300: Rise of an Empire
In comparison with "300", this insane film is more engaging by dint of being absolutely impossible to take even a little bit seriously.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
Missing Roger's Oscars prognostications and his top ten lists. And making a list of my own.
Tony Leung discusses his preparation for the role of the most famous martial arts master of the 20th century in Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster."
Susan Wloszczyna wonders if women at the helm might be just the thing to revitalize the foundering, repetitive comic-book movie genre.
Ben Kenigsberg makes his predictions for Sunday night's Cannes awards.
Power is rarely discussed at Cannes, and it’s ostensibly all about art, although careers can hang on critics’ approval, and whether films are sold here, and to how many regions of the world. The annual jury press conference on the opening day is the first and foremost love-fest in which the concept of competition is downplayed and jurors find novel ways to sidestep the question of comparing one film to another in order to award the Palme d’Or in ten days.
Ben Kenigsberg looks forward to the parallel programs at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
This year's Outguess Ebert contest seems a little like shooting fish in a barrel. For the first time in many a year, maybe ever, I think I've guessed every one correctly.A few years ago, I came across an article about the newly identified psychological concept of Elevation. Scientists claim it is as real as love or fear. It describes a state in which we feel unreasonable joy; you know, like when you sit quiet and still and tingles run up and down your back, and you think things can never get any better.
I tried applying it to that year's Oscar nominees. Did it work any better than any other approach? You need Elevating nominees. An example of Elevation would be when the bone morphs into a space station in "2001." Did I feel Elevation in making any of my Guesses this year. That doesn't mean it was a bad year at the movies. Harvey Weinstein, accepting his achievement award from the Producers' Guild, said he thought 2012 was the best in 90 years. Maybe he felt Elevation when he gazed upon the Weinstein Company's box office figures.
Lust. Caution. Lust, Caution. Lust...Caution.
The English name of Ang Lee's 2007 film consists of two words. Taken separately, they stand alone as individual concepts: Lust, a primal, human urge; Caution, an evolved, societal tool. Put them side-by-side, and contrast emerges: primal versus evolved, individual versus society, incongruent. Poke a little hole in the membrane that separates the two, and dynamics shift. Lust surges in the face of Caution. Caution stares right back, coolly, unflinching.
I walked into "Life of Pi" with extremely high expectations. After all, Ang Lee is a masterful director who helmed two of the greatest modern love stories in film. The trailers assured me that it was a must-see for the visuals alone, and then a friend said that it would transform me to another world through groundbreaking use of cinematography to manipulate the membrane of water. I walked in expecting the greatest use of 3D in film history; I walked out with much more.
With the 2013 Oscarcast moved up to Feb. 24, movie fans are already in a lather over the possible nominees, especially since again this year there can be "up to" ten finalists in the Best Picture category. I claim no inside knowledge (I'm still waiting to hear from my friend Deep Oscar), but it's never too early to speculate.
Ang Lee's allegorical "The Life of Pi" (2012) is a film to appreciate slowly and carefully. It is a friendly post-modern, global fantasy, making the "Wizard of Oz" seem like a clunky product from a nation that now only exists in triumphalist superhero fables as it fights mercilessly for its final gasps of air. This is a smart film, the most intelligent meditation on religion in quite some time. Lee's masterful direction fills us with dramatic, wonderful visuals, and the type of relentless unpredictability we starve for as we wade through the usual zombie-like assortment of formulaic blockbuster crime movies.
Again this week, I'm double-posting a major review to permit your comments, which my main site can't accept--although they'll be added to our redesign, soon to be unveiled.
Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" is a miraculous achievement of storytelling and a landmark of visual mastery. Inspired by a worldwide best-seller that many readers must have assumed was unfilmable, it is a triumph over its difficulties. It is also a moving spiritual achievement, a movie whose title could have been shortened to "life."
"This is the best use of 3-D I've ever seen," I say to Ang Lee. And I mean it. His "Life of Pi," based on Yann Martel's novel about a shipwrecked boy, is an astonishment, not least because it never uses 3-D for its effect, but instead as a framing device for the story as a whole. There are, for example, shots where the point of view is below the sea's surface, looking up at the boat and into the sky beyond. The surface of the sea seems to be an invisible membrane between the water and the air. I've never seen anything like it.
Marie writes: When I first learned of "Royal de Luxe" I let out a squeal of pure delight and immediately began building giant puppets inside my head, trying to imagine how it would look to see a whale or dragon moving down the street..."Based in Nantes, France, the street theatre company Royal de Luxe performs around the world, primarily using gigantic, elaborate marionettes to tell stories that take place over several days and wind through entire cities. Puppeteers maneuver the huge marionettes - some as tall as 12 meters (40 ft) - through streets, parks, and waterways, performing their story along the way." - the Atlantic
(Click images to enlarge.)
Marie writes: It's no secret that most Corporations are evil - or at the very least, suck big time. And while I have no actual proof, I'm fairly certain there is a special level of Dante's Hell reserved just for them. (Map of Dante's Hell.)That being the case, when my younger brother Paul wrote me about a cool project sponsored by Volkswagen, I was understandably wary and ready to denounce it sight-unseen as self-serving Corporate shyte. As luck would have it however, I was blessed at birth with curiosity and which got the better of me and why I took a look. For what I found was nothing less than extraordinary....
I love the Dark Knight Trilogy for one simple reason: it gave me the permission that I didn't know I was looking for to dislike all the rest of the Superhero movies. The high point of my dislike came in the highly ambitious "The Avengers" of this past summer. Don't get the wrong idea: as far as superhero movies go, it is one of the best, or at least it is one of the biggest. But something was wrong. It suffers from the same thing that the whole genre has suffered from. First and foremost, we are watching a bunch of costumed adults pretending that they're children in an expensive suburban Daycare. Second, the genre has otherwise exhausted itself to the point of exciting ritual. Third, the movies in the Dark Knight trilogy are solid and smart entertainment (though not without their flaws).
Marie writes: As I'm sure readers are aware, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are now underway! Meanwhile, the opening ceremony by Danny Boyle continues to solicit comments; both for against. (Click image to enlarge.)
Marie writes: Behold a truly inspired idea...Age 8: Eileen's pink creature It started with a simple idea: to make a recognizable comfort toy for her 4 year-old son Dani, based on one of his drawing. His school had asked the children to bring in a toy from home; an emergency measure in the event of a tantrum or crying fit. Fearing he might lose his favorite, Wendy Tsao decided to make Dani a new one. Using a drawing he often made as her guide, she improvised a plush toy snowman. Five years later, Wendy Tsao has her own thriving home-based craft business - Child's Own Studio - in which she transforms the imaginative drawings of children into plush and cloth dolls; each one handcrafted and one-of-a-kind. She receives requests from parents all over the world; there's 500 people on waiting list. Note: kudos to club member Sandy Kahn for submitting the piece.
What's the last great love story you've seen on film? I don't mean your typical "rom-coms" with contrived meet-cutes that rely heavily on celebrity star power. I'm talking about a genuine romance between two richly defined characters. If your mind draws a blank, you're not alone. Hollywood, along with much of the filmmaking world, seems to have either forgotten how to portray love affairs in ways that once made us swoon. Whatever the reason, be it due to our changing times or priorities, we might not see any significant ones for some time.
If I had my piece on "Thor" to write over again, I think it would be more bemused and whimsical. My tone was off. I brought too much anger to a trivial entertainment. When I described it as "a desolate vastation," I went perhaps one hyperbole too far.
I try to use a generic approach in my reviews. I approach a movie with some idea of their intention and the expectation of their target audience. I compared "Thor" to other movies based on comic book heroes, and found it lacking. But it doesn't really intend to be good in the sense that "The Dark Knight" or "Spider-Man II" are good. It's pitched at the level of a children's movie, although the expensive scope of the production tends to conceal that.
Critical polls conducted by Film Comment, indieWIRE, the Village Voice/LA Weekly, Cahiers du Cinéma and now the Los Angeles Film Critics Association have all chosen David Lynch's 2001 "Mulholland Dr." as the best movie of the decade.
UPDATE 2/12/10: The Muriels and Slant Magazine also choose "Mulholland Dr." as best of the Aughts.
Full list below...
Justin Chang writes at LAFCA.net:
Call us provincial -- David Lynch's psychoerotic noir is one of the essential L.A. movies -- but the more significant reason for the film's enduring critical favor may be its deconstruction of the toxic allure of the Dream Factory. "Mulholland Dr." projects an ambivalence toward Hollywood with which almost any critic can identify: Moving images have the power to seduce and move us, but many of them are the products of a system that routinely turns dreams into nightmares and artists into meat. Famously salvaged from a rejected TV pilot, Lynch's film stands as both a cautionary tale and a mascot for the triumph of art and personal vision in an industry that, from where we sit, often seems actively devoted to the suppression of both. [...]
Yes it is, I'm afraid. Or almost. Good grief, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet and they've already got the festive "Best Of" decorations up in the stores! And I know lots of critics who've been told by their editors to start working on their big '00s lists -- so, reluctantly, I've begun to ponder mine, as well. I haven't even taken a first stab at it but I can tell you this: It will probably not resemble the Top 100 list published a few days ago in the Times of London. Oh, sure, I can conceive of putting together some kind of list that includes "Crash" (#98), "Bowling for Columbine" (#77), "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (#28), "Slumdog Millionaire" (#6) and the like -- but such a ranking would not be comprised of movies that I hold in high esteem. (Have any of the decades' movies plummeted in reputation more dramatically than "Columbine" and "Crash"?)
If you want to page through the Times' list, you can go ahead and start here. It's not all so bad. Meanwhile, here are the top 20 -- with links to things I've written about some of the titles:
"As a sequence is being cut, the cutter should know where a particular setup most effectively presents the information needed for that particular part of the scene. In other words, he will stay with the shot as long as that shot is the one which best delivers the required information and cut to another shot only when the new cut will better serve the purposes of the scene, whether because the size is more effective, the composition is more suitable, or the interpretation is superior.... In short, as long as the scene is playing at its best in the selected angle, leave it alone!" -- veteran Hollywood director Edward Dmytryk ("Murder, My Sweet," "Crossfire," "The Caine Mutiny"), On Film Editing (1984)
Steven Boone at Big Media Vandalism says he gave up on film criticism (for the fourth or fifth time) this year:
I quit film criticism because somebody has banished the shot from mainstream commercial cinema.
The shot, man.
That unit of film composition which lends film its cumulative power and structural integrity.
In place of the shot, like a leaky sandbag in place of a brick, somebody put... Well, what to call it, this fragment of film that has more in common with a spontaneous cutaway during Monday Night Football than with the ruminative, kinetic moving image discovered by Kuleshov, Porter, Griffith, et al? I once jokingly called it a gotcha-fragment, but that doesn't quite get it. The word for "shot" in the new century shall be...
Now I understand why Cannes 2009 opened with Pixar's "Up." They knew what was coming. Has there ever been a more violent group of films in the Official Selection? More negative about humanity? More despairing? With a greater variety of gruesome, sadistic, perverted acts? You know you're in deep water when the genuinely funniest film in the festival is by a Palestinian in today's Israel, whose material includes a firing squad, a mother with Alzheimers, and a hero with dark circles under his eyes who never utters a single word.
And most of these films were not over quickly. Not that there's something wrong with a film running over the invisible 120-minute finish line, if it needs to, and is a good film. I regret that not all the 21 films in this year's selection were good. And that's not just me. The daily critics' panel for Le Film Francais was as negative as I've seen it, even giving a pas de tout ("worthless") to a film I would defend, von Trier's extreme but courageous "Antichrist."
In the past I have felt the elation of discovery at Cannes, seeing for the first time films like Kielowski's "Red," Lee's "Do the Right Thing," Coppola's "Apocalypse Now," Spielberg's "E.T."--and premieres by Kurosawa, Fellini, Bergman, Chen Keige, Fassbinder, Altman, Herzog, Scorsese. Titans bestrode the earth in those days. This year the only ecstatic giants, love them or hate them, were Lars von Trier and Quentin Tarantino.