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  • 12 Years a Slave

    12 Years a Slave


    I avoided this for a long time because I made the assumption it would be a big, boring Hollywood tale. And based on how outrageously heavy-handed McQueen's Shame was, I didn't think I could handle such a weighty parade of manipulative sadness porn. While this is, obviously, a very upsetting film, I was totally wrong in my assumptions. 12 Years a Slave is an incredible experience. It is utterly beautiful to look at and scored to perfection, yet it is…

  • Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage

    Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage


    This is an oddly enjoyable collage of Hollywood silliness. It connects random stuff together with little rhyme or reason, yet somehow it flows rather nicely. There's lots of familiar footage here. Lugosi chowing down on Betty Boop. Hattie McDaniel accepting her Oscar. And there's plenty of oddities I'd never seen. The premiere of A Star Is Born is utter madness. Frank Sinatra convincing kids not to be bigots with a song is rather sad in our current political climate. Joan…

  • Cairo Station

    Cairo Station


    Cairo Station was much more vicious than I expected. At first, the film appears to be a sort of lighthearted collage, taking snippets of different lives and how they interact with Cairo Station. But a dark thread begins to take over, steamrolling the film to a rather gob-smacking finale. Director Youssef Chahine does an amazing job as Qinawi, a disturbed, crippled, simpleton pervert pushed to the edge, and I loved Hend Rostom in the very sassy role of Hanuma. The…

  • Housekeeping



    Housekeeping has a vibe and a feeling unlike anything I've seen before. It has the pace and feeling of a novel. It's impossible to label or place in a genre. It can be funny at times, in a subdued, strange way, and sad at other times, though never overwhelming or sentimental. It doesn't judge its characters. Instead, the film lays out two very different types of people—perfectly represented in the split between the sisters Ruth and Lucille. Christine Lahti's Sylvie…

  • Louisiana Story

    Louisiana Story


    What an extraordinarily strange film. Commissioned by the Standard Oil Company, Louisiana Story is essentially a promotional film. A promotional film directed by Robert J. Flaherty, of Nanook of the North fame. Flaherty uses non-actors and places them in an extremely thin script (that was somehow nominated for an Academy Award). I really liked the super raw performances. The relentlessly-spitting, constantly-grinning Joseph Boudreaux is a lovable lad, and Lionel Le Blanc is a great, grunting, rambling father. The real star…

  • The Heartbreak Kid

    The Heartbreak Kid


    The Heartbreak Kid is brutal. An unflinchingly awkward and dark comedy that made me flinch and cringe in how honestly it reflects on the madness of human nature. Charles Grodin is unbelievably good. Every element of his performance drips with bullshit, and his final moments are hysterically tragic. Jeannie Berlin is great, adding sad layers to what could have been a one-note character. Cybill Shepherd has less to do than Grodin and Berlin, but she's perfectly cast. This is a truly brilliant mean-spirited anti-romcom. Watch it if you're in the mood to squirm.

  • The Jungle Book

    The Jungle Book


    I am honestly shocked I didn't hate this. I'm not keen on the 60s version of The Jungle Book, and I despise CGI-infested modern Disney remakes. But this... works... somehow. Jon Favreau does well with both action and story, pushing things along at an engaging pace, adding drama and stakes that weren't present in the original Disney version. The voices are well cast. The characters are emote through the CG. I absolutely loved the bizarre reference to Apocalypse Now in…

  • The Midnight Girl

    The Midnight Girl


    A stuffy and slow-moving melodrama, The Midnight Girl would mostly be worthless if not for an early appearance from Bela Lugosi. Lugosi is enjoyably sleazy as a 1920s version of Harvey Weinstein. The rest of the film is not unwatchable, but it's pretty dull. There's some overwrought drama, some non-fatal gunshots, and a finale that makes a crazy U-turn on Lugosi's character. Watch it if you're a Lugosi fan I guess.

  • Captains Courageous

    Captains Courageous


    The title sequence of Captain Courageous is so cool. Water splashing against the side of a ship, credits appearing as the water trickles down. So good. The rest of the film is pretty solid too. Spencer Tracy's performance is incredible. Despite a very dodgy accent, he is so damned likeable. Freddie Bartholomew is also excellent, managing to grow from awful brat to kindhearted sea pup. The rest of the cast is peppered with familiar faces who are all solid, but it's definitely Bartholomew and Tracy's film. Not a film I feel the need to return to any time soon, but a very enjoyable experience.

  • Red Sorghum

    Red Sorghum


    It's hard to believe this is both Zhang Yimou's first film and Gong Li's debut. While it's not quite at the level of Raise the Red Lantern, Red Sorghum is polished and powerful, especially when it gets suddenly, shockingly violent. Zhang Yimou and Gong Li made for a great team in the 90s. Li is really wonderful. She has a knack for tragic characters and it's fascinating to see her nail it so early in her career. Visually, I kept…

  • A Tale of Winter

    A Tale of Winter


    Rohmer was such a prolific, consistent, brilliant director. I can put on anything by him I haven't seen and almost be guaranteed to love it. A Tale of Winter is no exception. In fact, this is one of his best. This would be perfect as an introduction to his work. While it features all the Rohmerisms that make his work special (engaging conversations, quiet performances), its narrative is perhaps his most instantly gratifying and surprisingly kind to its protagonist. And though it is never flashy, it's visually very appealing. I never want to run out of Rohmer films!

  • A Tale of the Wind

    A Tale of the Wind


    Mysterious and unique, A Tale of the Wind is impossible to categorise. It is documentary, fantasy, a dreamy personal essay. It is always beautiful. 90-year-old Joris Ivens creates something so inventive—something both wise and filled with youthful wonder. He is not only co-director but also appears onscreen. In some scenes, we watch the task of director and performer unfolding at once. Shot by Besson regular Thierry Arbogast and Jacques Loiseleux, the imagery on display is gob-smacking. The visuals are set…