Saturday, May 28, 2016

'Press Play With Madeleine Brand': Talking Mutants and Johnny Depp

I was back on Press Play yesterday with Amy Nicholson to rap about X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass. I also sing the praises of The Idol, while Amy goes to bat for Holy Hell. Check it out here.

Friday, May 27, 2016

X - "See How We Are"

"Life goes on long after the thrill of livin' is gone," John Mellencamp once sang, and this X song takes that truth to its next level. Mellencamp's track, "Jack and Diane," was about young people -- "See How We Are" is very much about being an adult and trying to find some sort of contentment with the things that didn't work out. Very sad, but more than that it's stirring.

Sticking Up for 'X-Men: Apocalypse'

The reviews for the latest X-Men movie haven't been so good. So why do I like Apocalypse so much? That's what my piece in the The New Republic is all about. Give it a read.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cannes 2016: 'Graduation' Review

One of the Cannes jury prizes that didn't drive me nuts was the awarding of Best Director to Cristian Mungiu for Graduation. (He shared the prize with Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper, also a good choice.) In this smart, taut drama, a local father decides to take matters into his own hands after his talented teen daughter is attacked on the way to school. But good intentions go bad when honorable men cut corners. Graduation was one of my favorites at the festival, and my review is up at Paste.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Grierson & Leitch Podcast: Cannes and 'The Nice Guys'

I'm back from Cannes, so for this week's episode of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, we talk about the festival and my takeaways. (Hint: I hated the jury awards.) We also get into The Nice Guys and Neighbors 2. You can hear it all right here.

Monday, May 23, 2016

'Thelma & Louise,' 25 Years Later

For Biography, I gave Thelma & Louise a second look. It came out in May 1991. Does it hold up? Mostly yes, but what's fascinating is how it plays with genre and gender. Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cannes 2016: The Wrap-Up and the Rankings

When people ask me how a film festival went, there are always two answers I could give. The first, which is the one folks normally care about, is an overall assessment of the movies that screened there. But the second answer concerns how my life was during that festival. Did I sleep well? Any strange encounters? Any moments of paralyzing self-doubt or crippling loneliness? Did I get sick from not enough sleep and too many deadlines? This is the stuff critics and journalists don't talk about so much, but you'd better believe it affects them, especially when they're far from home, and it can affect their assessment of the movies they see.

A small personal example from Cannes. I rented a flat that was on the third floor of an apartment complex. No elevator, just stairs, and it was a beautiful spiral staircase that was very fun to go up and down every day during the festival. Well, except for that one afternoon when I locked my apartment door, proceeded to put the keys in my pocket but had them clang off my wedding ring, sending them tumbling down that beautiful spiral staircase. I don't know if you've ever chased a set of keys as they bounce down twirling stairs, but it's a horrible experience -- especially when you're convinced they've fallen through the center of the stairwell, never to be found again. For a good five-minute span, I was pretty convinced I was in major trouble. And then, I saw them resting in a dusty corner of the stairwell, mere inches from falling down a crevice where I could have never recovered them. A very lucky break ... and a nice reminder that one's experience at a festival can hinge on such inexplicable, uncontrollable moments. (Other than that, I had a great, uneventful festival.)

Now, to the rankings. This was a pretty strong Cannes, and although I'm sorry I missed After the Storm, The Handmaiden, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, Julieta, Raw and The Red Turtle, I'm very happy with what I saw. Links lead to full-length reviews...

33. It's Only the End of the World
32. Money Monster
31. The Last Face 
30. Blood Father 
29. Dog Eat Dog
28. Captain Fantastic
27. Staying Vertical
26. Loving
25. Midnight Return: The Story of Billy Hayes and Turkey
24. Hands of Stone
23. Slack Bay 
22. Cafe Society
21. Personal Affairs
20. The Neon Demon
19. Hell or High Water
18. The Cinema Travellers
17. The BFG
16. The Dancer
15. The Transfiguration
14. I, Daniel Blake 
13. Aquarius
12. The Salesman 
11. The Nice Guys
10. Sieranevada
9. The Unknown Girl
8. Ma' Rosa
7. The Student
6. Personal Shopper
5. Elle
4. Toni Erdmann
3. Graduation
2. Paterson
1. American Honey

I'm terrified Julieta is going to win the Palme d'Or, meaning I'll have missed the big prizewinner. But if I had to bet, I'd say Toni Erdmann will take the award. We'll see soon enough. As for me, American Honey was my film of the festival. All hail Sasha Lane (pictured above), who's a major discovery. I hope she had a good Cannes.

Cannes 2016: 'Blood Father' Review

I have to assume that, eventually, we as a culture will decide to forgive Mel Gibson and welcome him back. Just about every other disgraced celebrity has had his moment of redemption, so it just seems inconceivable that Gibson wouldn't. Well, when it happens, it won't be because of Blood Father, a painfully pedestrian Taken-like action-thriller. I reviewed the film for Screen International.

Cannes 2016: 'Personal Shopper' Review

Kristen Stewart reunites with Clouds of Sils Maria filmmaker Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper about an American living in Paris who's trying to contact her dead twin brother. But that's just the start of this moody ghost story. My review is up at Paste.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cannes 2016: 'The Unknown Girl' Review

Wouldn't you know it, I attend my first Cannes with a Dardenne brothers film and people don't like it all that much. Well, I enjoyed The Unknown Girl just fine, thank you very much. For Paste, I stick up for the film, while acknowledging that perhaps these filmmakers have spoiled us to expect brilliance. Here's my review.

Lyle Lovett - "Step Inside This House"

In the midst of Cannes, I missed the news about Guy Clark's passing. I'll let Lyle Lovett sing the man's praises while covering his beautiful song.

Cannes 2016: 'The Last Face' Review

When journalists like myself wrote Cannes previews spotlighting the films we were most excited to see at the festival this year, very few of us mentioned The Last Face, the new film from director Sean Penn. Our intuition was correct: This turgid romantic drama starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem is a dud that also does a terrible job making us care about atrocities across war-torn Africa. No sale. My review is up at Screen International.