Review – Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013)

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Ida, a haunting Polish film tracing a young woman’s journey into the past (both her own and her country’s), has to be one of the most gorgeous looking films of the year. Released in 2013 but in contention this awards season, it ought to be nominated for cinematography and editing, but will more likely fight it out with the Dardennes brothers’ 2 Days, 1 Night for Best Foreign Film, unless Boyhood somehow manages to win that one, too.   More

Review – Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)

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Of all the 2012 films I’ve recently seen that are set mostly in the back of improbably spacious limousines (that would be two, if you’re keeping score), Holy Motors is the best.

In fact, Leos Carax’s surreal, unclassifiable ode to cinema and performance might be my favorite movie I’ve watched all year – on the AV Club, Mike D’Angelo memorably and accurately called it 2012’s “most electrifying whatsit.”

It expertly teases audience expectations, dropping hints and allowing for inferences about what is going on, while never fully explaining itself – and closes with the most “Are you fucking kidding me right now?” gesture in recent film that I know of.   More

Song for a Sunday – Jockey Full of Bourbon (Tom Waits, Down By Law)

Jim Jarmusch’s films are all about textures and surfaces. It sometimes feels like he’s hinting at wellsprings of deeper meaning or emotion, but everything is held at a remove – cold, observing, often ironic. This probably contributes to the love-it-or-hate-it reactions his films seem to inspire, especially the early ones: are they studies in the carefully calibrated hipsterism of people who cloak their authentic selves in the trappings of cool, or particularly egregious examples of it?   More

Review: Katzelmacher (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1969)

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Fassbinder’s second feature film is based on his stage play from a year prior, and it shows. Nearly every scene frames two to five characters against a plain backdrop – the front of an apartment building, the bare wall of one of the rooms inside, a table at the local tavern – where they alternately snipe at each other, spread rumors and ugly gossip, and talk haltingly, with blank expressions, about not very much.   More

Song for a Sunday: Then He Kissed Me (The Crystals, Goodfellas)

One of the Big Deals of the 70s films we’d later refer to as the New Hollywood was their use of contemporary music, as opposed to a scripted score or relying on the classics. These choices could comment on the things happening on the screen, underline them, or invert them: Robert DeNiro’s entrance in Martin Scorcese’s Mean Streets to the Rolling Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash” manages to do all three at once.   More