Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: October 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dispersing the Cloud (Atlas)

by Tony Dayoub

Six distinct but loosely related stories are told during the nearly 3-hour running time of Cloud Atlas, the New Age-ey, science fiction-flavored romance directed by the Wachowskis (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run). The most compelling gimmick the film offers is its unique casting in which the principle actors in its ensemble play different roles in each of the stories. In this simple way (really only possible in film and theater), Cloud Atlas reinforces an idea explored in the 2004 source novel by David Mitchell, best described by the movie's pivotal character, Sonmi-451:
Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.
The repetition of familiar actors influencing successive stories with varying impact is one of the most attractive ideas explored in Cloud Atlas. But it is also one of its most frustrating flaws because you soon find yourself scanning the periphery of every scene to see if you spot the next recurrence of someone changing his/her appearance to—not always successfully—blend in with the demands of the plot fragment at hand. It takes you out of the movie. It is undeniable, however, that Cloud Atlas—at over $100 million, perhaps the most expensive independent picture ever made—is a monumental achievement of some kind. What follows is my attempt to unravel some of the more distracting/confusing elements of the film... to create a liberating mini-guide, if you will. that should allow the viewer to more closely follow this fantasy's more pertinent themes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crime and Misdirection: Sinister (2012)

by Tony Dayoub

One of the easiest ways horror movies provoke a response from their audience is to put a child in jeopardy. Just think of all the films that immediately come to mind when you contemplate that last statement: The Shining, The Sixth Sense, Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist. Sinister does this too. In truth, Sinister is not just a little derivative in its attempt to invert the expectations associated with this angle. But it's the way it uses our fears to misdirect us that make Sinister an engaging, and surprising, horror film... perhaps even one of the most frightening in years.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises comes to Blu-ray, 12/4

by Tony Dayoub

Warner Brothers just sent me some news to share with you, a brief video on the special features you can expect on The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray Combo Pack. Among them are what looks like a Second Screen-style app that syncs up to the film and a feature that lets you explore all of the various iterations of the Batmobile. The Dark Knight Rises is out on Blu-ray Combo Pack on 12/4.

Courtesy of SLIFR: Professor Arthur Chipping's Maddenlingly Detailed, Purposefully Vague, Fitfully Out-of-Focus Back to School Movie Quiz

by Tony Dayoub

And now for another stupendous survey by that celebrated cinematic blogger, Dennis Cozzalio, up now at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Visit his site to post your answers. Mine appear after the jump.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Other Side of Cinema: Argo (2012) and Seven Psychopaths

by Tony Dayoub

Argo does an outstanding job of establishing both its world and its central conceit in the movie's prologue. Intercutting between documentary footage and the type of comic book frames used in movie storyboards, director Ben Affleck establishes a key fact that will surprise younger viewers, the closeness of the U.S. and its one-time ally Iran in the years just before the dictatorial Shah was forced to flee the country during 1979's Islamic Revolution. Subsequent sequences depicting protesters overrunning the gates of the American embassy are evocative not only of the actual events they cover, but of the recent embassy protests in Benghazi, Libya where Ambassador Chris Stevens was assassinated. Much of what will no doubt fuel Argo's Oscar campaign—or its chances for Best Picture in the minds of Academy voters—is this prescience or timing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

NYFF50 Review: Native Son (1951)

by Tony Dayoub

In another time and place, 1951's Native Son would have been hailed as an impactful classic. But because it featured a mostly black cast acting out a black story, the film production had to travel to Argentina to recreate author Richard Wright's controversial 1940 bestseller. The book's Native Son is Bigger Thomas, a young black man pushed by his socio-economic circumstances into committing some serious crimes against whites, and even his own friends and family. When the film was finally shown here, censors had gutted it, cutting out all uncomfortable references to racial inequality. Viewing the restored edition playing at the NYFF, one can see the effect cultural denial and censorship can have on what might have otherwise been a landmark movie. In a world where the signposts and milestones of achievement that whites take for granted have been denied to African Americans, Native Son ends up being nothing but a lost artifact or, as a friend calls it, a curio.

Friday, October 5, 2012

NYFF50 Review: Berberian Sound Studio

by Tony Dayoub

You won't find one of the NYFF's most exciting discoveries playing in the cavernous Alice Tully Hall as part of the festival's main slate. Instead, you'll have to brave a trip to the Lincoln Center's relatively tiny Walter Reade theater to catch this gem as one of the NYFF's Midnight Movies, Berberian Sound Studio, a true festival sleeper if there ever was one. The intimacy is appropriate given that some might say Peter Strickland's small, imaginative movie is thin, spare. And they wouldn't be entirely wrong. Berberian Sound Studio is kind of a doodle, a loving tribute to the giallo, an Italian horror genre that often features a "normal" person slowly driven mad by phantasmagoric events around him.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

NYFF50 Review: Amour

by Tony Dayoub

I'm just starting to get to know the work of Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. But based on his films I have seen—2009's excellent but cruel The White Ribbon and the manipulative 2008 American remake of his own 1997 film, Funny Games—I've surmised that beneath the icy exterior his movies lies the sad soulfulness of a disillusioned humanist. His latest (and this year's Palme d'or winner at the Cannes Film Festival), Amour, is further evidence that Haneke doesn't so much enjoy pushing his audiences into uncomfortable territory so much as he feels compelled to do so, as if on a mission to promote greater understanding of the fragility of our human condition. Amour is one of the best films of the year. But it also demonstrates a punishingly clear-eyed resolve to uncover even the smallest minutiae concerning the merciless effects the end of one's life has on the decedent and all of her closest relationships.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NYFF50 Sidebars: Cinéastes/Cinema of Our Time & On the Arts

by Tony Dayoub

The NYFF continues this week with an extensive slate that includes a couple of interesting sidebars. The first I had a chance to catch a couple of screenings for is Cinéastes/Cinema of Our Time. It's a revival of a pair of documentary series produced for French television by André S. Labarthe in which notable film directors, both contemporary and classic, are interviewed for quite a longer and more in-depth session than audiences raised in the DVD-featurette-age might be accustomed to.