Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Top 100 #55: Take Shelter

As I look back on last year's films, I can't help but re arrange my top 10. The best film of last year and one of the best of the decade did not cloak itself in a stunt drivers mask while Riz Ortolani's Oh My Love played in the background. Nor did it arrive on a motorcycle with a mohawk. It crept up in a subtle way that went unnoticed. Revealing more and more upon each subsequent viewing. That film is Take Shelter.

Jeff Nichols blasted his way into the independent scene in 2007 with Shotgun Stories and we've been digging out the bullet shrapnel ever since. In it, we were treated to a carefully controlled performance by Michael Shannon. The "Bug" man the William Friedkin help bring into light. Since, Shannon has, . 2011 saw Shannon team up with Nichols' second picture, Take Shelter, a horror film in which the monster is a gentle, caring father and husband. The only villian being his psyche and paranoia.

Shannon has climbed to the ranks of actors and just may be the most gifted actor working today. We clearly see the sickness progressively getting worse as it takes over him. But his argument and performance are so convincing, maybe we are all wrong. His performance comes to a crescendo in a key scene where he announces his suspicions of the storm to the entire town. In this scene, he gets into a physical fight with his friend in construction and makes a spectacle of himself in front of the whole town. However, his wife is not embarrassed. She instead comforts him, their daughter, and they quietly exit. It is this scene that puts this movie on a whole other playing field. In the wrong movie, he would become a threat to his family. Maybe even hurt them, like Jack Torrence would. Curtis doesn't at all. He deems his purpose as a provided and supporter of his family. No sickness or paranoia will drive him away from that.

Nichols advised us to Take Shelter in 2011. Next year he promises to kick our collective faces in the Mud.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Roll Call: November

Kill List (2011, Ben Wheatley) (B-)
2016: Obama's America (2012, ) (D)
Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle) (A+)*
Cloud Atlas (2012, The Wachowski Brothers, Tom Tykwer) (A+)
La Haine (1995, Matthew Kassovitz) (A-)
Skyfall (2012, Sam Mendes) (A+)
Flight (2012, Robert Zemeckis) (B)
Lincoln (2012, Steven Spielberg) (B)
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011, Rupert Wyatt) (A)
In the Mood For Love (2000, Wong Kar-Wai) (A)
Reservoir Dogs (1992, Quentin Tarantino) (B)*
Born On the Fourth of July (1989, Oliver Stone (A+)*
Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa) (A+)
Mishima: A Life In Chapters (1985, Paul Schrader) (B+)
Silver Linings Playbook (2012, David O. Russell) (B-)
Heaven's Gate (1980, Michael Cimino) (A-)
Gimme Shelter (1970, Albert & David Maysles) (A)
Grey Gardens (1976, Albert & David Maysles) (A)

Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace (2012, D.T. Max) (B-)
Train Dreams (2011, Denis Johnson) (A)
Good Omens (1990, Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett) (still reading)

* films previously seen


The Bond franchise from the very start has been a symbol of masculinity. What it means to be a man. The Aston Martins, martinis, Walther PPK and suave way of life all contribute to the finished product. His reward?  Beautiful women. Bond girls, if you will. Ready to throw themselves upon him.

All of this came to a head in Casino Royale. The film that introduced Daniel Craig as James Bond. Gone were the high tech gadgets and in were the story driven elements. Things were meaner and leaner. There is a scene where Bond is tied up and ready to be tortured by the villian. What does he do? He tells the villian "to the right, the right! Now the whole world's gonna know you died scratching my balls."

A key scene in Skyfall is not an action set piece. It is a scene where we find Bond once in again in a chair. Only this time he is meeting the villian, Silva,  for the first time. What does Silva do? He hits on Bond. Not only does he threaten him by this sexual attempt, he threatens the whole masculine ideal. This act instantly identifies Silva as the villian. He is not only threatening England, but manliness as a concept. Bond returns the serve and implies it may not be his first time. Silva decides to stop emasculating Bond after this scene and go after his true weakness- his relationship with M.