Vadim has written 99 reviews for films during 2014.

  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller

    McCabe & Mrs. Miller

    ★★★½

    Tremendously odd: in the background, real carpenters are building, from scratch, an honest to goodness actual town of sorts, and the logistics of building a city on-screen while not foregrounding that are awe-inspiring. The set looks like a muddy, slip-and-slide nightmare, yet Altman wrangles everything precariously poised on it and keeps the people moving. What's all this effort for? In the foreground, there's Warren Beatty swaying his arms and muttering to himself, as if a rough draft for Robin Williams…

  • Leviathan

    Leviathan

    ★★★½

    "In this film the TV only appears in two scenes. Discussion about Pussy Riot was happening as we wrote the screenplay, while there was very heated discussion about them. That’s why they ended up in there, but this screenplay has nothing to do with Pussy Riot. The footage was from a murder; someone killed two women, and then wrote 'Pussy Riot' in their blood. In our film, we only hear that there’s some kind of discussion about Pussy Riot, but…

  • The Liberator

    The Liberator

    ★★

    "The makers behind the Spanish-Venezuelan biopic The Liberator plausibly claim that their $50 million film is the biggest Latin American production of all time. If it’s meant to educate or entertain non-Spanish-speaking audiences, that doesn’t come across. Its specific assignment is to rouse those vaguely or intimately familiar with Simón Bolívar. Nor is Alberto Arvelo’s film formally compelling enough to demand the attention of viewers with no previous historical stake in Bolívar’s historical significance, or his present-day relevance as a…

  • See You Next Tuesday

    See You Next Tuesday

    ★★★

    "Most of Drew Tobia’s debut feature consists of people insulting each other in incredibly offensive ways without any leavening cleverness or joy in invective; See You Next Tuesday gestures unsubtly towards a far more unmarketable title, an accurate indication of the movie’s sensibility. Brooklyn-bound Mona (Eleanore Pienta) is estranged from both her family and her workplace. As seemingly the only white employee at the supermarket and a walking symbol of gentrification, she’s constant sport for her checkout-line co-workers, who mercilessly…

  • 20,000 Days on Earth

    20,000 Days on Earth

    ★★★½

    "The constant subject is art’s ability to let people transcend themselves, and Cave talks about the process of being onstage and channeling that force as what he lives for. These are some of the film’s most interesting sequences, allowing a musician who craves the validation of live performance to articulate what that feels like subjectively without sounding more egotistical than necessary (some of that is needed to achieve the full performative effect) or lapsing into broad emotive cliches."

    Written up over here, along with a director interview.

  • Three Lives

    Three Lives

    ★★★

    In past periods of under-/unemployment, I've killed time by using my MoMA membership to go watch whatever's on, even/especially if I've never heard of it, which has yielded some neat discoveries. Now I have a full-time job and I'm busier; after work, I probably don't have the willpower to do random spelunking in hopes of expanding my understanding of world cinema while also seeing something really good. But when I had an evening and the energy to dive into this…

  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

    Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

    ★★★

    "The number of technical challenges Emmanuel Lubezki has successfully taken on make him something like the James Cameron of DPs; my complaint with Birdman‘s illusory effect of taking place in one sustained shot has nothing to do with his execution, which is pretty faultless. Why does Birdman need to appear to take place in one long shot? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t serve any real purpose and it’s not nearly as much fun as the virtuoso 12.5…

  • Interstellar

    Interstellar

    ★★★

    "I may not read a more bemusingly maddening sentence from a director this year than Nolan’s explanation of why The Thin Red Line is one of his Criterion Collection top 10 picks: 'What better than Malick’s extraordinary vision of war to demonstrate the technical potential of a carefully mastered Blu-ray?' It’s clear Nolan as viewer has patience for the ineffable — hard to imagine a Thin Red Line or 2001 admirer who didn’t possess a capacity to admire that which…

  • The Rocketeer

    The Rocketeer

    ★★★

    First viewing since a few too many as a child; fortunately, it doesn't suck egregiously. Thinly conceived, with impressive-enough action sequences that never hit adrenalized transcendance, and impossible to watch lead Billy Campbell without feeling like you're just getting a cutrate Brendan Fraser. But the toss-off dialogue is often clever and sufficiently tonally close to the classic Hollywood pocket being aimed at (frustrated director getting AD to round up the extras: "tell the ladies in waiting we're waiting!"), it moves…

  • Life of Riley

    Life of Riley

    ★★★

    The first time Resnais cut from a master shot of someone speaking against an easily legible theatrical backdrop — one foot-wide vertical stripe of solid color next to another, the whole more or less suggestive of a real-world background — to a close-up of their head speaking against a black-and-white latticework, my immediate question was whether magnification was a new way to look at the same surface. I.e., did the two backdrops match and I'd just failed to make the…

  • Millennium Mambo

    Millennium Mambo

    ★★★½

    I was surprised to find out that this isn't really considered a Major Hou Film — that basically appears to be the case only for some people I know and Mia Hansen-Løve. (It's not considered as a stand-alone case in Richard I. Suchenski's [excellent] Hou anthology released alongside this touring retro.) Partly that seems fair: this movie's thoughts on fickle shiftless youth aren't really much of anything (they lack Confucian rigor and take drugs!) and some of this notably lags…

  • The Last of Robin Hood

    The Last of Robin Hood

    ★★

    Reviewed for The AV Club. As far as Killer Films biopics about 20th century figures not directed by Todd Haynes go, it's no The Notorious Bettie Page.