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  • Noroît (une vengeance)

    Noroît (une vengeance) 1976

    ★★★★★ Watched 11 Feb, 2016

    "I don't believe in her magic powers, or in her so-called secret."
    "Well, I believe in them. And anyway, it amuses me."

    I watched this a few days ago in a state of total exhaustion, frequently nodding off and coming to minutes later. Yet watching the whole thing, alert, still has the feeling of constantly coming and going, of scenes happening, ending, maybe picking up later or simply used as a framework for further exploration. That can be maddening, but…

  • Almayer's Folly

    Almayer's Folly 2012

    ★★★★½ Watched 25 Jan, 2016

    Akerman captures so much of the jungle's humidity that the celluloid itself seems to sweat. A film that steps just outside its white seeming protagonist's POV so as to not attempt anything so arrogant as to identify with the indigenous people while still clearly framing his myopia and obliviousness. The drift allows the film to more cleanly settle onto Nina, Almayer's mixed-race daughter and the only thing in his colonial home, and maybe his entire life, that he loves. But…

  • Around a Small Mountain

    Around a Small Mountain 2009

    ★★★½ Watched 30 Jan, 2016

    Rivette, like Tati before him, ends his feature career in the circus. But where Tati's swan song is his own homecoming, Rivette's takes the position of someone watching the prodigal child's return. It's a small but significant change of perspective that befits Rivette, who more than any of his other Cahiers cohorts captured the feeling of a critic becoming an artist, of using the spectator's vantage point as an active participant. Around a Small Mountain goes so far as to…

  • Anomalisa

    Anomalisa 2015

    ★★ Watched 17 Jan, 2016 1

    Was originally going to see this at TIFF the day I ended up leaving early. If I'd seen it there, it might have been the worst thing I saw related to the fest after that abysmal Bruce MacDonald horror. Feels like Kaufman on autopilot, with a movie so short that it rushes its late "twist" that its protagonist is actually awful but feels long because for all the gimmickry, you've seen 100 of this film. Also the fact that Hong…

  • The Hateful Eight

    The Hateful Eight 2015

    ★★ Watched 27 Dec, 2015 8

    Tarantino is a movie freak first and an everything else second, which is usually fine given how his own films serve as conduits to an idiosyncratic history of film. But The Hateful Eight, despite a few obvious touchstones, feels like Tarantino's first movie that stands outside reference, with his movie-geek tendencies ostensibly matured into his choice of shooting format and his decision to hire Ennio Morricone outright for new work instead of reusing old cues.

    And to be honest, no…

  • Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

    Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith 2005

    ★½ Rewatched 25 Dec, 2015

    I remember enjoying this when I saw it at 16 because it seemingly made up for all the problems of the previous two films and it finally gave people "what they wanted." Looking at it now, I see that "what people wanted" is every bit as simplistic and dead-end a goal as whatever Lucas was striving for for all of these films. Episode III represents the culmination of the prequels' irreconcilable conflict between intended political commentary and Lucas's inability not…

  • Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

    Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones 2002

    ½ Rewatched 24 Dec, 2015 6

    Don't let Jar-Jar Lloyd fever cloud your mind; this is the worst Star Wars in a walk. It's every bit the simpleton kids tale as the first, but now it's dressed up in guise of a movie meant for grown-ups (or whatever passes for grown-up among die-hards). This leads to love scenes that sound like they were written by an 11-year-old and an emphasis on action that makes up for the relative dearth of it in the last film by…

  • Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

    Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 1999

    ★★ Rewatched 24 Dec, 2015 1

    What if, and bear with me, what if this is actually the best of the prequels, and its primary flaw was its maker's wild, contradictory ambitions, and how thoroughly they exceeded his minimal grasp? Yes, it's bunk, but Lucas attempts to split the difference between appealing to kids while tackling, well, some kind of political statement he felt was complex but is ultimately convoluted. But the sheer abandon of it is almost compelling, in spite of itself; scenes, even back-to-back…

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015

    ★★★ Rewatched 17 Dec, 2015

    Haven't seen the film again yet but I softened considerably on my original view by the time I wrote my review:

    I stand by my reluctance to embrace the film's pandering, and it still feels like something designed to hype up toys and future releases more than its own entity, but I'm just won over by the cast and having just rewatched the prequels, Abrams has never looked like so competent a reliable a director of action and people.…

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015

    ★★★ Watched 17 Dec, 2015

    A pandering, clumsily scripted parade of applause breaks fashioned into passably nostalgic spectacle. Absolute dreck when it comes to establishing even the most minimal context for what has happened in the intervening years, very entertaining in its suggestion that a perfectly valid 2015 update of the Joseph Campbell universal hero myth suggests that a multiracial cast are the identifiable, accessible heroes in a fight against pasty, weak-chinned white supremacists. Probably Abrams' best-directed film, even if too much of it plays…

  • Youth

    Youth 2015

    ★½ Watched 28 Nov, 2015 1

    The beta-male riff to The Great Beauty's morose alpha. Slightly less unbearable than Sorrentino's other movies, but still a Sorrentino movie.

  • Creed

    Creed 2015

    ★★★★★ Rewatched 27 Nov, 2015 2

    Some things that I noticed the first time but became even sharper ona rewatch:

    -the close-up of the child Adonis's curled fist slackening when Mary-Ann offers him a home but, more importantly, a chance to learn about his father
    -Stallone fighting back tears with a sharp, ragged breath that is utterly devastating
    -the general quality of Alberti's cinematography in reflecting the kind of washed out palette of any large city (esp. its poorer, neglected areas) without resorting to the kind…