First thing's first: my girlfriend got a Twitter account and didn't want to try it alone, so I fucking caved and got one myself. You can read my 140-character-or-less thoughts @ASeriousDan. I haven't really found much use for it, except I'm posting a tweet (that's what they call it, right? "Posting a tweet"?) every time I watch a movie, with a mini-review and rating. I know, I know, what a perfect way to insightfully analyze film. Everyone else might as well just give up, I think I've reached the pinnacle of film criticism.
I did originally create this blog to talk about movies, so here are a few fast thoughts about some of the more remarkable recent films I've seen.
Debra Granik's Winter's Bone, about a teenage girl from the Ozarks searching for her missing meth dealer father before the state seizes their home, could have been a piece of miserablist poverty porn a la Precious Based On the Novel Push By Saffire. Instead, Granik crafted it into a skillful thriller and richly detailed slice of life. When the film first started, its desaturated color palette and handheld camera work had me worried it was going to be some sort of self-consciously gritty, self-important bit of Indie faux-realism, but for once this overused style works. As much as it is a film about a girl traveling to the depths of the meth underworld in a desperate bid to save her family, it's also a film about a specific time and place that creates a densely textured world without beating you over the head with it. A masterpiece of set design, it keeps finding all the right details, from the lizard cage in a drug dealer's trailer, to a little girl hopping around on her toy horse on the old trampoline stashed in her backyard. The film also signals Jennifer Lawrence, the lead, as an actress to keep tabs on. And more impressively it casts a whole new light on John Hawkes; known for playing twerps, here he gives a surprising turn as "Teardrop," an intimidating drug dealer who slowly reveals (just the slightest, mind you) amount of humanity when shit hits the fan.
Completely confounding to me was Alain Resnais's Wild Grass, but I mean that in a good way. It starts off something like a Jeunet film, a quirky fable about about a lonely dentist and a strange old man whose paths cross by chance, introducing all sorts of different plot strands that seem about to come together. Instead, the film pulls back layer after layer to reveal a bizarre creepiness under the light romantic comedy surface, and when the story finally "comes together," it is in a way that makes no sense and doesn't seem to answer anything. It's like the anti-Amelie. Like Resnais's Last Year at Marienbad, it almost seems like a self-conscious admission/analysis of its own impenetrability (albeit more playful and funny than that film) and an invitation to revel in its glorious artificiality, in this case a world of rich candy colors, flights of fancy and imagination, and energetic, show-offy camera work.
And of course I have to mention Inception. There's a lot you can (rightly) criticize about the film: it's depiction of dreams and the mind are almost perversely literal; Christopher Nolan still can't film a good shoot-out; with a few brief exceptions, the film wastes ample opportunities to deliver mindblowing visuals and/or surrealism. Yeah, I think Nolan is far too logical and not visually oriented enough to really make a movie about dreams. Instead, what he did was use his strengths in editing and story-craft to make a great heist/con movie style thriller. The "dream" motif is little more than a gimmick that allows Nolan to create some truly awesome set pieces, freeing him to play with time, space, gravity, parallel action, and so on. The last half of the movie is like one long suspense sequence (or more accurately, dozens of suspense sequences piled on top of each other and happening simultaneously) that doesn't let up for a second, even leaving us hanging when the film cuts to credits. It's not the best film I've seen so far this year (That would probably be either Winter's Bone or Bong Joon-Ho's Mother), but it is the most fun... but I'll have to see it again to determine if the film's nearly wall-to-wall exposition drags it down when you already know what's going on.