THE WRESTLER is this year's best film

In keeping with the tradition of last year, I'm going to suppress my distaste for end of year lists/awards and pick one film for the year to call the best. Last year there was a stellar selection of work from master filmmakers. This year it seems a bit more divided among various critics groups and other organizations so it makes for a fun discussion. For my two cents the best film this year was THE WRESTLER.

I’m not going to recap the plot since everyone reading this either already has seen the film or knows what it’s about generally. Besides the strength of this film (as with any great film) is not necessarily the plot, but the characters. This is where THE WRESTLER excels, as a character study. Mickey Rourke is tremendous as the titular character. His performance as Randy “The Ram”, plagued by nostalgia and recklessly hopeful, is a portrait of the American culture in glorious decline. It is timely subject matter indeed.

The object of Randy’s affection is a striper played by Marisa Tomei. By choosing to link these two characters together the film is touches on even deeper ideas. Selling your bodies, relying on the physicality of humanity to make a living is ancient and this message seems to echo some of the timeless themes in Arronofsky's last film THE FOUNTAIN. However in this case the filmmaker has pulled the narrative down to a supremely human scale and has found much more success there.

The film is artfully delicate and real step forward for Arronofsky. It seems to have been a strong choice for him to choose to adapt someone else’s work. In this case it is the work of writer Robert Siegel who will be making a splash at Sundance this coming January with his directorial debut, BIG FAN.

The strength of strong writing comes from strong characters and that is clearly the case with THE WRESTLER. His journey feels tragic, inescapable and inevitable and in the end finds a strange kind of glorious splendor. It’s a real unexpected treat to end the year on such a note.


Holiday movie theater shooting

Some of you might have heard this story over the holiday. A man in a screening of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON was so upset that another patron was talking during the movie that he shot him. The story I linked to does not say this but I swear in one news report I read he then sat back down and attempted to finish watching the film as the rest of the audience fled the theater.

I also found this review of the movie theater in question (via reddit) which complains about the audience talking in every screening. Perhaps if this deranged man had read the reviews of his theater options online the entire incident could have been avoided.


Home alone

I got the place all to myself this weekend, so this is what I will be acting like most likely:


A call for improved film criticism in Los Angeles

I have issues with the roles for critics in today's culture. However, this post is to draw attention to a few interesting things posted recently about the state of film criticism in the heart of the film world.

First up was this report from Scott Foundas about Los Angeles Times' film editor Tim Swanson and his general approach to the paper's coverage of the cinema world. He compares the paper's coverage of films like HUNGER and FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON with the coverage granted to HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 and PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. Then the piece openly reports on the coverage the Times gave the prestigious REDCAT theater with no mention of the theater's popular film programs. This omission was something a number of other film programmers around town (myself included) have been discussing recently. Scott makes a very strong argument for concern in this piece and it's recommend reading for anyone interested in film culture and criticism.

Then the very next day, on the LA Times blog, Patrick Goldstein wrote this piece about film critic Manohla Dargis. In it, he claims it's a "well known secret" that no one wants Dargis reviewing their film. The idea being she is too critical or too harsh, especially to Oscar baiting type films (which are my pet peeve.) Yesterday one of my favorite writers/critics Karina Longworth posted this piece in response. It ends with this line:
But if he’s actually suggesting that critics should allow “empathy” for the architects of blatant awards bait to temper their judgements, then this might be his harshest anti-criticism statement yet.
It's all very interesting writing. I would love for the level of cinematic discourse to be raised in this town. The column inches dedicated to ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS are gonna be wasted space, no matter who you ask. Plus, in this digital age where institutions like the LAT are struggling for relevance, column space is not really an issue any longer. Why not invest in smarter writing? We have been trying the opposite for so long, it can't hurt to change.


More on Spanish genre resurgence

Green Cine Daily has a nice piece up here about the recent trend in Spanish genre films. The trend being people making awesome ones. It's similar to the piece I wrote detailing the same trend this year back here. The Green Cine Daily essay is timed to coincide with the release of TIME CRIMES in theaters this week.

The only troubling part about this is the rush to remake these films in America instead of simply releasing the Spanish language versions. I still have not yet seen the film REC from earlier this year, mostly because the remade version, QUARANTINE looked unimpressive. I suppose I should really just get over that though and watch the original. If you have not seen TIME CRIMES do yourself a favor and head to the theaters this week. Hopefully BEFORE THE FALL will be following soon as well.


Tina Fey Pinball game

Well, she did like 2 snippets of voice work for a pinball game, but still I think it's pretty cool. I love Tina Fey (who doesn't) and I love pinball (again, who doesn't!) So to me this is like 2 great tastes that taste great together. According to Kotaku (and Vanity Fair): "Tina Fey (of "Saturday Night Live" fame) did the voices of the "Opera Singer" princess and the Cockney-talking princess." This was for the 1997 pinball game Medieval Madness. So now you know what to buy me for Christmas. Thanks!


Rotterdam FF gets new programming sections

Basically I'm just re-posting what you can read in this Twitch post, but what the heck. Rotterdam's new festival director has decreed that the 7 programming sections of the past are now winnowed down to just three sections:
The three new categories are:

Bright Future: a platform to show work from novice film makers (this includes the Tiger Awards).
Spectrum: work by experienced artists who are known for contributing to international culture.
Signals: a series of thematic sub-programmes, changing every year.

Rotterdam was one of my best...hell I'll go ahead and say the best, festival experiences I had last year. You can read about my adventures here. I hope I can go again this year!