REVIEW: White Material

White Material
Directed by: Claire Denis
Written by: Claire Denis, Marie N’Diaye, & Lucie Borleteau (screenplay)
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Nicolas Duvauchelle, and William Nadylam

When viewed through an American lens, the new film by French director Claire Denis has an almost eerily identifiable allegory to our society.  It follows Maria (Isabelle Huppert) as she tries to cling to her way of life as the French colonial society in Africa crumbles.  The economy and the very fabric of society are tanking, and she and her family’s wealthy coffee plantation are at stake.

Maria is not solely sympathetic.  Her stubbornness and white arrogance have led her to a place where she thrives while many around her are left to suffer in poverty and death.  Denis gets this point across not just by putting Maria in the midst of this chaos, but by showing us first-hand the toll of poverty in the form of child soldiers.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Social Network


The Social Network
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer

There are girls playing PlayStation in the next room, and you’re uploading internet code.  Such are the ways of kings in the 21st century, and one of the keenest insights made in David Fincher’s The Social Network.

As you probably know by now, this is “The Facebook Movie.”  It’s also a potent drama, fueled by stories and themes as ancient as both stories and themes.  Betrayal, identity, and the nature of friendship are all at the core of Aaron Sorkin’s stunning screenplay.  The Sorkin/Fincher pairing, however unlikely, pays off in spades.

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Quick Oscar Nomination Predictions 2011

CyniCritics has complied its quick, yet bold list of predictions without a stutter for the 2011 Academy Award nominations which will be announced this Tuesday. It’s not our fault for playing things on the white swan side; it’s been quite a predictable season. Don’t expect a list of surprises or shockers when the nominees are revealed. Sure there will be a few slip ups and a few that incept themselves in, but with 10 slots and Pixar in the mix, this is no wild west of Oscar races. So go ahead, update your statuses, well unless you live in the Ozarks, in which case you probably shouldn’t talk about the Oscars… or have a Facebook.

Best Picture

The Social Network

The King’s Speech

Black Swan

The Kids Are All Right

Inception

The Fighter Continue reading

The Best Movies of 2010

Communication and identity were big themes in 2010 (and every other year), right alongside isolationism on top and kids (and their toys) growing up to mounting uncertainty.  The films, as they always do, reflect that.  The best ones had none of the problems that their characters often face, and though there are thousands of tireless idiosyncrasies among this year’s releases, it’s the bigger connections that are important, and we’ve left one out.  All of the films on this list are wonderful, if each in their own way.  So here’s a toast to the great, the weird, the insightful, the funny, and the heartbreaking, and here’s hoping Transformers 3 doesn’t prevent 2011 from being just as good if not better.

1. Black Swan- Taking lessons from classics like The Red Shoes and Repulsion and then adding in more frantic body horror, Darren Aronofsky has us follow Nina the ballerina on her nightmarish journey toward perfection in her preparation for the leads in Swan Lake. In this unlikely companion piece to 2008’s The Wrestler, we dive deeper into the depths of an athlete’s mind and body at war with itself while Nina tries to find her inner dark side to play the Black Swan.  The battle is projected onto the environment with hallucinations and onto Nina’s weary body in the form of scratches, bruises, and emerging feathers.  Aronofsky himself wages a successful battle between perfect technique and dark, brooding instinct.  He, along with a never-better Natalie Portman, creates a new masterpiece full of feverish dance sequences, controlling mothers, and fierce competition for his catalog.  Like his protagonist, he flies past the competition and lands atop the pile of 2010’s best films.  Read Full Review Continue reading

REVIEW: Black Swan

Black Swan
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heintz, & John J. McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, and Barbara Hershey

Perfection: chased to the elegant stage by way of the not-so-elegant back rooms.  That is the goal viewers watch Nina (Natalie Portman) hurt, bleed, and dance, dance, dance toward  in Darren Aronofsky’s hallucinatory Black Swan.

Aronofsky, fast becoming cinema’s brightest renegade and fiercest visionary, has never been shy about making you feel his characters’ pain.  By removing all distance between you and them by rapid cutting and frantic pacing, you feel a kinetic connection to their turmoil.

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REVIEW: 127 Hours

127 Hours
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy (screenplay), Aron Ralston (book)
Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, and Sean Bott

Aron Ralston cut his own arm off to escape a boulder that pinned him against a canyon wall.  That much we know.  The rest, drawn from his hallucinatory recounting in his autobiography and combined with some creative liberties from a passionate filmmaker, is a story waiting to be told.

It’s interesting to think how certain directors would handle different source material.  A story like this could tell how Aron recovered after his ordeal, or it could show his ordeal.  If you’re looking for the gooey easy way out, the former is your best bet, but Danny Boyle isn’t going for the easy way out.

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REVIEW: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Written by: Michael Arndt, John Lassetter, and Lee Unkrich (screenplay)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and Don Rickles

You always know the latest entry from the people at Pixar is going to be a marvel.  To see how great they are, like a Hattori Hanzo sword, you compare it to every animated movie that wasn’t made by Pixar.  In that respect, the Toy Story trilogy is the greatest animated trilogy animation has ever seen, with help from the exceptionally brilliant third entry.

Adult themes are always under the beautifully varnished animated images of the best animation, and nobody does it better than Pixar.  Last year’s Up was probably enjoyed more by adults than it was by children for that very same reason.  Though this is a story about play-things, the despair over uselessness has never been done quite so well.  Though the film is hilarious, it is at times also heartbreaking.

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