sixteen-miles


Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
June 8, 2015, 9:35 am
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moonrisekingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1748122/
★★★★☆

Moonrise Kingdom is a coming of age story that defies traditional approach. It is an honest film that distills the essence of a story down to its core ingredients.

The characters are all driven by linear goals. They have one driving motivation that defines them and no other emotions. Except a slight melancholy that permeates the bones of any Anderson character. Being a scout leader is what defines the scout leader. Being a cop is what defines the cop. The representative of Social Services has no other name than ‘Social Services’. The two ‘troubled’ children just want to be together.

Mr. Bishop (Bill Murray) is the only character that displays any sort of volatility. Every other character moves through the world like a blank mannequin. Character traits pinned to them like scout badges. This seems to be a trait of many Anderson characters. Goals are what drives them. From Dignan in Bottle Rocket, to Francis in the Darjeeling Limited. To Sam in Moonrise Kingdom. Plans are what drives them. Itineraries and Inventories.

Moonrise Kingdom plays like a children’s adventure story. Dripping with nostalgia and child-like drive to adventure. But it is also infected with a sadness. In the two main characters, Suzy and Sam, this is a chance for them to break free of the world. If only for ten days. To forge a kingdom of their own to live in. Away from parents and scout masters and arbitrary life. But it’s a fleeting escape as they know it is coming to an end. As they grow into adolescence, the real world hunts them down. The whole turbulent ordeal culminating in a storm.

But for that fleeting moment in Moonrise Kingdom, there was hope for the future.

Watch this Kogonada short on Anderson’s obsessive symmetry. See how much of the footage pulls from Moonrise Kingdom. It’s testament to the intricacy with which he builds and frames every shot of the film. The obsessiveness that defines great directors.



Kung Fury (2015)
June 1, 2015, 8:04 am
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Kung Fury (2015)
Directed by: David Sandberg
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3472226/
★★☆☆☆

The nostalgia driven Kung Fury viral train is off the rails. It’s time to jump on the bandwagon.

The product of Kickstarter, David Sandberg’s mind and a whole-lot of 80’s revival. All of the tropes and all of the clichés packed into one neon-dream half-hour short film. Over the top action and unnecessary special effects. Time travel. Hacking. Video arcades. David Hasselhoff. The greatest 80’s soundtrack since… the 80’s. And it’s kind of terrible. Terrible and great. Both of those things.

It’s also free. Right there on Youtube.



Bottle Rocket (1996)
May 27, 2015, 8:26 am
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Bottle Rocket (1996)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115734/
★★☆☆☆

Bottle Rocket is the first film by Wes Anderson. He has come a long way since. Bottle Rocket has none of the signature charm or visual style that came later. The obsessive symmetry is not noticeable here. But the film does serve to show how Anderson has evolved as a writer/director. It does have dysfunctional characters putting themselves into wild situations (or not so wild).

The film opens with Dignan (Wilson) breaking Anthony (Wilson) out of a mental hospital. A volunteer mental hospital where the patients are free to leave. The two then pull off a burglary. A burglary of Anthony’s own house. They are the masterminds of unnecessary crime.

Though it isn’t all for nothing. The two characters are building up to the big-time. It is all for practice, and all to impress a local crime organisation. The middle third of the film becomes a little confused. The character’s go on the run after pulling off a local library heist. The film slacks into a romance. Like most of the film’s internal crimes, it is unnecessary. It meanders, but comes together again for the end.

With such a low budget, everything rides on the script. Everything rides on the performances of the Wilson brothers. It rides on dialogue. Bottle Rocket is a great low-budget first film. But it pales in comparison to everything Anderson did after.



Delicatessen (1991)
May 22, 2015, 12:53 pm
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delicatessen

Delicatessen (1991)
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101700/
★★★★☆

Jean-Pierre Jeunet tapped into the nerve of the mainstream with Amelie. The easy-listening of French cinema. But before this, he worked with collaborator Marc Caro. Together they put out two surrealist, Gilliam-esque, dystopian black-comedies. The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen.

Delicatessen is a hard film to categorise. Sci-Fi? Horror? Comedy? It’s all and none of them at the same time. At it’s heart though, it is a love story set in a dystopia where food is sparse.

Louison is a circus clown who takes up the job of local handyman after the last disappears. He moves into an apartment above the delicatessen. Here he falls in love with the butcher’s daughter.

It doesn’t take long for the truth to come out. The reason the butcher is so rich in meat in a world where food is rare? And the reason the last handy-man disappeared? The strings tie together.

This conceit is a simple bare-bones structure. It serves to hold together a cast of bizarre characters. The way they interact with each other in this post-apocalypse carnival world. That is the real charm of the film.

Jeunet has an unparalleled cinematic style in all his films. A style that he cultivated here. And it’s clear that the character’s are characters of heart. They are ripped from the pages of children’s books. These are the inventions of Jeunet. They carry forward into all his future excursions.

But Caro brings a head to the film. He brings a surreal, dream sci-fi that isn’t seen in any of Jeunet’s solo work (and it is missed).  It’s the collaboration of this heart and head that makes Delicatessen work. It’s not crucial that the film is set in this desolate garbage-world. But it adds to the film’s style in a way that separates it from the film it could have been.

Jeunet and Caro make their best work together. Delicatessen is part of the minuscule body of  work that proves that.



What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
Directed by: Taika Waititi, Jermaine Clement
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3416742/
★★★☆☆

When Taika Waititi and frequent collaborator Jermaine Clement released the film Eagle vs Shark, they struck out into the world with a comedy charm that was subtle, refreshing and completely unlike the saturated Hollywood fare. Taika’s style is that of heart and deadpan comedy. A tragic-sweetness that carries from Eagle vs Shark to What We Do in the Shadows. The premise of the film is a novelty. Four vampire house-mates and a documentary film crew. We follow these characters in the run-up to the undead social event of the year. The Unholy Masquerade. Each of the vampires is representative of a specific time in vampire history. Viago is the classic, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula of the group.  Vladislav sits more in the style of Bram Stoker. Deacon is evocative of the 80’s Lost Boys. And Petyr is the silent (a nice throwback to the films that birthed his character) Nosferatu. Later they add Nick to the group, a contemporary vampire who walks through the city streets shouting “I am Twilight!” The comedy is punchy and sharp. On the subject of why vampires prefer to drink the blood of virgins, Vladislav says “Think of it like this. If you are going to eat a sandwich, you would just enjoy it more if you knew no one had fucked it.” All these subtle plays on the nature of being a vampire in the real world build into a funny film. To repeat them en masse here would diminish their potency. What We Do in the Shadows is a film that is worth a watch. Maybe even a re-watch. Especially for those who are fans of the collaborators previous works (Flight of the Conchords!).



Inherent Vice (2014)
May 18, 2015, 3:05 pm
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inherent-vice-3

Inherent Vice (2014)
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1791528/
★★★★☆

Inherent Vice is a film that drops you in at the deep end. It pulls you into a sudden, twisted haze of neon confusion. Everything is happening around you whether you keep up or not. Whether you remember it or not. Whether it is important or not.

The film invites you, the viewer, to share in the confusion with the protagonist, Doc. If you let it wash over you, the film is an easy watch in a world that is cool and inviting. If you let the confusion consume you then the film is a headache that will push and pull at your brain until you can’t take it any more.

It is an easy watch, but not an easy story, because the puzzle is too complex. The puzzle contains parts that we can’t see, and in some sense Doc himself is a part of the puzzle that he is trying to figure out. Character’s enter the scene to drop clues and muddy the waters, then disappear again. We can’t tell if the information they give is help or harm, or even true. One character states the Golden Fang is a boat, another states the Golden Fang is a triad, another states the Golden Fang is a conglomerate of dentists. It all builds into this confused mess of frustration that we experience alongside Doc. And this is okay. This is the point of the film. It helps if you know this going into it.

Paul Thomas Anderson has developed a reputation for making bold films. And he makes them in an uncompromising way that can’t resonate with all viewers. This has split the critical response to Inherent Vice like hippies and squares.

Like many (all) PTA films it is a film that opens up like a flower with repeat viewing. It is a film about mood and it takes a viewing just to soak up the cinematography. But in all honesty, the story falls into place in the end.

Things click and make sense. You dig?