Monday, April 7, 2014

RECENTLY BEHELD: FEBRUARY 3-9, 2014

(2013)



Based on the true story of a woman who was forced to give up her son and teams up with a journalist some fifty years later to find him. Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are the ideal Brits for the job and mash/clash with each other during the journey. It’s a perfectly adequate film and, for what it’s worth, easily the weakest of last year’s Best Picture nominees.

★★★

* * *


(1964)



Look no further for family-friendly movie magic. At times it is charmingly dated (see Dick Van Dyke tap-dancing with penguins) and at other times as mystical as it must have been in the ‘60s (a storm blowing all the other nannies away as Mary first comes to town). The Sherman Brothers’ original music, Julie Andrews’ titular performance and the majesty of Walt Disney Studios have made this a classic worth revisiting and sharing again and again.

★★★★★


* * *


(2013)



A welcome and even worthwhile look into the making of Walt Disney’s classic Mary Poppins. It’s two movies rolled into one: Author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) being courted by Disney himself (Tom Hanks) about the acquisition and artistic adaptation of her book and Travers own childhood in Queensland, which was the source for the story itself.  Thus, the film is highly divided, but when the tales converge thematically (such as during a drunken speech by her father played by Colin Farrell) it has the potential of becoming a modern classic itself. Alas, these moments are too rare and the whole affair is too self-serving to avoid scrutiny. I'm sure Travers would've loathed this film as she actually thought of Mary Poppins.

★★★


* * *


(2014)



Godfrey Reggio (the Qatsi trilogy) has returned with a transfixing experiment. How best to describe this film? I imagine a UFO abducting Earthlings and some chunks of their civilization and then showcasing them back on their own planet one at a time against a black backdrop. We sometimes get films that break the fourth wall. This one feels as if there was no wall to break. It will be hard to find in theaters, but I wouldn’t see it any other way.

★★★★


* * *


(1974)



The story of a man who stumbled into Nuremberg one day with nothing to say nor the ability to say it is one of the greater mysteries of modernity. Werner Herzog’s dramatization of the story has us follow the cypher from his shed (womb) to said civilized township (world). He might as well be an extraterrestrial. The film is a poignant portrait on what it means to be human and how a man climbs the societal rungs he never knew existed.

★★★★½


* * *


(2014)


The Lego Movie deserves to sit at the same table as other contemporary animated classics like the Toy Story trilogy and Wreck-It Ralph. Like those it is built on existing playthings, often with properties and brands in check, while blooming with a creativity all of its own. Even more than those two gems it breaks down the world's walls in ways that relate more to the viewer than thought possible. It's consistently silly but truly brilliant in its winking embrace of “the hero's journey” and the beats screenwriters have been drumming out for years. Not unlike what Cabin in the Woods did to American horror, The Lego Movie may change the way we think about "chosen one" narratives while being the chosen one itself.

★★★★½


* * *


(2013)


Reportedly Joe Swanberg kept the film’s script from his four stars prior to shooting. This encouraged improvisations and established a natural rapport. Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson, co-workers at a Chicago brewery, are the drinking buddies referred to. Their respective partners add complexity to their own relationship. While raw and unglamorous, the characters fun to hang out with and when tensions rise it’s alarming to watch.

★★★½


* * *


(1967)



Belle de Jour reflects the quiet beauty and dangerous curiosity of its central titular character played by the unparalleled Catherine Deneuve. (Has there ever been as strong and seductive a string of successes has she had in the '60s?) When not testing afternoon employment as a prostitute she's a housewife called Séverine breathing betwixt her fantasies and the unchanging hours of wifedom. Luis Buñuel's erotic drama is actually carefully contained, hinting at the belle's past while toying with the tenants voyeurism. It's as thought-provoking as it is provocative.

★★★★½


* * *


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


Here's my previous Recently Beheld.

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

1 comment:

Trent said...

You rated 'The Enigma of Kasper Haus' 5 stars on Letterboxd while only 4 1/2 here! Have you no shame - no dignity - how can I trust anything you've ever said or written now? I feel betrayed, taken advantage of and worst of all, I can't find a good way to end this comment!