Thursday, November 10, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 30: Into the Abyss/Jack & Jill

Here's a nice little installment to get you guys warmed up for a fuller return for JJunk in the not-too-distant future. In just three minutes and three quarters, we review 2 movies that are opening this weekend, a personal best thus far.

One of the subjects is a documentary meditating on the sanctity of human life and how the state should have no right to put a person to death. The other is about Canteen Boy in drag. Watch the video to see which we loved and which we hated (hint: we really do respect your intelligence and hope the feeling's mutual):

Monday, October 31, 2011

Silver Bullets

A 'new' film by Joe Swanberg. About relationships. And misunderstandings. Unspoken feelings, and confused, unsatisfactory relations. One might expect to also give the film the 'mumblecore' adjective, but I believe Swanberg at least proved the adjective itself unclear and unnecessary long ago though pretty helpful as a brand up to this day.
Silver Bullets is having a week long run at ReRun which started last Friday. It is a very good film. Expressionistic and revealing, it can be seen as a counter point to what has come before in his work and what is to come. The film presents change in style that calls to be held in radical contrast with his previous work. And yet it does not in any way disown or disengage his previous way of forging a sensibility.

There have been reviews that aim to call to mind a new found sophistication in Swanberg's work from Silver Bullets on, and therefore see his previous work as artless depictions of recycled themes that can be seen as only an excuse for the director to abuse the sense of privacy, morality, patience and aesthetic that his performers, and the audience watching the film, hold dear. These reviews see Swanberg's 'new found' basic, filmic 'know-how' as a sign of sophistication. They oppose this described 'sophistication', found in the way one uses three point lighting, or pays attention to color hues and uses primary colors and relationships to convey dramatic situations, this 'sophistication' that is the result of having done your homework in film school is seen as opposed to an amateurish, do it yourself, improvisational, overly balanced style of filmmaking. The opposition, in the reviewer's mind, creates a contradiction. An unsophisticated, amateur style works against, and ultimately negates the effort to convey a story on screen, to dramatize a narrative.

However, it is not difficult to see Silver Bullets as a film, that in being transitional, gathers these surface emotions that have been aimed by others at his past work and repaints them as self-debasing, deconstructing questions about the artistic endeavor in general, and filmmaking in particular. The opposition is idealistic, and the film works through the implications of such oppositions of styles and finds within both of them a core sensibility: a powerful, territorial musing on the nature of art and the endeavor to create beauty while remaining free.

Which is not to say the film is dialectical, or a thought exercise. It is transitional and as such it presents Swanberg moving forward toward another sense of the cinematic. However, the difference is not really on the use of a classical style vs. a DIY style. The difference is but between Swanberg's early deadpan rhythmic stillness, only accentuated by his ever moving, unmounted camera, the lack of color and light contrast, as well as the ever muffled communication between people in the most classically intimate of moments, and a new, contrapuntal way of unfolding a narrative. In its meta-form, it is doubly subversive, great to look at, and an actual good time, and yes, my favorite film by Swanberg.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Memory Of A Film That Was

On my last post I talked a bit about, in general terms, the work of Vincente Minnelli and the importance of his retrospective currently playing here in New York. I think a great example of the relevance of Minnelli as a director who deserves another look as a moving force in the history of cinema is his last film: A Matter of Time.

Throughout his career, Minnelli worked under the umbrella of a big Hollywood institution, MGM studios. His later films, however, are developed outside of the familiar studio system, and A Matter of Time in particular showcases his singular conceptions on death, the tragic and the cinema without having recourse to the workings of a big film making machine.

The story of the production of the film is nightmarish. It is said he was by the time of production already showing signs of dementia. The final cut of the film was taken away from him (though not because of his rumored mental state during production), and his producer butchered the film, not only leaving out pivotal scenes but also adding a conventional framing narrative and even shooting additional footage that only did great disservice to the final product.

And yet...Minnelli's last effort, as it stands today, is a great, moving film.

In it, Ingrid Bergman gives one of her greatest performances. Her performance conjures a complete world with delirium. Aptly called, a great, remarkable "ruin of a film", the scenes not shot by Minnelli and the narrative structure forced upon it only exacerbate the traits and ideas Minnelli so courageously, and yes, deliriously puts forward. We find he accentuates his understanding of the tragic with remarkable passion, a passion he seems to surrender to more than in any other of his works. His style gains a sense of wisdom that can only come from a personal understanding of the nature of cinema and its biggest concern: the nature of being and its representation, its temporality.
His treatment of mise en scene transcends any remark about him using actors as props, or his frame as a still window to dress prettily. Mise en scene here deals strictly with time in its folds and transformations. Bodies travel not only through space but through time in a manner that can only make one recall the most magical beginnings of cinema with Melies.
Minnelli's sensibility, his ideas and his working through of them is consistent with the rest of his body of work, except that in this film he doesn't hold back his own idiosyncrasies, nor those of his actors, and that is where his courage lies.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Minnelli Rising

For the past month, New York has been treated to what I think is a momentous, radical retrospective that if looked at carefully can change one's view of the history of classical Hollywood, and therefore call into question many assumptions we make about the history of cinema.

The retrospective is of the complete works of Vincente Minnelli (at BAM), and in showing all of Minnelli's works it calls for a reevaluation of his role in the history of cinema, and to my mind it positions him as more than a "director of MGM musicals" or a competent "window dresser" but rather as a central figure in the history of classical cinema, a figure as central and pivotal as Griffith, Ford, Capra, Chaplin and Godard.
There is much to say about many of his greatest works, like Some Came Running, The Long Long Trailer, The Bad and the Beautiful, The Pirate, An American in Paris, etc. etc., but it only takes watching for example the melodrama Tea and Sympathy, to understand that Minnelli was no 'window dresser', whatever that really means. The work mentioned contains one of his most complex, consistant, classical uses of color and mise en scene I have encountered. It is due to such clear headed, exuberant, classical, inclusive and ultra-sensorial artistic form and rhythm that he is both hailed as a master confectioner of beauty and balance and yet shunned as an innovative dramatist whose work could reflect any conceptual musings about the cinema in general and its place in history.

As a matter of fact, Minnelli, as others have written, in working within classical boundaries found a way to reflect and document the very workings of various institutions and the people who create them. Yet, I believe, in Tea and Sympathy as in all of his work, he shows not just a politics of individuals under different institutions, or even a phenomenology of the give and take between institutions/representations and the individual dreamers who posit them and live under their pressure. What I believe he shows is rather a clear sighted reportage about the very existence of the singular under the stifling command of laws, the soul of any institution. In this sense, his work is not only classical in referring to our understanding of the history of cinema and therefore of a history of a hundred year old art. His work, in the most cinematic form, is rather classical even as positioned within the history of the Western canon. Its sensibility and use of form harks back to the most classical of ideas in our collective consciousness: the understanding of the tragic condition and its denial.

The retrospective still has much to offer until its closing in November 2nd. Next week there are so many films I greatly anticipate I will hardly watch anything else. I suggest you do yourself a favor and catch any of them if you live in New York.

There are also many tremendous articles and blog entries appraising the work of Minnelli the auteur. I provide links to some of the most insightful, either by Richard Brody, film critic at The New Yorker, or by Joe McElhaney, professor at Hunter College and Minnelli scholar. I studied under him and was hence introduced to Minnelli's work through him and his showing of Tea and Sympathy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I have chased "Margaret." I have followed this white whale, from its production in 2005, to its release two weeks ago. The product of playwright Kenneth Lonergan, his second film following 2000's "You Can Count On Me," "Margaret" was meant to be a sprawling, epic tale of survivor's guilt in the wake of 9/11. However, Lonergan's script was soon revealed to be far too massive, and with a contractual obligation to turn in a cut that ran two and a half hours, Lonergan found himself unable to trim his work beyond three hours.

Length of a film is something about which I've always fretted. A great picture is a great picture, even if it runs past 180 minutes. But more often than not, movies overstay their welcome, some even at the ninety or one hundred minute mark. But upon seeing what I'm to gather is an incomplete, released version of "Margaret," I realized I could have sat through an eight hour cut.

Portions of "Margaret" are absolutely heart-breaking. Movies tend to spotlight the grieving process as something overly symmetrical in relation to tragedy. It's a three-act structure, and we can overcome all/some odds with time, possibly alienating some in the process. It's a bit messier in "Margaret," when vain high schooler Lisa Cohen accidentally distracts a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo), resulting in a gruesome accident that ends the life of a passerby (Allison Janney, shattering in her single scene). Superficially, she's a hormonal mess, trying to react to what she thinks, what she thinks she's supposed to think, and what others perceive. But in the wake of this awful tragedy that doesn't leave her blameless, she makes perfect sense.
She acts out, of course, but Anna Paquin's performance (performance of the year, by the way, though that year may have been '05) radiates both impulsive selfishness and innate intelligence. Lisa is a passionate, connected student, but one who can't resist the vices of pot, boys and parties. With an actress single mother stressed from both the opening of her new play and a pushy new suitor, Lisa is essentially left to her own devices, rudderless to make sense of the situation.

If anything, this is a spiritual successor to "Do The Right Thing," in that Lisa's moral compass is useless in navigating this bed of thorns. If she were to tell the police that the bus driver moved through a red light, he would lose his job and cripple his family, and so she distorts the truth. But soon her vision widens, and she seeks justice, vengeance, or some amalgamation of the two, returning to the police and fighting through a disinterested bureaucracy to bring order to the universe. Darkly funny is the seed of this idea, that Lisa, living in New York City, is so myopic that she thinks the tragedy that haunts her dreams has knocked something loose in the fabric of existence, even if such tragedies occur every day.

"Margaret" sadly feels cosmetically choppy, as scenes feel truncated, montages stretch on a bit too much, and side references speak to a larger world, an in-joke without a reference point, a dropped subplot. But a film is not an equation, and "Margaret" is a magnificently imperfect film. It's impossible to not understand the complex class issues that emerge when Lisa confronts the angered bus driver. When Jean Reno, as a Latin lover (just go with it, dammit) gets into an argument with a Jewish woman over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's both funny and perceptive in the ways where racism and politics cross paths. And, ultimately, there's the ultimate sadness of Lisa, wrapped up in her personal disaster, leaving a trail of tears and broken emotions behind her, as everyone tries and fails to help this lost, inarticulate girl. If it's still playing, do make plans to catch a screening of a towering achievement in American cinema.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

J.J. Abram's Production Value

Early into Super 8, the latest film written and directed by J.J. Abrams, we are given friendly advice on filmmaking in the form of a director's mantra: production value. The director in question is a youngster, Charles, who is filming his masterpiece zombie film with his friends, and whose early remark (more of a yell) of 'production value' throws everyone into a fit in order to set up a camera and capture a train to come past them. This early scene contains two surprises that are telling on the way Abrams conceives his cinema. The first one attacks us smoothly, humbly, when we seem to witness the birth of an actress, Alice, played by Elle Fanning. Before she speaks her lines, it seems to us these childhood friends share a joy for play, in this particular case expressed through making films. In other words, a film is an opportunity for play and bondage outside of the family and other social contracts. What they soon witness with Alice's lines, however, is her life seeping itself into their film raw. They witness the first signs of genuine controlled emotion, and lose themselves for a moment in the fiction it conveys. Their witnessing faces betray wonderment and unpreparedness. And yet they don't fully lose themselves but suddenly, even perhaps gladly, go back to business as usual when Charlie screams his mantra at the sight of the oncoming train.

The train itself brings another surprise for the group when it crashes and piece after piece is sent flying through the frame, grabbing the group of kids again completely unprepared, and this time, scared. The train crash also begs to be witnessed though, for Abrams lingers on the flying wreckage, savoring the choreographed destruction of the machine. Entire wagons fly from one side of the screen to another, shrieking and cracking the way one imagines a train might suffer this catastrophe, but soon enough the wreckage turns fluid, and each wagon, each piece of metal, is almost dramatically expressive in its way from edge to edge of the frame. The sequence is well prolonged, and a wonder to watch.

And yet the film is not about the kids and their awakening, or really about the wreckage they witness. It is as if the two most interesting moments of Super 8, being part of the same scene, can only be considered background, a springboard for the movie Abrams really is going to show us, they are but 'production value'.
The film ends up being about a monster. And yet not even, for the ideas presented in regards to the monster and their realization are so generic that I can barely remember what the monster looks like, or what it did and why everyone was so afraid to begin with.

Gabe mentions this tentative dichotomy present not just in Abrams' films but in other spectacles, but gives the director the benefit of the doubt in thinking he/she really wants to make another film, truly about themselves, or at least about the people who inhabit the spectacles we watch. Yet I believe Abrams truly wants us to see Super 8 the way it was presented, however bland most of the spectacle turns out to be. After all, his projects are really not about people per se, but about human figures against fantastical ones. Take Cloverfield, where the idea behind the film was nothing else than Abram's realization that America, or at least New York, needed a Godzilla. The film itself in its dramatic and formulaic development is a tool to bring about the unveiling of a monster that turns out to not be as memorable as one feared.

And yet, as mentioned earlier, Super 8 is not really even about a monster. What is the film about then? We get a sense of it after it is over and we get to see the film the kids have been shooting all the while all hell broke loose around them. The film uses a town thrown into chaos by a catastrophe as a background. It uses wreckage as production value and plays out a generic horror game in front of us the same way the main film uses moments that could lead to genuine feeling, real family set ups, as production value in order to really show us a game played out.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nick on 'The Help': "I'd Rather Be Eating A Shitpie"

That is all. Enjoy the hurricane, folks. More video coming soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Horse and a Giraffe Walk Into a Small Bar...

And they catch a movie. No joke. Well, maybe the part about the horse. And the giraffe. The rest is true and increasingly popular here in New York where one can visit places such as Nitehawk in Williamsburg or ReRun in Dumbo and live the joke. Both venues seem to offer wildly different experiences however, given that Nitehawk expects to converge the dining experience with the moviegoing experience in one simultaneous action.
I have only been to ReRun, where the experience is more akin to having crashed onto a drive-in: the seats in the theater are actual vintage car seats. The bar is jovial, the beer selection is diverse and their gin and tonic packs a punch. Yet, the movies are the point. ReRun has been open for what is going to be this month, one year. I was happily introduced to the theater when going to see "Loveless", a film by Ramin Serry, who when I went to Hunter College taught me all I care to learn in screenwriting class then and now.
"Loveless" is his second film, and I considered it quite good in that it is a film that does not struggle to stay within genre boundaries and yet flirts with various conventions. I remember reading, and surprisingly enough entertaining the argument that the film calls to mind a conception of New York familiar to us in the other films such as Polansky's "Rosemary's Baby". "Loveless" is of course not a full-blown suspense, and it doesn't thrive off from the hauntings of a city, of a 'baroque' architecture seen as disjointed landscapes. The New York of "Loveless" is haunted enough though, as are the people who move from landscape to landscape, and it is to the film's merit that the haunting never turns uneasy. Strange events occur, suspenseful even, and fearful responses are given to those events but there is so much aimlessness, so much hovering around what happens that all boundaries are kept defined and unperturbed.

As it happens, the film is playing again at ReRun, as part of its anniversary week called ReRun RERUNS, which begins this friday the 26th of this month.
Take a look at the program, which offers films that share a theme every day of next week. I highly suggest you check it out.

If any of the movies playing next week's anniversary shows (programmed to be screenings of favorite films shown at ReRun this past year) do not do the trick, I still suggest you check out the theater any other time. As a personal anecdote, I saw the wonderful "Lord Byron", one of my favorite films of this year so far at ReRun and I don't think it'll be available in any format soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

To All The Junkies Out There

I always liked the name Jumpcut Junkies. It is forward and playful. Inviting.
Watching Nick and Gabe time after time as they discuss different films that come under their radar brings forth those feelings. But the conversations are also elliptical in such a way as to remind me that appearances are always deceiving, and loose conversation even more so. It is perhaps just as the name indicates, that they are in one form and intensity or another, addicted to their subject: the cinema, or rather on the other hand talking about the cinema. I don't know which yet, but in any case a certain need for either shows so the name is appropriate.
In either case, addiction is not a pretty thing, and a person under the influence not the most royal of sights, except in Jumpcut Junkies where the ugly is kept at bay.
It is in that spirit that I strive to add another layer to the conversation, or perhaps to invite what is at times kept at bay (not just the ugly) from spontaneous conversation on impressions on different films or the cinema in general. My intent is to achieve this by enlarging the field of conversation that the videos of 'the' Jumpcut Junkies create, engaging the tangents and the insinuations present in each episode. I hope the result will be interesting to you, and more than anything, engaging.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 29: Super 8

Looks like this is starting to be a semi-regular thing again. Fingers crossed, we'll have another one of these up in about week's time. Also, for people who prefer to read their film criticism/discussion/theory, cinema scholar and future author Milton Trujillo will begin contributing written blog posts. He's a smart fellow and very passionate and knowledgeable about the art form, so his stuff should make for a good read. Be sure to check back here often as more stuff goes up. Your 143rd stop on the 'net for movie talk.
Anyway, less self-promotion, more product to self-promote:

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 29 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

This video dedicated to the memory of Alan J. Pakula.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 28: Tree of Life

I know I've made this apology so many times in the past, but sorry for not being around as much as you'd like. Gabe and I really do care for you. We know it seems like we don't care, but we've just been so overwhelmed wi...What? No, of course, there's no one but you. We've just been busy...Of course I want this to work... Really, I can explain. We were out late drinking with some friends, just to take the edge off, and you know how one beer turns to five, so before we knew it, it had gotten late and...
What do you mean we're not taking this seriously? No, no, no. I am not still in love with my first wife. I can't believe you'd even suggest...No, only you. It's just...Baby, where are you going? Baby, come back...Baby please... Oh, so you're going to stay at Vickie's tonight? Fine. That's fine. Oh, don't slam the door, you want the neighbors to think...? Baby...
Please come back. We made this Tree of Life review just for you...

Now, come on. Let's go to bed.

Friday, June 3, 2011

This Weekend

"X-Men: First Class"

In Nazi Germany, Kevin Bacon cackles as the mutant Jewish boy he hold captive makes jazz hands to the sky and warps one of Der Furher's testing facilities. In Westchester, a telepathic six year old finds a blue-scaled thief in his house and invites her to live with him. One of these boys grows up to kill Nazis. The other reads women's minds in order to seduce and/or recruit them. Together they recruit a group of young mutants (a screamer, a flyer, an... adapter?) and they prevent the Bay of Pigs. In case you were wondering, yes, "X-Men First Class" is about eight different movies.

Director Matthew Vaughn's greatest skill is his weakness: a hyperactive fascination with genres that leads to one moment in "First Class" devoted to sixties-era "Palisades Park" doo-wop seduction, followed by decidedly-modern science being developed to track the world's superpowered contingent (Cerebro, for the nerds), followed by mysterious backroom CIA spy action. The film can't settle down, which works because the far more intriguing moments (Michael Fassbender's sexually-virile Erik seeking blood-soaked reparations) outshine the less-inspired ones (anything involving January Jones).

"X-Men: First Class" is nonetheless an above-average blockbuster, stupid only in small doses and carried by a mostly-strong cast - as compelling as Fassbender is, James McAvoy's Xavier is delicately humane and likable while still remaining a bit of a controlling cad. Fans can soothe themselves with the notion that not once does the film lower itself to the intellectual depths of "X-Men: The Last Stand" nor does it ever replicate the overall incompetence of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." "First Class" may not be the best X-Men film yet - it lacks the gravitas of "X2" and the self-seriousness of "X-Men" - but it's certainly the strangest, the most youthful, and, weirdly, the kinkiest.

I saw Mike Mills "Beginners" on the same night as Miranda July's "The Future," and if you didn't tell me they were life partners in real life, I would have guessed it. Both films have a detached otherworldly vibe, both films aren't shy about breaking the fourth wall, and both films feature talking animals. While the loquacious cat in "The Future" sets the tempo for July's melancholy offering, the speaking dog in "Beginners" ends up bringing a great sense of humor and relief to an otherwise dour, somewhat affecting film. Mills' previous "Thumbsucker" won me over when its protagonist was finally set free for a slow motion run through his dreamland New York City, and that grace permeates "Beginners," which is otherwise a story about loss and grief.

Ewan McGregor, a cartoonist working on something called The History of Sadness, finds himself struggling with the loss of his father, who he recently lost to cancer. Months earlier, his father, a widower (a wonderful Christopher Plummer), had come out of the closet, and was experiencing life as a homosexual man shorn of the weight of the world. The film cuts back and forth between those scenes of coping with his kindly father's illness and a post-grieving relationship with both that talkative dog, and a lovely French stranger played by Melanie Laurent. The film's structure, however, seems arbitrary, a delivery vessel for the film's genial good vibes. Mills has a nice eye for composition and a strong ear for music, but he hasn't seemed to learn how to channel that, as "Beginners" is filled with low-level digressions that dilute the impact of our lead character's journey. But good vibes it has in spades, and it's always refreshing to see McGregor and Plummer, two excellent thesps often stuck in dead-end roles.

"Film Socialisme"
Nick and I talked about this during our summer preview. Fairly prankish, interesting, more of an art project than film. Godard works in a cinematic essay format, letting his mischievous, heavily political viewpoint frame the world first through a cruise ship, then at a run-down gas station, using what he considers "Navajo subtitles" to loosely convey, at least to American audiences, what prism he's using to encapsulate our post-millennial attempts at globalism. If you want extra credit, it's the movie to see this weekend.

"Beautiful Boy"
I didn't buy a second of this interpersonal drama, where Maria Bello and Michael Sheen play two grieving parents struggling to cope with their late son's final act, a brutal massacre on a college campus. The film receives honesty points by suggesting the parents may not have even liked their son, and his death might actually bring them together romantically. But it's a small couple of ideas buried within dramatically contrived situations, where none of the characters' actions make sense. You're going to tell me a young writer who wants to write a book about the dead kid is going to flirt with his mother, and actually bring his research notes and newspaper clippings into the house? Every moment, especially a sum-it-all-up aside from Meatloaf of all people in the final reel, stinks of unreality. And, for the last time, Moon Bloodgood: no. Just no.

"Mr. Nice"
I was prepared to skim the screener I received for this true crime story about one of the world's biggest hashish dealers until I heard the familiar strings of Philip Glass greeted with the words "A Film By Bernard Rose." Yes, this is the first teaming of the baroque, difficult-to-figure Rose and Glass since "Candyman." Rose has been lost in the wilderness, adapting three Tolstoy works that have received scant distribution stateside, and arguably his last notable movie is "Immortal Beloved." Sadly, the disappearance of Rose is more interesting than the biopic narrative of the still-living Justin Marks, an academic who fell ass-backwards into the drug trade and never looked back.

Rhys Ifans, an actor for whom I have grown tired, plays Marks, though colorful support is given by sleazy, snarly David Thewlis (as a rogue IRA member who lives in barn and received blow jobs from visiting hookers while pigs snort in the distance) . Chloe Sevigny shows up as Marks' second wife and mutters a bit, while Crispin Glover livens things up at the hour mark, but this is one of those massive international globe-trotting dramas that shoots with dingy digital film, mostly iront of questionable green screen. I probably would have enjoyed it more were it not for Ifans' dead-eyed stare which, in a moment of questionable intent, subs for Marks from the age of 16 to modern day.

Possibly my favorite movie of the week, this British coming-of-ager finds a young boy desperate to hold on to his very first girlfriend while also maintaining the sanctity of his parents' marriage. It's universal, of course, that this child, an idiosyncratic sort, would also be desperate to maintain whatever institutions he comes upon. What's so winning is this film's big heart, ably granted by music from Arctic Monkeys' guitarist Alex Turner and a savvy turn from moony-eyed youngster Craig Roberts. When he falls hard for classroom trollop Jordana, he uses a super 8 camera to document what is titled "Two Weeks Of Lovemaking," which is really just the two of them frolicking on abandoned beaches, distant factories and population-less backdrops, setting off firecrackers and kissing deeply. By the time he attempt to lose his virginity to her, you are desperately rooting for all the boy's hard work to pay off that the temptation is to actively cheer.

"Submarine" is the first film from "The IT Crowd" star Richard Ayoade, and it's clear he picked up a thing or two from "Harold And Maude" and the work of Wes Anderson. Sadly, like most first films, the picture loses focus in that final half hour. This may be possibly due to the closer look at Paddy Considine's cartoonish New Age speaker who threatens to break apart the boy's parents (a superb Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins). Considine is a threat, but his absurd hair and kung fu moves place him more as a side character in a film from this picture's producer, Ben Stiller, than as a serious threat to a relationship between two real people. Still, "Submarine" is a film of undeniable charm and comic invention, each richly-deserved laugh coming from a place of bittersweet pain, and a foundation of blissfully painful memory. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 27: SUMMER 2011 MOVIE PREVIEW!

That's right, in this three-parter (don't feel obligated to watch them all at once) Gabe & Nick talk about what movies you'll be seeing/avoiding/sneaking into for the first half hour while waiting for your first choice to start.

We talk about the major tentpoles (or at the very least quickly mention we won't be seeing them) as well as smaller fare you might not've heard of, we got your Malicks, your Bays, your Norse Gods, your patriotic Caps, your Godards, your Morrises, your Michael Musto stalking, your Barbarians, your Potters and your Poohs (and a whole lot more).
All in all a rounder view of this summer's offerings could not be found anywhere else*.
We recorded one of these last year, too, but it has been mercifully lost to the apathy of a disinterested/embarrassed/half-drunk editor/cohost.

Part 1

Jumpcut Junkies Ep 27 Part 1 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

Part 2

Part 3

Enjoy, and see you back here soon and often. We're gonna burn through a whole backlog of episodes while we take a break from movies and finally read through those brochures the Mormons keep leaving.

*Because we haven't bothered looking

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 26: Your Highness

In this episode, after a brief musical overture, Gabe & Nick blabber on about David Gordon Green's new stoner/sorcery pic "Your Highness," starring the incomparable Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel.

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 26 from Nick Rumaczyk on Vimeo.

Also, in another installment of Gabe's not-really-at-all-regular "Kids these days" style rants, he goes into why the F-word has lost its cultural currency despite (or rather, because of) its increased usage. If you're a parent, or consider yourself to be one, this is required viewing.


We were, however, serious about Japan. If you can find it in your heart, here are some reputable charities fighting the good fight:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 25: Paul

Good to see you again, thanks for stopping by.
This installment, Gabe and Nick take on "Paul", the new film written by and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and directed by Greg Mottola. You know, the one where Seth Rogen voices an alien.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jumpcut Junkies Ep. 24: Another Year

Another Year

Hope you all read our respective lists of most anticipated films of 2011.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #1

1. Contagion/Haywire

Steven Soderbergh has confirmed the worst possible news: the versatile auteur behind some of the most pleasurable and unpredictable cinematic experiences of the last twenty years is retiring. He claims he has two more films left in him, which means 2012's "Liberace" with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." an adaptation of the sixties television show with George Clooney.

Fortunately, that means he's doubled up on 2011. In springtime, we can look forward to "Haywire," which he shot (and extensively reshot) with a script by his collaborator on "The Limey," Lem Dobbs. It's exciting enough that Soderbergh is continuing to work with the man who helped him bring forth "The Limey," a super slick, funny crime noir from '99 that I must have seen eighty times by now. This is also supposed to be sort of a low budget actioner from the filmmaker, dealing with an kickboxing undercover CIA agent who finds out she's been targeted. Sodberbergh cast MMA fighter Gina Carano in the lead, suggesting the fisticuffs will be as believable as possible.

"Haywire" is also notable for a star-studded cast that includes Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton and Channing Tatum. Also with a collection of superstars is "Contagion," Soderbergh's winter release. This is a bit bigger in scale, a globe-hopping suspense thriller about a killer virus that reportedly resembles "Outbreak" as filtered through the lens of "Traffic."

Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Lawrence Fishburne and Sanaa Lathan are among those getting the virus treatment, and rumors persist that this currently-shooting project is a 3D movie (though I've heard it's not). It's the end of our of our great directors, and one hopes he goes out in style.

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #2

After 9/11, playwright Kenneth Lonergan was motivated to channel his sense of loss and tragedy into the script for "Margaret." He began shooting in 2005 with a stellar cast that included Anna Pacquin, Matt Damon, Jean Reno, Matthew Broderick, Olivia Thirlby, Mark Ruffalo and Allison Janney. Pacquin played a high schooler struggling to overcome the ramifications of a bus accident she witnessed, a trial that would force her to encounter her own mortality.

This movie never saw the light of day. Lonergan, who last directed "You Can Count On Me," kept writing and shooting, writing and shooting, resulting in hours and hours of footage, and a rough cut approaching four (some say six) hours. People sued, other people counter-sued, all the while Lonergan struggled in the editing room trying to cut the film to a reasonable length. In the meantime, Fox Searchlight, which released a few stills for the film in '06, has wondered if they still want to distribute this monstrosity.

There's no official word, but some say that the film will finally see the light of day in 2011. We can only hope.

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #3

In one corner - Sigmund Freud, psychoanalyst and expert on ideas of the repressed. In another corner, his mentor, Carl Jung, pioneer in dream analysis and founder of analytical psychology. Stuck in the middle? The woman that LOVED THEM BOTH. OOoooooooOOOOooh, FIREWORKS. Though Christopher Hampton's stage play "The Talking Cure" takes great liberty with its subjects, completely inventing the character of Sabina Spielrein who comes between the two men.

Did I mention this was David Cronenberg, one of the world's best filmmakers, tackling this subject? He's got old collaborator Viggo Mortensen and Michael Fassbender as the philosophers, and since there are British accents and a WWI setting, Keira Knightley is contractually obligated to appear as well. The concept of a Freud/Jung tete-a-tete is fascinating enough, but when you get three phenomenal actors, some great facial hair and one of the world's great filmmakers, fresh off a big studio sabbatical where he flirted with a number of high profile projects? Hells yeah, sign me up.

Also, where does the penguin come in?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #4


Based on a James Sallis novel, this crime story concerns a stuntman turned getaway driver for a group of bank robbers who finds himself targeted by the mob. It was originally supposed to be a Neil Marshall car chase fest with Hugh Jackman (which would have been awesome) but instead it's something else with Ryan Gosling, from "Bronson" and "Valhalla Rising" director/madman Nicholas Winding Refn.

I expected kind of a tough guy collection of faces to people this film, but instead the cast is quite eclectic, with Ron Perlman, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Bobbi Starr amongst the colorful names climbing aboard this film. Considering Refn's work so far, this is shaping up to be something just south of conventional. Psyched.

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #5

Wong Kar-Wai returns. He's working with the story of the Ip Man, who trained Bruce Lee in his early days, but there's a lot I don't know about this story. I plan on mainlining Donnie Yen's two "Ip Man" features this weekend, but it doesn't really matter, as I'm always ready for a Wong Kar-Wai experience. Maybe the world's most sensual filmmaker.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #6


Okay, what is this movie?

"Moneyball" is a nonfiction book about how the Oakland A's used a new technique called sabermetrics to evaluate their on-field personnel using unconventional stats. White sabermetrics have caught on with most baseball teams as a way to suss out potential stars and winning players, the A's played only a couple of years under the Moneyball style, winning a couple of division titles, but never advancing past the first round of the playoffs. Moneyball, by and large, didn't work.

The movie was supposed to be a Steven Soderbergh joint, where he was going to mix real life players and coaches with actors seamlessly, but at the eleventh hour, through a sea of rewrites, he was fired, and with "Capote" director Bennett Miller came a raft of actual actors in the roles. How much Soderbergh is left in this? And who, among Steve Zallian, Aaron Sorkin and others, is taking credit for the screenplay? And how is the story of a not-that-great team going to be compelling?

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #7

Okay, stay with me here.

In interviews and public appearances, Van Damme is a changed man. He is no longer the young, flexible braggart. A career falling from grace, followed by a brush with the arthouse in "JCVD" has revitalized him.

In "JCVD," he played a humble version of himself, a disgraced martial artist who feels that he probably deserves every indignity piled onto him. He is broke, ravaged by years of drug use, and his self-esteem is at an all-time low, especially as he loses a role to Steven Seagal. The scene in the film that grabs everyone, however, is when Van Damme breaks the fourth wall, the set visibly rotating around him as he turns to the camera, breaking down crying as he talks about all the ways he failed to live up to his potential and threw his life away with fast cars, drugs and women.

It was the most honest moment in Van Damme's career, and its clear he knew it. In the last few years, his efforts have involved him in more of a dramatic capacity, as his extensive martial arts skills have taken a backseat to this new skill at emoting. And from the information released, it appears that has carried over to his directorial debut. Originally titled "Full Love," this actioner, currently being re-edited from an unwieldy (or brilliant?) three hour length concerns a taxi driver in Asia who falls for a fare just as she's kidnapped by criminals. The film played the puzzled audiences in Cannes, and reports are the film in extremely experimental, ending with a "2001"-like montage concerning life and death. I have to say, I am ready for JCVD to get experimental. This could be awesome.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #8


Let me state this right off the bat - I don't think David Koepp is much of a filmmaker at all. The blockbuster writer behind "Spider-Man," "War of the Worlds" and a load of other blockbusters (that were probably gang-written) branched into directing with middlebrow stuff like "Secret Window" and "Ghost Town" but he hasn't yet developed a distinct rhythm or visual storytelling skill.

But this is a different beast. "Premium Rush," a hot script around town for a long time, concerns the adventures of a NYC bike messenger being pursued by a dirty cop. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the bicyclist, and the cop is Michael Shannon, and apparently the script is heavy on the chase sequences.

I consider myself a leading member of the "movie chase" club. I love love LOVE a good movie chase. I think the basic concept of a movie chase scene should have the DNA of what makes great cinema, and I really think there need to be more films that are just non-stop race sequences. In all my scripts I've written or outlined so far, they ALL have a major chase scene. Once I moved to New York City a couple of years ago, I had to rely on public transportation, but I knew I'd be spending a lot of time on my feet getting from place to place, hitting multiple locations, sometimes against the clock. When you live a life of cinema, it's hard to not imagine yourself in a cinematic situation when you've got to get from 55th and Park to Lincoln Center with tense music playing in your IPod.

I do hope "Premium Rush" delivers on this aspect. Don't even have the characters talk, just have them RACE.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #9


Earlier this year, I saw "Modus Operandi," a batshit insane no-budget Super-8 film mixing the aesthetics of blaxploitation and European art film. I saw it between "Black Dynamite" and "Machete" and it blew both films away in how it captured that style of filmmaking without winks or nods. Of course, playing this sort of drama about a retired agent and the myriad of thieves and criminals that surround him is funnier played straight, though I will forgive the film the AWESOME indulgence of having Danny Trejo impale the President's eye with a stick of dynamite.

That sort of attitude should be prevalent throughout "Skinny Dip," the next film from director Frankie Latina. The film is being described as a "revenge picture" (of course) dealing with the accidental murder of a cop, with appearances by Danny Trejo, Sasha Grey and Michelle Rodriguez. It's like the Gods are trying to tell me that someone finally made a movie just for me. If it's half-insane as "Modus Operandi," it should remain a contender for movie of the year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #1

1. Tree of Life

If you've made it to my number one spot, you've probably noticed that a movie's director is a big deciding factor in my wanting to see something. I have mixed feelings on the auteur feeling, but it's undeniable that some people just make movies differently than anyone else. Most directors use the medium to make statements about ourselves, about themselves, and about the world. Some talk and talk and won't shut up even though they don't have anything to say (Brett Ratner) and some speak so rarely that when they open their mouths, you quiet down because you know you're about to hear something important. In a time of instant video, brought on by youtube, Hulu, Netflix streaming and the like, we're thankful when Terrence Malick decides to make two movies in a decade. We don't whine and cry because we want it now -- we're just glad we don't have to wait twenty years.

If you haven't seen any of his other work, it's not hard to catch up -- he made Kubrick look like Takashi Miike. Since 1973 he's made Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line and The New World, all four of which are masterpieces. He takes time with his films, and directly proportional to this, time is kind to his films. There is nothing frivolous or cursory about his work; he knows exactly what he wants, and if he doesn't, he will work at it until he does. Every frame in everything he makes has been pored over and been given every ounce of his energy and attention. He's a philosophical man, and his beautiful compositions, use of light, use of voiceover, and studied pacing, Malick tries to make you feel his movies, bringing you to some kind of truth or larger sense of the world.

Tree of Life seems no different, even though no one really knows what it's about (and I have avoided the trailer online, preferring to wait until I can catch it in theaters), other than being set in the 1950s and starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. According to various rumors over the past few years, it may or may not deal with the cosmos, it may or may not have dinosaurs in it, it may or may not be in Imax, and it may or may not deal with the meaning of life. Even if it has none of these things, I will probably love it, because this man knows what he is doing. And besides, we might get dinosaurs in the already announced untitled follow-up set for 2012. Two Malick's in as many years. I hope this won't spoil us.

(no relation)

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #2

2. John Dies at the End

Speaking of distinctive horror directors, Don Coscarelli returns to making movies after a nine-year absence (discounting his Masters of Horror episode). He's shown he has a particular knack for idiosyncratic horror with his Phantasm series, which he built his reputation on, and he also showed he can do comedy with a distinctive horror bent with Bruce Campbell cult hit Bubba Ho-Tep.

"John" is about a drug that brings its users through some sort of time rift, which has also allowed a monster to come back to this world, and two slackers are the only things that can save the world, or something, so Coscarelli's sensibilities seem tailor-made for this type of yarn. In addition, Paul Giamatti's in it, along with Doug Jones, Clancy Brown, and the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm. It's based on a novel by David Wong, and it must be pretty good if you can spoil it in the title and still make a movie out of it. Despite working in several different genres (kids' movie in Kenny & Company, adventure in Beastmaster, survivalism (?) in Survival Quest), he's never gained the fame or steady work of fellow directors who started out in low-budget horror, such as Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson, and while I don't think this film will change that, it's good to see him back in the director's seat.

No, not this John. Not at the end. Not ever.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #3

3. The Innkeepers

One of the most distinctive horror directors working today is Ti West. He understands that blood and jump scares aren't to be liberally sprinkled around a movie, but used sparingly and in the right places. At this, he excels, so that after watching 20-30 minutes of nothing happening, your sense of complacency is suddenly and unexpectedly shattered in an explosive act of violence and you're shaken from your comfort zone, in a way that's more horrific than the torture porn peddled so gleefully to dating teens and bored mallrats. West makes you feel the world the character inhabits, making it that much more of an impact when things start to go south: In House of the Devil, he creates this impeccable 80s atmosphere (enhanced, if you shelled out the extra cash for the VHS edition) and lets you breathe it in, waiting with Samantha, the babysitter, exploring the big, empty house and opening doors and drawers, finding…nothing; in Trigger Man, the handheld DV camera becomes the fourth member of a hunting party in the woods, walking around, drinking, waiting, feeling the disappointment of finding no prey, until, in both films something terrible happens out of the blue, and you know the characters' worlds are changed forever, and you kinda wish you could go back to being bored. The Innkeepers is about a haunted hotel going out of business, and with Ti West attached, I don't care about anything else (if you want to raise a complaint based on Cabin Fever 2, don't: much of the movie was reshot and edited without his involvement and he has since disowned it).

The conflict arises after the ghosts smoke in their room and lose the $50 security deposit.

Most Anticipated Films Of 2011: Gabe's #10

I've never been a HUGE fan of Pedro Almodovar, but from a distance, I can appreciate his skill with narrative and shot composition. Almodovar's films rest on intense emotionality and his intoxicating use of color, and I focus on those elements more than the central melodramas. I haven't seen an Almodovar film for awhile, though in the back of my mind, I always felt like I knew what to expect with his work.

That feeling isn't a part of my thoughts regarding "The Skin I Live In." I first heard about this project at the beginning of the decade, when Almodovar had purchased the source material, a book called "Tarantula." This might be translators screwing with things, because I've heard vastly different interpretations of what the film might be. At the time, I had heard that the story was to be a freakish nightmare, revolving around a surgeon who captures his wife's rapist and sexually mutilates him to the point where he becomes an entirely new freak of nature, which the surgeon would then fall for. Among the many different interpretations, the one I'm familiar with now still involves Cronenbergian body horror, but it involves the surgeon caring for his wife after a horrible attack by trying to surgically develop a new skin for her.

Either premise, or a marriage of the two, certainly skeeves me out, and seeing Almodovar exit his comfort zone to create something like this certainly intrigues me. Can't wait.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #4

4. Carancho

Hey, do you remember the last winner for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film? No? How quickly you people forget when Roberto Benigni's not involved. Well, El Secreto de sus Ojos was a taut, tightly controlled decades-spanning Argentine murder mystery/romance, featuring a celebrated long take as the two main cops chase the perp through a crowded soccer stadium (and trust me, a packed Argentine soccer stadium during a normal game has about 15 times the energy and people of, say the Superbowl). This complex, ostentatious shot, in the midst of a mostly low-key procedural, is the apex of Argentine crime cinema. I have no small amount of national pride (thanks, dad) when I say that the second largest South American country has been quietly honing the crime thriller over the past decade to the point where it has now become its own national genre, reflecting the economic, social and political instability they've suffered for decades. While reconciling its past of the government disappearing dissidents, new challenges have risen up in the late 90s to confront it, with a quick succession of presidents insted then ousted (it's fine, I'm sure they're both words), the steady decline of the peso, joblessness, and civil unrest, it felt its bottom slipping out from under it. As a result, the 2000's were fertile with films of thieves, con men, detectives, gamblers and murderers, all with shifting or unclear allegiances.

In the past few years, Argentina has been regaining its foothold, while the US has been in decline and the Oscar win shows that only now are we beginning to appreciate what that nation to the south has been through. At the same time, its recent spate of crime films climaxed with the aforementioned shot announcing "we know a thing or two about this." Carancho stars Ricardo Darín (he's been in almost all of Argentina's crime films of the past twelve years, playing the investigative protagonist of "Secreto" and many others) as an ambulance-chasing lawyer who falls for a doctor as he cruises the ERs. Not sure what else will happen, but you can be sure someone gets in over his/her head and bad things happen. Pablo Trapero directs, who had nothing to do with El Secreto de sus Ojos, but did make Mundo Grúa (Crane World), which was a fascinating study of a middle-aged man in suburban Buenos Aires trying to make a living in a new crane operating job and finding love by reliving past glories (his band was a one-hit wonder in the 80s). Hopefully Trapero can transpose some of that loneliness to the crime world and show that Argentine cinema still has some juice left in it.

If you don't speak Spanish, I'm sure you at least speak blood, guns and sex fairly fluently.

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #5

5. Captain America/Thor

OK, I cheated, but I couldn't really separate these two, considering the franchising Marvel is doing in preparation for the Avengers. Marvel's made some interesting directorial choices with their movies so far: Cap's most recent foray onto the big screen will be brought to us this time by journeyman Joe Johnston and Thor will be directed by Kenneth Branagh, more used to adapting literature of a different kind (Frankenstein, a whole buncha Shakespeare). Johnston can make a fun adventure movie, given the right material and the Rocketeer particularly sticks in memory as an enjoyable normal-guy-becomes-superhero-during-WWII-to-fight-Nazis actioner, which is exactly what Captain America should be. Cap is one of my favorite Marvel characters because of his patriotism and sense of duty, but not in a Jingoistic sort of way. His worldview is truly democratic, having faith in and seeing the value of all people. He firmly believes in the values of the US, but is not always in agreement with the powers-that-be on the issues of foreign and domestic policy, or the ways in which he is wielded, and has given up the shield at least once in the comics. If the film can convey that and not just make a flag-waving monument to the greatest generation, they'll have something. Oh, and for God's sake, keep the Red Skull red in this one. Meanwhile, only knowing Thor through guest appearances in other titles, I'm not too familiar with the character, nor am I with the main actor, having only seen Chris Hemsworth briefly as Kirk's dad in Star Trek, but Branagh knows actors and how to bring out the best in them. He also knows visual grandeur, useful in bringing an epic comic book story to the screen. As for Stan Lee's cameo, I'm hoping for FDR in the former and a Norse God in the latter (too on the nose?).

Thor hammering Captain America. A slashfic genre is born.

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #6

6. Immortals

Tarsem Singh directs Mickey Rourke in a movie about a Greek warrior going up against the Gods, rendering Louis Leterrier's recent apology for Clash of the Titans moot.

Leaked concept art (unconfirmed)

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #7

Before I get to the post proper, I wanted to say that I noticed we seem to have regular viewers in Sweden. Who the hell are you people? I'm glad we've got you, it's only that I am curious (yellow) where you came from. After the US, Sweden is a distant second for number of views, so I guess we'll have to make a stop there on our JJ 2011 world tour. Thanks, Sweden, and here's hoping for another Bergman sometime soon!

7. Your Highness

Not being a drug user, I have a hard time getting onboard with stoner movies. I'm not judging; I'm just not part of the culture and most pot comedies tend to skew toward, not just those familiar with the lifestyle, but those who fetishize it, not giving me much of an entryway. David Gordon Green's Pineapple Express was able to bridge the gap, throwing buddy movie, action movie, romance, cop thriller, and of course, stoner movie against the wall, and at least a few of those stuck for me. It was one of the funniest films of 2008 and introduced me to Danny McBride, who managed to steal the show from Seth Rogen and James Franco (the movie also gets extra points for bringing Huey Lewis out of retirement for the theme song). Since then, McBride has given us one of the most complex characters in modern sitcomdom with Eastbound and Down's Kenny Powers. Like a Will Ferrell character, the humor and tragedy lay in Powers' blind confidence and arrogance, despite his fall from grace, and the effects they have on himself and those who are still close to him. McBride's portrayal of the former baseball playing id is more than just a caricature: on some level he realizes his failings and on occasion emerges from his oblivious self-absorption to attempt (in his own way) to connect more deeply with friends and family, only to find out they're less self-aware or more self-absorbed than himself. I'm not saying Your Highness, a Medieval marijuana adventure tale co-starring Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman, is going to net McBride an Oscar nod, but, hey maybe next year he'll get the lead in a Charlie Daniels biopic directed by James Mangold or Taylor Hackford.

Future Oscar winner trailed by two future O'Malley's Bar & Grill Trivia Night winners

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #8

8. We Need to Talk About Kevin

Reading this described as the story of a mother dealing with her son's high school killing spree, it could easily come off as a self-important PSA disguised as Oscarbait, half-weepy, half-sensationalist, but director Lynne Ramsay is adept at showing the outlines of deep emotions, and how they affect people in the day-to-day, without ever resorting to glycerine tears. In her debut feature, Ratcatcher, the filth, violence and broken dreams that pervade the Scottish suburb during the 1970s garbage worker strike are rendered matter-of-factly through the eyes of children in a stark, assured film that, despite being steeped in depression, never approaches maudlin and manipulative. As much as I liked Elephant, Gus Van Sant was perhaps too detached in his presentation of a school shooting, and it's Ramsay's delicate touch that would do the subject justice.

Yeah, he's in this.

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #9

9. Certified Copy

Just when you thought Abbas Kiarostami was going to live out the rest of his cinematic career shooting low-grade DV of people in cars, he surprises us with a romantic comedy (gasp!) set in Paris starring a name actress (double gasp!), in this case Juliette Binoche. Glibness aside, I love Kiarostami's highly personal style that he's carefully developed over the course of a decades-long career and am especially fond of "Five", a plotless, wordless rorschach test of a film, composed of five long takes on and around a beach that give the patient viewer time to meditate and reflect on life, nature, beauty, time, the universe and God (I realize opponents could say they could just as easily do this at home with their cellphone turned off). Given Kiarostami's ability to make grand statements with essentially nothing (Five was made on a minimal budget, shot on a digital camcorder), he comes closest to the French concept of the auteur, using his camera as if it were a pen, and any film from such a unique artist is worth paying attention to.

His "pen" for this one is the Red One Camera. Just sayin'.

Most Anticipated Films of 2011: Nick's #10

Welcome to 2011. Gabe and I are listing off our top picks for the coming cinematic year, so here I go, starting with 10:

10. The Woman in Black

Back in the 50s and 60s Hammer revived the stale horror genre with Technicolor gore and sex appeal, while still maintaining a level of class and seriousness commensurate with the talent involved. I would argue that Peter Cushion's Frankenstein is the best screen portrayal of the demented doctor, lending an understanding of the character and a sense of single-minded purpose in his experiments, neither condemning nor celebrating his pursuit of unholy knowledge. In the late 60s and into the 70s, Hammer couldn't (or wouldn't) keep up with trends in the genre and while young whippersnappers like Romero, Polanski, Craven, Hooper and Carpenter were rewriting the rules, Hammer was making cash-ins like The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (basically, Dracula in a kung fu film). After years of laying dormant, Hammer returned (in name only; most of the people involved with Hammer's heyday are gone, except of course for the immortal Christopher Lee) with Let Me In, a superior vampire film, showcasing the old studio's sense of wit, intelligence, purposefully used gore and ambiguously portrayed characters. This year's The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, a gothic ghost story based on the novel of the same name, will hopefully continue to update what the original studio's horror cycle represented.

Can someone who knows more about Harry Potter please wittily caption this?