Our favorite movies of 2018

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1. The Other Side of the Wind— After sitting unfinished for decades, Orson Welles has a new film. The Other Side of the Wind, a bleak and bleakly funny dig at the movie industry, centers on Jake Hannaford (John Huston), a drunken, disillusioned movie director.  His birthday celebration becomes an excuse for all manner of people to gather and talk shit about him while enjoying his latest movie (also called The Other Side of the Wind). Shot like a mockumentary from a variety of perspectives of people at the party and interspersed with stunning footage of Hannaford’s movie-within-a-movie, The Other Side of the Wind is as disorienting as it is difficult to shake. Welles’ last completed film is a bitter vision of a rotting, death-stalked Hollywood, and a masterpiece.

2. Let the Sunshine In— Claire Denis’ Let the Sunshine In moves to the beat of Juliette Binoche. The two French titans prove a revelatory pairing, matching Denis’ inimitable rendering of bodies searching for connection with Binoche’s conjuring of simultaneous conflicting feelings. In telling the story of Isabelle, a painter stuck dancing between romance and disappointment, Denis structures the movie more around the character’s emotional whims than along a traditional narrative. Though her encounters with men end mostly with disappointment, Isabelle’s sudden eruptions of passion, including during a show-stopping, Etta James-backed dance sequence, suggest that her endless cycle of pursuits is not in vain.

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Our favorite performances of 2018

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1. Juliette Binoche- Let the Sunshine In- The key to Juliette Binoche’s performance as Isabelle in Let the Sunshine In is in the way she and director Claire Denis show us the character searching; searching for love among a group of less than stellar contenders, searching for meaning in the space between those affairs, searching for the right emotion in any given moment. Several sometimes wash over Binoche’s face within the span of just seconds. That her performance seems so natural amid such a rapidly shifting emotional landscape is a testament to her brilliance.

2. Helena Howard- Madeline’s Madeline- Easily the year’s great breakout performance, Helena Howard is front and center in Josephine Decker’s swirling fever dream of a movie. Howard and Decker thrust viewers into the head of Madeline, a teenager battling mental illness who is also part of an experimental theater troupe. Howard’s rapid shifts in mood within scenes is astonishing, and much of the movie’s energy is built around the risk of her throwing any given moment into chaos.

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REVIEW: The Hangover Part III

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The Hangover Part III
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Todd Phillips & Craig Mazin (screenplay), Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (characters)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong

Is there any point in trying to look at The Hangover Part III as anything but a petulant piece of filth?  Of course the answer is no, but in a franchise built on uncompromising filth, that isn’t necessarily all bad.  Make no mistake, though: this is a very bad movie.  The story abandons the “What did we do last night?!” set up of the first two installments, and apparently can’t survive without it.

There are scenes of abduction and violence conducted with small crowds of people looking on in the background of the shots.  Several characters are shot and killed and the every men at the center of the story are hardly affected.  And yet, there is a kind of demented charm to this final installment as we get a sense that director Todd Phillips is almost daring us to try and make sense of a series built on sacrificing coherence for gross-out.  With the aid of his three main stars, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis, and a slew of others, he has created a movie that exists as a series of gags barely connected by anything other than familiar faces.

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REVIEW: This Is 40

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This Is 40
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Written by: Judd Apatow (screenplay)
Starring: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow and Iris Apatow

Paul Rudd is the only main character in Judd Apatow’s latest movie who isn’t part of the comedy auteur’s actual nuclear family.  The wife (Leslie Mann) and two children (Maude and Iris Apatow) are basically playing out better-written scenarios of their lives with a cuter dad.

This makes everything about This Is 40 feel both a little weirder and a little more alive; it’s like making your family relive an awkward Christmas on camera.  Apatow is a keen observer of white upper middle class life, though his considerable success as writer, director and producer over the past few years has made his class standing considerably higher than that.  This movie is his best since his other movie with 40 in the title, albeit much more pensive and mature.

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REVIEW: Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids
Directed by: Paul Feig
Written by: Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig (screenplay)
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne, and Melissa McCarthy

Behold something new in Bridesmaids.  It’s possible that such an innovation, which is buried beneath a mound of plot cliches and character types, will go unnoticed by the masses.  It is simply this: Bridesmaids takes pieces of the old genres and makes them new.  It is the successful merging of the male-targeted buddy comedy with the female-targeted romantic comedy.

When two genres merge, the film either tends to lean hard on one element or another, but Bridesmaids carefully walks the tightrope between both in an effective, hilarious mix.

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