30 December 2012

The Year in Film: 2012 Nominees!

So, here we are. Coming up on the end of another year. In keeping with my college traditions, I've decided to try and add a tad more showmanship to my year-end film proceedings, and as such, I'd like to offer the nominees for the film awards I am giving via my annual summation of film and such. Were these an actual event with proper catering and exquisite decor, I've no doubt it would be a smash hit with cineastes, gorehounds, freaks, eggheads, scientists, libertines, and anybody who enjoys getting a diverse group of people together and celebrating art. Feel free to comment as you see fit.

I'll be posting the winners on Tuesday, January 1st.

Roger Deakins (Skyfall)
Andrew Dunn (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Norm Li (Beyond The Black Rainbow)
Mihai Malamaire, Jr (The Master)
Rui Pocas (Tabu)
Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus)

Life of Pi
Monsters, Inc.
Step Up: Revolution

Cloud Atlas
Zero Dark Thirty

Anna Karenina
Beyond the Black Rainbow
Generation P
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Broadcast (Berberian Sound Studio)
Reinhold Heil/Johnny Klimek/Tom Tykwer (Cloud Atlas)
Howard Shore/Metric (Cosmopolis)
Sinoia Caves (Beyond The Black Rainbow)

Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
Leos Carax (Holy Motors)
Panos Cosmatos (Beyond The Black Rainbow)
David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis)
Lee Daniels (The Paperboy)

Bad 25
Deceptive Practice
How to Survive a Plague
Pina 3D
Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Room 237
West of Memphis

The Awakening
The Bay
Beyond The Black Rainbow
For a Good Time, Call...
Not Fade Away
The Paperboy
The Possession
The Tall Man

Beyond The Black Rainbow
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Steven Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis)
Lee Daniels/Pete Dexter (The Paperboy)
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)
Tom Tykwer/Andy Wachowski/Lana Wachowski (Cloud Atlas)

Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)
Leos Carax (Holy Motors)
Joseph Cedar (Footnote)
Josh Fell (ParaNorman)
Drew Goddard/Joss Whedon (The Cabin in The Woods)
Max Landis (Chronicle)
Seth MacFarlane/Alec Sulkin/Wellesley Wild (Ted)
Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
John Carter of Mars
Life of Pi

Lior Ashkenazi (Footnote)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Dane DeHaan (Chronicle)
Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
Denis Lavant (Holy Motors)
Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)
Jason Segel (Jeff Who Lives at Home)
Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi)

Jessica Biel (The Tall Man)
Gina Carano (Haywire)
Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Lola Creton (Goodbye First Love)
Greta Gerwig (Damsels in Distress)
Nina Hoss (Barbara)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of The Southern Wild)

Tyler Abrizzi (ParaNorman)
Russell Crowe (The Man with the Iron Fists)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Scoot McNairy (Argo/Killing Them Softly)
Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom)
Ronald Zehrfeld (Barbara)

Maude Apatow (This is 40)
Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Cecile de France (Kid with a Bike)
Gina Gershon (Killer Joe)
Macy Gray (The Paperboy)
Salma Hayek (Savages)
Nicole Kidman (The Paperboy)
Samantha Morton (Cosmopolis)

29 December 2012

The Worst Films of 2012.

WORST FILM OF 2012 (in order of ascending craptitude)

10) Silent Hill: Revelation
09) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
08) Our Children
07) American Reunion
06) The Moth Diaries
05) Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out
04) The Lorax
03) The Expendables 2
02) Don't go in the Woods
01) Wrath of the Titans

20 December 2012

At the movies: Les Miserables.

One of the things about being a film critic that proves rewarding are the conversations you have with other critics. I'm fortunate to be able to call Jim Ridley both my editor and my friend, and long before this latest incarnation of the classic Victor Hugo story (and first adaptation of the Boublil/Schonberg/Kretzmer musical) surfaced, right after we'd done a dialogue review of The Raid, we said 'we should do this again.' Fortunately, he's as big of a fan of the Les Miz score as I am, so this seemed like a given. Have a read, let me know what you think...

29 November 2012

At the movies: The Black Hole.

A 35mm print of The Black Hole in Nashville, and I will not be able to see it. I've seen this film probably seventy or so times, and it still remains dear to me despite its flaws. I get to talk about it briefly online at the Scene, and if you'd like to know more, you can read a review I wrote of the film in 2001.

22 November 2012

Famous People Talked to Me: Ang Lee.

Life of Pi 3D was the opening night film of the 2012 New York Film Festival. For its press screening (which happened early that morning), a bunch of us waited in the torrential downpour. At the time, I complained, because I could be funny about it. But the film was transcendent and fairly moving, and some of the best 3D I'd ever seen. So here's the talk with Ang Lee from after it- it was a fun press conference, and Lee (in addition to being an NYU alum, so you know I have his back, he's a solid dude with amazing visual imagination) was a lot of fun.

A side note: if you are at all inclined to see this, do it in 3D. For reals, y'all.

17 November 2012

At the movies: Breaking Dawn - Part Two.

Twilight 4.2 happened to me recently. If you'd like my thoughts on the previous films in the series to prepare yourself, you can find them here, here, and here. There's no working link to my New Moon review, so I have reproduced it below for the sake of completism. Regardless, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is kind of amazing. Read along for the goods...

Also, I'd like to point out something that I've noticed about what I've written about the Twilight experience. I've been judgy and a little off-the-cuff with these movies, but I've also had a lot of fun writing about them (even the time I got hit in the face with a New Moon t-shirt from one of those t-shirt guns like what killed Maude Flanders). As far as keeping up a tradition with a franchise I wasn't a huge fan of, these films were way preferable to the Saw movies...


So free-thinking High School loner Bella and sparkly vampire Edward are together, moping magnificently throughout their Pacific Northwest High School. Then a papercut turns everything upside down, and the Cullens disappear, leaving our girl Bella a depressive adrenaline junkie with a journal full of flowery sadness. Fortunately, lurking in the shadows is another supernatural dreamboat, this time newly-buff werewolf Jacob, who wants to give his all to make sure that Bella is happy and safe.

The only supernatural force, it seems, that isn't devoting itself to protecting Bella: the Volturi. The Volturi are a mysterious clan of vampires who rule from their mini-fortress in Italy. They maintain absolute secrecy as to the existence of their own kind, though they apparently feast on packs of tourists by the busfull. And it's to them Edward has gone, in order to commit a complicated form of ritualized suicide. Because he thinks Bella is dead, and, despite being 109 years old, he's a guy who doesn't really know what it is that he wants.

That old Three's Company paradox of a labyrinthine plot that could be straightened out if people talked directly to one another... Well, New Moon has that by the fistful. And judging by the response of the audience at the pre-opening night screening I attended, New Moon also has puppies and expensive Belgian chocolate and the finest of champagnes, because that's the kind of response it got.

I can't hate: this is certainly more consistent and visually interesting than its predecessor, and its overwrought silliness is infectious, like a Smiths B-side or mononucleisis. Check your brain at the door and enjoy...

01 November 2012

At the movies: The Paperboy.

The most infamous film of this year's festival season finally reaches Nashville. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Getcher $8.75 and get a ticket, because this one is everything you could want out of socially conscious exposes and trashy exploitation.

At the movies: Flight.

Here are some thoughts on the new Denzel film. I had a fairly problematic response, but I know many people who loved and were moved by the film (and many who called it bullshit). Give a read, let me know your thoughts.

26 October 2012

At the movies: Sinister.

Still in theatres and messing up minds.

At the movies: Life and Freaky Times of Uncle Luke.

I was out of town when this piece ran, but I'm glad that it did and I hope it made a difference. This was the best short I saw at this year's Nashville Film Festival, and I watched it every time it screened during that event. It is my sincerest hope that this film could help those who need it- so many people are out of work, but it's staggering to me how much of the world is out of twerk. This film can definitely fix that.

At the movies: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.

The PROs:

1) There's a creature in this film that I'm calling the spidermannequin. It is featured in the trailer, though it skitters quickly (and with such overstated CG speed) that you can't appreciate what an exquisite slice of nightmare fodder it is. This is up there with the Trilobite in Prometheus, or any of the reanimated pets in Frankenweenie. I've always said that a good monster can make up for a multitude of sins in any movie- this is a very good monster.

2) Deborah Kara Unger realness. She only has one scene, but she gets third billing. Damn right. She'll always be Catherine Ballard to me, and she brings all the good will she brought into the first SH to this one.

3) The nurses. Like a fusion of the Stygian Witches from the original Clash of the Titans and The Weeping Angels from Doctor Who (even though, yes, I know the Silent Hill nurses predate the Weeping Angels), these stop/start contortionist slice-and-dice artistes are remarkably effective. Unfortunately, their sequence is edited a bit too haphazardly for one to really appreciate the tension that the 3D adds to this particular sequence.

4) A carousel kept in motion by jagged pectoral hooks.

5) Some masterfully composed deep-focus shots that use stereoscopic images in an effective and unsettling way.

6) a child's birthday party turns into what looks like a meeting of the Kiss Army.

7) I hope Clive Barker got some money from this production, because this movie has a Cenobite axe battle as its climax. It's not staged particularly well, but its set-up is good, and there's a nice transformation that precedes it.

8) the female lead (playing the grown-up version of diva Jodelle Ferland from the first film) is good. She's got presence and gravitas, and she's got a Michelle Williams vibe going on that is a nice touch. The script gives her nothing, and she turns it into something.

The CONs:

1) This is a terrible script. No dialogue that isn't cliched. No motivation that doesn't feel like a cutscene (rightfully) excised from a game. No effort spent on establishing 'the real world.' No strong characters whatsoever- say whatever you want about Roger Avary, his script for the original Silent Hill had superb characterization, including five great roles for actresses. There are entire studios that haven't released five great roles for women in their entire 2012 lineup. And there's just nothing here that doesn't depend on an awareness of either the first film or the series of games. I bet dubbed into another language, this film plays like gangbusters, though.

2) It looks like they had about a tenth of the budget of the first film to work with. That's not the filmmakers' fault, but it is something you need to keep in mind.

3) There's none of the Italian horror dream logic that proved so refreshing in the first film.

4) There's no telekinetic razorwire massacre, or anything that comes even close to the transgressive, gleeful savagery of that sequence.

5) The male lead is just not very good. Part of it is that the script gives him nothing to work with, but he's also never really convincing.

6) Everybody from the first film who returns in this one... one scene each. Sean Bean, he gets a couple, and (surprise) he doesn't die (literally), so that's something. But there's a decent amount of stars involved in this film, and they all get the traditional scream queen treatment of one scene and out. When Malcolm McDowell shows up, you just have to accept that.

7) The 3D is really inconsistent. Some scenes and sequences are absolutely gorgeous, with amazing uses of depth separation and perspective shifts. Others look flat and post-converted.

8) What happened to Carrie-Anne Moss' career? She was the ass-kicking diva of the new millennium thanks to The Matrix. And she's worked continuously since the late '80s. But she deserves more- she gets to be the evil queen in this film, with pale skin and no eyebrows, but she only shines when the CG and stuntperson take over when she grows sawblades and becomes a Barkerian warrioress. She does get a great 'take him to the Asylum and cure him!' moment that resonates, but like everyone else in the cast who speaks, she is left adrift by the script. She doesn't get anything on par with what Alice Krige does in the first one, and that's sad.

9) I'm sure the studios involved were ecstatic that this entry runs just over an hour and a half, but there's never a chance to absorb any of the environments the film presents. Everything looks kind of cheap. The cinematographer, Maxime Alexander, shot Haute Tension and the remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Crazies- this is a man who knows how to light things beautifully. And this film looks haloed and overprocessed.

So I can't recommend Silent Hill: Revelation to you. If anything, it's the most disappointed I've been by a sequel to a film I loved since Basic Instinct. Though, in all honesty, Basic Instinct: Risk Addiction had Sharon Stone going full-tilt crazy, and there's nothing so lively or refreshing to be found here. Oh well...

22 October 2012

At the movies: The 50th Annual New York Film Festival.

 For my eleventh consecutive New York Film Festival, I wanted to have a grand experience. I only saw two films I hated, so that certainly counts for something.
 There were so many dazzling moments, I just sort of had to keep my responses internal, barring the occasional gleeful gasp or slack-jawed amazement.
So here's my write-up from NYFF 2012. I hope you enjoy it. There were so many good films that I couldn't fit them all in, so much respect also to Pablo Larrain's No and Damon Packard's Foxfur, which I recommend to all.

06 September 2012

A Talk with Jamie Bradshaw.

So, a High School friend of mine has a major motion picture opening this weekend. This is awesome on a lot of levels. We talked about Branded, his feature debut, and some mildly philosophical aspects of the current cinematic experience. I hope you enjoy reading it...

24 August 2012

At the movies: ParaNorman 3D.

One of the year's surprising delights (that nobody seems to be going to see- which annoys me to no end). Do yourself a favor and check it out- there's a lot here.

09 August 2012

At the movies: Total Recall '12.

So, for some reason Hollywood is determined to remake all of Paul Verhoeven's SciFi classics. The first effort in this multimillion dollar recycling campaign is Total Recall, recently unleashed to theatres with a tad of fanfare. And yes, given recent events in the world, it's absolutely important that a film gets into why time and time again, unsettled minds feel the need to have to define their own reality through horrifying acts of violence... oh wait, this isn't that movie at all. If anything, its PG-13 sanitized massacres are creepier and much more offensive than the original's Swiftian bloodlettings.

26 July 2012

At the movies: Beasts of the Southern Wild.

So I got to take part in a point/counterpoint-style review-off in the Scene this week. Much respect to Michael Sicinski, whose review of the Dark Knight Rises in Cinema Scope magazine was one of the best on the film that I've read. Let me know your thoughts...

05 July 2012

At the movies: Ted.

So, for everyone who was wondering if Seth MacFarlane could bring it after unleashing Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show on the world, the answer is defiantly, yes.

At the movies: Savages.

Ah. Welcome back, insane Oliver...

I love Oliver Stone's more bonkers films, and this is certainly that. A feast of sex, violence, drugs, double-crossing, thrills, gore, mayhem, incisive performative critique, and Travoltarama! Check it out...

03 May 2012

At the movies: The Avengers.

Perhaps you heard of a little film opening this weekend about some super heroes who band together to fight off an unspeakable menace. Here's my two cents on the whole thing.

19 April 2012

12 April 2012

At the movies: The Raid - Redemption.

As I've often said, there's really no -sploitation like Indonesiansploitation. To put it another way, now I have more than just H. Tjut Djalil to recommend to people when they want to experience the liberating madness of Indonesia's cinematic id. I had a talk with icon and national treasure Jim Ridley after a press screening a couple of weeks back, and you can read it here. Please do so...

02 April 2012

At the movies: Mirror, Mirror.

I'm not going to lie, it screwed up the world when Eiko Ishioka died. You have to go back to the glory days of Edith Head to find someone working at this level of sartorial awesomeness, and it saddens me to think that we may not ever see someone willing to do this much to advance the visual arts through fabric, passion, and imagination. You can still take some time to luxuriate in her last film work, with the visually ravishing Mirror, Mirror. Some have been hating on this film like it owed them money, which I don't understand at all. Beauty, goofiness, classic fairytale style, and the kind of eye-popping joy that the Tarsem/Ishioka team always produced.

29 March 2012

At the movies: Silent House.

A mess of a film with a staggering lead performance, this is the kind of movie that I recommend to actors and people who dig on seeing just how weird some films can skew. If anything, the in-home experience with this film might prove even more rewarding. It's not a particularly good film, even, but Olsen is spectacular. Have a look see...

15 March 2012

At the movies: Margaret.

So, after much hemming and hawing and protestations, Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret is finally making its way  to Nashville. It feels like a lifetime, which is somehow fitting, because the film encompasses many lifetimes. 
I got lucky enough to be able to write about the film for the Scene, and the end result was a behemoth (somewhere around 2,600 words). You can read the refocused piece here, and then, after you've seen the film, you should check out the appendix to the piece, or, in remix terminology, the Bonus Beats, which are here. This section is much more spoilery, so do keep that in mind.

23 February 2012

At the movies: Salo.

You know what's an interesting challenge? Finding an image from Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, that doesn't trigger about a thousand different NetWatch alerts. 

So I wrote about the late, great Pier Paolo Pasolini's epic of defilement online at The Scene this week, and I hope you might find it an intriguing experience. I have only seen the film once, at a special double feature (with Seul Contre Tous/I Stand Alone) curated and hosted by Gaspar Noe at New York's IFC Center several years back. I share this tidbit not to namedrop, but rather to get at how the film can stay with you long after you see it.

So, Vanderbilt's International Lens series is showing the film, for free, on campus, which is gutsy and admirable. I do not welcome the eStorm of controversy and distraught underclassmen they may encounter, but I'd love to read the eMails after the fact. 

21 February 2012

Dance Music Talk: Thoughts on Whitney Houston's Greatest Remixes.

So, I do sometimes write about dance music. It's a passion, and a style of music that I enjoy and study.

So here is a retrospective piece I did on the late, great Whitney Houston- a timeless diva, a fascinating individual, and the voice behind some really great records. Have a look- perhaps it will lead you to some new aural adventures.

16 February 2012

At the movies: Pina 3D.

So, once again the forces of good have triumphed, and a weird, artsy 3D movie is getting a run at the megaplex. It's Cave of Forgotten Dreams all over again, except I find this film even more visually exciting. And the Oscar nomination doesn't hurt. If you're in to the visual possibilities of stereoscopic imagery, this is what you want to see...

14 February 2012

At the movies: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D.

So, thirteen years after my one and only viewing, I went back to a galaxy far, far away. My key response to TPM in 1999 was that it was the first Star Wars film I didn't feel the need to see with my Dad, and that says plenty. So it was an interesting chance I was given here- to see the film again, get paid for it, and hammer out what did and didn't work for me. Have a read, and let me know what you think...

02 February 2012

Famous People Talked to me: David Cronenberg.

So I got to interact with the Greatest Director currently working as part of the 2011 New York Film Festival's dynamic and exquisite press conferences. This is for A Dangerous Method, which is currently stuck in the arthouse slaughter slot at a local venue (10:05pm shows and that's it), so I hope this speaks to your heart...

At the movies: The Innkeepers.

The latest from Ti West, who made the awesome House of the Devil and 80% awesome The Roost. Seeing this bad boy in a theatre plays to all of its strengths, and it is well-worth your time.

26 January 2012

At the movies: A Dangerous Method.

A new David Cronenberg film is a cause for rejoicing.

Forty years in the business and he's still the best director working today (as well as my favorite all-time Canadian and living North American), and finally, after an eternity of dicking around because of potential awards buzz (that, of course, never happened), A Dangerous Method has come to Nashville.

I've been wading through an inordinate amount of haterade for this film from people who should know better, and I just don't understand it. But I'm getting ahead of myself- see the film, and we'll talk...

Famous People Talked to Me: Steve McQueen & Michael Fassbender.

So, one of the joys of the New York Film Festival are the Press Conferences, where you battle with likeminded critics and journalists from all over the world to get questions to creative folk who've just shown you their latest work. Here's some details from the press conference for Shame that you might find illuminating. Both Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender were charming and forthright, and the whole event went swimmingly.

One thing I was never able to fit in anywhere in discussion of this film is how exquisitely Chic's "I Want Your Love" is used. Bernard Edwards' basslines always have a hint of menace to them, and this film makes them perform in that capacity in a most exceptional way.

12 January 2012

At the movies: Carnage.

New Polanski, in this case a tony theatrical adaptation. And believe you me, it's something very special. I guarantee you Green Hills crowds can relate to it.

05 January 2012

A roundtable discussion of 2011 Film.

I had the good fortune of being part of the Nashville Scene's 2011 Year in Film round up. Feel free to explore.