There’s a form of contrivance in film which may be termed amalgamation. The idea that a perfectly good movie can be made by an assembly process, putting a bunch of different elements together in a box. It’s not a good thing. Much better is to let your film develop organically.
Nonetheless, I liked the performances and bit of fun in 20th Century Women, so a marginal thumbs-up; 6/10, and one step behind The Accountant on the 2016 List.
Comparison Notes (recommended): The Diary of a Teenage Girl
I had no desire to see Moonlight, but it has proven to have legs and is likely to garner Oscar nominations including the big one. Plus, I was in the mood for something that might make me think a little. And so my review:
Act “i”: Great; Act ii: Great; Act iii: Complete and utter collapse. Also not happy about omission of an opening title. 8/10 if you lop off Act iii, but since the producers did not, thumbs-down; 5/10.
In my last post, I noted that good movies were either character-driven or story-driven. What I left off was that the best ones are both — which is where I hoped American Honey was headed. There’s a lot of promise here early on, and I admit I was fairly well stuck on American Honey.
My criticism of Beasts of the Southern Wild was “these folks live in squalor, but they relish it.” The same holds true here. Where American Honey succeeds, in contrast, is in continuously putting our young heroine in risky situations. But the movie fails by the same count — it doesn’t know where to take those storylines. It skirts obvious but bold developments in favor of mundane relationship issues among this very loose group of young adults.
Still though, like Beasts, we have a glimpse into a world of impoverished youth which I found mostly fascinating. There’s a vivid intimacy and fresh honesty here. But this is an overlong movie — nearly 3 hours — and it begins to repeat itself. As always, story matters. At the end of American Honey, you’ll likely be left asking, ‘so what?’ — and worse ‘what could have been?’
A couple more notes: I didn’t pick up on the square frame from seeing the trailer multiple times, but it sure was obvious on my screen: a completely unnecessary, distracting gimmick. Regarding the film’s star, Sasha Lane: expect to see more of her. Hopefully continuing with interesting roles, but don’t be surprised to see her in superhero costume. 6/10
Comparison Notes: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Short Term 12, Tangerine, The Master, Electrick Children, River’s Edge, My Own Private Idaho
Stephanie Zacharek, Time:
…essentially the movie is really just two guys talking in the wilderness for 90 minutes
And that’s the problem with Swiss Army Man. I disagree with the 90 minutes part of that statement, but it’s certainly the case that the filmmakers too quickly ran out of ideas. Again, I know not everything can be Being John Malkovich as far as inventing new ideas, but still, you have to continue on with your movie. I can think of a number of interesting ways in which Swiss Army Man might have evolved, but the “Daniels” were content to stop short.
Even so, there’s enough fun novelty for a marginal thumbs-up. 6/10
Comparison Notes: the TV series The Greatest American Hero. It’s the 4th of July, after all.
Note on the trailer: it gives away too much; watch at your own risk.
Me: “One for Scallop”
Ticket Window Attendee: “What?”
Attendee: “Oh, uh…The Lobster?”
Me: “Yea, that one”
Even solemn love stories need to pick up the pace occasionally. You might think of The Lobster as a cross between Couples Retreat in reverse and Logan’s Run. I agree with Walter Addiego, SF Chronicle:
If you can live with its blemishes, “The Lobster” is a bracing experience
Critics were generally over the moon for this movie; me, not so much. It wasn’t clear that the filmmaker really knew what he was doing with the story. And I know not everything can be Being John Malkovich. But it’s not good enough to have one little idea about romantic involvement and play it out for a couple hours. Malkovich took one idea, then added another and another and another, brilliantly executing each one. The Lobster is a yawner by comparison.
Still, it’s an interesting film that marginally works. Definitely gets credit for throwing out a unique vector. 6/10
Comparison Notes (all better): Lord of the Flies, Her, Blindness, Under the Skin, Being John Malkovich
Not much to see here, folks. Not nearly as much as you would think. I was so very much looking forward to The Witch, and so even the more disappointed. An exceptionally strong pot of potential, but nothing exceptional about the movie. The Witch is not without its assets, but this one’s a pass — another miss by A24. 5/10
Comparison Notes (Recommended): Antichrist, The Visit, Breaking the Waves
Room is a powerful indie about the strength of the human spirit. And it’s darn good. I knock it down a peg for a tinge of actoryness / formula in the second half, and the fact that the second half feels just a bit draggy compared to the exceptional tension built up in the first half. The most dramatic moment in a movie should not be at the half-way point.
But I forgive it not following a conventional plot curve, because we’re talking about real life (“Plucked from the headlines!”, as it were). Kenneth Turan:
“Room” is several things by turn: creepy, frightening, exhilarating and then frightening and exhilarating all over again
Despite its very limited shortcomings, Room is outstanding. Another terrific realization by A24 Films. 8/10
Comparison Notes: Not Recommended: Life is Beautiful (could learn a lesson from Room); Recommended: Captain Phillips, Blindness, Boyhood