Films Viewed (December 2012)

Wake in Fright, an unearthed cult film from 1970s Australia, was a study in tensions and repressions finally let out to rip. An Outback schoolteacher goes on holiday and gets himself deep into a whole heap of trouble and dark journeys. Scarily powerful thanks to all the elements cohering  especially an unhinged performance by Donald Pleasence. (The Charles)

I managed to watch four short films by Lena Dunham included on the Bluray Criterion edition of her film Tiny Furniture. Uneven but still impressive work from the brief era of the Youtube auteur. (Bluray DVD)

Police seemed, at first, as generic as its title. A French police officer investigates a crime family with plodding persistence  Then, women enter into the story and things get odd. The genre rules get thrown out the window and the fact that the script was written by Catherine Breillat becomes clear. I always enjoy a Maurice Pialat film, as I never know exactly what to expect. (Video Americain)

Holy Motors is why I go to the movies, to see and experience something new. A man goes about his job in Paris, enacting roles and scenes in an odd tribute to the particular artificial magic of film. No plot to clearly follow (a group walked out of my screening at The Charles), but plenty to puzzle over and take in. Leos Carax does not make movies often, but when he does, run, don’t walk to your local arthouse. (The Charles)

As the genre of “movies about movies” has become more and more prominent, I am always interested to check in and see how things are progressing. Hitchcock does a great job of narrativizing the making of Psycho. I found the constant filmic references to shots from other Hitchcock films disorienting, but it was a game to be played like any other in a hall of mirrors like this one.

Ever since Mod Fuck Explosion played at the Orpheum cinema, I have been meaning to see it. The underground film, borrowed from a friend, is “very 1995,” but still enjoyable in its insane way. A girl gets caught up in a gang war between mods and Asian bikers with a soundtrack featuring Unrest.

We Won’t Grow Old Together was my second Pialat of the month, thanks to guest curation by Matt Porterfield of The Charles’ revival series. A super dysfunctional, brutal relationship sputters and sparks as the action is caught in real time, a la Cassavetes. Raw and ugly, but shot through with a compelling reality. You know this couple.(The Charles)

The Woodmans has been sitting in the Instant cue for months. A balanced portrait of a family of artists, with the photography of the tragically deceased daughter Francesca given (rightly) the most time and attention. Her images are haunting and could have been taken yesterday. Drifted a bit, but remained engaging. (Netflix Instant)

Oh, what a grand mess was this version of Anna Karenina! Due to the “arty” miscalculation of setting the scenes in a decaying theater instead of in a “real” setting, the film just got jumbled up despite occasional flashes of brilliance. Also, I like Keira Knightly usually, but she just wasn’t Anna to me. Forgive my “lit teacher” problems with this adaptation. (The Charles)

Bones Brigade  An Autobiography was a well made look at the rise and (gentle) fall of the skateboarding crew. My inner middle-schooler enjoyed the look back. Surprisingly engaging and poignant. I remain vigilant for Animal Chin. Have you seen him? (Netflix Instant)

Life of Pi should have been seen in 3D ,but the option had disappeared in Baltimore City by the time I got to see it. After disaster at sea, a young Indian man gets stuck on a lifeboat with a tiger. Visually sumptuous when not caught up in its own pseudo-profoundness and “all religions are one” spirituality. (Landmark Harbor East)

Lincoln was good, a nice solid meal of a film, giving one a picture of an important moment in American history and showing the man behind the icon. It was all about the performances (by essentially every contemporary actor of note) as well as the masterful speechifying script by Tony Kushner. (Landmark Harbor East)

Magic Mike was a good time, a story of average Americans told with the right level of execution by Steven Soderbergh. Mike, a stripper, wants more out of life. My Floridian friends say the film captures Tampa perfectly. Also, there is sexy dancing if you are into that sort of thing. (Netflix)

I have continued my tradition of watching Fanny and Alexander: The Television Version: Episode One on Christmas eve. As I fell asleep, I was tuned this year into the sumptuous set design.

Sure, it’s too long. And sure, it’s indulgent. But Quentin Tarantino continues to make films that get you thinking, my friends and I engaging in vigorous analysis and debate as we left a sold-out screening of Django Unchained on Christmas day. A slave is freed and is given the ability to kill white people by a kindly bounty hunter. Jamie Foxx’s Django serves as the blunt dialogue counterpoint to Christoph Waltz’ ever-so-wordy Dr. King Shultz as they go on various adventures, the last and longest being a quest to free Django’s wife from slavery in the deep South. (Landmark Harbor East)

I am still trying to figure out how I feel about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3D 24fps. I think the film has be unfairly compared to a much-abridged animated version from my childhood which was a big favorite of my early film life.  Also, I just found Bilbo to be smug. Good, but not great. Perhaps time and re-viewings will help.. (AMC White March)

Hyde Park on Hudson was a big disappointment, too gentle and respectful. FDR’s cousin becomes involved in his inner circle the summer when the King and Queen of England visit. Bill Murray as FDR didn’t do it for me. Perhaps a film for another, older generation?. (The Charles)

The Cocoanuts is the first Marx Brothers film. A good time, if a bit to ready to be a normal film as opposed to a anarchic showpiece for the Brothers. The pacing was vaudeville rapid-fire.

This is 40, despite being overlong and overstuffed  was an interesting snapshot of what is happening to my generation as we age. A husband and wife deal with turning 40 in various messy ways. Good lines, good moments that felt real, and Paul Rudd being Paul Rudd.

I ended the year with a screening of The Bucket List at a house party. The point was to heckle, and gang did  without mercy. A good way to ring in the new year.

Total: 19 films, 4 short films (11 in theaters)

(Please note: Whenever possible, all titles are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)

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