The Moviegoer: A Dark Shade of Grey

Initial reaction to The Grey (Carnahan, 2012) was filled with pleasant critical surprise due to a compelling subtext supplementing its survival action thrills. This subtext has been described by some critics as “existential” and so -- however much that word may be bandied about these days -- I was interested in the film. To be sure, "existential” is an apt term to describe much of the film’s philosophical discourse. Its existential themes are mostly evident in the narratives bookends: The Grey be … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: Noticing "The Mill and the Cross"

Lech Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross (2011) is unique in that it is not “based” (in the loose way the word tends to be used these days) on Pieter Bruegel’s painting, The Procession to Calvary. Rather, the Polish film invites us to step inside this great work of art at the guidance of the mind of its artist (or, at least, one critic's assessment of that artist). The painting’s images come to life as Bruegel (played by Rutger Hauer) is sketching them, explaining the “web” he is weaving. And at th … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: What's Oscar Nostalgic For?

After finally seeing The Artist (Hazanavicius, 2011), I admit that my first thought was “that’s the frontrunner for 2011’s best film?” I feel sorry for Hazanavicius’ film in a way. Perhaps if it had not been saddled with so much buzz, expectation, and praise, I could have appreciated the film for what it was: a charming but flawed work that doesn’t take anything too seriously. Filled with nostalgia for silent films, The Artist has plenty of pleasant moments and wonderful images. But, for most of … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: The Girl Who Played with Boundaries

Toward the end of David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is lured back into suspected serial killer Martin Vanger’s home after he had been sneaking around looking for evidence to prove Martin’s guilt. Mikael knows that he probably shouldn’t have acquiesced to Martin’s invitation, but he did anyway. Moments after being lured into Vanger’s confines, Mikael is bound and on the verge of being brutally violated. There is a moment of to … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Young Adult" or Monster?

In Young Adult, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody reunite for the first time since Juno to portray a woman almost as “monstrous” as Aileen Wuornos. But instead of a former prostitute turned serial killer, Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary: a 30-something divorcee who is perpetually stuck in adolescence, living the good life of avoiding significant responsibilities. And instead of disturbing drama, Charlize Theron fills this role with sinister laughs. While too obvious at times, Rei … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Of Gods and Men" (Beauvois, 2011)

If there is one film that I would recommend this year leading up to Christmas, it’s unquestionably Of Gods and Men. Released earlier this year, Beauvois’ film is a revelation for both the believer and the unbeliever, and I am grateful to have not seen it until the week before Christmas. In the midst of the loud consumerism that often envelops and undercuts the Christological importance of what we celebrate on December 25th, Xavier Beauvois’ film is a quiet meditation on what it means to be a fait … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "The Descendants" and the Search for Stewardship

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Looking back, the most annoying scene from the preview for The Descendants may have embodied what, for me, made Payne’s film so underwhelming. The trailer’s most memorable scene is when Matt King’s (George Clooney) father-in-law, Scott Thorson (Robert Forster), announces to family friend tag-a-long Sid (Nick Krause), “I’m going to punch you,” and then follows through. Which is to say: The film’s comedic elements felt contriv … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (Herzog, 2011)

Each week in The Moviegoer, Nick Olson examines new and upcoming films.Have you ever wondered -- dreamed -- about what prehistoric humanity was like? Our popular culture has had plenty of imaginative representations of the Paleolithic man, be it Fred Flintstone or, more recently, Year One. In most cases, the running joke is the doltish ineptitude of the Neanderthals in comparison to evolved modern man (i.e., “so easy a caveman can do it”). But in acclaimed filmmaker Werner Herzog’s latest breat … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (Durkin, 2011)

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is profoundly disoriented. In fact, you might say that she is no longer Martha. Her psyche is fractured because the foundations which have constituted her identity have been shaken. Martha is struggling to come to grips with herself, with modern bourgeois society, and with all that she endured after escaping a cult. Her disorientation stems from being enticed and then manipulated for nearly two years. And this is the nature of evil which is embodied by Patrick (John … [Read more...]

The Moviegoer: The Rum Diary (Robinson, 2011)

As far as whimsy goes, Bruce Robinson’s film adaptation of The Rum Diary succeeds intermittently, almost in spite of the film's protracted duration. But while Depp and company -- especially Giovanni Ribisi’s drunken mess of a character -- provide some entertaining scenes, the narrative as a whole feels as incoherent as Moburg (Ribisi). Ultimately, the film's disjointed narrative is too disorienting for us to take seriously its more sobering aims.Paul Kemp (Depp) is a nomadic journalist looking … [Read more...]