Julie and Jason take notes as the arrival of children seems to rip the
romance out of the relationships of their coupled friends, the
ever-horny Ben and Missy and the humorously
rock-solid Leslie and Alex. The six are
lively and cultured New Yorkers enjoying their version of Sex and the City,
but all of them are vaguely aware, in theory, that kids will challenge
their ability to dine out in style and vacation with ease.
A Separation presents Simin (Leila
Hatami) and Nader (Peyman Maadi), a couple caught in a legal battle.
Simin wants a divorce, so she can take their daughter and flee the
social oppression of Iran, with its restrictions on women, education and
contemporary filmmakers can claim a career as interesting as Gus Van
Sant’s. The 59-year-old director studied painting at the Rhode Island
School of Design before shifting his studies to film. He tried his hand
at Hollywood after graduation, but soon moved his home base to Portland,
Ore., a place where his artier leanings would flourish.
The idea of “dance theater”
(“Tanztheater” in German) evolved from expressionist dance in 1920s
Vienna, with a new form developing and spreading throughout Central
Europe beginning in 1917. The term re-emerged during the 1980s and Pina
Bausch, a student of one of the leaders of this school of dance, became a
new school practioner of note.
To celebrate the Chinese New Year, this
Year of the Dragon, Bruce Lee, the legendary “Little Dragon” returns to
screens for a select two-night-only event in 60-plus cities across the
country. I Am Bruce Lee, the new documentary feature from Pete McCormack offers up the cultural icon as a mirror into the interwoven matrices of life, spirituality and
the games begin. For audiences tired or uninterested in the arcane
goings-on of the numerous guilds and critics organizations all
attempting to exert some power and influence over the hearts and minds
of Academy voters, Tuesday, Jan. 24, must have seemed like the arrival
of Christmas after a series of unimaginable postponements and botched
Danger has been a factor in the recent
films of David Cronenberg, but the tension and anxiety has been focused
on the physical, the threat of bodily harm and the need to determine
where said harm would originate.
Critical backlash and a groundswell of
negativity rises at this time of the year in the world of film. The
various creative guilds and the major critics groups have issued their
nominations for the best films and performances of the past year.
It seems fitting to note that Carnage, the new film from Roman Polanski, is an adaptation based on Yasmina Reza’s play Le Dieu du carnage, which translates in English to God of Carnage. Reza penned the screenplay, and much attention was paid to the omission of the “God of” as Carnage arrived in theaters.
Jonathan Demme gave audiences Rachel Getting Married,
with its melodramaitc depiction of the pre-wedding battle royale
between two sisters and complex relationship matrix that weaves among
the larger clan and nearly derails the celebration. There would be blood
drawn, but there would also be absolution and an inevitable resolution
for all parties. Dogmatic director Lars von Trier artfully proposes no
to let you in on a little secret that helps me to define just how
special a year in film has been. If a narrative or thematic thread
emerges, in particular one that laces through the films that end up
earning the top spots on my Top 10, then I have to rank the year in
question as one of the greats.
It irks me to go into a video store that
has separate sections for “dramas,” “comedies,” “action” and then,
somewhere way in the back, “documentaries.” (Blockbuster calls them
“special interest.”) A good documentary can have every bit the drama,
comedy, action, romance, etc., of a fictional film. Often, more.
The Swedish translation of the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy is Men Who Hate Women,
and the 2009 Niels Arden Oplev adaptation made sure to lay that hatred
bare, introducing audiences to the Vanger clan, a Swedish industrial
family of the first order with deep and long ties to the Nazis and
unhealthy animosity for any with sympathies aligned alongside the better
nature of man or God.
One of the most frustrating things about
movies — good movies, with quality actors playing interesting characters
— is that they too often resort to clichéd endings to wrap up their
stories. That’s why it’s refreshing to see that 2011 brought us a spate
of movies with quizzical, ambiguous endings.
Several performers were working overtime in 2011. Brad Pitt planted The Tree of Life, then scored with Moneyball and even had time to lend vocal support to Happy Feet 2. George Clooney multi-hyphenated himself as co-writer/director/co-star of The Ides of March and then vacationed as a mere performer in The Descendants.