Friday, January 31, 2014

Monthly Round-up: January 2014 Viewing

To kick start 2014 I watched 32 films in the month of January. A higher percentage of re-watches, but even with some terrific content, the weekly cinema releases have been slimmer than usual. The cinema has been very busy so I am surprised I have been able to see so many films. Not many reviews, but I have been keeping busy covering the Awards Season for Graffiti With Punctuation. 

Television Viewing: Sherlock (S1-3), Mad Men (S6E1-9) and True Detective (S1E1-3). I am addicted to True Detective, one of the great detective shows...perhaps ever conceived. Lets see how the series progresses, but E3 ended with an absolute ripper of a reveal.

New-To-Me Films (In Order of Preference)

-------- Essential Viewing --------

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)

Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959) - Flawless. Exciting final shootout culminates a brilliant character piece. Sizzling exchanges between Wayne and Dickinson, while Martin's determination to keep the peace and go cold turkey for alcoholism is compelling by itself.

The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013) TWICE

Life Itself (Steve James, 2014) - Very moving. A beautiful reflection on Ebert's distinguished life/career. A man of character with an inspiring sense of passion. Not the most original documentary in terms of structure, but scenes of Ebert in his final years are very affecting.

Flirting With Disaster (David O. Russell, 1996) - Hilariously odd road-trip comedy has a hyperactive energy and some outrageous characters. Poor Richard Jenkins. One of Ben Stiller's best roles.

-------- Essential Viewing --------

Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008) - Joaquin Phoenix is great in everything, and James Gray is an excellent director. The familiar premise is elevated by the direction and cast here; an intelligent look at an emotionally troubled man drawn between two different women. Does he pursue his desires with his wild, unattainable neighbour, or settle down with his parents' lovely choice-suitor?

Wakolda (Lucia Puenzo, 2013) - Argentina's Oscar entry this year. An intriguing story, with a lathering of suspense and dread. Set in 1960 an unsuspecting Argentinian family allow a German lodger to use them as a source of his genetic experiments; a Nazi hiding out in South America for similar crimes in Concentration Camps. Unsettling, with alarming reveals.

 A Touch of Sin (Zhang Ke Jia, 2013) - Brilliant direction invigorates four bleak episodes; serve as a study of violence fueled by socio-political tensions in modern China. Chapters one and four stand out.

Omar (Hany Abu-Assad, 2013) - Palestinian freedom fighter/Israeli military collaborator faces moral dilemmas and finds personal life threatened via double deception. Very similar narrative to Isareli film, BETHLEHEM (just as good). Compelling thriller - pacing not great, but use of locations is terrific.

Room 237 - Being a great admirer of THE SHINING watching scenes meticulously analyzed and wild theories thrown around in ROOM 237 sure was entertaining. Some - about forgetting past atrocities (like the genocide of the American Indians) as if they aren't real and Kubrick's secret confession to help faking the Apollo 11 landing - are truly bizarre.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962) - I couldn't get get into this film for a long time. It pummeled in it's ideas and the characters were, frankly, annoying. I did enjoy Wayne though. He's terrific as a tragically hard done by character and I liked the (surprisingly downbeat) way it all played out in the end.

White House Down (Roland Emmerich, 2013) - A fun Die Hard-esque buddy action-fest. Preposterous, but entertaining. Infinitely better than 'Worst of 2013' OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, first and foremost because of Foxx and Tatum.

Philomena (Steven Frears, 2013) - Enjoyed the chemistry between Dench and Coogan (both fine) and the truths are troubling, but impact lessened by narrative shortcuts.

Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2013) - Rests on McConaughey's gaunt shoulders and he is brilliant. Leto is solid too, but it is hard to believe that he is the favourite for Supporting Actor. As for the film, that's where the praise ends. Very problematic. I found the editing erratic, the length (just under two hours) an unexpected hurdle. A powerful story. An important story, but the drama remains flat-lined, and it is simply too long.

The To-do List (Maggie Carey, 2013) - 'Sex-before-college' comedy has a refreshing female focus; Plaza and a hilarious cast (Hader, Samberg included) pack in laughs.

Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier, 2013) - Though it clocks in at 82 min, this everyman-revenge bloodbath seems to dawdle. I lost traction with it despite some genuine thrills, solid acting.

Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 2013) - Mechanics of habit are driven home repeatedly and I struggled to withstand this guy for 90 mins. Wanted more of Brie Larson doing nothing.

Re-watches (In Order of Preference)

Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)

The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)

The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)

The World's End (Edgar Wright, 2013)

Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg, 2013)

Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)

12 Years A Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

Mystery Road (Ivan Sen, 2013)

Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard, 2012)

Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski, 2013)

World War Z (Marc Forster, 2013)

Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999)

1 comment:

  1. I won't try to comment on every film I've seen. The Wolf of Wall Street and The To Do List are fun films, aren't they? And I agree on Dallas Buyers Club: great acting, but subpar writing.