Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Last 10 Films I've Seen #2

When I go missing as I have for the past couple weeks, one can always blame life, work and postseason baseball. While all this has encumbered me lately, I have seen some good stuff. Last 10 films I've seen:

1. Drive(2011), Nicholas Winding Refn- People say its flashy and moody and all style over substance, but I call it the best film I've seen yet this year, pulsing with quiet emotion between Gosling and Mulligan and ferocious bouts of violence. I've seen it 3 times in the theater and its still not enough to satisfy my craving.

2. Everything Must Go (2011), Dan Rush- It's nice to see Will Ferrell dial down the comedy to a steady two or three, but this precocious film still manages to be treacly and a bit mundane.

3. Catching Hell (2011), Alex Gibney- See the Chicago Cubs implode during game six of the NLCS in 2003 and then watch as the crowd shifts blame to one unlucky spectator. Gibney's documentary about the Steve Bartman incident is insightful, perceptive and even manages to wrap its moral around a Biblical anecdote. Terrific stuff for baseball fans and humans in general.

4. Moneyball (2011), Bennett Miller- Insular to the baseball fan, denying the big game climax and staying focused on the intellectual meanderings behind the scene, one has to give Miller's film props for staying so true to the book. Not the masterpiece its being projected as, but ultimately a very good film with a strong Brad Pitt performance as Billy Beane.

5. The Four Times (2011), Michaelangelo Frammartino- Heartbreakingly simple in its prime conceit- the transformation of a soul from person to animal to object- Frammartino's film is a wonder to behold, especially its long, long single shot that ranks up there with the best physical comedians of Keaton and Chaplin. And the image of a baby goat freezing to death under a tree is a seemingly innocent image that I cannot shake.

6. Hobo With A Shotgun (2011), Jason Eisener- The bottom of the barrel. Not only does the film take its faux 70's approach to the very edge of tolerance, but its over-the-top violence and student acting pushes things way beyond the bearable.

7. Downhill Racer (1969), Michael Ritchie- Auteur Ritchie does it again by taking an ordinary story of skiing competitors and crafts something hugely original. Scenes end at just the right moment before the 'big acting moment' lending a downtrodden aspect, the camera roves around Robert Redford's chiseled good looks with dexterity and the film ends on a magnificent moment.

8. Contagion (2011), Steven Soderbergh- Another competitor for best film of the year, Soderbergh's terrifying- and for a 'germaphobe' like myself, I mean terrifying- disease film takes a bit of the procedural from "And the Band Plays On", steals a bit from Michael Crichton, but soon becomes its own immersive experience. The first hour is cold, analytical and propulsive.

9. Next Stop Greenwich Village (1976), Paul Mazursky- The life of several bohemian young 'uns in Greenwich Village during the 1950's is not one of Mazursky's shining moments. Indulgent and uninvolving, it lost me pretty quickly.

10. Party Girl (1958), Nicholas Ray- I understand why the French Nouvelle Vague love this film so much. Ray's camera practically makes love to Cyd Charisse and she does her slinky best to give it right back. Almost too sumptuous at times, the film becomes kinetic during her dance scenes and then settles into a pretty damn good gangster flick with windows and doors opening up to splendid painted backdrops. I'm so looking forward to TCM's Nick Ray tribute this month!

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