Rating with Ears

Mar 20

Films of 2014, #51: Inside Llewyn Davis (Coen, 2013)

The Coen Brothers first film since True Grit breaks their formula of putting out a drama followed by a comedy and shows that maybe the brothers should put out more dramas, as they continue to put out captivating films as shown with Inside Llewyn Davis. The story follows a folk singer who’s struggling at everything from his relationship with his former girlfriend (Carey Mulligan) to finding a place to live to getting his music to an audience. There’s a kind of perfection to lead actor Oscar Issac (Drive) as the title character, a man who keeps trying and failing over and over again. You shouldn’t care about this guy or his music, but you do. There’s nothing great about his music, it’s very good, but what makes it stand out is the heart that goes into it. Inside Llewyn Davis gives us another fantastic Cohen Brothers film that’s perfectly shot, thanks of cinematographer Bruno Debonnel. There’s some great acting all around, especially by John Goodman.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Mar 17

Films of 2014, #50: Autumn Sonata (Bergman, 1978)

The only pairing of director Ingmar Bergman and actress Ingrid Bergman is a the story of a mother and daughter who meet after not saying a word for seven years. Ingrid gives her final performance as a concert pianist who’s failed as a mother. Her encounter with her daughter brings up plenty of emotions and past secrets to the surface. Autumn Sonata could have used little help in the pacing, as it drags along at times. Overall, it’s a solid film and nice final role for Ingrid Bergman.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Mar 14

“When men display Amos’ brand of unpredictable, reckless ambition, we call them geniuses. Think of Jack White, or how very strange Radiohead’s Kid A sounded when it was first released but how enthusiastically that strangeness was greeted. Look outside of music, too, at how we adore the formal experimentation and/or self-indulgence of David Foster Wallace, or Charlie Kaufman, or Community creator Dan Harmon. Spike Jonze just got an Oscar for writing about his imaginary girlfriend! For a guy, doing strange things with form and pulling up bizarre visions from the core of his own personal torment is proof that he’s a capital-A Artist. But we scarcely mention it when we talk (or don’t talk) about Amos. I hate to pull a “because the patriarchy” here, but I can think of no other reason why so many people have worked, so hard, to avoid engaging with her work — or why they so often do it by way of trivializing Amos herself. When a woman claims the freedom to experiment that’s necessary to approach “genius” territory — the freedom to disregard or flaunt expectations, to alienate people, to fall flat on her face, to produce something that it might take more than one or two casual listens to penetrate — she’s grabbing at a traditionally male prerogative. When that happens, rather than admitting that a woman might intentionally release unusual work because she’s got some new ideas, most of us decide that she’s letting weird stuff leak out by accident, instead of applauding her sense of purpose.” —

Where Would Music Be Without Tori Amos

You really need to go read this thing Sady Doyle wrote about Tori Amos whether you like Tori Amos or not.

(via perpetua)

(via perpetua)

Mar 13

“The comedy Horrible Bosses takes Spacey back to the general terrain of Swimming With Sharks, but to compare the two performances is to compare a master class demonstration of stylized comedic nastiness to an experience akin to listening to a mean neighbor yelling over the fence that he’s going to poison your dog. Spacey isn’t really even expected to act in it; he’s there as a piece of stunt casting, in the same way that Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell are as the other horrible bosses, or the way that Robert De Niro is stunt-cast in the Meet The Parents movies. The difference is that De Niro is cast as a grumpy dad because it’s supposed to be funny that the star of Mean Streets and Taxi Driver and Raging Bull could ever be seen as such a thing. Spacey is cast as a boss from hell because it seems funny that he ever could have tried to be seen as anything else.” — This Kevin Spacey career overview by Phil Dyess-Nugent for The AV Club is pretty great.

Films of 2014, #49: Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, 1970)

Made in 1970, Antonioni’s 2nd film in the English language takes a look at the counterculture through the eyes of a couple that run off into the desert. It’s a dated film, parts have dated well and others not so much. There’s great music from The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Pink Floyd, Roy Orbison and The Rolling Stones. These songs are used thoughtfully and fit in quite well with the story. But everything else falls flat. The main couple are lifeless, and the rest of the characters are even flatter. Antonioni does some good cinematography, but the film doesn’t make much sense. And the moments that do add up are too simple minded, and overbloated (or explosive) to be enjoyable or entertaining.

Rating: 5 out of 10.

Mar 12

Films of 2014, #48: Dallas Buyers Club (Vallee, 2013)

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I finally got around to watching Dallas Buyers Club after much internal debate from reading all the internet debate about how good/bad this was. Yes, McConaughy gives a really good performance. Of course, he won the Oscar, as his role has “Oscar bait” written all over it. And Jared Leto won for the same reasons.

McConaughy looks beyond ill here, he’s damn near close to dead most of the time, and it’s mildly uncomfortable. His character, a straight man who end up getting AIDS and stops at nothing to try and find a cure. It’s a “daring” performance physically, but emotionally, it’s kinda sloppy. This is a blessing and a curse. He’s a homophobic asshole who ends up becoming friends with a transsexual and also helping slews of gay men with AIDS. Yes, this is done for his own selfish reasons of getting more money, but there’s plenty of moments where McConaughy plays the role with enough conviction to be compelling.

It’s almost two hours long, but even then it’s still too long. All the points that this made could have been hit on in 90 minutes. Instead there’s plenty of little scenes here and there that could have been cut. The film goes for an organic feel but it ends up being bloated and overly emotional at times when it should have backed off. It’s a great story, and there’s some great acting. But there’s too many preachy moments that seem odd coming from a film that’s trying so hard to be directly in the moment and realistic. Instead some moments come off as too melodramatic. All these issues could have been solved by some simple editing.

Dallas Buyers Club is still a very nice movie that I’m glad to have seen, and should be seen by people just to get an idea of the AIDS crisis was like back then. Uneven, passionate, emotional, overdone and overacted Dallas Buyers Club doesn’t have the markings of a great movie, which is sad given the great story.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Mar 10

True Detective‘s conception of storytelling as an escape from the truth extends beyond religion. The show isn’t so much anti-religion as anti-self-delusion, of which religion is only one manifestation. When you think about it, there really isn’t a whole lot of difference between Christianity and the Yellow King mythos and Rust’s nihilism — they’re all stories that characters told themselves to give meaning to their lives, and they’re all ultimately destructive and delusional. Life isn’t defined by a cross or a devil net, but nor is it entirely meaningless. In the end, Rust’s nihilism softens into what we might call classic existentialism, the idea that we give our own lives meaning. Just like everyone else in the show, nihilism is a story he’s been telling himself.

This is why anyone who wants to argue that Rust’s near-death revelation was somehow about “finding God” or any such thing is entirely missing the point — it’s not like he’s been converted to the idea that hey, everything’s great after all! It’s more that, like Willard meeting Kurtz, he’s seen the extreme of where his nihilist philosophy can lead, and recoiled from it. And beneath that darkness, he saw something warmer. He’s been on a death trip for decades, but at the last moment he found a reason to live, the thing he’s been seeking all these years.

” — From Tom Hawking’s Flavorwire article, "Rust Cohle, Jesus, and God: What ‘True Detective’ is Really Saying about Religion".

Films of 2014, #47: Blue Is The Warmest Color (Kechiche, 2013)

This romantic film about a lesbian couple that go through the usual ups and downs of a relationship works on every level and ends up being a very honest film that doesn’t shy away from anything. Yes, there’s some explicit sex scenes here, but these scenes are just another part of the overall story of this couple and the scenes help give a the viewer a deeper understanding of their relationship. We see all the other goings on in their relationship, from their getting together for the first time, to going to gay bar, to jealousy and separation, so it’s only natural that we see the most intimate part of their relationship as well.

Yes, the film is about two women. And there’s the usual questions of sexuality, coming out, questioning, ect. ect. But, Blue Is The Warmest Color cannot be classified as a gay film. The story is universal, and it never makes too big a deal of sexuality. The film is three hours long, but it’s rare to come across a movie that’s so organic and natural.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Mar 05

Top 10 films of 2013

10. Nebraska

9. Spring Breakers

8. 12 Years a Slave

7. All Is Lost

6. To The Wonder

5. Blue is The Warmest Color

4. Room 237

3. Only God Forgives

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

1. Her

Films of 2014, #46: Cape Fear (Thompson, 1962)

I had only seen Scorsese’s 1991 remake of Cape Fear, and while I liked that movie, it seemed to be missing something…

Now that I’ve seen the original I know now that Scorsese’s remake was missing almost everything that made this 1962 film so great. Robert Mitchum gives one of his greatest roles as Max Cady, he’s a creepy fuck and NO ONE does creepy fuck like Mitchum. (Sorry De Niro)

The good guy is Atticus Finch himself, Gregory Peck. But his character doesn’t seem as fully formed as I would want, but you end up sympathizing with him anyways, and it makes for a powerful ending. Peck plays a lawyer who gets hunted down and stalked by Mitchum. There’s suspense all over, which is rare for films this old.

But the thing that really made Cape Fear stand out was how frank everything was. Time and time again, Cady references how much he would love to be sexually involved with either his wife or daughter. It’s still enough to make your stomach churn today.

Rating: 8 out of 10.