Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Streep & Streep: Which Of Her Movies This Year Is Actually The More Honest Portrayal of Middle Aged Love?

By Lars Trodson

An online movie critic described a recent Meryl Streep movie as "refreshingly mature, funny and endearing with a terrific cast and razor sharp dialogue. Meryl Streep sizzles in a sexy, bold and honest performance. It’s an intelligent American romcom with a very French sensibility."

I realized this could have been either Meryl Streep movie released in 2009: "Julie & Julia" or "It's Complicated", although the critic was describing the latter.

The movies bear more similarities than featuring Ms. Streep. Both films were written and directed by women: "Julie & Julia" is a Nora Ephron film and "It's Complicated" is by Nancy Meyers. Both lead characters are foodies: Julia is of course Julia Child and Jane Adler in "It's Complicated" runs a bakery and she seduces her men partly through her work in the kitchen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Is 'Avatar' Our 'Titanic'?

Is the little handmade film with real people finally a thing of the past?

By Lars Trodson

The question about whether James Cameron's "Avatar" is the future of movies shouldn't be framed in terms of its technical achievements but in terms of what audiences will now expect in order to be entertained.

Are the only movies that will truly transport an audience are those made by thousands of people with a $300 million pricetag?

Critics are hailing "Avatar" as not only a great entertainment but the very future of the medium. The idea behind this prophesy is a little demented. They're all saying that with enough money, time and computer technicians, you can create a similar movie. No, no -- you NEED to create a similar movie. Otherwise you'll just have made a little talky thing with people moping about. And no one will care.

Which means that the technicians may finally have won.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

'The Family Stone': Overlooked Christmas Gem

By Lars Trodson

There is nothing quite so satisfying as a great holiday film, and that's due to the fact that there are so few of them. There have been only two films added to the list of classic holiday films in almost 30 years. One is "A Christmas Story" (1983) and the other is the strangely overlooked "The Family Stone" (2005). This movie can easily be added to those that we cheerfully call "perennial favorites", and if you haven't seen it, you should.

Part of the problem may be the title, which, alas, means nothing. There's no indicator that it's a holiday movie. It's frustratingly bland, but the movie itself a lovely, screamingly retro holiday fantasy that adheres to the conventions of the genre while also giving it some real humanity.

That's the key to any real holiday classic: it's got to have the right mix of reality and fantasy. The apex of this recipe is, I think, "Miracle On 34th Street" (1947), which works whether you believe the Edmund Gwynn character is really Kris Kringle or not.

But there can be fantasy of another type, too, which means it only has to be a beautiful dream.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Up In The Air': Another Empty Balloon

By Lars Trodson

In Manohla Dargis’s review of “Up In The Air” she has this to say about actress Anna Kendrick, who plays a supposedly cutthroat young executive named Natalie Keener: “The ferocious Ms. Kendrick, her ponytail swinging like an ax, grabs every scene she’s in, which works for her go-getter (go-get-him) character... She’s a monster for our times: a presumed human-resources expert who, having come of age in front of a computer, has no grasp of the human.”

The critics have been falling all over themselves about Kendrick, and this adulation was sanctioned this week by a Golden Globe nomination for the young actress.

Now, I defy anyone who has yet to see this movie to find a scene, any scene, any moment, any second, where Ms. Kendrick’s ponytail swings like an ax. It does not happen -- in fact, it mostly hangs limp.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Quentin Tarantino Talks Up Our Oscar Pick

Mr. Tarantino picks his top 8 films for 2009, and agrees with us on what the best American made movie of the year might be.
Oscar voters, take note.

Click here for Quentin Tarantino's Oscar picks:

-- LT

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Clash Of The Remakes: Do We Need Another 'Excalibur'?

By Mike Gillis

We've commented before on the growing and aggravating trend in Hollywood to remake perfectly good movies, sometimes for no other reason than to shift from black and white to color ("Psycho?"). Movies from a few years to a few deacdes old now get the makeover regularly.

Two recent entries into what I like to call the repeat genre remind me how barren the well of creativity in Hollywood has become. What's more, both remakes are themselves based on works hundreds of years old. And in both cases, I suspect, they serve no other purpose but to road test new and improved digital effects.

Bryan Singer, who leveraged the critical success of "The Usual Suspects" to carve out a career as a mediocre, big budget director, is now tackling a remake of John Boorman's "Excalibur."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Werner Herzog's 'Bad Lieutenant' is a Train Wreck Worth Watching

By Mike Gillis

There is a scene late in Wernor Herzog's ode to anarchy, "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" where bad New Orleans Lt. Terrence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage) interrogates an old, wheelchair-bound woman and her hairdresser at a rest home. McDonagh is looking for the hairdresser's grandson, a witness to the execution of a Senegalese family. McDonagh reaches down and rips out the oxygen tubes from the old woman's nose and keeps her gasping until her hairdresser spills the beans. Once the oxygen is restored the abuse doesn't stop. McDonagh begins a rant about the old woman and her oxygen tank being the reason the country is falling apart, suggesting she's wasting her children's inheritance to selfishly prolong her frailty.

It's a senseless berating, but offers a rickety framework to a movie that clearly intends to defy meaning: Once the body unravels, nothing holds it together well, so what's the point? The old woman's oxygen is no different than the cocaine and heroin McDonagh snorts, first to mask back pain, but ultimately to dodge the harsh reality of mortality. McDonagh finds solace with drugs, a prostitute (Eva Mendes), abuse of power and ego. He uses everyone around him: his father and stepmother, his peers, drug dealers. It's all reckless.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Worst Films Of The 00's

I'm not sure someone like Paris Hilton should be included on this list, because she is not an actor and the things she appears in are not films. But it's dispiriting to see so many terrific actors -- Nicolas Cage, Eddie Murphy, Cuba Gooding Jr., etc. -- appearing here.

Perhaps this is an indication of just how brutal the Hollywood system has become for actors in the past 10 years or so. It is not coincidental that this list is chock full of talented American actors, while the "Best Of" lists compiled by critics all over the world include so few American movies.

-- LT

Friday, December 4, 2009

The A.V. Club Posts Its Top 50 Of The Past Decade

Here is a list that is more accessible -- and wildly different -- than either The New Yorker or TIFF. 

-- LT

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The New Yorker Also Announces Its Top 10 Of The Decade

These films are probably very beautiful, but did many of them play outside New York?

The New Yorker announces best films of the decade

-- LT

The Decade's Top Ten, According To The Folks At The Toronto International Film Festival

Wow. This is a list sure to start a debate, particularly among the extraordinarily few people that must have seen all the chosen films. The list is so obscure it elicits a kind of awe, actually.


-- LT