New York, NY
Inside Llewyn Davis
From the first chords of “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” the Coen Brothers’ latest exercise in showing us the miserable sad sacks of America (and John Goodman!) is enough to keep you hooked. The problem, or maybe brilliance, with the “Hang Me” opening number is that it sets up our titular folk singer as a wildly talented musician while the rest of the film is devoted to people trying to convince him just the opposite. Inside Llewyn Davis is a beautiful, depressing and somehow deeply funny glimpse at a small slice of the sixties and a man that you shouldn’t want to win, but just keep cheering on. Kind of like Llewyn says, it was never new and it will likely never get old.
Maybe it’s because I never experienced a spraaang breaak quite like our heroines, but I can be counted as one of those enthralled by Harmony Korine’s beach blanket bingo. In a world cast in neon light and narrated by poor little Selena Gomez’s phone calls home to Grandma, kegstands and gross frat boys with weed seem so much more sinister than in the normal haze of day. Florida is their church, and Alien, with his promises of a better time than anything they could ever experience on their own, is their minister. Consider this shit.
It could have been far too easy for Her to mock its lead, making him just some pathetic loner who falls in love with his phone, or even turning the story into a cold critique about how we’re substituting technology for human contact, but it instead makes the relationship sincere. Much of that has to do with the warmth brought by Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha, the Operating System of Joaquin Phoenix’s dreams that manages to feel like a flesh and blood person. The bond between Samantha and Theodore is tender and sweet, and maybe not that distant of a future. Plus, has anyone ever seen a more sparkling clean and beautiful Los Angeles before?
Spring Breakers might have had James Franco enthusiastically fellating a handgun, but Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess was by far the weirdest film I’ve seen this year. It’s somewhere between a mockumentary, a straight comedy, science fiction and a mind melting work of paranoia as a group of computer programmers clash with a cultish group of swingers at a hotel convention while nefarious characters (who might be sent from the US government) watch it all play out. Shot in grainy handheld 16mm in mostly black and white, you’ll feel as if you stumbled onto some footage that you weren’t supposed to watch – but you’ll want to keep watching.
Short Term 12
I cried, y’all. There are some films you sit and watch, and realize that you’re witnessing something great unfold – Destin Cretton did that here. Brie Larson and John Gallagher Jr. give phenomenal performances as a couple attempting to run a group home for foster children, and at the same time coping with the toll the job takes on their own lives. It’s surprisingly funny, touching without being cloying – and yes, emotional – without pandering to its audience; it blew me away.