Nocturnal Rules Allied (This Week’s Movies)

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Marion Cotillard, Brad Pitt: Allied (courtesy Daniel Smith/Paramount Pictures)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Allied. “Glamour is part of the appeal – and also part of the movie’s game of asking whether a pretty face could be a mask for deception.”

Rules Don’t Apply. “It’s a relief to see a Hollywood film that doesn’t have anything to prove, or even a need to please—this feels like the least audience-tested movie in years.”

Moana. “The turquoise sea comes to life in all kinds of ways.”

Bad Santa 2. “Can’t help feeling like more of the same.”

Nocturnal Animals. “Finding the substance beneath those surfaces is not easy.”

The Love Witch. “Really knows what it’s doing. And it’s hilariously funny, sometimes in an almost subliminal way.”

Movie Diary 11/22/2016

The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016). The best thing about this amazingly-designed retro romp is that there’s an actual point to it. Witches and misogyny have gone hand in hand before, so Biller simply applies a varnish of zany Seventies kitsch and scores points in an especially sly (and funny) way. (full review 11/25)

Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi, 2016). The travails of three African-American employees of NASA in the 1960s, bouncily portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Octavia Spencer. Cornball at times as expected, but easy to like. (full review 1/6)

Old Stone (Johnny Ma, 2016). A downward spiral for a taxi driver, who aids an accident victim and lives to regret the good deed. (full review 12/2)

Movie Diary 11/21/2016

Dogs (Bogdan Mirica, 2016). The winner of the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes this year is a taut picture with a No Country for Old Men vibe, as a city boy goes to a bleak countryside and finds that his inheritance comes with substantial strings attached, and that none of the customary rules apply. This was the strongest film I saw at the Romanian Film Festival in Seattle this year, but others were also good, such as:

Why Me? (Tudor Giurgiu, 2015). A Kafkaesque procedural inspired by a real-life case, about a prosecutor who finds the noose tightening around his own neck the more he investigates corruption. A well-paced downward spiral, played out in a series of cramped rooms.

Silent Wedding (Horatiu Malaela, 2008). A rural wedding celebration in Romania is halted by news of the death of Stalin, which leads to an attempt to carry on the party without making a sound. An ingenious idea for a movie, given a stylized treatment by the filmmaker (a legend of theater in Romania), and with a devastating shift in tone built into the concept.

Bad Santa 2 (Mark Waters, 2016). No real reason for a sequel to happen – in fact, many good reasons not to ruin the pleasant arc of the first film – but here’s Billy Bob Thornton in his signature role. The kid who played Thurman Merman is back, too. (full review 11/25)

Fantastic Loving (This Week’s Movies)

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Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton: Loving (courtesy Focus Features)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. “Lacks the coming-of-age resonance of the HP series, but this first chapter is good fun.”

Loving. “A dour, mumbling tone poem.”

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. “I sensed I was missing part of the experience.”

Ixcanul. “An age-old story is played out among the cinders.”

The talkers in Framing Pictures re-convene for a conversation at Scarecrow Video tonight, November 18. Join us for talk about new movies such as Arrival, Aquarius, Loving, Moonlight, plus a recollection of a French New Wave giant, cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who died last week. Check the FP Facebook page for updates.

This weekend I’ll be introducing Bogdan Mirica’s film Dogs at the Romanian Film Festival in Seattle; the fest is packed with intriguing titles from Romania and visits from filmmakers. Dogs goes Saturday at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday at 12:20 p.m., both at the Uptown theater. Lots more info here.

Movie Diary 11/17/2016

Moana (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2016). The new Thanksgiving Disney, and a presumed juggernaut, of course. One thing: Computer-generated water is really amazing these days. (full review 11/23)

The Old Man and the Sea (John Sturges, 1958). Saw this as a child on morning TV and not since – but certain images stayed all that time. Spencer Tracy is both right and wrong for the role of the fisherman (his narration – very close to the Hemingway original – is pretty good, but he overplays the part itself). The literary tour de force is the kind of thing that doesn’t really lend itself to film, unless you maybe cut the words altogether and go for a completely procedural visual approach (which is what All Is Lost is). Glad to be prepping a Hemingway talk.

Movie Diary 11/16/2016

20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016). A movie set in 1979 – and thus a favorite kind of movie – with Annette Bening as a single mom whose boarders include Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, and sort-of unofficially Elle Fanning. They’re all troupers. Many people liked this filmmaker’s Beginners, and they will probably like this, too. (full review 1/20)

Movie Diary 11/15/2016

A Monster Calls (J.A. Bayona, 2016). The Spanish filmmaker who did The Orphanage and The Impossible, with a theme about life and stories and accepting things – a fruitful topic, to be sure. But is a good theme a good movie? (full review 1/6)

Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, 2016). What could follow Lonergan’s Margaret? A tough act, but the filmmaker is on familiar ground (if not quite as on fire) with this story of an embittered man (Casey Affleck) called to take it up a notch. Which he might not be able to do, the usual movie outline to the contrary. (full review 12/4)

Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamente, 2016). A Guatemalan tale, set next to a volcano. The plot has some age-old contours, but the setting certainly makes it seem fresh. (full review 11/18)

Movie Diary 11/14/2016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (David Yates, 2016). Strike up the wand, it’s J.K. Rowling again, launching another blockbuster franchise. We’ll see about that; meantime, this installment is pretty fun – except in all that obligatory business of setting up the next four movies. But it can’t be a blockbuster unless it has a universe. (full review 11/18)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (Ang Lee, 2016). The movie’s got some spunk. But I saw it “flat” – no 3D, no super-high-frame-rate – and I wonder whether it needs its technological innovations to make it clear why Lee wanted to do the movie. (full review 11/18)

Aquarius Arrival (This Week’s Movies)

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Sonia Braga: Aquarius (courtesy Netflix)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Aquarius. “Frank in its ambition to explore The Way We Live Today, but also mysterious and elusive. I’ve seen few films this year more fascinating.”

Arrival. “When it comes to a payoff for all the gauzy head-scratching, Arrival reverts to a few basic sci-fi conventions.”

Gimme Danger. “Iggy Pop and Soupy Sales.”

This weekend the nonprofit Scarecrow Project joins with Barnes & Noble for a Book Fair in which Scarecrow benefits from B&N purchases made when you use a code. A fine excuse to buy physical media! I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble at Northgate Mall at 2 p.m. Saturday to give a little talk about “The Dream Factory” and how Hollywood created movie stars. Come on by and participate.

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Early warning: Next Friday, Nov. 18, the talkers of Framing Pictures will returns with another conversation about movies. Join us for discussion of movies with one-word titles: Arrival, Aquarius, Moonlight, Loving, and maybe more long-winded items. Check out our Facebook page, too.

Movie Diary 11/10/2016

Rules Don’t Apply (Warren Beatty, 2016). Can’t remember how strict the embargo is on this. On the other hand, who the hell reads this blog? In any case, this is a lively and surprisingly original movie, with Beatty as Howard Hughes – a subject he has noodled on for many years, yet this film has no hint of the magnum opus about it. (full review 11/23)

Islands in the Stream (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1977). The posthumous Hemingway book, with George C. Scott’s performance emphasizing the sensitive side of a mature, regretful artist. Almost inevitably, given the episodic structure, an uneven film, although the good parts are affecting. The Jerry Goldsmith score is echt-Seventies. It also has one of the best post-Blow-Up performances by David Hemmings (he’s a variation on Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not).