Keith’s Top Ten Movies of 2014

This year, far too many prominent movies shackled themselves to real-life stories – with all the unfortunate compromises that entails.  Many of the most critically praised movies (Birdman, Boyhood, The Lego Movie) were disappointing.  And the blockbusters often seemed more accomplished – and more resonant – than the “serious” films.

The first five spots on this list were easy to fill; after that, I had to do some digging to come up with movies I could feel comfortable praising.  Does that make it a bad movie year?  Possibly.  But then again, I saw only 34 new movies in 2014, so maybe it’s all my fault.

#1: Whiplash

Whiplash-Scream

A breath of fresh air, a punch in the gut – a tight, propulsive, delicious thriller, and a blaring announcement of director Damien Chazelle’s arrival in the ranks of major filmmakers.

#2: Life Itself

ebert-office

A rich and moving celebration of Roger Ebert, the art form he loved, and the exceptional life he lived.

#3: Edge of Tomorrow

edge of tomorrow

Tense, funny, imaginative, and thrilling – everything a Hollywood action movie should be.

#4: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

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Another piece of sharp and ruthless storytelling from the series that’s probably the best franchise going.

#5: X-Men: Days of Future Past

mcavoy-face-x-men-apocalypse-spoilers-hiding-in-days-of-future-past-deleted-scenes

A welcome return to form for Bryan Singer, who brings a great deal of precision and style to the now-crowded superhero genre.  Some of this movie is clumsy, but what’s good is really good.

#6: The Theory of Everything

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Of all this year’s shameless glut of biopics, this is the most warmly human – and Eddie Redmayne’s performance is jaw-droppingly good.

#7: I Origins

origins

Imperfect, but distinctive and thought-provoking – as well as a tribute to how effective low-budget sci-fi can be.

#8: The Grand Budapest Hotel

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-580

Nobody makes a Wes Anderson movie like Wes Anderson.  Is there something inescapably precious about the whole undertaking?  Absolutely.  But is there real feeling underneath the compulsive dazzlement?  In this case, I think so.

#9: Foxcatcher

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It’s an icy little number, and a bit too deliberate – but it’s superbly made.

#10: Boyhood

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Yeah, I know I said it was overrated – and I stand by that.  But it’s also a warm-hearted portrait of a loving American family, and I’d say there are worse things a movie can be.

 

Honorable Mention: Penguins of Madagascar.  Not a deathless classic, but lots and lots of fun.

Worst Movie of the Year: The Monuments Men.  So bad and so smug that I wish it were a person, so I could slap it in the face.

Most Overrated: Birdman.  “Half-baked” is the best word.

 

For the record, here’s the full list of 2014 movies I’ve seen to date:

 

American Sniper

Big Eyes

Birdman

Boyhood

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chef

Edge of Tomorrow

Foxcatcher

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

God Help the Girl

Gone Girl

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Guardians of the Galaxy

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

I Origins

The Imitation Game

Interstellar

The Interview

Into the Woods

John Wick

The Lego Movie

Life Itself

Low Down

The Monuments Men

A Most Wanted Man

Nightcrawler

Penguins of Madagascar

Selma

The Skeleton Twins

The Theory of Everything

Two Days, One Night

The Two Faces of January

Whiplash

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Keith’s Top Ten Movies of 2013

The Oscars are over, so it’s time for me to weigh in on what the best movies of 2013 really were.  Unfortunately, of the 289 feature films released in the US last year, I’ve seen only 36.  I wish it were more!

All in all, it was a disappointing year for blockbuster cinema, but a very strong year for smaller films.  Here are my favorites:

#1: Her

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Intimate, searching, visionary, and heartfelt – a gorgeous and many-layered movie.

#2: Mud

mud

Proof that a simple story artfully told can be rich, seductive, and memorable.  Featuring this year’s other great Matthew McConaughey performance.

#3: American Hustle

american-hustle

A deeply enjoyable film.  Gutsy, rough, irreverent, and acted to the hilt.

#4: Nebraska

nebraska

Almost monastically spare, but full of warmth, nostalgia, and wry humor.  A wonderfully modest and evocative movie.

#5: Inside Llewyn Davis

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One of the Coen Brothers’ most expertly realized works.  A cautionary fable, packed with dead-on musical selections, and with a chilly beauty all its own.

#6: Frozen

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Satisfyingly epic, with plenty of humor and tenderness.  The movie that Brave should have been.

#7: World War Z

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The first act is some of the most riveting, up-for-grabs action I’ve ever seen.  The rest ain’t bad, either.

#8: Philomena

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A far sharper and more trenchant movie than we were led to expect.  Not that it doesn’t inspire a tear or two also – but it earns those tears.

#9: Ender’s Game

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There’s a fair amount of awkward kid acting in this movie – but if you get the big stuff right, you can get away with a lot.  Ender’s Game gets the big stuff right.  Story is king!

#1o: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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Idris Elba could easily have landed an Oscar nomination for his powerful turn as Nelson Mandela.  Unfortunately – as Tom Hanks, Robert Redford, Joaquin Phoenix, and Oscar Isaac will attest – it was a pretty tough year.

 

Honorable Mention: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  Twisty and exciting, with a great sequel hook at the end.

Worst Movie of the Year: The Counselor – a movie so thoroughly despicable that I’d rather not say anything more about it.

Most Overrated: Gravity.  Boring, shallow, and inept.

 

Just for reference, here’s the full list of movies I saw last year:

About Time
American Hustle
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Blue Caprice
Blue Jasmine
Captain Phillips
The Counselor
Dallas Buyers Club
Elysium
Ender’s Game
Frances Ha
Frozen
Gravity
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Her
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
In a World …
Inside Llewyn Davis
Iron Man 3
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Man of Steel
Mud
Nebraska
Philomena
The Place Beyond the Pines
Red 2
R.I.P.D.
Rush
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Stories We Tell
This Is Martin Bonner
Thor: The Dark World
12 Years a Slave
The Wolverine
World War Z

Published in: on March 3, 2014 at 11:50 am  Comments (2)  

Life Itself

(Steve James, 2014)

with Robb Stey and Mike Lavoie, Sundance Resort Screening Room, 1/23/14

9

ebert-office

Roger Ebert taught me how to love movies.  How could I possibly be objective about this one?  Ebert has influenced the course of my life more than almost anyone; ever since a thirteen-year-old version of me haphazardly picked up his 1993 movie guide at my grandparents’ house in Maryland – out of sheer boredom, more or less – I’ve understood that the movies are an art form worthy of study, discussion, obsession, and worship.  I wouldn’t have started coming out to Sundance if it hadn’t been for Ebert.  I wouldn’t have started this blog if it hadn’t been for Ebert.  I might well have never made a movie of my own if Roger Ebert hadn’t turned me on the medium in the first place.  That puts him up there in my pantheon of heroes with people like Jimmy Stewart, Tom Stoppard, and Steve Martin.  He’s that big for me.

Where it all began.

Where it all began.

I never spoke a word to Roger Ebert, and he never spoke a word to me.  The closest I ever came to him was using an adjacent urinal at the Eccles Theatre in January of 2000 – my very first year at Sundance.  It was a trivial, almost laughable moment, but it kind of meant a lot to me.  I was eighteen.

I’m thirty-two now; I’m out at Sundance for probably the twelfth time; and Ebert is still pushing me into new places.  Last night Mike and Robb and I drove deep into the canyons of the Wasatch Mountains, and found ourselves for the first time at Sundance Resort Screening Room, where we took in Life Itself.  It’s a rich and beautiful movie, edited with uncanny insight and clarity.  It gives us an Ebert as stubborn and childish as he was warm, brave, and perceptive – an Ebert who fought ignorance, indifference, cancer, and Gene Siskel with the same unshakeable tenacity and unflagging humor.  The portrait of Siskel and Ebert’s friendship that emerges here is both caustically funny and deeply moving; it’s clear that they cared for each other a tremendous amount, and it’s equally clear that they never knew any way to express it other than by endlessly bickering onscreen and off.

I can’t tell you how glad I am to have had this chance to say goodbye to Roger Ebert.  He was a titan in the world of cinema, and he was a personal titan to me.  The world is a little poorer for his passing – but if this movie reminds us of anything, it’s that life is to be cherished.  Every last goddamn minute of it.

Keith’s Top Ten Movies of 2010

And now, the moment you didn’t know you were waiting for: my top ten movies of 2010!

2010 produced 248 movies that were eligible for the Best Picture Oscar; I saw 38 of them, down from 52 the year before.  Been busy, I guess.  Below are the ones that stood out for me.

#1: Exit Through the Gift Shop


Richly ambiguous, slyly humorous, head-spinningly subversive – so good that it’s hard to believe its events are real. This is the first documentary I’ve ever really loved.

#2: Inception


Unnecessarily complicated?  Maybe.  Guilty of redundant action?  Yes.  Bracing, brilliant, and heroically ambitious?  Absolutely.

#3: The Ghost Writer


Smart, ruthless, and deliciously paranoid – a lesson in mercilessly exact filmmaking.

#4: How to Train Your Dragon


A bold and lovely fairytale – proof that really good movies are immune to the cheapening effects of 3D.

#5: Shutter Island


A sweaty, feverish nightmare fantasia with a secret weight of real-life horror.  No one does melodrama with as much mad conviction as Martin Scorsese.

#6: Winter’s Bone


Lean, spare, sinewy quest movie, with a vivid setting and coldly beautiful images.  John Hawkes is extraordinary.

#7: The Social Network


Elegant brain candy for nerds and geeks of all stripes.  The movie’s distinctive pleasure is watching really bright people ridicule fairly bright people in elaborate, unanswerable ways.

#8: Buried


For those of you who haven’t heard, this is literally a feature-length movie set inside a coffin.  And no, it’s not boring.  And yes, it’s harrowing.  And yes, Ryan Reynolds is terrific.

#9: True Grit


When it works, it works like hell. The first act of this movie is sensational on every level. After that, it starts to meander.  Still, an accomplished film, with a marvelous performance by Hailee Steinfeld.

#10: Restrepo


Another documentary on my top-ten list?  Am I getting soft in my old age?  This one is much more straightforward than Exit — just a penetrating ground-level portrait of soldiers coping with boredom, isolation, fear and grief — and in many cases, coming back for more.

*     *     *

Worst Movie: Cop Out

Most Overrated: Black Swan

Most Underrated: The Tourist

*     *     *

For the record, here is the full list of 2010 movies I’ve seen:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND
THE AMERICAN
BLACK SWAN
BLUE VALENTINE
BURIED
CATFISH
COP OUT
DATE NIGHT
DESPICABLE ME
THE DRY LAND
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
THE EXTRA MAN
THE FIGHTER
GET HIM TO THE GREEK
THE GHOST WRITER
GREEN ZONE
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
HOWL
INCEPTION
IRON MAN 2
JACK GOES BOATING
THE KING’S SPEECH
KNIGHT AND DAY
MEGAMIND
MORNING GLORY
127 HOURS
RESTREPO
THE RUNAWAYS
SHUTTER ISLAND
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
THE TAQWACORES
THE TOURIST
THE TOWN
TOY STORY 3
TRUE GRIT
WINTER’S BONE
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER

Published in: on March 3, 2011 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Avatar (3-D)

(James Cameron, 2009)

with Hilary Gietz, 86th St. Loews, 3/27/10

8


Up to now, my only experiences with 3-D moviegoing were Captain Eo at EuroDisney and the IMAX movie Wings of CourageAvatar ushers me into the much-trumpeted new era of 3-D — and I have to say, I’m not wildly impressed.

Given how much hype has surrounded the new crop of 3-D releases — Avatar especially — and given that people are willing to shell out extra money for the privilege of putting on the glasses, I was surprised at how muted the effect was.  Half the time, it’s barely noticeable.  Sometimes it looks awkward; instead of offering seamless depth, the “3-D” image seems to consist of a series of staggered flat planes, making the shot appear less dimensional than an ordinary 2-D image.  Also, when an object gets too “close” to the eye, the effect is distracting, especially if it’s near the edge of the frame.  Every once in a while, the 3-D effect adds something significant to the experience — mostly in shots where we’re high up looking down, and we get some intimation of the vertigo we might experience if we actually found ourselves in the Hallelujah Mountains.  But for the most part, the 3-D just doesn’t make that much of a difference.  It’s weird at first, and then you get used to it, and then you kind of forget about it.  And you paid extra for this?

I know that cinema has a long and storied history of cranks and fuddy-duddies carping about progress.  When synchronized sound came along in the late twenties, it was thought by some to signal the death of visual storytelling.  When color films began to predominate in the fifties, purists yearned for the elegance of the old grayscale images.  And, of course, nothing was more shocking than the arrival of the moving image itself; witness Gorky’s somewhat woeful reaction.  In the grand tradition of stodgy dissenters from every era of cinema’s brief history, I freely admit that I am emotionally resistant to the idea of 3-D.  I don’t see the need for it.  I like the old-fashioned, two-dimensional movie screen.  It has never struck me as inadequate, nor in any particular need of “improvement.”  It has given me some wonderful times.

It may also be worth noting that many of the aforementioned cranks were right.  Synchronized sound did prove a setback to film as a visual medium; in the short run, it closed down as many possibilities as it opened up.  And if you watch a color film from the fifties now, it will probably strike you as garish and dated — quite possibly more dated than a black-and-white classic like Casablanca or It’s A Wonderful Life.

But I don’t think 3-D is a revolution on the scale of sound or color.  Having seen Avatar both ways, I can confidently say that it’s exactly the same movie whether you’re wearing special glasses or not.  It’s long, it’s earnest, it’s sometimes clunky, and it’s very, very good.  I suspect it would be about equally good if you watched it in a mirror, with one eye closed and the other covered with Saran wrap.  I’m not recommending that you do that, but if you do, there will be no extra charge.

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

My Top Ten Movies of the Last Decade

(I’m a bit late to the well on this one, but as a percentage of a decade, what’s a few months?)

Coming up with this list has been wonderful fun — hours and hours of it, if you can believe that.  I encourage anyone who’s interested to put together their own list — and if you do, please let me know!

Note: Dates listed are U.S. release dates.  That may seem provincial, but I think it’s fair; I had no opportunity to see Girl on the Bridge, for example, until 2000.

#1.  The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)

Delectably dark, perversely seductive, and fiendishly complex, The Prestige grows richer and blacker every time you think about it — and yet, like all Nolan’s films, it does have a conscience. For added pleasure, watch it again.

#2.  The Counterfeiters (Stefan Ruzowitzky, 2008)

The extraordinary true story of a criminal forced to become a hero — though a fearfully compromised one.  It’s one thing to make a Holocaust film about survival; this one is about choices.

#3.  Girl on the Bridge (Patrice Leconte, 2000)

A black comedy, a carnival fantasy, a story of love and self-destruction, a fairytale, a beautiful dream.  If the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography doesn’t take your breath away, Daniel Auteuil’s charismatic and heartsick performance will.

#4.  Kung Fu Hustle (Stephen Chow, 2005)

Thrillingly diverse in its influences, boldly original in the way it blends them, Kung Fu Hustle is a glorious mongrel of Eastern and Western pop-cultural traditions.  It’s a kung-fun epic and a slapstick comedy; it provokes awe, laughter, and irrepressible childish grins.  (According to IMDb, Kung Fu Hustle 2 is currently in development.  Consider me first in line.)

#5.  Up (Pete Docter, 2009)

Pixar’s most stunning effort to date, packed with enough energy and imagination to fuel two or three less ambitious films.  Many of us had tears in our eyes during the first ten minutes — and the movie was, in every sense of the words, just getting started.

#6.  The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

An extraordinary movie on every level, capped off by a Heath Ledger performance so brilliantly unhinged that it threatens to swamp the film itself in its fervid lunacy.

#7.  3-Iron (Kim Ki-Duk, 2005)

A ravishing exercise in cinematic poetry and restraint, 3-Iron is a deeply strange, nearly-wordless love story that effortlessly blends the fantastic and the everyday.

#8.  The Widow of Saint-Pierre (Patrice Leconte, 2001)

Like its characters, The Widow of Saint-Pierre is deeply passionate, yet masterfully controlled — with an epic quality it never strains to achieve.  Romantic love in cinema has never felt more grand, more noble, or more real.

#9.  The Incredibles (Brad Bird, 2004)

A brash, funny action-adventure film that simultaneously mocks and celebrates the tropes of the costumed-hero genre.  When it comes to capturing the sheer escapist magic of the superhero fantasy, no other movie can compare.

#10. Master and Commander (Peter Weir, 2003)

Suspense and camaraderie on the high seas — a tale told in a grand style by Peter Weir, featuring a first-rate Paul Bettany performance.

*

Runners-Up:

Memento

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Catch Me If You Can

Children of Men

Great Overlooked Films:

Meet the Robinsons

The Wackness

Honorable Mention for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy:

School of Rock

*     *     *

For me, it was the decade of Christopher Nolan.  I really didn’t have a favorite filmmaker until Nolan battered me into adoration with brilliant film after brilliant film.  His weakest effort to date – Insomnia – was a haunting, disciplined, beautifully executed morality tale.  His best films – Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight – are a treat for the mind and the senses.  Nolan’s films are so good, they make most other filmmakers seem like they’re not really trying.  The only reason Batman Begins doesn’t look like a great film anymore is because Nolan topped it.

Of course, it was also the decade of Pixar, who consistently produced animated films that were not only respectable, but unmissable.  Ratatouille could easily have made this list, and the first act of Wall-E is the equal of anything on it.

And then there’s Patrice Leconte.  Girl on the Bridge and The Widow of Saint-Pierre, released just a year apart, both starring Daniel Auteuil, both haunting and richly romantic, could hardly be more different in terms of style or approach.  Where Girl is fanciful and frenetic, Widow is tragic and austere; the first has the restless energy of a young filmmaker feeling his oats, while the second exudes the sensitive maturity of a seasoned artist.  That one person made both, in such rapid succession, still astonishes me.  I’ve seen and enjoyed other Leconte films (Monsieur Hire, Man on the Train, Intimate Strangers), but for me, these two stand apart.

Kung Fu Hustle and 3-Iron will always be linked in my mind, because I saw them around the same time, and because both made such a deep impression on me.  Like the two Leconte films, they’re a study in contrasts, but they share a certain joy in the possibilities of cinema, and a rigorous commitment to testing them.

For muscular old-fashioned storytelling in the grand old Hollywood tradition, we turn, naturally, to Germans and Australians.  The Counterfeiters is one of the most morally serious films in recent memory, but it’s also a supremely effective thriller; Master and Commander is a rip-roaring nautical adventure, but also a movie about friendship (with a good deal of respect for science thrown in).  They don’t make them like this anymore, except when they do, and thank God they do.

Should I be embarrassed that a handful of filmmakers seem to dominate my list?  Should it give me pause that my selections happened to pair up so neatly?  Maybe so, but I make no apologies.  I don’t claim to have any vast knowledge of cinema, nor any exceptional refinement of taste, but I know what I like.

(Incidentally, if you wish to compare this list to that of a real critic, you can check out Roger Ebert’s.  Spoiler: there’s no overlap between our respective lists, though to be fair I’ve seen only 10 of his top 20 — and only 3 of his top 10.)

Next up: the top performances of the decade!  (I’m enjoying this far too much …)

Keith’s Top Ten Movies of 2009

Who needs one of these when you have MY OPINION?

Just in time for the Oscars, here are my picks for the ten best movies of 2009.  274 feature films were eligible for this year’s Oscars; I’ve seen 52 of them.  Of those 52 movies, my ten favorites were:

#1: Up


This is the whole package: visually beautiful, relentlessly imaginative, moving, funny, epic, satisfying, and even a little profound.  When was the last time you saw a live-action movie with so much wit, ambition, and humanity?  Pixar has made some of the most impressive movies of the last two decades, but this one may be their best.

#2: Bright Star


Quiet, contained, and achingly heartfelt, Bright Star relies less on plot than on two characters so vividly realized that we can almost feel their heartbeats.  There’s an extraordinary intimacy to this film, an almost painful sense of passion restrained.  How Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish missed out on major awards is a mystery to me.

#3: Adventureland


At once nostalgic and sardonic, Adventureland captures that magical moment in adolescence when the world is full of infinite possibilities, and you’re stuck cleaning vomit off amusement-park rides.  Kristen Stewart, an unlikely star and an an unhappy tabloid darling, also happens to be a very fine actress.  Her character’s anger and self-loathing are utterly believable, but her charm shines through it all.

#4: Avatar


It now appears that James Cameron can make a record-breaking, critically adored movie any time he wantsAvatar wears its flaws on its sleeve, but beneath them its architecture is rock-solid.  Are the characters two-dimensional?  Some of them are, but Jake Sully felt like a real guy to me — a gung-ho, ultra-competent daredevil who’s smarter, and kinder, than he’s given himself credit for.

#5: The Princess and the Frog


A welcome return to form for Disney — not one of their all-time greats, perhaps, but worthy of the tradition.  Set in a fairy-tale New Orleans, The Princess and the Frog is warm, funny, and sumptuously animated — a rich, raucous celebration of life, music, love, and animation itself.  And the villain is creepy as hell.

#6: Sin Nombre


A harrowing story of redemption and sacrifice, expertly shot and sensitively acted, set on the trains that carry would-be immigrants to the U.S./Mexico border.  Despite its relatively modest budget, Sin Nombre has a convincingly epic quality — a sense of universal human strivings embedded in a single, desperate quest.

#7: Star Trek


A bit sloppy and uneven, but stirring, clever, and unabashedly entertaining.  After Avatar, this was the big-screen spectacle of the year.

#8: The Missing Person


A deeply idiosyncratic film — moving to its own slow rhythm, drawn to the oddball and the unexplained, inexorable in its progress yet inscrutable in its aims.  Somehow it all comes together in the end.  Michael Shannon, that invaluable character actor, is note-perfect in the lead — a shambling, mumbling PI with a perpetually pained expression and a heart full of secret hurt.  Noir doesn’t get much more nakedly existential than this.

#9: District 9


A deeply disturbing, strangely moving, impressively freewheeling sci-fi/horror concoction.  The blend of special effects and faux-documentary is uncannily effective; however fantastical it gets, the movie still feels tethered to the grime and grit of reality.  Wikus Van De Merwe, a self-important racist buffoon, makes for an extremely unlikely hero — but then, nearly everything about District 9 is unlikely.  That’s half the fun.

#10: Moon


An interesting companion piece to District 9 — dramatically different in setting and premise, yet sharing a certain black humor, and the deep-seated horror of a human body betraying itself.  Sam Rockwell gives not one, but two (or is it three?) sterling performances.  What a great year this was for science-fiction!


Worst Movie of the Year: The Men Who Stare at Goats

Most Overrated: Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

Most Underrated: Surrogates


Coming up soon: my top ten movies of the last decade!  Stay tuned …

Movies Seen 2009

Below, for the record, is the full list of movies released in 2009 that I’ve seen to date.  The one I’m most bummed to have missed: Where the Wild Things Are.  But I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually.


Adam
Adventureland
Amreeka
Avatar
Bright Star
Brüno
Coraline
Crazy Heart
District 9
Duplicity
An Education
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Great Buck Howard
The Hangover
The Hurt Locker
I Love You, Man
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
The Informant!
Inglourious Basterds
The International
Invictus
It’s Complicated
Julie & Julia
Knowing
The Last Station
Mary and Max
The Men Who Stare at Goats
Michael Jackson’s This Is It
The Missing Person
Moon
New York, I Love You
9
Nine
Paper Heart
Pirate Radio
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
The Princess and the Frog
Rudo y Cursi
A Serious Man
Sherlock Holmes
Sin Nombre
Star Trek
State of Play
Sugar
Surrogates
Taken
Taking Woodstock
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
Up
Up In the Air
Watchmen
X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 1:43 pm  Comments (1)  

How This Will Work

The film log’s basic purpose is to help me remember what I’ve seen, under what conditions I saw it, and what I thought of it. It’s also, of course, for public consumption, to the degree that anyone besides me can possibly find it interesting. And it’s a lot of fun.

I use a 1-to-9 rating system that I developed a few years ago, after several years of trying to squeeze my opinions into the awkward four-stars-including-half-stars paradigm that many professional movie critics adhere to. I don’t use this system to be contrarian, or because I consider myself above convention, but simply because it works for me — and since I have no boss or editor, I’m free to do as I please.

Please note: it is not 1 to 9 because 10 implies perfection and no movie is perfect. It is 1 to 9 because, in my sincere and long-reflected-on opinion, there are exactly nine distinct grades of movie quality — no more, no less. You’re free to disagree, of course, but if you do, you’re wrong.

The scale runs thusly:

1 — execrable

2 — lousy

3 — bad

4 — weak

5 — decent

6 — solid

7 — excellent

8 — superb

9 — sublime

If I’m using the scale correctly, there should be very few 1’s, very few 9’s, and quite a lot of each other grade (with the caveat that I don’t generally see films I expect to dislike). The scale does get extra-subjective at either end, but I can live with that.

Here’s the format that each film’s entry will have:

Movie Title (Director, Year of Release)

movie companions, venue, date

Grade (1 to 9)

Description/reflections/review.

for example:

Keeper (Keith Boynton, 2010)

with Tom Hanks, Keira Knightley, and Martin Scorcese, Kodak Theatre, 2/27/2011

9

Not bad, if I do say so myself. And the Academy seemed to agree.

Some of you may wonder, “Who the hell are you, to make such a fuss over your opinion?” The only honest answer is: no one at all. But why should that stop me? This is the Internet, my friend!

That’s about it. If I’ve left anything unclear, feel free to post a comment, and I’ll be happy to elucidate. Now, without further ado, let the capsulizing begin!

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Welcome to The Film Journal That Will Not Stay Dead!

Keith’s Film Log is an endless, vaguely narcissistic project that I’ve started and abandoned many times over the last six or ten years. And I’m starting again! Now, for the first time, the newest incarnation of the Film Log is available to a general audience on the World Wide Web. (And when I say “a general audience,” I mean, “my most devoted friends and a few lost souls who wandered here from Google.”)

This feels like a good time to restart the ol’ Film Log, for three reasons: 1) this past summer’s 12 Films 12 Weeks project was the occasion for my first sustained experience as a blogger (and introduced me to the joys of WordPress); 2) it’s a new goddamn decade; and 3) the 2010 Sundance Film Festival begins tonight, and I’m out in Park City eager to experience the madness once again.

Actually, now that I think of it, this year marks the 10-year anniversary of my very first trip to Sundance, back when I was a fresh young lad of 18. (I was allowed to take time off from high school to come out here. It was awesome.) My mother — God bless her — had purchased me the invaluable (and expensive) Eccles Theatre Pass, and I attended every single screening it entitled me to — thirty-nine movies in all. My favorite that year was Everything Put Together — the breakthrough film for Marc Forster, who went on to make Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, the underrated Stay, the wonderful Stranger Than Fiction, and the disappointing Quantum of Solace. It’s been an eventful decade for Mr. Forster, for the world at large, and, when I think about it, for me. But then again, aren’t they all?

I’m not going to see thirty-nine movies at Sundance this year — probably more like fifteen or twenty. But I’ll be sure to post a little capsule description/review of each one right here in this space, for your enjoyment, edification, and (if I’m lucky) envy.

In my next post, I’ll explain a bit about how those capsules are put together. First, I have to figure out how to format them on WordPress …

Onward, into the second decade of 21st-century filmgoing!

Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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