In Search of Lost Time: Looking at the Small Stuff in The Grand Budapest Hotel

In the very best films there are always a handful of quiet things that insist on the large-scale completeness and grandeur of the filmmakers’ vision for their work. The big scenes are always there to be commented upon and picked over regardless of how good or bad a film might be. To me, though, the very best filmmakers often leave their mark in the quieter or more subdued moments. Perhaps the classic example of this is the story of the girl with the parasol in Citizen Kane. That little moment remains with me as much as anything else in that masterpiece, but it has none of the showmanship and chutzpah that Orson Welles’ work is so renowned for. It’s just a quiet moment of grace and insight which subtly illuminates all the rest of the film’s emotions and themes upon reflection. I am not bold enough to say that The Grand Budapest Hotel,  the new film from my favorite director, Wes Anderson, has anything on the level of that immortal parasol story (or Citizen Kane in general). But I do think this is a wonderful film that is brought to most vivid life and vibrancy by such small moments illuminating the larger construct.
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“Drinking Buddies” and the Attractiveness of Opposites

    Drinking Buddies is available on Netflix Instant Watch. (Photo credit: The New Yorker)

Drinking Buddies is available on Netflix Instant Watch. (Photo credit: The New Yorker)

The 2013 Joe Swanberg-directed mumblecore film “Drinking Buddies” came out last summer to less fanfare than deserved, but it has found new life this month after being made available on Netflix streaming. The film was shot and takes place in Chicago, and centers around two co-workers at Revolution Brewing in Logan Square.

While the jury is out among Chicagoans I’ve talked to about whether or not the Windy City locales and references worth watching for, I feel it’s the characters and dialogue that make this 90-minute movie worth your time.

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Frozen: A Disney “What if?”

I am an unabashed lover of fairytales. My fondest childhood memories are mostly about my siblings and me sacking out on our parents’ bed while Mom read to us from an illustrated version of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. It opened with the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” which was fine. My little sister preferred “The Little Mermaid” or “The Little Match Girl,” but my favorite was the “Snow Queen.”

Gerda & the Reindeer (Edmund Dulac, illustrator)

I have no hate for Disney. I’d consider myself an affectionate if critical observer. I don’t really go in for dressing as a princess, but the Disney Marathon is on my bucket list. I know and understand the problems with ‘Princess’ culture—the idea that women need to be rescued from isolation or the control of our parents, that we need marriage (and therefore sex) to become adults and understand the world—yep, that’s all troubling. There’s been a lot of criticism written about it — just Google “problems with Disney princesses” and you’ll get results from The Week, the Boston Globe, and a host of bloggers. That said, I will still sing along with every single Disney song written between 1989 and 2000.

Thus, I was tentatively delighted when I heard that Disney’s newest conquest was to be my favorite fairytale. [Read more…]

How Would You Touch Me?: Spike Jonze’s Her


I used to have an OKCupid profile. It led to…well, nothing much, really. I’m not very good at dating. Most of my relationships to date have come about by my being in the right place at the right time. I tried online dating for a bit as a way to try and broaden my options. However, it just never felt right. Meeting people/talking online was weird. The lack of personal interaction was bizarre, to say the least. When the time came to finally meet people, there was an overt familiarity that lent itself towards social anxiety. This may be a case that many of you find familiar, or it may simply be me being socially awkward. Judging by my lack of OKCupid success, I’d lean towards the latter.

Anyway, one thing I continually noticed on the site was listed under a section titled “Things I couldn’t live without.” Around 90% of the time, people had their phone listed. The reasons varied, yet the unassailable uniting factor was that their phone had become such a large part of their life, whether through social communication, apps, or whatever the fuck Yelp is supposed to do, people found that their daily lives could no longer continue without them. It had become almost a part of them, a “significant other”, to use the term lightly (“other” meaning a strange object outside the realm of nature and “significant” meaning…well, significant). It’s only a matter of time before you see phrases everywhere like “I’m in love with my phone”.

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12 Years a Slave is Mandatory

Travis beat me to the punch a bit here, but I also have some brief thoughts about 12 Years a Slave. We will both expand upon this in the immediate future, I’m sure.

This is mandatory. Essential doesn’t come close to being right for this film, which is an instant classic to me. It is mandatory. As in, every person with even a passing interest in film as an art form has to see it.

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Holy pants.


Dear Earth,

Please go see Gravity, the new film by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), starring Sandra Bullock (never ever even close to as good as she is here) and George Clooney (who is perfect in this role). It is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year and a cinematic experience unlike any other I have ever watched. It will win many (all of the?) Oscars.

An addendum: Please go see Gravity in IMAX 3D. I literally cannot imagine experiencing this unbelievable spectacle in any other way.

More to follow.

Thank you and good night.


Re-Subscribing to Chaos Theory: Jurassic Park 20 Years Later (In 3D!)


While Jurassic Park is not the first movie I ever had the pleasure of viewing in theatres (more on that in a later article), it holds the distinction of being not only the first live action movie I was taken to see, but the movie that utterly transformed me into a full-fledged nerd. When I was but five years old, my mother told me that there would be a movie coming out in the summer that was about a theme park consisting of live dinosaurs. My little brain took off running, and I instantly took out every book I could find regarding dinosaur history, etymology, and paleontological studies, going so far as to give a lecture on dinosaurs both in my kindergarten class and at the Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting (church camp for Quakers). Needless to say, while I remain convinced to this day that I was a natural born lecturer from the age of six (my birthday happened before the movie was released), my classmates were less interested in the distinction between saurischian and ornithischian hip structures and more interested in Power Rangers, TMNT, and Battle Trolls. (That ought to date my coming of age properly.)

(Sidenote #1: This ability has never left me. One of my lab sciences, designed to fill out a liberal arts education centered around the double whammy of majors in Theatre: Acting/Directing and Film Studies, was the Geologic History of the Dinosaurs. A Wednesday tradition that semester was to hold court at the local Panera Bread, where I would orate about the differences between hadrosaur skull structures while my friends and colleagues devoured French onion soup. My main realization of those afternoon seminars is that not much has changed since I was in kindergarten, especially as I realized the most effective way of teaching the differences between dinos was to pretend to be one of the creatures we were studying and attack my friends until they could tell me five facts about what dinosaur I was supposed to be. But I digress.)

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Alex’s Thought on the Cinema of 2012 Part One: Or, Argo is a Mediocre Thriller in the Guise of an “Important” Film and its Oscar Victory was Vapid Bullshit


I’ve been putting off summing up my experience of the year 2012 in cinema for a while now.  It just seems that I never see enough to really pass judgment on a year until 1/6th of the next one has passed. Part of that is just the general lethargy of me not seeing half of what I want to on time. But there’s also a big part of me that doesn’t want to write an article like this until I can bitch about the opinions of others, namely the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So I will get to my overall thoughts on the cinema of 2012 in a second article, first I have to get rid of my venom in this one.

In specific I want to tell you, dear readers, that the Academy gave its highest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture of the year to a film that is wholly undeserving of such praise. Now this is not an unusual occurrence. In the past ten years I have agreed with the Academy’s choice all of once, when the Coen Brothers won top honors for their 2007 Western/Noir/Existential Philosophy Think-piece No Country for Old Men. That’s not to say that I hate every Best Picture winner. I have absolutely no complaint with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Departed, The Hurt Locker, or even The Artist winning it all. There were movies I preferred to all those films, but they are all good to great films that deserve to be seen and stood out against the films they competed against at the Oscars. That’s not something that I can say for Argo, the film that was named Best Picture of 2012. I know my esteemed editors here on The Addison Recorder have sung the praises of Ben Affleck’s Iran Hostage thriller in their own 2012 pieces, but my opinion runs rather dramatically counter to theirs.
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