Thursday, February 20, 2014

RECENTLY BEHELD: JANUARY 20-26, 2014

(2013)



Third time in a month’s time and more charming still. Of all the 2013 films this may be the one I will be revisiting the most. I find “pure cinema” captured in American Hustle, both an ode/homage to American crime films and a culmination of Russell’s canon up to this point. The character quirks (e.g. look for everytime Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld takes off his glasses) lend themselves not just to a drinking game but indicators as to when the facade is bare and allegiances are changing. Yes, this may be the most underrated overrated film of quite some time.


★★★★★


Curator’s Note: Currently in theaters


* * *


(2013)


I mean and all the praise and condemnation that comes with calling The Secret Life of Walter Mitty essentially a 2-hour Super Bowl commercial. While it’s nicely shot and flashily cut (like any number of creativity-igniting and life-inspiring Staff Picks on Vimeo) it truly is the most egregious assault of product placement I ever seen in a movie. Life Magazine & Conan O'Brien Present American Airlines, Honda, Sony, eHarmony, Cinnabon & Papa John's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is Forrest Gump-lite during its best moments and even then has only half the heart and hardly any the tact.


★★


* * *


(1963)


Jean Luc Godard’s portrait of a screenwriter and his wife during the intimate production of an artsy adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey embodies the French New Wave while riding it for all it’s worth. Filmmakers are gods, including the legendary German filmmaker Fritz Lang who plays himself here. Godard breaks film grammar to write his own visual poem. It’s an ode to the clashing of the creative process, the infidelity of mankind and the beauty of the female body. Are those three not eternally entangled?


★★★★★


* * *


(2014)


Somber scenes of a couple attending to their young daughter in the cancer ward is juxtaposed with their initial meeting and consequent relationship in Belgium’s Oscar-nominated The Broken Circle Breakdown. I knew nothing of the bluegrass music scene in this country and the movie is a fabulous introduction to that. After Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens make sweaty love they make sweet music together, all before the remorse they’re met with down life’s road. These two bare-all performances share the spotlight in this surprisingly philosophical yet distractingly political ballad of joy and sorrow.


★★★★½


Curator’s Note: Currently in select theaters and streaming on Amazon Prime


* * *


(1948)


What could have been a serious contender with the great neo-realist movement in Europe around the same time is marred by a narration (from producer Mark Hellinger no less) that dulls and sillies The Naked City. There’s an astonishing wealth of footage of 1940s New York here. In the very least it has that going for it. It could have had real class, it could have been a documentary contender, it could have been something, instead of a bum film, which is what it is.


★★½


Curator’s Note: Currently streaming on Hulu Plus


* * *


(2014)


This Netflix original documentary is about presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s experience, and that of his abundant family, during both Presidential campaigns. Documentarian Greg Wheatley imbedded himself with the Romneys for some 6 years to give us something that’s a mere 94 minutes in the taking. It’s remarkable refined yet refreshingly raw, a necessary look at the man behind the headlines.


★★★★


Curator’s Note: Currently streaming on Netflix


* * *


Seen any of these films? Please feel free to share your thoughts or your own recently beheld in the comments below!



Also, see what else I've seen this year in my Letterboxd diary.

Updated 2/21/14

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