28 September 2008

In Memoriam: Paul Newman

Celebrated and long-acclaimed actor, Paul Newman, passed away yesterday at age 83. I refer you to the Times for greater coverage.

16 September 2008

Scholarship: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Alas, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) was a bit before this blog's - or even its short-lived predecessor's - time, but it nevertheless is an articulate film that should most certainly not be overlooked. (It is after all in my list of Top Films on the right.) And, to that end, it pleases me greatly to link you to this issue of Acidemic, a journal of film and media, that takes on the film full-form by gauging in several articles the various techniques, symmetries, and considerations that make the film and its makers worth remembering. (Particularly interesting to my eye is the first article about director's, Gondry's, use of color in the work.) Take it in, enjoy!

Addendum to Review: Speed Racer

Granted, this addendum to my review of this year's Speed Racer is a bit removed in time from the original posting; yet, all temporal distances aside, this reflection is nevertheless to me an important addition to make to the history of this blog, for rare is the happenstance, when a sturdy position uptaken by me on a film is in retrospect and in small circles corroborated by a fellow in the minority. Speed Racer, if I recall correctly (and I do), received a "solid B" grade from me and was praised by me for its adventurous, colorful, and pop-art stylings, as well as for its nimble original score by Mr. Giacchino, in addition to its dazzling special effects that were to be expected; Speed Racer, I claimed, was not only a great contribution to the burgeoning comic-book--adaptation genre but also a great piece of filmmaking in general - great in the sense that it brought life and vibrancy upon the screen in a way that was not overly gratuitous, overly cheeky, or overly wrought: It had compelling visuals, as well as compelling audials, and was not audacious, nor slushy for its predictable storyline. Bottom line: I thought, though far from perfect, it was clearly good filmmaking - especially during the summer season. And now, with the DVD's release upon us after some long months, it is exciting for me to hear my thoughts of it, which were intricately and categorically renounced and denounced by nearly every other film critic or film reviewer out there, self-possessed or officially recognized, be remended, repaired, and considerably agreed upon by other pensive parties out there - namely, Paul Matwychuk of "The Moviegoer" and, Paul's link, Dennis Cozzalio of "Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule," who each go to impassioned lengths to reconstruct the virtues of the film that they found, as I did those I had found, for the benefit of the remembrance of the film and for all that may see them (i. e., the writings). Many thanks, sirs; I've stood by review contently in solitude and now I'm happy to be in your company for it.

14 September 2008

Fall/Winter 2008

O. K., kids, it's time for another of my Most Eagerly Anticipated lists, and this one is sure to hit them high. Choc-full of tasty little morsels that will no Doubt - ha, the wit (i. e., get ready for more) - run the gamut from the predictably Frosty naked breath of cold winter air to that charmingly rich glass of warm Milk by the fireside, the stores for this year's-in-film Fall/Winter season should be ample supply for the days ahead; and so, without further ado (and further lame pun from this one over here), I give you my top 10 (with the expected 11th cherry on top):

  1. Happy-Go-Lucky (10 October) - Mr. Mike Leigh delivers; I'm already waiting by the door.
  2. W. (17 October) - Mr. Stone delivers; I'm pacing nervously by the door: For the sheer noisome controversy and tripe of this timely film, which I can already whiff a month ahead, this film merits a spot on this list. I know, I just posted (in another terrible pun) that Revolutionary Road could go either way, but this one really takes the cake for the most ambiguously received and presented to date. I just honestly have no idea. Points for the concise title though.
  3. Synecdoche, New York (24 October) - Well - never I fear - if I should be left tongue-wagging and still hungry for delivery after Mr. Stone's uncertain epic, I should still unquestionably find a smörgåsbord at my gate for Mr. Kaufman's talented hand. While Synecdoche, New York looks to be perhaps his darkest venture yet, I nevertheless have the utmost confidence in his abilities and know that even dark chocolate can be sweet.
  4. Australia (26 November) - Now, this film is a rare treat, a kind of dish that one has to catch at the right moment, lest it be overdone or underdone, too thick or too runny, too base or - infinitely more terrifying - out of season: a piece by Baz Luhrman. Undiscussed ever since the talks of his rendering a more powerful Alexander the Great epic fizzled back into the ether, the director in this, his latest project, stays a lot closer to home. The epic film features fellow Aussies Hugh Jackman and (the still vital if somewhat flickering) Ms. Kidman in its leading rôles and traipses through fairy tale and romance as though they were both naturally one in the same. Though it is sure to be a pretty plate, I'm definitely eager to find out if it taste as good as it seems.
  5. Milk (26 November) - Though I don't really like to rank the films on these lists of mine, this one easily tops this list this year. A Botticelli of a film - full-bodied, delicately lit, and handsomely white as Mr. van Sant's films have been of late - Milk has a team that, I feel, cannot fail to deliver one of the best, if not the best, of the season. Mr. Penn, Mr. Hirsche, even Mr. Franco, and the rest of that robust cast look in tip-top form; Mr. Elfman's chords sound full-fledged and limber; Mr. Savides', who previously shot among others Elephant (2003) for Mr. van Sant, frames look polished and shining; and Mr. Lance Black's screenplay, under the tutelary of Mr. van Sant's wise counsel, should, depsite the unfulfilled ambitions of Mr. Lance Black's previous project The Journey of Jared Price (2000), reach quite substantial proportions. I'm starving myself for the day before its release, so that I can lick the plate.
  6. Frost / Nixon (5 December) - And then for dessert I'll have.... O, I jest, I jest. This film is a main course all on its own. Written by Mr. Peter Morgan, chief engineer behind The Queen (2006) and the entertaining The Last King of Scotland (2006); the film features the newly embraced talents of Mr. Michael Sheen as well as a towering monolith of a performance by long-buidling Mr. Frank Langella, who plays the Nixon half of the titular duo. Directed by Ron Howard, that the film should seriously fumble at all is highly unlikely. I only wish they had gotten Mr. Desplat to score it instead of the often maudlin and thusly execrable Hans Zimmer.
  7. Doubt (12 December) - A thick, heavy cheesecake of a platter, this piece just emanates the pungent kind of air effected by the forceful plunking down of a heavy tome upon an empty table - or something like that. Filled by a great cast of actors, who will certainly be able to do the Pulitzer-winning play's action due service - actors, including the beautiful Ms. Amy Adams in her first large, exclusively dramatic rôle - Doubt should be a fascinating if somber character study probing the significant moral questions of certainty, truth, and apology in our times.
  8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (25 December) - Coming out on Christmas Day, this appropriately fantastical title, taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, could be one of the best of the batch. Mr. Pitt gives awards-voters another chance to acknowledge what is hopefully to be a banner year for his career, Ms. Blanchett is hardly capable of falling down, and Mr. Desplat, whose presence is duly noted here, provides a wistfully complimentary score to the dim but sharp frames of Mr. Miranda's screen.
  9. Revolutionary Road (26 December) - Leo, Kate, "Wild as the Wind", and (hubby) Sam Mendes at the wheel: I'd be remiss not to ask for these seconds.
  10. Coraline (December) - A Henry-Selick, stop-motion fantasy to be distributed by Focus Features: Sure, I'll have the special.
  11. Rachel Getting Married (3 October) - Living up to the nature of this slot as the unpredictable yet somewhat feel-good indie with the strong (female) leading performance, in the tradition of other films like Pieces of April (2004) and The House Bunny (2008) - which Anna Faris did nail by the way - Rachel Getting Married actually could be the breakthrough film for its leader Ms. Hathaway, who, though she may have broken through the wall blockading actors from the general public's fanaticism, has nevertheless yet to break through the wall blockading mediocre actors from greatness. I sincerely hope she does.
Phew, having just gone through all these films, I can safely say I want to see them all right now, but their releases are just around the corner, as we enter into this Fall/Winter season of our year in film 2008.

Preview: Revolutionary Road

Entertainment Tonight ran this teaser clip of the upcoming film Revolutionary Road recently. The film looks, solely on the merit of this clip, like it could go either way - that is, be excellent or be overly conscious of its gravitas and thereby be a flop - but, judging from my own standpoint of consideration, including all those people involved in its production, and from that brilliantly chosen track "Wild as the Wind" by Nina Simone that was overlayed onto the clips, I'd say it's still heading the way of the former. I love these domestic dramas and Kate has never let me down. Here's to it.

13 September 2008

Review: Burn after Reading

Genre: Comedy (Farce)

One can almost feel the two Coens exhaling a cathartic sigh of insouciance and relief in their latest project, Burn after Reading, the nearly chaotic farce that follows their pin-straight and somber No Country for Old Men (2007). Equal parts classic comedy, ensemble piece, a-traditional narrative, and tongue-in-cheek establishment-directed ribbery; the new film zips through a series of frenetic and whip-lashing vignettes that tumble and weave a dynamic but somewhat disjointed, somewhat nihilistic, portrait of the scarcely noticed kind of simmering that can and likely does frequently go on in the lives and minds of niche-blocked American citizens. Skipping staccato from the frustrated, slightly alcoholic, and overworked government employee (notably - chuckle - a Princeton grad.) to the constantly awed, thoroughly energetic, and perpetually gum-chewing personal trainer and back again; or even from the icily perfected, sweet yet savage career woman, stuck in the enclave of a frozen marriage, to a consistently unsatisfied, vaguely desperate, and chatteringly superficially assertive aging bachelorette and back again; the piece makes a melancholy but delicious mish-mosh of the jolts rattling around in the collective American psyche, jolts that are, when apparent, frequently repressed - pushed back, inwardly directed, lest their live-wire antics catch wind and collide them with the effective means of others. And, as such a portrait, the film does amply well. The acting is solid, if sometimes a bit caricatured, and the balance of the characters is fair, never alighting upon any long enough for the audience to become truly invested in his or her individual character - for, clearly, individualism is not what the film is about.
However, as a conceit regarding the politics of daily interactions, trust and fidelity, the idealism of partnerships (both romantic and platonic), and the aspirations for a something more, the film definitely does fall flat upon its comically well-rounded ass. There are simply too many puns, ridiculous dalliances, and needle-sharp eccentricities, to balance such a smooth and delicate matter very well. Furthermore, wading deep into the uncertain waters of absurdity that, while at one moment they may bear one up to a marvelous height, can just as handedly bellow out and down, exposing the grimy and empty rock-surface of the floor beneath; the piece regrets its own decisions and tosses too vigorously from moments of comedy to those of drama, for the audience to indeed be comfortable, no less metaphysically engaged. In short, the whole thing seemed like an extended quip, done merely for the rhythmic and tossing jaunt of it - much as one would a dizzying roller-coaster - rather than for the investigatory, question-making effect significant of others of these fine writers'-directors' films - a quality which -- let me be clear -- is fine, if that be what they two intended by it all. I however am not thoroughly convinced that such complete triviality was the case; the Coens, in my mind, cannot write other than in, yes pleasing, but primarily investigatory manner; and for that fact and the bearing that it must have on my review of this, their latest work, I must not commend them.
Highest praise, on the other hand, is neverthless due to Mr. Pitt's thoroughly delightful portrayal of the aforementioned personal trainer, whose reach extends a bit deeper into the mire than he can quite entirely grasp. Bouncy and vibrant as he needed to be, the rôle was the finest he's done in years; and in my book should not go without due course of recognition(: See my now updated right column).
But as for Burn after Reading itself:

Grade: B-, fun but deleteriously discombobulated.

09 September 2008

Preview: Taking Woodstock

Entertainment Weekly has posted a photo of Ang Lee's traditional, shoot-commencing Big Luck ceremony, held on the set of his new film Taking Woodstock. As I am a huge Ang-Lee fan, this film is already gracing my Eagerly Anticipated 2009 list. Check it out, people. :)

03 September 2008

Trailer: Milk

Got Milk?

(O. K., I completely admit: that was terrible - but, to my credit, at least let me be the first to dive into that rottingly ripe cliché that will surely be swarmed upon by many a film-blogger or blog-commenter who think himself 'cute' and let that dive be with open arms, the purposeful flop, the bold singe into the Teen-Bop-ular: Foreknowledge of a blunder negates the blunder itself? I'll leave that up to you. Enjoy the trailer.)