DVD Log: Room

Once upon a time, IFC and Sundance channels aired good indie films, and uncut.  One of them was Room (2005, Cyndi Williams), and I was struck with a chunk of it strongly enough to purchase the DVD, as this was in the period prior to being able to choose what I could rent or stream.  Some ten years on, I finally got round to watching it.

Anyhoo, not sure what I was thinking as this is an amateurish effort and mostly a waste of time.  Too bad because there’s a seed of a good but unrealized idea.  Pi — with perhaps some familiar thematic elements — looks like some kind of masterpiece by comparison.  Do not confuse with the very good Room of last year.  2/10

Does American Honey Stick?

american-honey-poster

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.

american-honey-text-blockStill 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

Film Brief: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople reminded me a skosh of Moonrise Kingdom.  It didn’t have the Wes Anderson flair, or anything close to it per se, but it had its own flair, and a spirit one could recognize in an Anderson adventure.

Normally a 100% Tomatoes score + a trailer that did nothing for me + no legs = I’ll skip it.  But the complete dearth of films out there forced the issue, and I was pleasantly surprised.  Nothing groundbreaking here, but a couple non-pat choices help out this entertaining diversion.  Note that the trailer I am including below is not the version I referred to prior.  7/10

A Double-Splish, A Bigger Splash

Top: “A Bigger Splash” by David Hockney; Bottom: A Bigger Splash, currently in theaters

There will be two “Bigger Splash” movies this year.  One of them is a documentary on David Hockney, the great Los Angeles-based artist.

The movie A Bigger Splash takes on a theme I’ve seen in a few indies lately: that of vacations going south.  Force MajeureThe Two Faces of January, and The Loneliest Planet are examples of this concept in recent years.  Terror flicks like I Spit on Your Grave or Hostel also technically fall under this category, though we’re talking there about a very different type of film, obviously.  It’s a great storytelling tool because it allows ordinary people to be placed out of their element, out of their comfort zone.  Vacations allow ordinary people to face extraordinary circumstances.

A Bigger Splash - text block

 

Force Majeure was the best at this, in the psychological drama side of the bucket.  One of the problems with A Bigger Splash is that it is not completely confident of what it is trying to be.  As a psycho-sexual drama, it had me pretty well gripped for about the first three-quarters, at which point it took the inevitable turn as given away in the trailer — and suddenly became a completely different and much more mundane picture.  Because of this, I was going to render a marginal thumbs-up, but the film did stick around in my head just long enough for a 7/10.

Comparison Notes: besides the films mentioned above, Swimming Pool (2003) — one of those movies I’ll have to see again to post on; La Cérémonie (highly recommended)

Film Brief: The Witch

The Witch - poster

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

Indie Log: Metro Manila

Metro Manila - poster
For some reason — maybe the poster artwork — I thought Metro Manila was going to be a highly stylized, slick action pic.  But it’s hardly anything of the sort; rather, it is a brutal, straightforward depiction of a family attempting to survive abject poverty in a place where it is readily commonplace.

Especially regarding the wife, Metro Manila avoided plumbing the ultimate depths it might have.  But make no mistake: this is a great, suspenseful foreign indie.  8/10

Availability: Netflix

VOD Log: Blue Caprice

A note on the BLOG.  I have not lost interest in the blog, but I’ve slowed down a lot in the first couple months of 2016 because there has been absolutely nothing in the theaters that interests me.  You’d think the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, which was well received by critics, would be hot on my list to go see.  It just isn’t.  I have no interest in it at all.  I’m not a big George Clooney fan (though I have nothing against him), and it seems like Clooney + Coen brothers = ‘bad movie.’

Deadpool, too, has been well received, but I just don’t want to see a lot of up-close crotch shots.  Got my dose of that in the previews.  Beyond those two there’s been little to motivate a trip to the cinema.  But this is the time of year typically Blue Caprice - posterblessed with some good indies, and The Witch [prior post] is at the top of that list.  So I’ve been watching more at home, namely a few movies and more Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul — a summary post will be coming on that subject.  First, to get it out of the way:

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Blue Caprice, on an absolute scale, is not a terrible movie.  But when you depict actual events, especially ones as well publicized as these, you’re held to another standard.  Not a standard that’s any more difficult to meet, mind you, just a standard that states that the actual events must be respected.  And boy is Blue Caprice full of disrespect.  It seems to deliberately ignore the most salient facts of the case.

Wikipedia:

Their crime spree began in February 2002 with murders and robberies in the states of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Washington, which resulted in seven deaths and seven injuries, bringing the ten month shooting spree total to 17 deaths and 10 injuries

You might expect a filmed dramatization of these events to maybe tell that story — but with Blue Caprice, not so much.  From the movie you’d never know they were in any of those places other than Washington state.  A couple of the attacks are arbitrarily shown while most are not, even while other facts are misreported.  If the film had depicted the full rampage of devastation wrought by these two we’d have one helluva movie.

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The Beltway sniper attacks were a crime spree up there with Bonnie & Clyde.  This is not quiet meditation.  There can be quiet, meditative moments, but this is a tale of extreme, grisly, loud violence.  I appreciate that the film was focusing on the ‘father & son’ relationship.  But the explosive, fatal events that happened should not be treated as a mere tangent to your story.

This filmmaker decided to ignore the core story at hand in the name of showing off his artsy-fartsy filmmaking virtuosity.  What a wasted opportunity.  3/10