|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on November 27, 2013 at 9:15 PM||comments (0)|
IDEA: An old, ornery alcoholic father convinces his son to drive him to Nebraska thinking he's won a million dollars. On the way there, they stop by the town where the old man grew up, his past - and genealogy - revealing themselves in the process.
BLURB: Nebraska is a picture-perfect portrait of a place and a people, rendered with sensitivity, character, and a kind of region-specific detail that’s so precise it’s nigh miraculous. Its depiction of the American Midwest is as fine as the cinema has seen: whether capturing the majesty of its vast, unadorned landscapes or representing its small towns and their communities, it is attuned to the humble, understated temperament of the country’s heartland in a way that goes beyond the provincial and into a kind of transcendent familiarity. Payne and screenwriter Bob Nelson never step a foot wrong in giving us a totally naturalistic sense of the individual and shared family histories that have been built into this geography. Their insight into the ways familial relationships stall and evolve, regress and reshape through time and circumstance, is poignant and true. The faces chosen to bring the story and its characters to life are just as exemplary: Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and Will Forte make a hilariously mercurial father-mother-son dynamic, but it’s the bit parts, the little guys, that show just how attentive Payne is to the social fabric he’s weaving. Every single person, primary or peripheral, has the right look, the right sound, the right feel – while they may be polarized by the vagaries of life and family, nobody is out of place in this beautifully modest slice of Americana.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on November 6, 2013 at 9:35 PM||comments (0)|
Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, 1956
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on November 2, 2013 at 6:50 PM||comments (0)|
ALL IS LOST ****
IDEA: A man wakes up to find his sailboat flooded. A floating cargo container has punctured the side of his ship. He beats on, his prospects dwindling.
BLURB: Harnessing the water, the skies, and the grizzled yet improbably fit countenance of Robert Redford, All is Lost crafts an experience of staggering physical and emotional fluency. Chandor knows what he’s doing and more: his prudence, his visual acuity, and his open embrace of solitude and silence put into heartrending relief a story of personal and social crisis. The minimalism is such that the film operates on simultaneous levels of metaphor. As a simple survival tale of man versus nature, it’s riveting; as a more mythic visualization of detachment and loss, aging and despair, it’s even grander; and as a 21st century lament to economic disaster and social ostracization, it reaches its most gut-wrenching peaks. The images of our stoic old man slowly relenting to the whiplash of the natural world as well as the negligent attitudes of a passing society are painful in their familiarity. This may be a film about struggle, about resignation and decline. In those dire circumstances, however, it finds life unequivocally affirmed.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 17, 2013 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
THE CREMATOR ***1/2
IDEA: Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. A cremator, Karel Kopfrkingl, sees his work as being divine liberation for suffering human souls. With the Nazis closing in on the country, his skewed philosophies grow even more deranged...
BLURB: In the cinema of Madness, Rudolf Hrusínský’s cherubic, becalmed cremator counts as one of the most unhinged and terrifying of all psychopaths. Juraj Herz’s film itself, meanwhile, is perhaps the most masterful visual channeling of psychological degeneration ever put to screen. It moves relentlessly: shots pile onto and branch out of each other in furious Soviet Montage; scenes transition in mid-thought, imperceptibly, utterly mincing space and time; and wide-angle, fisheye lenses bend, bulge, and warp the plane in increasingly queasy ways. It almost doesn’t matter that the story, a forceful allegory of poisonous ideological sway, registers as comparatively slim. This is a virtuoso technical feat through and through – a textbook example of expressive editing, cinematography, and sound design, all in the service of an art form at its most breathlessly adventurous.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on October 13, 2013 at 10:45 PM||comments (0)|
IN A YEAR WITH 13 MOONS ***
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
IDEA: A man who underwent a sex-change operation in order to win over the object of his affection traces back the steps that have led him to his current, despondent state - before confronting the man that spurred his decision.
BLURB: Fassbinder’s visual strategies are at their boldest and most striking in this stringent 1978 feature. Filled with alarming compositions that simultaneously distance the audience and refuse to let it go, the film operates on a series of reverie-like episodes that play out in long, exacting takes. Blood reds, blacks, golds, and antiseptic whites dominate the color scheme, and in a dense layering of image and sound, Fassbinder creates a world from which few can enter and even fewer can escape – including, quite often, us. The vision here is severe and angry, cynical and resigned. This is no surprise coming from a director whose every work reflected his dual confusion and repulsion at both himself and the dispassionate world around him. But this film is particularly hard to swallow. Its depiction of transsexuality, for one, borders on distasteful: Fassbinder uses it not to portray someone coming to terms with their latent gender identity, but as a metaphor for someone who is fundamentally fractured and lacking center. Another character, a man who grew up in a concentration camp and has now become a pimp/kingpin/corporate-capitalistic fascist leech, is a wonderful creation but of morally and politically dubious motivation. On the one hand, good on Fassbinder for being brutally personal and fearless. On the other – well, that slaughterhouse scene.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 26, 2013 at 3:00 PM||comments (2)|
LITTLE FUGITIVE ***1/2
Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, and Ruth Orkin
IDEA: Tricked into thinking he's killed his brother, 7-year-old Joey runs away to Coney Island, where a life of hotdogs, cotton candy, carousels, and pony rides awaits him.
BLURB: Without any doubt, Little Fugitive is one of the purest, most authentic evocations of a child’s-eye view ever put to screen, as well as one of the most distinctive American films of the 1950s. Independently financed and produced with a cast made up of a few children and a couple of nameless adults, this is essentially Italian neorealism transplanted to the other side of the Atlantic. Richie Andrusco, as the pint-sized lad who we follow for most of the picture, is a genuine source of wonder: watching him react to the myriad curiosities of the world, and then watching him make his own impressions on that world, is by turns hilarious, poignant, and thrilling. Engel’s camera, often concealed, picks up the boy’s actions with a documentary-like spontaneity. His frames are pure poetry, gritty street photography made rapturous. And what better place to study the head-rush of juvenile delight, awe, and vulnerability than at the buzzing carnival of Coney Island? The long, wordless sections in which we observe the boy devour a supersized slice of watermelon or hurl himself around a batting cage feel immortal even as they’re still occurring. Although the resolution to what little story there is isn’t quite satisfactory, the images and feelings of this innocent childhood sojourn are indelible – captures of a time, place, and way of being long gone, forever etched into cinematic eternity.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 19, 2013 at 3:00 PM||comments (0)|
THE SPECTACULAR NOW ***
IDEA: Sutter Keely, a popular, self-possessed high school senior with a drinking problem, falls in love with Aimee Finecky, a good-girl bookworm. Through each other, they will deal with difficult pasts and the precarious present.
BLURB: The Spectacular Now features two warm, naturalistic performances from leads Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who share a remarkably easygoing chemistry that carries the bulk of an understated – if somewhat dry – film. Their characters make up a relationship that always feels rooted in real teenage provinces: discomfort with school and family, reluctance towards accepting love, and most pointedly, an apprehension for the future. Ponsoldt rather refreshingly favors quiet moments of conversation over pop music montages, minor emotional beats over soaring epiphanies. Best of all, he nails the feeling of what it’s like to be a young person with a dubious grasp on time, realizing that the mantra of “living in the now” is merely a temporary respite from the knowledge that each “now” is another step into a future being constantly redefined.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 16, 2013 at 6:45 PM||comments (0)|
EL TOPO **
IDEA: A gunslinger sets out on a path to prove himself by defeating the four gun masters of the desert. Lots of crazy shit ensues.
BLURB: Despite the adamant voices of a devoted following, I remain unconvinced there’s much of real importance residing in this grotesque sideshow from the gonzo mind of Alejandro Jodorowsky. Stuffed with lurid imagery that takes the viewer on a trip from mystic, butterfly net-wielding warriors to debauched cultists and deformed cave-dwellers, it is a procession of increasingly bizarre (and unsettling) oddities that supposedly adds up to something having to do with... well, something. The religious iconography and symbolism is made blatant, however, suggesting some manner of social critique that would seem to be taking to task violence and zealotry and specious journeys toward enlightenment. For the first quarter or so, in which the eponymous character rides around on horseback with his stark-naked son in tow, the film does intrigue with its sheer strangeness. But the novelty wears off, and fairly quickly. What we’re left with are half-baked ideas wading in a pool of tiresome nonsense.
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM||comments (0)|
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, 1974
|Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on August 1, 2013 at 4:55 PM||comments (0)|