A curious collection of filmmakers populates this week’s opening films — from well-established veterans to foreign masters to newbies to practitioners of Hollywood product.
Pedro Almodovar’s entertaining Broken Embraces is laden with the Spanish master’s now signature traits: a rich narrative rife with emotional u-turns and sex galore; a healthy splash of mood-altering color; beautiful females, including longtime muse Penelope Cruz; and ample technical chops informed by a clear nod to film history.
There’s no denying that Terry Gilliam has a vast imagination. But is that a good thing for his films and those who have to watch them?
The movie awards season kicked into overdrive Dec. 15 with the announcement of the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards nominations. I’m typically the first one to criticize the Globes’ often banal, stars-and-studio-influenced nominations, but this year’s crop seems more discerning than usual.
Clint Eastwood might be one of the most overrated directors currently making movies — don’t get me started on the heavy-handed melodramatics of 2004 Best Picture winner Million Dollar Baby — but you can’t call him lazy. The 79-year-old has made five movies since 2006, all of which can be admired for their thematic ambition and steadfast technical economy if not their narrative clumsiness and overly earnest emoting.
Many people have complained in recent years (including Scott Renshaw in his review of Everybody’s Fine below) that Robert DeNiro is not the actor he used to be. Maybe, maybe not.
Lee Daniels’ Precious, which won audience awards at both the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, has drawn largely positive reviews for its unblinking look at a 16-year-old black female dealing with myriad challenges, including but certainly not limited to a serious weight problem, a monstrous mother, an incestuous father and an ineffective school system.
Yet Precious also has its detractors, none more vociferous than The New York Press’ Armond White, a critic who has never shied away from airing his contrarian views.
I know we’re in the midst of an economic recession not seen since before The Wizard of Oz — but we only have one Hollywood studio release this week? And the one is 2012, the latest effects-driven, apocalyptic nonsense from Roland Emmerich?
Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko might be the cult film of the new millennium.
The young auteur’s moody opus struggled to find an audience amid a post-9/11 climate that apparently had little patience for the film's head-scratching, reality-shifting narrative and apocalyptic overtones — it received a limited theatrical release about a month after the terrorist attacks and quickly faded from view.
What’s up with the current vampire/zombie craze?
Yes, there’s always been interest in the genre and its preoccupation with the dark side of human nature and sexuality — from the books of Bram Stoker and Anne Rice to the movies of Bela Lugosi and George A. Romero to the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. No doubt blood and bare necks and sucking and such will always be alluring, but what is it about this cultural moment in time that has so many geeking out on the idea of the undead?
Spike Jonze is a curious case.
Born into the Spiegel mail-order catalog fortune (his given name is Adam Spiegel), the teenage Jonze found solace in the skateboard/BMX bike culture of the 1980s. A DIY-bred autodidact with an oddball sense of humor, Jonze’s filmmaking “career” kick-started with a series of crafty skateboard videos that caught the attention of the Beastie Boys, who eventually recruited him to direct their playful, refreshingly lo-fi video for 1994’s “Sabotage.”
A series of inventive music videos followed, all of which were informed by Jonze’s boundless imagination and complete indifference to the flashy, jump-cut-laden techniques that flooded other MTV fare.