“Barry Lyndon” and Complete Artistic Transportation

The eighth entry in my series, Stanley Kubrick – A Year of Masterpieces.


Barry Lyndon is one of Stanley Kubrick’s most overlooked films. Cinephiles and casual fans alike are quick to list a dozen other Kubrick films as a favorite before even considering this film – if they even care for it at all. But, if one is to judge by the magnitude of the artistry, Barry Lyndon may be Kubrick’s greatest triumph. His intention with the film is crystal clear: to approach the “period piece” with the respect that it deserves, both in terms of accurate storytelling and through aesthetically appropriate cinematographic techniques. The result is a resounding expression of the power of cinema, as Kubrick positively transports us into the world of Mr. Redmond Barry.

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Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” Expresses Intrigue with Quiet Sexuality

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood, was a bit of a darling at Cannes this year. Coppola took home Best Director at the festival, which was only the second time a woman won the award. The film itself is a peculiar kind of Civil War era drama charged with the flavor of an erotic thriller or mystery. There’s a deep sexuality to the unraveling of the plot, as a single wounded male character navigates a school of isolated and curious women. The result is a tight tale of empowerment and intrigue, presented in a quiet and classical aesthetic.

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“My Cousin Rachel” – a Period Romantic Mystery with Gorgeous Visuals

Roger Michell’s adaptation of the Daphne du Maurier novel My Cousin Rachel peddles in interesting camera work, astonishing visuals, and solid performances, but lacks a thorough command of tone.  The film feels obsessed with the ambiguity of its central romantic mystery, while at the same time laying on the cinematic clues with an unbelievably heavy hand.  There’s fascinating technique in the expression of the mystery and the characters involved in it, but the execution misses often enough to infuse the film with an uneven mood.  This makes it hard to understand when to take the ambiguity seriously and when to embrace the apparent obviousness of it all.

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Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys” is Neo-Noir Black Comedy at its Finest

Fans of the crime comedy genre can rejoice, because we’ve been gifted a new masterpiece.  Shane Black’s The Nice Guys is a fun throwback that sports a fantastic mixture of neo-noir and black comedy.  Like the best examples of the genre, the story unfolds through a central mystery while multiple intriguing characters get roped into the proceedings.  Black’s sensibilities take full advantage of the chemistry between stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, and as a result the film compares favorably to similar movies like The Big Lebowski and Snatch.  Though it may fly under the radar during its theatrical release, it will likely find a cult following once people recognize its high quality and peculiar tone.

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“The VVitch” Capitalizes on the Style of a Period Piece to Spin a Horrifying Yarn of Yesteryear

Robert Eggers’ horror darling from last year’s Sundance Film Festival begins with an unassuming title card in an archaic script: The VVitch – A New-England Folktale. The simplicity of this title belies the overwhelming terror that will unfold over the brisk 90 minute runtime of the film, yet also masterfully portends the ultimate conclusion. Through a studied accumulation of primary source materials, astounding performances from actors young, old, and animal, and a keen directorial eye, Eggers has reached back into yesteryear and delivered a bone-chilling campfire story in the guise of a period piece. Any audience with the patience – and courage – to indulge in his fantasy will be justly rewarded. Continue reading ““The VVitch” Capitalizes on the Style of a Period Piece to Spin a Horrifying Yarn of Yesteryear”

“Hail, Caesar!”: The Zany Slices of an Incomplete Pie

Joel and Ethan Coen have crafted a peculiar ode to old Hollywood in Hail, Caesar! The principal protagonist in the film is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a producer and “fixer” tasked with making sure that everything runs smoothly at Capitol Pictures. He hops from fire to fire, and along the way gives us a haphazard overview of the Hollywood studio system by visiting the sets of different pictures. While different threads of his life entwine together into a coherent story by the end of the film, particular elements fail or succeed largely on the merits of the superb supporting cast of characters. Regardless, moments of hilarity exist in this mish-mash of tone and style, and the worst sin Hail, Caesar! can be accused of is failing to synthesize its zany parts into a cohesive whole.

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