Archive for the 9/10 Category

Best of… Series – 2014 – The Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in 2010s, 9/10, Best of... Series on April 1, 2014 by chrisfilm

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)

It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation; It takes knowledge to furnish its rooms with fine furniture and beautiful draperies. It’s better to be wise than strong; intelligence outranks muscle any day. Strategic planning is the key to warfare; to win, you need a lot of good counsel.  –Proverbs 24:3-6

Wes Anderson continues to be on top of his game. His style, always evolving but never abandoning what makes it his, has become a staple of high quality aesthetic in the modern film world. While this is one of the aspects that continually draws me in to his films, the heart of each is what causes me to realize he’s one of the premier filmmakers working today. And it’s in the heart of each of his films that they put their range on display – where each of his films becomes completely unique.

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Much of the film is a wit-filled hilarious mystery full of turns in the plot and an interesting whodunit approach. It moves quickly but sleekly and Ralph Fiennes absolutely nails the tone of what this film’s protagonist needed to be. Where the film soars, though, is its approach to the evolution of Fiennes and his lobby boy’s relationship as employer/employee to mentor/mentee to father/son. The change is gradual, natural, and is somehow emotionally impactful while staying true to the silly tone of the film, heightened at the scene where Fiennes meets his lobby boy’s girlfriend and goes into full ‘father mode’. Another great relationship from a man who is more famous for his style than anything.  8.75/10

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Her (Jonze, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 9/10 on March 7, 2014 by chrisfilm

Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  –Philippians 3:13

The melacholic broken flashback meanderings of happy images but sad implications dance with sunbeams and moody music in the mind of the lonely Theodore – a man in a hard place in life. Called a love story by everyone including its creater, it’s more accurately described as a relationship story. The flashbacks don’t merely act as gorgeous aesthetic breaks in the action but illustrate Theodore in a true state of love (the kind that includes ups and downs and involves a lot of work). But the relationship with the OS – the ‘love story’- while a truly interesting take on science fiction, is simply a rebound. This futuristic take on relationships and companionship is somehow frightening and comforting at the same time. There’s no dramatic absence of human-to-human contact, no drone-like quality to Theodore as he becomes more involved with his technology; it all feels very much like it could happen, hence the feeling of comfort and fright. But the relationship tapers off as quickly and as silly as it began; Theodore doesn’t feel a lot of pain, and he’s finally better able to move on from his past mistakes. Jonze does some wonderful things both aesthetically and thematically without sacrificing the film’s relatable personality, and it’s easily one of the best of the year.  9.25/10

her

My Brother’s Wedding (Burnett, 1983)

Posted in 1980s, 9/10 on February 4, 2014 by chrisfilm

My Brother’s Wedding (Charles Burnett, 1983)

A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?  –Proverbs 18:14

In a room lit only by a green-shaded lamp, the dim glow shines on the faces of two men and a woman. The woman and one man share a mechanical laugh together as they discuss in a near zombie-like quality how much they enjoyed the recently told joke. The other man stands by the window, distant, uninterested. The two men are brothers, and the woman one brother’s fiancée. And despite these brother’s being in an unbroken family, this is a broken family, and it’s illustrated no more perfectly than in this seemingly random scene – a dream, a memory, or perhaps just another chapter in the reality of cold familial relationships for our protagonist.

my brother's wedding

Many call this is a film about a man who just can’t quite get his life together. I think it’s a film about a man who has been slowly chipped away over the years by his relatives. The constant jabs about his work ethic and place in the world while giving him no praise for what seems to be a very willingly giving spirit have put him in a place where his one truly loving friend is who he views as real family, despite the friend being in and out of jail and trouble constantly. So as the film’s final scenes unfold, everything happens exactly as you expect, but it’s no less poignant as a result. If anything it’s even more tragic watching things continuously spiral out of control. Overall this honest life depiction is Burnett’s best and most complete work. Having seen the original 1983 version, I can’t imagine what he could have possibly cut out to trim 35 minutes for the director’s cut. But I recommend spending the extra time and seeing the original.  9/10

Only God Forgives (Refn, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 9/10 on January 20, 2014 by chrisfilm

Only God Forgives (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2013)

The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God.  –Psalm 9:17
 
Poetic tone paired with jarring context has never been more meaningful than it is here. Drone-like characters wander slowly, become lost in nightmares, and fill the screen with empty glances. Void of emotion, and most certainly of love, they travel through this neon world with zero sense of urgency, only small amounts of fear, and a non-chalantness that is strikingly odd given the circumstances. The beautiful electronic soundtrack adds to the perplexing ambience and rounds out a simply gorgeous aesthetic experience. So it only makes sense that this world – where disgusting levels of hate and disrespect feel so peaceful and common – must be hell. As the title states, only God forgives (i.e. God’s forgiveness is the only that matters), and absent that is hell – a place where the worst can and will happen, and will be treated as ordinary. Whether intentional or not, Refn’s creation brings this idea to life, and because of that, it’s a horror film unlike any other.  8.5/10
 
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Thunder Over the Plains (De Toth, 1953)

Posted in 1950s, 9/10, American Classic Western on January 9, 2014 by chrisfilm

Thunder Over the Plains (André De Toth, 1954)

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  –1 Peter 2:13-15

On the surface, what we have here is a rather simple and unoriginally themed film – an ‘outlaw’ standing up for what he knows is right. However, in this scenario, the outlaw is generally the protagonist, not a side character. Thunder Over the Plains follows the life of an army captain trying to balance his allegiance to both the army and the people of Texas. He has his duties, but he has his friends, one of which is the outlaw. Throw in an interesting love triangle and there’s a lot of interesting relational angles at play.

thunder over the plains

Randolph Scott is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. He is always able to so wonderfully portray a man dealing with a number of issues that rarely lets these issues visibly surface in his persona. When another captain comes to town and quite obviously starts to hit on his wife (well, obvious to everyone except for her apparently), he calmly lets nature take its course until action is required. At first he comes across as weak, but in reality he was just calm, not allowing hate to cloud his judgement until the time was right. Overall, a very interesting character. Additionally, the film’s cinematography is subtly fantastic. The dimly lit sets, use of handheld camera, and closeups are all very rare for a classic western, but very aptly used throughout. Man, I love westerns.  8.75/10

Rawhide (Hathaway, 1951)

Posted in 1950s, 9/10, American Classic Western on November 7, 2013 by chrisfilm

Rawhide (Henry Hathaway, 1951)

Losing your temper causes a lot of trouble, but staying calm settles arguments.  –Proverbs 15:18

A beautiful execution of suspense and hostage. A group of misfit bandits ride into a stagecoach stop literally in the middle of nowhere to begin executing their leader’s master plan. The oddity? These men are just a random group of prisoners who happened to be in the right place at the right time when the mastermind made his escape. But in a short period of time he has them convinced he is to be obeyed and followed at all costs. As the film progresses and we learn small bits of the lead bandit’s life and watch him work with both his cronies and his hostages, while we aren’t overloaded with character definition, enough of the cloak is removed to see how this situation could have realistically unfolded. In more simpler words, the writing of this character is fantastic. Placing this film in one setting, both wide open with its endless plains and claustrophobic with its a one-room entrapment (and some great closeup shots) makes for a beautifully contrasted and multi-layered experience of suspense. Hathaway is quickly becoming one of my new favorite western directors, always caring about his settings and his people and letting everything else fall into place from there.  8.5/10

Rawhide

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (Lowery, 2013)

Posted in 2010s, 9/10 on September 18, 2013 by chrisfilm

This review contains heavy spoilers.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery, 2013)

You take over. I’m about to die, my life an offering on God’s altar. This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. –Timothy 4: 6-7

As was no secret to anyone who has viewed the trailer of this film, this is a ‘magic hour’ cinematography feast. I’m not trying to downplay what a plus this was, but that’s the only mention I’ll make of it because what is draped under this aesthetic blanket is just as beautiful. On display is a man so stubborn and naive that what results is a relentless passion to do whatever is necessary to get back to his family. Casey Affleck is perfect in presenting this character – a man with a thousand flaws whose naivety allows him to stay cool and collected in his mission. In no way is he a hero, but at the same time he has characteristics every man should emulate.

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Rooney Mara matches Affleck’s performance with her natural presentation of a woman faithful to her love while still realistic of the situation at hand. The progression of her character is amazing to watch as she grows and adapts with the changing circumstances, almost a complete opposite of Affleck’s narrowly focused end goal. Neither is wrong, neither is right; they’re just different. But as the film’s final scene unfolds and the two are reunited as Affleck sits, dying of a gunshot wound, we see the passion that never faded, even when it probably should have. A story of mixed up people, but true determination. 9.25/10