Author Topic: A Decade of Filmspots  (Read 19169 times)

pixote

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #160 on: May 17, 2020, 11:11:40 PM »
Drug War (Johnnie To, 2012, Blu-Ray) — I have a greater and greater appreciation for movies that dive right into their stories and never lose focus. Drug War is certainly one of those films. Each scene leads into the next with perhaps no filler whatsoever. It has something of a 1970s vibe. It could almost be mistaken for a vintage Fukasaku Kinji film, at least until the finale, which starts to veer more into John Woo territory, albeit muted by To's less operatic inclinations. I would have preferred a different ending, one more true to the police procedural precision of everything leading up to it. It's still a terrifically fast-paced and engaging film, anchored by To's confident direction and the performances of Sun Honglei and Louis Koo, both of whom are a delight to watch. Of the six To films I've now seen, Drug War rates the highest. Grade: B

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #161 on: May 17, 2020, 11:32:26 PM »
Of the six To films I've now seen, Drug War rates the highest. Grade: B

I've seen 10. It's not even a contest.

pixote

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #162 on: May 18, 2020, 02:31:20 AM »
Calvary (John Michael McDonagh, 2014, Blu-Ray) — It takes considerable effort for me to remember that John Patrick Shanley, Martin McDonagh, and John Michael McDonagh (Martin's older brother) are all different people — the same as to remember that calvary and calvary are different words. The brothers McDonagh certainly seem to share similarly writerly inclinations. Calvary is so writerly that, for much of its running time, I felt I was doing it a disservice by experiencing it in film form as opposed to reading the screenplay. On the page, perhaps the self-reflexive references to opening lines and third act reveals would have been more palatable, isolated from the 'wait for laughter' pauses of the film's editing; and perhaps, with some things left to the imagination, all the 'what a character!' characterizations would have seemed less overdone. This is a film that insists upon itself — and by the end I found myself yielding to that insistence, largely thanks to Brendan Gleeson's humane performance. Grade: B-

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pixote

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #163 on: May 18, 2020, 04:53:49 AM »
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013, Blu-Ray) — I sometimes wonder whether Filmspot history would be significantly different had the "Best Debut Feature" category instead been labeled something like "Most Promising Debut" — with the emphasis less on the quality of the director's initial film and more on the excitement generated by it for their future films. My recent experiences with Ari Aster really drove this point home. Even though I didn't quite like Hereditary, I certainly see in it (hindsight being 20/20) the potential upon which Midsommar delivered. Steve McQueen remains the only director of films to win Best Debut Feature (Hunger) and Best Picture (12 Years a Slave), but Ryan Coogler (Creed, Black Panther) has cashed in his Debut Feature potential just as much, if not more so. And yet Coogler's first film lost the Debut Feature Filmspot to Joshua Oppenheimer's The Act of Killing — which now seems a bit like robbery (again, hindsight being 20/20 and all that). Fruitvale Station isn't perfect, but it is an exceedingly strong debut, with Coogler showcasing some strong directing chops — highlighted by the conveyed helplessness of the final act — to go along with some pretty decent writing chops. During the scene when subway riders celebrated the countdown to the New Year in impromptu fashion, I found myself mad that such an enjoyable, slice-of-life scene needed impending tragedy to justify its existence — and that anger I felt is perhaps the highest compliment I could pay to Coogler's film. Grade: B+

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« Last Edit: May 18, 2020, 04:56:06 AM by pixote »
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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #164 on: May 18, 2020, 09:56:00 AM »
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013, Blu-Ray) — I sometimes wonder whether Filmspot history would be significantly different had the "Best Debut Feature" category instead been labeled something like "Most Promising Debut" — with the emphasis less on the quality of the director's initial film and more on the excitement generated by it for their future films.
It's a good theory, but I still wouldn't have supported this. I found things pretty aimless until they get to the train station. Even his work with Michael B. Jordan seems off. Jordan sometimes comes off like it's a debut, and this was a year after Chronicle.


I can't find my old ballot for "Most Promising Debut", but going off the FYC I would've considered...
Gimme the Loot
Girl Walk // All Day
This Is the End
The Way Way Back

Not on the list...
Coherence
The Reunion

and I would've asked for an eligibility ruling on...
Blue Ruin

pixote

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #165 on: May 18, 2020, 12:32:18 PM »
It's a good theory, but I still wouldn't have supported this. I found things pretty aimless until they get to the train station. Even his work with Michael B. Jordan seems off. Jordan sometimes comes off like it's a debut, and this was a year after Chronicle.

I recently watched Jordan on the final two seasons of Friday Night Lights (2009-2011), which perhaps better helped me appreciate his performance in Fruitvale Station. The film feels like the culmination of his growth as an actor on tv. As for the film's flow, I found the individual scenes more engaging than aimless. Opening the film with the real-life cell phone footage is a gamble — can the subsequent slice-of-life scenes compete with the intense drama of that moment? — but for me that gamble paid off terrifically, overlaying even the smallest moments with an air of tragic inevitability, fueling the feelings of rising helplessness and anger that I referenced in my review. It's all a little rough around the edges, and I really could have done without the more blatant moments of foreshadowing, but it's still a really strong debut.

I guess my point about the Debut Feature category boils down to the idea that, historically, there's been a dearth of nominees that meet my own two-fold criteria of a) being good films in their own right; and b) speaking to the director's promise of as a filmmaker and the expectation of even better films in the future. As I look back now through the past results, I think perhaps I'm just overreacting to last year's nominees, which I characterize as follows:
  • Toy Story 4 - A film I liked a lot but one that's, to my mind, much more of a Pixar movie than a Josh Cooley joint. There are times that that same distinction has almost made me want to exclude Disney/Pixar moves from this category.
  • Booksmart - I didn't quite like this film, and I'm generally mistrustful of actors-turned-directors in this category due to their advantages in surrounding themselves with talent, but I also like recognizing new female directorial voices and hope that Wilde proves to have a significant voice in the future.
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco - The Bay Area setting of Fruitvale Station had me doing a compare/contrast afterwards with both Talbot's film and also Sorry to Bother You. Taken together, the three films provide almost a litmus test for what a viewer appreciates in a Debut Feature. For me, Fruitvale Station is easily the strongest film of the three, but also the most standard in both its writing and direction. It's a safe film. I don't like Sorry to Bother You nearly as much, but it's much more original. Boots Riley strikes me as the fresher new voice, and I'd likely be more excited for his next film than for Coogler's. Talbot's film is somewhere in between the two — standard filmmaking with some original flourishes — but also the one that feels the most like a passion project. I would wager that Coogler is the most likely of the three to win an Oscar, Riley the most likely to win a Palme d'Or, and Talbot the most likely to win an Emmy. But I'm honesty not sure whether the "best debut feature" from among those three is also the "most promising debut feature."
  • Honeyland - My favorite of this group, but I don't harbor strong expectations that I'll ever see anything as good from the filmmakers again. Did they just catch lightning-in-a-bottle? And should that matter when evaluating a debut?
  • The Farewell - Similar to Booksmart, where I don't quite like the film but am happy to champion a new voice.
I'm sort of just babbling at this point. I didn't get enough sleep.

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #166 on: May 21, 2020, 03:12:56 AM »
Having just finished Frank, I’m more than a little baffled by its nominations for Supporting Actor and Comedic Scene (Soundtrack/Score was surprisingly good). I guess the Filmspots just really love Fassbender? This is the third of his films I’ve seen this month for this project (Shame will make four). Curious to read reviews to better understand what people see if his performance here and the film as a whole, but I don’t have the patience to search the forum at its current speed.

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Re: A Decade of Filmspots
« Reply #167 on: July 09, 2020, 08:57:08 AM »
Dogtooth (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2009) — Finished this last night but still waiting for the second act to begin. At least metaphorically. I don't need conventional three-act structure from a film like this, but I do need more development. The world of the film was pretty well established thirty minutes, and the remaining hour didn't really add much to it, narratively or thematically. Every five minutes or so, the movie would earn a "Huh, that's somewhat interesting, I suppose" but nothing more. Looking back at my review of The Lobster (which was my introduction to Lanthimos), I see that I had similar concerns, even though I liked that movie: "This is one of those films that opens with a wonderful, inventive, well executed setup and then ... keeps going." But whereas The Lobster "stays inventive and always finds new directions to go in," Dogtooth just sort of ... stays. Grade: C

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