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November 29, 2011

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leeroy

Moneyball is a real treat. By far Pitt's best lead performance. I'll note that I haven't seen Tree of Life and am in no hurry to do so.

Anyway, it's a charmer. A bit like The Social Network in that it's behind the scenes atory, based on recent events, and adapted by Sorkin. But it's got an odd, intimate, quiet vibe. Best baseball movie I've seen since Bull Durham.

David Ehrenstein

Brad's better in "The Tree of Life" than he is in "Moneyball."
But then I hate sports.

As for Michael Fassbender, sometimes a penis is just a cigar.

Glenn Kenny

I'm still entertaining a proxy grudge against "Moneyball," although I suppose I should get around to contriving to see it some time soon. I ain't paying money to, though.

Tony Dayoub

I really liked SHAME, too. But some have been unexpectedly harsh towards it, and I really don't get the antipathy. A mutual writer acquaintance of ours (not the Siren) even went so far as to criticize McQueen's lack of adherence to the real-life geography of Manhattan as if that should factor into the discussion of SHAME's merits. (Sorry, I grew up in Miami which location scouts use and abuse for whatever is deemed necessary in a movie shooting down there.)

Anyway, SHAME ranks high on my list of this year's releases, if not necessarily in 2011's top 10.

c.t.h.

Glenn, could you say more about the dangers you see in the (for lack of a better term) non-narrative film artist making a move to narrative film making? I haven't seen "Shame" but I appreciated "Hunger" quite a bit, and I thought some of its strongest moments could be tied to McQueen's artistic sensibility that was developed outside the narrative cinema world, particularly the extended static shot between the priest and Sands. Is it just a tendency for arty flourishes, or do you see unreconciled formal priorities mucking things up?

Gus

Really don't understand the grudge against Moneyball. It's terrific throughout. Best movie of the year, no, but if you had anything good to say about the Social Network other than its use of camera, you'll have plenty to like at Moneyball.

Asher

In part this comment is intended as a parody of a certain type of cinephile, but in part it's how I actually feel: I couldn't tell how good Brad was in THE TREE OF LIFE because the movie was edited like a goddamn music video. As a music video model, I thought he was better than Sean Penn, certainly, who left no impression whatsoever (other than the very clear impression that he had no clue what he was doing), and better than Chastain, though she wasn't given much to do other than being an unambiguously wonderful Earth Mom (yes, I know, that's how the son sees her, but that's part of the problem with making a movie from the perspective of a small child with oedipal issues, the viewer's subjected to his simple-minded, warped vision of things in ways that may not be so interesting), but that's about all I can say. In the tiny bits of footage we see, he does do a fine job of evoking a sort of archetype of a troubled, harsh and yet loving 50s father - much more humanely, I think, than most movies about dictatorial 50s fathers - but I have a tough time judging a performance from such a fragmented record.

EOTW

Along with DDL in TWBB, Ledger in BM, his work in HUNGER is up there with the best perfs ever. Can't wait for SHAME.

Zach

As much as I was wowed by HUNGER, for some reason I've been on the fence about seeing SHAME - although your review has led to a spike in my interest level, Glenn. Fassbender is indeed a tremendous talent (can't wait to see A Dangerous Method). Some of the negative reviews of SHAME have also served to pique my interest, especially considering how reactionary and kvetchy they seem. Koresky's review is positively hostile, and Lane, who at least concedes that the film has its moments, is still disgusted by all the sex, which he finds insufficiently erotic. I mean, isn't that at least part of the point?

It looks like the common threads among the whiners is that the film is both a) too depressing and b) too obvious. After all of the intricacy of HUNGER, I find point b), at least, to be either dubious or beside the point. But anyway I gotta see the film for myself.

David N

He's not as cool or sexy or even as good as Fassbinder, but Tom Hiddleston has had a similarly great year.
A big role in a popcorn success - "Thor", a big role in a Spielberg - "War Horse" and two excellent art house dramas with major British directors; "Archipelago" and "The Deep Blue Sea".

You just know Fassbinder would beat him in an arm wrestle though...

Bettencourt

Don't forget, Hiddleston also made a fine F. Scott Fitzgerald in "Midnight in Paris," which I believe was not only Allen's best reviewed film in years but, I think, his highest grossing ever.

That Fuzzy Bastard

I too would be interested to hear what GK thinks are the pitfalls of visual artists making narrative films, particularly with regard to Miranda July---I've often thought her weaknesses had to do with not knowing which story elements are interesting and which are trite, but I'd never thought to connect that to her arts background.

Glenn Kenny

@ c.t.h., TFB: The lede of my MSN review is about 1/3 facetious, because in complete non-facetious truth I don't hold much truck with precisely the kind of generalization I make there. Also, the deeper you go into the issue, the more questions come up. Are Matthew Barney's often visually arresting but in large part infuriatingly turgid (or are they bracingly absurd?) "Cremaster" pictures "narrative films," or art objects? I thought "Trash Humpers" would have made more sense as part of an installation/exhibit, and was infuriated by the critics who acted as if it had any business being shown in theaters. As for July, my feeling is not that she doesn't know the difference but has some active investment in trying to redeem trite, or "trite." And I think her art background DEFINITELY contributes strength to her film work; odd as it may seem, I thought the crawling-shirt stuff was a real high point of "The Future."

I was pretty impressed with the Sands/Priest scene in "Hunger." Richard Brody wasn't, seeing no reason for McQueen not to cut. The long take was of course enabled by technological advances, so I kind of see that and McQueen's sensibilities/interests working in tandem.

This is all grist for a potential separate post, which will be a while in coming because I have to really concentrate on the next Blu-ray consumer guide now!

lipranzer

I had my problems with HUNGER, but that long take of the Sands/Priest scene wasn't one of them; I felt it worked within context, and I also think the long takes in SHAME work as well, particularly the scene between Fassbender and Nicole Beharie, as it just shows how tough it is for Fassbender's character to make genuine human contact with someone. At any rate, I think SHAME is a much better movie than HUNGER, though I do think as good as Carey Mulligan is playing against type, her character could have been better developed.

John M

Different strokes, indeed! Considering McQueen's controlled aspirations, SHAME was perhaps the stupidest film I saw all year. A film afraid of, or just uninterested in, its own beautiful characters. (And their beauty is no small piece of dishonesty: when a sex addict is portrayed by one of the world's sexiest men, well...boohoo? A less handsome sex addict might have a bit more trouble staring women wet on the subway. McQueen throws that bit of ugly conflict right out the window...because Fassbender fits the dong-suit, I guess...he looks so good next to an empty, white wall.)

And reactionary to boot: the depths of sex addict hell portrayed as a red-light gay encounter. On the cutting edge of 1978, this one. What on earth does McQueen think he's saying here? Masturbating a lot and fucking whoever you want whenever you want and being a handsome banker and watching lots of porn isn't always spiritually nourishing? Oh, and sex addicts have sisters? I'm still recovering from the revelatory shock.

Call me a "whiner," Zach, because yeah, the film's "daring" is so overproduced and obvious (in a dull, dull way) I started thinking HUNGER had never really been made.

Like, just LOOK at that still above. He's standing in a lobby! Waiting for an elevator! Looking down! Can you stand it? The Manhattan emptiness of it all?!

Again, to Glenn et al (I think Lex G's a fan), different strokes, etc. etc. But this one really irked me. (And I do like Fassbender...when he has something to do.)

If anyone's interested, a couple reviews I found myself nodding to:

http://mubi.com/notebook/posts/notebook-reviews-steve-mcqueens-shame
http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/steve-mcqueens-arty-sex-film-shame/Content?oid=5097223

Steve

I'm with John M. The frustrating thing about SHAME is that it still shows many traces of the talent that was so evident in HUNGER: fine performances, appealing cinematography, two stand-out scenes. (If you've seen the film, you an probably guess which ones I'm referring to.) But ultimately, the film is a failure, marred by a vision of New York life that suggests AMERICAN PSYCHO minus the satirical edge, dumb "ambiguous" hints that incest caused Brandon's sex addiction and a general conservatism implicit in the title and explicit in the depiction of gay sex and three-ways as Brandon's bottoming out. When Brandon expresses qualms about the realistic prospects of lifelong monogamy, the film seems to see this as part of his pathology, but I think he has a point, at least for some people.

Lex

SPOILER if anyone cares, but as to the last post...

David Poland's been on this "incest!" kick since the festivals, but the movie is ambiguous... BUT my read on it was that the sister and most probably Brandon had been abused as children, and Brandon's resentment and self-hatred is in part a result of failing to protect her when they were young, from presumably the parent who was molesting her and perhaps both of them. What the movie gets SPOT ON is the way that kind of thing-- and early exposure to sex in general-- at too young an age warps someone's spirit and colors their relationships for life; The way Brandon can't perform with a nice "normal" girl vs immediately calling up a hooker speaks volumes about how sex for abuse victims or people with fucked-up childhoods HAS to be made to be dirty, illicit, riddled with guilt and, er, shame (zing.)

It is a fuller cinematic experience, to me, than HUNGER, which seemed like a lumpy movie of three misshapen thirds, each interesting but they didn't really congeal. This one is top-to-bottom of a piece, of a mood... and the supporting performance of James Badge Dale as the ultimate Herb Tarlek-type swingin' married office guy unleashed is almost as thorough as GOD FASSBENDER'S portrayal.

I think it is maybe the strongest movie of 2011, or tied with TAKE SHELTER.

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