Monday, July 28, 2014

reelin' in the years: boyhood & life itself

I am catching up with some movies from the first half of the year. Here are two flicks I found stunning.


Richard Linklater's 12-years-in-the-making Texas-set opus shot consistently and beautifully on 35mm film is impressive even if the near-three hour film lags here and there and sags a bit towards its winsome finale. The director has his tremendously deft editor, Sandra Adair, to thank for making the movie feel so seamless as it courses through the years. Also of note is his talented, magnetic cast, including young daughter (a wry Lorelei Linklater) and the quietly charismatic lead Ellar Coltrane. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are affecting and believable as the split-up mother and father; despite their compassionate exteriors, you sense they are the sort of headstrong, fiercely intelligent people who bitterly wished they had ended up with different lives. The movie behaves a bit like a boy--sometimes spry, sometimes cloyingly metaphysical, unwieldy and aimless--backed with a pop rock soundtrack. Disarmingly funny and haunting, the movie piles up with shots of the era's debris (surely all those once heavily cherished ipods, cells, Apple computers, and Harry Potter hardcovers we see are now in the Goodwill or landfills) and is movingly book-ended by twilight scenes of sky. Besides its conceit, it's no wonder Boyhood seems to be hitting a nerve with American audiences, since our recent bygone era (those reminders of the crushingly bad Bush years still sting) has been so rarely (or as vividly) captured in a movie decade glutted with dopey comedies, pedigree period pics and hokey CGI franchises.  ****

Life Itself

I read Roger Ebert's autobiography Life Itself by battery-operated candles when half of Manhattan went dark after Hurricane Sandy. A mix of his movie passions, his wit, unique story, and his perseverance, the book was a very emotional read in the cold, shadowy quiet. Controversial to some for the black and white response to cinema as "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" from his and Gene Siskel's popular, long-running TV program, Ebert has written decades of personal and say-it-plain film reviews and has also undoubtedly been a champion of overlooked filmmakers, especially in times where it has become more and more difficult for Middle America to find quality movies in their theaters. One of those beneficiaries of Ebert's adoration is Steve James who directed the film Hoop Dreams. James' new, heartbreaking documentary is clear-eyed and painful, especially in showing Ebert's physical trauma and the plight of Ebert's beautiful, unbelievably strong wife Chaz and family. There's a grueling scene midway set to a mishap, cruelly ironic clip of Steely Dan's "Reelin' in the Years." It also highlights Ebert's history and demons (his drinking years and jealousy-fueled spats with Siskel, who also died tragically young), and his ability to adapt to and embrace the changing times. ****

-Jeffery Berg

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Check the beautiful new video from Perfume Genius.

My friend Rick's Dad appears in the board room.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

tu(n)esday!: a selection of gentle jams from melissa presti


Hopium - Dreamers

astronomyy - U Make Me Feel Good

How to Dress Well - Face Again

Aquilo - It All Comes Down to This

Rag N Bone Man - Lay My Body Down

Broods - Mother & Father

Monday, July 7, 2014

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

turn around

Lovely song and video from Sailor & I.

justin lockwood reviews 'tammy'

The new comedy Tammy has two huge draws: Melissa McCarthy, the energetic star of Bridesmaids and The Heat, and Susan Sarandon, who needs no introduction at this point.  The duo star as a luckless woman—in the first scene she wrecks her car by colliding with a deer, then gets fired and finds out her husband is having an affair with the neighbor—and her ribald, sassy grandma, embodied by Sarandon in a wig and prosthetics. Their chemistry and charisma, aided by a fine supporting cast, keeps the movie engaging even if it’s not quite as gut busting as you might hope.  The script, co-written by McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone (who also directs) further supports the film with some emotional heft.

Following her day from hell, Tammy wants to leave town, but when mom Allison Janney (pretty underused) refuses the use of her car, grandma Pearl offers hers—if she can come along.  The film then becomes a series of episodes, with bits like Tammy’s totaling of a jet ski (both she and Pearl swiftly dress down the irate rental clerk).  It’s meandering without a lot of structure at first, but it’s an amiable enough entertainment thanks to witty one-liners and the leads’ ability to go for it.  The scene in which Tammy amateurishly robs a fast food joint, touted in the trailers, is a highlight that justifies the episodic plot.  Eventually subplots like Tammy’s romance with a likable everyman (an endearing Mark Duplass) and Pearl’s health troubles and alcoholism converge into a character arc for Tammy and a grand reckoning for her relationship with her grandmother. Kathy Bates, effortlessly great as a lesbian relative, supports the more mature elements in her heart to heart with Tammy—while also getting to light a car on fire and blow up the aforementioned jet ski (!).

Tammy fails to make use of all of its terrific cast members—while McCarthy and Duplass are fun to watch as they move towards connection, and Sarandon is typically great (and clearly having a ball), stalwarts like Gary Cole and Toni Collette aren’t given enough to do.  But the movie falls into a subcategory of comedy I’ve come to enjoy, movies in which, even if they’re not always hysterical, really satisfy on an emotional level.