Occasionally I'll settle in for a movie I originally had no intention of seeing. When I saw the trailer for Noah Baumbach's Mistress America a few weeks ago, and after giving my gag reflex a minute to settle down, I relegated it to the "NOPE" bin.
Yet sometimes the itch to just get out and go to a movie needs to be scratched, and so it was that I found myself losing my Mumblecore virginity this weekend at the geriatric matinee showing of Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's latest collaboration. Read More
It would seem nowadays as though anyone over the age of 30 with a vested interest in the movies will proudly flaunt their membership in the "Cinema is Dead and/or Dying" club. The refrains are common: sequelitis has ruined Hollywood for original projects; even the biggest-name auteurs have to beg tooth and nail outside of every Starbucks in LA for funding; and if you're a minority group, good luck seeing yourself realistically represented on the big screen. Film may be an art form, but the movies are a business, and in the absence of studio executives who know how (or simply care) to reconcile these two halves of the same coin, the most exciting, visionary, and boundary-pushing works are pushed to the sidelines at best and kept out of existence at worst.
Naturally, one might think that the solution to the lack of creativity and representation in Hollywood would be to look to foreign markets and venues. Indeed, there's plenty of exciting cinema happening in the rest of the world, and this year alone has given us gems as accessible as Ida and as obtuse as Winter Sleep. In the same breath that they condemn the Hollywood studio system for the apparently irreparable damage its left on their beloved medium, your friendly neighborhood film critic will find the room to praise one or two of these foreign imports in the hopes of expanding their readership's cinematic purview. Read More
A foggy misery blankets the entirety of Foxcatcher, the new film from Bennett Miller, purveyor of alternative Americana (see: Capote, Moneyball). This is a sports movie, but not in the sense that, say, Rocky is. Wrestling is the context, not the subject; Olympic gold medalists Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) are the ostensible subjects, but millionaire “ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist” John du Pont is the grim center of the film and the reason for its being made in the first place. Even without knowing the story of the Schultz brothers, the sense of foreboding in all of the film's marketing materials should clue you in to the vision of an American dream gone sour that Miller is here to present. Read More
By this point in his career, no one, I should hope, will argue that David Fincher doesn't know what he's doing. The man whose perverse sensibilities about the unsavory facets of humanity and the world it has built, brutal perfectionism, and knack for tracking down superb collaborators catapulted him into the A-list of auteurs working squarely within the Hollywood system has, indeed, made a movie about all of the above topics. That movie is also, indisputably, his movie; I don't think it's at all presumptuous for me to argue that Gone Girl would have bombed as a film had any other director—and any other director's cohort of editors, composers, cinematographers, and casting agents—been tasked with bringing this bestseller du jour to the big screen. Unfortunately, as much as this may be Fincher's movie, it's also very much Gillian Flynn's story, and therein lies its biggest weaknesses. Read More
Race relations and tensions are—among other hot topics—all over the news nowadays, so it seems only appropriate to have watched the debut narrative feature by the Belgian filmmaking duo Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne this weekend. La Promesse, unlike its immediate successor Rosetta (which I've waxed poetic about over here) bears the marks of your standard plot-driven film, yet the deliberateness of its screenplay never fogs the documentarian lens through which the filmmakers observe their subjects. Read More
(Mild yet unspecific spoilers lurk within.)
Surely you aren't tired of this by now: more than a year after it first premiered at Cannes to shrugs from my corner of the world, reached the eyes of several of my Georgetown friends who were quick to point out that I was missing out on something great, and won an Oscar, plus a trip to the city in question and back, at long last...THE GREAT BEAUTY! Read More
My Voyage to Italy will resume this weekend after my Greek midterm is out of the way. For now, we interrupt your regularly scheduled study abroad blog for a review of a movie I saw over spring break. Read More
It is with great regret that I write to inform you that I cannot count myself among the fans of David O. Russell's American Hustle.
Given the outstanding critical and popular response to the holiday movie du jour (or at least the one you can see with your family), I found myself over the last several days in that awful position of trying to defend my contrarian opinion on a well-liked film. "It's because I had just seen GoodFellas the night before and nothing could compare to that (especially not a movie that's so clearly indebted to it)." "I was tired and had a headache through the whole thing, so no wonder I couldn't enjoy it." "The audience was pretty much dead so that really brought down the mood in the theater."—all very valid reasons, but surely there might be something inherent to the movie that left me feeling vague and unexcited when I walked out? Read More
I'm rooting for Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, I really am. For those not from Georgetown, Marling and Batmanglij are Hoya alumni who have gotten a big break in the independent film scene with two Sundance breakout hits, 2011's "Sound of My Voice" and this year's "The East". It's cool to have recent alumni from my school, not traditionally known for producing big creative types in the entertainment industry (though we are responsible for Mitch Hurwitz and, indirectly, Arrested Development—you're welcome).
I also happen to be in the lucky position of going to Georgetown while these young filmmakers are gaining ground. Two years ago, I got to attend an advance screening of "Sound of My Voice" followed by a Q&A with Marling, Batmanglij, and classmate Mike Cahill. Not only have I gotten to hear them speak very personally and openly about their experiences making short films at Georgetown and how they ended up on the path to Sundance stardom (Zal's journey was a pretty straightforward case of going to film school to improve his directing chops and making progressively larger-scale films with regularity since graduating Georgetown; Brit on the other hand, after graduating as valedictorian of her class, bowed out of a lucrative position at Goldman-Sachs to pursue acting and screenwriting), but I've also been able to connect with them as recent graduates of this school. I know the professors they had in their screenwriting classes, I currently run the television studio/film club that Brit Marling used to preside over, etc etc. I've gotten invested in these kids' careers as filmmakers, and I'm pulling for them to succeed and make it big—without sacrificing their Georgetown-education-grounded convictions...more on that later.
All that being said, they've still got a long ways to go. Read More