Top Fifty Films of the 80s — Number Thirty

#30 — Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989) Woody Allen had been directing movies for twenty years by the time he made Crimes and Misdemeanors, which might be a contributing factor to my sense that the film is a sort of cinematic final exam. It’s not that Allen had anything to prove, having already signed his name to multiple masterpieces. He may have been coming off of a pair of critical and commercial misfires–September and Another Woman–but the eighties had been an especially fruitful time for him. There was no familial scandal sullying his reputation, no prolonged stretch of mediocre … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 80s — Number Thirty

Allen, Cuaron, Jarmusch, Kazan, Kaufman

Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984). A New Yorker’s Hungarian cousin comes to visit, staying with him for an extended period, despite his initial protests. He grows to like her, eventually recruiting his buddy to join him in paying her a visit when she later moves to Cleveland. That trip evolves and the three of them wind up traveling to Florida together. And that’s about it. Jarmusch’s signature aesthetic was forged here as he often seems to be trying to see how little action he can put into any given sequence. Sometimes that can be wearying, but here it works … Continue reading Allen, Cuaron, Jarmusch, Kazan, Kaufman

Top Fifty Films of the 00s — Number Twenty-Four

#24 — Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008) It’s now been over thirty years since Woody Allen cast his cynicism in unyielding bronze by having Alvy Singer assess the state of his relationship with Annie Hall through the use of a dead shark metaphor. Allen is occasionally hopeful in his work, but more commonly he’s the guy who sees much of the world as an exercise in futility, an outcome that is painfully at odds with the aspirations of human nature. The heart wants what the heart wants, but there’s a slim likelihood that it’ll get it. What’s more, if … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 00s — Number Twenty-Four

Wasting time, dropping lines like “I could get you into movies”

Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980). Malle’s film is about the ways in the which the glimmers of remaining light at the end of the day can lure the most desperate into believing it’s actually the unexpected emergence of a new dawn. Burt Lancaster plays the old-time small-timer at the heart of the film, conveying his forlorn desperation and self-deluding rejuvenation with great delicacy. You can feel the character shift as his opportunities the become the big operator he’s always fancied himself begin to come to pass. But the film is about reality rather than aspirations. Malle keeps it all grounded, … Continue reading Wasting time, dropping lines like “I could get you into movies”

Pivotal film, selling out your monkey

In Bruges (Martin McDonagh, 2008). The acclaimed Irish playwright follows up his Oscar-winning short film with a feature debut about a pair of hitmen laying low in a Belgian tourism mecca. The film is enjoyable, charged by a flinty wit and features a pair of winning lead performances by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. It’s also fairly inconsequential, structured with the shrewd storytelling insight of a seasoned dramatist but somewhat wanting in depth. All of the characters feel like pieces instead of completely realized creations. None of the relationships have resonance, causing problems as the twists of the plot require … Continue reading Pivotal film, selling out your monkey

Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Two

#2 Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, like many Woody Allen films before it, is all about relationships between men and women. Two female friends are vacationing in Spain. A charming, handsome local painter propositions them, proclaiming equal satisfaction with any sensual equation they’re interested in: a threesome, a couple of twosomes, whatever. One is intrigued, one is repulsed, and so it begins. By the time the painter’s fiery ex-wife reenters the scene, Allen has positioned his film to explore as many different approaches to romance and relationships as a summer in Barcelona has romantic nights. Allen, forever the hopeless cynic, … Continue reading Top Ten Movies of 2008 — Number Two