Sunday, June 12, 2011

Films Viewed (May 2011)

Super was a dark journey through the underside of the superhero psyche. Scuzzy and brutish, even for me. Somehow, I was won over by the end, but I hope I never spend too much time dwelling in the murky depths of sadness, vitriolic anger, and isolation this film plumbs.

The collection of Maryland Film Festival Opening Night Shorts was a nice beginning to a busy weekend of film. For more info on the four shorts, go here.

We Were Here was a wrenching documentary about life in San Francisco through the AIDS crisis. Well done work with super heavy material.

My Joy was another grim slog (you may be noticing a trend in my film-watching). A truck driver in the Ukraine travels through what America will be like shortly. Then, after an encounter with a prostitute, the story takes a decided turn, drifting into unknown territories and other, seemingly unconnected narratives. I thank the festival for bring such challenging and edgy work to the big screen in Baltimore.

I must recuse myself from reviewing Green as it was one of the films I hosted at the Festival. For more information on the film, go here.

Small Pond was the first feature from Josh Slates, a filmmaker with Baltimore ties. It chronicles the titular misadventures of a misanthrope living in a small college town, working at the pizza place and going nowhere fast.

The Oregonian was a film which derived much of its aesthetic from the later work of David Lynch. A woman attempts to piece together what is happening during a surreal journey following a car crash. A film like this is supposed to stick with you, to haunt your dreams. In my case, it did not.

I must recuse myself from reviewing the double feature of Convento and Hilvarenbeek as I hosted the screening. For more on both. go here.

Thor kicked off the summer blockbuster season correctly, the right mix of palace intrigue among the gods and "fish out of water" situations for those same gods on earth. Nothing mindblowing, but still a good time. This is surprising considering how "echh" the first stills make the film look. Pulling off a rainbow bridge on film is not the easiest task.

I had a lot of faith in Bridesmaids, going to see it by myself on opening weekend as part of a vow I have made to see all of the many 2011 summer films of note. Now that the film has caught on and found its audience, I am happy for its success. Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and the rest of the cast put in stellar ensemble work in a very funny (and very raunchy) comedy.

The Illusionist was minor but very visually beautiful. An aging illusionist comes to small town, takes on a young female stowaway, and navigates the paternal/platonic relationship between them as best he can. Bittersweet and poignant.

Manos: The Hands of Fate (Mst3k version) is the perfect blend of a beyond-bad movie and the gang in top heckling form. This particular episode of the show is alchemical for me, creating something somehow greater that it's combined parts. During a month where I really needed it, I laughed so hard it hurt.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
was checked off the summer movie list without great fanfare. I enjoy pirates. There were pirates in the film. And also there were mermaids.

The Ten was a Netflix Instant "oh sure why not," an uneven collection of sketches in film form from David Wain and company based around the Ten Commandments. Not as bad as I heard it would be. Didn't catch it during its one week run at the Muvico (pre-Cinemark). Then, four years later...

Accattone was a gritty early Pasolini, the story of a charismatic but woefully inept pimp trying to survive in postwar Rome. Came up favorably in an article on Italian neorealism so I went for it before it disappeared from the Instant queue.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D invariably takes some explaining, as I had to travel to Georgetown in Washington DC to see it. Werner Herzog is given unprecedented access to film a cave cut off from the world for aeons to capture the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind. Excellent, magical. Looks like it opens in the Baltimore area this month, so my long and expensive day-trip may have been a folly. Oh well, I've gone further for less.

"Jazzoo" was a 16 millimeter short film projected on the side of a wall in West Baltimore in honor of a friend's birthday. A trip to the zoo scored to jazz (get it? Jazz? Zoo? Jazzoo). A nice backyard time as the sun went down on a scorcher of an afternoon.

Cocaine Cowboys is an excellent marriage of an unbelievable story and well done documentary filmmaking. The men behind the "cocaine pipeline" in Southern Florida in the 1970s and 1980s (and the ensuing skyrocketing murder rate) tell their darkly enthralling tale. Hard to mess this one up.

The Charles
The Rotunda
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
2011 Maryland Film Festival
Suburban Multilpex/ Georgetown AMC 14
Netflix Instant/ Netflix DVD
(Please note: Whenever possible, all releases are linked to their pages on the Netflix website)
Total: 15 features, 7 short films (16 in theaters)