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There’s nothing quite like a Wes Anderson movie.

The writer/director has carved out an auteur space all his own, a space unlike that occupied by anyone else in American cinema. His films are exquisitely and meticulously constructed, so finely tuned and detailed that they play almost as kinetic dioramas. Each screen picture is built and presented just so, resulting in films packed with moments and images that linger in the memory.

“The French Dispatch” is Anderson’s latest, a film about a magazine intended to be an analog for The New Yorker. It makes total sense – the magazine shares many of Anderson’s tendencies toward specificity of presentation and an inherent preciousness that appeals to those of a certain mindset while also reading to others as pretention.

At any rate, that structural framework allows Anderson to do something he’s never really done before – an anthology film. And that separated story structure also allows him to pack even more talented and wildly famous performers than usual into this film’s 108 minutes or so, all while unspooling a trio of compelling tales, each of which is rich enough to hold up on its own as well as part of the larger whole.

Published in Movies
Monday, 25 October 2021 14:00

Fear is the mind-killer – ‘Dune’

Every once in a while, there is a movie experience that manages to transcend a lot of the traditional markers that define quality, however nebulously. Most films you watch, they’re relatively easy to parse – I liked it because X, I didn’t like it because Y, you know the drill. But occasionally, a film will come along that moves beyond those identifiers; your reasoning is still there, of course, but there’s also something fundamentally overwhelming about it.

“Dune” overwhelmed me.

The new film from director Denis Villeneuve – who also co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts (adapted from Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 sci-fi novel of the same name – or the first half or so anyway) is a sprawling, sand-strewn epic. It is a movie that unabashedly embraces not just the letter but the spirit of its source material, resulting in a deliberately-paced and utterly gorgeous film that captures the sheer scale of galactic intrigue while also delving into the psychological and sociological underpinnings that come when nobility takes different approaches to maintaining their humanity.

It’s a space opera, for sure, with plenty of familiar tropes of the genre at play. But the combination of Hebert’s interplay of eco-consciousness and political dynamics matched with the auteur’s eye of Villeneuve transforms “Dune” into something far more. It is a literal feast for the eyes, one of the most strikingly compelling visual blockbusters we’ve seen in years, all in service to a dense plot involving everything from galaxy-spanning empires to mind-expanding traditions to colonialism to learning what it means to lead.

Yeah – overwhelming is the right way to put it. And this is just the first part!

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 07 January 2020 12:46

‘Little Women,’ big feelings

No matter how voracious a cultural consumer we might be, the reality is that there’s just too much out there for anyone to experience it all. Too many books to read, to many songs to hear, too many films and plays and shows to watch. There will always be gaps.

For instance, I myself have a “Little Women”-shaped hole in my own cultural experience. Despite the relative ubiquity of Louisa Mae Alcott’s classic novel and its multitude of film and stage adaptations, I had never directly engaged with the story. I never read the novel, nor saw it on stage or screen. Yes, I had a very basic awareness due to its cultural presence, but it boiled down to basic timeframe, number of sisters and the plot point that Rachel spoils for Joey on an episode of “Friends.”

So I wondered what kind of experience I would have seeing this new “Little Women” cinematic adaptation. It comes courtesy of Greta Gerwig, who wrote the screenplay as well as directed, and features an absolutely stacked ensemble cast. Obviously, the odds were in favor of this being a good movie. But would my lack of familiarity hinder my enjoyment?

Turns out I worried for nothing, because not only is “Little Women” a good film, it is a GREAT film. It is masterfully constructed and beautifully composed, featuring a wonderful period aesthetic and absolutely incredible performances. It stays true to the truths of the material’s history while also finding ways to endow those truths with elements tied to our own modern world. It’s an incredible feat of filmmaking, one that is almost certainly even better than you think it is, no matter how good you believe the movie to be.

Published in Style
Friday, 01 December 2017 11:33

Learning to fly – ‘Lady Bird’

We’re going to go ahead and dispense with the formalities on this one. No need to bury the lede – “Lady Bird” is an absolutely exceptional film, one of the funniest, most honest, most genuine coming of age stories we’ve seen on the big screen in years.

Published in Movies

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