Saturday, January 14, 2012

This Week's Links

From Salon:
“Reality” Conquers the Movies

Almost 13 years ago, attendees of the Sundance Film Festival left the midnight screening of a low-budget horror film called “The Blair Witch Project” and gulped in the cold Utah air, shaken and invigorated. “The lucky ones who saw it at Sundance,” Michael Atkinson wrote a decade later, “not knowing a thing about it, at the legendary late-night showing and then (emerging) into the mountain nighttime, could make millions bottling that experience.”

From The Atlantic:
10 Great Sports Films for People Who Don't Watch Sports

When you have to keep an obsessive eye on film, music, books, visual art, television, the Internet, and all other manner of popular culture, something eventually has to give, and for us—well, for this author, anyway—it’s sports. An almost-complete disinterest in professional and collegiate sporting events can make one feel a bit of an outcast (and it certainly makes for a confusing Facebook feed; apparently some guy who’s really into Jesus won something important on Sunday?), but after faking it through high school and college, I can’t pretend to care anymore. Maybe it makes me a pencil-necked geek, but the idea of spending three hours watching a football going to and fro—particularly when there are still Hitchcock movies I haven’t seen—is simply unacceptable.

However, many of the same film fans who are patently disinterested in a Sunday afternoon of TV sports will gladly spend that same time planted in front of a sports-themed movie—basically the same thing, albeit with better camera angles and a scripted ending. (And the angles are the only difference in a wrestling movie, HA HA!) And that’s fine with this viewer; as I told a friend after its release, “I’d watch football every week if it looked like Any Given Sunday.” But cinephiles more sport-phobic than I (and they’re out there!) might prefer films that keep the game play squarely off-screen. In honor of today’s DVD release of Moneyball, one of the best of the bunch, we offer ten genuinely good movies about sports that are notable for their minimal sports action. Check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

10 Great Documentaries About Famous Films

One of our most anticipated titles at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is Room 237, a new documentary by Rodney Ascher. According to Entertainment Weekly, it posits an intriguing two-part conspiracy theory. First, it holds that Kubrick “directed” the faked Apollo moon landings while shooting 2001—itself a mere cover for his bigger job. (This one’s been floating around for years—hell, it inspired its own “mockumentary,” Dark Side of the Moon.) But here’s the kicker: the movie also contends that, since Kubrick would have faced dire consequences if he ever revealed his involvement in the moon landing, he instead smuggled clues into The Shining, using his Stephen King adaptation as a giant coded message to tell the world about the ruse.

“It’s a film-nerd love-fest,” according to Sundance programmer Trevor Groth. “These obsessive people dissect The Shining, and they’ve watched it thousands of times, all finding their own coded meaning and language in it.” Reading about Room 237, and salivating for it, got us thinking about some of our other favorite “film-nerd love-fests”; after the jump, we’ve compiled ten of our favorite documentaries about famous films.

From Flavorwire:
10 Great Silent Sequences in Sound Movies

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s delightful mash note to the silent cinema, is looking like a sure bet for heavy recognition at this year’s Oscars, racking up three SAG Award nominations, five Independent Spirit Award nominations, and six Golden Globe nominations, in addition to awards for best film of the year from the Boston Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Phoenix Film Critics Society, and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. It’s easy to see why film critics in particular have taken to it: it evocatively tells the story of the end of the silent era as a silent movie, complete with black-and-white photography and period music (even using the traditional 1.33:1 aspect ratio).

But it’s not the first sound-era film to ape the silent style; aside from Chaplin’s final silent pictures, done well after sound had taken over, there’s Mel Brooks’s 1976 slapstick tribute Silent Movie, and Charles Lane’s 1989 indie Sidewalk Stories. What’s more, countless sound directors have used silent storytelling techniques to great effect, eschewing dialogue (and sometimes even sound effects) to work through their narrative beats via purely visual means. After the jump, we’ve assembled ten great “silent” scenes from the sound era; add your own in the comments.

Open Thread: What Is Your Pop Culture Soft Spot?

Last week in this space, we invited you to share your pop culture “cold spot”—the thing that everyone, it seems, loves but you. Come to find out, boy oh boy did a lot of you want to get that little nugget off your chest; the comments were voluminous, as previously-closeted detractors of Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the Grateful Dead, Buffy, Bjork, Twilight, the Black Keys, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Lady Gaga, Dylan, and The Wire (okay, c’mon, seriously?) proclaimed their distaste for the tastemakers’ faves. For this week, we thought we’d turn the idea on its head. There’s plenty of stuff out there that you’re supposed to dislike; which of those trends do you buck?

Sifting Through the Weird New Rules for Oscar’s Documentaries

The Academy Award for Best Documentary has always been, let’s face it, problematic. For decades the Documentary branch was notorious for snubbing, on an almost yearly basis, any doc that’d had the good fortune of actually accomplishing box office success; some of the most acclaimed nonfiction feature films of recent years (including Grey Gardens, The Thin Blue Line, Roger & Me, and Sherman’s March) weren’t even nominated for the award. In 1994, amidst charges of unfair rules and cronyism, the critical outcry following the snubs of Hoop Dreams and Crumb prompted the Academy to change, at long last, the way it nominated and voted on documentary films. The new rules certainly improved matters, and well-regarded, deserving pics like The Fog of War, Man on Wire, and Inside Job won the award.

Trailer Park: Coming of Age and Going to War

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 for you this week; check ‘em all out after the jump.

Saturday Night Netflix: "Trust"

David Schwimmer’s Trust begins with a family scene so low-key and intimate as to immediately disarm the viewer. It is the 14th birthday of Annie (Liana Liberato), and everything seems perfect: she’s just started high school, she’s going out for volleyball, and she has a strong family that loves her. Her father Will (Clive Own) is a successful ad exec, her mother Lynn (Catherine Keener) is kind and supportive, she gets along with her older brother and younger sister. And she has a crush on a very cute boy.

His name is Charlie, and they met in a chat room. He’s a couple of years older, a junior, but he’s sweet and funny, and he gives her some good advice as she’s prepping for tryouts. And then he makes a confession: he’s actually 20. Later, come to find out, he’s actually 25. (Their Internet conversations are shown as on-screen text, a wise move that avoids awkward voice-over.) “Y do you keep lying to me?!?!” she demands, but Charlie has a way of saying just the right thing to smooth things over—even when, against her better judgment, she meets him in a mall and discovers a man who is clearly in his mid-to-late 30s. “Forget about the age stuff, “ he tells her. “It’s me, Charlie.” He talks about her “maturity” and their “connection,” that she’s his “soul mate,” “wise beyond your years.” This, clearly, is not his first time doing this.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

In Theaters: "The Divide"

About midway through Xavier Gens’s The Divide, there comes a scene where one character, bound to a wheelchair, is moved into a small room. The character who moves him has just helped cut off the bound gentleman’s finger. He parks the wheelchair, squats in front of it, and defecates. “Now you don’t have to be in here alone,” he snorts—not even a good line—and slams the door behind him. Hey, look, it’s only the second week of January, and we’ve already hit the cinematic low point of 2012.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On TV: "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory"

The long, strange, horrible story of the West Memphis Three finally comes to a close in Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s final chapter in the documentary trilogy that, after 18 years, released three innocent men from prison and saved one of their lives. Not since Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line has a documentary film so directly impacted the judicial system, and even Morris’s masterpiece didn’t muster up the kind of relentless public outcry as the continuing saga of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Miskelly, who spent nearly two decades behind bars for the brutal murders of three Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Just a Quick Thought on All The Awards 'Tree of Life' Is Winning/Has Won

"I would like to suggest that the educated audience often uses 'art' films in much the same self-indulgent way as the mass audience uses the Hollywood 'product,' finding wish fulfillment in the form of cheap and easy congratulation on their sensitivities and their liberalism."

-Pauline Kael, 1961