Saturday, October 23, 2010

When You Know Too Much

I cannot see The Social Network. Let me back up. Usually, a movie you haven't seen yet is ruined by spoilers, details about the plot that lessen the impact of the film's surprises. Occasionally, however, a movie becomes so talked about that the peripheral chatter outweighs the film itself and overshadows it. I've experienced this three times: with Brokeback Mountain, Slumdog Millionaire, and now The Social Network. I've read about it in every newspaper, on every website, and seen news about it on every TV show. I'm too aware of it. The film occupies too large a part of my brain without having seen it. I would not be able to experience it in a fresh and enjoyable way at this point. Now I have to wait until the film is no longer on my radar so I can see it and judge it fairly, on its own terms, without being burdened with knowledge of awards buzz, critical analysis, details about the production, or its perceived cultural impact. I fear this may be never.

(Top: still from The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956, Paramount Pictures)

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Hobbit gets ugly

Though it has recently been announced that a film version of The Hobbit is finally going into production this February, directed by Peter Jackson and staring Martin Freeman as Bilbo, there are still some unresolved issues. Its really a quite contentious saga involving striking actor's unions, corporate intimidation, and bitter international rivalry. Watch a rarely riled-up Jackson explain things from his side:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Zach Galifianakis gets a taste of his own medicine

You might be familiar with Zach's on going web series Between Two Ferns, where he awkwardly interviews the likes of Sean Penn, Jon Hamm, and Natalie Portman and asks them inane questions like "do you like websites?" and "did you also shave your V for vagina?" In this video from a local news station in Texas, Mr. Galifianakis finds himself being interviewed by a real life counterpart to his Between Two Ferns persona. Its hard to tell if the guy is for real or just putting it on. Take a look -

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"I didn't hurt it!"

The Vimeo Awards were announced earlier this month, which is where we find "oops", the winner for best experimental film. It is brilliantly and seamlessly cut together from found footage of people dropping their cameras. Take a look.

The camera becomes like a portal to these little extreme moments in people's lives. Some are more inane - "I'm gonna drop my camera into my laundry basket. Here we go!" - but many are filled with sheer exuberance, joy, shock, panic, fear, and wonder. My favorite moments: the remote-control plane smash cutting to a roller coaster, and the pure warmness and thrill of the father and his small daughter sledding. Just gorgeous.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Review: Winter's Bone

Debra Granik's Winter's Bone is a creaky, noirish hero's quest set in the impoverished Ozarks in the brittle dead of winter. Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old girl with a steely gaze and a quick mind, is saddled with raising her younger brother and sister and caring for their catatonic mother in the wake of her absent, meth-cooking father. Ree teaches her siblings to cook, shoot, and other adult responsibilities, as if, even at these tender ages, they may have to suddenly fend for themselves. Their is a wary, knowing doom in Ree's eyes that is heartbreaking; no 17-year-old should possess this kind of foreboding wisdom, but for her it is a necessity.
A thick undercurrent of cold, stinging dread lies beneath every scene; as Ree searches for her father, who has skipped out on his court date after putting the family home up for bail, she comes up against a frozen wall of secrecy almost everywhere she turns. Through it all, Ree faces enemies, gains allies, and passes trials and tribulations.
I'll not end without discussing what everyone who's seen the film is talking about: young Jennifer Lawrence's topnotch performance as Ree. A less ballsy director than Granik would have cast a 20-something to play the teen, and it would not have worked; there is no one better, of any age. Lawrence inhabits the character so thoroughly that it is hard to imagine she is not naturally of the film's milieu.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review: Enter The Void

Trudging away from the theater as the end credits rolled, I had to struggle to keep from collapsing, the cosmic weight of Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void is so great. Expansive is too narrow a word to describe the film's universe and cinematic language.
Oscar is a young American living in Tokyo, dealing drugs small time to raise money for his sister's plane ticket so she can join him in this far eastern city of lights. We open on a scene of them bickering (the language of siblings), shot from Oscar's POV; this take lasts for at least the first 20 minutes of the film, wherein we see the lights of Tokyo, drug-induced hallucinations, and Oscar's moment of death at the hands of the police. Then things get weird.
Though we are with Oscar for every second of the film, the real star is Paz de la Huerta as his sister, Linda; we see her brother's face maybe twice, and mostly when he's dead. De la Huerta delivers a towering, harrowing, and fragile performance that is daring on a number of levels. Noe is a director who can win an actress's trust completely; those who've seen Irreversible know what I'm talking about. De la Huerta does everything, bares all (physically and emotionally), and goes everywhere the film demands.
Noe takes universal paradigms - life flashing before your eyes at the moment of death, the afterlife, and reincarnation - and runs with them. What blew me away was how the film explores these anxieties so deeply yet so simply. After he is killed, Oscar's spirit or ghost floats around the city watching over his bereaved sister, all the while trying to make sense of this new and confusing plane of existence. Like the opening scene, it unfolds entirely from his strict POV.
Perhaps the greatest pleasures of Enter The Void for me as a filmmaker are the lighting and color; the photography marinates in green and purple neon, such a great relief from the insidious orange and teal plague that is afflicting more and more films these days. Though filmed almost entirely at night, the city of Tokyo is so bright it acts as one giant practical light, providing all the illumination we need for a picture about death and life and all the sticky, unpleasant details in between. Some may find this method of cinematography a bit graceless; characters' faces will disappear into darkness for chunks of time and so on, but if you're bothered by this then you're missing the point. 
I can safely say that Enter The Void is unlike anything you have seen; I don't have to know you. The film is so completely unique that I have utter confidence no person has seen anything like it, no person but Gaspar Noe.