More eery first-person than any film short of The Lady in the Lake. As Glenn Kenny notes, one searing composition after another, all united by a truly compelling narrative. This isn't slow-assed arthouse cinema, but high-pitched historical drama.
I hear-tell that Miyazaki has pretty firm creative control of his films, and I think it's safe to assume Isao has something of the same power over his productions. So every bit of the weirdness can be placed squarely in his lap, but that still doesn't explain how the Disney corporation got ahold of an eco-friendly fairy tale about raccoons with magic inflatable scrotums.
SPOILER ALERT: So.... The typical irrational decisions expected out of people in a horror film, except this time made on the basis of a core human value: LOVE. That this value is held in utter disdain by the filmmakers only hits you when everyone dies anyway.
Probably the best film of last year was only kinda sorta about scary cave monsters. In an intellectual bait-and-switch familiar to fans of Romero and Cronenberg, Neil Marshall's The Descent was less concerned with fetus-like bat-men than something altogether more serious--the social and personal resonance of deep grief. But it was still damn frightening. And it was so damn good that people began to get curious about where this guy Marshall came from. His directing debut quickly attained cult status. Skillfully exploring group dynamics in crisis, Dog Soldiers follows British soldiers on a mundane training exercise in the Scottish countryside that takes a turn for the decidedly unmundane when the local werewolves start eating folks. Produced by Arkansas native David E. Allen, it's both an effective fright vehicle and a sturdy character study, awash in non-CGI special effects that recall Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves. If John Huston ever made a horror film, it surely would have looked something like this.
Film may be a purely visual and auditory experience, but every once in a while you leave a theater with the impression that you've tasted, smelled, or touched. Old Joy is an immanently sensuous picture. No contemporary film has captured the zeitgeist with such hypnotic ease. Two old friends attempt to realign the diverging paths their lives have taken, journeying into the woods of the Pacific Northwest in search of a hidden bath house fed by a hot spring. Will Oldham glows as an aimless and frustrated dreamer, prone to emotional bouts with elemental metaphysics. And Daniel London, as Oldham's straight-man friend, acts most expressively with the contours of his face, which seem to physically recede and flatten as the two friends grow further apart. Old Joy was recently released on DVD, but don't let that keep you away. This is probably your last chance to catch it on the big screen. Give in to its subtle flow.
Morgan Freeman lends gravity like a library lends books. We've grown accustomed to seeing him play wise, infallible monuments. And his voiceover work finds such high demand because of the cushiony pleasantness and ingrained authority of his inflections. Mark my word: One day he will play George Washington in a racially adventurous biopic. And so to witness an actor of his talents strip all that away and construct a character unlike anything we've seen before is conversely thrilling. In Brad Silberling's 10 Items or Less, Freeman gives one of his most compelling performances since playing Fast Black in Street Smart. As an out-of-his-element actor shuffling through L.A.'s immigrant community with ingratiating ineptitude, he redeems a small film that sometimes tries too hard but makes up for it in spades by being so generously watchable.