Tag Archives: Noah Baumbach

The Summer Movies of 1995 and 2013: It Was the Best of Times, it Was the Blurst of Times

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A friend recently pointed out that this seems to be a pretty awful summer for big-studio blockbusters, and I think that’s a reasonable argument. Behold this list of some of the biggies:

“Iron Man 3,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” “The Hangover Part III,” “Fast & Furious 6,” “Epic,” “After Earth,” “The Internship,” “This is the End,” “Man of Steel,” “World War Z,” “Monsters University,” “White House Down,” “Despicable Me 2,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Pacific Rim,” “Grown Ups 2,” “Turbo,” “Red 2,” “R.I.P.D.,” “The Wolverine,” “Elysium,” “Disney’s Planes,” “Kick-Ass 2”

Lots of sequels. Lots of star power. Lots of possible flops. (I’m looking at you, “R.I.P.D.”) It is not to say there is no imagination or ingenuity here, and even monsters like “World War Z” and “Pacific Rim” represent atypical attempts at the genre film. But there is little here to get overly excited about. And that’s too bad.

I have so many fond memories of seeing big summer movies, some I’m ashamed to admit I paid for — “City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold” and “The Cowboy Way” seemed like good ideas at the time — some I still enjoy revisiting.

The year 2013 most seems to resemble, at least in terms of iffy looking blockbusters, is 1995. That was … a pretty week year. Take a gander at this rum bunch, which I’ve out on separate lines for maximum impact:

“French Kiss”

“Crimson Tide”

“Die Hard with a Vengeance”

“Forget Paris”

“Braveheart”

“Casper”

“Johnny Mnemonic”

“The Bridges of MadisonCounty”

“Congo”

“Batman Forever”

“Pocahontas”

“Apollo 13”

“Judge Dredd”

“First Knight”

“Species”

“The Indian in the Cupboard”

“Nine Months”

“Under Siege 2: DarkTerritory”

“Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home”

“Clueless”

“The Net”

“Operation Dumbo Drop”

“Waterworld”

“Babe”

“Something to Talk About”

“Virtuosity”

“Dangerous Minds”

“The Baby-Sitters Club”

“Mortal Kombat”

Pretty grim, right? I know “Braveheart” is beloved, “Apollo 13” is solid, “Die Hard With a Vengeance” was “Die Hard” when “Die Hard” was still “Die Hard,” but outside of those, “Clueless,” and “Babe,” every other film is one I never wish to watch again. Even that summer’s indie releases were rather slight: “Desperado,” “The City of Lost Children,” “Fluke,” “Smoke,” “Kids,” “Unzipped,” “The Usual Suspects,” “The Brothers McMullen.” Not a bad bunch, exactly, but not a lengthy one, either.

Yet this summer, at least, there is something else happening, something noteworthy: It’s a phenomenal season for indies. Check out this small list of independent films that have opened or are scheduled for release from May through August:

“Before Midnight,” “Frances Ha,” “Only God Forgives,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” The Grandmaster,” “The Bling Ring,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Prince Avalanche,” “The To-Do List,” “The Spectacular Now,” “Blue Jasmine,” “Girl Most Likely,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Byzantium,” “The Hunt,” “Berberian Sound Studio,” “The Way, Way Back”

I can’t speak to the quality of most of these — I’ve seen “Frances,” “Much Ado,” “Girl Most Likely,” and “Byzantium,” but none of the others — but I can say with confidence that it’s an eclectic, fascinating mix. Any summer that includes films from Richard Linklater, Noah Baumbach, Nicholas Winding Refn, Wong Kar-wai, Sofia Coppola, Joss Whedon, Woody Allen, and Neil Jordan is going to offer a few gems.

At the very least, we can be thankful that the travesty that was “A Good Day to Die Hard” opened in February. It would have made a bad summer even worse.

 

Photo from “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” courtesy of 20th Century Fox

“Frances Ha” is a Joy to Behold

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Another busy Saturday, so I wanted to quickly repost the short piece I wrote for buffalospree.com on “Frances Ha,” part of my occasional “TIFF Revisited” series for the website. I love, love, love this movie. It will surely finish the year among my favorites.

Take it away, me:

There’s a sequence about thirty minutes into Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha that captures a feeling of real joy. Frances, played by Greta Gerwig, runs down the street, twirling, leaping, and smiling, in a scene set to David Bowie’s “Modern Love.” Now, that might sound lame. But in the context of the film, it is positively joyful. (Baumbach has admitted that he lifted it, so to speak, from a film by Holy Motors director Leos Carax—one that I’m now aching to see. As Film Comment noted, “When Frances leaps through the streets of New York to Bowie’s ‘Modern Love,’ you almost forget about Denis Lavant’s iconic Paris sprint to the same song in Carax’s Mauvais Sang.” Here is the clip.)

The sequence seems, well, perfect, and in some ways, so is Frances Ha. It’s a simple, funny, moving story that captures the experience of drifting through your twenties, growing apart from friends, and discovering who you are as well as any film I’ve ever seen. Suffice to say, it’s probably my favorite film so far this year. It opens today in Buffalo.

Some may find it slight, but I’m not so sure. Its issues are personal and emotional, but they feel right, and true. Greta Gerwig proves that she is one of the (if not the) most interesting actresses of her generation, and Baumbach has done something that even Wes Anderson had difficulty doing: He has created characters the audience truly cares about and believes in. It does not feel forced, like Margaret at the Wedding, nor off-putting like Greenberg. (I liked the Ben Stiller vehicle, but come on—it was pretty off-putting.) Frances even surpasses The Squid and the Whale in terms of emotional weight and believability.

The story? Frances, a wannabe dancer, and her best friend drift apart, leading her to new places and people. That’s about it. But that’s enough.

I missed Frances at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s no exaggeration to say I have been kicking myself ever since. Now, I’m glad its pleasures were waiting for me. It’s a film that requires a certain kind of viewing mood, but if you’re willing to embrace its eccentricities, you will not be sorry.

A perfect film? It sure feels that way.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

 

Weekend Preview: “Frances,” “Maisie,” and “Love” Finally Make it to the Buff

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I’m not sure why there has suddenly been a cluster of TIFF 2012 movies opening in Buffalo, but I’m not complaining. This week sees three interesting films for adults that emerged from the Toronto International Film Festival with varying degrees of buzz: “Frances Ha,” “Love is All You Need,” and “What Maisie Knew.”

The biggie is surely Noah Baumbach’s swoon-worthy “Frances Ha,” a wonderful film that I wrote about today on buffalospree.com. I’ll likely be posting that piece and more thoughts on the film here very soon. Suffice to say, I adored it, and Great Gerwig’s performance in it. I’m not sure I’ll ever hear Bowie’s “Modern Love” again without thinking of her twirling through the air. This one is highly recommended.

Susanne Bier is a fascinating filmmaker, but I’m not sure I’ve figured her out yet. She directed the stunning “Brothers” (the original) and “After the Wedding,” featuring one of Mads Mikkelsen’s finest performances). But her English-language debut, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” while a gallant effort, fell flat. So, too, did her Academy Award-winning “In a Better World,” a marginal work that somehow defeated Haneke’s “White Ribbon” for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

“Love is All You Need” looks like a rather dopey adult romantic comedy, but the presence of Bier and stars Pierce Brosnan (who has grown more interesting with age) and “Better World’s Trine Dyrholm, along with the lovely Italian scenery, make it moderately alluring. Reviews have been very mixed; as Stephen Holden put it in the New York Times, “The first sign of trouble in the romantic comedy ‘Love Is All You Need’ is the clichéd and incessant use of ‘That’s Amore.’”

The pint-sized star of “What Maisie Knew” is adorable — her visage truly sells the poster — but the movie, a present-day Henry James adaptation, does not sound appealing. The first line of the film’s description fills me with dread: “Susanna (Julianne Moore) is a pushy but seductive rock and roll icon married to Beale (Steve Coogan), a charming, distracted art dealer.” Oh boy. Yet the cast is a draw; Moore, Coogan, Alexander Skarsgard. And directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have done interesting work together (“The Deep End,” “Uncertainty”). I would expect this one to close quickly, so if interested, act fast.

Of course, these are just the wee indies. In the multiplexes, the big openings are the Vince Vaughan-Owen Wilson Google-promotion/comedy “The Internship,” and Ethan Hawke in the horror-home invasion thriller “The Purge.” Get this: Box office buzz indicates that “The Purge” may top “The Internship.” That would be a huge blow for Wilson and Vaughan; there seems to be little enthusiasm for the film, and perhaps the Onion has hit on why with this headline: “‘The Internship’ Poised to be Biggest Comedy of 2005.”

It actually seems as if “Internship” won’t even hit the number two or three spot, with the still-going-strong “Fast & Furious 6” and the surprise hit “Now You See Me” coming ahead of it. If Shawn Levy’s comedy is topped by “After Earth” in its second week, we’ll officially have a disaster on our hands …

One other option, of course, is to stay in and watch Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color” on Netflix. Yep, this mind-blower is now streaming.

As I previously mentioned, coming this Friday and Saturday at the Screening Room in Amherst: “Sorry, Wrong Number” at 7:30 followed by “What’s Up, Tiger Lily?” at 9:15.

And as the Buffalo News reports today, the North Park Theater is no more — at least, for a little while. It’s a shame, truly, but it is fitting that the final film to play there under Dipson was Buffalo product Peter McGennis’s “Queen City.” Let’s hope the theater does, indeed, reopen soon.

Next week sees Superman return in “Man of Steel” while Seth Rogen and friends face the apocalypse in “This is the End.” What’s the best news for Buffalo movie fans? Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight” arrives.
Photo: Doane Gregory/Sony Pictures Classics

Meet Frances, and Her Website

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It does not open in Buffalo for a few weeks, but I want to get you thinking about the most purely enjoyable movie I’ve seen so far this year: Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha.”

I missed “Frances” at TIFF, and spent months anxiously awaiting it. I had the chance to see it, and I can tell you that the Greta Gerwig-starrer is one of the best films about friendship, the end of friendships, and twentysomething life ever made.

Plus, it has an absolutely killer website that does a genuinely nice job of capturing the feeling of the film. Check it out, and look for more here on “Frances” soon.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films