Saturday, December 6, 2014

November 2014 Film Wrap-Up

Theorem (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968) = 4/5

In a film where characters seldom speak, the glorious images take precedence. Every frame seems to be bathed in rich golden hues. Mysterious, sensual, and rich in symbolism. Perhaps the epitome of arthouse cinema.

Platoon (Oliver Stone, 1986) = 3.5/5

A boy is toughened into a man through the grisly sights of warfare. Well-acted but it just didn't move me like I expected it to. Maybe I just subconsciously compare every war film to Apocalypse Now and end up disappointed as a result.

Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998) = 3.5/5

It would've impacted me more if I'd seen it before the American remake and the countless parodies, but it's still creepy and well-paced. It cares less about cheap jump scares and more about earning our empathy through frightening situations where characters lose their human agency, and that's what the best supernatural horrors should do.

Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987) = 4/5

A life-affirming film suffused with transient images and words that effortlessly move you. It will remind you why you get out of bed in the morning. It's a subtle crowd-pleaser that doesn't announce itself with pomp and grandeur, but instead creeps up on you when you least expect it.

Young & Beautiful (Fran├žois Ozon, 2013) = 3/5

This dissection of the politics of sex and love is rather stylish and competent as a piece of filmmaking. However, there's nothing here that advances Ozon's oeuvre. It's the same uneasy combination of playfulness and safety that's frustrated me in his previous films (although I did enjoy 'In the House' quite a bit). It's arthouse melodrama that spoonfeeds the audience every inciting incident they see coming, while presenting them with ambiguous scenes that feel like planted devices rather than organic changes of pace.

The Trip to Italy (Michael Winterbottom, 2014) = 4/5

Coogan and Brydon are riotously funny raconteurs in this second outing of great conversation, food, and scenery. As with the first Trip, the laughs are deftly balanced with melancholic truisms. This dapper duo has struck a winning formula. I look forward to any other Trips they may have on their itinerary.

Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952) = 4/5

I finally decided to delve into the filmography of Akira Kurosawa. Until now, I hadn't seen a single one of his films. I won't lie. I was expecting more from Ikiru based on its stellar reputation. I guess I was surprised at how simple the story was. Nonetheless, there is plenty to admire here.

It's a meditation on how finality can summon vitality. Quietly moving, featuring a brilliant central performance by Takashi Shimura.

To the Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2012) = 3/5

Transcendentally gorgeous images do not fully atone for wooden characters and a threadbare script. Malick's treatment of religious/divine themes is too heavy-handed.

Escape from Tomorrow (Randy Moore, 2013) = 3.5/5

The work of a filmmaker going for broke, unshackled by convention. Unclassifiable by nature, but think ERASERHEAD shot in Disneyland. This nihilistic satire also functions as a piece of catharsis, with Moore expunging his sullied childhood memories of days at Walt Disney World with his irresponsible father. While I mostly approve of the film's oddness, the third act was too abstract and farcical for my liking. File under "something different" in your watchlist.

Horrible Bosses 2 (Sean Anders, 2014) = 3/5

The laughs are sporadic, and depend more on comedic timing and chemistry than genuinely well-crafted gags. It's a sequel no-one asked for. Just don't take it too seriously and you should have at least some fun with it. 

Polyester (John Waters, 1981) = 2/5

The oddball characters and preposterous plot exude no charm, only serving to bore and confound. The movie is firmly rooted in the early 80s and a lot of the humour just doesn't resonate to a first-time viewer in 2014. I feel as though Waters conceived of the Odorama gimmick before he had any vague idea of the narrative. Odorama was not an appendage of the film; the film was an appendage of Odorama. I'm really disappointed by this film, seeing as I loved Pink Flamingos, the only other Waters film I've seen.

Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983) = 3.5/5

Gory and downright bizarre. A visceral work of body horror that suggests we are what we view. Subversive for its time. Cronenberg deserves praise for the originality of his premise.