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  • Moonlight

    Moonlight 2016

    ★★★½ Watched 04 Oct, 2016 2

    "Contrary to the title, most of the film doesn't take place in the dark—it's mostly set in the hazy sunlight of Miami. The wind on the ocean and the crickets in the grass provide the musical accompaniment until a low-riding Impala roars its engine and the stereos carry the sounds of Miami bass pulsating through the air. This is Chiron's story, divided into three acts (childhood, teen, and young adult) as he emerges as a queer male in a society…

  • The Handmaiden

    The Handmaiden 2016

    ★★★ Watched 24 Aug, 2016

    "There are a number of moving parts in The Handmaiden surrounding sexual politics as well as cross-cultural politics between Japan and Korea. Park is no stranger to inviting controversy, but what remains more fascinating in his latest work is his weaving of cinematic elements in this complicated and winding narrative. He invites alert viewers to pay attention to each element, whether an odd detail of the costuming or the particular articulation of a key line of dialogue, and then rewards…

  • Certain Women

    Certain Women 2016

    ★★★★ Watched 05 Oct, 2016

    "These stories have all been adapted from a collection by Maile Meloy, and what makes them so fascinating is that they actually feel like adaptations of short stories as opposed to stories that are short. There’s no padding or extra material, but instead there are little vignettes that develop details out of a limited shape—the stories don’t announce their ending, they simply cut to the next one. To take the James Stewart line about what movies do, they capture little…

  • The Birth of a Nation

    The Birth of a Nation 2016

    ★★½ Watched 29 Sep, 2016 1

    "The Birth of a Nation aims for mass appeal by claiming such a familiar language in its story with the goal to push a less considered image of black resistance. It's Parker's smartest gambit, but also his most frustrating limitation. The story is simple—rise up and fight against the oppression—but the details and specifics of Turner's life, and thus what makes his story unique, becomes lost in broad gestures."

    My review of the hot mess of the year for various…

  • Deepwater Horizon

    Deepwater Horizon 2016

    Watched 27 Sep, 2016

    "As the helpless oil men (and one woman) attempt to escape the burning wreckage, Berg makes sure that his audience will squirm in their seats, perilous to do anything but watch. The question remains: to what ends? Like United 93, another film that depicted the carnage of a national tragedy, Deepwater Horizon hits you right in your gut as you watch bodies helplessly succumb to a storm of mud, oil, metal, and fire. But why turn the perils of a…

  • Stranger Than Paradise

    Stranger Than Paradise 1984

    ★★★★ Rewatched 01 Jun, 2016

    Discussed with NFPF Executive Director Jeff Lambert on the latest podcast episode. Still feels entirely singular—an obvious predecessor for every New American Indie film that flooded the market in the 90s (and reached parodic form in the 2000s), while still feeling entirely unique. This is a shot in the arm of "here's some Real Fucking Cinema for you" in the best way possible.

  • Snowden

    Snowden 2016

    ★★½ Watched 13 Sep, 2016 1

    "Stone continually paints Snowden as an extraordinary genius at his work and later a lone wolf, his inner conflict emerging through the nagging relationship with Lindsay who just cannot understand his inner demons. In short, his story reflects that of a singular Great Man, almost accomplishing the opposite of what Poitras set to do with her intimate CITIZENFOUR. While both Poitras and Stone argue Snowden is a patriot instead of a traitor, Stone tries to fit him into a tradition…

  • Cock of the Air

    Cock of the Air 1932

    ★★★½ Watched 15 Aug, 2016

    From this week's Village Voice:

    Many restorations of forgotten classics simply involve a process of scanning, cleaning, and scrubbing filmic elements. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' restoration of Cock of the Air, a Howard Hughes–produced pre-Code sex comedy, shows off new tricks. The 1932 movie features a series of playful waltzes between womanizing pilot Chester Morris and steamy opera singer Billie Dove, following the latter's exile to Italy for "distracting" Paris's masculine elite. Various state censors…

  • Sully

    Sully 2016

    ★★★★ Watched 06 Sep, 2016 3

    "As he's evolved into a dramatic actor, Hanks's comic background has trained him to create sudden ruptures of rhythm to change the entire perspective of a character. In a moment near the end, Hanks nods his head over to his co-pilot, an almost amused characterization that suggests something intangible about the character that we can only witness, and thus empathize with the real consequences of becoming a legend."

    Wrote for this over at LAist's overlord website, Gothamist, which took a…

  • Heat

    Heat 1995

    ★★★★½ Rewatched 07 Sep, 2016 2

    Michael Mann usually gets credit for action set pieces and incredibly masculine approach to filmmaking, that it's easy to forget how intensely meticulous his romantic scenes can feel, with each moment chiseled to the same amount of precision as every gunshot.

    Here's Amy Brenneman and Robert De Niro in Heat on the Sunset Terrace after their chance meeting at a diner. Their dialogue has been typically sparse, cutting the line between archetypical and expressive. De Niro closes off the scene…

  • The Sicilian

    The Sicilian 1987

    ★★★ Watched 03 Sep, 2016 1

    It seems like destiny that Michael Cimino became a cause célèbre beyond his time. What tarnished him as a filmmaker while part of the industry are often the kind of things that age into period styling. If one doesn't watch a few dozens silent films from the 1910s, it can be hard to differentiate Mary Pickford performance from any Mary Sue thrown into a melodrama. Meanwhile, what often does outlive an era—the bread and butter of directing, for example—is what…

  • The Light Between Oceans

    The Light Between Oceans 2016

    ★★ Watched 22 Aug, 2016

    "In some ways, this emphasis on montage and universality might remind one of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, who also opts for elliptical construction over direct narrative. But Cianfrance chooses the absolutely beautiful over the specific; he places his actors in poses instead of allowing emotion to flow through their gestures. Dialogue constantly rings out platitudes instead of drawing on the world they inhabit. "

    I haven't been a fan of Derek Cianfrance, and I'm not fan of The Light Between Oceans, though I give him credit for trying something new. But this is really just a bad James Gray movie. My review for LAist.