Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Florida Film Festival 2014 - Day 3 & 4

I had a short but good Monday night at the festival with two very good films. Every Monday night for the past several years has been Italian Night at FFF, with a retro Italian film being screened leading into a nice spread outside the Enzian sponsored by a local Italian restaurant (this time by Buca di Beppo). Whether Italian or otherwise, I've always seen the movies featured in the retro screenings before, but this night's film, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, was not only new to me but a film I had never even heard of before. Shame on me because it is a clever and funny satire about a high-ranking officer who kills his mistress then plants clear clues to see if the police will charge him with the crime, much less figure out that he's the culprit.


FFF favorite Bill Plympton is here as usual, but this time with a animated feature, his first since Idiots and Angels five years ago. In his post-screening Q&A, he scoffed at the widespread belief that animation is relegated only to big-budget CGI cartoons targeted to young children and this movie, Cheatin', certainly aims to dispel that myth. It's a bawdy, sexy, yet ultimately touching and of course hilarious look at a couple torn apart by infidelity, brought through with Plympton's typically expressionistic artistry.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Florida Film Festival 2014 - Day 2 & 3

Dispatches from this year's Florida Film Festival

Nature in some ways seemed to be the theme connecting my first two movies of the fest. The title of the first, Druid Peak, refers to an area in rural Wyoming populated by wild wolves, a population maintained and monitored by dedicated scientists and naturalists. But this isn't a nature doc. The story begins with Owen, an apathetic high school student living in a small, working class town--the kind of town, frankly, you see in one too many of these microbudget films. Thankfully, Marni Zelnick's story (which she also directed) leaves this oft-looked at setting when after a tragic night that sees one of his friends killed in a car accident, Owen's mother sends him off to Wyoming to be with the father he's never met.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Month in Review: February 2014

February screenings (Links to Letterboxd reviews):

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE

2/1 Philomena (Stephen Frears)
2/6 Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul)
2/10 Greetings From Tim Buckley (Daniel Algrant)
2/13 Targets (Peter Bogdanovich)
2/14 The American Astronaut (Cory McAbee)
2/16 Hannah Arendt (Margarethe von Trotta)
2/17 Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley)
2/17 The Croods (Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders)
2/19 20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville)
2/21 My Darling Clementine (John Ford)
2/22 Three Colors: Blue (Krzysztof Kieślowski)
2/24 The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord & Chris Lord)

Just in time for the Oscars, Glenn Kenny's hilarious post counting down every Best Picture winner, while at the same time cataloging his attempt to make gravy.

David Bordwell has been doing a great series of posts regarding the history of film criticism. As always, englightening and rigorous pieces from the professor over at his blog.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Best of 2013

How to sum up 2013? I found 2011 and 2012 to be particularly strong years and through much of the year I felt like this one was a bit of a downer. In large part, I think that has to do with the pathetic output coming out of Hollywood during ever elongating summer seasons, as each new movie released seemed to get bigger and louder, but also dumber and dumberer.

But as always, the real gems are found in the cracks. You just have to look for them. Some were surprising major releases and others were obscure titles found through intelligent curation among shared cinephilia. And, broadly, the best movies weren't just great stories, but they were in some way aesthetically and formally bold. Whether they were in MTV-inspired hypercolor or black and white (there are five of those in here); whether they were documentaries that challenged the form itself or space adventures that redefined the idea of the frame; whether they were quickly edited action comedies or a meditative series of conversations between two familiar lovers, many of the movies below reminded me why the cinema is alive and well, and still a fertile ground as long as there are people around with enough chutzpah to simply plant a seed.

Terrence Malick's TO THE WONDER

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Month in Review: December 2013

December screenings (links to Letterboxd reviews):

MUSEUM HOURS

12/1 Magic Magic (Sebastián Silva)
12/7 Muscle Shoals (Greg 'Freddy' Camalier)
12/9 The Unspeakable Act (Dan Sallitt)
12/9 Ellie Lumme (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky)
12/11 Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland)
12/17 Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan)
12/18 Passion (Brian De Palma)
12/20 Sightseers (Ben Wheatley)
12/21 Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
12/21 American Hustle (David O. Russell)
12/22 No (Pablo Larraín)
12/22 Blackfish (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
12/22 Sharknado (Anthony C. Ferrante)
12/23 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Francis Lawrence)
12/25 Museum Hours (Jem Cohen)
12/26 Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg)
12/26 It's a Disaster (Todd Berger)
12/29 Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach)

A few more big 2013 titles to see. Will be posting my top films of last year soon... hopefully!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Month in Review: November 2013

November screenings (links to Letterboxd reviews):


11/1 Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass)
11/2 A Band Called Death (Mark Christopher Covino & Jeff Howlet)
11/2 Somebody Up There Likes Me (Bob Byington)
11/2 Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola)
11/3 Blancanieves (Pablo Berger)
11/6 Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon)
11/8 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
11/8 Supporting Characters (Daniel Schechter)
11/8 Birders: The Central Park Effect (Jeffrey Kimball)
11/16 An Oversimplification of Her Beauty (Terence Nance)
11/17 All is Lost (J.C. Chandor)
11/17 Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
11/17 The Sapphires (Wayne Blair)
11/18 Drug War (Johnnie To)
11/22 Call Me Kuchu (Katherine Fairfax Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall)
11/23 Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche)
11/23 Ginger & Rosa (Sally Potter)
11/24 Europa Report (Sebastián Cordero)
11/27 World War Z (Marc Forster)
11/29 Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallée)
11/30 Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green)

Some other stuff:

Dana Stevens in Slate and Matt Singer in The Dissolve on Blockbuster's inevitable announcement that it will close it's remaining stores early next year.

Jim Emerson's first post in a new feature over at Cinephiled on the intersection between technology and art.

A very neat animated "paraphrase" of Blade Runner.

As always, an enlightening piece (even to the writer himself in this case) on the origins of Hitchcock's famous bomb under the table quote from David Bordwell.

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Lots of year-end catching up to do in December, so hopefully a lot of good movies to talk about!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Month in Review: October 2013

October screenings (links to Letterboxd reviews):

Spike Lee and Nelson George in BROOKLYN BOHEME

10/5 Where the Boys Are (Henry Levin)
10/6 Slacker (Richard Linklater)
10/12 Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
10/12 Moonraker (Lewis Gilbert)
10/19 All That Jazz (Bob Fosse)
10/19 Room 237 (Rodney Ascher)
10/19 The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman)
10/23 Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan)
10/26 Brooklyn Boheme (Nelson George & Diane Paragas)
10/26 The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen)
10/29 Miami Connection (Y.K. Kim & Woo-sang Park)

Some readings:

First, the great A.O. Scott on, broadly, the future of cinema.

Chris Klimek in the Village Voice on "The Four Types of Spoilers and How Reviewers Should Handle Them"

Britt Hayes in Badass Digest asking "Why Can't Women Have the Same Journeys as Men in Film?"

Greg Ferrara on a particular predicament on blogging about film.

Winning the internet for October is The Hill Valley Project, which is basically a collective of twitter accounts re-enacting Back to the Future one tweet at a time.

Hopefully some more movie watching as we approach the end of the year when more great movies begin to come out. See you in November.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Month in Review: September 2013

September screenings (links to Letterboxd reviews):

Elaine May and Walter Matthau in A NEW LEAF

9/1 Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May)
9/5 The Spectacular Now (James Ponsoldt)
9/18 The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (Henry Hathaway)
9/20 The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May)
9/21 Osaka Elegy (Kenji Mizoguchi)
9/21 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
9/22 A New Leaf (Elaine May)
9/23 Under the Volcano (John Huston)
9/27 Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener)
9/28 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman)

A few readings:

Clayton Dillard over at The House Next Door discussing the problems with the recent IMAX 3D release of The Wizard of Oz.

The New York Times' Michael Cieply on the difficulty of tracking the digital box office.

A interesting site edited by Andrew Welch that's dedicated to "slowing the conversation down", To Be (Cont'd) focuses on only one topic a month as a conversation between two critics who collectively only post an update only once a week. In an age of the internet and the 24-hour news cycle, of endless event blockbuster releases and relentless film festival coverage, it's really nice to see a topic being attacked at this pace.

For fun, the 50 best Mondo movie posters according to Film.com.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Month in Review: August 2013

Robert Zemeckis's I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND
Links to Letterboxd reviews in August:

8/2 The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese)
8/3 I'm So Excited (Pedro Almodóvar)
8/3 All the President's Men (Alan J. Pakula)
8/4 How Green Was My Valley (John Ford)
8/9 Mysterious Object at Noon (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
8/10 The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula)
8/10 Red Road (Andrea Arnold)
8/16 Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
8/17 Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski)
8/19 I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Robert Zemeckis)
8/23 Elysium (Neill Blomkamp)
8/24 Born on the Fourth of July (Oliver Stone)
8/24 The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler)
8/24 The Inbetweeners Movie (Ben Palmer)
8/28 Ishtar (Elaine May)
8/31 The World's End (Edgar Wright)
8/31 Not Fade Away (David Chase)
8/31 21 Jump Street (Phil Lord & Chris Miller)


Some cinema-related readings:

Earlier in the month, something called Anil Dash caused a stir by calling movie theater shushers "oppressive assholes" who, among other things, are akin to those who defend slavery and oppose same-sex marriage. To him, we (yes I'm a proud shusher) are bullies, which is ironic (he also calls out sticklers for the actual definition of the word) given the fact that it's these people who insist on ruining our experience at the theater that are the actual bullies. Dash's boneheaded logic and equivalencies are completely eviscerated by the always great Matt Zoller Seitz in his responding Vulture article. And the discussion reached its necessarily extreme climax in Scott Beggs's hilarious post over at Film School Rejects called "But Why Can't I Urinate In My Seat At The Movies".

A lovely piece from Martin Scorsese in the New York Review of Books that discusses many things, including the origins of cinema, the need to embrace visual literacy, and the urgency of film preservation. As always, Scorsese not only ranks as cinema's greatest creators but its greatest cheerleaders.

Greg Ferrara on his blog about whether or not it is appropriate to tell certain kinds of stories.

And a discussion in the New York Times on a new breed of pulp cinema.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Month in Review: July 2013

Screened movies in July (links to Letterboxd reviews):

Melanie Griffith in SOMETHING WILD
7/4 Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese)
7/5 Red Line 7000 (Howard Hawks)
7/5 The Lie (Joshua Leonard)
7/5 The Island President (Jon Shenk)
7/6 The Moon's Our Home (William A. Seiter)
7/6 Saturday Night Fever (Jon Badham)
7/6 Alexander the Last (Joe Swanberg)
7/12 Who Killed the Electric Car? (Chris Paine)
7/13 Revenge of the Electric Car (Chris Paine)
7/13 Something Wild (Jonathan Demme)
7/13 Mama (Andrés Muschietti)
7/14 Working Girl (Mike Nichols)
7/19 The Americanization of Emily (Arthur Hiller)
7/20 The Way, Way Back (Nat Faxon & Jim Rash)
7/24 RSO [Registered Sex Offender] (Bob Byington)
7/26 Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)
7/27 Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro)
Several months ago, it seemed like all the good film writers over at The AV Club were dropping one by one. I had wondered if these were merely casualties of the industry, that even a place like The AV Club was feeling the squeeze and had to cut down their writing staff. Turns out that all these valuable writers were reconvening in a new location online, The Dissolve. Upon hearing this news, I was anxiously counting the days until their site went live and when it finally did July 10, it did not disappoint. It's just about everything I want in a website, with current reviews, special features on all kinds of topics, and most importantly smart writing from critics I have a lot of respect for.



Browsing my library's DVD shelves, I rediscovered James Burke's TV series Connections. When I was in middle or high school, I used to catch episodes of the second incarnation of the show, called Connections 2, on TLC. The show, subtitled an Alternative View of Change, explores the curious threads that bind scientific innovation through the course of history. For example, one episode traces how the creation of the stirrup to ride horses in battle eventually led to the development of telecommunication. Burke eschews the dryness of textbook history and the show displays a visual, verbal, and storytelling panache that turns it into a sort of exciting detective story than a tour through a museum. Wonderfully, all of the series--of which there were three total--are available for free on YouTube.