Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Manhattan – Not the One I Know, Woody

Posted 31 Jul 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Manhattan, USA, 1979

Directed by Woody Allen

Manhattan is beautifully shot an well-acted, but also pretentious and self-absorbed. In the interest of returning this site to our original mission statement of “Movies I Didn’t Get,” I am now going to take on a film that is generally considered to be something of a sacred cow. I have had a long and tumultuous relationship with the films of Woody Allen, partly because, even more than the average artist, his personal life is so very intertwined with his work. Even when not playing the lead character himself, as he so frequently does, Woody’s protagonists are generally thinly veiled (or not at all veiled, as he says in the underrated 1997 film Deconstructing Harry) versions of himself, and the stories he tells are often segments of his own life story. At his best (Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, Hannah and Her Sisters), he produces smart, funny, insightful work that truly captures the human condition in a universal way. At his worst (Celebrity, the dreadfully overrated Midnight in Paris), his work can be insufferably self-absorbed and pretentious. Though the critical establishment would appear to strongly disagree with me on this, I find Woody’s 1979 “masterpiece” Manhattan to be mostly in this latter camp.  Read More

Invincible Force

Posted 10 Jan 2013 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Invincible Force, USA, 2011

Directed by Daniel Schneidkraut

Invincible Force indicts our modern society's empty worship of physical perfection without preaching or pandering to its audience. To my knowledge, Daniel Schneidkraut’s second feature, Invincible Force, must be the only film ever to have this unique amalgamation of genres attached to its IMDb page: documentary, drama, horror. All of these descriptions are accurate to some degree, and to them I would personally have to add comedy, though it is certainly comedy of the very darkest variety. Schneidkraut’s previous film, Seeking Wellness: Suffering Through Four Movements, could also be described in much the same way, though it lacks the distinction of any true documentary trappings and is, in fact, a collection of short films tied together by a common thread of suffering. In this way, Invincible Force could be seen as Schneidkraut’s feature film debut, and what a bracingly unique debut it is.  Read More

The Help – Hooray For Heroic White People!

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

By Ezra Stead

The Help, USA / India / United Arab Emirates, 2011

Written and Directed by Tate Taylor

Based on the Book The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help hits all the proper notes and manipulates all the right emotions, but is ultimately rather slight and forgettable. Tate Taylor’s film version of The Help is basically 2011’s answer to The Blind Side (2009); however you felt about that movie – whether indifferent, aggressively hateful, grudgingly appreciative or tearful and inspired – is undoubtedly how you will feel about this one. Both are well-made, well-acted films that are also, at their heart, about noble white people who take a stand against the appalling racism of their friends in order to help strong, stoic, oppressed black people. In other words, like The Blind Side, The Last Samurai (2003) or Dances with Wolves (1990), it is a film about non-white people told almost exclusively from the point-of-view of white people.  Read More

A Dangerous Method – Cronenberg At His Most “Respectable”

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

By Ezra Stead

A Dangerous Method, UK / Germany / Canada / Switzerland

Directed by David Cronenberg

A Dangerous Method could be called the final film in director David Cronenberg's Viggo Mortensen trilogy. A Dangerous Method could be called the final film in director David Cronenberg’s Viggo Mortensen trilogy. Beginning with 2005’s A History of Violence, Cronenberg has used the estimable actor in each film he’s made up until now, with the brief exception of his short film for the 2007 anthology To Each His Own Cinema (the wonderfully titled “At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World”), in which only Cronenberg himself starred. This triptych of films, which also includes 2007’s Russian mob story Eastern Promises, marks a distinct departure from the type of filmmaking that made Cronenberg’s name synonymous with gruesome, highly physical horror – see masterpieces like Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986) and Dead Ringers (1988) – and ever more into the territory of restrained human drama. While it lacks some of the visceral punches (the “Cronenberg touches,” as many reviewers called them) found in the previous two films, Method is probably the most consistent and accomplished work, and though it is certainly a bit drier, it is no less consummately entertaining.  Read More

25th Hour – Lee’s Love Letter

Posted 25 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

25th Hour, USA, 2002

Directed by Spike Lee

25th Hour is a film I can watch over and over again, and always learn something new.I’ll be the first to say that I am not a Spike Lee fan. Outside of a few films, I think the man refuses to see past his skin color and the world in anything other than black versus white, but in 25th Hour, the story of a white drug dealer’s last day before seven years in federal prison, Lee pushes aside his normal agenda and shows us shades of gray that he’s ignored for the majority of his career. It harks back to his breakthrough film Do the Right Thing (1989), in that it asks its viewer a very important question: what do we do now? In what might be the first mainstream film to openly deal with a post-9/11 New York, complete with long shots of Ground Zero and open allusions to the late firemen who dealt with the evacuation and clean-up of the fallen Twin Towers, he reverses his stance and puts it, literally, in another color.

Edward Norton is a powerful actor, without ever doing too much; he lives in the simple parts of his characters and portrays very basic human emotions, but does so with such a natural swagger that you can completely forget you’re watching an actor. His Monty Brogan is the best example of this alternative approach. Here we see a drug dealer get touched and spend his last day of freedom with him. The city has changed, and so has Monty; the lifestyle is gone, and of all the filmmakers to propose a love letter to New York after her fall (we’re still waiting, Woody), in retrospect, Lee should have been the obvious choice. With his extremely candid points of view and the temper he gives all of his projects, it was the right move at the right time. I heard someone refer to the film as a bandage for the city’s wounds and I was insulted, as the point of a bandage is to cover up the wound. Lee’s film is a part of the healing process, for sure, but he never attempts to cover anything up, and literally tells it exactly like it is. Read More

Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Three’s Company

Posted 21 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Spain / USA, 2008

Written and Directed by Woody Allen

The interweaving relationships of this film are classic Woody Allen, and it's fair to say this is his strongest notation on human neurosis of the 2000's.My favorite thing about Woody Allen movies is hearing the actors speak the words; it’s always with a sense of adoration, and there are usually shades of performers who have spoken these words in the past. Allen’s scripts are performed, no matter the quality, with gratitude. Such is most definitely the case with this film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. If you’re intrigued by the title, it’s simple enough, about as simple as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in that there’s a massacre committed with a chain saw in Texas; in this, Vicky and Cristina go to Barcelona. However, there is a bit of a deeper meaning. Read More

Water for Elephants – The Greatest Show On Earth

Posted 19 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Water for Elephants, USA, 2011

Directed by Francis Lawrence Water for Elephants is a great movie. And, probably, the best circus movie I've seen.

I remember being a child and watching Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) for the first time. Even then, I was drawn to the idea that a film about a circus can represent so many things – a sense of belonging, people constantly being on the move and on the run, faith, and illusion – but, at the same time, it was a disappointing introduction to circus films. It’s certainly not the one I would make my kids watch first. I’d probably start them off on Steve Miner’s Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (1991), though that’s more about a fair than a circus; but I digress. After Greatest Show ended, I didn’t feel much; I appreciated the spectacle, but not the people within it. It’s regarded as a great film by most people, but I don’t think so; not even a good film.

Good movies leave you with the sense that they were there, and they give you a pleasant feeling, no matter the content. Great movies, you can touch; that sense of remembrance is tangible, and when the movie is over, you want more. Water for Elephants is a great movie, and probably the best circus movie I’ve seen. Read More