I live in Illinois, I’m used to living in an eternal winter!
A lot of 2013 movies this week,
Lovelace (2013, Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, United States Of America) **
It’s hard to get behind a film that slavishly ties itself to one side of the coin of a biopic. Maybe some can divorce themselves from the other side that says Linda Lovelace was full of shit, but I’m not able to do that. There’s simply too much evidence that rebukes the majority of Miss Lovelace’s claims. I know this shouldn’t matter to me, but the stale nature of the biopic approach leaves with little else to think about when it comes to Lovelace. The puritanical take this film has on sex is also highly troubling. Amanda Seyfried is pretty good in the lead role, but a film about a porn star shouldn’t be this afraid of showing sex or sexuality. Mediocre, and nowhere near as interesting as the real life tale.
Aningaaq (2013, Jonás Cuarón, United States Of America) ***1/2
Seeing Gravity before Aningaaq is helpful, but when I had finished this short film I didn’t think knowledge of the feature was completely necessary. Sandra Bullock’s voice tells the viewer everything they need to know about her character and what she is going through. Her need to find joy in the little aspects of the life of a man she doesn’t know shines through crystal clear. Jonás Cuarón keeps things simple, his camera stays at one angle and he focuses on the conversation taking place. That conversation leads to despair, joy, resignation, and acceptance. Aningaaq is a terrific short film, one that moves beyond it’s source material and becomes its own beast through the artistic abilities of its director.
Unsere Afrikareise (1966, Peter Kubelka, Austria) **
Peter Kubelka’s films are all about matching technique with content. His technique is usually what shines the most, it overpowers the content and delivers said content in a new light. Unsere Afrikareise is heavily weighted towards its content, so much so that the technique is never up to snuff. What we see in Unsere Afrikareise is raw, and the attempts by Herr Kubelka to cut it and distort it take away from the content rather than delivering it in a new light.
Passionless Moments (1983, Jane Campion & Gerard Lee, Australia) ***1/2
Everyday moments are presented as something worthwhile, but in a deadpan manner. This begs the question, are these moments important or are they little bits of nothingness? On the surface Passionless Moments appears to be making fun of the little moments that make up our everyday lives. In reality Jane Campion and Gerard Lee’s short film is about how even the little moments matter, if they are important to us. We live our lives, and that’s really all we can do. Passionless Moments films people living their lives, because that’s really all that can be done with those moments.
From Here To Eternity (1953, Fred Zinnemann, United States Of America) ***
Handsome acting and production design help to make up for too coincidental and schmaltzy of a story. Truth be told I didn’t mind the romantic aspect of From Here To Eternity, it was bitter and melancholic in a way that connected with me. However, I did find that at times the film poured on the brotherhood aspect too much and that Frank Sinatra’s character was especially guilty of this. A well made film, but not a great film.
The Way Way Back (2013, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, United States Of America) ***1/2
Predictable, nut not in a way that matters. The Way Way Back captures a fleeting moment in a young man’s life where everything changes for him. Nat Faxon & Jim Rash capture this moment expertly through what feels like a heartfelt understanding of this stage in a young person’s life. The swell cast certainly helps, with Sam Rockwell stealing the show and Steve Carrell offering up a surprisingly convincing performance as an asshole. Like a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day, The Way Way Back feels right and like it belongs. That’s high priase, but the film deserves such praise.
Pleasure (2013, Ninja Thyberg, Sweden) ***1/2
A film about the porn industry that is incessantly banal. We all have these ideas about the porn world and porn stars, ideas that are most likely false. Pleasure works to destroy the myth of the excessive fun of the porn industry. The performers in Pleasure are doing a job, and are completely unaware of any expectations surrounding what they do. Seeing a woman who is about to engage in double anal sex treat it as if it’s just another day on the job removes just about all the sexiness that could be attributed to porn. Pleasure is workman like in its presentation of a boring world that is all too real.
This Is Martin Bonner (2013, Chad Hartigan, United States Of America) ***1/2
This Is Martin Bonner is quiet with a purpose. It removes external sound as a factor in what we are seeing, it’s the voices of its lead characters that matter. Chad Hartigan’s film takes the pitch and timber of the human voice and places great emphasis upon what it can tell us about a person. Two great performances from Paul Eenhoorn and Richmond Arquette leave the viewer with a rich film going experience. The world isn’t always about change, sometimes it’s about who we are at a given point in time. This Is Martin Bonner understands this better than any other recent motion picture I can think of.
Get A Horse! (2013, Lauren MacMullen, United States Of America) ***
A brilliant idea that is hurt by substandard “modern” animation and a pathetic desire to somehow turn Mickey Mouse into another version of Spongebob Squarepants. I really despised the color animation in Get A Horse!, it’s far too blocky, clunky, and it looks super cheap. I also despised the continued trend at Walt Disney Animation Studios to turn Mickey Mouse into something he’s not. Mickey has never been an asshole, but for some reason the past few years have seen him depicted time and again as a pretty big asshole in the mode of the aforementioned Spongebob Squarepants character. The idea is really brilliant though, and it is executed pretty much flawlessly. It’s a shame the lovely black and white animation and the idea were lessened by the rest of the short.
Frozen (2013, Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee) ***1/2
Far better than I thought it would be, which proves yet again that I am wrong for assuming anything based on a trailer. Frozen combines beautifully done animation with a superb voice cast to create a wonderful world to spend time in. The characters are funny, witty, and fleshed out. The screenplay hits high notes in terms of character choices and thematic content. The film is also the first full on musical from Walt Disney Animation Studios in some time, and I felt each and every song was great and added to the story of these characters. Frozen is yet another great animated feature from the John Lasseter era at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Pollen (Disneynature: Wings Of Life, 2011, Louis Schwartzberg, United States Of America) ***
A fascinating documentary with narration that is a tad too much at times. That being said, the shots that Louis Schwartzberg is able to collect are the draw of this film. The camera captures moments of true beauty and awe, showing nature at its absolute greatest. The subject is interesting as well, but as a film it’s the imagery that makes Pollen worth watching.
A really strong batch of movies this week. The Mouse delivers big time, yet again, and that’s why Frozen is taking home movie of the week honors. Until next week, watch more movies!