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Frances Ha (2012)
A fun examination of the human condition via a slice of Frances' life.
Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig lead us on an expansive journey that takes place in the confines of several years in the life of a single character - Frances. They co-wrote the film and Gerwig is sublimely engaging as Frances, a woman who prefers to focus on the moments along life's path rather than any sort of destination to the path itself.
Baumbach takes those incredibly realistic and often uncomfortable moments, shapes them into black-and-white vignettes that are both immediate and personal, and then precisely combines those vignettes into this delicate and funny film. It's rounded off by an unbelievably talented supporting cast who make "Frances Ha" an all-around joy to watch.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Gunning for the Reality TV audience
If you're really excited to find out who was kicked off the bus, out of the house, or off the island on whatever Reality TV show you're into, then you'll love Paranormal Activity. You'll also love it if The Blair Witch Project was too complicated to wrap your head around.
I can see spending, maybe, five minutes on an idea this one-dimensional if someone e-mailed me a link to it from YouTube. Unfortunately, I sat through the whole thing hoping that it would show some depth at some point, or at least that my friends were enjoying it more than I was.
It's a fallacy that a no-budget film can't be based on a decent screenplay. Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez both directed no-budget films that make Paranormal Activity look like a 90-minute flipbook. The people who spent years working on and pushing this movie could have made it a horror film to be reckoned with if they'd simply asked for help on the screenplay.
If you know someone who puts a lot of thought into the existence of ghosts and demons, then point them toward Paranormal Activity. No, strike that. If you want a funny, scary film with depth of character and plot, track down Lars von Trier's The Kingdom. It's a miniseries that's almost five hours long, but it's an adventurous five hours that even your friend who's into ghosts will enjoy!
V for Vendetta (2005)
V for Very Misunderstood
While critics scratch their heads at questions like, "Can a terrorist be a hero?" and "How could one man do everything V does?", they miss the metaphor, and the point, of V for Vendetta.
V at one point in the film says, "...ideas are bulletproof." The idea of this film is that unless the citizens of a country question their government's spin and propaganda, they will succumb to the policies of that government no matter how wrong-minded those policies may be.
I'm sure it's difficult for pigeon-holing critics to accept a Wachowski Brothers script that doesn't revolve around the action sequences, but investigates the castigation of an entire society using engaging dialogue and intense, involving characters. And after the Matrix sequels, this is somewhat understandable. However, V for Vendetta not only surpasses those disastrous sequels, but the original Matrix as well in terms of cohesiveness and depth.
This film must be a nightmare realized on screen for Republicans and conservatives the world over. They would have to label all of the non-government characters as "unpatriotic", and V himself an insane terrorist. They probably don't understand that he represents every free-thinking citizen of the world who is concerned about the actions and policies of his/her government, even though this point is made several times in the film. Further, they probably don't understand that the violent actions of V and his compatriots are symbolic of everything from peaceful protests over the War in Iraq to Senator Russ Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush. On second thought, they probably do see this comparison, and believe these non-violent actions to be just as outrageous as the blowing up of government buildings!
Discussions of governments gone awry aside, V for Vendetta is a rock-solid film that kept me riveted and unblinking for the entire 132 minutes. See it on an IMAX screen if you can!