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. 

Let Me In (4.5/5) 
If Thomas Alfredson's modern classic Let The Right One In came close to perfection, it is in my humble opinion that Matt Reeves' adaptation of the same novel achieves it. If I had one word to describe this version, it's refined. The film takes the problem areas of the original and cuts them out (the drinking buddies, the visit to the father's farm), keeping the film's pace from ever dragging like it did in the original. Everything feels a bit more visceral, urgent, and frightening. The film boasts a notably more menacing tone over the original, thanks to a kickass score by Michael Giacchino, and fine performances (the bullies in particular felt far more threatening, like they always had every intention of brutally murdering Owen, instead of simply picking on him). In any case, you owe it to yourself to see both films. 

The Social Network (5/5)
One of only 4 films this year I've given a perfect 5 star rating (others being Inception, How to Train Your Dragon, and Toy Story 3), David Fincher's latest film is simultaneously the film of the year (so far) and the film of a generation. It effortlessly and brilliantly examines and defines a moment in cultural history, our time in history and place in society, culminating in a character study that syas something about our desire to connect with one another. Fincher's direction is characteristically beautiful, engaging, and visually stunning. Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield turn in outstanding performances as Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. I doubt Eisenberg will ever be called a Michael Cera clone after this film for a number of reasons. For one thing, he's a far better actor, and secondly, he displays a range never seen before in him. Conveying anger, jealousy, insecurity, arrogance, and hurt in such an effortless but no less masterful performance. Some have complained that it's impossible to root for him given the characters' actions. I'd say that's not entirely true. I've been in situations like the one Zuckerberg finds himself in during his time at Harvard. I'm not much into partying and the like, nor have I ever really wanted to be part of the Greek system. But I know what it feels like to feel like an outsider, rejected by the popular kids. Without condemning, or condoning Zuckerberg's actions in the story, let's just say I understand completely, as a fellow (formerly) skinny, white, nerd, where has was coming from.  Garfield, on the other hand, is the emotional core of the film, offering up a performance I'm told landed him his role as Peter Parker in the upcoming Spiderman reboot. And it shows. You see a lot of hints of Peter Parker in the performance. Trent Reznor's score stands out as a work that fits the film so perfectly, while standing on it's own as a fantastic work. But really, the star of the film is Aaron Sorkin's screenplay. The dialogue pops, cracks, and sizzles, offering up verbal sparring matches better than any I've heard all year. He pretty much has the oscar in the bag at this point. Masterfully directed, brilliantly written, impeccably acted, and gorgeously rendered, I can't think of a finer film I've seen this year. It is a masterpiece. 

That being said, the night is still young, and there are plenty of films I have yet to see. Austin Film Festival is coming up later this month, and with it, my favorite part of the fall movie season. I'll be seeing 127 Hours, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Meek's Cutoff, and Made in Dagenham. Also yet to be seen (by me at least) this year include True Grit, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, The King's Speech, The Way Back, and Another Year. Hopefully we'll ge more clairvoyance on awards season by the end of the month. Right now, in the beginning of October, The Social Network is the film to beat. But as Kris Tapley always tells me, it's a marathon not a sprint. Last year, the eventual Best Picture winner was released in the summer. This time last year, the frontrunner status was between Up in the Air and Precious, then in December it was Avatar, then it became The Hurt Locker. So as it stands, things are all still in play. 

What have you seen lately? What are you still looking forward to? Have at it in the comments section!


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