Monthly Archives: November 2009

Review: Killer of Sheep

KILLER OF SHEEP (1977)originally published in the middlebury campus

As a film student and cinephile I can say without hesitation that, in my opinion, some of best and most interesting films come from American independent cinema. I can also say without hesitation that American independent cinema is changing, and not for the better. American independent cinema has a long and rich tradition dating back to the very beginning of film. Filmmakers who worked in opposition to the Edison Trust, the founding of United Artists by Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, and avant garde filmmakers of the late 1930s thru the 1950s (see Maya Daren and Alexander Hammid’s 1943 film “Meshes of the Afternoon”) are just a few examples of filmmakers’ attempts to break out of the industrial apparatus established by major Hollywood film studios. However, the popularization of the Sundance Institute along with other independent film centers and festivals has created an environment wherein most of the “independent” cinema being produced today isn’t really independent. Many films have the backing of major studio subsidiaries, cost millions of dollars to produce, and have big name stars attached. This, in and of itself, is not a problem. What is a problem, however, is the increased homogenization of independent cinema. Continue reading

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Review: Dance Party U.S.A. & Quiet City

29city600-722928originally published in the middlebury campus

A new wave of filmmaking is sweeping its way through the independent filmmaking world. A whole crop of young directors, taking their cues from movies like John Cassavette’s “Shadows”, are making slice-of-life films for a new generation of twenty-somethings that revolve around the relationships of educated, white middle class men and women. These films, which have been cropping up on the program at the SXSW film festival for the past few years, have been given the moniker mumblecore by the press and are showcases for some of the best direction and most honest writing seen in independent film in quite sometime. The most talented of this group is a writer-director by the name of Aaron Katz who has just released a double DVD set containing his first two films, 2006’s “Dance Party U.S.A.” and 2007’s “Quiet City.” Continue reading

Review: Tropic Thunder

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originally published in the middlebury campus

Ben Stiller has always been hit and miss as an actor (hilarious in films like “Dodgeball” but does anyone remember 2003’s “Duplex”? I didn’t think so) and a director (“Reality Bites”? Not so much). So it is with his latest offering, the ninety-two million dollar war comedy “Tropic Thunder,” gut busting hilarious one second turns into infuriating inanity the next. Continue reading

Review: W.

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originally published in the middlebury campus

I feel that a critic, even an amateur one like myself, should make every attempt to go into the film he is reviewing with as few preconceived notions as possible. I must admit that when I entered the theater to watch Oliver Stone’s latest offering, the George W. Bush biopic “W.,” I did not enter the theater with a clear mind. I walked into the theater expecting to see a film that anti-Bush audiences would love and pro-Bush audiences would vilify. But I was shocked to see Stone take a different tact. Instead of the morally bankrupt portrait I was expecting, Stone creates a charcoal sketch of a sincere man-child struggling to win his father’s approval. That is, unfortunately, the most surprising thing about, “W.” The rest is a wildly uneven film that is too obsequious to be inflammatory and too condescending to be thought provoking. Continue reading

Review: The Reader

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originally published in the middlebury campus

As the film award season reached its apex in February, I thought it a good idea to take a look at one of the films the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deemed good enough to nominate as one of 2008’s best pictures. I’ve had many gripes with the Academy Awards and the films they choose to celebrate, and in a year as cinematically weak as 2008 its tough to fault their nominations too much, however “The Reader,” falls far short of what a Best Picture nominee should look like. Continue reading

Reveiw: Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

nick_and_norahs_infinite_playlist

originally published in the middlebury campus

In 1989 a film called The Wizard was released to theaters. It starred Fred (The Wonder Years) Savage and Christian (Heathers) Slater, and was given the most paper thin of plots in order to cover-up the fact that the film’s real purpose was tosell the then somewhat new Nintendo. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is kind of like The Wizard, except instead of selling Nintendo they’re selling New York City music venues, local indie bands, and a lifestyle to go with it. Continue reading