There was a moment in my life when I realized a bully was just a person reacting to their own insecurity. Understanding that someone could respond to their personal weakness by exposing and abusing it in others was a shock, an epiphany that shifted my world. Red-faced bluster started to look like fear, strength became suspect, self-doubt revealed dignity. Moonlight is a film that examines the weakness and dignity of a gay black man in the poor, powerful streets of Miami, and the bullies building walls around him. It navigates the volatile waters of masculinity and sexuality, black culture, addiction, love and hate, blending them into something familiar and awful.
Posted in Full List, In Theaters
Tagged Ashton Sanders, Barry Jenkins, Entertainment, Film, Janelle Monae, Media, Moonlight, Movies, Naomie Harris, Opinion, Reviews, Trevante Rhodes, Writing
It’s important to understand that what Marvel Studios is doing right now is unprecedented. They just released Doctor Strange, their fourteenth film in a connected series with concrete plans for eight more, a bunker full of characters at their disposal, and money coming in. Movie franchises aren’t new — the first James Bond came out in 1963 — but this is something else: A strictly interconnected universe, with complex character arcs over multiple films, and unparalleled visual set pieces. And because this is unprecedented, Marvel Studios has yet to realize that the frequency and quality of their films have spoiled the audience. It’s how a film like Doctor Strange, one that introduces a character efficiently, hits all the necessary beats with plenty of humorous interjections, and pairs the story to astonishing, unprecedented visual sequences, can only be pretty good.
Posted in In Theaters
Tagged Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Doctor Strange, Entertainment, Film, Mads Mikkelson, Media, Movies, Opinion, Rachel McAdams, Reviews, Scott Derrickson, Tilda Swinton, Writing
If there’s a vanguard of comic insecurity, Charlie Kaufman is leading it. In the seven films he’s thus far written (and more recently, directed), Kaufman’s characters are often overwhelmed, crippled by an oil/water mix of ego and self doubt. It’s important to maintain the distinction between an author and his voices, but with Kaufman it’s just lip service — he is deeply embedded in his work. In the stop-motion animated Anomalisa, this penchant for gluttonous self-examination produces Michael Stone, a man of misanthropy and mania. Or, in other words, a man.
Posted in In Theaters, Oscar Nominee
Tagged 2015, Animated, Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman, David Thewlis, Duke Johnson, Entertainment, Film, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Media, Movies, Opinion, Reviews, Stop Motion, Tom Noonan, Writing
Whether for art or commerce, making a film is a team sport. The undertaking insists that many minds and many hands work many hours in concert. Still, some films are far more the product of an individual’s tireless effort. Nate Parker wrote, directed and stars in The Birth of a Nation, the story of Nat Turner and his 48-hour slave rebellion. It exists more because of him than anyone else, save Nat Turner.
Nate Parker was also accused of rape in 1999, a controversy that has become intrinsically tied to his film and the conversation surrounding it. In answering a question that is both new and terribly old, each of us must decide whether or not the artist’s (alleged) transgressions should swallow his work. Though many would like this to be a universal assessment, it is inevitably personal. And in making this determination, it’s important to remember that not only can an artist’s work surpass the artist, but in fact, it should.
Posted in Full List, In Theaters
Tagged 2016, Entertainment, Film, Film Review, Movie Review, Movies, Nat Turner, Nate Parker, Opinion, Reviews, The Birth of a Nation, Writing
Darren Aronofsky has always felt a bit like America’s Lars von Trier — a brilliant misanthropic visionary, a storyteller whose wry approach often hits closer to home than we’d like. Aronofsky is more of a romantic than von Trier, but the emotional depths to which both men often insist on traveling feel kindred. And the results tend to share a gloom that distinguishes them from their peers. While Noah begins as an immense action epic, it ends in much more familiar territory for Aronofsky: Tense, probing character drama dealing with the lengths to which an obsessive person will go to do something they believe in.
Posted in DVD/Blu-Ray, Full List
Tagged Action, Adventure, Anthony Hopkins, Bible, Darren Aronofsky, Douglas Booth, Emma Watson, Entertainment, Film, Film Review, Jennifer Connelly, Leo McHugh Carroll, Logan Lerman, Media, Movie Review, Movies, Noah, Opinion, Reviews, Russell Crowe
Ralph Fiennes hasn’t been given many chances to act silly. Even his lighter roles end up heavy, which is why his filmography is built on Schindler’s Lists and English Patients. It begs the question of how Wes Anderson landed on Fiennes for his M. Gustave, whose kooky concierge is the comedic axis of the film? — a question answered promptly with a hundred minutes of Fiennes’ inexhaustible talent and charm. This may be Anderson’s purest comedy to date, which says any number of things about the director — he’s lightening up, he’s more interested in genre, he understands how hilarious Willem Dafoe will look with a false, canine-heavy underbite. The Grand Budapest Hotel is another minutely detailed, masterfully constructed film from Wes Anderson, and a reminder that he’s almost certainly the most meticulous director working today.
Posted in Five Stars, Full List, In Theaters
Tagged Entertainment, F. Murray Abraham, Film, Film Review, Jude Law, Media, Movie Review, Movies, Opinion, Ralph Fiennes, Reviews, Saoirse Ronan, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Tom Wilkinson, Tony Revolori, Wes Anderson
We all have stories from our youth. Their veracity is usually up for debate, but the stories are there, napping in the shadowy parts of our brains. Amarcord — a Northern Italian phrase for I remember — is Federico Fellini’s story. It has a small town, and fascists, and befitting the frenzied concupiscence of teenage boys, a coterie of beautiful women serving as little more than objects. Looking backwards in time is a finicky venture, and for Fellini bears out all manner of misremembrances in service of his dark comedy, which is often about the way those inevitable misremembrances make our stories better.
Posted in Classics, DVD/Blu-Ray, Full List, Oscar Nominee, Oscar Winner
Tagged Amarcord, Bruno Zanin, Comedy, Entertainment, Federico Fellini, Film, Film Review, Italian Film, Magali Noel, Media, Movie Review, Movies, Opinion, Oscar Nominee, Oscar Winner, Reviews
It’s often a good thing when a director settles into his own style, when he reaches a degree of comfort with his voice as a storyteller. It means he can spend less time obsessing over style choices and more time considering what lies at the center of the stories he’s chosen to tell. Not so George Clooney. In Leatherheads and Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney revealed a proclivity towards the atmosphere of Old Hollywood–Old America even. He also showed a modicum of nuance in the way he presented it. Unfortunately, The Monuments Men finds him exploring this inclination more single-mindedly and fruitlessly than ever before.
Posted in Full List, In Theaters
Tagged Bill Balaban, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Entertainment, Film, Film Review, George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Matt Damon, Media, Movie Review, Movies, Opinion, The Monuments Men
So here they are, my best of 2013. I’ll allow my two-month demurral and the list’s incompleteness (who does a top nine?) to speak for the sort of year I had in the theaters. Still, I saw enough to have an opinion and I’m going to share it with you.
Posted in DVD/Blu-Ray, Full List, Lists, Oscar Nominee
Tagged 12 Years a Slave, Alfonso Cuarón, Destin Cretton, Entertainment, Ethan Coen, Film, Film Review, Fruitvale Station, Gravity, Guillermo Del Toro, Harmony Korine, Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Joel Coen, Martin Scorsese, Media, Movie Review, Movies, Opinion, Oscar Nominee, Pacific Rim, Reviews, Ryan Coogler, Short Term 12, Spike Jonze, Spring Breakers, Steve McQueen, The Wolf of Wall Street
Salinger is built like an homage, speaking of the man with a spiritual reverence, maintaining an air of enigmatic romance with “never before seen” imagery and footage. The author’s elusiveness is the throughline, and Salinger wants desperately to play a part in the creation of his mythology, assembling old friends and contemporaries to talk about his work and character with great solemnity. It works, not because the film is effectively made, but because the story of Jerry “J.D.” Salinger is so salient. For those who have read Salinger, and felt a kinship with the man through that writing, Salinger is the rare film that unlocks its subject while somehow telling you what you already knew: He was a true artist, and true artists don’t owe us anything.
Posted in DVD/Blu-Ray, Full List, Netflix
Tagged 2013, Documentary, Entertainment, Film, Film Review, History, J.D. Salinger, Media, Movie Review, Movies, Opinion, Reviews, Salinger, Shane Salerno