What Else I’m Watching: October 2013

salinger-movie-review


Because you can’t review them all.

Sadly, life gets in the way of writing about everything I see, so this space is as much for keeping track of what I’m watching as it is for you to share your thoughts on what are, with any luck, a group of high-quality films.

It’s been a hectic month personally, and today, two days later than I’d hoped to have this up, I’m staring at a list of the movies I’ve watched in October. It’s the fewest in any particular month in a long while. But with the end of the year in sight, I’m certain that will change in November and December.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

RATING:
(2013, 1 viewing)

Following the all-around disappointment of Amelia, an adaptation of Mohsin Hamid’s excellent novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist seemed like exactly what director Mira Nair needed to rebound. What a stunning disappointment it is, then, to learn that this startling text made for an even worse film than Amelia. The adaptation is a MESS. There aren’t any shades of gray here, and as such, the film’s message is muddled beyond belief. Riz Ahmed is in way over his head as the lead actor—an up-and-coming Pakistani-American businessman who (possibly) turns radical after experiencing deep and painful prejudices in his adopted nation. And most disappointing of all, Nair’s directorial identity feels completely, almost tragically absent.

Salinger

RATING:
(2013, 1 viewing)

Savage reviews have all but disqualified this doc from the Oscar race this year, and while I’m not exactly losing sleep over it, I do think some are being a tad protective of Salinger’s legacy of privacy. This is a perfectly watchable movie—a popcorn doc—with an inflated sense of importance and very little to say by way of true insight. A lot of speculation, an over-reliance on re-enactments, and a grating score make it a failure, but the way it comes and goes without much fuss makes its failure pretty minor.

A Hijacking

RATING:
(2013, 1 viewing)

I’d wanted to post a full review of Tobias Lindholm’s marvelous A Hijacking, but in the immediate wake of Captain Phillips—a film that’s as similar in concept as it is different in execution—it was playing too much like a comparison. I don’t feel so bad touching on some of those bullet points in this space, so I’ll briefly say I admired the way the film derives tension out of long-distance phone calls. There’s no big boarding scene, and its editing is graceful, subtle. It’s a film born of a fictional incident, which means its themes are truly universal. But it shares at least one thing in common with Paul Greengrass’ movie: it lands with a devastating bang in its final minutes.

Something in the Air

RATING:
(2013, 1 viewing)

I so wanted to love Olivier Assayas’ latest. It’s filled with breathtaking shots, exhilarating scenes. But it doesn’t amount to anything substantial in my estimation. Set during the revolutionary France of the 1960s, its characters preach passionate ideals, but they do so without any passion—or at least passion as I recognize it. I think Something in the Air is a film that probably connects deeply with a small portion of its probably small potential audience. But I’m not among that group, sadly.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

RATING:
(2009, 4 viewings)

There isn’t a film out there that feels more like autumn than Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The colors, its cozy charm—it’s a film I fell in love with on first viewing, and that love has never dissipated.

Collateral

RATING:
(2004, 5+ viewings)

Michael Mann movies often carry the stigma of being too cold or detached. Maybe it’s because he’s such a technician, but it isn’t something I’d necessarily agree with, and Collateral might be exhibit A of his ability to draw viewers into a story through character first. Collateral is, pretty plainly, a Hitchcock movie—a thriller in which an ordinary man gets thrust into extraordinary and potentially deadly circumstances. And Jamie Foxx’s Max is a wonderful stand-in for Jimmy Stewart. He’s a really likable guy, and Foxx sells his transformation of sorts so, so well. Throw in an atypically evil Tom Cruise turn, and you’ve got a great, extremely rewatchable flick.

The Way, Way Back

RATING:
(2013, 1 viewing)

The directorial debut of Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash is a much-lauded coming-of-age film that simply tries too hard. Set in an unnamed east coast shore town, The Way, Way Back focuses on a young boy with a less-than-desirable family situation who finds meaning in a part-time job at a water park. The water park stuff, which features a pretty terrific performance from the typically terrific Sam Rockwell, is aces. But Faxon and Rash (both of whom pop up in the film) make their protagonist’s family way too unlikable and one-note. They didn’t need to try this hard to make us like this affable, quiet kid. And because they do, the entire film reeks of artifice.

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2 Responses to What Else I’m Watching: October 2013

  1. Wendell November 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Glad to see the love for Fantastic Mr. Fox and Collateral. Foxx and Cruise were both awesome in the latter.

    Reply
  2. Brittani November 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I’m still kind of interested in seeing Salinger, just because I don’t really know a whole lot about him to begin with. I was pretty disappointed by The Way Way Back too. Rockwell was great, the rest was awful.

    Reply

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