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  • Boyhood

    Boyhood (2014)

    July 22, 2014

  • Short Term 12

    Short Term 12 (2013)

    May 20, 2014

    Tender, raw, and genuine, "Short Term 12" is a wonderful statement on how to relate to each other in a way that is ever striving to make our world more rich and alive. Doing so is not easy, but we can easily sense the value of such an effort through the warmth that permeates every scene. The script and cast deserve equal credit for performances that seem effortlessly natural, creating a sense of intimacy not often accomplished, giving us a strong sense of presence inside this precious and delicate community.

  • Noah

    Noah (2014)

    April 14, 2014

    Ironically, the people snubbing their noses at the ludicrosity of "rock monsters" in their Noah story don't acknowledge the same scale of absurdities that come with believing in this story as literal history. "Noah" stays creatively and intelligently within bounds of its source - the rock guardians don't alter the vague story as it is written. They aren't ever mentioned in the text, no, but then neither are the dinosaurs. The story is even more outlandish, not less, without them or some other kind of unwritten supernatural assistance in building the ark and protecting both it and Noah's family against all the lives surely trying to violently escape their doom. In truth, the written version is useful to us mostly as a parable exploring our ancestors' perceptions of their humanity and worldly place, and the movie successfully nudges the arguments into relevancy for our own current debates, fears and hopes for mankind's future.

    Rather than just an excuse for another apocalypse movie, this is a study of the Bible's depiction of human nature, and a character study of its god and of Noah. This is the one time in the Semitic religious texts where man teaches its god something about the preciousness of life here on earth, and its god listens and agrees ...for a little while. But it's easy to see that the Bible's man is just as dark as its god, since just after having witnessed all of human and animal life destroyed, save for the few on the ark, Noah, supposedly the best of humanity, has such a poor perspective that he curses his own son's lineage into being "the lowest of slaves." That part was politely altered in the movie since it's a bit of a buzz-kill for mankind 2.0, but it doesn't make it into the Sunday school teachings either.

    Of course, the world's pre-flood history as written in Genesis would have to have come through Noah and his family of survivors. Aronofsky includes the tradition of verbally passing down these chapters, but he ingeniously deconstructs the narrative we see in Genesis today into two perspectives, starting from the beginning when there was nothing. First we hear Noah's version, centered around the creation of a harmonious world, pure and holy, except for man; then we hear Tubal-Cain's version, centered on man as the only creature created in god's image and master of the world's creatures to do as we see fit. By splitting the first chapters of Genesis into two different perspectives, Aronofsky breathes life into the text as a cultural collaboration of early mankind battling then as we do now over the always clashing values of living conservatively and harmoniously or pursuing power and self-fulfillment.

  • Oculus

    Oculus (2014)

    April 11, 2014

    Mike Flanagan successfully carries the audience along into the indiscernible illusions and hallucinatory states of his protagonists, resulting in an apathetic paralysis. Why should I emotionally invest in a scene if the long succession of happenings are continually interrupted with reminders that what I'm seeing isn't happening at all? There's also barely any character development for the mirror; what you know going into the movie is about what you'll know heading out. That the haunted object is a reflective mirror is barely utilized as a tool of its deception - its supernatural abilities are so strong that for the most part it could very well have been a desk or cabinet and we'd still have the same nonsensical movie.

  • The Act Of Killing

    The Act Of Killing (2013)

    March 31, 2014

    These may be the most absurd two hours of film I'll ever see. Though this documentary follows many mass murderers as they set out to make a movie boasting about their genocidal slaughters, it focuses in on Anwar Congo. Among these killers, Anwar made the biggest name for himself with his apathy and creativity. At the beginning of the documentary, he upholds his image as an untouchable, joyful and easy-going celebrity "free man." With a smile and tools in hand, he casually recalls and demonstrates his methods. Over the course of these two hours however, his internal transformation is the only thing that will make any sense. The footage here is astounding, and raises an overwhelming amount of questions about Indonesia's history and it's current state, as well as America and the UK's own culpability.

  • Pi

    Pi (1998)

    March 29, 2014

    This cautionary parable brings up the age-old question of whether our drive for power through deeper knowledge of the natural world will also carry us to our personal or possibly collective annihilation. It reminds me of the revelation that it's not our fear of failure that prevents us from trying something, but rather our fear of success. What happens when our capabilities accelerate faster than we can understand them? We find out one possibility as we follow a man haunted with an obsession to discover the core numerical pattern behind all things and behaviors in the universe.

  • The Square

    The Square (2013)

    February 04, 2014

    Most importantly, "The Square" brings cohesion and clarity to the story of Egypt's ongoing revolution since the Arab Spring that began nearly 3 years ago today. The film is structured into chapters of each power-shifting protest that has made its way into western media over the past few years, and we follow a few revolutionaries to get their perspectives on the reasons of each protest movement and their thoughts on the aftermath. Their words are as perceptive and inspirational as the footage shown of their fellow Egyptians, and by the end this documentary makes a cautionary and exciting case for both the future of Egypt and of ours as a global community. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "You will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be."

  • Gran Torino

    Gran Torino (2009)

    February 04, 2014

    This ignorant, ever-so-bitter movie intends to give the impression that it is a tiny raft of integrity floating on the Dead Sea while the rest of American society, reveling in the lifeless water, looks at it with contempt. This vision along with the consistently wooden delivery of the equally stiff dialogue makes for a sad, cringe-worthy experience. The core story had potential, but the execution just made this seem like a deranged and jaded lecture from a soured heart who wants about 15 cartoonishly wretched villains too many.

  • Glengarry Glen Ross

    Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

    February 01, 2014

    The story and dialogue paint a rich cast as a pack of wild dogs that have been desperately scavenging scraps to survive for so long that they've now mastered their individual approaches and will not hesitate to use anyone in order to stay in the game. It's one thing to simply give us the impression, but the writing here is so intelligent that we actually see their manipulative skill-set in one scene after another, armed only with words and knowledge of the human condition.

  • Upstream Color

    Upstream Color (2013)

    February 01, 2014

    Thankfully, the absurdity of this creative piece is set up at the very beginning, and it stays within its rules. Upstream Color is very abstract, requiring more patience and thought from the viewer. The couple in the movie poster are actually shadows of the real story, and it begs the question of Carruth's message. Perhaps it is directed at our dependence on the earth and animals, or maybe it is a metaphor of mankind's waning desire for an omnipresent deity. Any viewer who watches it to the end owes it to themselves to spend some time ruminating on what they see - whatever that is - and hopefully enjoy discussing it with others.

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