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  • Blow

    Blow

    ★★½

    Though it may be a largely workmanlike picture, Blow evades many of the typical issues faced by biopics in its relatively character- and emotion-driven, rather than narrative- or history-driven, focus. Johnny Depp plays George Jung rather well, letting tics fall to the wayside in favor of an internalized character whose work ethic and avarice drive his rise and fall. There is also some rather impressive mise-en-scène direction as well: some of the staging works really well in an almost Hawksian…

  • Election 2

    Election 2

    ★★★½

    The action in this film is superior to that in the first: not only in virtuoso filmmaking (which it has a lot of), but also in a focus on unique, individual motivations as drivers of the action rather than the first film's interesting but more simplistic power struggles. Characters here seem more nuanced and less uniform than in Election, and even if there isn't as much historical and cultural contextualization (my vote for the original's greatest strengths), I appreciated that…

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  • Birdman

    Birdman

    ★★★★½

    Visually, Birdman is a beautiful film whose appearance as one unbroken take allows us to understand the complexity of life behind the Broadway stage and the fast-paced nature of the world of theatre. It is this world where we find Riggan Thomson, a washed-up actor who is about to star in a stage adaptation of What We Talk About When We Talk About Love that he both wrote and directed but who struggles with his own descent from fame. Despite…

  • The Shape of Water

    The Shape of Water

    After having seen only three of his films, I'm starting to think that Guillermo del Toro chooses to work in a "fairy tale" register because it means that he gets to be lazy with characterization and thematic development, chalking it up to the simplicity of the form. There is little other excuse that I can think of for why the villains in his films, perhaps true for The Shape of Water even more than for Pan's Labyrinth, seem to be…