Friday, October 28, 2011

Closing time.

As many of you may know by now, I've been officially invited to become a permanent fixture for It's a move I anticipated becoming a real possibility as Austin Film Festival went on, and now, it's really happening. I've been running this blog for nearly three years now, and It's been a great deal of fun, even when the going got tough. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wanted this, as it is a great opportunity to expand my readership and perhaps a crossroads of sorts to even bigger things. I don't know  what it all means for the future, but what I do know is I couldn't have run my little corner of the blogosphere without you guys, the readers. And I very much encourage you to follow me over to my new home, where I promise the updates won't be so few and far between sometimes! So thank you all for your support over the last few years. It's been a real pleasure, and I hope you continue to enjoy my own special brand of film writing for many more years to come!

Follow the new website at, and you can follow my specific reviews and articles at As always, you can find me at

Thank you and hope to hear from you all soon!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: Shame

Check out my review of Shame, which I believe to be an outright masterpiece, over at

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Check out my review of Martha Marcy May Marlene, which I call "impeccably crafted but emotionally chilly", only at!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Austin Film Festival 2011 Coverage!

Hey guys! It's that time of year again. For the time being, however, things will be a bit different. All my Austin Film fest coverage this year will be over at

I'll create a master list of all posts pertaining to the festival once it is over, but for now, here is the link to my post in which I preview the films I will be seeing, and look for my review of Martha Marcy May Marlene later this afternoon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Not that I loved Caesar less, but I loved Rome more."

There are two key moments in George Clooney's latest as a director that I think many either will not notice or will ignore in favor of a quick dismissal of a film they believe to be attempting to pull back the curtain on political corruption as naiveté and old hat. It's in these two moments that Clooney plays his hand, almost too subtly, and reveals what the film is really about. It's not attempting to be revelatory about anything. Rather, it uses the harsh truths about politics as a springboard to explore more a interesting subject matter: corrosion. It is also, for my money, one of the most refined pieces of filmmaking this year.

On its surface, Clooney's film uses corruption as a framework for the narrative. We all know that politics are dirty business. Or at least, we used to be ignorant of it, until the last 20 or so years. Based on the play Farragut North, which was loosely inspired by the brief presidential campaign of Howard Dean, the film follows a second in command campaign manager (Gosling) for an idealistic presidential candidate (Clooney) in the last days of the democratic primaries. Through a chain of events, he becomes more and more entrenched in the dirty dealings of politics as the election is on the line.

But again, this is merely the narrative framing device. What Clooney is really interested in exploring here is not corruption, but rather, corrosion. He presents us with a character study of how the harsh realities of politics don't match up with good intentioned idealism, and how it eats away at us, turning those who were once passionate, loyal, and optimistic into bitter, cynical people. Like I said, there are two key moments towards the end that really reveal this, but I don't want to spoil anything here. But the way the film handles this idea was particularly fascinating to me, and again, I'm afraid many will miss it and instead assume the film is trying to treat corruption as something new. Rather, that sense of being beaten down by the harsh realities of corruption, and essentially having your optimism beaten out of you, is a complex, fascinating theme that really struck a chord with me. When do we throw our hands up and admit we can't do it the clean way? When do we accept that one person may not be able to change the world, because we can't get everyone to simply agree on things that seem like common logic, but are contended on principle, rather than it just being the right thing to do? It's a complicated issue, and Clooney handles it with grace and nuance by channeling these external and internal conflicts within his lead character.

In more technical terms, every actor here is firing on all cylinders. Gosling (who gave my favorite performance of the year so far in Drive) embodies a young idealistic man turned cynical by the overwhelming pressure around him perfectly, showing how just beaten down he feels at all the right moments.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is doing his usual thing here, and that shouldn't be taken at all as a criticism. The actor is so consummately great at what he does that it's easy to take him for granted. But his final scene with Gosling is what really sold me on the effortlessness he injects in every great turn. He's one of the greats, no question about it. Clooney himself really makes the absolute best of every scene he's in, bringing in shades of his performance in Michael Clayton (my favorite of his to this day) and something else, something entirely new. There's a fire in his eyes, and nothing will put it out. Evan Rachel Wood is a pure spitfire here, and Marisa Tomei left me wanting more and more of her craven vampire of a journalist.

 I sincerely hope The Ides of March isn't quickly dismissed as old hat naiveté, but if it is, I'm happy to be in the minority here. For my money, this is one of the absolute best films of the year. While not topping Clooney's masterpiece, Good Night and Good Luck, the film is tight, crisp as cold winter air, and immaculately executed.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fantastic Fest 2011: Short Takes - Melancholia (B+) and A Boy and His Samurai (A-)

This may be the most mismatched double bill of all time, so it figures it was my final post for Fantastic Fest 2011. My first thought upon exiting Lars Von Trier's latest film, Melancholia, was that it was easily the most depressing and perhaps nihilistic film of the year. The first half of the film takes place during a wedding reception where Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexaner Skarsgard) are being thrown the most expensive, extravagant wedding party ever by her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and brother-in-law (Keifer Sutherland). While the night begins happily, when Justine's divorced parents begin openly fighting during toasts, the night is effectively ruined, and Justine slips further and further into depression, testing everyone's patience and putting a strain on her new marriage. thigns continue to get worse, and the inevitable happens. Part 2, of course, deals with her debiliating depression (she can barely physically stand or eat) as seen through Claire's eyes, as well as the basic pitch of the story: a planet roughly ten times the size of earth, formerly hidden behind the sun, is on a collision course with our world. While Justine falls deeper into nihilistic depression, accepting a fate of certain doom, Claire becomes anxious and frightened.

I'll admit, I wasn't exactly sure how I felt about this one, and to some extent, I'm still not sure. I think in most ways, it's Lars Von Trier's most grounded, mature, moving film, and also his least flashy. It features some of the best performances of the year from Kirsten Dunst (who is a revelation here) and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and some truly stunning direction and cinematography, and a powerful, moving script. Unfortunately, the first half of the film is the strongest part, and features some of the most natural, nuanced, truthful work I've seen in a film all year. But the second half is quite bloated, and had it been trimmed down, would have been a stronger section. That said, the film ends on an incredibly haunting note and a final shot that will stick with me for a very, VERY long time. Lars Von Trier is doing some of his most truthful, mature work here, yet it's a flawed whole. I'm looking forward to revisiting it later this year to get a better grip on how I feel about it. For now, I like or love about 90% of the film and could do with 10% of fat that needed trimming.

On the other side of the spectrum is the wonderful Japanese film, A Boy and His Samurai, which may be the most optimistic, uncynical film I've seen in ages. On the surface, it's a remake of Kate and Leopold & The Iron Giant, only with a much more genuine, funny, & moving film underneath (said as someone who enjoys both of those films).

The film is essentially a romantic comedy about a time-lost samurai who is found by a boy and his single mother, and taken under their wing. While not a particularly deep film, it is hilarious and heartbreaking all at once. The relationship between the boy and the samurai is one of the most endearing, genuine friendships I've seen all year, and I have to assume you don't have a soul if you don't get choked up at some point near the end of the film. It's such a shame the film likely won't receive US distribution for some time, so I am very glad I was given the opportunity to see such a wonderful piece of cinema this year. If you ever get a chance to see it, please, please do. You will like it, I promise.

And with that, Fantastic Fest comes to a close for this year. It's been one hell of a great time, and I can't wait to come back next September, as always. Till then, look for more reviews of theatrical releases between now and late October when I head to Austin Film Festival. Sound off in the comments section, as always!