Vadim has written 22 reviews for films during 2020.

  • A Man Escaped

    A Man Escaped

    ★★★★

    The challenge is maximizing a poverty of resources. For the subject, it’s a matter of imposed necessity, for the filmmaker a self-imposed challenge. Bresson’s approach is fairly spectacular: lots of cavernous black and white and deep focus largely rejected, which makes the frame sometimes even more overwhelming (e.g. the shot of prisoners filing out into the courtyard frame foreground-left, their gun-toting guard in a beam of seemingly natural light back-right—he’s in control of what’s happening but the opposite of compositional…

  • Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

    Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

    A couple of years ago I got the chance to write an essay about NYC geographical representation onscreen, how this movie is the champion of that and so on. Just re-read it and it seems to hold up OK, so here it is.

  • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    ★★½

    Baron Cohen’s method sometimes involves going into people’s spaces, but he’s also prone to constructing situations and seeing if people manifest their worst selves accordingly (or if he can at least freak them out). In one, Borat and his daughter attend a debutante cotillion, thereby inevitably catching middle-aged men saying creepy things—a small “gotcha” before an extended gross-out gag that didn’t land for me. One of the fathers at this event, Will Davis, describes how he got into this situation…

  • Trump Card

    Trump Card

    I may need to stop volunteering for these reviews.

  • David Byrne's American Utopia

    David Byrne's American Utopia

    In between songs, Byrne gives a few speeches—all good-intentioned, some cornball. One is about Kurt Schwitters and Hugo Ball; Byrne quotes a few lines from the latter about resisting fascism and gets a nice round of applause from the crowd. Later on, he urges people to vote, noting that local elections only boast a 20% turnout. “We gotta do better than 20%,” he says, and the crowd cheers (what were they going to do, boo?). The intent in projecting a…

  • I'm Thinking of Ending Things

    I'm Thinking of Ending Things

    ★★★½

    Adapted from Iain Reid’s 2016 novel, Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things returns to familiar preoccupations—solipsistic men and idealized girlfriends, already subjective memory’s decay, aging and death, ambitious futility. From the book Kaufman retains the text of page one (an interior monologue from the unnamed female narrator), some dialogue from the subsequent first chapter and the course of events up to about page 150 (out of 210). Otherwise, the dialogue’s almost entirely been junked before a final act of…

  • Pajeú

    Pajeú

    ★★★½

    "Diógenes got my attention within two minutes by briefly seeming to promise a horror movie with an opening daylight nightmare sequence of Maristela (Fatima Muniz) crossing a small bridge over the stream, then stopping and turning her head, her gaze arrested by a freaky-looking creature sitting mid-stream that ever-so-slowly unfolds and starts rising into the air. This is almost the equivalent of placing a bait-and-switch trailer at the beginning of your own movie—the nightmarish vision recurs, but without any additional…

  • A Voluntary Year

    A Voluntary Year

    ★★★½

    Everything I've read about this basically admits that the person writing has never heard of co-director Henner Winckler, and neither had I, so I looked him up. Short answer: he made two features early on as the Berlin School was getting its first features out, working with production company Schramm Film as did Angela Schanelec, Ulrich Köhler, Thomas Arslan and Christian Petzold: "when I was looking for a production company and noticed that they had produced these films by Arslan,…

  • Vanilla Sky

    Vanilla Sky

    ★★★½

    Every Crowe movie from Jerry Maguire onwards worries over the exact same scenario: a man who’s important in his field experiences failure and must rebuild.* Crowe was obsessed by the possibility of failure long before he actually failed (at least in terms of commercial performance and critical perception—again, I’m a fan) and the movies became a self-fulfilling prophecy. This tremendous fear of overreach and being leveled by hubris has big "gifted and talented kid meets world" energy behind it, which…

  • Bacurau

    Bacurau

    ★★★½

    I never did end up writing about this. But I did write some journalism about the first nine weeks of "virtual cinemas," the box office returns from those runs, whether those are numbers are good (and if so, for whom), and whether this window of exhibition is here to stay permanently. And since Bacurau is one of the early success stories of this experiment, I'm parking this link here.

  • The Pageant

    The Pageant

    ★★★½

    " The idea of an event called 'Miss Holocaust Survivor Beauty Pageant' seems so self-evidently dystopian that not even Southland Tales would have thought to include it, and my first reaction wouldn’t certainly align with the cheery evaluation of Ted Thornhill, filing for the Daily Mail on the 2016 edition documented in Ipeker’s film: 'These women show that joy can come from even the darkest of experiences.' My skin was crawling from the first scene, where two women from the…

  • Adaptation.

    Adaptation.

    ★★★½

    "There’s zero chance I was the only one who went to film school shortly after (fall of 2004) with a firm animus against McKee specifically, and 'good screenwriting practices' generally, stoked by Adaptation. The NYU reality turned out to be way grimmer than expected." More here.