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Zoolander 2

I laughed so much my wife thought I was going to have a stroke.

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Deadpool

Deadpool is a fun character, but he’s still in search of a fun movie to match his larger-than-life personality.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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The Arikan Agenda: The Best Films of 2011

A few weeks ago on Facebook -- that sly keeper of family secrets, whose memory seems to have increased incrementally with its new Timeline mumbo-jumbo -- an actor of some repute posted a list of the best Twitter accounts of 2011, as compiled by a wholly forgettable outlet. He had been placed relatively highly, and someone commented that it was a very subjective list. Apart from the fact that taking issue with "a list of the best Twitter accounts of 2011, lol" is by definition absurd, the statement presented a logical fallacy (I am fully aware of the irony of regarding a throwaway Facebook comment in such depth). All lists are subjective: that's why they're lists. Nonetheless, this fairly simple fact gets lost in the year-end frenzy as interested parties start calling for the list-maker's head, like angry villagers wielding pitchforks, if and when their favoured books, albums, films, etc fail to place on a given critic's compilation of the year's best.

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Lives across a great divide

May Contain Spoilers

Lawrence Kasdan's "Grand Canyon" didn't make a splash when it opened here in Mexico, and it's not the kind of feature that's ever shown on our TV, so hardly anybody I know has even heard about it. It's not an easy movie to describe. When people ask me about its subject, I say something like "It's about a group of people from Los Angeles living in despair who end up feeling better when they all get together and visit the Grand Canyon." Most of them seem to loose interest but the response of those who do see it is mostly overwhelming.

Watching "The Tree of Life" brought "Grand Canyon" to mind. The films couldn't be more different, but both deal with a search for a deeper meaning in our existence-- a sense of helplessness in trying to place ourselves in the grand scheme of things. They also lack defined plots or conventional structures.

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Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

May Contain Spoilers

To anyone who wants to watch an offbeat movie for the upcoming holiday season, "Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale" can be a nice mixed bag full of the goodies to be appreciated. The movie is a dark, amusing horror fantasy with Santa Claus as a malevolent supernatural entity far different from the one we are familiar with. He surely knows whether you are naughty or not, but, instead of giving a present to you, he will punish you if he thinks you are naughty, and his punishment will not be merely shoving coal in your stocking. I have no clear idea about what exactly he can do to those poor naughty'children put into sacks, but I guess he is as savage as that murderous Robot Santa in the TV animation series "Futurama," one of whose memorable lines is "I'm going to tear off your skin like wrapping paper and deck the hall with your guts!"

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Salvation by Slugfest

May Contain Spoilers

Religion takes you from darkness into light, and David Fincher's deeply religious "Fight Club" grows darker and darker still. Here, piety is anarchy; anarchy is destruction; self-destruction is ecstasy. It plays whimsical department store music while its broken shark teeth chew at you. Its sound, consistent plot leads straight to an abrasive, perhaps annoying schizophrenia. It is the Bodhisattva, Satyagraha, and the Masnavi mashed up and played backwards with the wrong device. This movie is the anti-movie, and it enjoys every moment of it.

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Swimming an ocean of emotions

May Contain Spoilers

There are some American suburbs that are notorious for their high concentration of high powered parents who excel in their high class careers, spare no expense in raising precisely crafted children, and in the process completely abandon themselves, their spouses, and their children. That is one level of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants." This is such a rich movie that I'll have to watch it a few times to fairly appreciate all of its layers.

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Our neighbors the sociopaths

May Contain Spoilers

While revisiting David Michôd's "Animal Kingdom" (2010), I wondered what it was like for its passive teenager hero to live with his heroin addict mother at their small home. We can only assume that she definitely could not get the Mother of the Year award, considering the mundane but eerie opening sequence. It's around afternoon, and her son is watching some TV show, and she seems to be asleep next to him on couch - but we soon learn she died from an overdose.

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I'm with the Gleaners

May Contain Spoilers

The Internet is a nit-picky place, so I'm going to put it out there right away: I'm no linguist. But I've been bilingual since birth, and I also learned Italian, German and Spanish along the way. That's why it's always fascinated me how languages can be so functionally distinct.

I noticed that in Latin languages, nouns tend to describe what a thing is, while Germanic languages likely tell you what it does. A great example is the French word for skunk, "mouffette," which recalls the creature's billowing tail with "mouffe" and denotes its small size with "ette." Compare it to the German equivalent, "Stinktier," which literally means stinky animal.

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A man who lives between Here and There

May Contain Spoilers

Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Biutiful" was utter torture, and I loved it. Javier Bardem is Uxbal, a soft-spoken man living somewhere along the border between Here and There. He gently hides from life in some anonymous place in crowded, noisy Barcelona. He is a hustler, compassionately exploiting families of undocumented refugees from other lands, protecting them from deportation. He is a telepath, speaking to the newly deceased, helping free their crossing to the next world. He is a son who hardly knew his father, and a father seeking to nurture his own little daughter and son against the pull of an unpredictable ex-wife and an irresponsible brother. But, what does he seek?

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"United 93:" What came before "Let's roll!"

May Contain Spoilers

Based on the current trends in Hollywood films, we tend to think of the movie industry as some sort of giant Business Corporation, with board rooms all over town constantly analyzing projection charts and planning the next sequel to another obscure comic-book hero flick (in 3-D). Then five years ago "United 93" came along and defied most of the usual reasons for a film to be produced in the first place. It surely wasn't made with the idea of losing money but you could anticipate this wasn't going to be your typical drama/action-adventure movie (or a blockbuster for that matter). It was never even going to help sell great amounts of movie candy (though I can recall attending a screening of "The Passion of the Christ" years ago, and seeing people entering the theater with the usual giant containers of popcorn and soda, so I guess some moviegoers can eat through anything). We knew beforehand that "United 93" would be tackling a difficult subject worthy of scrutinizing, after watching it we come to understand this was one of those few "necessary" films.

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Extinguishing the Ecstasy of Anger

May Contain Spoilers

Describing Steve James' "The Interrupters," I might sound like I'm talking about some dry public heath study. The centerpiece of the film is a profound theory on human nature. Science and philosophy aside, "The Interrupters" is the closest thing to a real-life superhero origins story that any of us might ever experience. This film is exactly that: a superhero origins documentary. It might be the most powerful movie I have ever seen.

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