Every December, Americans celebrate the holiday season with a number of televised Christmas traditions: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, even WPIX’s yule log. The French celebrate a different way, specifically with Le Père Noël est une ordure, a wildly popular anti-holiday comedy that the Museum of Modern Art has retitled as “Santa Stinks.”
The 10th Victim, a 1965 comedic thriller screening at MoMA this Sunday as part of its “Italian Treasures” series, ostentatiously takes cues from the surreal films of Federico Fellini (one of Victim’s protagonists lives at 149 Lungotevere Fellini). But it’s not really Felliniesque after a point.
People see movies for all kinds of reasons: they like the director, the plot interests them, they love robots, they love romantic comedies, they love vampires, or maybe it's because it's the only thing playing at the one time they happen to be available. Sometimes, though, the only reason to see a movie is because of a miracle performance at the center of it. There are performances that are good, and there are performances that are even great, and then there are performances that are events. Meryl Streep's performance as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady is an event.(3)
In the Sundance hit Pariah, a coming-of-age drama about a teenage lesbian who tries to lose her virginity while seeking her parents’ acceptance, the teenager gets the last word in every confrontation. That's pretty much all you need to know about this movie.
What the audience sees, I think, is the result of writer-director Dee Rees trying hard to a sensitive movie. But she's got an awfully heavy hand.
Near the end of Steven Spielberg's epic World War I melodrama War Horse, a German soldier and a British soldier venture out into no man's land, alone, to rescue a horse caught in the barbed wire.
The British soldier has waved a white flag. The German brings some wire cutters. The devastated landscape looks like hell on earth. The massive armies massed on either side of the battle line hover in silence as the two enemies work together to cut the horse out of its prison. The British soldier takes the wounded horse back to the British side, and the German soldier returns to his side, and then, after that breather, the war continues.(2)
Deep End, which screens through Thursday at BAM Cinemathek, is a snapshot portrait of the libidinal awakening of a shy British 15-year-old named Mike (John Moulder-Brown). It’s a coming-of-age movie as imagined by Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski.
Superficially, Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, a new animated movie featuring life-like motion-capture technology, looks like Indiana Jones re-imagined as a boy’s adventure story.
An amalgamation of a couple of comic stories written and illustrated by Tintin’s Belgian creator Hergé, Adventures is a propulsive but studiously faithful action adventure. By and large, the film plays out like a series of ceaselessly inventive chase scenes. Cock-eyed Dutch angles and swooping pans and crane shots are the norm as the characters move ceaselessly from one set piece to the next.
Who will watch Redline, a new animated science fiction film from Japan?
Redline, which gets a limited roadshow engagement in New York starting this Friday, was not directed or animated by Hayao Miyazai, nor does it have an overwhelming cult following like some other anime films do. Also, last time I checked, director Takeshi Koike was still alive. These are the three criteria that contemporary anime need to be taken seriously by American media.(3)
It's not easy to make a bad new Muppet movie. So the fact that The Muppets is as underwhelming as it is is actually quite something.
This is particularly disappointing considering how much energy star and co-writer Jason Segel (co-writer and star of Forgetting Sarah Marshall) invested in his performance, and in his promotion of the film. Segel clearly had a blast working on and selling The Muppets. But it turns to be a maudlin and uninspired tribute to Jim Henson’s mirthful puppets and their Vaudeville style of humor. How did that happen?(5)
Has it only been six years since Team America: World Police was excreted onto the big screen? It feels a lot longer, possibly because “South Park” co-creators Trey Park and Matt Stone’s proudly juvenile musical comedy is so proudly superficial. That’s part of its charm: The film takes equal time to skewer both Dubya-era conservatives and empty-headed “unpatriotic” armchair liberals because, well, all loud people are dumb, OK?(2)
The latter-day canonization of Tim Burton as a respected member of the artiste community could not have come at a worse time in his career.
Last year, Burton, whose version of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory screens this Sunday at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, was the chairman of the main competition jury at the Cannes Film Festival. Burton was also the subject of a massive multi-media exhibit at Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art, where his sketches, paintings and films, among other artifacts and paraphernalia, were lovingly displayed.
Unfortunately, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland flopped out into theaters in 2010, too. Burton had been flirting with adapting Lewis Carroll’s fantastical adventure novel for a little more than twenty years. Finally, when he committed to the project, he sucked the ever-loving life out of it. They love him! We hate him.
The public reception of almost every film Burton has made recently, from the miscalculated but not disastrous Planet of the Apes reboot to Alice in Wonderland, has ranged from lukewarm to sharply hostile, from fans and critics alike.
A few weeks ago, respected short-story writer, essayist and science fiction author Harlan Ellison sued the creators of In Time, a new science fiction film written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1M0NE) and starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.
Ellison, a writer who is rightfully proud of the lengths he’ll go to to protect his intellectual property, attempted to prevent the release of In Time, claiming that it shamelessly rips off “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Tick Tock Man,” Ellison’s own short story.
In Ellison’s story, an impish rebel named Harlequin, jokingly modeled after Ellison himself, rebels against a futuristic society where the time that people have left in their lives is methodically monitored and even policed by the government. Residents in Ellison’s future have internal clocks that get processed by “The Master Time Keeper,” a heartless martinet that never hesitates before punishing tardy civilians by robbing them of precious hours or even years of their lives.(2)
The poster for Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous demands excitedly, “Was Shakespeare a fraud?” The breathlessness sets the tone for the entire movie.
Emmerich, director of 2012 and Independence Day, and not known for subtlety, presents Anonymous as not only a political thriller and literary whodunit, but a portrait of a country on the verge of civil war, with CGI troops gathering outside CGI London, long-haired scheming Earls (who all look alike) playing racquetball, and an angry mob charging the Tower.(4)
Harold Camping, the 89-year-old evangelist and serial doomsayer, previously announced that the Rapture would occur on May 21st. He has since said that he was mistaken and that the Rapture is actually now scheduled for October 21st. So the third annual Doomsday Film Festival and Symposium this weekend at 92YTribeca couldn’t be timed any better, really.(1)
Japanese poet-turned-filmmaker Sion Sono is an acerbic and cynical artist whose works are all personal, complex and fiercely independent.
Most Americans who are familiar with his work know him for one of two films he directed.
If you remember the recent bygone days of the J-Horror craze, when films like The Ring and The Grudge seemed to be everywhere, you might know Sono as the guy who made Suicide Club, a freakishly smart and also seriously unnerving horror-mystery. Noriko’s Dinner Table, a companion and quasi-sequel to Suicide Club, screens this Friday night at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan.
If you don’t care about Japanese horror films, you probably know Sono as the director of Love Exposure, a four-hour epic love story about two alienated teens whose families and respective religious faiths disintegrate before they learn to become self-aware and self- reliant.