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Beautiful Ohio (2006)
Is the sound quality an issue for anyone?
The plot of the movie is nothing extraordinary. In fact, it may even be interesting, but I couldn't be certain because the sound track seems to have been inverted, with the background noise in the film drowning out the characters' speeches. This technical issue was terribly frustrating for me, and I wonder if this was an issue in the original release.
Cry Macho (2021)
Cinematography (as quaint as it is) is the best part of the movie
This movie is stuck in a haze of nostalgia for an antiquated era that rightfully rings hollow, contrived, condescending, and pathetic. The stereotypes abound in this shallow story of an elderly man who despite being out of his element (physically, culturally, socially, generationally) can set everything straight by merely uttering a word. The women around him swoon, upstanding men doff their hats to him, the children gambol around him, and the bad guys (yes, there's no grey area in this fictitious world) get their comeuppance--all just because, well, he's a gringo who knows better than everyone else and can strut around a modern Mexico--that somehow still seems stuck in 1930s no matter when he turns--setting everyone straight. There are plenty of reviewers who want to justify this two-dimensional melodrama as honest and tender storytelling, but that's precisely because the reviewers are also caught in the haze of nostalgia that envelopes this disjointed and exasperating narrative.
I Care a Lot (2020)
Male writers have to stop coopting female perspectives
The current formula in Hollywood seems to be write a story with a male-lead in mind and then simply insert a woman as the character (in this case, you don't even have to change the love interest because same-sex partners will make it more salacious).
This "strategy" is just robbing us of real female perspectives by selling us the same ol' tough-guy narratives (the violence, the smugness, the over-the-top plots) under the guise of feminism.
Black Earth Rising (2018)
Excellent writing and provocative storyline
This is the type of smart, well-researched, and admirably produced cinema we need.
It has been 25 years since the atrocities in Rawanda took place, but how many of us outside of Africa and scholarly circles devoted to this region know of the "African world war" which was the context for those atrocities and crimes against humanity? How many of us have dared to ask how something like the Tutsi genocide gestates and eventually erupts into existence? How many of us understand the consequences of such events after the shocking headlines linger in our minds like a fading nightmare?
As one of the central characters in the series punctuates with regard to history and the pursuit of justice--even at the risk of reopening wounds and bitterness:
"If we do not publicly recognize each and every fragment of our past, our story will never be complete. If we are to be truly united, truly reconciled as a country, as a city, in our villages, our streets, to our neighbors, to ourselves, our story has to be complete."
That's what makes this series so compelling and thought provoking. Africa is that rising continent, the "Black Earth" that reflects and informs our current time and future, and quite plausibly our humanity.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Smartly written--funny and thought-provoking if you catch his drift
I won't bother with a summary of the plot because it's been covered by nearly everybody else who has commented. What I want to say is that the writing is good. The characters are over-the-top, as is expected in a satire. The exaggeration of each character's flaws contributes to the snarkiness of the writer, who brings us along for the ride with little more than a wink here and there.
The hook is the mysterious nature of art--the metaphysical element that gives all of these flawed characters their cummupence--in a world devoid of spirituality (that is, in a world driven by titillation of the senses, pretentiousness, and greed). Which is not to say that the writer advocates for simple-minded reevaluation of a life without God, in the Biblical sense, but perhaps in the sense that values are distorted--"and monetized"--when we lose sight of what art is meant to do: to let us see anew and experience insight and wonder.
The message is plainly delivered at various points in the movie and in rather blatant terms: "Oh wait, in our world, you are God," says the art dealer to the critic; "Critique is so limiting and emotionally draining" muses the critic who is indignant at being thought to be in collusion with the art dealer to set the price of particular pieces--he, after all, imagines himself to be "furthering the realm he analyzes." All of those lines are delightful barbs at the pretentious world of those who don't create but make a living on the basis of those who do. And, we, the spectators are invited to laugh at them even as we consume the artistic product of this cinematic medium for our own titillation--even if not for our own profitS.
This is a waste of time--nothing original in this movie at all
Nicholas cage clearly took on this project simply for a pay day. There isn't anything in the movie that is not predictable--WARNING: THE FOLLOWING LIST OF PLOT ELEMENTS MAY BE CONSIDERED A SPOILER (even though the point is that the plot is so trite that there isn't much to spoil): the professional band of thieves, the double-cross, the stashing of the loot, and the fight for the stashed loot once the one betrayed gets out of prison. The "bad guy" is rendered through over-acting and exaggerated resilience--right down to the typical one-on-one fist fight with the bad guy that just won't stay killed. Low-budget; mediocre acting; and poor storyline.
End of Watch (2012)
Trite and formulaic cop story
Despite what professional and some amateur movie reviewers are saying, this is in no way an innovative movie. The cop-story is trite--even formulaic, with two young cops finding themselves battling gang violence and drug smuggling in south-central LA. One of them is ambitious, trying to make it up the ranks to detective, while the other is content to do his job well. The so-called "innovative" use of cameras is annoying more so than interesting or engaging as the director literally switches angles EVERY second in some scenes just to create the illusion of excitement. If it were a scene that required it, I would understand, but this happens even when the protagonists are chatting in the confines of their squad car. Pena and Gyllenhall have the right mix, but that seems to be the only allure of the picture. The supporting cast, aside from "Mr. Evil", were amateurish in their acting, and the gang members were beyond stereotypical, but trite. I certainly don't see why this is getting the positive reviews it's getting--the plot is canned, the acting is mediocre, and the filming technique tries to compensate for the story's lack of sophistication (both in regard to content and dialog) in an intrusive way.
"Independent" need not be "amateurish"
Despite the good reviews others have posted, this movie falls short of a higher rating than the one I offer. The themes of friendship, loyalty, personal direction, and personal aimlessness are interesting. The setting is original and the filming is done rather well (the angles, the lighting, the location). The problem is the acting and the writing.
The acting is very amateurish and the story is over written (the dialogue is stilted for the characters and the delivery is continuously rushed by the actors). The director does have a good eye, as the camera angles and the beautiful opening photography engage the viewer, but once the actors open their mouths not even the cinematography can save it.