Rummaging through Guillermo del Toro‘s filmography is like opening Christmas presents from your favorite uncle. The one whose affinity for the absurd and welcoming of the weird makes him the coolest uncle ever. Except it’s not Christmas with del Toro, is it? It’s most definitely Halloween, a time when the love of the spooky and the monstrous becomes a contagion, and – more religiously – the past is remembered through the dead and the hallowed. Gross, funny, action-packed, heartfelt and scary in varying spurts, del Toro’s directorial oeuvre (to say nothing of his 30-odd produced films) is consistent in one obvious way: visual depth. With little interest in layered profundities and intricate camera-work, del Toro’s stories pave the way for the production design, cinematography, and special effects to take centre stage (his background is, after all, in special effects). But through these visuals lies a bottomless love affair with outcasts of all types, Mother Nature’s little creatures, and big monsters with big purposes, making his storytelling relentlessly compelling through theme as much as image. The key word in that last sentence isn’t “monsters” or “creatures,” by the way; it’s “love.”Read More Post a comment (0)
Paul Thomas Anderson‘s new movie is very strange, and left me, even more than “The Master,” completely disoriented after its first viewing. Anderson threw me into this world, or more like lulled me into it thanks to Joanna Newsom‘s narrator Sortilège, and kept spinning me like a spinning top while exhaling marijuana smoke with Bob Marley-levels of thickness right into my face. “I’m glad I was there, loved hanging out with those people, don’t know what the fuck it was all about, can’t wait to be back.” That was my insta-reaction to”Inherent Vice.” I knew I had to see it at least once more before writing about it.
The second time around was a much more sober experience. I followed more closely, understood the Coy Harlingen and Sauncho Smilax characters more, but still got lost right before Martin Short makes his incredibly entertaining cameo. Understanding Harlingen and Smilax made me appreciate Owen Wilson blending into the film’s context surprisingly well just by being Owen Wilson, and Benicio Del Toro at his funniest best, respectively. The second time around, more importantly, I confirmed my impression that the film’s core themes are defined by Larry “Doc” Sportello’s (Joaquin Phoenix) relationships with, first, his ex old lady Shasta (Katherine Waterston, in breakthrough mode), and secondly, Bigfoot (Josh Brolin, giving an ultra-layered performance). And then, it hit me like a ton of bricks made of duh: every Anderson film is defined by the relationships of his characters. “Inherent Vice” is just the most elliptical Anderson film yet, and it’s deliberately confusing to the point of making you think the plot matters more than the characters. I felt ready to write.Read More Post a comment (0)
[Caution: this essay review contains spoilers in its last paragraph.]
After his “Death” trilogy (“Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” “Babel“) Alejandro González Iñárritu took an even more depressing route. Instead of swallowing the proverbial chill pill by directing something lighter, looser, something with a sliver of optimistic verve in its veins, he went ahead and made the ultimate downer of his filmography: “Biutiful.” Nothing against the film itself (it personally moved me to no end, and I believe it contains the best performance Javier Bardem has ever delivered), but it’s bleak as all fuck. Despite his stupendous critical success with all four, the Mexican director clearly needed a mood swing. And he’s swung so successfully with “Birdman;” he must feel like he’s flying just as highly as his protagonist does. But, “Birdman” doesn’t mean a change in approach. If you’ve already fancied Iñárritu pretentious with his unsubtle direction, non-linear story lines, and imbalanced tones (I’m merely playing devil’s advocate here), “Birdman” could make you sick to your stomach with how unapologetically contrived it is. This contrivance, this forced artificiality, I argue, is the film’s greatest virtue.Read More Post a comment (1)
Ana Lily Amirpour. Remember the name. Whenever “vampire” and “western” cross the same path in a single thought, the name will roll off the tongue that much easier. In the same year that has seen vampires elevated back to the realm of super cool by the venerable Jim Jarmusch in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” comes this quietly unassuming Iranian film, using its shoestring budget to dangle so much craftsmanship and panache it renders Jarmusch’s expertly plotless tale into a delicious digestif. Amirpour’s is the full course meal; love, longing, the female gaze, a wondrous soundtrack that keeps on giving, and the kind of black and white photography you want to take a bite of. Herzogian dabs of Lynch and Jarmusch can’t coverup the display of one woman’s singular, soaring, talents behind the camera. Standing alongside ‘Lovers’ and Tomas Alfredson‘s “Let The Right One In” (2008), “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” helps the adult crowd forget everything they ever wished they never knew about “Twilight” and “True Blood.”Read More Post a comment (0)
The 55th edition of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is currently underway, kicking off last Friday and continuing to run until next Sunday, November 9th. While most journalists and members of press are going through major hangover from all the spring, summer and early fall festivals, thousands of people (especially those living in the beautiful, historically rich, Greek port-city itself) haven’t perhaps had the chance to see some of this year’s festival darlings. In an effort to narrow the choices down for those looking for a bit of a guideline, I’ve listed out 10 films still playing at the fest that you’d do well to catch.
Read on for my recommendation list, which is in descending order starting with three films I haven’t personally seen; I’ve heard wonderfully positive things from various colleagues about two of them, and my gut tells me the third one has all the makings of essential viewing. The remaining seven descend towards the final two, which you should only miss if your life (or a family member’s life) depends on you not seeing it. On we go.Read More Post a comment (0)
Destined to be underrepped by year’s end time, Gregg Araki’s WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD (based on a book by Laura Kasischke) will be coming to theatres in October from Magnolia Pictures, but has already been picking up well deserved buzz from festivals ever since it premiered at Sundance.
I got the chance to see the film at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival and it’s by far one of the best Fantasia films I saw. Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, and Christopher Meloni are all fantastic, but it’s the story and Araki’s method of introducing tension that makes the film a compelling hybrid of poignant coming-of-age and suburban mystery.
My review will be featured on Way Too Indie, closer to the film’s release date, but I’m going to take every chance I get to promote ‘White Bird’ because it’s the kind of seriously good film that usually isn’t taken seriously by the critics. Especially once all the hyped-out award contenders of the year have been unveiled.
Continue on to the trailer and poster, and keep an extra close eye on Woodley; she is destined for greatness if she keeps turning out these kinds of performances.Read More Post a comment (0)
Hello, my dear cinephiliacs. I’ve been so distant lately, I know. Things have been…weird. But I promise to bulk up my blog and continue with my film writing wherever and whenever I can. Do make sure to check out the two sites I regularly send my writings to: The Playlist and Way Too Indie.
Speaking of The Playlist, I’ll be covering one of the wildest tents in the calendar year’s festival circus for them this year, TIFF. Boom. Right? It’s awesome. It’s a maddening time for movie goers, industry folk, journalists, and talent because it’s the PEOPLE’S FESTIVAL, so there’s a lot of people. A lot. It’s like having one of your favorite vacation spots swarmed by tourists. But, with over 300 films shown covering a gianormous scope of the medium (small, big, experimental, genre..) the best thing about this festival is that you’ll hardly have time to complain about anything.
One of these films is PHOENIX, directed by arthouse master-in-the-making Christian Petzold. Check out his films JERICHOW and BARBARA if the name escapes you. This new film, set for its World Premiere at TIFF, sees Petzold re-team with his major collaborator Nina Hoss. Official synopsis courtesy of TIFF’s official site is
A concentration-camp survivor (Nina Hoss) searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband who might have betrayed her to the Nazis, in this gripping drama from leading German filmmaker Christian Petzold
Read on to see the trailer and poster for the billionth film about the Nazis. (Seriously though, it looks great and Nina Hoss is a boss.)Read More Post a comment (0)
The Oscars were surprisingly great this year. But, were they so great to make me completely abandon my blog forever and ever? No. Did I watch 12 YEARS A SLAVE win, and jump up and down like Steve McQueen only to realize (mid-air) that I’ll never be able to post another article on my Grapevine ever again? Absolutely not. Be that as it may, this post – exactly one full month from my last update – isn’t an original. So, allow me to take a moment of your time and plug my contributions yes? OKAY!
While I’ll never be too far away from the Grapevine, I’m currently contributing movie reviews to two super awesome sites. IndieWire’s The Playlist is one of the comfiest havens for everything film related, so I’m stoked to be a regular contributor for them. And if that wasn’t enough, the wonderful Way Too Indie have recently accepted me into their collective and while I’m only two reviews in (here and here), I plan on sticking around for a while. If you fancy some indie, too much is never enough with these guys.
Then there’s the good folks across the pond in the ol’ UK of…(it’s not the same as US of A, damnit), WhatCulture. For these chaps, I tend to flex my mainstream muscles and dish out list articles – paying attention to the other side of me; the side that loves Batman, TV shows and ranking random movie-related factoids in order. It’s lovely. But, their editorial process has tightened up recently, which means some articles get the boot. Guess where those’ll be landing? Muahaha
Now that you’ve gotten a little taste of how busy I’ve been keeping this past month, I’m so happy we caught up. But, don’t leave just yet! I want to remind you about a film I saw last year at the Fantasia Film Festival, which ended up in my year-end festival top ten list and – after too many months – is currently in cinemas. If you haven’t seen this movie and you’re thinking about what to watch to have some fun – E.L. Katz’ CHEAP THRILLS needs to be a no-brainer decision. This is an absolute gem of a film, just demented enough to bring the dementia out in all of us. And that final shot! Ahh..superb.
Click “READ MORE” to read my review from Fantasia in case you missed it and catch Cheap Thrills in theatres before it’s too late!Read More Post a comment (0)
Let’s take another moment to look back at 2013. I’ve been lucky enough to attend three festivals last year, and if fortune decides to accompany my luck in the current and upcoming years, I’ll continue to attend as many festivals as I possibly can. Perhaps one day for a living? Fantasies aside, you’ve see my Top 10 North American releases by now and if you haven’t, please make yourself comfortable with them. Though I’ve only attended three festivals, this forthcoming list would have been mislabeled had it not included all films which have had a festival premiere in 2013, regardless of whether I’ve seen them during their official run or on the festival circuit. So there will be some stuff that premiered in Cannes, Sundance and other such parties that I was just too busy to attend, cause I’m like, so busy you guys.
What I look for in my favourite movies includes but is not exclusive to; challenging & multi-layered storylines that rub against the grain so much that it makes people itch with confusion. Making the personal feel universal and being disciplined about narrative and structure. Entertaining us, teaching us, affecting us and breathing new life into an art-form that keeps getting contorted and disfigured by pretenders with short hands and deep pockets. I tell myself that my top 10s are a celebration of creativity, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Due to the nature of my two lists, there will be some repetitions. Loads of movies that have their first bow at festivals end up being so exceptional they get distribution and a release date within that same year before they even take that bow. Otherwise, they’re made by established directors who don’t really need to sell themselves or their movies at festivals and usually attend just for the booze.
The Top 10 Festival Premieres in 2013 regardless of official release date are: (but first, 10 honorees)Read More Post a comment (0)
Let’s look back at 2013 for a moment. The holidays are over and the Oscars are just around the corner – the nominees will be announced January 16th while the animal kingdom still sleeps. Meanwhile, various guilds and critics‘ circles are keeping everyone on their toes and pulling in a lot of favours for David O. Russell by praising his awful mess of a movie. I’ll leave the Hustle hate aside for now because I want to talk about the good stuff. The kind of stuff that still makes cinema exciting and valuable.
What I look for in my favourite movies includes but is not exclusive to; challenging & multi-layered storylines that rub against the grain so much that it makes people itch with anger. Making the personal feel universal and respecting the discipline of narrative. Entertaining us, teaching us and breathing new life into an art-form that keeps getting contorted and disfigured by pretenders with short hands and deep pockets. I tell myself that my top 10s are a celebration of creativity, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Like last year, I have two top 10 lists. While North American releases make for an official list, ignoring films I’ve seen in festivals that may or may not have had a North American release just feels wrong damnit. I’ve divided my lists into official North American releases (which means that we’ll be seeing some old friends) and Festival Premieres (regardless of whether they’ve had a 2013 release, so a handful will appear twice)
First up; North American releases.Read More Post a comment (0)