Mar 30, 2012

Extremely Important & Incredibly Urgent

Already worth the wait.

Mar 28, 2012

Cage Aeterna

And if my love for this man's brand of overexertion isn't clear enough already, know that he's on my shortlist for 2012's Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Mar 20, 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012): D+

There's plenty of offense to go around in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, and if you're someone who's ever found meaning in Green Day's album American Idiot, you'll know it within the opening minutes of this gimmicky, soulless widget. The works of Jules Verne serve as the jumping off point to this 3D in-name-only sequel to 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth, but my sense is that anyone capable of appreciating said science fiction literature is going to be as bored to tears as I was watching berries bounce off of Dwayne Johnson's chest in what might be a new low for the surcharge-friendly format, so perhaps the best that can be hoped for is that some small children will seek out those novels after ingesting this Hollywood trifle. Common sense - nay, anything like human behavior, or competent screenwriting, or a properly conceived (or even half-baked) joke - is an extinct species here, and even the second-act introduction of Michael Caine only temporarily relieves the proceedings of their life support status. Without the over-explanatory dialogue and insincere adages, this wouldn't even qualify as feature-length; the rest is noisy, banal spectacle that only occasionally taps into the awe of the natural world at the heart of Verne's texts. It's family entertainment reinvented as a numbing mental assault, and while kids might like it just fine, feeding this to a young mind should count as a chargable offense.

The Artist (2011): B

Flip-flop nametags notwithstanding, mind-changing is something I've done a fair amount of here (by which I mean, say, 4% of the time or thereabouts, for those who want to keep track; yes, I'm nitpicky, and as a critic I at least try to hold myself to high standards, including honesty and transparency), as I often find myself in the necessary predicament of re-examining my irksome (to myself) or controversial (to others) opinions on certain movies in hopes of seeing things I hadn't before. Such was the case in The Artist, which rose from festival buzz to almost immediate Oscar glory before the backlash from silent purists like myself (to say nothing of the portion of the public that scoffs at silent movies as a matter of fact; let them eat shit like Journey 2: The Mysterious Island). Consigned to its seemingly inevitable Best Picture status, I knew I'd have to revisit it, and was ultimately delighted when I did.

My original review was penned in a flurry after a bitter first viewing, during which it felt like my long-gestating wish for a modern silent film (partially satiated by Guy Maddin and others) was smeared by the Weinstein express. Reflection invited suspicions of my interpretation of the film and a second viewing confirmed them: this was not the Disingenuous Scrap of Awards Bait I'd first seen it as (as if Harvey Weinstein made the film himself, and that Michel Hazanavicius was a mere drone), although I do think it's too seriously flawed to qualify as the masterful love letter to cinema so many of its admirerer's think of it as (for me, that was Martin Scorsese's effervescent Hugo). It gets the good try award, but more time in the editing room could have made for a significantly superior product.

The temptation exists to hold The Artist to the standards of actual silent films, when clearly that is both misguided and unreasonable (if not impossible). Such former defensiveness on my part came from the same kind of love The Artist itself trades in, and is carried through by. The replication of style is mostly acute, although it's seriously rough going during an uneven and boorishly scored opening act, which starts off as a meta film-within-a-film only to subsequently waste its energy on an inert media showcase. Graciously, once the board is set and the peices are moving, the snide self-awareness subsides and things progress more or less like clockwork. It's a crowd-pleaser, almost breathelessly cute and occasionally transcendant (I, for one, am a fan of the Vertigo cameo), even when it's too obvious or drawn-out (the dream sequence is literally stupid, but contextually brilliant), and as an adorer of the flickering source of a medium that's now even more distant from its roots, I've come to appreciate what the film says about this ever-evolving medium. Warts and all, The Artist reminds us that the fire is far from extinguished.