Friday, February 27, 2015

J.J. Abrams' Star Trek

(As kind of makeshift tribute to the late Vulcan, I use arguably the best film he's ever done to bash the remake--affectionately, affectionately, of course. You can I suppose visualize the scale and intensity of my regard for the former, from the scale and intensity of the dents on the latter)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis,1993)

Rinse; repeat 

(Warning: film's plot and twists and ending all discussed in close detail!)

Funny how Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day (1993) opened to respectable but not spectacular reviews--Roger Ebert sensed that it was "basically a comedy, but there's an underlying dynamic that is a little more thoughtful;" a critic opined that the film "will never be designated a national film treasure by the Library of Congress." Twelve years later Ebert includes it in his list of great movies, saying "few films...burrow into our memories and become reference points," and yes--the Library of Congress has declared it a national treasure, of sorts. It's as if everyone who nodded and dismissed it as a charming but relatively harmless fable went through a Groundhog Day of their own (the film managing to "burrow into our memories") and came out the other end as total converts--it's that kind of film.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Winner of the Academy Award for Outstanding Picture

Bird man

In time for Oscar Weekend, my own little piece about the Academy Award winner for Outstanding Picture--

William Wellman's 1927 epic Wings won in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's very first awarding ceremony, and you can see the thinking behind the choice: it's a boxoffice hit that capitalized on the aviator craze (Lindbergh had just crossed the Atlantic); it's big in terms of scope (furious aerial dogfights and sprawling ground battles) and emotional scale (Patriotic sacrifice! Love triangles! Brotherly love!).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 1972)

Shoot the moon

(Warning: plot, surprise twists, and finale discussed in detail)

Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid (1972), about Jewish up-and-comer Lenny Cantrow (Charles Grodin) and his schemes to put aside newlywed wife Lila Kolodny (Jeannie Berlin, the director's daughter) in favor of WASP coed Kelly Corcoran (Cybill Shepherd), has been compared to Mike Nichols' classic The Graduate (1967) for obvious reasons: both Nichols and May have been longtime comic collaborators; both their pictures (his first, her second) feature societal outsiders trying to wriggle their way inside; both pictures are comedies, instagram photos of the American milieu they are set in--'60s California, '70s New York and Minnesota (with a brief detour through Miami Beach) respectively. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Birdman (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2014)


(Warning: Inarritu's latest discussed in detail, with plot twists and surprises mentioned and perhaps picked apart. In other words, if you haven't seen the film--watch it first!

In an interview I did of the late filmmaker Mario O'Hara I asked what foreign films he's seen, and he mentioned Citizen Kane.

"What did you think?" 

"It's so radio!"

He was right, of course. Welles introduced the radio sound to cinema: the aural effects that evoke atmosphere and spatial depth (hushed voices, reverberations), the musical and verbal transitions running into the next scene, accelerating narrative pace. 

Had a similar reaction watching Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): after ten minutes I wanted to stand up and yell "it's so theater!"