Archive for February, 2012

‘A Separation’ Director Asghar Farhadi Plea for Peace

Amid hullabaloo about Angeline Jolie’s leg, the high-flying exploits of Circus du Soleil, and Octavia Spencer’s tearful trip to the podium was a speech that actually has some import beyond the rarified world of Tinsel Town. When Iranian director Asghar Farhadi accepted the best foreign language award for “A Separation,” — which, by the way, is a masterpiece — he inserted himself in an increasingly rancorous geo-political debate. From a hand-written note, the director read the following: Continue reading ‘‘A Separation’ Director Asghar Farhadi Plea for Peace’

Billy Crystal Offers Stale Schtick at the Oscars

Billy Crystal returned last night for the ninth time to host the Oscars. The ceremony was given a retro “Going to the movies” theme, and much of the comedian’s schtick seemed to match that sentiment. With a classless Jonah-Hill-has-a-weight-problem zinger, one too many Bar Mitzvah jokes, and a dreadful singing number, Crystal just seemed stale.

Overall, this year’s show had a strangely anxious tone to it. There were rambling montages that seemed to have little point other than to remind audiences that movies are awesome, along with celebrity testimonials explaining why movies are awesome. With filmgoers becoming more and more comfortable with downloading, legally and illegally, their favorites onto their iPhones, Hollywood’s fear of a music-industry-style collapse was palpable. Given that, Crystal’s presence was no doubt comforting to academy members. Continue reading ‘Billy Crystal Offers Stale Schtick at the Oscars’

Indie Roundup: ‘Bullhead’

If you see only one movie about the Belgian bovine hormone mafia this year, make it “Bullhead.”

The film, which was nominated for a best-foreign language Oscar, opens with a tough in a leather jacket intimidating a terrified citizen. Only instead of taking place in some blighted bodega, the shakedown happens in a rustic Flemish cattle farm. And instead of demanding protection money, the thug, Jacky Venamersenille (Matthias Schoenaerts), is bullying the farmer into juicing his cattle with illegal steroids. Jacky is a hulking beast of a man who not only pushes the stuff but also dopes himself up with a bewildering variety of growth hormones. The reason why becomes horrifically clear as the movie’s plot unfolds. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Bullhead’’

Indie Roundup: ‘In Darkness’

As the events of World War II slide deeper into the past — its youngest veterans are now in their late 80s — filmmakers continue look to that impossibly vast historical canvas to either mythologize (“Inglourious Basterds”) or, more frequently, to remember (“Flags of Our Fathers,” “Defiance,” “City of Life and Death”). The most recent entry to this growing list is Agnieszka Holland’s latest movie, “In Darkness,” which was nominated for a best-foreign-language Oscar. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘In Darkness’’

Indie Roundup: ‘Kill List’

British director Ben Wheatley’s latest movie, “Kill List,” starts out as a claustrophobic domestic drama that at first blush seems something out of a Ken Loach movie. Jay (Neil Maskell) — the sort of guy you might see at the end of the bar at the local pub — has been out of work for 8 months and the money is starting to run out, something that his wife, Shel (MyAnna Buring), is not shy about pointing out. Jay proves to have a volcanic temper and little in the way of impulse control; in a botched trip to the grocery store, he buys 10 bottles of wine but fails to get the one item that was absolutely needed: toilet paper. This section of the film has a very loose, improvised feel to it, which grounds the movie in the mundane. Yet through editing and framing — the camera always feels just a little too close for comfort — Wheatley creates this eerie undercurrent. This subtle, deft layering of the quotidian and the creepy pays dividends later when the movie starts getting very, very strange. Continue reading ‘Indie Roundup: ‘Kill List’’


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