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Muppet drama! photo
Muppet drama!

Kermit and Miss Piggy split up alongside details of new docu-style show

These puppet relationships never last
Aug 05
// John-Charles Holmes
Prior to a Television Critic's Association panel yesterday covering ABC's upcoming The Muppets television show, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy announced on their Facebook pages that their world famous interspecies relationshi...

Review: Boy Meets Girl

Apr 28 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]218923:42200:0[/embed] Boy Meets GirlDirector: Eric SchaefferRelease Date: February 6th, 2015 (NYC)Rating: NR  My business card is classy. It's the kind of thing you might see in American Psycho, except on less sumptuous cardstock. It says: Alec Kubas-MeyerWriter | Editor | Critic | Filmmaker That is how I think of myself and how I present myself. Some days I'm more of a filmmaker. Right now I'm more of a critic. Writer/Editor is a bit vaguer but probably more marketable. What matters here, though, is "critic" (and, to a lesser extent, editor). As a critic, I have some sort of duty to critique a film, to write compelling criticism. As Reviews Editor of Flixist, I have a duty to uphold the words codified in the Review Guide that I wrote. But while I watched Boy Meets Girl as a critic, I experienced it as a human, and my experience as a human radically differed from my experience as a critic. The highest score I've given to a film was my ludicrously high 97 given to The Raid 2. But that review was tempered by an acknowledgement that the film's narrative beyond its action was flawed. Having just seen it for a third time, the narrative drags even more than I remembered. But the film deserves that score. It changed the game, raised the bar. But acknowledging the potentially controversial nature of this decision to rate a film that is fundamentally flawed so highly, I made a YouTube video about it. It has over 8,000 views. 138 of the 139 people who decided to take a stance liked it. That one person who didn't like it is a bad person. Boy Meets Girl's main character has a YouTube channel and posts fashion videos weekly. Her channel has 1100 subscribers. I wouldn't watch her videos if I came across them on YouTube. They're underproduced (much like the film they're portrayed in). For a video about fashion, it's a problem that they're really not much to look at. My video's not much better, though I have to admit to liking my background painting. I still have that painting. Maybe I'll make a video about this review. (As if the next several thousand words (buckle in, y'all) aren't more than enough. (They're not.)) "So why am you talking about all of this?!" I'm sure you're thinking that by now. "What the heck does this have to do with Boy Meets Girl? Get to the damn point already!" That's fair enough, but bear with me. This review is going to be weird, because of the thing I discussed two paragraphs ago. I had two radically different reactions to this film, both valid in their own way, and as such this review is not really a criticism so much as a philosophical exploration of what this film is, what it needed to be, and whether or not it matters that it's a cracked mirror and not something pristine. As such, it will (after a few more thoughts) be structured as a kind of discussion with myself, between my critical, logical side that spent the 108 minutes deconstructing each piece of dialogue, edit, camera movement, lighting choice, etc. and my human, emotional side.  Alec the Critic is going to write in bold. Alec the Human will not. Spoiler: The human side ultimately prevails. It is probably worth mentioning here that all critics are put in this same position now and again, and implying that critics are cold and calculating is ludicrous. The chasm between feelings may not often be wide enough to cause some kind of existential crisis, but what makes a critic interesting is the way they play that line between emotional and logical reactions. Purely emotional reactions can fail to examine what makes a film work and purely logical reactions don't give the reader anything to grab onto. There are exceptions of course, but by and large, good criticism falls somewhere in the middle. As I walked out of the theater, someone said, "This film is important." I don't think he liked it. There was an implied "but..." there. He just repeated that sentence and that was it. "This film is important." It is important. Last year, Jared Leto won an Oscar for his performance as a transgender character in Dallas Buyers Club. It was a brilliant performance, but I didn't know that Jared Leto was playing a transgender character. In retrospect, that makes a whole lot of sense, but my vision of his performance was colored by the fact that I'd seen more than a few people refer to him as a transvestite. It was only in retrospect that I realized that what they were saying was ignorant and etc. When people complained that they hadn't cast an actual transgender person in that role, it was a valid point not just because... ya know, duh, but because it would have removed that confusion. Everyone knows who Jared Leto is. Everyone knows Jared Leto is dude. And even if his performance as a transgender woman is spectacular, it's still a performance by a dude when it could have (perhaps should have) not been. Michelle Henley was born a man. In Boy Meets Girl, she plays a character who was also born a man. She makes a hilarious joke (seen in the trailer) about it: Some old women are complaining about their experiences at the local high school. "I was fat." "I had terrible acne." Ricky retorts, "And I was a boy... so that sucked." It's a great moment. The entire audience laughed, myself included. It's the biggest laugh in a film that has a few good ones. I'm sorry I ruined that, but the trailer ruined it first. But what's important isn't that joke. It's the context of that joke. Ricky is at a fancy party at a beautiful estate. The people there are posh, probably all Republicans. Some of them definitely are, which we know because the film shows them talking about Democratic policies bankrupting the country and this/that/the other thing. It's all very stereotypical, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that Ricky makes that joke, and the response isn't revulsion but laughter (and some confusion). For the most part, people accept Ricky for who she is. Even the people who don't like Ricky as a concept do like Ricky as a person and can see past the whole gender thing. Only two people in the entire film really raise any serious objections to it, and one of them is a hypocrite of the highest order. The other one makes a speech that is among the most real and poignant in the entire film. But it's not filled with hate, or even really disgust. It's cutting, but it's oddly tempered. This is the South. If we're going with stereotypes here, where's the hate? (This is important, and I will talk about it at even more length later on.) Boy Meets Girl was shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio, commonly referred to as "Flat" (as opposed to the 2.XX:1 "Scope" format). Many indie movies are shot that way. Documentaries are too. Paul Thomas Anderson shot his last two movies Flat. It happens. But it's rare. When people think Cinematic, one of the things they think of is that ultra widescreen. Boy Meets Girl does not look cinematic. It doesn't "look" like a movie. Here's an experiment you can try: Take a 16:9 image and simply chop off the top and bottom. Make a 1920x1080 image 1920x816 (or even 1920x800). Crop it or just add black bars. Instantly, the image will look more cinematic. It's fascinating, but we really do associate that with the real cinematic look. But of course, Boy Meets Girl doesn't need to "look" like a movie. The visuals exist to push the story forward and do nothing more. In that sense, they are serviceable at best, but they work. Be that as it may, it creates a rift when the characters talk like they're in a movie. Nobody in Boy Meets Girl ever really sounds like a person. They have the perfect, hyperrealistic responses you'd expect from a screenplay that has been given serious thought and revision. It's what you expect... from a movie. But because the characters in Boy Meets Girl talk like they're in a movie that doesn't really look like a movie, there's a level of dissonance. It's harder to suspend the disbelief. I can't argue with myself here, and the weakest thing about Boy Meets Girl is probably its script. A movie that's ostensibly about humans needs to have characters who sound like humans. And on that level, the movie fails. Everyone says exactly what they're thinking when it comes time for them to give their big speeches, and nothing is really left for interpretation. "This is how the world is," they say, but that's only half true. I was disconnected from the dialogue, because the characters seemed disconnected from what they were saying. That crushed me, because I wanted to believe in these characters at all times. There were times when I did, probably more often than not, but even some of the key dramatic moments fall flat because they feel like plot mechanisms rather than honest human revelations. But it's also that these characters are basically perfect. They're not flawed. I don't need Ricky to be an anti-hero, but when the worst thing any given character has done is have sex at boarding school and then pretend to be a virgin... come on, y'all. And then she cheats on her fiance, but even that is "justified" in the dialogue and ultimately doesn't really affect anyone's life. Everything works out in the end. For everyone. That isn't how life works. It's how life should work. It would be amazing if every transgender boy or girl in the South had loving friends and family. If they were able to overcome prejudice and do what they love. But it's hard to believe. So, so hard. But you know what? That's why we have Boys Don't Cry. That's why we have a film where things go horribly wrong, that show a more realistic side to things (though even that film is somewhat idealized from the original story, which is even worse). Boy Meets Girl doesn't owe the audience the reality of prejudice and hatred. The tiny little nuggets, to those who see them as symptomatic of society rather than one-off instances of transphobic characters (one of whom isn't actually transphobic, despite appearances to the contrary... a plot twist that kind of undermines its effectiveness. That hatred that the character initially spews is accurate. I've heard people say those things, seen them write those things on anonymous chat boards. Hell, when I first learned about transgender people (I was in high school), I felt some of those same things. I've grown up since then, at least a little bit. (I hope I have, anyhow.) Plus, the way that character (who looks annoyingly like Zayn from One Direction) fits into the other romantic subplots is too neat and tidy, as is the ultimate result of all of the various romantic threads. True, but shut up. It's my turn now. Fine. That's enough raining on Boy Meets Girl's parade. It's finally time to talk about the metaphorical mirror in the introduction, and the things that affected me. And this is going to require me to admit to something that's really weird and probably says something about me, though I don't have any idea what that might be: I can't watch characters kiss onscreen. Whenever lips lock, I avert my eyes. It's been that way for the better part of a decade. I don't know what started it or where it came from, but it bothers me. I feel uncomfortable watching it. Which made me extremely uncomfortable during Boy Meets Girl, because there is a lot of kissing in that movie. And the things that happen around that kissing are the reasons this film succeeds despite each and every flaw. Because the moments where this film is human and real are in its discussions about sex. How many romance movies have featured two characters kissing and then discussing sexual histories in order to clarify that they've used protection. That's a legitimate concern, and a legitimate conversation. It's something that's necessary... but it's also exactly the sort of thing films gloss over. In the heat of the moment, passion takes over and there's nothing more to it. Kiss. Sex. BOOM. We never see the sex. We do see the moments before (and the moments after). We see the awkward movements and dialogue that are ever-so-crucial. We get Ricky as she asks her partner whether they're okay with what they're doing, whether they understand the implications of going down that road. (Though here, again, this is undermined by the nearly utopian vision where a well-connected conservative leader does not go after a transgender woman (pre-sexual reassignment surgery, I might add) who slept with his daughter (thus, as far as anyone knows, taking her virginity). Bullshit. Absolute fucking malarkey.) But I digress... That Boy Meets Girl is willing to have frank discussions about what defines sex (in conversations outside of sexual contexts) matters. Those are rare. Less rare in indie film, but rare enough that it merits consideration. But the fact is that by sheer virtue of having a female transgender character (really, the pre-op thing is vital, and takes center stage in a climactic moment that reminded me just a little bit too much of the ending of Sleepaway Camp (minus the severed head)) at the center of these conversations, one who is experimenting with her own sexuality throughout the film, it propels itself far beyond its glaring technical problems and becomes something that is truly affecting. It's a sexual coming of age tale that has probably never been told quite like this. There have been dozens (hundreds) of movies about straight couples in these sorts of positions, and even a few about gay ones (the devastating and incredible Blue is the Warmest Color comes to mind), but transgender? Nah. That's something else. But it's something necessary.  Bruce Jenner, of the famous (and infamous) Kardashian household, just came out as transgender. He (not for much longer) is beginning a transition into womanhood. That public spotlight will matter. It will get people talking. It will put issues that are kept quiet out in front of everyone. That's what reality TV does best. It stirs up controversy and gets people talking. This will make people talk and make people think. Boy Meets Girl comes at a perfect time to stay one step ahead of that conversation. It lets people like me (and probably you too) into an experience that it's nearly impossible to imagine. I can't conceive of looking down and thinking, "No. That's not right." It's something I've wrestled with for a long, long time. It really is, and I've done that with varying degrees of sensitivity to the people who do have that experience. I can be rough and abrasive (no shit, right?) and there will probably be more than a few people I met in college who hear that I'm writing about transgender issues and cringe. They'll be right to. I can't say I've exactly turned over a new leaf and I'm going marching in the streets tomorrow, but I think I just understand it better now. There was something missing, some vital piece of the puzzle that I just hadn't locked into place. I saw my own prejudices in the mirror. During some of the more intimate scenes, I felt less comfortable than I think I would have if Michelle Hendley were not biologically male (though I would have been uncomfortable either way). I felt that little bit extra, and I was mad at myself. How dare I judge this on an emotional level? This wasn't something that I could objectively point to and say, "Nope, wrong!" the way people could in response to Blue is the Warmest Color's awkward and unrealistic sex scenes. I wish I could hide behind that. It would make me feel better about my visceral reaction, but I couldn't and can't. I need to own it, understand it, and be better for it. I need to get over myself.  Laverne Cox's excellent performance in Orange is the New Black did a lot to give a powerful voice to a transgender character, but Ricky is in such a different position. Ricky is still a kid. She wants to go to college in New York. That's her dream, and she waits for the letter from the Fashion Institute each and every day. Ricky doesn't have a vagina. Sophia gives an in-depth explanation of how vaginas work (she would know); Ricky has to ask her best friend for advice on getting a girl "wet" and asking how vaginal sex compares to anal, her only point of comparison. That's a different voice, and it's one we need. And even if Michelle Hendley's performance occasionally dips into the melodramatic, it all comes from an honest place that makes her fascinating to watch. In the end, she is the only character who truly feels real. And if Boy Meets Girl had to do anything, it was get that right. It had to make Ricky human, someone who anybody could empathize with.  I can complain all day about this or that, but to what end? What am I trying to prove by focusing on the bad instead of celebrating the good? This film made me think about my own feelings more than any film in recent memory. It showed me my own prejudices, but it didn't judge me for them. At least, not explicitly. And so now I have things to think about, and they're things I'll continue to think about. Everybody should see Boy Meets Girl. It should be required viewing in every high school sex ed class in the country. I urge you to see it. To tell your friends and family and vague social media connections. Get the word out, because even if they don't see Boy Meets Girl, they should know about it. They should know that it exists, because the fact that it exists matters too. It marks a turning point. One can only hope that the future is brighter.
Boy Meets Girl Review photo
Identity crisis
Boy Meets Girl is an antique magic mirror. The kind of thing you'd see in a movie. In an old, cobweb-filled antique shop, the camera slowly pans up an old, cracked and unpolished mirror. It's not really much to look at, ...


Trailer for Crumbs by Miguel Llansó

A post-apocalyptic love story set in Ethiopia
Feb 17
// Matt Liparota
There's no shortage of post-apocalyptic stories in the pop-culture landscape these days, but if this enigmatic trailer for Miguel Llansó's Crumbs is any indication, there are still ways to put a new spin on the old ta...

First trailer for Spring, starring Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker

Oh, what a lovely holiday
Feb 16
// Jackson Tyler
For almost half of this trailer, Spring holds its cards tight against its chest, that it only needs the slightest tip of its hand to get me interested. This story of a romance between an American backpacker and an Itali...

The Cult Club: Tromeo and Juliet (1996)

Feb 13 // Hubert Vigilla
Narrated by Lemmy from Motörhead in the first of his Troma cameos, Tromeo and Juliet follows Romeo and Juliet semi-closely. The Ques and the Capulets made low-budget skin flicks together, but their partnership ended poorly. Our star-crossed lovers (Will Keenan and Jane Jensen) live in Manhattan, though it looks more like Long Island City and Brooklyn since the Manhattan skyline figures in the background of many shots. Schlock ensues. Before going to work for Troma, Gunn received a creative writing MFA from Columbia. He purportedly tried to write Tromeo and Juliet in iambic pentameter before giving up, which is just the sort of unnecessary yet amusing formal constraint that an MFA student would attempt. There's a smattering of actual Shakespeare in the film, and used sparingly it's oddly effective. The meet-cute between our heroes culminates in a touching recitation of the "holy palmer's kiss" exchange. The couple spins on a Lazy Susan in front of a chintzy backdrop of stars, and the camera rotates in space, and for little money and textual faithfulness, Tromeo and Juliet captures the vertiginous joys of love at first sight. Ample bad taste is used to reconfigure much of the familiar story. The balcony scene takes place in a black box sex dungeon that Juliet's father has used to punish his little girl since childhood. Instead of biting thumbs, they flip birds. Instead of dueling with rapiers, one guy has a tomahawk with Hitler's face on it. The apothecary's drugs work differently--less like death, more like The Toxic Avenger. Bawdy puns are placed throughout, and also classy fart sounds and sophisticated boings. In Act V, the attempt at Shakespearian verse sounds more like Dr. Seuss. And there's loads of sexual repression in Juliet's bad dreams, which features a bizarre use of popcorn that recalls Troll 2. [embed]218947:42221:0[/embed] I noticed that Tromeo and Juliet hits some of the same notes as Gunn's later film Super. As Tromeo spends a lonely night looking at pornographic CD-ROMs, he cries as he climaxes over a fantasy of domestic bliss, repeating "I love you" as he hyperventilates. Later in the film, Juliet is so taken with her passion for Tromeo that she dials a phone sex line, her operator played by the morbidly obese and dispassionate Michael Herz. Herz sends her into ecstasy while he, bored and possibly hungry, eyes a Famiglia pizza box on his desk. That ugly yet honest desperation is all over the place in Super, with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page as two psychotic and lonesome goofballs looking for approval and acceptance, sublimating their desire through grim vigilante justice. Super might be the most enjoyable Troma-esque movie in the last decade or so. Tromeo and Juliet could technically be counted as Gunn's first work as a director. According to an interview on Gunn's official website (not updated since December 2012), he associate directed the film while Troma's leader Lloyd Kaufman was the credited director. In an odd inversion of job duties, Kaufman handled the camera and the extras while Gunn got to work closely with the actors and supervise sets and special effects. If Gunn's fingerprints are on the performances like the screenplay, he gets a good amount for what he had, which was very little. Both Jensen and Keenan are fine as leads, Keenan especially since he has such a strange squirrely look to him. The best performance, however, is William Beckwith as Cappy Capulet. He vamps around, devouring scenery, shooting stuff with his crossbow, and he plays his role like Robin Williams on crack trying to be Shakespearian. Beckwith was a "real actor" (i.e., SAG), so he worked on Tromeo and Juliet under a pseudonym in order to get around union rules. Comparing Tromeo and Juliet to later Troma films like Terror Firmer and Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, there seems to be a shift in overall tone. Given, I haven't seen Terror Firmer or Poultrygeist in a long while so I may be off on this, but Tromeo has the attitude of a snotty, sex-starved 15-year-old boy while the Troma movies that followed have the creepy demeanor of a dirty old man. That tension might be present in Tromeo, with the younger Gunn's writing merging with but ultimately succumbing to the sensibilities of Kaufman. Tromeo doesn't gross out or indulge in T & A as much as later Troma entries either, though some of the sex scenes run a bit long, and in my mind I picture some obnoxious 15-year-old boy getting uncomfortable while watching this on VHS--the maturing moment when something that was once hot becomes suddenly uncomfortable. At least the scenes are tasteful for Troma, for what that's worth. I tend to come back to the idea of misfit love stories since those are the best kinds of romances and the most meaningful. Rather than having two lovely people just like everyone else, the misfit romances have two oddballs against the world. That sense of opposition is obvious here in Tromeo and Juliet (even in the snotty and youthful demeanor it projects), though maybe it's also what's at play in Super and Guardians of the Galaxy. These are all misfit movies, with misfit relationships, and misfit characters, and all of them, in their own ways, are shown in opposition to the world that doesn't get them. Troma is, even still despite a sense of decline, a misfit company, and Gunn has remained faithful to Kaufman even now, giving the man who gave him his start cameos in his own films. Maybe the path from Tromeo to Guardians isn't so unlikely after all. Who better to make a movie about misfits than someone who loves misfits so much? [embed]218947:42219:0[/embed] Next Month... Am I the meanest? Sho'nuff! Am I the prettiest? Sho'nuff! Am I the baddest mofo low down around this town? Sho'nuff! The Last Dragon (1985) turns 30. PREVIOUSLY SHOWING ON THE CULT CLUB Samurai Cop (1989) El Mariachi (1992) Six-String Samurai (1998) The Warriors (1979) Funky Forest: First Contact (2005)
The Cult Club photo
Shall I compare thee to a penis monster? Thou art more lovely and covered in less slime.
[The Cult Club is where Flixist's writers expound the virtues of their favourite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pa...

FFS: Thomas Chaos photo
FFS: Thomas Chaos

Flix for Short: The Life and Death of Tommy Chaos and Stacey Danger

A gorgeous short about love and dinosaurs
Jan 26
// Sean Walsh
This short, shown to me by my awesome new friend Madi, is absolutely sensational. At it's core, it's about two people in love, That core is suronded by all kinds of fun visuals, including dinosaurs, outer space, and submarin...
Insurgent Trailer photo
Insurgent Trailer

First full trailer for The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Dec 15
// Nick Valdez
I liked the first Divergent film enough. Although it's basically a thinly veiled message of "Everyone sucks but me because I'm different," everything was just super cheesy and bad looking enough to work. It's better than the...

Trailer for The Age of Adaline staring a forever-young Blake Lively

Nov 22
// Liz Rugg
In The Age of Adaline, Blake Lively stars as a woman who goes through some kind of magical accident when she is 29, and from then on she cannot age. Adaline must continue to navigate her way through the ever-changing world, ...

Trailer: Amira & Sam

Nov 22
// Liz Rugg
Amira & Sam is the latest Rom-Com from Drafthouse Films, telling the story of Sam, a veteran trying to readjust to civilian life, and Amira, an Iraqi woman trying to make it on her own in America. When Amira is threatene...

Trailer for romcom Elsa & Fred starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer

Sep 26
// Liz Rugg
You're never too old for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. That's seriously all this movie is. The same old MPDG song and dance; a grumpy man finds pseudo-salvation in the romance of a quirky, happy-go-lucky possibly mentally unstab...
Life After Trailer photo
Life After Trailer

Trailer for Life After Beth features the full DeHaan and zombie Aubrey Plaza

Jun 30
// Nick Valdez
Life After Beth stars Dane DeHaan and Aubrey Plaza as a couple whose love is tragically cut short when Beth (Plaza) dies in an accident. But the kicker is she didn't stay dead for long and is now a zombie that wants to eat p...

Watch: two new featurettes for Obvious Child are obviously adorable

Jun 27
// Liz Rugg
Look guys, I'm not a huge rom-com kind of girl. They're usually too saccharine and unreal for me. Obvious Child, however, looks more my speed. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child stars the adorable and...

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Jun 09 // Mike Cosimano
[embed]217857:41579:0[/embed] The Fault in Our StarsDirector: Josh BooneRelease Date: 6/6/2014Rating: PG-13  The Fault in Our Stars is a movie about cancer-ridden teenagers who fall in love. Hazel Lancaster (Shailene Woodley, doing a fine job with some awful dialogue (the same could be said of her in Divergent)) meets one Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort) during a support group meeting, and is instantly smitten. From there, the duo fall into a romance, packed to the odious brim with the kind of indie-kitsch you would expect from a movie where a youth puts cigarettes in his mouth, purposefully does not light them, refers to this act as a metaphor, and is not immediately ridiculed by everyone within earshot. Both Hazel and Gus are perfectly crafted human beings -- even worse, they seem aware of it. The singular likable character in the film is Isaac, a blind cancer survivor who only just manages to dodge my ire because he’s not really a character. Isaac’s character arc flat-out ends within two scenes, leaving him to spout one-liners for the rest of the duration. Ansel Elgort’s Gus simultaneously revels in his own majesty, while still letting his inner dork out now and then. If there is one person who will escape this farce unscathed, it will be him. Although this is likely a result of Augustus’ more cringe-worthy moments having been left on the cutting room floor, Elgort still does an alright job with the role. He still looks like he would complain about the friend-zone, but that’s really not his fault. The Fault in Our Stars has an odd problem with tone -- though thankfully more complex than your usual tone problems. The movie’s opening moments suggest an almost Edgar Wright-esque style of humor, with quick cuts and a startling awareness of the frame as a humor device. Of course, the jokes don’t land, but it’s an admirable effort nonetheless. However, this stylistic aping is quickly tossed aside for the remainder of the movie, instead turning into every other movie out there. It becomes so incredibly generic, I'm having trouble recalling any particular images from the movie, except for the scene in Amsterdam’s famous Anne Frank house. That scene feels like a film student’s sophomore year project, right down to the overwrought symbolism. This scene essentially takes one of the most recognizable symbols of the horrors wrought by the Holocaust, and uses it to frame a kiss. I would call it despicable, but it’s a fairly crucial scene in the book. Since I am strapped for much of anything of interest regarding this film, I would normally turn to the supporting cast, but even that eludes me. Willem Dafoe is in the film, playing an alcoholic hermit who just happened to have written Hazel’s favorite book, and hot damn that man looked tired. Dafoe is a ticket-seller for me, and to see him essentially sleepwalk through a potentially captivating role is nothing short of disappointment.  The core problem with The Fault in Our Stars is simple: it is an adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars. Its source material is worthless as entertainment, to be used only in the event of a slowly dying campfire. Any problems with the screenplay can be laid at the book’s feet, absolving director Josh Boone of the guilt associated with the now-infamous “metaphor” exchange. What cannot be excused, however, is the workmanlike direction. There is not a thing about The Fault in Our Stars that is visually remarkable, and in a visual medium, that is perhaps its most damning flaw. Sean Walsh: My younger sister, Taylor, has Crohn's disease, which is a disease I know little about (whenever my mom would tell me the horrific things my sister had to endure I'd phase out), but what I do know is that it's terrible. Not necessarily 'cancer terrible,' but still pretty horrible. She read The Fault in Our Stars and related tremendously to the main character. Due in part to my knack for screening out all the horrible stuff she lives with for my own selfish reasons, I felt that reading the book would be a great way to help relate to her and her illness better. I read it and I found the frequency I was tearing up increased exponentially the further I got into the book. Naturally, I was excited about the movie, and I was lucky enough to have not only Taylor but our sister Lindsey home (both live in Boston most of the time) to see The Fault in Our Stars on opening night. The movie itself was a solid adaptation (leaving out only a few key moments that I could think of), very well acted (Willam Dafoe was especially delightful), and tugged the heartstrings just like I thought it would (the last act of the movie, I found myself surrounded by sobbing fifteen-year-olds). It's uncomfortable subject matter, but I'm sure I'm not the only one that was able to relate better to an unwell loved one a little better. As far as film adaptations go, The Fault in Our Stars is certainly one of the best in recent history. 80 - Great
The Fault in Our Stars photo
The fault lies in the book, not ourselves
I did not enjoy John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The narration was precocious and cloying, the dialogue simply ridiculous, and any attempts at pathos were laughable; a novel collectively written by the people b...

Review: Frequencies

May 22 // Nick Valdez
[embed]217773:41532:0[/embed] FrequenciesDirector: Darren Paul FisherRelease Date: May 22, 2014 (VOD and iTunes) Rated: NR In Frequencies, the world is governed by the frequencies each human being emits. The higher a person's frequency, the more success they'll have in life. The main focus of the story is on Zak (Daniel Fraser), a boy with an unusually low frequency, and Marie (Eleanor Wyld), a girl with an unusually high one. The two can't stand next each other for more than a minute without the world taking action against Zak (it rains on him, he misses his train and so on). After falling in love with Marie during their school years, Zak dedicates the rest of his life trying to fight his frequency in order to get closer to her.  I'll admit that my summary might make Frequencies seem a bit more schmaltzy than it actually is, but that's the beauty of the film's intelligence. While the romance between the two main characters is definitely at the forefront, it's downplayed to develop the vision of this semi-futuristic world without compromising the integrity of its romance. In fact, just when you think the romance is developing a little too quickly to really mean anything, that's when Frequencies science fiction roots take hold and support the story.  Much like its two main characters, Frequencies is told in many different frequencies. Separated into five different sections, different aspects of its singular story highlight the point of view of a single character (For example, Zak is first, Marie is second, etc.). It's a clever decision as each POV shows enough of each character that the audience is able to develop a relationship with them. But the smartest move the film makes is blending its two genres together in a way that allows the science fiction to inform the romantic side of things. A successful blend of the genres eventually comes to a head in the fourth section and, without giving too much away, it makes some of the later decisions a bit easier to swallow.  Most romantic films are full of contrivances. Girl falls in love with boy because he happens to be the only person in her life that didn't treat her like garbage. At first it seemed like Frequencies was going to follow the same pattern, but it becomes apparent that the film's romance is developed for the specific purpose of spiting those cede contrivances. This romance questions the very nature of fate and predestination, and creating a variable human presence within a world of set rules. When you realize each character's pursuit of romance is really a thinly veiled attempt at becoming a more developed person, rather than acting as a character confined to a role in a story, the resulting relationships that stem forth are worth celebrating.  Frequencies is not completely without its faults, however. The finale derails a bit of the momentum it sets up once it dissolves into generics as it becomes a complete science fiction film. The solution to all of the problems feels hokey rather than sweet. It's almost too saccharine in approach to work. Developments take place at such a rapid speed, it's almost impossible to accept or even care about them. As it lacks the multi-dimensional treatment of the rest of the story, it all falls flat and lacks power. Luckily, it ends on a high by going back to its well built romance.  Look past its finale, Frequencies is entertaining throughout. There are a few lapses in pace here and there, but even those can be explained away by the story's multi-layered sections. When it's all said and done, Frequencies is one of the best romances this year. And maybe more years to come.  I was definitely resonating at Frequencies' frequency. 
Frequencies Review photo
Love hertz
I'll be honest here. When Frequencies was first pitched to me, I didn't know if it could work. It's being billed as a romance with a slight tinge of science fiction, and to be completely honest, those films usually don't turn...


First trailer for 'If I Stay', starring Chloë Moretz

If I staaay, I would only be in your waaaay
Apr 16
// Isabelle Magliari
Author Gayle Forman's 2009 novel If I Stay is getting a film adaptation and everyone's favorite Chloë Moretz is taking on the starring role. Moretz plays Mia Hall, a teenage cello player who must decide between moving a...

First trailer for Sci-Fi drama I Origins looks interesting

Apr 10
// Liz Rugg
I Origins is a new Sci-Fi movie from Another Earth director Mike Cahill. It follows the story of Ian Gray, (Michael Pitt) a scientist who meets and falls in love with a mysterious woman (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) with st...

Errol Flynn biopic The Last of Robin Hood's distribution rights acquired, new poster debuts

Apr 10
// Liz Rugg
Errol Flynn is an interesting character, almost the archetypical devil-may-care 1940's Hollywood playboy, whose life fell to tatters once his shinning celebrity star began to wane. The Last of Robin Hood is a biopic about Fly...

Trailer for 'Begin Again' Starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo

Apr 01
// Isabelle Magliari
John Carney, the critically acclaimed director of the music-movie Once, is at it again with his new song-filled film, Begin Again. Starring Keira Knightely and Mark Ruffalo, Begin Again tells the story of Dan (Ruff...

Trailer for romantic comedy Words and Pictures pits painting against language

Mar 28
// Liz Rugg
Words and Pictures stars Clive Owen as Jack Marcus -- a disillusioned English teacher at a small private school who is just as frustrated by his classes' increasing apathy as he is with his own withering writing career. Juli...

Trailer: Refuge

Mar 21
// Liz Rugg
In Refuge, Krysten Ritter plays a young woman who is struggling to take care of her younger brother and sister after their parents abandoned them when she meets Sam, a boy who may or may not be a good influence on her and he...

Flixclusive SXSW Interview: Hugh Sullivan and Hannah Marshall (The Infinite Man)

Time travel, love and Australia with Infinite Man director Hugh Sullivan and star Hannah Marshall
Mar 12
// Matthew Razak
Coming out of the still ongoing SXSW film festival The Infinite Man was easily the biggest surprise. I expected very little and got a whole lot, including what's probably the best comedy of the festival. I was intrigued ...

Only Lovers Left Alive trailer: Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as vampires

Mar 07
// Liz Rugg
Only Lovers Left Alive features Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as cultured vampire lovers, whose romance has lasted for centuries. They have evolved and become more civilized than the need to kill for blood, but retain a v...

SXSW Review: The Infinite Man

Mar 07 // Matthew Razak
[embed]217401:41307:0[/embed] The Infinite ManDirector: Hugh SullivanRated: NRRelease Date: March 7, 2014  At it's heart The Infinite Man  is a love story. At it's other heart The Infinite Man is a time travel story. You may already recall a film that handled these themes last year called About Time. The differences between the two are many, though they both do star a wonderfully quirky lead. While both films push to the side the mechanics of time travel The Infinite Man doesn't quite ignore the implications as much, narrowing down its focus far better and delivering themes outside of love including obsession, attachment and dedication. This is the better time travel love story not simply because it's time travel rules actually make sense, but because it uses those rules to define itself and its themes. We open on Dean (Josh McConville) and Lana (Hanah Marshall) arriving at an abandoned hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The two spent their last anniversary there and the OCD  Dean has brought them back to recreate the magic with a perfectly constructed weekend plan. The problem is that the magic isn't quite working and when Lana's ex-boyfriend shows up things really go off the rails. After the two break up Dean spends a year moping around the motel and then calls Lana and uses his time travel machine to take them back in time and make the day perfect. Of course things go wrong again and eventually Dean is traveling back multiple times, meeting himself and desperately trying to figure out how to make things perfect. As well all know things are never perfect. The confined space of the motel coupled with the film's time travel logistics makes for a wonderful set piece for Dean's character to slowly unravel as he tries to win back his love and figure out exactly what he wants. As things get more complex and timelines cross the film brilliantly unfolds, never breaking its own time travel rules while tossing in healthy doses of its subtly clever screenplay and humor. It's short running time (about 90 minutes) also means that it never gets overly complex on itself and as it unfolds you realize how intricately created it is, with continuity time travel errors turning out to be fantastic twists in plot. Director Hugh Sullivan also does a fantastic job editing together the colliding timelines, using the construction of the film to not only represent the wibbly wobbly nature of time, but to emphasize the thematic nuances of the movie as well. A conversation replayed four times over unfolds each time we hear it into deeper and deeper meanings, and wonderfully lays out a metaphor for Dean's life. This is also mainly a one man show. McConville is one of the most charming screen presences I've never heard of, with that sort of comedic timing and delivery that straight men almost never get to have because their overshadowed by their comedic partner. While he's joined on screen by Marshall he's the one that carries this movie and he does it fantastically. Hopefully his career will start moving outside of Australia.  It's hard to complain about much with The Infinite Man since the screenplay is so tight and well designed. There's no wasted time or loss of momentum because there's no space to lose it in. While some holes may exist, they're easily overlooked and excused thanks to the quick pace and fact that all time travel films by their very nature must have holes. The film knows its goal and drives toward it with pluck and panache leaving the viewer not only working out the time line, but the growth of its characters as well. This an easy to enjoy feature length debut from a director who I'd be happy to see more of. 
Infinite Man Review photo
Infinitely charming
Usually the first movie you watch for a festival is a bit of a let down. You're super excited for the festival to kick off and you've hyped yourself up so much that almost nothing is going to stand up to your expectations of ...

Isabelle's Top 5 Movie Romances of 2013

Jan 07 // Isabelle Magliari
[embed]217100:41081:0[/embed] 5. Gatsby and Daisy - The Great Gatsby Few couples fit the doomed romance trope better than The Great Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s pages to Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film, Daisy and Gatsby’s star-crossed love remains potent and all encompassing. One of The Great Gatsby’s greatest achievements is taking a romance penned in 1925 and successfully breathing new (and, eventually, horrifically depressing) life into it. Leonardo Dicaprio and Carey Mulligan have electric chemistry as Daisy and Gatsby. While watching, I found myself believing that their love might actually survive past the ending credits, despite my knowledge of the source material. Although Luhrmann’s Gatsby arguably becomes distracted at times by its own over-the-top directorial style, Daisy and Gatsby’s love remains pure and sad. If you’re a jonesing for heartache, definitely check this one out. Read our review of The Great Gatsby here. [embed]217100:41080:0[/embed] 4. Luke and Romina - A Place Beyond the Pines Luke and Romina’s love in A Place Beyond the Pines is short, passionate, and devastating (are you seeing a pattern?). Ryan Gosling’s performance as the bank-robbing, motorcycle stuntman Luke Glanton is thrilling and tense, much like his ill-fated romance with ex-girlfriend Romina (Eva Mendes). Although Romina and Luke's relationship is mostly fizzled out by the time the movie begins, the aftershock of it vibrates through the film and helps build its foundation. You can feel their passion whenever they share a scene, whether they're fighting, talking, or simply gazing sadly at one another. Their's is a love that was doomed to fail, and it's captivating to watch.   [embed]217100:41082:0[/embed] 3. Katniss and Peeta - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Catching Fire, the second installment in The Hunger Games film series, continues to build upon Katniss and Peeta's uncomfortable love affair. Peeta's wide-eyed boyishness plays off of Katniss' reservedness and stoicism well, making for some satisfying will-they-won't-they tension. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have great on-screen chemistry, making both characters sympathetic as they navigate their strained relationship. Peeta, just wanting Katniss to let him in, and Katniss, too traumatized to love, is a powerful dynamic. Catching Fire might not be the most cerebral movie on this list, but the romance is there, and it is intense.  Read our review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire here.  [embed]217100:41083:0[/embed] 2. Alien and The Girls - Spring Breakers I'm just going to come out and say it: Spring Breakers was the best theater experience I had in 2013. That isn't to say that it's the best film I saw last year, but sitting in a packed NYC theater, screaming, gasping, laughing, and staring in bewilderment at the saturated color show that was Spring Breakers is something that I won't soon forget. Most of my enchantment, if not all of it, came from the debauched romance shared by gangster rapper "Alien" (James Franco) and spring breakers Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine). Without giving too much away, the four girls commit some armed robbery, as teenagers are apt to do, and use the money to travel to St. Petersburg, Florida for Spring Break. There, they meet Alien, a gun slinging rapper with white-boy dreads and a grill. The four girls soon become Alien's "soul mates," as the five commit crimes together, sleep together, and even experience the majesty Britney Spears together. If that's not love then I don't know what is.  Read our review of Spring Breakers here.  [embed]217100:41084:0[/embed] 1. Theodore and Samantha - Her Spike Jonze's Her is, without a doubt, one of 2013 crowning romanic achievements. Theodore's romance with computer operating-system "Samantha" is complex, heartwarming, sad, and, most importantly, honest. Joaquin Phoenix stars as unlucky-in-love Theodore, a melancholy writer navigating the final stages of his divorce. When he downloads Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), a bodiless computer operating system, the two begin an exciting and strange love affair. Her tests the boundaries of what makes love exist; how it is defined versus how it is experienced. Samantha is a computer program, but she has consciousness. Both she and Theodore grow and learn from one another, causing them to change while remaining deeply in love. There are many relationships in Her, but Theodore and Samantha's is captivating because it feels so normal. Even Samantha's frustration over not having a physical body seems like a normal, human problem because of the film's gentle and honest narrative. Her doesn't give into cliches; Samantha never glitches out and Theodore never accidentally breaks her. Instead, it delivers a love story that is original and real. For me, Samantha and Theodore's is easily the best movie romance of 2013. Read our review of Her here.  There you have it, folks! My picks for the Top 5 Movie Romances of 2013! Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below! And stay tuned for the next two weeks for other "Best of" lists here on Flixist!
Top 5 Movie Romances photo
Can you feel the love tonight?
Romantic comedies are all well and good, but who doesn't love a movie that tears their heart out through their chest? Heartache is an integral part of romance, and 2013 provided movie-goers with a plethora of strang...


Flix for Short: Somewhere

"Somewhere, our limbs lost in the distance."
Nov 13
// Liz Rugg
Somewhere is a short animated film by artist Nicolas Ménard. It follows the journey of a star-crossed, stranded astronaut and his love back on his home planet. The 2D animation style feels appropriately lush, and I ab...

Review: About Time

Nov 01 // Matthew Razak
[embed]215623:40089:0[/embed] About TimeDirector: Richard CurtisRated: RRelease Date: November 1, 2013  The premise of About Time is sublimely ridiculous. On his 21st birthday Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) finds out from his father (Bill Nighy) that time travel is hereditary in the males in his family. If he stands in a dark space, closes his eyes and thinks about the time he wants to travel to in the past he'll appear there. He can then hop back to his current time by doing the same or simply live his life out from there on. Warned not to use his power to for money he decides instead he'll use it to find love. He finds that love eventually in Mary (Rachel McAdams), keeping his time travel a secret the entire time. For any other movie you'd expect the plot to flow out into some sort of time traveling catastrophe where Mary finds out Tim has been mucking with her life and everything starts falling apart until Tim finds the perfect way to save everything. About Time isn't about time travel, though. It's wonderfully not about it, and treats Tim's ability to time travel in the most insanely naive way to simply tell a story about love, and not the love you're expecting. This really isn't a film about Mary and Tim, it's about Tim and his Dad. It's about living life to its fullest, and loving those that we get to be with. It's innocence about what a man would do if he could time travel is so crushingly honest that you don't roll your eyes at the fact that Tim never goes back in time for personal gain, but instead nod your head that that's exactly how we should all treat the ability to time travel. About halfway through the movie Tim is confronted with the chance to hook up with the girl of his dreams, and he could full well do it and then travel back in time and never have to worry about getting busted. This isn't that movie, though, and it's at this moment that you realize you're not watching a movie about a relationship, but a movie about a life. As the rest of the film unwinds the focus shifts to Tim and his Dad and they're absolutely wonderful relationship. The main conflict in the film is not a conflict at all, but simply the fact that eventually Tim must stop traveling back in time to see his father. It leads to some of the most honest and heart wrenching moments I've seen in the theater all year, and it's all because About Time refuses to be cynical in the best way possible. Having Bill Nighy play the best father in the world and Domhnall Gleeson, who needs to be in more movies, counter him perfectly elevates the father/son relationship even further. The two actors are tailored made for their roles, and I'm not sure there is a more innocent face than Gleeson's. McAdams is gorgeous as always, but her character isn't nearly focused on enough to pull out anything that needs to be commented on. It's truly a two man show here. What's even more stunning about the film is how wonderfully it's shot. I would have never called Curtis a technically challenging director before this, but this movie isn't just gorgeous, it's built fantastically. It plays with time wonderfully, and in a brilliant instance, cheesy montages are actually artistically relevant as they bring us into Tim's time hopping world. Maybe I should have expected it since Curtis is one of the few directors to successfully make an ensemble rom-com work, but it was still surprising just how cleverly directed the movie was. That's not to say the film doesn't trip into its own problems. In a movie playing this innocent about love and life you do run into moments of too much saccharine sweetness. At times it can get tangled in it's own plot as well, as many time travel films do. It also falls into so many tropes that you wonder how it ever gets out of them (hilarious rainy wedding, romance on a beach, awkward first date). Still, it wears its romance and its sleeve and it devalues the time travel to a plot point, not the film's themes, making you forget about the fact that you're watching the umpteenth, soft lit love message of the film.  By imbuing the entire film with the kind of naivety that you'd expect to find in a child who idolizes his father About Time feels honest. It almost ignores its central time travel concept and instead focuses on an unbridled joy in love. Can that get too sweet and sugary? Of course, but sometimes a dose of sweet and sugary is perfectly welcome.    
About Time Review photo
Not what you think it's about
You probably haven't heard too much about About Time, and if you have you may have passed it off as another romantic comedy and simply forgotten about it. Hell, we've done a grand total of one post on the film and I'm not abo...

NYFF Review: Gloria

Oct 15 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]216560:40797:0[/embed] GloriaDirector: Sebastián LelioRating: TBDCountry: ChileRelease Date: May 9, 2013 (Chile) There are other ageist things that Gloria undermines. As a character, Gloria may seem totally uninteresting -- a middle-aged woman, divorced for many years, single, office job, shut in save for her time at the club. In most other movies, she'd be a side character. The most interesting thing that happens in her day is someone's awful-looking hairless cat sneaking into her apartment. But there's a rich life in there simply from the act of aging, and while Gloria's story is not filled with obvious adventure, there's a joy in a closely observed character study that's about someone trying to live a life they can be happy with. One of the best parts about Gloria is its frankness. Even though she's in her late 50s, Gloria is a woman with needs. She dates, she hooks up, she has one night stands, she feels lost, she feels lonely, she gets tanked. The same feelings people have earlier in life persist and enlarge with time, and the same goes for those basic drives to satiate desires and, even if just temporarily, be desired. When Gloria meets a recently divorced amusement park owner named Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), a conventional movie would turn their relationship into a schmaltzy whirlwind that resolves as some dumb affirmation of Hallmark card banalities. Thankfully Lelio and co-writer Gonzalo Maza don't let them off so easy. Love at an older age is more difficult because life is more difficult, and that's especially true for Rodolfo. He's a rather pathetic old man tied too closely to his ex-wife and needy daughters. This friction makes Gloria suspect something is not quite right about Rodolfo even though she's sort of crazy about him and vice versa. García is so good as Gloria, her performance so natural and so nuanced. In one scene, Rodolfo woos his ladylove with romantic poetry. It's adorable, and I don't mean that condescendingly -- their passion has turned each other into teenagers. Lelio holds the camera on Gloria's face behind Rodolfo as the lines are read. Each line sets up conditional statements as metaphors for their passion ("If you were x, then I'd be y; and if you were y, then I'd be z..." ). Some lines are funny, some lines are beautiful, some lines are weird, but there's a wonderful movement toward something transcendent, which is what this love is all about. Watching García's face, her eyes magnified a bit by those extra-large glasses, she reacts quietly to each syllable, each word, each line as if she's hearing them for the first time, as if she's noticing the beauty, the weirdness, the movement and connections of the poem, or even the way the phrases hang in the air after leaving her lover's mouth. She looks almost the same, but something about her gaze at Rodolfo has changed. What's also remarkable about Gloria is its frank view of sex later in life and the way it's depicted. This is just a fact of Gloria's life, just like a commute, going to the salon, or singing along with the car radio. She's not ashamed of it, much like anyone her age in real life would feel, and neither is the film. There's a funny moment that seems to acknowledge the self-consciousness that people have about their bodies as they get older and also why they shouldn't feel so self-conscious. It's odd that nudity on screen or sex on screen after a certain age is considered brave, as if the possibility of either ends after an actor or actress is older than 40. Yet Gloria is tasteful and playful and even sensual with it. For all the bad things I said about the sex scenes in Blue Is the Warmest Color, the only thing I can say about the sex in Gloria is "How refreshing." Yes, this actually looks like two people in love having sex, and it's all important to the narrative without being excessive. It's great to see a relationship like this explored and shared with the same kind of openness as there would be for a younger couple in a movie. Yet younger couples have a luxury of time, and there's a persistent sense of time waning for Gloria. One memento mori is delivered in the form of a little dance, and there's so much said internally in the way that Gloria scowls -- it's all spite and recognition, and García gives the moment the spontaneity it needs to resonate beyond the mere cleverness of the visual metaphor. Still, it's not as simple as a last chance at love, at least I don't think it is. That would be too easy an explanation for what Lelio and García have worked toward. Gloria and Rodolfo may care about each other, but I think Gloria is more concerned about comfort and, again, this idea of grace. Grace is more than just settling or conforming to an idea of how you should be at a certain age. There's far more grace in accepting certain circumstances and being able to live in light of such circumstances. While the movie lingers a little on its way to the conclusion, I never lost interest in what Lelio and Maza were trying to say about this older generation and what wonderful things García was able to do in the act of saying. Gloria is a character I could have followed a while longer through events much less remarkable. Gloria has a lot more resonance in Chile since there's an entire historical and political dimension about the Gloria character that isn't readily apparent to most foreign audiences. Gloria's generation lived through Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship, eventually ended in a referendum vote in 1988 as depicted in Pablo Larraín's excellent No. (Larraín served as a producer on this film.) Gloria has struck a nerve in Chile, where it did great business at their domestic box office; it's also the country's official selection for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Women of all ages went to see the film, men went to it willingly because it's not just some chick flick, and people of all ages have flocked to it and embraced it for its honesty. Apparently people in Chile now refer to women of Gloria's generation as "Glorias." Some people have even started identifying with her directly, stating "I'm Gloria." Even without the national identification or the historical knowledge, this portrait of later life seems so universal that I think most of us can say we're Glorias as well.
Gloria Review photo
Old love and other sorrows
Of all the things to latch onto first in Sebastián Lelio's Gloria, it was the dancing. Not because it was great, mind you, but because its quality changes over the course of the film. The movie opens in a single's club...

NYFF Review: Only Lovers Left Alive

Oct 14 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]216442:40783:0[/embed] Only Lovers Left AliveDirector: Jim JarmuschRating: TBDRelease Date: December 5th, 2013 (Russia); December 19th, 2013 (Germany); Spring 2014 (US/UK) Only Lovers Left Alive feels like it could occupy a space alongside some of Jarmusch's classic films, like Stranger Than Paradise, Mystery Train, or Down By Law. There's a similar kind of playful boredom in the dialogue and the acting, as if everything's a little worn down and worn out and lived in too long. Occasionally the film gets too cute about name dropping and and its little references, like a precocious child that's eager to show off what he or she has learned from the cool aunt or uncle. The vintage guitars that Adam's obsessed with ooze vintage chic, sure, but for every smirking wink at the cultural treasures we long for, there's maybe a too-loving glance at a book that seems like it's given screen time for its indie cred. Still, the big references usually work. Take John Hurt's role. He plays the vampire Christopher Marlowe (yes, that Christopher Marlowe), and he has one of the funniest lines involving a long-standing literary conspiracy. When the film begins, our lovers are separated, though not in any romantic way. They're still very much in love. Eve is out in Tangier while Adam is out in Detroit. He's severely depressed, and even contemplates suicide, which isn't so easy for vampires. Eve eventually joins him in Detroit to cheer him up, and when they're together, there's a comfortable fondness about their every second in the same space. The passion muted but it's familiar and it's warm. When they're side by side or in each other's company, there's such a sense of ease, as if they really have had centuries of shared life between them. This gets a bit upended when Eve's little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) -- "not by blood" Eve deadpans -- shows up from Los Angeles. The snobbery of our lovers is rooted in their disdain for thoughtless humanity. They call the worst of the human race "zombies," one of those clever little ideas in a film full of them -- an elitist distinction among the undead. Of course the vampires are thinking, classy, brained-things; the dumb humans are the unthinking, crass, virtually brain dead things. So much of the film is tinged with a kind of regret about the world's impending end at the hands of the zombies, whether by pollution, by war, by overpopulation, or by just plain old human incompetence and shortsightedness. "Impending" may take ages -- what's another century when you've lived centuries? -- but given the population booms and the collapse of economies and cities, every day must seem like some part of a zombie apocalypse to Adam and Eve. Setting this sort of story in Detroit makes lots of sense. Jarmusch plays with the tropes of vampire mythology, keeping certain well-known ideas while discarding others to invent his own. One of the notable aesthetic additions is the wearing of leather gloves. I still have no idea what the rule is behind them, but it just looks cool. Jarmusch also adds a concern over the cleanliness of human blood. With so many drugs, pharmaceuticals, and pollutants entering people's bodies, the vampires need a pure supply so they don't get sick. Adam's got a hook-up with a steady stream of the clean stuff. This all puts me in mind of organic and GMO-free diets as well as notions of being authentic in the cred sense and also being straight edge. (Ironically, the vampires look like they're shooting up when they drink blood, their fangs visible and coated in a dark red that's the color of cough syrup.) Like most Jarmusch movies, Only Lovers Left Alive isn't driven by plot. Instead, it seems driven by a mood and the slow exploration of this mood. The funny stuff takes place in the quiet moments, and as vampires, Adam and Eve are sort of perfect beings to deliver the deadpan dialogue. They've seen too much to be too shocked, but they at least register a quiet bemusement. It's the difference between actually laughing at a joke and just saying "That's funny." Maybe most Jarmusch movies have secretly been vampire movies. I might need to watch Only Lovers Left Alive again to figure out how I really feel about the film as a whole. I was pleasantly entertained, but I didn't quite get the immediate hit I sensed from watching Down By Law or Night On Earth. It's not that the human element is missing from Only Lovers Left Alive, it's just aged so much that it's somewhat detached. Maybe it's just the difference between liking a movie a lot and just saying "That's charming." The movie is more than that, at least I want to think so since I'm a Jarmusch fan; maybe I was just a bit of a zombie on my first watch.
Only Lovers Left Review photo
They're like a really, really, really old married couple
On its surface, a vampire film is the last thing I'd expect out of Jim Jarmusch. Then again, the same can be said about a hitman movie (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, The Limits of Control) and a western (Dead Man). And s...


Trailer for Blue is the Warmest Color is quiet and lovely

Sep 19
// Liz Rugg
Blue is the Warmest Color is a French romantic drama directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, and it's been making quite an impression on the indie and film festival crowds. The film follows a young girl named Adele, played by Ad&eg...

NRH's Weekly Analysis: Literally Lost in Translation

Sep 02 // Nathan Hardisty
Before saying or interpreting anything I'd like to just say that Bill Murray gives probably the performance of his life in the this film. His smile during the photography scenes are wrapped in layers of emotion, conversations over phones seem tangible and his wry humor manages to bleed through and punctuate the tragedy brilliantly. Scarlett Johansson, a very young Johansson might I add, manages to look like the prettiest button in the universe and also flex her respective talents as an actress. The 'smile' scene really shows off her charm and innocent attractiveness, removed of the sensuality that so many expect of her nowadays. Lost in Translation isn't a film about humor or smiles, not really, it's about love. It's about how untranslatable of a concept it truly is and how different cultures and language try to operate within the concept. The opening shot of the film takes us into some foreign neon landscape, removed of familiarity, as Japanese sentences are spoken and then seemingly spoken back again in English. Among the Eastern iconography and foreign symbols, Bob (Murray's character) spots a picture of himself holding whiskey adorned with Japanese lexicography. He wipes his eyes in disbelief that he could exist among the outside images. There's lots of shots which confirm the themes of loneliness and entrapment in a foreign world and culture. The first shot of Bob in an elevator is him, the tall American, placed at the center of a clique of short Japanese businessmen. It's lonely being the center of attention, and the drudgery of fame and talent is also stressed as a core theme. The aftermath of success and the bitterness it brings also bites into Bob's character, he references and practically laments over the films he did "in the seventies" that, now, he seems removed of color, life and, well, love. Charlotte re-ignites some kind of youthful charm in him; seen in his very clothes, language, karaoke skills and humor. Bob's first work effort has been scrutinized by a lot of film writers. He's meant to look at the camera whilst holding some whiskey. The Japanese director gives his vision of the scene to Bob, in a long-drawn out sequence all in Japanese before the translator simply says "he wants you to turn to the camera". With an ounce of effort the entire Japanese language is reduced to a simple direction. Bob even asks if he wants more from him but the quality is removed. Some things just can't be translated, just like love. Charlotte too, confused herself, tells of how she heard monks chanting but "didn't feel anything" and that, to an outsider, sometimes language (even of mystic ilk) can have no power at all. It's not just the Japanese-English translation that is a language barrier, but the barriers within the English too. Charlotte's husband laughs horribly with a woman from his past, Kelly, and there's a sense of history between them. They obnoxiously laugh and exchange small little catch-up sentences between the obvious referencing to something romantic. Charlotte, and by extension the audience, just can't tell what they're really talking about. Sometimes language can't articulate history or real emotion, it is itself a barrier to feeling and to the truth. Music is also a place of language barriers. At one point, in casual conversation, one person asks of another that they "don't listen to hip-hop?". Another point of barrier is the karaoke sequence mid-way through the film. We're clued in to the importance of this scene, but Bob's looks at Charlotte and the use of song lyrics instead of conversation might just obfuscate some meaning behind their connection. There's a barrier between us and the two character's mental states, for once we're not on the same emotional page. Then it clicks. On a second watch we see exactly the moment when Bob and Charlotte discover each other in a different light, the moment when their own idiosyncrasies and idiolects cannot unearth their real relationship. The carpet scene is probably the most bizzarre method of communicating the same themes. Bob's wife's letter reads that she likes the "burgandy", but Bob doesn't know which is "burgandy". The carpet samples fall on the floor and we're not sure either. Bob is left to pick out the color for his study without actually being anywhere near it. Color and fashion and the 'visual' cannot be communicate just by a few words, sometimes things need to be in person. This is in opposition to the role of technology that is shown throughout the film. Bob yells at a Japanese exercise machine that seems leagues ahead of him, and his own mindset seems lost in the neon wreckage of Tokyo's skyline. Picking out fashion pieces, writing letters and other 'traditions' cannot be translated; they have inherent qualities that cannot be just replicated within the modern world.  All of these methods and themes all back up the central focus of Lost in Translation, orchestrated beautifully by Sofia Coppola. There's a moment in the film where Bob flicks through the TV channels and sees his own self, in a film, and Japanese dubbing played over it. He finds himself too lost in translation. The film is about love, about how its power perhaps can't be found in art or language or in any sort of communication. We don't hear the last whispers of Bob to Charlotte because we wouldn't understand them, the whisper itself is all that comes close to describing the true and unique bond between these two people. Language barriers are sometimes worth keeping, celebrating and sometimes worth destroying for the sake of love, emotion and humanity. 
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Language barriers in this odd romance
Lost in Translation might be one of the oddest Western romance films ever made. It contains no sex scenes between the main two lovers, there's a giant age gap, there's minimal kissing and the relationship develops not th...

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