The Wind Rises

REVIEW: Reveries of Ambitions and Dreams in ‘The Wind Rises’

It’s a happy accident that I saw animation Oscar nominees The Wind Rises, by Hayao Miyazaki, and Jennifer Lee’s Frozen almost back to back. The comparison between the two films both in the way they are made and told highlights themes that run through Miyazaki’s film: the disparities between Japanese and Western culture and technological achievements; how the former yearns to be like the latter, but the feeling isn’t reciprocated;

Steve Coogan

REVIEW: Phenomenal ‘Philomena’ Serves It Up to Those “Fucking Catholics”

I know: there are a dozen less-shocking lines from Stephen Frears’ Philomena that I could have used in the title of this piece, if I couldn’t have thought of something original myself. As it is, “phenomenal Philomena” is destined to become a trite alliteration in reference to this superlative film, which of all the Oscar candidates that I’ve seen — I am seeing them in order of release — is now the one to beat. But if you don’t agree with Steve Coogan’s exasperated exclamation about Catholicism in reference to its abuse of, well, just about everyone in the history of its existence, then you’re likely a member of the Catholic clergy, or as terrorized by this most dangerous and egregious of Christian sects as Philomena herself.

Coogan plays Martin Sixsmith, a Roman Catholic-turned-atheist journalist and Russia specialist who has lost his job as Director of Communications in the UK Department of Transport following a scandal,

Steve McQueen

REVIEW: ‘12 Years a Slave’ Turns Real Events Surreal

Midway through Steve McQueen’s masterpiece 12 Years a Slave, I began consoling myself that at least I am descended from the good whites in the north. I don’t have a drop of southern blood in me, unless you count my Australian mother, but in that case I too am descended from slaves, in a sense. What the founders of Australia endured just in the transportation from Britain to the colonies Down Under, often for the pettiest of crimes (if they were guilty of them in the first place), was as arduous as and far longer than the journey from Africa.

After seeing Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (1981) in London, my maternal grandmother stood up and shouted at the audience, “You see what you did, you pommy bastards?”

Paul Dano

REVIEW: ‘Prisoners’ Navigates a Maze of Moral Ambiguity

When a film’s excellence is achieved as much by how it is told as by what it is telling, then that is the most exciting use of the medium, and its highest tribute. Such is the case with Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners.

Set in a working-class suburb of Boston, but actually shot in Georgia, the story follows the anguish of two families, the Dovers and the Birches, whose respective daughters are abducted on a sleepy Thanksgiving afternoon, and the investigation of the detective in charge, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. A mentally challenged local resident, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), is likely to have either been the culprit or the last one to have seen the girls.

Cate Blanchett

REVIEW: ‘Blue Jasmine’ Isn’t a Return to Form. It’s a Reinvention.

I don’t read reviews or production notes before I see films, so it wasn’t until almost the end of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine that I realized it was inspired by A Streetcar Named Desire. Allen has done a number of homages to other filmmakers or based his movies on classics, but this is a jazz riff so accomplished that it transforms a disturbing meltdown into a pleasant experience.