Friday, December 23, 2011

In Theaters: "War Horse"

I guess you could call Steven Spielberg’s War Horse “old fashioned,” but I wouldn’t deploy it as a compliment. Handsomely mounted and utterly sappy, it’s the filmmaker’s least successful picture since The Lost World: Jurassic Park; it has its moments, but they are undercut by inexplicable choices and the project’s utter solemnity about itself. And it is almost entirely undone by the comically overwrought work of composer John Williams, whom Spielberg has allowed to go completely out of control.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In Theaters: "Pina"

The subject of Wim Wenders’ new documentary is Pina Bausch (1940-2009), the German modern dance performer and choreographer, but we don’t learn all that much about her in the strict sense—there’s little in the way of facts, dates, personal details, and the like. What we discover, over the course of Pina, is a sensibility, a way of seeing the world and a way of working to convey that sensibility. There are some archival clips, shown running on a 16mm projector. There are testimonials from the dancers who learned from her, but they are stylized and brief. The bulk of the film is about her work—the dance pieces that she created and often performed in, which are presented here in a manner that is exciting and ingenious.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In Theaters: "Albert Nobbs"

“Such a kind little man,” says the hotel guest, of Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close), the headwaiter. Prim and proper, Albert is quiet, introverted, hard-working. He’s also a woman, masquerading as this man for decades, stashing away every pence he’s earned. He dreams of owning a shop—a tobacconist’s, perhaps, with a parlor in the back for tea and a girl working the counter. Ah yes, a girl. A wife. That’s where it gets complicated.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Theaters: "The Adventures of Tintin"

Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin begins with a wonderful, Pink Panther-style opening credit sequence, rendered in good ol’ reliable, traditional animation. Only problem is, that animation is far more stylistically appealing than what follows: another attempt at “performance capture animation,” the peculiar and frankly unnerving technique that has preoccupied Spielberg’s friend and frequent collaborator Robert Zemekis for the past decade or so. At risk of putting too fine a point on it, your correspondent does not care for this style—it gives everyone a weird, waxy look, their dead eyes providing a shortcut to the uncanny valley. (My “get off my lawn, you damn kids” tendencies are further amplified by the film’s uninspired 3D presentation, which adds nothing but a couple of bucks to your ticket.) So the fact that I ultimately found Tintin so utterly enjoyable in spite of my resistance to its overall style speaks volumes to its entertainment value; aesthetically pleasing or not, this is an appealing and enjoyable picture.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

This Week's Links

From The Atlantic:
2011's Biggest Movie Controversies

We film folk can get worked up pretty easily, so while we found plenty of things to get all a-tizzy about in 2011, the assembled list of 2011's film controversies doesn't exactly read like end-of-the-world, stop-the-presses stuff. But these things are important to us! We're easily excitable! Thus, ratings and posters and Oscars and Darth Vader's scream were well worth talking about—then, and now. Join us after the jump to relive some of the year's very big deals.

From The Village Voice:
Sex in a Coma: Not So Dreamy

Lee Breuer’s production of Sex in a Coma at Here is almost unbearably pretentious—a cacophony of whispers, fog, and stilted proclamations—but that’s not the problem. The problem is the utter tonal schizophrenia on display within the production, which veers uneasily from magic realism to broad comedy with little evidence of method or design. I haven’t the faintest idea how it was meant to make me feel, and unfortunately, its creators appear equally clueless.

From Flavorwire:
Open Thread: Can You Separate the Film from the Filmmaker?

Taking a gander at this week’s new releases, I see that the time has come for Carnage to open—a good thing, because it’s a crisp, disruptive dark comedy of manners with stellar performances from an ace ensemble (Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly), and a bad thing, because it’s directed by Roman Polanksi, so now we’re going to have to talk about Roman Polanski again, which is, well, a dicey proposition. It forces us to ask the question that we had to ask when The Ghost Writer came out, and The Pianist, and Death and the Maiden, and pretty much everything he’s done since he was arrested for (and later pleaded guilty to) unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old back in 1977. It’s the same question we’ve had to ask with every Woody Allen film that’s come out since his affair with companion (and mother to his biological child) Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn—30 years his junior—was revealed. It’s the same question we had to ask when Melancholia came out earlier this fall, after Lars von Trier’s notorious “O.K., I’m a Nazi” press conference at Cannes.

That question: Can you separate the film from the filmmaker?

The Year in Film: 2011′s Best Performances

For all the remakes and reboots and 3-D blockbusters, 2011 was a great year for film actors, with a wealth of terrific performances for us to choose from. What’s more, in sharp contrast to most years in recent memory, there was a bumper crop of terrific roles for great actresses—a trend that we’d like to see stick around for a while. After the jump, we’ll tell you about some of the best performances we saw this year, and why we’re still talking about them.

10 Essential ‘Community’ Episodes to Watch Over Holiday Break

Well, it’s Thursday, but there won’t be a new episode of Community tonight. Apparently, there won’t be a new episode of Community for many more Thursday nights… excuse me…

Okay, I’m back. Nothing wrong with a good morning cry. As I was saying, last week’s Christmas episode marked the final new episode until the series’ undetermined spring return to the NBC schedule, as room is cleared in the Thursday night line-up for 30 Rock’s return and various other shufflings. NBC promises (promises!) that the innovative ensemble comedy isn’t cancelled, it’s just going on a little break, but their assurances have the subtle air of a parent’s earnest insistence that no, Sir Barksalot just went to a farm in the country where he can run and play, not that he was… put to… sorry, be right back…

Right-o. Our worries about Community’s future aside, its distressing exile—along with the rerun cycle that has already taken over prime-time—and the recent addition of the entire three-season run to Hulu Plus means that the holidays are a fine time for you Greendale novices out there to catch up on what is, I believe, the finest comedy program on network television. After the jump, we’ll give you the ten episodes most worth your time.

Trailer Park: Coming Soon — Next Summer’s Blockbusters!

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. This week’s ten trailers include several peeks at next summer’s blockbusters, which are presumably rolling out in front of the big holiday releases. But there are some smaller (and stranger) titles hiding in there as well; check ‘em all out after the jump.

In Theaters: "The Artist"

The story of the transition from silent to sound cinema has been told before—most memorably in Singin’ in the Rain, but also in plays like Once in a Lifetime and between the lines of Sunset Blvd. However, the idea of telling that story in the style of a silent movie is a new one, and it is executed in Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist with wit and grace; from the opening credits, everything (the music, the font, even the aspect ratio) is just right. So is the framing and shot selection within the film itself, and the authenticity extends past the look and sound (or lack thereof); the actors also work within the broadly drawn silent movie style, and do so without condescending or laughing at it. The Artist is an aesthetic triumph; what is less certain, in retrospect, is whether it is a narrative one.