Review: The Founder

The evolving nature of the film biopic has recently become quite interesting to me. Insofar as Pablo LarraĆ­n’s Jackie is as much about Theodore H. White’s Life magazine article as it is about the iconic First Lady, so John Lee Hancock’s The Founder is as much about the process of business franchising across the United States in the 1950s as it is about the man who made McDonald’s the corporate empire it is today.

That is not to say that Michael Keaton’s performance as Ray Kroc, nor the delightful duo of John Caroll Lynch and Nick Offerman, who portray the McDonald brothers Mac and Dick (respectively), are not important or excellent. Of course they are. Kroc innovated the franchise model and was the driving force behind nationalizing fast food; for a while he was the richest man in America. The McDonald brothers innovated the process whereby cooking and serving burgers and fries was approached more like an industrial assembly-line than a kitchen; efficiency and repeatabilty are king.

By focusing on the minutiae of moving from a single, fresh-thinking restaurant to a nationwide, and eventually international, chain, Robert D. Seigel’s script elevates The Founder to a story about America as an idea and how that idea is expressed at a certain point in the nation’s history, akin to the way Easy Rider or Ace In The Hole or American Honey are fascinating inquiries into what, exactly is America in the late 1960s, the late 1940s or in the mid 2010s.

Sure, it is simple enough just to lob out a few ‘great cinema’ titles and call it a day, but it also becomes obvious that (particularly because I am Canadian) the very titles I choose from thousands of excellent movies about America, is more a reflection of what I think of the complex toffee-swirl of regions, ideals and flavours that is the United States.

The Founder is told from the perspective of Ray Kroc, the travelling salesman who took the idea of fast food, and brought essentially one restaurant in America to one (or more) restaurant in every town in America. At the outset of the film, in the early 1950s, Kroc is pitching high efficiency milk-shake machines to owners of drive-in restaurants, you know, the kind where the waitresses on roller-skates serve fries, ribs and shakes through the car windows of teenagers.

His smooth sales pitch, road-warrior attitude and collection of disturbingly garish neckties set the stage for the age-old rags to riches story, the one where elbow grease, gumption and a wee bit of luck realize the untapped potential of the individual. The rosy rural cinematography by John Schwartzman, who shot Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, and will soon be shooting Star Wars Episode IX, and the generic yet oddly satisfying soundtrack, courtesy Carter Burwell, both underscore the familiar nature of this story. Surprisingly, the execution is 180 degrees from any semblance of the direction of the movie.

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Cinecast Episode 427 – Stretching the Bubblegum

Was it the weather or is it the shitty inconvenient way films are released in theaters these days? Or does it depend on your geography or disposition? Or a little bit of everything? In short, we didn’t get to the “main releases” (of boats in storms or feminist westerns) this week and instead opted for some VOD experimentation with Vincent Cassell in Partisan. A solid film with problems is the verdict. The Watch List is fairly eclectic this week but a whole lotta witchin’ going on. From Winona Ryder to Vin Diesel, we cover the gamut. Andrew and Kurt also spend some time in the kitchen cooking up some spaghetti westerns before heading to Southeast Asia for a thriller and some kung-fu. Like a snake in the eagle’s shadow, there is no escape for the good the bad or the ugly; there most certainly will be blood inside Llewyn Davis.

#sorrynotsorry

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

 

 
 

partisan-cinecast

 
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Movies We Watched

Sometimes we watch stuff that we want to talk just a little bit about, not a full review worth. These are those films. If any of the films reviewed are available on Netflix Instant Watch (US or Canada) or HuluPlus (US only), we’ll note that by putting a direct link below the capsule.

There Will Be Blood

2007 USA. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Dylan Freasier, Ciaran Hinds.

A beautiful looking but otherwise empty movie experience that has nothing much to say about anything, and this, irrespective of the glowing praise by the likes of Tarantino. Everything goes down just as one would expect, without much of a fight, just aimlessly going through the motions of belittling Church and Commerce, and guess what, money doesn’t buy you happiness. I am a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson but frankly the two stars I am giving this have more to do with Johnny Greenwood’s killer score and Daniel Day-Lewis’ grizzled performance. Everything else is as plain as the desert landscape this story is set against. Scholarly papers have been written about the choice use of camp in the final scene, to me it still just feels like a movie desperate to do something, anything to seem special.
-ROT

A Separation

2011 Iran. Director: Asghar Farhadi. Starring: Leila Hatami, Kimia Hosseini, Merila Zarei.

Ego. Shame. Fear. Guilt. All are underscored here insofar as problems can spiral out of control when people push each other to the limit. Even moreso, A Separation shows the true ineffectualness of any bureaucratic legal body to sort out problems that are best suited to dramatization. Thus, we are armed with the God’s Eye view, and A SEPARATION appeals to logic, empathy, and yes, judgement. It’s the Iranian version of THE SWEET HEREAFTER, in its own way, and damn if that isn’t a compliment of the highest order. I had a plethora of reactions to the film and all of them, I believe, were earned. That is to say: the film doesn’t ‘cheat’ (sorry for opening a can of worms) by going all Lars Von Trier with its plot points. And that ending is perfect.
-KURT

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Who Will Be The Next Kubrick?

There was only one Stanley Kubrick, a filmmaker who combined philosophy, virtuouso filmmaking and an icy, precise look at humanity and its foibles. Zoom-ins, steadicam shots work, and operatic use of music were the tools of his auteur brand of cinema. While there are certainly a few modern films out there films are referred to as Kubrickian, it is a significantly smaller number than those described as Hitchcockian or Spielbergian. Simply put, Kubrick was hard to even imitate, let alone emulate, or push forward his particular style and type of filmmaking. But cinema evolves by younger filmmakers taking large chunks (wholesale) from filmmaking legends; like any art or science (and film seems to be a curious hybrid of both.) If Quentin Tarantino is the neo-Scorcese, Brian DePalma was the neo-Hitchcock (wither DePalma lately?), and Guy Ritchie was (up until he went all block-buster-y with the more generic Sherlock Holmes) a sort of neo-Tarantino., then here are five directors who have made a film that can easily be described as Kubrickian, enough to position them (in my mind anyway) as neo-Kubrick hopefuls.

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Cinecast Episode 188 – Wind and Leaves and Avid Farts

 
 
After a Halloween hiatus, the boys are back with quite the metric tonne of movie mutterings. First up is a recap of the Flyway Film Festival and all the goings on with cheese curds and Delayed onset stress disorders. Despite a lack of worthy wide releases, ’tis the season for horror miscellany and AMC has given a real doozy in the way of the zombie genre with “The Walking Dead.” We also cover a fair amount of foreign fare (Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, Britain’s Eden Lake and the infamous A Serbian Film) as well as some of the classics (The Shining, The Exorcist, Something Wicked This Way Comes) and the proverbial much, much more. Atmosphere is certainly the focus of the conversation.

With the North American bow of the final chapter in the Millennium (“The Girl Who…” ) Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, did hit the cinema in MN, and Andrew takes a step back and puts the third film in the context of the trilogy as a whole. There is a lengthy tangent about the David Fincher remake and what should could be brought to the table and the whole ‘too soon’ aspect of foreign language do-overs expect Let The Right One in and Ils to make the conversation. Also, some Doc talk and Jack Rebney goodness from the Winnebago Man Q&A here in Toronto following its commercial cinema release and a wee bit more on Catfish. From content to delivery, Kurt offers his virgin experiences with Netflix in Canada, and everyone has a go at hashing out the Canadian bandwidth wars on the horizon due to the services ‘streaming only’ mandate in the Great White North. We get a quick sneak review of the upcoming Tony Scott film, Unstoppable and quality DVD releases this week are not hard to come by. While it is a forehead slapping moment that we forgot to talk about The Larry Sanders Show complete collection on DVD, or the Criterion 50% Sale, there is still plenty of DVD goodness out there, even after the scary expensive pre-halloween weekend!

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

 
 

 
 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_188.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_188-alt.mp3

 




 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Some Horror Noodling and Thoughts, post Halloween

 

Having just rewatched both The Exorcist and The Shining within the past couple of weeks, and seeing how both films use some off-the-wall strange editing strategies and cinematography, it certainly had me thinking about populist-art house horror that goes beyond the cheap scares and laughs and attempts to burrow a bit – both on a personal (as every good horror films should) and cinematically (both advancing the genre, and yet also standing a bit alone, high on the mountain, impenetrable to the whims and fads of the genre). Neither film is in a hurry to scare its audience, setting for a long, slow build up to establish geography, emphasize key locations and spend some not-all-that-related-to-plot moments with its characters. Friedkin (and his pair of editors) cut away from possessed Regan right in the middle of her outburst, once even to a domestic scene (I believe) to someone reading a newspaper in the kitchen. Kubrick makes a lot of use of slow zooms, something not all that common in american studio produced cinema (horror or otherwise) but is indeed something Kubrick used a lot, particularly in his film prior to The Shining, Barry Lyndon. Furthermore, Kubrick splits the perspective between possessed Jack and his terrorized family, something perhaps unusual in a stalking-horror movie (really, the last act of The Shining) where the victims generally are unaware of when the killer will pop out. It is strange to see the bathroom sequence (“Heeeerrrrre’s Johnny!”) shown simultaneously from the POV of Jack and the POV of Wendy. It still works, but I digress. Suffice it to say that the slow-burn horror film experience, with a bit of austerity thrown in for good measure is probably my bag of horror filmmaking (no insult to the [Rec]s and the Evil Deads of the genre).

So then I was re-watched There Will Be Blood, which often uses the syntax of a horror film, with all of the mining accidents, the mud and oil functioning as pretty naked allusions for the blood-ties of family and society and the violence therein. Daniel Plainview is the monster in this case, slowly winding his way towards insanity and perhaps in his own mind, an uphill battle against obsolescence as society moves out of the prospecting frontier and into a commercial society (certainly the temporal cut, in the final 20 minutes of the film between 1903’s desert landscape and 1929s verdantly groomed mansion is jarring to say the least.) It was interesting to note that P.T. Anderson also favours some slow zooms. Anderson is usually discussed within the context of similarity to his hero Robert Altman (dare to compare Short Cuts and Magnolia), but there is a Kubrickian remove in There Will Be Blood, that perhaps (a little) tends to have detractors of the film label it shallow or showy, certainly something that was the case with Kubrick’s The Shining, a film that has risen remarkable in stature since its release in 1980, a film so open to interpretation and consideration of its own themes that it has been labelled alternately as the meltdown of the nuclear family in the Carter years (here), or an ironic take on White Man’s Burden and his destruction/usurping of Indian lands and society (here), or my personal favorite (and points for creativity and rock-solid conspiracy-theory-fu!) an admission of guilt for Kubrick filming the faked moon landings concurrently to 2001: A Space Odyssey (mandatory entertainment here and here). But I am digressing again.

Lastly, Brad Anderson’s Session 9 owes a LOT to The Shining, with its huge mental asylum standing in as an overwhelming character, much like The Overlook Hotel. Here we have a mundane collection of jobbers (again, not unlike the Torrence family care-taking task, or for that matter, Donald Sutherland’s church restoration in Don’t Look Now – perhaps another influence on Session 9) sent in to clean out asbestos (perhaps a metaphor for the collective and dangers skeletons in the closet) but dealing with the strange, and hallucinatory evil of a place. Now where Session 9 fails is actually on aesthetics, it being shot at the dawn on HD-Digital filmmaking, everything looks quite ‘VIDEO’ and not in the interesting Michael Mann fashion or the invisible David Fincher mode, but rather rendering their Gothic asylum as a mundane, paint-peeling office building. I felt that the primitive video look was a bit of a deal breaker in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, compared to the more handsome and aggressive cinematography and editing in 28 Weeks Later, but that is another, familiar argument in these parts) Still, watching Peter Mullan (an underrated character actor if there ever was one!) melt down by the stress of his job and his bickering crew is a solid tension builder, but the cross cutting of psychiatric evaluation tapes of a schizophrenic former patient, and strained domestic home-life scenes of Mullan’s young family work like gangbusters in association. And maybe that is the key, some sort of overriding association of the mundane and the supernatural (like say relaxing beach holiday and large man-eating sharks?) that makes a slow-burner, even austere, horror movie click in such a way to make them a heck-of-a-lot more rewatchable than the more manic entries in the field.

Marc’s Top Ten Films of the 2000s

Seeing as how everyone else at Row Three is posting theirs, I may as well include my own top films of the past decade, previously posted at my blog, Subtitle Literate.

10) No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)


There’s no doubt that the Coens’ Cormac McCarthy adaptation is an eloquent, handsomely crafted exploration of corruption and the unstoppable force of human evil. But I found this film to be a little too tidy, its messages a little too clearly decipherable within the tale – almost as if the finished film came with a little tag that read, “Shelve under M for Masterpiece.” This sense of cold calculation is the reason why it’s only number 10 here, but the excellent performances from Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson and, yes, Javier Bardem and its dark, powerful vision at least guaranteed it a spot here somewhere.

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Jonathan’s Films of the Decade

Since everyone else is doing it and I always fall victim to peer pressure, I’ve decided to grace the public with my favorite films of the decade. Knowing the influence that my voice has in the world and on the elite film critic circles, I took this endeavor with the utmost seriousness. In the past months, I quit my job and retreated into complete solitude in order to spend countless hours watching films, scientifically analyzing them, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol to come up with this highly desired list. It is by no means flawless – on any given day, I could produce a much different list depending on my mood – but after careful consideration, I have come up with what I consider to be the definitive eleven films of the past decade. Some may be surprising, some not so surprising, but they are all movies that have stayed with me long after I’ve watched them and movies that after numerous viewings have had the same (if not more) impact on me as the very first time that I watched them. Enjoy.

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Bookmarks for July 9th

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What we’ve been reading – July 9th: