Film Review: Wild

I’m not sure what the fuss is about this film. Even without having read the book on which this is based, we can see that the film is hobbled by its effort to include the book’s journal-writing component, its essential lack of two-person scenes, and by reticence about the central character’s past failures and character … Read more

Review: The Homesman

In The Homesman, the central human dilemma is how the various characters form, avoid or break attachments with others, a primal matter in even the most benign of circumstances, let alone in the rough 1850s Nebraska territory. Caring too much for others brings misery, but not going along to get along also brings misery. Do … Read more

Review: Last Days in Vietnam

Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam is a wonderful documentary, with an engaging mix of period video, talking head remarks, contemporaneous cassette letters home, and some judicious computer graphics. The film depicts the chaotic evacuation of Americans and some Vietnamese as Saigon fell, ending the Viet Nam War in 1975. Rory Kennedy focuses on how … Read more

Review: The Trip to Italy

Josh Long’s review of The Trip to Italy (2014) on the website Battleship Pretension calls the film “a feast to the eyes, uproariously funny, and keenly introspective.” I’ll go along with the “feast for the eyes” here, but I can’t agree that The Trip to Italy was uproariously funny. Funny, yes. And I certainly can’t … Read more

Film Review: Ai Wei Wei: The Fake Case

Like all humans, yet far more obviously than most, Ai Wei Wei exists in some indefinable middle ground between being free and being under house arrest. That is true of his life in general, but especially as he waits out probation as depicted in Ai Wei Wei: the Fake Case. In this documentary he appears … Read more

Film review: Blue Jasmine

Unlike some actual film critics, I think that Blue Jasmine by Woody Allen is not a film about the 1% and 99%, even though we see two strata of society banging into each other. I believe the film is primarily about deceit. In looking at a film or play, we might ask what force or … Read more

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

In keeping with Ethan and Joel Coen’s dark whimsy, and their ambivalent fascination with losers and failures, Inside Llewyn Davis is a sort of reverse-image, anti-heroic Odyssey. Like Odysseus, who laboriously island-hops homeward after total war against Troy, the homeless and broke Davis moves uncomfortably from couch to couch as charitable acquaintances let him crash … Read more

Film Review: Tied to a Chair

I found this quirky comedy quite entertaining. Tied to a Chair tells a story about how relentlessly an actor can pursue artistic fulfillment, or maybe just a job. The film follows the opening adventures of a middle aged woman responding to a mid-life crisis. Naomi, who gave up hopes of a theatre career to marry … Read more

Film Review: Octubre

The fine reviewer for The Village Voice, J. Hoberman, sees Octubre as an “exploration of a potentially redemptive male midlife crisis.” There is something to this view, of course. Surely many people have found themselves one day at the dining room table wondering how they ended up in a family accreted by the addition of … Read more

Film Review: Another Year

I expected to like Mike Leigh’s Another Year more than I did, my expectations raised in part because it is small scale and character-driven, because director Mike Leigh is a good filmmaker, and because some critics (e.g. A.O. Scott and Liam Lacey) report that the film has a serious central theme, happiness. But despite its … Read more