Chopped suey: The Blue Room

Saucer-eyed and furtive, Mathieu Amalric is an excellent camera object. His okay directorial debut The Blue Room shows more debt to the shattered glass approach to chronology evinced by Alain Robbes-Grillet than the sardonic Georges Simenon novel on which it’s based, but the movie is sardonic and short too. This story about an adulterous coupleContinue reading “Chopped suey: The Blue Room”

Imitation of life

Until American Sniper took up residence in conversation and box office in January, The Imitation Game was the highest grossing film nominated for Best Picture of 2014. It still took in an impressive haul: almost a hundred million dollars in the United States alone. Every Oscar season a couple of toothless films, suitable for theContinue reading “Imitation of life”

Disjecta membra: Goodbye to Language

It begins with a color-splattered scene from a war movie, followed by a cut to Jean Arthur (still looking miscast) in Only Angels Have Wings. Allusion, repetition, disjunction — it must be a Jean-Luc Godard film. With his fetish for the striking color abetted by 3-D technology that’s impossible to duplicate at home, Goodbye toContinue reading “Disjecta membra: Goodbye to Language”

So few come back!

I won’t write an Oscar night recap because I’m not paid to (I can post my Paypal account number though!) and I spent a good portion of last night’s 346-hour telecast on Twitter, where my ratio of zingers to duds wasn’t as low as Neil Patrick Harris’ but better than Sean Penn’s. Anyway, during HourContinue reading “So few come back!”

Oscar Picks, Part 3

Best Foreign Language Film Timbuktu Wild Tales Tangerines Ida Leviathan Wild Tales, one of the year’s best unintentionally uproarious pictures, won’t get it. The contest is between Ida and Leviathan. Like Boyhood, Ida‘s been beloved for months and was released last summer. It plays well on DVD. It’s short. Leviathan does not; I’ll ignore itsContinue reading “Oscar Picks, Part 3”

Disorder and early sorrow: Lilting

Lilting opens with a conversation in Mandarin between Kai and Junn. As played by Andrew Leung and Cheng Pei-pei, this mother and son show deeper reservoirs of affection than usual, in large part because she’s a widow. They’re evenly matched: when the jabs come they’re parried with equal skill. After a few minutes it’s clearContinue reading “Disorder and early sorrow: Lilting”

Best films of 2014 – End of Cinema

Whew. 5. Child’s Pose, dir. Călin Peter Netzer Movie moms are the easiest to render, easier than garrulous sidekicks who get killed in buddy movies. The trick is to direct and act them so that they don’t turn into gargoyles. Child’s Pose flirts with gargoyle poses but its devotion to the procedural mechanics of theContinue reading “Best films of 2014 – End of Cinema”

Best movies of 2014 – Part Three

10.The Babadook, dir. Jennifer Kent. As much as we might believe kids are our future and little darlings, they’re also pains in the ass: selfish, uncensored, there, always there, demanding and clawing. Among other pleasures The Babadook understands this suspicion enough to build a story on it. This Australian horror film, shot on what wasContinue reading “Best movies of 2014 – Part Three”

Best movies of 2014 – Part Two

14. Happy Christmas, dir. Joe Swanberg. Happy Christmas, comedy about how annoying relatives can be when a young family is already bucking under the pressure of raising a child, is Joe Swanberg’s most realized film. The annoying relative, played by Anna Kendrick, smokes and parties too much, and according to her brother and sister inContinue reading “Best movies of 2014 – Part Two”

Best movies of 2014 – Part One

I saw no great movies in 2014 but lots of good ones, including several gay and lesbian movies that reduce The Imitation Game to the equivalent of the guy at the college party who brings his mom. Thanks to a renaissance in Miami art house options, I saw more movies than ever. Most of theContinue reading “Best movies of 2014 – Part One”

Beasts of the northern wild: Leviathan

Andrey Zvyagintsev makes sturdy, alert movies about lives on the edge of hysteria. Leviathan, another film about the misery of being Russian (seek 2009’s Elena), makes for uncomfortable viewing. Unfolding as a story steeped in realism, it takes a late turn into the didactic, as realism is wont to do when recording other people’s lives.Continue reading “Beasts of the northern wild: Leviathan”

Snowbound: A Most Violent Year

Oscar Isaac’s hair is the most violent effect in J.C. Chandor’s third movie. A salt and pepper pompadour beholden to a blow dryer, it’s a style for all seasons. In the first scene of A Most Violent Year, scored to (rather obviously) “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” it and Abel Morales drive throughContinue reading “Snowbound: A Most Violent Year”