December 12, 2006

Shorts, 12/12.

Volver "[F]ilm culture is undergoing a radical shift," argues Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE. "Aside from Pedro Almodóvar, few international directors generate the sort of public interest they once garnered. The vast majority of foreign-language films receive diminutive releases across the US, and more and more editorial space and art-house screens are devoted to the studio divisions' bigger English-language films and documentaries." And yet, all is not lost: "[T]echnology's greatest gift to film culture may be the blogosphere, which has seemingly ignited a passionate audience for auteur cinema around the country."

On another note: We may be seeing a few subtitled films outside of the Foreign Language category in the Oscar race this year.

"Among the new films I've seen in the past couple of years, I find that a significant proportion are animated. I don't think that's because I prefer animated films but because these days they are among the best work being created by the mainstream industry. Why would that be?" Kristin Thompson wonders. "There are probably a lot of reasons, but let me offer a few."

Zoe Williams reads between the frames to find the political subtext of eleven popular animated films.

Also in the Guardian, Ryan Gilbey and his old movie posters and Tim Lott, who once suffered a bout of depression himself, explains that Hollywood rarely treats the mental illness realistically because it's essentially "boring. Depressives are toxic and dull. Manic depressives are irritating... [D]ramatic narrative and the reality of mental illness rarely go hand in hand."

Automatons Fernando F Croce: "With its druggy wanderings and inscrutable reveries, El Topo would be part of the revolutionary, post-60s movement of Glauber Rocha's Antonio das Mortes and Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie if its private mythology didn't belong so obviously to its maker's acid subconscious." Also at Slant, We Are Marshall presents a "disingenuously tidy portrait" of grief, writes Nick Schager. And Ed Gonzalez on Automatons: "Though [director James Felix] McKenney is a nostalgia wanker, his battles... soar to trippy and novel heights of DIY experimental filmmaking that feel anything but old."

Back at indieWIRE, Michael Joshua Rowin reviews the "too-earnest drama" Home of the Brave, "the first major fiction film about the Iraq War and its effect on those fighting it." Matt Singer at IFC News, where he also reviews Venus: "Rarely I have been so equally touched and repulsed by a film."

Like Newsweek's David Ansen, Time's Richards Corliss and Schickel preview the biggest boulders of the holiday avalanche:

  • "It's great to see a movie musical with a smart sense of the genre. All Dreamgirls lacks is the amazing energy and passion of the original." More from Ed Gonzalez in Slant: "Given [director Bill] Condon's talent for charting the way the past affects the present, the mediocrity of Dreamgirls is particularly flabbergasting." Related: Jason Solomons profiles Eddie Murphy for the Observer.

Letters From Iwo Jima
  • "Whereas [Flags of Our Fathers] became a story of manufactured heroism, [Letters From Iwo Jima] is a poignant dirge for the defeated.... And like Flags, Letters offers a metaphor for the war in Iraq." More from David Poland: "For Eastwood, this film is another significant step, as he puts away the broken, often abusive or murderous anti-hero and really makes a film about the other men who have, in Eastwood's films, been under the control of the bigger-than-life men." Nick Schager in Slant argues that "it is Letters' departures from its precursor that make it a superior, if still somewhat flawed, work."

  • The Pursuit of Happyness: "Do we care about Gardner and son? Oddly, we do, because they are so appealingly played. What more might we wish for them? A movie that's a lot less repetitive." More from Nick Schager in Slant: "[D]irector Gabriele Muccino... predictably milks Chris's tumultuous fall and rise for every last drop of calculating, teary sentimentality."

  • The Good Shepherd: "Robert De Niro's movie (skillfully written by Eric Roth) is a very persuasive and thoughtful study of how the youthful and more muscular scions of the Wasp patriciate imposed their values, their sense of entitlement, on the US and what that endeavor cost us - and the patricians.... [I]ntricate, understated but ultimately devastating." More from Variety's Todd McCarthy; and Jeffrey Wells. Related: Ryan Stewart's junket report for Cinematical and David Carr tries to get more than just a few words with De Niro.

  • Curse of the Golden Flower: "This is high, and high-wire, melodrama. It's less soap opera than grand opera, where matters of love and death are played at a perfect fever pitch."

  • The "fitfully engrossing" Blood Diamond: "DiCaprio, here as in The Departed, proves himself the most watchful and watchable actor of his age."

  • Miss Potter "is an honorable and curiously winning film."

  • Breaking and Entering "is handsomely mounted and well played... but somehow it never draws one into its schemes."

  • Notes on a Scandal "is melodrama trying to pass itself off as a slice of realistic life."

Also in Time: Jeffrey Ressner interviews Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

More interviews:

Jean-Pierre Gorin picks his top ten Criterion DVDs.

Lubitsch in Berlin Michael Atkinson at IFC News on 4: "[T]his is a raging, unsettling, rule-incinerating monster of a movie, treating the rules of orthodox narrative like toilet paper and engaging in irreverent structuralist hijinks that'd be hilarious if in fact the film wasn't chilling to the bone." Also: "The new Kino set Lubitsch in Berlin contains five films on four discs, each as beautifully designed and wittily executed as the next. This is what comedy looked like during the era of German Expressionism - positively Burtonesque (split the difference between Beetlejuice and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), satiric of Art Deco and teeming with startling compositions, none of which ever impedes on the yucks."

"Happily, the Siren can report that Viridiana still knocks her sideways. It has been dissected many times, by critical minds more refined than hers, but the Siren wants to tell you about why she loves this rather bleak, but utterly brilliant film."

Bilge Ebiri on the (mostly) forgotten The Dion Brothers: "The film's intense climax, a go-for-broke, bewilderingly chaotic shootout set inside a hotel while it's being simultaneously demolished, is still eye-popping after all these years and could hold its own with any action film today. As he proved with Cleopatra Jones, [Jack] Starrett had a unique ability to film complex action scenes."

Dave Kehr in the New York Times on the extended cut of Bugsy: "With the seamlessly restored shots and sequences, the picture plays much more smoothly and inexorably than it did in the edited version." They All Laughed, The Conformist and 1900 are also recommended.

At PopMatters, Violet Glaze recommends The Apartment, "a Christmas movie for the sick-of-Santa set, directed by that master of twinkle-eyed cynicism Billy Wilder."

Rediscovering Jacques Feyder Jared Rapfogel on Image Entertainment's box set, Rediscover Jacques Feyder: "All three films also find Feyder exploring the medium's ability to render subjective perceptions and interior psychological states." Also at Stop Smiling: Kathryn Knight interviews Greil Marcus.

Matt Zoller Seitz on Apocalypto: "It's impossible to say whether Gibson is straining after the mythic and settling for the cartoonish or if his filmmaking sensibility is so conditioned by his long stint as an R-rated action superstar that he just can't help reverting."

Bill Nichols, author of Introduction to Documentary and Representing Reality, "proposes six types - or modes - of documentary," which Girish has been rolling over in his mind for the past several days.

"Anorexia is the most deadly mental disorder; up to 20 percent of sufferers die from related complications. Some even court it: 'I just want to be thin,' says Alisa 'If it takes dying to get there, so be it.'" Jessica Clark on Thin for In These Times.

Yahoo! launches a Talent Show.

Online reading and listening tip. "[I]ndependent musicians are becoming increasingly more accessible and willing to share both their tunes and time with fans at the quick click of an email," writes Noralil Ryan Fores. "From effervescent pop music to heartbreaking folk, [MovieMaker] dug around to uncover a selection of independent music that is well-deserving of screen time."

Online listening tip. A very film-y edition of the BBC's Start the Week.

Online viewing tip. James Israel has video of Michel Gondry solving Rubik's Cube in less than two minutes. With his feet. Seriously.

Online viewing tips. Destiny at 10 Zen Monkeys: "2006 finds Santa visiting some very naughty children playing with YouTube, digital editing software, and a wicked imagination." A few of them probably cross into NSFW territory. Also: Steve Robles examines "The Evolution of the Christmas Special."

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Posted by dwhudson at December 12, 2006 8:24 AM