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?