Prisoners. The older I get, torture scenes in movies are just more and more unbearable. I fear we still haven’t appreciated Hugh Jackman enough. Nerdy Terrence Howard is a treat! Gyllenhaal’s character is so weird and I love that they don’t delve into it. much He just is.

Love & Mercy

Love & Mercy. Biopics are not my strong suit and I usually complain about them. This was a good one, alternating between an older and a younger Brian Wilson, some of the scenes echoing each other. It didn’t delve into the drug stuff as much as I expected, or the long years he spent in bed. I wonder if that was a PR thing? Or maybe it just doesn’t lend itself to picturization. Still an interesting view of mental illness, and mental illness in a particular time and place without stuff we take for granted now. Also an atypical romance here, where the collapse happens in a way that you’re sympathetic to both. He’s a broken man; she’s a woman who knows she can only give so much. I left wondering about how thwarted and overwhelmed he must have felt. Not just the creative struggle to take what’s in his head and make it real. There’s also the conflicting and belittling messages from father, doctor, bandmates, etc. Wicked sound design at times playing against all of those in a few scenes, like when he rejects his father and picks up the headphones, some studio breakthroughs, some moments wrestling with schizophrenia.

After seeing this, I’m also curious about The Wrecking Crew, a doc about the session musicians who helped create the original sound for the Beach Boys and many others.

Filed under: Ebertfest

Meek’s Cutoff

Meek’s Cutoff. The opening scene has the cast fording a waist-deep river – rushing water taking over the soundtrack – and you sense that’s about as good as it’s gonna get for a while. I love the contrast between the hot bright sunny bleached-out days, and the nights where you can see absolutely nothing but what fire’s light touches. And the square frame makes things feel a bit more fraught somehow. Over and over we see women hanging back while men deliberate their course. (Often with men in long shot, conversations barely audible, while the women get the close-ups and mediums.) And look where it gets them. By the end, it’s time to try something new. Fingers crossed.

Kelly Reichardt’s movies Night Moves and Old Joy are also really good. Wendy & Lucy is still on my list.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave. Not sure how to talk about this one. Hard to watch. At times it is very, very on-the-nose. If you’ve seen Steve McQueen’s Shame and Hunger, this will be no surprise. But it’s strange that it doesn’t feel… dramatic. It is focused. It is facts. It also makes you feel some of the same unease (the score is a huge contributor here). The movie is all in the protagonist’s perspective, which unfortunately means everyone else can seem a little flat (despite the cast being awesome), or merely functional. But it also puts you in the center, witnessing the moral bargains and compromises, comparing and contrasting how each person manages an impossible situation, and perhaps suggesting the futility of passing judgment on how each copes. A couple more things to note. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but you don’t get the sense of time passing, though it’s ostensibly twelve years we see. Could definitely be by design – the monotony and sameness by design – I’m just not sure. And I gotta say, I’m not thrilled with Brad Pitt’s late appearance. He’s got too much star power to show up so late, in such a role, for so short a period. I couldn’t quite get used to him. It’s not his fault, though. Anyway, good movie. The contrast with Django Unchained could not be more stark.


Looper. Solid scifi. Just take a nugget of a concept and let it spool out around a handful of people. It makes movie sense in the moment even if it doesn’t later. I love this vision of a possible future. Dystopic, but not totally dire. Just worn out. Good job with the makeup, and especially how Gordon-Levitt takes on some Willis mannerisms. I love Jeff Daniels’ character. There is some violence that a certain demographics won’t take to very well, but I appreciate that he did it anyway, it fit the story, and that it wasn’t over-the-top exploitative. It was sad. I also liked some of the audio editing and they he played with the sound stage. There’s too much leeenns flaaare. But good movie! Rian Johnson knows his craft. Makes me want to watch Brick again.