29 November 2007
13 November 2007
Harrison wasn’t the most experimental architect of his time, but he collaborated with some of the most distinguished architects of the 20th century and he designed some of the most famous buildings in the
Lincoln Center Plaza
31 October 2007
There are no spoilers so feel free to read on. Also, if you're not familiar with my method of critiquing movies check out an explanation here.
In the increasingly twisting folds of film (or digital bits) that make up the film “Gone Baby Gone” lies one of the best films I’ve seen in a long while. Ben Affleck decided to return to what he apparently knows best, and that is writing screenplays. Granted, this is an adaptation and not an original like “Good Will Hunting” but it is haunting nonetheless. What’s truly amazing is that Affleck directed the film as well. I, unlike many, was never one to dismiss him as actor; I just thought he didn’t know how to choose good roles. But after this film I don’t care if I ever see him act again, I just want him to create more films. In his directorial debut he also pulled off a casting coup. Not many people have the clout to cast Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris in a film their first time out, much less in supporting roles. He then placed Michelle Monaghan (who was great, if underused in
The film opens on the streets of
If all this sounds rather intense, well, that’s because it is. However, it’s well worth the effort to make your way through the film. Unfortunately, I doubt many people will. In this article on contemporary war movies at the New York Times, A.O. Scott points out that increasingly the films meant to challenge us are pulling in smaller and smaller audiences while lighter fare holds reign. He says a few things that I think can also be applied to other contemporary movies like "Gone Baby Gone" as well.
It may be that this opposition [to the war] finds its truest expression in the wish that the whole thing would just go away, rather than in an appetite for critical films.… When filmmakers leave such touchy, serious political issues alone they tend to be scolded for complacency or cowardice. But …[w]hat is notable about this new crop of war movies is not their earnestness or their didacticism — traits many of them undoubtedly display — but rather their determination to embrace confusion, complexity and ambiguity.
…the final image of “In the Valley of Elah”[I'll try to get up a review about this one as well, I saw it a few weeks ago] — an American flag flying upside down — is, similarly, both disturbing and vague. It is a sign of danger and distress, and it brings home the grief and confusion that have haunted the film’s main character, a retired army officer played by Tommy Lee Jones whose son has gone AWOL shortly after returning from Iraq.
The grief and confusion are left hanging like that flag, and like the feelings of sorrow, anger and impatience that linger at the end of “Lions for Lambs,” “Redacted” and the others ["Gone Baby Gone"]. What is missing in nearly every case is a sense of catharsis or illumination. This is hardly the fault of the filmmakers. Disorientation, ambivalence, a lack of clarity — these are surely part of the collective experience they are trying to examine. How can you bring an individual story to a satisfying conclusion when nobody has any idea what the end of the larger story will look like?
This film has been rated 'R' for language, violence, and a few disturbing images.
My next post will be a film review, and (since I’m not sure who reads this blog) I thought it might be useful to post a few thoughts about what I look for in a film. But before I do that I have a few disclaimers. First, just because I review a film on this blog does not mean I recommend it for everyone. I watch a lot of movies and some of them contain things that are probably offensive to some of my readers. Second, just because I give a movie a good review doesn’t mean I like the film, or even that I enjoyed watching the film. It means that there was something about the film that I believe made the viewing experience valuable. Third, if I give a film a poor review that doesn’t mean I don’t like it, it just means that I think it wasn’t well made. I could, however, like the movie quite a bit. Sometimes I’ll think a movie is valuable and I’ll also think it’s great and I’ll also want to watch it several times. Those kinds of movies are my favorite. Finally, I tend to gravitate towards what are often referred to as “art films”, it’s not that I don’t love a big blockbuster, (Live Free or Die Hard was super!) it’s just that generally I prefer films that are going to challenge while entertaining me rather than films that are for pure entertainment.
When I am watching a film with my “critic’s eye” there are several things I keep in mind. Is the film arresting? Does it engross me, or am I looking at my watch after ten minutes wondering when it’s going to end? Once I’m into the film I concentrate on the story, letting it wash over me and giving all my thought to understanding what’s happening. I’ll sometimes think, “I wouldn’t have done that,” or “What was the director thinking?”, but I generally try to save those questions until the movie is over and the credits have rolled. After the film I think about the actors’ (or actresses’) performances, and I pick them apart in my mind. Were they convincing? What did they bring to the character that another actor might not have been able to do? I then consider the director. What was he trying to say? Was it a critique of something, if so what? Was he just telling a story with no ulterior motives (is that even possible)? Was he able to pull the best performances possible from his actors? I then consider the cinematography. Did it fit with the over all feel of the movie? Was it single camera, multiple camera, hand held, or steady? Did it focus on landscapes, people, or a mixture? Did it go for the hard to nail close-ups of the actors’ faces or was it standoffish and perhaps impersonal? I wonder how much independence the cinematographer had, and how much of it is his (or her) eye and how much is the director’s. I then consider the music. Was it appropriate for the film or did it bog the film down? How much say did the director have? If the music doesn’t fit I wonder if it was the director’s fault or the fault of the composer or music supervisor. Finally, I also ponder the themes and ideas explored by the film. Are they relevant? What do they reveal about society at large? Did they challenge me in any way? All of these things add up to make what I like to think of as the composition of the film. I then take the composition as a whole and explore my own personal feelings and reactions to the film. After I’ve done all these things I am then able to talk to someone or write about the film.