Saturday, October 1, 2011

Saturday Night Netflix: "Breaking Bad- The Complete Third Season"

By my count, there were three episodes in the third season of Breaking Bad ("One Minute," "Half Measures," and "Full Measure") in which the closing scene is literally gasp-inducing. It is neither new nor noteworthy that the series is tense--from its opening scene of its first episode, Vince Gilligan's drug drama has frequently been tautly suspenseful, almost unbearably so. But it's not just empty tension. There is an inevitability to the events as they unfold; terrible things happen, but seldom out of nowhere. One thing leads to the next that leads to the next, and so on. Late in the season, Walt chastises Jesse thus: "Jesse, your actions... they affect other people." That could very well be the show's credo.

Friday, September 30, 2011

This Week's Links

Hey, some other people ran my stuff this week too.

Politics Goes to the Movies: Contagion
(The Maddow Blog)

So I saw Contagion recently, and I can’t get it out of my head—and not just in terms of the increased frequency of my hand sanitizer usage. If you haven’t seen it (and if you haven’t, you should—it’s a taut thriller that moves as quickly and efficiently as its subject), here’s the main thing I keep circling back to: basically, it’s about how the federal government saves the day.

The Love Letter You've Been Meaning to Write New York Gets Delivered to 3LD
(The Village Voice)

As one might guess from its title, The Love Letter You’ve Been Meaning to Write New York is not for cynics. Creator-director Jonathan Solari’s multimedia piece fairly drips with earnest affection for NYC, manifested in gee-whiz dialogue and outsized portraits of city characters that are somewhat less than fresh. But the production’s genuine energy and enthusiasm will win over warmer hearts; it may be mawkish, but it’s a good time.

Open Thread: How Far Is Too Far in Film?

Fantastic Fest, the genre film festival held annually in Austin, Texas (primarily at a Flavorwire favorite, the Alamo Drafthouse), kicked off last Thursday night, with one of this year’s most notorious entries running right off the bat: The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), the clamored-for-by-no-one follow-up to the 2010 geek show (and South Park target) The Human Centipede. That film portrayed, in graphic detail, the “100% medically accurate!” (uh huh) story of a mad scientist obsessed with, um, unorthodox surgery. (I’ll just accept my “understatement of the year” award now, thanks.) The sequel is the tale of a loathsome mental case obsessed with the first film (meta!), though, by all reports, its “story” is primarily a clothesline upon which to hang writer/director/sociopath Tom Six’s depravity. About the only credible explanation for the first film’s success (or at least, success enough to warrant a sequel) is the presence of a “carnival sideshow” element in modern genre cinema, pushing moviegoers to ask themselves how much they’re willing to watch.

10 Ridiculously Long-Delayed Movies

This Friday is a day that Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo, and Allison Janney probably thought would never come: the release date of Margaret, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s long, long, long awaited follow-up to his 2000 debut film, the Oscar-nominated You Can Count on Me. Shot clear back in 2005 (and capturing Paquin pre-True Blood and Damon at around the time he shot The Departed), the picture has spent the last six years in a perpetual state of post-production, with most parties involved blaming the perfectionist writer/director, who has seemed unable or unwilling to settle on his contractually-guaranteed final cut. In celebration, we thought we’d take a look at a few other movies that took (or are taking) a bit longer than the standard one-to-two-year gestation period to make it to the big screen (or to your television).

12 of the Most Famous Banned Movies in Film History

As you may have noticed, we’re pretty excited about Banned Books Week here at Flavorwire—so much so, in fact, that we’ve been obsessing over prohibitions of other media. Since there’s no such thing as “Banned Movies Week” (yet!), we’ve assembled a dozen of the most famously banished movies of all time—here and abroad. Check ‘em out after the jump, and throw in your own in the comments.

The 10 Best Quotes from Roger Ebert’s “Times Talks” Appearance

We’ve made no secret of the fact that we’re giant Roger Ebert fans here at Flavorwire, so we certainly weren’t going to miss his rare trip from his home turf to ours, for Tuesday’s night’s installment of the New York Times’ ongoing lecture/interview series, Times Talks”—“or, in my case, Times Types,” as Ebert mused, via his computerized voice “Alex.” Because his responses were literally written, the conversation was more quotable than most. After the jump, we’ve assembled our ten favorite Ebert-isms of the night.

Trailer Park: Docs, Death, and Dolly

Welcome to “Trailer Park,” our regular Friday feature where we collect the week’s new trailers all in one place and do a little “judging a book by its cover,” ranking them from worst to best and taking our best guess at what they may be hiding. We’ve got seven new trailers this week, ranging from the joy of Elmo and Dolly to the horrors of Katherine Heigl; check ‘em out after the jump.

#NYFF Review: "Carnage"

Roman Polanski’s Carnage begins at what appears to be the end. Two pairs of parents, the Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), have met at the former’s apartment because their two sons have had a fight. We see that inciting incident at the conclusion of the opening credits, an burst of barbaric but childlike violence. The adults are very much insistent on being, well, adult about the whole thing; they’ve penned a letter and agree that the boys should meet, under some circumstance, to talk it out. The Cowans put on their coats. But they do not quite make it out the door; something keeps pulling them back in to this little confrontation, which slowly but steadily goes clean out of their control. “We’re all decent people, all four of us!” Mr. Longstreet insists, but by that point in the afternoon, he’s not even convincing himself.

#NYFF Review: "George Harrison: Living in the Material World"

Martin Scorsese’s new two-part documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World is something of a cinematic cousin to his brilliant 2005 doc No Direction Home: Bob Dylan; though it covers more material (Scorsese tackles the entirety of Harrison’s life, whereas the Dylan film only covered the first few years of his career), it does so at a comparable length and in a similar style, and with similarly marvelous results. In both cases, Scorsese is taking on an beloved subject, one about whom reams have been written and miles of film shot, yet the master filmmaker finds new ways to approach familiar material, and sly methods of humanizing the Cultural Icons at his pictures’ centers.

#NYFF Review: "A Separation"

The opening scene of Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation finds Simin (Leila Hatami) and her husband Nader (Peyman Moaadi) in front of a judge, asking for him to grant their divorce. The setting is present-day Iran. Simin wants badly to leave the country with her husband and their daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), but Nader refuses—he must stay to tend to his father, who has Alzheimer’s. She does not want to stay, not only for herself, but for her daughter: “I’d rather she didn’t grow up under these circumstances.” (“What circumstances?” the judge demands suspiciously.) The lengthy and difficult dialogue scene is played in one unbroken take, directly into the camera, which is subjectively placed in the position of the third person in the room—the camera as “judge.” But what is so fascinating about A Separation is that, for the rest of the film, Farhadi refuses to allow his camera to judge his characters. It just observes, and sees every character with empathy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In Theaters: "Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil"

Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil begins with a scene of handheld, “found footage” horror, before jumping to a group of idiot college kids camping in hillbilly country. Once they hit the woods, there are shout-outs to The Evil Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Fargo, not to mention a story of a similar group picked off in these very woods 20 years previous by killers who are still… out… there. You don’t have to be a horror movie aficionado on the lookout for those homages and quotations to enjoy Tucker & Dale, but it sure does help.

In Theaters: "50/50"

50/50 is a serious-minded comedy about cancer, and writer Will Reiser and director Jonathan Levine’s greatest accomplishment is that it starts out being a good movie in spite of that premise, and ends up being a great one because of it. That’s a neat trick, if you can get away with it. It disarms you with its irreverence and candor; it distracts you with a romantic subplot that shouldn’t work, but does. And then, at its conclusion, it reveals itself as a genuinely emotional heartbreaker, and it wrings you out. Resier and Levine are a couplea sneaky bastards.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On DVD: "The Tempest"

The thing you’ve got to recognize going into any Julie Taymor movie is that a certain and sizable percentage of the crazy shit she tries just simply isn’t going to work. The Tempest is her fourth theatrical film, following Titus, Frida, and Across the Universe—all pictures with moments of achingly pure beauty and truth, all pictures with moments so goofy as to provoke inappropriate laughter. The good-to-bad ratio varies, and always tips in favor of the good (I’d say Frida is about 90-10, while Universe is more like 60-40), but it’s there. One presumes that the kind of risk-taking and experimentation that yield the good are the direct result of the freedom that brings about the bad. This is based purely on my own conjecture, of course.

In Theaters: "You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo"

Upon hearing the title You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantanamo, one presumes it to be some sort of clever quotation A Few Good Men, the 1992 courtroom drama that centered on Gitmo a decade before it became an international cause célèbre. But it’s not; “You don’t like the truth” is the desperate cry of Omar Khadr, the 16-year-old Guantanamo detainee whose interrogation tapes are the focus of Luc Côté and Patricio Henriquez’s tense and upsetting documentary.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lewis Black, Meet the Westboro Baptist Church

Welcome to Kansas, Lew.

When comedian and Daily Show correspondent Lewis Black arrived in Topeka, Kansas Friday night, he tweeted, “I am standing on the edge of a life-changing experience.” The picketing of his performance at the Topeka Performing Arts Center by our old friends at the Westboro Baptist Church might not qualify as “life-changing,” but it certainly provided material for his Twitter feed (and presumably his performance that night). But why on earth was the extended Phelps family there?

On TV: "Catching Hell"

No single entity is producing more great documentaries these days than ESPN Films (here’s where I throw in the required mention of their 30 for 30 series), and no filmmaker is directing more great documentaries than Alex Gibney (whose recent output includes Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Client-9, and a segment of Freakonomics), so it should come as no surprise that their collaboration, Catching Hell, is so unabashedly terrific—a potent stew of everything that is great about both parties.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On DVD: "L’Amour Fou"

Maybe I’m just not the audience for L’Amour Fou. I will admit to the vast indifference of my feelings toward the world of high fashion; I’m a guy who favors hoodies and jeans and movie poster T-shirts, so a biographical profile of one of the biggest names in haute couture was probably not created with me in mind. But I’ve been riveted by documentaries concerning subjects of little to no interest before. This is not one of those times.