Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tentative Favorite Movie List

As a film critic and someone who occasionally teaches screenwriting, it's silly I haven't put up a favorite list. My only disclaimer: some of these movies are legitimately good, and some were just the perfect movie to see at the stage of my life I was seeing them in. So though I understand structure, etc., and what makes a "good" movie- this is my favorite list as a human being not just a teacher. My opinion as a human being, I find more valuable. You don't have to know s*** about how a movie is made to enjoy a movie. It's also hard to choose one list of favorites; sometimes I want to laugh, scream, or cry. I occasionally do all of those things in one sitting....

Team America: World Police
Kill Bill (Volumes I and II)
Fight Club
Mary Poppins
Malcom X
Jules et Jim
Raging Bull
World's Greatest Dad
Casa de mi Padre
Synedoche, NY
Hotel Chevalier
Deconstructing Harry
Knocked Up
Being John Malkovich
Kung Fu Hustle
The Royal Tenenbaums
Funny People
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Shaolin Soccer
Trois couleurs: Bleu (Blanc et Rouge aussi)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, obviously)
Eyes Wide Shut
So I Married an Axe Murderer
Science of Sleep
Black Swan
All About my Mother
Away We Go
21 Jump Street (2012)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Graduate
Dan in Real Life
Inside Man
Superbad/ 40 Year old Virgin
Billy Madison/ Happy Gilmore
Garden State
Donnie Darko
Mission Impossible IV

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Restless by Gus Van Sant

Romance or youth is often the illusive target of art including film. Restless does what others fail, not only appealing to teens themselves but awakening the wonder that may be dormant in all of us. I may sound corny, but the magic of this movie is that it doesn’t feel manipulative, sentimental, or over the top. It’s seamless: unlike my attempt to describing it’s seamlessness.

It sounds like such a cliché to say there wasn’t a dry eye in the theatre, but it’s true. We laughed, we cried, we called our moms to say we love them.

Stop what you’re doing and go see this movie. I’ve already seen this and I can’t wait to see it again.

Henry Hopper, lead actor and new to the screen, was powerful and gentle as well as heartbreaking and natural. A contradiction or a multi-faceted diamond: you decide.

Mia Wasikowska slid into a brand new character so easily, I didn’t recognize her as the girl who played Alice in Alice in Wonderland, or even her excellent, but very different performance in The Kids are Alright (another movie I love.) She rocked this role. I would honor her with an award, but I don’t know how much meaning an award from a sometimes journalist who is now typing this article in her underwear while eating chocolate will mean to the luminous Mia.

I admittedly am not a big budget movie goer. So if you’re looking for Transformers 2 or anything Michael Bay, etc, this is not the movie for you. If you have a heart and a brain and are not seeking to escape either, dive deep into Restless.

It was lovely at the round table interview with other members of the press to all speak highly of this movie. Though some writers present were ripping on other movies and other filmmakers, the praise was unanimous for Restless.

We interviewed the producer, Bryce Dallas Howard, who not only birthed a beautiful film and career of newcomer writer, Jason Lew, but is up to her own gestational conquest. Though ripely pregnant with a second child, she was sweet, delightful and beautiful. She fears her talents will be attributed to nepotism considering her father Ron Howard’s production company Imagine is part of her team, but I feel it’s clear her passion and ability is readily apparent.

You can see in the actors’ performance that Gus Van Sant lets the moment blossom with little guidance and is not interested in heavy handed control. I have no idea how he stays forever young and vulnerable. When I asked him how he’s kept his youth, you can listen to his answer in my recording, but his answer basically means he didn’t know he was supposed to grow up, or that growing up didn’t appeal to him. He is full of trust in his actors and his crew. He is a true artist as well as an open and beautiful person.

I’m immediately taking my ten year old daughter, and want her not only to have a cathartic experience of the ups and downs of growing up, but to see what a movie is supposed to be like and to be truly inspired to be an artist herself. If only I could rename her “Gus.”

Interview Audio

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Midnight in Paris Opens Today for Limited Release

What is happening? Did I just get swept away into a magical journey by Woody Allen?

Countless artist have devoted various art forms to the love of Paris, but with his usual cynicism scaled back to practical nonexistence, I enjoyed Paris through new eyes.

It stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody, and Carla Bruni.

Marion Cotillard is completely intriguing. She has such a magnetism that you want to jump head first into her presence like a diver in the ocean. I don’t know how anyone could avoid falling in love with her.

Carla Bruni was stellar in a small but interesting role.

Adrien Brody completely killed me. I could not stop laughing. He wasn’t even saying anything particularly funny; it just did it for me.

Owen Wilson is loosely playing Woody Allen, but with a newer and refreshing charm and is one of Wilson’s best roles yet.

I liked Whatever Works, where Larry David basically plays Woody Allen which felt like an homage to Woody Allen by Woody Allen. Midnight in Paris is a little less obvious, and definitely more palatable to those who may not be hardcore Woody Allen fans like I am.

But more than anything, you’ll fall in love with Paris and be swept away with the beauty of the city. The city of Paris and all of its loveliness doesn’t need to be dressed up. Woody Allen just shows it to you, and you can feel the electricity.

It’s basically an artists wet dream. I say this, without wanting to spoil the decadently indulgent twists and surprises this wild ride will be for you, especially if you are a writer or aspiring writer.

Go see it. Seriously.

LA Theatres for May 20th 2011
The Landmark: 10850 West Pico at Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles 90064
ArcLight Hollywood: 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles 90028

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why is Ocean's Eleven so bad and Terriers so good?

It's very hard to surprise me.

I watch so many movies, read so many plays, and studied writing to the point where it's hard to really keep me in suspense. It's hard to make me care about characters.

I'm so bad about it, I often blurt out what's going to happen within the first five minutes of a movie, and people whine my name. My good friend Joel described me as using my powers for evil.

Most blockbusters are predictable enough for me, I can just look at a still promotional photo. I don't even have to see the two minute trailer.

So you can imagine my surprise when I hear myself screaming, "Don't do it, Hank!" at my television in my one bedroom apartment in Westwood next to my slumbering husband.

The season finale tonight almost made my heart explode out of my chest, I was so worried and excited. It was beyond, "the edge of my seat." I was in so much suspense, I almost threw up. Yes: this is what I call a good time.

I somehow care about every character. I somehow see myself in all of them and see all the dimensions they have. Even a cop with five lines or less, I get the feeling of who he is.

Now this is excellent writing, impeccable acting, and I can't help but credit the director for this magic. It seems to be an almost flawless collaboration to create a real world to be immersed.

Donal Logue (Hank) is such a loveable loser. He's funny and dry, and though he makes horrible life decisions for himself, something about his sincerity breaks your heart every time. I mean, breaks your heart at every twist and turn of the episode: every episode.

So do it. Watch Terriers. But take my advice: get the whole series and watch it in one sitting. Waiting between episodes is painful. Whatever care that is necessary to see every episode in order from start to finish will be worth it to you.

You, future viewer, when you find yourself converted may thank me for this recommendation by sending me a vegan cupcake. Vanilla with chocolate chips, please.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sex, Drugs, and Hasidic Jews

Hey remember that time you were tricked into smuggling drugs by your Hasidic neighbor? That sucked.

Inspired by actual events in the late nineties Holy Rollers tells the story of Hasidic Jews recruited as mules to smuggle ecstasy from Europe into the United States.

Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Squid and the Whale) leads the cast as Sam Gold, a young Hasid from an Orthodox Brooklyn community, delivering a stunning performance about loss of innocence. Every step of the way, your heart is broken as you witness Sam’s every willing choice in the wrong direction taking him deeper into the criminal underworld.

He is pulled along by friend Yosef (Justin Bartha of The Hangover and National Treasure) and moves up the ranks of the cartel run by drug smuggling mastermind Jackie, played by Danny Abeckaser: who conveniently is also the film’s mastermind.

Danny saw a news piece about the story, and was inspired to raise the development money to finance a script and quickly enlisted director/producer Kevin Asch to develop the source material. They soon hired screenwriter Antonio Macia, and leaned on Danny’s experience of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community to shape the premise into a screenplay. With a finished script, they were able to attach actors Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Bartha, but “they became more like partners in getting the film made and in making the best possible film,” recalled Kevin.

Although performances by Jesse, Justin, and Danny shine; most impressive is Ari Graynor, as Rachel, Jackie’s girlfriend. Her multidimensional character embodies playfulness, sex appeal, innocence and vulnerability. Many lesser actors would make the character of “drug dealer’s girlfriend” flat and uninteresting. Far from two dimensional, you can see her depth and are sucked into who she is as a person.

The film was shot on location in Amsterdam, New York City, and in Williamsburg’s Hasidic area. The visual storytelling matches the actor’s performances in intensity.

Mark Ivanir plays the lead character’s father who is the moral compass in the film, gently inviting Sam back into the right path. Q-Tip plays Ephraim, the intimidating drug dealer in Amsterdam, also a noteworthy performance.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Ron is Rad

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Who Wants to Double-Team Tom Hanks

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