Frances Ha

My Sharona Scene in Reality Bites

Thirty years ago, Ren McCormack fought for his right in Footloose. “This is our time to dance,” he argued. “It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.” As Kevin Bacon put on his old sweats and threw an old cassette on the stereo for Jimmy Fallon last week, we were reminded in the resonating power of dance scenes… Only, we often remember the most polished dance sequences and forget that “from the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons.” Though lists like to remind us over and over of the usual suspects – the films boasting carefully rehearsed choreography ((500) Days of Summer), musical numbers (Singin’ in the Rain), practiced moves (Dirty Dancing), and audacious comedy (Little Miss Sunshine) – there are many memorable dance sequences that break the barriers. Most are raw and unpolished as they push dance out of its narrowly choreographed confines and use it as a method of exploring everything from idiosyncratic inner tension to the charm of goofy exuberance – and they are a pleasure to behold.

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2013review_trailers

What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Movies and moods and ideas and awards and stars and sexiness and just a lot of great music. And maybe, just maybe, something more (read: more movie tickets). Not every great trailer advertises a great film, but sometimes even the most lackluster productions can gift movie fans with two minutes of cinematic glory (all the better if said trailer can include Kanye West screaming or Nicole Kidman redefining “cold” or even the glories of street dancing) worth lauding all on their own. This year saw a vast batch of standout trailers, and while our listing of best trailers of the year is nothing if not varied, all of the videos contained within share one key element – they effectively conveyed tone and feeling without revealing too much about plot and characters. As mini mood pieces, these thirteen trailers nailed it, as bits of marketing, they made us want to buy and buy big time.  What were the best trailers of the year trying to sell? Oh, it doesn’t matter – we were ready to buy.

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2013.moviedoppelgangers

Every year, there seem to be unintended themes emerging from movie releases. It’s almost as if the studios called each other to coordinate projects like friends in high school planning to wear matching outfits on a Friday. Sometimes this effect is unintentional, like when an emerging movie star manages to have multiple films comes out the same year (see Melissa McCarthy below); other times, it’s a result of executives switching studios and developing similar projects (like the infamous Disney and DreamWorks 1998 double-header grudge match of A Bug’s Life vs. Antz and Armageddon vs. Deep Impact). This year is no different, producing a slew of movie doppelgangers. For the sake of creativity, I left the painfully obvious off. Still, who can forget offerings like Olympus Has Fallen up against White House Down as well as This Is the End paired with The World’s End? And, if you really hate yourself, you can watch a terrible trippleganger of A Haunted House, Scary Movie 5 and 30 Nights of Paranormal Activity with the Devil Inside the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Whether it’s similar themes, the same actor in noticeably similar roles, or parallel stand-out moments in two films, this list of 13 movie pairings can provide a nice selection of companion pieces for your viewing pleasure.

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francesha03

I spent 30 minutes last night watching Frances Ha before I turned off the movie. I wasn’t into it. I just didn’t care for the characters or story I was watching. I appreciate that it’s considered a great film. I even enjoyed little bits, namely Adam Driver seemingly transformed into Jean Paul Belmondo (with a touch of Stranger Than Paradise‘s John Lurie and Richard Edson) simply by putting on a hat. The cinematography is terrific. Maybe it is a great film. Because I didn’t finish it, I can offer no criticism of the whole value of Noah Baumbach’s latest. I am only at liberty to state that I gave it a shot and didn’t like it enough to continue. That’s my prerogative, right? Given that a lot of the basic praises the movie is receiving in terms of people loving it, regardless of whether it’s a great film or not, I feel okay putting it out there that I just don’t. Still, I wonder if it was too easy for me to walk away — or “walk out,” if we want to make it about the movie experience. It’s hard to believe that I would have enjoyed Frances Ha any more if I stuck with it the remaining 50 minutes, but at least I could be better qualified to discuss it as a work of art. After Tweeting that I turned it off because I didn’t like those 30 minutes I felt like I had judged the Mona Lisa after only getting […]

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Noah Baumbach

No, this piece will not be styled as an actual love letter to Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s charmer, due to hit cinephile-near-you shelves later this week with its Criterion Collection release, but it will be an intense appreciation of the film. (Consider this a warning if, for any reason, you’re averse to the feature – and also, what is wrong with you?) Baumbach and Gerwig’s film first popped up as a somewhat minor attraction at last year’s Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival. It sounded like a curiosity – a black and white Baumbach co-written by and starring the director’s real-life lady love, a slim feature about a wayward young New York City gal who is not actually good at a lot of things but who approaches challenges great and small with a plucky gusto. She lives in a shitty apartment in Brooklyn. She’s an interpretive dancer. Her best friend Sophie is the most important person in her life. If any of these details made you snarkily think something along the lines of “oh, but I’ve already seen Girls,” you’re not alone. I thought that, too. And, despite a hearty love of both Gerwig and Baumbach, I was burnt out on the director’s post-Margot at the Wedding sardonics and Gerwig’s lackluster turn in the even more lackluster Lola Versus. My fears were unfounded.

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Mud Hunter

There are many reasons to compare and contrast current films with historical ones. One is to attempt to explain why some films have been spotlighted in place of a possible litany similar films. Another is to show the machinations of cinematic influence, or explore the persistence of repeated narratives throughout film history. And yet another is because it’s damn fun. Here at Criterion Files, we have (on a not-at-all-regular basis) compared recent films with relevant counterparts canonized in the cinephilic annals of the Criterion collection, including two Lincoln biopics, two iconic exercises of the close-up, and the overwhelming similarities between Pierrot le Fou and a certain beloved Wes Anderson film. But rarely has a crop of films released in a single season echoed the specific work of classic counterparts than the summer of 2013.

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Noah Baumbach

It starts like any other love story – there is dancing and music and laughter and secrets and plans – but no matter how it might look at first blush, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha isn’t a film about a pair of twentysomethings falling in and out of love in New York City, it’s a film about a pair of twentysomethings falling in and out of friendship in New York City. The result is something far more rich and rewarding than the vast majority of wide release, standard issue romantic comedies, and perhaps star Greta Gerwig‘s most charming performance yet. When it comes to romance, Frances (Gerwig) isn’t so concerned with finding a boyfriend, since she’s quite perfectly happy with her life as is, because even though it includes a potentially dead-end career (she’s a modern dancer who can’t really dance), it also includes her best friend and roommate Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Well, for now. Most love stories do, after all, end. When Sophie unceremoniously (and seemingly unfeelingly) moves out on Frances in favor of a better apartment in a better zip code, the divide between the pair seems clearer than ever. Sophie has matured beyond Frances, at least in a traditional sense, and Sophie’s allegiances now lay with her boyfriend Patch (yes, Patch) and her blossoming career in publishing (though Frances never fails to remind people that Sophie doesn’t even really read). Her friendship with Sophie has served as the defining relationship in Frances’ current life, and when she is “dumped” […]

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noah-baumbach

Frances Ha is new territory for writer-director Noah Baumbach. To briefly pigeonhole him as a filmmaker, he’s not the type of storyteller we expect to show someone joyously running down the street cued to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” We’d expect to see a character breaking down talking about how much they hate the poppiness of that Bowie song and the people who love it. Roger Greenberg or Bernard Berkman wouldn’t have been a fan of that song or the character at the center of Frances Ha, Frances (Greta Gerwig). She’s Baumbach’s most conventionally likable character yet. She has plenty of financial and career drama, but, even with some of that despair, Baumach’s picture, which he co-wrote with Gerwig, has a happy personality to it. Happiness is not the a feeling generally associated with Baumbach’s directorial work, but he seems comfortable with that new territory. Here’s what the director of Frances Ha, Greenberg, and The Squid and the Whale had to say about Gremlins, his love of Woody Allen, and intimate stories:

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Star Trek Into Water

The Oscar season is long gone. Long gone, I say. Movies about old presidents and singing about your horrible life are over. As are the early dumping ground months, which weren’t all that horrible this year, thankfully. Now the summer movie season has begun. Marvel, once again, is starting things off on what won’t be a tough act to follow, but a pretty darn good one. Seeing Tony Stark crack jokes for two hours isn’t the only highlight of this month or this summer. Summer 2013 is packed with plenty of movies to act giddy over, both big and small. May represents what we should come to expect over the next three months with a nice amount of variety. There are ten films this month which are must-sees:

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Iron Man 3

Harmony Korine and friends already gave us a taste of sand, sun and heavy weaponry, but it doesn’t quite feel like summer yet. Maybe that’s because global warming is making everything so cool or because President Obama keeps delaying all of our vacation planes, but the hugeness of the season still hasn’t fully descended. That’ll change this weekend when Iron Man 3 drops an arc reactor into theaters. Then, the parade of unbelievably massive summer movies commences with buddy cops, mischievous teens, people probably named Khan, bald Matt Damons, super men, and the end of the world itself in tow. It’s a tight race this year. Optimism runs high, and the next few months are packed full with studios and indie outfits hoping to entertain and score big, so the task of naming the 13 most-anticipated summer movies was a tough one. So instead of hurting our brains over it, we let math do the work by putting the question to the whole staff and tallying up the results. It’s a slightly eclectic mix, displaying the powerful potential of cinematic storytelling to bring us into the cool, dark room with a single light source. As luck would have it, we found a fittingly seasonal place to start:

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Noah Baumbach

Surely, we’ve heard this one before - Greta Gerwig stars as a confused twentysomething, shuffling her way through life in big, bad New York City, along with her coterie of cool pals, all looking for some kind of life-changing breakthrough – but Noah Baumbach‘s Frances Ha looks markedly different from its genre brethren, if only because Gerwig looks so damn charming in it. In Frances Ha, Gerwig plays the eponymous Frances who is, well, a confused twentysomething shuffling her way through life. Actually, she dances, because Frances is sort of a modern dancer – but, then again, it seems like Frances is “sort of” a lot of things. Will she ever figure it all out? Oh, probably. Watch Greta Gerwig dance (adorably!) through her confusing life in the first trailer for Frances Ha, after the break.

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Noah Baumbach

Indie auteur Noah Baumbach‘s latest film, the Greta Gerwig-starring Frances Ha, centers on Gerwig’s shiftless New Yorker Frances, a twentysomething still trying to figure it (or anything) out. Of course, being a hip NYC gal, Frances’ life is populated with all sorts of nifty hipsters, including (apparently) dudes named “Patch.” In this new clip from the spring release, a sprightly Frances begs her best pal to hang out with her, stretches the limits of leggings, and possesses the sort of whimsy outlook on life we should expect to see much more of in Frances Ha. Check out Gerwig’s flexible moves and talk of a man named “Patch” in the new clip after the break.

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This year’s New York Film Festival ended on Sunday night with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis‘s Flight, a big Hollywood movie that many saw as too mainstream a selection for the event. But it’s apparently decent enough to currently have a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes — our own Jack Giroux gave it a “B” in his review from the fest — so it’s not like they closed things out with Alex Cross. Other big movies that some didn’t see as fitting were opening night film Life of Pi (review)and the “secretly” screened debut of Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (review). However, for the most part the 2012 programming was the typical New York cinephile’s dream smorgasbord of highbrow indies and foreign films. And these seemed to mainly meet the approval of our two primary critics covering them, Daniel Walber and Caitlin Hughes (both of whom are new additions to the FSR team and did an excellent job). And all together, our 22 reviews of NYFF features averaged mainly in the range of “B” to “B+” grades. And the only thing to get less than a “C” was Brian De Palma‘s Passion, to which Caitlin gave a “D.” We weren’t only interested in new works, either. Caitlin had some fun with the anniversary screening of The Princess Bride, while Daniel had requested that one of his picks of the fest be an older film: “If I can say the new (Dolce and Gabbana funded) restoration of Satyricon that made its […]

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Frances Ha is a Noah Baumbach film without bitterness. This is perhaps unexpected, given the man’s track record. Greenberg is practically an essay on acerbity, while The Squid and the Whale traffics in plenty of divorce-inspired acrimony. That doesn’t mean that his prior work is somehow one-dimensional or excessively pessimistic, far from it. Rather, it makes his newest feature a surprising deviation into joy, if not necessarily optimism. There’s no doubt that this shift comes courtesy of Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script and lights up the screen with her performance. It is a collaboration that blends the artistic sensibilities of Baumbach and Gerwig into a new take on the post-college identity crisis. The lack of belligerence, importantly, is not because the protagonist has nothing about which to be bitter. Frances (Gerwig) is 27 years old, living in Brooklyn, and trying to support herself as an apprentice dancer. Her friends all seem to be doing much better than she is, finding good jobs and nice apartments they can afford. They get progressively more irritating, settling down to married life with Goldman Sachs like irritating bit characters in a Woody Allen party scene. Meanwhile Frances herself is taking step after step in the other direction, losing roommates, jobs and places to live. Yet where Ben Stiller’s Greenberg would just get aggravated and darkly comic, Gerwig has a joie de vivre that refuses to let the film sting.

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Noah Baumbach

As is tradition (and a pretty fun one at that), the Telluride Film Festival has announced their lineup just one day before the festival kicks off in Telluride, CO. The 39th Telluride Film Festival will include twenty-five narrative and documentary films in its Main Program, with a total of “nearly 100 feature films, short films and revivals representing over thirty countries, along with Tribute programs, Conversations, Panels and Education Programs.” This year’s slate includes a number of anticipated films and many that are already gathering momentum on the festival circuit, including Michael Haneke‘s Amour, Ramin Bahrani‘s At Any Price, Michael Winterbottom‘s Everyday, Sally Potter‘s Ginger and Rosa, Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, Thomas Vinterberg‘s The Hunt, Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson, Jacques Audiard‘s Rust & Bone, Sarah Polley‘s Stories We Tell, and Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires. In addition to these solid picks, Telluride will also unveil some surprise “Sneak Previews” over the weekend. Past sneaks have included 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Up in the Air. Additionally, Marion Cotillard, Roger Corman, and Mads Mikkelsen will all be honored. After the break, check out the complete listing of Telluride’s just-announced festival slate.

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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
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published: 04.14.2014
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