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Archive for the ‘One-Liner Reviews’

Tweeting the Movies, Jan ’11

January 31, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

In alphabetical order, the tweets I wrote for some of the movies that I caught this past month (vastly under-representative, as I saw 25 movies this month):

ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, ’74: Starts treacly, but once mother-son duo hit the road, so does film: flighty & grounded at Alice’s pace of life

ENTER THE VOID, ’09: Low-life melodrama bled through experimental art. “Soul’s eye view” mannered, meditative, crass, whettingly psychedelic

ISHTAR, ’87: So they made HAROLD & KUMAR movies in the 80s, starring A-listers (Beatty, Hoffman) to boot! Preposterous, broad, kinda funny

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (Extended), ’01: Expansive, mythmaking

LOVE ME TONIGHT, ’32: Rickety songs, but crisp chiaroscuro, sprightly direction, comic use of sound make up for a lot. “Oh! oh! oh! oh!…”

MEMENTO (Chronological), ’00: Brutally ironic. Memory-loss plot duly serves Nolan’s penchant for exposition. His most moving dead wives, too

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, ’77: De Niro fearlessly mean, Minnelli never splashier; Scorsese milks their push-and-pull with grandiose aplomb

RAGING BULL, ’80: A stylish, dripping biopic of raw male ego. De Niro’s weight flux a bit gimmicky; Pesci understatedly impressive

SCARFACE, ’32: Thrilling eruptions of gunfire abound, and yet hammy and preordained as a Thankgiving dinner. Are remakes hammier still?

SHE DONE HIM WRONG, ’33: Mae West still chews delightfully on her rounded vowels, but scripted quips don’t match her NIGHT AFTER NIGHT debut

STAGECOACH, ’39: Inventive boxing-in of a tiny motley cast across dusty, empty locales, capped with two genre-making showdowns

TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, ’44: Reprises CASABLANCA’s moods of war-time dissent, quiet heroism, sultry exchanges—and yet never feels copied. How?

THE YOUNG MR LINCOLN, ’39: Atrocious liberal tosh, beautifully staged and lit, tastelessly incoherent on justice and mob rage

Tweeting the Movies, Dec ’10

January 01, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

In alphabetical order, the movies released in the US this year that I caught this month, then all the others beneath the jump:

BLACK SWAN, ’10: Aronofsky’s mastery of body horror prickles the skin. Other scare tactics, dance clichés, flat character types unimpressive

I AM LOVE, ’09: Lavishes on Tilda’s face and body as it does on hairdos, garments, cuisine. But we see, not feel, as she (and plot) unravels

THE SOCIAL NETWORK, ’10: A new story (Facebook-era entrepreneurship) witticized zippily through old idioms (loneliness of power/fame/riches)

TRON: LEGACY, ’10: Dramatically conflict-free; no human in sight. Scant SFX-on-rails action better than D.O.A. exposition that drags forever


Tweeting the Movies, Sep – Nov ’10

November 30, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

As the month closes, I’m consolidating here all the tweets on all the movies I’ve seen since I boarded the flight to college, in lieu of the fuller reviews that I haven’t found the time to write. I’ll be listing, in alphabetical order, the movies released in the US this year that I’ve seen, then all the others beneath the jump:

ANOTHER YEAR, ’10: Homely, comic, laced with bitter regret; end chapter tips into frost. A gem ensemble. Staunton haunts, Manville improves

CATERPILLAR, ’10: Assaulting, repetitive, too literal in its nationalistic and gendered metaphors; but in historical context, it kinda works

DOGTOOTH, ’09: Achieves the dark, biting horror of parental overprotection and deceit that Shyamalan’s THE VILLAGE only feigned to hint at

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, PART 1, ’10: Cried within opening minute for Hermione’s self-erasure. Mechanical Cliff’s Notes-ing and scenery porn thereafter

IF I WANT TO WHISTLE, I WHISTLE, ’10: Incessantly follows its unlikable lead, with literal closeups on his back. But his unknowability wears thin

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, ’10: Milks awkwardness for long stretches, often swerves broad/tasteless for laughs. Still raw and tender, though

UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES, ’10: Mostly linear Apichatpong: not a good sign. At its best when unpredictable, and steeped in folkloric desire

WINTER’S BONE, ’10: Generic plot of cockblocks shifts to meth gang-fueled jolt, deus ex machina, Oscar clip. Sharper in scenes of domestic resilience


Off to College! A Viewing List of Films that Made History

September 15, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

Perhaps it is inappropriate that G.W. Pabst’s Pandora’s Box will be the last movie I watch before flying 18 hours to the University of Chicago, and into a new chapter of my life. After all, the movie depicts characters who can barely understand or avoid the impulses they chase, even though this inevitably leads them into situations ever more dire. Indeed, in the shot above, Lulu (Louise Brooks) thinks she’s just ensured that things will go back to the way they were. Spoiler alert: they will not.

But I would like to think that I have a better grasp on my future than Lulu does, and the movie also works as fitting emblem for some of my hopes and resolutions. Take this very shot: as she gets dressed for her stage debut, assistants decked out-of-focus around her, you might think the reasons for Lulu’s glee are entirely professional. In truth, she’s just netted a very personal triumph, but you wouldn’t know this if I hadn’t said it (unless you’ve watched the film, of course). Take it from me too, then, that this blog is going to get a lot more personal from now on, since its pegging to my ups and downs as a film-studying undergrad means that my relationship to the movies will advance beyond the occasional rental and formal critique.

Then again, I don’t mean to understate just how far my pre-college cinephilia extends, since I bought Bordwell and Thompson’s magisterial Film History: An Introduction for a bit of enjoyable reading more than two months ago. Thus I can’t see how Pandora’s Box is anything but appropriate for this moment: not only did Nathaniel R fortuitously delay its episode in his inspiring Hit Me with Your Best Shot series so it coincided nicely with my departure; not only does it belong to the silent era, an area of expertise for my university’s film studies department; it also fits into one of the biggest gaps in my movie knowledge that I’m already most eager to fill.

What follows, then, is a list of movies that I’m hoping to catch for the first time (or would like a proper new look at) while in college. They’re divided into the sections of Film History that I’ve read in which they turn up, and Pandora’s Box lies crossed out among them, giving you a glimpse of the kind of tweet-length response that follows when I’ve watched one of them. And of course I’m expecting this list to grow—not least because you might have some to recommend!


Tweeting the Movies

January 15, 2010 By: Colin Low Category: One-Liner Reviews

Here are my Twitter posts on some of the movies I caught in the past year:

District 9: Bracing as a quasi-documentary on alien immigrants, and as a horror film on unwanted transformations; opaque as an action flick.

Double Indemnity: I just don’t get classic actresses playing hysterics. c.f. Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire, Hepburn in Long Day’s Journey into Night

Fighting: A formula film without the formula’s best parts: the sweat-soaked anticipation, the thrill of the win, or, y’know, the actual fighting.

Funny Girl: Nearly a revue meant to showcase Streisand’s talents at belting and rapid-fire line delivery; Streisand redefines stardom.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Potter fatigue has caught up to me; all of J.K. Rowling’s missed dramatic opportunities keep thwacking me in the face.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Sturdy pulp movie, with stars (Ford, Connery, Phoenix) that knew they were stars, and how to act as stars.

Katong Fugue: How is it that celluloid pianos so readily channel their player’s inner desires? (c.f. The Piano)

Moon: “Thoughtful scifi” for beginners: promising premise, predictable plotting.

Paper Heart: Shades of When Harry Met Sally, with clever, disciplined use of the handheld trope.

Paranormal Activity: Oscillates like Julie & Julia between its annoying and gratifying plots, but with demons (actual v boyfriend) not cooks

Public Enemies: Retreads Bonnie and Clyde, laced with the irony that even America’s Most Wanted doesn’t beat its citizens’ self-absorption.

Ratatouille: Anyone (who can reconstruct whole recipes from scratch with just a whiff) can cook.

Silkwood proves that horror movies are scarier when they feel like a part of life, especially one you haven’t the means to escape.

Taken: dooming teenagers worldwide to clampdowns on travel by their paranoid parents, who believe that kidnappers lie at every foreign turn.

There Will Be Blood score is such a keeper: each track is flavorful and distinctive! If it didn’t fit the images, that’s the movie’s fault.

Up: Apart from the vignettes of lifelong marriage… eurgh. Eurgh. Pixar at its most infantile.

The Wedding Banquet: Queer domesticity warms my soft heart.

West Side Story: (Romeo + Juliet’s plot) – (Shakespeare’s poetry) = Awful book scenes. Rita Moreno sets her scene ablaze; other songs nowhere as fiery.

You Can Count on Me: Exactly what the title says.