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Albert Nobbs (2011)
The problem I have with this film is as I walked into the theater two Victorian bell pull alerts were ringing above the door. The first alert was this film falls into the narcissistic category I call "cameo films" in which an actor invests in the production of a film that they will be the star. Such films include Kevin Spacey in "Beyond the Sea," Ed Harris in "Pollock," and Robert Duvall in "Tender Mercies." The second alert was knowing the film's secret before any characters knew itwhom Albert Nobbs really was.
Unfortunately the bells continued to ring throughout the film forcing me to focus on questions tangential (at best) to the plot of the story. Those questions include why Glenn Close produced a film in which her character's secret ended up far less believable (to the viewer) than the one played by Janet McTeer. I also wondered why Close's (selected) love interest character and their purported courtship rang as hollow as TS Eliot slipping Mary Pickford a little tongue while on a walkabout of "Pickfair."
Upon reflecting for whom those bell pulls above the theater door tolled, I suspect that Glenn Close grabbed onto the ringers and said "Not I." Her performance at times clearly demonstrates her virtuosic acting abilities, but as the maestro behind the film, it strikes a shallow, discordant note cinematically
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010)
Life Triumphs Over Art (or Filmaking)
The cave artwork is stunning, almost incomprehensible. The 3-D filming of it added little, other than to give the viewer a different sense of seeing the artwork in situ. The silhouetting in some of the 3-D "talking head" shots is poorly rendered and appears gimmicky.
The narrative is shallow and mostly ponderous. Occasionally quasi-scientific/philosophical comments are tossed in to provide some thought as to the story (and origin) of who produced this breathtaking example of human creativity so many millennia ago. The postscript about the albino alligators left me scratching my head thinking "What the F-?"
The musical score, like the narration, tries to compete with the artwork and only adds distraction. I ended up watching it as a sort of visual meditation while trying to "tune out" the other distractions and look forward to viewing it on video at home with the sound turned off.
Herzog had an opportunity to take the viewer on an unparalleled experience, instead he left me feeling like Fitzcarraldo up a creek without a paddle.
Ben aka Toadrunner. "The Road is life." -Jack Kerouac
For the Love of Movies: The end as a beginning.
"I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch where through Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end,"
My major criticism of this film (about film criticism) is that it ends where it should begin: the future of film criticism.
I saw this film recently at Dartmouth College on Winter Carnival Weekend. Whether due to competing campus events or cold weather, the film was attended by an audience of less than two dozen, nearly everyone eligible for a AARP film discount, if one had been available. Dartmouth College offers a robust Film & Media Studies program, but only a handful of students were in attendance, most arriving at film's end. This alone is probably testimony enough about the future of film criticism, but the closing on screen statement about the gangplank exits suffered by 28 major (print media) film critics in recent years reveals an ongoing mutiny not yet plundered for the reasons why.
My own conjecture 'why' (offered as nothing more than by a film buff keyboarding here and now) is that you are reading the reason why: the ubiquity of the internet, and the suffusive flow, if not tsunami, of blogging. One blog catalog alone offers over 5,600 film blogs. Film critics, you have met the enemy and it is I.
But back to the film, not the future, for now. For the Love of Movies (FTLOM if a textter) plays like a filmed version of Cliff Notes on the history of film criticism rather than an insightful exploration. Informative? Yes, but I am a 'film criticism' neophyte or idiot savant depending upon your take. So I learned some new names and film flotsam to toss out at the next dinner party I attend, but nothing to provide me with much of a cogent argument as to why we need to rescue any of those 28 film critics off the gangplank to guide us through the chop and swell of Avatar's 'perfect storm' of movie-making, blockbusters, 3-D, computer technology, and the future.
As I watched FTLOM I was reminded of concurrent dynamics in other streams of criticism such as food and restaurant criticism (i.e. the demise of Gourmet Magazine), journalism, and music criticism, to mention a few. Now longtime culinary, journalism, and music critics are finding safe harbors harder to come by to avoid the plunder by today's pirates twittering and blogging away with iPhones and iPads. Arrgh! mateys, prepare to be boarded!
So what lies on the horizon for the future of film criticism? The one thing I do know is that I may become an adventurer in this brave new world and journey to new vistas of critical opinion, discourse, and blogging, but that does not make me a navigator, GPS notwithstanding, nor a film critic. I still want to listen and learn from those who can tell me if (how, and why) a film can carry me to those newer worlds. Unfortunately For the Love of Movies provides scarce few cinematic buoys to help navigate the waters.
So its fade to black and bon voyage. Ben Moore
Gran Torino (2008)
Eastwood's engine done blowed up
I went to see the film on the whim of a friend's invite. I found the film's pacing ponderous, the plot contrived, and the characters portrayed as caricatures or stereotypes.
I don't know if Eastwood's acting or his directing was worse, but his 'old man' character didn't begin to approach the depth, complexity, and compassion of Richard's Farnsworth's crusty portrayal of Alvin Straight in David Lynch's The Straight Story 10 years earlier.
Eastwood constantly seemed to be trying to conjure up a geriatric "Dirty Harry' with his facial contortions and guttural growl. The film, and especially the ending, was such a superficial swipe at serious issues that it came across as a farcical litany of racist slurs and jingoisms.
The only thing that seemed genuine in this film was, what else?...the Gran Torino.
Shame on you, Mr. Eastwood, you can do better than this. Your engine done blowed up on this undertaking. Time to stick with golf carts and retirement communities.
Ben aka Undertoad and toadrunner. "The Road is life." -Jack Kerouac
For a story about passion, this film is oddly passionless
For a story about passion, Philip Kaufman's film, "Quills," is oddly frigid.
Kaufman's directing of this star-filled cast is painfully impotent. Kate Winslet is lacking in lust, bawdiness, and believability as a laundry maid involved with the Marquis de Sade. Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine's languid portrayals of the abbe Coulmier and Royer Collard respectively provide limp battle of intelligence and wit to Geoffrey Rush's singularly strong performance as the Marquis. In telling the story of one man's sacrificial obsession to his art, Philip Kaufman ends up sacrificing much substance in his highly stylistic film.