Vadim has written 41 reviews for films rated ★★★ during 2014.

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • Red Army

    Red Army

    ★★★

    Short interview over here. Talking heads and archival clips, and I was just knocking this out for pro reasons, but I did happen to learn a lot, as it happens, the footage is good, and it's certainly better than any of the "30 for 30"s I've seen. (Which would be all of three.)

  • White Bird in a Blizzard

    White Bird in a Blizzard

    ★★★

    "The nice thing about Gregg Araki’s movies is that he genuinely believes that teen horniness is not a crime: not for him Larry Clark’s pseudo-alarmed prurience or a Lifetime movie’s worth of dire consequences trailing teen sexuality. White Bird in a Blizzard‘s narrator/not-quite-heroine Kat Connors (Shaleine Woodley) is in the midst of an inexplicably celibate stretch in a hormonally-drenched first sexual relationship with neighbor Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) when her mother Eve (Eva Green) mysteriously disappears. Kat’s sexuality contributes neither to…

  • The 50 Year Argument

    The 50 Year Argument

    ★★★

    Not much of a movie, I suppose; its most appreciative audiences will be NYRB readers and possibly graphic designers, who may dig the number of different ways text is highlighted and displayed on-screen, but I kind of don't care if this is Cinema. It was a real treat to watch this in the midst of getting more irritated than usual about the deluge of trivial stupidities on the Internet (this was the 36-hour epoch, to be recalled by whoever our…

  • Let Us Live

    Let Us Live

    ★★★

    A gloomy unintentional follow-up to You Only Live Once: Henry Fonda once again becomes less likably lanky and earnest and more stone-faced and prone to unpleasant shouting as he comes up against The System, except this time he really didn't do anything. Fonda repeatedly protests that you can tell he's not a murderer because he's a good, plain, honest citizen, a smug self-justification reiterated by girlfriend Maureen O'Sullivan, who doesn't see the flaw in her argument even as he's tried,…

  • Miyamoto Musashi

    Miyamoto Musashi

    ★★★

    One of the movies Mizoguchi said he made solely to avoid being drafted, and I believe him. Samurai fare without any particular intensity or flair, though hardly offensive at an hour, powered by actors who can do macho strutting reflexively. Recognizably Mizoguchi-esque in choosing to stage multi-party combat scenes in single shots with deep focus, but clearly no one's hitting anyone; verisimilitude/quality control are not top concerns.

  • The Beekeeper

    The Beekeeper

    ★★★

    This is my first encounter with the now (always?) unfashionable Theo Angelopoulos, so I have very little context and shouldn't be shooting my mouth off, but here goes. Angelopoulos is often bracketed with Tarr, Jancsó and Tarkovsky — three filmmakers who aren't necessarily on the same page philosophically, but all masters of long, showy outdoor tracking shots requiring elaborate choreography and seemingly godlike command of the elements. There are indeed some stunning shots here: specifically the second one, navigating Marcello…