Friday, May 29, 2015

'The Nightmare' Review

The Nightmare, the new film from Room 237 director Rodney Ascher, opens next Friday in select cities. It's a smart, fascinating documentary about people who suffer from sleep paralysis, a condition that just sounds horrible. I saw The Nightmare at Sundance, liked it quite a lot, and now I'm reviewing it for Paste. Read on.

On the Great Don Hertzfeldt and 'World of Tomorrow'

Over at Movie Mezzanine, I had a conversation with fellow film critic Alissa Wilkinson about Don Hertzfeldt, one of our best filmmakers. That he's an animator who mostly producers shorts shouldn't disqualify him. In our back-and-forth exchange, we discuss his amazing new short World of Tomorrow and why great movies can sometimes come in small packages. You can read the whole thing here.

Panda Bear - "Boys Latin"

I could take or leave Panda Bear, both as a solo artist and as part of Animal Collective. But his collaboration with Daft Punk, "Doin' It Right," off Random Access Memories softened me on the guy a bit, and for the last several months I've been enthralled by "Boys Latin" off his latest solo record, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper. "Boys Latin" transcends concrete meaning and does what his best music always does, which is to deliver pure emotion. Just don't ask me to explain the video. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

'Aloha' Review

Aloha has been living under a cloud for months after reports leaked in December that Sony deemed the latest from writer-director Cameron Crowe a disaster. So, how bad is the film? The first half ain't too shabby -- but then it just implodes in the worst ways imaginable. I reviewed Aloha for Deadspin.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cannes 2015: The Wrap-Up and the Rankings

My second Cannes Film Festival is in the books. I'm still trying to absorb the last two weeks, so even attempting a ranking at this point is probably foolhardy. But I find the exercise useful to help me focus my thoughts around where certain films landed in relation to others. From worst to best, here's what I saw, including movies I caught before the festival (links lead to individual reviews)....

34. The Sea of Trees
33. A Tale of Love and Darkness
32. Standing Tall
31. Sleeping Giant
30. Macbeth
29. Alias Maria 
28. Green Room
27. Lamb
26. The Little Prince
25. Sicario 
24. Irrational Man
23. Mustang
22. Dheepan
21. Mon Roi
20. The Treasure
19. Mountains May Depart 
18. Embrace of the Serpent
17. One Floor Below
16. The Assassin 
15. Krisha
14. Love
13. Our Little Sister
12. Youth
11. Tale of Tales
10. Dope
9. Mad Max: Fury Road
8. Chronic
7. The Measure of a Man
6. Inside Out
5. Louder Than Bombs
4. Carol
3. Son of Saul
2. Cemetery of Splendor
1. The Lobster

Will these rankings shift over time? Almost certainly. Keep an eye out for No. 16, The Assassin, which may grow in stature with multiple viewings. Also, I'm curious about No. 5, Louder Than Bombs, which I fear may be less impressive the next time I see it. But for today, this is the list.

A few words about The Lobster. Several colleagues have complained that they think the movie runs out of gas halfway through, when a major venue change occurs. I actually think the film gets even better then. Not since, I dunno, Safe has a filmmaker so radically shifted gears in the second half of his film in order to offer a counterpoint to his own argument. (Plus, both films are starkly clinical, although The Lobster is a lot funnier.) I don't buy the betting odds that it will win the Palme d'Or -- I think Carol is still the best bet -- but The Lobster was a standout, even if it's going to prove more divisive than Yorgos Lanthimos' breakout film, Dogtooth.

What else is there to say? Well, I'm sorry I didn't have time for Amy, In the Shadow of Women, Arabian Nights, The Brand New Testament, My Golden Days and others. I hope Vincent Lindon wins Best Actor from the festival for his performance in The Measure of a Man (No. 7 on my list). And I think that if, as several have said, this was a down year at Cannes, well, there were still plenty of pleasures to be found.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Cannes 2015: 'The Assassin' Review

Count me among those who deeply admire Hou Hsiao-Hsien's The Assassin but don't quite love it. Easily the most ravishingly adored critical favorite at this year's Cannes, this meditative martial-arts film could very easily walk off with the Palme d'Or. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Cannes 2015: 'Love' Review

If you only see one pornographic 3D movie this year....

Gaspar Noe, the man behind Irreversible and Enter the Void, is back with Love, which is an audacious, self-indulgent movie about a romantic relationship that falls apart. It's a mess -- but, you know, a really great mess. I reviewed Love for Paste.

Cannes 2015: 'The Little Prince' Review

Not having grown up in love with The Little Prince, I went into this new film version of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry book as merely an interested outsider. Fans should know that director Mark Osborne uses the source material as a jumping-off point for a new story, although the original tale is told in pretty lively stop-motion animation. I found the whole film charming, if a little slight. My review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2015: 'Chronic' Review

The second-to-last film to screen in Competition -- Macbeth is tomorrow -- Chronic stars Tim Roth as a nurse who cares for the gravely ill in Los Angeles. But is he too close to his patients for his (and their) own good? Filmmaker Michel Franco, making his English-language debut, works in an austere style that, mostly, succeeds. And Roth is quite good. I reviewed Chronic for Screen International.

Cannes 2015: 'Mustang' Review

Mustang is a Turkish film about five sisters who live under the thumb of their conservative uncle. Deciding that they need to be supervised more closely now that they're into puberty, the uncle essentially locks them up in the house over the summer, hoping that will keep them away from boys. But the sisters may have something to say about that. I reviewed the comedy-drama, which will be opening in the U.S. early next year, for Screen International.

Death Cab For Cutie - "Black Sun"

Part of me is sorta sheepish admitting that I still enjoy Death Cab for Cutie. They haven't made anything as good as Transatlanticism since, but each subsequent album has been good for a cut or two. Still, there's something hopelessly sensitive-white-guy dad-rock about them that makes me hate myself. But, hey, "Black Sun" is a damn fine song, even though it's entirely sensitive-white-guy dad-rock.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cannes 2015: 'Inside Out' Review

Whoever said Cannes only plays movies about the Holocaust and repressed 1950s lesbian lovers? This year, the festival also showed Inside Out, the latest from Pixar. It's darn good -- my only lament is that it's not even better. My review is up at Paste. (The film opens June 19.)

Kevin Spacey, Before He Was Kevin Spacey

Glengarry Glen Ross is the Movie of the Week over at The Dissolve. Today, I look into Kevin Spacey's crucial performance in that film. Remember, this was back in 1992, before most people knew who he was. That makes a difference. I explain why right here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cannes 2015: 'Sicario' Review

Is Sicario the most divisive film in the Competition? Sure looks like it. Some see a work of polished commercial filmmaking genius. I see a taut thriller with delusions of grandeur. Still, really impressive on the technical side. I reviewed this war-on-drugs drama for Paste.

Cannes 2015: 'Youth' Review

Youth is the follow-up film from director Paolo Sorrentino, whose previous effort, The Great Beauty, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. His new movie is in English, and stars Michael Caine as a retired composer taking a vacation in the Alps. Joined in the cast by Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano, Caine does some fine work, and Sorrentino plies us with his usual amounts of sumptuous visuals. The film may recycle plenty of old tropes -- mortality, art, love -- but it goes down nice and smooth. I reviewed Youth for Paste.

Cannes 2015: 'Mountains May Depart' Review

The latest from Chinese director Jia Zhangke (The World, Still Life) expands on his favorite theme: the way life keeps on changing and time just keeps on rolling by. Mountains May Depart tells a love story over three eras, ending in Australia in 2025. It's a solid drama that just misses greatness. I explain why over at Paste.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cannes 2015: 'Cemetery of Splendor' Review

For a certain kind of filmgoer, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is the man. Elliptical, mysterious, poetic, astonishing, his movies (like Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) are a kind of religious experience. No director I can name crafts films that feel so restorative, so contemplative, so oddly life-affirming. His latest, Cemetery of Splendor, just premiered at Cannes. I'm still sussing some of it out, but the movie knocked me for a loop. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2015: 'Alias Maria' Review

Alias María takes us to the jungles of Colombia for the story a 13-year-old soldier who must hide her pregnancy from her tyrannical commanders. Director José Luis Rugeles Gracia's social drama works better as a condemnation of a culture and an ongoing war -- it's less stirring as a piece of taut storytelling. Still, it's hard to shake these characters' desperate circumstances. My review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2015: 'The Measure of a Man' Review

It may not be one of the very best films at this year's Cannes, but The Measure of a Man is a movie that's stayed with me, which sometimes at a festival is higher praise. It stars Vincent Lindon as a 50-something man who's been unemployed for about two years, desperate to find work to support his family. This French drama studies how that quest weighs heavy on the character -- the movie is a small little gem of a character study. I reviewed The Measure of a Man for Paste.