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2003

House of Sand and Fog

dir: Vadim Perelman
[img_assist|nid=998|title=Bleak House|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=420|height=595]
Films with House in the title usually suck. Not only do they suck, but they generally suck very badly. I mentioned this recently in a review of House of 1000 Corpses, one of the dumbest movies to have the word in its title. If you think I’m lying, then allow me to retort: House Party, House on Haunted Hill (the remake), House, Houseguest, Life as a House, Cider House Rules, House of the Dead and who can forget (despite trying repeatedly) Big Momma’s House?

House of Sand and Fog is truly one of the better films with house in its title, but as I’ve shown that’s not saying much. This is an agonising emotional train-wreck of a movie that despite being in slow motion has none of its impact lessened, if anything it makes it even sadder. The characters feel like actual characters, and not caricatures, and are all flawed in their own ways. Perhaps it’s because of those flaws that they seem like real people. Far more attention is paid to issues of character than to plot, which makes for better drama but not necessarily ‘enjoyable’ viewing.

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Seabiscuit

dir: Gary Ross
[img_assist|nid=995|title=America's Phar Lap|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=404|height=408]
It’s a mediocre film masquerading as an Oscarbait ‘prestige’ contender. It’s flawed, obvious, cliché and hackneyed. The actors are mostly outacted by the horse. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t still find it sweet and enjoyable, damn my eyes.

Goddamn me it hurts to admit that. It makes me want to get liver-rupturingly drunk and binge on hard Class A drugs in order to regain my equilibrium after that admission. It wouldn’t change the fact that I genuinely enjoyed the film, despite its shallow nature and emotional manipulativeness. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a pic about horses, seeing as I have a weakness for the ponies. Not so much the gambling aspect, since the indentured servitude that passes for employment in my life doesn’t leave me a whole hell of a lot of money for wasting on beting. But there is just something that appeals to me about horse racing.

Rating:

Barbarian Invasions, The

(Les Invasions Barbares)
dir: Denys Arcand
[img_assist|nid=994|title=Bloody barbarians and their barbaric ways|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=338]
Death is the one universal human experience. I know people usually use
the combination phrase "death and taxes", but I know plenty of people
who have never paid a cent of tax in their entire lives. That includes
both social security slackers and the kind of wealthy fuckers that
could buy and sell your cheap arse. All the same, I can be sure that
they, like everyone else, one day will die. Unless they pay someone
else to do it for them. That fact is something we, depending on our
age and where we are in life, either try to desperately ignore or
embrace.

Rating:

In The Cut

dir: Jane Campion
[img_assist|nid=993|title=Amazing you made it this far|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=297|height=400]
In the Cut is a perfect example of a cinematic bait-and-switch. It pretends to be a conventional murder mystery / thriller, but is something somewhat more complex. It’s a pretty fucking bleak film, with oddles and oddles of subtext, overt text and enough tricks in the cinematography department for fifteen other films. It deliberately and with malice aforethought subverts the generally misogynist slasher genre, dulling it down, taking the scares and the suspense out of it, for the purpose of representing something darker and uglier than just shocking and gruesome death.

Rating:

Dreamers, The

dir: Bernardo Bertolucci
[img_assist|nid=115|title=Un Pie American, Bertolucci style|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=200]
Sure, Bernardo Bertolucci is an acclaimed director. But like every acclaimed director, he has a bunch of stinkers to his credit as well. In such a case, you greet the release of one of his new films thinking less "Great! Another film from a cinematic master!" and more "what have you done for me lately, prick?" And since my answer to him on that topic is "not much, chuckles", it's understandable that I'd have some trepidation walking into this film.

Also curiousity. I haven't liked a Bertolucci film since The Last Emperor. It's not that I've been avoiding his work, I haven't (much to my regret). It's just the only emotions that the films in between then and now inspire in me are boredom or downright irritation. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I outright hated Besieged, Stealing Beauty, Little Buddha and especially The Sheltering Sky. In fact I would go so far as to say my greatest difficulty is in deciding which of those four I hate the most, because they all anger me on different levels and for different reasons.

Rating:

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