2010 log (12)

(1 Dec) À quelle heure le train pour nulle part (2009, Robin Aubert) 67
[ Full with the sights and sounds of India, this free form, quasi-documentary experimental feature shows Aubert working without a net, throwing himself in just about the most chaotic shooting imaginable and coming out of a it with a vibrant and surreal exercise in style. Ostensibly about search quest of a man (Luis Bertrand) for his twin brother, this flawed but fascinating film often seems to get lost, but that’s kind of the point. ]

(4 Dec) RENT (2005, Chris Columbus) [ review ] 83

(5 Dec) Greenberg (2010, Noah Baumbach) 85
[ Ben Stiller starts as the titular Greenberg, a smart but neurotic New York (half) Jew who, after having a nervous breakdown, is “trying to do nothing right now”, which he ends up doing in L.A. in the house of his brother, who’s gone on a trip. Greenberg also ends up sorta dating his brother’s personnal assistant Florence, a pretty, quirky and interesting yet insecure, unassertive and nerdy young woman played by the utterly endearing Greta Gerwig, who’s the absolute revelation of this film. Stiller’s great too, but I figured a while ago that while his comic persona can be tiresome, he’s a truly gifted dramatic actor (see also: “Your Friends & Neighbors”, “Permanent Midnight”, “The Royal Tenenbaums”, etc.). Oh, he’s funny here at times, but less in a broad comedic way, and more in a cynical, self-deprecating way à la Woody Allen or Larry David. Together, Gerwig and Stiller they share the awkward relationship to end all awkward relationships, which can be a bit befuddling because Florence is such a sweetheart and Greenberg is a borderline sociopath… But somehow it works and, by the time the “The Apartment”-style ending rolls along, we feel good about it, more or less. “Greenberg” is an observant, pointed, harsh, oddly charming film, with bright cinematography and a cool James Murphy soundtrack, but mostly some memorable characters played by some wonderful actors. ]

(6 Dec) L’Appât (2010, Yves Simoneau) 52
[ My interviews with Simoneau and stars Guy A. Lepage and Rachid Badouri in Voir ]

(7 Dec) The Fighter (2010, David O. Russell) [ review ] 90

(7 Dec) Rocky III (1982, Sylvester Stallone) 56
[ One of the lesser movies in the franchise, this third flick deals with cheap melodrama involving Paulie, Mickey and Adrienne, fights with goofy opponents (Hulk Hogan and Mr. T), and the homoerotic training Apollo Creed puts Rocky through. It’s still watchable enough, but beyond that badass Eye of the Tiger song and the general idea it embodies (“So many times, it happens too fast / You change your passion for glory / Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past / You must fight just to keep them alive / It’s the eye of the tiger, it’s the thrill of the fight”, etc.), it’s really not all that good. ]

(10 Dec) Tiny Furniture (2010, Lena Dunham) 23
[ Here’s a self-indulgent, boring indie flick -a glorified student film, really- about a frumpy young college graduate (writer-director Lena Dunham) who just moved back into her family’s spacious Tribeca loft. We follow her as she gets a job as a hostess in a restaurant, hangs out with her BFF, dates some guys (more or less), fights with her artist mother and teenage sister… You can tell the film is trying to be hip and witty but in this very understated, deadpan way, but none of it really connects. In sorta kinda the same range, Sook-Yin Lee’s “Year of the Carnivore”, while not a very good film either, is still a whole lot better than this. ]

(13 Dec) Tron: Legacy (2010, Joseph Kosinski) [ review ] 44

(13 Dec) Carlos (2010, Olivier Assayas) [ review ] 88

(15 Dec) Valhalla Rising (2010, Nicolas Winding Refn) 55
[ I’d never heard of this one until it got released straight to DVD here in Quebec and I read a blurb in the Montreal Mirror that claimed this was what a Herzog-directed “Conan the Barbarian” would be like, which instantly made it a must-see for me. Alas, even though that description is not inaccurate, the actual film is a letdown. Oh, the cinematography is gorgeously stark, Mads Mikkelsen cuts a striking figure as the one-eyed, mute Norse slave/warrior hero, there are some brutally intense bursts of violence… And in theory, the bare-bones storytelling, contemplative tone, otherworldly feel, sparse dialogue and minimalist score should have turned this tale of Vikings, men of God and New World primitives into a mesmerizing experience. But while it starts out promisingly enough, “Valhalla Rising” never builds any kind of momentum and ultimately, it’s slow, uneventful and glum to a fault, with characters spending practically the whole movie just standing around. You get the feeling Nicolas Winding Refn is going for some kind of mythical allegory, but it beats me what exactly it could be. ]

(16 Dec) Staying Alive (1983, Sylvester Stallone) 32
[ Wait, was Tony Manero such a douche bag in “Saturday Night Fever”? I mean, I’ve rarely seen a beloved movie icon come off like such a jackass than John Travolta’s character does in this spectacularly misguided sequel to the 1977 classic. Here, Tony spends the whole film dicking around between his too-nice blonde girlfriend and a rich brunette bitch, like Archie double-timing Betty and Veronica. Meanwhile, he’s still dancing, but instead of moving like a sexy and dangerous creature of the night, now he’s trying to make it on Broadway in Satan’s Alley, the campiest show this side of Goddess (that’s the show in “Showgirls”, but you knew that already, right?). Oh, and following up on a movie which featured one of the best soundtracks of all time is quite an ordeal and, obviously, the Bee Gees leftovers and the cheesy ’80s numbers by Frank Stallone don’t cut it. Yep, Frank Stallone, whose music is a staple of the flicks directed by his brother. Because yeah, for some reason, Sylvester Stallone helmed the “Saturday Night Fever” sequel which, among other things, means it’s full of “Rocky”-style montage sequences! You almost have to see “Staying Alive” just to try to understand how a ridiculous film like this can even exist… “You know what I wanna do? Strut.” ]

(18 Dec) Rabbit Hole (2010, John Cameron Mitchell) [ review ] 91

(18 Dec) Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (2010, Brigitte Berman)
[ An old bastard in a bathrobe surrounded with big-titted girls wearing bunny ears and celebrities partying in the Playboy Mansion: this is the image we generally have of “Playboy” founder Hugh Hefner. But through this very interesting documentary, we realize that he was an integral part of the sexual revolution, also getting involved with the Civil Rights movement, pushing forward anti-establishment politics, fighting for Freedom of speech and denouncing McCarthyism, the Vietnam war, the War on drugs, the religious right and so on. Cutting back and forth between talking-heads segments and archival footage, plus cartoon sequences and jazz music performances, Brigitte Berman’s film is a truly rewarding watch. Oh, and in case you wonder, yeah, we do get to see big-titted girls and celebrities partying in the Mansion as well! ]

(19 Dec) Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven) [ review ] 93

(20 Dec) Pierre Falardeau (2010, German Gutierrez & Carmen Garcia)
[ Le 25 septembre 2009, le Québec a perdu un de ses plus ardents défenseurs, un homme qui s’est battu toute sa vie pour la liberté et l’indépendance, pas toujours avec élégance, mais indéniablement avec coeur, courage et conviction. Avec ce magnifique documentaire, German Gutierrez et Carmen Garcia font revivre Pierre Falardeau à travers un judicieux agencement d’entrevues, d’images d’archives et, bien sûr, d’extraits de ses films, des premiers documentaires réalisés avec Julien Poulin (Continuons le combat, Pea Soup, etc.) à la série des Elvis Gratton et aux oeuvres-clés que sont Le Party, Octobre et 15 février 1839. Souvent drôle et inspirant, Pierre Falardeau s’avère aussi des plus émouvants lorsqu’il nous montre l’une des dernières sorties publiques du cinéaste, au côté de ses fils. ]

(20 Dec) MacGruber (2010, Jorma Taccone) 68
[ How do you make a feature out of a silly one-joke SNL skit about a MacGyver-style action hero? By making an almost note-perfect pastiche of 1980s Hollywood action flicks, from the plot to the visuals and music (Eddie Money, Toto, Gerry Rafferty, Mr. Mister, Michael Bolton, etc.). The gags are almost beside the point – it’s all about the macho bullshit, over the top mayhem and the throat-ripping! Will Forte is hit-and-miss in the lead, but he’s well surrounded by straight man Ryan Phillippe and romantic interest Kristen Wiig, and Val Kilmer is awesome as the villainous Dieter Von Cunth. ]

(21 Dec) Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010, Banksy)
[ Featuring deadpan voice-over narration by Rhys Ifans and a dynamic score by Portishead’s Geoffrey Paul Barrow, this film, about the already fascinating world of street art in general and Banksy in particular, is made all the more fun, thought-provoking and memorable by the inclusion of a (fictional?) narrative about how the documentary maker becomes the documentary subject and vice-versa. Furthermore, when Banksy inspires goofy-looking Frenchman-with-a-camera Thierry Guetta to transform himself into pseudo-street artist Mister Brainwash, “Exit Through the Gift Shop” evolves into a brilliant satire of how hype can turn the works of an untalented unknown into a phenomenon, how the underground can quickly end up being mass-produced for the mainstream and how, as such, art can be a bit of a joke. ]

(22 Dec) True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen) [ review ] 47

(27 Dec) Gainsbourg (vie héroïque) (2010, Joann Sfar) 36
[ A shapeless narrative, full of forced whimsy (most notably, a puppet doppelganger who follows the protagonist around) and hit-and-run celebrity cameos (Lucy Gordon as Jane Birkin, Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot, Anna Mouglalis as Juliette Gréco, Sara Forestier as France Gall, Philippe Katerine as Boris Vian, Yolande Moreau as Fréhel, Mylène Jamanoï as Bambou, etc.), that will only appeal to people who already know and love the notorious French artist. Eric Elmosnino is fine as Serge Gainsbourg, I guess, but what do we really learn about the man beside the obvious superficial traits, e.g. that he wrote some great songs, that he enjoyed pretty women, and that he smoked and drank too much in this thoroughly self-indulgent feature? Precious little, I’m afraid. ]

(29 Dec) Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky) [ review ] 94

November / December