Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Marathon's End: Final Oscar Predictions

Once it gets to this stage of awards season, much has already been decided; winners have already been crowned, and although people may tell you otherwise, the chance of an upset in the major categories is relatively tiny. "The Artist" will win Best Picture and Michel Hazanavicius will win Best Director, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, primarily because there isn't a legitimate opponent beyond pockets of support for "The Help" and also because it encompasses everything the Oscars stand for: traditional, crafted, and celebratory of cinema.

At this stage, Jean Dujardin losing the Best Actor Oscar would be a massive upset, but Meryl Streep triumphing over Viola Davis probably less of one, given that only one black actress has ever won in the category, and the Academy's long-standing affection for biographical performances. What gives Davis the edge is the popularity of "The Help" -- with audiences, guilds, and many critics -- and the sympathies associated with her character. The Supporting categories look sewn up, since Spencer and Plummer have been cleaning up in all of the precursors.

The screenplay categories look less locked, with "The Artist" and "Midnight in Paris" duelling it out on the Original side, and "The Descendants" facing off against the might of Sorkin and Zailian's "Moneyball" in Adapted. The Best Picture winner usually wins for its script, but I imagine that affection for Woody Allen's crowned comeback will see voters tick the box for his film, which won't win in any other category, and that the sole prize for Alexander Payne's glum Hawaiian adventure will happen here, too, despite it being far less complex or bracing than its main competitor.

Other iffy categories include Best Costume Design, which could represent an Oscar win for Madonna's critically-trounced "W.E," if its win with the Costume Designers Guild translates, but could also easily go to "Anonymous," "Jane Eyre," or three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell for "Hugo." But I think this prize might go to "The Artist," on the coat-tails of its overall popularity, and for its undeniably well-tailored resurrection of Hollywood's golden age. I'm throwing my hands up where the sound categories are concerned, and wondering whether a bone will be thrown to "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which, with five nominations, is surely a popular enough film to want to reward somewhere. The Visual Effects Oscar rarely goes to a Best Picture nominee, but if "The Golden Compass" can beat "Transformers," I think Martin Scorsese's film can also manage it.

I'm going to justify the possibility of heavily-favoured critical darling  "A Separation" losing the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar to Agnieska Holland's "In Darkness," which has strong holocaust themes (often attractive to AMPAS) and a filmmaker behind it with an Academy-endorsed pedigree. I also think that "A Separation" is at a slight disadvantage with regard to America's strained political relationship with the Middle East, despite the film's internal critique of Iran.

That's all that's left to say, except that, wherever you are tomorrow night, and whatever you're drinking, try not to be too disappointed when your favourite loses. It's often best to treat the Academy's better decisions like a toddler using a potty, or a teenager making their bed in the morning. We're primed for disappointment when they turn around and do something stupid at the next available opportunity. Personally, this set of winners (especially in the acting department) would represent a great list of awardees to me, but it won't please everyone. When Emmanuel Lubezki loses Best Cinematography again, take a leaf out of Norman Maine's book. Stand upright, throw back a drink, and let the waves wash over you.


Best Picture: "The Artist" 

(Alt: "The Help")

Best Actress: Viola Davis, "The Help"
(Alt: Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady")

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
(Alt: George Clooney, "The Descendants")

Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
(Alt: Berenice Bejo, "The Artist")

Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
(Alt: Max von Sydow, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close")

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicus, "The Artist"
(Alt: Martin Scorsese, "Hugo")

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
(Alt: Michel Hazanivicius, "The Artist")

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
(Alt: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin, "Moneyball")

Best Foreign Feature: "In Darkness" (Poland)
(Alt: "A Separation" (Iran))

Best Animated Feature: "Rango"
(Alt: "Chico & Rita")

Art Direction: "Hugo"
(Alt: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2")

Cinematography: "The Tree of Life"
(Alt: "Hugo")

Costume Design: "The Artist"
(Alt: "W.E.")

Documentary Feature: "Hell and Back Again"
(Alt: "Undefeated")

Documentary Short Subject: "Saving Face"
(Alt: "The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom")

Film Editing: "The Artist"
(Alt: "The Descendants")

Makeup: "The Iron Lady"

Original Score: "The Artist"
(Alt: "War Horse")

Original Song: 'Man or Muppet' from "The Muppets"

Sound Editing: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
(Alt: "Hugo")

Sound Mixing: "Hugo"
(Alt: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo")

Visual Effects: "Hugo"
(Alt: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes")

Short Film (Animated): "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
(Alt: "A Morning Stroll")

Short Film (Live Action): "Tuba Atlantic"
(Alt: "The Shore")

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2011's Individual Standouts

The *best of the best from 2011...

*winners in bold


Nuri Bilge Ceylan, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”
Ulrich Köhler, “Sleeping Sickness”
Kenneth Lonergan, “Margaret”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Mike Mills, “Beginners”

FINALISTS: Lars Von Trier, “Melancholia”; Steven Spielberg, “The Adventures of Tintin”; Kelly Reichardt, “Meek’s Cutoff"; Bennett Miller, “Moneyball”; Joe Wright, “Hanna”; Oren Moverman, “Rampart”; Andrew Haigh, “Weekend”; Julia Leigh, “Sleeping Beauty”; 

NOTEWORTHY: Ben Wheatley, “Kill List”; Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”; Nicholas Winding Refn, “Drive”; Steve James, “The Interrupters”


Olivia Colman, “Tyrannosaur”
Kirsten Dunst, “Melancholia”
Liana Liberato, “Trust”
Anna Paquin, “Margaret”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

FINALISTS: Adepero Oduye, “Pariah”; Zoe Heran, “Tomboy”; Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”; Emily Browning, “Sleeping Beauty”; Mia Wasikowska, “Jane Eyre”; Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”; Kristen Wiig, “Bridesmaids”; Viola Davis, “The Help” 

NOTEWORTHY: Felicity Jones, “Like Crazy”; Keira Knightley, “A Dangerous Method”; Robin Wright, “The Conspirator”; Felicity Jones, “Chalet Girl”; Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Melancholia”; Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”; Saoirse Ronan, “Hanna”; Elena Anaya, “The Skin I Live In”


Woody Harrelson, “Rampart”
Ewan McGregor, “Beginners”
Chris New, “Weekend”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”
Owen Wilson, “Midnight in Paris”

FINALISTS: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”; Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”; Tom Cullen, “Weekend”; Matthew McConaughey, “The Lincoln Lawyer”; Gary Oldman, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”; Peyman Mooadi, “A Separation”

NOTEWORTHY: Jean-Christophe Folly, “Sleeping Sickness”; Pierre Bokma, “Sleeping Sickness”; Michael Fassbender, Shame”; Brendan Gleeson, “The Guard”; Neil Maskell, "Kill List"; Mel Gibson, “The Beaver”; Steve Carrell, “Crazy Stupid Love”; Rob Brydon, “The Trip”; Bill Nighy, “Page Eight”


Jeannie Berlin, “Margaret”
Melanie Laurent, “Beginners”
Lin Dan Pham, “Adrift”
Vanessa Redgrave, “Coriolanus”
Robin Wright, “Rampart”

FINALISTS: Brie Larson, “Rampart; Sareh Bayat, “A Separation”; Maria Doyle Kennedy, “Albert Nobbs”; Jessica Chastain, “The Help”; Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”; Claire Sloma, “The Myth of the American Sleepover”; Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”; Pernell Walker, “Pariah”

NOTEWORTHY: J. Smith Cameron, "Margaret"; Cate Blanchett, “Hanna”; Sarah Paulson, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”; Emma Stone, “Crazy Stupid Love”; Louise Harris, “Snowtown”; Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”; Jessica Chastain, “The Tree of Life”; Gwyneth Paltrow, “Contagion”; Kim Wayans, “Pariah”;


Bruce Greenwood, “Meek’s Cutoff”
Daniel Henshall, “Snowtown”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior"
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Michael Smiley, “Kill List”

FINALISTS: Muhammet Uzuner, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”; Brad Pitt, “The Tree of Life”; Albert Brooks, “Drive”; John Hurt, “Page Eight”; Tom Hardy, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”;

NOTEWORTHY:  Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”; Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Ides of March”; Shahab Hosseini, “A Separation”; Shea Wigham, “Take Shelter”; Bobby Canavale, “Win Win”; Ben Kingsley, “Hugo”; Paul Giamatti, “The Ides of March”; Kieran Culkin, “Margaret”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Review: The Innkeepers (2012)

Directed by Ti West
Starring: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
Grade: C+

Ti West’s burgeoning cult status as a palatable, back-to-basics horror auteur is tried and tested again with “The Innkeepers,” an original script penned by West himself, one which feels like an apotheosis of the ghost story novella. West's well-regarded “House of the Devil” recalled the sinister machinations of Hammer Horror, bringing with it the trepidation of a playful myth growing into a perilous, inescapable reality. It may seem as if we see these stories told regularly, but never in so pure and devotedly emulative a form as in West’s odes to a bygone era, his approach proffering chills borne of simple visual techniques and a sense of storytelling skill absent from the conventions of the popular Gorenography and Docu-horror sub-genres. His methods borrow more from the moralistic fiber and literary modesty of HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt,” not overtly camp but indebted to Stephen King’s slow-burn tendencies.

Of the many interdictions associated with haunted house spooks, the world of fictional horror stresses that, when a character messes with artifacts of cultural or traditional value, coaxing dead spirits from their slumber for kicks, thrills or an ego boost, this is akin to a death wish. While the premise of “The Innkeepers” doesn't quite go as far as stating that the foreclosed property’s owners are paving paradise to put up a parking lot (the Yankee Pedlar Inn itself is grubby, low-rent, and unmemorable), the building’s infamous history remains a key focal point for Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), the two staff entrusted with running this grotty, decaying hotel through to its imminent demolition. Predictably, this becomes a tougher task than merely flashing a smile and reaching for a room key, as, together with a past-prime actress convinced she has psychic abilities ('80s pin-up girl Kelly McGillis), the occupants confront the spirits intent on seeing the hotel’s final days out with a bang.

As proven by Sam Raimi’s “Drag Me to Hell,” the horror genre doesn’t necessarily require its heroines to be likable—or the fate of their battle for survival even vital—to assert a compelling narrative. Casting Paxton as the central character Claire has mixed results, her slip-of-a-thing dudette demeanor working with West’s derision of the paranormal amateur as foolhardy and entirely worthy of punishment, but otherwise flimsy as the film’s figurehead. Claire’s own personal hangups are touched upon in a scene where McGillis’s Leanne berates her on the insignificance of her life goals—to which Paxton’s bizarre reaction resembles the look of a pre-pubescent boy, had you just told him to turn his X-Box off and go to bed—but West fails to provide a foothold for this character within the dramatic framework, restricting an element of an arc or parable for Claire that feels needed to strengthen a lack of overall intensity.

West’s slow-burn approach is unsettling, but the suspense is strenuous in execution, “The Innkeepers” admirably resisting shock tactics until the gruesome horror of its final third, but nevertheless meek as a dramatic showcase. Much more concerned with existential bleakness, the film’s power of suggestion is valuably evident in the way in which it represents transition (of idealism-realism, fame-obscurity, and life-afterlife) through the suspended status of its setting, and an inherent uncertainty in the characters about their future. And it's all the more impressive for the ease with which it escapes parodic, self-conscious schematics, detailing the confluence of skepticism and curiosity in these people, successfully blending personal losses with the grander death of heritage through a tangibly crumbling aesthetic.

The literary feel of the film extends to an epilogue, in which dramatic about-turns threaten to arise but never quite make it into West’s heady denouement. It’s an indicative failure of this budding filmmaker’s inability to commit to the interesting beats of the narrative, or capitalize upon a genuinely intriguing setup. As it stands, there’s little to unravel in “The Innkeepers” but much to absorb, its strikingly astute genre mechanics a fundamental qualification of competence and direction. So why does it feel like such a missed opportunity? Say what you will for the allure of supernatural terror; here it gives way to the fear of empty existences and lonely corridors, a somewhat chilling prospect for a paranormal thriller, but hardly the bombastic feature that would make “The Innkeepers” crucially memorable. Like a navigating spirit, it remains largely anonymous, and West’s quest for his own horror classic lives on.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Honourable Mentions, Worst of the Year, and Notes on Eligibility

My rule on eligibility:
A film is classed as belonging to the year in which it was first theatrically released, in any country. 
This rule exists to aid consistency from year to year, and also to avoid discounting films which don't get a release in either the UK or the USA. And there are many festival films to which that applies, including honourable mention "Adrift" ("Choi Voi") below, which I wouldn't have been able to include had it not been picked up by a French distributor.

My Top Ten Films of 2011

1.       “The Tree of Life”/Terrence Malick
2.      “Margaret”/Kenneth Lonergan
3.      “Beginners”/ Mike Mills
4.      “Once Upon a Time In Anatolia/Nuri Bilge Ceylan
5.      “Sleeping Sickness”/Ulrich Köhler
6.      “Weekend”/Andrew Haigh
7.      “Meek’s Cutoff”/Kelly Reichardt
8.      “The Interrupters”/Steve James
9.      “Melancholia”/Lars Von Trier
10.  “Rampart”/Oren Moverman

Special Mention: “Hanna,” which flirts with genius in so many ways, but is prevented from really getting there through an iffy approach to backstory. On another day of compiling these lists, I might have included it in my ten.

Honourable Mentions: The superbly composed “Moneyball” offers a stellar average, but doesn’t quite hit for the cycle, while “Snowtown” hits for all it has and is largely the better for it. Brit horror flick “Kill List” chews you up, spits you out, and neglects to wipe its mouth afterwards, as the dense, upper-crust charms of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” drool for two-plus hours. Super clever “The Artist” revitalises ailing memories with gravitas;  “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” proves that Tom Cruise can still be fun, and that action cinema can still be coherent, while the combined efforts of miniature gems “Tomboy,” “Pariah,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and the finally-released Korean film “Adrift” all offer worthwhile reflections on female sexuality.

And then I suppose you can make a case for the films people loved but I didn’t quite get, like “Drive,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “Attack the Block,” and maybe even “A Separation” (despite its unyielding obsession with portioning off blame.) Then there are films like “The Adventures of Tintin,” which folks seemed to outright hate but I quite liked (you can add “The Future” and “Young Adult” to that list, too) and the films that sat nicely with me but never troubled the top tier of this list: I’m looking at you, “Jane Eyre,” “The Kid with a Bike,” “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” “We Have a Pope,” and “Rango,” which is comfortably the best animated film of a disappointing 2011 slate.

The worst films I saw this year* are: “Horrible Bosses,” which doesn’t even attempt to hide its racism and homophobia and still manages to get good reviews. What gives?! “The Resident” wins awards for ‘film most stuck in the early nineties’ and ‘film with the most pointless flashback sequence,’ while “Albert Nobbs” (Oscars be damned!) has to rank among the worst films of the year for that bizarre tragicomic finale alone. “The Green Lantern” could have done without the presence of Ryan Reynolds, whereas I’d have welcome him raising the floppy blancmange that was “Chalet Girl” with those monster abs of his. Alas, both of them died a death.
*Disclaimer: these are most likely not the worst five films of the year, since I don’t subject myself to such dreck as “Jack and Jill,” “Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon” and “The Change-Up.”

Top Ten Films of 2011: #1

Directed by Terrence Malick 
Starring: Hunter McCracken, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn 

This year’s Palme D’Or winner, “The Tree of Life,” is simply what we live for, barely encased in one-hundred-and-forty minutes of ornate celluloid majesty, a religious, romantically sculpted feast of stanzas on faith, loss, and acceptance; a swirling vortex of memories churning up bursts of profound frailty and unspoken feeling. Its familial setup referenced sparingly, Malick’s film articulates the different stages of maturity we go through (infancy, adolescence, parenthood, the point at which one’s own mortality becomes a tangible, horrifying reality) with bracing symbolism, and an extent of visionary flair which only really he can bring to the screen. Reflecting upon 2011 as a strong year for cinema, I just couldn’t see past the scale, ambition, and resounding success of this modern masterpiece.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Top Ten Films of 2011: #2

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Anna Paquin, Jeannie Berlin, J. Smith Cameron, Matt Damon, Kieran Culkin, Alison Janney

To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a film in quite some time which expresses the strain of transition with the same liberating surge of tonal volatility as “Margaret” does, blackly comic to rich effect but also a bitterly melancholic lament for 20th Century New York. Lonergan’s audacious filmmaking chronicles one girl’s grief, and how that girl represents a generation searching for answers, self-purpose, and a sense of righteousness, and expresses how we as people revolve on our own axes as the earth rotates. Despite being firmly committed to one character, the film infringes upon the realm of meta-narrative works such as Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” in its embrace of sprawling emotional mess as a commentary on grander philosophies and concerns. To think this nearly never saw the light of day is frightening: The road to release may have been an arduous and rocky one for “Margaret,” but boy was it worth the wait.

Top Ten Films of 2011: #3

Directed by Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent, Goran Visjnic 

One of the most aptly-titled films of the year, Mike Mills' "Beginners" is all about learning how to start afresh, and how to confront old mistakes through exploring new opportunities. A personal, part-biographical tale centred upon a man with a gay, terminally-ill father, the film evokes a feeling of loss in its characters without becoming cloying or overly-sentimental, intricately founding relationships which let us into the contrasting characters’ outlooks on love and commitment. “Beginners” recognises that time has its own wicked brand of humour, but that each pocket of it is an archive of our life – a precious reminder that we are what we make of ourselves. The film’s inherent lack of judgment offers a gorgeous plane of thought upon which to view the world, for which we should be very grateful.

Top Ten Films of 2011: #4

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan 
Starring: Yilmaz Erdogan, Muhammet Uzuner, Firat Tanis 

From “Taste of Cherry” grain, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s lengthy meditative tale of murder and discovery unfolds upon sparse terrain, and with an even sparser sense of the motivations and aims behind the crime committed. Officers combing countryside through routine and duty find themselves altered during this 160-minute story of one night’s events, with “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” becoming less of a procedural crime drama than an evaluation of the human psyche. While Ceylan’s “Climates” kept us at a frustrating distance from its characters, this film draws us in, alluding to nature’s enveloping power over the human conscious without making these concerned men into objects or ciphers. An impending sense of dread befalls them, and their urge to reach a conclusion becomes tempered, fraught, and grievous. Ceylan fills this bronze landscape with pathos, and makes its weary visitors feel so imposed upon by the bigger picture – subservient to emotion, temptation, and the moment.

Top Ten Films of 2011: #5

Directed by Ulrich Köhler 
Starring: Pierre Bokma, Jean-Christophe Folly, Jenny Schily 

 The life of the third-world missionary has been well-documented on film, usually through focusing on one particular man and his struggle with local authorities. This year's "Sleeping Sickness," whose director Ulrich Köhler won Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear last February, chooses to focus on two men entering this world at different points in time, up to the moment where their paths eventually cross. The film isn't as structured as definitely as it sounds, picking up where it leaves off with Pierre Bokma and resuming with Jean Christophe Folly’s Alex, a doctor seeking to improve the treatment of Sleeping Sickness in deepest Africa. With Alex’s story of wholesome promise comes uncertainty, rumination, and disconnection. When does isolation cease to be selfless? Does dedication become a sickness of its own? Like lichen, the film creeps up and lays these questions in your lap just as it’s drawing to a close, allowing bewilderment to crystallise into psychological wealth, and eventually into a cyclical sense of serenity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Films of 2011: #6

Directed by Andrew Haigh 
Starring: Tom Cullen, Chris New 

It’s rare that a film like “Weekend,” as excitable as it is about the prospect of love, manages to call so many minuscule creative decisions on-the-nose. Only shown up in breaths where it needs to comment on the idealism (or lack thereof) of its two male characters, its floridness is a precious attribute, and Haigh’s subdued ease towards letting nature take its course helps the interaction between Cullen and New to exude pangs of promise and authenticity. I’d be lying if I insisted that the sexuality of the characters wasn't a part of my reason for being so fond of “Weekend,” but the joys of romantic cinema (and those rare films which escape cliché) are about belief, and connecting with emotional beats. The ones in Haigh’s film are painstakingly real, which makes it one of the most beautiful of the year.

Top Ten Films of 2011: #7

Directed by Kelly Reichardt 
Starring: Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Zoe Kazan

Facing the harsh practicalities of having to transport their life’s worth across unfamiliar, unforgiving terrain, the simmering band of travellers in Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff” are afraid to speak the truth. An organic account of why discovery may not represent an endeavour worth pursuing, it’s safe to say that John Wayne would not have relished Reichardt’s evocative portrait of the old West, a subversion of the genre’s common use of the natural mystique as alluring or adventurous, her lingering hand providing a permanence of setting; a patient, yet all the more frightening realm of unknown. She coaxes an assimilating sense of dread from a canny ensemble, finely detailing how disorientation colours trust, fragments alliances, distorts rationale, and curtails progress, and documents a journey concerning themes of transition, faith, and inherent resistance with worldly prowess.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Top Ten Films of 2011: #8

Directed by Steve James 
Starring: Ameena Matthews, Jeff Fort, Cobe Williams 

The winds of change blow steady yet penetrate little in Steve James’ “The Interrupters,” no matter how hard the interventionist group at the centre of this documentary about Chicago gang warfare endeavour to achieve a ceasefire. A seasonal structure sees attempts to promote peace and understanding within the city’s most poverty-stricken areas occur over the course of a single year, in which members of this community struggle with containing their aggression. As with “Hoop Dreams” James displays a valuable ability to be concessive to the characters, while also working from the inside out to facilitate the film’s real, gritty themes to best articulate their relevance in today’s national (if not global) context. “The Interrupters” is neither obvious nor preachy, and remains tremendously impacting as a cross-cultural text and seminal source for compassion.

Top Ten Films of 2011: #9

Directed by Lars Von Trier 
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling 

It takes a chilly, derisive soul like Lars Von Trier’s to make a film like “Melancholia,” which embodies such a bleak sense of finality through the displacement of its central character Justine, and through her restless perplexion with civilisation. Married in metaphor, the two-part narrative elects to focus on the utmost fears of two sisters, and their contrasting outlook towards the prospect of the earth dying before their very eyes. Von Trier’s dramatic bravura offers an operatic, meditative exploration of existence, shamelessly grandiose and resoundingly bitter in juxtaposing mortality as both a precious commodity and a product of necessary evolution. His ideology dominates this cinematic supernova of provocation, the film’s wrenching, devastating climax otherwise euphoric in its resignation, and committed to rendering its troubled heroine thoroughly victorious.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top Ten Films of 2011: #10

Directed by Oren Moverman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Robin Wright, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Brie Larson, Anne Heche, Cynthia Nixon, Ice Cube

As a force of nature Woody Harrelson determines so much of “Rampart’s” success – his tone altering wildly with the unravelling rhythms of the script, his enticing bravado lashing at you and then suddenly wearing thin. He can be both funny and tragic in the same breath, imbalanced as an enforcer and completely ineffective as a patriarch. He’s a dangerous racist cop whose threat remains primarily self-destructive, and he’s the perfect antihero for this movie. Moverman is shier to confront the sweaty politics of Texan authority than he was the military deadening of “The Messenger,” endeavouring to explore how crime can derive from and fuel control and self-preservation. Featuring a terrific performance from Robin Wright as Harrelson’s female-in-crises equivalent, “Rampart” asserts how people can become so easily blind to the scope beyond their own behaviour; how impulsivity, promiscuity, and sociopathic failure can engulf somebody whole. It’s a film which showcases Moverman’s early tendencies as a filmmaker to reach to the other side of prestige and its ingestible poisoned chalice. Why swallow the pressure to be perfect?