Possible explanations for this: 1) There are 2 Reese Witherspoons (Wtherspoonae) 2) she can teleport 3)McConaughey gives off second-hand pot smoke that somehow seeped into the video equipment
This year I didn’t see nearly as many movies as I wanted to (that’s the case every year but more so this year) so that may explain a number of key omissions. Of all these movies Nebraska and Resolution were my two favorites from last year (and once again the definition of a “year” in movie terms is rather loosely applied).
- The Act of Killing
- 12 Years a Slave
- Drug War
- Stories we Tell
- Spring Breakers
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- Upstream Color
Nothing too surprising here, so that means I should be wrong.
12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Dir. Jehane Noujaim
* * * 1/2
- This film begins where most documentaries on the subject would have ended: showing the joy of successful revolution. Narratively it’s somewhat disorienting but makes sense as the characters discover the failure of the revolution and begin the second phase of it.
- This is an unfair critique, perhaps, but I felt that this movie was too composed and too pretty for its subject matter. I got the feeling that Noujaim was continually trying to make a different movie than the events she was chronicling; then again that’s ironically the power of this film, as the events become messier and more ambiguous so too does the film.
- …and that’s one of the joys of documentary. That the making of the film is, more so that in fictional films, embedded into the film itself. It doesn’t always make for the most perfect of films but often makes them more intellectually or emotionally satisfying.
- I think one of the better choices of Noujaim is to limit the amount of outside news coverage. I think many directors would have included many more clips from CNN or Al Jazeera. It’s nice here to have mostly native informants rather than letting outside sources “tell” us what is going on and why it’s important. This film is, rightfully, not about the West.
- Given the uncertain situation in Egypt and the legacy of the revolution I understand how this could have been an impossible film to end because the events themselves haven’t ended. The ending here is rather congratulatory and it might need to be for the filmmaker and its participants who have sacrificed so much. But it felt too rosy for me, and for a film it seemed a bit to certain for what it depicts.
Dir. Christian Mungiu, 2007
* * * * 1/2
- This is a very difficult film to approach in this sort of format, so this is more a realization that this short-form is best for snark and non-sequitur and King of the Hill gifs not serious films about serious issues, but I’ll give it a try.
- In a lot of literature and film pregnancy is often a metaphor for the continuation of the society; the propagation of the regime. So initially I read that into this film; the failed regime on the verge of being overthrown paralleled to an abortion. However, I think that is an irresponsible reading of this movie. It’s a bit too simplistic given how prevalent the film utilizes irony. I think the temporal setting isn’t so much to parallel the events to the fall of the regime but rather that these are the conditions under communism and that perhaps as accident of history these characters must deal with these events in this system but in two years they would not, and that these types of conditions lead to the revolution.
- As someone who’s seen his share of Neo-realisim I was certain the film would turn out far worse (or melodramatically tragic) than it did, and that expectation made this one of the most sickening experiences I’ve had in a while.
- To show or not to show…that is the question and there is never one right or wrong answer. It seems to me that the line is where the ethics of presentation change to the titillation of looking. This film elects to show. I think it complicates the act, and demonstrates the films commitment both to realism and the act of doing. But at the same time such a violent image is so excessive that the film’s tight composition cannot control its meaning. And in a way that may be the more ethical choice in this case.
- There’s an art to timing when to end a film, and the rhythm of the ending scene in this film is absolutely perfect.
Dir. Mel Stuart,1973
My review: * * * *
In one line: A 7th anniversary concert of the Watts riots.
- Hybrid empowerment and concert film; as much influenced by Chronicle of a Summer’s interview sequences as a concert film like Woodstock. So, some of the criticism is that the performances are cut short, but the film isn’t so much about the concert as Watts at the time.
- OR is this a bill for Stax’s label line-up? That’s kind of the question not just about Blaxploitation but most counter-cultural films of this time; how much is earnest expression and how much is attempts at profiting from untapped audiences. Then again, is exploitation isn’t the best term but it’s what we have. Exploitation suggests that the audience are dupes. Instead, what I think exploitation is, in this case, the ability to produce outside of the system. And like any films made in that system it has to consider economics as well as its social message.
- The Richard Pryor segments are in some cases the best part of the movie but also aren’t as fully integrated into the rest of the film. It’s kind of fun to see how much Stuart likes Pryor as he’s interviewing him and by placing him so prominently in the film.
- That performance of “Master, The Tempest is Raging..”
- Rufus Thomas performing the “funky chicken” and clearing the field is one of the more incredible sequences on film. I’m not kidding. A disposable pop novelty song becomes a moment of expressive joy and cultural connection that is transcendent.
“True Detective” reeks of macho nonsense. While the male detectives are avenging women and children, every live woman they meet is paper-thin.
I was going to write about this, but glad someone else did, thought I don’t agree with some of it.
My problem isn’t only with True Detective, as disappointed as I was at last night’s episode (I went from “oh, so this show is playing off the detective genre, subverting it’s first three episodes to be a meta-textual Lovecraftian-oh, nope, I guess not.”). It’s with most of TV. How many shows are about troubled white detectives in their 40’s who have to stop someone from killing women (preferably in a small town)?That’s like what, half of TV right there (even The Returned, a pseudo-zombie drama threw in a serial killer subplot)?
I don’t think True Detective is as shallow philosophically as Nussbaum suggests via its seriousness. It seems that way at first but I think it undercuts its characters sufficiently to suggest otherwise. In fact, the lesson of the first few episodes is that we shouldn’t trust it on narrative level. Still, I have a love/hate relationship with this show. When it’s good it’s as good as anything on TV. That said, the show too often relies of tired “quality television” tropes and lazy writing (I would have kicked a student out of a creative writing class if they used that “mow my lawn” exchange). So, I often am not sure if it’s seriousness is a form of parody or unintentional self-parody. I’ve read a lot of people defending the show as embodying the misogynistic views in order to critique them. It might be. My problem with that is why should the only “quality TV” option to the problematic depictions of women in media be a show that critiques them by being even more problematic in its deceptions of women?
It should also be said that show presents all of its characters in a terrible light. The world of True Detective is a dark, nihilistic place. But there are systematic issues that make the show unable to be an equal opportunity offender. The detectives can be awful people but they still get to be awful detectives while the women are only allowed to be awful sluts, awful victims, or awful frustrated housewives. Related to this is a systematic problem with HBO (as parodied nicely in South Park last season) and that’s with nudity equality. Woody Harrelson is not a good looking man and we don’t see him naked. But we see the young women he has affairs naked and in rather alluring shot compositions. Yes, HBO has to pay the bills, and put simply (and generalized) nudity is the reason why pay cable (or home media in general) exists. But there’s often a seedy feeling, a contradiction, in their shows showing almost exclusively young, female nudity to a presumably paying, male audience while trying at the same to to tell us it’s not “TV” or not commercial; that crass, market-tested idiot box (or not-HBO) while HBO is some more sophisticated, cultured, network.
The Onion had this brilliant article a few weeks ago and it seems relevant here. And this brings up a number of questions: Is it unfair to critique True Detective for the systematic problems of HBO specifically and “quality TV” in general? perhaps the recognition that HBO is catering to an audience makes these sorts of conversations useful. The systematic problem is with assumptions about audience that allow for blind spots to exist and criticism of shows presents an attempt to fill in those blind spots. Can one enjoy a text with problematic representations? I think it depends on the viewer. I fall on one side of the line where I find John Ford more racist than he is a gifted filmmaker, while I fall on the other side of when David Lynch’s virgin/whore dichotomy is useful as spiritual metaphor and when it’s problematic (and how much are the problematic representations of women on TV his fault via Twin Peaks? Was that parody of existing soap opera tropes unintentionally embedded seriously into quality TV?).
Whatever any of this means I think it’s long overdue for someone to challenge the expectations of quality TV of which gender and sexual expectations are a part.
Irrational Games, the studio that makes BioShock, is shutting down. BioShock creator Ken Levine said today that he plans to move on to smaller, narrative-heavy games that will be released digitally.
This is kinda sad. The Bioshock series is the high watermark for narrative driven video games; the original is at the top of my best games of all-time list. But, this could be a good thing if this allows for Levine to make more, perhaps more narratively challenging or experimental games.
Dir. Ken Jacobs, 1969
- I’ve stolen a lot from this movie in my own work which is a sign of my respect for it. Not so much the technique but the impulse. In one respect this is a structuralist film, but I don’t think it’s as successful as a structuralist film as it as a found footage film or rather what Holis Frampton called the “Infinite film.”
- In his essay, “For a Metahistory of film: commonplace notes and hypotheses,” and the entire essay is relevant to the film (he mentions Jacob’s work as example), not so much as structuralist experiment as an end, but rather as a means to “inseminate resonant consistency” into history/tradition by remaking material from other material; perhaps making experiential history through its marginal materiality; “if we are indeed doomed to the comically convergent task of dismantling the universe and fabricating from its stuff an artifact called The Universe, it is reasonable to suppose that such an artifact will resemble the vaults of an endless film archive built to house, in eternal cold storage, the infinite film.”
- It’s revelatory in showing that in such a simple mise-en-scene there is potentially infinite information, which can be lost in viewing, which it then dissects. I think this is the more important intervention of this film more than the interludes when it becomes something of a flicker film.
- Contrast this to Antonioni’s Blow-up. In that film, at a certain point the image becomes fuzzy to the point that it loses necessary information to navigate society. However, here, the information isn’t lost, but rather transformed-the alchemical ideal of transforming matter into spirit.
- One question that I’ve always had about experimental cinema is about proper length. For some films, duration is part of the experience or the thesis. But other times I’m not sure why a film goes on for 60 minutes instead of 20 (as you can tell, if you read my blog, I’ve been on a cinematic economy kick the last few years). What I think helps this film be more enjoyable than most avant-garde works is that it has (even though it’s feature length), more or less, a duration, or rather a logical procession: we know as an audience it will end when it has finished the short film.