenis Perez Soto, who wasn’t an actor prior to being cast by chance, played the part perfectly. Shy, trapped (by many forces), but determined—everything was there, all at once.

Music is used in my favorite cinematic way, in which action continues silently as it plays over, seemingly out of sync with the action but always enriching the subtext. There is a Spanish version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in it that I absolutely must have, and TV on the Radio has their own big scene. It kind of comes off as a plug for them, yet that doesn’t diminish its relevance.

The writers/directors were Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, who also did Half Nelson. I wasn’t a big fan of that one (unbelievable, somewhat dull, didn’t go anywhere), but every aspect of this film was dead on.