‘film:2011’ Category Archives
by jacicita in branney sean, film:2010, film:2011, gass-donnelly ed, kahn joseph, león de aranoa fernando, marsh james, siff 2011, waititi taika
+ Small Town Murder Songs is the rare movie that could have stood to be longer by about 15-20 minutes. I would have very much liked to see some of the subthreads teased out just a little bit more, but I understand that that director saw it the other way, wanting to pare it down to the essentials. Which is fair: it’s his movie!
On one level it’s a straightforward crime thriller, with a young woman* being found dead in a small (largely Mennonite) town in Ontario. The strong direction, the intriguing use of chapter titles, the freakin’ awesome soundtrack (must own!), each kick it up a notch.
It also features the final performance of Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs. (I do not like this particular SIFF theme. Perhaps final performances from two actresses does not a trend make?)
+ The Whisperer in Darkness was my first Lovecraft experience and fine, guys, you win. I am intrigued. This was a 1930s-style adaptation, with a lot of elements common with noir, which of course I love. The team also did a short silent film of The Call of Cthulhu, which I will now have to seek out.
+ I had been looking forward to Amador, but then I read a description of it as “mumblecore Almodovar”. I panicked a little. See, I hate mumblecore. But I love Almodovar! Dilemma! Unnecessary, as it turns out, because Amador was neither of those things. But it was quite good.
Marcela (the luminous Magaly Solier) is in rather desperate financial straits, so she takes on the job of caring for Amador (Celso Bugallo), an older, bedridden man. They gradually develop a quiet friendship in spite of themselves, but then he dies while she is still in great need of the money.
It’s a lovely character-driven film, and one of my favorites of the festival.
+ I had been a little nervous about Boy because it is from Taika Waititi, the same writer-director as Eagle vs Shark. And I know a lot of you love that movie, but it was just. so. painful to watch. For me. I couldn’t handle the embarrassment, & I wound up fast forwarding to see how it ended.
To my great relief, Boy was a sweet movie about Boy who lives on a farm in New Zealand with his grandmother & cousins, his goat, and his little brother Rocky, who thinks he has superpowers. Boy believes that when his father comes back he’ll take him to see Michael Jackson in concert. When his father *does* come back things don’t go exactly as Boy expected. Recommended.
+ Secret #3 was one of my favorite kinds of films. Also, it was from a country from which I have never seen a bad movie. In fact, I think I have only seen awesome movies from there. It was not Cars 2. Pixar is not a country.
+ Project Nim is a heartbreaking must-see documentary from James Marsh (director of my beloved Man on Wire. Nim was a chimpanzee stolen from his mother and given to a family in New York City, who taught him ASL & purported to raise him as a human child. That’s just the beginning of the story, which basically ate my brains. You should see it, but only when you’re feeling emotionally stable. And if you haven’t seen Man on Wire, you should see that too.
+ Finally, Detention was billed as The Breakfast Club-meets-Scream. Which made me nervous, to be honest, especially since parody films almost never work for me. But Detention totally did. It rushes at a breakneck pace, cramming in references to those films and more. But don’t look up which ones: it’s much better to be surprised. It’s totally absurd, a ridiculous amount of fun, and never boring. But you have to be a Bad Teen Movie fan willing to go along for the ride. Which I am.
* why is it always a girl? I mean, I know why. I just get tired.
by jacicita in blier bertrand, film:2010, film:2011, iguchi noboru, siff 2011, tae-yong kim, tsui hark
+ Shot on location in Seattle & rural Washington, Late Autumn is a very quiet movie about Anna (the immensely talented Tang Wei), a young woman on two day compassionate leave from prison to attend her mother’s funeral. On the bus to Seattle she meets Hoon, a young escort who borrows $30 from her and rather doggedly pursues a relationship.
Doggedly, I say, because Anna is, for reasons obvious in the film, maddeningly locked into herself. Large swaths of Tang’s performance are silent, where she manages to convey to the audience the unreachable depths her character has plummeted to, while still leaving Hoon persistent & baffled on the outside.
They spend a day together in the city, and it takes the better part of that day before she opens up at all. When she does, it’s in Chinese, which Hoon does not speak. It’s a marvelously touching scene in a film distinguished by excellent performances.
Late Autumn documents Seattle in a very precise moment, as the film includes as a key set piece the dismantling of the Fun Forest amusement park at the Seattle Center. Visually, other films set & filmed in Seattle have a lot they can learn from it. I’m looking at you, “The Killing”.
It did feel as though it couldn’t quite figure out where to end. But perhaps that was just me.
+ Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame was just a ridiculous amount of fun. It’s a Hong Kong “historical” action film starring Andy Lau, which should be enough reason for you to see it right there.
It also introduced me to Chao Deng who, as Pei (Dee’s albino sidekick), reminded me of no one so much as a Chinese Rupert Grint. Seriously, so great. Also Bingbing Li, as the asskicking lady Jinger. Good times!
+ SIFF had paired it with Karate-Robo Zaborgar for a double feature of pure awesome that we were powerless to resist. Inspired by a 1974 live-action mecha series, this follow-up from the director of RoboGeisha was even more entertaining than I could have hoped.
Where RoboGeisha was about the sisters trying to reconnect, Karate-Robo Zaborgar is about brothers and about children and parents. No, really. Even if one of the brothers is a robot that transforms into a motorcycle. I would probably like my brother a lot better if he turned into a motorcycle & obeyed commands I delivered through a microphone attached to a helmet.
Obviously it is a goofy, low-budget movie with a ridiculous script, and either you’re up for that or you’re not. I was up for it, clearly.
+ The Clink of Ice was a very French film about an alcoholic novelist (OSS-117‘s Jean Dujardin) who is visited by the incarnation of his cancer (Albert Dupontel). Not for everyone, I suppose, but I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the conceit that your cancer can only be seen by those who truly love you. What an instant cause of tension *that* is!
Super 8 is not my perfect summer movie, but it comes damn close. I said on Twitter that you should see it at the drive-in, and that is true. You should see it sitting in a lawn chair in the back of a pick-up truck, eating an ice cream sandwich. And you should probably see it instead of any of the superhero movies. You should definitely see it instead of any of the superhero movies I have seen so far.
I saw it at Pacific Place with a dinner of the kids combo (a small popcorn that is actually small! chocolate milk! fruit snacks!) which is the next best thing & also recommended. (Seriously, guys, the AMC kids combo is the best concessions deal. In chain theaters, anyway.)
But! The movie! Super 8 is basically a throwback kids adventure flick, with 2011 special effects. But unlike a lot of blockbusters, the effects serve the story and not the other way around. In fact, much as apparently the big bad of the film has been kept secret in the marketing, so it is teasingly revealed in the film. There is some delicious direction involved in keeping it hidden, my favorite being a slowly-turning gas station sign blocking the view of an attack inside the mini-mart.
The story is about a group of young teen boys in 1979, shooting their own zombie film, and some of the best parts of the movie come from their fantastic, utterly believable chemistry. They are real kids with great comic timing, and they are the heart of the picture.
The makeup artist & head model-builder is our lead, Joe Lamb (newcomer Joel Courtney), and his best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the writer-director with a pure love of movies and a constant eye out for “production value”. Charles decides their movie needs a bigger emotional punch, so he casts Alice (Elle Fanning, almost freakishly good when performing in the zombie film, seriously), and thus we have Potential Romance and/or Angst. Hooray! There are also a few other nerds, including a kid with a mouthful of metal who loves blowing things up. Awesome.
We also have some Family Drama: Joe’s mother dies at the start of the film, and he and his father (the town deputy, played by Kyle Chandler, best known as my beloved Coach Taylor) are having an unsurprisingly rough time of it. Alice and her father (Ron Eldard) are also having issues, let us say, but as they seem to arise more from plot needs than character they work less well. One of very few missteps, though, so I forgave it. In Fanning & Eldard’s defense, it’s definitely a writing issue and not an acting one.
What I liked, and I think makes Super 8 really work, is that Abrams takes his sweet time setting up all of these interpersonal elements before the supernatural shit hits the fan. We have the friendships and the tension there brought on by Alice, the families and the tension there with the death of Joe’s mother, we have a great look into the amateur film (and really, the making of that zombie movie alone would have been a hilarious picture) and only then do we get to the action set-piece of the train crash.
The crash brings with it Strange Happenings and also the military being suspicious, and since it’s 1979 the kids can bike all over town investigating and also shooting their movie with suddenly vastly improved production value.
Basically, it’s a lot of formula fun, with a heart and with a fair number of jumpy-outy bits if you are a jumpy-outy sort of person, and I enjoyed the hell out of it, even though it largely failed on the lady front. Please, Hollywood, a throwback adventure movie with teen girls next, please thank you!
Alongside the final credits they run the film-within-a-film. I don’t need to tell you to stay for it; you won’t be able to leave.
by jacicita in fellini federico, film:1960s, film:2010, film:2011, gauger stephane, schomburg jan, siff 2011, villaronga agusti
+ Black Bread was this year’s big Goya winner, a film tackling the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War through the experiences of children. In contrast to the frightful fantasy of Pan’s Labyrinth, Black Bread remains largely realistic. The child actors are all marvelous.
+ Secret #2… I would have enjoyed more in Hecklevision. And possibly with alcohol. I was surprised to recognize ____ from ____ in the scene where ____ ____. But of course they were ____ years younger there.
+ I added Above Us Only Sky to my schedule solely because of Sandra Hüller, whom I had admired in Requiem (though I did not particularly like that film.) Here she is magnificent in another difficult-to-pin-down role as Martha, whose husband commits suicide and leaves behind the mystery of his life.
It was beautifully shot & acted, but I found the narrative somewhat unsatisfying. It tried to tell two stories: the story of the mystery of her husband, and then that of the new romance that followed, but at the end I wished for a bit more conclusion. It was the rare film that was just a bit too short. All the same, it was a portrait of grief well worth watching.
+ La Dolce Vita played to a packed house at 10 in the morning, which is just awesome. You should be proud of yourself, Seattle! It was a gorgeous new 35mm print, and if it travels anywhere near you you should see it. Like I said on Twitter, it doesn’t feel like three hours until you try to stand up at the end of it.
+ Saigon Electric is a totally cute teen movie from Vietnam, focused on a ribbon dancer from the country who moves to the city to try to get into a dance academy. She meets up with a hip hop dance crew and becomes friends with the best b girl in Vietnam. There are ladies being awesome! There is cool dancing, both traditional and street! There is a little social commentary and community organizing! There is *~romance~*! All kinds of things are lifted from American teen movies, and I don’t even mind!
The writer-director was in attendance, and said his next script was a soccer film. I sincerely hope it is also about ladies. Also, his 2007 film Owl and the Sparrow looks very worth the watching. Have any of you seen it?
by jacicita in cockburn daniel, film:1920s, film:2010, film:2011, fox james, mak heiward, mcdonald bruce, siff 2011, walsh raoul
+ I didn’t realize until I got there that The Darkest Matter was actually a student project. It was a feature put together by middle school students in a film camp, and if I had known that ahead of time I might not have gone. But I didn’t so I did, and I didn’t feel my time was wasted.
It was described more or less as Lord of the Flies in spaaaaace, which is accurate enough as it goes. It’s an impressive feat of imagination when you realize that the entire film was shot against a green screen. Kids have amazing brains; I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to conceptualize the entire set, let alone interact at all convincingly in it.
Story-wise I thought the ending was ridiculous, but I loved how the film played out in regards to gender. This might be just an effect of the script being written in broad strokes, but it worked out that both of the leaders were girls, and their gender was never an issue. Hooray!
+ Ex was a cute romantic comedy from Hong Kong, something I need to see more of in general. For reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, Zhou Yi winds up having to crash at the apartment of her ex & his new ladyfriend. In well-orchestrated flashbacks we see why they broke up in the first place, and the film doesn’t necessarily take the expected road for where they might end up next. Now I need to seek out the prior film from the writer, Love in a Puff, a romcom where the potential couple meets on smoke breaks.
+ Trigger is a difficult movie for me to talk about. It was by far my most anticipated SIFF film, and immediately after I saw it I posted to Twitter that I couldn’t be rational about it. This is still true.
Written by Daniel MacIvor & directed by Bruce McDonald, the film was created as a last project for Tracy Wright, a fantastic actress who died of pancreatic cancer during post-production. Trigger stars her and Molly Parker (also worth seeing in anything) as a pair of rock musicians who are reunited after ten years and spend the evening together hashing out everything from the tangled threads of their relationship to their own mortality and future.
It slays me that it was such a light house for this screening, because Tracy Wright is *the* best actress of this festival. She has a monologue in the conservatory that broke me into tiny pieces. Such a loss.
+ Thanks to a Starbucks voucher, I took a risk and checked out You Are Here just because it featured one more performance by Wright. It’s a difficult film to categorize, a series of odd narratives twisting in and out of each other until we arrive at her character, the Archivist*, who is attempting to discover the order and meaning for the documents. Did I understand it? Probably not. But it was tremendously entertaining all the same.
+ Speaking of entertaining, The Thief of Bagdad is one of the great treats of the festival. This presentation was a transformative work, obsessively scored by Shadoe Stevens with the music of the Electric Light Orchestra. No, seriously. Come back.
The music works freakishly well, but of course the movie itself would be awesome either way, starring Douglas Fairbanks in truly astonishing trousers and with more than his fair share of swashes buckled.
I particularly enjoyed seeing it so soon after The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is another 1920s take on basically the same set of characters. We’re spoiled for silent film in Seattle.
* “Hooray for archivists!” cheers the girl still paying off her MLIS.
by jacicita in considine paddy, film:1940s, film:2010, film:2011, powell michael, pressburger emeric, tykwer tom
* It’s a good thing we liked Three, because oh my giddy aunt the Neptune is uncomfortable. New seats are apparently arriving Friday morning, and I can’t wait. But, the movie was lovely. It’s a German film about a couple in a long term relationship. They each wind up having an affair… with the same guy. It violates all the conventional film wisdom of adultery films and queer films, and hooray for that! Recommended.
* I know a lot of people avoid the archival selections because there is so much else to see, but I can’t resist a sure thing. First one this year was Black Narcissus, the 1947 film about nuns attempting to establish their order, complete with school and hospital, high up in the Himalayas. Deborah Kerr is the Sister Superior with a past, Kathleen Byron is her nemesis, Jean Simmons in bronzer is the native girl taken in by the sisters, and Sabu is the attractive young general who draws a little too much attention from all of the ladies. It’s beautifully shot, acted, everything. There’s a Criterion edition out, so you should see it.
* Paddy Considine’s feature directorial debut, Tyrannosaur is hard to watch, but for me it was worth it. Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and Eddie Marsan are all familiar faces for their more character work, as it were, but here they are given a chance to shine as the leads of this brutal but powerful film. Trigger warnings for pretty much all of the things. Also, it is another strong feature that had support from the already-missed UK Film Council.
* I perhaps made an embarrassing noise when C announced the title of Secret #1. It was great. I am curious to know more about the production. That is all I can legally say.
by jacicita in film:1996, film:2001, film:2010, film:2011, greenaway peter, luhrmann baz, mackenzie david, mills mike, siff 2011
Suppose I better start writing about SIFF before I get ridiculously behind. Or, I guess, more ridiculously behind. I am having a good festival, but it has been too full for much reflection, even with my lazy mornings. But I will try for you, my three loyal readers!
This weekend SIFF presented Ewan McGregor with the Golden Space Needle award for acting, so that seems like a good place to begin. As a part of that the festival screened four of his films (two new, two archival) and presented him with the award at a tribute event.
Because I’m poor, I opted to volunteer at the Tribute, which worked out perfectly: I got to see pretty much everything and I got film vouchers at the end!
So, the films! [The two archival choices are perhaps slightly less strange when you remember that SIFF just screened Trainspotting and Shallow Grave as part of their Danny Boyle weekend.]
+ I had never seen The Pillow Book before, and now I’m glad that I waited for the theater opportunity. The unique visual style, from the pages from the book to the various takes on picture-within-a-picture, would be wasted on DVD. It was my first Peter Greenaway film; which one should I watch next?
+ I of course have seen Moulin Rouge roughly eleventy billion times, but possibly only on DVD? I have an uncertain relationship with Luhrmann; I have Serious Issues with Romeo + Juliet (for all I love the universe of Verona Beach), but on the other hand Strictly Ballroom* is one of my favorite movies.
Moulin Rouge is of course great over-the-top fun, a Technicolor love letter to cinema & melodrama. It was a treat to see it on rich, beautiful 35mm. This time around I particularly enjoyed how beautifully smarmy Richard Roxburgh is as the Duke. There’s an art to that, and he is perfect.
+ Beginners was the film screened at the Tribute, a rather personal effort from writer-director Mike Mills. It was shot as two separate films as they really are two different stories about Oliver (McGregor) and they were then edited together.
The first is a film about the death of his father Hal (the impeccable Christopher Plummer) and the second is the start of a romance with Anna (Melanie Laurent). It’s pretty cute, though I rather wish I hadn’t seen the trailer beforehand as it gave away a lot of the quirk, as it were. Also, I wish the sound had been better, but that is the way of things at the Egyptian.
+ Perfect Sense is one of my favorites at the festival, and the first film I really feel the need to press on other people**. McGregor is a chef & Eva Green is an epidemiologist, and they meet in Glasgow as a world-wide epidemic begins which gradually robs people of their senses.
It’s beautifully done, the apocalypse made personal, and I strongly believe that it must be seen in the theater. The controlled environment is so key to the experience. It reminded me of my beloved Last Night in a lot of ways, so if you like one, check out the other.
*…speaking of movies they should show at Central Cinema (which, I pretty much always am).
** My true favorite is a favorite for personal reasons, so the recommendation cannot universally apply. I also really liked the first Secret, which I cannot tell anyone about. So it goes.
by jacicita in film:2011, stewart scott charles
If you are new around here, you missed the cinematic event of 2010 on this blog, and that was the Paul-Bettany-as-a-fallen-angel feature Legion. In which case you cannot be expected to know the joy and anticipation with which I awaited the release of Priest, another vaguely religious film starring Mr Bettany and directed by Scott Charles Stewart.
But oh, how long I had to wait! Its initial August release was pushed back to January to facilitate a post-production 3D conversion. And then it was pushed to May for no good reason at all, except, perhaps, to torture me.
It opens finally on Friday the 13th, and it is all I could have hoped for and more. Paul Bettany is once again badass, inexplicably tattooed, and sporting a terrible American accent. He has scars! He is full of angst! He has crazy fighting skills! In 3D! Oh, it is pretty much the best thing ever.
So far as Plot, there’s an animated introduction to the war with the vampires. Apparently they’re all on reservations now (subtle!) and not a problem because the Church has got it all under control thanks to ninja priests. Hooray! The current Church, though, is basically just Christopher Plummer on a JumboTron. And one of my favorite manifestations of the Church’s control over the city was the lines for the confessionals, looking like nothing so much as a port-a-pottie line with armed guards.
But anyway! There would be no movie if the vampires really *were* under control, so they attack a farmhouse in the Pioneer Wild West District of the postvampocalypse, home to Mr Bettany’s brother (Bill the Vampire), and his wife (Gordon Cole’s favorite waitress, Shelly Johnson) and daughter. The daughter of course is kidnapped, and when news of this reaches Mr Bettany he Defies The Church and heads out to kill vampires once again. Which makes a lot of sense when you see his apartment; hunting vampires who kidnapped his niece has got to be less depressing than spending another minute in that place.
I’m not actually sure why the Church cares that he goes. It seems to me it would be easier all around if they just let him go and fight a bunch of vampires and die, and then he’ll be out of their hair. They clearly do care though, because they sent three boy ninjas of color (who never have names, let alone any lines), and Maggie Q (who gets to kick all kinds of ass). Perhaps the film couldn’t figure out any other way to get him some backup, and they figured it would take more than Mr Bettany and the asshole bartender from Burlesque to take on a train full of vampires.
Of course, looking for any sort of logic in a film like this is ridiculous. Logic is not the point. The point is Paul Bettany and Maggie Q zipping around an epic CGI landscape, pulling crazy physics-defying stunts, killing lots of non-sparkling vampires, and generally being awesome in swishy black coats and stompy boots. Hello, I think we have found the perfect 2011 Halloween costume.
Like Legion, it rips off other films with great delight. Two of the most obvious are the motorcycle from Tron and the musically-conducted violence from The Boondock Saints It took great force of will for me to not declare “THERE WAS A FIRE FIGHT!!” in my best Willem Dafoe voice.
Also like Legion, it leaves the end blatantly open for a sequel which will never happen. TRAGICALLY. My life, so hard.
by jacicita in film:2011
It is a firmly Apatovian movie, but with ladies. It is just as vulgar, for better or for worse (the sex bits were amazing, but why oh why do all of these movies have to have a scene of, um, gastro-intestinal distress?) Basically, I didn’t realize how much I needed to see a crude, hilarious lady movie until it happened. But of course, at its heart it’s about friends who are afraid of losing each other. Aw!
It’s also the rare movie that tackles the class issues that come up when you’re asked to be a member of a bridal party. To be a bridesmaid is fucking expensive, and it was a relief to have that acknowledged.
Kristen Wiig (who co-wrote the film with Annie Mumolo) stars as Annie, who is already going through a rough patch, when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) asks her to be her maid of honor. At the engagement party she meets the other bridesmaids, including Helen (Rose Byrne) who promptly begins elbowing her way in between the BFFs. Hijinks ensue, through all the ridiculous trappings of Getting Married in America.
It’s a movie all about the ladies, but I did appreciate a few things about the guys. First, that Lillian’s fiance was relegated to the sidelines and none of the drama had anything to do with whether or not they should get married. He was a pudgy, affable guy named Dougie (for the love) played by Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric Awesome Show (she says as if that means anything to her).
As far as fellows for Annie, she has, let us be frank, a fuckbuddy in Jon Hamm. He achieves an epic degree of asshole, even for him. It’s pretty impressive, and I love that the one traditionally hot guy in the film is the one you really really hate.
She also meets a cop, the ridiculously charming Chris O’Dowd, who pulls her over after she swerves all over the road. Not from alcohol, mind you, but from epic solo mocking of Helen after the very painful engagement party. I’m a fan of O’Dowd from “The IT Crowd”, and I very much enjoyed watching him steal every single scene as the Really Very Nice But Not Perfect Either guy.
In a lot of ways, it is a formula movie. But it’s the raunchy-friendship formula with a little rom-com on the side, and that is a formula of which I approve. More please, thank you!
by jacicita in capra frank, craven wes, film:1920s, film:1930s, film:2011, reiniger lotte, venville malcolm
* The Adventures of Prince Achmed was such a treat! The oldest full length animated feature in existence, it is a stunningly beautiful silent film, created using hand-cut silhouettes. I saw it at SIFF Cinema with a live and original score by Miles & Karina, and it was just magical. The story, adapted from Arabian Nights, is still captivating. It’s fascinating to me to see how the mechanics of storytelling (and in particular comic timing) don’t really change.
* Mr Smith Goes to Washington was the final Metro Classic of this cycle. The lowest circle of hell: politics. It’s Capra at his flag-waving best, and of course we can’t help but love Jimmy Stewart, but me being me my favorite was probably Jean Arthur as the seen-it-all assistant, followed by Thomas Mitchell as journalist Diz Moore. Oh, democracy!
* Either you’re buying into Scream 4 or you’re not. I saw the first three Scream films that week & then went to the fourth at midnight, so clearly I was into it. Better than the second and third, and a worthy successor to the first, it featured all the jumpy-out bits, one-liners, and kick-ass ladies that I could hope for.
* The thing about Henry’s Crime is that it came out about sixty years too late. It is at heart a heist film, with Keanu Reeves basically playing himself as your typical noir hero, an everyman caught up in the underbelly of, in this case, Buffalo. Vera Famiga’s the love interest, Fisher Stevens is the scumbag, and James Caan is the salty old conman. Far more entertaining than it had any right to be.