The countdown continues…again!
The countdown continues!
2016 wasn’t the best year for movies if you didn’t go out of your way to actively seek ones outside the major releases. However, not all of us have the time to either go to the theaters or dig into post-festival favorites. This year I’ve curated my recommendations for 2016’s best movies. Many films were solid-to-good this year but I must admit it was easier this year to weed out what I thought veered into “excellence” in terms of offering that perfect mix of “new & exciting or ambitious” and/or accessible to general viewers. This list spans mega-budget spectacle to micro-budget indie films, strange foreign pictures and like all my other omnibus reviews attempts to rate or encapsulate the range of what cinema offered this year.
Without further ado, the countdown:
I was first introduced to the filmmaker Jacques Audiard with the intense crime opus A Prophet. That film was easily one of the greatest crime dramas this side of The Godfather, it followed a Muslim teen sent to prison who rises in the world of France’s organized crime both as a matter of necessity and in order to better his lot in life. I’m here to tell you that while Dheepan is not a step forward for Audiard, the film nonetheless represents everything that makes him one of the truly exciting voices in contemporary cinema. Like that 2009 feature (which was France’s entry into the Academy Awards at the time) Dheepan is harrowing saga about people who go through tremendous suffering on their way to freedom in a country that isn’t their own.
The erotic drama is a unique subgenre unto itself. There’s always been a stigma associated with it in terms of the inherent sleaze juxtaposed with often revealing explorations of lust, love, sex, sexuality and the specificity of emotions associated when two or more individuals connect or attempt to connect on a physical and/or emotional level. The infamous classic Nagisa Oshima film, In the Realm of the Senses made it a point to juxtapose his lead lovers’ fiery passion with their self-imposed solipsism. Luca Guadagnino’s gorgeous A Bigger Splash sets itself in a rather “on the nose” yet still effective metaphor for this specific form of myopia and hedonism: most of the action takes place by a swimming pool on a private island surrounded by the sea. Essentially a riff on The Big Chill and 9 ½ Weeks, this vibrant tale is about the lustful intertwining love square between four individuals.
At the heart of superhero stories are our modern myths, a way of how contemporary society deals with the real world through easily recognizable pop icons. It’s not about things like continuity or consistency or “rules” or even sacredness so much as the tradition of interpretation and re-telling. Comics writer Alan Moore once had a saying, “This is an imaginary story… aren’t they all?” And that cuts right into what Zack Snyder has done with his messy yet endlessly audacious superhero opera, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The Final Countdown!!!
The countdown continues!
The films of Argentinian director Gaspar Noé (Irréversible, I Stand Alone, Enter the Void) are obsessed with the intertwining of “authenticity” and “artifice” and thus: every scene of pain or desire is purposefully made overlong to leave the impression that they leave no stone unturned. Noé is a filmmaker who pushes audiences uncomfortably deeper into moments that are usually reduced to a suggestion or glimpse if they are not censored altogether. Some call him a “pornographer,” others consider him a “provocateur” – but whatever merits his work may or may not have, he is at the very least a challenging artist if only for the discussions his films provoke. Perhaps the most famous example from his work is the 12-minute-long rape scene in the middle of his dizzying revenge flick Irréversible; which used such scene to deal with the entire nature of consequence by contextualizing all the problems of the male-id “lizard-brain” thinking. Love is the title of Noé’s interesting-yet-difficult to see/unsee film, which opens with a man and a woman explicitly performing an unsimulated sex act to careening violin music (the film earns its X-rating immediately). Of course Love will undoubtedly be referred to as “that 2015 unsimulated sex movie,” a type of film that has been equally derided as taboo and praised as transgressive in the history of cinema. The modern “art house sex” movie has been a staple of festivals and young film fans and recent examples include the digitally inserted (i.e. computer animated) porn star genitals in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac; Vincent Gallo receiving oral sex from Chloë Sevigny in Brown Bunny; and the body-double orgy in John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. However, in the case of Love, does dabbling in taboo inherently make for worthwhile art or are we merely content to guise up pornographic indulgence with “artful” posturing? Where does art end and porn begin or are they intertwined beyond distinction? Likewise, which is more authentic: “lust” or “love”? Continue reading What Gaspar Noé Talks About When He Talks About “Love”