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by Robert Horton

Contributor

Review: Where To Invade Next

Michael Moore

Michael Moore is a nudger. Rarely content to let facts speak for themselves, he can’t resist sticking his elbow in your side as he makes his points. One reason Moore was at his most effective with his roaring 2004 polemic Fahrenheit 9/11 was that he kept himself offscreen for much of the film’s furious second half. In general, though, his weakness for broad-brush tactics and heavy-handed jokery hampers his documentary portraits of America gone wrong. Leaving well enough alone isn’t in his makeup—but then he wouldn’t be Michael Moore if he could leave well enough alone.

Moore’s latest is Where to Invade Next, a misleadingly titled look overseas.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: ‘Son of Saul’

Geza Rohrig (right) in ‘Son of Saul’

Saul is temporarily alive. A Hungarian Jew at Auschwitz, he has been designated a Sonderkommando; instead of being killed upon arrival, he was made part of a detail that aids Nazi guards in the process of murdering people at the extermination camp. By the time we are introduced to Saul, he has been at this for some time, so his eyes are already vacant and his soul already battered. Whatever thin crust of humanity he has left is about to express itself in a gesture that is almost entirely pointless. Except to him.

This specific horror is portrayed in Son of Saul, a film that—in its own claustrophobic way—is as astonishing as the big-as-all-outdoors spectacle The Revenant.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: 45 Years

Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling in ’45 Years’

It might be grounded in kitchen-sink reality in many ways—here is a small English town, here are its unglamorous citizens, here are the everyday habits of two people who have been married a long time. But my favorite film of 2015 has an undercurrent of the fairy tale about it, as though a touch of dark magic were animating the crisis at the movie’s heart.

This is Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years—now you know how long the couple has been married—and maybe it’s more ghost story than fairy tale.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Aferim!

‘Aferim!’

Along with its more obvious qualities, Aferim! is a portrait of people starved for conversation. The cascade of chatter begins with a constable named Costandin (Teodor Corban), who is riding along through the Wallachian countryside in the mid-1830s in the company of his teenage son Ionita (Mihai Comanoiu). Costandin is a veritable fountain of bullshit, his torrent of dialogue peppered with folklore, aphorisms, riddles, poetry, and biblical quotations. The greenhorn Ionita occasionally gets a question in, but generally absorbs/endures his father’s jovial monologues during their journey on horseback through a mostly sunlit but somehow haunted landscape. The two are searching for an escaped Roma slave at the behest of a cruel nobleman.

Continue reading at Film Comment

Review: Ip Man 3

Donnie Yen in ‘Ip Man 3’

Ip Man 3  hails from a genre that, since the heyday of Bruce Lee, actually has made some inroads in the U.S.: the martial-arts picture. Still, this movie will open in only a handful of theaters stateside, and will be treated casually, if at all, by a media geared toward English-language releases. But wherever in the world it plays, it will play like gangbusters. Built around cheerfully broad emotional deck-stacking, well-spaced fight scenes, and charismatic actors, Ip Man 3 delivers its punches with confidence. Far from the grit of exploitation flicks, it looks terrific, full of vivid color and period design; the fighting has the precise spatial logic associated with action director Yuen Woo-Ping (of Crouching Tiger and The Matrix renown). The movie even has a role for Mike Tyson, who is not among its more charismatic actors but whose presence speaks to the film’s no-translation-necessary worldwide appeal. Tyson’s presence is akin to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar showing up in Bruce Lee’s Game of Death—less a matter of “Why?” than “Why not?”

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Anomolisa

David Thewlis voices Michael Stone in the animated stop-motion film ‘Anomalisa.’

“Scrambled is my favorite eggs style. What about yours?” The speaker is Lisa, a lonely, sincere, somewhat vapid woman sharing breakfast with a well-regarded expert on customer service, Michael Stone. The line is vintage Charlie Kaufman: The Oscar-winning screenwriter has an uncanny ear for small talk and eager inanities—the chintzy conversation of the 21st-century mall-dweller. Kaufman risks the acid reflux that can result from writing these characters; there’s a fine line between the despair he conveys over the way we live today and out-and-out contempt for it. But his dialogue is so sharp you can’t help appreciating these people despite themselves (or you’ll be so impressed by the moviemaking experiment—the fact that Adaptation becomes exactly the kind of movie the on-screen Kaufman doesn’t want it to become, for instance—that liking the characters won’t matter).

Anomalisa is lemon-sucking sour, but there are enough gimmicks—and enough lacerating humor—to make the film memorable.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio

The Revenant is a huge whopping spectacle, the likes of which have rarely been seen since Cecil B. DeMille ordered Charlton Heston to part the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments. It’s unlikely that anybody compared Revenant director Alejandro González Iñárritu to DeMille back in the days of Amores Perros and Babel?; the somber Mexican filmmaker demonstrated little interest in cultivating the gaudier possibilities of cinematic fun, even as his compatriot/friends Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro flaunted their showmanship. Iñárritu’s role was to ponder the deep questions of whether misery has a breaking point, and how to measure the weight of the human soul.

2014’s Birdman signaled a change. Exuberant and funny—while still carving out room for lofty ideas, sometimes to the film’s detriment—it showed off a new playfulness in Iñárritu’s approach. (He took home the Best Director Oscar as a reward.) Now comes The Revenant, and while nobody would tag this movie as “fun,” the great Hollywood huckster DeMille would surely approve of its incredible scale. This thing is a lollapalooza.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Parallax View’s Best of 2015

Welcome 2016 with one last look back at the best releases of 2015, as seen by the Parallax View contributors and a few notable Seattle-based film critics.

Soren Andersen

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Spotlight
3. The Revenant
4. Ex Machina
5. Chi-Raq
6. Steve Jobs
7. Kingsman: The Secret Service
8. Goodnight Mommy
9. The Martian
10. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
(more at The Seattle Times)

Sean Axmaker

1. Clouds of Sils Maria
2. Carol
3. Phoenix
4. Taxi
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Spotlight
7. 45 Years
8. Mustang
9. Jauja
10. Ex Machina
And ten more that almost made the list: Brooklyn, Experimenter, Girlhood, Inside Out, It Follows, Love & Mercy, The Martian, Queen & Country, Sicario, Timbuktu
Also lists at Village Voice Film Poll and Keyframe

David Coursen

(alphabetical)
About Elly (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
Chi-Raq (Spike Lee,US)
Leviathan (Russia, Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Love and Mercy (Bill Pohlad, US)
Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, US)
Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, US)
Taxi (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania)
The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine)
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
Honorable Mention: Carol (Todd Haynes, US)

Bob Cumbow

(in no intending order)
Phoenix
Brooklyn
Ex Machina
Spotlight
Sicario
Slow West
Carol
The Big Short
Bridge Of Spies
Jauja
Also: The Walk, Mr. Holmes
Endings: PhoenixCarol
Disappointments: SpectreThe Hateful 8
Surprises: Mission Impossible: Rogue NationPredestination
Guilty Pleasure: San Andreas
Actors: Nina Hoss (Phoenix), Ronald Zehrfeld (Phoenix), Rooney Mara (Carol), Saorise Ronan (Brooklyn), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Emily Blunt (Sicario), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes)
Director: Christian Petzold (Phoenix)
Music: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies; Carter Burwell, Carol; Howard Shore, Spotlight; Alan Silvestri, The Walk; Andrew Lockington, San Andreas

John Hartl

45 Years
Spotlight
Brooklyn
Sicario
Trumbo
Carol
Ex Machina
Bridge of Spies
Inside Out
99 Homes
A second 10: The Walk, Joy, Timbuktu, Love & Mercy, Phoenix, Tab Hunter Confidential, Rosenwald, I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Big Short, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Most miraculous restoration: The Apu Trilogy.

Robert Horton

1. 45 Years
2. Son of Saul
3. Bridge of Spies
4. Experimenter
5. It Follows
6. Clouds of Sils Maria
7. Ex Machina
8. The Assassin
9. Spotlight
10. The Duke of Burgundy
The second 10, just missing: The droll Swedish film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence; Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe not as good as the fanboys say, but definitely good; the straightforwardly lovely Brooklyn; Viggo Mortensen in the magical Jauja; Bone Tomahawk; Mississippi Grind; the devastating documentary The Look of Silence; The Hateful Eight; the pictorially astonishing The Revenant; and—why not—Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
(via Seattle Weekly)

Richard T. Jameson

1. It Follows
2. Clouds of Sils Maria
3. Spotlight
4. Bridge of Spies
5. Room
6. The Assassin
7. 45 Years
8. Son of Saul
9. Jauja
10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Close and by all means a cigar: Bone Tomahawk, Brooklyn, Blackhat, Mad Max: Fury Road, Phoenix, Ex Machina, Sicario
Pix: Saiorse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Brooklyn; Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, 45 Years
(via Framing Pictures)

Jay Kuehner

1. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
2. Carol (Todd Haynes)
3. Horse Money (Pedro Costa)
4. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso)
5. The Kindergarten Teacher (Nadav Lapid)
6. Heaven Knows What (Benny and Josh Safdie)
7. The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher)
8. Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
9. Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
(via Keyframe)

Moira Macdonald

(in alphabetical order)
45 Years
Brooklyn
Carol
Diary of a Teenage Girl
Grandma
Inside Out
Room
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Spotlight
The Third Man/ Tales of Hoffmann
(more at The Seattle Times)

Brian Miller

Favorite moments at Seattle Weekly

Kathleen Murphy

(in no intending order)
Brooklyn
Phoenix
Clouds of Sils Maria
45 Years
It Follows
Room
Son of Saul
Jauja
Bone Tomahawk
Mad Max: Fury Road / The Assassin
(via Framing Pictures)

Bruce Reid

1. Experimenter
2. Taxi
3. It Follows
4. The Hateful Eight
5. Welcome to New York
6. Blackhat
7. Clouds of Sils Maria
8. Timbuktu
9. Queen and Country
10. Maps to the Stars

In my absolute favorite scene of the year Stanley Milgram sits and reads from Speak, Memory the famous opening line of how we’re all our lives suspended between oblivions. Behind him two assistants lower lab equipment into a crate with the professional solemnity of undertakers.

In my second favorite scene a figure loping down a road, dressed in a ridiculous, baggy frog costume complete with bulging eyes, is revealed to be the last-act badass whose coming has been threatened throughout the movie.

One of those films made the list below; the other, Miike’s entertainingly unhinged Yakuza Apocalypse, didn’t quite. But both show off the quality that marks my favorite movies: an apparent legibility that, looked at more closely, resists any definitive reading. The ending of Milgrim’s most famous experiment is framed (literally, through a window that carves another screen inside the screen we’re watching) as a death; but one of the movie’s many points is that lives carry on, quite fulfillingly, after their supposed defining moments have passed. And when the muppet suit comes off there’s another surprise, and a further bad guy to confront.

We’re always told that movies, capturing real people moving through real environments, tend away from the mysterious and toward the concrete in a way that the other arts aren’t hampered. Except the camera’s eye can make even concrete glow with mysteries. I fell in love with the films above for the way they tracked down hallways in prisons and apartments, refusing to distinguish between the two; for the expertly timed closing of a piano lid; for the anxious way its actors clutched fishbowls, and the nonchalance with which they grasped cameras; for clouds roiling down a mountaintop, which you’d think would be beyond a director’s control; for a skyscraper flickering in a dying woman’s eyes. But it’s not just pianos and hallways, fishbowls and clouds and cameras, or even flicker. It never is.

Andrew Wright

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Blackhat
3. Carol
4. The Hateful Eight
5. It Follows (Reviewed for the Portland Mercury)
6. Bridge of Spies (Reviewed for The Stranger)
7. Tangerine (Reviewed for The Stranger)
8. Bone Tomahawk
9. Creed
10. Sicario

Lists of lists:

Village Voice (poll and lists)
Roger Ebert.com
Variety
Keyframe Best Feature Films of 2015
Keyframe Daily Lists and Award 2015 Index

Polls
Film Comment
Indiewire Poll
Roger Ebert
Sight and Sound
Time Out London

Other lists
2015 additions to the National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1925
New York Times Year in Culture

Review: The Hateful Eight

Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern

What’s he done this time? As a filmmaker who creates experiences that aren’t remotely like anything else out there, Quentin Tarantino has earned the curiosity. Like ’em or loathe ’em, Tarantino’s movies exist in their own distinctive, vacuum-packed world, strange missives from an unfettered imagination. He’s unfettered because his movies keep making money, but I wonder what the faithful will think of The Hateful Eight, a typically outrageous but even-chattier-than-usual extravaganza. Most of the film’s 187 minutes (with an intermission) take place inside a snowed-in frontier trading post, although the scenes outside Minnie’s Haberdashery are just as talkative and—despite the Western vistas in the background—claustrophobic.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Carol

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara

The Price of Salt is a 1952 novel by Patricia Highsmith (using the pseudonym Claire Morgan) about a lesbian romance. It sold a lot of copies in an underground way, and must’ve had great subversive punch as both a tale about “a love that dare not speak its name” and one in which the gay protagonists were not subjected to either a straightening “cure” or guilt-ridden suicide. In 2015, that layer of illicit discovery is impossible for Todd Haynes’ movie adaptation to resurrect. The Portland-based director instead presents a period piece that presents its passions in impeccably designed scenes that contain remarkably few surprises.

The romance simmers between Therese (Rooney Mara), a department-store salesgirl with vague notions of becoming a photographer, and Carol (Cate Blanchett), an elegant lady currently divorcing her respectable husband (Kyle Chandler).

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Concussion

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith

Concussion joins the small collection of investigative films arriving at the end of 2015, with Spotlight and Truth and the German picture Labyrinth of Lies. This one might actually move the needle on its subject. The true story chronicled here looks at Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who established a connection between football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. That research has already led to changes in NFL rules and increased scrutiny of former players. All those shots to the head, all those concussions—acknowledged or, frequently, not—have created a class of ex-players struggling with depression, erratic behavior, and memory loss.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Daddy’s Home

Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini

Will Ferrell hasn’t exhausted the comedy of emasculation just yet—his argyle-sweater-vest-clad persona still has some comic juice. Still, it was probably wise to reteam him with his The Other Guys co-star Mark Wahlberg, as the latter’s alpha-male swagger seems to bring out the best in Ferrell’s passive-aggressive boob. In Daddy’s Home the comedy is strictly PG-13, and even that seems overly protective. Brad (Ferrell) works at a smooth-jazz radio station—the movie gets points just for that glorious touch—and is determined to be the world’s best stepdad to the two dismissive kids of new wife Sara (Linda Cardellini). The little tykes can’t stand his chipper enthusiasm for family bonding. Enter Dusty (Wahlberg), Sara’s tattooed, chopper-ridin’ ex, who blows in from parts unknown and might want to re-enter the family portrait.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

I wonder which of the ingeniously placed revelations will get the biggest cheer in the new Star Wars movie. My money is on the way the camera casually discovers a certain neglected hunk-of-junk spaceship in the middle of a frantic escape.

No spoilers on the other big moments. You’re going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens anyway, so let’s leave the surprises to be enjoyed fresh. And you will enjoy this movie, unless you’re disenchanted with the world-dominating nature of “Star Wars” hype, or such a purist that you think any Star Wars movie made after 1980 is a stain upon the original holy text.

Continue reading at The Herald (may face paywall)

Review: The Danish Girl

Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne

There is a longstanding correlation between an actor’s likelihood of winning an Academy Award and the amount of effort visible on screen. That’s why Leonardo DiCaprio is the odds-on favorite this year for The Revenant—the poor guy works so hard he looks as though he’s actually breaking bones for the cause. Eddie Redmayne, who won last year for his The Theory of Everything role as Stephen Hawking, is not taking this challenge lying down. Here he plays Einar Wegener, a Danish painter who underwent sex-reassignment surgery to become a woman, newly christened Lili Elbe. This true story happened in the early years of the 20th century, which makes it prime fodder for the period-decoration approach of director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech).

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Sisters

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey

Sisters may not be much of a movie, but it is a party. In fact, more than half the film takes place during a wild, unhinged blowout. The hosts of this party-pretending-to-be-a-movie are Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Saturday Night Live veterans and occasional awards-show emcees. Screenwriter Paula Pell’s sitcom premise—Fey and Poehler play sisters coming together to spend one last weekend in the childhood home their parents have just sold—allows the duo to vamp their way through a series of increasingly chaotic and eminently R-rated situations.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly