Sunday, May 8, 2011

SFIFF continued

I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up, so these will be quick mini-reviews:

The Whistleblower

Hm. This film is made well. And it is about an important subject (human trafficking in Bosnia after the war). Rachel Weisz continues to be one of my favorite actresses. And it is well directed, so it never becomes preachy or overly melodramatic. In fact, a long stretch of the film plays like a thriller, which works really well and keeps ratcheting up the tension.

All that said, it is about human trafficking. It's a hard subject to watch. I get the sense that it is like Precious. You have to be ready to go into a film knowing that it is very well done, but on a really depressing topic. If you have a day like that, this is well worth a watch.

3/5 Stars

Page One; A Year Inside the New York Times

This is pretty much a love letter to the Times. It isn't a particularly hard-hitting documentary, and given that it looks at the decline of newspapers in the rise of blogs and huffpo and whatnot, the topic could use something a little more informative. That being said, it is certainly entertaining and fun to watch. I can't imagine the material that must have come out of a year's worth of filming and the fact that it holds as a coherent narrative is seriously impressive.

3.5/5 Stars

Another Earth

This was brilliant. I completely loved it. I don't really know how best to describe it. It's about a woman, Rhoda, who on the eve of being accepted into MIT's astrophysics program, makes a horrible mistake. It is also the same evening that a second Earth is discovered. The film then follows Rhoda as she attempts to atone for what she has done and find a way forward in her life.

It's much more a character drama than a sci-fi label might suggest (Moon notwithstanding). Although the second Earth discovery does prompt a myriad of questions and possibilities. What if there is another me out there? Did they make the same choices? What would their life be like? The two leads, William Mapother and Brit Marling (co-writer, co-producer) give absolutely amazing performances. If anything, I wanted more time with the characters - they were just such complete, interesting portraits.

I can maybe sense that this is going to be this year's Hurt Locker/Winter's Bone (the brilliant small film that comes out in the midst of the blockbuster season). So save me the trouble of droning on and on about how amazing it is, and just go see it. (It comes out July 20th).

5/5 Stars


This was so good. (And, as a side note, it won the audience award at Sundance.) It's about two teenage girls in Iran who fall in love and try to survive adolescence in Iran. Much as I love Persepolis, I think this film gives a much clearer idea of what it would be like to grow up under such heavy restrictions. To have to do everything in secret, underground, to be scared of who to trust not to turn you in to the government - and to have such dire consequences when you most feel the need to rebel and experiment and act out. It's a beautiful love story, a wonderful portrait of a family trying its best to cope under difficult times, and a fully realized vision of Iranian youth culture. It has fantastic character development, it's funny, sexy and heartbreaking. Go see it.

4.5/5 Stars

My Joy

There's a reason I don't often delve into the great Russian authors. Great Russian art is a downer. This is a dark, absurdest series of vignettes that follows a truck driver as he goes down a cursed road. It keeps getting darker and weirder, and it certainly sticks to its convictions. Also - as an interesting side note - it was the only first feature film accepted at Cannes last year.

3/5 Stars

The Trip

An edited down version of a BBC miniseries. It's mostly Rob Brydon doing impressions for almost the entire running time, sometimes with Steve Coogan keeping up. It is intermittently hilarious. It is also filled with food porn. You should make reservations at a really great restaurant for afterward.

3.5/5 Stars


Awww.. I'm glad this ended up being my last film. It's adorable. Very much in the Wes Anderson vibe, and it is quite cute. It's a coming of age set in Wales in the 80s and has Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins, along with Paddy Considine, whom I did not know was in it as all. So - fantastic cast and very charming.

Hmm... that all comes off as precious. And it isn't, really. It's very deadpan. And it doesn't succumb to the cliche of wrapping everything up in a neat little uplifting bow. It's a lovely romance with lots of clever monologues, but the film also touches on heartbreak and depression. It's a pretty ambitious first film and the director carries it all off.

4/5 Stars

I ended up missing the Redemption of General Butt Naked and Incendies, as well as the two shorts programs I had planned on. I'm exhausted. Still, 15 films in 13 days ain't too bad... I do need to catch Incendies on DVD, though...

More coverage:
SFIFF Standouts

Page One trailer

The Trip trailer

Incendies was a Scorcher

SFIFF doc & shorts awards

Circumstance brings it all at SFIFF

Mick La Salle: Not so much a fan of Meek's Cutoff

On a completely separate tangent, I've been looking forward to Locke and Key like crazy and I'm going to be SO DISAPPOINTED if it doesn't get picked up.

And on a final, final note, Burlesque has been playing in the background as I write this. There are so many things about this movie I don't understand. Are Cher and Kristen Bell supposed to be the same age? Why does Alan Cumming keep photobombing the proceedings? How much did Famous Amos pay for product placement? Why is Cher not given more than two emotions to play? Why can't the make up artists get Christina's eyeliner straight? Does she have a lazy eye? Did they really just start playing Mazzy Star? What decade is this in? Did the guy grow a beard in 24 hours? Does Kristen Bell really never go to rehab? Umm... is Christina Aguilera sampling Marilyn Manson? And could this plot be any more paint by the numbers? This should have been a whole lot campier and Chicago-esque. At least Stanley Tucci seems like he's having fun.

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