Archive for the Best of… Series 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.

the grand budapest hotel

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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Best of… Series – 1937 – Big City

Posted in 1930s, 8/10, Best of... Series on October 1, 2013 by chrisfilm

Big City (Frank Borzage, 1937)

Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. –Galatians 6:2-3

So how does a film so rich in its presentation of a loving marriage and a selfless community not become one of my favorite films? By leaving a sour taste in my mouth with an absurd ending. (I won’t get into this; if you’ve seen the movie and you know my tastes, this won’t surprise you.) But to focus on the positives – the opening sequence of loving flirtatious exchanges between a man and his wife, starting on the streets of the big city followed all the way back to the couple’s humble apartment was about as much fun as you’ll see a married couple have in a movie. It was a breath of fresh air especially considering the way Borzage applies the realism of the ‘new love’ relationships of many of his other films to this seasoned love. And he follows it up with as refreshing a presentation of a surrounding community as you’ll see. Friends, family, and co-workers gather for celebrations, to discuss troubles, and to fight for and protect one another. I don’t know if this was exaggerated or just a product of the time period, but it was heartening. Perhaps Borzage fills this up with too much heart to where the film’s dangers never feel as dangerous as you’d think, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that people can be good.  7.75/10

big city

Best of… Series – 1954 – Garden of Evil

Posted in 1950s, 9/10, American Classic Western, Best of... Series on May 31, 2013 by chrisfilm

Garden of Evil (Henry Hathaway, 1954)

A traveling western with a small cast of characters and beautiful cinematography; it should be of no surprise that I liked this. The group travels through the mountains of rural Mexico, most of whom are barely acquainted (if at all) before the trip begins. As the relationships begin to mold as more time is spent with one another, the avoidance of relational clichés is impressive. There are varying levels of respect between all the characters and they shift and shape naturally, in both directions, as each learns more about the others. It’s an oddball crew if I ever saw one, but no one feels in any way out of place. And, wow, their travels take them to some gorgeous settings. Mountains, forests, old church ruins, sunsets, crickets, wind (okay, those last two aren’t visual, but they still enhance the settings). A beautiful portrayal of both human interaction and natural landscape.  9/10

garden of evil

Best of… Series – 2013 – Upstream Color

Posted in 2010s, 9/10, Best of... Series on May 24, 2013 by chrisfilm

Upstream Color (Shane Carruth, 2013)

Floating, drifting, ethereal, graceful, lyrical – the beauty of the gradual rise from darkness to deliverance voiced through relentless moving images woven into each other by unceasing music and the occasional unbroken exchange of notions. Pure cinematic poetry from the fall into melancholy, to the chance encounter with a stranger leading to the soft slow start of a sweet but trying romance, all the way to the journey to confrontation of the sly evil discreetly haunting so many lives. Though tricky and at times difficult to follow, the story is told so beautifully and with such careful rhythmical editing, the wide array of emotions carry the film even when the symbols and allegories become daunting. The love story is especially compelling in the way we see the two build their connection and gradually unveil fragments of their pasts, their fears, and their commonalities; both carry their share of baggage, but they lighten each other’s loads in their journey towards liberation.  9.5/10

upstream color

Best of… Series – 1930 – City Girl

Posted in 10/10, 1930s, Best of... Series on April 18, 2013 by chrisfilm

As a way to mix some of my old reviews in with my new reviews, I’m doing a Best of… Series. In this series, I will review my favorite movie of each year.

City Girl (F.W. Murnau, 1930)

In honor of my recent purchase of this film on blu ray, I’ve decided I need to review one of my favorite silent films that just missed being on the blog after initial view. This is a great movie. Really, the only thing that didn’t work for me here is the extremely fast start of the main characters’ relationship. Actually, the development worked for me, but the quick marriage was a bit too much of a plot device. (A simple intertitle stating ‘3 months later’, and a slight plot modification could have solved this.) Regardless, though, this might be the best newlywed movie I’ve seen.

city girl2

Despite the hard contrast of upbringings, Murnau does a great job avoiding stereotypes; she’s from the city but is basically a bumpkin, and he never leaves the farm but feels comfortable in a crowd. And as the new man and wife retreat to his family’s farm, the camera sweeps across a field of wheat as the two run playfully together, he clumsily grabbing her into his arms as the sight of endless stretches of land and sky reach infinitely behind them – a beautiful rural setting for a love story. And despite those polar opposite backgrounds, the personality nuances portrayed by Charles Farrell and Mary Duncan and the naturalness of their connection create the sense that these two are in the same ‘place’ in life. It isn’t long, though, before conflict ensues within his family and their acceptance of his marriage. So while love is definitely the central theme, the fear, heartache, humility, and sheltering that sometimes accompany love are honestly presented as well, and an important part of what makes this film so special. A fantastic drama with just the right level of relational complexities.  9.75/10

city girl

Best of… Series – 2012 – To the Wonder

Posted in 2010s, 9/10, Best of... Series on March 24, 2013 by chrisfilm

To the Wonder (Terrence Malick, 2012)

Love’s whimsical and romantic side is generally the focus of a Terrence Malick film. So when we are dropped into the middle of a working romance full of soft glances, tender touches, and poetic renderings of characters’ innermost feelings, this felt right at home. But in as jolting a transition as you’ll see in a film, when we find ourselves in the presence of a local priest fighting the struggles of God’s silence in his life, a dark direction and tone become the focus. We spend time with the priest and his disconnect with God. And we spend time with the central couple as their relationship stutters, ends, becomes replaced, but eventually continues in loveless fashion. Beautiful yet heartbreaking parallels exist between the two types of relationships and their propensity to similar emotional turmoils, and Malick presents it all in his most non-traditional form yet.

to the wonder

Abandoning a standard narrative almost entirely, he uses his trademark voiceovers and the gorgeously captured images as the sole means to tell the story. And truthfully, he’s gone too far. His more balanced approaches are more successful and actually create the greater emotional impact I think he expected to be had here. There are still endless encounters of poignant sensitivity, but at times they don’t come as naturally as they should. When people complain that a Malick movie is just a long perfume commercial, they now might have a slightly valid complaint.

to the wonder 2

Without a doubt, though, the film’s final ‘poem’ does everything right in closing the door with grace and tenderness in the most beautiful way. Words lifted to God float in the background as images of confession of guilt, reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace dance across the screen. Both relationships turn from sorrowful and even ugly and begin to mend to a place of content. The beautiful reminder of hope in hard times, and that love is something you have to work at (and that sometimes what you think is love is not, and that it’s okay), is a more demanding theme than what Malick usually works with, but it’s just as rewarding.  9.5/10

to the wonder

Best of… Series – 2003 – All the Real Girls

Posted in 10/10, 2000s, Best of... Series on February 6, 2013 by chrisfilm

As a way to mix some of my old reviews in with my new reviews, I’m doing a Best of… Series. In this series, I will review my favorite movie of each year.

This review contains slight spoilers.

All the Real Girls (David Gordon Green, 2003)

Heartbreaking. Early David Gordon Green is a perfect representation of real life. Characters stutter, stop in mid-sentence, and say very strange things at times. I found myself recognizing some of the actions in this movie as some of my own. The film begins as a flirtatious romance is budding. The cute whispers of nothingness, shy but curious glances towards one another, and the feeling that happiness is the only emotion you’ll ever experience again. I’m not sure if new love has ever been as accurately portrayed, or as beautifully photographed and acted.

all the real girls

Then, the turning point came and I felt my world shatter along side them. Confusion, anger, sadness, confusion, confusion, and more confusion. Seriously, the ‘why’ aspect of the events that turn this film upside down are a mystery to everyone, even the perpetrator. It’s such an honest, frustrating, but somehow still poetic look at teenage years. It’s easy to be swept away and get your personal emotions tangled with those of the characters, and despite the pain, isn’t that when you know a film is on another level?  10/10