Month: December 2012

My 2012 in Film

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Well, I would like to thank you all for reading my reviews and such this year. You’ve all be great. I want to thank all my wonderful friends, both in person and the awesome people I’ve met through Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Hope you all had a great 2012 and cheers to a great 2013 in film!

January 2012

  1. Certified Copy (2010) | Directed by Abbas Kiarostami – A
  2. Dogville (2003) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A+
  3. Dogville Confessions (2003) | Directed by Sami Saif – B+
  4. True Grit (2010) | Directed by the Coen Brothers – B+
  5. The Jerk (1979) |Directed by Carl Reiner – B+
  6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) | directed by Woody Allen – B+
  7. Sherlock Jr. (1924) | Directed by Buster Keaton – A+
  8. Three Ages (1923) | Directed by Buster Keaton – A
  9. Five Easy Pieces (1970) | directed by Bob Rafelson – A-
  10. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) | Directed by Woody Allen – A-
  11. Design for Living (1933) | Directed by Ernst Lubitsch  – A-
  12. Sabrina (1954) | Directed by Billy Wilder – A-
  13. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010) | Directed by Woody Allen – C+
  14. The Stepford Wives (2004) | Directed by Frank Oz – C
  15. Traffic (2000) | Directed by Steven Soderbergh – B-
  16. Drive, He Said (1971) | Directed by Jack Nicholson – C-
  17. The Rules of the Game (1939) | Directed by Jean Renoir – A
  18. What’s Up, Tiger Lily?(1966) | Directed by Woody Allen – C-
  19. Chocolat (2000) | Directed by Lasse Hallstom – B+
  20. The Descendants (2012) | Directed by Alexander Payne – C
  21. Roman Holiday (1953) | Directed by William Wyler – B
  22. Jackie Brown (1997) | Directed by Quentin Tarantino – A-
  23. Dirty Harry (1971) | Directed by Don Siegel – B+
  24. Melinda and Melinda (2004) | Directed by Woody Allen – B
  25. Synecdoche, NY(2008) | Directed by Charlie Kaufman – B
  26. Winter’s Bone (2010) | Directed by Debra Granik – B+
  27. Rain Man (1988) | Directed by Barry Levinson – B
  28. Eyes without a Face (1960) | Directed by Georges Franju – A-
  29. Another Woman (1988) | Directed by Woody Allen – A-
  30. September (1987) | Directed by Woody Allen – C
  31. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) | directed by Steven Spielberg – A
  32. A Safe Place (1971) | Directed by Henry Jaglom – D
  33. A State of Mind (2004) | Directed by Daniel Gordon – B+
  34. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) | directed by Woody Allen – A
  35. Broadway Danny Rose (1984) | Directed by Woody Allen – B+
  36. Radio Days (1987) | Directed by Woody Allen – A-
  37. Drive (2011) | Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn – A
  38. American Psycho (2000) | Directed by Mary Harron – B+
  39. The Tree of Life (2011) | Directed by Terrence Malick – A
  40. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) | Directed by Woody Allen – A
  41. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) |Directed by Robert Benton – A


  1. Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist (2005) | Directed by Paul Schrader – B-
  2. Metropolitan (1990) | Directed by Whit Stillman – B+
  3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) | Directed by Stanley Kubrick – A
  4. The Fighter (2010) | Directed by David O. Russell – B+
  5. Office Space (1999) | Directed by Mike Judge – B
  6. Duck Soup (1933) | Directed by Leo McCarey – A
  7. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) | Directed by Rob Reiner – B+
  8. Clerks (1994) | Directed by Kevin Smith – C+
  9. A Woman is a Woman (1961) | Directed by Jean-Luc Godard – B
  10. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) | Directed by Frank Darabont – B+
  11. The Untouchables (1987) | Directed by Brian De Palma – B+
  12. The Woman in Black (2012) | Directed by James Watkins – B-
  13. Rio (2011) | Directed by Carlos Saldanha – B
  14. Back to the Future (1985)  Directed by Robert Zemeckis – C
  15. Back to the Future Part II (1989) | Directed by Robert Zemeckis – C
  16. Babel (2006) | Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu – A-
  17. Juno (2007) | Directed by Jason Reitman – B
  18. Moneyball (2011) | Directed by Bennett Miller – C


  1. The 400 Blows (1959) | Directed by Francois Truffaut – A
  2. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) | Directed by Gil Junger – A-
  3. Insignificance (1985) | Directed by Nicolas Roeg – A-
  4. The Holiday (2006) | Directed by Nancy Meyers – B+
  5. Brokeback Mountain (2005) | Directed by Ang Lee – B+
  6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) | Directed by Rupert Wyatt – B+
  7. Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) | Directed by Alfonso Cuarón – C+
  8. Godzilla (1954) | Directed by Ishiro Honda – A-
  9. Playtime (1967) | Directed by Jaques Tati – A
  10. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) | Directed by Wes Anderson – A-
  11. Night and Fog (1955) | Directed by Alain Renais – A+
  12. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011) | Directed by William Joyce – A
  13. Sounds from a Town I Love (2001) | Directed by Woody Allen – B+
  14. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) | Directed by Stanley Kubrick – A
  15. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) | Directed by Luis Bunuel – B+
  16. Hotel Chevalier (2007) | Directed by Wes Anderson – A-
  17. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) | Directed by Wes Anderson – B+
  18. Anatomy of a Murder (1959) | Directed by Otto Preminger – A
  19. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) | Directed by Bob Rafelson – B
  20. Catch Me If You Can (2002) | Directed by Steven Spielberg – B+
  21. The Skin I Live In (2011) | Directed by Pedro Almodovar – A-
  22. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) | Directed by David Fincher – A-
  23. The Last Picture Show (1971) | Directed by Peter Bogdonavich – A
  24. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011) | Directed by Constance Marks – B+
  25. The Best and the Brightest (2010) | Directed by Josh Shelov – C-
  26. Stop –Loss (2008) | Directed by Kimberly Pierce – C
  27. Mildred Pierce (2011) | Directed by Todd Haynes – A
  28. Hunger (2008) | Directed by Steve McQueen – B+
  29. To Catch a Thief (1955) | Directed by Alfred Hitchcock – B+
  30. Young Adult (2011) } Directed by Jason Reitman – A
  31. Chungking Express (1994) | Directed by Wong Kar-Wai – A


  1. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) | Directed by Sidney Lumet – B
  2. Persona (1966) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman – A+
  3. Pi (π) (1998) | Directed by Darren Aronofsky – A
  4. Beginners (2010) | Directed by Mike Mills – A-
  5. Hanna (2011) | Directed by Joe Wright – B+
  6. The Muppets (2011) | Directed by James Bobbin – C+
  7. Rushmore (1998) | Directed by Wes Anderson – B+
  8. 28 Days Later… (2002) | Directed by Danny Boyle – A-
  9. The Passion of the Christ (2005) | Directed by Mel Gibson – B
  10. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) | Directed by Martin Scorsese – A
  11. The Fly (1986) | Directed by David Cronenberg – A
  12. Benny and Joon (1993) | Directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik – B+
  13. The Killing (1956) | Directed by Stanley Kubrick – B+
  14. Killer’s Kiss (1955) | Directed by Stanley Kubrick – B
  15. Ocean’s Twelve (2004) | Directed by Stephen Soderbergh – B
  16. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) | Directed by Guy Ritchie – B+
  17. Pierrot le Fou (1965) | Directed by Jean-Luc Godard – B+
  18. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) | Directed by Drew Goddard – A
  19. Alien (1979) | Directed by Ridley Scott – A
  20. Aliens (1986) | Directed by James Cameron – A
  21. Tokyo Drifter (1966) | Directed by Seijun Suzuki – A-
  22. Branded to Kill (1967) | Directed by Seijun Suzuki – B+
  23. Alien3: Work Print Cut (1992) | Directed by David Fincher – B+
  24. Tiny Furniture (2010) | Directed by Lena Dunham – B
  25. Alien3: Theatrical Cut (1992) | Directed by David Fincher – C-
  26. Alien: Resurrection (1997) | Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunut – C+
  27. Everything Must Go (2010) | Directed by Dan Rush – A-
  28. The Seventh Seal (1957) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman – A
  29. Cinema Verite (2011) | Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini – C
  30. Shame (2011) | Directed by Steve McQueen – B


  1. American Graffiti (1973) | Directed by George Lucas – A
  2. Fatal Attraction (1987) | Directed by Adrian Lyne – A-
  3. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) | Directed by Charles Reisner – A-
  4. The Last Metro (1980) | Directed by Francois Truffaut – A-
  5. Spy Kids (2001) | Directed by Robert Rodriguez – B
  6. Help! (1965) | Directed by Richard Lester – C
  7. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman – B+
  8. The Terminator (1984) | Directed by james Cameron – B+
  9. Our Hospitality (1923) | Directed by John G. Blystone and Buster Keaton – A-
  10. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) | Directed by Robert Wiene – A
  11. Secret Sunshine (2007) | directed by Lee Chang-dong – A+
  12. Mary and Max (2009) | Directed Adam Elliot – A-
  13. Submarine (2010) | Directed by Richard Ayoade – B+
  14. I Am Legend (2007) | Directed by Francis Lawrence – B-
  15. Mouse Hunt (1997) | Directed by Gore Verbinski – B+
  16. The Avengers (2012) | Directed by Joss Whedon – B+
  17. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge 91962) | Directed by Robert Enrico – B
  18. Citizen Kane (1941) | Directed by Orson Welles – A-
  19. The People vs. George Lucas (2010) | Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe – B-
  20. Outrage (2009) | Directed by Kirby Dick – B+
  21. The Lady Eve (1941) | Directed by Preston Sturgess – A-
  22. Manderlay (2005) | Directed by Lars von Trier – B+
  23. Dancer in the Dark (2000) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A+
  24. Jules and Jim (1962) | Directed by Francois Truffaut – A


  1. The Exterminating Angel (1962) | Directed by Luis Bunuel – B
  2. Friends with Benefits (2011) | Directed by Will Gluck – C+
  3. Lars and the Real Girl (2007) | Directed by Craig Gillespie – A
  4. FreeDogme (2000) | Featuring Wim Wenders, Jean-Marc Barr, Wim Wnders, and Lone Scaefer – B+
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) | Directed by Joe Johnston – C
  6. Blue Valentine (2010) | Directed by Derek Cienfrance – A+
  7. The Element of Crime (1984) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A-
  8. Tranceformer: A Portrait of Lars von Trier (1997) | Directed by Stij Bjorkman – B+
  9. Epidemic (1987) | Directed by Lars von Trier – C
  10. Europa (1991) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A
  11. Do the Right Thing (1989) | Directed by Spike Lee – B+
  12. Heavenly Creatures (1994) | Directed by Peter Jackson – A-
  13. Delicatessen (1991) | Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet – A
  14. An Andolousian Dog (1929) | Directed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali – A-
  15. Zéro de conduit (1933) | Directed by Jean Vigo – A
  16. The Navigator (1924) | Directed by Donald Crisp – A
  17. Medea (1988) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A
  18. Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) | Directed by Rupert Sanders – C-
  19. Prometheus (2012) | Directed by Ridley Scott – B
  20. Lone Star (1996) | Directed by John Sayles – B+
  21. Coriolanus (2011) | Directed by Ralph Fiennes – A-
  22. Monsoon Wedding (2001) | Directed by Mira Nair – B+
  23. Crash (2004) | Directed by Paul Haggis – B
  24. The Trip (2010) | Directed by Michael Winterbottom – B+
  25. Risky Business (1983) | Directed by Paul Brickman – C
  26. Ace in the Hole (1951) | Directed by Billy Wilder – A-
  27. Sense and Sensibility (1995) | Directed by Ang Lee – B
  28. Cold Weather (2010) | Directed by Aaron Katz – B
  29. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) | Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson – A-
  30.  Masters of Horror: Imprint (2006) | Directed by Takashi Miike – B+
  31. Half Nelson (2006) | Directed by Ryan Fleck – B+
  32. Sherrybaby (2006) | Directed by Laurie Collyer – B-
  33. Adventureland (2009) | Directed by Greg Mottola – A-


  1. Buried (2010) | Directed by Rodrigo Cortes – A-
  2. Thor (2011) | Directed by Kenneth Branagh – B+
  3. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) | Directed by Steve Miner – B-
  4. Valhalla Rising (2009) | Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn – B-
  5. Sleepless in Seattle (1993) | Directed by Nora Ephron – B
  6. 3 Women (1977) | Directed by Robert Altman – A
  7. The House of the Devil (2009) | Directed by Ti West – C+
  8. I Saw the Devil (2010) | Directed by Kim Je-woon – B-
  9. Carnage (2011) | Directed by Roman Polanski – B+
  10. Take Shelter (2011) | Directed by Jeff Nichols – A
  11. The Artist (2011) | Directed by Michel Hazanavicius – C-
  12. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) | Directed by Guy Ritchie – B
  13. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) | Directed by Sean Durkin – A-
  14. Mary Last Seen (2010) | Directed by Sean Durkin – B+
  15. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) | Directed by Wes Anderson – A-
  16. Harakiri (1962) | Directed by Masaki Kobayashi – B-
  17. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) | Directed by Brad Bird – B+
  18. District 9 (2009) | Directed by Neil Blomkamp – A+
  19. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982) | Directed by Ridley Scott – B
  20. Alive in Joburg (2006) | Directed by Neil Blomkamp – B
  21. The Fallen Idol (1948) | Directed by Carol Reed – B
  22. Shallow Grave (1994) | Directed by Danny Boyle – B-
  23. Batman (1989) | Directed by Tim Burton – C
  24. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) | Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen – A
  25. Animal Kingdom (2010) | Directed by David Michod – A-
  26. Brave (2012) | Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman – B-
  27. Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) | Directed by Craig McCall – B+
  28. Before Sunrise (1995) | Directed by Richard Linklater – A-
  29. I’m Not There (2007) | Directed by Todd Haynes – B+
  30. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) | Directed by Christopher Nolan – B
  31. Another Year (2010) | Directed by Mike Leigh – A-
  32. Topsy-Turvy (1999) | Directed by Mike Leigh – A
  33. Morning Glory (2010) | Directed by Roger Michell – B-
  34. The Double Life of Veronique (1991) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  35. Three Colors: Blue (1993) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A+
  36. Three Colors: White (1994) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  37. Three Colors: Red (1994) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A
  38. My Kid Could Paint That (2007) | Directed by Amir Bar-Lev – B+
  39. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) | Directed by Lynne Ramsay – A
  40. Hostel (2005) | Dirceted by Eli Roth – C+
  41. Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (2012) | Directed by Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre – B+
  42. Contagion (2011) | Directed by Steven Soderbergh – B+
  43. Hemingway and Gellhorn (2012) | Directed by Philip Kaufman – C-
  44. The School of Rock (2003) | Directed by Richard Linklater – A-
  45. Hostel Part II (2007) | Directed by Eli Roth – B-
  46. Before Sunset (2004) | Directed by Richard Linklater – A-
  47. Mission: Impossible (1996) | Directed by Brian De Palma – B
  48. Mission: Impossible II (2000) | Directed by John Woo – C+
  49. Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) | Directed by Benjamin Christensen – B+
  50. Patton (1970) | Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner – C
  51. The Thin Red Line (1998) | Directed by Terrence Malick – A
  52. Onibaba (1964) | Directed by Kaneto Shindo – B+
  53. Moon (2009) | Directed by Duncan Jones – A
  54. Layer Cake (2004) | Directed by Matthew Vaughn – A- 
  55. Marie Antoinette (2006) | Directed by Sofia Coppola – C+


  1. I Am Love (2009) |Directed Luca Guadagnino – A-
  2. Junkopia (1981) | Directed by Chris Marker – B+
  3. Barney’s Version (2010) | Directed by Richard J. Lewis – B-
  4. Closer (2004) | Directed by Mike Nichols – B+
  5. Caché (2005) | Directed by Michael Haneke – A
  6. Apocalypse Now 91979) | Directed by Francis Ford Coppola – A
  7. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) | Directed by Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper – A
  8. The Piano Teacher (2001) | Directed by Michael Haneke – A
  9. Scarlet Street (1945) | Directed by Fritz Lang – B+
  10. Contempt (1963) | Directed by Jean-Luc Godard – C
  11. The White Ribbon (2009) | Directed by Michael Haneke – A
  12. Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) | Directed by Michael David – C-
  13. Trainspotting (1996) | Directed by Danny Boyle – B-
  14. Hour of the Wolf (1968) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman – B
  15. College (1927) | Directed by James W Horne – A
  16. Seven Chances (1925) | Directed by Buster Keaton – A
  17. Wild Target (2009) | Directed by Jonathan Lynn – B
  18. Nocturna Artificialia (1979) | Directed by The Quay Brothers – B
  19. The Brothers Bloom (2008) | Directed by Rian Johnson – B+
  20. Wings of Desire 91987) | Directed by Wim Wenders – A+
  21. Russian Ark (2002) | Directed by Alexander Sokurov – A-
  22. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) | Directed by Victor Enrice – B+
  23. The Girlfriend Experience (2009) | Directed by Steven Soderbergh – A-
  24. Battleship Potempkin (1925) | Directed by Sergei Eisenstein – A
  25. The Making of Fanny and Alexander (1986) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman – A-
  26. Quills (2000) | Directed by Philip Kaufman – A
  27. Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate (1986) | Directed by Kirby Dick – B+
  28. Funny Games (1997) | Directed by Michael Haneke – A-
  29. Red State (2011) | Directed by Kevin Smith – B-
  30. 21 Grams (2003) | Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – B+
  31. Small Soldiers (1998) | Directed by Joe Dante – A-
  32. Piranha (2010) | Directed by Alexandre Aja – C
  33. Company: A Musical Comedy (2008) | Directed by John Doyle – A+
  34. Super 8 (2011) | Directed by JJ Abrams – B+
  35. Full Metal Jacket (1987) | Directed by Stanley Kubrick – B+
  36. City of Angels (1998) | Directed by Brad Siberling – C
  37. The Decalogue (1988) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  38. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007) | Directed by Cristian Mungiu – A+
  39. The Vanishing of the Bees (2009) | Directed by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein – B
  40. Child’s Play (1988) | Directed by Tom Holland – C+
  41. Winnebago Man (2009) | Directed by Ben Steinbauer – B+
  42. Romance and Cigarettes (2005) | Directed John Tutoro – C
  43. Mimic (1997) | Directed by Guillermo del Toro – B+
  44. An American Werewolf in London (1981) | Directed by John Landis – A-
  45. Matilda (1996) | Directed by Danny DeVito – A-
  46. I’m Still Here (2010) | Directed by Casey Affleck – B
  47. Poetry (2010) | Directed by Lee Chang-dong – A
  48. Cinema Paradiso (1988) | Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore – A-
  49. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: The Series (1979) | Directed by John Irvin – A-
  50. Blue Velvet (1986) | Directed by David Lynch – B+
  51. The Complete Metropolis (1927) | Directed by Fritz Lang – A+++
  52. The Five Obstructions (2003) | Directed by Lars von Trier and Jorgen Leth – A
  53. The Perfect Human (1967) | Directed by Jorgen Leth – A
  54. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) | Directed by Tomas Alfredson – B+
  55. Boogie Nights (1997) | Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson – A-


  1. Jurassic Park (1993) | Directed by Steven Spielberg – A-
  2. Grey Gardens (1975) | Directed by Ellen Howde and Albert Maysles – A
  3. It Happened One Night (1934) | Directed by Frank Capra – B
  4. The Matrix (1999) | Directed by Directed by the Wachowskis – B-
  5. Death at a Funeral (2007) | Directed by Frank Oz – B-
  6. Margin Call (2011) | Directed by JC Chandor – B+
  7. Grey Gardens (2009) | Directed by Michael Sucsy – A-
  8. In the Mood for Love (2000) | Directed by Wong Kar-Wai – A+
  9. Little Children (2006) | Directed by Todd Fields – A
  10. Clueless (1995) | Directed by Amy Heckerling – B
  11. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) | Directed by Martin Brest – B+
  12. Haywire (2011) | Directed by Steven Soderbergh – B-
  13. Children of Men (2006) | Directed by Alfonso Cuaron – A
  14. Dead Snow (2009) | Directed by Tommy Wirkola – B
  15. Twin Peaks: The Pilot (1990) | Directed by David Lynch – A-
  16. Donnie Brasco (1997) | Directed by Mike Newell – A-
  17. Badlands (1973) | Directed by Terrence Malick – B+
  18. Mulholland Dr. (2001) | Directed by David Lynch – A+++
  19. Eraserhead (1977) | Directed by David Lynch – A+
  20. Jaws (1975) | Directed by Steven Spielberg – A-
  21. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) | Directed by Julian Schnabel – A-
  22. The Turin Horse (2011) | Directed by Bela Tarr – A
  23. I ❤ Huckabees (2004) | Directed by David O. Russell – B+
  24. Hard Eight (1996) } Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson – B
  25. Requiem for a Dream (2000) | Directed by Darren Aronofsky – A
  26. Looper (2012) | Directed by Rian Johnson – A-
  27. En Blomst (1971) | Directed by Lars von Trier – B
  28. The Elephant Man (1980) | Directed by David Lynch – A
  29. Don’t Look Now (1973) | Directed by Nicolas Roeg – B+
  30. Play Misty for Me (1971) | Directed by Clint Eastwood – B
  31. Paris is Burning (1990) | Directed by Jennie Livingston – B+
  32. Klown (2010) | Directed by Mikkel Norgaard – B+
  33. Charlie Bartlett (2007) | Directed by Jon Poll – B

October 2012

  1. The Fountain (2007) | Directed by Darren Aronofsky – A-
  2. Somewhere (2011) | Directed by Sofia Coppola – B
  3. Straw Dogs (1971) | Directed by Sam Peckinpah – B
  4. Dogtooth (2009) | Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos – A-
  5. The Deep Blue Sea (2011) | Directed by Terrence Davies – A-
  6. Night Train to Munich (1940) |Directed by Carol Reed – B+
  7. The Conversation (1974) | Directed by Francis Ford Coppola – A
  8. 2 Days in Paris (2007) | Directed by Julie Delpy – B+
  9. Muriel’s Wedding (1994) | Directed by PJ Hogan – B+
  10. Once (2006) | Directed by John Carney – C+
  11. The Five-Year Engagement (2012) | Directed by Nicholas Stoller – A-
  12. Great Directors (2009) | Directed by Angela Ismailos – B+
  13. Mommie Dearest (1981) | Directed by Frank Perry – C+
  14. Strangers on a Train (1951) | Directed by Alfred Hitchcock – A-
  15. Poltergeist (1982) | Directed by Tobe Hooper – B
  16. The Evil Dead (1981) | Directed by Sam Raimi – A-
  17. Slither (2006) | Directed by James Gunn – B+
  18. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) | Directed by Roman Polanski – A
  19. The Thing (1982) | Directed by John Carpenter – A
  20. Nowhere Boy (2009) | Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson – B+
  21.  Seven Psychopaths (2012) | Directed by Martin McDonagh – A-
  22.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) | Directed by Stephen Chbosky – B+
  23. Argo (2012) | Directed by Ben Affleck – B
  24. Ugetsu (1953) | Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi – A-
  25. Last Year at Marienbad (1961) | Directed by Alain Renais – A
  26. Wild Strawberries(1957) | Directed by Ingmar Bergman – A
  27. A Separation (2011) | Directed by Asghar Farhadi – A


  1. Chico and Rita (2010) | Directed by Tono Errando and Javier Mariscal – C
  2. Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys (2000) | Directed by Michael Haneke – A
  3. Pretty in Pink (1986) | Directed by Howard Deutch – B+
  4. Paulie (1998) | Directed by John Roberts – B-
  5. Naked Lunch (1991) | Directed by David Cronenberg – B
  6. One Hour Photo (2002) | Directed by Mark Romanek – A
  7. Bernie (2012) | Directed by Richard Linkater – B+
  8. Skyfall (2012) | Directed by Sam Mendes – A
  9. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) | Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris – C+
  10. Sunset Blvd. (1950) | Directed by Billy Wilder – A
  11. Hum Tum(2004) | Directed by Kunal Kohli – C
  12. Quantum of Solace (2008) | Directed by Marc Forster – B-
  13. The Queen (2006) | Directed by Stephen Frears – B+
  14. Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007 (2012) | Directed by Stevan Riley – A-
  15. Camera (2000) |Directed by David Cronenberg – A
  16. Hua yang de nian hua (2000) | Directed by Wong Kar-Wai – B
  17. La Luna (2011) | Directed by Enrico Casarosa – A-
  18. George and AJ (2009) | Directed by Josh Cooley – B+
  19. Hawaiian Vacation (2011) | Directed by Gary Rydstrom – B+
  20. Air Mater (2011) – C
  21. Small Fry (2011) | directed by Angus MacLane – B+
  22. Time Travel Mater (2012) | Directed by Rob Gibbs – C
  23. The Lady and the Lamp (1979) | Directed by John Lasseter – A-
  24. La Jetee (1962) | Directed by Chris Marker – A
  25. Barry Lyndon (1975) | Directed by Stanley Kubrick – B+
  26. The Hours (2002) | Directed by Stephen Daldry – A
  27. Throw Momma from the Train (1987) | Directed by Danny DeVito – D
  28. The Science of Sleep (2006) | Directed by Michel Gondry – A-
  29. L.A. Confidential (1997) | Directed by Curtis Hanson – A-
  30. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) | Directed by Frank Capra – C-
  31. Paris Je T’aime (2006) | Directed by A Lot of People – B
  32. Nocturne (1980) | Directed by Lars von Trier – B+
  33. Six Men Getting Sick (1966) | Directed by David Lynch – B
  34. The Alphabet (1968) | Directed by David Lynch – B
  35. Tramway (1979) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – B+
  36. Killing Them Softly (2012) | Directed by Andrew Dominik – C


  1. Barton Fink (1991) | Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen – A-
  2. The Wonder Ring (1955) | Directed by Stan Brakage – B
  3. Days of Being Wild (1990) | Directed by Wong Kar-Wai – B+
  4. The Invisible War (2012) | Directed by Kirby Dick – A
  5. Like Crazy (2011) | Directed by Drake DOremus – B
  6. Somewhere in the Arctic…. | Directed by Andrew Stanton – A-
  7. Winter | Directed by Pete Doctor – B
  8. Palm Springs | Directed by Pete Doctor – B+
  9. Next Door | Directed by Pete Doctor – B+
  10. Cours du Soir | Directed by Nicolas Ribowski – B+
  11. Charlotte et son Jules (1959) | Directed by Jean-Luc Godard – C+
  12. Hunter Goes to Hollywood (2003) | Directed by Wayne Ewig – B
  13. Une Histoire d’eau (1961) |Directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut – A-
  14. Blood of the Beasts (1949) | Directed by Georges Franju – A
  15. La villa Santo Sospir (1952) | Directed by Jean Cocteau – B
  16. Thursday’s Children (1955) | Directed by Lindsay Anderson – A
  17. In the Beginning was the End: The Truth About De-Evolution (1976) | Directed by Chuck Statler – B
  18. The Musicians (1958) | Directed by Kazimierz Karabasz – A
  19. Factory (1971) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  20. Hospital (1976) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  21. Railway Station (1980) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  22. The Face (1966) | Directed by Piotr Studzinski – B
  23. Seven Women of Different Ages(1979) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  24. Talking Heads(1980) | Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski – A-
  25. Sound of Noise (2010) | Directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson – A-
  26. Girl Walk // All Day (2011) | Directed by Jacob Krupnick – A-
  27. Breaking the Waves (1996) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A
  28. A Cat in Paris (2011) | Directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli – C
  29. Lick the Star (1998) | Directed by Sofia Coppola – B-
  30. Best in Show (2000) | Directed by Christopher Guest – B
  31. Man with a Movie Camera (1929) | Directed by Dziga Vertov – A
  32.  The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) | Directed by Peter Jackson – B
  33. Pina (2011) | Directed by Wim Wenders – A-
  34. Take This Waltz (2011) | Directed by Sarah Polley – B-
  35. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) | Directed by Alison Klayman – B+
  36. The Kid with a Bike (2012) | Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes – B+
  37. The Grey (2012) | Directed by Joe Carnahan – B+
  38. The Idiots (1998) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A
  39. Holy Motors (2012) | Directed by Leos Carax – A
  40. Tales from the Script (2009) | Directed by Peter Hanson – C+
  41. The Boss of It All (2006) | Directed by Lars von Trier – A-
  42. Ted (2012) | Directed by Seth Macfarlane – C
  43. The Queen of Versailles (2012) | Directed by Lauren Greenfield – A-
  44. Becoming Santa (2011) | Directed by Jeff Meyers – B
  45. Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! (1986) | Directed by Bill Melendez – B
  46. The American Scream (2012) | Directed by Michael Stephenson – B+
  47. It’s an Adventure, Charlie Brown! (1983) | Directed by Bill Melendez – B
  48. A Charlie Brown Celebration (1982) | Directed by Bill Melendez – B
  49. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012) | Directed by David Gelb – A-
  50. Oslo, August 31st (2012) | Directed by Joachim Trier – A+
  51. Sleepwalk with Me (2012) | Directed by Mike Birbiglia – B-
  52. Goodbye, First Love (2012) | Directed by Mia Hansen-Love – B+
  53. Les Misérables (2012) | Directed by Tom Hooper – C-
  54. After Porn Ends (2010) | Bryce Wagoner – B
  55. Monsieur Lazhar (2011) | Directed by Philppe Falardeau – B+
  56. Elena (2011) | Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev – A-
  57. Side by Side (2012) | Directed by Christopher Kenneally – A-
  58. How to Survive a Plague (2012) | Directed by David France – B+
  59. Alps (2012) | Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos – A-
  60. 2 Days in New York (2012) | Directed by Julie Delpy – B+
  61. The Long Goodbye (1973) | Directed by Robert Altman – A-
  62. Week End (1967) | Directed by Jean-Luc Godard – A
  63. Sans Soleil (1983) | Directed by Chris Marker – B+

Singers in the Dark: Les Misérables

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Despite practically growing up on musicals, a) I never got to see Les Misérables live and b) the televised/filmed productions of the seminal musical have never really struck me as deeply as, say, The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, Company, Chicago, Cabaret, etc. Les Misérables is great, I am certainly not denying that, but it never cracked my list of “favorites”. That said, I am truly a sucker for some of the music, “On My Own” probably being my favorite. The 10th Anniversary “Dream Cast” Concert is quite lovely to behold, and thus, hearing of an actual film adaptation of the musical intrigued me. The original story, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, had been adapted to the screen a handful of times (including one with Liam Neeson), but Tom Hooper’s period spectacle would mark the first time the musical would make it to the big screen. And, because I love musicals, I was excited. Instead of getting in line for the tickets, I should have gotten in line for the guillotines.

Les Misérables tells the sad, sad tale of a bunch of people prior and during the French Student Rebellion (June 1832), and not the French Revolution (1789-1799). Included in this group of the afflicted is Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a man who spent over a decade in prison for stealing bread to feed his family; Javert (Russell Crowe), the dutiful officer; and Fantine (Anne Hathaway), the poor single mother who goes to certain extremes in order to allocate money to send to the couple taking care of her daughter, Cosette (later played by Amanda Seyfried).  As Jean Valjean moves up in the world under a pseudonym, the presiding officer holds a grudge and the animosity between the two ends up involving pretty much everyone else somehow or another.

The implications of a theatrical adaptation of a stage show, whether it is an actual play (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Rabbit Hole, etc.) or a musical (Cabaret, Chicago, Sweeney Todd) is to not merely paste the songs in a film like setting, but to fill in some of the holes by utilizing everything that film as a medium has to offer. Expand on character relationships, elaborate on character goals and motivations; effectively explain plot holes or context. With a musical (and its source material) that is so often incorrectly assumed to be about the French Revolution, you would think that the film adaptation would give the perfect opportunity to give more context to the time and setting of the darn thing. Alas, no. Tom Hooper, who can do period detail very well (see: Elizabeth I and John Adams from HBO), instead seems to concentrate on just seemingly cutting and pasting the singing of the stage show to a well-dressed back lot. Without that context or background, the stakes are not nearly as high and the audience, including myself, has less of a reason to care about a) the characters involved and b) the situations they are stuck in. There is no primer as to the Student Rebellion and the most we are offered are a couple lyrics sung by a dirty, if cherubic blond kid in a thick Manchester accent. He sings about the lack of change and the remaining bourgeoisie reign, but so what? That alone isn’t enough to make me care. Give me higher stakes and give me more reason. A couple lines from “ABC Café” are hardly reason enough to make us care about a Student Rebellion (who, by the way, seem too well dressed to really seem like they care about the upper class).

Part of the problem is the streamlining of the material. On stage, you have more time because you have an intermission, and those going to a musical have, generally, educated themselves enough to get the gist of things. If not, then the book or the lyrics do some of the heavy work for you. There is not as much an issue in terms of time and linearity because of the sparseness of sets and locations, but in a film, you must deal with time as a concept. Which means that as Valjean contemplates his existential identity crisis in “Who Am I?/The Trial”, in the space of three cuts, he goes from his little house to riding on horseback to the courthouse. Those three cuts take less than three seconds altogether. There is no actual travel, unless you count the split second, blink and you miss it ride on horseback. This is not limited to that one scene, but several scenes. The love story in the second half of the film looks entirely moronic because there isn’t enough time to develop Cosette and Marius’ attraction to one another. Star crossed love is romantic when the characters are allowed to revel in what they have just experienced, however brief it may be; but when it is reduced to literally ten seconds and no less than ten reverse, point of view shots, the rest of the stakes for love are dwarfed and just look stupid. In an attempt to quicken things up and make an already deathly long and poorly paced film seem shorter, some plot points are either dropped or obscured by and buried under the “let’s get through all the songs first”.

This, I suppose, is in itself a mixed bag. You have seen the ad more time than Sascha Baren Cohen’s ratty Thenardier has stolen gold pieces, and it has been something the Les Misérables have been pushing really hard: the live singing. Marketed as “the first time it’s ever been done before” is not actually true. The 1995 television adaptation of Gypsy (starring Bette Midler) featured live singing; Susan Stroman’s ill-fated screen adaptation of the Mel Brooks’ musical The Producers had live singing; and Julie Taymor’s experimental Beatles musical Across the Universe had “live singing 80% of the time” (this according to the director’s commentary on the DVD). Les Misérables only stands apart from the first two in that the live singing isn’t so much singing (not in the performing way that most musicals employ) as it is giving life to the songs. When it’s done well in the film, it can be truly visceral and moving (Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks, for instance, nail you in the soul). When it does not work, it just seems sort of sad. While it is no surprise that Hathaway stuns with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream”, the songs that seemed to work best were those that featured most of the company. “At the End of the Day”, “Lovely Ladies”, “One More Day”, and “Red and Black” all had verve and life to them, which several of the other solo/character focused songs did not.

Which brings me to this – Newsflash, I don’t like Hugh Jackman’s voice. I never have. He is a lovely actor, and his voice is technically fine. But, that’s what I don’t like about it. Jackman, as much soul as he tries to put into “Valjean’s Soliloquy” and “Who Am I?” seems to be so focused on technique and placed in a situation where he has to move and where the vocals will come out imperfect, he loses the essence of the tune. It sounds professional, sure, but the wealth of vibrato works against him in a way. Russell Crowe, for all of his unpolished singing abilities, in a way, surpasses Jackman vocally because you can hear the tune. The gravelly, maybe somewhat nasally quality gives more life to the character than Crowe actually provides when he is acting. (Much like Gerard Butler in Phantom, but worse.) It probably was not the best idea to hire Crowe, due to the complexity of the music and the range it requires.

With that laborious focus on singing and period detail by Hooper (whom I still, probably unfairly, resent for winning Best Director of The King’s Speech), the story, as I said, gets left behind. Which makes it feel like the intentions were to just see the famous people performing the songs one after the other. There are maybe 10 lines of dialogue total in the film, which, for most mainstream audiences, is not anywhere near enough. Again, with the medium of film, you have the opportunity to a) make a musical more accessible to other audiences and b) expound on story, characters, etc. There was zero attempt to do this; just song after song after song. It’s not this cycle that is inherently the problem; it’s the missed opportunity to make the story more enjoyable.

Aside from singing and famous people, some very strange focus (hah) was put on the film’s cinematography. Mostly, my time was spent scoffing in the theater, writing furiously on my notepad. If you’ve heard anyone complain about the camerawork, listen to them: it is pretty much the most abhorrent work I’ve seen this year. (As random as Killing Them Softly was, at least it was nice to look at and properly framed.) There should be a meme that says “FRAME A DAMN SCENE RIGHT, HOOPER!” I’m pretty sure his logic went as follows: “Okay, you go over there and act and I’m going to have my camera right up in your face. And then I’m going to turn it on a 135-degree angle.” While I’m sure the logic behind this was to provide an intimacy in the performance that the stage inherently cannot give, it does not explain why so many of his frames were off balance. That just looks like some of the half-assed pictures some of the slackers in my photography class take, except more expensive. Also, one can certainly utilize more than one camera angle to achieve intimacy. A musical, shot in all close-ups! There’s a reason why Fred Astaire was never shot in close up: so you could still get the essence of his performance.

When Hooper is not placing cameras six inches away from his actors’ faces, he is editing like he stepped into the editing room while on cocaine. I seriously wondered while I was sitting in the film if the people from Glee were editing the film. What few nice moments and nice frames there are on screen are snatched from us with a splice. This, again, affects linearity, but the constant CUT, CUT, CUT is so uninspired and useless. It works as an antithesis to the artistic desire to achieve more intimacy in the performances. The camera work itself does not work. Shakier than some of my own camera work on my short films, there seems to be no evidence of any SteadiCam used. Just tripods and someone seemingly drunk walking around with a camera. This is not supposed to be a poor man’s Dogme 95 inspired musical! You are no Anthony Dod Mantle! The action scenes don’t work either. If there isn’t a random Dutch angle (which, as far as I can tell, has absolutely no reason to be in there), there’s a fly, swoop, and a lot of cutting involved. I guess Michael Bay would be proud.

The film’s two saving graces are Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks. I would like to think that Hathaway ignored Hooper’s direction altogether and that her transcendent portrayal of Fantine, however short it is (not a spoiler because of the source material), was pure instinct. She gives power, emotion, and passion to a film where there is none. Her heart shattering performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” is the film’s highlight. It’s close enough to get every look of Fantine’s but far away enough so that there is distance. It’s not the camera that should destroy the distance between audience member and character; it’s the character themselves and their power. And Hathaway succeeds in spades (a little reminiscent, it has been said, of Renee Falconetti in Carl Theodore Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc). Samantha Barks, a newbie to the film world, has portrayed the gloomy, heartbroken Eponine before on stage and in the 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables. Despite that, she still brings something entirely new and fresh to the film, her performance of “On My Own” absolutely splendid. I suppose, if you’re going to spend your money on the film, do it for these two girls, one of whom I wouldn’t be too mad should she win the Academy Award. Eddie Redmayne, whom I didn’t know could sing, is actually quite good as well, but the film’s inability to really dig deeper into his character and his motivations leave a lot to be desired and mar the experience.

Les Misérables is a trifle; a film that could have easily avoided its problems by reeling back its eagerness and giving the story a chance. The singing might be cool, but what’s a song without a story behind it? Les Misérables is also probably the first film whose cinematography made me actively angry in the theater. Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks are the film’s saviors. So, while you sit in the theater for what was, for me, a nearly unbearable two and a half hours, I’m going to sing these words:

“I had a dream this film would be,

So different from this Hell I’m watching,

So different now from what it seemed.

Now Hooper’s killed the dream I dreamed.”

Middle-Earth of the Road: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

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Sitting in the dark in the theater, at midnight no less, I checked my watch before the film began. My expectations were low. So low, you’d have to fall down that well in the Mines of Moria to find them. It isn’t that I don’t like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. On the contrary, my love for the films and the books is exactly why I was worried about Peter Jackson’s latest Middle-Earth effort The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The split into three films worried me. The underwhelming look of the trailers worried me. The mere fact that I was returning to a universe I so loved in and of itself was a worry for me. I was more excited for the lobster ravioli I was to have for dinner before the film. But, as they say, lower your expectations and you shall be amazed! Or, at least, pleasantly surprised. I looked back at my watch, the lights went down, and I braced myself for the worst.

The Hobbit was the children’s tale that would then become sort of a blueprint for JRR Tolkien’s epic, massive, magisterial The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the One Ring that would become the focal point for it all. But, as aforementioned, The Hobbitwas an adventure, something that, at its essence, did not give way to great complication or all that much complexity (well, unless you’re one of two things: an English Lit major or a Film Critic). Bilbo Baggins is a bit of a nebbish, a hobbit who likes his calm. He is called upon by Gandalf the Grey Wizard to go on an adventure with a set of dwarves. Their goal is to defeat Smaug, the dragon bathing in the dwarves’ gold in the Misty Mountains. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of the trilogy, doesn’t get us that far.

Structurally, it is nearly identical to The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson’s first LOTR film. Almost beat for beat, from the mythological exposition of the prologue, to the unwillingness of Bilbo to go on an adventure, to the travel itself and even some of the locations. This familiarity works, in some ways, in the film’s favor. Journeying back to a world one is so familiar with but with new characters and a new story is, admittedly, a rather jarring experience. It will be, assuredly, the same thing viewers will feel whenever those new Star Wars movies come out. The structure, though, seems to inherently ease the transition and reconciliation between “old world, new story” (even though The Hobbit is technically a “prequel”).

The familiarity of its structure, however, does not save everything. Much like The Fellowship of the Ring, and in some ways even worse, The Hobbit takes its time getting to certain things. It drags, man. It really drags in certain parts. Despite the film being fifteen or seventeen minutes shorter than The Fellowship of the Rings, many scenes of exposition actually make the film feel much longer than any of the original trilogy. It is here where The Hobbit fails most for me. I have seen the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy enough times that I have no idea what the theatrical cuts look like. They offer a complete, full, and whole experience, and, while The Two Towers is guilty of having some awful pacing problems, I enjoy watching the extended edits immensely. However, the pacing issues with The Hobbit get so bad that I remain uninterested in seeing an extended edition of the film. It already feels extended. Part of it is the padding from the other stories that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens have taken from the appendices of the books. A fun drinking game would be taking a shot every time you noticed something added in.

One of the major differences in terms of the look and production of the film is the balls to the wall utilization of CGI. Gone are the practical makeup effects and the somewhat silly transitions. Au revior, real orcs! Ta-ta, Uruk-Hai! It’s 2012, dontcha know! It’s the digital age! While many of the locations are actually locations (yay New Zealand!), some of it has been transformed more drastically than one expected. One of the beauties of The Lord of the Rings was how real it felt. That sounds kind of ridiculous, but it’s true. The Shire is intact, but a part of me felt disappointed in this respect. Middle-Earth, at one point, felt like somewhere tangible and real. With some overuse of CGI, you, of course, have your cinematography. The Lord of the Rings had some wonderful sweeping camera movements. The Hobbit has them in spades. I suppose the best way to describe the technology and production of the Hobbit is this: The Hobbit takes some of the techniques that The Lord of the Rings used, and then uses them while on crack and LSD. Some of it is too much.

You’ve gotten this far into my review and all I’ve sounded is really negative. I’m sorry.

Despite its sometimes horrendous pacing issues and its obnoxious, unrestrained camera work, The Hobbit can be a gorgeous spectacle to behold. Its action and set pieces are thrilling. When the action gets going, it really gets going. Many of the battle sequences take your breath away, and the intense sound and cinematography work in these scenes’ favors. It is in these moments you remember the joy of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I did not see the film in HFR (48fps), but I did see it in IMAX 3D. While the 3D is not inherent to enjoying the film, it is actually quite nice in some parts. There is a lot of depth to be had with a film on such a grand scale.

Martin Freeman (BBC’s The Office, Sherlock) slips into the role of Bilbo Baggins effortlessly, which, honestly, surprised me. And, true to the character in the book, he plays Bilbo kind of like a nervous wreck. He plays Bilbo like Woody Allen. (Which leads me to say that Woody Allen should totally cast Martin Freeman in one of his films.) It allows the character to be amiable, cute, kind of endearing. What may be good, however, is that this nebbish quality of Bilbo’s doesn’t seem forced. It seems completely natural.

The single best part of the film, though, is the return of that cannibalistic, obsessive monster: Gollum, Andy Serkis one again making an iconic performance. Gollum has always been one of the best aspects of the Tolkien films, Serkis embodying hate, greed, and self-loathing unlike any other actor, and his performance here is just as good. (In a perfect world, the man would have gotten an Oscar nod. But noooo.) The Riddles in the Dark scene, imbued with wit and solemnness, is bar none the greatest scene in the film.

Returning to Middle-Earth was weird, sure, but getting back into the swing of things, especially with its near identical narrative structure to The Fellowship of the Ring, seems fairly easy. There are major lulls and the pacing can be awful, but with Martin Freeman, some flourishes from Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, some thrilling action, and Andy Serkis returning as Gollum, I’m ready to return to Middle-Earth!

Performance/Art: Sound of Noise

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I played the violin for about seven years when I was younger, probably elementary and middle school ages. I ended up quitting, but nonetheless, I’ve always had an appreciation for music. That, added to my exposure to the show Stomp Out Loud, I think were good preparation for a film called Sound of NoiseSound of Noise presents an array of ideas about art, music, ideas, and statements all in a fairly light package. That’s probably one of the best things about Sound of Noise: it captures all the beauty and complexity of music without being overbearing. It’s the perfect soundtrack.

Tone deaf police officer, or head of terrorist activities investigations (or something along those lines), Amadeus Warenberg, named for the iconic composer, plays second fiddle to his older brother, Oscar, a famous composer and conductor. During this interesting dynamic between his family, world renowned musicians, there is something very odd going on. A beat. Renegade percussionists are breaking into places (a hospital, a bank, etc.) and performing. And this stuff is illegal. Public disobedience or distraction or something? Regardless, as Amadeus comes closer to cracking the case as to who these Bonnie and Clyde of musicians are (although there are Six Drummers), he comes closer to finding the beauty in the Sound of Noise.

Somewhat ironically, slightly earlier in the week, there was a discussion about Joshua Bell. The famous violinist a few years went busking in a metro station and it took 7 hours and a paltry $32 before anyone recognized him. This led to a discussion of how we appreciate arts and such. Sound of Noise somehow beautifully distills that sort of conversation and asks similar questions as well. As much as our protagonist Amadeus grew up around music, nearly filling his younger life, he has grown to hate it. There’s an interesting subjective quality to certain areas of the film from the perspective of Amadeus. In certain scenes, when you should hear the ding of a metal tray, the knock against a wall, or the bark of a dog, there is nothing. The man is tone deaf, and this rather melancholic way of showing that is incredibly effective, and, thankfully, consistent throughout most of the film.

Through these renegade Six Drummers is written and performed a manifesto. This manifesto, performed on the streets and in very public places is like the immediate confrontation of an artistic statement. Like anything that Marina Abromovic’s The Artist is Present, the music as public statement adds an interesting, very real intrusiveness to it. But, if you are a member of most of the population, let’s face it, you probably think such artistic statements and manifestos are any of the following: silly, frivolous, inessential, ridiculous, overdone, and/or pretentious. One of the small beauties of the film is the ambiguity with which it treats the idea of “art as public forum”. There are moments when you are not quite sure whether or not the directors, Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjarne Nisson, are praising the medium and function or satirizing it. It may be very well that they are doing both. It may be that they are saying, quite possibly, “Artistic statements are important, no matter how insane and unpredictable they are… but you don’t have to always go all out.” That being said, satire or praise, they do not seem to be condemning.

The music sequences are one of the best features of the film and, unsurprisingly, the thing that drew me most to the film. Creative, rather avant garde performance is the kind of thing I sort of love. As aforementioned, I love Stomp Out Loud, in which street dancers and musicians play on trash cans and the like. I love Blue Man Group, which, though less percussively based, is visually inventive and enticing nonetheless. So, a bit of a mix between the two (more the former than the latter) is sort of a performance art dream come true. These sequences are, in their, magical, majestic, and, most of all, fun. There is a wicked, warped sense of humor to them all, from “Doctor, Doctor, Gimme Gas in My Ass”, in which they hijack an anesthetized body and, uh, play music on him; “Money 4U Honey”, where the Six Drummers hold up a bank and proceed perform for the customers; and two other performances. And, like any good, piece of performance art, there’s always another layer of meaning. You could assert that “Doctor Doctor” is a criticism of health care and “Money 4U Honey” is about capitalism. You could make a number of assertions about the instruments that are used in each, their individual sounds, etc. But, the most important part is that these performances, as layered as they are, are just plain breathtaking. They are first and foremost the most entertaining scenes in cinema in a long time. These fun, beat-filled sequences made me, someone fairly cynical, feel giddy and kid-like with wonderment. Maybe that is the primary thesis of this film. That music, found anywhere in all locations at any time is wonderful. The whimsy, spontaneity and yet planned nature of it all is just thrilling.

The film sets itself up like a weird crime movie or heist film. The Six Drummers are led by two, Sanna and Magnus, the two leads portrayed by Sanna Persson and Magnus Borjeson. They round up the other four, and there’s an amusing amount of exposition involved. We do not entirely see the planning out of what is going to happen, but there’s a short and sweet montage of what will be the musical sequences. It’s like Ocean’s Eleven, but shorter, less expository, and with music. That’s a funny subversion I noticed in the film, and while the film is reliant on its musical center pieces, it plays itself like a funny heist movie, seemingly turning those tropes on their head. You have your mild character study of the guy who’s chasing after the “criminals”, your charismatic “criminals”, and the plan set into motion. Granted, the feeling is jarring at first, but the tone is light and humorous. It is honestly one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time.

Sound of Noise’s best quality is that it presents all these ideas, assertions, opinions, and commentaries without the pretension that a lot of films privy to these subjects and techniques often have. It’s beautifully composed and constructed, with wonderful visuals. Most of all, its musical center pieces are simply astounding. However, its most winning and charming quality is its effortlessness. Sound of Noise shows that music can come from anywhere, and from anywhere it’s a wonder.


“Money 4U Honey” Clip

Dazed and Confused: Killing Them Softly

Posted on believe in “Intelligent Design”, which is to say I am somewhat a proponent of the Auteur Theory. (Holla, Andrew Sarris!) And when one becomes a semi-proponent of such a theory, they are often inclined to fall in love with the director as much as the work itself. Even if it’s only after one film, if one is so enamored by the precise style, the instantly recognize camera movements, even the name itself, Lord knows said cinephile will be in line for the next film by whatever director they’ve fallen in love with. Such was the case with Andrew Dominik, whose incredible film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford left me intoxicated. But what happens when that director, well, shall we say, seems to lose his mind in a bizarre mash-up of unclear ideas, hack-y visuality, and heavy handedness? Uh, well, you seem to get Dominik’s extremely disappointing Killing Them Softly, or, as I thought of it, I Have No Idea What I Want to Say or How to Say It.

In Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, which is based on the novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, follows a hit man (Brad Pitt), as he follows a couple of people who turned over a card game and made it look like another guy did it (said fellow played by Ray Liotta, which makes one wonder where he’s been all these years). Meanwhile, as Pitt’s hit man talks with various people in bars and cars about the approach, the reason, and the morality of the hits, the two fellows who committed the crime, Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelssohn), try, seemingly half heartedly, to avoid the new price on their heads.

I do not believe I have ever watched a film that was so incredibly heavy handed and yet had no idea what it was saying or how to say it. Prior to the official release of the film in the United States, back when it prancing around Cannes and competing for the Palme d’Or, Dominik and his team, whoever they are, decided on a fairly overt Americana theme. This Americana theme, which was not, however, very present in the trailers for the film, seems to try to set up some sort of thematic arc or thesis for the film, but, just as the film itself, it seems to be only vaguely related to the film. Throughout the film, there is a constant presence of some political figure on a TV or disembodied voice on the radio, whether it is McCain, Obama, or even W. Bush, talking about the economy. So, here lies the first problem: Less of a lesson or exercise in self reflexivity, Dominick goes for the heavy handedness outside of the direct dialogue (with the exception of certain scenes and certain pieces of dialogue), and feeds it to the audience in a very strange way. He feeds us his badly constructed lesson like a third party. A part of me would have preferred a Godardian lesson through the characters (knock on wood) as opposed to a fairly lazy attempt at chastising the American people. But, as often as these little sound bites from various political speeches featured on CNN and C-SPAN are there, and as often as they use buzz words like “Economy!” and “Fiscal” and “Community!” and “People!”, Dominik doesn’t really say anything about this. There are vague hints about why he’s trying to say something, with the hit man once or twice tip-toeing towards pontification about America being “a business” and the state of the country, but like an essay without an outline or any real thesis, the heavy handedness just seems loud, obnoxious, and vague. In a way, Killing Them Softly is like Andrew Dominik’s economically aimed, loosely neo-noir version of Dogville (whose thesis is far more clear cut, and yet excellently articulated cinematically). There’s some sort of attempt at juxtaposition in the film, with the gritty and slummy landscape of the gangsters (?) and the immaculate, expensive setting for the hit men. But, again, that try at visual cues does not translate well or effectively. There’s a hint of libertarianism, which left me sitting in the theater wondering, “Did Ayn Rand’s ghost possess Dominik or something?”

I was hoping that if the story was lackluster and all over the place, that at least the visual style would be interesting. And I guess you could call it interesting. Interesting in that it is a train wreck. While The Assassination of Jesse James’ style was refined, gorgeous, and purposefully shot (by Roger Deakins, no less), Killing Them Softly’s cinematography felt like the bastard child of J.J. Abrams, Julian Schnabel, and Guy Ritchie. Granted, some of the scenes do look good, but there is, by no means at all, any kind of consistency to the images on the screen. Nothing seems coherently placed together, its editing just as lackluster. Yes, the slow motion scene where Brad Pitt shoots someone looks pretty great (reminiscent of some of the finer scenes in Guy Ritchie’s adrenaline pumped reboot of Sherlock Holmes), but… why? With Russell’s heroin addict, some of his scenes are straight out of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. And, OH THE LENS FLARE! It’s ironic that so many of the scenes should be dictated less by any real action or purpose or even character and more by music and sound, because a short film I recently made (which you can watch here) had just that as its thesis: editing has changed, and when used poorly, can send a film into jeopardy. There’s no purpose to this visual style. There’s no reason. There’s no perspective. It’s just messy. The incoherent mess of a political allegory paired with the hodgepodge visual style… gosh, that’s two strikes.

Stylistically, regarding the plot, we hit another bump in the road. A lot of it, I assume intentionally, feels like a neo-noir. But that tonality of the film shifts, fluctuates, and doesn’t know what to do with itself. There’s a switch to something grittier, which under normal circumstances would not be inherently bad. The switch seems to be nodding to films like GoodFellas (which is sort of ironic), where the realism of the violence takes the center stage, disillusioning the audience of the romanticism they became familiar with two decades prior with The Godfather. That would be fine, you know, if it stayed that way. There’s another shift to something talkier, less noir and more “I don’t know what style I’m working with, so this is like an interstitial”. There’s some dark comedy in there for, like, two scenes. If the film had been sliced and diced into a series of vignettes, each short dedicated to its own kind of style and tone, maybe the film would work. But, as is, we get something confused. Excited, probably, but unable to know its own pace and something easily confused.

My last hope would be performances. Richard Jenkins, as a man (named Driver, for the record) who has long conversations with Pitt’s hit man, is good. Brad Pitt is fine. James Gandolfini is not very good. Ray Liotta is pretty good. Scoot McNairy is the only one who gives an enthralling performance, primarily within the first 15 minutes of the film.  But no one really seems to bring their A-game. Pitt’s hit man, with his “inconsistent” moral views (he kills people, and yet criticizes the United States) make his character more pseudo-enigmatic rather than one of true depth. There’s no real good study of any of the characters, when this kind of film from this kind of director would definitely call for it. Its script, as well, is all over the place, with big chunks of dialogue and monologue fairly unnecessary and doing nothing to a) illustrate the character in a more detailed way or b) articulate and elaborate on whatever thesis it may or may not have. But, hey, Brad Pitt looks good in sunglasses.

Killing Them Softly is a confused film: stylistically, thematically, and in a narrative sense as well. With little rhyme or reason for many of the creative decisions made, little attempt to give meaty and interesting characters, and a severe allegory that inexplicably doesn’t have any idea how to articulate its thesis well, what is their left to say? What is there left to comment? I haven’t seen Chopper, but Dominik doesn’t really establish a precise and clear voice like he did with Jesse James. It looks like Dominik, maybe trying his hand at post-modernism, spent less time killing them softly and more time killing his audience haphazardly.