Monday, April 25, 2011

Meek's Cutoff

There really aren't nearly enough awesome historical dramas being made these days. This film makes me even more sad about that fact. I want more. But until more good ones come out, this one will have to tide me over for awhile.

First of all, this might be my favorite Kelly Reichardt film and I've liked the last two a lot (Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy). I don't really know all that much about the Oregon Trail but this makes me want to learn more.

Other thoughts:
- Bruce Greenwood was great as Meek, the arrogant, ill-mannered guide of three families on the Oregon Trail who promptly gets them lost without enough water to last. He fits in well with some of the characters on Deadwood and Rooster Cogburn in the recent version of True Grit. I loved his speaking style and his whole demeanor. Brilliant.

- Michelle Williams was also great. And what a poster!

- I loved the sound of the squeaky wagon wheels amidst the silent walking. A brilliant detail.

- It never really occurred to me how annoying it was to get a covered wagon down a steep hill.

- The Native American character that Meek captures is perfectly played. The interplay between him, Meek, and Michelle Williams in the second half of the film really brings this movie from simply very good to downright brilliant. Kill him or hope he leads everyone to water is the question.

- Finally - a movie about white people's problems that I can definitely get behind.

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Film Forum

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Woman in the Dunes

Whoa! This movie is crazy. I loved it. Everything about it is unique and fascinating to watch.

The premise:
A schoolteacher is on vacation. He misses the last bus out of town. "Helpful" villagers recommend that he spend the night with a woman on the outskirts of town who lives in a house at the bottom of a sand pit. He's excited by the adventure of it all so he agrees.

It isn't until the next day when he realizes that the rope ladder has been pulled back up that he's in big trouble. What the hell is going on? And why is it that the woman wants him to help her shovel the endless piles of sand?

Some thoughts:
- This has to rank up there with The Wicker Man as the film with the creepiest rural village. There's also an element of The Others in Lost in this. Definitely a Twilight Zone episode vibe as well.

- The opening scenes remind me of Gerry. I wonder if that was intentional on the part of Gus Van Sant?

- Some of the scenes near the end reminded me of some of the tense scenes in Wages of Fear. I'm not sure why other than they are both great 60's films?

- I'd love to see a remake of this written by Haruki Murakami (some of the stuff in this reminded me of some of the more demented stuff in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) and directed by Terrence Malick who clearly had to have been inspired by this film's many closeups of insects. Right?

- I loved the shifting closeups between faces and the shifting sand.

- Tuesdays with Bart, Spring Break style!

Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cedar Rapids

It really is amazing that a movie with this kind of formulaic plot can still work so well. Everything about this movie is entertaining. And while I would have liked Ed Helm's character to be little less of a rube, I guess his naivete added to the comedic situations.

What I liked:
- Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Clay Davis) doing his best impersonation of Omar.

- Sigorney Weaver's character was f-in hilarious. I want a whole movie with her in it.

- John C. Reilly really was unbelievably great. I know he won't be considered for a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this but he should win the damn thing.

- While not nearly as awkward as Arteta's earlier film Chuck and Buck, this film skirted along some quite hilariously tense moments. While that movie was depressing as hell, this one is a lot more fun.

For some reason, both SHR and I thought this was going to be a Hangover type ripoff. I'm glad it wasn't.

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Highness

This is exactly what you'd expect out of a movie like this. And that's not a bad thing at all. I think I enjoyed Pineapple Express more at the time but I'm not sure if that movie would hold up at this point. I remember that movie dragged on a little too long. But it did have a Huey Lewis song. Then again, this one had Natalie Portman in her skivvies and Zooey Deschanel without either M. Ward or Ben Gibbard mucking things up.

This makes me want to see The Beastmaster again and super quick. The silliness quotient couldn't have been higher and that's good. Kenny Powers in a medieval fantasy adventure? I think that definitely would make a great season 3 of Eastbound and Down - it would be much better than Mexico.

Basically, I think the highest compliment I can give this movie is that I'm pretty sure Daniel Desario's Dungeons and Dragons character, Carlos the Dwarf, would have loved this movie. And if not, Sam, Neal, Bill, Harris, and Gordon Crisp definitely would have loved it.

Directed by David Gordon Green
Battery Park

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Animal Kingdom

Is there an Australian New Wave brewing? Between this and The Square, there's definitely something going on down under. Both are near the top of my 2010 list. I loved this movie and am convinced I'd like it even more upon a second viewing.

The humor is so dark, the violence so realistic and sudden, the intricacies so fascinating, the family dynamics so crazy - I really don't think I've seen a movie quite like this.

Yet, it shouldn't be that original - it's just a movie about criminals. But it is so much more than that. I listened to an interview with the director who described this film as being like the last 1/3 of Goodfellas - meaning this whole film is about the depressing downfall of the glory days. Yet, it is hard to imagine this family ever really reaching great heights. If anything it kind of reminded me a bit of the messed up family in The Fighter.

And speaking of messed up moms, Jackie Weaver's performance is even better than Barbara Hershey's in Black Swan and Melissa Leo's in The Fighter. Her performance kind of reminded me of the crazed, devoted mom in the Korean film Mother.

One suggestion though - watch this film with the subtitles on.

Directed by David Michod