A Most Violent Year
J.C. Chandor's third film is a seething, sepia-tinged crime drama that reverberates with the best intentions of 70's cinema. Oscar Isaac shines in a demanding role, one that inverts the more physical performance into an interior one. As the upstart oil company head being attacked, literally and figuratively, from all sides of the shady urban spectrum during New York City's violent-ridden year of 1981, Isaac broods and thinks his way through a film that wants to explode in cathartic violence but never quite finds the outlet. He is a man, despite the best efforts of his mobster-daughter wife Jessica Chastain, clinging to some age old resistance to modern retaliation, using words and severe sense of purpose to navigate the escalating tension. And this isn't a bad thing. In fact, its this refusal to venture into standard bam-bam cinema that sets "A Most Violent Year". An ironic title yes, but one that succinctly understands the most urgent apocalypse isn't fought in the streets, but in the domestic chambers and barber shops whose settings the characters wheel, deal, argue and settle their high stakes. There just aren't enough crime films crafted this left anymore, which is a monumental shame.
First off, where's Jude Law been? Secondly, if this film doesn't make one want to go and re-watch "Das Boot", then you have no feeling. It does succeed as a good film on its own, though. Reviewed at Dallas Film Now.
The huge draw of Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland's "Still Alice" is its undeniable momentum for lead actress Julianne Moore since careening out of the Toronto Film Festival late last year. Moore's Oscar is, assuredly, in the bag, which is really the main reason to see the film. Tracking the slow decline of linguistics professor Alice Howland, diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer's just past her 50th birthday, "Still Alice" is unflinching in the methodical breakdown of her memory and the way she communicates within the clutches of this horrible affliction. Moore is brilliant in her role. In fact, her performance overshadows anything else in the film, including the respectable supporting cast (Alec Baldwin, Kate Bosworth and the twitchy Kristen Stewart) and the filmmakers timid, gauzy soap-opera visual scheme that threatens to turn Lifetime movie any second. But, "Still Alice" isn't suppose to be an adventurous or rule-breaking experiment, but a humble adaptation of the book its based upon and a simple, heartbreaking journey of losing oneself and its irrevocable damages on everyone involved.
Two Days, One Night
I know the Dardennes have been well rewarded over the years for their minimal excursions into the moral ambiguity of various people, but this may be their best film ever. And its one of the best of the year too.
Reviewed here at Dallas Film Now.