Friday, December 23, 2011

We Need to Talk About Kevin ("Gee, ya think?")

Of all the complaints I’ve read about We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ramsay’s first film in nearly a decade, the most interesting to me is the idea that the film doesn’t work because Kevin (played by Ezra Miller as a teenager) is a monster more or less from the time the doctor cut his umbilical cord. And you know what? Those folks aren’t wrong- a film in which a mother looks back at the fleeting, subtle signs that her kid is going to end up shooting up his school does (on paper, anyway) sound more compelling than one in which a child reveals his evil from the get-go and seems inevitably careening toward cataclysmic violence.

Yet I don’t think that Ramsay wants to examine the genesis of a killer, so much as she wants to explore how inadequate the vast majority of us are when confronted with unfiltered evil.

Click here for full review.

Screener grubbing 2011

I’m a busy guy. After all, I’ve got a wife and kids, I’m working full-time, and I take college classes to boot. So while I try to carve out time for movies I want to see, there are always a few that slip through the cracks. Therefore, as in previous years, I’ve decided to make a list of the movies I want to see most, in the hope that some Good Samaritan out there might help me see what I really want to see before the Muriels deadline at the end of January.

Note: some of the movies I’ve listed are scheduled to come to Columbus, while others are or will be available to me to view at home before the deadline. Titles that are italicized are ones I probably won’t be able to see- at least, not without help.

1. A Separation (Farhadi)
Usually, the movies I look forward to most are known quantities, more often than not coming from established filmmakers. So it seems a little odd that the movie I feel most compelled to watch before the Muriels deadline is from a director whose work is unfamiliar to me. However, based on the raves for A Separation since it first premiered at last year’s Berlinale, I’m willing to make an exception to my usual M.O. In recent years I’ve become more selective of critics whose opinions I really trust, so while it’s impressive that Farhadi’s film was at the top of Roger Ebert’s best-of-2011 list and placed prominently on the lists of both EW critics, that means less to me than the love it’s getting from Mike D’Angelo, who’s the exact opposite of a critical “easy lay.” Yet D’Angelo has rated the film higher than any new release since The Man Who Wasn’t There fully a decade ago. Good enough for me.

2. Margaret (Lonergan)
Speaking of a decade ago, remember when Kenneth Lonergan was an exciting new directorial voice, poised to take American cinema by storm in the wake of his You Can Count on Me success? Then Margaret happened- a movie that was caught up in litigation for five years before trickling into the most cursory of releases, a cautionary tale for up-and-coming filmmakers who would dare to think big within the Hollywood system. But while the groundswell of online support for Margaret is heartening, in the end a film must succeed on its own merits, and judging by all the evidence, it’s the sort of ambitious, underloved work that’s usually right up my alley. I’m just hoping I can check this out sooner rather than later.

3. George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Scorsese)
There are quite a few notable documentaries still on my cinephile dance card before the movie years wraps up (see #6 below), but the one I’m most curious to see is this one. Being both a Scorsese fan and a Harrison fan of long standing, I really want to check out what the master filmmaker has to say about the most spiritual- and in many ways, the most complicated- of the Beatles.

4. A Dangerous Method (Cronenberg) [coming 27 Jan to Columbus]
I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of Eastern Promises, but when Cronenberg’s on, he’s pretty great. And considering I dig a lot of his more cerebral works, I’m hoping this is in the tradition of Dead Ringers and Spider.

5. Aurora (Puiu) [available 10 Jan on DVD]
Puiu’s bitterly cold comedy The Death of Mr. Lazarescu made my top 10 back in 2006, so I’ve waited a while for this, his follow-up, and felt terrible that I had to miss its single screening at the Wex. No matter- the upcoming DVD release should help me rectify this.

6 (tie). Into the Abyss (Herzog)
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Berlinger/Sinofsky)

Two documentaries about the complexities of the American justice system, from two (okay, three) gifted filmmakers. Reviews for Into the Abyss haven’t been stellar, but Herzog’s always compelling, and I’m curious about his take on the death penalty. And while the West Memphis Three were freed just a few months ago, I believe the third Paradise Lost documentary should present a fitting coda both to the case and to this great and noble documentary series.

I’ve listed the other movies in my to-see list below, in alphabetical order. As before, titles that I don’t think I’ll have a means to see prior to the Muriels deadline are italicized, so if anyone out there can hook me up with a copy, that would be awesome:

The Artist (Hazanavicius) [coming 13 Jan to Columbus]
Carnage (Polanski) [coming 20 Jan to Columbus]
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Fincher) [now in theatres]
House of Pleasures (Bonello) [coming 2 Feb to Columbus; also available on SundanceNow]
The Interrupters (James)
Moneyball (Miller) [now in theatres]
My Joy (Loznitsa)
Mysteries of Lisbon (Ruiz) [now on DVD]
Pina (Wenders)
Shame (McQueen)
The Skin I Live In (Almodovar)
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson) [coming 13 Jan to Columbus]
Tuesday, After Christmas (Muntean) [coming 27 Dec to DVD]