Monday, September 15, 2014

The Forgotten, Misunderstood Horror of The Keep

F. Paul Wilson, the author of the novel from which Michael Mann's The Keep (1983) was adapted, has said that the film is "visually intriguing, but otherwise utterly incomprehensible." Normally I believe there's little value in asking authors what they think about movies which their books inspired (Stephen King famously criticized Kubrick's The Shining, later going on to make his own far inferior adaptation), but in this case Wilson is absolutely right. Whatever other beauty The Keep might contain—and I happen to think there's quite a lot—at the narrative level it makes very little sense. But that's not as important as you might think.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Place Beyond the Pines & Frustrated Expectations


Expectations are annoying. This is going to be one of those weird reviews where I really liked the film, but no matter how much editing I do, my tone is going to sound disappointed because my expectations were too high. I really liked The Place Beyond the Pines. It was good. It just wasn't as good as I thought it would be.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Michael Mann's Collateral & Digital Cinematography


Can I just be honest? I don't really know a lot about film. I may talk big about the depths of thematic development or the meaning of cinematic style, but like the rest of us I'm just making it up as I go. But if there's one thing I know for sure about movies it's that I prefer film over digital (background info). I think digital filmmaking is good for little more than lowering costs. I love film stock. Sure, some of that love comes from the romantic part of me clinging to the nostalgic notion that it's somehow more "authentic" or "genuine," but there are objective reasons film stock is better looking than digital video. Higher color saturation. Higher resolution. I know which theaters around me haven't converted to digital projection and make an effort to visit them whenever possible. But every rule must have its exceptions.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

TMNT 2014: Leaving Michael Bay's Legacy Behind


We're all familiar with Michael Bay by now. Whether you like his movies or not, we can all agree on the blueprint he uses to make them. So while Bay wasn't technically sitting in the director's chair for this Turtles installment, his producing credit plastered all over its advertisements gave me the distinct impression that it would be using the same outlines even if it colored them in differently. And it is from this precise position I can say that, even with its abundance of problems, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a pleasant surprise.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Boyhood: The Growing Legacy of the 21st Century


Boyhood is the latest film from Richard Linklater, the director behind the critically acclaimed Before trilogy. It is most well known for its impressive production design: the film was shot over the course of 12 years with the same set of actors, allowing us to see their characters grow up along with the actors portraying them. But beyond its technically impressive accomplishment, the film is also exceptionally emotional and intelligent. It's a movie that both brought me back to my childhood and got my thinking about what defines our generation. It is an accomplishment which all audiences ought to be able to enjoy.

Popular Perceptions of Racism in Hollywood


So here's a thing that bothers me: racism. And not just its existence in the world, but slightly more relevant to today's discussion, the discourses surrounding Hollywood and its portrayal of race. Several times a year, some stupid movie will come out where a nonwhite setting will be populated by white characters or nonwhite characters will be cast with white actors. This is a pretty obviously negative tendency. It is generally a bad thing. But what gets me even more frustrated than its existence itself is the way people talk about it.

Rush: A Look Back at The Best of 2013


Every year we see some films which stick with us and some which don't; some films impress us on first viewing but diminish subsequently, while others ripen with age. The tendency among reviewers (for obvious traffic-related reasons) is of course to come out with "best of the year" lists as soon as possible, but whether these films will remain personal favorites years later is a question only answerable in time. In this light I recently decided to revisit Rush, a September 2013 release recognized at the Golden Globes but ignored at the Oscars, and a movie which I personally enjoyed enough to place in my top 10 at the end of the year.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: Toward A New Type of Superhero


Guardians of the Galaxy is yet another Marvel comic book franchise in a sea already overflowing with superhero movies, but there is something exceptionally unique about this one, and it's not the fact that you've probably never heard of the source material. This one is special because it actually attempts to stretch the possibilities of its genre.

By the end of the 1990's, superheroes movies had fallen off a cliff into a vat of cheesy costumes and bad pun one-liners without enough unique style or personality to justify their lack of emotional consequence (Batman & Robin is the primary offender here but other notable clunkers include Judge Dredd, Daredevil, and The Fantastic Four). After the turn of the century, X-Men and Spider-Man proved it was possible to make a superhero movie as a fairly straightforward action flick, but it wasn't until Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and particularly The Dark Knight that the genre began to take on a new shape. Comic book movies became dark and brooding as directors flipped the switch from one extreme of insipid fluff to another of high-handed mopiness.

Why Days of Heaven Is So Beautiful to Film Nerds

Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven is absolutely gorgeous. In fact, the movie is so overwhelming visually that some otherwise talented critics seem to have forgotten what their job is and resorted to complaining that the film doesn't neatly fit into established genre conventions. I know it's unfair to pick on the outliers in a historically determined situation like this, but when the most negative professional review of a film uses phrases like "people are carefully arranged, frames are carefully composed" and "fancy, self-conscious cineaste techniques" to describe why they don't like it, I know it's going to be right up my alley. I'm not saying that as a lover of film you ought to like Days of Heaven—even I have my issues with it—it just feels like critiquing a comedy for having too many jokes. This is American art house, pure and simple, and I'll take this over generic cinema any day of the week.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Moonrise Kingdom Is Odd—Even for Wes Anderson


Wes Anderson's films are nearly universally polarizing, but over the years he's managed to carve out a fairly substantial fanbase (of which I would now consider myself a part). However, none of his films polarizes even within his fanbase quite like Moonrise Kingdom. I've even heard accounts that true fans don't like it while more hesitant Andersonians feel more at home. As with everything else, I find myself somewhere in the middle: while by no means my favorite in his filmography, I enjoy it more than some of his other work for how it stands apart. Thanks to its the unique atmosphere and characters, Moonrise Kingdom is an exceptionally quirky entry from the proclaimed master of quirk.