Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: March 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Blu-ray Review: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

by Tony Dayoub

"Dear old Clive, this is not a gentleman's war. This time you're fighting for your very existence against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain... Nazism. And if you lose, there won't be a return match next year, perhaps not even for a hundred years."

Thanks to the Criterion Collection's new Blu-ray release of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I've found a new film to add to my list of all-time favorites. I shouldn't be surprised. Colonel Blimp is written, produced and directed by those Archer chaps, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (The Red Shoes). Though the works of theirs I've seen are relatively small in number, movies like Black Narcissus and even the relatively obscure Gone to Earth sit high among my most beloved movies. Colonel Blimp appeals to me for much the same reason the others do. It is representative of Powell and Pressburger's disregard for conventional storytelling, structured as a complex flashback with digressive tonal shifts galore. If one can assign any overriding emotion to Colonel Blimp it is wistfulness. In this way it reminds me a lot of a deeply flawed picture that's still very dear to me, Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

TV Review: Top of the Lake Episode 3 - The Secret Inside

by Tony Dayoub

There were few if any major developments in this week's installment of Top of the Lake. And if some of the reactions to my review last week are any indication, this may not bode well for the show's popularity. Television has trained viewers to expect a continuing series of escalating revelations. But few realize that these manipulative hooks are contrivances. Fortunately, Top of the Lake is a closed miniseries with no need to solicit an audience in order to get renewed for another season. It's unfolding at just the right pace, with even more disregard for the MacGuffin at its center—the disappearance of Tui Mitcham—than its predecessor Twin Peaks had for the solution to its question of who killed Laura Palmer. Top of the Lake realizes that its central puzzle is simply an excuse to delve into the mysteries that define its characters. And this week's episode makes the most of it.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Movie Review: Spring Breakers (2013)

by Tony Dayoub

"All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl."
- Jean-Luc Godard

I adore the shallow, static Spring Breakers more than I can express. And that declaration, which I made to several people I talk to about movies, has received a variety of reactions ranging from "Are you serious?" to "Right on." None of which really surprise me. Harmony Korine (Trash Humpers) has produced what amounts to the ultimate inkblot on film. Spring Breakers is so broad and blank that one can ascribe just about any intentions onto it. For me, it all boils down to the Godard quote above. After early success as the 19-year-old screenwriter of the harrowing and controversial Kids (1995), Korine has directed several obscure (though critically notable) extended doodles such as Gummo (1997) and Mister Lonely (2007). Spring Breakers represents a stab at the relatively mainstream, a movie built on sex and violence populated by Disney Channel junior divas willing to go pretty far to leave their squeaky-clean image behind.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Where is Tui?

by Tony Dayoub

It's that time of year just before the summer blockbuster season when I find it hard to get my butt into a theater seat. For every surprise like The We and the I (which has, unfortunately, yet to open around the country) you get two entirely predictable movies like Olympus Has Fallen (opening Friday) or Oz: The Great and Powerful, a film so dull I can't even think of what to write about it. So it's not unusual that some promising television series start appearing during this lull to take advantage of the open playing field. Game of Thrones and Mad Men, two outstanding cable shows, return in a few weeks. David Mamet's Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, debuts this weekend on HBO. And now the Sundance Channel has realized the virtues of airing their own scripted original programming starting with Top of the Lake, a 7-episode miniseries created by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee (who last collaborated on 1989's Sweetie).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More Like Olympus is Flailing

by Tony Dayoub

One doesn't go into Olympus Has Fallen expecting originality or nuance. As trailers have made pretty clear, this is a noisy, over-the-top potboiler that basically boils down to this description: Die Hard in the White House. However, Antoine Fuqua—whose last solid film was Training Day and displayed the most ambition in 2004's flawed, but not-hard-to-like, King Arthur—seems here to be working out some resentment over not getting a chance to do the long-planned 24 theatrical upgrade he was briefly up for. Or at least it feels that way because Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is as generic a clone of Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer as one has seen in a long time. And as goes our hero, so goes Olympus Has Fallen, a scattered mess of a picture as far as even movies of this kind go.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Lost in the Inky Blackness of Fear

by Tony Dayoub

The softly lit visage of fortune teller Mrs. Bellane (Hillary Brooke, pictured above) is a reminder, mid-way through 1944's Ministry of Fear, that director Fritz Lang's films frequently (and almost obstinately) take place in dread-suffused, self-contained worlds. The setting for this noir is no different. An anti-Nazi propaganda film adapted from a novel by Graham Greene, Ministry of Fear plays out as if it were a dark nightmare in the head of protagonist Stephen Neale (Ray Milland). There are markers from the real world sketchily providing a backdrop that is vaguely lifelike. But much like in Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, in which the labyrinthine New York streets don't resemble any Manhattan we're familiar with, Neale's London bears only the remotest affinity to its real-world counterpart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Courtesy of SLIFR: Miss Jean Brodie's Modestly Magnificent, Matriarchally Manipulative Springtime-for-Mussolini Movie Quiz

by Tony Dayoub

And now for another extraordinary exam by that marvelous movie blogger, Dennis Cozzalio, up now at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Visit his site to post your answers.

1) The classic movie moment everyone loves except me is:
Forrest Gump sitting on a bench, "Life is like a box of chocolates..." Really dislike that movie.

2) Favorite line of dialogue from a film noir
"I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." - Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), In a Lonely Place (1950)

More answers after the jump.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Taking the Bus with The We and the I

by Tony Dayoub

By turns raucous and lyrical, The We and the I is a small high school movie elevated to near greatness by its inspired director, Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind). As the title suggests, Gondry is mostly focused on the contrast between each teenager's raw, personal self and the public face they put on in the larger company of their schoolmates. For this he enlists a varied group of South Bronx teens—all of color and all recruited from a Bronx youth development program known as the Point. Gondry does his best impression of a fly on the wall observing the quickly changing social dynamics of the kids as they ride the bus home on the last day of school.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Three's Company; Four's a Crowd?

by Tony Dayoub

The latest entry in what has become an arthouse cottage industry, the Retirement Ensemble film, also happens to be the directorial debut of one of the finest American actors, Dustin Hoffman. Quartet is a cut above other films of its kind. The most recent one to come to mind is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, perhaps because the two films share one star in common, Maggie Smith. Here she plays Jean Horton, a former opera diva forced to retire to Beecham House, a nursing home for musicians. At Beecham, the temperamental vocalist is reunited with three of her closest collaborators, libidinous Wilf (Billy Connolly), bemused Cissy (Pauline Collins) and the reserved Reg (Tom Courtenay), who still holds a grudge against Jean for betraying him on their wedding night.