AFI DOCS Highlight Life, Death and Industries Struggling to Survive

The American Film Institute (AFI)—launched by Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to "enrich and nurture the art of film in America"—is probably best known today for its list of the Top 100 American films (issued back in 2007) or its annual list of the year’s best films. But for those of us who live near the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Md., AFI has become one of the great champions of nonfiction filmmaking.Having rebranded its Silverdocs festival a few years ago as AFI DOCS, the institute showc … [Read more...]

The Neon Demon Doesn’t Know When to Quit

A review of The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding RefnRemember Drive, the stylish 2011 film about a stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who falls for a woman whose husband is in prison? Driven by a moody electronic score from composer Cliff Martinez, the 2011 film was moving but was also marked by outbursts of violence that weren’t easy to shake.Refn followed Drive two years later with another project starring Gosling. Provocatively titled Only God Forgives, it again played the Cannes Film F … [Read more...]

Words and Pictures: Let the battle of the arts begin!

Words and Pictures, directed by Fred SchepisiThe flirting begins with a word game, where players go through alternating letters of the alphabet and have to think of five-plus syllable words that start with each letter. He, a top-notch prep school English teacher, has the obvious advantage, but she is a stubborn New Yorker, and their back-and-forth of long words like “anti-egalitarianism” punctuates the dialogue as their relationship builds.If you find that scenario at all adorable or app … [Read more...]

Museum Hours Teach Art and Life

Review of Museum Hours, Directed by Jem CohenMuseum Hours is an illustration of how to appreciate art and the lessons it offers. A Canadian woman named Anne (Mary Margaret O’Hara) finds herself in Austria to attend to a hospitalized cousin who is in a coma. On her initial search for the hospital, Anne enters the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna looking for directions. She finds the answers from the elderly Johann (Bobby Sommer), one of the museum’s security guards. A friendship blossoms as … [Read more...]

To the Wonder Leaves Us Wondering

Review of To the Wonder, Directed by Terrence MalickTerrence Malick’s most recent film vindicates those of us who have disliked his films for many years. As someone who fails to “appreciate” Malick’s work, I have always felt slightly guilty for my apathy towards his films, as if I simply didn’t truly understand the gravity of his movies. But To the Wonder demonstrates a new level of pretension that will turn even some of his fans away, such as our own Christian Hamaker in his review. … [Read more...]

In Texas, Saints in Search of a Better Story

Review of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Directed by David LoweryRead any review of David Lowery’s acclaimed new film Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and you’ll find comparisons of both style (voiceover narration, elliptical editing) and setting (Texas landscapes) to filmmaker Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, Days of Heaven). Malick set both Tree and Heaven largely in the Lone Star state, but Lowery, when asked about what influenced him in writing and directing Saints, never mentions Malick, citing oth … [Read more...]

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints or Sinners

Review of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Directed by David LoweryAin’t Them Bodies Saints is more to be experienced than watched. Taking place in 1970s Texas, the film is a vignette of the Hill Country where simple lives take tragic turns. Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Mara Rooney) are a couple passionately in love with an unexpected child on the way. Bob, however, is a criminal. During a shootout with the police at a farm, Ruth’s bullet finds Patrick Wheeler (Ben Foster). Bob takes … [Read more...]