Best known for the crime drama The Counterfeiters that won the foreign-language Oscar in 2008, Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's Deadfall is his English-language debut feature. I was interested in seeing Deadfall since, despite despising cold, snowy Midwest winters, I have a fascination with movies that have a cold, snowy setting. Films like the Swedish vampire masterpiece Let the Right One In, or the Coen Brothers classic Fargo. Deadfall was obviously influenced by Fargo.
New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Dominik raised eyebrows and garnered attention when he delivered the epic tragedy The Asassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which garnered Oscar nominations for cinematographer Roger Deakins and co-star Casey Affleck. Now he’s back up to bat for another shot at Oscar gold with camera guru Deakins, and the star of the Jesse James film Brad Pitt. The film is a mob tale of crime and redemption called Killing Them Softly, which sounds like an oxymoron from the get-go. Although Brad Pitt has long been a performer whose name is more synonymous with “movie star,” he has been edging along in upgrading his credentials to “actor.” Beginning with his work for Quentin Tarantino in Inglorious Basterds, and continuing through the aforementioned Jesse James film, and last year’s Moneyball, Pitt has seemed to be moving out of the “movie star” shadow by delivering some really risky performances where they might not be expected.
It’s always an annual treat when Cincinnati World Cinema brings in the current Lunafest collection. This long-running series of short films by and about women is an excellent way for budding filmmakers to get noticed, and also do some good in the process. As always, a portion of the proceeds from these showings will go to the national Breast Cancer Fund, and locally, to the Eva G. Farris Education Center in Covington.
In any collection of short films, reactions will be different for different people. You may find some inspiring, some funny, some ho-hum. But that’s the luck of the draw, and just like with the British commercial programs, there’s always something new just around the corner. The shortest film is three-and-a-half minutes; the longest eighteen.
If you thought you never liked chamber music, put those thoughts aside for a couple of hours and see the new film A Late Quartet. After 25 years of worldwide fame, this quartet is coming to a crossroads. The cellist, whose wife died not too long ago, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, which spells the end of his career. The husband-wife duo of second violin and viola are having relationship difficulties, and the first violinist refuses to relinquish any portion of his first-chair duties so that the second violist might have a chance to shine a bit.
Columbus, Ohio, native Josh Radnor is best known for his lead role in the TV sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” But in his spare time, Radnor also indulges in multi-faceted filmmaking. Liberal Arts, his second film, has his name all over the credits as writer, co-producer, director and star of this tale of coming to grips with how your life has turned out after college, and how his character, and others in the film, deal with the disappointment and loneliness of it all. Virtually every character in this exploration is angst-ridden and looking for something different.
Other than politics of late, the other conversation-starter is always the release of the latest James Bond film. Everyone has opinions about the best and worst of the entire series, which now encompasses 23 films over the past 50 years. It doesn’t matter if you are staunch supporters of Sean Connery, or Roger Moore, or Pierce Brosnan or any of the others. All Bond fans are ready to sway you to their point of view.
A long, long time ago, in a century not so far away, a filmmaker named Godfrey Reggio stunned movie audiences in art houses around the world with his film Koyaanisqatsi. Hard to say, harder to spell, it was an unusual documentary in that it had no narration and an ecological theme. Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian term for “life out of balance.” It was a masterfully edited collage of stunning imagery, some in real time, some not so real, all accompanied by a mesmerising score by Philip Glass.
Sometimes filmmakers seem to have the most fun when they turn the camera on their craft and themselves. Among titles that come to mind are Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths falls in line with that theory. The talented writer-director of the quirky In Bruges from a few years back seems to be using Seven Psychopaths as a cathartic experience to work through a bout of writer’s block.
Ben Affleck’s newest film as a director, Argo, is a textbook example of how to make a first-class Hollywood movie from an actual event, and keep it moving, interesting, suspenseful, and sometimes funny.