Monthly Archives: August 2011

THE HEDGEHOG

Nobody quite does the dark humor of miserable, quasi-profound youth like the French and Mona Achache’s The Hedgehog, an adaptation of the beloved book, is no exception. 11-year-old Paloma (a revelatory Garance Le Guillermic) plans to kill herself on her 12th birthday, but in the meantime spends her days and nights documenting “life in the fish bowl” (that of her bourgeois family) with her hi-8 video camera. Drawn unexpectedly to Renee Michel (Josiane Bolasko), the superintendent of the apartment building, gruff on the outside, soft and kind-hearted just beneath the surface, Paloma finds a new lease on life. Similarly, Renee is drawn to Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa), a mysterious and well-read Japanese man who has recently moved into the building. The journeys of self-discovery and mutual discovery between these three had me breathless and emotionally blind-sided by the end.

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BELLFLOWER

Writer-director-producer-co-editor-star Evan Glodell’s Bellflower is my favorite film of the year for several reasons – besides inventing his own grainy, rough-cut, dirt & smudge-specked visual style from scratch in order to tell the story of two Southern California pals, Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who are building a Mad Max-inspired vehicle to prepare for the (inevitable?) apocalypse (he built the digital camera he shot the film with using Russian lenses and spare parts; he built the Medusa car that the characters create as their weapon of mass destruction), Glodell also manages to weave together an emotionally stunning tapestry that renders visually just how soul-crushingly, apocalyptically devastating a serious breakup can feel like. Jessie Wiseman is a revelation as Milly, the thick-thin (and thick-skinned) barfly and daredevil turned femme fatale who wins and breaks Woodrow’s heart. If one of the achievements of a great film can be that it makes the personal universal then with his feature debut, Glodell has overwhelming success. No film I saw in 2011 matched Glodell’s for sheer impact – on every level.

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GLORY (1989)

It’s a white man’s world – or so they say. Indeed, in Edward Zwick’s Glory (1989), the fight for black freedom during the Civil War is seen mostly, inexplicably, through the eyes of Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the son of abolitionists, who led the first all black volunteer company in the Union against the Confederacy. However, the truly characters are those black men whose perspective the story should’ve been told from. We get to know a few of them, but the film is hardly from their point of view. Of course, this issue of perspective – of a white lead in a black story – was one of controversy upon the film’s release.

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