2015 Updates

2015 in Review: 4/13 – 5/4

Everything I’ve written since the last update. Avengers, borderline personality disorder, Victorian romance, summer movies, Kurt Cobain, and Afghanistan.

Bitter Lake Review

“Director Adam Curtis presents the past and present in one stream. Modern-day footage of Afghan life is intercut with history, strengthening the sense of cause and effect the film argues for. It has a dreamlike, odd atmosphere, often employing snippets of popular music to eerie effect. The doc finds time to pause its argument to watch an American soldier play with a bird. An Afghan rebel rants Death to America for a video camera until he runs out of things to say, then stands around awkwardly. Few people, argues Bitter Lake, really have any idea what’s going on.”

Summer Limited Release Film Preview

For many people, summer means beaches and fireworks and camping and other outdoorsy activities. For cinephiles, it means loving blockbusters, disparaging blockbusters, or some combination of both (hopefully in addition to the aforementioned activities — live a well-rounded life, people). The studios have tentatively pushed “summer” earlier and earlier in recent years; with Furious Seven becoming the first April release to earn a billion dollars, expect more major action films to try to do the same going forward.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck Review

Director Brett Morgen ducks most potential obstacles by avoiding nearly every cliche we’ve come to expect from biographical documentaries about musicians. This is simply Cobain’s story, literally from the cradle to the grave, taking on his point of view as much as it can. Morgen’s approach was made possible by the cooperation of Courtney Love, Cobain’s oft-hated wife, who gave the director access to reams of Cobain’s personal creations. The breadth of material is astonishing – home movies, drawings, recordings, photos, journal entries, buried songs, and more, all going back to the man’s childhood. Morgen and co-editor Joe Beshenkovsky have worked these raw ingredients into a cinematic mixtape, 27 years of ruminations condensed into a two-hour diary.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

“Whedon has given lip service to the idea that it would be a poor choice to try to “top” the first Avengers, and that this sequel would go smaller and more personal. Exactly the opposite of that has happened. There’s still a catty baddie with world-ending aspirations and an army of indistinguishable supergoons (robots instead of aliens this time) and a final plan that centers on things dropping out of the sky. There’s probably less character development this time around, too. While Avengers was built around the team coming together, this film sort of gives each member a halfhearted concern to deal with, few of which are really resolved within the runtime. Rather than a culmination of its characters’ respective films, Age of Ultron has to busy itself setting up future ones, most obviously the next Captain America and Thor.”

Welcome to Me Review

“This is a remarkably strange, unceasingly riveting piece of work. Eliot Laurence’s script and Shira Piven’s direction emphasize agonizing stretches of awkwardness. It’s frequently unclear whether the audience should laugh or look away, though each such beat is likely meant to elicit both responses. It’s almost purposefully alienating, taking the trope of the self-absorbed dark-comedy protagonist over the cliff. Wiig is captivating, a black hole of heedlessness casually wreaking havoc on everyone around her, completely oblivious to the hurt she inflicts on her friends and family; she floats high above any lines between likable and intolerable. As for the film’s portrayal of borderline personality disorder, it gradually becomes evident that the story’s not aiming so much for accuracy as it is using some characteristics of the condition as a way to set up its thematic pursuits.”

Far from the Madding Crowd Review

In a 180-degree tone turnaround for the ages, Dogme darling Thomas Vinterberg has followed up the bleak, chilling The Hunt with a vivid period romance film. It was probably good for his mental health, and it’s even better for film lovers, since it gives them a viable alternative on a weekend deep in the shadow of Avengers. Far from the Madding Crowd possesses nary a hint of self-consciousness about being an enthusiastic swooner. An 1800s-set drama, it embraces all the fancy dresses, longing glances, and maneuvering of manners that period dramas are both known and mocked for.

By Dan Schindel

Born and raised in Maryland and currently based in New York, Dan Schindel is an associate editor at Hyperallergic, freelance culture writer, and available for any copy-editing/proofreading needs you may have. This website was originally a blog called Days of Docs, and chronicled his attempt to watch and review a documentary every single day for a whole year. He was mostly successful at this, and now he knows everything. He puts this knowledge to use by writing about movies, TV, games, books, comics, art, and more.