Film Brief: The Book of Henry

The Book of Henry is too sappy, and carries too much of an after-school special vibe.  It is a broken film on account of believability, but still better than most critics can figure.  Not a bad idea, but not terribly well executed.  I did like the final stretch and the major, unexpected plot-turn midway through.  5/10

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Birdman, in the Flesh

Birdman - posterI liked Birdman, but not the way critics did.  It features a tour de force both in its performances and production, a film executed in whirlwind non-stop frenetic fashion that will hold you from start to finish.  It deserves high accolades for its successes.  But I found the story too monotone, or put another way Birdman has trouble breaking free of its self-imposed Alcatraz.  So for all its virtues, my mantra is: story matters.  It matters more than anything else, and when it is constricted so is the end result.

Part of my problem with this movie also lies in its marketing and primary trailer, which I think misrepresent the film as more of a superhero tale, and less one of the mad scramble of a man on the edge, fighting for survival while exorcising his demons.  Both Crazy Heart and The Wrestler better illustrated this dynamic.

But the movie-making virtuosity of Birdman is astonishing.  It’s one of those rare films I wouldn’t mind watching again someday, just to study the technique.  And one last note: I recommend Birdman, but it’s not for everybody — a good number of people will be flatly turned off.  7/10

Comparison Notes: Synecdoche, New YorkBoyhood

Birdman - text blockIf you watch the trailer, you’ll want to see Birdman.  Below is a more representative sampling.

Celluloid Junkie on Mulholland Dr.

I ran across a blog posting on Mulholland Dr. which offers a quick breakdown and summary explanation of this ever-explorable masterpiece.  The post also contains invaluable videos of interviews with Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and David Lynch, and other useful links.  I had previously watched the Inside the Actors Studio interview with Ms. Watts back before NBC destroyed Bravo, and it is excellent.

The author almost over-simplifies the movie, but then speaks to a truth that I and many others have found: Mulholland Dr. is eminently re-watchable.  Though she gives a quick capsule of the story, she also pays due to the film’s rich complexity.

I’ve written about this movie a few times before, and always invite discussion.mulholland_dr630

Movies that’ll get ya

from email 3 Feb 2008

Recapping and adding to what we discussed yesterday, that is what I mentioned as far as movies to watch when you’re in the mood for something gripping, taut, exciting, when you are more interested in a thriller than Forrest Gump or The Sound of Music, though of course those are great films:

The Ring, 2002, Naomi Watts.  A thriller/horror movie, though horror is not really the right word – this is nothing to do with Halloween or Friday the 13th, etc. enterprises.  This movie genuinely scared me.  I won’t be giving too much away to say that the premise is that there is a videotape with a short black and white film on it, that when watched, will lead to death of the viewer in one week.  I was rather shaken by this movie, enough so that after I watched it I was just a little hesitant to watch the death sentence video – not shown in its entirety within the film itself – which is included as a separate feature on the DVD.  I actually reasoned that it was a DVD, and that only a VHS tape could get me.  The movie gets a little bogged down toward the end, but finished on a high note.  A good, legitimately scary film.
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Mulholland Dr. – Stephen Holden Review

from email 5 Jan 2002

I was surprised to find out, quite accidentally looking at our paper’s movie section Friday, that the Lynch film Mulholland Drive has been nominated for 4 Golden Globes, – best dramatic film, screenplay, director, and soundtrack.  You both may remember that I was impressed by certain aspects of it, in particular, 2 scenes of the same lines acted by the same actress with disctinctly mutually exclusive effects, but that overall I was a little disappointed, especially when thinking of the great Lynch masterpieces Blue Velvet and the astounding pilot and first season of Twin Peaks, among others.  I think the high accolades it is receiving speak to the lack of a stand-out Oscar contender this year, but I agree at least that it is a must for students of acting and film.

Following is the New York Times review, which I re-read for the first time since seeing the movie in Hillcrest.  The review seems to me seems a little over-the-top in its embrace of the film, and I am wondering what “post-Freudian” refers to, but I am nonetheless happy for DL and Naomi Watts, and invite further consideration.

Or click here for NY Times link

October 6, 2001

MOVIE REVIEW | ‘MULHOLLAND DRIVE’

Hollywood Seen as a Funhouse of Fantasy

By STEPHEN HOLDEN

While watching “Mulholland Drive,” you might well wonder if any film maker has taken the cliché of Hollywood as “the dream factory” more profoundly to heart than David Lynch. The newest film from the creator of “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks” is a nervy full-scale nightmare of Tinseltown that seizes that concept by the throat and hurls it through the looking glass. By surrendering any semblance of rationality to create a post-Freudian, pulp-fiction fever dream of a movie, Mr. Lynch ends up shooting the moon with “Mulholland Drive.” Its frenzied final 45 minutes, in which the story circles back on itself in a succession of kaleidoscopic Chinese boxes, conveys the maniacal thrill of an imagistic brainstorm.

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