Gone Girl

October 3, 2014

I don’t know how to write about this film without extensive spoilers, so watch the film before reading.

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Gone Girl runs from relationship autopsy to eerie mystery to chess match thriller to absurdist melodrama, all the while holding up a satirical flare and a cold, wily grin as it straddles it’s many tonal shifts. It’s one of the finest examples of craftsmanship of the year, and it’s also one of the most cynical motion pictures in quite some time. Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a relatively tedious, though not unfounded at all, cliché about Hollywood making market-tested films that appeal to x demographic by including x types of characters embodied by beautiful stars and putting them in romantic/funny/exciting/all three situations and BOOM:  Instahit.  It’s generally a lot more complicated than that, as there’s bound to be someone along the creative line who has a whiff of the artist about them, or at the very least actors who know how to work a script in their favour, and a director or an editor who can nurture that into something vaguely entertaining.  I don’t know know anything at all about the development or the production of McG’s This Means War, but if there ever was a film that played right into that cliché about clueless moneymen suits at the studio putting an entire movie together and creating exactly what they think a “successful” (not “good”, mind) product would be, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Moonrise Kingdom

June 3, 2012

This contains spoilers – suffice it say that I thought this was very good indeed and you should definitely go see it. 

There’s a moment a little ways into Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom in which the young boy Sam (Jared Gilman), who looks short, gawky, and desperately uncool with his thick-framed glasses, walks out of a local children’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and through the backstage areas of the church where it’s being performed.  He finds his way to the dressing room, where a row of young girls dressed as birds are applying their make-up and preparing.  Looking directly at the camera, he asks, “What kind of bird are you?”  The girls turn around, and one starts to explain what they each are until Sam stops her mid-sentence and asks again, pointing directly at the camera and, it turns out, at one girl in particular: Suzy (Kara Hayward).  There’s an air of supreme confidence in the delivery, and Suzy’s reaction is to be instantly taken with him.  It feels like wish-fulfillment on Wes Anderson’s part – one imagines he would have loved to have taken young love by the throat and just gone for it the way Sam does – as well as feeling very reminiscent of Max Fischer in Rushmore, Anderson’s breakthrough film which was also about a boy determined to act with confidence.  Except, it’s different this time.  Where Fischer was vaguely absurd in his over-compensating manner and most could see through it, Sam is genuinely confident.  It’s a testament to just how good of a film Moonrise Kingdom is that we understand that confidence as a believable character trait and not just the wish fulfillment it might seem to be.  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 »

Supposedly free of the trappings of Hollywood Romantic Dramas and all the fantasy that they entail, Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy is a standard indie romance that owes a lot more to those Hollywood versions than it cares to admit.  It was a hit at Sundance, winning a Grand Jury Prize, and if ever there was a giant red flag, that must be it.  Still, there’s always hope that something in the film might elevate it above its genre trappings – and believe you me, indie romances are about as tied to those trappings as any Jennifer Aniston rom-com.  Read the rest of this entry »

The most insipid of romances continues plodding along towards whatever conclusion Stephanie Meyer has cooked up in the first part of the finale to the outrageously titled Twilight Saga.  This segment, Breaking Dawn, picks up where Eclipse left off with Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison) and Bella Swann (Kristen Stewart) getting ready for the big wedding.  Then they have the big wedding, and it is tedious as hell.  Then they have a honeymoon, where beds are broken and they run around and hilariously play chess – as though they ever stopped making moon eyes at each other long enough to work that out.  This might be the only time we’ve really spent anytime with them as a couple, and it comes in the form of a brisk montage so our understanding of how their relationship functions and what they actually see in each other is never advanced one iota.  Not that it’s a big deal or anything.  I gave up on that aspect of the story a long time ago and now simply accept that they Are.   Read the rest of this entry »

Late one night, in the waning days of summer, a boy and a girl sit on a floating dock just offshore from a high school party.  The girl, about to enter her freshman year, explains that she skipped a friend’s slumber party to be there.  The boy, about to be a junior, extols the virtues of slumber parties, and mourns the loss of childhood that comes with moving onto the more teenage pursuits of high school parties and social status.  “I don’t want you to buy into all this youthful adventure bullshit,” he explains.  The air of wistful mourning for innocence lost colours every frame of writer/director David Roger Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover.  Not necessarily mourning by the characters, but always by the director and, by extension, the film itself.   Read the rest of this entry »

The end of any serious relationship brings about a long period of reflection.  Where did it go wrong?  Who was at fault?  What could have been done differently?  Questions like these are almost inevitable.  Some choose to blame themselves and think only of the times they were at fault, either knowingly or with the benefit of hindsight.  Some choose to blame the other party, focusing on their faults, the difficulties they caused, or – perhaps ironically – their inability to see the other perspective.  Both points of view are almost inevitably wrong, or at least not totally right, but that’s how memory and emotions work.  What bliss it might be to have a film of the key events so they can be replayed and understood for future reference or just plain peace of mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Having seen the first two Twilight films, I figured despite their horrendous nature I might as well see it out as we’re so close to the end.  Unfortunately Hollywood has decided to capitalize on the phenomenon, I mean, give the final book and all its nuance what it really deserves by splitting it into two films, so it turns out I’m just past the halfway point.  With Eclipse we have, yet again, a new director in David Slade, the not untalented man behind the suspenseful two person drama Hard Candy and the perfectly reason vampire-action flick 30 Days of Night.  Faint praise it might be, but it is the best of series so far, though not by much and it still doesn’t approach anything resembling ‘passable.’ Read the rest of this entry »


Rom-coms that centre around adult women tend to be about unbelievably gorgeous career woman who just haven’t found the right man, and that right man is almost always a well-built, clever, and extremely handsome man.  He probably lacks a heart-on-his-sleeve sensitive side, but the woman need only scratch beyond the bickering and the brusque exterior to find it.  Perhaps this is true of teen movies that centre around girls as well.  After all, Molly Ringwald ends up with Jake and Blane, not the Geek or Duckie.  In whatever circumstance (yes, Ringwald was the outsider in both those films), you rarely see a film in the genre where the athlete is the star.  Oh, there are exceptions, but even in She’s All That, it’s Rachel Leigh Cook that goes on a journey, not Freddie Prinze Jr.  So perhaps the makeshift rule that should be completely disregarded after reading is that if a film is targeted at women, the guy can be hunky and awesome, but targeted at men, the guy will often be an awkward outsider, maybe even a loser (the exception here is Say Anything, in which Lloyd Dobler is much-beloved, an athlete, but still sensitive and culturally savvy enough to be considered outside the ‘conformist mainstream’, if that’s what it is).  I suspect, to go further and narrower, this happens a lot in films about teens/young adults because the (typically) male director was himself a sensitive, artistic sort, and their own nostalgia might be wrapped up in the story enough to the point that they identify with the underdog protagonist.  The boys in these stories, through disconnection with the mainstream popular kids and through a lack of experience with the opposite sex, have a tendency to construct idealized notions of women, and in many cases, a particular one.  The three films herein discussed all deal with boys who do just that to varying degrees of success. Read the rest of this entry »