Melancholia

Dancer in the Dark

If there’s anything about Lars von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac Vol. 1 that’s shocking, it’s not the graphic, non-simulated intercourse nor the detailed story of a sex addict who we first meet nearly beaten to death and left in the street. It’s how goofy the movie is. It’s all the metaphorical parallels between nymphomania and fly fishing and all the mathematical elements, especially including those that take literal form with numbers on screen. I read nothing about the film going in and had presumed it would be darker, even depressing. Maybe some black humor as only the maniacal mind of von Trier would devise, but nothing as funny as this is. It’s more The Boss of It All than any of his other recent movies. When I mentioned the tone to someone who is only slightly familiar with von Trier’s work, she expressed surprise, admitting that she thought all of his movies were depressing. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve actually never found him to be depressing at all. Antichrist and Melancholia were definitely the products of someone who was experiencing a bout with depression, and Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark surely evoke a lot of tears at their ends, but they’re not depressing. Serious is more like it, though there’s also something happy in the silly final shot of the former. Anyway, the conversation and the movie inspired me to look for happy moments in von Trier’s oeuvre, where clips are available at least. Most are, understandably, located in […]

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It’s hard to have a wedding in a movie where something terrible doesn’t happen; it wouldn’t really be that fun to watch otherwise. It’s not totally unrealistic – after all, crazy people get married too. If we actually lived in a world of mutants and superheroes, they too would get married and it would probably go as well in real life as it does in the movies. Here are some of the most extreme weddings in films – weddings that, provided the bride and groom survive (and not all do), are going to produce some incredibly crazy offspring.

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Culture Warrior

For filmgoers frustrated with a visionary filmmaker whose films’ quality provided diminishing returns as he became ever more prolific, Prometheus was anticipated as a welcome return to form. For those hungry for R-rated, thinking person’s science fiction, Prometheus provided a welcome respite from a summer promising mostly routine franchise continuations. For those who see the 1970s and 1980s as the height of modern Hollywood filmmaking, Prometheus promised a homecoming for a type of blockbuster that was long thought to be dead. Prometheus even beat out The Dark Knight Rises as the most anticipated summer film of 2012 on this very site. But then the reviews came in. And thus began the qualifying, criticizing, parsing out, hyperbolizing, dissecting, backlashing, and disappointed exhaling. There were many responses to Prometheus, but very few of them were the songs of praise that a film this hotly anticipated – and highly desired – by all means should have satisfyingly warranted.

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This Week in DVD

Welcome back to This Belated Week in DVD! Last year SXSW caused me to post a lesser incarnation of this column as I had no time to check out most of the week’s releases. That didn’t go over so well, so this year I decided to simply delay the column so that I’d have time to cover the titles in my usual (ie more thorough) manner. So let’s get to it! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Young Adult 2011 was a good year for divisive film reactions as very few releases garnered anything resembling near-universal acclaim. (Even the year’s Best Picture winner experienced as much hatred as it did love.) Jason Reitman’s latest film had viewers split as well with its story of a selfish and often mean-spirited writer who returns to her home town to woo an ex-fling who’s now happily married. Charlize Theron gives a stellar performance as an unlikeable and possibly irredeemable protagonist, and Diablo Cody’s script is her most mature and intelligent effort yet. It’s funny, sad and one of the most honest films of last year.

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Reel Sex

People were up in arms Tuesday after the announcement of nominees for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. So many seem to forget that every year they are disappointed with the nominees and every year there is some film or performer who was left off or included on the prestigious list. I may have spent the final weeks of 2011 lamenting my utter ennui with last year’s films, but I never in a million years expected some of the Oscar outcomes. No Supporting Actor nomination for Albert Brooks, whose performance in Drive unnerved audiences to the core? Or the blatant disregard for solid documentary filmmaking in The Interrupters, Buck, or Project Nim, three entries into filmmaking that will forever impact the way we view the world around us? No, the Academy seemed to forget the impressive and daring offerings in favor of an adorable dog in a silent film. What is this, 1920? Last I checked The Jazz Singer pushed us into the land of the talkies. I could spend all day gnawing my tongue over which films shouldn’t have been included in this year’s awards recognition, but just like arguing the virtues and evils of the MPAA, our time is better used talking about some of the sexy pieces of work that the Academy felt were too provocative to include (for reasons I have completely made up in my mind. Hey, they have their prerogative, I have mine.). Going along with the Academy’s new voodoo math rules of deciding the […]

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Reel Sex

Most people, as they recover from seasonal snacking comas and hangovers brought on by liquid medication for too much concentrated family time, spend these last few weeks of December reflecting on the year past. While fellow Reject Landon Palmer pointed out earlier today that 2011 has already been lauded as a “quiet” year by many of our peers, I would like to address how cinematic sex and relationships embrace this quietness through an enveloping theme of sadness. As base as it might sound, a lot of tragic shit went down in 2011; from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Oakland riots to the honoring of ten years post-9/11, this year was a study in human perseverance. And as great art always succeeds at doing, film mirrored the world’s rising tension, air of tragedy, and sense of loss time and time again.

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Culture Warrior

As the final days of the calendar year wane to a close, efforts are made by anybody with Internet access to summarize and rank 2011’s products of popular culture. Two titles that have shown up repeatedly on end-of-year movie lists are Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life and Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. While one was a summer release and the other a quite limited fall release, both these films in several ways have occupied conversations about film throughout the year: Malick’s film was highly anticipated not only because it was a new entry by a notoriously un-prolific director, but was staged as his magnum opus, and Von Trier’s film was anticipated not only because it was a Von Trier film, but was the follow-up to one of the most contentious and challenging films released thus far in this 21st century. In May, both films drew headlines after their Cannes premieres: Tree of Life for getting booed before taking home the top award, and Melancholia because of the utter shock of a career provocateur acting provocatively at a press conference. Having just recently seen Melancholia and in reflecting back on Tree of Life, I noticed that these two films interact as two piercing sides of the same vast coin which make them, perhaps more than any other roundly acclaimed and contentiously fought-over pair of films this year, speak to each other about the worth of human existence in a way that renders them inseparable.

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R.E.M. may have sang about the end of the world as we know it, but Lars von Trier brings that idea to the big screen in his film Melancholia, which deals with the heavy issue of depression (played with palpable despair and frustration by Kristen Dunst) in the face of a looming planet that threatens to end all life on earth. The film begins with a near ten-minute-long, slow-motion sequence focusing on foreboding images (which look almost like paintings) that are overtaken by darkness. The heavy (and at times jarring) soundtrack of the film, featuring deep violins and strings, is established during this sequence, and it strikes up throughout the film when things begin to take a more menacing turn. The film is split into two parts, the first focusing on Justine (Dunst) and her grand wedding to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), while the second focuses on Justine’s sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourgh), and how she tries to hold her family together in the face of something that would cause depression (and utter fear) in almost anyone – the sudden and unstoppable end of life. Although the first part may seem a bit confusing, as von Trier brings us right into the story and does little to fill in the gaps, it becomes clear quickly that Justine is only trying to play the part of the happy bride, but does not fully have it in her. Despite pressure from her family and even her employer, Justine cannot seem to connect with what is going […]

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This year’s Young Hollywood panel (presented by the Los Angeles Times) brought together rising stars Anton Yelchin, Evan Rachel Wood, Armie Hammer and Kirsten Dunst to discuss how they got started in acting, what it is like working with impressive (and at times intimidating) directors like Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and David Fincher and how their success is shaping their careers. Hammer and Dunst are each featured in films screening at the festival (J. Edgar and Melancholia, respectively) with Hammer as Edgar’s right-hand man and Dunst as a depressed bride. Yelchin and Wood have been getting attention for their performances as one half of a long distance relationship in Like Crazy and the tempting intern who may undo an entire presidential campaign in The Ides of March. The four came together Friday night (with Hammer fresh off the premiere of J. Edgar the night before) and there was a palpable energy between them as they would get so excited or intrigued by another person’s answer it would sometimes feel like we were simply overhearing a conversation between new friends. It was interesting to see Hammer surrounded by three actors who have been doing this since they were young (as he is just getting started in his career) and how he was just as engaged in their answers as the audience, asking which project they would be referring to in a story or simply being shocked over hearing about directors who preferred to do scenes in a single take.

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Last month the Oscar season officially kicked off, and this month we’ll be getting plenty more Oscar baiters and real contenders to add to the mix. We’ll get another Brett Ratner film, the 25th film of the decade from Clint Eastwood, another upbeat audience friendly film from Lars von Trier, and the most expected and clichéd, a Martin Scorsese “kids” film. A fairly promising month, right? I’ve already seen a few films coming out this month, and there’s plenty of good-to-great films to see, even one or two that didn’t make it on this list. Honorable Mentions: My Week with Marilyn (an extremely enjoyable film with a great performance by Kenneth Branagh), Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and London Boulevard (a solid anti-cliché gangster film). But here are the names who made it all the way to the top ten:

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With AFI FEST presented by Audi just one week away, fellow FSR-er and AFI FEST attendee Kate Erbland and I went through the impressive list of films on the schedule and selected the ones we are most looking forward to seeing. To the credit of those putting together this year’s AFI FEST, I found myself practically highlighting the entire schedule grid as I saw film after film that had already been on my “to-see” list. From films I have been anticipating for the past few months (Shame) to ones I had not heard of until now (Butter), this year’s AFI FEST looks to be one of its strongest lineups yet. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting today, October 27, right HERE). The complete schedule grid is now online for the festival, which you can check out HERE. After the break, check out my list of my top ten most anticipated films of this year’s AFI FEST. Which films are you planning on seeing at this year’s AFI FEST?

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As it turns out, I’ve been slightly remiss when it comes to praising this year’s 25th edition of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. I’ve tossed off comments about how the festival gets better with every passing year, but in the wake of today’s announcement of the festival’s Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, I’ve realized that I have not gone far enough. AFI FEST has not just gotten better this year, the festival has made a dramatic jump to top-tier status, rolling out titles that play like a cinephile’s Christmas list for 2011. Today’s lineup announcement is essentially a “best-of” list of this year’s festival favorites, including Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Artist, Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, Simon Curtis‘s My Week with Marilyn, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, and Wim Wenders‘s Pina. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). After the break, check out the full list, including descriptions and showtimes, of the films to be featured as AFI FEST Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings.

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The last time Lars von Trier explored a relationship in decay, the divisive auteur could not have been more in your face. While parts of Antichrist were labeled as pure button-pushing, it was button-pushing in the greatest way possible. The director made a 2-hour endurance test, a great one at that. His latest, Melancholia, is not an endurance test. Right from the beginning prologue, which paints a picture of events to come, von Trier sucks one into his world of emotional and cynical chaos. The whole film, despite von Trier’s bombastic filmmaking nature, is surprisingly grounded. This isn’t about the destruction of earth, but of these characters. The apocalypse is only used to symbolize all of the characters’ emotional deterioration.

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After the crucible of Antichrist, Melancholia is the closest thing to a palette cleanser that Lars von Trier is capable of producing. The problem is that a palette cleanser is not what anyone should want from the director who normally pushes the envelope to the point where it can’t even be called an envelope anymore. This is von Trier at his least challenging. The film consists of two halves that almost make a whole. They both focus on a pair of sisters — the first giving more attention to depressive Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on her wedding night, the second to the troubled mother and wife Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) on the eve of the earth coming into contact with another planet. However, more than just characters, the pair act more as a platform for delivering archetypes, ideas and more than a bit of visual poetics.

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Mere hours after the announcement that Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia was hitting Fantastic Fest come September (similarly, also mere hours after I rifled through my junk drawer in hopes that it held both enough money and time to get me to Austin for the fest), the official U.S. poster for the film has been released, along with news of the film’s inevitable VOD release. The film will hit theaters on November 11 in a limited release, but it will be available on VOD come October 7. Once Magnolia picked up the Palme d’Or nominee, it was pretty clear that the film would likely hit VOD first, as the distributor has made it their modus operandi to go the VOD route pre-theatrical release. The film did have a small release last month at an out of the way theater in Los Angeles County, so it remains eligible come award season.

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If you somehow aren’t aware by now, we take Fantastic Fest pretty seriously ’round these parts. America’s largest genre festival will kick the doors off the hinges for its 7th incarnation this September, and your faithful crew here at Starship Reject could not be more excited. As always, we’ll be assembling our Fantastic Fest Death Squad to attempt the insane goal of reviewing each and every film that plays this year. Take a gander at some of the titles that have jumped out at us from this latest batch. First up is Lars Von Trier‘s Melancholia. Antichrist was huge at Fantastic Fest back in 2009, and the buzz out of Cannes and from a brief run in LA has me chomping at the bit to see Von Trier’s latest as soon as possible. While certainly polarizing, Von Trier is also an extremely versatile and uncompromising filmmaker, and I can’t wait to see him put his own unique spin on a story with sci-fi elements. You can bet the Rejects will be first in line for this one come September. You also know we’re looking forward to You’re Next, the new film from the team behind last year’s A Horrible Way to Die. While their previous effort wasn’t a perfect film, the last 20 minutes in particular were chilling and showed quite a bit of promise with their fresh take on serial killer celebrity. Adam Wingard returns to direct You’re Next, and genre favorite AJ Bowen joins a cast that includes […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collector of film and television news and links that is currently working for the weekend. It certainly wants a little romance. You won’t catch it goin’ off the deep end. Da nanana na na… We begin tonight with more photos from The Amazing Spider-Man. Sony is hoping that its Comic-Con presence next week helps the webbed wonder get back into the public eye, as they’re counting on this franchise reboot to be a big earner. In the mean time, we get a few looks at a slick new costume, practical web-shooters and an intimate moment between our bloodied hero and his blond dame. All this and more in the gallery found over at /Film.

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Wouldn’t you bloody well know it. Before the festival was tarnished by the Von Trier/Nazi scandal, all anyone seemed interested in talking about was the way Terrence Malick‘s latest had split the audiences in attendance almost straight down the middle. Not only that, The Tree of Life also inspired a rejuvenated debate over the nature of film, and the sometimes opposing ideals of entertainment and art. I ended my review stating that your reception of the film would depend entirely on what you valued more in your film-making experience, and it seems we now know that the Jury values the art of something over its entertainment value. Neither approach is necessarily right or wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the film was already chosen before even the first minutes of footage rolled. Held up to the light, The Tree of Life looks exactly like a Cannes film, something eccentric enough, with grand enough aspirations and some sort of importance that extends beyond what we can actually see. And that troubles me somewhat: should a film win because it fits the artistic manifesto of the festival, or should it win on quality? Robert DeNiro‘s comment after the decision answers precisely that: It seemed to have the size, the importance, the tension to fit the prize. Not, “it was fantastic,” not “it moved me,” but it fit the bill.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a little early this evening, but it’s still the same badass nightly movie news column that you’ve come to love and mostly ignore. Tonight it spends time around the globe, traveling to the south of France, the Hindu Kush, the future, the 18th century, the end of the Cold War, Asgard and Sequelville (it’s right between West L.A. and Century City). But it always comes back to you, dear reader, to bring you the goods. And the bads. And well, you know. The most interesting thing at Cannes yesterday might not have been Lars von Trier’s movie, Melancholia (which we reviewed and, as it stands, liked very much), it was von Trier’s comments during the press conference. From sympathizing with Hitler to extremely young naked women, he let it all out. To their credit, Vulture has captured all the best of it and delivered a list of the 10 most controversial things Lars von Trier said at the Melancholia press conference. “Should I talk about Spider-Man now?”

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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