Film Brief: Lady Bird

The piercing eyes – and performance – of Saoirse Ronan keep Lady Bird afloat.  The re-tread story, however, hardly sparkles.  I was never bored, but neither was I exhilarated.  At a short running time of 94 minutes, the film felt much longer.  6/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Rushmore, Juno, Ida, The Little Hours

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Film Brief: 20th Century Women

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

 

Film Brief: Moonlight

moonlight-poster-smallI 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.

 

Film Brief: Everybody Wants Some!!

Everybody Wants Some!! is not without its occasional charms and the ability to fall into a pleasurable rhythm, but it will just as soon stall out.  Not surprisingly, it shares the same lackadaisical non-storytelling style of director Richard Linklater’s 1993 effort Dazed and Confused.  I felt a little better about this one than Dazed and Confused, but Linklater could take a lesson from American Graffiti on how to make a compelling version of the ambling youth film.

Everybody Wants Some - text blockSo my next statement you’d expect is that Linklater is a hack — but that’s not the case.  I liked, from what I saw, the charming Before Sunrise (1995), and Bernie was excellent.  So he’s just inconsistent.  Everybody wants some… good movies to watch.  A better story would help, but when Linklater goes out of his way to avoid any drama, the results are less than optimal.  4/10

Film Brief: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl - poster

There is a tremendous amount I liked about The Diary of a Teenage Girl, but it left me wanting more.  It was like a train ride — or more appropriately a passage on BART — with 14 stops.  But it takes 16 stops to get me home.

Early in the film, her mother tells Minnie that she has a power she doesn’t realize.  My biggest problem was that this promise is left unfulfilled.  Still, Diary is very fresh, and very good — I just wasn’t over the moon with the product as a whole.  A solid recommendation; 7/10.

Comparison Notes: Welcome to the Dollhouse, Nymphomaniac, Ghost World

UPDATE on MI V: I think I was a little too harsh.  Upon reflection, there were enough good things thrown in to yield a 4/10.  Still thumbs-down, but I didn’t hate it or anything.

Indie Log: Electrick Children

Julia Garner as Rachel — expect to see more of her

Electrick Children begins with 15-year-old Rachel taking her oath to the Mormon faith and family she is happily part of.  Though all in the large family headed by a single, dominant patriarch seem content, peering into this cloistered community evokes the feeling that we are looking at a cult at the breaking point.  I loved this part of the film, set among the red bluffs of southern Utah, a place I adore.

From there, the film becomes a sort of contra-point to Ida — though it is not as successful as the Polish film.  While being swept away on the journey, it made me feel heartbreak for the loss of my youth.  The Sunscreen song:

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked

In any case, I was captivated by the early part of Electrick Children, but its spell wore off a bit as it progressed.  Also, there is a point where the Theory of the Rope was overstepped.  But Julia Garner’s Rachel is an immensely likable character who swallows you into this compelling little indie; a high 7/10.

Comparison Notes: Martha Marcy May Marlene, Ida, River’s Edge, My Own Private Idaho, Where the Day Takes You, Paranoid Park, Sound of My Voice

Film Brief: Short Term 12

Short Term 12 - poster

Like Boyhood, critics seemed to trip over themselves to see who could heap more praise on Short Term 12, a movie I just missed seeing in the theater last year.  John Hartl, writing for The Seattle Times, was a little less glowing:

“Short Term 12” is the kind of teen-oriented movie that’s often dismissed as an “after-school special,” but thanks to a nimble young cast it’s frequently better than that.

A familiar, emotional drama about an institution for at-risk teens, it sometimes plays like an actors workshop.

Short Term 12 has some powerful moments — a children’s story about an octopus sticks out — but the lackadaisical approach to plot did not impress me.  What little was there felt overly formulaic.   I liked this movie, but it did not grab me, and I doubt in a year or two I will remember much.  6/10