Wednesday, December 29, 2010
5 of the best films this year were serious ventures with big ambitions but slight budgets. Don't let these indie gems fall under your radar.
Dogtooth takes a simple and elegant premise and makes it believable and disturbing-- Can mom and dad keep the influence of the great big scary world out of their children's reach? Maybe all it takes is a really tall fence and lots and lots of absurd and bewildering lies. What about when the children begin to come into adulthood? Oh, What tangled webs we weave.
Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blue Valentine takes a relationship's sweet beginnings and juxtaposes them with it's painful and awkward disillusion. More like A Woman Under the Influence, it removes all barriers to its realism and plays the notes as earnestly as possible. What it amounts to is a powerful warts and all emotional experience that nearly won it an NC-17 rating for an "emotionally intense sex scene."
Greenberg is smart, but not as smart as he thinks. Life continues to clue him into this and he keeps refusing to listen. He casts nervous aggression haphazardly in all directions scoring a few hits but mostly missing his aim. He's the defensive little egoist many of us know and many of us are. Director Noah Baumbach(Squid and the Whale) and Ben Stiller bring this little monster to life with uncanny precision.
In our little corner of the woods...perhaps a little further into the woods, a desperate young woman and her derelict uncle are forced to confront a cadre of grizzled drug runners in order to save the family homestead her meth cook father put up as bond before disappearing. Her heroic story is set against a stark Ozark winter that hits every dismal detail on it's rotten toothless head.
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Fiercely Anonymous street artist Banksy plays puppeteer with a terrible little protege and perhaps the audience as well to ask a well crafted question about art and authenticity.
Of course there's also that insufferable big budget success from the Memento guy that despite it's being completely uninteresting and unimportant, never the less, has sparked more controversy and debate than we've seen sense the original Matrix. But, alas, my tastes are too refined. A great film cannot be properly enjoyed unless only a few people can enjoy it.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Don DeLillo seems at his best dealing in bits of minutia, character revealed in the slightest gestures, every detail mined for its significance. It's little wonder then that his newest book Point Omega, sets itself the task of digesting a heady peice of contempory art, where mining for meaning is the name of the game.
The brief novel, singles out a recent video work, a real-life installation by a German video artist entitled 24-Hour Psycho, a slo-mo rendering of the Hitchcock classic with a 24-hour run time. The artwork becomes the jump off point for the story, weaves throughout it, illuminates the story's central themes, to the point that the novel seems as much a work of art appreciation as it does a narrative.
DeLillo's attentiveness to seemingly insignificant detail within his observations reliably cut straight to the heart of the matter. His characters are real and sympathietic, but I feel that however ideosyncratic, they are at bottom a means to a conceptual end. I don't mean this to say that somehow he is a lesser writer for it, rounding the edges off his characters to fit nicely in a conceptual framework. On the contrary, i think he's one of the few writers who can take a top-down idea and see it from the bottom up. In this way he shares a vein with his conceptual artist counterparts.
Having never viewed 24-Hour Psycho, I feel I can appreciate it anyhow. Much like his similar book The Body Artist, all the conceptualizing does take place within the confines of a traditional novel. There are descriptions of art and interpretations of art. But through the words and because of the words, there seems to be very little lost in translation, its almost as if you were experiencing the art first hand with all those fleeting associations, quiet reverences, and little epiphanies caught in their tracks and brought to bear on the page.
Oh i almost forgot...there is a story too! A filmmaker follows an old man(a powerful ex idea-man for the war in Iraq) to his vacation home in Arizona in hopes of making an experimental film about him. Heady Ideas about time and space are rendered realistically and convincingly, and a hunger for film and media criticism is handsomely rewarded. Point Omega is the work of an aging yet powerful writer who still has much to tell us.