Monthly Archives: December 2015

Review: Tangerine

Putting aside Tangerine’s radical casting conventions and rampaging, jazz-like improvisational struts, the film’s masterstroke is its very introduction to the world. A scraggly pseudo-art scrawl adorns the screen with a classical, and seemingly classically trained credit sequence in warm, operatic font as sepia-toned pop vocals cart out the cast. Until the revelation: the art is not art, at least by its classical definition, but a scratched-up, weathered donut store table. It’s cheeky and provocative, but also a perfect primer for the film to come: an everyday soul that’s seen better days dressing itself up in its dreams of classical Hollywood. Continue reading

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Review: World of Tomorrow

Pregnant melancholy and sweltering silence slide easily into straight-jacketed psychosis in World of Tomorrow, Don Hertzfeldt’s nearly oxygen-less sonic strut down memory lane with memories stabbed in the back and replaced with cadaverous pantomimes of human experience. With its release, we must ask: has artistic rigor mortis set in? It is no trouble to identify Hertzfeldt in a murderer’s row of modern animators for the crime of World of Tomorrow – not an artistic crime, mind you, but a heretical declaration against society’s moral code. It is classic Hertzfeldt, with the id of the human experience unlocked so that the feral beast we might expect can lunge out, confront its lack of agency in a forbidden twisting nether of an empty world around it, and quietly give in to the nothingness with indifference and cruel, frosty anonymity. Hertzfeldt’s world is a comic one, but this is one tomorrow you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. Continue reading

Review: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Holger Andersson, the Swedish writer-director-performer (following the tripartite talents of his luminary, and presumably hero, Charlie Chaplin), doesn’t rush to the celluloid (he has waited 8 years since his last film, You, the Living, to finish Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, the finale to his trilogy on humanity’s existence). And his celluloid does not rush. Implanted with the morose spirit of the Swedish nation (or, at least, the classically wry stereotypes about Swedish culture), A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence knows the value of silence and skeletal stillness in its distillation of the walking dead. Or, just maybe, rigor mortis has already set in within the film itself. It’s just another member of the party of the dead the film wanders into. Continue reading

Review: Black Coal, Thin Ice


Black Coal, Thin Ice,
Diao Yinan’s third feature film, employs a bifurcated narrative about multi-furcated corpses to expose a world that has been furcated so many times that pieces of the whole are rendered enigmas, no more recognizable as distinct entities than so many lumps of emotionless coal. Sure, the individual chunks exist – like the individual humans – but the oppressive weight of the leviathan conglomerate of empty humanity inundates all individuality. People in Black Coal, Thin Ice tread on thin ice, but their fate is even more precarious because the girth of the world hangs over them, cracking the ice with every strained step. The post-industrial haze of northern China suffused the air long ago, and the gravid lethargy of billowing smoke laying its fate down on every person is omnipresent in the film. Humans don’t stride with confidence and purpose. They crawl through a somnambulant world that displays little interest in slapping anyone awake. Continue reading

Review: Krampus

Michael Dougherty deserves all the money he can bamboozle from Hollywood. Thus, Krampus, regardless of quality, is only fair. Only his second feature film release, it enters the world long after his first film Trick ‘r Treat was unceremoniously denied an impending theatrical release and was banished to the no man’s land of straight-to-DVD horror.

One has to give it up to Universal for giving him a second shot, and going out on a limb. Holiday horror is not exactly verboten in cinema land; a quick perusal through the darker regions of the cinema landscape reveals a questionable lineage of would-be Santa slay rides dating back to the 1970s. Still, one can understand the iciness of the idea; no film in the interim has managed to recapture a fraction of the lump-of-coal energy of the original Christmas horror film, Black Christmas from 1974. Krampus is the highest profile such release in quite a while, and it does its share to restore some of the good (bad?) name to a never-really-venerable sub-genre. So, as I said, Dougherty (who co-wrote X-Men 2 with Bryan Singer and will return for next year’s Apocalypse) deserves his passion projects. But that doesn’t mean a little Hollywood money can’t get to your head. Continue reading

Midnight Screening: Darkman

So it was with the raving success (by barely-budgeted, cave-dwelling B-movie standards) of Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn that Michigan backwoods filmmaker was granted access to the secret gilded chamber of the Hollywood machine. His goal? Not to spit shine the cogs, nor to tear them to shreds, but to rearrange them, to warp them, into a slightly more feral, crazed mad scientist’s contraption. Well, maybe not quite that far, but he was at least about to switch out a few gears and spruce up the place with his own signature cartoon-ghoulish paint brush. Continue reading

Midnight Screening: Eyes of Laura Mars

At the center of Eyes of Laura Mars lie a pair of vexing, pallid portals into terror and gender power dynamics. They are two objects staring on at the crossroads after selling their soul to the devil. They are the titular objects of the film – eyes – and they engage in the everyday dialectic of stunted privilege and latent oppression in their daily ritual of photographing women who are as likely to be clad in gilded chic as bloody crimson terror. The eyes adorn the face of Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway, fresh off her Oscar win for Network), a fashion photographer in the glitzy Disco era of the late ’70s, who has taken to coiling together sex and death in garish photographs of women stricken bloodless by murderous killers. Or women otherwise strewn about, dead, on the carpet. The women are not actually dead – they are models in staged photoshoots – but they might soon be. An unseen killer stalks them, and he or she seems to have it ought for the eyes of Laura Mars by transforming her art into reality, torturing her eyes and implicating her in the violence by turning her eyes into inadvertent weapons of sorts. If she continues to shoot, he will kill the object of her lens. Continue reading