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  • Waves 2015

    ★★½ Watched 17 Feb, 2015

    Review from Next Projection

    A friend once asked whether that which wins Best Picture ought not also, by default, take Best Director, and—forgiving the technical ignorance—it’s not a difficult assumption to appreciate. That the idea of the respective Oscar statuettes being awarded to different films remains a relative novelty is indication enough that even at Hollywood’s heart, the strengths of a film and of its maker are thought of as all but inextricable. Thank goodness, then, for movies like Waves,…

  • The Backward Class 2015

    ★★★ Watched 15 Feb, 2015

    Review from Next Projection

    For all the gasps that may fill the cinema as Mala, one of the more prominently featured members of the eponymous group in The Backward Class, describes a vague recollection of an argument between her parents that left her mother ablaze, it’s the quiet moments of half-held gazes and forlorn looks that leave a far deeper impression. In chronicling the final year of these students’ journey to sit India’s university entrance exams—the first of their caste…

  • Roald Dahl's Esio Trot 2015

    ★★½ Watched 13 Jan, 2015

    Nonsensically unnecessary narration and a peculiar penchant for crude sexually suggestive humour don't wholly derail what is, in the end, a fair crack at fleshing out a pretty thin story. But the thinness, in the source, was part of what made it so wonderful: Esio Trot is Dahl at his most affably eccentric, and as much as Walsh's colourful aesthetic emphasises the strange sweetness of the source, the script from which she works loses the simplicity of it all with so much sub-par stuffing. Still, Dustin and Dench give it exactly what you'd expect. They are eminently watchable, which I suppose makes the movie so too.

  • A Most Violent Year 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 10 Feb, 2015 3

    Doyle's Third Law of Cinema™
    Only in the most extraordinary of circumstances is the phrase "as you know" occurring in movie dialogue anything other than Exceedingly Ill-Advised.

    A Most Violent Year's frankly unforgivable committing of the cardinal sin of breaching this sacred law no fewer than four times is emblematic all at once of its most crippling weakness and the magnitude of its strengths, given that they allow it to be overcome. A brilliant filmmaker, Chandor proved his scripting skills…

  • American Sniper 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 18 Jan, 2015

    Given that he spent two films deconstructing perhaps the most iconic image of the stars and stripes in action, it is beyond baffling to me that so many can see Clint Eastwood and an American flag and cry jingoism without a deeper thought. So here's an only-slightly-irate essay I wrote for Next Projection: "Clint Eastwood and (Re-)Issues of American Masculinity"

    When, at an early juncture in American Sniper, Clint Eastwood frames Bradley Cooper in the doorway of a barn silhouetted…

  • The Imitation Game 2014

    ★★ Watched 19 Nov, 2014

    Feel it's about time I set to words my issues with this, given all those eyebrows I've cocked (my housemates just the other day wandered into the room looking terrified: "We have a confession to make. We liked The Imitation Game.") and the fact it just keeps festering, so here goes.

    Quite apart from the fact that's its a prototypical pudding of a biopic, feeling more like an inert montage of historical moments than a functional exercise in narrative storytelling,…

  • Birdman 2014

    ★★★★ Watched 03 Jan, 2015

    Nosedives into dreadfully self-serious hokum at times, and most of its ideas have all the subtlety of a neon-flanked Broadway sign, but my gosh is it fun(ny). And that, really, is the Big Achievement here: the single-shot* conceit is a little too strained to efficiently make the point that technical spectacle is not the realm of the blockbuster alone (give us another time-lapse sky shot, sure, Alejandro), but the pulse-teasing pace of the thing sure reminds you that there's big…

  • Leviathan 2014

    ★★★★½ Watched 17 Dec, 2014

    2014 Top Ten: #3

    The greatest shot of the year is that in which Leviathan announces itself a product of the Russian Ministry of Culture, a searing cinematic coup d’État that makes of this magnificent movie perhaps the most powerful political publication of the year. Brilliantly curating a smoke-and-mirrors story that has in essence allowed him to produce state-sponsored anti-state propaganda, Andrey Zvyagintsev deservedly took home the script award at Cannes this year, a fitting recognition of one of the…

  • Predestination 2014

    ★★ Watched 01 Jan, 2015

    Review from Next Projection

    “Luck is the residue of design,” proffers Predestination enigmatically in one of the many lines of dialogue that betray this as a movie with neither to its credit. Playing out like a slapdash Frankenstein’s monster of hokey time travel twists and sci-fi set design, this latest effort from Daybreakers helmers Michael and Peter Spierig hasn’t the fortune to feel even accidentally interesting as it trundles on interminably toward its terribly telegraphed endpoint. It makes, at least,…

  • Ejecta 2014

    ★★ Watched 28 Feb, 2015

    Review from Next Projection

    No movie that includes an accreditation for “taxidermy wrangler” has the right to be anything near as interminably unexciting as is Ejecta, whose implementation of that original credit is the sole shred of intrigue it manages to awaken. This—that resume-topping title aside—is a dreadful bore of a film, tediously trying to invigorate its over-familiar found-footage aesthetic with an alien interrogation framing device that only serves to distance the viewer all the more from its under-wrought efforts…

  • Who Is Dayani Cristal? 2014

    ★★★ Watched 14 Nov, 2013

    Capsule review from my Cork 2013 coverage at Next Projection

    The grisly demise that threatens throughout to befall the characters of Walkabout is precisely that which opens Who Is Dayani Cristal?, Marc Silver’s documentary chronicling his and producer/narrator Gael Garcia Bernal’s efforts to uncover the identity of a decomposing body found in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. It’s an affecting piece, if perhaps an unfocused one: Silver finds no shortage of human drama in the story of this tragic death,…

  • Jersey Boys 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 16 Jun, 2014

    “That’s a nice colour for you,” smiles Frankie Valli at his wife-to-be, “you should always wear that.” If you tune your ear just right, you can hear the Eastwood detractors’ pencils sharpening. With Jersey Boys, his thirty-third feature film as director, he has made a Clint Eastwood movie, and it’s a fool that takes that for a bad thing. In that unmistakeable piano-tinkling and the underlit aesthetic that thrives in the shadows, there is the authorial mark of a master…