Monday, January 04, 2016

My Top Ten Movies of 2015

Tough year movie wise I didn't get out as much as I'd a liked and it is not like the studios send me screeners or anything.... Welcome to Me starring Kristen Wiig all but overlooked little comedy about a spectrumy veterinary nurse who hits the lottery and tries to conquer television. Its not perfect but it made me want to see more projects written & produced by Kristen Wiig. Archie's Betty: Orson Welles tried to solve the mystery of William Randolph Hearst, Gerry Peary's self produced documentary confines itself to figuring who inspired the Archie Comics Character Betty Cooper.... Trainwreck: If she doesn't end up following John Belushi's example to the bitter end, Amy Schumer might be the one to finally bust the gender barrier in raucous r-rated comedies, she is a stand up who can write and act, those are the necessary qualities in American Comedy Films... Best of Enemies: Gore Vidal versus William F. Buckley a veritable war in heaven between opposing elites and documentary I saw all year. Black Mass: Johnny Depp's comeback as Whitey Bulger it's the first time I've seen Depp's real face in a decade da sumbitch can act in a straight part I mean WHO KNEW?? The Martian: starring Matt Damon best science fiction movie I saw all year, good spectacle good acting...everything big ticket sci fi should be at the movies. The Bridge of Spies: I've always thought the 1960 U-2 Spy Plane Incident needed it's own film adaptation and it takes a Steven Spielberg AND a Tom Hanks to deliver on something like that.... Spotlight: In the words of the late Orson Welles "It's All True" (except the parts about BC High....) Joy: Jennifer Lawrence is fast becoming one of those actresses who can indeed be in bad films, but she is seldom BAD in bad films....besides I liked David O. Russell's conceit to lightly fictionalize Joy Mangano's rise to glory on the Home Shopping Network and anyway for once the family unit came in for some just criticism.... The Hateful Eight: "TARANTINO IS BACK BAY-BEE!!!" If there is a takeaway this year is that I came down in favor of studio product for the most was that kind of a year...whut kin I say?

Saturday, January 02, 2016

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015)

I Liked This Movie...I did not love it, I'm not sure a Star Wars sequel is possible that would fully engage the enthusiasm I had for the whole mishaugas back in 1977 when I was ("gulp") fifteen years old. Of course the generally positive experience is strongly tempered by the fact that the whole stupid franchise has been so painfully compromised by the infamous George Lucas driven prequels that the bar has been set unnaturally low...almost anything J.J. Abrams turned in would have been an improvement. Which is funny...because in some ways he does a weird mirror image of his reimagination of Star Trek, there he bolding recast and reimagined the Federation Universe and then was content to connect the dots with mediocre scripts that largely ignored referencing the original cast (save a poignant benediction from the Late Leonard Nimoy). Here Abrams is much more reliant on the as many of the original players as can be patched together & thrown up on the screen in the hopes that the new cast can acquire the lustre of the originals via osmosis. It might work...but it depends on relationships and motivations getting explained down the line, and this is J.J. Abrams who is almost a great director save for his maddening tendency to fall back on safe secure tropes and other words he might not come thru at the end of the day. Which is a shame I like Daisy Ridley's Rey ( a scavenger turned Force Adept whose lineage is...sigh....obscure and ominous), she might evolve into the kick ass female the franchise desperately needs but I suspect at the end of the day Abrams won't take the chances to deliver the franchise over to that character. As for her lineage....I suspect she is Luke's abandoned daughter (just as Luke was abandoned in infancy) and she is being set up with her eee-vil cousin for a showdown somewhere in the numberless sequels to come. That is IF Abrams doesn't chicken out and he may well do that as his record gives me little cause for hope. Well...I've indulged enough spoilage for one blog post...let me just say it was great to see an visibly aging Harrison Ford suit up once more as the perpetually in over his head Han Solo. And let me just observe in a broad general way that there is nothing like a Good Talking Too From Dad to Get A Kid In From Off a Ledge or off a teensy little catwalk. :)

"The Hateful Eight" (2015)

Someday when the Critical Establishment stops crying into their beers about The Death of Film Criticism....they are gonna wake up and realize that improbably enough Quentin Tarantino was and is, Samuel L. Jackson's very Muse. Because somehow Jackson seems incapable of turning in a bad performance in any capacity in a Tarantino even if it's a featured cameo or a voice over....the wonders just issue from the Man. Granted at the end of the day, Tarantino is what they used to call "An Actor's Director", ergo an auteur with the dual gift for casting the right artists and then extracting their very best on film. And Tarantino can do that miracle with established players like Jackson, aging icons like Bruce Dern, he even has a special talent for rescuing the once celebrated from obscurity (John Travolta, Jennifer Jason Leigh)...hell the man came within an ace of making Stunt Woman Zoe Bell into a legit movie star....and he may yet push her into the ranks yet! AND THAT is my experience with "The Hateful Eight" in a nutshell it's a superbly cast carefully paced cinema experience lovingly shot on 70mm panavision...its currently playing in a "RoadShow" capacity with an intermission and no previews at the Somerville Theatre, SEEK OUT that configuration for the maximum enjoyment. This is a bracing return to form, a real performance driven western action-drama and real step up after the plateau experience of "The Inglorious Bastards" & "Django Unchained"....both were good films but neither broke any creative grounds at least as far as Tarantino is concerned as an artist. There is a lot of palaver out there about the too free use of "The N Word" especially in this film and in "Django Unchained" but in both cases Tarantino is revisiting racist cultures and doesn't ask us to forgive or overlook any of their particular sins....physical or rhetorical. Which is funny to me in a grim way because "The Hateful Eight" seems mired in female-abuse Jennifer Jason Leigh is repeatedly beaten thrown out of stage coaches, shot at, roughed up, verbally harangued and otherwise traumatized....but then 1878 was a sexist ugly time and Tarantino is not celebrating that aspect of the culture, he seems fairly horrified by it quite frankly. My other big takeaway is the really explicit amount of gore, in truth Tarantino has never been a gore hound (despite an undeserved reputation in this area). Nevertheless this time where the entire cast is trapped in a Wyoming Road House during a blizzard the sheer confines literally compel a classically Hershel Gordon Lewisian approach to gunshot trauma. Score one for Tarantino for figuring out that unpleasant little fact. In short I loved it, I loved the presentation the whole seemingly languid exercise, Tarantino is a friend to cinema my only complaint is that he seems hell bent on composing bookends to vanished genres ("Epic Blacksploitation, "Panavision Color Westerns", "ShitHouse Americans Kicking Ass War Movies")...I'm starting to wish he'd try to work his way back to a contemporary context. On the other hand....if he has more like "The Hateful Eight" up his sleeve, then Quentin stay in the past, don't come back take a second look at Biker Movies and Beach Party Musicals!! Have At It!