Posts Tagged ‘john turturro’

Ezra’s Top 10 Favorite Movies Of 2015

Posted 27 Feb 2016 — by Ezra Stead
Category Animation, Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead 

This is always a difficult thing to do, and this year, just like every other year, I left out plenty of movies I really like, even from the Honorable Mentions. This is a particularly interesting year in that I actually really like all the Oscar nominees that I’ve seen, which is relatively rare for me. Anyway, of the 107 new movies from 2015 I managed to see in time for this list, these are my (completely subjective) favorites.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material1. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – it’s always a treat to have really high expectations for a movie and then to see them exceeded. George Miller’s return to the wasteland of his career-defining trilogy is a perfect example of this phenomenon. The first time I saw it, though, Fury Road appeared to only meet my expectations, a rare enough feat in its own right. It was the second viewing that made me realize that this was not only my favorite movie of the year, but also my favorite Mad Max movie, and quite possibly my favorite movie of the last two decades. Then I saw it three more times in the space of about two weeks, and I noticed something new about it every single time. The rich, detailed world-building not only rewards but demands multiple viewings, and it’s a testament to Miller’s craft that the movie doesn’t rely on a lot of expository dialogue and other hand-holding devices to make sure the audience can keep up. Max Rockatansky’s world of “fire and blood” has its own language that is every bit as evocative and original as its eye-popping visuals: War Boys, Blood Bags, Bullet Farms, etc. This is a movie in the glorious pulp tradition of Robert E. Howard and Heavy Metal magazine, but it never feels derivative, even of its own source material (The Road Warrior being the original Mad Max movie it most closely resembles). What seems to be overlooked in all the talk about its incredible visual effects and stuntwork (which makes a better case than any movie I can think of for an Oscar category devoted to the people who risk their lives to make movies awesome) is the quality of the writing and performances. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are especially great, but there is also a surprising tenderness and depth to Tom Hardy’s performance as Max, a man of few words and great stoicism, and Melissa Jaffer managed to break my heart with just a few minutes of screen time as the Keeper of the Seeds. Critics and skeptics say this movie is just one long chase scene, which is reductive, but even if that were strictly true, complaining about that misses the point of how amazing it is that a movie this compelling could be made from a single long chase. Others might say it doesn’t belong in the Best Picture Oscar race because it’s not serious and important enough, but its themes of feminism and environmentalism are extremely relevant; they’re just not belabored to the point of didacticism. Fury Road’s vision of the destruction of the Old World, in which water was plentiful and “everyone had a show,” seems all too plausible, despite its over-the-top visual antics, and there’s a funny/scary comparison to be made between the film’s main villain, Immortan Joe, and a certain current Presidential candidate. I have no doubt this movie will ride eternal in Valhalla, shiny and chrome. It is perfect in every way.  Read More

Transformers – Michael Bay And The Cinema Of Subtlety

Posted 29 Apr 2012 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Transformers, USA, 2007

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, USA, 2009

Directed by Michael Bay

Transformers is a pretty bad movie, but its first sequel is unbelievably awful. With the latest Michael Bay monstrosity, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, taking more than a billion dollars at the box office and potentially remaining the top-grossing movie of this year (please, please, prove me wrong, awards season), now would be a good time to revisit the first two, which might help explain why I have sworn off the third one, or any future editions. I hope no one thinks I’m a snob just for occasionally displaying some standard of good taste. Remember, I love The Toxic Avenger (1984) and The Lost Boys (1987), not to mention much lower quality films like The Room (2003) and Birdemic: Shock and Terror, so I’m not always too pretentious for a good time with a bad movie.  Read More

Uplift The Race – Three Spike Lee Joints

Posted 12 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Do the Right Thing, USA, 1989

Malcolm X, USA / Japan, 1992

Bamboozled, USA, 2000

Directed by Spike Lee

Spike Lee is one of the most important filmmakers of the late 20th century.

For twenty years now, ever since his debut feature She’s Gotta Have It in 1986, Spike Lee (b. 1957) has been one of the most innovative and provocative directors of his time. As expressed numerous times throughout his many films, Lee’s highest goal is to “wake up” and uplift all oppressed and deluded people, but he has an understandably primary concern for his own people, the African-Americans who have been abused and misrepresented in the United States ever since before it was even called the United States.

Many critics have accused Lee of the same bigotry his films abhor, citing in particular three of his best films – Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X and Bamboozled – as being counterproductive and causing, rather than alleviating, the tensions between various races, but particularly between blacks and whites. Yet all one has to do is view these films to see Lee’s love of all humanity; each one of these films is an eloquent cry of pain at the inhumanity bred by racism in anyone, of any race.  Read More

The Big Lebowski – The Dude Is A Dud

Posted 07 Oct 2010 — by Jason A. Hill
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Jason A. Hill

The Big Lebowski, USA / UK, 1998

Directed by Joel Coen

jeff bridges john goodman“The dude abides” is the credo that has led this cult classic for more than ten years running now, and it wasn’t until just this past July that I finally sat down to The Big Lebowski. Now, after reading this one may get the sense that I really have something against the Coens; I mean, after all, my first article bashed the film that gave these indisputably talented filmmakers their first Oscar. However, I have to call ’em like I see ’em, and this film was either over my head or I need a pot brownie to fully appreciate it.

Let me mark off what I did get from this film. Many critics and viewers say that this film isn’t about its plot, it’s about attitude, that attitude being that no matter what happens to a person in life, there is always a silver lining. The Dude never lies, steals, or cheats, but when someone pisses on his carpet he sets out to do what’s right for himself. He’s the free American who lives on the fringes and is more than content with life with a White Russian in one hand, an occasional fling in the other, and maybe a roach in his toe. Read More