Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ruby Sparks (***1/2)

Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Davis


Films about the creative process don't always work. There's a kind of self-referencing egomania that the audience can sense when we see something written about writing. But Ruby Sparks, the new film from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Davis, is filled with such wonderful charm and sweet humor that it is able to overcome that. A love story at its core, Ruby Sparks is a fantastic film about the pressure put on artful creation, and the kind of person that the creative mind can make.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: 'Dog Day Afternoon'

I've always been a big fan of The Film Experience's series 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot', but have never had the motivation to participate, whether it be because of the film choices or (the more likely scenario) a grand abundance of laziness. But Dog Day Afternoon - a film that I have loved for most of my life - has pushed me out of my apathetic hovel and led me to add to the series.

I've seen the film close to twenty-five times and I've always thought it was a masterpiece, but like all great films, each viewing brings some small detail to light, making the film that much more great. As I sat down to watch it again, pondering which shot to use, I was most struck by the performance of John Cazale. Which is why I went with this shot:

Watching this film for the millionth time, it was this shot that stuck out to me so strongly. They've already been inside the bank for quite some time at this point of the film, but the FBI has stepped in and turned off the electricity. Threatened, they look outside and see FBI agent Sheldon (a terrifically underplayed James Broderick) calling for Sonny to come outside.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Campaign (***)

Directed by Jay Roach


If I had to choose a classic cinematic model that set a template for The Campaign, it would probably be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. On the surface, it seems hard to imagine someone the likes of Frank Capra inspiring a film who has a lead who likes to shave handlebar mustaches into his pubic hair. But if you look at the basic fundamental ideals behind this sophomoric political satire, it's not unlike the optimistic naivete of Caprian classics, where the little man is always able to rise up against the political machine with nothing but his integrity and small-town wherewithal. Yet, like Capra's great film, The Campaign finds the real charm in this tale, even if it seems totally unrealistic in today's cynical society.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild (****)

Directed by Benh Zeitlin


Occasionally, a film comes along and it's very scope and cinematic vision leaves you frustrated with the limits of contemporary narrative films. Talk about a film that is astonishingly beautiful and wondrously innovative without James Cameron-like resources. Taking place somewhere in between fantasy and reality, Beasts of the Southern Wild erupts time and time again with so much unbridled emotion and enthusiasm. Not too shabby for a film that takes place in a setting that is so lofty, they call it The Bathtub.