Archive | January, 2012

On Beauty and Commissioned Cinema: Luca Guadagnino’s Stunning “Here”

30 Jan

I am, admittedly, about a week late to this short. Here hit the web last Tuesday, which might have something to do with the lack of immediate effusive praise: Oscar nominations tend to hog all the attention, especially when it comes to those of us that spend our days writing about the movies. Unfortunate, because I would venture to claim that this 15 minute jewel from Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) is plenty more attractive and tightly produced than many of the features up for this year’s Academy Awards. It’s a gorgeous and calmly reverential piece of commissioned work that absolutely entrances, further making the point that beauty really is entirely inexpressible in words.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try out utmost. There’s an aesthetic perfection all over this film, not simply an enticing attribute but the entire point of the production. The Luxury Collection is a group of almost impossibly chic hotels and resorts under the Starwoods label, and their collaboration with Waris Ahluwalia is both out of love for art and a desire to showcase their properties to a wider audience. Here was shot at three of these hotels: The Equinox in Vermont, the Phoenician in Arizona and the Royal Hawaiian. They’re pretty stunning. Continue reading

Top of the Sundance Online Shorts

25 Jan

All of the nine shorts Yahoo and the Sundance Film Festival have put on the web are pretty good. It’s an impressive crop, and I’d say more consistent than a lot of the stuff festivals have put online in the last year. Yet in any batch of films a few rise to the top. I’ve rounded up the other seven, and the oddly consistent problem they have. Here are my two favorites and some gushing about why I think they’re absolutely worth your time.

Long Distance Information, by Douglas Hart

I suppose it doesn’t reflect too well on my attention span that one of my picks is the shortest film on the list, but oh well. While it may not be excellent because it cuts out before the eight minute mark, that comparatively small running time makes the brief screenplay even more noticeably tight. There’s not a single wasted second.

Writer/director Douglas Hart’s film is one of subtle relationship shifts. That applies not only to the emotional connections between the father and son at the center of the story, but also the physical structure of the set. Are these two rooms in the same building, or are they not on the same continent? Is this a tightly-knit family, or has it been years since they’ve spoken to each other? We spend the entire film changing our minds. Continue reading

Managing Cynicism: This Year’s Great Crop of Sundance Online Shorts

25 Jan

Maybe I’m a bit cynical. That’s not true. I’m excessively cynical. I could claim it comes naturally once you’ve seen too many movies, but that doesn’t seem like a good enough excuse. And the 2012 Sundance Film Festival’s online shorts are a perfectly illustrative example of why any exhausted approach to new movies is a bad idea.

American independent film has arguably hit a point of stylistic ferment. There’s a ton of exciting and innovative new work produced every year, but there’s also a growing list of aggravating indie film trends. Documentaries about cute old people doing something unexpected en masse, raucous banter-heavy family comedies, quirky teenagers that talk like cynical 30-somethings. It’s true that each of these styles initially caught on because of some genuinely excellent films, but that doesn’t make the inferior ones any less irritating. If I were to say “oh, it was just another bad Sundance movie” a lot of people would have a pretty clear stereotypical image, though it might vary based on the individual.

All of that drives the cynicism. You can sense a dreadful movie in its first few minutes; it’s so easy to put it into a box. Yet take heed! Apparently it doesn’t always work that way (I know, duh). Sometimes that instant recognition is right (see Jesus Henry Christ). But often it’s totally wrong. Seven of the nine Sundance online short films had me convinced for a good 1-3 minutes that they were going to be predictable and frustrating. Each one of them proved me wrong. Continue reading