Friday, May 31, 2013

What Do We Do About Jaden Smith?

As someone who thought Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son) was quite good in The Pursuit of Happyness, I genuinely don't know what to say about his subsequent performances. Watching After Earth was particularly discouraging in this regard. The kid once held such promise, but now? I'm not so sure. I wrestle with this over at Deadspin.

'The Kings of Summer' Review

At this year's Sundance, I didn't get a chance to see Toy's House, but I heard pretty positive things about it. Now renamed The Kings of Summer, the indie teen comedy opens today in limited release. It's pretty forgettable, despite its general warmth and some nice comic moments. I reviewed the film for IFC Fix.

Stephen Malkmus - "Church on White"

Stephen Malkmus turned 47 yesterday. In his honor, here's one of my favorite Malkmus tracks, which you may have missed if you stopped paying attention after Pavement split up.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'Venus in Fur' Review

My final Cannes review for this year is Venus in Fur, the latest from Roman Polanski. Maybe it's as deep as a thimble, but I really didn't care: This adaptation of the David Ives play is such sexy, kinky fun. My review is at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Tore Tanzt' Review

Inspired by real events, Tore Tanzt (Nothing Bad Can Happen) is one dark drama. It's about a young born-again Christian taken in by a seemingly friendly family that turns out to be incredibly sadistic. Why does the young man put up with it? That's the central question in Tore Tanzt. I reviewed the film for Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Only Lovers Left Alive' Review

Though it was announced long after the rest of the Competition slate -- and screened late in the festival -- Only Lovers Left Alive is a fun little treat. Jim Jarmusch does his usual deadpan thing, but there's also a noticeable melancholy to this vampire tale that's quite welcome. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Grigris' Review

Grigris didn't generate much buzz out of Cannes, despite being one of the films in Competition. It's a low-key drama that quietly morphs into a low-key thriller. And its lead, Souleymane Démé, is pretty durn great. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Max Rose' Review

And now, I'd like to present the Worst Movie I Saw at Cannes. That would be Max Rose, the debacle starring Jerry Lewis that will make you wish he'd stay retired. The legend deserves better. My review is up at Paste.

'After Earth' Review

After quite liking All Is Lost at Cannes, sitting through After Earth was even more difficult. Here we have another story about a battle against nature, but unlike the Robert Redford movie, this sci-fi flick is just very, very mediocre. It's got ideas and aspirations, but what does it matter when they're executed so shoddily? My review is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cannes 2013: The Wrap-Up and the Rankings

The 2013 edition of the Cannes Film Festival has come to an end. I saw a lot of movies and wrote about every single one of them. It was a whirlwind experience, one I'm still coming down from. At any rate, here's a quick one-stop-shopping guide for all my Cannes coverage.

First off, I produced an almost-daily diary from the festival for Backstage. Here are those entries...

Part 1: The Calm Before the Storm
Part 2: The Unlikely Connection Between The Great Gatsby and Heli
Part 3: The Congress and the Future of Acting
Part 4: Avoiding the Raindrops (or, Why I Never Whine at a Festival) 
Part 5: The Race for the Palme d'Or
Part 6: Early in the Morning
Part 7: Robert Redford's Comeback
Part 8: Jerry Lewis' Very Bad Day
Part 9: A Deserving Winner

And now, a ranking of what I saw at the festival. A few of these were seen before Cannes at Sundance or elsewhere. Links lead to individual reviews....

32. Max Rose
31. A Castle in Italy
30. The Great Gatsby
29. Taipei Factory
28. Shield of Straw
27. The Congress
26. The Bling Ring
25. Bends
24. The Immigrant
23. Heli
22. Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)
21. Grigris
20. Magic Magic
19. We Are What We Are
18. Young & Beautiful 
17. Only God Forgives
16. Bombay Talkies
15. Tore Tanzt
14. Only Lovers Left Alive
13. Behind the Candelabra
12. Sarah Prefers to Run
11. Ilo Ilo
10. Nebraska
9. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
8. A Touch of Sin
7. Venus in Fur
6. Like Father, Like Son
5. All Is Lost
4. The Past
3. Bastards
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
1. Blue Is the Warmest Color

As you can see, I'm pretty much in agreement with the Competition jury about what the strongest films were. As for the reason why I included that photo of jury member Nicole Kidman and jury president Steven Spielberg, well, it makes me chuckle every time I look at it. The man seems genuinely confused (or is it irritated?) by her very presence.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'The Immigrant' Review

Two Lovers, director James Gray's previous film, was my favorite of 2009. So, yes, I was quite excited to see his new offering, The Immigrant, which once again stars Joaquin Phoenix. Now that I've seen it, I wish I loved it more. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' Review

If I was on the Cannes jury, Blue is the Warmest Color (La Vie D’Adèle Chapitres 1 et 2) would get my vote for the Palme d'Or. An astounding three-hour romantic drama -- yes, about a lesbian couple that sometimes engage in explicit sex scenes -- this is one of the truest, saddest movies about love I've seen in a long time. It made me think of Annie Hall for reasons I don't want to express until after you see this movie, which I hope you get to do. Sundance Selects has picked it up for the U.S. -- may they not trim a second from it. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes Diary, Part 8: Jerry Lewis' Bad Day

You perhaps have heard about the press conference that Jerry Lewis gave at Cannes on Thursday? The business about female comedians not being funny? That was just the beginning of his ignominious day: Folks, I sat through Max Rose, his first starring vehicle in almost 20 years. Sad sad sad. I write about both events in my latest Backstage diary entry.

Cannes 2013: 'Nebraska' Review

Alexander Payne continues to do his thing in Nebraska, and by his "thing," I'm referring to his ability to make sad little comedies about everyday folks. I confess that I'm starting to catch on to his emotional tricks, but he still utilizes them well enough that I don't mind too badly. My Nebraska review is up at Paste.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'Only God Forgives' Review

Boos rained down as the credits rolled for Only God Forgives. Me, I liked the movie. Didn't love it, but liked it. Or maybe I just appreciated what director Nicolas Winding Refn was going for. I make the case for the film, somewhat, over at Paste.

Cannes Diary, Part 7: Robert Redford, Comeback Kid

I've already told you how much I like All Is Lost. But for my latest Cannes diary entry for Backstage, I discuss his possible Oscar odds. Yes, it's not too early to start thinking about those bloody things again. Here's my post.

Cannes 2013: 'Behind the Candelabra' Review

Behind the Candelabra will be playing on HBO soon, but at Cannes it's screening as part of the Official Competition. Twenty-four years ago, Steven Soderbergh won the Palme d'Or for his first film, Sex, Lies & Videotape. I don't think he'll repeat that feat with what he says is his final film. The movie's not bad at all -- it's just not up to that level. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Bastards' Review

One of the most divisive films at this year's Cannes is Bastards, the latest from director Claire Denis. Well, put me firmly in the "pro" category: I loved its snarling darkness. I sing the film's praises over at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Sarah Prefers to Run' Review

I have a father who's been a passionate runner for more than 30 years. I could never catch the fever, but it's deeply, deeply engrained in his life. I can't think of a movie in some time that so captured that mentality as Sarah Prefers to Run, a strong film here at Cannes from a first-time feature Canadian filmmaker, Chloé Robichaud. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'A Touch of Sin' Review

Currently on Screen International's critics grid of the Cannes competition films, A Touch of Sin is the second-highest-rated film, right behind Inside Llewyn Davis. Which is funny because many people I've chatted with seem down on director Jia Zhangke's latest. I'm not one of them, as I explain in my Paste review.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'All Is Lost' Review

Sometimes you just get a feeling -- a hope, really -- that a movie will be special. And with All Is Lost, my gut instinct turned out to be correct. Though somewhat predictable in its overall shape, this survival-at-sea movie is really interesting, starring Robert Redford as a character we learn nothing about and who speaks almost no dialogue. It's an experiment that works, as I explain in my Screen International review.

(By the way, the above still is from All Is Lost, but that sure doesn't look like Redford, does it? I have no idea what that's about.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cannes Diary, Part 6: The Morning

For a while now, I've accepted the fact that I'm a morning person. That doesn't bother me, actually, my feelings summed up quite nicely by a certain Eels song. Have such a temperament is rather helpful at film festivals, especially here at Cannes where press screenings are often at 8:30am. For my latest Backstage diary entry, I talk about my morning routine at the festival.

(By the way, the above still is from the Competition film Borgman. I haven't seen it yet, but it seemed appropriate for this particular post.)

Cannes 2013: 'Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)' Review

One of the less-beloved entries in the Official Competition at Cannes thus far has been Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian), a mouthful of a title, to be sure. But, at least in my view, not an unenjoyable film experience. It's a drama starring Mathieu Amalric as an anthropologist and psychoanalysis sent to investigate what is causing a Native American World War II vet (Benicio del Toro) to develop dizzy spells and vision problems. Based on a true story and set in the late 1940s, it's most interesting for how it plays with typical therapist-movie conventions. My review of Jimmy P. is up at Paste.

Cannes Diary, Part 5: What's Going to Win the Palme d'Or?

Since the Cannes Film Festival is about half over, I decided to take a look at which films in the competition have the best shot of winning the Palme d'Or. It's the subject of my latest Backstage diary entry.

Cannes 2013: 'A Castle in Italy' Review

I love Woody Allen, but I understand why some people find his movies jokey, shtick-y, cutesy and strained. I understand because sometimes I'll see a movie like A Castle in Italy and think, "Oh god, this is what they're talking about." My review from Cannes is up at Screen International.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cannes Diary, Part 4: I Can Stand the Rain

One of the phenomenons you notice during film festivals is critics and journalists tweeting about their experience, letting us in on every quirky observation and venting complaint they have. For example, even if you aren't at Cannes right now, you've probably heard how rainy it's been this year. For my latest Backstage diary entry, I explain why I try to never let such hassles bug me.

Cannes 2013: 'Shield of Straw' Review

I've liked director Takashi Miike's last few films, 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, but for his latest, he leaves the period samurai action behind. Shield of Straw is a contemporary action-thriller that I wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood tries to remake sooner rather than later. It's got a fun premise -- elite team of cops must protect murder suspect from a whole nation of people who want to kill him for a reward -- but it gets bogged down. My review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2013: 'Bombay Talkies' Review

What a fun little treat Bombay Talkies is. Hardly revelatory or life-changing, this collection of four short films from up-and-coming Indian directors is just plain enjoyable. Which isn't to say it's not also touching and thoughtful, but when I walked out of the theater, I was just genuinely pleased by the experience. When you sit through somber movies that are far more ambitious but also far less successful, trust me, you'll happily welcome a Bombay Talkies into your life. My review is up at Screen International.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'Like Father, Like Son' Review

Few filmmakers do family drama as well as Kore-eda Hirokazu. Nobody Knows, Still Walking, I Wish ... and now comes Like Father, Like Son, which part of me knows is a touch sappy. But other parts of me say to just feel the emotions and not question it. So I obey. My review is live at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Ilo Ilo' Review

Though it's nowhere near as good, I got a strong Yi Yi vibe while watching the Singaporean comedy-drama Ilo Ilo. Like Edward Yang's great film, Ilo Ilo is modest but also incredibly wise about its characters, each one of them developed and going about their own story. Again, it's not quite as accomplished as Yi Yi, but any movie that puts me in that mindset is doing something right. My review of Ilo Ilo is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2013: 'Bends' Review

I feel guilty for not liking Bends more than I do. A quiet two-hander from Hong Kong, it's all delicate beauty and subtle nuance. A rich housewife and her young driver share the same orbit, but they know nothing about the struggles in each other's world. This is the sort of film I eat up, but Bends didn't quite work for me. I explain why over at Screen International.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Review

If like me, you prefer the Coen brothers when they're in character-piece mode (Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There, A Serious Man), then you may utterly love Inside Llewyn Davis. It's just terrific. I can't wait to see it again. My glowing review is up at Screen International.

Cannes 2013: 'The Past' Review

Writer-director Asghar Farhadi wowed critics and Oscar voters alike with A Separation. I admired the film greatly, but I also found it a bit too manufactured for my liking -- a criticism that's more of a quibble, really. That quibble continues with his new film, The Past. Again, I'm enormously impressed with so much here. And yet, there's something that holds me back from full-on love. I try to explain all this in my Paste review.

Cannes 2013: 'Young & Beautiful' Review

A French film about a pretty 17-year-old hooker won't be a hard sell for a lot of people. Still, director Francois Ozon has taken a standard art-house template and made it nicely enigmatic. And said hooker is played by Marine Vacth, who is quite good in the role. My review of Young & Beautiful is up at Paste.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cannes 2013: 'The Bling Ring' Review

When The Bling Ring comes out later this year, it's going to be endlessly compared to Spring Breakers. For the record, I think Harmony Korine's film is far superior. Writer-director Sofia Coppola's dark drama hits the same intriguing note again and again and again until it loses its effectiveness. I go into more detail in my Paste review.

Cannes 2013: 'The Congress' Review

An admirer of Waltz With Bashir, I was curious what director Ari Folman would do for an encore. The answer is The Congress, which made me think of Cloud Atlas and Mr. Nobody at different points during its overlong running time. Bear in mind I liked those films. By comparison, The Congress is endlessly ambitious but only rarely great. My review is up at Paste.

Cannes 2013: 'Heli' Review

Heli is produced by Carlos Reygadas, the filmmaker of surreal, shocking movies like Battle in Heaven and Post Tenebras Lux. Heli, directed by fellow Mexican Amat Escalante isn't quite like that, although it does shock at times. Instead, think of Miss Bala, which like Heli is an anti-tourism ad for Mexico and its corrupt, drug-ravaged landscape. Ultimately, I think the film does work, but it's a lot to endure. My review is up at Paste.

Harry Nilsson - "Without You"

Harry Nilsson is a blind spot in my musical education, which I've been trying to rectify recently. (How perfectly timed is the news that a huge box set is on its way to us.) Apropos of nothing, I decided to pick this song for my Friday Video.

Cannes Diary, Part 3: Why Actors Will Want to See 'The Congress'

I'm very mixed on The Congress, the follow-up film from the director of Waltz With Bashir. (My review will be running over at Paste shortly.) But I do think what it has to say about the future of the acting profession will deeply bother thespians everywhere. It seemed pretty appropriate for Backstage to go into a little explanation about what I mean.

Cannes 2013: 'Taipei Factory' Review

Playing in the Director's Fortnight at Cannes is Taipei Factory, a collection of four short films that bring together a different Taiwanese director with a filmmaker from another country, such as Iran or South Korea. It's a really fun idea but, sadly, the results are merely so-so. My review is up at Screen International.

The Cannes Comedies

For IFC Fix, I decided to do a little research into comedies that have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Here's a list of 10 good ones. (By the by, I hadn't realized until doing this piece how many of Woody Allen's films played at Cannes after screening in the United States. That disqualified them from my list.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cannes Diary, Day 2: Of 'Heli' and 'The Great Gatsby'

For my latest installment of my Backstage notebook from Cannes, I decided to compare-and-contrast two unlikely films that played the same night at the festival. On one side, you've got The Great Gatsby. On the other, the dark Mexican drama Heli. They're more alike than you might imagine. Here's my diary entry.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On Greta Gerwig and the Great 'Frances Ha'

If before you've been on the fence about Greta Gerwig's charms, then the very funny, very wise Frances Ha may help change your mind. I know it did for me. My appreciation of the film -- and of Ms. Gerwig -- is up at Deadspin.

What Happened With 'Peeples'?

Anybody who's a fan of Craig Robinson no doubt hopes to see more of the guy, not less. But box office bombs like Peeples aren't going to help his upward climb. For IFC Fix, I devote my Bomb Squad column to this misfire, trying to figure out why people stayed away in droves. You can read my theories here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cannes Diary, Day 1: Visiting the Lumiere

Backstage was kind enough to let me keep an almost-daily diary of my Cannes experience. (It's my first time going, after all.) In the first entry, I talk about the festival's premier theater, which is almost mythic to me. Well, now I've see it in person. You can read my post here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cannes 2013: 10 Must-Sees

The Cannes Film Festival gets going on Wednesday. I'm here for the first time, so for Deadspin, I put together a list of 10 films I'm quite excited to see. There are more than 10, obviously, but these will do for now.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The XX - "Together"

As you know, I'm pretty mixed on The Great Gatsby, and that goes for the soundtrack as well. But, man oh man, I deeply dig the XX's contribution, which has a prominent place in the film. In fact, within about three seconds of hearing it in the movie, I instantly realized who it was -- and that I loved it. The song is called "Together," and it was written for the film. If it gets a few people to seek out the underrated Coexist from last year, all the better.

Cannes 2013: 'We Are What We Are' Review

We Are What We Are, the new film from Stake Land director Jim Mickle, premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival and will now be heading over to Cannes as part of the festival's Directors' Fortnight, where it will screen alongside new films from The Arbor's Clio Barnard (The Selfish Giant) and Waltz With Bashir's Ari Folman (The Congress). I can't think of a recent horror movie that was so gut-wrenching that had so little gore. The movie makes you queasy not because of blood but because of subject matter -- by what it suggests rather than what you actually see. My review of We Are What We Are is up at Screen International.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

In Praise of 'Stories We Tell'

Recently, Criticwire asked reviewers to select the best filmmaker under 40. Many responders picked Sarah Polley, and her latest film, Stories We Tell, is probably a big reason why. The actor-turned-director's first two movies, Away From Her and Take This Waltz, were accomplished, but her latest is her best yet. It's a documentary about her family, and it's real gem -- even if you know the real story, which I highly recommend avoiding before seeing this film. I wrote about Stories We Tell for Deadspin.

Monday, May 06, 2013

'The Great Gatsby' Review

This year's Cannes Film Festival, which I'll be attending for the first time, will open on May 15 with The Great Gatsby. The last time director Baz Luhrmann went to Cannes was with Moulin Rouge. Interestingly, the two films have some similarities -- but not in terms of quality. My review is up at Screen International.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Fleetwood Mac - "Second Hand News"

Earlier this year, Rumours came out in a fancy new deluxe edition. This is an album whose backstory looms so large that I wonder if impressionable 11-year-olds just now getting into music are handed a copy of the album with the advisory, "They did a lot of drugs, and everybody was screwing everybody else." Luckily, the music's still so terrific that its making isn't that important to its enjoyment. My favorite detail in the opening track: those "shh" background vocals.