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  • Winter Vacation 2010

    ★★★½ Watched 14 Feb, 2014

    A very deadpan comedy from China that is a bit like Bela Tarr meets Aki Kaurismaki. Winter Vacation looks at school kids and other people in a town during a boring winter vacation in a film that builds slowly, but then becomes strangely funny.

  • A Hijacking 2012

    ★★★★½ Watched 12 Feb, 2014

    Many of the Scandinavian films I love have a cool detachment to them as they deal with difficult dramatic situations. Shot in a naturalistic, almost documentary style, A Hijacking moves between the ship and the Danish corporation that is negotiating for the release of the ship. The story is told through the ship's cook and the CEO of the company that owns the ship and this structure allows for a selective withholding of information as the film moves between the two locations. Understated, tense, and with great acting all around, it's a great film.

  • The Robber 2010

    ★★★★½ Watched 09 Feb, 2014

    Part character study, part action film, The Robber builds a story around a simple premise based on a true story of an Austrian marathon runner who was also a bank robber. Stripping out extraneous detail and implying many of the connections between characters makes for a film that avoids easy explanations and shows us a person who excels at what he does and at little else.

  • Synecdoche, New York 2008

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 08 Feb, 2014

    Hadn't seen Synecdoche, New York in far too long. What a strange, wonderful and melancholy film. Every frame is filled with detail and every time I've watched it there is more. The almost impossibly intricate construction looks deeply and unblinkingly into the fear of death and narcissism in a film that continues to resonate with me.

  • Cutie and the Boxer 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 05 Feb, 2014

    A unique portrait of a couple, Cutie and the Boxer is an intriguing story about artists, their relationship to their art and to others. Going in to the film with no knowledge of it was great as I didn't know what to expect. It's a beautifully-shot and playful New York story of a marriage over time and the art that comes out of it and how things change over time. I really enjoyed it.

  • Her 2013

    ★★★★½ Watched 14 Jan, 2014

    Her is the latest film by Spike Jonze and as with his other features, they are all built around men (or a boy) who is sad, a bit selfish, and faces challenges in relating to other people. With Joaquin Phoenix playing another sad and broken man who falls in love with an operating system it looks at how we relate to screens and each other in a world that is just a few minutes in the future. The pastel colour…

  • Inside Llewyn Davis 2013

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 07 Jan, 2014 5

    The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Seeing it a second time solidified my feelings about the film and I noticed the tightness of the structure and the beauty of the performances. Understated and desaturated like the visuals of the film, it's a more mature work from the Coens that dwells more in melancholy and shies away from the easier jokes that characterize much of their earlier films.

    The initial reaction that I had to the…

  • The Red Chapel 2010

    ★★★★ Watched 20 Dec, 2013

    Alternately fascinating and horrifying, Mads Brügger is a fearless, cruel provocateur and he managed to get into North Korea with two Danish-Korean comedians to put on a show and document the process. A subversive documentary about a totalitarian state that manages to expose some of the mechanics of one of the most isolated places in the world.

  • Frances Ha 2012

    ★★★★½ Watched 16 Jul, 2013

    There is something beautiful about a film shot in black and white. The abstraction changes the way you see the images and lets you focus on the light and the people. In Frances Ha the cinematography is stunningly beautiful in a story that could be done in a more contemporary way with smaller and cheaper cameras, but the brilliant stylistic touch is to shoot it as if it was made in the 80s. With another great performance by Greta Gerwig…

  • Wuthering Heights 2011

    ★★★★★ Watched 27 Jul, 2013

    When I first heard of Andrea Arnold's adaptation of Wuthering Heights I thought it was an odd choice. I hadn't seen any of the other adaptations or even read the book, but I was familiar with the story. Arnold's previous two films (Red Road and Fish Tank) are naturalistic and compelling with an impressionistic touch. The grab you and hold on with beautiful cinematography and understated direction. They seem casual and light, almost mundane, but build into unsettling portraits of…

  • Bullhead 2011

    ★★★★½ Watched 07 Apr, 2013

    Matthias Schoenaerts is compelling in the crime drama Bullhead. A powerful performance is at the centre of the film that links a childhood trauma with contemporary gangsters in rural Belgium. It's a sad and beautiful film.

  • Aelita: Queen of Mars 1924

    ★★★½ Watched 06 Apr, 2013

    An odd and beautiful film mixing melodrama and science fiction. I saw it at a screening at the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival where it was accompanied by a group of musicians playing and it made for a really great experience. A unique combination of different elements with some great art direction, bold editing, and an odd sense of humour.