I skipped 2009 because there are too many key films from that year that I've yet to see. But I hope to have an entry soon. I will report here, in red, as I catch up with films from this year.
12/8/10 I watched Oren Peli's Paranormal Activity. I was impressed, most of all, by its level of restraint, particularly the fact that Peli uses little to no music at all in the film. And, of course, I'm impressed by the tremendous amount of financial success the film was able to find. But, I can't say I found it neither very scary nor very compelling.
12/12/10 I watched Jane Campion's Bright Star. No shortage of beauty here. Campion proves once again that she's among the most poetic of all directors. Just look at the way she deals with small moments, colors, nature, music, clothes, texture, and movement. I never fully connected to this one emotionally. But I did admire Campion's formal talents yet again.
12/25/10 I watched Bradley Rust Gray's The Exploding Girl. I greatly admire Gray's rigor - fixed frames, absence of music, and overall spareness. But ultimately its austerity, mixed with Kazan's somewhat limited expressiveness, kept me at an undesirable distance.
1/15/11 I watched Maren Ade's Everyone Else. Ade's to be commended for taking a very adult and patient look at a thirty something relationship. Much of it feels finely observed and at times, Ade really feels like she's getting into some particularly astute but rarely seen territory, for instance, the feelings of awkardness and inferiority that Gitti has towards Hans and his wife. But the end felt a little forced, and there were other times where I felt that either the film was overlong or directionless.
1/16/11 I watched Marco Bellocchio's Vincere. Formally, it's the kind of big, somewhat impersonal period piece that I find a little distancing. But the acting's tremendous, and Bellocchio definitely keeps you engaged, trying to keep up with the story and where it might possibly be unfolding.
1/16/11 I watched Fatih Akin's Soul Kitchen. Had me laughing out loud at times, and has a decent amount of spunk and nice energy. But after awhile, its insistence on straight entertainment had me a little bored.
1/18/11 I watched Stephane Brize's Mademoiselle Chambon. It's an adult, sophisticated film that puts you through, along with its characters, some uncomfortable situations and emotions. Interesting in some of the ground it covers, and its approach to these delicate, human quandaries. But some of it felt unrealistic, particularly the wife's complete unwillingness to challenge or question Jean. And the music also at times was a bit heavy and ever-present for me.
1/22/11 I watched Ilisa Barbash's and Lucien Castaing-Taylor's Sweetgrass. Beautifully filmed and fairly interesting to see this subculture at work. But I found the film to have little to no shape and a distance that after awhile grew a little tiresome.
1/23/11 I watched Sebastian Silva's The Maid. I liked how it never went where I was expecting, and the warmth is a nice addition in the last third of the movie. Unfortunately though, the first half or so is so unrelentingly rough that I never fully recovered.
1/25/11 I watched Lone Scherfig's An Education. The camera loves Mulligan, and the script often takes you in places unexpected. A bit anti-climatic at the end though and at times its lightness can almost be so trivial as to offend.
1/29/11 I watched Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. I rewatched this as I had seen it when it came out in the theater and wasn't as blown away by it as many of my peers. There are some fantastic moments, no doubt. But I still fail to see its towering greatness. It's very cold, at times not very entertaining, and simply not as satisfying as his first three features to me. Still I prefer it to everything since Jackie Brown.
3/20/11 I watched Rebecca Cammisa's Which Way Home. I was excited to see it as it bears some relationship to Peril. It's heartbreaking, for sure, but could use a little more structure and clarity. Some of it felt repetitious, while other sections were slightly confusing.
3/22/11 I watched Frazer Bradshaw's Everything Strange and New. Lackadaisical to the point of mostly feeling lifeless. I loved the scene where the two main characters watch the porno film. But otherwise, the monotonous tone left me feeling extremely detached.
4/20/11 I watched Corneliu Porumboiu's Police, Adjective. The new Romanian cinema has gotten much recent acclaim, and after seeing 4 Months... and this film it's easy to see why. What I find so striking about this film is its naturalism that runs in quite a different direction from the cinema of the Dardenne brothers. Porumboiu keeps the camera fixed in wide frames, as opposed to the handheld close-ups that seem to populate the work of the Dardenne brothers. Porumboiu also favors long takes in a way that we rarely see in the work of the Belgian filmmakers. The sense of humor of Porumboiu is quite effective and unexpected and other than perhaps the final ten minutes, I would have no hesitation declaring this one of the greatest of recent films, and a full-blown masterpiece.
5/12/11 I watched Damien Chazelle's Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. It captures the playfulness and regard for beauty of the French New Wave, but without the depth of feeling. The two leads are charming, but when almost anyone else is on screen, it becomes a little grating.
6/15/11 I watched Mia Hansen Love's Father of My Children. I really loved the naturalism and seeming effortlessness of the first act, but then once the family tried to keep the father's business going, it all felt a little more forced. Will be an interesting filmmaker to watch, as will the young actress playing Clemence.
8/26/11 I watched Ben Steinbauer's Winnebago Man. Surpisingly thoughtful about the cult of new celebrity being created by the likes of the internet and YouTube. And exactly the kind of brave filmmaking I want to find in the indy world. A filmmaker following his instinct and finding a moving, complex subject along the way.
10/14/11 I watched Pedro Almodovar's Broken Embraces. There are some interesting moments, and it's fairly obvious we're in a great filmmaker's hands. But I just wish Almodovar's style wasn't so slick and glossy; it seems to run counter to his noir ambitions.
10/5/12 I watched David Pomes' Cook County. I think it's one of the more impressive indies from my contemporaries. The twists at the end feel both unique and disturbing while all the time organic to what Pomes has laid out before. Mount is extremely impressive, and for the most part, this all feels quite lived-in. And that's about as big as any compliment I can pay.
6/8/14 I watched Mark Cousins' The Story of Film: An Odyssey: Cinema Today and the Future. Perhaps not as impressive as one would expect from the epic's final episode but I did enjoy his discussions on Lynch, Andersson, and Weerasethakul.
o/t: two cheers - (1) I’m thrilled to pieces that my “Ghost Story” — so-called because it’s an sf story — has been selected by Rich Horton for his The Year’s Best Science Fi...
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