If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!


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2016 Rising, Actus Tertius: Reflections

It’s time to close the door on 2015. Past time, even. But I wanted to round off this awards season, as patchy as my coverage of it may have been, with a poll (seen above), some statistical fun, and some reflection on my awards past.

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2016 Rising: Actus Primus

Current mood. (Source)

Current mood. (Source)

Happy New Year!

Another apology for not having gotten some of these promised posts out; first I was too busy with work or too tired to write, but then over the weekend I added being sick to my list of impediments (nothing severe, but…), and aside from seeing The Hateful Eight (which is, shock of shocks, ****), I haven’t caught up on any of the new releases yet. Hopefully I can change that this coming week, but I won’t make any promises.

Let’s take stock of 2015 and what it meant for the blog. In terms of viewership, it was a success–over 15,800 views from almost 10,700 visits, nearly double last year’s 8,500 views (from 5,500 visits). I actually posted less this year, only 113 posts, which comprise about a third of the total posts to date. But the interactive element of my 2014 Film Awards proved a bigger success than I could have ever imagined (thanks again to Brontis Jodorowsky and Arnaud Trouvé (CineCharlie) for their part in making it so), and I hope this year’s awards are similarly exciting.

On the other hand, I fell badly behind this year in terms of my film reviews. I found myself having less to say about the films I saw, and not knowing whether I or the films were to blame. Even now, I haven’t reviewed four of the seven (so far) **** films of the year. I tried to alleviate that with my Movie Journal, but I found it not much easier to keep up with (and the posts themselves were not so popular–only two of them got more than 20 views). I mean to catch up with a series of single and multi-reviews ere I publish my Top 20/Bottom 10 list at the end of January, but I am truly sorry I did not share my thoughts earlier. I will try to be better about this in 2016.

I’m also hoping to get more comment action going on my future posts. Obviously, I’ll need your help, but I know that if you want the gravy…you’ve got to get the biscuits.

And now, for some stats.

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THE TRIBE Review – ****

The more common poster is borderline NSFW, but I actually just preferred the artistry of this one. (Source)

The more common poster is borderline NSFW, but I actually just preferred the artistry of this one. (Source)

The logline alone commands the attention: a Ukrainian drama, told entirely in sign language, without music or even subtitles. That it deals with the lawlessness lurking beneath the surface of a school for the deaf makes it essentially another troubled-youth film with the by-now expected sex and violence on top of the corrupted-innocence storyline. So we have, essentially, a very old story told in a very new way.

And, almost despite itself, it more or less works. The stylistic choices make the story hard to follow at times, and the ugliness on display will certainly push many viewers away. But despite all this, once I adjusted to The Tribe‘s rhythms, I found myself thoroughly compelled. Even as I recognized the predictable elements of the story and questioned its logic, my attention was held to the very end. It’s not a great film, but the form, courtesy of director Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi, greatly elevates the content.

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CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA Review – ***½

Clouds of Sils Maria, if nothing else, is a superb acting showcase for one actress long regarded as brilliant and one long dismissed as a lightweight, but who is reinventing herself as an accomplished performer. It provides less and more problematic material for a third actress who has done consistently solid work, but whose treatment by Hollywood is decidedly troubling.

What it doesn’t provide, beyond individual scenes that compel, is a real point or a thesis that doesn’t feel like All About Eve mixed with faint, coincidental hints of Birdman, while falling prey to one of my greatest pet peeves in fiction. But let’s start from the beginning.

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Conflating My Nominees

My frame of mind exactly.

My frame of mind exactly.

For my 2014 Film Awards, I opted to split the major categories into Drama and Musical/Comedy. However, I’ve been considering what I would do had I stuck to the model I had used in previous years, and separated from the heat from awards season, I think I can whittle down my expanded nominees and produce a satisfactory set of contenders.

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11 to Heaven: GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE 3D, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, LEVIATHAN, TIMBUKTU, SONG OF THE SEA, THE INTERVIEW, THE IMITATION GAME, A FIELD IN ENGLAND, WETLANDS, MOEBIUS, and R100

“The best film of 2050”

Got a slate to clear. Got the 2015 films to tackle (well, aside from Chappie). Let’s see how quickly I can get through these.

I’d like to take this moment to tell you to check out my friend Ness’ new WordPress blog, The Ness Empire. He rants in grandiose fashion about the best (and worst) fast food has to offer.

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FOXCATCHER (****½) and AMERICAN SNIPER (***½) Reviews

Patriotism, machismo, tragedy.

Patriotism, machismo, tragedy.

I’ve decided to review these films side by side, not least because they complement each other so well thematically; both films tell true stories, of men who believe they are saving America, but do not realize it is themselves who need saving. One film openly displays the absurdity of its protagonists’ hubris, while the other treats it more ambiguously. Where Mark Schultz’ wrestling made not a dent in America’s destiny, Chris Kyle became the most prolific sniper in American history, serving in a controversial war and leaving a decidedly controversial legacy.

Both films are dark, unhappy portraits of the American psyche, but where Foxcatcher is a grueling and ultimately highly effective film, American Sniper is powerful in the details and frustratingly uneven as a whole. (Both films also feature Sienna Miller as the wife of a major character, though she has little to do in Foxcatcher but is basically a lead in Sniper.) Both films also racked a number of Oscar nominations–11 between them–and the nominations also complement each other well. So it is through those nominations that I will examine them.

I should add, I rewatched Sniper just before going back to rework this review. I hope to rewatch Foxcatcher eventually, but the controversy surrounding Sniper, and my own mixed feelings, led me to opt for a second viewing in order to provide the most objective review possible.

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