Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Color Wheel - Alex Ross Perry, 2011

One of the most painful films in quite some time. I'm still in a state of awe over Perry's daring and expert mixture of comedy and, ultimately, grand tragedy rendered in small-scale emotional expression. A major work on the bonds of siblings, the current state of 20-somethings in America, loneliness, pain, anger, etc. Elemental and intelligent.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Almost the Song of 2012 (Frank Ocean's "Pyramids" takes that title). Immaculate.

One wonders if Dave Marsh has listened to it...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cast Away - 2000, Robert Zemeckis

Robert Zemeckis, by and large, hasn't been treated well by "serious" cinephiles. I myself have been guilty of this, and for several of his films, I still feel it is the correct response (the animated period seems largely like a failed experiment). But his latest, the excellent Flight, has made me start revisiting his work, leading me last night to an old childhood favorite, Cast Away.

Like Flight, I was pleasantly surprised to find a genuinely visual film, a real experience in the senses. Zemeckis' shots linger far longer than those of his contemporaries, allowing settings and details to gain and hold their expressive qualities. This becomes heightened in the film's middle portion, a raw experience in nature. The verisimilitude of the island is lent startling vibrancy by an incredibly rich soundscape, various ambient elements that feel rhythmically in tune with the patience of his camera.

Cast Away is a very physical film. Hanks, stripped from the meanings civilization's context provides, must exist solely to survive, the film essentially stripping him down to a body in conflict with environment. The film has a palpable sense of danger, emerging with the remarkably staged plane crash that begins the second act, and punctuated further by three separate injuries, each heightened as physical reality by grueling soundtrack accompaniments (the rip of coral shredding Hanks' leg being a particularly horrifying example).

Cast Away, as well as Flight and Contact, reveal, lest we forget, Zemeckis as a primarily visual filmmaker, a rarity in contemporary Hollywood. And while all three of the aforementioned films are marked by cliched emotional beats, each earns these "rote" moments through a meticulous cinematic presentation, founded upon intelligent and thoughtful mise en scene, remaining at all times true to the characters and their physical contexts.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Twixt is probably Coppola's most complete film since Dracula. Youth Without Youth has higher peaks, but this film is more expertly modulated and felt, and extremely fun to watch. Also, like Romero's Survival of the Dead, it is refreshing to see these older American filmmakers more candidly and successfully use today's communication technologies (Skype here, in particular) than the majority of their younger contemporaries.

The dream sequences are indeed beautiful, as is the typically-spacially aware mise en scene that defines a great deal of Coppola's work. There's also something startlingly personal and emotional about the core tale of Kilmer's lost artist.

Cosmopolis - Cronenberg, 2012

Dave Marsh on Roy Orbison

"The first rock and roll dream song may well have been Elvis's "Mystery Train". But rock's most important dreamer was Roy Orbison, whose songs are suffused with fantasies in which his imagination deceives. betrays, and entices him into situations as threatening as they are compelling... Orbison was different than any other rock star of his period. He was relatively middle-class, college-educated and on easier terms with more kinds of music-- opera and Mexican ballad singing, for instance-- than any of his peers. His songs possess a psychological complexity that is commonly believed not to have existed in pop music until Dylan and The Beatles."

-Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock & Soul

Friday, November 30, 2012

First Post: Morality of Hyams

In John Hyams' films, unlike in any other contemporary action directors' films, violence does not occur  in a void. There is no clear, separate space, no clean place for men to tear each other to shreds. In Hyams, there is the real world, humanity, morality. The horrifying confrontation of banality and complete savagery. The first truly new "action filmmaker", the first of the 21st Century.