Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin, 2012)
In the Bathtub, somewhere in Louisiana, we discover the little six year old girl Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) and her father Wink (Dwight Henry). They live together in the bayou full of waste, dirt, and trash. With the openning shot we understand that their state of living is like animals and they are surrounded by them. The chemistry between the girl and the father is brutish and he raises her to become strong and survive. Paralleled with the global warming of the entire planet and the revival of prehistoric creatures that were caught in the ice thousands of years ago, we are confronted with Hushpuppy’s vision of her world and her survival. This is clearly a child’s vision of her surroundings and her life. At some point, there are so many plot elements thrown in the air that it is possible to have an endless number of readings of the movie.
This is not a visually appealing film and except the little Hushpuppy it is very hard to actually care for the characters of the story. On the other hand, knowing that the filmmakers got on location to places where the Hurricane Katrina destroyed the homes of many people is gut renching to watch that some lost everything. However, I did not particuarly excited about the directing of Benh Zeitlin especially knowing that he earned a Best Director Academy Awards nomination. Having not seen a lot of 2012 releases may play against me but I could name some other more worth deserving works by directors. With that said, one must not pass under the radar the presence of first timer Quvenzhané Wallis as the six years old Hushpuppy. She does not play Hushpuppy, she is this little girl. Her voice over is one of the best use of the technique even if it’s normally more annoying than helping a film her natural narration and naive perceptions carries the film. Actually, without Wallis there is no film.
Given that the movie earned that much recognition at the Oscars nominations I must admire its audacity and the fact that it is the first film by director Benh Zeitlin who made an overall good job and had a superb cast to support his beast of a film. It is a complex story and it might have had it’s faults here and there, and here again but it surely creates a reaction to its viewers and believe me it is always a good thing.


McCabe & Mrs. Miller

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)

One year after the huge success of the War satire of M*A*S*H, director Robert Altman revisits another classic Hollywood movie genre with great results. More than forty years after its release, McCabe & Mrs. Miller still stands as one of the most interesting Westerns to ever get on American big screens. With bigger than life star Warren Beatty, still hot from his performance in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie & Clyde, Beatty seems to fully embrace the spirit of the 1970’s generation of young directors. While being the pretty face protagonist, he also knows how to make himself vulnerable and fit into the casting of the complex emotional story of Altman’s film. An excellent anti-hero of his era. On the other side of the bill, you have the beauty of Julie Christie who plays the classy whore that comes from the town and lives the difficult life of being in the wilderness and in the birth of a mining little town. Eventually, McCabe (Beatty) will fall for Mrs. Miller (Christie) and as the textbook of Westerns says; you should never fall in love with a whore, nothing good will come out of it.


Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell, 2012)

After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Taking more seriously my new years' resolutions brought me to watch most of the films nominated for Best Picture at the 2013 Academy Awards. Having seen the highly praised Django Unchained I had to head for the other nominated movies. Back in 2010, David O. Russell directed The Fighter, a sports movie filled with outstanding performances by Amy Adams, Christian Bale, and Mark Wahlberg. This past year Russell comes back with another solid contender to the Oscars once again filled with memorable performances.


A Woman Under the Influence

A Woman Under the Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)

For Roger Ebert and many other serious film critics, A Woman Under the Influence is its director’s (John Cassavetes) masterpiece. The later, considered as the pioneer of American Independent movies and the father of Cinéma vérité has directed a daring piece about American sociology and human behaviors. Starring Cassavetes’ wife Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti and one of the director’s closest friend Peter Falk as Mabel’s spouse Nick, it represents a dysfunctional family where the mother and the father are mentally ill.


Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)

A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.

Just like Quentin Tarantino’s films, Wes Anderson’s cinema and universe is one that connects with me in a way that few other filmmakers can do. Possibly Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa, François Truffaut, and Stanley Kubrick made films that I could easily relate to and get into with only the opening credits. Wes’ films are like a visual feast for a cinephile’s eyes. Just like the films of let’s say Max Ophüls, Anderson plays on the widescreen framing of his epic filmmaking and storytelling. This other coming of age story, that could easily be a bore if handle by anyone else, is quite unique and very quirky in its presentation. 


The Vow

The Vow (Michael Sucsy, 2012)

A car accident puts Paige in a coma, and when she wakes up with severe memory loss, her husband Leo works to win her heart again.

Inspired by true events, The Vow is a film starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams representing a couple madly in love that will have to pass over the fact that the wife completely lost her memory of the last five years in a car accident. While beautifully shot in Chicago exteriors most of the scenes involve interiors where the couple used to live together; their apartment, her workshop, his studio, etc. 

After the accident, Paige (McAdams) doesn’t recognize her husband or her current life. She still thinks she is in college living with her parents and pursuing a career in law. Tatum will have to make her fell in love with him again without pushing too hard. Even if the ending is quite obvious, the struggle of the two lovers is worth the watch. It is indeed a film that involves themes and stories that have been done dozens of times. However, the presence of the two leads, Tatum and McAdams, brings a little something that makes this movie more than actually a chick flick you would have sneezed over.

The beautiful cinematography and the nice presence of the supporting cast of Sam Neill and Jessica Lange paired with our aforementioned lovers keeps this enterprise from being the possible disaster many of my fellow critics may have shouted even without actually have seen the whole thing. It is far from being the best film of 2012 but also far from being its worst too.


The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012)
Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister's place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.

Just before watching this adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ novel I took the time to properly read the source material and have an informed view on Gary Ross’ adaptation of the whole thing. Let’s call a whore a whore and get to the truth that the novel written by Collins is a very good teenage literature that is well conceived and full of parallels with Reality television, the Olympics, propaganda, and all the things that make television one of the most evil inventions of men. However, The Hunger Games isn’t a denunciation of television or the violence that it often depicts. It is about the involvement of teenagers and sometimes child in the ways of bloodthirsty governments in their way to keep the power and its oppression on his people. As subtle as it can be. Or in the case of the Hunger Games as bold as it can be. 

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
Eight years on, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham's finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

With The Avengers, the last chapter of the Dark Knight trilogy was one of the most expected blockbusters of 2012. Having wowed thousands of movie enthusiasts and comic fans with the previous Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, writer/director Christopher Nolan is sometimes rank amongst the deities of the Seventh Art along John Ford, Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick. Sure Nolan has some kind of spectacular vibe around him and he captured the true dark essence of his central character. However, the filmmaker has proven to be more of a great technician at grand spectacle than a spectacular storyteller, much like Quentin Tarantino can claim to be on his side. Even this critic can actually agrees with some of the greatest qualities of The Dark Knight. However, the masterpiece that some Nolan enthusiasts were claiming in Inception isn’t really a thing I would agree on. Same thing when it comes to The Dark Knight Rises; it is not the masterpiece or even as great as its predecessor in the Dark Knight trilogy I could have had hoped for.


Mike’s Movie Goals For the Year 2013

 For those who have been here a while you sure all know that I’ve been obsessively rambling about a particular list of films I’m targeting to complete. Since this list evolves from year to year, around January of each year the fine folks at They Shoot Pictures Don’t They? update the 1000 Greatest Films of All Time list. Every time I more or less gain some positions with the adding of more recent films that I had the luck to have seen before their intrusion. Being at 551, on the day I wrote those lines down, I still have 449 films to catch before calling it a day. It is quite a huge assignment since my number of watches per year is clearly on a downfall since a couple of years. However, I’ve decided to spot my priorities for this quest (just like Kevyn Knox used to call his) and spot films that are grabbing my attention and that might open my viewing tastes.
First, I made a list of films I’ll likely try to tackle down while trying to get rid of my list of Pantheon Directors at the same time. The Pantheon Directors list stands as the foundation of every film enthusiast and or film critics’ theories and views on the cinema. It is quite arbitrary since American author theorist Andrew Sarris first made it in 1968. Anyhow, I still think it holds the road pretty much.


The Far Side of Paradise

Continuing on the ever going quest of watching the 1000 Greatest Films of They Shoot Pictures. Here's another slice of directors categorized by the late Andrew Sarris. 

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