The Dark Knight Rises

August 15, 2012

As one of the biggest films of the year, and certainly one of the most talked about, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to bother writing about The Dark Knight Rises a full month after its release.  I was sick to death of critics and bloggers and message board nerds even before I saw it.  Still, it’s out, and I have thoughts, so here we are.  It is a testament to the film that even though I wasn’t a big fan of it (I enjoyed it well enough, but it is rife with problems and is certainly the least of a trilogy that has seen some degree of diminishing returns with each successive installment – yes, Batman Begins is quite easily the best of the three), it is too interesting to ignore.  Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Prometheus

June 20, 2012

All the anticipation, all clever viral marketing, and that stunningly awesome trailer have all led to this:  2012’s “yeah, but” movie.  Prometheus is one of those movies designed to flood the internet with endless debates amongst nerds and/or film critics – it’s a not-quite-prequel to one of the greatest science fiction and horror films of all time, co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, and directed by the ever dubious Ridley Scott, the director of two beloved masterpieces early in his career and a whole slew of middling-to-fascinating-to-downright-awful films ever since.  Big budget, an R rating, gloopy sci-fi horror and spaceships and a great cast and you have to wonder, is it any good?  Well, yeah, but… Read the rest of this entry »

Take This Waltz

May 29, 2012

At its most basic level, the virtue of a good pop song is its immediacy.  It can swing you through a number of emotions by combining lyrics and melody and production, all in a quick and easy three minutes and twenty seconds.  There’s a kind of thoughtless joy to tapping into the basic emotions of happiness or heartbreak or love or loss.  This isn’t to say that pop songs can’t also have subtlety – most of the best ones do – but their broad appeal is still that surface-level aesthetic quality.  Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz gets its name from the titular Leonard Cohen song, and indeed it features during a crucial and technically accomplished – if a bit showy – montage towards the end of the film, but the real musical touchstone that features is The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”, and if the film had understood that the pop song aesthetic was better for this material then the woozy, intricate, and beautiful Cohen number, it would probably be a lot better. Read the rest of this entry »

As we mourn the tragic, too-soon (would it ever not have been?) loss of the multi-talented Adam Yauch (aka MCA) of the Beastie Boys, I think it’s important to remember what I hope to be his lasting legacy in the film world, Oscilloscope.  An independent film company with both production and distribution wings (amongst other areas), it has become in the last five years one of the most treasured imprints in American cinema.  In recent years, as major studios tighten their funding for their arthouse subsidiaries – championing mostly established names and (hopeful) crossover fare – it has come down to genuine independent companies like Oscilloscope to pick up the slack and give voice to unestablished or perhaps the more idiosyncratic works produced in the US and elsewhere.  This no small feat, considering the long list of short-lived and defunct independent companies the last two decades have witnessed.  Oscilloscope has become a haven for music (Who Took the Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour) and political (the exquisite and important Burma V.J.) documentaries as well as a place for exciting talents like Kelly Reichardt.  None of it would have been possible without the love for the artform and the enthusiasm of Adam Yauch, a longtime cinema devotee who notably directed a number of the Beastie Boys videos under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower.  Jumping early on the Theatrical Release VOD model, as well as streaming services like Netflix, Oscilloscope has allowed for a much broader audience to find these intriguing works.  I haven’t seen all of their releases, but whether it’s good or bad, I know when I watch a film they’ve produced or distributed it will certainly be interesting.  Here is a list of six of those ‘interesting’ films – some are magnificent, others merely intriguing, but all are worth your time.

Read the rest of this entry »

The American

September 2, 2010

The “assassin’s last job” film, which is a slightly broader term than my previous favourite, the “assassins slowly crumbling” film, has in its time established a certain set of genre tropes.  They always involve the solo hitman, an emotionally closed off, consummate professional who, like any good loner, sticks to a rigorous routine to reinforce the self-discipline that makes him so damn good at his job.  Something comes up to throw the anti-hero of course, usually a woman but sometimes a child or even an unlikely partner that creates an emotional connection that causes him to get sloppy or call into question his line of work altogether.  It’s a well-worn concept, and was even sent up by Jim Jarmusch in The Limits of Control, where his stoic, meticulous hitman was met by a series of bizarre contacts that felt the need to talk about old films or science or existential crises to the totally unresponsive man.  Still, it’s a remarkably robust set up, yielding an amusing comedy (Grosse Point Blanke), a trashy actioner (Hitman), a decent actioner (Leon), an unexpectedly deep character study (Collateral) and even an outright masterpiece (Melville’s Le Samourai).  Like a jazz standard, it all comes down to the variations of the theme, or as Collateral’s Vincent put it, “behind the notes.” Read the rest of this entry »