• Wild Tigers I Have Known

    Wild Tigers I Have Known

    Some of my favorite dreams are the ones where I'm floating effortlessly. I don't have them very often.

    I always group Wild Tigers I Have Known and Mysterious Skin together in my memory, even though the latter is far more disturbing. Mostly it's because I watched both on DVD around the same time in the 2000s (the last good decade for filmmaking, whether blockbuster or independent), while experiencing severe depression after a mental breakdown.

    Logan's dorky friend Joey talks with…

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    Throughout this final installment's gargantuan runtime, you can feel the burden of obligation bearing down like the Ring around Frodo's neck. The picture lumbers from one set piece and narrative beat to the next, as Jackson deals with nearly every crucial portion of the novel* under duress. There's simply too much ground to cover for the individual components to be satisfying. The Return of the King falls short of the masterpiece status many have attributed to it on account of…

  • I Dream in Another Language

    I Dream in Another Language

    Absorbing, woefully underseen Mexican drama about the stake organized religion takes to the heart of a blossoming gay romance that lingers for fifty fucking years. Its linguistic premise (the last two speakers of a fading language won't talk to each other) offers a compelling narrative hook, as you don't often see films incorporate the subject matter in a serious way. The best-realized instance of a failure to communicate involves two boys and a girl at the beach. The Native-speaking Isauro…

  • A Naked Boy

    A Naked Boy

    "Why's this guy so glum?" you might ask, when he has visions of a cute boy sans clothing. (There are far worse, albeit probably less perverted, X-Men powers out there.) Turns out, it's the son of a guy who fancied him in high school, whom he rejected. Now that this middle-aged teacher is getting married to some woman, he's stricken with lingering regret. Shoulda made a move when you had the chance, bro.

    None of this explains why he keeps…

  • Concrete Night

    Concrete Night

    One of the best-looking films of the past decade. Its black and white photography, sound design, and strong direction of performances conjure a sensuous, bleak dreamscape. Our teenage protagonist Simo contends with an urban underworld (Helsinki? More like Hellsinki) imparting nothing but bad lessons to its youth. His nihilistic older brother ranks high among the corrupt influences in Simo's life. Concrete Night is less about coming of age than the search for an identity on the part of a naive…

  • Speechless

    Speechless

    Some movies just don't have any energy, no matter how fast or slow they move. Speechless is one of them. Felt twice as long due to its languorous approach, no matter how many shots of bare butts there were. Hinges on a very long flashback featuring a soured love triangle and hushed secrets. This jilted bitch's revenge scheme is almost exactly the same as the terrific opening for Scud's Love Actually... Sucks!, (projecting gay sex recorded via hidden camera in…

  • Die Hard

    Die Hard

    Argyle: "If this is their idea of Christmas, I gotta be here for New Year's!"

    Why didn't the sequel take place on December 31st?

    Always and forever the Mount Everest of action movies made before the advent of CGI. Its screenplay, the finest ever written for the genre, can be praised for "its exactness, its attention to every conceivable detail", as Hans Gruber would say.

    After watching Die Hard hundreds of times since high school, it only now occurred to…

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

    Jackson has a habit of adding conflict to Tolkien's characters' arcs because he deems them insufficiently compelling on their own. Faramir, thoughtful and wise, immediately rejects the Ring, underscoring his distinction from Boromir. Faramir's scenes with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum on the written page are nuanced and intriguing; thus, he "proves his quality" as one of my favorites. Under Jackson's aegis, Faramir is burdened with daddy issues and succumbs to temptation even faster than his brother. Eventually he changes his…

  • Eternal Summer

    Eternal Summer

    Strong beginning that sets up how the main characters met and became best friends in childhood, which continues through high school. Interactions and situations are very relatable. I too underwent an identity crisis after being seduced by an Asian chick. All that kissing and groping just didn't feel right. The melodramatics during their college years are a bit of a letdown in comparison but it's far more subdued than I've seen elsewhere.

    Eternal Summer is a film about how hard…

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

    Peter Jackson's strength lies in the staging of high fantasy tableaux, also called "bringing the book to life" by normies or "mise-en-scène" by cinephiles. He balances attention to detail—a tremendous achievement, thanks to his army of craftsmen—with streamlining the narrative. The Lord of the Rings, though stymied by verses about Elf lore and endless paragraphs describing the landscape's minutia, creates a fictional mythology of unparalleled depth. Other works read like half-conceived shadows in comparison. The Fellowship of the Ring finds…

  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

    The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

    The Hobbit, or the 120 Days of Jackson

    Torture porn, in that it's pornography for Peter Jackson's acolytes, and a miserable experience for everyone else. My grueling slog through this trilogy is over and I feel no sense of relief, simply regret. Like I'd died and gone to digital hell. Laughed a few times at the sheer absurdity of it all. Hollywood's Ring of Power (or if you like, Dragon-sickness) corrupted Jackson, eroding whatever talent he once possessed. Posthuman entertainment…

  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

    The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

    In for a penny, in for a pound.

    If I didn't know any better, I'd assume Peter Jackson hated J.R.R. Tolkien and thought he could improve upon his work. The Desolation of Smaug races through the portions of the book it bothers to include (once again robbing them of their magic and whimsy), to focus on the PJ Formula: dialogue and incident riddled with genre cliches, while every interminable video game action sequence exposes the dark side of cinematic maximalism.…