Monday, January 8, 2018

"Downsizing" (2017), Alexander Payne. Capsule review.

Disjointed and meandering, the last movie by Payne is preachy and ineffectual in equal measure. It does not work as science fiction, comedy, or social commentary. An initial burst of energy is derailed by a nihilist ecologist discourse that belongs in Greenpeace pamphlets. The high concept had an interesting potential shown in the socioeconomic variables in play, quickly hidden to bring up survivalist American progressive lunacy, even when is spew in foreign accents. Not recommended. And shame on Payne for ruining the concept in the first place.

"Bad Genius" (2017). Capsule review.

The best heist movie that you will see this year was not directed by Soderbergh and has nothing to do with car races, jewels or banks. Thai director Nattawut Poonpiriya has created a spellbinding tale of deception, high stakes, and social class commentary in a movie about high school students and tests for acceptance into universities. A good fictional companion to the superb Korean documentary "Reach for the SKY" (2015). If only we did not know that meritocracy is a lie.
"Bad Genius", watch it however you can.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Short Review of "A Man Escaped", (1956), Robert Bresson

Original title: "Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut"

Minimalist masterpiece about a young man imprisoned by the Nazis during the occupation of France, trying to escape possible death. Actors are non-professional, the plot was taken from a real story, even the some of props utilized are the actual elements used by the man on which it is based. Not a frame wasted, every sound is important, pervasive voice-over is just poetic, tension is unbearable. Highly recommended.

TSPDT Ranking of All Time: Top 100 Film Ranking: 87

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review of "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" (2017), Guy Ritchie.

It is time to recognize that something is amiss. Childish garbage like "Wonder Woman" is praised to heavens, and anything else that dares to confront the rule of the infantile comic-book sagas gets plummeted to box office death with multiple blows by hipster writers, old critic geezers, and all their followers. Until some years ago, the right-wing fascist ponderousness of Christopher Nolan (Batman trilogy) was heralded as the coming of the Second Christ, preceded by Fincher´s anarchist vein (Fight Club) that would form the new brown shirt consciousness. As fascism became a hard reality, Hollywood tent-poles regressed to kindergarten, accompanying the souls of the frightened Clinton voters.

The adult hero fighting against oppression was cast to the side, classic pulp (John Carter, Lone Ranger) was demonized or directly castrated (Mad Max). So it is not strange that a foreigner, somebody from the outside, with a taste for cross-cutting and condensation, would come to the rescue. I am not asking the reader to love Guy Ritchie´s technique, but at least to appreciate what he has accomplished by its use: the worn path of the origin story is cut in pieces; the visual extravaganza is made effective anew by destroying the meaning of the Hollywood set-piece. Do you want monsters? Here you have them, in the very first act. Do you want a training scene? There is no time for that nuisance, watch a modern montage that dances around the neo-classic drivel gifted to you by the MCU sausage machine (Doctor Strange and many others).

King Arthur” is not without its faults. The chopped timeline segments get on your nerves as its repetition overthrows its initial welcome. Slow-fast motion is well done, but we have seen it multiple times at the Church of the Snyder. What it gets to you tough, is the way on which the working class hero, grown between prostitutes and squalor, comes to save the day from another narcissist tyrant. Deaths matter, evil teaches, and revolution finally arrives. It is necessary to grow up and take back the reigns of the kingdom, and “King Arthur” shows the road to Camelot.

IMDb Page

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Short review of “Where is Rocky II” (2016), Pierre Bismuth

Should we care about high-flying artists and their conceptual art? Don't we have more important things to do with our time? Pierre Bismuth, the director, is a French artist that co-wrote “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. Pedigree, you see. Ten years ago he became obsessed with an unknown art piece by artist Ed Ruscha. A rock. An artificial one. This Ruscha guy made a fiberglass rock and put it in the Mojave desert among other rocks. So it is indistinguishable. Does art exists if nobody can see it?

I think that normal people like to be valued for their achievements, thus we spend time with a middle-class private detective hired to find the elusive Rocky rock. This is adulterated reality. It is a documentary after all. We will meet interesting characters, while a couple of real-life script-writers discuss the “hollywoodization” of the story for mass consumption. There is nothing much to say really. Bismuth has a strong control of the dial between the manipulated documentary and the fiction being created in offices and desert. However, the film does not reach the depths required of the subject matter. Bismuth spent ten years on this chase, but you can't feel the obsession on the screen. It is an amusement, an artist taking down a more pretentious one. Still, a brilliant piece for a film festival, just the kind of thing you are pinning to watch.

Where is Rocky II IMDB

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Short review of "Moana" (2016), Ron Clemens & Don Hall.

The most breathtaking computer animation you have seen until now. It is a fun ride, but, and you will take umbrage at my comment, it is a fully outmoded feminist indoctrination pamphlet. Since animated movies have long production periods, it would be ingenuous to blame Disney for not predicting the conservative/reactionary (and the general population´s) backlash against identity politics and the support for the worldwide Trump times.  

The Ocean, which chooses Moana for her mission, is the Government; Crab is a pick-up artist from the hood/Jersey; demi-god Maui is the alpha dude constantly emasculated until he can prove that is worthy of the despondent dumped Goddess (he stole her heart, dammit!), and Moana is the girl that wants to prove to Daddy that she can find her own path and save the world (or go to New York and make it big in the fashion magazine industry, take your pick). I would love to have been sitting in the executive meetings for this one, just listening to the arguments for and against each plot point from a monetary perspective.

Short Review of "Profondo Rosso" (1975), Darío Argento.

A granddaddy of the modern horror genre, this Dario Argento near-masterpiece has it all. Creepy kids, inventive deaths, mysterious locations, parapsychology, lots of visual humor, suspenseful cat-and-mouse scenes, dynamic camerawork, equally good mise-en-scene and impressive clean colors, especially red. Marred by terrible dubbing in Italian, some stilted performances and a contemporary 1970s score that wants you to kill the inventor of the synthesizer. Socially pretty modern. Or well, European. Well worth of your time.