Saturday, November 30, 2013
That's the question I tried to answer in a podcast interview I did with Mousterpiece Cinema, which is hosted by the quite fun Josh Spiegel and Gabe Bucsko. I was on to discuss Vince Vaughn's latest, Delivery Man, but we soon moved on from the movie to grapple with Vaughn's career crossroads. I had a fine time chatting with them. You can hear it here.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
In case you hadn't heard, I wrote a book about Wilco. Published through Omnibus Press, Wilco: Sunken Treasure is a critical biography that traces the band's history and examines their complete catalog. (It's available through Amazon.) Paste is running an excerpt from the book that focuses on the final days of former Wilco member Jay Bennett. For most Wilco fans, Bennett's story ends when he was booted from the group. I dug a little deeper for my biography. Hope you enjoy this excerpt.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
I love Spike Lee, so I was intrigued to hear that he was remaking Oldboy, a South Korean movie I don't particularly love. Unfortunately, Lee hasn't brought much to his version. (I also blame Josh Brolin.) My review is up at Screen International.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the year's best movies, and one I've thought a lot about since seeing it at Cannes. So I was thrilled to get to interview the film's star, Oscar Isaac, for Backstage. He couldn't have been more charming and affable. (Plus, he and I had a fun chat about some of the plot mechanics and whatnot in Inside Llewyn Davis that I sadly couldn't include in my article since it involved major spoilers.) Anyway, my cover story is out now: Here's a sample from the piece, as well as the cover photo.
Update: The whole piece is now live for your enjoyment.
I very much enjoyed writing about cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond for my column "The Greats" over at Paste. His legacy speaks for itself -- McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blow Out, The Deer Hunter -- but I tried my best also to suggest why cinematographers are one of the most overlooked artists on a film set. (You might say this is a topic close to my heart.) You can read my appreciation of Zsigmond here.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Vince Vaughn used to be so funny. Swingers. Wedding Crashers. Really great stuff. But lately? Not so much. Delivery Man finds him trying to reinvent himself as a softie. It doesn't go so well. My review is up at Deadspin.
President John Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. To mark that grim occasion, I decided to write about the lingering greatness of Oliver Stone's JFK. A recent viewing reinforced the fact that, while the movie's logic doesn't hold up, it's still a rather amazing film. I explain why over at Playboy.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Blue Ruin was one of the surprise sensations of Cannes. It hadn't been an easy path to the festival, however, having been previously rejected by Sundance. I caught up with the low-budget thriller at AFI Fest and found it to be a welcome mixture of the Coen brothers and Jeff Nichols. I reviewed the film for Paste.
Gloria is Chile's official submission to this year's Academy Awards. It's a good little drama about a middle-aged woman who's divorced and looking for love. I ended up loving Paulina García in the title role, but I found things to quibble about with the movie as a whole. I explain in my Paste review.
2012 was a banner year for writer-director Hong Sang-soo with the release of In Another Country and The Day He Arrives. (And I realize that years are always a little iffy when it comes to Hong since his movies can take a while to get released in the States.) In 2013, we've had Nobody's Daughter Haewon (which played the Los Angeles Film Festival) and now Our Sunhi. Of Hong's last four, Our Sunhi is the weakest, although it certainly has its considerable charms. My review is live at Paste.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Harrison Ford's career has been adrift for at least a decade, but he rebounds somewhat with his strong supporting work in Ender's Game. In my latest installment of my column The Greats for Paste, I salute a career that's a rarity: He's been (on the whole) more interesting in the big roles than in the small ones. (Although, if you haven't seen The Mosquito Coast, he's exceptional in it.) Here's my appreciation of Mr. Ford.
With Nebraska opening on Friday, I decided to take a look back at director Alexander Payne's career. What I was struck by is how much his tone has shifted over time, moving from the cutting satire of Election to the warm sentimentality of The Descendants. It's an unusual, rewarding career, even if he never will top Election. You can read my piece here.
For this week's Culture Club column for Playboy, I decided to write about nostalgia. It's a sneaky, nasty little varmint that worms its way into your heart. But you've got to resist it, people. That's hard, of course, since pop culture and the media are obsessed with cataloging all the things we loved in our childhood. But as a critic, I consider nostalgia to be my sworn enemy: I can't keep an open mind if I'm too busy revisiting (and romanticizing) the past. So, yes, this essay comes from the heart. Hope you enjoy.
"I'm going to be seeing Charlie Countryman," I told a colleague the other day.
"Wow," he said, "that was the worst movie I saw at Sundance this year."
I had heard similar things from other folks who had sat through The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman at the festival in January and just plain hated it. Apparently, a few things have changed since then -- the title's been shortened, and there used to be a narration from John Hurt -- but I found the new version to be ... not good, but at least kinda curious. But, again, not good. My review is up at Paste.
I love Calvin and Hobbes. A lot of people love Calvin and Hobbes, but only one of them decided to make a movie about its creator, Bill Watterson. The resulting documentary, Dear Mr. Watterson, is as fawning and enthusiastic as you might imagine. Director Joel Allen Schroeder (pictured above) inserts himself into the material far, far more than I would have liked, so it's a good thing he was able to get a lot of contemporary cartoonists to talk to him to help flesh out his passion project. I reviewed Dear Mr. Watterson for Paste.
Stranger by the Lake was one of the sensations of Cannes. (Its maker, Alain Guiraudie, won Best Director in Un Certain Regard.) I missed the film there but was able to catch up with it at AFI Fest, thank goodness. It's a slow-burn French thriller that will be opening in the U.S. early next year, although it's going to be a very limited release considering the film's explicit gay sexual content. My review is live at Paste.
I was quite taken by director Denis Côté's documentary Bestiaire, but his latest is one of his fiction films. It's Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, and it's about a lesbian couple trying to start over on the outside after spending years in prison. It's a dark drama that keeps flirting with being a thriller, strikingly so. My review is up at Paste.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It's not a huge exaggeration to say that Sunlight Jr. was as difficult for me to watch in some ways as 12 Years a Slave. A frank depiction of poverty, this drama is very unromantic about life amidst the lower class. While watching Sunlight Jr., which stars Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon as a couple scraping to get by, you're constantly reminded how everything in life costs money, and how every decision the characters make is shaped by that cruel fact. I reviewed the film for Paste.
The best film I saw at AFI Fest this year was The Unknown Known. The latest from ace documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, the movie consists of a feature-length discussion between the director and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Of course, Rumsfeld does most of the talking, and it's fascinating talk. My review is up at Paste.
I'm starting to think that the Hunger Games franchise is just not my thing. I liked the first movie fine, but while watching the sequel, Catching Fire, I couldn't shake a sense that I'd seen most of this before. Jennifer Lawrence might be even better this time around, but even then, I don't think that's enough. Let's hope the future films are better. My Catching Fire review is live at Screen International.
Friday, November 08, 2013
Thursday, November 07, 2013
For my book FilmCraft: Screenwriting, I wanted desperately to feature writer-director John Sayles. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to participate. He remains a hero of mine, but his latest offering, Go for Sisters, isn't particularly good, which is a bummer. My review is up at Paste.
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
For Paste, I reviewed The Armstrong Lie, documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney's chronicle of Lance Armstrong's fall from grace. But for Playboy, I went a bit deeper, looking back at Gibney's career and trying to find the thematic threads that connected Taxi to the Dark Side, Client 9 and his other films. No surprise, it's corruption and duplicity, but Gibney's films are more complicated than that. I explain why here.
Friday, November 01, 2013
"My mom really wants to see Last Vegas," a friend told me.
"I think a lot of people's moms will want to see it," I responded.
I like all four actors, and I like the idea of Last Vegas. I just didn't like Last Vegas too much, which I get into in my Deadspin review.
The initial reviews for Diana, a portrait of the final years in Princess Di's life, were so toxic that I was dreading seeing the movie. It's not that bad but, well, it's not so good, either. Naomi Watts does what she can playing the princess, but this romantic drama is low on insights. My review is up at Paste.
I'm in catch-up mode, listening to acclaimed albums from earlier in the year that slipped through the cracks in preparation for my Pazz & Jop ballot in December. Two albums I'm especially concentrating on at the moment are Ashley Monroe's Like a Rose and Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park. Two young, promising country artists, and I'm quite enjoying both records. Maybe I'll pick something from Musgraves next week, but for now I'm going with Monroe's sad, sweet "Used." (I was tempted to go with the very good "You Ain't Dolly [And You Ain't Porter]" but changed my mind at the last minute. If John Prine decides to do another In Spite of Ourselves-style duet album, he needs to cover that sucker.)