Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:09 pm 
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Note: I first became aware of Mike D'Angelo, a prolific and eloquent film critic whose whole career has been online, with his open letter to Lars von Trier in an AV Club bulletin from Cannes 2009. D'Angelo's distinctive and valid tweet-reviewing style was heralded by Kevin B. Lee in Fandor in a 2011 piece called "Essential Tweets: 34 Film Reviews From The Man Who TIFFed Too Much. . .Mike D’Angelo’s Twitter coverage of Toronto employs a new kind of film review aesthetic."

In descending order, including some Letterboxed reviews in lieu of tweets.

Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari 2012 (Aleksey Fedorchenko, Italy, 106 mins.): 83/100 The Dissolve review forthcoming (possibly by the time you see this; if not, in a few hours). Tickled me no end. 23 Short Films About Weird-Ass Sex Rituals. Many of the bits don’t make any rational sense, or even necessarily “go anywhere,” but that’s part of the movie’s overall goofy charm; like 69 Love Songs, it’s more enjoyable as a bravura stunt, experienced in its entirety, than “track” by “track.” [Letterboxed review.]

Under the Skin (Glazer): 79. Second time this year I thought I was seeing one of my favorite films of all time, until a narrative appeared.
+First hour is mind-blowing. Then it goes exactly where I didn't want it to, albeit still pretty expertly. You got story in my mood piece!

The Missing Picture (Panh): 73. Not as rigorous with its conceit as I might have liked, but more proof that abstraction suits such grimness. NYFF

Joe (Green): 72. Superb until it suddenly isn't anymore, practically out of nowhere in the last 10-15 mins. Still, welcome back DGG.
[David Gordon Green, USA, 117 mins., with Nicolas Cage]

Club Sandwich 2013 (Fernando Eimbcke, Mexico) 70/100 Sparse and slight even by Eimbcke's standards, but ends on such a lovely, bittersweet note that I was brushing away tears throughout the last few minutes. Coming-of-age stories are so commonplace and formulaic that shifting the perspective to a lonely single parent achieves a seismic force; throwing in an Oedipal undercurrent (it's unclear for a couple of scenes whether she's his mother, his older sister or even his insanely older girlfriend—I'd just seen A Teacher , so who knows?) verges on overkill, but Eimbcke has so much fun with the ensuing jealousy that it's tough to grumble. Mostly, though, that shot of her eating chips on the stairs nearly wrecked me. Saddest bag of vending-machine chips ever. [Letterboxed review by D'Angelo. NYFF "Emerging Artists" feature. ]

The Strange Little Cat (Zürcher): 70. Another stunning beginning, melding the organic & the mechanical. Then it seemed to kinda stall.
+Also maybe I missed something but the mom's dolour seemed inexplicable to me, like a failed attempt to inject some raw emotion. [Switzerland, 70 mins. SFIFF]

Moebius (Kim): 68. If Troma films were this funny I'd be such a Troma fan. Demerits for not having the balls to call it DICKLESS.

Gloria (Lelio): 66. Finely wrought character study initially looks overstated, deepens over time. Deserving Best Actress winner (Berlin). NYFF

We Are the Best! (Moodysson): 64. Are you. Are you the best. Or are you an adorable trifle.

Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 90 mins., USA, UK) 63/100 The Dissolve review forthcoming (in tomorrow's rundown, which I'm writing). One of the most amazing F/X showcases ever made; pity about the parts where people talk, and most of the last third. Call this one All Is Won.

When Evening Falls on Bucharest, or Metabolism (Porumboiu): 62. Odd mix of deliberate withholding + self-conscious theme-spewing. But fun?

Abuse of Weakness (Breillat): 61 Just how autobiographical is this? Did the $ stuff really happen? It makes a huge difference. NYFF (He gave a grade after finding out it did happen.)

Closed Curtain (Panahi & Partovi): 60. Starts out intriguingly allegorical, becomes a bona fide Morality Play that verges on whining.

The Major (Bykov): 59. Super-intense, heavy-handed Russian police corruption drama. Concludes with a genuinely disturbing "moral."

Dom Hemingway (Shepard): 58. Big ol' tonal mess, w/Jude Law veering from cartoon to human as required by the script. Sporadically hilarious.

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears ( Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani, Switzerland, 102 mins.): 58/100 Delectably Amer-ican for the first half hour or so, in part because every new person the protagonist meets launches into a story, depicted in crazily stylized digressive interludes. (The one with the elderly couple and the hole in the ceiling is all kinds of dementedly virtuosic.) Alas, Forzani and Cattet eventually commit to their meaningless narrative, at which point the movie becomes a really bad case of diminishing returns, feeling much longer than it is. Clearly they can't do a sustained story, so unless they can devise a bunch of ways to build features from vignettes, that may be it. [Letterboxed review.]

The F Word (Dowse): 57. So heavily indebted to WHEN HARRY MET SALLY it felt obligated to include an homage. Commensurate banter level.

Blind Dates (Koguashvili): 57. Georgian director of STREET DAYS still has something, but his focus here is too diffuse. (Oxymoron?)

At Berkeley (Wiseman): 55. Large chunks of this veer perilously close to being TED TALKS: THE MOVIE. Stronger behind the scenes. [Frederick Wiseman documentary about UC Berkeley and environs, USA, 244 mins.; NYFF]

October November (Spielmann): 56. Spielmann almost certainly lost a parent in the past few years. Individual scenes fine, add up to little.

Our Sunhi (Hong): 55. Practically a remake of OKI'S MOVIE, minus the multiple-film conceit and with the trajectory reversed. Familiar. NYFF

The Unknown Known (Morris): 54. What did we learn, Palmer?

Parkland (Peter Landesman, USA, 93 mins.)53/100 A.V. Club review forthcoming. Not nearly as glib or useless as the early buzz suggested, though it takes a nosedive after the 22nd and expends too much energy on Robert Oswald. Best with small details you'd never thought about, e.g. men grabbing tools to remove seats from Air Force One so JFK's coffin won't have to be stored below with the baggage. (Letterboxed review.)

The Last of the Unjust (Lanzmann): 50. Just ignore me, I'm allergic to interview docs not by Errol Morris. Enjoyed present-day exteriors.

Night Moves (Reichardt): 49. Gonna have to ponder a while on why this rang so completely false to me, right from the jump.

The Wind Rises (Miyazaki): 48. Not the film for someone more interested in aeronautical design than in a Japanese LOVE STORY. NYFF

Story of My Death 2013 (Albert Serra, Spain-Catalan): 48/100 Went in tabula rasa, as usual, and nobody says "Casanova" for nearly two hours, so I had no clue which historical or literary figure Serra was riffing on this time. (Dracula I got, however.) Doubt it would've made much difference, as this is neither as beautifully austere nor as unexpectedly funny as Birdsong, and functions as little more than a curiosity until it finally goes batshit (kind of literally) in the last half hour or so. "I feel out of touch," Lee Walker said to me as the lights came up. You and me both, brother. [This won the Locarno top prize. Letterboxed review by D'Angelo.]

Omar (Abu-Assad): 45. Why are people taking this guy seriously. (I mean, I know why, but why?) He's the epitome of politi-crass. NYFF

The Invisible Woman (Ralph Fiennes, UK): 43/100 Just what the world needed: Jefferson in Paris II: What the Dickens? Tediously tasteful portrait of the author's affair with a young actress goes nowhere unexpected, exemplifies "uninspired." Exactly the kind of period drama an actor would direct, though even the performances are thoroughly ordinary. Coriolanus at least had some cojones. [NYFF](Letterboxed review by D'Angelo.)

Tom at the Farm 2013 (Xavier Dolon, Canada) 43/100 Weirdly off from the outset, in a way that made it seem like some big psychosexual twist was coming; closing credits revealed that it's adapted from a play, which ohhhhhhh got it. In any case, Gabriel Yared's furious cod-Herrmann score can't disguise the material's fundamental emptiness. Poorly acted, too, especially by the guy playing the dead man's brother. Dolan's first complete misfire, but I mostly blame his bad taste in theater. (See also: Carnage.) (Letterboxed review.)

\Norte, the End of History\ (Diaz): 32. Longest. Dumont movie. Ever. (If Dumont owned up to being a self-loathing intellectual.) NYFF

Child of God (Franco): 29. Based on the evidence here, Franco might accomplish something if he ever stops trying to film unfilmable novels. NYFF

Trap Street (Qu): W/O. Drab Street. (This was just a random drop-in, last-minute. Bigger gap than I'd thought in schedule.)

The Immoral (Jacobsen): W/O. Couldn't get an advance ticket for STRANGE LITTLE CAT so took a flyer on a Norwegian comedy. Unbearable.

Cristo Rey (Tonos Paniagua): W/O. Ethnocentric festival filler. You'll never hear a word about this film again.

Sarah Prefers to Run (Robichaud): W/O. Exactly the same film as Ursula Meier's STRONG SHOULDERS, but lacks Meier's brio, adds an idiot plot.

Stop the Pounding Heart (Minervini): W/O. Thought this was a superior attempt at Matt Porterfield's style until the bad improv kicked in.

A Story of Children and Film (Cousins): W/O. No disrespect intended to @alsolikelife when I say this is one of his video essays writ long. [Doc by Mark Cousins; @alsolikelife is Kevin B. Lee, who does short illustrated film lectures/analyses in videos.]

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