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.
I get a bit jittery come December. A nervous tick sets in. An anxiety rests deep in the gut. It’s time to pick the best DVD releases of the year. And I have no idea what to choose. Not for lack of selections, of course.
It is an oft-repeated refrain that the
movie industry has settled into what many in the critical circles have
deemed lazy practices and thinking, returning to proven ground with a
flood of remakes from the (not always so distant) past. The thought
process behind remakes is obvious and full of appeal because it is about
embracing that feeling of nostalgia.
long-anticipated return to the filmmaking scene is another slanted,
deadpan comedy about the ways in which a relatively ordinary man’s life
can go terribly off course. CityBeat recently phoned the 20-year-old actress Shailene Woodley, who plays 17-year-old Alexandra in the film, to discuss the experience of
making The Descendants.
Hugo, Scorsese has completely indulged his inner child, the
wildly imaginative free spirit in love with the dawn of the age of
moving pictures, that initial time of wonder and magic, when children
and adults found themselves ensorcelled by the spells and tricks of
showmen like George Melies (Ben Kingsley) who dreamed of life under
the sea and rocket ships blasting off and landing in the eye of the
man on the moon.
The old cynic in me, the
one never raised to believe in the commercial or the elfin hokum of
the season, fought valiantly, but thanks to the fantastically lively
British voices and the rollicking international incident caused by a
team of flying reindeer, I found myself glad that Arthur Christmas
cared enough to make this early delivery.