Category Archives: Review
Chasing Amy: My Reviews of David Fincher’s “Gone Girl”
If you follow me on Tumbr or Twitter, or like the Facebook page, you’ve probably seen my video review series that I started earlier in September. In that series, I reviewed Gone Girl right after I saw it on Thursday night, trying to be as spoiler free as possible, since I figured many people probably hadn’t seen it yet. You can watch that review here:
My friend Ryan from The Matinee asked me to be on his podcast about the film on Sunday. This was a very spoiler-filled discussion and let me really say how I felt about the film. You can listen to that podcast here. This is definitely a divisive film and one that everyone will be talking about. I didn’t like it, but I’m glad I saw it.
Roger Ebert and “Life Itself”
I wrote briefly about the death of Roger Ebert on my Tumblr the day it happened, but didn’t have the words to really do him justice on here. I’ll remember that day forever, though. I was in one of my screenwriting classes of my penultimate semester of grad school. All my classes were in these horrible, stuff, basement-like white rooms with industrial pipes hanging down from all the ceiling. All of my classes that semester were in this one room that also had this egg-carton like sound proofing. This room was horrible. I spent hours there every week. So we’re in class when my teacher has to look something up on the internet and rather nonchalantly says that Ebert had died and then went on with what he was doing. I sat still in my seat. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to sob, but I don’t like showing emotion in public if I can help it. After about ten minutes or so, I said I had to go and I went to the bathroom and I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. I was so dazed and so upset, I couldn’t even cry. I got home and I couldn’t cry. I read this very thoughtful email from my mother that she’d sent me because she knew I loved him so much and I still couldn’t cry. I didn’t want to believe he was gone. So I didn’t cry. In a way, he isn’t gone because of his amazing website, where all of his reviews are archived and his life’s work continues through the work of others. Today I saw Life Itself, the documentary based on his memoir (that I somehow have still not read) and I was finally able to cry. What is so great about the film – and Ebert himself – is exactly as the title suggests – his ability to enjoy life, to see the beauty in life, to see how the movies honor this beauty and to share his outlook with others. His was a life worth celebrating, worth mourning, worth remembering and this is fitting tribute. The film is in theaters and available On Demand and on iTunes, so you have no excuse for not watching it. I’ll make you appreciate Ebert’s love of the movies more than you probably already did, but it will also show you a man who faced death by embracing life and moving forward in all its glory as he had done all the years that came before. A man who understood that death is a part of life. A man who was not without his flaws, but much like the movies he celebrated, was more than the sum of his parts. A man who truly lived. I miss him every time I watch a movie, as I’m sure so many others like me do, but I take comfort knowing his is life that will be remembered for years and years to come.
Why Maleficent Matters (Spoilers!)
I saw Maleficent on Monday after reading various critic reviews, audience comments, etc. I was unsure what I was going to think about the film as a whole. I knew I would at least love the cast (Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley and Sharlto Copley – what did they do, cast this based on my Tumblr?!). I’ve been thinking about the film ever since and have decided that despite its muddled construction, there are aspects of the film that are very important to today’s film landscape and I think important for little girls to see, and for their parents to (hopefully) discuss with them. It’ll be interesting to see what a generation of women who grew up with this movie will be like. I discuss my take on few very specific aspects of the film after the cut, but if you haven’t seen it yet, there are plot spoilers a-plenty.
It’s In My Nature, Reflections on Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive”
“Have you ever heard of the story of the scorpion and the frog?” the nameless Driver (Ryan Gosling) asks movie-producer-turned-mobster Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) towards the end of Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece Drive. In that one line, when you put it in context, you get everything you need to know about the character. Heck, he’s even wearing a jacket with a scorpion on it for 99% of the film.
There has been much said about the hyper-violence that punctuates Refn’s otherwise hypnotic drama. Some love it, some think it detracted from the story.
I happen to think Refn’s execution of the violence was pitch perfect and Gosling’s superb performance just reinforces the story’s message: you can’t escape your nature.
The Driver doesn’t think about his violent acts; he just does them. They’re part of his nature, the way he instinctually reacts to certain situations. Think Viggo Mortensen’s character in A History of Violence.
He’s clearly tried to repress them in his day-to-day life – hence his day job as a mechanic. He’s even tried to find other outlets for his violent nature (i.e. his other two jobs).
But he just can’t help it; it’s in his nature. And when these explosions of violence happen what’s most interesting is the look on the Driver’s face afterwards, especially in the elevator scene. He did what he had to do, but he’s both appalled that he did it and appalled that someone so dear to him had to witness it.
There’s another telling moment in the film that I really loved. When the Driver is talking to the son of Irene (Carey Mulligan) while the two watch cartoons. He asks if the shark in the cartoon is a bad guy and the son immediately says yes. The Driver asks him how can you tell? The son says he looks like a bad guy, plus have you ever seen a good shark?
I found that scene particularly fascinating because again the Driver is wrestling with his inner demons. He knows he is a violent man, he knows that he does illegal things; that he is, in some shape or form, a “bad guy.” Yet, you wouldn’t be able to tell that from looking at him.
I also love when Gosling and Brooks face off at the end. Like the Driver, Brooks’ Bernie is a man who is violent by nature. This scene is like all the great showdowns in classic Westerns; only instead of guns the two exchange false promises, both knowing the other is figuring out just the right moment to strike. They’re both scorpions and neither one wants to let the other across the river.
While Gosling’s performance may be too subtle for Awards Season, I’m thinking Brooks’ performance won’t be forgotten – Hollywood loves to “rediscover” someone, especially in a bravado performance that is so completely against type.
The last thing I wanted to mention is how much I love all the attention to detail that Refn put into this film. He won Best Director at the Cannes film festival in May, and rightfully so.
There’s this amazing color story throughout the film. Mostly in shades of teal blue and this sort of golden amber color. Everything from the streetlights to the bedspread in a motel fit into this color scheme. As the film progresses and the violence increases the amber begins to turn into this darker red color. It’s just fucking brilliant.
I’ve seen this film in theaters three times now and I still want to see it again. and again. and again. It’s everything I want in a film. If it’s playing near you, I urge you to go and give it a chance yourself.
Three Contenders: Shutter Island, Toy Story 3 and Inception
I feel like 2010 has been a relatively slow year for movies. It’s almost universally acknowledged that this has been one of the worst movie summers ever. There are only about two or three films that have already been released this year that I’ve yet to see that I actually really want to see. That being said, there has also only been three films released this year that are even close to Best Picture quality: Shutter Island, Toy Story 3 and Inception. If the Academy is really going to keep having ten slots in that category, Hollywood is going to have to do a lot better than only three great films in a matter of seven months. I love all three of these films. Toy Story 3 made my whole family cry, including my 59-year-old father. I still can’t decide if I liked Shutter Island more or Inception more. The thing is both movies are full of great performances, but Shutter Island is really about Leo’s performance, whereas Inception felt like a true ensemble piece. I think I’m going to have to see Inception one more time before I can make that decision.
Spoilers may lurk after the cut.
In Defense of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (and the series in general)
I wasn’t going to write a review of this movie, mostly because the focus of this site is Oscar-winning and/or nominated films and contenders, but I got several requests to do a proper review. I also wanted to write on the movie because I’ve noticed that a lot of the reviewers for this chapter, as well as the previous two, have had a negative bias whether they realize it or not (Richard Roeper, this time around, however said he liked the film and was entertained). This pre-disposition is something I don’t understand at all, as part of being a reviewer is to try to stand back and approach a film objectively. That being said, I have read the books and seen all the films, and although I realize that the writing in the books is less than stellar, there is something about them that I just love. What I think it is, is that they are entertaining. They are a form of escapism, and whether they are written well or no, they are enjoyable. Same goes for the films. They are made to ENTERTAIN, not to enlighten, enrich or inspire us. Fans of the film series already know this. The books never claimed, nor tried to be, Pulitzer Prize quality and the films never tried to be Oscar worthy. What they did was entertain and from the sheer amount of money they’ve made, clearly they have done just that.
Avatar – Visually Stunning, But Ultimately Boring and Predictable
I really did go into this film with an open mind. After about 30 minutes I was pretty sure I knew how I’d feel about the rest of the film. Why? Because I could see exactly how it was going to play out and all I really wanted was for it to end.
Precious – A Powerful, Harrowing and Ultimately Uplifting Film
When I first heard the plot of this film – a 16 year-old girl deals with her abusive mother while pregnant with her second child by her own father – I was a little squeamish. When I heard that Mo’Nique gives the performance of a lifetime I was baffled and when I heard that regardless of its harrowing premise you’ll leave the film feeling uplifted, I was skeptical. Ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong.
An Education – An Edifying Coming-Of-Age Film
I finally got to see An Education and absolutely loved it. The one-sentence summary: 16 year-old Oxford- bound British Schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is wooed by the suave, and much older David (Peter Sarsgaard) in 1961 London.