Thursday, April 23, 2015
Who knew that the usually brutish Russell Crowe could be sensitive enough to fashion a film as lyrical as The Water Diviner? By turns epic and intimate, The Water Diviner is a low-key directorial debut for the macho Australian actor who stars as Joshua Connor, a man who lost three sons on the same day in the Battle of Gallipoli. Determined to bring their remains back to Australia, Connor sets out for Çanakkale, Turkey and encounters a larger number of Turks sympathetic to his mission than anyone could imagine. Among them is the beautiful young Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who also sacrificed a great deal during the war. As conventional as the story reads on paper, Crowe instills it with an unpredictability and earnestness that seem damn near inventive. From a hauntingly surreal opening through a dewy, personal second act and onto a grand, epic conclusion, The Water Diviner frequently confounds, not just because of who Crowe is and what one expects from the forceful actor. But also because Crowe shows a remarkable self-confidence, letting the film meander in a way one associates most with the most unpretentious classic films.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
by Tony Dayoub
My apologies to anyone still interested in reading my musings on cinema after my long absence from this site. I started a new job in November. I'm deep in its busy season (which began right after my busy season as a film critic and continues on through mid-April). But I feel like I can't really take any kind of temporary sabbatical without first posting my list of last year's best films (and definitely before the Oscars air).
For your consideration, my top films of 2014, followed by the winners of the respective polls I voted in.
Labels: Best of 2014
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