Sunday, June 30, 2013

Monthly Round-Up: June Viewing

46 films. A massive month, with about 30 films watched over the 12 days of the Sydney Film Festival. Even with the desire to take a little break post festival, the heavy release schedule kept throwing films my way. Re-watches of Silver Linings Playbook and Your Sister's Sister and a first look at Dazed and Confused the top home viewing. Sam and I also consumed Season 5 of Mad Men, which was as strong as ever.  

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

Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley, 2013) - One man's dangerous solo investigation into US military covert ops is an incredible work of journalism, and in extension, captured powerfully in this astounding documentary.

Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013) - Perhaps the 'least enjoyable' of the trilogy - but there are many delights and laughs don't get me wrong - but I'd say it is the most impressive in it's raw and heart-wrenching realism. A phenomenally scripted emotional rollercoaster and Delpy and Hawke are sensational. As far as trilogies go the 'Before' films rank amongst the greatest.

Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green, 2013) - Just awesome. What a surprise. I can't wait to watch it again.

The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2013) - I was speechless leaving this film. Incredible to see cinema's influence on the horrific acts, and serve as a medium to recreate, understand and finally accept. So powerful. Josh Oppenheimer created one of SFF's most unforgettable experiences.

Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993) - A lot of fun. A wicked soundtrack and a top cast (of unlikely faces). Aged very well.

20 Feet From Stardom (Morgan Neville, 2013) - Energetic doco full of incredible voices and inspiring stories. Impossible not to fall for.

The Past (Asghar Farhadi, 2013) - With extraordinary and compelling complexity dissects the whirlwind of emotional baggage brought to a divorce/re-marriage. How Farhadi subtly reveals these character's secrets and how they snowball is a feat comparable to A SEPARATION. One of the best of the Fest.

Stoker (Park Chan-Wook, 2013) - It is clear from beginning to end that a master is behind the camera of STOKER. Chan-wook directs the hell out of this. The performances are terrific, the macabre angsty coming-of-age chilling, but it is Park's form and style that elevates this. And the music.

For Those in Peril (Paul Wright, 2013) - Deals with grief, guilt and facing malevolence for being alive. Visceral and emotional psychological drama. A fresh vision.

Mood Indigo (Michel Gondry, 2013) - An endlessly wacky passion project from the wildest of imaginations. So inventive. Great cast. Lengthy run-time only real gripe. Gondry has gone all-in, offering a bombardment of surreal inventions. You know immediately if its your type. If it is, look on in awe.

Mud (Jeff Nichols, 2013) - Freedom of childhood adventure collides with grimmer realities of the adult world in moving and optimistic Southern river drama. Tye Sheridan, and McConaughey, deserve praise.

Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach, 2013) - Charming hipster stumbles through life, always optimistic about her future, but endearingly klutzy and awkward. Love Gerwig. And that scene featuring Bowie!

Wadjda (Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2013) - Very interesting look at Saudi day-to-day life; the first feature shot entirely on location. Sweet, uplifting look at individualism. Beautiful relationships and a striking performance from the young lead. By addressing the issues it does, it is a very important film.

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

Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2013) - Extraordinarily complex reflection on heritage and family secrets, with Polley taking special interest in holistic collaboration.

Upstream Color (Shane Carruth, 2013) - Carruth is repeatedly credited for UPSTREAM COLOUR. Grand scale indie filmmaking, bringing an idea to an audience solely and uniquely. I was in serious need of a coffee to repair my brain afterwards. Took a lot of effort to remain attentive. One of the most beautifully shot, scored and edited films of SFF. Another viewing essential.

What Richard Did (Lenny Abrahamson, 2013) - Intoxication and jealousy fueled incident leaves young man grappling with guilt/moral obligation. Well acted. Hit a nerve.

Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981) - What a twisted ending. Derivatives are distracting, but the desire to solve a crime blinded by artistic ambition is interesting. One of my favourite De Palma, but I much prefer BLOW UP and THE CONVERSATION, elements of which were meshed together here. Travolta was good, though.

Blancanieves (Pablo Berger, 2013) - Looks incredible, score/sound design impeccable, Maribel Verdu brilliant. Had a grin the entire time but why didn't I love it?

Monsters University (Dan Scanlon, 2013) - A lot of fun. Tracks origins of Mike and Sully's friendship in a college underdog formula. Striking details and strong morals.

Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, 2012) - As one observes the fine details of a painting, Cohen studies everyday Vienna and the core friendship with pleasant naturalism. The banalities of gallery security seem welcoming with Breughel paintings lining the walls. You cling to every word spoken about this Dutchman.

Borgman (Alex Van Warmerdam, 2013) - I don't know what to say about BORGMAN. An odd film that charts it's own course, growing increasingly mysterious. Requires further consideration, but I don't desire another viewing.

Child's Pose (Călin Peter Netzer, 2013) - Lives of an estranged mother and son collide after an incident; fascinating study of family, class and justice. Talky but engaging. An interesting Golden Bear choice. Some excellent hand-held photography and some exquisite performances. 

Broken Circle Breakdown (Felix Van Groeningen, 2013) - Affecting drama hits hard with intense emotional trauma, complimented by beautiful performances and a bluegrass s/track. The drama is taken a bit far but the film's first half is really wonderful.

Despicable Me 2 (Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, 2013) - I didn't much care for DM. Had a bad day, maybe. This was a ball. Eye-popping visuals, terrific voice cast and so much energy.

Oh Boy (Jan Ole Gerster, 2013) - Odd misadventures of an under-caffeinated, unemployed Berlin-dwelling slacker having a string of absurd luck. Slight story but pretty funny.

World War Z (Marc Forster, 2013)

Grigris (Mahamet-Saleh Haroun, 2013) - Strong direction and an interesting cultural study but I wish the story was more challenging. It didn't quite measure up to the other Comp films. Black market petrol smuggling is a dangerous business, though.

Downloaded (Alex Winter, 2013) - Fact-heavy, talking head chronicle of the revolutionary founding of Napster and the dawn of online file sharing. Interesting only.

The Internship (Shawn Levy, 2013) - Metaphor heavy, and a self-aware Google promo, but plenty of laughs. Personable ex-salesmen (Vaughn, Wilson) bring humanity to the tech-savvy world in unorthodox and entertaining fashion. A surprise.

Walk Hard: The Story of Dewey Cox (Jake Kasdan, 2013) - Some effective gags and hilarious songs, but an inconsistent success. I especially enjoyed the cameos. And Jenna Fischer.

Epic (Chris Wedge, 2013) - Some very impressive visuals, attentive world construction and thrilling battles keeps deep forest good vs. evil adventure engaging.

You're Next (Adam Wingard, 2013) - Usually the sort of bloodbath I eat up for breakfast, but aside from some genuine scares 'this' senseless brutality troubled.

Outrage Beyond (Takeshi Kitano, 2012) - Very confused for a lengthy stretch of this convoluted Japanese mafia thriller, which impacted my enjoyment. The escalating violence is well-directed by Kitano (who reprises his role from OUTRAGE) but overall it was merely okay. I hadn't seen OUTRAGE, and well, you need to.

Lovelace (Rob Epstein, 2013) - With impressive period detail and nifty structure LOVELACE tells the grim, if over-exerted, realities of post-DEEP THROAT fame. Fun cameos.

Ginger and Rosa (Sally Potter, 2012) - Youngster struggles with nuclear fears and fractured relationships in this stacked melodrama. Interesting context, and Elle Fanning was terrific, but it was so unengaging.

Thanks for Sharing (Stuart Blumberg, 2013) - Wildly inconsistent with conventional addiction tropes and predictable family/relationship drama. A few laughs, but a weak film.

 Man of Steel (Zack Snyder, 2013) - So many issues with MAN OF STEEL. Terrible. So much destruction...and robotic exposition...and blinding lights.

Everybody Has A Plan (Ana Piterbarg, 2012) - Not much makes sense or is remotely convincing in bland alternate-identity drama. Lesser Mortensen despite Spanish.

William Yang: My Generation - Yang, about his friends, is evidently a passionate storyteller. His accompanying photographs offer cultural insight, particularly into the Sydney art scene, but rarely riveting.

The Iceman (Ariel Vroman, 2012) - Average. Worse. Lacked suspense and drama. You're a loveable family man and a cold, calculated killer we get it. Shannon was fine, Chris Evans came through okay but the other stunt cameos didn't work. Flaccid mob relations, clunky dialogue and thin, episodic story.

Monsoon Shootout (Amit Kumar, 2013) - Bad, to put it simply. An Indian RUN LOLA RUN-come-SLIDING DOORS featuring a rookie cop, an axe-wielding gangster and a peculiar soft core porn vibe.

I also watched The Lone Ranger but as it is embargoed I can't rank it here.

Re-watches (In Order of Preference)

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)

Your Sister's Sister (Lynn Shelton, 2012)

Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013)

Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, 2010)

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