Posts tagged movies

The Catnip of Critics

  1. Write a lead-actor-heavy script, allotting plenty of time for said actor to glower and bluster and generally dominate every frame he’s in. Must run at least two hours long; close to three is best.

  2. Set the story in a long-ago era and photogenic locale, with ample opportunities to make period sets and charming costumes.

  3. Hire a top-notch, bombastic lead actor and a well-respected director.

And you will have a movie, hailed by critics as a masterpiece, that’s interesting for maybe an hour before you start checking the clock, wondering where this is going and when the main character — every character, really — will start acting like a real-life human instead of Oscar-bait, and now it’s two hours in and you’re trading one-liners with the others on the couch and laughing at how seriously the director is taking these preposterous scenes before there’s a flash of violence and the end of There Will Be Blood finally, finally comes.

Aug. 29, 2011 movies reviews


I saw my first Miyazaki film on Cartoon Network in a hotel room. It was the spring of 2007, though I can’t recall which city my family and I were in or why we were on the road at all. But I do remember watching Derrick Rose in the basketball state championship game on TV — so we must have been close to home — while waiting for the shower. Flipping through channels after the game, I stumbled onto Spirited Away.

Since then, I’ve seen just about every Miyazaki film. I ordered Princess Mononoke on DVD later that year, and a couple summers ago I went through every film of his the library had.

I own a fair number of them now, and every birthday a few more get added to the collection. My Neighbor Totoro was a gift in the fall, one I’d seen only once, during that summer binge.

A few days ago, I finally watched it again. That it took so long says a lot.

There’s plenty to like: it’s lovely to look at, and there’s no shortage of tender moments or imagination.

But it never felt like a movie for me, a childless 20-something, and that’s why I hadn’t revisited it. I felt both too old for it and not old enough. Never would I pull it from the shelf over, say, Mononoke or Nausicaa, films so much larger, so much more narratively complex. That’s not a knock on Totoro; it’s simply a reflection of what most resonates with me at this point in my life.

So it is what it is: A very fine film, just not one made for me.

Jun. 4, 2011 animation movies reviews

True Grit

A great Western, and very funny, too.

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges are getting plenty of well-deserved accolades, but the brief performances from a smattering of actors—like Ed Corbin, Joe Stevens and Barry Pepper—really made the movie for me.

Jan. 9, 2011 movies reviews

Animated Films for Grown-Ups

Preach it, Mr. Baldwin, preach it.

Nov. 29, 2010 animation movies

The James Franco Project

Sam Anderson:

James Franco will not stop bouncing around.

Nice profile. He was great in 127 Hours.

Nov. 23, 2010 jamesfranco movies profiles

District 9

An apartheid allegory meets E.T. meets The Fly. Good, but not great.

Aug. 28, 2009 movies reviews scifi

Blade Runner

I first saw Blade Runner at Chicago’s gorgeous Music Box Theatre in late 2007, when Ridley Scott released to theaters his “final cut” of the film ahead of the December DVD release.

It was unlike any film I’d seen before, and I loved it. I watched it again last week, and I love it even more. Intelligent science fiction is a tough combination—it’s all too easy for directors to forsake the story for special effects and futuristic gadgetry—but Blade Runner pulls it off in spades, and for that, it’s one of my very favorite films.

Aug. 25, 2009 movies reviews scifi


It’s very hard not to like Ponyo, the latest film from Hayao Miyazaki. Sure, the story is simplistic and lacks the sophistication of Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away, but that’s OK, because visually it’s irresistible.

Ponyo is a waltz through a fantastic and magical world, and every frame is a joy to behold. Accept the plot for what it is—an excuse for Miyazaki to loose his fertile imagination on something new: the sea—and just revel in the experience.

It’s not Miyazaki’s best, but it’s a very satisfying film nonetheless.

Aug. 21, 2009 animation movies reviews