Review: Good Time


 

“Don’t be confused, it is just going to make it worse for me.”

This might be the line that best sums up Good Time, a high stress ultra-stylized sprint through the nether regions and institutions of New York City at night. The picture is shot in gloriously frenetic close-ups imbued with a unique pulse. A rhythm that builds its own kind of character-based mood. Kaleidoscopic colours, and film grain rendered via capture on analogue stock, hold up magnificently even when projected digitally. But sit close to the screen at your own risk.

With the exception of the opening and closing scenes, and a brief breather when two characters sit down on the couch and watch a few minutes of COPS on television, things are brilliantly dense in the handling of urgent and fucked up situations. There are layers upon layers (physically echoed in the wardrobe of the lead character) of things happening at any given moment in the frame. And these are happening at speed. Characters talk (and shout) over top of one another, and yet the exquisite sound design and superbly executed camera work never leave the audience behind.

The soul of the picture is the knotty relationship between two brothers. Constantine ‘Connie’ Nikas is wholly inhabited by Robert Pattinson; a performance brimming with surprises. Pattinson’s recent run of work has demonstrated many talents that have been set free after the actor was freed from the mopey shackles of the Twilight franchise.

Connie is a gifted and clever criminal, at in an improvisational sense, at the street level. With his bipolar girlfriend (a terrifyingly wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh) or his special needs brother, he finds himself surrounded by people who simply cannot keep up with his penchant for being in the moment. His brother Nick is somewhere on the spectrum, mostly deaf, and clearly requires an empathy and structured environment that Connie in incapable of ever providing.

Nick, played wonderfully by Ben Safdie, one of the two directors, is introduced in extreme close-up (naturally) in the quiet opening minutes of the film. He is in the office of a social worker who is trying to provide said empathy and structure at the request of his grandmother, who has had it with her grandsons petty criminal activities.

Minutes into the assessment he is forcibly dragged from the corner office by Connie to participate in an ill advised bank robbery to finance a trip and possibly a life out of poverty in Queens. At this point Daniel Lopatin’s (Oneohtrix Point Never) propulsive score kicks in and the chaotic energy of the film really never lets up.

Good Time is the ultimate pop-arthouse show-don’t-tell drama cum thrill ride. Fifty years ago, nobody would be able to follow a movie with so much going on at the same time. Our media processing sensibilities have arrived to this moment when the Safdie Brothers are wrestling editing and film-grammar to the ground – building upon moments from their previous picture, Heaven Knows What). They do so for our viewing pleasure without ever leaving our hearts or minds behind.

Using a combination of actors and real cops, prison guards and even gangsters, Good Time ratchets up the stress over (more or less) an all night odyssey of bad choices. In the tradition of After Hours (or Tchoupitoulas or Night On Earth) the bulk of film takes place over a short span of time, where anything can and will happen. Indeed when you put Jennifer Jason Leigh and Pattinson in a scene sparks o’ crazy fly off the screen. There is a scene in a bail bond office that is destined to be studied for years for its sheer chutzpah and craft.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Anomalisa

When the philosopher says, “Hell is other people,” he, perhaps, means that in trying to figure ourselves out, we are beholden to the reflections and interactions with other people. Or maybe he is talking about the modern customer service experience. In what is sure undoubtedly a high-water mark in animated cinema, Anomalisa is an utterly adult portrait of middle-age loneliness. Anonymous hotel rooms and the myriad awkward social contracts we perform daily with strangers become the grist for intimate, whisper-quiet apocalyptic storytelling. Kaufman is one of the few ‘auteur screenwriters’ working in the United States today, and much like his previous work, the idea of ‘the self’ is intelligently deconstructed by way of bittersweet cinematic creativity.

Absent are the science fiction notions (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and the weird scale (Synecdoche, NY) of his previous work, Anomalisa‘s most unconventional aspect that it is stop-motion animated instead of live action.

The team of animators working for co-director Duke Johnson deliver, on a Kickstarter budget, a film that looks as wonderful as anything from Laika Studios (Coraline, The Box Trolls) while, literally, leaving in the seams on the faces of the puppets untouched. Usually, these are digitally erased in post, but here they are thematically relevant, and left in. The miracle of artifice is miracle enough, and in one of those artistic contradictions, probably enhances the honestly of it.

The story is a beguilingly delicate, often savagely funny man-meets-lady tale that takes place mainly in the most impersonal hotel of the most boring city in North America. Cincinnati: Try the local chili, visit the zoo, slit your wrists. Perhaps the town is not truly that bad, but we get it from the weary perspective of Michael Stone, a married, middle aged man visiting for couple of days to give a lecture based on his how-to book on customer service.

Stone is wearily voiced by versatile actor David Thewlis, perhaps best known to cinema lovers as the young angry street philosopher Johnnie in Mike Leigh’s Naked. The lonely man he plays here here is the straight laced, sold-out, compromised 180 degree inversion Johnnie. Both are still lost souls though. Thewlis can convey ‘drowning in his own murk’ better than pretty much ever actor working today, and here he does it only with his voice.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer #2: The Hateful Eight

In all the James Bond and Star Wars kerfuffle this weekend, we missed the second, more spoiler-heavy trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s forthcoming 70mm Western. It is nothing you do not already know if you have been following the films production (or perhaps have read the screenplay online?) So, here it is in all its cabin-fever glory.

“When you get to hell, tell ’em Daisy sent you.”

Trailer: Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa

Easily one of the cinematic highlights of the year, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson’s animated drama Anomalisa was one of the big sales at this years Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason. The first trailer for the film arrives, and the focus is on ‘big question’ profundity, with a hint of intimacy. The humour of the film is not showcased here, but this is likely due to how little nuance and context you can pack into a short trailer. If you, like me, are deeply affected by the dulcet vocal tones of David Thewlis, then this is a small slice of heaven, as is the film.

My review of the film can be found here.

Suffice it to say, when this starts to platform release on December 30th (if you live in the US or Canada), you might want to clear some space in your calendar.

Cinecast Episode 411 – We Wanna See The Business

Despite seeing nearly 100 films combined at TIFF 2015, Ryan from The Matinee and Kurt indulge Andrew by getting out to the multiplex to see the latest Johnny Depp performance, as James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass. We have a spoiler discussion on that, but needless to say, no one was overly pleased with Andrew for suggesting it. Kurt and Ryan attempt to wrassle TIFF to the ground after 11 days of shared screenings and food. They, in part, hash out the bests, the beasts and the worsts (or in the cast of Love 3D, the wurst) of some of the films on hand.

But wait, there is more.

Ryan and Andrew have a Watch List which includes re-evaluated Spielberg, various Afflecks and a new-ish film starring Matthew Broderick. Hunker down with your favorite blankie, take out your blue contact lenses, and settle in for the show!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

 
Would you like to know more…?

TIFF 2015 Review: Anomalisa

When the philosopher says, “Hell is other people,” he, perhaps, means that in trying to figure ourselves out, we are beholden to the reflections and interactions with other people. Or maybe he is talking about the modern customer service experience. In what is sure undoubtedly a high-water mark in animated cinema, Anomalisa is an utterly adult portrait of middle-age loneliness. Anonymous hotel rooms and the myriad awkward social contracts we perform daily with strangers become the grist for intimate, whisper-quiet apocalyptic storytelling. Kaufman is one of the few ‘auteur screenwriters’ working in the United States today, and much like his previous work, the idea of ‘the self’ is intelligently deconstructed by way of bittersweet cinematic creativity.

Absent are the science fiction notions (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and the weird scale (Synecdoche, NY) of his previous work, Anomalisa‘s most unconventional aspect that it is stop-motion animated instead of live action.

The team of animators working for co-director Duke Johnson deliver, on a Kickstarter budget, a film that looks as wonderful as anything from Laika Studios (Coraline, The Box Trolls) while, literally, leaving in the seams on the faces of the puppets untouched. Usually, these are digitally erased in post, but here they are thematically relevant, and left in. The miracle of artifice is miracle enough, and in one of those artistic contradictions, probably enhances the honestly of it.

The story is a beguilingly delicate, often savagely funny man-meets-lady tale that takes place mainly in the most impersonal hotel of the most boring city in North America. Cincinnati: Try the local chili, visit the zoo, slit your wrists. Perhaps the town is not truly that bad, but we get it from the weary perspective of Michael Stone, a married, middle aged man visiting for couple of days to give a lecture based on his how-to book on customer service.

Stone is wearily voiced by versatile actor David Thewlis, perhaps best known to cinema lovers as the young angry street philosopher Johnnie in Mike Leigh’s Naked. The lonely man he plays here here is the straight laced, sold-out, compromised 180 degree inversion Johnnie. Both are still lost souls though. Thewlis can convey ‘drowning in his own murk’ better than pretty much ever actor working today, and here he does it only with his voice.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Prominently featuring Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson, I’m getting a very delicious Django meets The Thing vibe here. Paranoia, guns, shacks, prisoners, a laundry list of great character actors (Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Gene Jones, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Zoe Bell) and a lot of excellent dialogue. It is oh so easy to be all in for this 70mm shot western.

VIFF 2014 Review: Welcome to Me

VIFFBanner2014

WelcomeToMe

It doesn’t happen often but once in a while, I come across a movie that makes me uncomfortable to watch. Usually they’re horror movies about people physically falling apart (I have an issue with decomposing bodies) but rarely does that feeling of discomfort weed its way into dramas and never mind comedies, but in the case of Welcome to Me, that’s exactly what happened and I loved every single uncomfortable second of it.

Directed by Shira Piven from a script from first time feature film writer Eliot Laurence, Welcome to Me stars Kristen Wiig as Alice Klieg, a borderline personality disorder suffering woman who spends all of her time at home accompanied by the droning sound of her television and endless VHS recordings of Oprah. Alice loves Oprah and when she wins $87 million dollars in the state lottery, she convinces herself that the thing to do is to buy herself a TV show aptly titled “Welcome to Me.” What’s it about? Well, it’s about Alice and all the people she hates and the things that make her tick which turn out to be a wide ranging and often wildly inappropriate. She hires women to play herself in skits from her youth, she records and airs session with her shrink and perhaps most stomach turning, she neuters dogs on television. Yeah, she’s crazy and the network owners who put her on the air only care about the fact that they’re getting paid. A lot.

Welcome to Me is really funny but it’s feel bad funny. Alice is a sad individual and I felt kind of creepy laughing at her antics but they’re just so ridiculous the laughter escapes. More often than not its nervous laughter – how else does one respond to watching a woman with little training perform surgery on her pet on national TV? – but it’s laughter none the less and truth is that Wiig earns that laughter. She’s been working in the fringes of dark comedy for some time but none of her roles have come close to her performance here which is nothing short of spectacular.

Welcome to Me is really funny but don’t be fooled because it also goes to some very, very dark places and provides a fascinating insight into a woman suffering from mental illness and how that affects the people around her.

Yes, it is an occasionally uncomfortable watch and I felt a little dirty laughing at some of Alice’s antics but truth is that I left Welcome to Me with a new appreciation of mental illness and that right there is as good enough a reason to see the movie as any. Lucky for you it’s also super entertaining.

Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg” Trailer

While admittedly not a huge fan of Margot at the Wedding, I’m still willing to give Noah Baumbach the benefit of the doubt after his fantastic turn out (one of the best of the decade actually) with The Squid and the Whale. While this new trailer for Greenberg looks like it still has the angsty, man deals with family and age stuff, it looks like it’s probably a lot lighter and less depressing than Margot; especially with Ben Stiller in the lead – who looks like he’s turning in an actual performance here rather than that of the silliness ilk.

Out of a job and none too interested in finding one, Greenberg agrees to housesit for his younger and more successful brother, thereby getting a free place to stay in Los Angeles. Once settled in, Greenberg sets out to reconnect with his old friend and former bandmate Ivan. But times have changed, and old friends aren’t necessarily still best friends, so Greenberg finds himself spending more and more time instead with his brother’s personal assistant Florence, an aspiring singer and herself something of a lost soul.

Director: Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, Squid & the Whale, Kicking and Screaming)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Rhys Ifans, Juno Temple, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mark Duplass, Dave Franco, Chris Messina
Release: March 12

 

This Week on IFC (Mar. 1 – Mar. 7)

I forgot to do this for last week and who knows how long I’ll keep this up, but for the next seven days here’s a quick weekly guide that highlights some of the great movies playing on the Independent Film Channel (IFC) and The Sundance Channel. Keep in mind that this is not a complete schedule, but rather a quick listing of some films that RowThree endorses (or at least takes an interest in) that will be screening in the next seven days on these channels. Looks like Sundance is sort of showcasing John Cassavetes while IFC highlights a couple of Wes Anderson flicks this week; nice. For specific times and schedules, visit IFC.com and/or The Sundance Channel schedule pages.

IFC logo

SUNDAY:
A Love Song For Bobby Long (fine work from Travolta)
The Legend of 1900
Holy Smoke (Harvey Keitel, Kate Winslet)
Little Fish (Cate Blanchett)

MONDAY:
Story of Women
IFC Short Film Showcase
Chopper (Eric Bana’s first leading role – directed by director of Assassination of Jesse James)

TUESDAY:
Moulin Rouge
Waking Life
Rush (cold, dark and awesome)

WEDNESDAY:
Rabbit-Proof Fence
Coastlines (Timothy Olyphant, Josh Brolin)
The Deep End (Tilda Swinton)
Raging Bull

THURSDAY:
Danny Deckchair
Waiting for Guffman (Christopher Guest)
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

FRIDAY:
Reel Paradise
The Cooler (William H. Macy)
Return of the Living Dead (braaains!)

SATURDAY:
The Winter Guest (Alan Rickman’s directorial debut)
The Baxter
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson’s best?)
Clerks (the film that started it all)
Havoc (Anne Hathaway can act before RGM)


Sundance logo

SUNDAY:
I’m a Cyborg, But That’s O.K.
Binta and the Great Idea (the short that should’ve won the Oscar last year)
Cavite

MONDAY:
Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollack?
Little Odessa

TUESDAY:
A Woman Under the Influence
Marvelous (Michael Shannon)

WEDNESDAY:
Opening Night

THURSDAY:
The Situation
Lemon Sky (Kevin Bacon, Casey Affleck)

FRIDAY:
My Best Friend
Dead Man’s Shoes (Paddy Considine)

SATURDAY:
Nothing but a Man
The Last Hangman (Eddie Marsan, Timothy Spall)