Archive for the 8/10 Category

Under the Skin (Glazer, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 8/10 on May 15, 2014 by chrisfilm

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)

But Saul […] went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?  –Acts 9:1-5

What an odd and enchanting story. My soft spot for sci-fi is showing here and the blend of science fiction elements with art house technical and emotional presentation makes for an eerie and poignant experience. Johansson is fantastic in her nearly silent role – flirtatious to lure men into her lair, seductive to keep them engrossed, impassive after leading them to their end. And her emotional awakening to compassion and love is a beautifully quiet set of events culminated by an oddly tragic ending. And while you can truly sense her soaking in of the world around her like you can in no other alien movie, the most impressive aspect of this entire experience was the technical clinic Glazer puts on. Part shaky cam, tight framed, soft lit intimate cinematography; part boldly drastic, semi-surreal, high energy rush of visual and aural aesthetic. Highlighted by shocking trap Johansson sets for her victims – the mysterious black room, the way to men emotionlessly sink into the floor, the hypnotic pulsating music – a grandiose technical bravado. One of the most interesting films of the year, no doubt, and one that lingers in the mind long after.  8.5/10

under the skin

Last Train from Gun Hill (J. Sturges, 1959)

Posted in 1950s, 8/10, American Classic Western on May 10, 2014 by chrisfilm

Last Train from Gun Hill (John Sturges, 1959)

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.  –Leviticus 19:15

First of all, this is a daring film for 1959. A white protagonist married to an Indian woman. A somewhat explicit attack on this woman resulting in a rape and murder. A lot of very open talk of another character’s life as a prostitute. While much of this is still tame compared to what you can find in movies today, for this time period, it was a bit jarring. It helps the film’s atmosphere tremendously though. This is a hard-nosed section of the far west and no one is living cookie cutter western lives. Additionally, it makes the relationship between the two older protagonists all the more interesting. A relationship built on respect and friendship knifed by a horrible situation that throws each into a heartbreaking set of circumstances. You can’t blame either for reacting the way they do and while justice is warranted, it’s not easy to accept. The film’s plot does drag a bit once it is fully set up, so the momentum of such a grand beginning stutters as it goes. But it comes to a conclusion that fits perfectly and is a solid film that’s not one to miss.  8.25/10

last train from gun hill

Joe (D.G. Green, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 8/10 on May 5, 2014 by chrisfilm

Joe (David Gordon Green, 2013)

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.  –Proverbs 28:13

A comeback for David Gordon Green? Well, as I’ve already stated, I pretty much considered Prince Avalanche Green’s comeback, so I wasn’t as down on him as some at this point. But, yes, this is even closer still to his earlier works than anything in recent years. Joe captures the lives of a certain sect of individuals; it’s harsh and it’s brash but it’s truth. Using several locals to take on the smaller acting parts, Green found a real gem in Gary Poulter as the drunk, abusive father. Poulter was a local homeless man (who actually died on the streets not long after filming has wrapped) who brought to life his character with such natural grace and affection. Sure, he was playing a despicable human being, but at the same time somehow made him unobtrusively sympathetic instead of a stereotype. (Nothing is explicitly stated, but the way he handles himself in certain situations both publicly and privately wreaks of an upbringing of extreme neglect.)

joe

I’m glad Green was able to bring this character to the screen because, to be perfectly honest, the title character’s issues and the main mentor/mentee relationship was a bit underdeveloped. To be quite frank, I didn’t follow Joe’s character arc at all. Maybe in Green’s attempt to make Joe flawed, he went too far the other direction and made him a silly mess with no real breaking point. It was an odd presentation. Still, much of this flaw is covered by the brilliant depiction of other characters and the mostly spot on tone and atmosphere that accompany. I love these representations of rural life even when they do focus on hardships.  8.25/10

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Peckinpah, 1974)

Posted in 1970s, 8/10 on April 23, 2014 by chrisfilm

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah, 1974)

But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.  –Jeremiah 22:17

 The reddish gleam of sun-soaked amber hair resting on an adjacent partner’s straightened legs while fingers tickle the boldly green blades of freshly sprouted grass makes for only a few seconds of filmtime, but it’s the brief sense of peaceful harmony that seems to last forever in a film full of frantic action. While a man hunts the head of an already deceased acquaintance, around every corner hides an unexpected set of circumstances, whether it be varying forms of human roadblock always ending in violence or coming to terms with a past love triangle. The slope becomes steeper and more slippery the further he climbs despite the initial vision of a clear and smooth path. And the sacrifices he makes along the way, of the life he never thought was enough or of the principles he may have started with, tear him apart the further he falls. I think about the moment where time slowed down and all was right, where the wind slid through the leaves across the gravel road and over the hilly horizon, and wonder if he looked back on that moment and thought about what it would have been like to stay in it forever.  7.75/10

bring me the head of alfredo garcia

Backroads (Noyce, 1977)

Posted in 1970s, 8/10 on March 26, 2014 by chrisfilm

Backroads (Phillip Noyce, 1977)

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit  –Proverbs 10:2a

A fun little minimalistic road movie with several quiet moments and beautiful natural images. A couple of nobodies steal a car and go on some meaningless travels, picking up friends and strangers along the way. Much of what I love about movies exist in this one – lingering pace, a moody soundtrack, lush outdoor cinematography; it’s an aesthetic wonder. But it’s a bit minor when it comes to character care. I never felt any real sense of need to see these events in these people’s lives and it’s probably because they don’t do much but drive around and mumble. Noyce never attempts to make any sort of emotional connection. It’s a fine safe approach and beats going overboard the other direction, but it does prevent it from being a masterpiece.  8/10

backroads

12 Years a Slave (McQueen, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 8/10 on February 24, 2014 by chrisfilm

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  –Galatians 6:9

I think it’s really hard to make a movie centered around slavery that doesn’t feel like it should only be shown in history classes. But McQueen does as best he can and what results of a mostly successful character study that, to me at least, is more interesting as an illustration of perseverance and patience than slavery. To watch a man, who finds himself in a situation where a natural reaction would be an (understandable) impulsive move, bide his time waiting to make the smartest move is an odd mix of frustrating and respectable. Though McQueen struggles with pacing and making this actually feel like 12 years has passed, the meticulousness of our protagonist is very well presented. And despite all of this pushing runtime out a bit, the film includes some beautifully peaceful transition scenes despite so much of what occurs throughout being violent and repulsive. It’s a testament to McQueen’s filmmaking abilities; he lets small moments live when others would move on to the next ‘point’. It’s a very well done historical drama.  8/10

12 years a slave

Frozen (Buck, Lee, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 8/10 on February 19, 2014 by chrisfilm

Frozen (Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee, 2013)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  –1 John 4:18a

This is about as close to 90s Disney as you’ll get these days. An exciting fairy tale, rich animation, and a slightly over-the-top comedic relief sidekick all molded together to bring to the screen a story that will never show its age and delight viewers for a long time. One of the most important aspects of many of these Disney (Pixar included) films is the ability to avoid the current pop culture references. Frozen takes place in its own world undiluted by the world we live in. It truly allows us to escape, which is exactly what a movie like this should do. But at the same time, when Elsa’s fear of hurting Anna leads to a lifetime of Elsa hurting Anna, or when Anna makes no hesitation in seeking out her sister when so many others consider her a danger, we see real flaws and strengths come to the forefront. It’s fun, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s joyous all wrapped as one.  7.5/10

frozen