Category Archives: Films

Thank You! And (Re)Pondering “Chunking Express”

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So it has been one week since my first real post, and it’s been a great eight days. I’ve enjoyed doing some writing, but it’s also been cool receiving such nice feedback. A sincere thanks to everyone who has visited the site, “liked” FilmSwoon on Facebook, started following me on Twitter, and read some of my FB posts. There will be a lot of fun to come, I think.

Case in point: One of my most eagerly anticipated films of the summer is “The Grandmaster,” directed by Wong Kar-wai. He is probably my favorite filmmaker, and his “Chunking Express” is probably my favorite movie. It is, in fact, something of an impetus for this site. There are few films that have bowled me over the way “Chunking” did (and does). The above still is from the sequence that made me realize just how much I adored the film.

“Chunking” is certainly a film I’ll be revisiting. Just thinking about it now makes me want to go watch it again …

Quentin Tarantino had a line about the film (I feel like it was on the original DVD release from his Rolling Thunder imprint) that just seems perfect, something about it making him so happy to love a film that much. That’s what I feel for “Chunking Express.”

Cannes Round-Up No. 1: Boos, Rifts, and Violence

 

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As I’ve mentioned, Cannes 2013 is in full swing. Part of the fun for those of us following from across the pond is keeping up with the tidal wave of articles, reviews, and announcements unleashed by the festival. Here are just a few of my faves from the last few days:

A handy list of 10 critics to follow on Twitter during Cannes.

Eric Kohn wrote a strong review of “A Separation” director Asghar Fargadi’s new film, “The Past.”

Nicholas Winding Refn talks violence and Gosling.

Is there a rift between Steven Spielberg and Ang Lee? They say no way

The Playlist looks at some films that were infamously booed at Cannes, including “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.”

A party was held for Martin Scorsese’s finally-ready-to-shoot passion project, “Silence,” and Jeffrey Wells was there.

 

Photo from the Toronto Star/ANDREAS RENTZ / GETTY IMAGES

Weekend Preview: “Star Trek” Sold Out? Dive Into “Mud” With McConaugheyyyyyyy

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The big new release of the week is obviously “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” but one other major story, I think, is the continued success of a movie that has been showing in Buffalo now for several weeks, and has become something of an indie hit: “Mud.”

In fact, “Mud” — which I have not had a chance to see yet — is now showing at the Dipson Amherst and the Regal Quaker Crossing (it opened there last week) after an initial run at the Dipson Eastern Hills (where it is still showing). Directed by Jeff Nichols, who blew me away at TIFF 2011 with “Take Shelter,” “Mud” has drawn raves ever since showing at Cannes last year. I was surprised the fugitive drama did not make its way to TIFF 2012, and wondered if perhaps its exclusion would lead to poor buzz. Happily, that was not the case.

The film, which stars the on-fire Matthew McConaughey (I call him McConaugheyyyyyy), and co-stars the suddenly fiery Reese Witherspoon, has made almost $10 million, and for a small release, that’s a jackpot. It demonstrates once again that there can be room for smaller films to squeak into the top 10, even during the blockbuster-crazed early summer.

Congrats to Jeff Nichols, who just sold a script to Warner Bros. Oh, my friend Michael Shannon (Zod!) is in “Mud,” and will be in the next Nichols project.

A quick box office preview: “Star Trek” will be huge, of course; if it does not hit $100 million for the weekend, it should be close. It will be interesting to see how “Gatsby” fares. I think it will hold up strong as a nice bit of counter-programming.

Poster courtesy of Roadside Attractions

The Cannes Frenzy Has Begun

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Yes, Cannes is officially ON, and the news is already heating up. My favorite place for a quick update, so far, is The Hollywood Reporter; you can even download their daily festival newspaper as a PDF, and they also have a festival app.

This morning, they posted this, the first official still from Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups.” From what I can gather, the story involves two beautiful people frollicking on a beach. That sounds very Malick, actually …

Photo posted by The Hollywood Reporter

The National: Live, and on the Big Screen

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I’m stoked to be seeing the National at the State Theatre in Ithaca tomorrow night, where the band is kicking off its Trouble Will Find Me world tour. After being blown away by the band at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in June 2010 (a couple weeks before my son was born), I could not be more excited. In fact, the only disappointment is that I have not yet had a chance to see the documentary on the band, “Mistaken for Strangers.”

The film, directed by frontman Matt Berninger’s brother, Tom, has drawn some real raves at the Tribeca Film Festival and at Toronto’s Hot Docs. Pitchfork unveiled the trailer here a few weeks ago, and the new album is streaming on iTunes. It’s great.

 

Photo courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival

Gosling, Coens, and More Reasons I Should Really Be in Cannes This Week

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The Cannes Film Festival kicks off today in the south of France, and yes, I should be there. Not only is it probably sunny and warm, but there are the movies, and the boos, and crazy photographers.

But let’s stick with the movies. Cannes often sets the rest of the film-going year in motion. Last year’s Palme D’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s stunning “Amour,” went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and even squeaked into the Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actress categories. It probably should have won those four, too.

Sometimes, other awards stand out. In 2011, “The Artist” missed out on the Palme D’Or but received major praise, earning Best Actor honors for Jean Dujardin. (Remember him?)

On a personal level, I’ve been keeping track of Cannes for years now. I can recall watching the awards on some choppy, buffering website in the early 2000s, and seeing the late Roger Ebert host coverage on cable at some point. Some of my most beloved movies of recent years – “Drive,” “Rust and Bone,” “Holy Motors,” “Blue Valentine” – screened there, and waiting anxiously to hear what earned cheers and what earned jeers has become a May pastime.

The 2013 lineup has its share of highlights. Here are the top five reasons I wish I were sitting in a crowded movie theater in Cannes:

  • “Only God Forgives”: I don’t know what it is about “Drive,” exactly. I saw it shortly after its TIFF premiere in 2011, and my response was, roughly, “Meh.” Then, days later, I noticed I couldn’t get it out of my head. I began listening to the soundtrack like mad, and when I saw the film again, it had easily burrowed its way onto the (lengthy) list of my favorite films. The idea of Nicholas Winding Refn working together again, this time on a film about revenge and Thai boxing clubs? Yeah, I’m in. The trailer sealed the deal. This is my most eagerly awaited film of the summer.
  • New Polanski: “Carnage” was stagy and a bit dull, despite some strong performances and some piercing dialogue, but his new film, “Venus in Fur,” stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and the actor I would cast in a Polanski biopic, Mathieu Almarac. (I just enjoyed his great performance in “Chicken and Plums.”) Quite frankly, it’s always interesting to see what Roman is up to.
  • Capital-M MAJOR directors unveiling their latest creations: Alexander Payne, the Coen Bros., James Gray, Sofia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch. Wow. We will get to see Coppola’s “Bling Ring” soon, but the others might not show up until autumn, at the earliest.
  • The jury is fascinating: I love the idea of Steven Spielberg as jury president. What will he seize on? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it was “Only God Forgives”?! But the jurors are also fascinatingly diverse: Nicole Kidman, Lynne Ramsay (fresh off of her “Jane Got a Gun” controversy), Ang Lee (who just beat Spielberg for a Best Director Oscar!),Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil, Cristian Mungiu, Indian actress Vidya Balan, and Japanese director Naomi Kawase. I’d love to be in on those jury meetings.
  • The premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza”: I see a lot of movies. So when I say I was taken aback at a film’s utter strangeness, that means something. “Il Divo” director Sorrentino’s last film, the Sean Penn-is-Robert Smith-sorta “This Must Be the Place” is truly, truly odd. It is streaming now on Netflix, and note I did not say it is bad, exactly. I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it, honestly. But it’s certainly unique, and I can’t wait to see how Sorrentino follows it up. I know little about “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”), but this IMDB description intrigues me: “The story of an aging writer who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today’s Rome.” Will “banga banga parties” be referenced?

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 26. My Palme D’Or pick: I could see Spielberg and co. embracing Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.” I don’t expect a Spielberg-led jury to go for Takashe Miike, so “Nebraska” seems a safe choice.

Poster art courtesy of Radius-TWC

I’m a Bit Surprised Kubrick OK’d This One …

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Every week, if not every few days, I plan to include a roundup of some great film/pop culture-related stories I’ve been enjoying, and want to bring to your attention. Our first installment opens with a Buffalo-area screening scheduled for this Thursday (May 16).

Quick hits:

This week’s “Jazz Noir” series film at Hallwalls is Shirley Clarke’s “The Connection, and it looks like a must-see.

A “2001: A Space Odyssey” tie-in children’s menu for Howard Johnson’s? Yep. (Thanks, Ron E., for this.)

The Playlist does a pretty fantastic job of running through “Gatsby”’s most notable faults. I actually think this makes me like the movie less — I’d almost forgotten about the dumb framing device.

Speaking of “Gatsby,” Vulture hits on what might be the film’s most ridiculous moment: Gatsby’s introduction.

Pitchfork has Paul Williams, the subject of a nice documentary I reviewed last year for The Film Stage, discussing his new collaboration with Daft Punk.

Movie City News is pretty much a daily stop for me; today, the site has a link to an epic Los Angeles Review of Books article by Michael Nordine whose title says it all: “Hollywood Bigfoot: Terrence Malick and the Twenty-Year Hiatus That Wasn’t.” It has some fascinating background on Malick, and his “lost years.”

This last piece, on Malick, has the line of the week: “That a nature-obsessed filmmaker who uses his own screenplays as the vaguest of outlines sustains himself financially via oil and script-doctoring is an irony that should not go unmentioned.”

Gatsby: Good, I Guess, But Not Great (And is it Even Good?)

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The best part about finally seeing Baz Luhrmann’s 3D adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” was seeing my name on the big screen during the trailer for Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Okay, I don’t expect anyone else to feel that way, but it was pretty damn cool.

My feelings about the movie itself are almost as schizo as, well, the movie. Some thoughts:

  • The first hour is crushing — a tone-deaf, frantic assault on the senses that simply does not work. In fact, as the film progresses, it becomes clear that the least effective elements are the Luhrmann (TM) touches.
  • Indeed, the last hour is quite, quite good, because Baz hits the break (unlike Daisy) and allows the central characters to interact free of aesthetic insanity.
  • This is why I’m a bit torn: The elements I disliked, I REALLY disliked, but the elements I liked, I liked A LOT.
  • DiCaprio is fantastic, as always, making it hard to imagine another actor embodying Gatsby so precisely. It’s easy to miss among the craziness, but this is a note-perfect performance.
  • I can’t say the same for Carey Mulligan, although I’m not sure it’s her fault. She is, like Anna in Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina,” the least interesting character onscreen, and that’s a problem. She is wan, unmemorable, and just not electric enough. Yet she is a likable actress, always, and looks the part, for sure.
  • Tobey Maguire is meh.
  • The 3D was a COLOSSAL waste of time and money. It added nothing, and while not distracting, was utterly useless.
  • The “Love is Blindness” cover was a nice fit.
  • Joel Edgerton steals every scene as the boorish Tom Buchanan. “Gatsby” may finally make him a star.

The film had a massive opening weekend; considering that it is a 2 1/2 hour literary adaptation, and opened to more than $50 million, I’d call it a hit. And quite frankly, that’s good for movies. Luhrmann is nothing if not a unique talent. We WANT him making movies this way. Should “Gatsby” have been one of them? Hard to say. I would watch it again, and that means something, I’d say. I could see this one having some legs, maybe topping out around $110 million. Not quite Gatsby money, but not bad.

“Gatsby” opens this week’s Cannes Film Festival. I’ll share some thoughts on this year’s fest soon.

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

Welcome to FilmSwoon!

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Thanks for visiting FilmSwoon.com, a website that has been percolating in my mind for some time, and which I’m quite excited about.

If you are here, there is a good chance you’re familiar with my work as a critic – I’m a regular contributor to the Buffalo News, a frequent writer for Buffalo Spree magazine and its website (buffalospree.com), and I’ve also contributed to Indiewire’s The Playlist and The Film Stage.

Or, perhaps you just stumbled on my name somewhere. However you made it, I’m glad you’re here. A few notes on what I’m up to here:

… While this is a site based around my writing, I hope it will also be a source for news. Each week, I’ll include a round-up of some of my favorite film etc. pieces from the week. I’ll also keep up with the world’s film festivals, especially the Toronto International Film Festival, which I’ve attended every year since 2007.

… This is not a review site, exactly. I think of it more as an opinion site. Sure, there will be short reviews here, and links to my reviews, but it’s more a place for me to offer quick opinions on everything from movie trailers to new releases and oldies.

… While I am based in Buffalo, NY, and will certainly make sure Buffalo is part of what I do – I’ll look at movies opening or screening locally, etc. – this is not merely a “Buffalo” movie site.

… That brings me to the name. I did not want my name to be in the name of the site. I found that “swoon” was a word I was using frequently in reviews (including my Buffalo News review of “To the Wonder”), and everyday conversation. It seemed a little … Weak. But folks I talked to seemed to like it, and it also has a strange significance for me. Back in 1995, as a film-crazed 15-year-old, PBS ran a documentary called “American Cinema.” I can’t say it was great, but at the time, it was an important resource for me. A great deal of time was spent on a film I was unfamiliar with, Tom Kalin’s “Swoon,” and this tale of Leopold and Loeb seemed strange, unsettling, and utterly fresh. It was also, at the time, unavailable. (Downloading was not an option, yet, and I wasn’t clued in enough to figure anything else out.) Anyway, it took me another 15 years to get to watch “Swoon,” and I didn’t love it, but I liked it a lot. And it reminded me that there was a time when I couldn’t easily see everything I wanted, and wondered what films and stories were looking outside of suburbia.

I hope that many of you will like the Facebook page, read the updates on Facebook and Twitter (twitter.com/FilmSwoon), and occasionally stop by. I promise that of you have even a shred of interest in cinema, it will be worth it. Let’s get started, shall we?