Features

Spirited Away

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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The March Short Film

Why Watch? As a potential upside, we could be uploading our consciousness into a computer to dominate our reality like Johnny Depp (or Ray Kurzweil). As a potential downside, we could be robo-slaves kept pliant by our addiction to an alternative version of reality. Either way, it all starts with Google Glass. This sharp and brooding short film from Josh Fortune was created for the Sci-Fi London 48 Hour Film Competition, and it tells a personal story within the confines of a future history and a metal chassis. Few movies get away with voiceover as a primary vehicle, but here, a disembodied voice aching to make a connection is thematically perfect. Plus, X27′s (Jared Fortune) vocals are sufficiently world weary and gruff, acting as a consistent reminder that there’s a man inside the formaldehyde. As for the visuals, the animation is a quaint cut-paper job that evokes the sandier elements of Star Wars. It’s ambitious for a two-day production, but I wonder what kind of fantastical story this team could come up with given more money and, say, a whole week.

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Most Anticipated Tribeca Films

Hey, look, it’s film festival time again! (It’s always film festival time, much like it’s always awards season time.) This time around, the films are unfurling at New York City’s own Tribeca Film Festival, and two of our very own NYC-based scribblers are on the ground to cover the best of what the festival has to offer. As ever, the festival offers a robust programming slate of brand-new premieres, holdovers from other festivals around the world (we recommend titles like In Your Eyes, Chef, and Begin Again, if you’re looking to play catch up), and some uniquely compelling titles just daring you to try them out (one word: zombeavers). The festival kicks off tonight with the premiere of the Nas documentary, Time Is Illmatic, and runs until Sunday, April 27th. For these next few days, Lower Manhattan will be jumping with the festival and its many offerings, and we dare say that our own Kate Erbland and Daniel Walber have picked out some of the best.

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Allison Tolman in Fargo TV Series

It may not be the best movie of 1998, as its Best Picture honor claims it to be, but Shakespeare in Love is a delight for any drama nerd with a boner for the Bard. Hardly acceptable as a true account of the inspiration for and writing of “Romeo and Juliet,” John Madden’s film is really just a celebration of the work of William Shakespeare by being a pastiche of themes, tropes and lines from his plays. Another proper title for the movie would be “Mark Norman (and Tom Stoppard) in Love With Shakespeare.” In their script are direct reverential references — some of them nods of foreshadowing for things later to be written, others familiar devices employed as general homage — to “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Merchant of Venice” and more. Some of it is kind of silly if you find that sort of celebratory amalgamation and obvious, literal allusion to be a cheap reduction of an artist’s genius (at least Shakespeare got off better than The Beatles did in Across the Universe), and now that same kind of imitative collage is being done for Joel and Ethan Coen in the new TV series Fargo (making them modern day equivalents of the Bard, apparently deserving of equal admiration and tribute). Despite sharing its name with the filmmakers’ 1996 Best Picture nominee, the FX show is not quite an(other) adaptation or spin-off or remake of the story of Marge Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard. It is not even set in the same Minnesota […]

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The Battle of Algiers Movie

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they bow to the ethical and empathetic complexity of a movie violently opposed to the inhumane destruction of conflict: Gillo Pontecorgo’s The Battle of Algiers.  In the #48 (tied) movie on the list, resistance fighters hoping for Algerian freedom from France square off against French soldiers — each employing their own methods of madness — with regular citizens in the crossfire.  But why is it one of the best movies of all time?

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Chloe Grace Moretz

Rising starlet (or, in this case, “starlette” might be more appropriate – like a little tiny star, just beginning to shine) Chloe Grace Moretz hasn’t always made the most traditional of choices in her film career, though that’s not to say they’ve been bad choices. Yet the next segment of Mortez’s career, one that is now set to include starring in a multi-film YA adaptation about a girl in some terrible futuristic settings and situations, looks to be going in a direction that’s not just traditional – it’s expected – and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Moretz certainly started off in an expected enough way, as her younger years were spent with small appearances on television shows and a series of horror films (including The Amityville Horror and Wicked Little Things), before turning her charms on for something a little offbeat. Moretz co-starred as the sassy younger sister in (500) Days of Summer, but the romantic comedy really took that sass to a new level – Mortez’s Rachel was a wise-beyond-her-years tween who served as the central voice of reason. Sure, “sassy younger sister” sounds standard, but the role of Rachel was not. From there, Moretz started making some bold (and, frankly, brave) choices.

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Spring Break 83 Movie

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Scottie Shwartz in Kidco

This year we’ve already heard about The Lego Movie being anti-capitalist (even though it’s the opposite) and Frozen having a gay agenda (I can neither confirm nor deny this, as I still haven’t seen it), so it’s surprising that the conservative media hasn’t also jumped at the chance to denounce Rio 2 for its tree-hugging liberal propaganda. Maybe after piling on The Muppets, The Lorax, Cars 2, Happy Feet Two and others they’re tired of pointing out that basically every family film seems to them as leaning left. Or maybe, as Matt Patches argues disappointedly in his Fighting In the War Room podcast review, the message of Rio 2 is not direct enough to reach the young viewers because it implies the birds are fighting deforestation in the Amazon just fine on their own. Either way, I invite the Right to join me this week in recognizing the 30th anniversary of Kidco, a mostly forgotten family film that aired a lot on HBO in the mid ’80s. That’s where I saw it over and over and over. Although shot in 1982, it was released theatrically, barely, on April 13, 1984, yet there’s no record of its box office gross (at Box Office Mojo or The Numbers) or any reviews it received at the time (on Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic or IMDb). Why it was buried is unknown, but former child star Scott Schwartz, who appeared as the lead in the movie at age 14 (between his work in The Toy and A […]

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Justin Timberlake Omeletteville

We’ve all probably contemplated a career change at some points in our lives. But at the same time, we also probably didn’t (most of us, I don’t know about you) start out as multi-award winning pop stars beloved by millions for our singing and dancing. Proving that even the richest and most famous get bored or at least hear from an agent or two that they’re something special, many a pop sensation get the itch sometime down the road to give acting a shot. Whether or not they’re successful, well, that’s up for us to sit through and ultimately decide. For every On The Line, there’s an Oscar-winning performance in Moonstruck that somehow happens. Some people just have all the luck.

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WellGo USA

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Confession of Murder A serial killer ends his reign of terror and disappears into the night, but years later when the statute of limitations runs out on the crimes a man comes forward to claim responsibility and sell some books. He becomes an overnight sensation with the media, but the detective that worked the original case is none too pleased with the man’s newfound celebrity. The victims’ families are equally unhappy and set about making their own justice, and soon all manner of shenanigans are in play. Jung Byung-gil‘s action/thriller is an ecstatically energetic and deliriously entertaining flick that moves effortlessly between beautifully choreographed chase/fight scenes, heart-rending drama and purely comedic interactions. The story gets a bit silly at times, but it’s never less than invigorating and exciting. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, you should at least listen to the cover blurb calling it “One hell of a ride.” [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Behind the scenes, interviews, trailer]

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Nic Cage in The Trouble in Louisiana Trilogy

Every few years, Nicolas Cage reminds us what a compelling screen performer he is and can be. While such reminders seem fewer and further between, the utter expendability of much of his recent filmography make strong performances like his brooding lead in David Gordon Green’s Joe all the more powerful – not because we forgot about Cage’s talents, but because we’re afraid that he might have. Joe has been deemed (by this site and others) to be a “return to form” for Cage. It’s easy to declare with a handful of titles what form Cage is returning to. In celebrated roles like Adaptation, Leaving Las Vegas, and Bringing Out the Dead Cage has displayed an uncanny ability to balance pathological self-destruction with varying undertones of dark comedy. He is the actor of choice for men who struggle outside the norms of society, yet wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else. But outside of The Wicker Man, mesmerizing mash-ups, and whatever he was doing in Face-Off, it’s perhaps harder to concisely define the form that Cage is returning from when making films like Joe, despite the fact that it’s Cage’s more forgettable (and sometimes more batshit) work that creates the rule which highlights welcome exceptions. A recent, unofficial trilogy of particularly Cagean works speaks volumes to the one-of-a-kind spot that Cage’s stardom finds itself in now. While these films do not share a producer, a studio, or any other factor that justifies their making beyond their existence as Nicolas Cage vehicles, Trespass, Stolen, and […]

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Tees Maar Khan

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Fright Night 1985

Vampires are timeless; by their very nature immortal. Still, Hollywood has so shat the coffin with vampire movies of late that the creeping shadow on the wall no longer belongs to Nosferatu, but rather to permeating audience apathy. But there was a time, gentle viewer, when the legacy of the vampire canon found a way to integrate gloriously into the zeitgeist of a new era. That time was the 1980s. On this week’s episode, Cargill and I discuss some of our favorite vampire movies of the ’80s and examine how they incorporated the spirit of that decade into the long-running mythology of the blood-sucking undead. We won’t say this is an episode of Junkfood Cinema that you should sink your teeth into, because that’s far too obvious. That being said, you should totally sink your teeth into this episode of Junkfood Cinema. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #7 Directly

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Connor Corum in Heaven Is For Real

Greg Kinnear is the perfect actor to star in Heaven is for Real, an adaptation of the nonfiction best-seller of the same name. The guy from Flash of Genius and Little Miss Sunshine is the one you want for another character struggling in life and trying to convince people of something. He has sad eyes but a charming smile. And in movies like this, no matter how you feel about the message at its core, you’ll like the person he’s playing and want him to succeed. If Tucker: The Man and His Dream or Field of Dreams were remade today, Kinnear would be a great choice to play either’s protagonist. Heaven is for Real is actually quite reminiscent of the latter. It’s set in the Midwest farmlands and deals with a man about to lose everything, it involves a father/son relationship and, most importantly, it involves the afterlife. Yet it won’t be accepted the same way, because Field of Dreams was sold as a fantasy film and Heaven is for Real is classified in the Christian genre (and as a true story). More than most of these kinds of films, though, it has the capability to transcend the faith-based demographic thanks to the appeal of the cast and their winning performances. Kinnear’s is the strongest, though Kelly Reilly does a fine job as his wife, the under-appreciated Margo Martindale stands out in a supporting role and 6-year-old newcomer Connor Corum breaks out as the true star, offering the most adorable, non-precocious work by […]

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Good Grief Short Film

Why Watch? This short documentary from Fiona Dalwood features five conversations about losing something vital (from limbs to loved ones) and infuses them with lighthearted stop-motion animation, rounding out and complicating stories that otherwise might be wholly somber. In truth, what’s shared is not only the initial wound of the loss, but also the lessons learned from it as it healed. Those tones blend together for a rich view on one aspect of human life — managing to avoid one-noted piety, sunshine or despair. The stop-motion, rendered with simplicity and skill, adds a buffer between us and the pain. There’s a potential to mute the impact, but it also achieves something similar to the short In Dreams, where the human face is taken away, allowing a universality to creep in. This is no longer his story, these are no longer their stories. We can somehow see ourselves more easily reflected in the details when it’s a talking spider sharing the woe. Good Grief also uses its claymation as a Trojan horse. An adorable entryway that leads to some difficult questions.

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Kevin Costner in DRAFT DAY

Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters and Dave are four of Ivan Reitman‘s films that have stood the test of time. When Reitman was on top of his game, the now 67-year-old filmmaker hit grand slams. I’m not using these sports metaphors because his latest film, Draft Day, includes the NFL Draft, but because, like athletes, some directors have hot streaks and cold streaks. For an array of reasons, slumps happen. Reitman’s lasted 18 years. After Dave he directed Junior, Father’s Day, Evolution, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and Six Days, Seven Nights. A few of those films had glimmers of hope that Reitman hadn’t lost his touch, but during those years, only as a producer was he making quality movies. People generally focus on the films that proceeded Dave, not Old School, Up in the Air,  I Love You, Man and Private Parts, and one of those acclaimed films he came close to directing. “It was stupid,” Reitman says, on why he didn’t direct Private Parts himself. “I was doing three movies at once: Space Jam, which I was sort of directing, but I wasn’t officially directing; Father’s Day, which I shouldn’t have directed, because we never got the script right; and Private Parts. Private Parts was the one I gave up, and I shouldn’t have.”

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Corey Phillips The Matrix Illustration

The modern art museum-worthy image you’re looking at is the result of averaging every frame of a movie — in this case Mr. Anderson learning to stop bullets — in order to find a tonal mean. It was created by coding hobbyist Corey Phillips, who wrote the script that does the heavy lifting and shared it with Reddit. “Film buffs, and increasingly also gamers, debate the significance of color filters that are applied in post-processing,” Phillips tells me when I ask what prompted the project. “For example, The Matrix was released with reasonably neutral coloring, then re-released with more dramatic coloring. I originally wrote this program to see just how much color correction changed the tone of a film. For films like The Matrix, that turned out to be a lot.” According to Phillips, the coding works essentially like a double exposure photograph with hundreds of thousands of photos (each frame of the film) layered on top of one another to create the final effect.

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Say Anything

Sometime during the spring of my freshman year at college, a friend of mine decided to break out a big romantic gesture for his girlfriend of just a few weeks – they weren’t celebrating anything special, no anniversary or holiday to peg it to, he just wanted to do something – and he decided to recreate the infamous boombox scene from Say Anything. It went over like gangbusters. He drove his truck to the back of her dorm, stood in the bed of it, and blasted Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” for everyone to hear. I’m certain that was part of the charm – his girlfriend heard it, the rest of her dorm heard it, people walking to class heard it. (She was, to put it delicately, a bit of a show-off.) Most importantly, everyone seemed to get it. Cameron Crowe’s film was nearly fifteen years old when this particularly over-the-top expression of love occurred, and although I’d never dare to compare the epic love story that was Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Diane Court (Ione Skye) with a pair of dumb college kids eager to make their affections public in a world pre-Facebook, they did have something in common – neither couple is still together. 

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Mad Men Season 7 Time Zones

Accutron: It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece. The first Accutron hit the markets long before Freddy Rumsen was pitching it in such surprisingly elegant language. Actually, it had been selling for about ten years, debuting in October of 1960 (just around the time Mad Men‘s first season was drawing to a close). Watches of the time, and for several centuries previously, were built around a “balance wheel,” a little pendulum that shifts back and forth and keeps the watch’s hands moving. Watchmaking company Bulova did away with the balance wheel for their Accutron watch, inserting a fancy electric tuning fork and cementing Accutron as the first electronic watch in history. Those tiny metal forks also made the Accutron the most accurate wristwatch ever made, and a “horological revolution” (thanks, Wikipedia!). At least until 1969, when Astron debuted the quartz-powered Astron and Joel Murray, as Rumsen, sat down to do his best Don Draper impression in the offices of Sterling Cooper & Partners (technically, this episode was set in January of ’69 and the Astron didn’t come out until December, but who’s to say Bulova didn’t have a little insider knowledge about the competition?). But at the time of Rumsen’s pitch, the Accutron was the cutting edge, and hearing such a sharp pitch about such a sharp watch sounds so very peculiar from a character best known for peeing his pants and collapsing into a sad, drunken heap. Scott Hornbacher, the director of last night’s episode, knows this. […]

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Jean Dujardin and Cecile de France in MOBIUS

The Weekend Watch is an open thread where you can share what you’ve recently watched, offer suggestions on movies and TV shows we should check out (or warnings about stuff to avoid), and discover queue-filling goodies from other FSR readers. The comments section awaits. I’ll get the ball rolling with the movies/TV my eyeballs took in this weekend.

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