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Rating History

Calvary
Calvary (2014)
2 years ago via Flixster

I went to a preview screening with its star and director present, finding in the discussion afterward that there wasn't any grappling with theology behind the scenes (in other words, actual faith is lacking in this production's motivations). So, for example, even if it feels meaningful for the priest to be dressed in a traditional cassock, in reality, the overwhelming impression is that it was aesthetic opportunism: "he looks dark and menacing in that robe, let's use it!" Moreover, the basis of the film is an utterly humanistic point of view, less interested in forgiveness for those grossly cliched rural Irish peccadilloes, moreso contemporary outrage as usual against conservative judgment, advocating unquestioning tolerance in its place. In other words, accountability is totally outside of this world, while the priest goes about grumbling indecisively, deeply tormented with doubt, and a loss of faith.

And the larger picture too is that the filmmakers primarily found their motivation in that headline-grabbing, dramatically easy, priest child abuse scandal afflicting the Roman Catholic church continuously (with sin altogether, because humanity is imperfect). If we take a big step back and see this film as a whole, it is really a sort of Tarantino-inspired carnal delight at seeing bloody, violent chaos ensue as the ultimate murderer is avenging his childhood molestation. Using all the tools of dramatic manipulation available in cinematic storytelling, we are led to cheer, concluding that homicidal vengeance is an reasonable consequence of the other sin. From a faithless humanist's point of view, if people would just stop judging and being so hypocritical, we wouldn't be "forced" to retaliate: because we are naturally good. And the priest's function is restricted to tolerance of the perfect human inside. That makes everything easier.

Simply put, this was not a film for Catholics to celebrate -- and what an unfortunate twist if they get fooled by its intentions.?

20,000 Days on Earth
2 years ago via Flixster

I'm finding it bizarre, with the release of this film, that it's a foregone conclusion, if you like Nick Cave, you'll love this documentary. I understand the universal drooling from critics, even here, tracing to their endless pursuit of what's-hot-and-what's-not, but there are plenty others who actually listen to Nick Cave's music intensely and often, finding this documentary weirdly conventional, over-produced, sterile, and violative of any biographical trace of punk from the balladeer's past. From the ten-point lighting kit at the mock psychotherapy session, to the jib floating the camera around those armchairs, to the awkward conversations that were conceptually improvised but fundamentally staged, this film is the equivalent of a corporate video for an annual shareholder's meeting, or a broadcast network reality television show egging for market share. Will someone else speak up too, please? Nick Cave is one of the great multi-disciplinary artists of our time, and his extraordinary talents are scurrying around the festival circuit for this film at the expense of what he could be creating quietly at home: a new album, a new screenplay, a new film score, a new novel.

Grand Piano
Grand Piano (2014)
2 years ago via Flixster

"Grand Piano" is the funniest film I've seen in years, though it wasn't trying to be. Uniformly lauded by film critics, who clearly can't be trusted, it's a harrowing testament to the depths of cultural illiteracy for classical music today (in this case, produced by a Grey Poupon tub of Spanish film investors playing Hollywood). Gotta see it to believe it...

The Wolf of Wall Street
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Avoid this stinking pile of poo at all costs. Scorsese has lost his soul. This time, his characteristically masterful artistic gesture is just a middle finger to its audience. Arrogant and mocking, it underestimates its customer. The cynical side eggs its audience incessantly into manipulative sensationalism, letting 'em eat cake while subverting with unstudied anti-capitalist sneering. The moralistic side lacks utterly in nuance or meter - we get it after the first ten minutes of the three-hour running time, and the rest is tasteless repetition. The world's greatest mainstream narrative film director, at 71 years old and threatening retirement, can only redeem himself with what's next, "Silence" (irony intended). Yet "Wolf" suggests he has lost his faith entirely, which was always sacramental to his body of work.