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Showing posts from 2015

Room

"This is the story you get!"  So, occasionally,  go the timeless, peremptory final words between parent and child at story time.  In this case, the words are exchnaged between Joy (Brie Larson) and Jack Newsome (Jacob Tremplay), who looks rather like a Jill at first glance.   As it happens, there's an explanation for the boy's feminine appearance, beyond his soft features.  Jack possesses hair that probably has never had the benefit of good shampoo or a pair of scissors during his five years of life.
If you don't know the premise of Room before you sit down in the movie theater, if you haven't seen the film's typical here's-the-entire-plot-in-two-minutes-trailer, you quickly realize that "Room,"  the compact space in which Jack lives with his mother, is the only home the boy has known.  To know that Jack is newly five, as we do by the humble birthday cake (which Jack initially rejects due to its lack of candles) that is baked early in the …

99 Homes

Often pulsing with a score of ominous, insistent electronica, Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes seems an echo from the fictional side of the story telling divide opposite documentaries of tragic economic chicanery like Enron:  The Smartest Guys in the Room, Client 9 and Inside Job.  All are films, whether apparent truth or fiction, concerning themselves with the deregulation of the financial industry that found its most devastating expression in the Global Financial Crisis (the swath of destruction vast enough that we can now grant it capital letters, like a world war) of 2008 and beyond.
We're not given a specific date when we're dropped into the midst of the action, the great reversal, taking place in the U.S economy, but the setting is Orlando Florida (with unrecognizable suburbs of New Orleans standing in).  What's clear is that the economic crisis, initiated largely by a multitude of doomed mortgages, is quickly fanning and settling like a gangrenous rot.  This is quickl…

Tangerine

There are in a big city many cities happening all at once.  These simultaneous cities are overlaid,  in places intersect.  And yet they exist almost separate unto themselves, share as they might some sidewalk or stretch of asphalt with another version of the city more readily known.  Such is the Los Angeles captured and imagined by filmmaker Sean Baker in Tangerine.
The world, the city of Tangerine exists mainly in West Hollywood, not so far from those thoroughfares whose sidewalks are inlaid with stars, above the river of the 101 freeway.  But in experience, practically a planet removed from the destination of most tourists who swarm to Hollywood with a far more sterile, prepackaged experience in mind.
The Los Angeles of Tangerine is one of strip malls, cheap motels, diners and doughnut shops where all manner of business is transacted.  It's an L.A. where people actually walk and ride the bus (sorry, Ms. Didion).  Rather bleak if you look at it in a conventional way, but incon…

Mad Max: Fury Road

"I used to be a cop," says the man who only very late in the proceedings of Mad Max:  Fury Road, owns that his name is actually Max.  "Fury Road" is a kind of continuation of the Max Max franchise, some thirty years after the third film in the series, "Beyond Thunderdome" came and unceremoniously went.  However, from the first memorable Mad Max film to this most recent, there is a kind of honing of character, from a specific man with a specific job to a near-mythical character roaming, Western fashion, a dusty, post-apocalyptic world.  Not quite a man with no name, but very close.

As the Mad Max films have gotten less specific in terms of character and place (most of the desert action here was filmed in Namibia), "Fury Road's" more international cast is fitting.  So too the presence of Englishman Tom Hardy in the role of the eponymous wanderer.  Mr. Hardy's voice has drifted sonorously if a little vaguely all over the globe in roles of …

Far From The Madding Crowd

Wayfarers across the centuries, English novelist Thomas Hardy and Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg meet in the fictional country within a country of Wessex, which the novelist described in his preface to Far From The Madding Crowd as "a merely realistic dream country."  It is in the partly-real, partly-imagined Wessex and Hardy's 1874 novel that the writer and filmmaker quite amicably meet and combine their talents.  Of course, such bonhomie does not necessarily guarantee excitement, the kind of friction that often produces artistic brilliance.
This latest  (and fourth) film version of Far From The Madding Crowd demonstrates a shared feeling for landscape and a somewhat reluctant romanticism on the part of Hardy and Vinterberg.   Brought newly to the screen, Hardy's beloved novel is above all a handsome piece of work in which the visual appeal of its actors, its wardrobe and landscape are happily allowed to trump the novelist's typical fatalism and tendency t…