Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Director Ava Duvernay smartly avoids the usual obstacles filmmakers have encountered when bringing the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to the screen. Selma avoids all the pitfalls of the traditional biopic by instead focusing on a particularly reprehensible flashpoint in the American Civil Rights struggle, the events surrounding March 7, 1965, "Bloody Sunday," and how they ultimately led to the passing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. By homing in on this historical moment, Duvernay is able to give us a snapshot of the era, put us in the shoes of African American activists, the Southern whites hanging on to their fading power structure, even the President himself, Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). In Selma, Duvernay has crafted a singular cinematic experience that stands alone among those attempting to communicate the turmoil of the Civil Rights era and the power of the Reverend Dr. King, powerfully played by David Oyelowo. Selma is absorbing, measured, and eloquent, much like the man at its center.
Monday, December 22, 2014
Blu-ray Reviews: Barker Lost & Found, a Pair of Sci-Fi Epics, Criterion x 3, and a Twilight Time Bonus
by Tony Dayoub
Wow, it's been a long time, even for me. I just started a second gig which is keeping me away from these pages more than I'd like, but hopefully this will be the first of a number of posts that will appear here with more regularity. Anyway, here are some Blu-rays I've been watching while I diligently fulfill some of my end-of-year critic vote duties. Except for Nightbreed's, all of these entries sport actual screen captures by moi.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
The mistake made with the holiday release of Penguins of Madagascar is a common one. Expanding the franchise by spinning off its comic relief into his/her/their own project rarely works. It's the reason Seinfeld's Kramer never got his own show. Or the reason Happy Days floundered once Ron Howard left the show and it became all about the Fonz. Eccentric sidekicks are often so potent that they overwhelm the story, and it's no different with Madagascar's four lovable clowns, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights).
Sunday, November 23, 2014
by Tony Dayoub
"Nichols discovered within himself a natural talent for drawing good work out of actors and for guiding playwrights through rewrites without making them feel threatened or trampled. He also found, to his own surprise, a kind of emotional comfort at being at the center of the action. 'I think people try to become famous because they think: If you can get the world to revolve around you, you won't die,' he remarked to a reporter. The comment typified the way Nichols handled himself with a press corps that was insatiably curious about his life with and without Elaine May—it was fast, funny, and so offhand that nobody could be certain whether it was self-revelation or just a good line."
- writer Mark Harris in his essential Pictures at a Revolution, describing one of the directors at the vanguard of the New Hollywood
Recommended Films - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, Working Girl, Regarding Henry, Wolf, The Birdcage, Closer
And an even better list of titles I haven't seen but should - Catch-22, The Day of the Dolphin, The Fortune, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge, Primary Colors, Wit (TV), Angels in America (TV), Charlie Wilson's War
Sunday, November 16, 2014
One of my favorite comedies of the year is the gloriously misanthropic Listen Up Philip. Sadly, I missed it while it was playing at this year's New York Film Festival because it screened the day after my flight back home. But it's now playing on VOD and opened here in Atlanta (at the Plaza Theater) this past Friday. Jason Schwartzman plays what might be the douchiest among his repertoire of arrogant, self-absorbed characters. Promising young novelist Philip Lewis Friedman is someone who looks for any way to sabotage the great things he has going for him. He's the kind of jerk that finds it notable that another young, more famous rival killed himself not because of the inherent tragedy but because he turned down a chance to profile the author in what would have been the man's last, and therefore most attention-getting, interview.
Friday, November 7, 2014
The idea of Disney exploiting its newly acquired Marvel properties for an animated film is a great on its face. The first of these films, but hardly its last I believe, is Big Hero 6, a cute superhero movie that should prove to be a font of unending merchandising opportunities directed to young boys the way Frozen has been to young girls. Cute as it is however , Big Hero 6 still comes up short as a children's fantasy.