Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Social Network (2010)

The meteoric rise of toxic nerd and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin cleverly uses two lawsuits brought by former associates of Zuckerberg as the framework for the flashback structure of the film. Sorkin's crackly, to-the-point dialog really catches the ear, the kind of talk that used to be commonplace in the movies, but is usually found only on television these days. Director David Fincher curtails his tendency towards green filters (many of his films look as if they were shot through a Heineken bottle) and presents a handsome looking film. Most of the buzz about this film was that it made Zuckerberg look like an asshole, I disagree. At most, he comes off irritating. It's hard not to root for him when his adversaries are a business partner who couldn't put together one friggin' meeting, and not one, but a pair of overprivileged jocks. A "Revenge of the Nerds" for the 21st century.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Film Unfinished (2010)

Documentary from director Yael Hersonski about the discovery of film canisters containing never before seen footage of the Warsaw ghetto. Holocaust documentaries are inherently dramatic and disturbing, but this one has a detached and analytical style that makes it more chilling than most. The raw footage, seemingly random images of the deplorable conditions, day to day goings on, and bizarre staged scenes like a woman seated at a vanity applying lipstick, are looked at in close detail until the truth starts to seep out. The project, carried out by the Third Reich mere months before the deportations to the death camps, curiously shows all of the horrors of the ghetto (curious because this was intended as propaganda, after all). This starts you thinking, why are they filming this, when they also stage scenes of Jews living "happily"? Also, the Nazis always left plenty of documentation on all their film projects, yet oddly, this one has no paper trail. The ultimate intent may not be known, but nauseating clues emerge when the filmmakers stage scenes of the "wealthy" ghetto inhabitants ignoring their fellow citizens starving in the street, as if to say "Look, even in the ghetto." Ultimately, Hersonski lets the footage speak for itself and leaves it to the viewer to solve the mystery. He also does something that gave me a nightmare when I went to sleep that night: He'll freeze on a face in the crowd, and just let you look into the eyes of a human being, and contemplate his fate.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Salt (2010)

Angelina Jolie in an action-packed bio-pic of the life of Waldo Salt. Actually, she plays underfed secret agent Evelyn Salt, able to take down hundreds of men three times her body weight. Not as bad as it could've been, probably due to the efforts of director Phillip Noyce. However, everything is left open and unresolved, sure as they were that there'd be a sequel. But I don't want to see the fucking sequel, and I need closure, dammit! About as good for you as salt, but ineffective in clearing ice from sidewalks and preventing goiters.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dogtooth (2010)

Oh my God this fucking movie. An earth-shattering achievement from Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, it tells the story of a married couple who keep their own children prisoners in their home well into adulthood, and completely shut out the outside world. Unlike almost anything I've ever seen, it's as if Michael Haneke made a Jim Jarmusch film. I've rarely seen a movie that juggles humor, horror, and beauty so effortlessly. The visuals are gauzey and elegant (Lanthimos curiously cuts the heads off people in many of his compositions, as if it were a photograph taken by a small child). The performances are so committed it can make you squirm. This is so sure-handed that at one point, there is a tribute to Jennifer Beals in "Flashdance", and it gave me a lump in my throat. It's so good and so challenging that for the life of me I can't figure out how this got a nomination for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. Love it or hate it, you're not likely to forget it.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Catfish (2010)

Documentary from Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman chronicling Schulman's brother and his Facebook friendship with an eight-year-old child prodigy. I smelled bullshit, but as the film progressed I started to think this may all be true. It claims to be all true, I'm still not sure. What makes me suspicious is the way the filmmakers stumbled into this incredible story. It turns creepy and sad rather quickly, but why would they start filming something that at first seemed rather mundane and innocent? Talk about good luck. I froze in my chair during certain moments, and there is an ick factor that days later is still impelling me to shower.