Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Celluloid #103

In Theaters

True Grit (2010) Coen - Surprisingly conventional film from the Coen brothers. I have never seen the original Western featuring John Wayne, but this film is still totally entertaining. A young girl teams up with a US Marshall and a Texas Ranger to track down the man who murdered her father. Drunk, babbling Rooster Cogburn, and the straight-laced LeBeouf are funny enough, and this film refrains from entering sappy territory, but ultimately was exactly what I expected watching the trailer. 4/5

In Home

All Good Things (2010) Jarecki - One of Ryan Gosling's two films this winter about failing marriages. David is the heir to a New York property empire. He marries Katie, one of the tenants, in large part because she doesn't come from money. Their relationship deteriorates due to his mental instability induced by the pressures from his father, and Katie's desire to have a child. She goes missing, and it looks as though David or someone else in his family may be involved in some foul play. All fine and good, but for a thriller, this film isn't very thrilling, and things take a weird turn involving cross-dressing. Perhaps more upsetting is the way Gosling's "old man" make up is handled, aging him way past any possible age he could have been in the film. Probably best to be skipped. 3/5

Cinema Paradiso (1988) Tornatore - Toto's childhood is spent causing mischief, getting slapped around by his grieving mother, and going to the movies at every opportunity. He befriends the projectionist, and later takes over that job after a terrible accident maims his mentor. Both a coming-of-age story and a love letter to the cinema, this seems like exactly something that would be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film (not specifically a compliment). Totally emotionally manipulative and sappily nostalgic (it did indeed make me cry), but more importantly, is that the last hour feels forced and tacked on. 3.5/5

Elf (2003) Favreau - Somehow I had never seen this Christmas movie, but it had me hooked enough to watch it over my mother's shoulder during Christmas dinner this year. Will Ferrell as Buddy, the human raised by elves, totally made me laugh and the jokes were strong enough to make up for Zooey Deschanel's singing and the too heartfelt "everyone needs to remember the importance of Christmas spirit" ending. 3.5/5

Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010) Banksy (???) - A documentary about the street art scene, specifically focusing on Banksy and Shepard Fairey. At first, this French man, Thierry (cousin of street artist "Space Invader") starts filming everything around him. Artists think that he is putting out a documentary about the movement, but really Thierry just compulsively films. Banksy, in an attempt to salvage some footage, encourages Thierry to leave him his tapes and to go out and make some art of his own...and then Thierry as "Mr. Brainwash" blows up. While, this subject on surface level is still compelling to watch, the real treat is in the question of reality. While, you never feel as though the filmmaker is winking at you, you still get the feeling that the entire thing (maybe Thierry's whole persona) is a manufactured hoax...a gleeful thought. 4/5

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010) Stern - Joan Rivers is apparently the hardest working woman in show business, but rarely gets the respect she believes she deserves. This documentary follows her around for a year. She loves to work and will take any kind of job. We see her in a play, doing shows in the middle of nowhere, roasts, Celebrity Apprentice, etc. The clear message is that it is really difficult to be an aging woman in general, and even more heartbreaking for the older woman entertainer. Joan is coping with what everyone fears about getting older. 4/5

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) Chechik - A family favorite in our house and only second to "Summer Vacation" in the National Lampoon's series. Clark Griswold and his family are hosting practically all of their extended family. Terrorizing the neighbors, the cat and squirrel incidents, and anything involving the great-aunt all make me laugh. 3.5/5

Pretty in Pink (1986) Hughes - Like many other '80s babies, I grew up on Molly Ringwald. This film is great for the clash between the classes, all though I will never understand what poor girl Andie sees in in bland rich boy Blane. Her best friend Duckie's devotion is touching and his rendition of "Tenderness" in the record store is the best. Harry Dean Stanton is also one of the sweetest and most human portrayals of a father on-screen. 4/5

the Runaways (2010) Stigismondi - Rather than the story of the Runaways as a band, this is essentially Cherie Curie and Joan Jett's feature. Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley plays a great sleaze who brings the girls together and convinces 15 year-old Cherie to transform herself into a Lolitaesque sex kitten. The band to this day still holds significance for being the first all-girl rock group with any real presence, even if their hype eventually overwhelmed them. Plus, the music is great even if the movie is medium. 3/5

Trash Humpers (2009) Korine - In general, I find Harmony Korine's films fairly infuriating, and yet I still keep watching them (I think maybe I secretly like getting riled up). Surface-level, this film seems like it should have induced the most rage, but I actually came away not hating it. While there is no narrative to speak of, and most of the action involves smashing televisions, tap dancing, firecrackers, maniacal laughing, and yes, as the title promises, dry humping trash cans, I think this film needs to be viewed in the tradition of Experimental films. On some level, it seems like Korine is addressing issues of alienation and the demise of the American Dream, but it's possible that I'm giving him too much credit. 3/5

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