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Showing posts from January, 2015

Whiplash

More a matter of motion sickness, I'm afraid.  Miles Teller thrashes his drum kit till he's a sweaty, bloody mess.  J.K.  Simmons gesticulates, glowers and spews vitriol in a near scat.  All the while, writer and director Damien Chazelle observes all this like an over-excited spectator at a tennis match.  So it goes in Whiplash, from the first to last frenetic touch of drum sticks upon snare.

Young Andrew Neiman (Teller)  is a first-year student at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory in New York City.  First we hear then eventually espy the solitary drummer down a hallway, before the camera proceeds into the rehearsal room in which he is working a drum kit in determined fashion.  In steps the imposing figure of Terence Fletcher (Simmons), causing Andrew to stop abruptly and stand.  "You know what I do?," the older man asks.  Yes, the young man desperate for greatness and fame (if not necessarily in that order), is quite aware that Fletcher conducts the conservatory&#…

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

A girl does frequently walk home alone at night in Ana Lily Amirpour's debut feature.  Sometimes she glides, on a comandeered skateboard, down urban thoroughfares blasted solitary, through ghostly suburban streets.  All of these nocturnal movements taking place in the Iranian nether world called Bad City.   But like so much about Ms. Amirpour's original and assured narrative twisting, the last person whose safety we need worry about in Bad City is the young woman in the striped shirt and flowing chador.
The writer and director has apparently described her film as an "Iranian vampire spaghetti western." Such are the cultural mash-ups that emerge from the speech and upbringing of Ana Lily Amirpour.  Her description might sound like a bizarre story pitch, but it's fairly apt.  More unlikely than the concept is how well she makes it work.
Like the westerns of Sergio Leone and others, Amirpour has taken an American genre, shaken it up and let it settle on unfamiliar…

Foxcatcher

After a less than rousing speaking engagement at a local elementary school, Olympic gold medal wrestler Mark Schultz returns to his compact car and heads home, first stopping at a fast food restaurant, one of whose greasy offerings we seem him greedily scarf.  Home is a second floor apartment in one those mock Tudor apartment buildings whose fooling nobody pretense of exposed timbers against whitewashed walls herald the flimsy construction and dreary rooms to be found within.  Mark Schultz occupies one such ill-lit dwelling, a wall of which is dominated by a shelving unit devoted to the wrestler's many ribbons, medals and trophies.  The most prized, of course, being that Olympic gold that he returns to a central place of honor in its box, almost petting the memento as if to apologize for the affront it faced at school.  
Despite his lofty position in the sport of wrestling, Mark Schultz's life could hardly involve less fanfare, less luxury, as seen early on in Foxcatcher.  It …