Weekly Recap 11/4 – 11/10

Dudes. Weekly rundown. Let’s do this.

11/4/12 Catfish (2009)

Catfish feels like a less successful attempt at probing social media’s powers/dangers when compared to Fincher and Sorkin’s most excellent The Social Network. That isn’t completely fair to the makers of Catfish, since this came before, but then again, it’s unclear how fair co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are being to us. Framed as a documentary, the duo tracks Nev Schulman and what seems to be a growing romantic relationship with someone he’s never actually met in person. There are many moments in Catfish that feel too convenient for this to be a completely truthful representation. Joost/Schulman capture many key dramatic beats that either suggest Nev was constantly under observation or, more likely (and more appropriately), they’re probably not telling the whole truth.

11/5/12 No Country For Old Men (2007)

The Cult of P.T. Anderson gets it wrong when they treat No Country as an undeserved Oscars upset over There Will Be Blood. Like the latter, this absolutely has stood the test of time for the last five years. For what was surely my seventh or eighth viewing, the inevitability of events here really struck me. The inevitability of death, iconically personified in Bardem’s performance. The inevitability of choice, shockingly played out in Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss and the questionable choices he makes. There’s the inevitability of time, too and who better to voice a slow departure from relevance than Tommy Lee Jones? The Coens blend such rich ideas with their trademark off brand humor and extreme fits of violence in a tremendously engaging picture. Roger Deakins always shows up; he’s one of the few who can shoot scorched earth with such pop and beauty and depth.

Their list of accomplishments is vast, but what the Brothers Coen do best is entertain without ever talking down to their audience. They engage big ideas head on, and often only show the audience as much as they feel they need to see — something that P.T. Anderson cult can surely appreciate. My girlfriend, watching No Country for the first time, uttered a loud ‘Um, what?’ upon its now famously abrupt ending before preceding to read up on any and all Google-able analyses. You can add the inevitability of intrigue to the list as well.

11/6/12 Certified Copy (2010)

Juliette Binoche owns the shit out of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s 2010 film, flipping a brilliant middle finger to the frustrating demands and its sly, emotional teeter-totter. Her counterpart, William Shimell? Not so much. He nails the suave contentedness of a British author on a European book tour; it’s the getting angry part he doesn’t pull off. In fairness to him, he’s never really acted before and he still has an amazing baritone.

Distractions abound in Certified Copy. Steel thyself for dialogue over translation under crowd noise on top of subtitles. Kiarostami stacks these elements in such a discombobulating manner, but the film lost me at times with its meandering conversations that reek of pretension — honestly, only film characters vacillate so effortlessly from philosophy to child rearing to the authenticity of art. The only thing more temperamental is Copy’s emotional crux. What Kiarostami first introduces as an unfamiliar relationship between Binoche and Shimell becomes complicated and broadened and muddled through a cypher of an Italian day trip.

Beautifully shot, it’s almost as if Kiarostami wants his audience to linger on his deep staging and solar cycle of a day in Italy, because the 100 minute pace is beastly slow. This is as informed by art as much as it speaks directly to it. It’s no coincidence Shimell’s author has written a book on what should be appreciated in priceless artifacts or that Binoche is a French antiques collecter. Their discussions of legitimacy double as a convenient magnifying glass. And it’s clear Kiarostami wants us to hold it up to the pair’s own relationship.

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