Friday, November 27, 2009

Recommended Reading (The Fox & The Road)

Variety is the name of the game this week as I take on The Road and Fantastic Mr Fox.

Both are based on beloved books. Of the two I think Fantastic Mr. Fox is more successful.
From the beginning to the end this is a movie brimming with life. Even though the characters are animated, the little fur-covered marionettes dance and sing, laugh and smirk. Like the best kind of kids film Mr. Fox doesn't condescend to his audience. Director Wes Anderson treats all his characters with respect and that gives them a depth we don't often see in the genre.

You may remember there was a bit of ruckus a while ago about the production. Some folks in the animation studio were annoyed about the auteur directing the action "via email." While that may be true the fact is much of what makes Fox so charming is due to Anderson's insistence; His directing style, his focus on old-school animation techniques, even down to the way they recorded the voice actors. If you want to see more watch this clip from

As far as The Road goes, let me say this. Viggo Mortensen is amazing as the Father. One of the great actors of his generation I think. The movie is as stark as the source material but seems to lack a little of the poetry of the novel. Part of the problem may be the power of the images. How can author Cormac McCarthy's dialogue compete with those pictures of the crumpled hydro towers and ash-covered highways?

Before you go see The Road may I recommend you read this fantastic interview with author Cormac McCarthy and director John Hillcoat. You'll learn where the relationship between the father and son began and that not even the McCarthy knows why the world ends.

Also, before John Hillcoat took on The Road he gave us one of the decade's best westerns: The Proposition. An Aussie tale of rough justice set in the outback. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yay for Yuri (2012)

So I liked 2012. (mild spoilers follow)

I know it's disaster porn of the highest order, the characters are as paper-thin as the buildings appear to be and the dialogue is atrocious. But come on... no one's going to this one for memorable moments. We're going to watch big things fall down and go boom.

And measuring 2012 on the boom-a-meter it gets an 9.5 out of 10. Until someone makes the movie where Earth goes kablooey Emmerich takes the prize for mind-numbing spectacle.

And as is the disaster-film tradition there are a couple campy performances to savor.
Yes there's John Cusack, who does the usual Cusack. It was kind of the producers to allow him to play a writer who wears black the entire time, thereby allowing us to believe in someway he's still the guy from High Fidelity/Say Anything.

But a little-known Croatian actor steals the show. His name is Zlatko Buric and he plays Yuri, the Russian billionaire Cusack's character just happens to work for. Zlatko has a voice like a bass woofer with a vodka-soaked accent to match. Lots of fun.

Also hats off to Tom McCarthy. You know when you're playing the guy competing against John Cusack you're not long for this earth. But considering he's playing a plastic surgeon from Los Angeles he's surprising likable. (If you're trying to place Tom, think of The Wire and don't forget he directed The Visitor.)

Sympathy for the Devil

Antichrist by Lars von Trier opens today. It's obvious from the interviews that the director was in a disturbed state when he made this film. A nervous breakdown perhaps.
This is certainly a shocking film filled with moments of horrific violence and yes mutilation. Let me just say this poster is a good hint of things to come.

Antichrist may be a lot of things, but it isn't mindless. Instead of gore for gore's sake, there is a seed to the sickness. A monster driving the mutilation. I won't call Antichrist a masterpiece, but it is art. Art can be disturbing, unsettling and at times even repulsive. Although it can be difficult to watch, Lars von Trier deserves credit for seeing his demented vision through. This is story about sickness told by an auteur in full command of his medium. (And for the guy who gave us the Dogme movement this is filled with lush luxurious cinematography.)

I would never, never recommend this to a broad audience, and if you are the squeamish type stay far far away. But there are some rewards there for those who enjoy bold filmmaking. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You Should See

I'm waiting for a study that shows the impact that twitter has on blogging. Needless to say things have been sparse at GOF central. But there's a bounty of beautiful, moving films out there for those who want them. Here's a rundown of some fine films in theatres.

* * *

A Christmas Carol: Jim Carrey is great as Scrooge and the animation is amazing. A surprising faithful and dark morality tale updated with spine-tingling visuals. A little overboard in the thrill-ride department, but worth it for the dose of Dickens.

A Serious Man: See it now so you wont be surprised when it cleans up at the Oscars. The Coen Brothers best film in years. A return to the absurdity of Barton Fink. A movie that takes no prisoners.

An Education: It's hard not to watch Carey Mulligan and not think of Audrey Hepburn. She has the grace and maturity of woman beyond her years. A great little time capsule of Britain before the Beatles.

The Damned United: Michael Sheen scores again as Britain's much loved footie coach Brian Clough. Script by Peter Morgan who gaves us The Queen and has another winner here. Don't be put off if you're not a soccer fan, this is more about buddies than sports. Clough is a classic character, brilliant, cocky and fatally flawed.

Good Hair: Chris Rock brings us a surprisingly honest conversation about being Black in America and it all starts with hair. Plus, why is Ice-T so funny?


(Not recommended would include Amelia & The Men Who Stare at Goats.)