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.


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

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.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Month in Review: June 2013

Letterboxd is a fairly new social networking site I've been writing on recently. Specifically for movie lovers, it allows you to keep a running diary of films you're watching, along with the ability to rate them, "like" them, and write short or long reviews. Like Twitter, it allows you to follow other people (and they you) with the ability to comment on their reviews like a blog and even create lists (both private and public) for any purpose you'd like.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 6

A solid slate of films on Wednesday started with Joe Swanberg's All the Light in the Sky. Based largely on her own experiences in the industry, Jane Adams stars (and co-wrote the movie with Swanberg) as Marie, a 45-year-old woman struggling to navigate having a career in a business where the more she ages, the more her presence is devalued. It's a performance stripped of all vanity and, in typical Swanberg fashion, merely documents his characters without any sense of flare or pretension.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 5

Saw only two films on Tuesday. The first being the historical biography Renoir, about the legendary artist Pierre-Auguste. Not a typical biopic, this focuses on the artist's final years during the first world war and the complicated relationship he had with a model who would become a bit of a muse for both him and his son, the equally legendary film director, Jean. It's beautifully and sumptuously photographed, but narratively inelegant and uneven, which ultimately made it hard for me to engage with what was going on. Not a poor film, but had me wishing it had more I could grasp onto.


This is Where We Live, however, will be one of the standouts of this year's festival. A slice-of-life movie about a Cerebral Palsy-afflicted young man named August and his friendship with Noah, who is hired by his mother to care for him during the day. Noah is played by writer and co-director Marc Menchaca with a quiet resolve that hides a harboring volatility caused in part by a childhood tragedy. But there are great performances all around and they elevate material that could have easily been overplayed for sentimentality. Aptly titled, the film gives a great sense of this particular rural Texas town and the almost tragic inevitability of their dire circumstances. And as specific as that setting it, this family is in someways a quiet microcosm of situations all over the country. A wonderful American independent movie without a false note to strike.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 4

I started day 4 with the inventive French film, The Painting, was nominated at this past year's César Awards for Best Animated Film and deservingly so. The initial conceit is that the characters in a particular unfinished painting are socially stratified--the Alldunns (i.e., "all done"); the Halfies, who are partially finished; and the Sketchies, who are exactly what they sound like. There's an obvious hierarchy here and, for a kid's film, it's a particularly clever parable. But the film isn't satisfied with staying in the world within this particular painting and the story wonderfully opens up when three of the main characters jump out of the frame into other worlds and other paintings. It's a truly uplifting and magical film with the kind of imagination only the best of animated films provide.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 3

Sunday began with another shorts program, “The Weight”, not as successful as a whole than Shorts Program 4, but mostly solid work, including the very funny The Procession, featuring Lily Tomlin and Jesse Tyler Ferguson who get forced into driving in--and then hilariously--leading a funeral procession and the moving Record/Play a science fiction short about a cassette tape and recorder that does more than just play audio.

I wrote about Nancy, Please here. I don’t think it’s worth attending and will likely be one of my least favorite features at this year’s festival.

The History of Future Folk, on the other hand, will be one of my favorite features this year. This sci-fi comedy tells the story of a General Trius from the planet Hondo, who was sent to Earth to destroy all humanity--that is, until he hears the sound of music, which is so thrilling to him, he abandons his plan to become a local folk star. It’s a slight film in many ways, but it makes up for that with incredible charm and music that lives up to the silly idea that aliens would scrap their plan for intergalactic domination just to keep enjoying it.

Florida Film Festival 2013: Day 2

As always, the Florida Film Festival begins in earnest on Day 2, the first full slate of movies. My docket for the day began and ended with two great shorts programs: the dark and darkly comic "Shorts Program 4: Stayin' Alive" and the ever-popular, ever-gross out "Midnight Shorts". Standouts of the former included Riley Stearns's The Cub, about a family who voluntarily allows their daughter to be raised by wolves; Caterwaul, an endearingly moving short from Ian Samuels about a fisherman and his very peculiar relationship with a lobster; and Things You Don't Joke About, a movie from Viet Nguyen that brilliantly ratchets up the humor as his story becomes escalatingly and hilariously ludicrous.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


When Paul (Will Rogers) finally moves in with his longtime girlfriend, Jen (Rebecca Lawrence), it marks not only the beginning for him, but an end--specifically the end of his co-habitation with his roommate, the titular character (Eleonor Hendricks) in Andrew Semans's debut feature, the moody thriller Nancy, Please.


Nina Davenport is a director of documentaries whose cameras point as much at herself as it does to her supposed subjects. They act like video diaries of the most personal kind. But her latest, First Comes Love, about her desire to have a baby--with or without a partner--puts a distinct twist on the term "navel gazing".


The debut feature from director Jason Chaet, Putzel, opens with narration about a popular fish store/deli called Himmelstein's in Manhattan's Upper West Side and shows us an animated map of said area. It's the part of New York that Walter (Jack Carpenter) grew up in and can't seem to leave--literally. It's as much of a prison as it is a home.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Roger Ebert died today after a long battle with cancer. Through his over decade long illness, he continued to write, both his weekly reviews and on his blog. He continued his annual Ebertfest. He continued to work on new incarnations of his old TV show, At the Movies, which he started with fellow Chicago critic, Gene Siskel. That show, with its debating critics and signature "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" reviews, is the reason this blog exists. Roger Ebert is the reason I write about movies.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And the winner is...

My sure-to-be entirely inaccurate Oscar predictions:

Sound Editing
Argo - Erik Aadahl and Van der Ryn
Django Unchained - Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi - Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall - Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty - Paul N.J. Ottosson

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Goodbye 2012

"I chose the world"

Every late December/early January when I really begin to sit down and tally what I found as the year's best films, I often look back with disappointment, thinking there were clearly not enough movies to fill a mere top ten list. Then shortly after, I write down every film that would at least be a contender and again look on with disappointment, this time sad that there were clearly too many films to make said list and that I would have to leave several worthy candidates out.

And so it is again with 2012, a year that gave us such a wonderful variety of films to watch and discuss.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Month in Review: December 2012

As the end of the year approaches, one always tries to cram as many movies into the schedule in anticipation of tallying his or her "best-of" list. This December was no different as I tried to make up for a light November with several either highly-acclaimed or highly anticipated movies.

Some of those titles follow. But first, a few oldies: