Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Documentary Shorts Program 2

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Redstone Theater - Sundance 2014

Redstone Theater - Sundance 2014

There is a lot of excitement floating around here at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The streets are full of talk about all the films that are playing and people are lining up to get their hands on tickets before they sell out. Although getting tickets for the film of your choice is proving to be quite difficult, I am so glad I was able to register for some short films before arriving. The short films here at Sundance are sometimes forgotten about, but deserve much more attention. I’ve seen a total of 3 shorts programs and have enjoyed all of them for different reasons, but the shorts documentary program 2 that I saw today has been my favorite so far, and it wasn’t just because I got to see Robert De Niro. The documentary shorts program 2 had a total of three films. The first, I Think this is the Closest to How the Footage Looked, directed by Yuval Hameiri and Michal Vaknin was a touching and creative film about a personal experience of Yuval Hameiri. Yuval’s mother was very ill and his father had spent some time filming her the day before she passed away. The day after Yuval’s mother had passed, his father picked up the camera again to film the empty space where she had once been, but had not known that Yuval had rewound the tape in the camera so his father was unknowingly recording over the footage of his wife’s last day alive. (more…)

The Babadook

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook is an interesting take on the “haunting” sub-genre of horror. It tells the story of Amelia, who was widowed by a horrible car crash on their way to the hospital to have their son. Seven years later, her son Samuel is a social outcast who suffers from night terrors, and she is haunted by images of her dead husband and her desire for companionship. After finding a disturbing book in their house, a presence begins to haunt their every waking moment.

Like the best horror, this film is deliberate and slow. The disturbing tone is established early on, but not overtly so. In the beginning, their house has the creepy feel that many old homes share, with it’s creaking doors and a sinister basement. It is made clear that Amelia ignores Samuels many developmental issues, choosing to take him out of school when the headmaster suggests he be given a personal aid after bringing a homemade crossbow to campus. We also find that she chooses to have his birthday two weeks early with his cousin because she doesn’t want to celebrate anything on the day her husband died. In fact, Amelia’s obvious failings as a parent before the haunting are the part that personally unsettled me the most, and work well within the overarching narrative.

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Do The Right Thing Review

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Radio Raheem explains love and hate.

Radio Raheem explains love and hate.

After the relative success of his first two joints, She’s Gotta Have It and School Daze, Spike Lee was finally able to produce films on a grander scale. The first of these that he directed, Do The Right Thing, stands as one of the most remarkable films of its era. The story is simple, following the residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood as they try to make it through the hottest day their street had ever seen as long standing racial tensions finally reach their breaking point.

Lee’s bold style comes through in full in force. The street used in the film was painted with reds and oranges in order to emphasize the heat, which when combined with the vibrant costume design makes the film look similar to graffiti of the time. One of the most prominent songs featured on the soundtrack is “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy, the full track even played over the opening credits. Almost all of Lee’s early movies deal with race and the perceptions of black people in American culture, and in that regard this my be his magnum opus.

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Sherman’s March

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Pat, the first subject of Ross affection, goes for a dipIt’s hard to comprehend exactly how a guy could get away with making a two and a half hour film called Sherman’s March about southern women and himself but that’s just what Ross McElwee did with his 1986 indie doc classic. The film treads the line between documentary and mockumentary with relative ease and keeps you smiling along the way. The film begins like a PBS special, an ominous voice over a map showing the route of Union Maj. William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous march toward the sea, noting its residual impact on the formerly confederate states. However, the film quickly shifts direction when McElwee explains how he has just received a grant to shoot his historical documentary about Sherman’s March but, because his girlfriend Ann dumped him the day he planned to begin filming, decides instead to join his family on an annual wilderness retreat. Thus begins Ross McElwee’s epic and lustful journey to court–or at least explore the subject of–southern women.

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Before Sunset –Film Review

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Before Sunset poster

Before Sunset (2004)

I hate hearing the phrase “the one that got away.” I hate most clichés anyway, but this one especially irks me because Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) mark the phrase’s ultimate conception. We can all go home now, humanity; Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have perfected this one.

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Being John Malkovich

Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Many John Malkovichs shown above

It’s hard to say what Being John Malkovich is really about. I guess that’s often the case with well written films and this is certainly one of them. It’s about being married but in love with another who doesn’t love you back. It’s about what it means to be a puppateer, an actor or, for that matter, a writer. It’s about what it would mean to occupy another’s skin emotionally and even plays at what the metaphysical implications of such phenomena might be. Yet Kaufman (writer) is able to navigate all of these subjects daftly through one of the strangest plots ever to achieve success in Hollywood.

With Being John Malkovich, Kaufman wrote one of the most structurally inventive screen-plays of our time, yet, rather than feeling enigmatic or foreign to viewers, it’s fun. The story is hard to summarize, as you might imagine, but I’ll try here for the sake of whoever still hasn’t seen it. (more…)

El Mariachi –Film Review

Friday, January 10th, 2014

El Mariachi (1993)

El Mariachi (1993)

On paper, Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi (1993) seems ludicrous. A transient mariachi comes to the city of Acuña, Mexico, where an enormous hit squad confuses him for their mark –an assassin whom the local drug lord has put a hit on –because, like the mariachi, this assassin wears all black and carries a guitar case, though his holds only weapons. Armed with a guitar and whatever weapons he can recover from the gangsters he kills, the mariachi spends the film successfully fighting off his attackers while trying to figure out just why everyone wants him dead. (I know what you’re thinking; No, his music was excellent, so it couldn’t have been that he was just annoying.) Additionally, El Mariachi had a production budget of only $7,000. Thankfully, Rodriguez’s fast paced, grab-and-dash editing makes the film hugely exciting and forces viewers to suspend all disbelief.

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If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (A Review)

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

When a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound? Could that sound be the cheering of protestors or the crackling of fires? If a Tree Falls directed by Marshall Curry is a documentary that investigates the activities and history of the Environmental Liberation Front (E.L.F.) with Daniel McGowan as the medium. This thought provoking film makes us all gasp as our views on the environmental protection shifts from side to side in the rocky waters of truth. For me at least, this film not only highlights the E.L.F.’s troubles, but also echos the same frustrations many activists have felt in their own fields.

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