Inside Llewyn Davis
"Inside Llewyn Davis" is the most satisfyingly diabolical cinematic structure that the Coens have ever contrived, and that's just one reason that I suspect it…
* 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.
Dan Callahan looks at the career of Alfre Woodard.
The logic of "stupid poor people"; the retrogression of "Boondock Saints"; Zizek and Chomsky documentaries; David Simon on "12 Years a Slave"; a case for theological studies.
The aesthetic politics of filming black skin; saving Memphis; a Richard Linklater retrospective; "Fisher King" commentary; bankrupting emergency care.
"12 Years a Slave" and "The Butler" are part of a valuable subgenre of American film that dramatizes the fallacy of "Black respectability"—the notion that if African-Americans will only speak, dress and behave in a certain way, discrimination won't affect them, and they'll reap the American dream.
Inside the Kenyan mall massacre; the death toll of acetaminophen; that heartwarming story of the pastor who posed as a homeless man is a fake; one person who's really glad that Breaking Bad is ending; ten great movies set in museums.
Marie writes: Last week, in response to a club member comment re: whatever happened to Ebert Club merchandize (turned out to be too costly to set up) I had promised to share a free toy instead - an amusement, really, offered to MailChimp clients; the mail service used to send out notices. Allow me to introduce you to their mascot...
The goodies are in! After a slow start, Sundance Film Festival 2013 has begun to offer real discoveries, even if the wait for that elusive game-changing masterpiece is by no means over. Still, there's stuff to enjoy in Park City and appetites seem pleasantly whetted.
On the subway, the beautiful woman returns his gaze with a smile. Noticing the desire of the man before her, she crosses her legs suggestively, indicating an awareness of what's happening while waiting for a more direct approach. Gradually, however, something occurs to her: the man is not smiling nor showing any sign that he's enjoying the pleasure of mutual seduction, seeming only interested in establishing the possibility of sex before making any move. Suddenly, the situation becomes unbearably uncomfortable and the girl, not understanding exactly what goes on his mind, runs out of the car, fearing the cool evaluation of that look.
Did somebody say "ambiguity"? I'm a big fan. Generally speaking, I much prefer movies with a little uncertainty, or a little emotional ambivalence, to those that spell everything out and tell me exactly how I should feel about it. Most of my favorite movies of 2011 thrive on ambiguity, open-endedness, a sense of the fluidity (or "slipperiness" as I like to call it) of time and space: "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," "Certified Copy," "Margaret," "Meek's Cutoff"... But sometimes resonant inconclusiveness slips into deliberate laziness, substituting opacity for meaning. And when that happens, it's a shame.
Or, as Ignatiy Vishnevetsky writes, sometimes it's "Shame," the movie by Steve McQueen starring Michael Fassbender and Carrie Mulligan:
... McQueen... opts to shroud the movie in vagueness. This goes beyond the characters--Fassbender as the barely-sketched lead, Mulligan as the generic broken woman (tellingly, her sex life is played as comedy while Fassbender's is played as grand tragedy), Beharie as the foil whose attraction to Fassbender is never explained--and their relationships; Shame is a Choose Your Own Meaning movie, full of blank spaces that a sympathetic viewer can fill with their own interpretations (this culminates in a lengthy sex scene between Fassbender and two women, with Fassbender's facial expression serving as a sort of Rorschach blot).
It's smart filmmaking--and also totally duplicitous and self-serving, the arthouse craftsmanship nearly hiding the film's middle-brow triteness (see also: I Am Love), every scene ladled with big dollops of cinema's most respectable cop-out: ambiguity. When McQueen isn't marking time with exercises in post-slow-cinema aesthetics (as in the long tracking shot of Fassbender sternly jogging to his bitchin' Glenn Gould playlist), he elides and defers. Shame wears its emptiness like a badge of honor; McQueen is trying for banal blankness, and though he succeeds in that respect, you kind of wish that a filmmaker (and one with a background as an artist at that) would aspire to do more than just say nothing.
Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.
My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won't be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.
One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.
Over the last ten days or so I have been serially obsessed with "A Dangerous Method," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Margaret," "Moneyball," "A Separation" -- and I haven't had time to really devote myself to following these obsessions because I must get to the next movie on my end-of-year "must-see" list, which grows and mutates by the day. Of course, I never do make it to all of them by my deadlines, but between Thanksgiving and mid-December, those of us who whip up those inevitable year-end ten-best lists of movies and who participate in film critics' polls and/or awards balloting feel a little like those wretched souls at Wal-Mart on Black Friday (or is it Black Thursday now?), busting down doors to get to screenings and screeners so we can see and evaluate everything in the rush before voting day.
It's a joy to have these opportunities to see new stuff that might not be released in many cities until late December or sometime in 2012, and to catch up with things that slipped by earlier in the year. But ithe pressure to evaluate everything in "ten best" terms, rather than just watching the movies and thinking about them and writing about them and considering "listworthyness" later on, can also be frustrating. Especially while award-bestowers -- I'm talking about you, New York Film Critics Circle -- have moved their year's-best announcements earlier and earlier (right after Thanksgiving weekend!). So, even as I'm watching things, they're being honored or ignored in various quarters.
Marie writes: Did you know that the world's steepest roller-coaster is the Takabisha, which opened earlier this year at the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Yamanash, Japan? The ride lasts just 112 seconds but is packed with exciting features including seven twists, blackened tunnels and a 43m-high peak. But the most impressive thing about Takabisha is the 121 degree free-fall, so steep that it's been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the steepest roller-coaster made from steel!
Marie writes: It occurred to me that I've never actually told members about the Old Vic Tunnels. Instead, I've shared news of various exhibits held inside them, like the recent Minotaur. So I'm going to fix that and take you on a tour! (click image to enlarge.)
Lesson for the day: How to have fun while wasting time... Marie writes: welcome to DRAW A STICK MAN, a delightful Flash-based site prompting viewers to draw a simple stick figure which then comes to life! Ie: the program animates it. You're given instructions about what to draw and when, which your dude uses to interact with objects onscreen. Thanks go to club member Sandy Kahn who heard about it from her pal Lauren, in Portland Oregon.Note: here's a screen-cap of what I drew; I've named him Pumpkin Head.
Marie writes: the following moment of happiness is brought to you by the glorious Tilda Swinton, who recently sent the Grand Poobah a photo of herself taken on her farm in Scotland, holding a batch of English Springer puppies!
There exist in this sometimes sad world, moments that remind you that you are alive.
You know these moments well. Blood rushes from your toes to your cheeks. Or from your cheeks to your toes. Either way you are made aware of its movement.
A great energy is felt in your jaw and in the ends of each strand of hair. Your fingers curl. Your hands turn into fists or claws. Everything is hot. You shudder violently (the energy must be flung off or you will be eaten alive).
He is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure. Ron Galella, the best known of all paparazzi, lost a lawsuit to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and five teeth to Marlon Brando, but he also captured many of the iconic photographs of his era. At 77, he is still active, making the drive from his New Jersey home and his pet bunny rabbits through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, the prime grazing land of his prey.
I had an idea, as many of us do, about Gallela and the species of paparazzi. It was a hypocritical idea. I disapproved of him and enjoyed his work. Yes, he comes close to violating the rights of public people, and sometimes crosses the line. He certainly crossed the line with Jackie's children.
NEW YORK (AP) — The Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker” added to its award-season momentum, winning best film from the New York Film Critics Circle.
I just can't get my mind off of Jason Reitman's pie chart. It rings such a bell. The director of "Up in the Air" has been keeping record of the standard questions he's been asked over and over again during his current national publicity tour.
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:
A few weeks ago, the Hollywood trades were observing (or complaining) that, because of the 2008 presidential election, all the big studio Oscar-bait films had been pushed back into December. I mean, how are mere movies going to compete with that cast? "Obama. Biden. McCain. And Sarah Palin as Jaws."
Last year's Oscar-winner, "No Country for Old Men," played the Toronto Film Festival in early September, the New York Film Festival in early October, and began opening around the country November 9. The critics groups split between "NCFOM" (NY) and "There Will Be Blood" (LA, National Society), which was a 2008 release in much of the country.
This year, it's anybody's guess. "Slumdog Millionaire"? "Milk"? "WALL-E"? Something that hasn't won a critical consensus honor yet? (Right now my hunch is that the National Society of Film Critics will wind up going for either "The Wrestler" or "Wendy and Lucy." Just a hunch.)
UPDATE: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, bestower of the Golden Globules, has announced its nominations... and even with a total of ten best picture slots (in Drama and Comedy/Musical categories) it overlooked "Milk," "The Wrestler" and "The Dark Knight," all of which seem to me like fairly obvious Globuley-Oscary pictures. Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke and Heath Ledger all got acting nods, though. Go fig.
There will be lots to see between now and New Year's Eve -- and I still haven't caught up with "Milk," "Happy-Go-Lucky," "I Loved You So Long," "Ballast," "Rachel Getting Married," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" -- all of which have already opened theatrically. Still to come: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Nixon/Frost," "Revolutionary Road," "The Reader," "The Wrestler," "Doubt," "Seven Pounds"... none of which, however, have made much of an impact with critics groups.
The East Coast and West Coast critics have agreed on a few things here and there: Sean Penn in "Milk," Sally Hawkins in "Happy-Go-Lucky," Penelope Cruz in "Vicki Cristina Barcelona," "Man on Wire" for documentary, but... well, see for yourself:
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Picture: "WALL-E" Runner-up: "The Dark Knight"
Foreign language film: "Still Life" Runner-up: "The Class"
Documentary film: "Man on Wire" Runner-up: "Waltz With Bashir"
Animated film: "Waltz With Bashir"
Paul Newman, a sublime actor and a good man, is dead at 83. The movie legend died Friday at his home in Connecticut, a family spokeswoman said. The cause of death was lung cancer. Newman reportedly told his family he chose to die at home.
By Roger Ebert
"The war is over. The revolution has just begun." -- Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro), after Cuban guerillas have overthrown Batista's dictatorial regime on New Year's Day, 1959, in "Che"
Even without titles or credits, the running time of the gorgeous digital print of Steven Soderberg's "Che" that screened at the Toronto Film Festival was listed as 261minutes (that's four hours and 21 minutes for those of you without calculators). The working title for the epic was "Guerilla," then "Che," and despite Benicio Del Toro's fully-lived performance as Che Guevara, a more suitable title might be "Revolutions." Because this doesn't feel so much like a biopic as a documentary portrait of the recipes for political revolutions, successful and failed, in Cuba and Bolivia. The titles may rhyme, but nobody's going to mistake "Che" for "Ray."
View image "Dirty Harry" (1971). This poster design wasn't actually used for the original release, though Critic Gary Giddins noted that this was the "DH" poster on display in Eastwood's Malpaso office in 1988. Typeface: Is that a Helvetica font?
In celebration of the DVD release of David Fincher's Director's Cut of "Zodiac" (only a few minutes longer -- I'm not sure what has been changed or added see below), here's a scripted scene, from an undated draft, that you won't find in any version of the movie: INT. MOVIE THEATER -- NIGHT
Graysmith and Toschi sit in the dark while "Dirty Harry" unspools on the screen in front of them.
MOVIE POLICE CAPTAIN (O.S.) He calls himself the Scorpio Killer. From what we understand, he's planning on targeting a school bus full of children.
CLINT EASTWOOD (O.S.) That's not gonna happen.
THE AUDIENCE around Graysmith and Toschi burst into APPLAUSE.
ON SCREEN -- The final scene. Clint has cornered the SCORPIO KILLER. Holding his Magnum .44 on him.
CLINT EASTWOOD (CONT'D) ... maybe I fired five bullets, maybe I fired six. In all the confusion, I lost count. So the only question is, do you feel lucky? Do you? Punk?
A beat. Apparently the Scorpio Killer feels lucky and goes for his gun. Clint blows his head off.
People cheer again. Graysmith and Toschi exchange a look...
And then BURST OUT HYSTERICALLY LAUGHING. At the absurdity of it all. They get some looks, but that only makes them laugh harder. They can't stop. Doubled over. Tears run down their faces. A release of all the built up tension... What a beautiful, ambiguous scene. I wonder if they could have made it work on film without having to spell it out.
In "Zodiac" itself, Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) goes into the lobby for a smoke, and Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) approaches him for the first time. He shyly introduces himself and, awkwardly, tells Toschi how the movie ended. Toschi makes a defensive remark along the lines of, "So much for due process..." The movie (like "No Country for Old Men") never allows its characters or its audience even a vicarious catharsis. It's all about not knowing -- and having to live with the knowledge of not knowing...
UPDATE: 1 Day Later: January 9, 2008: Please see Zac's comment below for exact notations on the differences between the theatrical and director's cuts of "Zodiac." (I cannot imagine a more fitting response to the movie than this kind of detective work!)
Also: In Fincher's commentary on his movie's "Dirty Harry" scene, he says that Toschi (on whom Steve McQueen modeled his performance in 1968's "Bullitt") was "amused" at the Hollywood take on Zodiac, and that people began to say things to him like, "Guess Dirty Harry solved your case!" Fincher suggests maybe the Eastwood movie provided a kind of artificial closure for the public that they would never get in life, and that perhaps they began to lose interest in Zodiac afterwards because of it. (Four "Dirty Harry" sequels were released between 1973 ("Magnum Force"] and 1988 ["The Dead Pool"].) Fincher recalls that, as he and his family were moving away from the Marin area in 1976 (when he was about 13 or 14), he wondered if they'd ever caught the Zodiac.
As Mr. Peel observes below, Eastwood's voice and likeness are conspicuously absent from "Zodiac." Even a shot of the standee in the lobby is chopped at the neck.