Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Keener’

Ezra’s Top Ten Favorite Movies Of 2013

Posted 01 Mar 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Behind the Candelabra is a delightfully decadent look at the life of Liberace, brilliantly played by Michael Douglas in one of his very best performances. Every year, I struggle with the relatively arbitrary process of ranking movies, so this year I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of a traditional Top Ten list, I’m grouping two thematically connected films together for each place on the list, resulting in a hopefully more interesting Top 20 list. I’ve also included a more traditional Top Ten below that, for all you “too long, didn’t read” folks. One final note before we get to the list: it should tell you a lot about my credibility as a film critic that I liked Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa more than most of the Academy Award Best Picture nominees for 2013.

10. THE WICKER MAN: FINAL CUT / JURASSIC PARK 3-D – BEST RE-RELEASES. Obviously, this category doesn’t really count, as both of these films were originally released decades ago, but I can’t deny that each of them provided one of the most enjoyable experiences I had in a movie theater in 2013. This new cut of the original 1973 classic The Wicker Man adds some nuance and more musical numbers to an already great film. Most crucially, it opens with a scene of Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) praying in church, emphasizing his piousness from the very start, which enriches the events to follow. Jurassic Park, on the other hand, is quite simply my favorite movie (it has the most dinosaurs in it – I rest my case), and seeing it on a big screen again, in 3-D no less, made me fall in love with it all over again.  Read More

Please Give

Posted 06 Aug 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Please Give, USA, 2010

Written and Directed by Nicole Holofcener

Please Give is a darkly sweet comedy about the destructive and oddly uplifting power of guilt - and, subsequently, what it does to a person.When Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson), the novelist main character in As Good as It Gets (1997) is asked “How do you write such great women?” he responds, “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” Nicole Holofcener didn’t take that advice, and she’s probably the best writer of women in Hollywood, behind the indelible Woody Allen, that is; I don’t think anyone can top him, but, as he’s in a class of his own (it can be said that Woody writes Woody’s women well, and that’s it), Holofcener might be the best in the game. For a further example, seek out Lovely & Amazing, her first feature from 2001, also starring Catherine Keener. Please Give and Lovely & Amazing aren’t too similar in content, but the aftertaste is the same; you’ve just witnessed something daring and tangible, something more exciting than most things studios push out these days. Please Give is a darkly sweet comedy about the destructive and oddly uplifting power of guilt and, subsequently, what it does to a person. Or, rather, a group of people.

Kate (Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) live an interesting life; they’re essentially ambulance chasers, but in the antique business. They run a local furniture shop and get their goods collecting from the children of the recently dead. Kate is a woman with a warped sense of guilt; she gives seemingly large amounts of money to the homeless and does her best to volunteer for charities. Nothing seems to help, especially because she’s married to the charmingly goofy Alex, who treats her like a partner in everything. Nothing seems to be enough for her. They live next door to a cantankerous old woman named Andra (Ann Guilbert) who is pushing 90 and who hates just about everything in everything she sees. She’s cared for by her two granddaughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet), who have their own reservations, either because of prior plans or their own dispositions. Mary can’t stand the old woman, and Rebecca wouldn’t know who to care for without her. Sarah Steele plays Kate and Alex’s teenage witch, Abby. Read More

Where The Wild Things Are

Posted 30 Jan 2010 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Corey Birkhofer

Where the Wild Things Are, USA / Germany, 2009

Directed by Spike Jonze

Where the wild things are

Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963) is arguably one of the most famous children’s books ever published. Its beautiful imagery and simple story touch on a desire in all of us that, even into adulthood, many of us never shed: the desire to go home. When I found out this incredible tale would be put onto the big screen, helmed by none other than quirky music video director extraordinaire Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), I was doubly intrigued. How would the images burned permanently into my mind be realized on screen? How would the wild things look? Would they just CG the hell out of everything and make a husk of a film with no soul? The answer to the CG question was boldly answered by Jonze, spending tons of studio money in the process on expensive Jim Henson Workshop-produced real working puppets and crazy wire-work stunts that have definitely advanced puppetry to the next level. And yet, despite the love and care that so obviously went into the crafting of this film, I still sat through it asking myself: “So when does the story start?”

Spoiler Alert

I still sat there three-quarters of the way through the film saying to myself: “And now the little kid decides to just go home?” How could a children’s book that had no more than 10 sentences capture so much that a two-hour film could not? The answer is simple: a story. To me, Jonze’s film has none because a) Max (Max Records), the protagonist (if you could call him one) never changes and b) none of the problems of the characters in the film are solved. Instead, we have an attention-starved kid who rants and raves around for a couple hours amidst the strange relationships of some weird monsters, and then decides it’s time to go home after he can’t help them all get along and be friends.

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