Tag Archives: Birdman

The Top 25 Films of the Decade

29 Dec

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2010-2019 list in alphabetical order with links to reviews/articles.

  1. 12 Years a Slave
  2. The Act of Killing
  3. Birdman
  4. Blackkklansman
  5. Blue is the Warmest Color
  6. Burning
  7. Citizenfour
  8. Dunkirk
  9. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
  10. The Florida Project
  11. Get Out
  12. The Handmaiden
  13. Isle of Dogs
  14. Mad Max: Fury Road
  15. Moonlight
  16. O. J.: Made in America
  17. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  18. Parasite
  19. Shoplifters
  20. Spring Breakers
  21. The Social Network
  22. The Tree of Life
  23. Under the Skin
  24. The Wolf of Wall Street
  25. Zero Dark Thirty

The Revenant

7 Jan

 

 

Throughout his career, Alejandro González Iñárritu has set his eye on struggle and the imminence of death. “Amores Perros” (2000), the cornerstone film that made Iñárritu an international commodity, featured a “Cujo”-esque canine able to rip flesh from bone with ease. In 2014’s “Birdman,” Michael Keaton’s play-staging thespian hung on the verge of ruin and suicide and hears voices too, though not to the degree Javier Bardem’s shadowy Spaniard does in “Biutiful” (2010) – he can actually see death. Iñárritu’s latest, “The Revenant,” borrows elements from all three of those achievements as it sends Leonardo DiCaprio’s imperiled frontiersman on a Jobian trek across the frozen northern plains – mostly on his belly.

010616i The RevenantThe title refers to one who returns from the dead or a long absence. Some definitions have it as a ghost or specter, and all are apt in Iñárritu’s ordeal of great suffering. Right from the start, blood gets spilled as a party of American fur trappers in the early 1800s is beset by Arikara warriors. Viewers, like the furriers, don’t see the Native American detachment coming until the visceral twang of a well-guided arrow sails across the screen and pierces the throat of an unwary skinner. Being at the mercy of a largely unseen assailant registers eerily like the band of mercenaries in “Predator” being picked off one by one by a near-invisible alien force.

DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass, the outfit’s guide along with his half-Pawnee son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), get the survivors on a boat down the mighty Missouri River, full, foreboding and a major player in the film. Ever too much the sitting duck on the water, where you can feel the presence of waiting arrows at every bend, the party lands and goes it afoot. It’s there, among the ferns and pines while scouting ahead, that Glass is mauled by a mother grizzly protecting her cubs. The scene is long, brutal and squirm-worthy as Glass’ flesh is peeled from his back and his body pulled from and flung into Emmanuel Lubezki’s impassive, ground-level camera. The orchestration of sound, imagery and the frothed grimace on DiCaprio’s face is as stomach-knotting as it is poetic perfection. Continue reading

Oscar Picks to click

22 Feb

The 87th Academy Awards are upon us, replete with a new host (the affable Neil Patrick Harris who so vividly got his throat slashed in “Gone Girl”) and a wave of controversy that’s been missing since the days of Hanoi Jane. I jest some, but it truly has been some time since there’s been a splitting of political hairs, leading up to, or on, Tinseltown’s big night. The rubs du jour revolve around the factuality of history as represented on film, the politics of the Academy when it comes to recognizing diversity and the disparate interpretations of a war movie that drew diametrical political factions for different reasons. The two films at the crosshairs, “American Sniper” and “Selma,” are both nominees in this year’s Best Picture category.

Sniper,” based on the popular biography of Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle (killed tragically as the project took shape) has registered as a patriotic anthem (Kyle notched the most confirmed kills of any rifleman in U.S. military history) to those in support of the current U.S. war efforts. Others have taken it as jingoistic twaddle directed by the man (Clint Eastwood) who ridiculed that now notorious “empty chair” at the 2012 GOP national convention. Those less polarized found “Sniper” hit home as a poignant document of how war destroys the lives of the men we send—something akin to Academy Award winners “Coming Home” (1978) and “Hurt Locker” (2009). Though “Sniper’s” not as sharp, visceral or politically cutting as its predecessors, it’s lineage, dominance at the box office and appeal to many on different levels, will certainly score the film a share of gold come Sunday.

The other movie in the equation, “Selma,” has the opposite problem of “Sniper.” Eastwood’s picture, impressively staged, well edited and shot with great artistry, lacks depth, something “Selma” brims with, but the passionate portrait of Martin Luther King’s legacy-defining march from the titled city to Montgomery, and the events leading up to it, is hobbled by a junior production. I’m not here to fault the director Ava DuVernay. Her ardor and effort is effusive, but some tightening of scenes and more artistic attention to the integration of song and score could have made “Selma” a bona fide contender.

At the fore however, remains the hotly contested matter of history and President Johnson’s involvement. The film initially paints him as a passive obstructionist focused more on legacy building than civil rights (the guy had Vietnam to contend with too), but in the end, his famous televised speech in support of MLK’s mission (voting rights) remains congruent with LBJ’s broadly held, supportive civil rights record (while in the White House). It’s in that grayer in-between that has many crying foul—that historical liberties were taken by the filmmakers to heighten the air of conflict and to drive home their agenda. And it is true, that the portrayed LBJ (Tom Wilkinson) does do something of a political pirouette and never quite rises to anything more than a plot-feeding caricature.  Continue reading