CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Archive for November 2008

Movie Review:

by Christopher Beaubien • November 11, 2008 • 2 Comments

The Life Stages of Caden Cotard

Oh God, I feel alone. I feel so utterly alone having connected and clicked with a film that many people will reject. This being the directorial debut of the incomparable screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann: Sï-nêk’dõ-kë, Nyöo Yáwrk. For me, Synecdoche, New York is a tough sell — an unconventional film that I treasure where recommendation demands caution. It’s where I stand with Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996), Bill Forsyth’s Housekeeping (1987) and Robert Altman’s Three Women (1977). These films fly in the face of all the formulaic and commercial creeds of how a movie should work and gives pause for how many ways it could work best. A first impression might grimace, conclude “it’s weird” and close the investigation — that’s their right; however, Synecdoche, New York deserves better and an appreciative audience. The film works, not despite, but because of its extraordinary structure and function being mysterious, opaque, labyrinthine, yet emotional, accessible, and fully-formed.

What I love most about Charlie Kaufman’s exercises in the celluloid medium is how they exceed expectations throughout his most unorthodox and dizzying narratives. Throughout, there is apt teasing and suspense over where this story could go when driven by such a visionary. By the end, I feel as if he has exhausted every possibility from his premises with an attentive heart. Such as when the pitiable Craig Schwartz whose puppets of himself and Maxine, a distant female co-worker, kiss for the first time in Being John Malkovich (1999). Or when Joel Barish frantically races away from his evaporating memories with his ex-girlfriend Clementine at hand, trying to save her in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Or how about when in Adaptation (2002), New Yorker writer Susan Orlean is struck by the awesome poetry of John Laroche, a toothless orchid thief, musing about the “little dance” between wasps and orchids — “How, when you spot your flower, you can’t let anything get in your way.”

In Synecdoche, New York, our hero tries to find meaning in his very existence by resurrecting an evolving metropolis in a gigantic sound-stage where a flock of birds fly off many miles down the structure. The seminal replica of Manhattan is a theatre set for an untitled play about its director and all of the people in his life. Since the play reflects life, so the play must reflect itself like a microcosm that expands, refracts, grows and deepens. It is a comic-tragic, universal illustration of a life that tries to manage its surrounding citizens in roles (wife, daughter, mistress, 2nd wife, etc.) the participant tries to contain. Of course, everyone else is the lead in their own story, so management of the play of one’s life becomes discombobulated.

Enter the world of theatre director Caden Cotard played with great nerve and without vanity by Philip Seymore Hoffman. At age forty, he is burdened with anxiety, bad health, failed relationships, and occasionally distracted by lofty goals that feed his great ego which barely hides his low self-esteem. Like an addict, he mercilessly prods, analyzes and compresses his failures; denying himself a much wanted recovery by purging himself deeper into a sea of emotional toxin. What hurts most is that he tries so hard to preserve what little he has left. While a doctor sews stitches into his forehead after a freak accident with an exploding sink faucet, Caden sheepishly remarks, “I’d rather there not be a scar.”


“Monsters vs Aliens” Teaser

by Christopher Beaubien • November 11, 2008 • Start the Discussion!


No! This not another merger-bastardization of the Ridley Scott/James Cameron enterprise. It’s a CGI feature from Dreamworks that comes in ATOMOVISION! – correction – INTRU3D! Sigh, 3D is so overrated.


Movie Review:

by Christopher Beaubien • November 08, 2008 • 2 Comments


Rare, Bloody and Tender

First, I would like to single out a scene that is pivotal to the overall success of Let the Right One In. Oskar, a twelve-year-old Swedish boy (Kåre Hedebrant), whose parents are separated, is visiting his father (Henrik Dahl) over the weekend. Late in the night, the two are having a blast playing tic-tac-toe. They are interrupted by a visitor whose presence subtly changes the course for the rest of the evening. The last grim exchange between the father and son expresses so much hurt and understanding about the how and why. It doesn’t need to be explained. It is simply felt. This scene sounds like it belongs in a serious drama. It is, but Let the Right One In is also a vampire movie – as sophisticated and thoughtful a horror film as you are likely to find.

This film, like so few can, redeems the horror genre. So many cynical filmmakers belittle their horror films because they don’t believe the genre is worthy. You can browse shelves of horror titles and find only one success out of thirty failures. Thankfully, Let the Right One In joins the ranks of great vampire films like Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987), both of the 1922 (dir. F.W. Murnau) and 1979 (dir. Werner Herzog) versions of Nosferatu, and its cunning companion Shadow of the Vampire (2000) by E. Elias Merhige. Let the Right One In is the real thing. Set in Sweden – 1982, it uses vampire logic in an environment as cold, cruel and recognizable to our own. There are moments of invention such as what happens when a vampire trespasses property where an invitation has not been given. Here, vampires get burned when touched by sunlight – they don’t (*shudder*) sparkle.

ltroi5Living next door to Oskar is Eli (Lina Leandersson), a young vampire who looks like a twelve-year-old girl, but it is more complicated than that. There is an alarming shot of her behind a door that’s ajar — you know the one. She is sheltered by an older deviant (Per Ragner) who appears to be under a spell as he fetches her blood from victims he kills and drains. She would have been better off sending the Ice Truck Killer to perform this task. Upon further reflection, this character may be a possible outlook into the future of what Oskar will become when he reaches adulthood.


Movie Review: SLACKER UPRISING (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • November 04, 2008 • 1 Comment


Wake Up and Smell the— 286 (R) | 252 (D)

On the night before the 2004 presidential election, Michael Moore spoke with ferocity and vigor at the final round of his five-week Slacker Uprising tour across the country and visiting sixty cities. Despite being outnumbered by an enthusiastic crowd of Kerry supporters, many Bush pushers chanted “4 more years” voluminously. It was like a bad omen of things to come. New Orleans citizens abandoned for days in the Katrina flood. Nearly 4200 US soldiers dead in Iraq. Thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens tortured and killed. A damning deficit and a broken economy. You know the drill. What’s done is done. Four years after, we have another roll of the dice.

Some remember Bush’s second win back in 2004, his first legitimate one, and wondered if we’d still be alive next year. R.E.M.: “It’s The End of the World As We Know It”. It felt something like that. From the beginning of 2003, I discovered Michael Moore through his stinging documentary/political thesis Bowling For Columbine, which won the Academy Award. I sympathized with Moore’s views and followed up on his work. At the time I worked on tiling roofs, I remember after reading Dude, Where’s My Country? over the weekend in its entirety, I missed out on a Michael Moore signing at the same Chapters (the Canadian version of Borders) the day after I bought the book. The next year, I had seen all of his films, TV shows – TV Nation and The Awful Truth – and read all his books including the elusive copy Adventures in a TV Nation. Having followed Moore’s exploits closely, visiting his website weekly, watching Slacker Uprising now was like catching up with an old sitcom I was all too familiar with.