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The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World

Updated: 2017-11-18T16:49:05.663-05:00


Hello, I Must Be Going...But Not That Far


Yes dear readers, in the immortal words of one Mister Julius Henry 'Groucho' Marx - hello, I must be going.  But not to worry, for my going is not going to be all that far away. In fact it's just across the proverbial, make-believe hall from here. It has been a fun four and a half years being your host with the most, here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World, but now it is time to move on. But, as I said above, I'll be right across the hall, cyberly speaking that is.  From now on, all my writing can be found at my new blog, cleverly titled (?) All Things Kevyn. I will still be writing on the cinema (my first true love) but I will be expanding that writing to include all things of a pop culture bent.  To give a better idea of what I am doing these days, here is my official bio:

Kevyn Knox is a Blogger, Film Historian + Critic, a Comicbook Nerd from waaay back, a lapsed Cartoonist, a wouldbe Novelist, and the Writer of All Things Kevyn.  For four and a half years, he and his wife ran Midtown Cinema, Harrisburg Pa's one and only arthouse cinema, but last year Knox moved on to other adventures, most prominently, the creation of his renowned blog, appropriately titled All Things Kevyn.  Tackling any subject that happens to cross his mind that day (the blog's subtitle reads, "Anything that pops into my head, might just pop up on this blog. So there!"), All Things Kevyn is a catch-all of pop cultural reference, and no matter the subject, be it cinema or comics or music or TV or any one of the author's famed top ten lists, you can be sure it is imbued with Knox's lovingly warped, yet quite wry, sense of humour, as well as presented in his Post-Proustian, digression-happy writing style.  You just never know what you're going to get at All Things Kevyn, but you know it's going to be fun, and very possibly like nothing you've ever seen before.  Well, that's it, and as Kevyn is prone to say at the end of any one of his posts, see ya 'round the web.

So, with that being said, I bid a tearful adieu to The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World while also saying a boisterous how ya doin' to All Things Kevyn. This new blog will act as the hub of what I like to call The All Things Kevyn Entertainment Network, where all my writing from all across the blogosphere, will be linked. I hope that you will follow me over to my new online home.  Sure, this site will still be up and running, but nothing new will be published here, instead acting as an archives of my past cinematic writings. Everything new will be at All Things Kevyn. Hope to see you at my new digs. It'll be lots of fun, trust me. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Film Review: Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty


So far, anyone and everyone who has reviewed this The Great Beauty, or La Grande Bellezza in its native Italian tongue, has one descriptive in common - and that descriptive is highlighted by everyone's favourite F-word.  And by everyone's favourite F-word, I of course mean Felliniesque.  From the first deliciously giddy moments to the grand morality tale finale, Paolo Sorrentino's latest film is possibly more akin to a Fellini film than any film since Fellini himself was making movies.  Hell, this film is so Felliniesque, it may be even more like a Fellini film than many of Fellini's own films.  Okay, perhaps that is just hyperbole, but seriously, this film is quite the spectacle to behold, and the blatant influence of Sorrentino's late great countryman, has to be the major reason why.  But none of this obvious influence, or over-use of that aforementioned F-word, should take away from the post-modern sensibilities and stunning film work brought forth by this post-realist, post-Fellini auteur.Tackling many of the same concerns that Fellini (there he is again) played with in his masterful La Dolce Vita, Sorrentino takes a look at Jep Gambardella, an aging writer, and popular partier-cum-Roman pseudo-celebrity, upon his 65th birthday, as he tries to figure out what has happened to, and what will now happen to his life.  The juicy, contemplative role of Jep, Sorrentino's modern channeling of Marcello Mastroianni's Marcello Rubini in (here he is again) Fellini's La Dolce Vita, is played with plenty of aplomb by 54 year old actor Toni Servillo, most notably seen in Matteo Garrone's brilliant Gomorrah, and Sorrentino's own Il Divo. His performance is a centerpiece looking all around him at the titular great beauty, or grande bellezza, that is Roma, the Eternal City.  Acting, much in the way Mastroianni did in La Dolce Vita, as a visual narrator of the sometimes decadent, sometimes mournful world of Roman society, Servillo's Jep is the proverbial lost soul in search of meaning in an otherwise unfulfilled life of constant parties and drink and women.  A one time promising novelist, now relegated to writing cheap articles on Roman high society and its esoteric art world, Jep looks back on a life possibly wasted, longing for true companionship while simultaneously running from it, and yearning for his lost first love. It is as stunning a performance as the film itself is a stunning work of art.Sorrentino's film, as Felliniesque as it wants to be (I keep going back to that F-word, don't I?), is essentially the story of a human tragedy, but not the kind usually associated with the genre of tragedy.  For all intents and purposes, Jep is a successful person, a celebrated member of Rome's upper crust society, but inside he is lost and lonely and unsure of his true place in the world.  He is part of a faux society, trapped inside a spiraling circle that leads deeper and deeper into despair and hopelessness, with no idea of how to escape this outwardly happy, inwardly depressing lifestyle.  Servillo gives this multifaceted character the most bravura of performances (his chutzpah is off the so-called charts), and this performance is integral in making the film work, but it is Sorrentino giving his all as director, that lifts this tragedy to near epic proportions.  With a swirling camera that takes in the great tragic beauty that is his Eternal City, a camera-eye that wraps itself up down around and through the heart of Rome's society, Sorrentino engulfs us with a visually Felliniesque (yep, that word again) brouhaha, showcasing both the city itself and Servillo's wayward Jep, and it all comes out so beautifully, it almost hurts.  Easily one of the best films of the year (and the probable winner of the Best Foreign Language Oscar), F-word laced or not, this old school cinephile was quite surprised as to not have the film end with a shot of Servillo turning away from the camera and walking down th[...]

Film Review: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's The Lego Movie


Sure, it may be, as some are prone to gripe, just a kid's movie.  Sure, it may be just a PG-rated Robot Chicken, and therefore sadly lacking in the guts department.  Sure, it may just be this generation's pale distant cousin of my generation's Who Framed Roger Rabbit - well, kinda.  Sure, it may be all these things, and therefore nothing this critic, no matter how immature and still living in his own childhood he may be, would be all that interested in, other than perhaps just to see what all the hubbub's about, bub.  So, with soda and popcorn in hand, and surrounded by what I would approximate as half a million children (which included a two-row sectioned off birthday party area), I hunkered down to see just what all the hubbub was about, bub.  Surprisingly, the hubbub was more accurate than I would have expected.  Even more surprisingly, with the exception of one little girl's scream at the supposed peril of the film's hero at one point, these aforementioned half a million children sat in relative silence during the film's hour and forty-two minute runtime.  So there.As for the story of The Lego Movie, it is typical archetype stuff.  A simple everyman, Emmet Brickowoski (voiced by Chris Pratt), living his mundane simple life, stumbles upon a magical prophecy of which he must fulfill in order to save the world from the evil doings of Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell).  Along the way, the often oblivious Emmet is joined on his quest by a manic panic-haired heroine ridiculously named Wyldestyle (Elizabeth Banks), the wizened blind wizard Vitruvius (the seemingly omnipresent voice of Mr. Morgan Freeman), a candy-coated creepy-ass unicorn hybrid of a Lego and My Little Pony (Community's Allison Brie), a cobbled-together pirate monstrosity (Nick Offerman), an over eager 1980's spaceman Lego guy (Charlie Day), and of course, Batman (Will Arnett putting that famed raspy voice to great use), included most likely because he gets butts in seats, baby.  Also featuring the voice of Liam Neeson as the bi-polar Bad Cop/Good Cop henchman of Lord Business, and a slew of other Lego characters (Superman, Wonder Woman, Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, an incessantly nagging Green Lantern voiced by Jonah Hill, as well as some fun little cameo appearances, one of them staying especially classy), The Lego Movie is actually a lot of fun.  Perhaps not to the level of some other toy-related animated films (cough, cough...the Toy Story franchise), but still a fun little movie.  So there...again.With that said, I would have loved to have seen, instead of a PG-rated Robot Chicken, an actual Robot Chicken version of this film.  I know, I know, the damn thing's aimed at a much younger set than I, but still the possibilities of a pop culture wonderland in the form of Legos is a pretty spectacular idea.  But alas, instead of many of the pop references that coulda woulda shoulda filled this film (there are some cute references, but nothing compared to something like the Pixar gang or the Shrek films, or shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, or dare I say Robot Chicken) we are left with a fun, but still not as fun as it could be film.  Sure, this may be a small gripe in the whole scheme of things, for it is an enjoyable film (and has a nice non-conformity message), and judging from the lack of bothersome, disgruntled children in the screening I attended, its intended audience is more than pleased as punch, so who am I to argue.  Let's just keep it at my original assessment of it being a fun little film, and go on about our respective lives.  After all, in a case such as this, my problems don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy critical world.  I was once taken to task by the six year old son of a friend of mine, for not giving good enough reviews of animated films, so perhaps I should best leave well enough alone, and finish this review with the ti[...]

Film Review: John Wells & Tracy Letts' August: Osage County


When I say something along the lines of Julia Roberts gives the best damn performance of her career in August: Osage County, it is not all that bold a statement.  After years of playing in films below her ability (she is actually a fine actress, just a bad role taker, as it were), it would not be that difficult to overtake such performances as those found in the silly slapstick rom-coms, holier-than-thou melodramas, and cheap wouldbe thrillers, the actress is so fond of finding herself.  On the other hand, when I say a statement such as, Meryl Streep gives her career best performance in August: Osage County as well, then we are in definite bold statement territory - damn bold statement territory, indeed.  Is this all true though?  Well ladies and gentleman, hold onto your hats and bonnets, because it may very well be true. Perhaps to keep the hyperbolic owls at bay, I should probably rearrange that latter statement to read, if not the best, but surely one of La Streep's finest performances, but such a downgrade should not hide the fact that her performance in August, a performance that has garnered the iconic actress her ever-increasing unprecedented eighteenth Oscar nomination, is right up there with her jobs in Sophie's Choice, Silkwood, and Ironweed. So there.In truth though (and Streep's mean-minded matriarch prides herself on being a truth teller) it is not just Streep and, more surprisingly, Roberts who run away with this film, for this is a production, as should be the case with such a stage play turned motion picture (at least ideally), that is chock full of bravura performances - a stacked deck, if you will.  Beyond Streep and Roberts, as mother and daughter Violet Weston and Barbara Weston-Fordham, we also get a slew of stunning and powerful (and all those other appropriate adjectives and descriptives) performances from the likes of Julianne Nicholson as middle sister Ivy, Juliette Lewis as baby sister Karen, Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper as Violet's sister and brother-in-law respectively, Benedict Cumberbatch as 'Little' Charles, woebegone cousin to the three sisters, Dermot Mulroney as Karen's lascivious fiance (my wife tells me that Mulroney can play sleazy with the best of 'em), Ewan McGregor as Barbara's wandering husband, Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin as their fourteen-going-on-forty daughter, and Sam Shepard as family patriarch Beverly Weston.  Not a dud in any of these performances. Personally I think Nicholson, Martindale, and Cooper should have been awarded Oscar nominations as well, but then again, maybe that's just me.Based on Terry Letts' award-winning play, and adapted for the screen by Mr. Letts himself (the film is directed by John Wells, best known for his role as exec producer on TV's Southland), August: Osage County is the story of a dysfunctional family living in the small town plains of Oklahoma.  And when I say dysfunctional, I mean that in the whole nine yards kind of way.  As the film progresses, more and more layers are peeled away, onion-like, and more and more skeletons fall out of the collective family closets, each one a bigger and more disturbing revelation than the ones that came before.  Layer upon layer, skeleton piled up on skeleton, this cast keeps pushing the so-called envelope, further and further and further along, until the inevitable explosion happens, and everything is laid bare, and ugly, and psychologically scarred what could very well be far beyond any thoughts of repair.  Letts' words are a big big part of this, of course (Hitchcock's idea that the three most important things in a movie are screenplay, screenplay, and screenplay, will always be a truism to a point), but if not for the courage of the fearless cast, this Minnow could very well be lost - but not to worry, for they are more than up to the difficult task ahead.  Dare I even say that this is the most well acted[...]

My 25 Most Anticipated Films of 2014


Well, it's that time of the year again.  All the hoopla of the past year's top tens has finally died down, and even though we still have the Oscars coming up, it's time to turn our eyes toward the cinematic goings-on of 2014.  In other words, here's a list of the twenty-five (or so) films that I am most looking forward to this coming year.  So, without further ado, here we go.  Let's count 'em down.25. Life Itself - A documentary based on the memoir of the late great Roger Ebert, directed by Steve James, the man who made Hoop Dreams, a documentary that Ebert was integral in making a success back in 1994.  Oh you tricky little circle of life you.  Whether James captures Ebert or not, just the chance to watch the life of the most influential critic on this critic, puts the film on the list.24. 22 Jump Street - After the surprising success of the first film (before the film came out I was expecting it to be part of my worst of the year list, instead of a runner-up on my best list) Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill move across the street, and take their somewhat surprisingly hilarious high school act into the local college.  Second films tend to go downhill from the original (well, it would be the semi-original in this case) but since the first one surprised so well, why not again?  We'll see.23. Godzilla - After the beyond disastrous 1998 version, many are holding their collective breath waiting for the May release of this monster.  At the helm is Gareth Edwards, who went straight from the extremely low budget monster movie, Monsters, to the extremely high budget monster movie, Godzilla, and I suppose many are wondering if he is up to the task.  But hey, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Bryan Cranston in the cast, how can ya not be excited over seeing Kick-Ass and Walter White battle the big G-Dogg?22. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Cap has always been one of my faves in the comics, stoic and Gary Cooper-esque (and especially brilliant when written by Ed Brubaker), and the first film was a much better film than many gave it credit for being.  Now we get the old guy in the modern world, assisted by Black Widow and having to fight the Winter Soldier.  As a comicbook nerd, this sounds like fun to me.21. Boxtrolls - I've a secret to tell.  I love stop-motion animation.  No, really, I love love love it.  Can't get enough of it kinda love.  Give me stop-motion or give me death!  With all that out there, it is a safe bet that I am excited to see the latest stop-motion movie by the same animation studio that gave us Coraline and Paranorman (and in their early days, those dancing California Raisins of the 1980's).  Can't wait for September.20. Assassin - From one of the most cerebral filmmakers of Asia, Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-hsien, now gives us something that seems more in the Wong Kar-wai vein of things - a period piece about an assassin.  Granted, it could be delayed until 2015, but right now, it looks like it may make it to the states by year's end.  Of course, Hou being Hou (and Hou's will be Hou's - I crack myself up sometimes), this is probably not going to be the mainstreamiest of movies, so NYC and LA are it's only real potential hot spots.19. How To Catch a Monster - Christina Hendricks and Saoirse Ronan star in this fantasy-thriller that also just so happens to be the directorial debut of one, Mr. Ryan Gosling.  Hopefully the actor, who has more than proven himself on this side of the camera, has learned a thing or two about directing while working with the likes of Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn.18. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - The graphic noir gang is all back together again, including co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller (the writer of the original novels), and stars Jessica Alba, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson, and Mickey Rourke, n[...]

Film Review: Joel & Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis


Set inside their moody, 'grey skies are never going to clear up' world, the brothers' Coen have created yet another slice of their unique brand of morose emotionally-macabre moviemaking.  And this critic would have it no other way.  Set in the early 1960's, mostly in Greenwich Village (with a sidetrip to Chicago and back), Inside Llewyn Davis is the story of a down-on-his-luck folk singer and guitarist, one of Ginsberg's angelheaded hipsters, thinking himself one of the best minds of his generation (a thing he may or may not be - we never find out), and several (typical?) days in his down-and-out life.  With the Coens at the helm, don't expect to see any personal growth on the character's part, nor any sunny rays peeking out from behind the gloom and doom of the film's atmosphere, in order to let our not-so-intrepid hero find his way out of the dark days of his life.  No siree, this is not what one should expect from a Coen Brothers film, and once again, this critic would have it no other way.Now I am not saying there is not life inside the Coens' insular cinematic world, but that life is ofttimes ridiculed by whatever natural or unnatural forces may be crushing down on our protagonist.  Be it the law (Raising Arizona and Fargo), the corporate world (Hudsucker Proxy), the mob (Miller's Crossing), feral criminality (No Country for Old Men), possible insanity (Barton Fink), or perhaps even God himself (A Serious Man), a Coen Brothers' protag is never safe from what could befall and very possibly destroy them.  In their latest film, the duo's sixteenth feature, Oscar Isaac portrays a man who is not necessarily falling apart so much as a man who has never been together.  Like most artists in our society, Llewyn Davis has a dangerous disconnect with the norms of society, and thus has an outsider feel no matter where he goes, even with his fellow artists, with whom he presumably has something in common - and yes, as a lifelong writer and outsider myself, I too can empathize and thus sympathize with Llewyn's feelings of disdain and disgruntlement.  Llewyn is a sad case, but not a terminal case.  He is trapped inside a world he doesn't understand, looking for a way out.  Looking for a way out into the world that he feels he should be part of.  A world where his desires are not looked upon as lesser, but a world where he, as an artist, is respected, perhaps even adored.And then there's the music.  As melancholy in mood as the film itself, or as Llewyn himself, the array of old folk tunes, sung on film by Isaac, as well as costars Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Adam Driver, all arranged by the ever-capable T Bone Burnett give the film a sense of realness.  We aren't just watching a film set in 1961, we seem to be right there as the beat/folk Village scene is about to explode (you'll see a hint of the coming explosion as a certain someone takes the stage near film's end).  The one song actually written especially for the film (co-written by Burnett, Timberlake, and the Coens), the comedic bon mot, Please Mr. Kennedy (recently egregiously snubbed by the Oscars), is a shiny highlight in a film full of sad, seemingly endlessly sad, characters.  Now I am sure that those who won't even go near a sad movie (for some reason, everything must be positive for these silly people), will not like this film, even one bit, but for those who want tragic, yet sadly realistic, storytelling, done with a bravura central performance (and wait til ya get a load of John Goodman!), then Inside Llewyn Davis is the film for them/you/us.  Oh yeah, and there's a cat (or two or three) as well.This review can also be read over at my main site, All Things Kevyn.[...]

Oscar Nomination Talk..and an Oscar Poll to Boot!!


Well kids, it's time to see just who got nominated for that oh so coveted little golden guy, apocryphally named after Bette Davis' uncle Oscar, as well as find out just how well (or how poorly, but we all know this isn't the case) in my annual predictions.  To get that last little piece of information out of the way (so we can enjoy the rest of our date), I went 39 for 44 in my predictions, or for the more statistically-minded amongst my readers, an 89% accuracy rate.  Not bad, but considering how predictably boring the nominations were (again) this year, I should have probably broken 90% quite easily.  Anyway, I digress.  So, without further ado, let's get a-lookin'.First off, let's take a look at Best Picture.  As the rules state (and as this guy hates) there can be anywhere from five to ten nominees (and there should be five, as tradition - mostly - dictates), and this year, for the third year in a row, we have ended up with nine.  Oh, and by the way, these are the exact nine that I predicted yesterday.  So take that!  They are: American Hustle, 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, Nebraska, Captain Phillips, The Wolf of Wall Street, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, and Her.  So, as they say, no real surprises here - not that there were any real surprises anywhere today.  In Best Director, I went 4 for 5, having picked Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips instead of nominee Alex Payne for Nebraska. The other four, Alfonso Cuaron, David O. Russell, Steve McQueen, and Marty Scorsese were all pretty much shoo-ins, and therefore easy pickin's in my predictin's.  As for who might win on March 2nd?  Pic is up between Slave and Hustle I do believe, with the slight edge going to the more dramatic Slave, and Cuaron is surely the frontrunner for the directing Oscar (the first Mexican to win?).  Hustle and Gravity are the big winners, each garnering ten nominations, with 12 Years a Slave coming in with nine.  Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa also received an Oscar nomination this morning, but more on that later.  Onto the acting categories.I went 17 for 20 in the acting slots, acing Supporting Actor, and missing just one each in the other three categories.  The big news here though (at least I think it is) is the fact that American Hustle pulled off a nomination in each of the four acting categories.  Amy Adams and Christian Bale in the leads (Bale was my one misstep in Best Actor) and Cooper and J-Law in Supportings.  This is just the fifteenth time this feat has been accomplished in Oscar history.  The last time such a thing happened?  Just last year, with Silver Linings Playbook.  What?  Huh?  That was a David O. Russell film too.   Howzabout that?  The last time before that was Reds in 1981.  As for surprises...well, there really weren't any.  No Redford (which I predicted).  No Hanks (which I did not).  No Emma Thompson (probably the closest thing to a surprise).  But we did get Sally Hawkins (again, I predicted that one), so that's a good thing.  As for my of-the-top predictions for the eventual winners, I would say (at this time only - this may change before Oscar night) McConaughey, Blanchett (though look out for Amy Adams in a surprise win), Jared Leto, and Lupita Nyong'o (unless they are willing to give J-Law two in a row).   Snubs?  Not that they ever stood even the remotest of chances, I would have loved to have seen Julie Delpy, Mia Wasikowska, or Greta Gerwig in Best Actress (maybe Rooney Mara too), Oscar Isaac, Simon Pegg, or Michael Shannon in Best Actor, Nicole Kidman, Kristen Scott Thomas, or Tao Zhao in Supporting Actress, and Matthew Goode, John Goodman, and (of course) James Franco(!!!) in Supporting Actor - but that's just me.The screenplay nods were [...]

Final Oscar Nomination Predictions


Welly well well, here we are on another Oscar nominations eve, so, without further ado (other than the poster image of 12 Years a Slave, that is), here are my final, and as the post's title says, set-in-stone, Oscar nomination predictions.  Have at 'em.  Oh, and I have listed them in order of probability within each category.Best Picture1. 12 Years a Slave2. American Hustle3. Gravity4. Captain Phillips5. The Wolf of Wall Street6. Nebraska7. Dallas Buyers Club8. Her9. Philomena10. Saving Mr. BanksWild Cards: Blue Jasmine and/or Inside Llewyn Davis (Yeah, right - but I guy can dream)The first three here are pretty much locks, and the next three are pretty darn as close to locks as they can be.  Now since we don't know just how many nominees we will see in this category, as the rules claim anywhere between five and ten (a rule with which this critic is not all too fond), who knows what tomorrow morning will bring.  My guess though, is eight, but if it does go to ten, there ya have it.  Other (slim) possibilities are Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and even Blue is the Warmest Color, if hell freezes over.Best Director1. Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity2. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave3. David O. Russell for American Hustle4. Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street5. Paul Greengrass for Captain PhillipsPossible Spoilers: Alexander Payne for Nebraska and/or Spike Jonze for HerWild Cards: The Coen Brothers for Inside Llewyn DavisThe first three are locks here, with Cuaron the frontrunner to win then gold (another split between director and picture is likely again this year).  Scorsese is likely but not a sure thing.  Greengrass is a bit on the wobbly side here, with either Payne or Jonze (or maybe even both!) on the ready to (semi)surprise tomorrow morn.  A real surprise (and a welcome one) would be a nod for the Coens.  Who knows.Best Actor1. Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club 2. Chiwetel Ojiofor in 12 Years a Slave3. Bruce Dern in Nebraska4. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street5. Tom Hanks in Captain PhillipsPossible Spoilers: Robert Redford in All is Lost and/or Joaquin Phoenix in HerWild Card: Christian Bale in American Hustle or Forrest Whitaker in The ButlerWow, just think, a guy who was the frontrunner to win the statue a month or so ago, may now, not even get nominated.  The top three are locks, with McConaughey in the hot seat to win in March, but the next two are a bit shaky.  Redford was the frontrunner, but with Leo buzzing up a storm, it seems unlikely he'll be left out, and Redford is the most likely culprit to end up not having his name announced tomorrow.  Of course, I could be wrong - imagine that.  Perhaps the Leo buzz came to late to affect the outcome, and Redford's once vaulted slot is safe after all. Phoenix could just as easily slip in there as well, but less likely.Best Actress1. Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine2. Amy Adams in American Hustle3. Sandra Bullock in Gravity4. Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks5. Judi Dench in PhilomenaPossible Spoiler: Meryl Streep in August: Osage CountyWild Card: Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest ColorWhat!!?  Streep not getting nominated!?  What am I, a fool!?  Yeah, well maybe I am, but with a sudden surge in buzz for Amy Adams, someone had to get knocked off the list, and La Streep is the injured party.  Otherwise, this seems a pretty tight race.Best Supporting Actor1. Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club2. Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave3. Barkhad Abdi in Captain Phillips4. Bradley Cooper in American Hustle5.&n[...]

Film Review: Spike Jonze's Her


When I first saw Spike Jonze's feature debut, Being John Malkovich, over fourteen years ago (has it really been that long?), I was, as some are prone to say, blown away.  To this day, I still consider the film to one of the best movies of the 1990's.  With the director's second film, 2002's Adaptation, I was not blown away so much as heatedly intrigued.  However, with each of Jonze's two follow-up films, replacing my aforementioned blown away and/or heatedly intrigued feelings, my emotions have ranged from less than mildly amused (Where the Wild Things Are) to slightly more than mildly amused (the director's latest, Her). Now don't get me wrong, Jonze is a talented director, his visual nuances are actually quite spectacular in each and every film he has made (including most of his music video work as well), but the one thing the director had going for him in his first two films, and what is missing from his latest two, is the warped genius pen of Charlie Kaufman.  One of the most fascinating screenwriters working today (that genius pen is also responsible for Human Nature, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the writer's directorial debut, the brilliantly subversive Synecdoche, New York) made Malkovich and Adaptation flow beyond even Jonze's visual dexterity, and that is sorely lacking in the sadly tepid Wild Things and the seemingly tired Her, both written by Jonze himself.  But maybe that's just me and my deep love for pretty much everything Charlie Kaufman touches.Perhaps I am being a bit too harsh on Her. It is far from a bad film, and to be honest, I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed most Hollywood movies this year.  Maybe my 'more than mildly amused' should be upgraded to 'fun but not the funnest.'  Who knows?  The story is interesting and offbeat (which is usually my kinda thing) but it does tend to drag and sometimes repeat itself, as if it really didn't know how else to fill the void of the middle of a movie.  The storyline by the way, goes a little something like this: Her is the quirky tale of a lonely writer who falls in love with his computer's operating system (my favourite part of the story is how most people in this slightly futuristic landscape, don't even find such a thing strange or unusual) and how relationships are the same no matter who the partners may be.  Like I said, it is an interesting tale, but Jonze's lack of narrative interest and way of shallowly filling these gaps in interest (of course, as the director is wont to do, there are some rather hipstery shoe-gazing songs tossed in there to annoy anyone with even a modicum of musical taste), just makes this critic wonder even more what the film would have ended up being like if Kaufman were around to write the damn thing.But again, perhaps I am being a bit to harsh on the old girl.  Every time I say I like the film alright, I go off on a tangent about how it could be better with Kaufman, and let's face it, many a film would probably be better with Kaufman at the writing desk, so we probably shouldn't keep thinking coulda woulda shoulda thoughts, and just say that Her is more than mildly amusing, and is indeed fun, though not the funnest.  After all, we do get yet another bravura performance, this time at the other end of the emotional spectrum than the actor's other recent work in The Master or his installationesque performance piece-cum-docudrama I'm Still Here, from the mighty Joaquin Phoenix.  And even with its drawbacks, Her is a charming and rather quaint little film.  It's quite cute, indeed.  Still though, one must wonder what Charlie Kaufman could have done with such a creative story idea.  Okay, okay, maybe I did like[...]

Film Review: Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing


Let me attempt to put a more US audience-tested face on this whole shebang.  Try to imagine the likes of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, still being alive, and reenacting their crimes against humanity for a documentarian's camera, and for all to see.  Now imagine the terrorist and despot actually starring in these reenactments, as both victim and victimizer.  Now try to imagine a few elaborate musical numbers being thrown in, to ironically liven things up a bit.  If you can indeed imagine such a beast, then you too can imagine the alluring yet harrowing documentary, The Act of Killing.  The only difference here is that we are not in the caves of Afghanistan or the airways of September 11th, nor are we in the spider-holes  and war-ravaged streets of Bagdad. Here we find ourselves in the paramilitaristic land of modern day Indonesia.  Following the failed coup of 1965, gangsters like Anwar Congo, to whom the moniker of main antagonist-cum-protagonist can be applied here, were put in charge of government-sanctioned death squads.  These death squads of 1965-66 have evolved into a political party that has since run the country with the proverbial iron fist.  And these crimes (people being dragged from their homes, tortured, executed, homes burned to the ground in a firestorm of pseudo-righteousness) are still all too real, and now being relived by those who perpetrated them, all for the camera's roving, unceasing Kino-eye.  And I gotta tell ya, as disturbing as many of these war crimes are, it is really hard to not be riveted by a strange fascination for the things being explained and reenacted up on the screen.The film opens with a chorus line of pink clad dancers slowly sliding their way out of the mouth of an enormous fish sculpture (as seen on the film's poster) and quickly moves from campesque farce to brutal reality.  The main brunt of the film follows the aforementioned Congo around as he, often swelling with pride as he wears the most Cheshire of grins, matter-of-factly tells of his exploits as state executioner - a position where he claims to have murdered over 1000 people, all in the name of the anti-communist Indonesian government.  Congo and the camera are visited by other fellow death squaders, as they are heralded and praised as great people of Indonesia.  The final act of the film, as we delve deeper into these repugnant crimes, and as Congo begins questioning what he has done in life, the film becomes more and more surreal and more and more bizarre in its uniquely stylized narrative.  This film really is a strange beast, unlike any film this critic has ever experienced. It is also one of those films one would be remiss not to say it is a certain must see.This review can also be read over at my main site, All Things Kevyn.[...]

The Best of 2013


Hey everybody!  It's that time of the year again.  That time where we film critics (and others of a similar cinematic bent) dole out our annual best and worst of the year lists.  Well, that is just what I will be doing below (and over at my main site, All Things Kevyn).  But this ain't just some boring ole top ten list.  No sirree.  This will be my choices for the best that cinema had to offer this past year, from the best to the worst.  A top twenty or so offering (a top 21 to be exact), followed by some runners-up, followed by my choices for the best performances of the year, which then will be followed by my choices for the dregs of then past cinematic year.  But enough of this introductory nonsense.  Without further ado, I give you the cinematic year that was 2013, beginning with my choices for the best films of the year.  Oh yeah, and due to some scheduling conflicts, two films that would have likely made this list (and still might through the wonder of the retcon), Spike Jonze's Her and The Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, have yet to be seen by your not-so-humble narrator, and therefore are not included below. Anyway, on with the show...1. Stoker - This film, the first English-language offering from Korean enfant terribles, Park Chan-wook, came onto the screen quite early in the year, and ever since the March 21st screening I saw, the film has been the runaway winner for best of the year - no film was ever able to topple it from its high and mighty perch.  Loosely based on Hitchcock's 1943 classic thriller, Shadow of a Doubt, Park brings his unique, oft times batshitcrazy, style to Hollywood, and casts a pitch perfect Mia Wasikowska in the central role of lonely little girl lost-cum-potentially demented serial killer - all via a bubbling sexual cauldron of Lolita-esque desire.  A gorgeously harrowing near-masterpiece, indeed.2. American Hustle - The only film that even came close to toppling Stoker from that top spot, came quite close to the year end deadline - as many big name Oscar potentials do.  Taking a riff on making a Martin Scorsese film ("the best damn Martin Scorsese film ever made by someone who is not Martin Scorsese"), David O. Russell has finally made the great film we all knew he had in him all along.  Granted, many thought his last film was that great work, but the obvious cliché of that film (really, how were so many fooled into thinkig it was anything better than typical Oscar-bait pabulum?), is wiped away completely with this new, great visceral work of art.  Bravo.3. Spring Breakers - From its opening montage of a typical spring break setting that looks to be an auteuristic take on Girls Gone Wild, to its dangerously sexualized interior involving several actresses with usually (usually) squeaky clean images, all the way to its killer final scene that could have been lifted straight out of a Brian De Palma-fuelled wet dream, Harmony Korine's succulently filthy paean to the Godardian ideal of a girl and a gun, or in this case, several girls and lots of guns, may not be the film for everyone (what an understatement!) but that doesn't change the fact that this is indeed, cinema as it damn well should be.4. Before Midnight - This acerbic love(esque) story is the culmination (unless Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke decide on making a fourth one down the road) of one of the smartest, most beautifully filmed trilogies around.  Beginning in 1995 with Before Sunrise, and continuing in 2004 with Before Sunset (my personal favourite of the bunch), the aforementioned director, Richard Linklater, and his stars and co-screenwriters, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, have given us a deft comedy-cum-potential tragedy in [...]

Film Review: Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street


As a Martin Scorsese fan from the moment this once impressionable thirteen year old mind first caught a glimpse of Taxi Driver on late night TV more than thirty years ago, it is with great sadness (and possibly some quite furious anger) that I must state the following:  I did not like The Wolf of Wall Street.  That's right kids, this long-avowed Scorsese fan did not like the director's latest film.  Now sure, there have been other Scorsese films over the year that I have not been the biggest fan of.  Films such as The Age of Innocence, Kundun, The Aviator. The Color of Money, even The Last Temptation of  Christ, are all Scorsese films that have less than tickled this critic's fancy, but none of these films seemed as great a disappointment as did The Wolf of Wall Street when I saw it just two days ago.  Sure, when a man makes no less than five masterpieces in his career, you can certainly cut the guy some slack every once and a while, but even so, the utter disappointment is still there - in fucking spades.Now others who have panned the film (and we seem to be a minority) have done so due to what they call an excess of sex and drugs and overall immorality.  To that I say, bah!  The film, being about the life and times and exploits of a greedy, repulsive, money-hungry, drug-engorged, sex-addicted asshole of a human being, is a movie about excess, and therefore should be an excessive film.  Add to that the typical excess of Scorsese's auteur style, and the film is bound to go over the top.  This however, is not my problem with the film.  My problem is that I found all this excess (and everything else) to be utterly and deliriously banal as all get out, or should I say, as this film takes the coveted bronze medal in f-bomb movies, banal as all fuck.  Yes indeedy, the first forty minutes or so are actually rather entertaining.  Watching the first act of this film is like watching the Scorsese you know and love.  Perhaps not the Scorsese of Taxi Driver or Goodfellas, but at the very least, the Scorsese of Casino and After Hours.  But alas, then comes the second hour, and then the third, and now any and all love of Scorsese has flown out the proverbial window, only to be replaced with some sort of godawful feeling of despair and outright anger.Granted, the film does entertain with several quite cinematic Scorsese moments, as well as the director's loving penchant for recruiting re-imagined imagery from everything from The Red Shoes to Hitchcock to Citizen Kane. Moments that make us remember just why we get so damn excited every time the man releases a new film.  But alas poor moviegoers, this is not that Martin Scorsese.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is a different animal altogether.  This is a director that has gotten lazy.  A director that has maybe forgotten what it means to be Martin Scorsese - though since his last two films, the unfairly maligned genre deconstruction of Shutter Island, and the brilliantly filmic nostalgia called Hugo, were a collective upswing from other recent work, this is a theory that really holds no water.  So what is it then?  Frustration in a new digital age?  The fact that one can not help but compare the filmmaker's muses, and let's face it, the mediocrity of Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor could never hold up in comparison to one Mr. Bobby De Niro.  No, it must be something deeper that that.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps The Wolf of Wall Street is merely a blip in a career that, as I said before, has created at least five masterpieces, and several more near ones as well.  With the [...]

Film Review: David O. Russell's American Hustle


From his quirky beginnings in the indie world to his more recent Oscary successes, filmmaker David O. Russell has played his directorial hand at many different honey pots, from teen sex comedy to acerbic war picture to pugilistic, dysfunctional family dramas, but up until now, playing is all the guy has been doing - but it is a long-time playing that has finally led to this, the director's seventh feature film, and very well his first truly great work of cinema.  In fact, American Hustle, the 1978-set story of a group of con artists working (unwillingly, their collective hands forced) with the F.B.I. to ensnare corrupt politicians, may very well be the best damn Martin Scorsese film ever made by someone who is not Martin Scorsese.  But there is much more to American Hustle than mere auteuristic hero worship and cinematic reverence.Russell's film, the follow-up to his inexplicably praised Oscar big-wig, Silver Linings Playbook (yet another merely mediocre work being gilded to the high heavens come Oscar time), takes the best of the con game movie tropes, adds in the director's best impression of the aforementioned maestro Scorsese, kicks it up a notch or two with great casting and one hell of a nostalgic 1970's bent, twists it into a deft and biting dark comedy, and comes up with what is easily one of the best damn motion pictures of 2013.  Hoo hah!   The film is written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer, and based on the ABSCAM operation of the late seventies. The film stars past Russell compatriots, Christian Bale as combed-over con man Irving Rosenfeld (based, as is most of the main cast, on a real participant of ABSCAM), with Amy Adams as his lover/partner-in-crime. Jennifer Lawrence as his long-suffering and long insufferable wife, and Bradley Cooper as the narcissistic fed fuck-up who drags Bale's huckster into the game to begin with. The film also stars Jeremey Renner (working with Russell for the first time here) as the Camden, New Jersey mayor that acts as target for this gang of grifters.  What Russell does with his film, turning the genre on its head so to speak, is take a group of people who are usually marginalized in society as bad and/or pathetic creatures, and gives his con game a heart and soul.  We feel for these people - well at least some of them - and we care what happens to them - again, to most of them.  It's some pretty amazing shit actually.  Russell has finally made his first truly great film of his career.As for the acting of Russell's crew?  Bale, of course, is quite spectacular in his role as the ultimate con-man.  Methodically becoming the character, Bale brings his bravura presence into a character who is equal parts bravado-riddled grifter and in-over-his-head huckster with a heart of fool's gold.   The deepest and most sincerely sympathetic character in the bunch.  In other words, ring-ding-ding, Christian Bale is proving once again that he is one of the damn finest actors in the world today.  Meanwhile Adams, Renner, and even Cooper do their respective things with a certain amount of juicy aplomb, but let's face it, it is Jennifer Lawrence who runs away with each and every damn scene she finds herself in - even those in which she shares the screen with the deceptively charming chameleonic Bale himself (well okay, maybe not with Bale, but hey, he is Christian Bale after all).  Lawrence, in the atypical role of manipulative, and possibly semi-psychotic, femme fatale wife-from-hell, and after safer, less-daring roles (ie, a great talent going to waste playing characters anyone could play) in the blockbusters X-Men: First C[...]

Film Review: Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine


For approximately a quarter of century now, with the release of each new Woody Allen film (and there is usually one a year) critics invariably say one of two things.  Either it is a return to form for the director or it is a lament for the past, far superior filmmaker of the 1970's and 1980's.  In my wish to break such silly tradition, I propose that his latest, Blue Jasmine, is neither a return to form, nor is it something that makes us yearn for the days of Annie Hall or Manhattan.  Let's face it, the director would be quite hard-pressed to match such aforementioned films as these, and we shouldn't keep expecting him to get back to such greatness, nor should we feel so disappointed when he does not.   Sure, the writer-director's output is much more hit-and-miss these days than it was in the so-called olden days, but through the muck of such disasters as Scoop and/or Anything Else, the guy can still make one hell of a movie.What Blue Jasmine is, is a Woody Allen film, better than some, worse than others, but still a strong and charming film, full of the wry sense of humour that we have come to expect from a Woody Allen film, as well as a deeper and darker undercurrent running through its belly, finally rearing its full form in that harrowing finale, that stands on its own, without need of comparison to the director's past oeuvre.  With that said, I would like to add that even though Allen's new film may not be able to compare to the likes of the filmmaker's golden streak of the past (in this critic's mind, from 1977 through 1995, a streak of nineteen films, Allen made not a single dud) it is easily one of the best he has made since those days, as well as one of the best films of 2013.  Oh well, I guess I kinda just did the very thing I claimed I did not want to do.  Oh well.  Let's move on anyway, for I must let you in on the greatness  that is Blue Jasmine - somewhat surprisingly so, considering the cool reception I had to Allen's last film, and my belief in the overpraising of the one before that.What Woody Allen does best, other than writing a damn smart comedy (a few damn smart dramas as well), is elicit some damn fine performances out of his stars - something he does once again in Blue Jasmine.  Cate Blanchett, as atypically self-absorbed Allen leading lady, has been getting kudos upon kudos ever since the film first opened, and on top of all this, award accolades and chants of the actor's second Oscar have spewed from almost every Academy Award pundant out there.  Even many of those who dislike the film (and some do quite hate the thing) still praise Blanchett's work in said film.  Her ability to make her audience laugh and cry in one single scene, sometimes in one single take or shot, is quite astounding indeed.  Not many actors can pull off such a feat, and Blanchett does it time and time again in Blue Jasmine.  Of course, we should not, in our praise for Blanchett, forget the great supporting performance handed in by Sally Hawkins as Blanchett's sister in the film.  These two performances shine through and deserve the accolades they are receiving, but at the same time, we should not forget that Woody Allen (here we go) has seemed to returned to form in his latest film.  Well, yeah, I couldn't go the whole time without saying that, now could I?  Seriously though, Blue Jasmine, with its inherent wit and witticisms, is one of Allen's better works, and deserves to be included, if not in his golden first tier, then in his strong and charming second one for sure.This review can also be read over at my main site, All Things Kevyn.[...]

Film Review: Edgar Wright's The World's End


They call it the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.  First came Shaun of the Dead in 2004, a genre satire taking on the zombie film, and the best damn rom-zom-com out there.  Next came Hot Fuzz in 2007, a satiric take on the cop buddy genre, and now, in 2013, comes The World's End, a satire on aliens and the oh-so popular end of the world scenario.  They by the way - the ones that call these three films the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy (or the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy on occasion) - are Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost.  All three films are directed by Wright, written by Wright and Pegg, and star Pegg and Frost.  All three films are also quite subversively brilliant, are possibly three of the finest satires in all of cinema, and quite cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs hee-larious.  Oh, and the reason for the trilogy nickname is because a different flavour of Cornetto ice cream is used in each film, each symbolizing each film's theme (strawberry for the blood and guts of Shaun of the Dead, original blue flavour[??] to represent the blue of the police in Hot Fuzz, and mint chocolate chip for the aliens of The World's End).  But really, the trilogy is merely a marketing ploy (not even named a trilogy until someone pointed out to Wright that he did indeed use two different Cornetto ice cream references in his first two films) and is only mentioned here because this critic gets a big kick out of such things.  Otherwise, these three films are no more a trilogy than Antonioni's Trilogy on Modernity.  How's that for some name dropping?  Anyway, I digress.  Let us move on to just what this damn movie is about anyway.The End of the World is a fast paced, even faster quipped action comedy about a group of forty year old former high school buds, who are brought back together by their ne'er-do-well pack leader Gary King, in order to perform "The Golden Mile" a pub crawl consisting of a dozen pubs, culminating at a pub called, yeah, you got it...The World's End.  While the other four ex hooligans have grown into responsible adulthood, Gary is still trying to live past glories as a grown child-man.  Of course things get a bit hairy when these (mostly) reluctant pub crawlers come back to their home town to perform the aforementioned "Golden Mile" only to find it may have been taken over by aliens, a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Of course hilarity ensues, and being that it is Wright, Pegg, and Frost, said hilarity is of the wryest, yet most maniacal set.  With allusions to many past films and such (the official poster is a take-off on a similarly-themed 1977 b-movie called End of the World), and a slew of self-referential inside jokes that range from the five lads all having courtly names (with surnames of King, Knightley, Prince, Page, and Chamberlain) to the names of each of the twelve pubs associating themselves with the actions that take place there (at the Crossed Hands the boys get into a fight, at The Mermaid, they are lured by evil women, etc), Wright's film is on equal par with the previous two - maybe even above par.The real revelation of the film, other than the amount of growth Wright and Pegg have had as writers, from parody to satire to genuine classic-styled filmmaking, is the central performance of Pegg himself.  Frost, as well as costars Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman (Bilbo himself), and Rosamund Pike, all do wonderful jobs with their parts, but it is Pegg, in his black trenchcoat-clad, Sisters of Mercy t-shirt-wearing best, who goes above and beyond anything this critic has ever sen him do before - and considering how much I have enjoyed the [...]

Film Review: Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave


12 Years a Slave is one of those films that overwhelms in such a thematic way that many believe it to be a good, or even a great film, when in reality it is merely mediocre.   There, I said it, now let's move on.  As a critic, it is my job, my duty even, to explain to you, my faithful readers, just what makes the film in question something you should see or something you should avoid, sometimes avoid like the plague.  As a human being, a person well adjusted into the current state of affairs known as a moral society, and as a practicing humanist, it is my job, my duty even, to take up arms against the historical atrocities, heinous acts such as war and slavery, genocide and destruction, that have plagued humankind since time immemorial.  Within such a conflicting set of ideals and duties, many of my fellow critics have been swayed into believing that just because a film is about one of these said atrocities, then by default it is an important and ofttimes brilliant work of art.  This phenomenon happened most notably with Schindler's List.  The Spielberg film garnered undue praise not because it was a great film (it was not) but because it tackled a subject that so many find, and rightly so, appalling.  Yes, that film had its moments, and some of the acting was quite spectacular, but too often it relied on the typical emotionally manipulative tricks and tropes of so many films that came before it, and in true Spielbergian style, ends up rather trite and ordinary.  But even so, the majority of critics (yes, I am certainly in the minority here) praise Schindler's List as one of the greatest films ever made.  If the film had been about some other, less harrowing historical event, anyone with any cinematic knowledge, could plainly see the film for the mediocre and middle-of-the-road beast that it is.  Sadly, much the same fate befalls Steve McQueen's new slavery drama.Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying 12 Years a Slave is a bad film (nor was I saying Schindler's List was).  We'll let that kind of thing for the Adam Sandlers and Tyler Perrys of the film world.  What 12 Years a Slave is, is an average piece of moviemaking, that granted, does occasionally rise above such middling offerings, but nothing even close to the outpouring of praise it is receiving from critics en masse.  And again, just like the aforementioned Spielberg film, such an outpouring of love may very well be the cause of one's empathy toward the atrocities of slavery, often blinding the critical eye at seeing flaws and faults in a film.  Aside from the white supremacist crowd out there (and I am guessing my audience doesn't include very many of them) most people will agree that slavery was one of the worst crimes against humanity the world has ever seen, but just because you make a film about such things, does not mean you have made a masterpiece - a word thrown way to willy-nilly around critical circles.  Yes, the film has a few quite stunning moments (the hanging scene is remarkably harrowing), and some quite stunning performances, most notably star Chiwetel Ojiofor as the titular Solomon Northrup, manly McQueen muse Michael Fassbender as an evil sonofabitch plantation owner, and in a smaller role (mostly unnoticed in the wake of critics falling all over the rather stereotypical performance of Lupita Nyong'o, and her Oscar chances), Adepero Oduye as Eliza, a woman forced into slavery and forced away from her children (after the character's confrontational scene with Solomon, she is my pick for best supporting actress of this film).The whole thing is made even sadder by the fac[...]

Film Review: Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color


A three hour French lesbian drama, where one of the characters is underage, and where the director and actresses are publicly battling over supposed mistreatment on set, and all saddled with the dreaded NC-17 rating here in the states (in France, you only need be twelve to buy a ticket), is not going to be the film that brings 'em into the multiplexes of middle America.  Well, damn good thing too, I say.  This film is too good for the likes of such people anyway.  And let's face it, most of conservative middle class America would probably walk out sometime during the ten minute, unsimulated and uncompromising sex scene in the middle of the film.  Leave those moviegoers to the franchise makers and luke warm rom coms of modern day Hollywood.  Leave those people to the oh so drab so-called indie fare that pretends to be cutting edge material running around the less and less discerning arthouse of the day.  Leave the truly daring art films to those of us who know how to enjoy such things.  Basically, what I am saying is, let those who can, enjoy one of the best films of the past year, maybe even several years, maybe even decade.  Let us enjoy, Blue is the Warmest Color.What is the story anyway?  Glad you asked.  Loosely based on the 2010 graphic novel of the same name by Julie Maroh (I say loosely since even though the basic storyline of the film follows the novel, there are several major differences - one quite major indeed) Kechiche's film is about the love story between a high school girl just now struggling with her sexuality, and what is expected of her in today's society, and the slightly older art school woman with whom she falls immediately and madly and deeply in love.  Being French, the film never delves very deep into what Hollywood would perceive as a necessary melodrama, instead opting for a fluid storyline that never finds the need to explain itself all too much.  With that style, the film allows the two actresses the freedom to pull off two of the finest, subtly provocative performances of recent years.  These two actresses are the mostly unknown Adele Exarchopoulos (Oscar talk, albeit of the dark horse variety, is starting to buzz about) as Adele (the character's name was changed from the much better Clementine of the novel), the young sexually awakening protagonist of the love story, and the somewhat better known Lea Seydoux (Farewell My Queen, Inglourious Basterds) as Emma, Adele's blue-haired objet de amour (and yes, blue is a colour that runs through the movie like a sweetly overpowering palette).  Both give stunning, naturalistic performances, that compliment the smooth, realistic direction of Kechiche.Yet, the controversy surrounding the film, from the blatant sexuality to word of laughter during Academy screenings to the director badmouthing the film and his actresses, not to mention the dreaded mark of Cain, ie the NC-17 rating, even with its pedigree of a Cannes victory last May, certainly makes the film a tough sell in US multiplexes (even many arthouses are fearful of booking the film) but it is just as certainly a film that should be seen by those who love honest, sometimes brutally so, storytelling, and bravura filmmaking that hearkens toward the cinema of the Dardenne Brothers (much of Blue reminded this critic of the Dardenne's Rosetta).  It's a real shame that many in this country will not see this film, but as I said before, such people probably do not deserve to see such a film full of stark and unblinking beauty as Blue is the Warmest Colour.  I'm just glad I wasn't one of those unde[...]

Early Bird Oscar Predictions


Welly well well, the Oscars may still be several months away, but that's no reason to not get ahead of the curve, and announce your Oscar nomination predictions.  So, without further ado (other than the poster image of American Hustle, that is), here are my early bird Oscar nomination predictions.  Have at 'em.  Oh, and I have listed them in order of probability within each category.  Best Picture1. American Hustle2. 12 Years a Slave3. Gravity4. Captain Phillips5. The Wolf of Wall Street6. Inside Llewyn Davis7. Lee Daniels' The Butler8. Nebraska9. Before Midnight10. Fruitvale StationWild Cards: Her and/or Blue is the Warmest ColorThe first four are pretty much locks right now, and that doesn't look likely to change.  It's after that, that things get a bit tricky.  For awhile, it looked as if Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street was going to be pushed back until 2014, but a Christmas Day release has recently been put on the books, so in it goes.  Then again, Scorsese rushed to get the film done in time, so that may hurt the film, even if it is from a master director.  For now though, I'm including it.  I am also including another maybe film, in the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis.  It is a small film, but these guys are popular, so in it goes.  Then you have The Butler and Nebraska, and if Oscar is going deep again this year (the rules state anywhere between five and ten nominees in this category - and please don't get me started on the stupidity of such a rule), these two could easily pop in there.  After this, it gets really tricky.  No one else is actually predicting the two films I placed in the last two (possible) spots, instead predicting films like Saving Mr. Banks or August: Osage County or Rush or All is Lost (any of which are very reasonable, and probably more probable guesses), but I'm putting these two critical faves on my list anyway.   Then ya got my two wild card choices.  Probably very wild (especially the 3 hour French lesbian drama that was recently laughed at during an Academy member screening) but stranger things have happened at the Oscars.  Any other possibilities?  Other than those I mention just above (especially All is Lost or Saving Mr. Banks), I suppose either Blue Jasmine or Dallas Buyers Club could sneak in if given enough critics awards leverage, but still somewhat doubtful - at least this early in the game.Best Director1. Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity2. Steve McQueen for 12 Years a Slave3. David O. Russell for American Hustle4. Paul Greengrass for Captain Phillips5. Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall StreetThe 6th (or 7th) Man Award: Joel & Ethan Coen for Inside Llewyn DavisWild Card: Spike Jonze for HerJust like with BP, the top four seem to be locks here (I think that, no matter which film takes BP, Cuaron is still winning this award), leaving just the fifth spot open for debate.  Granted, I may be overselling Scorsese this year (I actually undersold him in my predictions two years ago, when I did not see the love for Hugo that would be coming), especially with the supposed rush job the director did in post production, but then again, he is Martin Fucking Scorsese, so that alone could pop him in here.  But, in case the film does tank (or at least partially so), the Brothers Coen could easily sneak in there instead of him.  But still, wouldn't it be fun to hear Spike Jonze' name announced on that Tuesday morning?  Too quirky?  Maybe.  Maybe. Other possibilities include Lee Daniels for the rather egotis[...]

Film Review: Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity


I am not one to lightheartedly recommend seeing a movie in 3D, when a perfectly fine 2D version is available just one screen over, but every now and again, it is something I am prone to do.  I did it with Scorsese's Hugo a couple of years back, and I did it with Life of Pi last year, and now here I am doing it for the new film from Mexican New Waver Alfonso Cuaron.  Gravity, seen in the proper 3D, is a gripping tale of an orbital space disaster that has Sandra Bullock floating around the ultra harsh environs of outer space. Seen in this venue, the film is quite exhilarating, and it had this critic on the literal edge of his seat. Seriously, I really was on the edge of my theater seat in many parts of this film.  Whether this veritable visual palpitation follows through to the film's eventual DVD and BD release, and therefore on a smaller home scale, is up in the air - though it is definitely leaning toward, not so much - which makes the old adage, "it's better to see something in a movie theater than at home" all so more true in this particular case.Be that as it may, Gravity, up on that big screen (and in 3D, don't forget), is a remarkable looking film that keeps one's eyes glued to the projected images.  The story, of a pair of stranded astronauts (the aforementioned Bullock along with George Clooney), trying to make their way from their wrecked shuttle to an orbiting space station (or two), all the while trying not to, ya know, die a horrible death in outer space, is a story fraught with the possibilities of cliche after cliche, and even though such things do pop up now and again, the vastness, the epic visual background (my often agonized enemy, the dreaded CGI, has never looked this good) of Cuaron's film, make up for any storyline blips or bleeps.  Perhaps Gravity never delves into the inner depths of something like Cuaron's masterfully subversive Children of Men, or his brilliantly erotic Y Tu Mamá También, but the look and feel of the film, along with Bullock's rock solid performance (an easy Oscar nod should be coming her way in a few months), make this film one of those current must see type of cinematic events - especially since its impact will surely never transfer over to the small screen.[...]

Film Review: Kimberly Peirce's Carrie


A good remake, huh?  Okay, it can happen once and a while.  Right?  Perhaps.  A good remake (oxymoron perhaps?) must tread that fine line between being faithful to the original while also giving us something fresh and (ironically perhaps?) new.  In essence, Kimberly Peirce's remake of Brian De Palma's 1976 horror classic, which in turn was, of course, an adaptation of Stephen King's iconic first novel, does the first part well.  She may not imbue the film with the almost satiric visual prose that De Palma did, nor does her film have the visceral urgency of the original (De Palma's film is more stylistic, of course), but the director does give her version enough of a chilling realism vibe, to make it more than merely passable as inevitable homage.  But as for the second half of our aforementioned fine line treading, Peirce falls woefully short of the proverbially intended goal line.  Nowhere inside this basically faithful remake, is there even an ounce of freshness.  Peirce seems to bring nothing to the table, or screen, in the way of a fresh outlook on the story.  Sure we get the necessary updates (poor Carrie White's surprise menstruation fiasco goes viral on Youtube) but otherwise, unlike those few fresh remakes we get now and again (Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead and Soderbergh's Ocean films come immediately to this critic's mind) this film is given no real reason to even exist.  Harsh I know, but all too true.Peirce (coincidentally, to give a bit of a shout out, the director was born just a few months after me in the same town from where I hail), who is only now getting around to her third film, after her spectacular 1999 debut Boys Don't Cry, and her rather lackluster 2008 film, Stop-Loss, handles the chores of remake helmsman well, using intriguing camera angles and imposing, though perhaps a bit too obvious, religious imagery, throughout her film, but as I have said already (hounded about actually), the director gives nothing fresh to the story.  Some have claimed this to be a more faithful adaptation of King's novel than De Palma's film (I've never read the book, so I cannot weigh in on that), but the film seems to follow De Palma's original pretty well (so much so that I keep complaining about nothing new being brought to bare here), so it really can't be that much more faithful. But really, De Palma is one of those directors you either love or hate, and for those of us who love the guy, it is hard to imagine anyone doing something better than he.  Well, except for Hitchcock, but that's a whole other story. So that leaves the performances, and how they fare up to the somewhat unfair, but completely inevitable comparisons to the original.Sissy Spacek was an unearthly Carrie White, something akin to a living ghost, a beautiful young woman, but not in the so-called typical way, while Chloë Grace Moretz, a stunning girl herself, though more classically pretty (apparently more like how the character is described by King), gives Carrie an almost typical teen angst vibe - albeit a typical ten from hell kinda angst.  Moretz, who at sixteen is more age appropriate for the role (Spacek was a full decade older when she played the seventeen year old high school senior), does a fine job with the character (she is given more depth than De Palma allowed in his auteur take on the book), but let's face it, Carrie isn't the real horror of this horror show.  No siree, the real terror here is Carrie's mother-from-hell, Margaret White.  In[...]

Film Review: Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon


There are oh so obvious allusions to the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, all throughout this film, but one could also look at Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut as something akin to Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.  Just replace the mob and drugs of Scorsese's iconic 1990 film with the sex and porn of Don Jon. Now I am not trying to make some outrageous claim like Don Jon is as great a film as Goodfellas.  Sure, JGL's film is enjoyable (more enjoyable than I expected it to be) if not a bit "on the nose" as far as human dramadies go, but it sure ain't in the same realm as Scorsese's modern classic, but still, there are things here that remind one of Scorsese's film.  Perhaps nothing but superficial stuff (circumstantial evidence at best officer), but stuff nonetheless.  The relatively constant voiceover, the straight on shots, the abrupt endings to certain scenes or shots, the Italian family atmosphere all smell of Scorsese 101.  Granted, they are not done here to the expertise of the master, but when perpetrated by the nubile youthful exuberance of the aforementioned Mr. Gordon-Levitt, these things can have a fun effect to them.  But enough of the good, what of the bad, and perhaps even the ugly?Early on in the film, Gordon-Levitt's Jon Martello, aka the titular Don Jon (he's got a way with the ladies), talks about the superiority of internet porn over the typical Hollywood romantic comedy, which is an ironic thing because the writer/director/star has made what is basically, a typical romantic comedy.  Well, at least for the most part.  There is a third act twist (though twist is probably overstating it) that gives one a somewhat refreshing atypical romcom feeling.  Well, okay, the so-called twist really isn't that surprising, but it's at least something.  Sure, Gordon-Levitt does a fine job in his self-created role (the actor does possess a certain charm), and even Scarlett Johansson gives what she can (she is basically just eye candy with a semi-faltering Jersey accent after all), and Julianne Moore gives the film some quirk and even some depth (albeit unsurprising depth), and we get a wife-beater-wearing Tony Danza to boot (and I mean that very sincerely, and not ironically at all), but overall the film falters mainly for its utter disdain for the out-of-the-ordinary. It certainly does seem like perhaps it wants to venture outside the safe insular world of the Hollywood (or Indie) romcom, but is just scared to take those dangerous steps.We shouldn't be surprised to see someone like Gordon-Levitt in such a safe film.  He has done so many films that have had the potential to go somewhere different and out of the ordinary but chose safe and dry instead.  Films such as Looper, (500) Days of Summer, The Lookout, even Inception and The Dark Knight Rises were all films that thought they were going over the edge, but pulled themselves back before anything really intriguing happened.  Gordon-Levitt had no creative say in those films (with the possible exception of (500) Days of Summer) but here he is nothing but sole creator, and still he takes the safe road more traveled.   Like I said, there are some enjoyable things in here (there is more god than bad, but only slightly), and some pretty nifty potential (the porn storyline should give it at least some over the edge stuff), and it is a shame that the young first time director didn't do more with said potential.  Perhaps something grittier but still charming.  Perh[...]

Film Review: Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster


Every year, I post a most anticipated films list here on my site.  Back in 2011, the film that topped that list was Wong Kar-wai's much anticipated Kung-Fu epic, The Grandmaster.  But alas, 'twas not to be, as was the case with the Asian auteur's masterpiece, In the Mood for Love, its follow-up, 2046, and his American debut, My Blueberry Nights, Wong went about his typical forever post production, editing rituals, and we did not see a release in 2011.  Okay, so we moved on to 2012, and once again, at the top of that aforementioned most anticipated films list, sat WKW's The Grandmaster, now even with a teaser poster available to the world at large, but alas, once again, the film never made it into theaters, and once again, I would feel the necessity to move the film forward, as it were, to the following year's list.So, cut to January 2013, and that oft-cited most anticipated films list, and guess what?  Yep, that's right, for the third year in a row, Wong Kar-wai's wouldbe new masterpiece sat atop that damn list.  But this year, things would be different, I just knew that had to be true.  And yes, after releases in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and an international debut at February's Berlin Film Festival, The Grandmaster was finally (finally!) poised for an American release, and then, in August, the great city of New York finally (finally!!) had itself a brand new Wong Kar-wai film.  Granted, it took it a few more weeks to wind its way to other parts of the country, though as of the writing of this review, the film still has not seen a truly wide release (and has yet to play in my hometown of Harrisburg, Pa), but yes, the film, so long in the waiting, and so so long in the anticipation, was finally (FINALLY!!!) here dammit.  Granted, it is being released in the US with 20+ minutes edited out of the foreign cut, so perhaps we still need to wait for the director's cut.  Dammit, I'm sick and tired of waiting.  But I digress.I suppose now you expect me to critique its merits and/or flaws, huh?  Give you a what's up on the film as a whole.  Basically, now you expect me to do my job, eh?  Jonas Mekas, the crazed purveyor of underground cinema, once said that it was not his job to tell you what a film was about, but instead to get excited by it, and show you that excitement.  I suppose I take that as my motto of sorts (so much so that the actual quote is proudly displayed on my website) and therefore will go no further with a description than letting you know that the film is about the great Kung-Fu master, Ip Man, the man who would eventually come to train Bruce Lee, and his life and times over several tumultuous decades of Chinese history.  I could get excited though.  That I could very easily do.   And even though nothing I could say would be any surprise to anyone who knows and loves Wong Kar-wai and his cinema (or for that matter, knows my tastes in film), excited I shall get.I could tell you how Wong, along with his DP Philippe la Sourd (in his first real challenge as cinematographer) and his long time production designer/editor, William Chang (pretty much every WKW film can be seen on his list of credentials) have made the film flow with the most subtly rich and luscious manner of visual narrative succulence.  I could rave about the central performance of another long-time WKW collaborator, Tony Leung, and how he once again brings a Wong character to heartbreaking life [...]

Hello, I Must Be Going...But Not Really


Yeah, yeah, I haven't been around in a while.  So fuckin' sue me!  Oh wow, sorry 'bout that.  I should be nice here.  Ah, fuck that too!!  Wow, I am an ass, but that is not why I am here right now (we all know that anyway).  What I am here to talk about, albeit quite briefly, and why I am titularly paraphrasing Groucho, is to say how the posts on this site will be somewhat less frequent over the next few months.  Yeah, like I had to tell ya'll that.  But yes, as my focus goes more toward my comix (go here to see all about that) by review duties will find themselves a bit on the waning side.  But no need to worry oh faithful readers and true believers, for I will still be around these here parts.  My reviews of Blue Jasmine and The End of teh World will be up and running over the next week sometime, and some early Oscar predix may even find their way in here at some point.  So no, I am not actually going anywhere - just bein' a bit more lazy about things around these parts.  So there!  See ya in the funny papers!!

Film Review: Adam Wingard's You're Next


When recommending this new thriller from Adam Wingard, I cannot say, with any semblance of seriousness, that what you are about to experience is a movie bathed in originality, or even any huge amount of creativity.  You're Next is not a film that will have you talking about the bravura acting prowess of any of its cast, or the sparkling wit and witticisms of its script.  You're Next is not a film that will surprise you much with it's so-called twists and turns - unless perhaps you have never seen a movie before this one.  No, You're Next is not something groundbreaking like The Cabin in the Woods or High Tension, two films of which I was hoping to be able to compare this one.  What you will get with You're Next though, is a fun and surprisingly funny romp through the silly blood and guts of the genre.  Not the high art set of horror/slasher films, but still an oddly enjoyable one.The premise of the film is simple enough.  A wealthy and appropriately dysfunctional family come together for the parents' 35th wedding anniversary, only to be attacked by a gang of animal mask wearing home invaders who take joy in picking off the family members one by one.  At this point  the film is merely another home invasion story (though one fellow critic called the film a blend of Ordinary People and Scream) but a few twists and turns later, though admittedly easily predicted twists and turns, and we have ourselves an intriguing little arthousey kinda slasher flick.  Even though the film isn't necessarily scary in any way (a handful of gotcha moments), it is fun to watch everything unfold, and there are some rather interesting types of death, especially in the penultimate kitchen fight scene.  With the Mumblecore movement at its core (Mumblecore bigwig Joe Swanberg even joins in by playing the most obnoxious of the four quite obnoxious siblings), You're Next never sports a big budget or a big name cast (Swanberg probably is the biggest name), and this D.I.Y. attitude helps to make the film work better than better known faces would have done.   Overall, the film, if not anything spectacular (I really was hoping here), is quite fun, and as I stated earlier, quite funny.  Then again, perhaps I am just a bit more twisted than most.  So yeah, I do recommend You're Next, if for nothing else, the chutzpah of the final girl, and the closing scenes.  And don't even get me started on the creepy feel that the eternally looping "Looking For the Magic" by The Dwight Twilley Band, gives to the overall enjoyment of the film.  Fun, indeed.[...]

Forces of Geek "A History of Sci-Fi Cinema" - Pt XII


The fine folks over at Forces of Geek have allowed me the space and time to ramble on about the history of science fiction cinema.  These bi-weekly columns, will make an attempt, however feeble, at discussing the history of this often chided cinematic genre.  From its birth to the latest CGI box office hits, I will take a look at the films that have filled the genre, as well as their literary influences and TV offshoots.  In this episode, my twelfth in the series, I take a look at the space babes and ass-kicking hotties of science fiction cinema and TV. Ooh La La, my fellow sci-fi geeks.

Read my column, "Va-Va-Va-Voom: The Hotter Side of Sci-Fi," at Forces of Geek.