The Art of Negative Thinking / Kunsten å tenke negativt (2007) Film Review

A cute, happy, dysfunctional cast! I’ve come to take quite a liking to black comedies that come out of the Nordic countries. They often focus on untraditional subject matters and have underlying social commentaries; in the case of The Art of Negative Thinking, the focus is on disabled people — a demographic that is usually never made light of in American culture, which regards disabled individuals as practically helpless. Those who have personal experience with disabled people or are particularly sensitive to the subject might find this movie to be callous and cruel. But that would be a simplified view on the subject. The movie does not set out to make fun of the disabled. The characters in the movie

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Sita Sings The Blues (2007) Film Review

They say when you’re hurting the deepest, it helps to drown yourself in the things you love. For some it might be in food and drink; for others, in the love of family and friends. But no post-separation binge has ever borne such interesting fruit as Nina Paley’s animated feature, Sita Sings the Blues. Born from a short animation Paley did while living in India and nurtured by her painful and sudden divorce, Sita is a generally light-hearted retelling of the Ramayana, a well-known myth of the Hindu tradition. Intertwined with the story of Sita’s undying love towards a mythically cold Rama is the rather straight-forward biography of Nina’s own experiences, with her being suddenly and shockingly abandoned by her

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Alone in Four Walls / Allein in vier Wanden (2007) Film Review

Alone in Four Walls is a beautifully-shot look at youths who spend their time in reformatory facilities for youngsters between the ages up to the age of the fourteen. Husband and wife duo Alexandra Westmeier and Inigo Westmeier have managed to capture the stories of a population largely unknown to the world. Most of the boys in the film are from rural areas of Russia, and most of them are in the reformatory prison due to theft; a couple are murderers and rapists (although the rapists largely declined to participate in the film). The facility the boys are at is practically a school. They are given hot meals, classes to take, and books to read. For some, the facility is

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Fantastic Parasuicides / Fantastic Ja Sal So Dong (2007) Film Review

Collections like Fantastic Parasuicides, which combine three shorts by different directors under one title, always manage to peak my interest. In this case, all of the three shorts explore the idea of “suicide,” and due to my preference for black comedies, I thought this collection would be right up my alley. What I discovered was that only one of the pieces really held my attention; the other two were interesting, but hardly memorable or really even worth watching. The first piece, by Park SoYeong, explores a girl’s suicide after failing an exam. It’s wacky, off-the-wall, and complete with poorly shot action sequences and sound effects along the lines of what you’d find in Pac Man. All definitely on purpose, and

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Sweet Thing (2008) Film Review

A film written and directed by filmmaker Joe Lia, Sweet Thing is one of the worst movies I have seen in a while. Don’t read ahead unless you want to see spoilers… which shouldn’t be a problem because the movie is definitely not worth watching.What’s amusing is that I knew what this movie was about before I even watched it, despite the summary on the back cover being extremely vague. The film was predictable. Here is the atrocious plot. Sweet Thing begins by following the separate stories of two women. Jody has a drug problem and quits her job to sell ice cream out of a sweet-looking neon green Jeep she’d purchased. The other girl, Liz, works at a drive-through

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Glass Lips – Blood Of A Poet (2007) Film Review

Glass Lips (English translation), or Blood Of A Poet (literal translation), is Lech Majewski’s latest offering for the year 2007. Perhaps it is because I watched Glass Lips back to back with another Majewski film, Roe’s Room, but I found the entire viewing of Glass Lips to be quite painful. I’d been torn in a way that I have never been torn with a movie — the subject matter was interesting enough to make me want to continue watching, but every scene began painfully, with lots of slow panning and shots that seemed to hold no value. Visually, the film provides some well-shot scenes that make watching it at least somewhat entertaining, but the scenes more so slowly that they’d

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Chalk (2008) Film Review

Chalk is the latest release by Morgan Spurlock, so one is immediately pre-disposed to having opinions about it due to the fact that Supersize Me was so controversial. Although entertaining, Chalk is flawed in a most significant way: it comes off as a documentary when, in fact, it is not one. Its tagline, “Real teaching leaves a mark,” is extremely misleading. At the time, I figured the film was a documentary. But I couldn’t help but wonder how some of the scenes were caught on camera, as having a camera in a classroom would certainly cause students and teachers to act differently. It wasn’t until I came home and double-checked that it began to make sense — the names of

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3:10 to Yuma (2008) Film Review

“3:10 to Yuma,” a remake of the 1957 film of the same name, is the first of a few western themed movies to hit screens this fall. Its premise is simple: Christian Bale, playing downtrodden war veteran turned rancher Dan Evans, volunteers to help escort the devious outlaw Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe. The group’s task is to get Crowe to the train departing for Yuma prison, where he is to be tried and punished for his crimes of robbery and murder. The train station isn’t far, but Crowe’s loyal thugs are determined to save their leader at any cost. The film is a western geek’s dream, a whirling dervish of shoot-outs and stare-downs, filmed in the mustiest of

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Paprika (2007) Film Review

At first glance, Paprika is a stylish sci-fi detective thriller that uses dreams as a reason to explore the limits of animation. The visuals are exhilarating and titillating based on any level of criteria. But while many would be quick to write this film off as another “beautiful but brainless” offering from Japan, underneath all the sheen lies a fascinating and incredibly honest exploration of the joys and troubles of filmmaking. Paprika is an incredibly joyous film, multi-faceted and brimming with ideas, and it might be the best animated feature of the year. Satoshi Kon has always been one of the brightest stars in anime, leaving his mark with works such as the almost flawless Perfect Blue and the heartwarming

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Eagle vs. Shark (2007) Film Review

New Zealand 2007, 93 minutes It’s impossible to talk about Eagle vs Shark, a low budget comedy about weirdos in love, without talking about Napoleon Dynamite, a low budget comedy about weirdos coming of age. Taika Waititi’s latest movie borrows so much from the 2004 hit comedy that it never truly escapes its shadow, however hard it may struggle. Both films employ a fair amount of kitsch, relying on nostalgia and absurdist deadpan to milk laughs from the audience. Both films require the leads to be oblivious to their own social dysfunctions, allowing audiences to laugh freely at the characters, not with them. The humor isn’t mean-spirited; rather it’s more like going to the zoo. The film begins with the

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Rocket Science (2007) Film Review

USA 2007, 98 minutes, 35mm Hal Hefner, our teenage hero in Rocket Science, is the stuttering kid. He stammers through simple sentences. He looks at his feet while he talks to people. He sits in the back of class, fearful that his voice might accidentally escape and run away. And for the last odd-decade or so, that’s all he’s been. Other than being a quiet underachiever with a speech impediment, he’s a blank slate. It’s through the intervention of an overachieving, fast-talking, and, most importantly, female classmate that Hal attempts to break out of his shell. Ginny Ryerson, an all-star on the debate team and stone-cold ice-queen, bewitches the spineless Hal into joining the debate team to avenge her embarrassing

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The Bet Collector / Kubrador (2006) Film Review

Phillippines, 2006, 35mm, Tagalog (with subtitles) Jeffrey Jeturian’s film revolves around luck. Amy, a middle-aged woman who endlessly roams the winding streets of her Manila neighborhood relies entirely on it. Searching for people to place bets on jueteng, a popular gambling game in the Philippines, her livelihood is based on chance. From random street encounters, to evading the police (the game is officially outlawed), all the way down to the very luck of the draw in a round of jueteng, the Bet Collector creates a dizzying clash of chaos and coincidence. Nothing is planned in Amy’s traversal of the city streets. She walks around, seemingly bumping into friends or acquaintances at random trying to solicit bets from them. The camera

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