Shopgirl

Film, 2005

Sorry Claire Danes, there is no room for you in Steve Martin’s cold, rich heart. 2


Daddy Longlegs

Film, 2009

I’m not sure if I’m able to objectively write about Daddy Longlegs, but I could stand to spend some time hitting the ol’ journal examining what it did to me personally. The protagonist seems like a personification of people of a certain disposition’s worst fears of fatherhood. A father with genuine love for his kids, but whose complete ignorance of responsibility causes him to make awful (and I mean awful) parenting decisions. (But you would be wrong to think that the filmmakers were working through these insecurities. The film is actually based on the memories of filmmakers the Josh and Bennie Safdie brothers.) Every wrong turn he makes is a harder punch to the gut. The film draws you in on two fronts; a great performance by it’s lead actor, a bad father whose charm and love for his children makes you want him to succeed, and a lo-fi, intimate style of filmmaking. While watching a movie shot on grainy old film is bound to be nostalgic for people of a certain age, it also produces a warmer feeling just due to it’s look. It’s interesting that filmmakers who lived through this story decided to tell it from the perspective of the father rather than their own, and it’s remarkable that they are able to put you so close to him. 4


Metropolitan

Film, 1990

This is one of those movies where a bunch of fancy rich people who love being fancy and rich talk about what it means to be fancy and rich. That’s probably a pass/ fail for you on it’s own, but if you can tolerate that this is pretty good. It deals with issues of upward and downward social mobility,but for the most part is pretty light. It’s characters are interesting and fun enough to draw you into the nonstop dialogue, although said dialogue is a little over the actor’s heads. It’s verbose and heavy, which clashes with the stiff acting, but it becomes more charming as the film floats along. I liked that the rich people in this movie are real people, not just ideals of rich people, which puts it above The Royal Tenenbaums in my book. 3


The Kids Are All Right

Film, 2010

The Kids Are All Right might stumble more frequently than it walks, but it’s moments of composure are worth overlooking it’s many faults. What it lacks are storytelling abilities. The direction and color are flat, and the same wispy guitar lick is cued so many times in a row in order to remind us that what we’re seeing is poignant that it becomes an unintended source of humor. It has a bit of a fairy tale quality to it, a result of the fact that everyone is rich, white and reasonably well adjusted, and the plot takes an “Oh God, please don’t go there” turn, the plot twist that any Hollywood hack would come up with when given this basic plot, but the film redeems itself with a knack for constructing realistic characters and bouncing them off of each other in a way that feels genuine. It derives it’s humor and it’s drama from this, the complications that slowly creep into a long term relationship of any sort. It’s a complicated and delicate picture to paint, but in this respect the movie effortlessly excels. It also doesn’t hurt that two of it’s lead actors are such a pleasure to watch; Julianne Moore, who always makes everyone else look like they’re not even fucking trying, and Mark Ruffalo, who excels at being Mark Ruffalo. 3.5


Onibaba

Film, 1964

Boy, they do not make horror movies like this any more. In fact, most modern viewers would probably not categorize this calm and infrequently chilling film as a horror movie, but that is what it winds up being (even if it takes a while to get there). Onibaba, despite it’s simple plot about three characters doing their best to make a living in the hauntingly lonely, war torn fourteenth century Japanese countryside, is a actually a fairly complex morality play exploring what depths people will sink to in order to survive, first turning on strangers, then on their own loved ones. I was told ahead of time that Onibaba was “atmospheric”. In my experience this usually means one of two things: the film is either going to be completely absorbing or unbearably boring. Onibaba falls into the absorbing camp, using the starkness of it’s setting and cast, along with some fun camera and sound work, to draw you further and further into their world. Even with these great elements I found myself a little disappointed by the lack of otherworldly thrills I was looking forward to. Although in the end, despite being a ghost story that lacks any truly fantastic elements, Onibaba makes up for it by delivering one heck of an unsettling ending. 3.5


Vicki Christina Barcelona

Film, 2008

Vicky Christa Barcelona takes place in a world where people fall squarely into two camps; stereotypical conformist businessmen with limitless pocketbooks and “free thinking” (as the horrible narration describes them time and time again) artists with limitless pocketbooks. It uses these characters to broadly explore the choice that women have to make in their men of stability or passion. No real conclusions are made or stands are taken by the film on the issue, but they probably weren’t meant to be. Everyone is pretty bland, except Penelope Cruz who is given the only thing even resembling a complex character to work with. Note to filmmakers: Repeatedly stating that a character is “free thinking” and “artistic” is much less effective than showing the audience that they are. 2


Marley & Me


Film, 2008

I went in expecting the wacky comedy I was promised in the previews, but was instead given a bland, sentimental family drama. That’s not totally true, it did kind of try to be a comedy during it’s first half, but totally lacked any of the required wit and personality. Around the halfway mark the film turns full on family drama, offering up played out morals like “It’s better to raise a family than to be a hotshot at work and with women” and “Dogs are good because they love you no matter what”. Jennifer Aniston’s acting and character couldn’t be blander. I would give the filmmakers points for not shying away from addressing the dog’s death, but they get them taken right back away for tipping the sentimentality scale many times over. On the plus side, Alan Arkin is pretty good during his few scenes and it’s nice to see Kathleen Turner again. 1


Little Women

Film, 1994

Speaking as someone who’s most happy watching a monster movie from the eighties, this is one of the better female targeted period pieces that I’ve been subjected to. The difference, for me, was that the characters seemed human, rather than cold, verbose ideals of characters. This invested me in the plot, which was told at a good pace and with good acting all around. 3


The Fountain

Film, 2006

It was pretty much predetermined that I would like this movie. First of all, because of it’s reception. Anything that everyone seems to have a unique and passionate opinion about, I usually like. (Especially if a healthy number of people DIDN’T enjoy it.) Secondly, because it’s a thoughtful and fantastic (in the “out of this world” sense of the word) film that lets you think for yourself just as much as it entertains you. It’s beautiful and expressive, and everyone can come away with something different from it. Thirdly, it’s entertaining to watch.
I can understand why people didn’t like it. It’s very serious and it’s more than just entertainment- two things that often spell death at the box office. Also, it’s not perfect; it might be a tad TOO serious and the symbolism is occasionally a little painfully obvious. But these are minor, minor gripes and I don’t know why they would get in the way of anyone’s enjoyment of the picture. This level of intelligent, entertaining and well made cinema is a very rare find. 4.5


The Darjeeling Limited

Another of Anderson’s ornate films about spineless neurotics comes and goes. A nice turn halfway through almost gives this one something to stand out from the rest, but it doesn’t deviate enough. I grow more and more weary of putting up with these characters for two hours. Some of the more emotional moments are offset by some really sloppy metaphors. Some funny moments. Beautiful visuals, as always. 2.5/5