Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Ox-Bow Incident

“The Ox-Bow Incident” (1943) directed by William Wellman and starring Henry Fonda, Harry Morgan and Dana Andrews is another masterpiece in the genre of Westerns.  It was filmed almost entirely on a soundstage by the brilliant Arthur C. Miller, who gives us a picture of the old West that is both stark and enlightened at the same time.  This is a morality play, based upon the book by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, that is difficult at best.  There are terrific performances that make this story of prejudice and mob mentality all the more real.  It will devastate you with its honesty.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"The Master" is an odd film....

“The Master” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Laura Dern is a strange film.  Paul Thomas Anderson makes strange films (“Boogie Nights” “Magnolia” “There Will Be Blood”) most of which I felt were very well done.  ”The Master”, however, for me, is in another league.  And not a good league.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role is a tour de force as usual and will be nominated for many more awards.  Amy Adams, who plays The Master’s wife, shows a new found intensity that I have not seen before.  There are many scenes in the film where we are looking directly into her eyes as she is speaking and it is a scary thing to behold.  Then there’s Joaquin Phoenix.  It is almost impossible to describe his portrayal of the disturbed ex-seaman, Freddie Quill.  You have to see it for yourself.  My feelings upon leaving the theatre at the end of the film were very confused.  What I had just seen was acting at its best but the way the story unfolded left me underwhelmed and actually a little bored.  The connection between The Master and Freddie was not fully explained so it felt forced that The Master would take in someone like Freddie (a violent, amoral man who had stolen onto his boat in a drunken stupor.)  The scenes with the two men are very powerful, indeed.  However, I was left feeling cheated and a little bit played by the manipulation of the director to make us feel something between the men.  Then there are the long scenes of looking at different characters faces that drag the film down and almost bring it to a stop, plus the almost constant sexual references and nudity, which for me were unnecessary.  ”The Master” is an interesting film that I am sure will cause many discussions and arguments over its content.  I am just not sure that it is worth it.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Wickedly Original Film

"Melancholia" is a wickedly original film starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and directed by Lars von Trier.  It is a film filled with beautiful images that tell a story of the end of the world.  It begins with the story of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) on her wedding day, moves to the story of her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and ends with an arresting vision of the apocalypse.  The film is long but it is irresistible in its character development and scene-setting.  The lush landscapes and gorgeous cinematography help to make the end of the world seem almost welcome.  This is a film I highly recommend - turn out your lights, open your film-loving heart, and watch.
“End of Watch” written and directed by David Ayer, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena is a gritty, real time police drama with lots of heart and wonderful performances.  Jake Gyllenhaal shows his ability to carry a drama, and Michael Pena, as his partner, more than proves his worth as an up and coming actor.  ”End of Watch” is filmed with hand-held cameras, which makes the time in the car, and on the streets of Los Angeles with the two officers, seem alive.  At times you will wish the day with them would just end because it seems so overwhelming and frightening, and yet you cannot stop watching to make sure these two officers make it out of the day alive. Anna Kendrick makes an appearance as Jake Gyllenhaal’s girlfriend but she has little to do except to compliment Jake and to make his life even more real for the audience.  This is a film that is well worth seeing - it’s a welcome change to see a story that seems so real.


“Lawless” directed by John Hillcoat and starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Gary Oldman is a good film, but not a great one.  ”Lawless” is based upon the life of the Bondurant brothers as depicted in the book, “The Wettest County in World” written by one of their grandsons, Matt Bondurant.  The Bondurant brothers were actual bootleggers during the depression and this film presents the story amid an atmosphere of hard luck, corruption and poverty.  It is dark and dank, with lead characters who should be despicable but they also demand sympathy at times.  It has family loyalty, young love, friendships that endure, and more violence than you can stand at times.  It is a rough film that is filled with some great performances, especially from Tom Hardy as the oldest Bondurant brother.  Shia LaBeouf also continues to impress with his developing acting skills.  However, the performance that you will remember is from Guy Pearce as the corrupt Special Deputy who goes after the brothers with a vengeance.