Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011, Durkin)

Seen through Cinecache’s Free Preview Screening at Brattle Theatre on September 27, 2011

Originally posted on Criterion Cast September 29th, 2011

How far will people delude themselves in order to fulfill a desired sense of worth? Whatever leads Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) to believe that joining a cult in the Catskills is the best option for her, it is clear what keeps her there through the moment she decides to flee is the feeling of belonging somewhere. It is a misguided justification from a very confused and lost young woman, drawn in by a seemingly wholesome communal setting and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the wrongdoings she has surrounded herself with. That is, until her breaking point arrives and she realizes she has to get out.

Sean Durkin’s first film, surely one of the best debut features out there, explores Martha’s time in said cult, led by dangerous patriarchal figure Patrick (John Hawkes), and what happens after she flees. The film begins with her escape. She makes a call to estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) who picks her up. From there, Martha cannot acknowledge the ever-present societal disconnect she faces because she is lost inside her own head. She is unable to definitively distinguish past from present or past trauma from present safety. This inability materializes through Martha’s increasing paranoia and erratic behavior which becomes more and more worrying to Lucy and husband Ted (Hugh Dancy). They have been in the dark about Martha’s whereabouts for two years. Martha does not tell them about the cult, making her behavior even more perplexing to the couple.

The film moves back and forth between Martha’s life during and after her time in the cult (where she is renamed Marcy May by Patrick). Both sections of the film have a centered location where almost all of the scenes take place. In the Catskills, there is a farmhouse everyone lives in together complete with communal duties and shared space. Compare this to Sarah and Ted’s affluent Connecticut lake house getaway. The two parts signify wildly differing environmental parallels. They also highlight her struggle to belong in either. By the time she gets to Lucy’s house, her past experiences in the life she fled are so embedded within; her ability to function with a sense of normality is compromised.

While the two lifestyles contrast each other greatly to the audience, Durkin forces Martha’s jumbled perspective at us through the disorienting fluidity between time periods. Martha’s mental state is a mess, and we experience her jumbled perception of time where all experience and trauma coexist. Thus, the camera focuses close on Martha enough for it to take time for the audience to discern which time we are in. This structure proves how much can come of fiddling with narrative. Everything we see means that much more through parallel storytelling. Martha’s inner psyche is transferred to the audience and there is an even more layered characterization through the juxtaposition and how segments are thematically paired together.

In case it is not clear by now; I loved this film. It is unsentimental and harrowing. It is a sin to have gone on this long without mentioning Elizabeth Olsen who carries this film into another realm. In her cult scenes she plays a woman eager to be a part of something, so much so that she discards common sense and allows herself to take part in some truly unsettling activities. Olsen shows layers of conviction, susceptibility and hesitancy through an additional heavy layer of necessary ambiguity. Post-cult Olsen displays societal disconnect beautifully with her bluntness, immaturity and more importantly her train wreck of a mental state. We are inside of her head and yet she remains distant from the audience. We feel her paranoia but cannot break through. It is a performance that has been rightly hailed across the board; simply put, she nails it.

In a reliably impressive supporting turn, John Hawkes is menacing; we are taken in by him even though at the outset it is clear he is dangerous. He convinces as someone who presents his ideology as persuasive common sense. He manipulates on the basis that the people around him get their sense of self-worth from him. And we buy that Hawkes as a figure with this kind of power.

The film is first and foremost a character study and a hell of a lot can be said about Martha.  As the title clearly states, this is someone going through a serious identity crisis. In addition to her incapability to reconcile her past experience, she has no idea who she is in any way, shape or form. Her identity is in its infancy. This is really nicely shone through lingering ideology the cult’s influence has on her. There are several lines of dialogue by other characters that get reiterated by Martha on later occasions; it is clear she is incredibly naïve and cannot as of yet think for herself.  The excessive flurry of near-delusional paranoia that takes her over is partly because she has too little assuredness as a human being to battle her increasingly unstable mental state.

There is something refreshing that Durkin does with his script, possibly even more so than the overall structure. An unchallenging film would have Martha begin attempts to abandon the cult after it is clear things are not as wholesome as she first thought. The film passes that point quite early on. We witness a disturbing event in the first third of the film and then watch Martha actively put the experience behind her. She allows herself to fall deep into a web of abuse, manipulation and subservience. As a character study, it says much about how alone and desperate she must be to belong if she accepts this situation upfront. As a script, it shows how unafraid Durkin is to distance the audience from relating to his main character in order to give us a much more compelling story. As a storytelling device, the groundwork for suspense exists through the thought; ‘If that won’t get her to leave, what will?” And so we bite our nails waiting for what is to come.

Martha Marcy May Marlene wisely uses elements of psychological thriller to function as overtones rather than letting it suffocate the character work, which in this case it likely would have. While the film wants us to question whether or not the looming danger Martha imagines post-cult has any backbone in reality, I never truly felt she was in danger. It becomes almost even more impressive that despite this, I was still on the edge of my seat because Martha’s paranoia becomes the audience’s paranoia. As we learn more about Martha’s experiences as Marcy May, her scenes at Sarah’s lake house fill up with more and more dread. By the end of the film, we are as tense as she is.

The characterizations outside of Martha tend to be on the broader side, particularly when it comes to Lucy and Ted. The parallels inherent in the juxtaposition say a lot. Yet Lucy’s characterization is hammered home a bit too overtly at times to allow us to see her as a human being, even though she is the only other character Durkin gives individual perspective to. The other character that takes the audience into explicit ‘okay we get it’ territory is fellow cult member Zoe (Louisa Krause). There are a couple of scenes that go too far with dialogue in showing the cult members’ universally skewed mindset. That mindset is inherent in the actions and there are a few statements that Zoe makes that are a bit much and are not needed.

Sean Durkin is one to watch out for. How many debut features are this refined? He uses all of the aspects of filmmaking to the utmost. In the post-cult scenes, Martha is often shot from behind reflecting her unyielding elusiveness with Lucy. One scene in particular, Lucy asks about a bruise on her ear. The conversation is presented mainly through audio, while the camera only lets us see the side of Martha’s face. The score is used for ever-present dread. In one scene where Martha has a troublesome outburst, the music swells in a chaotic wall of free-form noise representing her overwhelming inner chaos in that moment.

The cinematography by Afterschool’s Jody Lee Lipes is superb; quite possibly the most impressive of the year and at the very least my personal favorite. It is shot with a sullen ashen hue that evokes 1970’s cinema, hinting at sandy grain. There are so many ways a film could look visually and what Lipes comes up with here is something special.

Martha Marcy May Marlene disturbingly displays the susceptible nature of the mind and what mankind is capable of subverting through mutual groupthink. It is a complicated character study about a young woman unable to assimilate herself in any environment, and is left with heaps of traumas, sadly stubborn lingering ideologies and zero sense of self. She is a nearly broken being. Sean Durkin wrote and executed this story with staggering maturity. The complex characterization headlined by Olsen and the tension that instills the audience makes for a fearless film from a debut filmmaker.

Short Review: Red State (Smith, 2011)

Red State (2011, Smith)

Trying out something new, on some level, is always worthwhile. In filmmaking, when we come to expect one type of movie from a director, it can pigeonhole them. In the case of Kevin Smith, whose affair with public speaking tends to get more press these days than his films, he has carved out a foul-mouthed slacker niche that has invariably worked through the present. His new film Red State is a serious foray into horror. That he tries something new does not go unnoticed; if only the film were any good.

The big problem with Red State is that it feels like a fuzzy manifestation of one of Smith’s rants. His conceit has potential; some of the religious extremism that exists in this country is downright shudder-inducing and disturbing. But to throw his views onto the screen in the form of broad caricatures with no inkling of thoughtful execution is too reductive to be either scary or meaningful. As seemingly lazy as these portraits get, he throws in a ten-minute monologue that brings the film to a halt, destroys any sense of suspense and is painful in the sense that Smith clearly sees this as being a show-stopping moment. No; it is just uninterrupted pontificating.

As the film starts, three teenagers find themselves in a lethal situation when their quest to simultaneously have sex with a woman leads them into a trap set by religious extremists.

We endure misfire after misfire as we work our way through the challenge of caring an ounce about the three teenagers in turmoil.  Then Red State switches gears entirely and becomes a siege film in its last third. These drastic shifts in genre could have worked had any of its purported conviction materialized into anything lucid. Instead, it just feels like several different films and none of them are noteworthy. None of the characters stick, even Abin Cooper, the Fred Phelps inspired villain played by Michael Parks. Parks makes what he can of the character, but what should be a juicy role is undercut by Smith’s misuse of the character’s onscreen time. Melissa Leo overacts in a one-note performance while John Goodman is a pleasure to watch but this is entirely because he is John Goodman.

The last few minutes really shine some light on the film’s potential, making me wish Smith had regrouped and reconstructed the film as a pitch black satire. These moments late in the film do not feel earned; they feel like cheap shots. If the film had more of a backbone to its rage, it would have meant something.

Smith does a notable job in making the film feel and look scummy; it is present but not overdone and has its invisible effect on those watching. He also plays around a lot with expectations involving character deaths which give the film an air of unpredictable vim. And to make it clear, the general idea that Smith has here had potential; he has every right to fume about the issues at hand. What is unfortunate is that he was unable to take that ever-present anger that he always instills in his films through comedy, and do that with horror. The ambition is appreciated but this one is a non-starter.

Review: Drive (2011, Refn)

Originally posted on Criterion Cast: September 21st, 2011

Drive (2011, Refn)

It is an all too uncommon feeling when a film ends and you realize you are not yet ready to leave its world. This is the feeling I had when Drive ended, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film (and his first American one). It is a slick retro ride, filled with homage and influence, operating as a nostalgic demonstration of American genre filmmaking and oozing European sensibilities, complete with existentialist sleaze and minimalist touches. It is a hybrid creature that dabbles in a number of genres that are all in harmony through Refn’s infectious appreciation for using cinema to create mood and atmosphere.

Ryan Gosling plays The Driver, part of the class of ‘strong silent type’ who has popped up in many films as varied as The Man with No Name Trilogy, Le Samourai and Taxi Driver, to name a few. Through a newly found connection with neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and a series of unfortunate circumstances, The Driver gets himself caught up in a sticky situation which he ultimately takes control of via the unwavering conviction he displays once he has made the decision to protect.

Since the characters and story of Drive take a backseat to presentation, the film is told with simple efficiency. Drive is working in full-on archetypal territory and it is a clear purposeful choice. As much as Refn creates something evocative from a directorial point of view, I would argue that Gosling’s anchoring of the material provides an almost equally satisfying and necessary contribution. The Driver may belong to an archetype, but like many of his previous incarnations, Gosling (with the help of Refn and screenwriter Hossein Amini) makes his version singular. His ability to emote layers through silence is not only impressive but transfixing. Gone is the hard masculinity one expects to find with this type of role. Even when taking into account the brutal acts of violence he commits, in large part he is seen as a child. This is clear through The Driver’s scenes with Irene’s son Benicio (Kaden Leos). The Driver is referred to as ‘Kid’ by several other characters. In one scene where he and Benicio are talking, another character shouts for ‘Kid’ to come over. Both man and child shuffle over in response.

Through careful observance, we get to know The Driver as he interacts with others. What gets him to lift his head, to verbally respond, intervene or snap at someone? Since Gosling keeps you watching with intent, we in turn care about the answers to these ‘what gets him to’ queries. The audience barely knows him but through his first interactions with Irene, it is easy to tell this is a situation outside of his comfort zone as he responds with passive hesitancy.

The scenes between The Driver and Irene are largely silent. Drive dips into heist territory at its start but primarily begins as a romance in its first third. Their scenes are unspoken and pure. And in a conscious choice to emphasis the silence over dialogue between the two, when they do speak, their communication lacks comparatively.

It is clear that Refn has been influenced at every turn. But it is not a hollow experience; far from it. Perhaps what impressed me the most about Drive is the smoothness with which Refn blends what is a clear unabashed love for both high and low art. He lets them bleed together in what can be succinctly described as effortless cool. There is a stable assuredness in every shot, every movement and every creative choice made here. One cannot help but want to revisit Drive and explore those choices, the motivations behind them and why they work as well as they do. This is confident filmmaking on display. The mere construction of it is something to behold.

Topping off this retro vision is Cliff Martinez’s score which is very clearly tipping its hat to 80’s synth Euro-pop, particularly Tangerine Dream with a delicate touch of Kraftwerk. At the point where the opening credits sequence enter with its splayed cursive hot pink font accompanied by Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’, it is practically begging for cinephiles to drool all over it with worship; Drive knows how cool it is and it is not afraid to show off. The lyrics of Martinez’s songs are just overt enough, amusingly walking a fine line between kitsch and corny.

Violence is used to great effect both in how much is shown and exactly when Refn and editor Mat Newman decide to show it. It has an unexpected jolt because it brings the mood-setting to a halt. Instead of making the violence part of the film’s identity like so many do (to wildly varying degrees of success), here violence is used to interrupt the film’s sense of self, existing as a combative force.

There are two characters that make Drive rewarding as a piece of storytelling. One is the Driver and the other is Bernie as played by Albert Brooks. Bernie is in many ways The Driver’s opposite; he largely communicates by telling stories; by speaking. What makes Bernie startling is that the film first humanizes him and then shows us what he is capable of. Brooks has been given a juicy part and he really makes the most of it; it is a terrific performance.

If I have one problem with Drive it is that with archetypes come thankless female characters, and as a result, thankless roles for its actresses. Where Gosling and Brooks (and to a lesser degree Ron Perlman, Bryan Cranston and particularly Oscar Issac) make something of their character types, Carey Mulligan and Christina Hendricks are basically pretty chess pieces within the story. Unfortunately archetypes mean traditional and thus archaic parts for women as Mulligan is there to be protected and Hendricks is there to be a conniving moll.

Style over substance is worth it when there is substance within the style; and that is what Drive has. It tells a simple story with easily identifiable characters, functioning primarily as an exercise in ‘coolness’. But it creates its own world through a mish-mash of influences, thereby forming its own recognizable identity that becomes addictive. With Drive, Refn represents cinema at its most assured, plowing directly into the heart of genre filmmaking.

Screening Log: August-Sept. 14th

247. Wings of the Dove (1998, Softley): B

249. Win Win (2011, McCarthy): B+

250. Of Gods and Men (2011, Beauvois): B-

251. The Lincoln Lawyer (2011, Furman): B-

252. Cedar Rapids (2011, Arteta): D+

253. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011, Flender): B

254. Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2011, McCall): C+

255. Captain EO (1986, Coppola): What do you give something like Captain EO? I’ll go with a C. It’s awful, but its too irreverently fun to give a lower grade.

256. Pump up the Volume (1990, Moyle): B+

257. Matador (1986, Almodovar): B

258. Law of Desire (1987, Almodovar): B-

259. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990, Almodovar): A-

260. The Flower of My Secret (1994, Almodovar): B-

261. Cul-de-Sac (1966, Polanski): B+

262. Live Flesh (1997, Almodovar): A-

263. Contagion (2011, Soderbergh): B

264. 28 Up (1985, Apted): A

265. 35 Up (1991, Apted): A

266. Bridesmaids (2011, Fieg): B+

267. They Live (1988, Carpenter): C-

Review: Contagion (2011, Soderbergh)

Contagion (2011, Soderbergh)

You know nobody is safe when even Hollywood’s biggest A-list thespians are dropping dead. In Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns’ latest collaboration, virus film Contagion, the element of human contact is the source of fear. In a time when people should theoretically be coming together to help each other, this scenario pushes humanity apart. Contagion is not interested in the sentimental or the personal; that can be left for the majority of this ‘disaster’-like brand of filmmaking. Soderbergh hauntingly and clinically delivers a film about process that juxtaposes the constant forward-motion of the virus and the apparent helplessness of civilization at its mercy.

Contagion takes a cue from other multi-narrative films including Soderbergh’s own Traffic, by tracking the virus’ impact via assorted characters and storylines. The only thing connecting these people is the virus, as you see how it affects them and the part they play in attempting to live and contain, identify, cure, or even propagate hysteria amidst the pandemic. Among them is a father (Matt Damon) from Minneapolis whose wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the virus’ first victim immediately followed by their son. Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention sends Dr. Mears (Kate Winslet), an Epidemic Intelligence Service officer to Minneapolis to investigate and contain the outbreak. CDC scientist Dr. Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) attempts to define the virus and thus a possible antidote. Using his influence to amplified hysteria, Alan Krumweide (Jude Law) claims to know the cure, resulting in riots for a pharmaceutical product known as forsythia. Marion Cotillard plays a WHO epidemiologist who goes to Hong Kong to track the virus’ possible origins.

These are only some of the characters; beyond the star power of the film, it is a fun time seeing people such as John Hawkes, Josie Ho, Demetri Martin, Bryan Cranston, Elliot Gould and Enrico Colantoni pop in for a spell.

Instead of using the virus as a background or excuse to explore interpersonal family dynamics, Contagion does the opposite. Its style and focus creepily align themselves with the virus. Character development is essentially non-existent here because, realistically, it would and should be all about the virus. The hyper-realism approach makes the film feel eerily conceivable and thus, unnerving.

When taken individually, the stories do not resonate. They are not meant to. Most multi-narrative storylines are bound together by theme and coincidence, where they mean something together but could theoretically function as their own coherent story. The storylines in Contagion are bound together by the virus. It is a formal treatment and must be taken as a whole. Characters drop in and out unexpectedly with an inconsistency in rhyme or rhythm. This feels natural; the characters do not feel too manipulated by a pressure to entirely follow through on each thread.

It may not be an issue for the threads of the film to work individually, but it is a problem if they cannot work as part of the ‘big picture’. Marion Cotillard’s storyline is dead on arrival because it does not feel consequential enough. Did it really have to be there? While her final scene sticks, it would have meant a lot more had her previous scenes been more compelling and of value both within the entire framework and on its own.

Too much time is spent with Damon’s onscreen daughter (Anna Jacoby-Heron). It allows for the perception of her father’s grieving, but mostly it fails in its humanistic excuse of a portrayal of an inside look at the average citizen’s ordeal. Her scenes with Damon work well; anything by herself feels like a waste of precious time for an ambitious film that only clocks in at 100 minutes. We could have gotten more from Damon’s character with those minutes.

The film takes up too much time tidying up towards the end and undoes some of the controlled disorder that came before. It gets itself back though, ending with a sequence showing the origin of the virus that remains distressing in its mundaneness.

Some are up-in-arms about the nefarious blogger played by Jude Law. His storyline has been the individual thread provoking the most discussion. At first, I had an assumption that his story would be about the effort to enact change where it is so desperately needed, but even with the tools of social media at his fingertips, he is unable to transform the situation. Oh boy was I wrong. His name is Alan Krumwiede; he sounds like a villain out of a Roald Dahl book. He comes complete with snaggletooth, a smarmy walk and a constant spouting of conspiracy theory drivel. He is the only character here invoking active damage to everyone around him. He is a commentary on the revelation that, with the internet, anyone can have influence. In a pandemic scenario, the internet would be a major player in the spreading of false information, rumor, fear, panic and paranoia, surely invoking mass hysteria. In this way, Burns’ commentary is shrewd; for all the good that technology does allows for the people in Contagion, all it takes is one person and some trusting and desperate people to counteract the positive.

It is the character of Krumweide that elicits objection and why not? He represents blogging and social media, and it’s a pretty sad sight. Caricature, broad generalizations and reductive problems aside, Law’s scenes were the most engaging to take part in. It is a joy to watch Law reap in the sleaze and the mannerisms. Burns uses him to poke fun at the kind of grandstanding we come to expect in film speeches. It feels purposely overt from costuming, makeup and dialogue. He is the most conversational element of Contagion, and thus the most stimulating.

This is some of the best editing and cinematography of the year. Soderbergh’s camerawork, under the moniker Peter Andrews, feels like a petri dish. It feels both sterile and microscopically infected in its naturally bleak tones. The film is shot and edited in a brutally matter-of-fact manner. Stephen Mirrione is largely responsible for the audience’s discomfort as shots showing the minutiae of everyday human contact and ordinary objects acquire deadly connotation. Mirrione’s smartly placed edits allow him to depict death as no-nonsense in its being.

Contagion is admirably to-the-point; all about process in content and all about presentation in form. It wastes little time, as if consciously attempting to keep up with the virus’ life cycle. It is clear by now that it is a film that unnerves because our recognition of its possibility. Contagion never approaches hopelessness; to the contrary, but it does recognize our strengths and weaknesses as a grouped people. Amidst all the seizures, bodies, autopsies, riots and blame, it’s the plausibility that impacts us most. Kate Winslet’s speech about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic is the scariest thing you will see in a film all year.

Review: Senna (2011, Kapadia)

Originally posted on Criterion Cast September 6th, 2011

Senna (2011, Kapadia)

Note: Senna had no subtitles in the theater I viewed it in. A moderate chunk of the film is spoken in Portuguese. Keep in mind that any audio interviews by Senna’s family, sports commentators from Brazil and some interview footage of Senna himself was lost on me.

Senna plays more like a narrative feature than any documentary in recent memory. Gripping from the start and refusing to let go, this immersive story will enthrall the viewer regardless of their ignorance of Formula One racing and/or three time Grand Prix world champion, Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna. Entirely comprised of archival footage, Senna offers a rare privilege of access for a documentary, resulting in a wholly distinct experience. It does not feel like you are watching something that has already happened; instead it largely unfolds as if for the first time. Director Asif Kapadia inputs foreshadowing throughout, adding a haunting layer of impending doom leading up to Senna’s fatal crash in 1994.

Thousands of hours of archival footage were sifted through to construct the feature-length film before us. Formula One clearly kept meticulous visual records of everything and it is at times overwhelming just how spoiled the audience gets to be in what they see. A camera was mounted to Senna’s car, allowing us to be in the car with him and the effect is magnificent. Pre-race meetings with the heads of the track and all the drivers were recorded. Instead of hearing from newscasters that Senna walked out of a meeting because of objections regarding pole position, you get to see that meeting.

Additionally, there are home videos of Senna in Brazil as well as footage from his early days of go-kart racing, which prove thematically important, as Senna himself recalls these as his fondest racing memories, citing that it was “pure driving” and absent of politics. There are no talking heads; only audio interviews heard during the archival footage. The absence of talking heads allows a flow of story seldom seen in the medium.

The pacing and structure of Senna revolves almost entirely around his career including several key racing seasons in the late 80’s and early 90’s, his partnerships with McLaren and Williams and his tumultuous rivalry with McLaren teammate and fellow World Champion Allan Prost. It skirts around family and love, largely leaving out anything not having to do with racing; and that’s okay. It allows the film to have an alarming sense of focus. Senna’s rivalry with Prost takes center stage as the Frenchman represents the opposite of his relationship with the sport. Where Senna drove based on intuition and an effort to achieve a closer connection with God, Prost was calculated in his strategy and very plugged into the politics of the game.

His partnership with Williams late in the film is devastating to watch as the film carefully illustrates the events leading to his death. He was clearly not happy with the arrangement and very uncomfortable with the car itself. He gets as close to hesitant acquiescence as a man who has no intention of not racing could get. Knowing what is coming but not being able to stop it, these scenes become increasingly distressing.

Senna was a captivating individual whose sense of self was deeply challenged with all the politics and baggage that came with Formula One. At once deeply religious and patriotic, he was a great source of pride for poverty-stricken Brazil, a position which he clearly took seriously. There was a softness amidst his serious nature that is hard to look away from. On the track he was a risk-taker and off the track he was never afraid to speak his mind, even at the risk of reputational injury within Formula One. Senna’s ability to speak openly about his feelings via interviews allows the man to have a primary voice in a documentary about him after the fact. He was honest, thoughtful and reflective.

If there is a complaint to be had, it is only that it falls slightly short of cracking the nut that is Ayrton Senna as much as one can in 100 minutes time. The film is vague at most concerning the man’s flaws. For example, his recklessness as a driver could have been more examined or at the very least questioned. When a reporter asks him a question that confronts him with this, Senna has a very defensive response. While his reaction to the wording of the question was justifiable, there is a sense that he may have led with his intuition a bit too much. While not an outright knock against the film, there could have been a slightly more layered examination of Senna the man. (Note that the lack of subtitles contributed to this point).

Senna straps the audience to their seats and asks them to hold on. Aided by a memorable score by Antonio Pinto, Asif Kapadia has crafted a loving tribute that briskly and effectively lets you up close and personal with the career of Aryton Senna. There is a tension that feels ever-present, taking the audience back to those Forumla One seasons as if they were happening for the first time. It is impossible not to grow attached to Senna himself. He is admirable and humble with an infectious and unwavering devotion. As the film ends, one is filled with a surge of heartbreak that overwhelms. In short, Senna is a must-see; do yourself a favor and do not miss it.

List: Top 30 Anticipated Films of Fall 2011

Fall Movie Season has arrived again. Hello folks! It has been a while. Between a trip to Korea that I will forever cherish and getting settled into my 2nd semester at Simmons, I have not had time to review or post anything here. While grad school will likely take up most of my time, I will be posting reviews in the upcoming months. This weekend I am seeing Senna, which ranked in my top 5 most anticipated Summer releases. There will be a review up next week.

Fall Movie Season is always jam-packed with hyped prestige releases and this year is no different. There is a lot of releases in the US to look forward to in the upcoming months. From a director’s perspective, new films from Steven Soderbergh, Lars von Trier, Kenneth Lonergan (yes, after more than a few years, Margaret is finally getting released), Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Gus van Sant, Pedro Almodovar, Beat Takeshi, Sion Sono (Love Exposure finally getting official release in the states!!!!!), Tsui Hark, Tomas Alfredson, Roman Polanski, David Fincher, Lucky McKee, Steven Spielberg, Lynne Ramsay, Nicolas Winding Refn, Clint Eastwood and David Cronenberg are expected to make waves. And that’s just a taste. Listed below the Top 30 are the other films this Fall I would like to see. I tend to include films I am indifferent to on this list. Any film that instills a reaction of “yeah I’d see that” can be found there. Thus, there are films I am genuinely excited for in that long alphabetized list (The Descendants) and films I don’t care about but would see (Machine Gun Preacher). The only films not on the list are the ones I really have no active interest in. Films like Bucky Larson, New Year’s Eve, Happy Feet 2 and I Don’t Know How She Does It are the kinds of films not present here.

Which films are you most excited for this Fall? There are a lot to choose from! I will keep this list updated with films that secure distribution dates after this list is posted.

30. Coriolanus

29. Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

28. Restless

27. Love Crime

26. Pariah

25. Albert Nobbs

24. The Artist

23. Outrage

22. The Muppets

21. The Ides of March

20. In Time

19. Margaret

18. The Woman

17. Contagion

16. J. Edgar

15. Carnage

14. Sleeping Beauty

13. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

12. The Monk

11. A Separation

10. The Skin I Live In

9. Drive

8. A Dangerous Method

7. Tyrannosaur

6. Take Shelter

5. Love Exposure

4. Martha Marcy May Marlene

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin

1. Melancholia

The Rest:

The Adventures of Tintin
American Teacher
Apollo 18
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
Being Elmo
The Big Year
Burke and Hare
The Catechism Cataclysm
The Descendants
The Darkest Hour
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Dirty Girl
Dream House
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Factory
Genius on Hold
Hell and Back Again
I’m Glad my Mother is Alive
In the Land of Blood and Honey
The Iron Lady
Killer Elite
Like Crazy
Machine Gun Preacher
The Man Nobody Knew
Mission Impossible IV
My Joy
My Week with Marilyn
Paul Goodman Changed My Life
Pearl Jam Twenty
Red State
The Rum Diary
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The Sitter
Straw Dogs
Tanner Hall
Texas Killing Fields
The Three Musketeers
Three (Drei)
The Thing
Thunder Soul
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
War Horse
We Bought a Zoo
We Were Here
The Whale
Young Adult