Posts Tagged ‘J. Hoberman’

Kid’s-eye view of a constant state of emergency

May 12, 2010

In this week’s Village Voice J. Hoberman reviews Benny and Josh Safdie’s “Daddy Longlegs” (2009), which, as you’ll recall, was my favorite narrative feature from the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival. Indeed, I liked it so much that I ranked it #4 on my list of the top 10 movies that screened in Madison more than once over the course of the past school year.

Hoberman’s take on the film’s protagonist, Ronald Bronstein’s Lenny (not to be confused with his girlfriend, Leni), is pretty harsh, almost unsmiling; put simply, Hoberman seems to have been much less amused by Lenny’s various parental screw-ups than I was. Yet, he also seems to have found an especially spacious room in the film via forehead-slapping observation of Lenny’s bad behavior that I myself wasn’t able to spend much if any time in: the psychological—or, more precisely, psychodramatic—dimension of “Daddy Longlegs,” the discreetly raw dialectic formed by its 9-year-old adults and 40-something toddlers.

Keep your fingers crossed that “Daddy Longlegs” gets released on DVD some time in the next few months. It definitely deserves to be revisited.

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“The Sun” at Sundance Cinemas

April 30, 2010

Sheez, my post titles have been works of art today.

Eminent Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov’s 2004 feature “The Sun,” which received its first (limited) run in American theaters last November, is now playing at Madison’s Sundance Cinemas. For local cinephiles, this is cause for serious excitement: Sokurov is one of the boldest, most dazzlingly grandiose film artists working today. (Anyone who has seen his 2002 film “Russian Ark,” which is as much a dance performed by a cast of thousands as it is a singular cinematic achievement, can attest to the boldness and dazzling grandiosity of which I speak.)

“The Sun” was showered with praise by critics like Manohla Dargis and J. Hoberman during its November release; I’m pleased to see that my editor at Isthmus, Kenneth Burns, also found it thoroughly thought-provoking. I’m hoping to catch “The Sun” at some point this weekend—tornadoes permitting.

Chattin’ ’bout film fests

April 21, 2010

With the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival now a thing of the past (to borrow a phrase from a dear friend: “Shh-laters!”), it’s only natural that Madison cinephiles would try to place it in context, to reflect on how the WFF compares with other American film festivals. Well, as you might already know, the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival begins tonight in NYC. J. Hoberman has an article in this week’s issue of the Village Voice in which he critiques the typical TFF experience relative to that of other film festivals—Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, what have you. Hoberman arrives at the conclusion that it’d really behoove the TFF if it were to try to be more like Rotterdam or South By Southwest than like a fourth- or fifth-rate Cannes. Someday I’ll be getting invited to these festivals and I’ll let you know whether I agree with his take; until then…

Fixing to skedaddle

March 26, 2010

Wasn’t March a kick? I thought so too, for the most part. Did you read the DC’s April Fools’ edition yesterday (featuring a column from yours truly, but that’s neither here nor there)? If you didn’t, I recommend tracking down a copy: it was legitimately hysterical.

Anyway, CineMadison will be going on hiatus from today until next Monday. It’s spring break and eight days of cutting loose is at the top of the agenda. In case you were wondering, I’m driving to Boston tonight with a couple of dear friends, both of whom have agreed to put up with my slight phobia of driving in return for me putting up with their slight habit of chain-smoking (no disrespect to any of you chain-smokers out there). It’s doubtful that I’ll get a chance to see any films while we’re gone, which will mark my longest dry spell in months. However, cinema will still be very much on my mind all the time. I hope it’ll be on yours as well. Let’s have some constructive dialogue when we all get back, ya hear?

If you’re going to be in or near Manhattan next week, be sure to mosey on over to the IFC Center on 6th Ave to see Catherine Breillat’s “Bluebeard,” which opens there today. I’ve always found Breillat to be a pretty hit-or-miss artist (and if any of the contemporary French filmmakers deserves the “auteur” label, it’s gotta be her); but even when she misses it’s affecting—and usually in a defiant, challengingly unpleasant way. “Bluebeard” was reviewed this week by the Times’ Manohla Dargis and the Voice’s J. Hoberman; both paint the picture of a film at once morbid and nostalgic, dark and whimsical, sensitive to the latent psychopathology hiding in the heart of all human practices—including the writing and telling of fairy tales. Unfortunately it’d be the schlep-to-end-all-schleps for me to get down to NYC to join you for a matinee.

On Tuesday (or more precisely, at midnight on Monday) the Criterion Collection’s new 4-disc Pedro Costa set, “Letters from Fontainhas,” which consists of the films “Ossos” (1997), “In Vanda’s Room” (2000) and “Colossal Youth” (2006), will be available at Four Star Video Heaven. This is probably the most anticipated home video release of the year, and for damn good reason: by all accounts, Costa is among the most important artists working today. Enjoy the spareness, the stillness, the desperation. Here’s a link to the New Yorker’s Richard Brody’s review of the entire set. Can’t wait to tear through these when I return to Madison.

Also, be sure to check out Kenneth Burns’ positive—and autobiographical—review of “Greenberg” in this week’s issue of the Isthmus.

Alright dear reader, I oughta get while the gettin’s good. I’ll see you a week from Monday. Don’t you go and cut your hair.

Quotes of quotes of…, 3/22

March 22, 2010

The final paragraph of J. Hoberman’s review of Douglas Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” (1956), originally published in the October 27, 1987 issue of the Village Voice:

Written on the Wind is not simply epic trash but meta-trash. As the pulp poetry of the title suggests, it’s about the vanity of trash, set in a world Sirk finds poignantly innocent. (There’s a wonderful, if belated, gag that no one is quite sure exactly where Iran is.) This is the land of simulacrum, a hall of mirrors in which the reflection of an image substitutes for the image itself. Malone disposes of both male Hadleys (freeing Hudson to possess the film’s only possible mother, which is to say, Bacall) and sentences herself to eternal sexual frustration. She’s left to fondle her father’s oil-rig dildo, the image of the dead patriarch smiling benignly from above, as Hudson and Bacall make their escape. The last shot is of a black servant closing the gate; you expect him to roll up the lawn and strike the set.

All-aboard the “Greenberg” hype-train

March 17, 2010

The weather’s even sweller than it was yesterday, so I’ll keep this post nice and concise. (Besides, don’t you guys have some day-drinking to get to?)

Don’t let the last name fool you: I’m part-Irish, but I ain’t that Irish. Nevertheless, I’ve had my mind on “green” subjects as of late.

In this week’s Village Voice, J. Hoberman reviewed Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” which, as you might recall, I’m quite anxious to see when it opens at Sundance Cinemas on 3/26. Jim—if he doesn’t mind me calling him that—seems to dig the film quite a bit, writing more effusively about it than did the New Yorker’s David Denby (whose review was unmistakably positive) earlier this week. The suspense, lads and lasses, is beginning to kill me. Now who wants to go read excerpts from Joyce on the Terrace?

Distant voices

March 3, 2010

Two things worth checking out in this week’s issue of the Village Voice:

1. J. Hoberman is back from hiatus and has written about Tim Burton’s soon-to-be-released-in-3D interpretation of “Alice in Wonderland.” I guess you’ll have to let me know how that one turns out.

2. Melissa Anderson interviews Catherine Breillat, who, as is her shtick, says some head-scratching stuff. Exhibit A:

In [“Bluebeard”], the consequences are dire for him, not for her. In the past, we’ve had stories like Eve, who takes the apple of knowledge and tempts Adam to bite into it. So she’s the one who’s guilty—she’s responsible. Here, it’s he who’s responsible. He’s the one who holds the tiny key out to her. As a very young girl, I was drawn to the image of the [murdered] wives hanging in the room—I love this image of the eternally fresh blood that was like a mirror under them. That, to me, is a vision of the eternity of women.

But not everything Breillat says is so morbid; indeed, some of it is sort of… heartwarming. Exhibit B:

[My sister and I are] very close in age, separated by only 13 months, so we always loved each other, but we also hated each other passionately. My sister never wanted me to deal with the subject of sisters in my films, and I respected that up until Fat Girl. And though she didn’t see the film, it made her furious with me, and we had a rupture as a result. When it came time to make Bluebeard, I figured I didn’t have to pull any punches and I could kill her off, since we weren’t on speaking terms anyway. [Laughs.] But she saw the film, and, oddly enough, we’ve reconciled.

The power of cinema, etc., etc.

Anticipating cruelty

December 30, 2009

Perhaps this won’t mean much to those of you who aren’t, like yours truly, a dork for film criticism, but nevertheless: This morning the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman and the NY Times’ A.O. Scott weighed in on the latest film by Austrian director/stoic moralist Michael Haneke, the Palme d’Or-winning “The White Ribbon,” which is, as I mentioned yesterday, opening this afternoon at Manhattan’s Film Forum.

“The White Ribbon” is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, leading me to believe that it might make its way to Madison sometime within the next few months. I’m not hyping this film because of its Cannes-y credentials (those mean very little) or because I think Haneke is one of the most important artists currently working in the medium (I don’t); rather, my hope is that Madison audiences will get serious about demanding the opportunity to watch internationally renowned films on big silver screens in the capitol of the Badger State.

(Parenthetical P.S.: Hoberman is taking two months leave from writing for the Voice. Kind of a bummer. He’s one of my favorite writers and definitely a hero of mine as far as film critics are concerned. The next two months will give us ample opportunity to dig his reviews from the past decade, most of which can be accessed through Metacritic. It’s been a real pleasure devouring his work while researching my “favorite films of the 00s” list.)