Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday's Top 5... Holidays That Garry Marshall Should Tackle Next

#5: St. Patrick's Day

Premise: Set in Boston (I mean, duh), and featuring several interlocking threads about people at, and trying to get to, the St. Patrick's Day parade.

Starring: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, with cameos from Julianne Moore, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ten Years Later... United 93 (2006)

Director: Paul Greengrass

I genuinely can't fathom how anyone managed to make it through United 93 in a theater in 2006. I could barely do it at home in 2016, a decade and a half removed from the events depicted. Films dramatize real-life tragedies all the time, sometimes at a far historical remove, sometimes not, and they can be moving without necessarily being devastating. Whether it's because of the intimate way that it's filmed, the sense of dread and helplessness that permeates every frame, or the way that it subverts (as it must) every convention cinema has trained us to anticipate, United 93 is a movie that tears you up as you watch it. It's a great film, without question, but it's great in a way that's almost unbearable, putting it in the class of films that are so effective that you're grateful to have seen it, but hope to never see it again.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011)

* * * *

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Starring: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan, Taner Birsel

At 157 minutes, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia that can't be accused of not taking its time. It's a crime procedural, but not in the way of a thriller where the investigative team is constantly running from one lead to another, working against the clock to catch a bad guy who is always one step ahead until the final showdown when he's finally brought to justice (or death). Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a crime procedural in a slow, methodical way, one which is not so much about the crime, which is solved before the film even begins and its perpetrators arrested, but about the effect that the process of gathering the evidence has on those tasked with doing it over the course of a very long night. The length and pace of the film might seem daunting at first glance (which could also be said of Ceylan's most recent film, 2014's Palme d'Or winning Winter Sleep), but watching it becomes a completely absorbing experience very quickly.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Review: Pride (2014)

* * * 1/2

Director: Matthew Warchus
Starring: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine

Politics make strange bedfellows - or, maybe it just seems that way because we don't give people enough credit for their capacity to recognize the humanity in others. Based on a true story, Pride is about the alliance between striking miners and gay rights activists in Thatcher's England. As a film, it's right in line with other feel good movies out of the UK centering on working class people rallying in the wake of economic devastation, films like The Full Monty and Billy Elliot. As with all true stories, you have to take it with something of a grain of salt, but the film is so good-hearted, and just so good, that the inclination is to give it a break whenever it might be bending the truth in service of its story. A very funny, but also deeply felt movie, Pride, which managed to snag a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy in 2015 but only managed to gross a little more than $7 million worldwide, is one of the hidden gems of recent years.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

21st Century Essentials: The Act of Killing (2013)

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous
Country: Norway/Denmark/United Kingdom

If you’ve ever doubted the power of art, The Act of Killing is a movie that you need to see. A documentary about the 1965-66 anti-Communist purge in Indonesia, the film does something rather extraordinary in that it at once shows film as a distancing medium which allows the perpetrators of atrocity to openly discuss their crimes by dressing them up as “scenes,” and as a medium of emotional immediacy, participating in which forces at least one of the murderers to finally reckon with the things that he’s done and be overcome with revulsion. Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, and a contributor who has remained anonymous for fear of retribution by the Indonesian government (which says it all, really, about the country’s relationship with this part of its history), The Act of Killing is one of the most haunting documentaries you’ll ever see.