Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Short Review: Paths of Glory

The Path of the Unfair Man

Paths of Glory (1957) - Stanley Kubrick

War, at its very core, pitting man opposite man, nation against nation, ideology vs. ideology,  is objectionable; gainful byproducts—heroism, courage, honor, and freedom—materialize only in the absence of tyranny. Kubrick's Paths of Glory is a luminous albeit controversial examination of this very conflict, in the face of suffering, behind a facade of honor, amidst a path of overwhelming destruction. The real cost of war is not measured in any dollar investment, but in stark contrast, by the morbid tabulations of human loss. World War I drastically altered the landscape of aggression, as trench warfare disintegrated notions of civility. An imprint of cynicism piggybacked victory, as beleaguered soldiers, dehumanized by the brutality of war, were forced to confront an abject reality bound by their corrupt leaders' miserly aims. While Glory, focusing on the plight of soldiers in battle, avoids any inspection of civilian life (The Deer Hunter offers an honest, gut-wrenching glimpse into the plight of veterans' post-war assimilation), it does provide a lens into the fragile psyche of men who are victimized by injustice. Combine the nuanced, harrowing dichotomies of war with Kubrick's uncanny visual eye and Kirk Douglas' impeccable, layered performance, and what emerges is a mesmerizing battlefield of horror. There can be no doubt: Stanley Kubrick is a visual dynamist, an aesthetic raconteur who imparts meaning through image with seldom a word to rely. And, lest I forget, the ending of Kubrick's anti-war yarn is one of the greatest in cinema's glorious history.  10 out of 10

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Tattoos Penetrate Skin, Provoke Discussion

      David Fincher is a maestro of mood. His darkly probing psychical lens, marked by lurid curiosity, depicts menace in the shadows of decrepit dealings, corruption on the fringes of institutional hierarchy, and dishonesty in the despicable terrain of a broken land, whose violent lifeblood, objectified by lascivious miscreants, runs amok of both order and reason.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Short Film Review: JT vs. the Good Guys

Fighting The Good Fight

      A traditional high school film unfurls with less excitement than a trip to the dentist, a dentist, in fact, with credentials best exemplified by this smiling buffoon of Bond lore. Convention elucidates, often blithely, a celebration of Mr. Drab and Mr. Dull, figures whose genetic code reads, in the strictest interpretation: Minutia of mundanity. Boring and banal, let's be honest, are two words deathly undeserving of cinematic treatment. Thankfully, an exhilarated gasp and animated fist pump later, Chris Shimojima's (Director of Madeleine Zabel, reviewed by yours truly) newest short, JT vs. the Good Guys, competently circumvents convention, revealing a nontraditional high school film with gusto.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

Beauty Is In The Eye of the Beholder

       *This review appeared unedited in my Top 10 Films of 2011 post. It was, unsurprisingly, my number two film of the year. Malick, in my vernacular, means magnificent. And because I admired his visually enrapturing contemplation of life so deeply, it deserved singular residence on my blog. Without further elucidation, my review: 

      Terrence Malick's sprawling meditation of life is as ambitious a film as Stanley Kubrick's piece de resistance, 2001: A Space Odyssey. A technical achievement unsurpassed stylistically by every film this year, Tree of Life combines temporal extravagance with uncanny ambrosial awareness. Employing visual, narrative devices anathema to Hollywood, Malick exhibits, through ellipsis, elaborate visual exploration, and aggressive spacial arrangement, a rare fusion of style and technique. Astounding one's senses like the lyrical, transcendental rhymes of Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Tree of Life is the undisputed cinematic equivalent to prodigious poetry.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top Ten Movies of 2011

Strains, Lanes and Automatons 

      Not quite the year of Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 2011 distinguished itself as the year, which demonstrated Hollywood's recidivist tendencies (bad habits), driven, unsurprisingly, by a strong capitalistic urge to promote superheroes, comic book characters, and any other potentially robust profit stream; I guess the ancillary benefits associated with excessive merchandising are too potent a force (sadly Luke Skywalker would pose no threat to the gross infiltration of Hollywood executives, after all, his franchise helped establish the model). Indeed, 2011 was the year of the superhero. But these monetarily-inspired incarnations, while neither transcendent nor groundbreaking, were quite commendable (X-Men: First Class, Thor, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2), revealing an advantageous benefit of superhero hysteria: Successful blending of art-house and commercial fare.
      Objectivity is an underused currency in the world of film criticism. It is not by accident. Subjectivity, on the contrary, rules the day. With the formulation of this list, I posit neither grand allusions of purpose nor propagation. Arguing passionately for or against the inclusion or omission of a particular film, is, without assistance from the writers of Moneyball, an inexact science. Too many of the films on which we comment evince grim mediocrity, and too many of the people who make them betray a disheartening weariness. Therefore, as this is not intended as an objective list, but merely a subjective rendering of my strongest likes, I encourage healthy discourse.
      Many of my selections are, I would contend, standard fare. I have not succeeded in my one New Year's Resolution, which was, no hyperbole: Watch every film made in 2011. Complicating temporal matters is the fact that I've devoted considerable time scrutinizing film history, expending many an hour watching films from all eras: Classic American Cinema, French New Wave, German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism, Hong Kong New Wave, and other essential foreign movements. My knowledge of cinema, beyond an obvious aesthetic maturation, has grown appreciably to the degree: If I were to construct a list of the Top Ten Films I've seen NOT MADE in this calendar year, it would look VASTLY different. That's not to say that 2011 was a bad year; it just means there were very few films that struck a response as visceral as witnessing the brilliance of filmmakers such as Jean-Pierre Melville, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Robert Bresson, Wong Kar-wai, etc., etc. So, without further ado, I give you my Top Ten of 2011:

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Movie Review: Warrior

Fight To The Dual

       "Warriors, come out to pla-i-ay." From one cult film with the connotation of a man devoted to war to what surely is destined to be another, Warrior is a sterling exhibition, and most important, a heartfelt example of a film that embraces multidimensional composition. Guilty of an inopportune release date (after the enormous bounty of praise given to The Wrestler and The Fighter) Warrior establishes its champion custodian of direction, Mr. Gavin O'Connor as a vital resource in American cinema; a director whose chief talents insinuate a very basic understanding of humanity. O'Connor weaves gut-wrenching emotion into a gripping, embattled tapestry of duality, pieced together by men, equal part martial artist and pugilist, whose primal pursuit in life involves barbaric bouts of manhood. O'Connor's weighty suggestions of dual purpose—mythical vs. reality, hardship vs. romance, style vs. substance, home vs. away—underscore his film's greatest triumph: An uncompromising awareness of the human condition, revealing, unsuspectingly, a fragile dichotomy.