29 December 2011

Poster: The Paperboy

Review: The Artist

Genre: Comedy

Writer and director Michel Hazanavicius presents polished work in his The Artist. Though his story and dramatic device are somewhat contrived (in a way that calls to mind the similar method of contrivance in The Reader [2008]), his ability to shape his narrative into a charming film, particularly one so dependent on nonverbal storytelling, is clear and strong. Jean Dujardin, as the eponymous character of the film, delivers through his director's ability a key performance, unlocking the depth and emotional resonance of the narrative that otherwise would have remained closed in the lesser acting of another. Beautiful make-up and, most important, an exemplary score round the portrait of a man in conflict with himself, to make a tale akin to the Beauty and the Beast tale in both content and effect. With greater depth only in the conflict itself could this self-assured, concerted film have improved on its comedic drama.

Grade: A-

26 December 2011

Review: Young Adult

Genre: Comedy

As Cate Blanchett so quippingly said playing the great Kate Hepburn, "Follow through is everything in golf, just like life. [Chuckles] Don't'ya find?" (The Aviator, 2004). Screenwriter and second-time collaborator with director Mr. Reitman, Ms. Cody should have paid closer heed to the line, one that she seemed to know so well in her earlier work for the screen (see Juno, 2007); for here, in Young Adult (an almost nonetheless enthralling adaptation of the popular version of the Snow White fairy tale, told in the cunning guile of a contemporary like Gregory Maguire [i.e., in the person of the traditional villain]), she loses the tight and controlled momentum that she sets barrelling toward inevitable splinters. True, the barrel does still reach a splintery end, but that end is far more a disintegration than a fraction: The rigor of the imposed endogenous drama loses its stiffness, sloshing back somewhat dilute into its glass instead of spraying forcedly over broken shards.

This type of restraint may be purposeful, indeed; the sacrificial lamb climbs onto its altar in fully willful ignorance of its own known demise. Yet, portraying such ignoble and blatant masochism, such quasi-psychotic self-administered anesthesia as what does happen to Ms. Theron's character, is a hard slip to let slide. Though unlike so many other scenarios in which the same criticism could be made, in this scenario the storyline nor its heroine becomes any less plausible than it or she had been previously. Rather, here the two lose their respective trajectories, meant to take them full arch (i.e., from preening Queen through haggard witch to ephemeral spirit, villainy vanquished). Shucking back into her isolated castle, content to shut out the world and self-caress in front of her magical mirror (however funhouse crazy), she swerves from effort and real growth and ceases her transformation cold, only to enable her regression to her original self. While arguably this path may be more "realistic" to both her character's true nature and people in general, can such post-modern realism manifest itself completely in a non-nihilistic way? If not, then - more pressingly - how can one critically evaluate the abandonment of classical tropes for nihilism: certainly not as the logical progression of the tale throughout the history of surrounding perceptions, but perhaps as the voguish overlay onto the conventional perception?

What more, then, do you have to say Ms. Cody than to throw your hands up at the state of certain parts of contemporary culture? Worse than suggesting that you no longer possess a stronger gift of storytelling than one could otherwise believe, you've suggested that you no longer see value in even wishing to attempt a recommendation of improvement. Do you believe that it's time for us all to throw in our towels and concede, or did you really have more to communicate that still went unsaid?

While Ms. Cody struggled to keep her rather brilliant first act vibrant and alert throughout the play's latter two acts, Ms. Theron and Mr. Reitman I must say were there contributing hugely to the cause. Mr. Reitman's distinct directive fingerprints are all over the symbols and the structure of the film, made all the smarter by his strict and consistent editorial choices. Mr. Theron then thrived within this constrained stylistic environment and found that her timing as well her ability to act facially only - an incredibly hard skill - can be extremely resolute under glass; she delivered a wonderful performance, embodying a difficult role (part Queen, part hag, part beauty, party beautician) with balance, strength, and control.

These impressive shows by the creative team as a whole made Young Adult the nearly quite enjoyable film that it was. Despite lost words (which one can hope were mistakenly retracted just this one time from a finished product by Ms. Cody), the film still remains one of the finest original works this year: No one else could surprise me with Snow White so plainly.

Grade: B+

23 December 2011

Review: Shame

Genre: Drama

Moving from visceral state (see Hunger, 2008) to self-conscious emotion, writer director Steve McQueen again deals us a blow through fortitudinous actor Mr. Fassbender, no stranger to A Year in Film (see the 2008 nominees for Best Actor here). Invoking parts of Mr. Bale's American Psycho (American Psycho, 2000) and of Mr. Wilson's baleful Mormon (Angels in America, 2003) and supplying a palpable tension of his own, Mr. Fassbender owns this film and is heartbreaking in it. His struggle is in turns arresting for its fealty and moving for its commonness, and it is the tension that results from these extremes, that allows him the strength to support the weighty material well.

Mr. McQueen's touch here seems a lot lighter than it was onto Hunger. Whether the change have derived from a complete confidence within one's actor now or from a sensitivity to the much greater proximity of the present material to its audience, the effect is understatement. Strings of minimalism run through the film, voiding color and connection unless when absolutely necessary. So reticulated a set of pieces, the film at times becomes formalistic, though never formulaic; it presses itself occasionally uncomfortably against the tight glass that it chooses as its container. This pressing is its only detractor. A loosening of the reigns, an allowance of penetration by the outside world, may have helped digest the isolation into devastation that Brandon, Mr. Fassbender's lead, experiences.

I give these comments with the greatest care, not sacrificing honesty, because I do admire the work - very much so. I only wish that it could have sustained the transcendence it did achieve, when the outside world was allowed inside in its climactic sequence of red and Goldberg.

Grade: B+

Review: Melancholia

Genre: Drama

Playing the imploding black star at the epicenter of this operatic tale, Ms. Dunst moves with an ethereal solemnness and severity beautiful for its tranquility and disquieting for its tenor throughout Mr. von Trier's aptly named Melancholia, she a fragile disconnected form constantly pulling pulling on the other actors like a gaping mouth, certain of its prey's demise but not hurrying to achieve it. She is the veritable closing of day, the fading out of light from the world, and the sapping of all energy from nature. She is the terrible and wondrous, the physical and sublime, the corporeal and mythical, the fragrant and fragranceless; to drink from her cup is to touch tongues with ice that burns and never releases. She is intoxication born for naught but ending. She is complete, entire, perfect.

Into her it was the wisest choice for Mr. von Trier to invest the grave embryo of his idea, "a beautiful film about the end of the world" (http://www.melancholiathemovie.com). Her transcendent portrait of a woman broken and shattering at a snail's pace is captivating, and the characters that surround her in the film reflect and prod at her obsolescence with giddy unknowingness and plaint. Mr. von Trier was right then, to establish around her a solar system of planets self-absorbed and only weakly touching, playing a dangerous game with naïveté and ignorance, fixated all on the spit on which roasts plainly but hotly their would-be feast subtly poisoning them with every bite. Wagner's elegiac music completes the picture with god-fearing power in chords: the gathering predator in wait.

O, how slowly does she burn, how pressingly and how hard. The hyperphotographs of her and the cast and the setting and the sun and moon above the forest rain over the entire viewing. By the end your skin is soaked, your tongue inflamed, and your vision obliterated by the climax; solipsism never shone so brightly.

Grade: A

Review: Carnage

Genre: Comedy

Alexandre Desplat's picaresque score opens Roman Polanski's newest work, an adaptation of a Tony-award winning play, Carnage with serious aplomb. The characters, like their staged predecessors, are the equivalents of pressure-cooked quarters: enslaved by the whimsical machinations of their offspring, constricted by the formalistic pretenses of their ideals, and driven by the hot-plate sears of constant application to aught else but themselves.

In successfully bottling this volatility within the fragile lens of the camera Mr. Polanski has succeeded; however, not only he but also his actors, who deliver fine performances all around, do honor to the original screenwriter's, Ms. Reza's, words and nuances. Of the four, Ms. Foster reads the most engaged; her performance is honestly the best work that I have seen from her in many years. She is the epitome of what the play means to tender: the raw-exposed figure beneath the slick veneer, one wild and untamed, frothing and bubbling even in moments of quietude and appealing to any emotion that may cross her path for relief from the intense selflessness that she must experience - must. She is simply beautiful to watch. Ms. Winslet, her second, is also startling good, shaking like the ice in her almost constantly held cocktail glass, while the men play supportive turns feeding the fire (and frequently being scalded by it too, though on them it shows less clearly). Truly, this ensemble is strong; and Mr. Polanski's success is in allowing its members the berths to do what they do best and in stepping in, to help conquer the limited space of the pressure-cooker, whenever necessary. In this task he is not, therefore, unlike the attendant cook, making sure the contents of his lidded pot do not blow over before they've finished being seared; though it sounds like a diminutive task, it from my perspective at least is surely not.

For all mentioned, even the tiniest misstep could set the whole thing asunder.

Grade: B

Reviews: The Descendants and The Ides of March

It hasn't been since 2005, when George Clooney thrilled us both with his performance in Syriana and with his directing and producing of Good Night, and Good Luck, that Mr. Clooney has given us such a powerful double-feature. This year, when Mr. Clooney acts in Alexander Payne's The Descendants and directs and produces (and acts) in his own The Ides of March, he allows us to see the advanced yet fledgling auteur that he means himself to be.

The Descendants - Genre: Drama

In his own span since his even earlier previous feature, Alexander Payne too is maturing as an auteur. His focus shifts from his previous work Sideways (2004) to this new film, from the tribulations of finding romanticism in middle age to the tribulations of maintaining it into the future. His The Descendants is thus at once a loaded and valedictive film, simultaneously a paean to the absolute and dauntless sunshine of rich rich entanglement as a dirge for the opaque and fading glower of richesse lost. In short, his screenplay is a tender and personal story that is certainly one of the year's most explorative narratives penned. Yet, for this explorative nature, the film suffers for a lack of polish, or for the certain ruggedness onto which it holds much like its lead character, deftly quietly played by Mr. Clooney, holds onto his rustic garb and principled ways. The interweaving of the storyline tracing his family's legal embattlement at times ripples with artifice, while the pacing in general moves in flashes and starts. Most importantly, the tone of the film is as if its writer and director couldn't decide whether to wholly embrace its potentially comedic nature or to abandon it for pure earnestness; the dilute mixture that is the result of this ambiguity leaves one at a hazy distance from the action, when frames push or pull too far or too near to the characters in passion and when glimpses of the broader spectrum of the characters lives intercede piquedness (as it is wont to do) between otherwise consecutive moments of joviality. Yet, while not always perfect, the film nevertheless retains, much like its characters, the redolent romanticism of usefulness and usedness that make it charming; the well-worn treads of the minds of the characters in the film - with nary an exception - show what they intend to show: strife in nominal paradise.

Grade: B+

The Ides of March - Genre: Drama

Surpassing Mr Payne's work in artfulness and fluidity as well as in patent savoir-faire, Mr. Clooney's own The Ides of March is a classically assembled piece of solid drama. Impossible to mistake itself for anything else, the film strides confidently through its motions, which despite their best description are not idle procedures but rather living tableaux of tension within the political arena (both as it may appear inside and outside the bedroom). In this way Mr. Papamichael's cinematography operates coherently, displaying only the hard angles and half-lights that capture the tenor and the distress of the film's action. Filling this space, Mr. Gosling, Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Clooney himself, and Mr. Giamatti (a close cousin by Payne-association) deliver excellent performances that are both as tense as ivory teeth clenching down on steel and as troubled as towers of kelp, barely clinging with but few roots to the ocean floor. The current of the film tests their mettle by pulling and shuffling them, occasionally bound up in one another, and then sets them apart as if in clean observance of their differences for the audience even if the internal spectators inside the film cannot too witness them. Though perhaps a bit more systematic than Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), The Ides of March is nevertheless a strong presentation of the polished and cerebral work that Mr. Clooney favors doing. I only hope that it will be recognized for this strength by others than myself.

Grade: A-

16 December 2011

Trailer: Jack the Giant Killer

18 October 2011

Interview: NYTimes' of Michael Fassbender

Mr. Fassbender remarks to the NY Times on his character Brandon in the upcoming Shame, co-written and directed by Steve McQueen.

22 August 2011

Trailer: God of Carnage

25 July 2011

Essay: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Ted Pigeon at The House Next Door (of Slant Magazine) has penned a wonderful short essay, exolling and exploring the virtues and the gloom of Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - by far the best film in the Potter series. Read the article here.

12 June 2011

Review: Super 8

Genre: Drama (Fairy Tale) / Sci-Fi

No doubt billed as one of the major blockbusters of this Summer, the Steven-Spielberg produced J. J. Abrams' film Super 8 nevertheless resists bearing such a "noble" mantle; to say that Super 8 was an attempt at recurring the past would be far more accurate an assessment of the film than to say that it busted any block or even single square of narrative storytelling. Dependent from the tropes that initially made Mr. Spielberg a commercial and personable success, the film by its film-makers fails to recognize that the manifestation of those tropes needs to be different now. The tropes, manifest originally among the technological and social conjunction of the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s, necessarily took on the popular characteristics of their sources; and, similarly, any manifestation now would need to become of the times. Social networks, plastics, even cell phones should be the devices turning this story's engine; resetting the clock to a time before all these elements and others is not just unchallenging story-telling but also niche nostalgia. To those few spectators whose childhood memories are synergistically stirred by the cliché '70s reprisals and industrial-aged futurism, the aesthetic and didactic consequences of the film may be comforting; but to the masses at large, they should just appear perpetuative of the thoughtless reshufflings of the deck that, highly stylized, now deal all forms of entertainment to gaping eyes. Needless then to say, a starving critical spectatorship fares no chance; quippy dialogue and a bit with a meta-medium are no sufficient stuffs for satisfying attraction. What could have been so much more distrusts itself to becoming so much less.

Grade: C+, simple simple sugar-tainment.

03 June 2011

Review: The Tree of Life

Genre: Drama

It's quite difficult for anyone to speak eloquently about such a simple topic as the one director and writer Terrence Malick approaches in his latest film, The Tree of Life: science v. religion; the argument makable there is plain, the story old, and the finer points mired in mud, dug up from each side's digging heels into the ground. So, Mr. Malick - either quite hopelessly or quite savvily - eschews speaking altogether; his writing places filamentary strings between points in time and space, bound then by shifting webbings that hang together with sap-like viscosity and flow equally heavily. Instead of a discourse through dialogue on the life-and-death nature of the debate, an emotional tide he rolls in and then pulls out and finally in again over the doings of a family bluntly divided themselves between "nature" and "grace." That this emotional, nostalgic, fanciful turning is effective is not really the undertow; that the narrative itself is emotional, nostalgic, and fanciful is. Mr. Malick's great exercise here is not that he's said anything new about the matter at hand, but rather that he's adapted his own personal style (see Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line), characterized best by the abstract camera and the hovering monologue, to the direction of saying the matter at hand novelly. Few feature-length films or filmmakers step so effusively outside of the bounds of typical, critical communication for the purpose of exploring the alternative colors of the spectrum that the medium film has to offer. Influences from Brakhage, Schlesinger (viz., Midnight Cowboy), and Kubrick are evident. For what he owns here, Mr. Malick is safe too; The Tree of Life, though practically a substantial project, does not make a substantial meal but has crenellated finery spelling throughout it.

Grade: A-/B+

14 April 2011

09 April 2011

Trailer: Melancholia

Melancholia from Zentropa on Vimeo.

24 March 2011

Interview: Lindy Hemming on Topsy-Turvy (1999)

The Criterion Current has just posted a great, short interview with Lindy Hemming, Oscar-winning costume-designer for Topsy-Turvy (1999), Mike Leigh's tremendous film about Gilbert and Sullivan's creation of The Mikado. The Collection is due to release both productions, The Mikado (1939) and Topsy-Turvy, on Blu-Ray and DVD this upcoming week.

20 March 2011

The SpyGlasses Full (2010): Official Winners

Best Live-Action Film (Feature-Length)

Animal Kingdom
Madeo (Mother/Murder)

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
Olivier Assayas, Carlos
David Fincher, The Social Network
David Michôd, Animal Kingdom
John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
James Franco; Howl127 Hours
Édgar Ramírez, Carlos
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Best Actress

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Hye-ja Kim, Madeo (Mother/Murder)
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Tom Hardy, Inception
Kevin Kline, The Extra Man
Jeremy Renner, The Town

Best Supporting Actress

Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
Lesley Manville, Another Year
Sandra Oh, Rabbit Hole
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Best Art Direction
David Graham Burt, Curt Beech, Keith P. Cunningham, & Victor J. Zolfo; The Social Network
Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, & Doug Mowat; Inception
David Stein & Tora Peterson, Black Swan
Toy Story 3
Eve Stewart & Judy Farr; The King's Speech

Best Cinematography
Adam Arkapaw, Animal Kingdom
Roger Deakins, True Grit
Frank G. DeMarco, Rabbit Hole
Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
Andrij Parekh, Blue Valentine

Best Costuming
Colleen Atwood, Alice in Wonderland
Antonella Cannarozzi, Io Sono l'Amore (I Am Love)
Françoise Clavel, Carlos
Jeffrey Kurland, Inception
Amy Westcott, Black Swan

Best Make-Up

Rick Baker & Dave Elsey, The Wolfman
Judy Chin, Marjorie Durand, & Geordie Sheffer;Black Swan
Valli O'Reilly & Terry Baliel; Alice in Wonderland

Best Visual Effects

Richard Bain, Pete Bebb, Paul J. Franklin, & Rob Hodgson;Inception
Richard Bain & Frazer Churchill, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Dan Schrecker, Black Swan

Best Original Score
Alexandre DesplatThe Ghost Writer
Byeong-woo Lee, Madeo (Mother/Murder)

Best Original Song
"I See the Light" by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater, Tangled
"Mother Knows Best" by Alan Menken & Glenn Slater, Tangled
"Threshold" by Beck, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Best Sound Editing
Richard King, Inception
Tom Myers & Michael Silvers, Toy Story 3
James Harrison, Ben Meechan, & Julian Slater; Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Skip Lievsay & Craig Berkey, True Grit
Larry Oatfield & Ren Klyce, The Social Network

Best Sound Mixing
Craig Henighan & Dominick Tavella, Black Swan
Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff, & Craig Berkey; True Grit
Jeffrey Perkins & Gary Rizzo, Inception
David Parker & Michael Semanick, The Social Network

Best Editing
Luke Doolan, Animal Kingdom
Tom Fulford & Chris King, Exit through the Gift Shop
Ken Schretzmann & Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3
Lee Smith, Inception
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan

Best Screenplay (Original)

Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, & Lee Unkrich; Toy Story 3

Olivier Assayas & Dan Franck, 
Joon-ho Bong, Eun-kyo Park, & Wun-kyo Park; Madeo (Mother/Murder)
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
David Lindsay-Abaire, Rabbit Hole

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, True Grit
Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Howl
Robert Harris & Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer
Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, & John McLaughlin; Black Swan
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

Best Animated Film (Feature-Length)
How to Tame Your Dragon
L'Illusioniste (The Illusionist)
Toy Story 3
Best Animated Film (Short)
Teddy Newton, Day and Night
Jakob Schuh & Max Lang, The Gruffalo

Best Documentary Film (Feature-Length or Short)
The Art of the Steal
Exit through the Gift Shop

Best Foreign-Language Film (Live Action or Animated, Feature-Length or Short)
Kynodontas (Dogtooth)
Madeo (Mother/Murder)

25 January 2011

Announcement: The Oscar Nominations (2010)

All right, kids; let's keep this brief:

The (Major) Yeses:

  • James Franco, Actor in a Leading Role, 127 Hours;
  • Matthew Libatique, Cinematography, Black Swan;
  • Antonella Cannarozzi, Costume Design, Io Sono l'Amore (I Am Love);
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Original Score, The Social Network; and
  • Sylvain Chomet, Animated Feature, L'Illusioniste (The Illusionist).
The Nos:
  • the absence of Andrew Garfield, Actor in a Supporting Role, The Social Network;
  • Amy Adams, Actress in a Supporting Role, The Fighter;
  • the absence of Lesley Manville, Actress in a Supporting Role, Another Year;
  • David O'Russell, Directing, The Fighter; and
  • the general dearth of nomination-worthy Original Songs.
Not so horrible are you this year, Academy. For remonstrations nevertheless, stay tuned; nominations on my ticket are to be announced anon.

24 January 2011

Note: On the SpyGlasses Full (2010)

Dear readers,

Though I usually have completed my own nominations by the time the Academy rolls out its each year, this year in film - with the "big announcement" coming tomorrow morning - my scope of the work from 2010 is still unfortunately incomplete. As a result, I shall be announcing my nominations after the Academy's, after I have seen all the films that want to be seen from this past year. Alhough changes will no doubt be made to the specific details of my ballot, here at A Year in Film no (additive) change regarding any film already reviewed or officially considered will take place.

On the flip side for a change,

Review: Another Year

Genre: Drama

Director's, Mike Leigh's, newest film is truly, as its name implicates, a chronicle from a British perspective of contemporary life. Embodying class-based struggles in a steady gaze upon birth and death, marriage and separation, Another Year places itself within the conservatory's daily wisdom that marvels at the apparently swift passage of time simultaneously as it lingers listless amid the ticking minutes, hours, and days. A treatise on relevance and responsibility, the film is a clearly commanding work; yet it is also somehow one that adds nothing but a false documentarian's commentary to an otherwise quotidian narrative.
Perhaps this simplicity is Mr. Leigh's aim, you say: dispense with pretense and show only the studied reality - and to the writer/director's credit I, considering the sequence of his works until this one, must agree that this ascetic tone is a natural step in the progression away from social and historical contrivances and into unadorned anthropological observation. However, picking up the pieces from this free-form drama, Mr. Leigh as both writer and director does retain a dauntingly high level of complexity in reaching over the fence, from interpretive fiction into microcosmically didactic reproduction. Evidenced by the trying silences of the film's fourth act, this layered structural intricacy is itself the wonder of the film; so tight in its composition that one could easily overlook it, the bedrock of Another Year does admit Mr. Leigh's having pushed himself farther into new ground, albeit as flat and inexorable  as the "digging holes" descriptor is to the character's (Tom's) infrastructure-engineering geology.
Forgiving us all our professions - including his himself's - Mr. Leigh abandons the director's chair for the pottery-maker's stool; and by his unlearning hands, upon cyclical smoothening, a true clay-pot emerges - one just for the perennials in the flowerbed underneath the sill, which do in certain aspects take on the beauty of the situation but which mainly form in their motley collection a reflective personal accomplishment for him who views them just every morning.

Grade: B+

17 January 2011

Review: Blue Valentine

Genre: Drama (Romance)

Derek Cianfrance's [depicted] long-time project Blue Valentine begins with the perfect delicacy of a film-master's pervasively hand-crafted, spell-binding work; purposefully interwoven leaves of a quiet interpersonal drama confidently unfold an elaborate, visually narrated yet somehow still eloquent history. Aided greatly by Andrij Parekh's intentional and compassionate cinematography, this history lifts its action gently but immediately upon inception from the tangible grounds of commonplace occurrences, into the conceptual ether of meditative reflections, emotions and impressions. However, despite the long-time during which Mr. Cianfrance developed his work, the film unfortunately founders, loses its ethereal lift, and fumbles suddenly unnatural to its environmental details part-way through, about when Michelle Williams' Cindy contemplates the future of her pregnancy. Then, the film just gets too confused within its own plot, recombining the mechanics of the story with the purposes meant to alight from them. Though remonstrances for conclusion manages to recover a bit of the levity deeply imbrued into the film's former half, by last-minute expressionistic details belonging to the circumstances of the ending, the vitality drained from the work by the preceding latter half has already diluted so much of its vibrancy, vitality, and color.
Luckily, Ms. Williams is consistently brilliant throughout, exercising her growing talents by her instinctive and quotidian reactions, fraught with powerful explicative contrails, to every minute's new situations; in the smallest changes, complementary with Mr. Parekh's magnificative cinematography, she creates one of her best characters. Her partner in the film, Mr. Gosling wobbles a bit more than she, he forgetting apparently from time to time the full sincerity of his character's motivations; nevertheless, he too delivers a performance great for the year. Aptly together they carry the weight of the film beautifully (for the film's own changing ponderations) and step really across the (still primarily smart) screenplay, written by Mr. Cianfrance, to a horizon at their story's end.

Grade: A-/B+, so promising unentirely fulfilled.

Review: The Fighter

Genre: Drama

Director David O. Russell reduces this intense family-based drama, concerning the liberation of the disenfranchised, to a quaint and localized character-study in which his actors may stretch their technical fortes. Produced rightly to the utter distastefulness of the demimonde on view throughout the film, The Fighter features momentous performances by Christian Bale and technically Melissa Leo but really stops there in excellence. Fraught by awkward musical cues, a dulling recursion of dramatic tensing, and a somewhat thrustless climax, the film limits itself unwittingly, half pandering to the invested crowd.

Grade: B-.