Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

Project X – The Power Of Drunk People In Large Numbers

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Project X, USA, 2011

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

Project X wastes very little time getting to what it does best: insanely over-the-top anarchy. In the past, I have never fully subscribed to the idea of a “guilty pleasure” movie. Sure, I unabashedly love a variety of questionable movies, from Julien Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) to Uwe Boll’s Postal (2007), and I also have an ironic taste for some of the great cinematic disasters of all time, such as Claudio Fragasso’s Troll 2 (1990) and Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003). I even have a fondness for the films of Roland Emmerich that strains my credibility as a film critic, unless one accepts the fact that I consider them great unintentional comedies (especially The Patriot, which is absolutely side-splitting), but I’ve never really felt guilty about liking any of these films. However, while viewing first-time director Nima Nourizadeh’s Project X, I realized that a true guilty pleasure film is not one other people tell you is bad and you like it anyway; it is a film whose content makes you at least mildly uncomfortable regardless of anyone else’s opinion, yet you can’t deny that you enjoyed it overall.  Read More

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Films Of 2011

Posted 01 Jul 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Artist is a relentlessly entertaining love letter to silent film and cinema in general. Well, it’s that time once again, and as always, I didn’t get around to a lot of the films I would have liked to see – as I write this, a DVD of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris sits on my desk, glaring at me – but there comes a time when every movie lover has to call it a year. I have somewhat arbitrarily picked today as that time, so here now are my top 10 favorite films of 2011:

 

# 10) MELANCHOLIAanyone with whom I talk movies already knows how much I love Lars von Trier, and though this is definitely not my favorite of his films (2003’s Dogville still takes that honor), it is nonetheless a striking and powerful depiction of the nature of depression, as well as a highly unusual and compelling look at what the impending apocalypse might feel like. The stunning opening and closing sequences alone make this film impossible to ignore, or to forget.  Read More

Form As Function – The Arbor & Certified Copy

Posted 24 Jun 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

The Arbor, UK, 2010

Directed by Clio Barnard

Certified Copy, France / Italy / Belgium, 2010

Written and Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

The Arbor, Clio Barnard's debut feature, takes an unusual approach to the documentary film. I am continually amazed by the odd synchronicities (or coincidences, if you insist) that crop up in my seemingly random viewing habits. For some reason, even when I’m not trying to, I often end up viewing two or more films within a short period of time that seem to have nothing to do with one another, only to suddenly find striking comparison points between them. Two of the past year’s best films – Clio Barnard’s The Arbor and Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy – are a prime example of this phenomenon. Having been attracted to the latter based on what I had heard about its unusual approach to the documentary form, I watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Only the next day, I finally got around to Certified Copy, one of 2011’s other most acclaimed films, and found that it also had a very interesting formalistic approach that directly informed and commented upon its subject matter. Let’s start with The ArborRead More

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Posted 22 Apr 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Martha Marcy May Marlene, USA, 2011

Written and Directed by Sean Durkin

Martha Marcy May Marlene is an excellent, haunting film from first time writer-director Sean Durkin. Martha Marcy May Marlene is a wonderfully disquieting and haunting film, disturbing as much for what it doesn’t show us as for what it does. First-time director Sean Durkin gives us the story in disjointed bits and pieces, moving seamlessly back and forth in time in a way that puts the viewer fully into the confused head-space of its protagonist, Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, who handily proves with this one performance that she is by far the most talented of her sisters, who include the famous twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley). The film’s style gives it an almost documentary-like immediacy similar to recent films like Antonio Campos’s Afterschool or Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married (both 2008). The similarity to Afterschool is no coincidence, as Durkin was a producer on that film, and Campos is credited as producer on this one; together, they are proving to be a formidable filmmaking team, and certainly one to watch in the coming years. Read More

Wasted On The Young

Posted 19 Sep 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Wasted on the Young, USA, 2010

Directed by Evan Drolet Cook

Wasted on the Young, the debut feature from Evan Drolet Cook, perfectly captures Minneapolis in 2009. More than any other movie I can remember, Evan Drolet Cook’s Wasted on the Young is Minneapolis. It evoked nostalgic feelings in me that undoubtedly make it impossible for me to fairly and objectively review the film, but as producer Riley Lang told me, that was the film’s goal. It set out to be a slice of life in the Minneapolis of 2009, and at that it succeeds commendably, but I think it also manages to reach a little further than that, nicely exploring the sentiment behind the famous quote that lends the film its title.

Wasted follows several different characters through several days in their lives in what is essentially an ensemble comedy. The primary protagonist is Matt (Matt Franta), a sort of directionless guy who is not above lying about being a vegetarian in order to favorably impress Susan (Sara Marie Reinke), a rather neurotic woman with whom he has become infatuated. Matt’s best friend, Cody (Cody Sorensen), is basically the comic relief to Matt’s straight man, and he is having relationship troubles of his own, having recently told his girlfriend, Laura (Anna Reichert), that he loves her, though he isn’t really sure he meant it. Now he fears he’s going to have to say it over and over again until they break up, which is generally how these things go. A third player in this circle of friends is Rachel (Hannah Glaser), whose boyfriend, Ian (John Toycen), has increasingly begun to alienate her with his non-stop singer-songwriter-ing; he has become, much to her chagrin, that douchebag who brings his guitar to parties and plays his whiny emo songs whether anyone likes them or not. Read More

Horrible Bosses

Posted 05 Sep 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Horrible Bosses is a hilarious new film from King of Kong director Seth Gordon. Horrible Bosses, USA, 2011

Directed by Seth Gordon

Cheap and (especially) predictable as they sometimes are, the jokes in Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses work, and at its best, it made me laugh harder than any movie I’ve seen so far this year. A good example is a scene early on in which Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman), who has been working so hard to get a promotion that the only thing still in his home refrigerator when he actually has a moment to check is an old lime (“Could have been a kiwi; no way to tell”), has said promotion brutally ripped out of his hands by his evil boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) so that Harken can take the position for himself, along with its attendant salary boost and the office Nick has been coveting. When Nick screams a profanity and drags Harken across the floor by his own necktie, any halfway-educated film viewer will immediately realize that this is a fantasy sequence, but the sheer brutality and enthusiasm of its execution manages to garner laughs despite the cliche. Read More

Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements

Posted 29 Aug 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements, USA, 2008

Written and Directed by Daniel Schneidkraut

Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements is a disturbing and darkly funny first feature from Twin Cities filmmaker Daniel Schneidekraut. “This is not a film,” proclaims the opening title card of Daniel Schneidkraut’s Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements. “It is a video ritual. Watch and receive.” This unsettling (some would say pretentious) announcement is followed by an opening credits sequence that seems directly inspired by the diabolical French provocateur Gaspar Noe (I Stand Alone, Irreversible, Enter the Void). Another apparent influence is the German filmmaker Michael Haneke (The Seventh Continent, Funny Games, The White Ribbon) – in fact, I would say this is second in line, after my beloved Dogtooth, for the title of Best Michael Haneke Film Michael Haneke Never Made – so clearly, this is a dark and twisted creation that could generously be described as “not for everyone.” That said, for fans of transgressive and artistic cinema, this is undoubtedly the Minneapolis-based independent feature I would recommend above all others, despite my more direct involvement in a few others (full disclosure: I am thanked in the credits for this one, though I had no idea of this fact until I finally saw the finished product and was never on set). Read More