294 – Birdman (2014)

birdman

Well my survey of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s directorial oeuvre stalled out around the halfway point. That would be a more impressive statement if his filmography up to this point had not been solely four films. I just ran out of time to watch Babel and Biutiful before González Iñárritu’s newest film, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), was released, but from what I have seen, I am (perhaps prematurely) prepared to declare him a pretentious filmmaker with a very strong eye for the technical aspect of cinema. Birdman has finally roosted in the cultural consciousness, and it is time to determine whether the film represents the hatching of a new era for the auteur; a “molting,” if you will.

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293 – Fury (2014)

fury

World War II is an event rife for cinematic adaptation. The last 12 months alone have seen the relase of The Book Thief, The Railway Man, and The Monuments Men – all dealing with different aspects of the conflict and its fallout. There are so many disparate pieces to the war that it has inspired hundreds of films. Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to add another name to that list: David Ayer’s Fury.

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292 – Men, Women & Children (2014)

men, women & children

Jason Reitman (son of Ivan, but that’s barely relevant) spent the early days of his directorial career making some really well-regarded films. Even if Juno or Up in the Air haven’t received universal acclaim, there is evidence there of a quality filmmaker. All of which makes Reitman’s recent career trajectory so baffling. Reitman’s Labor Day was released at the end of January to pretty middling reviews; I described it as “conventional and entirely disposable,” and my opinion has not changed in the intervening months. It is surprising to see another feature from the director so quickly, but perhaps Reitman learned something from the earlier debacle. Perhaps he’s ready to come back stronger than ever with Men, Women & Children. Perhaps not.

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291 – The All-Night Horror Show

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October is for horror movies. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. And I’ve probably seen more horror movies this month than I’ve seen in the last few years. Why not? They are really quite fun once you get past your initial nerves. Especially the older ones. The increased reliance on jump scares by modern horror directors has desensitized many moviegoers to the more cerebral horror from decades ago. So it’s nice to put away all the fancy new stuff, sit down, and watch one of two. Or six.

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289 – Live Read: American Beauty

live read american beauty

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s back; Jason Reitman’s Live Read series returned to LACMA tonight with a reading of the American Beauty screenplay by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood). Before the reading began, Reitman described this series as being “so much more fun than directing movies.” That must be especially true for the still-young filmmaker lately, as his last two movies have not been well-received; Labor Day was lifeless and uninspired, and his latest – Men, Women & Children – has gotten so many bad reviews that I haven’t even seen it yet. Me! I see everything.

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287 – Citizenfour (2014)

citizenfour

A little over a year ago a massive NSA revelation rocked the United States, courtesy of a young system administrator named Edward Snowden. I remind you of this in plain English, because the matter of the government passively collecting every communication we digitally send seems to have exited the public consciousness almost entirely, in favor of flashier stories about Ebola and ISIS. I don’t mean to trivialize these issues, but the disappearance of PRISM and the NSA from the national conversation couldn’t have been better executed if it had been planned. Luckily Laura Poitras’s brand-new documentary, Citizenfour, is here to remind everyone just what Edward Snowden was trying to accomplish.

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286 – 21 Grams (2003)

21 grams

My rapid re-visit of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s career (in preparation for Birdman) continues with 21 Grams – the only Iñárritu film I have already seen the entirety of. The film stars Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benecio del Toro as three deeply broken people, whose lives are tightly intertwined.

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285 – St. Vincent (2014)

st. vincent

Over the last couple of years Bill Murray has focused less on starring in movies and more on becoming everyone’s fun, drunk uncle. The stories of Murray crashing parties only to tell the attendees that no one will ever believe them are innumerable. At this point, we believe them. It feels like a natural progression for a rebellious actor who allegedly doesn’t even have an agent, instead selecting projects based on what is pitched to him via answering machine. Murray’s legend is slowly becoming more famous than the man himself, so it is always nice to see him come back down to earth to star in a movie.

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