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The Killing of a Sacred Deer Review

18 Oct

Clearly designed to elicit reactions, and pretty successful at doing so. Lanthimos has his grasp on every tiny facet of the production, each scene a delicate balance between heightened aesthetics and blank-faced absurdity. His actors–all outstanding– deliver their lines devoid of any normal conventions of human conversation, resulting in a plethora of inappropriately comedic moments and killer lines (Alicia Silverstone owns the best one). The film occasionally gets lost in its own world, lingering too long on certain uninteresting beats and sometimes becoming a victim of its own distance. However, it’s perhaps this intentional distance–noticeable even in the camera placement–from Lanthimos that makes his story so intriguing. It works because he goes into it understanding the very concept of absurdity and the way ambiguity facilitates a seeming lack of purpose. He has no intention of explaining anything in depth because his characters haven’t even figured it out; he takes his Greek tragedy, spins a few metaphors and philosophical questions into the mix, and lets this twisted foray into human behavior to spiral toward its bone-chilling conclusion.

B+

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Blade Runner 2049 Review

10 Oct

Jared Leto doesn’t deserve to be lit by Roger Deakins.

The d.p. legend is back again with a masterwork of epic proportions. As is the case with the rest of his work, every frame here is heavily calculated and pored over, but it’s more readily apparent in this film than in others. It feels overtly artificial for a reason; Deakins, Villeneuve, and production designer Dennis Gassner are first working from a futuristic visual framework, then at key moments slowly introducing hidden depths and pinpoints of humanity into this bleak and foreboding environment. In this manner, the visual storytelling parallels K’s journey from blake slate through memories and towards the soul. There are several main canvasses that we see throughout: the sterile darkness of Los Angeles, the smoggy orange ruins of Las Vegas, and K himself. Deakins has an absolute field day filling those canvasses. Motivated source lighting (see: the lanterns in the Jesse James train sequence) is his forte, and you can see that he realized how much of a gold mine the city scenes are. It’s heightened artificiality. It’s a glorious collection of neon and fluorescent, with huge holograms and ship lights providing even more striking colors amidst the darkness. They all show up in some way during these scenes, illuminating the image in a way that allows Deakins to play with shadows and silhouettes. You’ll notice how mobile the shadows are, whether they’re peeling back to reveal or creeping forward to conceal. This certainly plays in tandem with the lights, which take on lives of their own as they shimmer within the frame.

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The Florida Project Review

5 Oct

The Florida Project is about limitations. The characters are fenced in, their futures volatile and insecure, their places of residence so geographically close to privilege yet so far. There are limitations placed on their employment options, their housing options, and even their pizza topping options. Willem Dafoe’s character acts like a sheriff at times, ensuring that people are paying what they owe and that others are limited from venturing onto the premises. The premises themselves are run-down and grimy in many places, and certain scenes exude sadness without even trying.

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Battle of the Sexes Review

20 Sep

A crowdpleaser in the same vein as last year’s Hidden Figures. It doesn’t do anything remarkable, but it coasts on its galvanizing real life story and the unwavering charm of its talented cast. Stone and Riseborough in particular bring some heart to their characters’ romance, even though the latter gets the short end of the stick when it comes to character development. Perhaps time would’ve been better spent on her rather than on Carell, who thank the lord is entertaining as hell because any drama that revolves around his character feels forced and half-baked. When the film zeroes in on Billie Jean King, it oftentimes shines, so the drama needlessly being diluted across several characters is unfortunate. Nevertheless, an altogether very pleasant experience, especially due to Nicholas Britell’s beautiful score and Linus Sandgren’s unfussy, period-appropriate shooting approach. Sandgren truly does have an eye for the way colors work in tandem, creating a vibrant but calming presence in the background.

Attended the premiere. Saw everyone. Met Linus Sandgren, Bill Pullman, Sara Bareilles, and Justin Hurwitz. Was cool.

GRADE: B

mother! Review

17 Sep

This is a tough one. Parts of it are intense, full throttle filmmaking, the type of contained space pressure cooker that’s right up my alley. Other parts are exceedingly dumb, the type of faux profound grandstanding that spews from the mind of a guy who probably got a few too many pats on the back when he was younger. And no, just because certain elements of the script seem to deal with this notion of celebrity–and arguably with the meaning of Aronofsky’s own place in the world as a creative mind–that does not for one second excuse his poor choices. When I evaluate films that are ridiculous and campy like this one is at times, I wholly appreciate it if and only if I get the sense that the filmmaker understands and embraces what he or she is doing. From Aronofsky, I get the sense that his form of self awareness is a form of smug self-seriousness rather than a driver of the cinematic experience. Now, the Aronofsky Touch worked in Black Swan, but that’s because that film was a true psychological thriller, a more tightly structured piece that had more to say about fewer things.

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The Layover Review

15 Sep

The only reason I spent a single penny on this movie was because William H. Macy and Alexandra Daddario were doing a Q&A. It was simultaneously the most pathetic Q&A I’ve ever seen and one of the best ones I will ever attend. Picture this: a large screening room, not even half full, at one of the very few theaters in the country that will be screening this critically panned, straight to VOD release. Add onto that the fact that goddamn William H. Macy directed it and showed up for this and that a conversation about Boogie Nights occurred. I’m so glad I went; the Q&A was intimate, fun, and loose, and the fact that there was no conceivable reason for it taking place made it even better. Plus, being in the same room as Alex Daddario consists of being assaulted by laser beams from her killer eyes, and talking to her will instantly liquefy your internal organs. “I love this broad!” was an actual quote from Macy early on during the Q&A. I relate.

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Marjorie Prime Review

1 Sep

An intriguing conceptual anchor dealing with the pliability and selectivity of memory, unfortunately reduced to listless conversations and underdeveloped characters. There’s an admirable attempt to build off of those themes via the unspooling of backstory against the backdrop of familial and generational dynamics, but there’s a clumsiness in the way it’s handled. Perhaps the translation from stage to film left some blanks that needed to be quickly filled, resulting in a weak script backing up a unique vision. Nevertheless, I came for Hamm and I left satisfied, and the film is at its best when it focuses on him and Marjorie (an excellent Lois Smith). There are two conversations that are decidedly not listless: the opening and closing scenes of the film, which mark the most interesting engagements with the subject matter. All around a solid production–Robbins and Davis deliver, and Williams as d.p. and Levi as composer are great choices–but it doesn’t quite reach the heights it strives for.

GRADE: B-

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