If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!


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BRIDGE OF SPIES and THE MARTIAN Review – ****½

Look into my eyes. Look into my soul. (Source)

He’s still staring right into my soul.

I opted to review these films together because each is a little miracle; each represents the best effort in a long while from a director who seemed to have left his best days behind him. The Martian is the greater triumph in that respect–I’m not a big fan of Lincoln or Tintin (War Horse is pending further review), but they’re a damn sight better than The Counselor or Exodus: Gods & Kings–but I’m very glad to have both.

Moreover, when you take away the career-revival narrative, you’re left with two excellent films. And that’s what matters most.

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BIRDMAN, or THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE Review – ****

"You're scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don't matter! And you know what? You're right. You don't." ()

“You’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter! And you know what? You’re right. You don’t.” (Source)

To what degree can a few seconds impact an entire film? In his review of Thelma and Louise, Roger Ebert argues that the climactic shot ends a few seconds too soon, and as such robs the film as a whole of just enough power that it doesn’t get **** from him. And in the case of Birdman, there are a few moments, which add up to less than a minute of the film’s two hours, which haunt me enough that I cannot rank it higher (as of this writing, I put it at #8 for the year). (Addendum: after further meditation, I’ve decided that these elements are not quite as damaging as I first surmised, so I’m bumping my score up a point, and the film up to #6.)

But at the same time, so much of the film is so good–so well directed and so richly acted–that even considering those troubling moments, I cannot rank it less than ****. One could fairly dispute whether it says anything truly new about the nature of acting and about role-playing in general, but it whatever it says, it says it in a tremendously entertaining fashion.

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