Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Netflix Files: November 21-27

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) dir. Richard Brooks:
A deserving classic if ever there was one, Richard Brooks and James Poe's excellent adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play about southern discontent is still a remarkable achievement, and a great example of how to transfer a dialogue-driven piece to the screen. The main story may be dramatic, but there are little flashes of humor (the way Maggie goes off about May's "no neck" children is priceless) that add the slightest touches of levity. Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman are expectedly excellent, though the show ultimately belongs to Burl Ives as Big Daddy (who somehow missed out on an Oscar nomination for the performance). Toward the end the story does feel a tad drawn out, and occasionally dialogue circles around issues too long before getting to the point, but overall, time has been kind to the film, and I suspect it will continue to be kind for many decades.

Grade: A-

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) dir. Mike Nichols:
It's no horror movie, but Mike Nichols' stellar debut has to go down as one of the scariest, most intense depictions of a failing marriage ever committed to the silver screen. Adapted from Edward Albee's play and only featuring four characters (and four Oscar-nominated performances, with two winning), Virginia Woolf is something of a bottle movie, though the emotional fireworks prevent it the settings from ever becoming constricting. The performances from Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and George Segal are uniformly magnificent, even if the 2 plus hours of bile-spewing can get exhausting. The wild card is Sandy Dennis as Segal's young wife. It's likely a love or hate performance, and I'm inclined to lean on the hate side. The character is easily the weakest of the four, and by incapacitating her (she gets hammered pretty fast), she feels like the odd woman out. Granted, Segal and Dennis' characters are meant to be be manipulated by Taylor and Burton, but it's a shame the battle between generations ends up becoming 2 vs 1 instead of 2 vs 2. Now that would have been a match up...

Grade: A-

Brick (2005) dir. Rian Johnson:
Splice a hard-boiled noir with a high school drama, and you have Rian Johnson's debut feature. Filled with teenagers who talk in cryptic codes, it's tempting to label Brick as little more than an overblown student film. Thankfully, Johnson's execution sidesteps this label with snappy (but thoughtful) pacing, intriguing characters, and an offbeat score. Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a strong performance as Brendan, and watching his stoic exterior slowly (but never completely) deteriorate is a marvel, even if Johnson's direction sticks more to the surface. At times the whole thing can feel overheated (Brendan's exchanges with a conniving drama student are among the film's weakest links), even with the occasional flashes of deadpan humor, but on the whole this unique take on the mystery and noir genres is an understated ride worth taking.

Grade: B+

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: "Hugo"

A train crash occurs somewhere in the middle of Martin Scorcese's Hugo, and unfortunately, it's the perfect metaphor for the film as a whole. Despite the earnestness of Scorcese's efforts, the end result is a curious and curiously underwhelming film that suffers from a clumsy script and poor pacing. Coupled with the uneven Shutter Island, Hugo is enough to make one wonder if perhaps Scorcese's best days are at last behind him.

Adapted from the novel "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" by Brian Selznik, the film centers around Hugo (Asa Butterfield), an orphan in 1930s Paris who lives in a train station, and becomes entangled in a mystery revolving around a clockwork automaton. The film marks a rare foray into PG territory for Scorcese, but the film holds little for either children or adults to truly enjoy (though I suspect I'm in a tiiiiiiiny minority on this).

Hugo's biggest problem, unfortunately, is one that comes in right at the start: Scorcese and writer John Logan (The Aviator, Gladiator, Sweeney Todd) never properly establish Hugo as a character. Once the lovely opening shot(s) are over and the film moves into its first proper scene, one thing becomes clear: Ben Kingsley's toy store owner isn't the only one who doesn't understand Hugo; we don't understand him either. As Hugo refuses to explain himself, we can't feel anything for him because we have no reason to empathize with him when he withholds information from other characters. Once the film finally gives us Hugo's backstory (Hi, Jude Law!....Bye, Jude Law!), it's too little too late. This has an unfortunate ripple effect throughout the entirety of the film, and scenes that should be magical or moving feel muted. Throw in a pair of completely extraneous dream sequences, and you have a film that feels like it needs two or three (or five) re-writes.

More troubling is how weak the dialogue and character interactions are. There's rarely a moment that has any charm or wit, and the pacing and timing of the dialogue exchanges feels off by a few beats. Worse, there's a handful of characters who are even more poorly-set up than Hugo himself. Sacha Baron Cohen's station manager, a man who spends much of his time trying to catch orphans, always seems to be just, well, there. We never get a proper introduction to him, and yet we're expected to fear him whenever he appears. Even less fortunate are Frances de la Tour and Richard Griffiths as a pair of older merchants at the train station whose attempts at romantic connection are thwarted by de la Tour's yappy dog. No one fares worse, however, than Emily Mortimer, who has precisely two brief, uninformative scenes before showing up at the ending as though she's supposed to mean something. It's roles like these that make Hugo feel like a bloated silent film.

Hugo is meant to be a tribute to some of cinema's very first films (Lumiere, Melies, etc...), but weak dialogue and poor pacing leave the whole thing feeling like a missed opportunity. Scorcese's heart is clearly in the right place, but Scorcese the film enthusiast seems to have taken over Scorcese the director, to hugely detrimental results. Though the second half picks up a little and introduces some legitimately charming scenes, it never amounts to anything substantial or fully satisfying. This may have been a passion project for Scorcese, but ultimately Hugo stands as proof that one's passion for a subject matter can be blinding.

**Oh, and the 3D? Pointless.

***Yes, it's a pretty movie, but just about everything is in shades or orange and blue. Someone show Scorcese this article (link) ASAP.

Grade: C

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: "Like Crazy"

Perhaps a better title for Like Crazy, the Sundance favorite from debut director Drake Doremus, would have been Crazy, Stupid Love, with an extra emphasis on the ‘stupid’ part. Despite Doremus’ earnest efforts as co-writer and director, and the generally solid work from his cast, there’s something rotten at the core of how he treats his characters. What starts as an attempt at an honest and heartfelt examination of young love tested by separation gradually devolves into a classic case of characters being allowed to do whatever they want, as the audience is expected to feel that it’s justified.

After a quick meet-cute between T. A. Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and student Anna (Felicity Jones) in class, the pair very quickly fall head-over-heels for each other. Things are going along just fine, until Anna makes the decision to overstay her student visa for the summer (as opposed to returning to England for two months so it can be renewed). And it's at this very moment when Like Crazy starts its downward spiral. To summarize, this very simple, very stupid decision turns the couple's period of separation from one or two months to one of several years.

Yet Doremus insists on treating his characters as incapable of ever being guilty of anything more than minor transgressions. One could find plausible reasons for Anna’s forsaking of the imposing Stuart, but Jacob’s treatment of his temporary girlfriend (Jennifer Lawrence) is abysmal. That the pair’s love is supposed to be worth all of this only makes the viewing experience more unpleasant. Only in the film’s final scene does Doremus give some hint that Jacob and Anna have changed too much to be compatible once more, but it’s an ambiguous conclusion, and not an effective one at all. Doremus falls into the classic trap of making the film entirely about the central duo’s relationship, meaning that every misstep hurts the film more than it would were there a minimally larger plot.

It’s a shame, because some the performers are trying. Jones and Lawrence are especially effective, the former because she sells her character despite some of things she does, and the latter earns sympathy despite limited screentime. However, it’s probably not a good thing when you have more sympathy for a character with less than 15 minutes of screen time than one of the leads. Which brings us to Mr. Yelchin. Having given a strong performance earlier this year in The Beaver (which also featured Lawrence as a love interest for him), Yelchin disappoints here. Doremus doesn’t make him an interesting figure whatsoever. He’s simply there, little more than a sounding board for Anna’s problems, problems which she brought upon herself. In the end, it’s all not worth caring about. Those who have recently been in a passionate relationship may find something powerful in Doremus’ depiction of troubled love. The rest of us, however, will likely be left indifferent at how the director uses the film to make the statement that when you meet your soul mate, you can get away with almost anything in the name of love.

Grade: C

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: "The Descendants"

Alexander Payne's The Descendants may be set on the lush islands of Hawaii, but the journey that the film takes us on is anything but a vacation. Quite the opposite; the road is pretty rough. But even though the territory that Payne is navigating is generally familiar (one major plot thread requires zero effort to guess its outcome), the journey, even at its leisurely (though never sluggish) pace is worth taking. The film, one of the director's kinder, less bitter projects, is a far cry from Payne's best work, possibly his least interesting, but it is strong enough to warrant a look from casual movie-goers and hardcore cinephiles alike.

Adapted from Kaui Hart Hemmings' novel of the same name, Payne's film centers around Matt King (George Clooney), a father struggling to manage his family after his wife gets injured in a boating accident. In addition to receiving constant trouble from his daughters Alex (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller), Matt has to deal with the revelation that his wife may have had an affair. For all of the drama on the surface, however, The Descendants packs a surprising amount of humor, which helps the somewhat familiar character and story arcs easier to get through.

The biggest obstacle that the film has, familiarity aside, lies in its opening. Rather than establish Matt's character through real interactions with other people, the opening stretch is flooded with his narration while we watch (but don't hear) him sit at his desk, eat lunch, and meet with family members. It's an off-putting way to open the story, especially when the film completely drops the narration after the opening scenes. Consequently, the opening is also where the characters, even the protagonist, are the least interesting, and the film feels the most mundane. Thankfully, once The Descendants trudges through this, the film only gets stronger, even if it never quite makes its mark as anything spectacular.

All in all, this is a showcase for Clooney, whose work here is worth the price of admission. Less concerned with maintaining his movie-star looks and image the past few years, the actor is starting to settle more and more into characters who are less similar to, well, George Clooney. The role of Matt isn't necessarily some radical departure from the slick, suave characters Clooney usually plays, but at the very least, it allows the actor some room to truly distance himself from his star persona, and sell the role based on more than mere charisma. Once he's given more to do than narrate, Clooney is able to actually dig his teeth into the role, and the result is one of the actor's strongest performances to date, despite the role's relatively straightforward characterization. But even though Clooney is the film's biggest asset, the rest of the cast certainly pulls their weight. That is, when they're actually given enough to do. The closest the film has to a major supporting role is Woodley's Alex, Matt's older daughter who tells him about the possible affair. The actress, previously known for TV's The Secret Life of the American Teenager (AKA the show that featured a high profile guest part for an android, er, Bristol Palin) makes quite the leap in quality here. Maybe it's Payne's way of working with his actors, or her strong father-daughter chemistry with Clooney; either way, the film proves that Woodley is capable of much more than teen soap opera-level acting.

Other small roles, filled out by the likes of Beau Bridges (no, not the one with the Oscar; the other one), Matthew Lillard, and Judy Greer, who really ought to be getting larger, more substantial parts at this point in her career, are also handled well. However, the film dwells so little on them that they rarely get a chance to make much of an impression. Payne seems to want to cover quite a few bases, yet still orient the film entirely around Matt's perspective, which hinders his ability to make the whole ensemble (aside from Alex) fully rounded. Then there's Sid (Nick Krause), Alex's older, dopey friend who comes along for the ride for reasons Payne doesn't seem interested in justifying. At first used for solid comedic effect, Payne finally gives the character more to work with in one nicely handled scene opposite Matt. However, once this scene is over, the character is sidelined for the rest of the film, which makes you wonder why they bothered in the first place.

That seems like a lot of issues to take with the film, but rest assured there's still plenty to like here outside of Clooney and Woodley. The film's trickiest obstacle, mixing elements of tragedy, dysfunction, and comedy, is actually pretty remarkable considering the specifics of the plot. Only once does a transition between drama and comedy come off as awkward, and the awkwardness is little more than fleeting. And however familiar the arcs may be, there's no denying that they've at least been executed well. Payne may not have made any revelatory statements about family relationships, but at the very least he's pulled them off with a level of maturity and sincerity that rises above syrupy Hollywood sentimentality. This makes for a good film, but not quite a great one (which it very well could have been). What it all comes down to in the end is that, writing issues aside, is that The Descendants lacks any real surprises. For all that's done well, which is quite a bit, the film's overall impact feels muted because there's nothing outside of the lead performance that feels like anything to write home about. The Descendants represents a nicer, more accessible Alexander Payne, but also a less interesting Alexander Payne.

Grade: B

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Netflix Files: November 7-13

Army of Shadows (1969) dir. Jean-Pierre Melville:
Not officially released in the United States until 2006, this long-withheld gem from French master Jean-Pierre Melville is a highlight, regardless of what year you consider its true release. Documenting (from a fictionalized perspective) the director's experiences in the French resistance, the film is a long and somber look at a group of people under constant threat of sudden death. Beautifully shot and strongly acted, it possess a slightly clinical view of its characters, but don't mistake that for a lack of humanity. Melville keeps his distance to that when moments really need to hit home, they do. Rather than drown us in anguish or suffering, he raises the stakes subtly, culminating in several moments of heart-stopping (though never exploitative) emotional trauma. It's a sobering film to be sure, one that doesn't shy away from the unpleasantness of the war, or the resistance members' actions. It's also quite a brilliant one, and it deserves to be exalted after being kept in the dark for so long. The film's initial release may have been in the 60s, but not for one instant does it feel dated.

Grade: A-/A

Reservoir Dogs (1992) dir. Quentin Tarantino:
I was a little surprised when Reservoir Dogs didn't grab me right off the bat. I generally like or love Tarantino's work, and was taken aback when I wasn't sold immediately. Unfortunately, things didn't improve from there. Though it has all of the trademarks found in his subsequent works, Reservoir Dogs is lacking the sharp, darkly funny, absurd characterization that fills just about everything else he does. So despite all of the talent flooding the ensemble, there just wasn't enough to keep me fully engaged, which is surprising, considering how fond I am of Tarantino's work in general. The structure is fun, but at the end of the day, the characters never felt strong enough to make distinct marks.

Grade: B-

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review: "J. Edgar"

Whatever your opinion on J. Edgar Hoover is - unwavering patriot, paranoid witch-hunter, a bit of both... - the man is undeniably one of the most fascinating figures in American history. With such rich material to mine from, one would think that a film maker like Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for his look at Harvey Milk in Milk) would be able to create a film as fascinating as its subject. Unfortunately, that's not quite the case. Eastwood's directorial career, recently in a bit of a funk, doesn't get the reinvigoration it so desperately needs from J. Edgar. It's not a horrible film, just a terribly simple and unremarkable one.

Of any film this fall, J. Edgar certainly screams "Oscar bait" the loudest. Biopic of famous American figure? Check. Period piece? Check. Simplistic framing device? Check. Old age makeup, some of it absolutely awful (poor Armie Hammer)? Check. Judi Dench? Check. All of these are part of the film. The problem is that Eastwood seems to simply stop there. He's made (and Black has written) an Oscar contender that feels lazy. The film may cover nearly seven decades, but even with all of that time, it never amounts to much more than a safe and shallow examination of its central subject. Black and Eastwood never take any sort of stance on Hoover as a man. True, they've avoided making a lopsided cartoon of Hoover, but they've also failed to have any sort of opinion on him at all.

It's a shame, because poor Leonardo DiCaprio really is trying his hardest here, even having to fighting against some odd old age makeup that gives him awkward-looking jowls. It's a committed performance, and DiCaprio totally sells it. Unfortunately, there isn't enough for him to sell, even with the script's hints at Hoover's closeted sexuality and mommy issues. No one else fares well either, if only because the film isn't as interested in any of the characters as it is in Hoover. Armie Hammer tries his best as Clyde Tolson, Hoover's right-hand man and rumored lover, though the character is ultimately little more than an oversimplified foil to Hoover. Judi Dench pops in for a few scenes as Hoover's mother and brings her usual credibility without doing much more save for one scene that links Hoover's mommy issues with his sexuality. The most unfortunate, though, is Naomi Watts as Hoover's lifelong secretary Helen Gandy. To be brief, it's almost criminal how basic the character is considering the remarkable actress playing her on screen.

And it's this precise lack of anything remarkable that leaves J. Edgar feeling so middling. Though certain memories, such as those surrounding the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, are interesting, there's never enough of a look into Hoover's thought process to explain his increasingly paranoid tendencies. As such, the film has some strong scenes, but never rises to become a fully compelling examination. The closest it comes is in a moment after Hoover's mother dies, but given how safe the film is in dealing with that angle, it amounts to little in the long run. Considering all of the ways Hoover was involved in Washington's inner-workings, it's amazing how tame some of the "surprises" of the story feel.

The film is also brought down by the ho-hum look of everything, by which I mean the fact that every frame seems to be filled with nothing but shades of grey and green. I'm not sure why Eastwood has recently become fond of this washed-out look, but he needs to get over it, and soon. I can at least say that for once Eastwood's score contributions (extremely limited this time around) are either effective or aren't noticeable. I'd comment about the production design and costumes, but with everything so drained of color it's hard to evaluate (or care about). Then again, maybe the lighting and coloring of the film actually works, because it embodies the film as a whole: so safe that it feels drained of any life or vivacity that would have made it as fascinating as Hoover himself.

Grade: C

Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

Ever since No Country for Old Men, the art house can't get enough of ambiguous endings. It's as if the Coen brothers' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel opened indie cinema to the possibility that small, challenging films could take things a step further, and have endings that lacked concrete resolution. The latest indie film to try its hand at this trope is T. Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene. Does it implement the device successfully? Well...let's get to that later.

For all intents and purposes, Martha is a psychological thriller about Martha (Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley), a young woman in her 20s who tries to reconnect with her remaining family after escaping from an abusive cult. Set in the Catskills, it's tempting to label the film This Year's Winter's Bone, although I'd rather not insult Durkin's film with the comparison. At the very least, Durkin and co. can boast that they've made an indie thriller with actual tension, even as it jumps among the present, the past, dreams, and reality.

Whatever flaws there may be in Durkin's film are at least in some way compensated for by the film's biggest asset: young Ms. Olsen. From the opening scenes, Olsen's big eyes let us know that even though we don't know where she is, she wants to get the hell out of there. Durkin's film doesn't provide a lot of answers (how did she get involved in the cult? how did she find them?) but Olsen's performance is a strong enough glue to hold the movie's non-linear structure together. As a writer, Durkin isn't necessarily a master wordsmith, and his attempts to show Martha's struggle to function in society sometimes come off just as awkward to us as they do to other characters in the film. Thankfully, with Olsen (along with Sarah Paulson as her older sister Lucy), these bumps in the writing are generally smoothed out.

As a character study, the film sometimes tends towards the shallow, albeit compellingly so. There seems to be plenty of fertile ground to explore why Martha would have been drawn to Patrick's (John Hawkes) cult, yet it's never really touched on. There are some vague references sprinkled over the dialogue that give hints about Martha and Lucy's past, as well as the early death of their mother. Still, Durkin doesn't explore these avenues as fully as he could (and probably should) have. Thankfully, the film is at least given some balance by the good work from the cast, and Durkin's ability to create an unsettling sense of paranoia. It's not quite on the same level as Take Shelter when all is said and done, but certain scenes have a tension that's almost palpable. Never going back further in time than Martha's first days in the cult may limit the depth of Durkin's character study, but at the very least it provides a compelling, free-form narrative structure. Durkin also never gives easy answers through dialogue, which helps the film maintain the level of mystery that the writer/director is clearly aiming for.

And, despite the occasional, fleeting moments where the film doesn't fully engage, Martha moves along at a generally effective pace, although elements like Lucy's husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) don't entirely fit. Dancy is fine in his role, but with so much territory between Lucy and Martha to cover, you have to wonder why the script chooses to focus on this three-way relationship alone, without ever delving further into the sisters' past. Aspects like this get the film in some trouble by the time the credits are over, because aside from Martha, no one really feels like much of a rounded character. John Hawkes brings an eerie presence to Patrick, but because the film is so thoroughly oriented around Martha's perception/memory of these characters, it never feels like there's much more to them.

So, finally, we come to the ending. It's vague, to be certain, but does it work? To an extent, yes. It certainly fits in with the narrative's structure and flow, but at the same time, it leaves the film feeling a bit too much like a sensationalized slice-of-life story. And with an ending that fails to make any sort of point (to contrast with, say, No Country's), the ambiguity comes off as slightly forced, leaving the film aimless, rather than satisfyingly open-ended. All that the film ends up saying over the course of two hours is reduced to "readjusting after living in a cult is tough" (shocker!), with nothing else of greater depth or nuance thrown into the mix. That's not to say that the film is ruined by the ending; its strengths certainly outweigh its flaws. However, add these flaws up, and the result is a very good film that could and should have been a great one.

Grade: B/B+

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Month in Review: October 2011

Best Film (Theaters): Take Shelter
Whatever metaphorical ambitions may or may not be present in Take Shelter, it's hard to deny that this is truly first-rate film-making. Jeff Nichols' sophomore effort, drenched in dread from its opening sequence, takes its time telling its story. Rather than lay out a non-stop series of escalating madness, he gives us a surprisingly calm middle section before charging into the finale. The result, contrary to expectation, pays off in spades. Bolstered by rich performances (including heartbreaking work from Kathy Baker in a single scene), strong visuals, and a eerie score, this is one film that will stick with you long after it's over.

Best Film (DVD/Streaming): Fellini Satyricon
For all of its flaws in the storytelling department, this chaotic visual feast from Federico Fellini still leaves one hell of an impression based on the visuals alone. Fellini so brilliantly captures ancient Rome in the visuals and design that you can almost forgive the film's somewhat meandering tendencies and lack of strong characterization.

Best Direction: Jeff Nichols - Take Shelter
If Take Shelter is only Jeff Nichols' second outing as a writer/director, then the man would seem to have quite the career ahead of him. Rather than fall into a sophomore slump, Nichols' second film is a force to be reckoned with, not only due to the fine performances, but also to his marvelous direction. Nichols knows how to create an atmospheric sense of dread and foreboding that always feels perfectly judged, never flying off the rails into hysteria or beat-you-over-the-head repetition. Nichols is already at work on his third film (not due until 2013), and as of now I can tell you that thanks to Take Shelter, the man can consider my ticket sold.

Best Male Performance: Michael Shannon - Take Shelter
Already lighting up the small screen with his intimidating turn on HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Shannon returns to the big screen with a vengeance here, and delivers one of the year's finest performances. Mixing elements of naturalism and heightened drama with surprising finesse, Shannon makes his character's multiple angles come together cohesively. Whether he's mumbling quietly to himself or shouting in paranoid rage, he's a force to be reckoned with.

Best Female Performance: Elena Anaya - The Skin I Live In
The Skin I Live In may not rank as one of Almodovar's best, but at there very least there's some nice work from the cast, including Elena Anaya as the mysterious Vera Cruz. No, she doesn't come anywhere close to achieving what Penelope Cruz did in Volver, but she creates a fascinating character all the same, one whose full complexity doesn't come to the foreground until quite late in the game. Once all of the pieces have come together, everything that came before gains a whole new meaning, and Anaya's performance, while not necessarily a revelation, makes quite the impression, even if it's a bit on the surface-y side of things.

Best Screenplay: 50/50 by Will Reiser
'Write what you know,' the saying goes, and for Will Reiser, this piece of advice couldn't have been more appropriate. Based on Reiser's own experiences with cancer, 50/50, which could have easily been stupid, bipolar, or simply in bad taste, moves between comedy and drama so seamlessly that it's almost miraculous. The general sensitivity towards the characters (barring one unfortunate exception) and the way Reiser moves through Adam's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt's) journey helps the script avoid the potential pitfalls of its genre hybrid, and the result is a heavy dose of well-earned laughs and tears.

Best Ensemble Cast: 50/50
50/50 may only be about one man's struggle, but the film is still more than adept at capturing how Adam's story affects those around him. Gordon-Levitt is reliable as always, and he's backed up by strong work on all sides. Whether it's his out-of-her-league therapist (Anna Kendrick), his clingy mother (Anjelica Huston), or a chemotherapy cohort (Philip Baker Hall), all of the roles are played beautifully, and help make 50/50 an even richer experience. These aren't merely plot devices for Adam to bounce his feelings off of; they're fully formed characters, and the film is better off because of this.

Best Cinematography: Giuseppe Rotunno - Fellini Satyricon
Though Federico Fellini will perhaps always be known for his black and white classics of the late 50s and early 60s, when it came time to transition to color, the revered director pulled it off with spectacular results. DP Giuseppe Rotunno's work on Satyricon is, in short, stunning. He captures Fellini's wild and sensationalistic vision of ancient Rome with a rich array of light, color, and shadow, across myriad sets and locales. Film is often described as painting with light, which seems completely appropriate here, considering that any frame of Satyricon, thanks to Rotunno's work, would make quite a piece of still art.

The Rest of the Bunch: The Trip, Trespass, Anthony Zimmer
What I missed/need to catch up on: Martha Marcy May Marlene