Fish Tank

Culture Warrior

I recently viewed the trailer for Andrea Arnold’s upcoming Wuthering Heights. Besides being a truly awesome-looking adaptation of some literature you were probably forced to read in high school, the third feature by one of the UK’s most promising new filmmakers, and sporting a nice quote from none other than our own Kate Erbland, there’s something else worth noticing about this upcoming indie period drama: it uses the old-school Academy standard (1.33:1 to 1.37:1) aspect ratio instead of the more conventional cinema standard (1.85:1) and anamorphic widescreen cinema standard (2.35:1) ratios. Now, this might sound like I’m drowning deep in some movie nerd recess that actually involves numbers (and escaping anything seemingly math-related is scientifically-proven to be the means by which most movie nerds come into being), there’s something genuinely important about the fact that a handful of small independent and foreign films have embraced this all-but-abandoned ratio. In an era in which all of our screens (movie, television, laptop, tablet, phone) are rectangles, the squarer-shaped screen that characterizes the Academy Ratio is proving to offer unique, even startling approaches to film visuals that can only rarely be found in other categories of experiencing audio-visual media.

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Young Adult, Shame, and The Descendants. 2011’s holiday movie season ended the year with a barrage of relatively conventional heroes. From Ethan Hunt saving the world from yet another MacGuffin to Sherlock Holmes solving an additional mystery to a cyberpunk and a journalist battling wealthy Swedish career-misogynist neo-Nazis, December was packed with varied iterations of good triumphing over its clearly delineated evil opposition. In contrast, the holiday season’s slate of smaller-scale filmmaking brought forth several protagonists who function in strict contrast to your conventional hero. These protagonists are (decidedly) so toxic, broken, unheroic, and even unlikeable that they can’t even be deemed antiheroes. These characters (to varying degrees of success) challenge the assumed connection that filmic convention makes between the “main character” and the “film itself” by presenting protagonists who don’t triumph over adversity, who don’t fight or win a “good” battle, and who frankly don’t warrant an act of rooting. These protagonists trip up an oft-unquestioned notion conditioned by cinematic tradition: that films should serve as a means of rooting for a clearly demarcated, pre-telegraphed, unassailable idea of goodness. These are three protagonists that we aren’t often asked to spend ninety minutes with.

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This Week in DVD

This week sees several new releases hitting shelves from big budget comedies like Due Date and Megamind to smaller films like Fish Tank and Psych 9, but the largest grouping seems to fall under the foreign film heading. Lisbeth Salander gets an attractively packaged trilogy box-set, French gangsters run rampant, a Russian teen fights crime in a flying car, and two flexible women spend a sex and talk-filled night in a hotel room. So yeah… foreign films seem to be the way to go this week. Alien vs Ninja Everyone knows aliens and ninjas are cool, but for some reason no one thought to put them together until now. Not surprisingly, it took one of the creators of The Machine Girl to make it happen. And that association should also tip you off as to the tone and aesthetic of the movie… this isn’t a big budget, brilliantly scripted action pic. But it is a tale of warring ninja clans fighting each other in the woods of Japan until they’re interrupted by the arrival of an alien ship. The aliens onboard look like bipedal dolphins crossed with a bowling ball, and they’re hungry for Japanese cuisine. There’s a rather dull half hour early on, but stick with it for the final 45 minutes or so which is chock full of some ridiculously fun action, solid fight choreography, and some inappropriate touching. Check out my full review here.

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray is all about the unexpected. I expected to put Christopher Nolan’s breakout drama Memento on page one as my pick of the week, but was swayed instantly and heavily by the latest contemporary classic being added to the Criterion Collection. I’ve also found comfort in another season of Weeds, even though it’s not the best work of the Botwin clan. We also dig deep into some intentional schlock-and-awe, pull the rug out from under the latest Galifianakis joint, explore the crisis in America’s public schools and without warning, I sing to you. Yes, dear readers of the high definition affliction, I bet you didn’t expect me to break out into song, did you? Fish Tank Most people know The Criterion Collection for their work in the realm of classic films — restorations, remasterings and the cataloging of cinema history’s most important works. So when they take a contemporary film and add it to their collection, you know that’s something special. Take Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, a tough-as-nails portrait of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, dealing with life in the housing projects of Essex, forced to live in close quarters with Michael Fassbender. In all honesty, I would probably try to sleep with that man if given the chance. Alas, that’s not part of the equation here, so I’ll tell you what is. A quality film, a meticulously crafted presentation (as only Criterion can deliver) and plenty of extras, including three short films from director […]

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As with any other cinematic year, many of the best movies of 2010 flew so far under the mainstream, 3D-centric radar that there was almost no way to catch them in theaters, unless you live in New York or L.A., or are blessed by a local arthouse. Now, then, is an appropriate time to thank the movie gods for Netflix (and, to a lesser extent, video on demand), where these ten terrific movies will be given the shelf-life denied them on the theatrical circuit. Without further ado, here are our picks for the year’s best movies you didn’t see.

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For those around here (almost all of us) who have been rooting for Duncan Jones’ Moon, today is a day for a bit of celebration. Jones led off today’s ceremony for the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) with a win for Outstanding Debut with his first film, the excellent cerebral piece of sci-fi that it was. Reports say that Jones was very emotional in accepting his award, completing a run that began last year at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Fear not, poster lovers, This Week in Movie Posters is back. And just in time, as I’m about to embark on a journey to redecorate the walls of my own personal man cave with posters.

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cannes_festival_logo

Cannes is just a few months away, and since we’re tired of caring about the Oscars, The Hollywood Reporter has released a list of possibles that’s too good not to dissect.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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