Friday, January 29, 2016

The Big Short (Adam McKay)

The world go 'round

Adam McKay's The Big Short --adapted from Michael Lewis' book of the same name--is a disaster movie played for laughs, only in this case the disaster involves the entire US economy, and when the smoke clears and you have a chance to think about it there's really not a lot to laugh about.

McKay tries his best though. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

The good if not great films of 2015

The good if not great films of 2015

Participated in two End-of-the-Year surveys: Film Comment's and Sight and Sound's, the latter having the advantage of making every voter's list (mine included) available online. 

Two titles that impressed me the most--Aleksei German's Hard to be a God and Isao Takahata's The Tale of Princess Kaguya were released in their respective countries in 2013, on DVD in the USA in 2015; they're included in my 2014 tally. 

Good as the following may be I really haven't found anything that engaged and moved me as much as those two masters' final works (one died, the other retired)--hence my title.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A pair of Burnetts: 'Nightjohn' and 'Selma, Lord Selma'

A pair of Burnetts

I suppose Selma, Lord Selma (1999) might be called Burnett's take on the Civil Rights Movement. Easy to wish it had been produced by anyone besides Disney, but thewish is a double-edged sword: if Disney had not coughed up the money, would there be a film at all?

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Peanuts Movie (Steve Martino)


First you have that scribbled line of ink on paper--halfway between a fluid streak and a crabbed scrawl. It's an expressive line, able to describe a round head's frustrated brow or a small beagle's literary ambitions ("It was a dark and stormy night"), able to suggest a child's despair over a grounded kite or a flying ace's ongoing Walter Mitty-style battle with the Red Baron. 

Charles M. Schulz's graphic line, done with an Eastbrook 914 radio pen, managed to exploit its limitations to evoke a boy's titanic struggles with life, a fourlegged dreamer's titanic struggles with imagination. Peanuts was the most minimalist of comic strips--basically four panels, a few characters, some dialogue balloons, a punchline--that nevertheless sketched a moody, strangely melancholic world all its own.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Better films of 2015: The Duke of Burgundy, Force Majeure, The Kindergarten Teacher, Phoenix, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch, Tangerine

Fine wine

A Jess Franco-style pastiche about a lesbian relationship--what else is new? But Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy reminds one of Vladimir Nabokov's most famous novel--you go in expecting a healthy dose of prurience and come out more startled than unsatisfied. The erotica is middling sensual, the kinkiest act in the film performed disappointingly (or titillatingly) behind closed doors, gurgling splash choking gasp and all. Strickland (like Nabokov before him) apparently has other ideas: a precise charting of a relationship's fading glow; the growing sense of obligation, of dreary chore, in what should be sexual play; the encroaching claustrophobic panic as pleasure becomes more and more a dull pain. If Strickland (who wrote and directed) and his good-looking cast (Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D'Anna as the role-playing lovers) don't commit to making an all-out erotic picture they do commit to making a surprisingly supple poignant drama--which I suppose is all the commitment we need, really.  

Friday, January 01, 2016

Little Black Book 3

Poster for Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos
Continuing from Little Black Book of Movies and Little Black Book of Movies 2:

Tim Cavanaugh on George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) chooses not to highlight the implicit social satire (zombies in a mall) but instead talks of how the "careful detailing of tactics and terrain makes this one of the greatest action sequences ever filmed."

The Little Black Book of Movies 2

Hilda Koronel in Insiang

Continued from my previous post:

Seems to me that the book resembles a titanic blogathon, where Chris Fujiwara asked sixty-two people "What are the key events / films / people / scenes in cinema?" and received a thousand replies, many of them coming from unusual directions that imply different backgrounds, orientations, ways of thinking.

The Little Black Book of Movies

The Little Black Book (Movies)--critic Chris Fujiwara's yearlong project, involved 62 critics, historians, filmmakers, enthusiasts choosing to write short entries (250 to 300 words) on 1,000 of what they considered seminal moments in 100 years of cinema. This can be anything from a "key scene," a "key film," a "key event," even a "key person;" the films can range from all over--silent and sound; color and black and white; Hollywood and otherwise; mainstream and alternative. Contributors include Fujiwara himself, Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum; Australian critic Adrian Martin (Rosenbaum and Martin recently co-edited a book Movie Mutations: The Changing Face of World Cinephilia); critic Dennis Lim (formerly of The Village Voice (back when working for the publication actually meant something (no disrespect meant for surviving critic Mr. Hoberman)), presently Editorial Director at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York); critic David Ehrenstein (Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928 - 2000)); critic Brad Stevens (Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision); L.A. Times web editor Tim Cavanaugh; Aruna Vasudev (founder/editor of Osian's Cinemaya: The Asian Film Quarterly; founder and director of Osian's Cinefan Film Festival), journalist, film critic and novelist Kim Newman (Anno Dracula); longtime film writer and lecturer Fred Camper; film critic and curator Paolo Cherchi Usai (The Death of Cinema); Filipino filmmaker and historian Nick Deocampo (Oliver (1983) and Cine: Spanish Influences on Early Cinema in the Philippines) and, heh, yours truly.