Author: Andrea O

June 8, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Adaptation – 2002 – dir. Spike Jonze

The greatness of Nicolas Cage comes from many things, but the thing that sticks out most to me is his willingness to risk being awful. A quick perusal of iMDB will show that Nicolas Cage has been in many truly awful movies, and a quick Youtube search will show that he excels at giving these awful movies more entertainment value than they deserve. Adaptation, by far one of the best movies Cage has stared in, is amazing because it spends so much time on the verge of being spectacularly awful, managing to tread that very thin line between the disaster it could have been and the modern classic it manages to be.

May 31, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Bottle Rocket – 1996 – dir. Wes Anderson

Before studios trusted Wes Anderson with millions, assured his particular type of humor would return their invested interested, there was Bottle Rocket.  Largely underrated and now assuming the glory of cult-status, it is a vital piece of Anderson’s pantheon of work, but most importantly, Bottle Rocket is hilarious.  Before the young director had a strong enough reputation to hire an ensemble cast, or the time to selectively craft the composition of each individual frame, all never mind shots, all he had were two buddies who acted and a simple story about love.  What became of our auteur is movie history, but to watch Bottle Rocket now is akin to a treasure hunt with the casual surfacing of Wes Anderson’s primitive, distinctive humor hidden underneath a low-budget surface.

April 30, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

John Carter

I still don’t understand the glee with which the media greeted the premature burial of John Carter. The New York Times declared it the new Ishtar after one weekend. Entertainment Weekly gave it a D, a grade they rarely give out except in cases such as Battlefield Earth and Norbit, and has continued to rag on the film since. Most confusingly, Disney announced the film as a $200 million write-off after only two weeks in theaters. How many studios will declare their own film a bomb while still in theaters? John Carter’s a punchline now. Polling and the popularity of Facebook campaigns for a sequel seems to indicate a lot of the people who saw it liked it, but with all the premature negative press, word of mouth success was never a hope for this film. How can you convince people to see something when all the advanced negative press has created a self-fulfilling prophesy? People at Disney are getting fired over it. Fair enough, at least for whoever’s idea was it to give the movie such a bland title (why didn’t they call it John Carter and the Princess of Mars, to give it context and romance and a sense of Harry Potter/Indiana Jones-style excitement?). I just pray this film doesn’t end up killing the career of the director who managed to make the honestly good movie at the center of the business fiasco: Andrew Stanton.

April 20, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey – 2011 – dir. Constance Marks

The first movie I cried during was The Patriot. I was in high school and my girlfriend and I were on a movie date and there’s a glorified patriotic moment late in the movie, where Mel Gibson’s character, his son recently killed in the Revolutionary War that Mel actively opposed, poetically takes up an American flag in a charge on the British. The writing is dopey in the whole movie and the scene is written as if Mel single-handedly reverses the outcome of the battle, but right there, when Mel was in his most ponytailed patriotic moment, as fearless as “La Liberté guidant le peuple,” facing an onslaught of muskets and bayoneted rifles, a tear ran down my cheek.

April 5, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Killer of Sheep – 1979 – dir. Charles Burnett

Of all the master storytelling, truthfulness, and beauty packed into Charles Burnett’s 1979 Killer of Sheep, my favorite scene is the trip to buy a car motor.

From the beginning of the scene, as Stan (Henry G. Sanders) and Bracy (Charles Bracy) park their rusted-out pickup truck in front of the house where the sellers are, the venture seems doomed to fail. Maybe I hear something in the ice cream truck music that accompanies their approach, or see something in the pitch of the hill where they park, or maybe I’m disappointed in the way they quickly talk about how to handle the negotiation by splitting up the money; however you slice it, the scene exudes a certain notion—albeit a calm one—that the plan just isn’t going to work out for Stan and Bracy.

April 5, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — 2010 — dir. Edgar Wright

Many films set out to teach viewers about different aspects of life, whether it’s facts they don’t know, people they’ve never seen, or situations they haven’t been exposed to. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World instills viewers with life lessons they never thought they’d need to know, and asks important questions such as, “Do you know this one girl with hair like this?” Another handy tip the film offers is something everyone can relate to—how to go about defeating the seven evil exes of the girl you love.

February 2, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Drive – 2011 – dir. Nicholas Winding Refn

Driver is a quiet, sometimes menacing, often violent, but ultimately gold-hearted stunt-and-getaway-driver, and we don’t know much else about him in Nicholas Winding Refn’s beautiful 2011 film Drive. But, in James Sallis’ “Drive,” the 2005 novel on which Hossein Amini based his screenplay for Mr. Refn’s film, we are given the shorthand of his genesis, and more depth into the carnage he consistently leaves in his wake.

January 31, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Bill Cunningham New York – 2010 – dir. Richard Press

Who is Bill Cunningham? To start, he’s an enigmatic octogenarian and fixture of the streets of New York. He’s obsessed with the wild styles and bold colors of New Yorkers, yet wears a simple blue smock and a pair of khakis while photographing fashion’s flashiest.He rides a Schwinn around town (his 29th; the first 28 were stolen), sleeps on a cot in a cramped tiny Carnegie Hall studio, and mends his plastic raincoats with black duct tape. He doesn’t speak of favorite designers and refuses the pate and cocktails offered to him at the galas he photographs.

January 30, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

13 Assassins – 2010 – dir. Takashi Miike

13 Assassins is visually stimulating, philosophically compelling, and dripping with gore, but just in the right places.  Takashi Miike’s prolific career in the Japanese film industry has given him the freedom to do his fair share of genre bending, but this time he’s kept it contained.  While all the elements of the samurai epic are there, Miike’s gruesome touches are found only in the grisly efforts of the evil heir to the Akashi Clan, Naritsugu.  An easy indication of good versus evil is presented early on, yet in the execution of the story is where the real eloquence lies.

January 30, 2012 / / Main Slate Archive

Beginners – 2010 – dir. Mike Mills

Some movies are meant to make viewers feel as though they’re intruding on the lives of the characters, that it’s an invasion of privacy, and they shouldn’t be able to see what’s happening. In many aspects, this is true for Beginners—the new film from director Mike Mills based partially on his own life and relationship with his father.