“That's the kind of person she is”: Mistress America (Noah Baumbach, 2015)

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.

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Will the Real Film Lovers Please Stand Up?

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.

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Reviewed: Gone Girl (Fincher, 2014; Spoiler-free)

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.

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