7 items from 2015
With his tough, chiseled face, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has one of world cinema’s best mugs. The actor carries so much of the weight of his many characters in his face, whether it be Hannibal Lecter’s suave cunning on television or anguished despair in his triumphant role in Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt. Naturally, as a stoic settler trying to get retribution on a bloodthirsty baddie in The Salvation, a pastiche to the westerns of John Ford and Sergio Leone, Mikkelsen is magnetic, expressing deep hurt and pain with just a glower or grimace.
As recent Danish immigrant Jon, Mikkelsen’s bloodied and blistered face is a wall to show just how resolute he can be. Jon crossed the Atlantic with his brother (Mikael Persbrandt) in the 1860s with the hopes of making a living in a frontier town. He learned the customs and language, as did the »
- Jordan Adler
This flawed but ambitious film about a British Pakistani family who hire a posse of thugs to hunt down their errant daughter is a tough look at contemporary gender politics
Daniel Wolfe’s debut movie arrives in the UK after its premiere at Cannes last year: a tough drama about contemporary Britain’s tribal and gender politics. This is ambitious work from a promising talent. There are big scenes, bold ideas and great images – created with Robbie Ryan’s tremendous cinematography. It is based on the murderous phenomenon of “honour killing” in British Pakistani communities. When Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) runs away to be with her white boyfriend, Aaron (Conor McCarron), her family hires a posse of tough guys to get her back, a little like John Ford’s The Searchers. It’s brutal, nihilistic and often deeply pessimistic, but conjures moments of lyrical beauty from the landscape. There is »
- Peter Bradshaw
This article contains a spoiler for the ending of Interstellar.
In case you missed it, the Oscars were this past weekend and Birdman was the big winner. The Academy’s choice to award Alejandro González Iñárritu's fever dream was a genuine shock, with Boyhood the running favourite for many months. Nonetheless, some things never change, and in that vein it's certainly a non-surprise the Academy also hardly noticed the most ambitious blockbuster of 2014: the Christopher Nolan space epic, Interstellar. Indeed, I use the phrase "non-surprise", because how could it be a winner when it was only nominated for the bare minimum of five Oscars in technical categories that are reserved as consolation prizes?
This is by all means par for the course with a film that has »
Written by John Maclean
Directed by John Maclean
Slow West is immersive in scope and proudly lethargic in its pacing. It envelops you in the dangerous world of the 19th-century Wild West, where a lovestruck Scot is chasing a woman in hope of saving her from the “dead or alive” bounty on her head. Teenager Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smith-McPhee of The Young Ones and The Road) is joined by mysterious charmer Silas (Michael Fassbender) who teaches him how to survive the elements and outlaws even as he sets his sights on getting the bounty himself. Slow West is reminiscent of the care taken in John Ford’s love letters to the West (The Searchers, Stagecoach) as it has the same sensibilities and tensions that are drawn out between love, duty, and the sad reality of circumstance. It »
- Lane Scarberry
The snowy streets of Park City, Utah have cleared out and another Sundance has come to an end. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl appears to be this year’s breakout independent film but there were several other movies that a made a quieter critical splash that are just waiting to be discovered by a wider audience. They consist of a tightly wound, tension-filled western, a cerebral discussion about America, creativity, and privacy, a musical icon’s emotional bio pic, a powerful coming-of-age tearjerker, and one peculiar romantic comedy. What follows are my highlights of a diversely entertaining Sundance 2015:
The End of the Tour
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Written by David Lipsky and Donald Marguiles
- Lane Scarberry
As much as any other filmmaker who found a niche in a given genre, in the 10 Westerns Anthony Mann directed from 1950 to 1958 he carved out a place in film history as one who not only reveled in the conventions of that particular form, but also as one who imbued in it a distinct aesthetic and narrative approach. In doing so, Mann created Westerns that were simultaneously about the making of the West as a historical phenomenon, as well as about the making of its own developing cinematic genus. At the same time, he also established the traits that would define his auteur status, formal devices that lend his work the qualities of a director who enjoyed, understood, and readily exploited and manipulated a type of film's essential features.
Though he made several fine pictures outside the Western, Mann as an American auteur is most notably recognized for his work in this field, »
- Jeremy Carr
I was not always a big fan of Westerns. My knowledge/memory of them were largely drawn from TV shows of my childhood – and not always the best ones. They were dominated by The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry (although I was never a big Autry fan) and shows like them. Westerns dominated TV in those days in ways that I don’t think any genre dominates any more.
It was my late wife, Kimberly Yale, who really schooled me in movie Westerns and the difference between a John Ford Western, ones by Howard Hawks, and Budd Boetticher’s Westerns. I finally learned and grasped what powerful movies they were, Just a few years ago, I got to see John Ford’s masterpiece The Searchers on the big screen and it was only then that I really understood how powerful it was and why its star, John Wayne, was such an icon. »
- John Ostrander
7 items from 2015
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