• The Tree of Life

    The Tree of Life

    ★★★★★

    Prologue:

    Set in post-war 1950s suburban Texas, Malick’s spiritualist treatise begins with the lamentable death of the youngest but is about the Experience of the eldest, then staggeringly aggrandizes The Tree of Life into the meanings of ALL Creation: Infinity and Earth, Life and Relationships, Grace and Glory, Mother alighted barefoot above the manicured grass, almost floating and ethereal. Dusk-tinged sunlight wafts through and sachets around the rustling leaves as if: breathing. Brothers chasing each other racing each other rolling…

  • Wet Hot American Summer

    Wet Hot American Summer

    ★★★½

    Take, take, take me back. Or how Brian Wilson once spoke (in words we might have all spoken) of white-sand beaches and bikini girls and shirtless boys and shameless kisses, of all those many things once glorious now just mementos lost and faded: “well I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout: all the places we’ve surfed and danced and all the faces we’ve missed / so let’s get back together and... do it again.”

    Then queue the near-mythical – almost hypnotically entrancing –…

  • National Treasure

    National Treasure

    ★★

    Jon Turteltaub’s exponentially redonkulous high-stakes 2004 Americana-soaked History adventure-romp National Treasure is a blockbuster extravaganza of the grandest order, starring action-star Nicolas Cage as historian/treasure-seeker Ben Gates, the divine and ever-graceful Diane Kruger as the of course obligatory penciled-in love interest along for the mayhem, and Sean Bean plays the mandatory though not rote and most pleasingly not unlikable actually quite charming villain: sharp, smart, suave in equal measure and ruthless when need be. What unfortunately ensues is a carousing…

  • Princess Mononoke

    Princess Mononoke

    ★★★★★

    To hell with all the pretty lies they fed my childhood, pretending it wasn’t kind of funny wasn’t kind of sad that it’s all so very, very mad and maddening.

    Because before breath I was in raw awe and panicked runnin’, thrust headfirst into a world already fully realized and scripted, detailed and storyboarded: replete with serpent-slithering spirit-infested demon-boars and infant-like white-bottomed pale sprites, a place where deer-faced demigods unleash ghastly tremors: star-crossed Love tearing a riptide like hearts asunder,…

  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

    Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

    ★★½

    To so effectively make the olfactory visual is a cinematographic marvel. The fluttered pinch of nostrils, Inhale: the splash and slosh of rotted fish guts and gore, the grime and dirt caked under broken & bit fingernails, lush wetted lips, sliced citrus spittle, squelched blood-lime droplets dripping off knife. An angel’s glide, Exhale: in’shala Al-hamdu li’llah, welcome awaiting Grace; and! the taste of Her deadened freckles, snorted like by my Monster’s roughened tongue, devoured. Shit encrusted deep in the cracked city…

  • Drive

    Drive

    ★★★★★

    Beware, dear readers: spoilers abound in this indulgent, self-satisfying and probably problematic glorification of Drive. I am not selling but celebrating this film. This is less review than ode. With that said, here goes:

    The slickest as fuck pulse-pounding twelve-minute pre-title opening sequence ever made. No doubt, without dispute. Begins on the phone, The Driver: “You give me a time and a place, I give you a five minute window.” On the TV: Clippers vs. Raptors. Cut and it’s playing…

  • The Master

    The Master

    ★★★★★

    Alas, we: all riffraff, purposeless souls lost wandering down directionless paths, wondering upon splintered rafts floating across vast ocean vistas beneath the halo of cosmic panorama. Time (always) irrelevant, if not meaningless. For history (now) is mere fancy, was written by authority, mass-produced for the sympathy of the weak. Tall tales of association, suppression, subordination, obedience, domesticity, order; civilizations made from servants searching masters searching servants, ad nauseam. Everything ended by revelation, then revolt: the father abandoned by the son,…

  • Spirited Away

    Spirited Away

    ★★★★½

    I must confess my profound shame at having lived a life sans Miyazaki, superseded only by a heartwrenching lament: oh, lament for childhood never had; oh, lament my childhood gone, lament lessons finished, lament all those chances missed, never again. Oh! lament, dreams borne of fantastical splendor and visual wonder. Lament for the detailed psychological and emotional realism, all the truths of my youth Spirited Away. Lament for the identification that I never had with Chihiro: a mirror of inexperience,…

  • The Social Network

    The Social Network

    ★★★★½

    The first relationship is with the mother, from whose womb we emerge – bloodied and weeping – into a threatening and hostile world. Then we find trust and truth in those who care for us, protect us: the father, the brother, the elders, uncles, cousins. Later friendships develop with peers, mentors, so forth. Eventually, through identification with neighborhood we conceptualize notions of community, town, city, country. But now, in a media-dominated “global village” paradigm, the biological and evolutionary instinct to…

  • Inception

    Inception

    ★★★★½

    Christopher Nolan’s 2010 blockbuster Inception is the pinnacle of big Hollywood filmmaking. It is a bold and inventive film that uses its creativity to inform its use of special effects, not its special effects to inform its creativity. It is undoubtedly a “high concept” film, but (almost deceptively) it is a distillation of the very “simplest version of an idea.” Nolan made his Bourne-ized Bond film, he made his classic heist film; he blew The Matrix out of the water,…

  • A Most Violent Year

    A Most Violent Year

    ★★★½

    Not just any kind of running. Dusk-frosted early morning misted twilight; steps measured, one foot in front of the other time and again, and again. Every ounce of mental energy is in physical sync with the body. Running as fierce determination bordering on violent ambition. Running in prayer: give me meaning, give me purpose. As if chasing, or escape. Breaths labored, eyes bordering on ferocious: the end the only goal, far from its beginnings. All out, into exhaustion, lungs burning,…

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

    Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

    Fuck this movie. Or this movie will fuck with you.

    I can’t tell whether Keaton’s performance is intentionally bad or piously self-aware or winking or pretentiously good or just winking badly. I can’t figure out if Inarritu’s decision to film Birdman as a feature-length unbroken tracking shot is the astounding epitome of the form or self-congratulatory boasting or if it effectively complements the thematic magical realism of the story. It is difficult to distinguish between the moments when Keaton, Norton…