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The Oregonian (2011)
Just because you show a movie at midnight...
This film really wants to be a cult-classic midnight movie kind of deal - the sort of idiosyncratic horror film that could be screened alongside D. Lynch, A. Jodorowsky or K. Anger - but it has nowhere near the intelligence, inspiration or panache to pull that sort of thing off. Whereas the best midnight movies seem to spring from uniquely personal visions, this one feels like some people spent a weekend throwing around half-baked ideas, hoping that something would stick. And, while the best cult films feel original and strange, this film feels more-or-less like a generic bit of horror, just without a discernible script. Not worth it.
Last Ball (2001)
Welcome to Westchester...
The writer/director of this film is from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York; I'm from there, too, and I think that this film captures some of the essence of that particular place. Hastings is a small town in Westchester county; it's only about a 20-minute train ride from New York City - that's both good and bad. You see, many of the people who live in Hastings work in the city - because the town is so close to such a big metropolitan center, it means there's not much of an indigenous/local culture in the town itself. Hastings is essentially one big hill - wealthy people tend to live in big houses higher up on the hill; the tiny downtown, the train and the river are all at the bottom, as is a smallish, working-class population, many of whom hold service jobs in town. Hastings can be a very nice place, but if you're stuck there - if you can't afford train fare into the city, if you don't have a car to get to other towns, if you don't even have a ride up the hill - well, it can suck.
So, this film concerns a young man from an upper-middle-class (up on the hill) family, who finds himself living in an apartment down by the water, working as a cab driver. It's a powerful picture of the geographic and class divide of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York; the question is - is this film interesting for people who are not from Hastings-on-Hudson, New York? Well, it's a pretty good movie: there are compelling characters, strong performances and some lovely, low-key cinematography, but the script is lacking - the film suffers due to its forced, exposition-heavy dialog and from its fairly predictable narrative. That said, it also has an appealingly earth-y, personal feel to it; it's too bad that this film never seems to have gotten a proper DVD release - Lord knows there are many, many worse movies that find their way into video stores...
Post Grad (2009)
The Moral (with spoilers).
This is a film about the struggles of idealistic college graduates coming face-to-face with the realities of the professional world. The protagonist, Ryden, applies to her dream job fresh out of school; she doesn't get it at first, but after a little while, the folks at the company call her up and tell her that the job's hers if she wants it.
So, the message of this movie could be: if you're a 22-year-old who just graduated college with no professional experience, and you apply for a high-paying professional job, you'll totally get it. You just might have to wait a month or so.
Really, this movie had a chance to address something real and relatableinstead it becomes just another cornball wish-fulfillment fantasy. Too bad.
Who Gets to Call It Art? (2006)
So, about that title...
The name of this film is "Who Gets to Call it Art?". A more appropriate title might have been "Who Gets to Call it Art? Henry Geldzahler Does!" or maybe "Henry Geldzahler is Totes Awesome". This movie is relentlessly effusive and congratulatory about Geldzahler's life and work - it feels like an extended version of something you'd play at a banquet thrown in someone's honor, right before giving them a Lifetime Achievement Award.
That said, there's a lot of good stuff in this movie: there's great footage of influential New York artists in their youths along with more-recent interviews, and it provides a decent look at the fabled mid-20th-century New York art scene. It's worth 80 minutes of viewing-time for any art-lover, but it's not a satisfying piece of work.
Inland Empire (2006)
made me happy
People here and elsewhere have already written a lot about this movie and will continue to, I'm sure, so I'll just say something quick: I left the theater, and I felt positively giddy. This movie made me happy. I gave it ten stars here, and I think it deserves it, because really - how often is it that a movie makes you feel genuinely happy? I love this film (um, digital video) and I love that it actually exists in the same world as me, as it were. IMDb requires at least ten lines, so i'll add: if you don't like David Lynch to start, then you will absolutely hate this movie. If you don't like Laura Dern then you'll probably hate it, too.
(BIG-TIME SPOILERS ENSUE)
A note to storytellers of the world: ending a story with "...and then they woke up, and it was all just a dream!!!" is Not Okay. It wasn't okay in 8th-grade creative writing class, and it's not okay now. This isn't to say that it's impossible to make a good story/movie/book/whatever utilizing this device, but that as a general rule: this is such a corny, overused way to end a story that there has to be something really creative and compelling to justify it. This movie just doesn't cut it, I don't think.
So, for example: mystery novels. The trick of writing good mysteries is to create a situation which is bewildering and complex, but still operates in a logical way. Logic is the key to a compelling mystery - if the story derails from the logic of the world as we understand it (the killer was actually a super-powered robot from another dimension!), then the mystery is weakened - the strength of a mystery is in how creatively it works within certain boundaries. So when, as in 'November', the mystery is all happening within a dream, the mystery loses its currency. Because, dream logic is totally subjective - anything can happen or not happen at any time.
So, to be really pretentious and phrase the mystery as a dialogue, it would be something like this:
Q. Why did the slide appear in Sophie's carousel? A. Because she made it up.
Q. Who was the mysterious third person in her photos of the crime scene? A. Someone she made up.
Q. How did the newspaper clipping appear in her wall? A. It happened because she made it up.
Etcetera. See? Not okay. With a movie like this, it's incumbent on the filmmakers to justify the illogical story with other elements: characters, dialogue, cinematic artistry, social and psychological insight, etc. - I don't think they did. Everything in the movie seemed built to support the mystery, and the mystery was all just a dream. So, blah.
That being said, there were some interesting elements here, and a few genuinely scary and striking moments. I hope these folks make another film, but with a better script, for crying out loud.
Goth teaches goths about goth.
In "Goth," a young goth couple at a goth show in a goth club meet a tough goth named Goth. Soon, the goths are with Goth in Goth's goth van, where Goth shows the goths the true meaning of "goth." Will the young goths of "Goth" get back to their goth music and goth friends, or will Goth's version of goth bring the goths of "Goth" to their end? At the core of "Goth" is the goths' relationship with Goth and her version of "goth." "Goth" is an interesting portrait of goths in the goth culture, with Goth's version of goth a stark contrast to the goths' ideas of the goth world and what it means to be goth. Unfortunately, "Goth," despite Goth and the goths and the goth music, probably could've been a bit more goth.