Part I is here.  Part II is here.

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10.  Not Fade Away

David Chase, of The Sopranos fame, makes his directorial debut with this strange and glorious ode to that most tired of subjects, rock and roll in the 1960s.  Clearly drawing from a number of very personal memories, the film begins with the dweeby Douglas (John Magaro) seeing the Rolling Stones on television.  The trajectory from this is pretty standard for this type of film.  Douglas has a crush on a Grace (Bella Heathcote), and he’ll win her over through the band, he has disputes with the frontman Eugene (Jack Huston), the culture shock of the late 60s doesn’t sit well with his father (James Gandolfini), and on and on.  Despite the familiarity, the performances and the writing breathe a lot of life and subtlety into even the most cliché developments (Heathcote is especially good).  Beyond that, though, and the real treasure of Not Fade Away is it’s peculiar style.  It’s not easy to get into in the beginning, but somewhere around the first band rehearsal it begins to click: this is all about rhythm, and not a tight one at that.  The editing is incredibly elliptical – scenes seem to wander off and then bleed into another.  There are gaps in the narrative, and not so much in the sense that it is disorienting but that this is a progression of moments and memories.  That word “memories” is important, because I can’t remember a time where a film has felt more like a series of memories that were happening in the now.  The present-tenseness is key, and in that sense, virtually every scene becomes its own mini-pop song.  It’s all part of the whole narrative, sure, but also self-contained.  In its final scenes, the reality bleeds into hazy myth, and the disembodied sometime narrator becomes corporeal and demonstrative of the power of music as an engine for living.  There are very few films that understand rock and roll quite like this one. Read the rest of this entry »

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Best Films of 2012: Part II

January 14, 2013

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20.  Holy Motors

Having made it so high on so many Year End lists, I feel inclined to explain here why Leos Carax’s Holy Motors is only at number 20.   To synopsize the film would be madness, as there is no “plot” to speak of, but it boils down to an actor (Denis Lavant, truly one of the acting treasures of our age) moving from appointment to appointment to “act”, though seemingly he’s playing roles in real life or perhaps not.  The film is comprised of a series of disjointed scenarios that never have anything to do with another, and we’re never sure quite what is real and what is fake or if anything can be “real” or “fake”.  We are treated to a series of occasionally dazzling, and even sometimes moving, sequences involving everything from a sewer dweller kidnapping a model, a motion capture performance dance (my favourite visual moment), a father dropping off his daughter, and seemingly old friends meeting in an abandoned building while one sings.  Lavant is glorious, and while it should surprise nobody that he won’t get any real recognition in American awards seasons, it’s still a shame.  So, here’s the minor problem with it:  I don’t know what it means.  I know it’s a cop-out, and it doesn’t even necessarily have to mean anything, but I wasn’t wowed by every sequence (though they were always interesting).  Individually I think there’s a lot to pick apart, but I would have to see it again and possibly more times after that to come to the conclusion of whether it’s just a smattering of ideas or if it all coheres together into something greater.  As it stands, it’s at the very least a compendium of exciting and sometimes ingenious thoughts, all worth considering on their own terms.  Also, if you’re into liking weird shit because it’s cool to like weird shit, well I guess you’ll love this.  It is better than that, of course, I’m just not sure yet how much better. Read the rest of this entry »

Best Films of 2012: Part I

January 13, 2013

After last year’s overly indulgent Top 30 countdown, I had fully intended to cut back this year.  If I didn’t reduce it to a Top 10 and maybe an Honorable Mention list (placed alphabetically, of course), then at most a Top 20.  However, as nobody probably noticed, neither my blogging partner nor I have posted very much in the last four months. Indeed most of the films that made it on my list I never wrote about here.  So I’m keeping the thirty film format this year, but I swear, next time around I’ll keep up with the writing a bit more and that way you can see what I thought of individual films and the ranking of the End of the Year list just happens to be a fun diversion rather than me trying to express thoughts on the movies I actually liked throughout the year.

Read the rest of this entry »

And so begins the preamble to the countdown of the best films of 2010, in which the biases, vagaries, and merit of such lists are briefly commented upon in an effort to apologize for the choices and divert attention from the fact that these things are compiled for no other reason than the fact that they are fun to do.  It also allows me to point out that these things are always Of The Moment and so, in a few years time when I look back and wonder “what the hell was I thinking?” I can save myself the embarrassment of (not-so) youthful folly.  Without further ado, here is a countdown of disclaimers: Read the rest of this entry »