CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Movie Review: CORALINE (2009)

by Christopher Beaubien • February 23, 2009 • 1 Comment

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Grimm Girl

When I say “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” what is the first name that comes to mind? Tim Burton. Burton invokes visions of dark whimsy, and promises tours into a world that is distinctly his own. From the visual style and original story based on Burton’s illustrated book to his entire filmography coined a word that solely attributes to the artist and his world — Burtonesque. Hell, his name is in the title: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. It takes a few more synapses in the brain to remember that Henry Selick was the film’s director. Selick made Jack Skellington come to life. Even the association of Burton as a producer blurs Selick’s accomplishment for his 1996 film James and the Giant Peach, based on the Roald Dahl novel. Finally, Burton is absent working on his adaptation of Alice in Wonderland due 2010. Selick is all alone here with the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Hugo Award winning novel.

Coraline is Selick’s baby.

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Movie Review: WENDY AND LUCY (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • October 25, 2008 • 2 Comments

Poor in Show

Quietly, slowly and efficiently, writer and director Kelly Reichardt observes Wendy (Michelle Williams), a young runaway disenchanted with her life back home and who is dangerously close to becoming a drifter. Invisible to those around her, she is accompanied by Lucy, her golden retriever. She also wants to find work in Alaska. Wise choice: the fish canneries do pay well. The two sleep in her car. Her budget is really tight. Now her car won’t start. Over the next few days, she is stranded in a nearly desolate Portland, Oregon town where she curtly explains to strangers: “I’m just passing through.” With many miles left to go and too far away to go back, Wendy is determined to stick to her plan.

In a wonderful shot early one morning, Wendy lugs out a nearly empty extra-large bag of dog food out of her car to fill Lucy’s bowl near a suburban curb. Under an overcast sky, the shot stays with Wendy and then she leaves the frame. From a low-angle, we observe a line of modestly kept homes at a distance. There is someone sitting in one of the porches looking back at us. Who is this person? Is this important to the plot? Where’s the movie star? This is a waste of money! The studio notes would have been endless had this not been an independent production outside the studio system. Wendy does come back into the frame. The means of losing her momentarily demonstrates just how easily she could slip right through the cracks and never be seen again.

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Movie Review:
BURN AFTER READING (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • September 17, 2008 • 4 Comments

A few months shy of a year, right after winning Academy Awards for best written, produced and directed film of 2007, Joel and Ethan Coen breathlessly churn out something completely different. Such confident, heady, speedy workmanship that is Burn After Reading makes me wonder if the Coens realize No Country For Old Men – a film full of Chigurh – actually won the Best Picture. For a comedy about government intelligence, it is curiously, though appropriately ominous. This coming from the Coen Brothers, I am not surprised. I am overjoyed.

Burn After Reading is not as broad and eccentric as Raising Arizona (1987) and O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000). Don’t get me wrong, it’s still eccentric. The comedy is more subdued like Barton Fink (1991) where the stuck up title character (John Tuturro) proclaims himself a writer of the common man (“The life of the mind. There’s no road map for that territory”.) while ignoring a bumbling insurance salesman (John Goodman) who often says “I could tell you some stories”.

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Movie Review: THE FALL (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • September 12, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Alexandria In Wonderland

Once Upon A Time, Six-year-old Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), one of the injured patients in a Los Angeles hospital circa 1920, wanders the limey and creamy walls looking for something to help pass the time. She has a doughy and lovable face that is genuine, animated, and suggests a definite sharpness of thought. She comes across Roy Walker (Lee Pace), an American stuntman working in the Hollywood “flickers”, who is now being treated for his paralyzed legs from an occupational hazard. He is welcoming and befriends the little Romanian girl. Her presence distracts him from an inky cloud of depression.

Their bond grows when he tells her an epic story that is silly yet strong, perplexing yet straight-forward, fantastical yet damned. Her own imagination manifests, reinterprets, and even edits his words into a hodgepodge of visually radical planes, structures, and characters. A whole new universe takes us away from the confines of the hospital and into a land of eye candy.

The Fall is not the best film of the year, but it is one of the most special. While watching it, I realized that I have never seen this movie before. What I mean is that most of the movies I’ve seen are a variation on other films I have seen. Out of the cookie-cutter machine a la Edward Scissorhands, a strange butterfly-shaped cookie has escaped the line: The Fall is a genuine original. What a fresh breeze it is to have a filmmaker throw out that unwritten book that rules out exploration and approaches deemed too strange and melodramatic for mainstream expectations. Here is a work by an artist who exercises his liberties selfishly in the best sense of the word, but not without purpose.

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