Movie Diary 5/4/2015

Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze, 2013). One of this year’s Oscar nominees, officially from Estonia. In shape it’s a conventional anti-war thoughtpiece, though nicely acted by an all-male cast. (full review 5/8)

Welcome to Me (Shira Piven, 2014). Kristen Wiig plays a woman with borderline-personality disorder; when she wins the lottery she starts her own Oprah-style TV show. The movie’s hemmed in by its premise but Wiig is fine as usual. An example of the comedy of mortification, a tricky subgenre. (full review 5/8)

Avengers Summer (This Week’s Movies)

Scarlet Johansson, Avengers: Age of Ultron

Scarlet Johansson, Avengers: Age of Ultron

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

Avengers: Age of Ultron. “It’s possible to approve of how such a billion-dollar apparatus can be this fast and breezy.” (In case of Herald paywall, Seattle Weekly link here.)

And a summer preview thingie for the Herald.

On Wednesday May 6 I’ll be at the Architectural Association in London, giving a public lecture titled “What Time Is It There? Time as a Character in Contemporary Films.” The talk looks at how recent filmmakers – from Bela Tarr to Christopher Nolan, with a detour for Richard Linklater – have used Time as subject and method. The talk is at 6 p.m. at the Lecture Hall. More info here.

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I keep track of movie comings and goings. Some thoughts about the centenary of Orson Welles are contained in today’s episode – check it here.

Movie Diary 4/28/2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015). Adding new characters often means subtracting from the pre-existing balance; in this case, however, the process works better than expected, in part thanks to the groovy casting of Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and James Spader. Anyway, the franchise hasn’t eaten its own tail just yet, even if the self-consciousness is getting thick. (full review 5/1)

Movie Diary 4/27/2015

Tell England (Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas, 1931). Two upper-class British soldiers go off to join the Great War; they are sent to the Eastern front in Gallipoli. Despite some early-sound-era rough edges, this is a remarkably ambitious and inventive picture, full of expressive modern touches. As a soldier’s worried mother (Fay Compton) listens to a society friend prattle on, she stares into the middle distance and the soundtrack is replaced by military music, the camera holding on her face for an unusual amount of time. Startling transitions from scene to scene and machine-gun editing in battle scenes indicate an avant-garde tendency. The storming of the beach by ANZAC soldiers (shot on Malta) anticipates Saving Private Ryan by almost 70 years, and fades out on the image of a dead soldier’s head moving side-to-side as the surf comes gently in and out. Even the comedy is barbed: One letter-writing private turns to a friend and asks, “How d’you spell massacre?” He is assured the word has “only one k.” (Screened as part of a WWI series at Edinburgh Filmhouse.)

Water Amour (This Week’s Movies)

Christian Friedel, Birte Schnoeink: Amou Fou

Christian Friedel, Birte Schnoeink: Amour Fou

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

The Water Diviner. “Crowe’s desire to say a few things while telling a very sincere story.” (In case of Herald paywall, Weekly version here.)

Amour Fou. “Almost a parody of the Great Author subgenre.” (Weekly version here.)

At the Overlook Podcast, Steve Scher and I talk about the Star Wars trailer, and why anybody would review a trailer, and whether one of us is less excited about the upcoming installment of the space opera than the other person. Listen up here.

Movie Diary 4/21/2015

The Edge of the World (Michael Powell, 1937). Back in the old times – not in the 1930s, but far enough back for 16 mm. to still be a “platform” for exhibition – I think the Seattle Film Society might have had the local premiere of this. That’s a long time to go between viewings, but what a film. A haunting experience, with more than a touch of folklore and fairy tale contained within its drama and documentary aspects. Shot on the island of Foula. Eh, how do you get there, exactly?

Movie Diary 4/20/2015

Amour Fou (Jessica Hausner, 2014). A take on the Romantic (note capital R) end of Heinrich von Kleist’s life, in which the great German author executed a suicide pact with Henriette Vogel. The movie takes Vogel’s perspective, seeing her in a domestic trap along the lines of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, except set in 1811 Germany. It’s kind of a comedy, though, and a demolition of the straight-faced artist biopic (and of most Romantic notions). The actors are uncannily well-cast – see their faces, and you understand everything. Hausner also did Lourdes, a very original oddball thing from 2009. (full review 4/24)


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