Film Nexus Vol. 9: Force Majeure
Fri, Jan 9 2015 08:41
Quite a bit has been written regarding the supposed death of the foreign language film market. The reasoning behind this is very complex, with those singing dirges for foreign film pointing out everything from the American audience doesn’t like to read subtitles, to countries that were once movie-rich like France and Italy, have stopped rolling camera because generous government subsidies have dried up leaving many projects unfunded.
Since it is true that foreign language films are having a harder time getting on screens in the United States, I am really excited that Cinema Center is premiering the Swedish black comedy “Force Majeure,” starting today.
As a film community, we must come out and support movies from all over the globe, it not only makes us more film literate, but also allows for us to see stories and issues from wholly new perspectives.
In honor of tonight’s opening of “Force Majeure,” I have put together a short list of fairly recent foreign language films that everyone should check out on Netflix, where anyone can see that foreign film is very much alive and well:
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
This Mexican film about two young men who go on a road trip with an older woman helped usher in a renaissance of Latin American filmmakers, as well as explode the careers of director Alfonso Cuaron, and star Gael Garcia Bernal.
City of God (2002)
Growing up as a quiet, creative individual has the potential to make anyone an outsider, but in this film, it can be dangerous. Rocket is an aspiring photographer in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous slums and is surprised as anyone when he discovers his camera is both a salvation from the drug lords, and his possible escape from poverty.
Fallen Angels (1995)/ Days of Being Wild (1990)
Three words: Wong Kar Wai. In 2001, he directed one of the greatest films of all time – “In the Mood for Love.” These earlier films are both beautiful, and extremely original, in their own right, and show off a talent that was just on the cusp of his greatest masterpiece.
Jonah’s Best Films of 2014
Mon, Dec 29 2014 01:17
If you read other film writers’ Best Films of the Year lists, they usually start with an apology about 2014 not being a particularly good year in film. I disagree with this immensely, even though the usual crop of late year Oscar-hopeful releases have been a bit lackluster, there are still quite a few great films that came out earlier in the year.
For my list, I included any films that I felt like writing a sentence or two about, so my list forgoes the monolithic top 10, and is a top 13 instead.
Also, putting these films in any order according to quality, taste or personal preference turned into a Sisyphean task, where the list would self-destruct once a new entry was made, and I was forced to start over. For this reason, the films are in alphabetical order.
One caveat, I have not seen every film that has been released this year, and being located in a relatively small film market, I will most likely have to catch up with many titles after the beginning of 2015.
This horror film injected pure emotion into a genre that has become so focused on lame jump scares and shallow characters. Jennifer Kent directed a scary film in the vein of “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” where the real horror is what has been lurking within a family the whole time.
Remember the name Jeremy Saulnier because it is going to be everywhere soon. Saulnier directed a revenge film that transforms into a family drama, and back again, more than a few times. Comparisons to early Coen brothers’ films are spot on and accurate. On its own, this film is just as exciting as the new talent it showcases.
Call it a stunt, a gimmick or anything else you want, the truth of the matter is that there has never been a film captured like “Boyhood.” This coming of age story took director Richard Linklater and cast twelve years to realize, allowing audiences to literally watch star Ellar Coltrane grow up before our eyes.
2014 was full of films that explored big themes. In “Calvary”, an Irish priest played by Brendan Gleeson, is told in the opening scene that he will be murdered in one week to atone for the sins of another long-gone priest . Instead of running away from his fate, Gleeson’s character decides to stand up to it, all the while maintaining hope that his future killer will see that murder and vengeance are not going to bring the solace he seeks.
Justin Simien’s debut feature film, based on a Twitter account of the same name, is a satire that is just as calculated in the prejudices and systematic racism it exposes, as it is hilarious. Have that annoying friend who just doesn’t seem to understand white privilege? Make sure they see this film.
The allure of the enigmatic genius Frank (played by Michael Fassbender, covered by a giant paper-mache head) is so strong that Domhnall Gleeson’s Jon quits his job and moves to the country with Frank’s band Soronprfbs (not a misspelling) to record a groundbreaking new album. The band’s final performance of the song “I Love You All” is in a tie for the best scene of the year.
This movie was so much more than the toy commercial I was expecting. To great effect it shows that a world where everything is awesome is not an awesome world, after all. This film plays with alternate dimensions in time and space more effectively than even the labored “Interstellar.”
The life of Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke falls apart during a car ride. This film resembles a one-person play, but in the best possible way, and director Steven Knight takes every opportunity to make the commute visually interesting. “Locke” demonstrates that Hardy is not the next De Niro, as that is being too generous to De Niro.
Not much can, or should, be said about the plot of this film. Every plot development needs to be experienced with as little knowledge as possible. Suffice it to say, in this film Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss play a struggling couple that go to an unusual retreat. This film has stayed with me long after my initial viewing.
Jim Jarmusch directing Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as two deeply in love, centuries old, vampires living in Detroit, is pretty much just as cool as you would expect it to be. Leaving behind pretty much every vampire film cliché and trapping, Jarmusch uses his immortal couple, named Adam and Eve, to examine how far humanity has come, and their fear the end of the species will arrive all too soon.
What makes a human? Is it something that can be observed and learned? This sci-fi film asks that and many other questions, (remember this is the year of big questions) but provides no answers. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien (maybe) who seduces men in a strange lair where they are used for…something. “Under the Skin,” as a viewing experience, moves over you in waves, first in curiosity, then horror, and eventually, a weird hope. One scene from this film is tied with “Frank’s” ending as being the best of the year, it involves a deformed man, and what his encounter with Johansson suggests about body image, compassion and empathy.
We are the Best!
We are the Best!
Three middle school misfits won’t let punk rock die in Sweden. When three friends in 1980s Stockholm decide to start an all-girl punk band they can’t let things get in their way like not being able to play instruments, or even never attempting to write songs. The energy of this film is so infectious the title should have three exclamation marks, and the lessons learned by the characters are applicable far beyond middle school.
Here is another music film that delves into the idea of what makes a genius (another big question), this time in the world of collegiate jazz. J.K. Simmons plays Terence Fletcher, a music instructor at a distinguished performing arts college, who expects nothing less than perfection from his students. Miles Teller’s Andrew Neiman is a freshman drummer, whose life is made miserable by the intense demands from Fletcher, all in the effort to bring out genius. Growing up in Indiana, the parallels in Fletcher and famed coach Bobby Knight are hard to miss, but it is the footage of the musical performances that make this film such a kinetic experience.
The Rest of the Best
Here are some films I greatly enjoyed and almost made my list: “Birdman,” “The Double,” “Gone Girl,” “Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Mistaken for Strangers,” “Obvious Child,” “The Skeleton Twins” and “The Unknown Known.”
Upcoming Cinema Center Films - January 2015
Thu, Dec 18 2014 03:35
January is shaping up to be an exciting month. We have two foreign-language films slated to open, as well as a gritty crime thriller from down under. Be sure to always check the Future page for additions and changes to the schedule.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature has been marketed as “the first Iranian vampire western ever made”, we are likely to believe that. The gorgeous black and white cinematography is worth the price of admission.
Opens January 2nd, 2015
This Swedish film became a word-of-mouth darling at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. It tells the story of a family unraveling during an avalanche in the Alps. Words like wickedand funny have been used numerous times to describe this potential Best Foreign Language Film nominee.
Opens January 9th, 2015
Son of a Gun
Ewan McGregor stars in this Australian thriller as a career criminal who takes a recently released young ex-con under his wing. For the past ten years or so, a whole crop of high quality crime films have come from Australia, this film does not look to be an exception.
Opens January 23rd, 2015
FILM NEXUS Vol. 8: The Babadook
Fri, Dec 12 2014 02:25
Today, Cinema Center opens “The Babadook,” an emotionally complex horror film by Jennifer Kent, who began her career as an assistant to famed director and enfant terrible Lars Von Trier.
Part of the reason the film has faired so well with audiences and critics (it currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98%) is because of its ability to create a connection between the characters, not necessarily jump scares from the titular monster.
Currently, there are several creepy and strange, as well as emotional titles streaming on Netflix. Any of these would be worth watching after catching “The Babadook” at Cinema Center:
Twin Peaks (1990)
Would modern television look the same without “Twin Peaks”? There is an argument to be made that popular serialized TV would be very different without Agent Cooper’s investigation into the death of Laura Palmer. The whole town is full of secrets, some of them manifest in the realm of the absurd, and others only create dread. As Cooper’s case intensifies, so does his love and dedication to the people of Twin Peaks.
The Double (2013)
Richard Ayoade is becoming a director I am really excited to see develop. This film is a dark, uneasy adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel. Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon, a lonely, shy and awkward office worker who is obsessed with Mia Wasikowska’s Hannah. Chaos enters Simon’s life when his doppelganger, the charming and confident James (also played by Eisenberg), begins working at the same office. Tonally the film is nearly perfect, as are the performances by Eisenberg and Wasikowska.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
There is no greater horror film that deals with the relationship between mother and child, just in the case of this movie, the child may be the spawn of Satan. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes were great as Rosemary and Guy, but it was Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet, and Sidney Blackmer as her husband Roman who steal every scene on arrival. The paranoia and ambiguity makes the horror so much more palpable, and is made worse by not relying on jump scares, but focusing on the emotional state of Rosemary.
“The Babadook” opens December 12th at 12pm and 9:30.
Jonah Crismore is Cinema Center’s Executive Director and wouldn't mind a vodka blush.
FILM NEXUS Vol. 7: Vampires
Fri, Jun 6 2014 11:56
Since the silent film era, the vampire myth has provided inspiration to great filmmakers. The myriad aspects of the legend to exploit provide the point of view for each film, whether it is the horror, the romance, or the existential angst of being fully aware of one’s own immortality. Certainly it is the latter of those facets that inspired prolific American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch with his most recent film, “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which opens tonight at Cinema Center and stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, as vampires going through a bit of a ‘what-does-it-all-mean’ period.
Being a bit of an eclectic director, drawing on influences from postwar Japanese dramas, as well as a bit of Shakespeare, and the lives of his rock star friends, Jarmusch has found a way to bring a completely fresh take on the vampire story. And because of that, he has also directed one of the coolest additions to the genre. After catching “Only Lovers Left Alive” this weekend at Cinema Center, take some time to go back to these interesting building blocks to the great wall that is the modern vampire film tradition available on Netflix streaming.
This silent film classic created the impact of almost every vampire motif that lasts to this day. When the Bram Stoker estate would not grant filmmaker F.W. Murnau permission to adapt “Dracula” to the big screen, he took matters into his own hands and renamed the characters and filmed it anyway. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is the placeholder for Dracula, and never has the classic monster been so scary. Using lighting to elongate shadows, the creepy factor goes off the charts, while maintaining a beauty to the images.
The adaptation of Sergei Lukyanenko’s novel of the same name, was a huge blockbuster in its native Russia. The story is complicated, but basically everything breaks down to a secret truce between the warriors of Light and the forces of Darkness, and how the agreement is falling apart in modern day Russia. The scenes where these armies battle each other have never looked like anything else in a vampire film. This film should be appreciated for its strong visuals, as the narrative falls apart as the film progresses. Even the subtitles are incorporated into the imagery, not wasting any space on the screen.
“From Dusck Till Dawn” does not seem like a vampire movie. When director Robert Rodriguez read the script by Quentin Tarantino (who also stars in the film alongside George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, and Harvey Keitel), he dedicated himself to realizing it because he loved how much the film would have a “Pyscho”-ish feel in its storytelling. The movie begins like a lot of Rodriguez and Tarantino films do, with tough guys, played by Clooney and Tarantino, in over there heads after a robbery gone wrong results in them taking a hostage. The first half of the film is just about the duo hijacking an RV with Keitel’s family behind the wheel, into Mexico. Once they get over the border, things just get crazy, as the criminals and captives must become allies in a roadhouse full of bloodthirsty vampires. The film is silly in a lot of the ways that comic book movies, and vampire movies, used to be, and the practical effects still hold up in much the way they do in old George Romero films.
Jonah Crismore is Cinema Center’s Executive Director and always in a state of existential angst.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” opens Friday, June 6th, at 9:15pm.