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Monday, September 1, 2014

Hollywood Book Club: Clark Gable: Tormented Star

This book is garbage. Even by the astonishingly low standards of trashy celebrity biographies, Clark Gable: Tormented Star stands out as particularly seedy and exceedingly worthless. This isn't a biography. It's a work of fan fiction which imagines that all the stars of yesteryear, but particularly the men, were only ever incidentally heterosexual, padded out with multi-page synopses of several of Clark Gable's films. The best thing I can say about the book is that, even with all that padding, it's a slim volume that runs to only 259 pages in paperback form, so at least it doesn't waste too much of your time. But, rest assured, that even though it won't waste "too much" of your time, it will waste your time, unless you like your books full of errors so brazen that they practically jump off the page and smack you in the face.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review: Locke (2014)

* * *

Director: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy is an incredibly magnetic actor. Very few could do what he does so successfully in Locke, where he remains the only person on screen for all 84 of the film's minutes and renders a performance as subtle as it is powerful. This film about a man whose entire life slowly implodes as he drives from Birmingham to London practically demands overacting just to fill the void where other characters would usually be, but Hardy and director Steven Knight are confident enough to let a low key performance guide the ship. That said, I'm not sure whether the film ever fully transcends its premise in order to feel like a story in its own right as opposed to an exercise in strict minimalism, but it definitely can't be denied that Hardy gives an exceptionally strong performance.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

21st Century Essentials: Rebelle (2012)

All eras have works of art that are fundamental to our understanding of not only the craft itself, but the culture from which it was created. The 21st century is still nascent, but it isn't too early to start creating a canon that demonstrates the heights to which film as an artform has reached since the year 2000. These are the essential films:

Director: Kim Nguyen
Starring: Rachel Mwanza, Serge Kanyinda
Country: Canada

Childhood is a precious commodity in Rebelle (also known as War Witch), lasting barely a dozen years for the film’s protagonist before it is demolished completely, thrusting her into a way of life that most adults wouldn’t have the fortitude to survive. Throughout the film she is telling her story to her child, not yet born, as a means of explaining how she has been brought to this point and why she might not be capable of loving him or her once she’s given birth. This may sound depressing but Rebelle, though a hard film in many ways, does not dwell in pathos and instead brims with life even as it surrounds its protagonist with death. This is a story about war, but it’s also a story about love, survival and, amazingly, hope.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday's Top 5... My Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall

#5: Dear White People

I've been looking forward to this comedy since the reviews started coming out of Sundance, so it really can't come out soon enough for me. Whether the film lives up to the promise of its trailer remains to be seen, but even if it only turns out to be half as funny and sharp as the trailer, it'll still have the edge over the vast majority of comedies that have come out so far this year.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Canadian Film Review: Archangel (1990)

* * *

Director: Guy Maddin
Starring: Kyle McCulloch, Kathy Marykuca, Sarah Neville, Ari Cohen

Watching a Guy Maddin movie is like watching a movie from a time and a place that has never existed. Archangel was made in 1990, is set in 1919, emulates the look of films from the silent and early sound era, and seems like it comes from another planet. It is a gloriously bizarre movie in which several characters are either suffering from, or thought to be suffering from, amnesia, a war is being fought for reasons most involved don't understand, and a "cowardly" man is stabbed so that his intestines spill out and then rallies to strangle his attacker to death with them. Archangel, like pretty much all of Maddin's works, is a film that will appeal to a limited audience, but if you like weird little movies that are as creepy as they are darkly funny, then I suggest you look no further than this one.