Monday, December 31, 2012

Wrapping Up 2012

This is the end, my friends. Oh wait that was two weeks ago. (HAHAHAHAHAHA wasn't that a knee slapper?).

Anyways, head on over to The Cinephiliacs to hear my choices for my Top 10 films of the year. I was joined by the ever so lovely Keith Uhlich and had too much fun that we went for over two hours, but got into some intense and honest debates about some of our favorite films. Listen now!

Also, for In Review Online, I was asked to blurb about two favorites, Cosmopolis and Lincoln, so check that out over there.

And finally, my list of honorable mentions that didn't make my Top 10, with links when appropriate. Presented in order from 11 to 25: This Is Not A Film (Panahi, Iran), It's Such A Beautiful Day (Hertzfeldt, US), Goodbye, First Love (Hansen-Love, France), The Loneliest Planet (Loktev, US/Russia), Red Hook Summer (Lee, US), The Imposter (Layton, US), Killer Joe (Friedkin, US), Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, US), Bernie (Linklater, US), Damsels in Distress (Stillman, US), Almayer's Folly (Akerman, France), Alps (Lanthimos, Greece), A Man Vanishes (Imamura, Japan), Neighboring Sounds (Filho, Brazil), Tabu (Gomes, Portugal).

To more movies in 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Filmic Discoveries of 2012 (Part II)

This is the second part of my list of films I watched for the first time in 2012. Read an explanation and the first 25 choices here.

25. Duck, You Sucker!, Directed by Sergio Leone (Seen on 35mm at Film Forum; June 19th) 

An explosive film that lives up to the amount of dynamite it delivers, Duck, You Sucker! seen completely cold. But since you’re hear reading this capsule, just know that it’s both Leone’s most fun film (the closest to a screwball comedy he ever made) and his most political. The fact the film “accidentally” switches genres and stakes forty-five minutes into the film is a complete Coup d'état of Leone, leading to the brilliant sequence where Rod Stieger leads a daring heist but instead becomes a revolutionary leader. It’s a bitter film to swallow, suggesting the lack of agency of any individual in a political battle, but it’s also pure visual pleasure, and now my favorite Leone. 

24. Show People, Directed by King Vidor (Seen on 35mm at Film Forum; January 23rd) 

The good people at Film Forum could not have chosen a better time to show this great silent comedy than the height of last year’s Oscar season, as Show People is essentially The Artist made by the people The Artist was portraying. It’s also 1000 times better (fact). Instead of the divide between sound and silents, Vidor’s film shows the movements of a young Marion Davies from slapstick comedian to serious drama actor, while her love interest William Haines remains at the bottom. Vidor captures with authenticity the difference between stars and actors with a jibing sensibility, and peppers his film with plenty of cameos that make for a number of gags that rival the best of the screwballs. Vidor’s work with actors makes this a timeless classic about the importance of termite art.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Filmic Discoveries of 2012 (Part I)

            I saw over 300 films in the span of 2012, starting with a rewatch of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge and as of last night, my second viewing of Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed. Of those, less than a third were from the year of 2012. While there were certainly plenty of great works of cinematic art that are worth your time, I retreated from the multiplex and even the art house to the hollowed grounds of repertory cinema instead.

No one has a perfect knowledge of the history of cinema, and any film critic has his or her own “blind spots.” I don’t see that as a bad thing though. Why would anyone want to have seen every movie? I’d rather have new discoveries to be made every year that open up new terrain to be explored. The 100 (yes—100!) films I’ve highlighted in this list fascinated me in so many different ways. And even better, most I saw on 35mm, a practice I have argued for again and again (though really something you can do in a handful of cities).

While some of my choices for films I saw the first time in 2012 are damningly obvious, there’s a reason they are obvious, canonical works. If my 2013 year of cinematic viewing (get ready for the Kiarostami Koker trilogy on February 10th at Film Society everyone!) can come even half as good as the year of film 2012 ended up for me, I’ll be a very happy camper indeed. Thus, I present the bottom 25 below, with the top 25 to come later this week. UPDATE: Follow here for the Top 25.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Purple Noon: A Not-So-Talented Monsieur Ripley

This piece is in collaboration with The Playlist, where I wrote a listicle on the background of the making of Purple Noon, based on the extras provided by the stunning Criterion Blu-Ray. Below, I reviewed the film and the disc. Read that piece by clicking through here.

             The very abstract title Purple Noon might suggest a film much more abstract, perhaps something Godard or Renais would make. Yet René Clément’s film, now out on a gorgeous Criterion Blu-Ray, is anything but that. Sexy, thrilling, and sensuous, Purple Noon is an audaciously smart French film worth any cinephile’s time. It’s the type of crime film that makes you think “they don’t make ‘em like they used to!” and has a central, star-making performance by Alain Delon that makes this a must-buy on any holiday list.

            Perhaps if Clément’s film went by the title of its source material, people would be rushing out to buy it: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Most people remember the classic crime novel from its over-melodramatic adaptation by Anthony Minghella with Matt Damon and Jude Law. Minghella’s film is certainly a fun and lucious, but it has nothing on Clément's existential and reserved approach. Foregoing the homoerotic subtext (though still hinted through the most intimate of close-ups), Purple Noon instead focuses on identity and class.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Some Notes on Reading Political Discourse in Killing Them Softly

They tried to get her last night.”
They? A wonderful word. And who are they
They're the nameless ones who kill people.”
-Kiss Me Deadly

“Everything is politics”
-Thomas Mann

            The easy reading of Killing Them Softly—the one it seems that every critic I’ve read seems to want to make—is that the film boldly and stupidly compares capitalism and crime in the most invasive and obvious way possible. Certainly, with a scene where Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins silently sit for a minute while driving to listen to now former President Bush explain the importance of the bailout, it might seems at times that writer-director Andrew Dominik is making simply a series 1-to-1 political comparisons: Brad is the economic stimulus package! The gamblers are the too cautious senate! America is a business built on violence!

            Excuse me for not buying the text. Dominik is, after all, the director who gave us The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a grand opus about the closing of the American West, its mythic symbols as portents of death. To assume that Dominik thought it would be a smart choice to reduce politics into blatant metaphors is to assume a lack of intelligence on the director, an easy job it seems for a number of critics all too excited to place themselves above Dominik. I mean if it’s so obviously a stupid idea, why do it? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mandatory Update

An accurate description of my life right now. Just kidding.

December is a very bad time to be in both school and a film critic. For one, I've written about 75 pages of historical, theoretical, and critical analysis. I'll actually be sharing some of that with you, dear readers, soon enough. I also have been trying to finish off the year of 2012 in film, which has been a truly exciting year of both contemporary and classic discoveries. That means, as you can see, I haven't blogged anything in over a month. But here's some link throughs to stuff I've done:

1) I was a very sad camper with Django Unchained. A quite frustrating experience in a lot of ways.

2) I've been quite addicted to Letterboxd as a new place to diary films. For the most part, I'm just doing my "tweet review" (Sounds dumb, but I make 140 characters count damn it). But I've also posted some longer thoughts on Death By Hanging, Gimme Shelter, as well as 2012 releases It's Such A Beautiful Day and The Imposter.

3) For the first time, I was invited to participate in quite a few end year polls. You can now see my Indiewire ballot here by clicking through the various boxes at the bottom (not a particularly easy-to-use system that they plan on improving). I'll have much more to say on my favorite films of 2012 as the year continues to count down.

4) Every week I have been answering Matt Singer's Criticwire survey, and would just point to this one from earlier this week, in which I named my favorite pieces of film criticism of the year.

5) Speaking of Matt, he was on The Cinephiliacs in November for a fun episode, and the truly wonderful Godfrey Cheshire joined me to talk about the heydays of the New York Press and Iranian Cinema. And Katey Rich from CinemaBlend just appeared this week to talk about Take This Waltz. I also reviewed Kathryn Bigelow's tremendous new film Zero Dark Thirty at the beginning of the episode.

Look for more content coming up over the holidays!