The Social Network

(David Fincher, 2010)

with Devin, Barn Screening Room, 12/30/14


The Social Network

Still tight, slick, nimble, propulsive, and fun.  The ending is very abrupt, and I’m not convinced this movie has a climax, but somehow it all works.  Did I mention it was fun?  It is.  It’s fun.  When it comes to turning potentially dry material into juicy, compulsively-watchable drama, Sorkin and Fincher are about as good as it gets.

Published in: on January 8, 2015 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Kung Fu Hustle

(Stephen Chow, 2004)

with Devin, Darcy, and Theo Meneau, Barn Screening Room, 11/23/14


kung fu hustle

The thing is, it’s an action movie.  The first time you watch Kung Fu Hustle, you’re so besotted by its bizarre blend of influences – its giddy, promiscuous embrace of every possible style and genre – that you might find yourself forgetting what conventions lie at its core.  At heart, this is a kickass kung fu movie with highly imaginative, extremely stylized fight sequences.  It’s fun.  It’s joyful.  It’s mythic.  And at the end of the day, it’s surprisingly resonant in spite of its goofiness.  In short, a bizarre treasure.

Published in: on December 31, 2014 at 5:30 pm  Leave a Comment  


(Alfred Hitchcock, 1940)

with Darcy, Theo Meneau, and Jess de Martine, Barn Screening Room, 11/1/14



More dated than I had remembered, but still a pretty delicious melodrama.  The film is neatly divided into three segments – a glamorous love story (set in Monte Carlo, no less!), an ominous thriller, and a courtroom drama.  This makes for a somewhat schizoid viewing experience, but there’s plenty of pleasure to be had along the way, especially from Laurence Olivier’s sneering, brooding, magnetic portrayal of the tragic Max de Winter.

Published in: on November 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  


(Ben Affleck, 2012)

with Mom, Dad, Caitlin, and Darcy, Barn Screening Room, 1/10/13



I’ll say this for Ben Affleck: the movies he’s directed have gotten steadily better.  Argo is noticeably less stiff and solemn than The Town, though it does have a certain muted quality, even in scenes where a little anarchic comedy might have been à propos.  As a thriller, Argo is tense and suspenseful, though its hair’s-breadth escapes are contrived and repetitive.  In the end, the movie comes across as an awkward compromise between a vérité-style drama and a traditional Hollywood spectacular; it’s neither credible enough to work as history, nor juicy enough to work as drama.  That said, it does keep you on the edge of your seat, and you’ve got to give it credit for that.

Published in: on January 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

(Charles Crichton, 1988)

alone, flight to Tokyo, 7/25/11


On some level, it’s unfair to rewatch a comedy; it will almost inevitably fail to be as uproarious as you remember.  Then again, perhaps the mark of a great comedy is that even when it’s not making you laugh, it holds your attention – and by that measure, A Fish Called Wanda succeeds in spades.  Kevin Kline’s live-wire, balls-to-the-wall performance at Otto is especially mesmerizing, but John Cleese’s restrained Archie Leach is also quite impressive, in its own quiet British way.

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Living Daylights

(John Glen, 1987)

with Devin and Dad, on DVD in Cache #6, 12/29/10


Probably the sweetest Bond movie ever made — but without the limpness of the average Roger Moore effort.  Timothy Dalton is a sadly underrated James Bond — cool and efficient, yet with a certain moral gravity that sets him apart from the role’s other interpreters.  The movie’s ideology is actually quite interesting; any character who is serving a cause — the British spy, the Soviet general, the Afghan mujahideen leader — is depicted as sympathetic, whereas all the villains are cynical, mercenary, and self-serving.  The implication is that it doesn’t much matter what you believe in, as long as it’s something greater than yourself.

Published in: on January 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Christmas Carol

(Brian Desmond Hurst, 1951)

with the whole family, Graham Stone, and Christine Gray, on DVD in Cache #6, 12/26/10


Though primarily a showcase for Alistair Sim’s extraordinary performance as Scrooge, this Christmas Carol also features lushly expressionistic cinematography and a strong supporting cast.  Sim’s manic glee on discovering that he is alive and hasn’t missed Christmas is worth the price of admission. It’s hard to imagine a more life-affirming scene.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Miracle on 34th Street

(George Seaton, 1947)

with the whole family, Christine Gray, and Graham Stone, on DVD in Cache 6, 12/23/10


To call Miracle on 34th Street a great Christmas movie would be underrating it; it’s a great movie, period.  Some might dismiss the movie as sentimental, but in fact it’s a passionate, carefully constructed defense of sentimentality, set not in a world of unmitigated sweetness and nobility, but in a world of heartbreak, compromise, greed, and bungled good intentions. There’s not one character in Miracle on 34th Street who doesn’t display some blend of admirable and disreputable traits; Doris is kind-hearted but ruthlessly pragmatic, Fred is patient and brave but far from blind to his own career advancement, and even Kris Kringle has his petulant moments — indeed, the movie would have no third act if he didn’t.  The movie isn’t about perfect people living beautiful lives in a fluffy, postcard landscape; it’s about flawed people trying desperately to find something they can believe in.  Edmund Gwenn’s performance is a landmark in cinema historyperhaps the only fully convincing portrayal of Santa Claus ever committed to film.  (The fact that his character isn’t necessarily Santa Claus only adds to the effect.)  The note-perfect casting in even the most minor role gives the film a rich and broad canvas; it’s as much about New York as it is about Christmas.  And as for the central dramatic question of the movie – Is Kris Kringle Santa Claus? – the movie, brilliantly, never provides an answer.  If “faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to,” why should the filmmakers let us off the hook?

Published in: on December 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm  Leave a Comment