Dir. Craig Zobel
(2012, R, 90 minutes)
I didn’t see Compliance when it was in theaters because I hadn’t heard anything about it and the poster made it look like an exploitation horror film. Well, it is a horror film about exploitation, in a sense, but the poster is probably more evident of a distributor unsure of how to sell a movie about a fast food restaurant where a prank call leads to humiliation and sexual assault. The film is empathetic and thus not a good sell to the exploitation-horror crowd, though it may be uncomfortable to watch for anyone else. You have to have the constitution for it … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Alfred Hitchcock
(1948, PG, 80 min)
I’ve long been a subscriber to Alfred Hitchcock‘s Bomb Theory, and have referenced it often. It is how the director explained his philosophy on suspense … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Andrew Rossi
(2011, R, 91 min)
I love knowledge and thus have a great admiration for journalism, which at its best is the immune system of a free society. Its purpose it not only to pass along information but to verify it, filter it, and deliver it in its purest form. I was surprised when I read a recent opinion piece – from the New York Times, no less – questioning, and I quote, “whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.” That sounds like a mechanic asking if it’s his job to check under the hood, or if he should instead hand the keys back to you and let you decide for yourself whether or not your car is safe to drive. The ditch you find yourself in will be the decision you’ve made … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinfosky
(2012, Not Rated, 121 min)
I discovered the Paradise Lost films three years ago and was mesmerized. Taken together, the first two installments, The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Revelations, are an extraordinary document of an American injustice. I rented them in 2009, sixteen years after three Arkansas teens were convicted of grisly child murders and more than two years before the state finally relented and acknowledged – sort of – what everyone else already figured out: that the convicted boys were innocent of the crime. I wrote at the time, “I think they should keep making the Paradise Lost movies until the story is over, or until it is clear that the story never will be over.” In 2011, the end finally came … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Rodrigo Garcia
(2011, R, 113 min)
Albert Nobbs is a pretty good film that would have been better if it had gotten rid of the exposition. I say that often, but this is a unique case in which the exposition not only gets in the way but makes the characters less clear. This is the labor of love of actress Glenn Close, who plays the title character and also co-wrote the screenplay and penned the song “Lay Your Head Down” for the closing credits. Albert, who lives in 19th century Ireland, is a woman living as a man. She works as a waiter at a hotel, anticipating the needs of the guests but otherwise keeps to herself. In her practiced shyness, she’s interesting. Beneath her placid exterior is a vivid inner life full of longings, regrets, and aspirations … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Steven Spielberg
(2011, PG-13, 146 min)
War Horse feels like Steven Spielberg trying on a nice-looking pair of shoes that don’t quite fit him; he walks with an awkward, uneven gait (unlike the steady confidence of his Adventures of Tintin, which was released on the same weekend in the US). I could sense him affecting a style not entirely his own, channeling an old-fashioned sentimentality. Make no mistake, Spielberg has his own brand of sentimentality, but to me this feels broader, more artificial, applied self-consciously to achieve an effect that doesn’t quite work … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Clio Barnard
(2011, Not Rated, 94 min)
Andrea Dunbar was a playwright who grew up in a poor housing estate in Yorkshire, England. She wrote the autobiographical play The Arbor about her contentious family life and abusive marriage to a Pakistani man. Clio Barnard‘s stirring, innovative documentary of the same name is ostensibly about Andrea, but more than that it’s about her legacy, about the children she left behind when she died in 1990 at age twenty-nine, about the way upbringing can shape destiny, and about the complex interplay between life and art … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Steve McQueen
(2008, Not Rated, 96 min)
Hunger was the feature directing debut of Steve McQueen, a multimedia artist whose work has appeared in art galleries. One of those gallery-exhibited films, titled Bear, is described by Wikipedia as follows: “two naked men (one of them McQueen) exchange a series of glances which might be taken to be flirtatious or threatening.” Given his avant-garde origins, it’s not surprising his first foray into narrative filmmaking departs from conventional structure and technique. From scene to scene, he seems to be experimenting with narrative form. Not all of those experiments cohere – at times it feels as if we’re switching from one movie to another – but they generate a strong emotional effect even when you’re not sure what exactly he’s getting at. His freedom of style is infectious. Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Susanne Bier
(2011, R, 118 min)
In a Better World, this year’s Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film, begins with a compelling moral question but then slides into Afterschool Special territory. It opens with Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a Swedish doctor volunteering in Africa, while his estranged wife Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) and his son Elias (Markus Rygaard) cope with his absence at home in Denmark. Meanwhile, another boy copes with loss: Christian (William Jøhnk Nielsen) mourns the death of his mother to cancer, while harboring resentment for his father (Ulrich Thomsen) … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.
Dir. Lee Chang-dong
(2011, Not Rated, 139 min)
Lee Chang-dong directs Poetry with such subtlety and grace that you might not notice it was directed at all, and in this case I mean that as a compliment. There’s no musical score, and he films with unfussy static shots and pans whose simplicity belies their frequent beauty. The story seems just to unfold, captured spontaneously by a camera that watches the action and somehow conveys the startling depth of emotion without seeming to try. I saw Lee’s last film, Secret Sunshine, at the 2007 New York Film Festival, but it didn’t get a US theatrical release until 2010, when I ranked it as the year’s best film. Here is another film of the same caliber. Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.org.