4 items from 2015
'Sideways' movie, with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church 'Sideways' movie review: California winery tour follows conventional road to male maturity With the 1999 Matthew Broderick-Reese Witherspoon vehicle Election, Alexander Payne displayed a flair for satirical comedy the likes of which would have turned Billy Wilder greener (with envy) than the Sideways poster found further below in this commentary. With the 2002 Jack Nicholson star vehicle About Schmidt, Payne demonstrated that his comedic flair could go the way of Wilder's in fluff like Sabrina and Love in the Afternoon: artificial, cutesy, bland.* In Sideways, Payne opted for the safer About Schmidt route – which may explain the film's enormous popularity with critics and audiences alike. For my part, I found his adaptation (with Jim Taylor) of Rex Pickett's novel to be an overlong, moralistic, and thoroughly unconvincing effort. (Warning: This Sideways movie review contains spoilers. »
- Andre Soares
There's a concept in existentialist philosophy called bad faith. According to Jean-Paul Sartre, a person experiencing bad faith has shirked the responsibility of introspection: in succumbing to the pressure of societal values, he adheres to beliefs that are not his own because they are easier to digest. Thus, he deceives himself. He does not look himself in the eye to find that he is inauthentic. In Tim Blake Nelson's "Anesthesia," bad faith has spared no one. The interlocking narrative features characters undergoing various degrees of self-deception as they navigate an increasingly complex modern world. The stellar cast — Sam Waterston, Kristen Stewart, Gretchen Moll, Mickey Sumner, Jessica Hecht, among others — bring Nelson's vision of New York to life as they struggle with senseless violence, troubled marriages and technology that alienates more than it connects. This is Nelson's fifth directorial effort. He's known for his penchant for »
- Emily Buder
Various forms of physical and psychic pain are endured by the talky New Yorkers peopling “Anesthesia,” the fifth feature by actor-director Tim Blake Nelson; as unwittingly promised by the title, however, viewers may not feel them very deeply. Opening with a violent jolt, as a benevolent philosophy professor (Sam Waterston) is brutally assaulted near his Upper West Side apartment, the film gets progressively more anodyne as it files through the problems of those closely and tangentially related to him. That the everyone-is-connected ensemble piece has become such a staple of American independent cinema limits the impact of Nelson’s structural revelations; a poetic throughline isn’t immediately obvious, though the profuse dialogue often is. Despite the presence of names like Kristen Stewart and Glenn Close in the cast, “Anesthesia” is unlikely to rouse much commercial attention.
“Why is the world so base? Why is the world so insensitive?” moans Sophie »
- Guy Lodge
A secret society of teenage girls stirs up waves of panic and paranoia in “The Sisterhood of Night,” an alternately sensitive and heavy-handed small-town drama that turns the Salem witchcraft trials into a tenuous metaphor for the intense pressures brought to bear on today’s female youth. A self-styled “Crucible” for the cyberbullying era, Caryn Waechter’s feature directing debut spins a programmatic and not always persuasive tale of high-school pettiness and jealousy spiraling toward tragedy. Still, it does offer an appreciably even-handed, non-judgmental panorama of teens and adults flailing their way toward a place of greater empathy and understanding, presented with enough teasing intrigue to draw coven-sized pockets of viewer interest in theatrical and VOD release.
Adapted from Steven Millhauser’s 1994 story (which was previously filmed as a 2006 short), Marilyn Fu’s screenplay assumes the perspectives of several residents of Kingston, N.Y. — a suburban town that, we’re told in an opening voiceover, »
- Justin Chang
4 items from 2015
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