Film Journal: 5.12.13 - 5.18.13
FROM UP ON POPPY HILL (Goro Miyazaki, 2013): 6.0 Slight, but charming. It’s nice to see that an animated movie, with all the work and time it takes to make one, can be almost entirely eventless, gliding by on the charm of character alone. This seems to be the movie that Hayao wishes his son started out with, and it’s not lost on me that its themes include honoring the past while...
Film Journal: 5.6.13 - 5.12.13
IRON MAN 3 (Shane Black, 2013): 5.9 Shane Black does his very best KISS KISS BANG BANG but with a superhero and it’s really good fun until he thinks he has to make a superhero movie like everyone else did since time immemorial. And while I like Ben Kingsley’s performance, the turn nullifies some terrific and terrifying set up (despite the inherent ridiculousness of The Mandarin)....
Film Journal: 4.22.13 - 4.28.13
42 (Brian Helgeland, 2013): 4.1 Heavy-handed doesn’t even begin to cut it with this movie. Blunt as a baseball bat to the head, maybe. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST did more to humanize Jesus than this movie does for Jackie Robinson and his trials and tribulations. I kid, but only slightly. Competently made, but let me give you an example. There’s a scene where a dad takes his son to a...
Zoetropia's Best Music of 2012
This has been a weird year in music for me. I listened to a lot of records. 117, to be exact. But I don’t think there was a single one that was an immediate lock for my top 10. The great, challenging, boundary pushing album just didn’t exist for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid year of music in my mind, a lot of great bands put out really solid releases. All of this is to...
Film Journal: 4.15.13 - 4.21.13
GIMME THE LOOT (Adam Leon, 2013): 7.2 I’ll admit, I was utterly won over by this utterly charming, foul-mouthed, good natured, low key comedy of the joyful, bittersweet, purposeful aimlessness of youth. Is that too much to put on this film? Probably. But what this movie gets so right is that air of friendship, of ill-fated crushes, of wasted summer days, of adventures that never had a...
Film Journal: 4.8.13 - 4.14.13
NO (Pablo Larrain, 2012): 6.4 A brilliantly wry portrait of how the empty (but powerful) language of advertising can be used for important, substantive ends. Bravo to Larrain for turning a painful time and era into an absurdist sketch that finds room to laugh at the ridiculousness that hindsight brings while being completely aware that very little separates pain from laughter. A very solid...
Film Journal: 4.1.13 - 4.6.13
TO THE WONDER (Terrence Malick, 2013): 7.9 Starts slow and seems as if Malick is parodying himself what with the swirling images of people running and “wonder”ing while increasingly elliptical voiceover narration plays (and I’m not entirely a fan of how Malick seems to be moving toward completely eschewing dialogue in favor of oblique, multiple perspective voiceover). But it...
Film Journal: 3.25.13 - 3.31.13
STOKER (Park Chan-Wook, 2013): 7.0 Gloriously operatic direction with fantastic attention to detail and camerawork that is never less than a pleasure to look at. Too bad it’s at the service of a pretty hokey plot that borders strongly on ridiculous. Park’s stylistic wizardry and fantastic editing do a great job of masking where the film is going which is properly thrilling but the...
Film Journal: 3.18.13 - 3.24.13
SPRING BREAKERS (Harmony Korine, 2013): 5.5 My love/hate relationship with Korine’s movies continues as he is such an idiosyncratic filmmaker, but just can’t seem to translate any of his ideas into a real knockout. This is another film that wants to revel in depravity while simultaneous waggle its finger at it, and I wish Korine would just commit. Various stylistic ticks are either...
Film Journal: 3.3.12 - 3.17.12
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (John Hyams, 2012): 7.1 It’s as if Cannon Films got Gaspar Noe and David Lynch to direct an adaptation of APOCALYPSE NOW and John Carpenter scored it. Nothing about this film makes sense, from the deliberate abstraction to excellently shot action scenes that are as thrilling as they are bleakly wearying. This is an action film meant to disturb and...
Film Journal: 2.18.13 - 3.3.13
THE DEEP BLUE SEA (Terence Davies, 2012): 8.4 Pretty stunning filmmaking that does its very best to keep the impressionistic whirlwind of emotions at its core. It’s mostly successful at that due to impeccable writing/structure and fantastic cinematography. I mean this is a gorgeous, sad film. One that seems fully aware that it’s not telling us anything new but still is deeply...
Zoetropia's 2013 Oscar Picks
OH GOD, I AM DOING THIS AGAIN. Here are my picks (and what I think will actually win) for this year’s Oscars. I am confining my picks to categories I care and/or know enough about. COSTUME DESIGN In it for Eiko Ishioka. She deserves to win, especially now, and this ought to be more of a lifetime achievement award. If she doesn’t win, I don’t know or care who else should/would. ...
Film Journal: 2.4.13 - 2.17.13
AMOUR (Michael Haneke, 2012): 8.8 Absolutely unflinching because this is Haneke we’re talking about, but not entirely without feeling. He just never lets that feeling get in the way of the honesty of the situation. Haneke’s formal classicism works the material well, dissecting not just the situation, but the relationship of this couple as everything turns bad. All the more...
Film Journal: 1.28.13 - 2.3.13
RUST AND BONE (Jacques Audiard, 2012): 6.7 Refreshingly anti-sentimental and just innovative enough not to be eye-rollingly obvious. That this film is about a handicapped person learning to live and be a whole person is not surprising. It’s just not the person that lost her legs. Is that enough to make this a solid film? Surprisingly, yes. Audiard directs with assured verve and the...
Anonymous asked: go see Searching for Sugar Man !!!
Film Journal: 1.21.13 - 1.27.13
THE LAST STAND (Kim Ji-Woon, 2013): 5.1 Cleanly shot, violent action that’s a fine vehicle for Arnold. Car chases, shootouts, fist fights, nothing too high concept here, which is just fine. Includes at least one very smart sequence (car chase in the cornfield) that wouldn’t work without Kim’s solid directing hand. I had fun, at least. ZERO DARK THIRTY (Kathryn Bigelow,...
Anonymous asked: I 100% disagree with your review of 'The Impossible'.
Film Journal: 1.14.13 - 1.20.13
PROMISED LAND (Gus Van Sant, 2012): 4.5 Plenty of craft and nice characterization all for the sake of a crummy script. This is Gus Van Sant in crowdpleaser mode, which we all know he can do, so it’s nice to see him so laidback in providing a very low key character based drama acted ably by Matt Damon and Frances McDormand. But then the film takes a turn for the formulaic, makes sure to...
Film Journal: 1.7.13 - 1.13.13
ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011): 8.2 There’s so much weary life to this one, as personalities and histories in a small town in the Turkish countryside come out during a weary odyssey to find a body buried somewhere out there. Sure, I expected the melancholy and the introspection, but it’s also gently funny. This is a movie that is so very affectionate for its...
Film Journal: 12.31.12 - 1.6.13
PULP FICTION (Quentin Tarantino, 1994): 9.0 Incredibly fun and full of great moments and characters, but its nature as a sort-of anthology refuses to let any story build into more than a neat short story. That’s fine, though, it’s nothing less than a pleasure to watch at any moment. Fantastic dialogue, fantastic interactions, fun, lurid stories. This is the cinema of cool at its...
Zoetropia's 2012 in Film
2012 was the first year in which I kept a detailed film viewing log. I will share with you some interesting statistics that are probably only interesting to me. Total films watched: 115 2012 films watched: 55 Highest rated film watched: A SEPARATION Highest rated 2012 film watched: HOLY MOTORS Lowest rated film watched (and lowest rated 2012 film watched): BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD Lowest...
Film Journal: 12.24.12 - 12.30.12
RESERVOIR DOGS (Quentin Tarantino, 1992): 9.1 I think its reputation as The Shot Heard ‘Round the Cinema World has outpaced it, but only just a bit. (And not really being old enough to be aware at the time, was it really as revolutionary and revelatory as, say, Wikipedia makes it out to be?) It’s an impeccably constructed film, sure, one that’s almost unbelievable as a debut...
Film Journal: 12.17.12 - 12.23.12
25TH HOUR (Spike Lee, 2012): 8.3 An all-around excellent film that I feel like I miss the real emotional brunt of because I’m not a New Yorker (and I’ve only spent all of 1 day there once upon a time). But even then, Spike Lee does a great job of depicting the city as it actually is, in that point in time, rather than the fictionalized wonderland (or wasteland) that serves whatever...
Film Journal: 12.10.12 - 12.16.12
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012, Andrew Dominik): 6.5 Everyone’s talked about how the film wears its thesis on its sleeve (and oh it very much does), but I didn’t mind, for a few reasons. 1) I enjoyed the blatant cynicism of it, which doesn’t do much for helping out in any political discourse, but as an artistic viewpoint, it’s quite refreshing. 2) Even the hippy dippy...
Film Journal: 12.3.12 - 12.9.12
HOLY MOTORS (2012, Leos Carax): 9.0 Has someone made the “holy shit!” joke yet? Oh good. But seriously, in a pretty staid movie year (my other favorite movie of the year is the definition of “restrained”), someone has made a movie that’s full of sublimely batshit insane moments that actually coalesce into something supremely effective and beautifully melancholy....
Film Journal: 11.26.12 - 12.2.12
LIFE OF PI (2012, Ang Lee): 4.8 Technically, it’s pretty impressive. But all the weaknesses of the film stem from the weaknesses of the book due to this being one of the most straightforward adaptations I can recall. The film is all surface but bears no scrutiny, much like the main character’s practice of three very different major world religions. It sounds all nice and holistic,...
Film Journal: 11.18.12 - 11.25.12
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Paolo Sorrentino, 2012): 5.8 It seems a bit aimless, and the Nazi war criminal macguffin is treated too blithely, but the film finds plenty of pathos in the absurdity. And humor, too. Individual scenes and encounters are delights, and Sean Penn turns in a nuanced performance that isn’t nearly as ridiculous as it seems at first glance. In fact, the whole film...
Film Journal: 11.11.12 - 11.17.12
FLIGHT (Robert Zemeckis, 2012): 4.6 The procedural nature of the crash itself is fascinating and thrilling, and then the rest of the movie happens. It flirts with interesting themes (an attorney defending someone that disgusts him, that a high functioning coked up alcoholic is in a better state to handle a high stakes life or death situation than a straight edge sober person who’s too...
Film Journal: 11.4.12 - 11.10.12
WRECK-IT RALPH (Rich Moore, 2012): 6.8 Filled with clever gaming gags (which fall a bit by the wayside when the plot has to do some heavy lifting), this film was clearly made by people who love video games and all they’ve done for kids forever. The script is surprisingly tight, with some speedy gags coming back to be important plot points, and it’s charmingly funny most of the way...
Film Journal: 10.28.12 - 11.3.12
CLOUD ATLAS (Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, 2012): 6.4 Wildly, wildly ambitious and wildly, wildly uneven. Still, the highs found in this film are of the variety that are breathtaking in its skill and scope. But the lows are goofy and awkward, if never outright bad. Getting actors to play multiple roles, regardless of gender or race, was never going to work completely, and of...
Film Journal: 10.21.12 - 10.27.12
FRANKENWEENIE (Tim Burton, 2012): 5.5 Never reaches more for gently clever and struggles to pad out a full length run time from not much plot to begin with. The animation and voice acting are very good, and I’ve never been a big fan of Burton’s aesthetic, but it works here and is used to clever ends. (There’s that word again). I don’t know, it feels like he had an idea for...
Film Journal: 10.14.12 - 10.20.12
V/H/S (Adam Wingard/David Bruckner/Ti West/Glenn McQuaid/Joe Swanberg/Radio Silence, 2012): 4.3 I don’t know if this reveals the limitations of the found footage format or just the lack of imagination of the directors. Each short has basically the same structure, and three of the six have the same basic twist. Bruckner’s is probably the creepiest (and definitely the most effective) with plenty...
Film Journal: 10.7.12 - 10.13.12
PONTYPOOL (Bruce McDonald, 2008): 6.1 More clever and suspenseful than outright scary, McDonald and screenwriter Tony Burgess do one heck of a job in building an apocalypse out of pretty much only three characters, a small space, and a great concept. The idea of a virus spread through language is, of course, quite a heady one, and while there is much to explore about such a concept, the film...
Film Journal: 9.30.12 - 10.6.12
EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Georges Franju, 1960): 7.9 Ah, poetic horror, told like a backwards fairy tale. The protagonist is the villain! You almost never see the heroine’s face (and she mostly just creeps around)! The atmosphere! The carnival music. The best prop in movie history! Seriously, that mask is wonderful. It is uncanny, creepy, expressionless, yet it seems to morph from scene to...
Film Journal: 9.23.12 - 9.29.12
THE MASTER (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012): 7.5 Beguiling, intriguing, inviting, but eventually unfulfilling. There’s a lot to this and I will be revisiting it very soon, but right now it feels a bit incomplete, even if what is there is fascinating. There are so many ideas and themes that Anderson seems to broach, only for him to drop them for some other thing. The film is absolutely stuffed...
Film Journal: 9.16.12 - 9.22.12
NAQOYQATSI (Godfrey Reggio, 2002): 3.3 It seems pretty clear to me that Reggio has lost the plot with this one and it’s a good thing the Qatsi Trilogy concludes here. It’s the first film in the trilogy that seems incredibly dated and harmfully reactionary instead of forward thinking. It’s pretentious, it’s heavy handed, and it’s not even that fascinating to look...
Film Journal: 9.9.12 - 9.15.12
PARANORMAN (Chris Butler and Sam Fell, 2012): 7.2 It certainly feels like stop motion animation has its own Pixar in Laika, with gorgeous production values, odd, clever stories with loads of heart and an often subversive sense of humor, and a disregard for the time-cost and sheer labor of (stop motion) animation to spend time observing quiet, true moments. This is a very funny, clever movie...
Time Is A Pony Ride: Remember the exhilaration of... →
thenatwistercomes: Remember the exhilaration of meeting an interesting new soul? I think it is one of the best feelings in life, meeting a new person that fascinates you, and you fascinate them. The world can feel so lonely, rightfully or not, and meeting a person that shares so much with you after a long period of…
Film Journal: 9.2.12 - 9.8.12
THE KILLING (Stanley Kubrick, 1956): 8.5 Its documentarian-like deconstruction of a heist is very Kubrickian, as is its sense of flair in camera movement and mise en scene. Its sense of fun and of humor, however, is something I don’t think will ever be seen again in a Kubrick film. (DR. STRANGELOVE, while being very funny, relies on being structurally and formally straightlaced as...
Film Journal: 8.26.12 - 9.1.12
PREMIUM RUSH (2012, David Koepp): 6.0 Breezy, fast-paced chase action that’s borderline cartoon-y but features some great stunt and camerawork. I did not give one hoot about the MacGuffin nor its attempts to ply some emotional reactions out of the audience, but I guess something had to be there. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is solid in his smirky devil-may-care role, but, as usual, Michael...
Film Journal: 8.19.12 - 8.25.12
KILLER JOE (2011, William Friedkin): 5.4 Doesn’t quite escape it’s stagebound origins but it does its darnedest, mostly through the sharp camerawork of Caleb Deschanel. The film is as lurid, nasty, grim, and brutish as you’ve heard, and everyone’s full commitment into their unsympathetic roles is very impressive. Yeah, Matthew McConaughey is pretty horrific as the oily,...
Film Journal: 8.12.12 - 8.18.12
HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (Takashi Miike, 2011): 6.5 Bookended by stupendous sequences, but the middle flashback is way too melodramatic and one gets the point about 1/3 way through it, if that. Miike also loves the form of the classic samurai films, and I can’t blame him, the look is staid and gorgeous, but this movie could have possible used a bit more of his flair, considering it...
Film Journal: 8.5.12 - 8.11.12
Well, according to the people who “liked” and/or responded to my last post, I must revise my guess of the number of people who read this from two to three. Anyone else out there? Send me a message or something. TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS (Radu Muntean, 2010): 6.9 Quiet and cautiously observed, but perhaps too cautious. It doesn’t overblow its scenario, but that also makes the...
Film Journal: 7.29.12 - 8.04.12
I feel I must explain my ratings system for the two of you who read this because you may be confused (also, if you do read this, please send me a message or something because I would like to know that someone actually reads and maybe appreciates these things… it would be nice). My ratings system is on a scale of 1 to 10, and I loosely define the numbers thusly. 0.0 - 0.9: Execrable. There...
Film Journal: 7.22.12 - 7.28.12
Ratings are out of 10. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Benh Zeitlin, 2012): 2.1 Ugh. This thing is so disjointed, calling it a mess would be like calling a hurricane a bit of rain. There are some imaginative visuals, and a unique sense of atmosphere, but the camerawork gives it no room to breathe. The child actress is fantastic, as you’ve heard, and some of the location shooting is...
Film Journal: 7.15.12 - 7.21.12
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012, Marc Webb): 4.8 The direction is so workmanlike that I couldn’t help but think how much fun Sam Raimi could have had with the Lizard as a villain. I did like Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in the central roles, their scenes together had a good amount of spunk and heart, even if it seemed to develop way too quickly. But hey, they’re in high school. I...
Film Journal: 7.01.12 - 7.07.12
THE ILLUSIONIST (2010, Sylvain Chomet): 5.4 Has some wonderful scenes that do their darndest to replicate Tati’s unique form of physical (and satirical) wit, but it just makes you miss the real thing. Maybe it’s the weakness of the script, maybe it was just an impossible task. Everything else is a bit too maudlin, and too one note to get at any sort of emotional depth. It really...
Film Journal: 6.17.12 - 6.23.12
KINGS RANSOM (2009, Peter Berg): 4.6 There’s some great behind the scenes footage of the trade going down and its aftermath in both Edmonton and Los Angeles, and of course Gretzky provides special insight, but this documentary is too cookie cutter to differentiate itself as a film. Berg tries to spice it up, but it mostly comes across as main story in some newsmagazine show. It’s a...
Film Journal: 6.10.12 - 6.16.12
I used to keep a journal of every film I watched with a little blurb of my thoughts. I figured I should do it again. Hopefully it will also encourage me to watch some more films. Ratings are out of 10, and I will be doing my darndest to start normalizing ratings and have 5 be the average, because I’ve noticed I do skew toward 7’s and 8’s even though I shouldn’t. But maybe...
Quotefest, Album Edition: The Mountain Goats - Get...
Wild Sage And when somebody asks if I’m ok I don’t know what to say And along the highway From cast-off innumerable seeds Wild sage growing in the weeds. New Monster Avenue Fresh coffee at sunrise Warm my lips against the cup Been waiting such a long time now My number’s finally coming up Half Dead Stole out to the back yard late last night Pine trees frozen in the silvery...