Thursday, February 18, 2016

This week's releases: The Witch, Race

Since I was away on Monday and missed the press screening of Race, the Jesse Owens films, I cannot give my opinion on it, but rest assure I will check it out. Reviews have been mixed so far, but I hope I expected it to be conventional and by-the-books. Sort of in the same way as the Jackie Robinson biopic that came out a few years ago 42. I really don't mind that, a film trying to be good in a rousing, conventional way, just as long as we get something entertaining out of it. I was one of the few people that actually loved Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, me and Peter Travers, that film did it's job quite well actually. Yes, it looked like a hallmark movie, but it was gritty enough to get my hopes up for By The Sea, which we all know ended up being one of the worst films to come out last year. 

The Witch was seen by me at Sundance 2015 and then at TIFF that very same year. It's a spine tingler. I wrote back in September: "One of the best of the bunch is The Witch, which sadly is only slated for release next year! A real shame if you ask me. Robert Eggers’ haunting and spooky film was far and away the best movie I saw from Sundance 2015 and the one with the most potential to be a critical darling." Yeah that sounds about right. It's not your typical horror movie. It's more arty than that. It's more interested in building up dread in its spooky atmosphere and I couldn't have liked it more because of that. Watch out for Eggers, I can't believe this is his first film. He directs in such an assured, effective, veteran-like way. Go see this right away, it's meant to be seen in a darkened movie theater.

WATCH OUT: Fandango buys RottenTomatoes

Whenever it's Friday -or sometimes Wednesday- and new releases come out, I will always go and check their ratings on RottenTomatoes and Metacritic. It's always a great way in knowing what the general consensus is and both are different enough from each other that you end getting the gist of it all. RottenTomatoes is a complete consensus with every possible film critic weighing in. Metacritic is the highbrow types, getting a score of 70 is actually awesome for a film. A 70% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes is average at best. All this to say that my weekly ritual might come to an end soon as Fandango has just bought RT and Flickster. Yikes. Fandango is already know as being very lenient and biased in its management of films, let's hope we don't get that with RT, but I have a feeling this will be the end of an era, When you then realize that Fandango is also owned by NBC Universal then you truly get the whole picture. I'll be keeping an eye out on this, but for now let's just say Metacritic seems as relevant as ever.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Michael Mann has a new version of BLACKHAT

Just when I thought we can move past Blackhat, Michael Mann's unfortunate cyber-tech thriller from 2015, he just recently mentioned to IndieWire that the director's cut he is releasing is a significant improvement over the theatrical release:

 “I wasn’t 100% happy with it,” Mann admitted of the original cut. “It was a challenging film to do because the ambition of the film was to an event driven narrative and develop characters within scenes, but have a very rapid narrative with rhythms imitative of how fast our world moves today in the digital information age. So this is why I intentionally had a rapidly driving plotline. But the engine of that was cyber tech so you had to track with the search for the code… which leads you on and on and on through various hacking techniques. So in moving some of the big pieces of story around I may have obfuscated [the audience] tracking the events of the basic plot.”

"Mann said he put things back how they “originally” were, suggesting that in his pre-release cut, the soy hack was in front of the nuclear hack and thus this new version is what he originally intended, but he either second-guessed or overworked the theatrical edit." Mann to The Playlist

Ok, fair enough. I'm actually intrigued. Because every single problem he mentions here is what was wrong with Blackhat. Its pacing was atrocious and it didn't develop any of its characters coherently. I'll be taking a good luck at this new version because, well, it's Michael Mann and there's no way the director of Manhunter, Thief, Heat, Collateral, The Insider and Ali could conceivably agree to the heaping pile of junk that was released almost exactly a year ago.

The BAFTAs and what they mean for The Revenant

Ever since last night people have been proclaiming the race for Best Picture done and over with. The Revenant is now the frontrunner, even though The Big Short won the PGA and has single-handedly dominated the awards buzz the last few months. I'm not buying. The race is far from over. Inarittu wining another Best Director Oscar is also up in the air. Listen, The Revenant is a genuinely thrilling picture, don't get me wrong, and I wouldn't mind it winning over The Big Short, but its rampant artistic emptiness might rub some folks the wrong way. I've met plenty of people that have said they didn't quite get the point of the whole thing. I do understand that sentiment, however my problem with The Revenant is the exact opposite. The scenes that tried to get some kind of emotional response out of us felt staged and gimmicky. I much preferred the raw, outdoor torture porn that Inarritu and Lubezki kept hitting us with. Some of the most beautiful and breathtaking sequences of 2015 come from this movie. The whole dead wife shtick, something that Dicaprio seems to love reading when choosing his scripts, just rubbed me the wrong way and I felt it was almost too forced to have any emotional resonance on yours truly.

Does Inarritu deserve Best Director? Of course not. This was the Chivo show, nickname of Lubezki, as he did the unthinkable and made a film exceptional all by himself. This might be the first time that I've seen a director of photography take over a movie this way this basically make it his instead of the director's. What we are seeing is a major breakthrough: Photography overtaking direction and I feel like this will become more and more the norm as we start to realize how important images can be used in mainstream fare. The Revenant is a composition of images that strikingly hit you, think of it as a montage of suffering. All done through natural lighting and little to no exposition. To say that Chivo is becoming a groundbreaking figure in cinema would be an understatement, he's actually becoming a giant and changing the way movies can be planned and shot. I do believe there are photgraphers out there that have the same amount of talent as him, but are not given as much of the creative freedom as he is by the studios. Brilliant stuff and a far cry from last year's more auteur-driven Inarritu winner Birdman, which had much more of Inarritu's imprint than this one does. Great movie nonetheless, maybe even better than The Revenant. The only thing that's guaranteed for The Revenant come Oscar night? Dicaprio winning Best Actor and Lubezki winning his third straight Best Cinematography trophy .

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