What does a low-ambition Pixar movie look like? At first blush, the very idea of such an exotic, unfathomable creature boggles the mind. After all, for two decades the Emeryville Elves have been on the bleeding edge of animated filmmaking—the studio’s technological innovations rivaled only by the sophistication of their storytelling. Pixar is itself not unlike a big green brontosaurus towering over the film landscape, devouring competitors like palm fronds and expelling them as enormous putrescent bales of dino-dung. But what happens when Pixar shrugs its shoulders and goes “eh, good enough”? Well, here comes The Good Dinosaur, plodding towards us with the answer to our question.
If you’re going to have an awards season, you’re going to have some mediocre biopics in there. Last year, we got both Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game and the eventual Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Now Redmayne is back to portray transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (though this one is based on a fictionalized novel of her life and therefore not strictly a biopic) in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl. It should clearly be the favorite in the category of mediocre but heavily awarded prestige films this year. Except that Hooper and his collaborators don’t even rise to the level of mediocrity. The Danish Girl is just plain bad.
Title: Caro Diario (Dear Diary)
Director: Nanni Moretti
Cast: Nanni Moretti, Giovanna Bozzolo, Sebastiano Nardone, Antonio Petrocelli
Hollywood mainstream cinema has often been criticized for the ways in which nature and the environment is presented within its productions. Animated films such as Happy Feet (2006), or Disneynature’s Bears (2014) provide us with a largely dramatized and playfully anthropomorphic tone within their methods of capturing nature and the natural environment. Through these fluffy and entertaining portraits of disguised human subjectivity, we are forced to mentally break down boundaries between the living and the natural world. However, this break is not achieved in the films by removing binaries, but rather, by dismantling the natural world, only to build it back up in ways that suit our own human perception of it.
Todd Phillips’ The Hangover Part II is particularly reviled, even by the low standards of a sequel to a studio comedy. Most of the complaints riff on some variation of, “It’s the same plot with lazier jokes.” For the most part, that’s true. But if you look past the surface, you’ll see how, in terms of aesthetic and tone, the film actually represents a huge leap forward for Phillips as an auteur. Even the name, with its riff on the structure of The Godfather sequels’ titles, is a hint that Phillips is being a more serious filmmaker (while simultaneously poking fun at the idea of taking this film seriously). A director being allowed to tell the same story again with a bigger budget and more freedom is nothing new. In a way, The Hangover Part II is Todd Phillips’ Evil Dead II.
THE BIG SHORT
BLOOD OF MY BLOOD
EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM
A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS
MY GOLDEN DAYS
NO HOME MOVIE
OUR LITTLE SISTER
RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN
SON OF SAUL
SONGS MY BROTHER TAUGHT ME
Just when I thought the Scream Factory catalog couldn’t get any better, this Army of Darkness collector’s edition, (it should be “definitive edition”) feeds my growing admiration for their superlative library of cult and horror movies. Given all this praise, it might sound strange that, unlike many horror/fantasy nerds, I wasn’t part of the Army of Darkness fan camp. I had always liked the film but I favored the dark grittiness of the first Evil Dead entry. However, this Blu-ray raised my opinion of the third film in Ash’s trilogy from lukewarm to hot upon repeated viewings.
If and when Joel Hodgson’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 makes its return, he could hardly do worse than riff on The Bat, Crane Wilbur’s absurd, overwritten 1959 thriller that plays like a Murder, She Wrote episode written by Tommy Wiseau crossed with Panic Room if David Fincher had been whacked in the head with a shovel. From the opening shot of a transparently miniature mansion, to Wilbur’s dull TV staging and chewy mouthfuls of exposition, to Agnes Moorehead’s overwrought arm movements that seem as though she is literally trying to fly away from the movie, it could be easily believed that The Bat fell into the public domain simply because nobody wanted to admit responsibility for it. And yet it is hilariously entertaining, specifically because it falls right into that MST3K sweet spot of being enjoyably bad without tipping over into excruciatingly bad.