Saturday, February 26, 2011

Exit Through the Gift Shop

God, I hope this wins an Oscar tomorrow. I've been intrigued by Banksy since first reading about him six years ago. This documentary or "documentary" only furthers the legend of the man while making him even more mysterious. What will happen if he wins? Will he send up Marlon Brando's Native American to claim the prize? Who the hell is Banksy? Hell, it could be anyone.

The more I think about this film and the many layers of it, the more I like it. I don't even really want to get into the description of it because that will ruin the fun. I'll just say that it's a brilliant document of a modern art movement while also (perhaps) being the ultimate example of it. Either that or it's all utter bullshit.

Either way, the film is fascinating.

Directed by Banksy
2010
DVD

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Prophet

I never get sick of good prison films or good gangster films. End of story. So I might not be the best one to judge this film since I was pretty much guaranteed to like it.

The film is about a young Arab nobody who ends up becoming a Mafia kingpin while in prison. It seemed a little farfetched how quickly he was able to rise to such dizzying heights but it was still fun to watch. A good shanking always makes a movie more entertaining, doesn't it?

Directed by Jacques Audiard
2009, U.S. Release: 2010
Blu-ray

Monday, February 21, 2011

Everyone Else

I still haven't seen Blue Valentine but I can't imagine it's more realistic than this film. Perhaps it is more wrenching and it is probably more entertaining. But this film gets so many details right about a doomed relationship that it is like watching a car crash in excruciatingly slow motion.

Both of the characters come across as incredibly unlikeable and shallow at first but it wasn't until the end that I realized that they both are bringing out the worst in each other. It is hard to say if there's anything to like about either character though because we never really get to see a good side from either. There's jealousy, apathy, anger, love, hate - everything you'd expect from a movie about the end of a relationship. Good times, right?

Directed by Maren Ade
2009, U.S. Release: 2010
Netflix Streaming

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mother

You know a movie has to rub SHR the wrong way if she's going to give up on a Korean flick. But give up she did. I stuck it out and I'm glad I did.

Like Bong Joon-ho's other films that I've seen (Memories of Murder, The Host), this one looks great, feels completely unique, and adds bizarre little touches that add up to making a memorable film.

The film is about a not-so-bright twentysomething man and his doting, devoted mom. The son is accused of committing murder and she is convinced that he is innocent. So she takes it upon herself to investigate the truth. There are many twists, turns, and surprises along the way. SHR missed out.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho
2009, Year of U.S. Release: 2010
Blu-ray

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Restrepo

A war doc has to be really good for me to feel like it's a notch above a really good Frontline episode. This one did that for me. If you have any interest at all in the war in Afghanistan, this is a must see.

The film is about a platoon in the Korengal Valley, known as the deadliest spot in Afghanistan. Their mission is to take the high ground in the valley and build a small base so they can control the valley. They fairly quickly take the necessary spot (and name the outpost after a fallen buddy) but it only gets worse from there.

The battle scenes are intense, the cinematography great, and the interviews illuminating. All told, this is a very good documentary.

And speaking of great and disturbing Frontline docs about Afghanistan, it doesn't get crazier than this one.

Directed by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington
2010
Blu-ray

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Dogtooth

This has got to be one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. I'm kind of in shock that it's been nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar at this year's Academy Awards.

The movie is about a family of five who live on a large estate. The parents have never let the children leave the compound. Ever. Plus the parents completely mislead them and give them deliberate misinformation to keep them in the dark. Some make sense to keep control of the children so they won't want to leave like making them completely terrified of cats by telling them that they are the most evil and vicious beast ever.

But others are just bizarre like teaching them that the word zombie means yellow flower. The two daughters and the son range in age from the mid teens to early 20's. Obviously, the children are all just a wee bit messed up and confused. The only contact any of them have with the outside world is a woman who works with the father that he pays to come to the house to have sex with the son.

This outsider clearly has issues of her own and her presence leads to more sexual experimentation and tension and finally some darn courage to see the outside world. Everything about this movie is completely off in a great way. I really can't think of anything I've ever seen quite like it. Some of it reminded me of some of the early Francois Ozon films from the late 90's/early 2000's in its air of sexual freedom/repression/dark comedy aspects. But other than that, the whole thing was completely and utterly original to me. Crazy stuff. A completely memorable and bizarre film. See it.

Watch the trailer to get a feel for what I'm talking about.

Directed by Giorgos Lanthimos and Yorgos Lanthimos
2010
DVD

Monday, February 07, 2011

When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors

I didn't know that much about The Doors so this documentary definitely was informative to me. I've never been a huge fan but I definitely like some of their hits as much as the next Apocalypse Now fan.

The footage in this film is pretty astounding. It also features some of a short film that Morrison shot in 1969. Johnny Depp's narration kind of annoyed me at first but it won me over by the end.

This almost makes me want to see the Oliver Stone Doors movie for the first time. Almost.

Directed by Tom DiCillo
2010
Blu-ray

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Race to Nowhere

I saw this as part of a Professional Day at my school. I'm glad to have seen it and found the discussion amongst the faculty quite illuminating. However, the movie just isn't that good. It is manipulative, doesn't present a full enough picture of the problem of forcing students to be overly pressured to succeed, and is downright tedious at times.

I appreciate that this film and, on a larger scale, Waiting for Superman (which I haven't seen) are bringing the topic of education to the forefront of our national discourse. However, the latter film draws incorrect conclusions I believe and this one is too stacked in one direction to really be anything more than a discussion starter.

I'd like to see someone like The Inside Job's Charles Ferguson take on the topic - someone who can actually make a good film about it.

Directed by Vicki Abeles
2010
DVD