Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Dancer in the Dark

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The great pleasure of Cannes is having no idea what you’re going to see, and knowing that you’re about to be one of the first in the world to see it. When the picture turns out to be absolutely extraordinary — a stylistically exhilarating vision that also sweeps up the entire 2,400-strong audience in the Salle Lumière in its emotional embrace — one’s first impulse is to wish the same experience for audiences around the world. In short, you don’t want to tell anybody about it, don’t want to foreclose their pleasure of discovery in any way. You just want to say, “When you have the chance, go!”

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Time Regained

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Time Regained, adapted by Chilean director Raul Ruiz from the final volume of Marcel Proust’s epic Remembrances of Things Past, is about the texture of memory. Set in the first decades of the 20th century, in the salon society of the Paris élite, the film begins with the aging narrator (a not-so-thinly veiled Marcel Proust, played by lookalike actor Marcello Mazzarella but voiced by Patrice Chereau) dictating his final novel from a sickbed: “Then one day, everything changes.”

That phrase describes the film nicely: nothing is fixed, everything is in flux. In this opening scene the camera glides through the bric-a-brac of his bedroom, which themselves take slow flight in a dance with the camera as the room expands and shrinks wildly from shot to shot. Far from mere cinematic acrobatics, this sets the stage for an exploration of the fabric of memory from a director whose films have traditionally reverberated with the tensions between reality, dreams, and perspective.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Wonder Boys

[Written for Film.com]

by Robert Horton

If we can stop talking about Catherine Zeta-Jones for a moment, we might give Michael Douglas his due for Wonder Boys. After enduring a lot of jokes about May-December romances, Douglas comes bouncing back with one of his best performances, the central role in an adaptation of Michael Chabon’s comic novel.

The role is Grady Tripp, novelist and college professor at a university in Pittsburgh. If he is not actually over the hill, it is only because Grady never got to the top in the first place, although his previous novel — seven years old now — received acclaim. Trying to bash out that follow-up book has proved difficult, and Grady’s love life is an even bigger mess: his wife has just left him, and his married mistress (Frances McDormand) is pregnant. Oh, and her husband is the head of the English department at school.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton

2000 Eyes: Traffic

[Written for Film.com]

In a very short period of time—since monkeying around with a self-made fandango called Schizopolis—Steven Soderbergh has mounted a kind of stealth attack on Hollywood formula moviemaking. Out of Sight brought suppleness to the traditional star vehicle, The Limey dizzily jumbled expectations in a revenge plot, Erin Brockovich expertly balanced the dictates of political film and inspirational comedy, and Traffic looks coldly but energetically at the drug war. Each film also manages the feat of being an obviously personal project of its director. And except perhaps for The Limey’s overtly indie status, each uses big Hollywood bucks (and movie stars) to subvert the usual order of things. That’s what makes it a stealth attack, of course.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Sean Axmaker, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: In the Mood for Love

[Written for Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

There may be no more sensual director in the world today than Hong Kong’s Wong Kar-wai.

His best films (Chungking Express, Ashes of Time) are rich in unconsummated affairs. The delicate shadow dances of would-be lovers and flirtatious courtships of couples that only fleetingly make contact are like a postmodern vision of a 1940s Hollywood melodrama shot in splintered glimpses and burning color.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Richard T. Jameson

2000 Eyes: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

[Written for Mr. Showbiz]

The first weekend of the 53rd Cannes Film Festival couldn’t have dawned more auspiciously. The Coen brothers are back with their first movie of the millennium and it’s a doozy. Taking their title from a maudlin catchphrase of the Great Depression—and from the mock-allegory with which Preston Sturges’s 1942 classic Sullivan’s Travels began—they’ve come up (again) with a complete original: a hilarious lowbrow comedy that only highbrows could have made, filled with an exultant sense of how big and startling and beautiful the pleasures of movies can be.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Vertical Limit

[Written for Film.com]

There is no vertical limit on inanity, a principle aptly proved by this unbelievable mountain climbing movie. It begins on sacred cinematic ground, Monument Valley, where the air is defiled by three climbers singing the old Eagles tune “Take It to the Limit.” They are a family: siblings Peter and Annie Garrett (Chris O’Donnell and Robin Tunney) and their father (Stuart Wilson). While hanging from one of the mesas, they are caught in a spectacular fall, and Peter must make a decision that changes their lives.

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Posted in: 2000 Eyes, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes

There’s a 1948 movie with the wonderful title Night Has a Thousand Eyes. What beauty, mystery, and resonance that promises — not even considering that the film’s cast included lambent-eyed Gail Russell, who elsewhere inspired Ray Milland to compose “Stella by Starlight.” How regrettable that the movie isn’t very good. And yet that title. A few decades back in the previous millennium some enterprising New Yorkers borrowed part of it for a lively movie journal, The Thousand Eyes. If they hadn’t, it’s doubtful Parallax View would have hit upon 2000 Eyes as the name for our project commencing this Friday — a lookback twenty years to the dawn of this millennium, to remind ourselves what movies were coming out that year and what we wrote about them.

You could say — all right, we could say — that this collaborative action is a quest for beauty, mystery, and resonance we didn’t necessarily recognize while living out the year. But we needn’t be so hi-falutin. The reviews to be posted here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over the next few months encompass first-time sightings of classics-to-be, and of some films that two intervening decades have effectively confirmed as great. There are also first sightings of pictures no one has given a second thought, and not without reason. Yet being reminded of the movies in the latter category, their sensations, derelictions, and sometimes woeful shortfall, is almost as worthwhile as nodding respectfully before the crowning achievements. They were part of the texture of filmmaking and filmgoing in 2000 A.D., part of our lives.  

All these reviews are contemporaneous; nothing newly written, apart from the occasional 2020 afterword. All were composed or dashed off innocent of any awareness that Gladiator, for instance, was going to be in contention for a slew of Academy Awards and win the big one, or that Alejandro González Iñárritu, neophyte director of Amores Perros, would emerge as a master of both intimate art cinema and the Hollywood epic. That’s refreshing. What’s just as satisfying is to stumble across in-passing mention of a new performer, more often than not in a subsidiary role, whom we now take for granted as a mainstay of screen acting (Peter Mullan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright, to name three); or to be reminded of the career window within which certain previously respected players were, let’s say, finding it a challenge to be taken seriously. In a related phenomenon, casual, in-the-moment references to social or pop-cultural events or trends everyone was plugged into now verge on mystifying (totally mystifying for anyone born since our landmark year). How did that ever get to be ephemeral?

We’ve enjoyed resurrecting these reports on the passing movie scene, as witnessed by 2000 eyes. We hope you enjoy reading them.

All 2000 Eyes reviews here

Posted in: by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Lynn Shelton

Your Sister’s Sister

[originally published in The Herald in 2012]

One thing everybody could agree on at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival was the rightness of the opening night movie. It was Your Sister’s Sister, directed by Seattle resident Lynn Shelton, and it set the tone for the Northwesty slant of the festival that followed.

It makes an even better story that Your Sister’s Sister happens to be a highly enjoyable film, perhaps Shelton’s best yet. This one shares the semi-improvised method of Shelton’s Humpday, and also the sneaky sense that there really is a structure underlying the apparently easygoing story.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Interviews, Lynn Shelton

Lynn Shelton Goes Way Back

Fandor co-founder Jonathan Marlow and director Lynn Shelton are in attendance at Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings Film Festival on Saturday, September 26 to present a 35mm screenings of Shelton’s debut feature, We Go Way Back, the same day it makes its streaming debut on Fandor. It’s a preview of the tenth anniversary theatrical release that’ll occur early in 2016, presented by Fandor and Factory 25. – Ed.

Lynn Shelton made her debut feature, We Go Way Back, after a decade of honing her skills. With a master’s degree in photography and years of experience as a stage actress, the Seattle-based artist taught herself filmmaking by making experimental films and documentaries and editing the features of other local filmmakers. She credits Claire Denis with inspiring her, at the age of thirty-seven, to have the faith to follow her muse and make a feature film. With financing from a Seattle non-profit production company, she made We Go Way Back on a tiny budget and with a cast and crew of professionals from her Seattle home. It won the Jury Prize at Slamdance in 2006 and launched a career that, to date, has remained defiantly independent. Her budgets have since gotten bigger and her casts more famous (Emily Blunt and Rosemary DeWitt in Your Sister’s Sister, Keira Knightley and Chloë Grace Moretz in Laggies) yet she has remained not only independent but local, shooting in Seattle with area crews. At least for her features. Between movies she, like many fellow indie filmmakers, directs episodes of TV shows, from Mad Men to The Mindy Project andFresh Off the Boat.

We Go Way Back is the story of a young actress in her twenties (Amber Hubert) who is in a kind of emotional stupor as she struggles to make her way as a professional actress at the expense of her own sense of self. But Shelton tosses in a high concept twist: her thirteen-year-old self, present in letters full of confidence and creativity and ambition that she wrote to her future self, arrives in the flesh. What could be a Lynch-ian bend in time and space and identity, however, is played with naturalistic calm. She’s not here to judge, only to heal and center her emotionally fractured older self.

I first interviewed Shelton in 2008, soon after her second feature, My Effortless Brilliance, premiered at SXSW. I had just seen We Go Way Back and was excited to discuss it with her. We’ve talked many times since but this is the only time we really delved into her first film.

Sean Axmaker: You came out of theater, and you had edited some features before you directed We Go Way Back, including Hedda Gabler. In We Go Way Back, the main character, Kate (Amber Hubert), is cast in the lead of ‘Hedda Gabler’ and it’s a production that is going right off the rails. Is there anything autobiographical in that, or is this just your nightmare of the worst possible theater experience that you could think of?

Lynn Shelton: [Laughs.] The director is an amalgamation of many acting teachers and directors that I’ve encountered. I started acting when I was about eleven and kept on acting through my twenties and it was like an addiction. I was always in a show, so I encountered lots and lots of different personalities through the years. None of them were quite as misguided as poor Bob’s character but there is also some practicality to it. I needed a role in western classic theater that might be recognizable to a certain set so that it would be a big deal—because this is her first big role, so she needs to be offered this great part, and I needed to write the script in five weeks and I knew that play really, really well. I knew the lines by heart, so it was expedient. But there are a lot of interesting challenges to playing Hedda anyway. This is obviously very condensed and exaggerated but the kernel of the story is totally autobiographical.

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