Monday, December 31, 2018

December 2018 Film Log

-2.0 (S. Shankar, 2018): B -- 3D

-24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, 2017): B -- HD stream

-Aquaman (James Wan, 2018): B

-At Eternity's Gate (Julian Schnabel, 2018): B

-The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2018): B -- HD stream

-Ben is Back (Peter Hedges, 2018): B+

-Bumblebee (Travis Knight, 2018): B

-Burning (Beoning) (Lee Chang-dong, 2018): B+

-Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godfrey, 1945): B

-Cold War (Zimna wojna) (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2018): A-

-A Cool Fish (Wu ming zhi bei) (Rao Xiaozhi, 2018): C-

-Destroyer (Karyn Kusama, 2018): C-

-Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003): B+ -- 2nd viewing

-The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018): A-

-Happy as Lazzaro (Lazzaro felice) (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018): A -- HD stream

-Holmes & Watson (Etan Cohen, 2018): B-

-The Hudsucker Proxy (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1994): A  -- Blu-ray; 2nd viewing

-Married to the Mob (Jonathan Demme, 1988): C- -- Blu-ray

-Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall, 2018): C+

-Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke, 2018): C

-Minding the Gap (Bing Liu, 2018): B -- HD stream

-Mirai (Mirai no Mirai) (Mamoru Hosoda, 2018): B

-Mortal Engines (Christian Rivers, 2018): C-

-The Mule (Clint Eastwood, 2018): B

-On the Basis of Sex (Mimi Leder, 2018): B

-Porco Rosso (Kurenai no buta) (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992): B-

-The Possession of Hannah Grace (Diederik Van Rooijen, 2018): D-

-Prospect (Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl, 2018): C

-Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018): A -- 3rd viewing

-Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993): A  -- 2nd viewing

-Second Act (Peter Segal, 2018): C

-Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924): A  -- with live musical accompaniment by Sue Harshe

-The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940): A-

-Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018): A -- HD stream; 2nd viewing

-Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, 2018): B+

-Vice (Adam McKay, 2018): C-

-Vox Lux (Brady Corbet, 2018): B+

-Welcome to Marwen (Robert Zemeckis, 2018): C

-Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) (Wim Wenders, 1987): B

The top films new to me (current releases):

-Happy as Lazzaro (Lazzaro felice)
-Cold War (Zimna wojna)
-The Favourite
-Vox Lux
-Burning (Beoning)

The top films new to me (repertory):

-Sherlock Jr.
-The Shop Around the Corner
-Christmas in Connecticut
-Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 32 (DCP: 32, 35mm: 0, 70mm: 0)
-Home viewings: 7 (Blu-ray: 2, HD stream: 5)

December Totals:

-# of screenings: 39
-# of unique films seen: 39
-# of feature films new to me: 35

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 303 (DCP: 283, 35mm: 15, 70mm: 4, projected DVD: 1) (includes three live accompaniments and one live performance)
-Home viewings: 28 (HD streams: 15, Blu-ray: 10, HD recordings: 2, DVD: 1)
-Live accompaniments: 3
-Live performances: 1

-# of screenings: 331
-Unique # of films seen: 322 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 8 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 290

Friday, November 30, 2018

November 2018 Film Log

-Beautiful Boy (Felix van Groeningen, 2018): B

-Bohemian Rhapsody (Bryan Singer, 2018): B- -- IMAX

-Border (Gräns) (Ali Abbasi, 2018): B-

-Boy Erased (Joel Edgerton, 2018): B

-Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller, 2018): B

-Cold Water (L'eau froide) (Olivier Assayas, 1994): B -- Blu-ray

-Creed II (Steven Caple Jr., 2018): C

-Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (David Yates, 2018): C-

-The Front Runner (Jason Reitman, 2018): C

-The Girl in the Spider's Web (Fede Alvarez, 2018): C-

-Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween (Ari Sandel, 2018): C

-Green Book (Peter Farrelly, 2018): C+

-The Grinch (Yarrow Cheney and Scott Mosier, 2018): B-

-The House That Jack Built: Director's Cut (Lars von Trier, 2018): D

-Instant Family (Sean Anders, 2018): A-

-Nobody's Fool (Tyler Perry, 2018): C+

-The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles, 2018): (no grade)

-Overlord (Julius Avery, 2018): C -- IMAX

-A Private War (Matthew Heineman, 2018): B

-Ralph Breaks the Internet (Phil Johnston and Rich Moore, 2018): B+

-Robin Hood (Otto Bathurst, 2018): D+

-Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018): A -- 2nd viewing; upgraded from B

-Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino, 2018): C

-Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970): B

-Widows (Steve McQueen, 2018): B-

-Wildlife (Paul Dano, 2018): A

-Zombie (Zombi 2) (Lucio Fulci, 1979): B

The top films new to me (current releases):

-Instant Family

The top films new to me (repertory):

-Cold Water (L'eau froide)
-Zombie (Zombi 2)

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 26 (DCP: 26, 35mm: 0, 70mm: 0)
-Home viewings: 1 (Blu-ray: 1, HD stream: 0)

November Totals:

-# of screenings: 27
-# of unique films seen: 27
-# of feature films new to me: 26

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 271 (DCP: 251, 35mm: 15, 70mm: 4, projected DVD: 1) (includes two live accompaniments and one live performance)
-Home viewings: 21 (HD streams: 10, Blu-ray: 8, HD recordings: 2, DVD: 1)
-Live accompaniments: 2
-Live performances: 1

-# of screenings: 292
-Unique # of films seen: 285 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 8 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 255

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 2018 Film Log

-Bad Times at the El Royale (Drew Goddard, 2018): B-

-Coeur fidèle (Jean Epstein, 1923): B -- w/ Alloy Orchestra accompaniment

-Colette (Wash Westmoreland, 2018): C+

-Dial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954): B+ -- 3D; 3rd viewing

-First Man (Damien Chazelle, 2018): A- --IMAX

-The Fog (John Carpenter, 1980): B -- 4K; 2nd viewing

-Free Solo (Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2018): B+

-Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978): B+ -- repeat viewing

-Halloween (David Gordon Green, 2018): B

-The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr., 2018): B

-Hunter Killer (Donovan Marsh, 2018): B-

-Johnny English Strikes Again (David Kerr, 2018): C

-Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944): B -- Blu-ray

-Mid90s (Jonah Hill, 2018): C-

-Monsters and Men (Reinaldo Marcus Green, 2018): B-

-North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959): A -- 4K; repeat viewing

-The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, 2018): C+

-The Oath (Ike Barinholtz, 2018): D+ 

-The Old Man & the Gun (David Lowery, 2018): A-

-One Sings, the Other Doesn't (L'une chante l'autre pas) (Agnès Varda, 1977): C+

-Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018): A- -- HD stream

-Project Gutenberg (Mo seung) (Felix Chong, 2018): B-

-Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954): A -- 35mm; repeat viewing

-The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard, 2018): B

-A Star is Born (Bradley Cooper, 2018): B+ -- Dolby Cinema

-Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951): A -- 35mm; repeat viewing

-Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977): A -- Blu-ray

-To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955): A -- 35mm; repeat viewing

-Venom (Reuben Fleischer, 2018): C -- IMAX

-Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958): A+ -- 70mm; repeat viewing

-The Wife (Björn Runge, 2017): B-

The top films new to me (current releases):

-First Man
-Private Life
-The Old Man & the Gun
-A Star is Born
-Free Solo

The top films new to me (repertory):

-Coeur fidèle

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 28 (DCP: 24, 35mm: 3, 70mm: 1) (includes one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 3 (Blu-ray: 2, HD stream: 1)
-Live accompaniment: 1

October Totals:

-# of screenings: 31
-# of films seen: 31
-# of unique films new to me: 23

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 245 (DCP: 225, 35mm: 15, 70mm: 4, projected DVD: 1) (includes two live accompaniments and one live performance)
-Home viewings: 20 (HD streams: 10, Blu-ray: 7, HD recordings: 2, DVD: 1)
-Live accompaniments: 2
-Live performances: 1

-# of screenings: 265
-Unique # of films seen: 258 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 8 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 229

Monday, October 01, 2018

September 2018 Film Log

-Assassination Nation (Sam Levinson, 2018): D

-Bel Canto (Paul Weitz, 2018): C-

-The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963): A -- 35mm; repeat viewing

-The Bookshop (Isabel Coixet, 2017): C-

-Fahrenheit 11/9 (Michael Moore, 2018): C

-Hold the Dark (Jeremy Saulnier, 2018): B- --HD stream; repeat viewing (also in TIFF 2018)

-The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Eli Roth, 2018): C -- IMAX

-John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection (L'empire de la perfection) (Julien Faraut, 2018): B

-Kin (Jonathan Baker and Josh Baker, 2018): D

-The Land of Steady Habits (Nicole Holofcener, 2018): B- -- HD stream

-Life Itself (Dan Fogelman, 2018): C-

-The Little Stranger (Lenny Abrahamson, 2018): B+

-Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018): B

-Night School (Malcolm D. Lee, 2018): C

-The Nun (Corin Hardy, 2018): C+ -- IMAX

-Peppermint (Pierre Morel, 2018): D-

-The Predator (Shane Black, 2018): C+ -- Dolby Cinema

-A Simple Favor (Paul Feig, 2018): B

-Smallfoot (Karey Kirkpatrick and Jason Reisig, 2018): B-

-They Live (John Carpenter, 1988): B+ -- 35mm; 2nd viewing

-White Boy Rick (Yann Demange, 2018): C

2018 Toronto International Film Festival

-3 Faces (Se rokh) (Jafar Panahi, 2018): A

-American Dharma (Errol Morris, 2018): B-

-Ash is Purest White (Jiang hu er nv) (Jia Zhangke, 2018): B+

-The Biggest Little Farm (John Chester, 2018): B-

-Blind Spot (Blindsone) (Tuva Novotny, 2018): A

-Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben) (Asghar Farhadi, 2018): B

-Her Smell (Alex Ross Perry, 2018): B

-High Life (Claire Denis, 2018): B+

-Hold the Dark (Jeremy Saulnier, 2018): B-

-Hotel by the River (Hong Sang-soo, 2018): B-

-"I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians" ("Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari") (Radu Jude, 2018): A-

-In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018): B-

-The Innocent (Der Unschuldige) (Simon Jaquemet, 2018): C

-Killing (Zan) (Shin'ya Tsukamoto, 2018): D+

-Long Day's Journey Into Night (Di qiu zui hou de ye wan) (Bi Gan, 2018): C -- portions in 3D

-Maya (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2018): B-

-Meeting Gorbachev (Werner Herzog and André Singer, 2018): C

-Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman, 2018): B+

-Non-Fiction (Doubles vies) (Olivier Assayas, 2018): B+

-Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018): B

-Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018): A-

-Transit (Christian Petzold, 2018): A

-Vita & Virginia (Chanya Button, 2018): C-

-The Wild Pear Tree (Ahlat Agaci) (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2018): B+

The top films new to me (current releases):

-The Little Stranger

The top films new to me (TIFF 2018):

-Blind Spot (Blindsone)
-3 Faces (Se rokh)
-Shoplifters (Manbiki kazoku)
-"I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians" ("Îmi este indiferent daca în istorie vom intra ca barbari")
-Ash is Purest White (Jiang hu er nv)
-The Wild Pear Tree (Ahlat Agaci)
-Non-Fiction (Doubles vies)
-High Life
-Monrovia, Indiana

The top films new to me (repertory):

-None this month

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 43 (DCP: 41, 35mm: 2, 70mm: 0, projected DVD: 0)
-Home viewings: 2 (HD stream: 2)

September Totals: 

-# of screenings: 45
-# of films seen: 44
-# of feature films new to me: 42

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 217 (DCP: 201, 35mm: 12, 70mm: 3, projected DVD: 1) (includes one live performance)
-Home viewings: 17 (HD streams: 9, Blu-ray: 5, HD recordings: 2, DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 234
-Unique # of films seen: 227 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 8 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 206

Saturday, September 01, 2018

August 2018 Film Log

-The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993): A -- Blu-ray

-BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018): A- -- Dolby Cinema

-Les carabiniers (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963): B+ -- 35mm print

-Christopher Robin (Marc Forster, 2018): C-

-Le corbeau (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1943): A-

-Crazy Rich Asians (Jon M. Chu, 2018): B

-Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham, 2018): B+

-A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari) (Sergio Leone, 1964): B+ -- 2nd viewing; 4K restoration

-For a Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più) (Sergio Leone, 1965): B -- 2nd viewing

-The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) (Sergio Leone, 1966): A -- 2nd viewing; 4K restoration

-Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (Genndy Tartakovsky, 2018): C

-The Island (Bo Huang, 2018): C

-Juliet, Naked (Jesse Peretz, 2018): B

-The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman, 1998): A -- repeat viewing; Blu-ray

-The Last Movie (Dennis Hopper, 1971): C

-Madeline's Madeline (Josephine Decker, 2018): C-

-The Meg (Jon Turteltaub, 2018): C+

-The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Desiree Akhavan, 2018): C

-Mission: Impossible--Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie, 2018): A -- Dolby Cinema; 2nd viewing

-Never Goin' Back (Augustine Frizzell, 2018): D+

-Papillon (Michael Noer, 2017): B-

-Puzzle (Marc Turteltaub, 2018): C

-Searching (Aneesh Chaganty, 2018): B+

-Skate Kitchen (Crystal Moselle, 2018): C

-The Spy Who Dumped Me (Susanna Fogel, 2018): C-

-Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski, 2018): B+

-Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (Aaron Horvath and Peter Rida Michail, 2018): B-

-The Third Murder (Sandome no satsujin) (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2017): B+ -- 2nd viewing; grade revised from C

-Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel) (Ingmar Bergman, 1961): B -- 35mm print

-To All the Boys I've Loved Before (Susan Johnson, 2018): B- -- HD stream

-Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna) (Ingmar Bergman, 1963): A


-#TheLateBatsby (Lauren Faust and Jennifer Kluska, 2018): B-

The top films new to me (current releases):

-Support the Girls
-Eighth Grade
-Crazy Rich Asians

The top films new to me (repertory):

-The Age of Innocence
-Winter Light (Nattvardsgästerna)
-Le corbeau
-Les carabiniers
-Through a Glass Darkly (Såsom i en spegel)

Viewing locations &; formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 28 (DCP: 26, 35mm: 2, 70mm: 0, projected DVD: 0)
-Home viewings: 3 (Blu-ray: 2, HD stream: 1)

August Totals:

-# of screenings: 31
-# of unique films seen: 31 (31 features and 1 short)
-# of feature films new to me: 25

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 174 (DCP: 160, 35mm: 10, 70mm: 3, projected DVD: 1) (includes one live performance and one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 15 (HD streams: 7, Blu-ray: 5, HD recordings: 2, DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 189
-Unique # of films seen: 183 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 8 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 164

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

July 2018 Film Log

-Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed, 2018): B

-Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada, 2018): B

-Damsel (David Zellner and Nathan Zellner, 2018): B-

-Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot (Gus Van Sant, 2018): B+

-The First Purge (Gerard McMurray, 2018): C

-Hearts Beat Loud (Brett Haley, 2018): B-

-Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018): A

-Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Ol Parker, 2018): B-

-Mission: Impossible--Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie, 2018): A -- Dolby Cinema

-Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966): A-

-The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) (Ingmar Bergman, 1957): B+ -- 35mm print

-Sicario: Day of the Soldado (Stefano Sollima, 2018): C-

-Skyscraper (Rawson Marshall Thurber, 2018): B

-Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018): B-

-Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika) (Ingmar Bergman, 1953): B+ -- 35mm print

-Unfriended: Dark Web (Stephen Susco, 2018): B-

-Whitney (Kevin Macdonald, 2018): B

-Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, 1968): B+ -- 2nd viewing

The top films new to me (current releases):

-Mission: Impossible--Fallout
-Leave No Trace
-Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
-Ant-Man and the Wasp

The top films new to me (repertory):

-Summer with Monika (Sommaren med Monika)
-The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet)

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 18 (DCP: 16, 35mm: 2, 70mm: 0, projected DVD: 0)
-Home viewings: 0

July Totals:

-# of screenings: 18
-# of unique films seen: 18
-# of feature films new to me: 17

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 146 (DCP: 134, 35mm: 8, 70mm: 3, projected DVD: 1) (includes one live performance & one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 12 (HD streams: 6, Blu-ray: 3, HD recordings: 2, DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 158
-Unique # of films seen: 153 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 7 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 139

Thursday, July 12, 2018

2018 Halftime Film Report

For the first time in a long time I've done a better job of keeping track of what I'm watching during the year, so I've compiled this report breaking out lists of the best films I've seen from January 1 through June 30, 2018.  The exceptions: LEAN ON PETE and ON BODY AND SOUL, which I saw at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.  LEAN ON PETE wasn't commercially released in theaters until this year.  ON BODY AND SOUL debuted in the U.S. on Netflix this year.  So, both go on the Best of 2018 list. 

2018 Films

1. First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
2. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018)
3. Lean On Pete (Andrew Haigh, 2017)
4. Paddington 2 (Paul King, 2017)
5. On Body and Soul (Teströl és lélekröl) (Ildikó Enyedi, 2017)
6. Set It Up (Claire Scanlon, 2018)
7. Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, 2017)
8. The Rider (Chloé Zhao, 2017)
9. Tully (Jason Reitman, 2018)
10. A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018)

Because I find it annoying when critics post these sorts of lists and include a bunch of films not yet commercially available, I've split out films in consideration for my 2018 Top 10 and Honorable Mentions lists, assuming they are released this year.

Unreleased 2018 Films

1. Bisbee '17 (Robert Greene, 2018)
2. América (Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside, 2018)
3. Let the Corpses Tan (Laissez bronzer les cadavres) (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, 2017)
4. I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, 2017)
5. Hale County This Morning, This Evening (RaMell Ross, 2018)
6. Shirkers (Sandi Tan, 2018)

As the Sam Green and Kronos Quartet collaboration defies categorization and isn't something that will ever have a normal release, it gets a spot all to its own.

Uncategorizable 2018 Film Event

-A Thousand Thoughts (Sam Green, 2018)

Things get a little more idiosyncratic when it comes to films I saw this year for the first time.  While these choices are guided to a degree by what I can see in theatrical repertory programs, some are just where curiosity took me.  The inclusions of PHANTOM THREAD and CALL ME BY YOUR NAME are somewhat antithetical to the idea of this list--they're "new" films that squeezed on by virtue of awards release patterns--but this is where they fit best.

Films New to Me

1. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
2. La belle noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991)
3. Monkey Business (Howard Hawks, 1952)
4. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
5. Rambling Rose (Martha Coolidge, 1991)
6. Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963)
7. Memories of Murder (Salinui chueok) (Bong Joon-ho, 2003)
8. Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
9. Remember My Name (Alan Rudolph, 1978)
10. Lady on a Train (Charles David, 1945)

June 2018 Film Log

At the moment life is steamrolling me with everything that I need to do, so rather than extending the delay in getting this posted by searching for the time to write something more substantive to accompany the log, I'll leave it at that.

-2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968): A+ -- 70mm "unrestored" print; 3rd viewing

-Adrift (Baltasar Kormákur, 2018): B

-Beast (Michael Pearce, 2017): B

-Book Club (Bill Holderman, 2018): C+

-Choose Me (Alan Rudolph, 1984): B -- projected DVD

-Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach) (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, 1968): B

-Filmworker (Tony Zierra, 2017): B

-First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017): A -- second viewing

-Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018): B

-Hotel Artemis (Drew Pearce, 2018): C-

-How to Talk to Girls at Parties (John Cameron Mitchell, 2017): D+

-Incredibles 2 (Brad Bird, 2018): B

-Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (J.A. Bayona, 2018): B-

-Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur) (Claire Denis, 2017): B

-Ocean's 8 (Gary Ross, 2018): B-

-Remember My Name (Alan Rudolph, 1978): B+ -- 35mm

-Set It Up (Claire Scanlon, 2018): A- -- HD stream

-Sollers Point (Matthew Porterfield, 2017): B

-Superfly (Director X, 2018): C

-Tag (Jeff Tomsic, 2018): C

-Uncle Drew (Charles Stone III, 2018): C

-Upgrade (Leigh Whannell, 2018): B

-The Year of Spectacular Men (Lea Thompson, 2017): C-

-Balloonfest (Nathan Truesdell, 2017): B+

-Bao (Domee Shi, 2018): B-

-Take What You Can Carry (Matthew Porterfield, 2015): B -- projected HD video

The top films new to me (current releases):

-Set It Up
-Let the Sunshine In (Un beau soleil intérieur)

The top films new to me (repertory):

-Remember My Name
-Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach)
-Choose Me

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 22 (DCP: 19, 35mm: 1, 70mm: 1, projected DVD: 1) + 3 shorts
-Home viewings: 1  (HD stream: 1) + 1 short

June Totals:

-# of screenings: 23
-# of films seen: 23 
-# of feature films new to me: 21

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 128 (DCP: 118, 35mm: 6, 70mm: 3, projected DVD: 1) (includes one live performance & one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 12 (HD streams: 6, Blu-ray: 3, HD recordings: 2,  DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 140
-Unique # of films seen: 135 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 7 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 122

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 21: Life of the Party

Occasionally a tweet will pop up on my timeline that features a mixture of disbelief and amazement at the passage of time relative to pop culture products.  For example, the number of years separating the releases of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE is equal to the number of years between the original STAR WARS film and Charlie Chaplin's MODERN TIMESJURASSIC PARK is now as old as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was in 1993.

The brain-exploding reaction is the realization that comes when comparing something from your youth or young adulthood that doesn't seem particularly old with something that did seem old at that time.  The same effect can be achieved by seeing college students wearing vintage t-shirts of rock bands that were popular when you were their age.  The process is probably more accelerated in music, which can "date" faster.  We're as far removed from Radiohead's OK COMPUTER now as we were from Led Zeppelin's PRESENCE in 1997, which seemed old to me a decade prior. 

It didn't occur to me while watching LIFE OF THE PARTY or talking about it on episode 21 of FILMBOUND that Melissa McCarthy's frumpy character, styled as an early 1990s film mom stereotype than a contemporary woman, is supposed to be roughly the same age that I am.  Becoming aware of that is enough to feel like time is coming totally unglued.  The math adds up, but it feels like a significant miscalculation exists in there somewhere.

Maybe it's just as well that I didn't grasp this fact until afterwards.  It wouldn't really have any bearing on my assessment of this sluggish, disjointed comedy, even if I did nitpick it for seeming mostly out of touch with what college life is like today.  Plus, the last thing I need right now is an additional item in the existential crisis column.

In the recommendations segment I endorse the futuristic action-thriller UPGRADE, which provides a little food for thought about the convergence of human biology and technology but primarily delivers the simple pleasures of a genre film.

Upcoming episodes:

-June 20: DEADPOOL 2 and a discussion about film clichés we like and dislike
-June 27: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and our recommendations segment
-July 4: FIRST REFORMED and a discussion about the role of the film critic
-July 11: HEREDITARY and our recommendations segment

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 20: Tully

Episode 20 of FILMBOUND features TULLY, which finds director Jason Reitman back to form after two fairly bad and misguided efforts in LABOR DAY and MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN.  As it is summer movie season, Paul Markoff and I also kick around some ideas for sequels, cinematic universes, and crossovers we'd be interested in seeing.

For the most part our conversation is an exercise in wishful thinking, but there might be an idea or two that a studio runs with eventually.  If my ideas seem limited to a particular type of film, chalk it up to my jet lag as I scrounged for ideas.  (In editing this show and the three preceding it, I've been pleasantly surprised that I don't sound fatigued because I certainly felt that way during the recording.)

It seems a little anachronistic to talk about summer movie season because the event films launched during that roughly three-month period are now dispersed throughout the calendar.  You don't have to wait until Memorial Day weekend for expensive, FX-focused entertainment.  Still, I think there's a tendency to perceive films released in late May, June, July, and early August to represent Hollywood's latest, greatest mass appeal movies, even if inevitably some fail to live up to studio or viewer expectations.  (In reality, the timeline has shifted up to late March.)

For whatever reason, the 2018 summer movie season looks lackluster.  Removing the actual quality of these films from the equation, I'm having difficulty finding big movies to be excited about.  That indifference applies to those I've already watched as well as those I've yet to see.  This season has already delivered AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, DEADPOOL 2, SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, and OCEAN'S 8.  Through July the presumed biggest films of their weekends will be INCREDIBLES 2, JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, THE FIRST PURGE, HOTEL TRANSLYVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION, MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN, THE EQUALIZER 2, and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - FALLOUT.  All of these are part of film franchises or new entries in series.  Out of all of those titles, I'm looking forward to the latest MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE the most, but with it being the sixth film in the series, it's not like I can't contain my anticipation for it.

Summer tends to lean on established properties, so this isn't out of the ordinary; however, last summer produced BABY DRIVER, DUNKIRK, ATOMIC BLONDE, 47 METERS DOWN, THE BIG SICK, GIRLS TRIP, and LOGAN LUCKY.  Whether I liked them or not, at least these were a break from franchise installments.  Granted, only one of these summer 2017 films likely had and fulfilled blockbuster ambitions, but unless I'm overlooking them, I don't necessarily see the non-franchise films in summer 2018 similar with the similar potential to surprise on a moderate scale.

Upcoming episodes:

-June 13: LIFE OF THE PARTY and our recommendations segment
-June 20: DEADPOOL 2 and a discussion about film clichés we like and dislike
-June 27: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and our recommendations segment

Friday, June 01, 2018

May 2018 Film Log

Being free of the viewing demands for a biweekly TV show, I don't have to see--or feel compelled to see--as many of the new mainstream films that make it into the nation's multiplexes.  Perhaps it was always this way, but so many of the wide releases this year look more disposable than ever and don't pique my interest.  I don't think that such an impression is necessarily a byproduct of being able to be more selective.  As the number of each week's new releases grows and the turnover of these titles increases, it stands to reason that there's a lower bar to clear to get screens.

During the most intense periods of producing NOW PLAYING, it wasn't unusual for me to look at multiplex listings and find little to nothing I hadn't already watched except for what just opened.  Now the listings are peppered with films I haven't seen, yet I can struggle to identify something that seems even mildly worth the time.  Sight unseen, films such as BAD SAMARITAN, OVERBOARD, SHOW DOGS, and TRAFFIK aren't exactly compelling choices even if I'm looking to go to the movies just for the sake of it.  (That's how BREAKING IN ended up on this month's log.  It was something to do while all of the windows were being replaced in my apartment.)  It's as though movie theaters are being infiltrated by the types of offerings that would have once been direct-to-video.  It's also probably never been easier to get an independent film in theaters, at least for the blink of an eye.  (Getting a full run is another matter.)

While I would not argue that it should be harder for filmmakers to find screens for their works, the number of screens to fill and the ease of content delivery with digital distribution and exhibition has exploded the number of choices and diluted the perceived quality checks when access to consumers was tighter.  I'm not sure that I have a point other than to say I saw a fair number of mediocre and worse films this month while bypassing a bunch of others.

-La belle noiseuse (Jacques Rivette, 1991): A- -- Blu-ray

-Breaking In (James McTeigue, 2018): D+

-The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova) (Sergei Parajanov, 1969): B -- Blu-ray

-Deadpool 2 (David Leitch, 2018): C

-Disobedience (Sebastián Lelio, 2017): C-

-Double Lover (L'amant double) (François Ozon, 2017): B-

-The Endless (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, 2017): C+

-Ghost Stories (Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, 2017): B-

-The Guardians (Les gardiennes) (Xavier Beauvois, 2017): B

-I Feel Pretty (Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, 2018): C

-Life of the Party (Ben Falcone, 2018): C-

-Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964): -- repeat viewing

-Oh Lucy! (Atsuko Hirayanagi, 2017): C-

-Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (Wim Wenders, 2018): C+

-Psychokinesis (Yeom-lyeok) (Yeon Sang-Ho, 2018): B- -- HD stream

-RBG (Julie Cohen and Betsy West, 2018): B-

-Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard, 2018): B-

-Terminal (Vaughn Stein, 2018): D

-Tully (Jason Reitman, 2018): B+

The top films new to me (current releases):


The top films new to me (repertory):

-La belle noiseuse
-The Color of Pomegranates (Sayat Nova)

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 16 (DCP: 16)
-Home viewings: 3

May Totals:

-# of screenings: 19
-# of unique films seen: 19
-# of feature films new to me: 18

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 106 (DCP: 99, 35mm: 5, 70mm: 2) (includes one live performance & one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 11 (HD streams: 5, Blu-ray: 3, HD recordings: 2,  DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 117
-Unique # of films seen: 112 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 4 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 101

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 19: Avengers: Infinity War

In general I strive to keep extratextual information from being a significant factor in evaluating the movies I'm watching.  If it isn't on the screen, then it shouldn't be relevant in judging the work.  Ignore the marketing and publicity campaigns as well as reviews.  Focus less on what a filmmaker may claim he or she intended and just interpret what you see.  Sounds good, right?

Of course, this is virtually impossible unless you can block out the media cacophony in a way that I can't comprehend.  Even then, I realize that I violate this rule of thumb all the time, especially when examining a new film in regard to how it fits in with a director's larger body of work.  Granted, recognizing patterns in a filmmaker's oeuvre is more valuable in reading a film's text than coming at it through the filters of trailers, talent interviews, box office receipts, and fan reactions.  The challenge is to make sure that the tools worth using don't become boilerplate supports.  In other words, just because there is a common theme running through a director's films doesn't mean that it makes them all good. 

Back to extratextual matters...they play a major role in how I experienced AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and are why I have a hard time buying what the film is selling.  If you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't and don't want the end of the movie revealed, then I suggest waiting until you watch it to listen to this episode.  A big part of the discussion is about our disagreement in whether or not to accept what happens in that part of the film.

In the recommendations segment I throw support to John Woo's MANHUNT.  I thought this was a lot of fun, especially if you're familiar with Woo's older and most popular films.  I also am not entirely sure that it's a good movie.  I realize that might seem like a contradiction in terms, but as I mention during the episode, seeing MANHUNT with a knowledgeable crowd numbering a couple thousand at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival heightened the experience even as I acknowledge that the film isn't as slick as his best work.  It's on Netflix if you're interested.

Upcoming episodes:

-June 13: LIFE OF THE PARTY and our recommendations segment
-June 20: DEADPOOL 2 and a discussion about film clichés we like and dislike
-June 27: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and our recommendations segment

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 18: You Were Never Really Here

It's been my experience that most people have no idea how film critics do what they do, and the general public probably assumes critics' opinions are carved in stone rather than written in a material more amenable to revision.  When I started as a critic in the late 1990s, I probably would have held a similar view about the endurance of the first impressions captured in an initial review.  A verdict has been rendered, and that settles that.  The need to assert authority on a subject can manifest in the form of more definitive statements, especially as a nascent critic and young adult.

As I've accumulated experience, I've come to realize how much I don't know and how works of art can transform depending on a variety of factors.  My mood, age, fellow audience members, life circumstances, and foreknowledge, among a number of other things, can have a greater impact on how I evaluate a film than I may realize or want to admit as a measured, independent-minded person.  I'm not suggesting no review is fixed or that altering one's opinions mean they were objectively wrong before.  Rather, in developing our judgments critics should strive to account for the elements that become the filter through which we see what is on the screen.  A negative review that becomes positive upon reconsideration, or vice versa, isn't a sign of critical failure or inconsistency but is indicative of the willingness to engage with the film at whenever the moment in time with it occurs.

The main focus of episode 18 of FILMBOUND is YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE, the new film from writer-director Lynne Ramsay.  I enjoyed this dive into a grimy underworld--if enjoyed is the proper word for such an emotionally tough work--and left feeling as though perhaps I needed to reassess her previous feature, the 2011 drama WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.  I had a strong negative reaction to that film, and while I don't have any reason to distrust those feelings, I am also curious if I approached it from the wrong angle.

This happens occasionally.  After being thoroughly surprised by how much I liked THE NEON DEMON, I questioned if my first assessment of Nicolas Winding Refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES, which I thought was excruciating, needed to be challenged.  Maybe it's merely my auteurist inclinations, a prescriptive framework that wishes to integrate and resolve the unfavored works with the favored.

Setting aside everything above, revisiting a film doesn't usually result in drastic reappraisals for me.  Although I have made dramatic flips, it's more typical for me to feel mild shifts in degrees of enthusiasm than huge swings.

The discussion topic on this episode is an attempt to identify who are the biggest new movie stars to emerge in about the last twenty years and what even defines a star in today's Hollywood.  I'm satisfied with the top two or three performers I name, but after that the task gets exponentially harder.  I proposed the topic based on a prior conversation with my co-host in which he asserted that Chris Pratt belonged in that elite group, which I disagreed with.  Maybe I convinced Paul otherwise because he didn't end up naming Pratt, and the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY star didn't even get mentioned on the podcast.  My main reason for denying Pratt a spot among the biggest new movie stars is that he has yet to transcend franchise film roles.  In the contemporary industry, that quality is probably the biggest factor in determining who is new to the A list.

A listener who has already heard this episode suggested Bradley Cooper, who neither of us brought up.  As with a lot of the other names we kicked around, he probably merits consideration, but is he that big of a star?  I'm not sure.  In the time since recording this episode, I thought of a couple actors neither of us mentioned but probably should have:  Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg.  Notice that it's harder to identify the big stars since a little before the turn of the century than it would seem.  In terms of social media fan intensity, Kristen Stewart would surely be fighting for a place as the biggest star of today, but that rabid support hasn't translated to robust box office totals for her non-TWILIGHT films.  Are the stars just smaller but more numerous these days?

Upcoming episodes:

-May 30: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and our recommendations segment
-June 6: TULLY and a discussion about sequels, cinematic universes, and crossovers we'd like to see
-June 13: LIFE OF THE PARTY and our recommendations segment
-June 20: DEADPOOL 2 and a to be determined discussion
-June 27: SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY and our recommendations segment

Thursday, May 17, 2018

April 2018 Film Log

Another month attending a film festival provides a boost to the overall numbers, with nearly half of what I saw coming in a five-day period at Roger Ebert's Film Festival.  The end of the semester and other pressures on time put a pinch on the usual amount I'd devote to watching movies, but I recognize that I still see way more than most people.

Dario Argento is one of those directors who I'm aware of but largely unfamiliar with, so I made the effort to catch a couple of his earlier films when they played in Columbus as part of a month-long series.  I wanted to see SUSPIRIA the most, but the only time available to me was a 12:15 a.m. screening before I had a 7:00 a.m. flight to Denver.  I gave serious consideration to going, but physical fatigue persuaded me that it would be extremely foolish to drag myself to a screening that I'd probably fall asleep during.

One note on a grade: I left a placeholder question mark for the Japanese silent film A PAGE OF MADNESS because I have no idea what to make of it, especially as the late afternoon festival drowsiness made this dream-like (or nightmarish) film even hazier.

-13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016): B

-American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, 2003): B+ -- 35mm; 2nd viewing

-Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, 2018): C -- Cinemark XD

-Beirut (Brad Anderson, 2018): B

-Belle (Amma Asante, 2013): B -- 2nd viewing

-The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1998): A -- 35mm; repeat viewing

-The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo) (Dario Argento, 1970): B- -- 4K restoration

-Blockers (Kay Cannon, 2018): B-

-Columbus (Kogonada, 2017): A -- 2nd viewing

-Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991): B -- 2nd viewing

-Deep Red (Profondo rosso) (Dario Argento, 1975): B- -- 4K restoration

-The Fugitive (Andrew Davis, 1993): B -- repeat viewing

-Gemini (Aaron Katz, 2017): B

-Goldstone (Ivan Sen, 2016): C-

-Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014): A -- 70mm; 3rd viewing (2nd in 70mm)

-Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson, 2018): B-

-Loveless (Nelyubov) (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2017): B

-A Page of Madness (Kurutta ippêji) (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926): ? -- with Alloy Orchestra accompaniment

-A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018): B+

-Rambling Rose (Martha Coolidge, 1991): B+ -- 35mm

-Rampage (Brad Peyton, 2018): C-

-Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World (Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, 2017): B-

-Selena (Gregory Nava, 1997): C -- 35mm

-Truth or Dare (Jeff Wadlow, 2018): C-

-Where is Kyra? (Andrew Dosunmu, 2017): C

-You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017): B


-Aspirational (Matthew Frost, 2014): B

The top films new to me (current releases):

-A Quiet Place
-You Were Never Really Here
-Loveless (Nelyubov)

The top films new to me (repertory):

-Rambling Rose
-Deep Red (Profondo rosso)
-The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo)

Viewing locations & formats:

-Theatrical viewings: 26 (DCP: 21, 35mm: 4, 70mm: 1)
-Home viewings: 0
-Live accompaniment: 1

April Totals:

-# of screenings: 26
-# of unique films seen: 26 features and 1 short
-# of feature films new to me: 19

Year-to-date Totals:

-Theatrical viewings: 90 (DCP: 83, 35mm: 5, 70mm: 2) (includes one live performance & one live accompaniment)
-Home viewings: 8 (HD streams: 4, HD recordings: 2, Blu-ray: 1, DVD: 1)
-Live performances: 1
-Live accompaniment: 1

-# of screenings: 98
-Unique # of films seen: 93 features, 2 shorts compilation programs, and 4 shorts
-Unique # of feature films new to me: 83

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 17: I Feel Pretty

Although I FEEL PRETTY is too sluggishly paced and not funny enough to merit a positive review, I appreciate that co-writers/co-directors Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein avoid one of the big pitfalls of romantic comedies, even if their film is more romantic-comedy-adjacent.  (It's primarily a self-empowerment film with a romantic comedy element.)

So many contemporary romantic comedies force relationships that I don't believe because the would-be lovers are constantly snipping at one another or contrive exaggerated conflicts to set up the inevitable climactic reconciliations.  In I FEEL PRETTY the relationship between a newly confident Renee (Amy Schumer) and Ethan (Rory Scovel) makes a lot of sense.  While the event that signals trouble for them as a couple is very much a movie mechanism--Renee's second head injury undoes the optimistic self-perception the first one gave her--it strikes a more familiar note in what can cause problems in real relationships: the internal hang-ups and self-questioning of one or both people.  It would be nice if more screenwriters see that this common, relatable quality can be as, if not more, effective than the idiot plot trope of a simple misunderstanding that regular people would easily reconcile.

In the recommendations segment I praise--and hopefully pull off a credible title pronunciation of--Jacques Rivette's LA BELLE NOISEUSE, which is now available in a fantastic 2-disk Blu-ray set.  (It's also out on DVD and can be streamed in HD.)  At times the film evokes Henri-Georges Clouzot's THE MYSTERY OF PICASSO (LE MYSTÈRE PICASSO).  The similarity is not in the technique but in access to the process involved as a work of art takes shape.  I realize that a nearly four-hour French film with significant stretches in which the camera observes an artist's strokes of charcoal or a brush as he tries to get his visions on the page or canvas is not the easiest sell, but the experience of watching it is quite absorbing.  Inspiration isn't a flash that produces something in an instant, and I was fascinated in watching Rivette try to capture what it is like to make the intangible tangible.

Why make one recommendation when I can make two?  I also give the proverbial thumbs up to Roger Ebert's Film Festival and provide an overview of the event's 20th year.  (If you want more in-depth coverage of Ebertfest, click here.)

Upcoming episodes:

-May 23: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE and a discussion about who are the biggest new movie stars of the last twenty years and what defines a star in today's Hollywood
-May 30: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and our recommendations segment
-June 6: TULLY and a discussion about sequels, cinematic universes, and crossovers we'd like to see
-June 13: LIFE OF THE PARTY and our recommendations segment

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 16: Isle of Dogs

Episode 16 features a main review of Wes Anderson's ISLE OF DOGS as well as the creation of the FILMBOUND canon.  From time to time we’ll devote a segment in which Paul Markoff and I will induct a film into our personal collections of all-time greats. Our FILMBOUND canons are separate, so we do not have to agree on whether a film belongs. There’s also no requirement that what we pick conforms to critical consensus.

To make constructing our lists less predictable, we will be limited to films released beginning in 1995.  That year provides enough distance from today to search for important films during our lifetime and dig up forgotten gems. It’s also after PULP FICTION’s release in 1994, which seems like a watershed moment in film history, especially in helping to shape the tastes and willingness to look beyond the mainstream for our generation.

As a starting point 1995 is also shortly before the introduction of DVD.  Although there's the impression that everything made it to disk, arthouse and foreign films, particularly those released in the mid-1990s and a bit after DVD technology became available to consumers, sometimes fell through the cracks or, if they were published, have gone out of print.  CITIZEN KANE and VERTIGO don't need more critics championing them at this point in time to get burgeoning cinephiles to search for them; however, films in recent history may need a revival, especially as each year's flood of titles threatens to have us drowning in new films.

Although it wasn't planned, Paul and I each picked films by filmmaking brothers to establish our FILMBOUND canons.  I inducted THE KID WITH A BIKE (LE GAMIN AU VÉLO), the 2011 drama from directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, while Paul selected the love-and-baseball comedy FEVER PITCH from directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, which also made my 2005 Honorable Mentions list.  While my choice wouldn't be characterized as an obscure pick--it's available as an excellent special edition from The Criterion Collection--I thought this particular film made sense in representing what I value in cinema.  I also feel as though the remarkable consistency of the Dardennes also means that individual films don't necessarily stand out.  Consider this a good place to start if you're not familiar with their work.

Upcoming episodes:

-May 16: I FEEL PRETTY and our recommendations segment
-May 23: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE and a discussion about who are the biggest new movie stars of the last twenty years and what defines a star in today's Hollywood
-May 30: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and our recommendations segment
-June 6: TULLY and a discussion about sequels, cinematic universes, and crossovers we'd like to see

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 15: A Quiet Place

If you were to collect and analyze the complaints about going to the movies, you would probably reach the conclusion that other moviegoers are monsters.  People checking their phones, talking, and doing heaven knows what else are constant distractions from the main reason why everyone is supposedly at the movie theater.  A QUIET PLACE, the spotlight film on episode 15 of FILMBOUND, raises the stakes for watching a movie with a crowd.  More than most films, it requires a hushed viewing environment, so seeing it in public charges the the experience with an even higher expectation and need that everyone will be respectful.  A QUIET PLACE also pressures the most conscientious attendees not to create any noise, even inadvertently, by shifting in their seats or consuming their snacks of choice too loudly.  I don't know if this factor was taken into account when making the horror movie, but it certainly benefits from making all viewers keenly aware of the social contract in going to the movies.

I've witnessed enough impolite conduct at the movies to know that audience behavior can leave a lot to be desired, but in general the notion that movie theaters are packed with the unruly masses does not reflect my typical experience.  Yes, I've been frustrated by the people who can't avoid looking at their phones and those who are oblivious and unconcerned that they're providing an unwanted running commentary, but it's pretty rare to have a screening completely ruined by this.  Then again, I also tend to go at off-peak times and see some films that only attract a handful of people, although sometimes the smaller crowds invite the most irksome people to share a theater with.

I use my part of the recommendations segment to suggest director Andrew Haigh’s LEAN ON PETE and Chloé Zhao’s THE RIDER, two dramas about the powerful connections between people and horses.  Both films are currently in limited release.

Upcoming episodes:

-May 9: ISLE OF DOGS and the creation of the FILMBOUND canon
-May 16: I FEEL PRETTY and our recommendations segment
-May 23: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE and a discussion about who are the biggest new movie stars of the last twenty years and what defines a star in today's Hollywood
-May 30: AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and our recommendations segment

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 14: Ready Player One

With the encouragement of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, and Paul Thomas Anderson, 70mm film projection is en vogue again.  For those in big cities, something may be showing in 70mm on a regular basis, whether it's a new release or an old film.  Here in Columbus the Gateway Film Center may not play a film in 70mm every week, but their schedule features screenings in the format often enough that attending one doesn't seem like trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of a comet.  If you live outside larger areas, chances are that seeing films in this format is unavailable to you unless you're dedicated to making a long drive.

The reemergence of 70mm film projection is a welcome development for those of us who still appreciate seeing movies from physical prints rather than digital sources.  If I'm on the fence about seeing an older movie in the theater, I'm more likely to go if it is being projected from film.  A physical print provides a different aesthetic experience that I can't duplicate at home.  Along that line, the renewed interest in and availability of 70mm prints surely stem from the mild pushback to the digital conversion of the nation's theaters.  Some makers, fans, and exhibitors wish to support the philosophical mission to preserve the native film experience. What had been normal for most of the art form's existence mostly went away in a relatively short period of time.  In 2002 I had to pay an upcharge to see STAR WARS: EPISODE II - ATTACK OF THE CLONES digitally projected.  Sixteen years later some places charge extra for 35mm and 70mm screenings.

On episode 14 of FILMBOUND we review READY PLAYER ONE, which I saw in 70mm.  While I'm glad that I was able to see Steven Spielberg's latest work in this format, the existence of the film in 70mm reflects some of my issues with READY PLAYER ONE's fetishization of the past.  I don't know what percentage of the film's scenes exist entirely as digital creations, but it's surely more than half and, if I'm guessing, probably close to 75%.  If most of it wasn't shot on film, is there real value in having 70mm prints available, or is this merely a marketing gimmick?

Paul Markoff and I also discuss the benefits and detriments of film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.  Increasingly I'm not persuaded that the site is of much use other than being a one-stop shop for finding links to several reviews at once, links that I suspect most visitors rarely click on because they're just looking for the Tomatometer percentage or the blurbs.

Upcoming episodes:

-May 2: A QUIET PLACE and our recommendations segment
-May 9: ISLE OF DOGS and the creation of the FILMBOUND canon
-May 16: I FEEL PRETTY and our recommendations segment
-May 23: YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE and a discussion about who are the biggest new movie stars of the last twenty years and what defines a star in today's Hollywood

Monday, April 30, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 13: Unsane

With end of the semester projects, Ebertfest, another trip out of town, and various other things devouring my time, I've slipped behind in posting these entries about new podcast episodes.  That the thirteenth episode of FILMBOUND was published twelve days ago, while feeling like it was months ago, is indicative of how my recent experience of time has felt particularly unmoored.  Never fear, I'm not suggesting I'm having any uncertainties about what's real and what isn't, unlike Claire Foy's protagonist in UNSANE.  For me it's a situation more along the lines of everything moving so quickly that the past feels farther away than it really is.

Regardless of the degree to which I like director Steven Soderbergh's films, the product-minded side of me appreciates that he turns out new work with an often-startling frequency compared to other major filmmakers.  His willingness to experiment--or mess around with methods more visibly than his peers--appeals to my process-minded side.  The equipment, techniques, and format Soderbergh used for UNSANE seem crucial in developing how he tells this story, so in opening the podcast discussion about this, I didn't expect to encounter my co-host's objections to the director's choice to shoot the film with an iPhone.

I won't try to characterize Paul's stance but rather leave the podcast discussion to convey what he thinks and where our conversation led.  Still, I did want to say a little more about an aspect of one of his criticisms.  Whether Soderbergh was using an iPhone for the sake of using one or, as I believe, he employed it for qualities particularly suited to the material, should the intent ultimately matter?  If he was doing it just to prove he could, why should the audience hold that against him and the film except in determining if it was successful?  I've heard or read this criticism that artists are showing off, particularly when pushing techniques and style to the limit, but rather than leveling accusations of creator arrogance, such a charge really seems to mean that complainants didn't like the outcome.

Upcoming episodes

-April 25: READY PLAYER ONE and a discussion about the benefits and detriments of Rotten Tomatoes
-May 2: A QUIET PLACE and our recommendations segment
-May 9: ISLE OF DOGS and the creation of the FILMBOUND canon
-May 16: I FEEL PRETTY and our recommendations segment

Friday, April 20, 2018

2018 Roger Ebert's Film Festival: Day 2

If the first day of the 20th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival inspired looking at the past, the second day pointed thoughts about the past and present toward the future.  Whether this emerging structure was intended or it's simply what stood out because of where my head is at currently, I like the balance of noticing what used to be and not allowing it to dictate how things should remain.  One can appreciate and respect the past without believing that today and tomorrow must be defined on yesterday's terms.  Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting throwing out everything that has preceded.  That knowledge should be built upon, not permanently fixed.

The present in INTERSTELLAR looks bleak as blight is bringing the last harvests of specific crops, which will inevitably lead to the planet being incapable of growing food at some date.  Dust storms seem likely to bring about all sorts of respiratory issues for the population, especially in the youngest generation.  In Christopher Nolan's 2014 film, the world is no longer at war, perhaps the lone positive byproduct of the perilous environmental situation, but fear of what is ahead has made thinking regressive, something manifested in educators now teaching that space exploration was all a massive constructed lie to gain an edge in the Cold War.

Matthew McConaughey's Cooper understands the practical need to be a farmer, yet he's frustrated how society is essentially barricading itself in its home and embraced denial of reality instead of believing in and working toward a future that could be better.  He becomes involved with a secret outpost of NASA that seeks a new home for humankind in a different galaxy.  While participating means a tremendous personal sacrifice--if he ever returns, he will have missed decades with his children--the alternative is waiting for doomsday to come.  Cooper chooses the more hopeful option, even though it means making the tough choice to leave behind the son and daughter he loves dearly.

INTERSTELLAR is a film of staggering visual wonder that serves as a kind of amusement park ride through a wormhole and into a black hole, yet the father-daughter connection bridging space and time make the greatest impact. Although Nolan can be characterized as a cold, logical filmmaker, here he searches for the unquantifiable in love of family and awe at the universe. The mission into the stars becomes a journey into the heart.

Although the film is just four years old, in the current political atmosphere it plays much differently.  The retrograde developments and fatalistic thinking seem all the more plausible in this pessimistic time.  If only we can have faith that a small, renegade group is still striving to stave off the worst possible outcome for everyone, although the film mitigates the investment we should put into some secret resistance delivering salvation.  Some people may be more qualified to make things better, but in the end everyone needs to pitch in.  It all comes back to the idea that parents make preparations to assist their children even if the full realization of those actions don't arrive until after they are gone.  The past should set the table for the future, not marginalize it.

Ebertfest showed INTERSTELLAR in a 70mm print, which made this one of the potential high points of the festival for me.  I'd seen it in 70mm before but was underwhelmed by the visual result in a better source.  Splashed across the huge screen at the Virginia Theatre, I expected this presentation to deliver what I hoped to see that first time.  While this print was pristine, my experience was the same.  INTERSTELLAR in 70mm lacks the sharpness and clarity that I expect.  Some of the farm scenes, especially in the house, seem dark and lower in detail.  This is not the case with 70mm prints of DUNKIRK, so I'm not sure what the difference is.

Monica Castillo, Selena director Gregory Nava, and Claudia Puig
Gregory Nava's SELENA, a biopic about the Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez, is the only film to play here in the first two days that I hadn't already seen.  While the film's arc is more about the rise and tragic end of the pop star's life, one of the tensions extends from her father Abraham (Edward James Olmos) resisting the desire of his children, particularly Selena (Rebecca Lee Meza as a child, Jennifer Lopez as a teen and adult), to do things according to their tastes, not his.  As a frustrated former musician, Abraham has certain ideas of how things should be done based on when he was growing up.  While some of his objections, such as his dislike for Selena's more revealing fashions, emanates from a paternal impulse, many of them are rooted in believing that all the answers exist in the past.

SELENA gave a big boost to Lopez's career, and her strong technical performance makes it easy to understand why, although she's limited by a screenplay that doesn't give the character much of an interior life.  My primary criticism of the film is that the writing leaves a lot to be desired, whether it's the information dumps of dialogue or the progression of events that don't fully convey how much Selena's professional status is changing.  As biopics tend to do, SELENA features a greatest hits of anecdotes on her rise to fame, but these scenes feel strangely disconnected until someone unloads some clunky talk to fill in some of the gaps.

I appreciate, though, that Nava doesn't define Selena through her death.  When the film opened, for much of the American public their greatest awareness of her would have been about her murder.  I suspect most filmmakers would have opened SELENA with the tragedy and flashed back to tell the story, but doing so would implicitly say that being killed is why she should be of interest to people, not her talent or accomplishments.  Nava doesn't foreshadow the murder unless you recall who was responsible, which has the weird effect of Selena's fate hanging over the film like the sword of Damocles for those who know it or seeming like a shocking turn virtually out of nowhere for those who are unfamiliar with the outcome.

Nava also does a nice job of depicting the struggle in being Mexican-American, which complicates Selena's professional life by being perceived as not fully either nationality.  There can be a tendency to assume that those with hyphenated identities favor the part that is not American, yet here we see that doing so is often not fair.  Selena's native tongue is English, and she wants to sing in that language.  The system, however, pushes her toward where it thinks she best fits, which mirrors her father's experience of wanting to sing with a doo wop group but facing opposition by the majority culture and his own because of his heritage.

Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, Belle director Amma Asante, and Chaz Ebert
Heritage is also the prism through which Gugu Mbatha-Raw is viewed and treated as Dido Elizabeth Belle in Amma Asante's BELLE.  Based on a true story, Dido has a British father and a slave mother, and her father wishes to have his parents care for her according to the status he gives her while he is away in the Royal Navy.  Her great-uncle and great-aunt, Lord and Lady Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson), raise Dido much the same way they do her cousin Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon), yet there remain some customs that have her occupy in which her place is above the servants but below the rest of the family.

Dido's young adulthood coincides with an important case regarding the crew of a slave ship disposing of its human cargo and seeking recompense from the insurer.  Lord Mansfield is adjudicating it, and Dido's awareness of the matter shapes her understanding of who she is and how society observes her.

Asante excels at bringing out the economic, social, and political questions in a costume drama and tying their relevance to today.  Race is certainly an important component of what BELLE is examining, but the film also explores the worth and expectations of women in a culture that does not fully value them and actively seeks to bind them to a way of moving through society that limits their potential.  The phrase judicial activism gets lobbed as an accusation nowadays, yet is a strict adherence to the past beneficial?  Lord Mansfield's decision in the Zong case could be interpreted as activism--I suspect any verdict departing from the observer's opinion qualifies as such--even though it seems like the evolution of thought in applying the law.  Again, blanket denial of the past is not the goal, but making the future beholden to what preceded should not be either.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

2018 Roger Ebert's Film Festival: Opening Night

The Fugitive director Andrew Davis introduces his film
Without going into details, it's been a trying year--and one that I anticipate will continue to test me, even if there's nothing life-threatening--so I arrived in Champaign, Illinois for the 20th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival with the hope of taking a breather, if just for a few days.  Granted, simply by being here I'm potentially stressing myself out more as there's work to be done for final projects due in my MBA classes next week.  That's what mornings are for, or so I'm telling myself, and I did work ahead a fair bit to feel as though I could attend this festival yet again and not feel like I'm being irresponsible.  Yes, the brand bible and diagnostic and my portions of a group research project about introducing a mid-size electric vehicle to the Chinese market are not one hundred percent finished, but if I'm being fair with myself, I've made enough progress that I this trip should be guilt-free.

This is my eighteenth consecutive Ebertfest, although it's the first since 2015 that I will be here for every day.  (Those pesky graduate school courses kept me from the first two days in 2016 and opening night last year, sacrifices that I knew were sensible but gnawed at me nevertheless as I sat in those classrooms.)  Truth be told, other festivals that I attend have surpassed this one on the list of my favorites, but it's still near and dear to me because it was the first festival I attended and one that does a lot very well--and differently--to make it worthwhile.

When I reflect on the fact that this is my eighteenth year here, the reality of it is almost impossible to believe.  It doesn't seem that long ago that I first stepped into the Virginia Theatre to see a 70mm print of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY smelling like barbecue because I sat downwind from the local vendor grilling outside the theater for hungry festivalgoers.  The hotel where I stayed during my first time here was torn down many years ago, the Virginia has undergone many renovations to restore its beauty and enhance its comfort, and the Neil Street corridor and downtown Champaign has transformed through a lot of development.  Of course, the festival itself has witnessed dramatic changes, especially as its namesake is no longer here in physical form, although his spirit remains evident in the tone the event sets.

I imagine that if you go to one place or one event year after year after year, it takes on some greater significance because you gradually observe the changes and come to realize that the same things are happening to you.  Blink and there's a corner teeming with restaurants when last you looked there were none.  Wait a minute, I've owned how many cars in that time?  (The answer is four, although one never had the chance to make the trip because it was prematurely terminated by a driver who rear-ended me without braking when I was stopped on the highway.)

I think Ebertfest invites reminiscing, in part because it's not built around new films and also because it possesses a strong nostalgic or sentimental quality.  Moviegoing as a communal experience gets derided for how often it fails us now--or how the rude fail the respectful majority--and it may be diminishing as consumer tastes change, be it because of price, convenience, or whatever factor you wish to blame.  Ebertfest occurs in a single theater and doesn't require pass holders to select between screening options unless there are films they don't want to see.  In that regard it is one big shared experience.  In the early days "overlooked" was in the festival's name.  Oddly enough, the act of seeing a film with a crowd is the sort of thing that may now be overlooked, or undervalued, that it could have a rightful place in the fest's name again.

Richard Roeper, Matt Zoller Seitz, director Andrew Davis, and Scott Mantz
THE FUGITIVE, director Andrew Davis's 1993 thriller based on an old TV show, kicked off the 20th edition of Ebertfest with enough affection for and exploration of Chicago to win over what seems to be an audience dominated by Illinoisans.  (At the fest's attendance peak, people from the Land of Lincoln probably still made up more than half of the crowd, but my impression is that Ebertfest has slowly become more of a local festival in terms of who comes.)  I don't know that I'd seen THE FUGITIVE since its original theatrical run, and aside from a couple of Tommy Lee Jones's highly quoted lines on pre-screening trivia slides in the 1990s, I didn't remember much about it.  If that seems damning, those lines are more than I recall about the sequel U.S. MARSHALS.

While the opening packs a lot of information about the murder of Dr. Richard Kimble's wife and the aftermath into a relatively short period of time, I felt restless waiting for THE FUGITIVE to finish the wind-up and get to the chase.  The practical effects of the train crash that frees Harrison Ford's wrongly accused character impresses and earned appreciative applause from the festival audience.  What sort of shocked me in revisiting the film is how much of it is a process movie, with the character elements kept to a minimum.  I doubt that what thrilled me about THE FUGITIVE in 1993 was how it functions as a tour of various parts of the city and the diverse people encountered along the way, but its time capsule quality, especially if the Chicago accent is disappearing, and the shoe leather beats with the hunter and the hunted are what pulled me in the most now.  Maybe that's also why long stretches of the film play to me as TV, although that may be more reflective of TV now than then.

One of the pleasures of rewatching older films for the first time in a long time is discovering people in bit parts who wouldn't have stood out then but have been there all along. THE FUGITIVE is populated with plenty of faces you'll likely recognize today even if you can't put a name to them.  Just as visiting places once a year over many years facilitates a form of time travel, so too do the movies provide a temporal transport, and a more accessible one at that.  I don't know what journeys await over the next four days at Ebertfest, but I eagerly look forward to taking them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 12: Minority Report

In the later years of NOW PLAYING Paul Markoff and I adapted the show so that the fifth film reviewed on an episode might be non-current.  We would use that portion of the show to evaluate something one or both of us had never seen but were interested in catching up with, such as Barry Jenkins' debut MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY or THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER.  We would also revisit films, like PULP FICTION, which I hadn't watched in years and my co-host was not won over by when he initially saw it.

With FILMBOUND we want the freedom to take the occasional break from contemporary films, so episode 12 brings us back to MINORITY REPORT.  I realize that a film that came out just sixteen years ago may not seem "old" to many of you reading this, but working with college students, like I do, can disabuse one of the notion that something released a couple years after the turn of the century is relatively recent.  I also thought that it could be fun to compare and contrast daily life today and MINORITY REPORT's speculations of 2054 technology.  Good news for the print industry, home newspaper delivery is still going strong thirty-six years from now!

In the recommendations segment, I go long on extolling the virtues of the True/False Film Festival.  I've attended True/False since 2015 and consider it one of the highlights of my moviegoing year.  I posted grades in my March 2018 Film Log, but for those who want a definitive ranking, here is how I'd group and order every film I saw at the festival:

Best of True/False 2018
1. BISBEE '17

Very Good to Good
7. Secret Screening Gale
8. Secret Screening Mistral
9. GRAVEN IMAGE (short)
15. BABY BROTHER (short)
16. Secret Screening Zephyr


Difficult to Evaluate - No Grade

In last month's film log post I explained why I didn't grade these last two films, and on this podcast I say a little more about wrestling with FLIGHT OF A BULLET.

Upcoming episodes:

-April 18: UNSANE and our recommendations segment
-April 25: READY PLAYER ONE and a discussion about Rotten Tomatoes
-May 2: A QUIET PLACE and our recommendations segment
-May 9: ISLE OF DOGS and the creation of the FILMBOUND canon

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Filmbound - Episode 11: A Wrinkle in Time

Assuming good faith on behalf of the person expressing an opinion ranks near the top of qualities I would like to see change in the internet discourse about films.  A WRINKLE IN TIME reviews elicited a lot of bad faith assumptions about those who didn't like the film and those who did, although my general impression is that those who disliked director Ava DuVernay's fantasy adventure were more likely to assign ulterior motives to the writers of positive reviews.  From samples of what I read, I'm inclined to agree that some, not all, of the favorable reviews seemed willing to give A WRINKLE IN TIME a pass in a manner that I didn't consider particularly persuasive, yet I also need to recognize that I am surely guilty of doing the same thing in some of my assessments. 

Chances are that everyone writing about art does this from time to time.  It's natural to be more generous or protective of those things we have a history of enjoying.  Am I more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to a veteran filmmaker whose prior work I've frequently praised than a new director?  Probably.  The goal is to account for our subjective tendencies and support our opinions so that when our reflexive perspectives emerge in the writing, there is still a solid foundation for the argument.  Obviously that can be easier said than done, so while we all try to be better, let's grant the leeway that people are being genuine with what they put in their reviews, even if we're not always convinced by what they say.

The second part of episode 11 features a discussion about films from about the last fifteen years that were commercial and/or critical flops that Paul and I think may be considered classics in the long run.  I've been reviewing films since 1997, so it's interesting to look back at what dominated conversations and observe which ones have demonstrated more staying power.  Pick a year at random, and then look up the Academy Awards and critics groups' nominees or a critic's best of the year list.  You'll find a number of films or performers that were considered essential to give validity to those lists at the time but have mostly faded from memory while hindsight now reveals what has endured.  (Naturally, this isn't a perfect system, so some things that have fallen off the radar may not deserve it.)  Of course, there's nothing guaranteeing that the films we name in this segment will last, but as we recorded this show a couple weeks after the most recent awards season wrapped, I found it instructive to note that victory in the short run didn't necessarily translate to the long term and vice versa.

Upcoming episodes:

-April 11: MINORITY REPORT and our recommendations segment
-April 18: UNSANE and our recommendations segment
-April 25: READY PLAYER ONE and a to-be-determined topic
-May 2: A QUIET PLACE and our recommendations segment
-May 9: ISLE OF DOGS and a to-be-determined topic