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with George

Category: 2010

Another Earth (2011) and Rabbit Hole (2010)

Today, we start a new chapter. New design, new content, new focus. I’ll explain it all later, but I thought I’d start this new era by reviewing one of my favorite films of all time.

Sometimes, I’ll be watching a film when I realize that I’ve been drawing comparisons to other films the entire time. This shouldn’t come as a shock to me; I know who I am and what my world/mind is made of. But, somehow, it always does. I love it when this happens, because I can spend days on comparisons like this. While I was watching Another Earth, I drew two comparisons, and I will explore one of them here.

The first was to Gattaca. Like Another Earth, it is a sci-fi film that has an extremely complex male-female relationship at its core. In Another Earth, a promising young astronomer-to-be named Rhoda (played brilliantly by Britta’s quasi-lesbian lover from Community, Brit Marling) drinks and drives after a party. She must deal with the consequences of this action (unlike Chelsea) when she kills the wife and kid of a composer named John (portrayed well by William Mapother). Gattaca’s plot is not even similar to Another Earth‘s until the end, despite various agreements in mood. I don’t want to spoil either film, but instead point out what an interesting pairing they make for because of this. In fact, if I had to see Another Earth back-to-back with another film, I would choose Gattaca immediately after…

Rabbit Hole. Rabbit Hole was a film I respected and really liked after my first viewing. Back in November, I had a chance to see it again, and this time, things were different. So many of the small, beautiful details had completely slipped my mind. After taking notes, I think I could go on at length about these details, and someday I hope I get the opportunity to. But a major part of Rabbit Hole was the rabbit hole theory; the idea that somewhere out there, in another dimension perhaps, you are happy… even if you aren’t happy right now. Those of you who have seen Another Earth are, for sure, nodding your heads, as you can see how it relates.

Nicole Kidman plays Becca, a woman whose son was run over by a car more than half a year before the film starts. She takes comfort in the idea of an alternate version of her, but that thought was not her own. It was brought to her attention by Jason (the young, talented Miles Teller), the boy whose car slain the child who wandered into the street. Going back the Another Earth, Rhoda and John both look for peace on Earth II, a near-replica of Earth I which finds itself within shuttle distance of their home planet.

Automobiles play subtle roles in both films, since both of their plots stem from car accidents. It’s incredible, now that I think about it, how similar the films are in terms of plot. Maybe I’m a sucker for this type of movie, but I doubt that’s the only reason I fell for both of these pictures.

Another Earth is, at its most basic level, a collection of images that Rhoda seals in her memory forever. Given complexity, it is a living and breathing museum through the life of a person who has no life. Rhoda herself is curating, and once the seal on this memory container is broken, there’s no going back. I wasn’t attracted to this story at first, but Brit Marling really drew me in with her stellar, nuanced performance as this troubled young adult. Additionally, the relationship between Rhoda and John is one of the most natural onscreen relationships in recent memory. Not a single moment in forced.

The voiceovers are the most annoying part of the film, but I only counted four of them, so they don’t breathe down your neck too often. In the early bits, you may feel it gets too art-house and too indie, but it redeems/earns these poetic pauses.

The performances of Kidman, Teller, Aaron Eckhart (Becca’s husband), and Dianne Weist (Becca’s mother) all bring emotional realism to Rabbit Hole, as well. Kidman’s performance, in particular, conveys a mixture of guilt, anger, and superiority that she doesn’t have to tell you about in order for you to understand. Each of her interactions with the other characters brings a new meaning to what we already know about her. It’s a brilliantly structured film, but how much would that matter if the players weren’t so perfectly in-tune with each other.

I’m scared I’ll write another seven paragraphs about Rabbit Hole here! Again, I appreciated the little things. I particularly enjoyed how all the characters called their support group simply “group,” allowing it to rule over them. The different, cold-light-of-day look of the kitchen at the end was a simple but effective touch. But the one thing, above all else, that makes Rabbit Hole work so well is its willingness to throw blame out the window. This isn’t a story about right and wrong. It’s the story of a family and what has to be done to maneuver life.

Additional notes, but no funny quotes:

  • Another Earth: ***½
  • The narration at the beginning of Another Earth reminded me of Beginners.
  • 1 hour and 10 minutes in: John’s smile is heartbreaking.
  • When Another Earth flashes back to the accident at that crucial time, it is simply brilliant.
  • I tried to explain the film to a friend, and I used the term “our Earth” while talking about Earth I, but do we really know that’s our Earth?
  • Another Earth has currently bumped Certified Copy from my list of best films of the year.
  • Rabbit Hole: ****
  • This Debbie character means a lot in the film, but we never see her. It was a nice touch.
  • This is the movie A Little Help wishes it were.
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The Best 2010 Films I Didn’t Get Around to Seeing Until After The Oscars

And we’re rolling. Welcome to the 1st Annual Filmtooth Awards. I have nothing else to say.

The runner-ups, in alphabetical order:

Four Lions is a daring black comedy about terrorists. No wait, don’t skip to the next one yet… it’s actually good! The last scene floored me… hard. I highly recommend this one.

There are haters and there are lovers. The Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher’s US version coming soon) has more haters than lovers, despite having more likers than dislikers. Lizbeth being cloaked in mystery and the Hollywood ending did not repel me.

This was the first movie I cried at in a long, long time. It was tragic but somehow entertaining. I loved the way it showed us the end when it meant nothing to us, then replayed it when we understood it.

Applauded for the handling of its dark subject matter, the death of a child, Rabbit Hole is moving and heartfelt. It improves with each viewing.

And the winner is

Read the rest of this entry »

The Awards Schedule (for this blog)

In this, our inaugural year, 18 awards will be handed out by me, starting December 2. Here are the categories:

  • Best 2010 Film I Didn’t Get Around to Seeing Until After the Oscars — December 2
  • Most Overrated 2011 Cleveland Cavalier — December 4
  • Best Mouthwash — December 7
  • Best Voice Alive — December 9
  • Best New Show of 2011 — December 11
  • Best 2011 Comedic Cameo/Limited Role — December 13 (see below)
  • Best 2011 Film App — December 15
  • Best 2011 Comedic TV Actress — December 17
  • Worst 2011 Purchase I Made (Shamwow Memorial Award) — December 19
  • Best 2011 Comedic TV Actor — December 21
  • Best 2011 App, Non-Game Category — December 23
  • Best 2011 Podcast — December 25
  • Best 2011 App, Game Category — December 27
  • Most Godawful, Painful, and Insulting Movie I Saw This Year (not exclusive to 2011) — December 29
  • Best TV Comedy That I Watch — December 31
  • Best 2011 Supporting Film Performances
  • Best 2011 Leading Film Performances
  • Top 10 2011 Movies

I think I have everything I need… except a name. I thought I would name the movie awards after an object from my favorite movie from last year, and the same for TV. But then, thinking about Dogtooth, my favorite film from 2010, I thought that having Filmtooth (also a play on sweet-tooth) as a permanent name might be a good idea. What do you guys think?

And another thing… you guys get to decide who wins Best 2011 Comedic Cameo/Limited Role. Please vote below.

The Fighter -2010- Win Win -2011-

The Fighter and Win Win are both movies set in New Jersey about family and a certain type of sport. It’s combo review time. Let’s do it.

The Fighter stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as boxing brothers Mickey and Dicky. Mickey is in his prime, despite a small losing streak recently, while Dicky has delusions of returning to his former glory. Melissa Leo won an Oscar for the role of their mother, Alice, and Amy Adams was nominated for Charlene, Mickey’s new girlfriend. (The romantic relationship felt rushed and awkward, and the parts involving Micky’s daughter didn’t really work, probably since there were enough of them, and they didn’t tell us anything new about Mickey.)

Win Win stars Paul Giamatti as a struggling lawyer/wrestling coach who concocts a scheme to keep his practice open awhile longer: become the legal guardian of one of his senile clients, Leo. Only problem… Leo’s grandson shows up out of the blue. He and his wife, Amy Ryan, take him in and treat him like family. It turns out Kyle, Alex Shaffer, is quite good at wrestling.

Win Win made it clear what each of its characters wanted, while The Fighter had some trouble with that. Mickey might be conflicted, but Mark Wahlberg plays it weakly, making it seem like his character suffers from indecision.

Both films are very emotional. In Win Win, when Mike can’t tell Leo what he did, he comes to a realization. (I wouldn’t have been able to watch Mike tell Leo what he did, by the way.) In The Fighter, Dicky started making amends for all the trouble he had caused. Those moments were very touching.

The Fighter didn’t pull on my heartstrings until the end. It only started when Dicky made right on all his mistakes, and pulled the family together. The feeling of elation at the end of the last frame is incredibly powerful. Everyone was happy. These people, for all their fights with each other, were together and joyful at the end. That was the best part.

Win Win was more even, but both films had those moments in which the family fell apart as well as when they came back together. The payoff (the end) of Win Win was sweeter, though. “Wow, this family is dysfunctional,” I said to myself near to the end. But then… they figure it out. Everybody is happy. It was much subtler than The Fighter‘s in-your-face excitedly happy ending.

The end of Win Win came too quickly, while The Fighter got the build just right. I would have added another scene or two after the confrontation in Win Win.

I don’t really like it when people let out screams in movies. It’s fine in movies with high stakes because that makes sense. But the stakes in Win Win weren’t life/death (like in Never Let Me Go, a movie with a very tragic scream in it).

Both movies receive *** (that’s three stars, not a three letter expletive) from me. They’re both win-wins.

Notes:

  • “More like five weeks.”
  • “That sounds like a big deal.”
  • “He exploded up…”
  • “Can I get you something to drink?”
  • “Really creepy, just saying.”
  • “Not feeling the orange.”
  • Please read: Learning to Love “A Royale with cheese”
  • Also please read: top ten tv opening themes, a guest post I wrote on the wonderful pop culture blog tvdinnerandamovie.com
  • If you want to write up a little something for my blog, please let me know at movieblogger8@yahoo.com.
  • If you enjoyed either movie, you should check out the other. If you saw and liked both, you should see Little Miss Sunshine.
  • Coming soon: my review of Trust and my best films of the year so far list.

Rubber (2010)

***

The main character of Rubber finds a plastic water bottle. He crushes it. He enjoys the feeling of destruction. He then comes across a scorpion. He crushes it. He enjoys it even more.

The main character of Rubber is a tire. He enjoys blowing things up through mind-control so much, in fact, that he has begun doing it to humans. This movie has a very clear message: destruction and harm are real. In the film, everything surrounding this homicidal tire is fake. It’s all part of a show put on for a bunch of people who, you guessed it, end up dead. But not at the hand (or… leg?) of the tire. Instead, it was a human who poisoned their food. Everything surrounding the damage is fake, but the damage itself is very real.

Early on, one of the characters breaks the fourth wall, explaining that every great movie has an imperfection; something that is in it for no reason at all. A lot is missing from Rubber. We never get an explanation for some things.

I got a bit agitated when characters started giving their takes on the story. I felt it gave too many explanations. I wondered if that’s all certain characters were there for, but I got an answer quickly. Soon after a scene in which they nearly rip each other to shreds over turkey meat, the entire “audience” dies, bar one man. He calls his former watching-partners “animals” while he refuses to eat.

The characters meant nothing. I knew nothing of them, not even their names. They just appeared, played a role, then left. The tire was the most round of the characters. (Laugh. It was a solid pun.) During one scene, while he’s watching fellow tires burn in a bonfire (yes, the film has environment overtones, and they work), he shows great emotion depth.

The film ends. Everybody goes back to what they were doing. Except the tire, who is now reincarnated into a tricycle. He has more victims, and perhaps a sequel, in his future.

Dogtooth (2010)

****

This is one of those movies to which it pays to go “cold”. I knew almost nothing about this film before seeing it. I had seen one still image, heard one piece of information about the plot, and I had read that it is disturbing. And I’m glad I didn’t know anything else.

Now, before I completely divulge my opinion, I must tell you a little about the film. It’s Greek. It has characters and scenes. It has a beginning. It has an ending. You don’t want to take your kids to this. You don’t want to take your darling old grandmother to this. That’s really all you need to know.

I always imagine what a movie will look like before I see it. From trailers and advertisements and posters and pictures, I usually get a very good idea. All I had from this movie I what I listed above. As much as his big mouth might have wanted to, Scott Tobias did not tell me what to expect.

What I found was a very funny and very, very strange movie. The humor was dark. It came when the boy murdered a cat, when the non-elder one started licking people, and when it was announced that the mother would be birthing a dog. The strangeness never gave up. From the first scene, Dogtooth was different.

The performances were extraordinary. I’ve never seen these characters before, but I know they were perfect. They had to be, really, because they were the one ingredient that could not fail. This movie is about it’s characters, the things they do, and why they do the things they do.

Note for those who have seen the ending: Even if she does, she’s never getting out of that trunk. It’s just too late.

(Dogtooth is available now on Netflix Instant.)