If Interstellar is filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s (Memento, Inception, The Prestige) most ambitious film, it’s not because of its cost or its intergalactic scope, but rather because “love” is the most speculative and unscientific concept that he’s ever tried to explore. When Nolan was recently quoted as saying that his film is about “What happens when scientists bump up against these things that defy easy characterization and analysis — things like love”, his comment engendered skepticism from people whose enthusiasm for “the next Nolan film” was irrevocably hampered by the increasingly derided Batman-threequel The Dark Knight Rises. And while Interstellar drowns itself into near Speilberg-levels of sentimentality almost every time it’s on the precipice of arriving at a moment of cinematic wonder, Nolan’s approach to love is ultimately as blunt and practical as we should expect from the man who in Inception imagined the human subconscious into a labyrinth of color-coded videogame worlds. However it’s the core of Interstellar that presents a change of pace from his oeuvre: it doesn’t just contend that love is real; the film argues that it’s an evolutionary necessity.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (21 Grams, Biutiful, Babel) spectacular Birdman, screaming through the cultural stratosphere like a mighty force. Birdman or, (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) — to give the film its full title — is a subversive, funny and touching intertextual psychological-odyssey that flies in the face of cinematic convention. Since his 2000 debut, Amores Perros, Iñárritu is an explorer of the human condition. Each of his films has experimented with an array of different structures and techniques, from the handheld aesthetic of 21 Grams, to Babel‘s multi-stranded narrative framework. Birdman is unquestionably his most innovative and uncompromising work. Without compromising the views of a prospective viewer, the best I can offer is my takeaway about what this whole endeavor may or may not be about, something to keep in mind if you’re watching the film for the 1st time or again: that in the end, every work of art is, like every person, two stories — the one that they tell and the one that they are.
John Wick is a criminal underworld fantasy that merges inventive and crisp action sequences on to heightened world-building that evokes the works of Walter Hill and Sergio Leone, elevating what could have been a generic shoot-em-up into one of the more fully realized genre flicks in recent memory. The premise is simple: recent widower John Wick (embodied by a coldly swaggering Keanu Reeves), is on a bloody mission of revenge after his time grieving for his wife is interrupted by a home invasion that leaves his puppy dead and his car stolen. Co-directed by veteran stuntmen David Leitch and Chad Stahelski (founders of the 87Eleven Action Design stunt workshop & studio), John Wick reconfigures choice pieces of genre fiction and action movies past to create their own unique contribution to the genre. It’s a remarkably self-confident film whose paper-thin premise and setup actually work in its favor as a tight and functional connective thread stringing together the whole picture.