Thursday, October 28, 2010

Austin Film Fest - "Black Swan"

Black Swan - 5/5

Neil Miller of Film School Rejects put it best when he said "Black Swan should come with a disclaimer: Dear viewer, remember to breathe during the third act, you might forget." To put it bluntly at least. Darren Aronofsky has crafted something of a psychological horror masterpiece with his latest film. While I fully expected it to be incredibly taught, intense, dark, edgy, and engaging, I never really expected it to be so much fun. In fact, I would go so far as to say that not only is it the most genuinely terrifying psychological horror thriller to come along in years, dare I say maybe even over a decade, but it's also the most fun I've had in a theatre in years.

The film plays out a lot like a mashup of Roman Polanski's "Repulsion" and Powell & Pressberger's "The Red Shoes" in a lot of ways. What makes the film so intense and scary is that there's no cheesy explanation or exposition for the horrors on screen. Not. Ever. It's pure visceral psychological head games. Nina is simply losing her mind under all the stress and pressure of being cast as the Swan Queen in her ballet company's production of "Swan Lake". In a lot of ways, the way the company director, played deliciously by Vincent Cassell, describes the production of the ballet , stripped down and purely visceral, reflects the nature of the film. It's all about being in Nina's head as the story progresses. She hallucinates, and the way Aronofsky combines practical, in camera tricks with visual effects and clever editing is astonishing. It makes for all the more frightening and unnerving and experience. The film moves at such a fast pace that one never feels the time pass. It's a whirlwind tour de force of filmmaking, with so many thrilling, sexy, scary,  "OMG Holy shit did that really just happen or was it all in her head WTF is happening to my brain?!" moments that it's a miracle actually manages to stay in total control and never once fly off the rails into the danger zone of camp trash it so delicately teeters on the brink of, never actually falling into it. And boy does it ever make for one hell of a ride.

Natalie Portman is nothing short of a revelation here. This is the kind of role we've been waiting for her to take on. Something completely different for her, something truly exciting and, not to sound like a broken record, visceral, primal, and intense. We're as frightened as she is through the whole thing, because it isn't until the last possible moment in each horrifying hallucination that we see the reality of the situation. Even so, we're still never certain what is real and what isn't. But the beauty of the performance is that neither is she. I never once thought that Portman was faking it or really aware of what was really going on. They kind of range she has on display here is simply incredible. Mila Kunis is equally impressive. Her sultry, smoky performance often leaves us wondering if he really is a carefree fellow dancer who is simply trying to extend friendly advances or if her intentions are more sinister than she looks. It's not a flashy role or performance, very natural and charismatic, as we've come to expect from her. All I can say is that I'm not as big on girl-on-girl stuff as most guys, but holy hell this was one sexy film, and the "scene" between Portman and Kunis is hotter than the sun. Vincent Cassell, as stated before, is deliciously oily and, like most of the supporting characters, we're never really certain of his true motives.

But really, all of this is largely due to the total mastery of atmosphere Darren Aronofsky shows here. From the expert use of sound design, to Matthew Libatique's twisted cinematography, to Clint Mansell's seamless mesh of original score and Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" no technical aspect is left wanting. Aronofsky is not only a director willing to do the hard work, but he's a genius and he knows it. If anything, the film shows that he's got some huge-ass balls. The film is such a director's achievement that it's very clear no other filmmaker could have made it. The way the camera follows Nina in the final sequence as we watch her finally perform on stage on opening night is nothing short of incredible, darting in and out of backstage, following her every move, creating a ballet of it's own playing with light and shadow, spinning as she spins. The result is stunning, and will leave you absolutely breathless.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Austin Film Fest - "127 Hours"

127 Hours - 5/5

While watching Danny Boyle's latest modern classic, I couldn't help but feel like I was viewing a window into my own life. Aron Ralston is a guy who seeks escape from the the hustle & bustle of city life, crowds, and craziness of society in favor of his own kind of rush, out in the wild. He's an adrenaline junkie, and is completely at one with nature when hiking. I often find myself doing similar activities out in the wild to get away from city life. So one can imagine how I must have felt by the end of the film.

Aron Ralston, also known as the guy who got stuck under a boulder and cut off his own arm to get out, is played so naturally, so emotionally by James Franco that I didn't even see Franco there. I saw the character. He completely disappears into the role, and the result is a masterful performance. I've been a fan of James Franco for a couple of years now in his post-Spiderman career, but I've never seen him do anything like this. In a film like this, which is pretty much entirely a one man show, the success or failure of the film rest entirely on him. And he delivers in spades. Earlier I said that Ryan Gosling's performance in "Blue Valentine" was my favorite male performance of the year. That was then. I don't think I've seen any actor this year, man or woman, come even close to what James Franco accomplishes in this film. Here was have a man at his most vulnerable, confronted with his mortality. He records a "death journal" or sorts on his video camera. There's no way you could ever capture more raw, vulnerable, authentic emotion than a man recording what he perceives to be his final moments of life on film. He says goodbye to his family, tells them he's sorry for not appreciating them more. He begins to hallucinate and dream, reflecting on the bad decisions and selfish choices he made in life. In a particularly morbid yet humorous sequence, he records something of a morning talk show where he interviews himself and reflects on the stupidity of going out into the wild without ever telling anyone where he was going, and how that got him in this situation. It's heartbreaking, when the humor wears off and Ralston ends the segment by repeating the word "Oops" until it's a whisper.

The film can't be dissected without mentioning the modern master behind it. Danny Boyle's trademark exuberance is on full display here, taking a film set almost entirely in one location and making it one of the most intense experiences I've ever had in a theatre. There's an auteurist flair on display here, a complete and total command of every frame. Boyle plays with splits screen usage in the opening, middle, and end of the film. We start with images of the busy busy city life Ralston is trying to escape, mixed in split screen with images of him gathering his supplies before leaving. The film closes with similar images, bookending a message about community and how we can't live our lives in isolation. Nobody does it alone. This really struck a big emotional chord with me.

And really, I don't think I've ever seen a more emotionally intense film in my life. I was in tears by the end, experiencing a sort of catharsis rarely seen in film. "Blue Valentine" may have been extremely depressing, but I never 100% got the feeling of true catharsis like I did here. Boyle is a director so high on life, and his films show that. I've never seen a director whose films have a consistent life-affirming tone to them. And as someone how thinks about stuff like that, it impacted me in a way I wasn't completely prepared for.

Truly, I haven't seen anything this extraordinary all year. In a very strong year where I've seen some of the most incredible images put on film, with "Inception", "The Social Network", and "Toy Story 3", Danny Boyle's masterpiece still manages to stand above the rest. And I will never forget this film, not ever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Austin Film Fest - "Meek's Cutoff"

Meek's Cutoff - 4.5/5

I've been having a hard time nailing down my thoughts on Kelly Reichardt's latest feature, and follow-up to "Wendy and Lucy". I liked it, a lot, dare I say it's one of the most extraordinary films I've had the privilege of seeing this year. But something about it really makes me want to see it again before I decide on how I really feel about it. In any case, since a revisit is not likely to happen again until the film gets a theatrical release in 2011, I'll offer up some impressions.

The film essentially plays out like "Oregon Trail: The Movie" at times. Anyone in my generation knows of the educational PC Game to which I am referring. Back then, we spent hours playing the game, trying to survive, doing every mundane activity from navigating a precarious river crossing to hunting for food, to searching for water. "You/person in your group has contracted typhoid fever" was a common message on screen. And really, that's a lot of what happens in this film. Many might complain that nothing ever happens, and I'm not sure I disagree with them. But this is a film about survival, and that often leads to long stretches of dialogue free, mundane vignettes of simply staying alive and staying on the trail. Minimalism like this is sometimes the death of films on a smaller scale, it can lead to very boring, flat experiences. But in this case, the mixture of indie minimalism with western genre stylings is heavenly.

The cinematography, bravely shot in 4:3 box format, it's the only western I've ever seen not shot in 16:9 widescreen. But the end result is incredible. There is not a single shot that isn't perfectly, meticulously framed in every way. it captures the harsh, barren landscape in a way that very few westerns shot in widescreen do. The below the line aspects of the film are something of a masterstroke in their own. The sound design is one of the most intricate and complex I've errr, heard all this year. Many scenes take place from the women's POV, as they sit off to the side, we can hear the men a few dozen yards away, debating the next move, but we only hear as much detail in their voices as we could if we were sitting next to the women. The brilliant use of rear and front channel sound mixing is simply amazing.

On the performance side of things, it's an ensemble cast of 8 main characters. While actors like Paul Dano and Shirley Henderson tend to feel a bit overlooked at times, Michelle Williams and Will Patton shine. I was very glad to see Williams go two for two this year at the festival. If I were a betting man, I'd say her performance in "Blue Valentine" definitely would have a 99.99% better chance of awards recognition, as it's the showier, meatier role. But she's more subtle here, due to the nature of the film. But the real star of the film needs to stand up and take a bow.

Bruce Greenwood is simply marvelous in the role of Steven Meek. He brings to the screen one of the coolest characters I've ever seen in a film. The beard, the hair, the hunter-trapper outfit, the wanderings. Everything about the performance screams method actor in an actor largely known for supporting character roles. But he sinks his teeth into the role so much that he becomes largely unrecognizable. I had a hard time deciding on whether or not it was even him at first, his voice is so different from what I've become used to hearing from him. His badass image he carries throughout the film is made all the more fascinating and tragic when in the final scene, he speaks in a manner that show just how defeated and helpless he feels in the face of uncertainty and being lost in the wilderness. If Osciloscope plays their hand right, they could easily mount a supporting actor campaign for him, along the lines of Woody Harrelson in "The Messenger" (the studio's previous film). He truly deserves it.

In a sense, such extraordinary filmmaking like this requires more than one viewing to really digest. I know I want to see it again. But it's not a film for everyone. The long stretches of silence may be too much for modern viewers bred on fast-cutting and hyper-caffeinated pacing in films. But consider me sold. If this is the kind of film, at least in style and tone, that if Kelly Reichardt wants to continue making for indie cinema, then sign me up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Austin Film Fest - "Conviction"

Conviction - 3.5/5

When Tony Goldwyn set out to make a film about the Betty-Anne Waters story, many may have balked at the idea of yet another schmaltzy, overly saccharine "based on the inspiring true story" kind of awards bait fluff we've become jaded and numb to in the fall movie season. But really, the end result is never manipulative, sentimental, or cheesy. In fact, I quite liked the film, a lot actually. After a night of emotional trauma with "Blue Valentine", a film that made me feel good about humanity at the end was just was the doctor ordered. And the film just works.

Never once did I feel like it was going for the heartstrings in a manner that wasn't authentic and, dare I say, restrained. The film has a quiet reserve to it. Goldwyn is a smart enough actor, director, and producer to avoid delving into histrionics or overwrought emotional signposts. It's a simple story about how the bond between a brother and sister led Betty Anne Waters to spend the better part of nearly 20 years getting an education and getting into law school to become her brother's attorney so that she could free an innocent man from jail. The end result is a compelling, often moving but never over the top drama that, dare I say, got to me in a good way. It's bricks and mortar filmmaking. No flash, no distinct style here. Just a good story told well. The cast largely rests on the shoulders of Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, and Minnie Driver.

Each actor gives a very authentic performance, with Sam Rockwell as the standout. I can't say it's career best work (that would be his tour de force turn in "Moon"), he's not doing anything we haven't seen before, but his raw talent, charisma, and likability as an actor shine here. If this is the role that finally lands him his first oscar nomination, then I'd be perfectly happy with that. He delivers in a natural way.

And really, that's kind of what got me about the film. It's simple, organic storytelling that just delivers on the promise of a feel-good triumphant story. It's not great art, but it's a harmless film that is just agreeable and well-made. There's a bit of trimming that probably could have been done to make it a tighter affair, but it flows so naturally I can't really put my finger on what might be dragging it down. It's a light enough film that I could easily recommend it.

As always, have at it in the comments section.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Austin Film Fest - "Never Let Me Go", "Blue Valentine"

Never Let Me Go - 2.5/5

If there's one common factor I kept coming back to in Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, it's the cold sense of removal, a more observational style that keeps the viewer at arms length, rather than creating a more intimate, life affirming sense of seeing the end of our lives. I wanted desperately to feel something for these characters, to be emotionally engaged in their plight, and more than anything, for them to rage against their circumstances. But how can one get attached to characters we know will all die at the end?

The problems with this film are numerous, but I'll begin with the fact that the film is quite unrefined, a little too obvious. I felt like it was spelling out emotional and narrative beats to me, with signposts as blunt as a dull knife. But ultimately, the problem the film has is that it never once explains what exactly is keeping these characters from ever rebelling against their circumstances. Some have offered that they were too sheltered and brainwashed form childhood to do so, but when do we ever receive that crucial piece of information? Likewise, one might think that twenty years after leaving the school they would have figured out the real world. They know how to drive cars, they've been living on their own, Kathy in particular, but they show no interest whatsoever in eloping and getting away from all this cruel fatalism. Some have also pointed out to me that we don't know that Kathy and Tommy will die until the revelation at the end that there are no deferrals. But I think that's a misinterpretation. The film explains that a deferral is not a get out fo jail free card, it's simply a delayed sentence. They'll all still have to go through with donations and die, just not at that moment. But really, the overbearing, blunt sense of fatalism and imminent demise made me completely numb. Why get involved if they will all be dead by the end of things? I couldn't come up with any reason. If that cold sense of numbness and emotional detachment was the point of the film, I guess it just wasn't for me.

On a positive side of things, Carey Mulligan is the obvious best in show performance hear, with Andrew Garfield proving once again to be a born star. Kiera Knightley is very good, but I feel like I've seen much better, more affecting performances out of her, she seemed to be going through the motions at times, unlike her previous efforts in "Pride and Prejudice" or "Atonement" where she poured her heart and soul into the roles, she's playing some shadow of that energy here. Rachel Portman's score is beautiful, but plays to an emotion that isn't there until it's far too late. But ultimately, that's the problem with the film, by the time it ever attempts to really get me involved in what's going on, it's far too late in the story to care.

Blue Valentine - 4.5/5

If the problem with "Never Let Me Go" was a cold sense of observational removal, "Blue Valentine" is the exact opposite. Often framing shots in intimate, and sometimes claustrophobic close-ups, the beautiful imagery of the film is matched only by it's searing portrait of a marriage falling apart, played by two of today's most talented actors in career best performances. That Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are both under 30 is a testament to both their incredible talent and dedication to their craft. The film can be a bit hard to get through, with the final impact of the film almost too much to bear, but it's ultimately worth it to see such a layered, nuanced story unfold. What it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in raw emotional honesty.

Ryan Gosling gives my favorite male performance of the year so far, with so much subtlety, grace, and complexity that one cannot imagine anyone else in the role. He goes from being a bright-eyed, if somewhat naive, romantic, to unintended family man, disillusioned to the life around him. If anything, Gosling offeres an intense look into a man who, while he loves his daughter, has never really come to terms with the idea that it might not be his biological child (a piece of information the film cleverly evades, never giving us a truly definitive answer). He's a supportive father and husband, but one gets the sense that he's numb to the life that he is living now.

Michelle Williams is equally impressive, if a little less nuanced, but that's more than likely due to the character she plays, a good girl who is thrust into this whirlwind of emotion and heartache. Normal people caught up in extreme circumstances, she can't be expected to act with grace under such pressure.

But therein lies the beauty of the film. As I pointed out before, it's not the most original relationship crisis ever put on film, but it's one of the most honest, poignant, and moving ones I've ever seen. The way the director chose to give the present times a cleaner, if cold, digital look, intercut with flashbacks shot in a more handheld, grainy, rough around the edges look, is absolutely brilliant and haunting as an end result. The images of this film will haunt you for some time, as much as the sheer emotional impact.

In one scene in particular, at the end of their first date, Dean (Gosling) plays his ukelele while crooning "You Always Hurt the One You Love" in a silly, theatric voice while Cindy (Williams) tap-dances to the music, sounds cringe-worthy on paper, but works in such a beautiful, haunting way on screen that one can't help but wipe away the tears by the end of the scene, and then again when the audio is played over the credits. The first time out of tears of happiness, the tease of hope for this couple, the love they once shared, the second time out of the impact of harsh brutal reality, and days long gone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Road - Book Review and Analysis

It’s 2am and I’m crying. In fact, I’m not just crying, I’m sobbing. Tears are streaming down my face and flowing like Niagra Falls. I’m periodically gulping for air in between whimpers and moans. I didn’t have a bad day. I’m not having an emotional breakdown. I’m not depressed. I’m sobbing because of what I just read in a book.

This has never happened before. I’m no stranger to catharsis, I cry in movies all the time. I can’t get through films like “Schindler’s List” or “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy without shedding some tears. Yet, I’ve never been moved to tears while reading a book. Even when I read books like “Heart of Darkness”, “The Lord of the Rings”, “Jane Eyre”, and others, I never found myself so emotionally invested that I literally had to put down the book and weep.

Yet here I am, having just read through the emotional climax of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Road”, and all I want to do it curl up into a ball and cry myself to sleep. But I can’t do that, because the book isn’t over. That’s right, I’m still not finished with the book and I’m sobbing. But something about this book has moved me so deeply that I cannot help but bawl my eyes out. It’s not as if the death of the father was something I didn’t expect, the prose in the novel has foreshadowed this tragedy for some time. But still, his passing has moved me in such as way that I literally have to put the book down for nearly 10 minutes so I can cry.

Afterwards, I caught my breath, dried my eyes, and took a deep breath before picking the book back up again so I could read the last few paragraphs. Despite having one of the most heartbreaking emotional climaxes I have ever witnessed in any story, the book ended on a note of hope.

When I began to read the book, I was immediately hooked. From the start, I was invested in the characters. I would take the book to work, and I would read as much as I could between shifts on the lifegaurd stand. These would only be intervals of up to twenty minutes, and the pool was filled with noise. But despite the cachophy of sound that attempted to invade my concentration, I was completely immersed in the depths of the novel, oblivious to the world around me.

This experience has haunted me for some time. Not in a bad way necessarily, but in a way that even more than a year later, I still find myself thinking about the book and how it affected me on occasion. Even more curious is the question of why it moved me so deeply. The novel, which is about the physical and emotional journey of a father and his son across the terrain of post-apocalyptic America in search of warmer climates at the coast, is about as far removed from any experience I have ever had, at least on a surface level.

I am not a father, though I am a son. I have never watched a family member die before my eyes, nor have I ever been in a situation even remotely close to the kind of journey the father and son go through in this book. Yet there I was, sobbing, having been moved to tears by the father’s death. Why is this? What was it about this book that caused such an emotional response?

Every single word of the book gave me a vivid image of the post-apocalyptic world the man and the boy were wandering through. At times, I felt like I could feel the cold they had to suffer through, I could see the gray skies and dead trees and the ashes of a world that had already seen its end and was simply limping its way to the grave. In the scene where the man and the boy are woken by the sound of trees crashing as they fall down under the weight of the snow, I could hear exactly the kind of sound those huge, dead trees would make as they plummeted to the ground below. Each scene of the book further added to the vivid imagery and atmosphere of the story.

As I poured through the novel, I found it to be a paradox. For such a bleak work, I felt I was reading a real page-turner. I never wanted it to end, and I always dreaded having to go back to work. It was something I couldn't put down. Looking back on it, I am surprised that I couldn't put it down. In some odd way, I was torturing myself emotionally and psychologically, given the crushing emotional weight of the story. I could tell something deeper and more powerful than I had ever experienced was at work. I was connecting with the story and characters due to my ability to feel exactly what they felt, having experienced loss and disappointment in my life for several years.

I doubt that imagery alone could evoke such raw emotion from me, so there must have been something else at work. After more thought, I realized that there was something deeper. From the beginning of the story, I felt truly connected to the man and the boy, and despite knowing better, I wanted them to succeed in their journey. I wanted desperately for them to reach the coast and find warmer weather and sanctuary. Yet, like the man, I knew it was a fool’s errand and likely to lead nowhere.

However, that, in my opinion, was the whole point of the book. The road leads nowhere. There is no Elysium at the coast. Over the course of the journey, the man finds himself in dreams, where everything has been made right. These dreams were but memories of the days before everything turned to cold and darkness. “And the dreams so rich in color. How else would death call you? Waking in the cold dawn it all turned to ash instantly. Like certain frescoes entombed for centuries suddenly exposed to the day”. But he knows better than anyone that if he were to allow himself to be lost in the ecstasy of his memories of happiness, he would never return. He would be broken instantly. In that sense, it’s not the fact that the man died and their journey seemed to have been for naught. In fact, the man succeeded in his cause, which was to protect the boy. What was truly heartbreaking was the way in which the man symbolized the breakdown of humanity. There is something quietly terrifying about the scenes in which the man finally releases his emotions and weeps.

In retrospect, I think that more than anything, the book simply came along in the right time of my life. It’s not that I was depressed or anything. Quite the opposite, I was happy as a clam during that summer. I had a good job. I had a lot of fun with friends. The Dark Knight came out that summer, which was a huge deal for me, and to this day the film continues to inspire me and it’s impact has not yet faded from my conscious. I had just bought my first new game console in years (an Xbox 360). Life was good. So why is it that such a heartbreaking book could be said to have come along at the right time in my life.

Two of the thematic motifs that permeate the novel are loss and disappointment, disappointment in how things didn’t go according to plan. Since my freshman year of high school, I had experienced loss and disappointment at every turn. First my dad lost his job that he had been at for 17 years. Then my mom was laid off. After that, mom was in a car accident that fractured her neck (putting her in a halo brace) and killed our 8-year old beagle we had raised since he was a tiny puppy. My friend Andrew had been shot and killed.

Later on, Dad had gone through another lay-off and was finally beginning to get settled in a more permanent job, and mom had recovered physically and emotionally from the accident and found a job teaching at TCU, and we got another dog. I could tell things were starting to look up, but not without a few bumps along the way.

The summer before I read this book I had realized how I had deeper feelings for a dear friend than I expected, and in my attempt to tell her how I felt, I was ultimately rejected, and would have to recover from that. The school year before this summer I had gotten off to a rocky start in terms of grades, and though I felt I had found a strong social circle in the ACACIA fraternity, I screwed it all up when in a drunken stupor I unknowingly (I was blacked out and have no memory of this event) revealed the big secret of the pledge process to one of the pledges. Naturally, tempers flared, choice words were used, and I decided to gracefully bow out of the organization, at least until the dust had settled and I felt it was appropriate to return, though I never have done so, having decided that it’s not something I feel is a good atmosphere to be involved with at this time in my life. Needless to say, I was mortified and embarassed about the situation, and felt like a horse's ass. I had lost quite a few potentially great friends in the process.

Despite all of these setbacks and roadblocks, I found myself happy as ever that summer. But something about the themes of disappointment and loss, as well as the way memories can torment someone, resonated deeply for me. Besides the climax of the book where the man dies, the scene that struck me the most was when the man and the boy finally do reach the coast, and upon discovering that it’s not blue and warm and what they had hoped for, the two of them simply stare at it for some time, the silence finally breaking when the man says “I’m sorry it’s not blue”.

That sense of being crushed by how things didn’t go the way one had hoped, especially when the coast itself was the final goal for them, only to disappoint in the end, is a feeling I am all too familiar with. My clinical ADD has hindered many of my own ambitions, especially on an academic level. But when I read the book, it reminded me of disappointing outcomes on a far more raw and basic level than something like grades.

They had journeyed through hell, only to find that they had not reached heaven. Perhaps the man always knew this. After all, the man knows throughout the novel that he is dying. It’s no secret to him or to the reader, though he tries to hide it from the boy. In the climax, he tells the boy that the coast is no longer important, but rather the things he has taught the boy. He has held off his own death long enough to teach the boy how to survive. But without having found the salvation he had hoped for and promised in the coast, he decides to finally let go and allow death to take him. He has kept the boy alive, and that is more important than whether or not the water was blue.

The way his death plays out is more heartbreaking to me than the death itself. Like I said, I knew from the get go that the man was dying, the narrator of the book never tried to keep this a secret. But it’s the way in which he decided that it was ok to let himself feel the crushing weight of his emotions earlier, and that at his death, he had done his job to keep his son alive. In a way, that’s what truly spoke to me. While I had suffered loss more times than anyone my age should have to, the idea of finally letting go after carrying on for so long is at the core of the novel and is a feeling I found myself overwhelmed by.

After all the things my family and I had endured, from lost jobs to lost dogs, I always took it upon myself to remain strong, even when all seemed lost. I had to carry on and keep doing what I felt was the noble thing to do. But at the end of the day, it was nobler to finally just let go and let myself feel the crushing weight of all that had happened. I could finally weep.

“Then they came upon it from a turn in the road and they stopped and stood with the salt wind blowing in their hair where they’d lowered the hoods of their coats to listen. Out there was the grey beach with the slow combers rolling dull and leaden and the distant sound of it… Beyond that the ocean vast and cold and shifting heavily like a slowly heaving vat of slag and then the grey squall line of ash. He looked at the boy. He could see the disappointment in his face. I’m sorry it’s not blue, he said. That’s okay, said the boy.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Catching Up and Looking Forward

I keep meaning to write up three full length reviews of The Social Network, Let Me In, and The Town. After quite a bit of procrastination on my part, I've decided to offer shorter takes on each, save for David Fincher's film, which requires more meditation for me to really nail down, meaning there will probably be further musings on it in the near future, as it is far and away my favorite film of the year so far. Anyways, here we go. 

The Town (4.5/5) 
Ben Affleck has been building a great comeback for his career over the last few years, and with his lastest directorial feature, he proves his debut as a helmsman wasn't a fluke. The Town is a highly entertaining, compulsively watchable crime drama that's equal parts Heat and The Departed, with a bit of Affleck's emerging directorial style thrown in there. Like most actors turned directors, Affleck takes his admittedly limited range as an actor and plays the lead role perfectly, under his own direction. In a lot of ways, his performance shows the actor we always knew was there, but was never allowed to flourish. The entire cast is in top form, with Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm definitely stealing the show, squeezing every bit of slime and delicious fun out of their roles as they can, Hamm in particular. The film is lean, tight, fast paced, and never flashy for the sake of it. Affleck proves he can balance commercial appeal with artistic endeavors, a balance so rarely achieved these days without some sort of sacrifice, unless you are in a position of power ala Christopher Nolan. All in all, the film really soars effortlessly. It's not a watershed moment for the genre, simply a very strong entry, and one of the most entertaining films I've seen this year.