Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar



 Let me begin with the condemning negative, for it can only go uphill from there.  While watching Interstellar a part of my brain - as happens with most films - tried to come up with how best to describe it.  There's always a pitch-style formula, and with Interstellar the nice version is that it's what happens when you mate Kubrick's 2001 with a greeting card.  The mean version is that it's basically the best possible version of an M. Night Shyamalan movie.  If both of those sound damning, they are and they aren't.  Even when paired with a greeting card, 2001 connotes an epic property -- and Interstellar is indeed that.  The film never struggles to evoke real scale and succeeds in allowing us to understand our insignificance.  It runs big, shows us hours of massive, grand images while speaking in distances and times that build a sense of urgency in the viewer.  Then it does that other thing. The greeting card thing. Out there amid the wormholes and mysterious planets we find a repeated refrain: love will guide us through. Love is a magical power. Love "is the one thing that transcends space and time."  Happy Valentine's Day, human race, we're gonna combat this slow-burning apocalypse with the power of love.

Gone Girl





I don't like to throw out terms like 'master' or 'genius' on the regular.  In a collaborative medium, especially, it's tough to truly pin those titles on the bulk of directors.  Gone Girl, though, makes one thing very clear: David Fincher is a master of adaptation.  Specifically, he's quite possibly the best and most qualified person to direct any and all psychological thrillers adapted from bestselling literature.  If you're agreeing with me so far, let me push this just a little further: I'm actually 99% sure that even The Silence of the Lambs would be significantly improved (or, at least, more temporally dislocated) if Fincher had made it.  Controversial opinion, right?  Really, though, just imagine how much more haunting those prison scenes would be through Fincher's lens.  Try to attach a Trent Reznor score and revel in the clarity and hue of those close-ups.  

Whether you buy into that or not, Fincher's way with thriller novels seems to be second to none these days.  If Fight Club was a prelude (now contemporary classic), the one-two punch of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl seals the deal: these are adaptations that feel definitive.  It doesn't matter how popular the original text was, Fincher's film versions bind and replace them in our minds. They become the text, they mesh with it, they are somehow what we wanted them to be.  Or, more precisely, they are what we didn't know we wanted them to be.  In the case of Stieg Larsson, Fincher's manipulation of the basic pigments can transform a generic, blandly written procedural so that we understand the rage beneath its surface.  In the case of Gillian Flynn (who, wisely, wrote the script here), Fincher draws out the tension from a character driven work.  He fills in the spaces; with silence, with madness. He makes them haunt us.  [Spoilers ahead]

Whiplash


Begin with a rhythm.  With a pulse. With sweat on the snare drum, blood discoloring a set of sticks. Make us feel the mounting speed in close-up after close-up.  Hands keeping time, blisters opening as we advance to 2x, 3x, 4x, more. We understand the callouses, we hold our breath and make fists as the rhythm speeds up, our hearts in our throats.  The worse the suffering is on screen, the better it becomes. This is the sweet torment of Damien Chazelle's brilliant Whiplash, a jazz drama that crackles with the anxious energy that can only come from true desperation.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Skeleton Twins



Here we find a set of fraternal adult twins. On the day the brother attempts suicide, his estranged sister picks him up from the hospital, her own attempt disrupted by the emergency call.  Together they have cheated death by their own hands, and so she brings him to her home.  At home, she lives unhappily with a nice, oblivious husband.  Here, they commence a second childhood.  They grapple with the unresolved issues of their shared past: an absent mother, a father who successfully killed himself, their individual sexual and emotional dysfunctions.  Over the course of the film, there will be realizations, confrontations, intense sadness shaded through a comic lens darkly.  Take this plot. Or, swap out or in as you feel fit: other varieties of siblings, a road trip, a quirky child or curmudgeonly, aging patriarch.  Then, choose your cast from any of the following: sketch comedy alums, cult sitcom alums, multi-Oscar nominated dramatic actors, Wes Anderson alums.  Release.
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