More on YOUTH

February 10, 2016

So, I just got this comment on my flip little post about Youth:

“What is the point of this? An opinion without explanation is frustrating and useless.”

Maybe Deborah is right about that.

When I wrote that Youth is an idea in search of a movie, what I meant is that it is over-conceptualized and even sterile.  It doesn’t flow very well and it manages at once to be overly abstract in terms of narrative without delivering on formal properties of style that — since form and content are inextricably linked — might reinforce some of the central themes in ways that would elevate the film as a whole.

It’s not a bad film, but it is a bit of a missed opportunity because Youth is neither emotionally engaging nor aesthetically distinctive.



February 10, 2016

So, I realized in my flurry of blog updates that I never mentioned Youth, which seems to me an idea in search of a film.  If you’ve seen it, let me know if you agree.  If you haven’t, puzzle over that a bit.

While always fun to watch Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, the film is a bit of a letdown.



February 10, 2016

In my flurry of activity to make some blog updates before choosing my Top Ten films of the year, I recollect that I never wrote about Spotlight, which will undoubtedly make my list of favorite films.

Journalists have taken a beating in recent years, and our polarizing political times filled with commentators spouting off 24/7 is no small part of the problem. This film champions the best of them working to uncover truths and right wrongs, which is a story sorely needed to valorize the profession and bring some balance into public perception.


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February 10, 2016

It so happens that I saw Brooklyn one afternoon in December and saw Carol that same evening.

One is lovely, even sweet, and I enjoyed it. The other is brilliant, and it is best appreciated within a larger context.

One is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. The other has (in my opinion) been snubbed.


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February 10, 2016

I can’t remember seeing a film that moved me so profoundly or worked for me so perfectly as 45 Years since…well…since a few weeks ago when I saw Mustang, but both are exceptional movies despite the short time between my experience of them.

Both of them also speak to my predilection for intimate dramas that reveal the interiority of characters and unfold in realistic episodes, what I like to think of as non-traditional (feminine rather than Aristotelian) narrative structures encased in a style that feels artless but actually reflects a series of conscious choices and understated but evocative craft.

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February 10, 2016

It occurs to me — as I sort through the movies I watched over the last year in preparation for naming my Top Ten — that I never wrote about The Hateful Eight.

I didn’t start out as a Quentin Tarantino hater and still like Reservoir Dogs and, to a lesser degree, Pulp Fiction.

But, I admit it:  I put off seeing The Hateful Eight until I couldn’t dodge the bullet any longer.

Hateful Eight

This semester, I’m teaching a seminar on Deadwood and The Western. I think David Milch’s HBO series is important and brilliant in its way (why else a course built around it?), so don’t call me squeamish or label me a traditionalist who hates modifications to the genre.

In fact, revisionist Westerns are among my very favorites.

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February 10, 2016

This simple, well-told story is the first Jordanian film nominated for an Academy Award (Best Foreign Language Film).

Set during World War I in the deserts of Southern Jordan, the narrative follows a young Bedouin boy and his older brother as they escort a British officer and an Arab to a secret location.

Is it a coming of age film, a war film, a take on the Western, or a little Hero’s Journey? Perhaps it is not quite any of those things or a bit more than all of them.

Theeb is the name of the main character, and his performance in this small film is a large part of what gives it such heart and implied scope. Beautifully crafted and worth seeing.