The Quick Spin on Pi, Sugar Man, America and Sleaze

Ah, to dine on filmlandia’s smorgasbord and taste the world!  Behold, the treasures and the trash recently uncovered by the Spin that took us to India, the High Seas, South Africa, Detroit, Middle America and the backwoods swamps of the Deep South.

In Theaters:

Stunning visuals make a trip to the theater worthwhile in Life of Pi.

Stunning visuals make a trip to the theater worthwhile in Life of Pi.

Salty Sweet Pi: I was finally able to catch a screening of the much ballyhooed Life of Pi (in 3D no less, which no joke, is used brilliantly in this film and rises far above its typical gimmick status) which means Haneke’s sure to depress Amour is the only Best Picture Oscar nominee I have yet to see.  Adapted from an international best-seller I never bothered with, Ang Lee’s film is a sure-fire visual stunner featuring some of the best use of 3D ever (I especially loved the opening credits and the sinking of the ship sequences).  You’d have to be blind not be enthralled for two hours, but sadly the film is left adrift by surface level discussions on religion and an all too twee “parable/fable” ending.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Mama Say Mama Don’t

Why the hell did I agree to be in this?

Why the hell did I agree to be in this?

It might only be the third weekend of January, but the new horror flick Mama is already in the running for worst film of the year. These type of children obsessed ghost stories (dating back to The Ring) are a dime a dozen, and they are usually awful but harmless. Mama, on the other hand, refuses to rest on its clichéd laurels, and instead defies all logic and genre conventions to deliver not one, but two, overly convoluted (and downright stupid) back-stories to explain its improbable tale. Which isn’t to say the film (if it can even be called a film) doesn’t shove every cliché down our throat from the creepy kid (times two!) to the insane-for-no-reason-other-than-the-plot-mother to the weird-noise-making-bending-backwards-ghost.

Continue reading

The 7th Annual Davies Awards in Film

Hollywood zeroed in on real drama and history in 2012, and they hit their mark.

Hollywood zeroed in on real drama and history in 2012, and they hit their mark.

A Look Back at 2012:

There’s so much to say about the year in film that was 2012. In many ways it was like two distinct years. The first half was grim and borderline torturous with the only bright spots being two films that came out of the blue to depict with great grit and emotion man vs. his own nature (guised as man vs. nature) in The Grey and The Hunter. In the summer, we were met with art house films critics were too eager to gush over. Yes, Moonrise Kingdom was Wes Anderson’s most charming film in a while, but it was still a Wes Anderson film. And yes, Beasts of the Southern Wild had a cool title and interesting set-up, but it really didn’t make any sense.

Oddly, at the multiplex things were clearer as some of the heavy hitters were well above average. The Hunger Games offered a new series positively literary when compared to the god-awfulness of The Twilight series (finally put to rest this year). Many people didn’t like it, but I still got a kick out of Prometheus while The Dark Knight Rises was a fine conclusion to a fine trilogy. Even The Avengers (overrated by fanboys) was above average…though it was still a comic book movie. This trend continued into the fall with the best James Bond film of the modern era, Skyfall, lighting the box office on fire.

Quietly simmering beneath all of this pop-culture hubbub was a snarky good year for neo-noir with the twisty sci-fi yarn Looper at the multiplexes and art houses runneth over with films like the Russian melodrama Elena, Friedkin’s southern-fried piece of Americana trash Killer Joe and the Twin Peaksian French entry Nobody Else But You.

But it wasn’t until the fall that things got real and filmmakers tapped into history to deliver highly polished professional products of the most prestigious order.
Continue reading

No Ruth My Love in Zero Dark Thirty

Director Kathryn Bigelow and star Jessica Chastain hold a mirror up to the manhunt for Bin Laden in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and star Jessica Chastain hold a mirror up to the manhunt for Bin Laden in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

America’s grand dame of literature, Toni Morrison, has given us many haunting words…but none have echoed in my mind more than the ones from A Mercy when a young girl who has lived through a colonial hellscape in 17th century Virginia announces to the world that she is, “In full.  Unforgiven.  Unforgiving.  No ruth, my love.  None.  Hear me?”

I’d like to think that former art student and painter Kathryn Bigelow has read Morrison, but who knows?  That’s the beauty of connecting one piece of art to another.  Morrison’s words came to clear mind while watching Bigelow’s tightly wound dramatization of events more recent – the man hunt for Osama Bin Laden – in Zero Dark Thirty.  How does one fight against terrorist enemies who are willing to kill anyone (including themselves) to achieve their mission?  Well, the answer is painfully simple.  You show them no ruth.  No mercy.  And you hunt them down by any means necessary and kill them. 

At the center of Bigelow’s film is one of filmdom’s greatest female characters of all time (all the more powerful for having been based on a real-life CIA analyst still working in the field), an agent named Maya played with calculated precision by Jessica Chastain (the doe-eyed red-head, all awkward coils that are both sinewy and frail, and with a soft voice that hides her steely demeanor beneath) who announces her talents to the world with this role much in the way that Cate Blanchett first staked her claim as the Queen in Elizabeth.  Here we see Maya’s journey over ten years from wunderkind analyst to ruthless field operative.  Continue reading

The Spin Bids a Fond Farewell to 2012 and Tells 2013 to Hurry Up Already!

I got a lot of writing done in 2012, often making me feel like a kid again.  (For the purpose of this post, my KidSelf has been recast in Hollywood fashion)

I got a lot of writing done in 2012, often making me feel like a kid again. (For the purpose of this post, my KidSelf has been recast in Hollywood fashion)

Well, we did it. We survived the Mayan Apocalypse only to rush to the Fiscal Cliff. But hey, 2012 is now officially over…so say hello to 2013! Looking back, despite tumultuous world events, it was a great year at The Spin

On Notes Personal:

  • An unexpected death in the family in November spurred me to take stock of some things. This lead to tripping the light fantastic in the grand ballroom of nostalgia which lead to a re-watching of a childhood favorite, The Lady in White…which lead to one of my favorite posts from the year…which lead to a comment on said post from the actual director of the film! This nostalgia tinged final act to the year also sent me on a mission to uncover that lost box of books I wrote from the ages of 10-15. Just in the nick of time I unearthed the box. Reading briefly through some of the stories, I couldn’t help but think that if I were to write taglines for the outlandish and melodramatic plots (more on that below…with actual excerpts!) they would end up sounding like long-lost fake-films from Seinfeld…a topic that earlier in 2012 spurred another favorite post of mine.
  • On the travel front I visited two great cities I had never been to before: New Orleans (for pleasure) and Montreal (for business) both of which I would return to in a heartbeat. This year the horizon broadens even more with a business trip to St. Maarten…and hopefully (if everything falls into place) that long-delayed trip to Europe (for pleasure…to Amsterdam and Bruges specifically) though that might have to wait until 2014.
  • And most importantly, after three long distraction-filled, detour-heavy years…I finally finished the first draft of the new novel – a Depression Era thriller set in Upstate New York. I was working under a self-inflicted deadline of finishing before 2012 finished me, and I’m proud to say I got it done at the last possible minute with a final spurt of inspiration on December 31st. Now, the big question, what the hell am I going to do with it? I’ll be sure to let it sit for a while and breath before editing begins.
    Continue reading