Columbus, the debut feature from writer/director Kogonada, was so quietly self-assured that I figured I knew what to expect from his sophomore effort After Yang. Carefully composed framing, slow-but-steady pacing, and a general construction so precise that it borders on the architectural (and not just because Columbus was partly about architecture) — these are the hallmarks I readied myself for in After Yang, which premiered last week at the Sundance Film Festival.
…so an opening that included the year’s flashiest techno dance sequence could very much be called a surprise. Based on Alexander Weinstein’s 2016 short story Saying Goodbye to Yang, Kogonada’s second feature is definitely the work of a director trying to reach farther, trying to push out beyond the bounds of his finely-calibrated debut. It’s an admirable and exciting endeavor, and After Yang would be disappointing if it adopted the personality of Columbus. In certain respects — see: techno dance sequence — this endeavor is a success. But After Yang is a bit disappointing in other ways, even if only in falling short of the high bar Kogonada set for himself.
Continue reading After Yang (2022) →
Whenever a perfect little family poses for a picture like the one taken in the opening scene of Force Majeure, you pretty much know they’re in for some trouble. It’s an oft-used trope showing how easily people can slip into a display of happiness, showing how perception can sometimes count for everything — we touched on a similar scene in our discussion of Robert Redford’s Ordinary People, a film which is on the whole a good touchstone for the themes of Force Majeure. Though the Swedish film suffers slightly from swaths of introspection that last just a bit too long, Force is still one of the most well-crafted family dramas of the past year.
That family is dad Tomas, mom Ebba, little daughter Vera and littler son Harry. They’re on a weeklong getaway at a beautiful mountainside resort in the French Alps for some skiing and relaxation. It’s family time, which Ebba subtly notes has been a much-needed side effect of Tomas’s busy work schedule. This is precious time, so the family does everything together. They ski together, they brush their teeth together, they sleep together on the big master bed. They eat lunch together. They get engulfed by an avalanche together. Family stuff.
Continue reading Force Majeure (2014) →
I’ve always been spectacularly underwhelmed by anything within a ten mile radius of Stephen Dorff. He is in a ton of stuff I haven’t seen, to be fair, but then again most of those seem like instantly forgettable action flicks with airy titles relating to crime (Felon, Officer Down, .45) or cars (Brake, Carjacked) or just ambiguously intense shit (Heatstroke, Riders, Deuces Wild). Maybe there’s an unseen masterpiece buried in there somewhere. The things with Dorff I’ve had the distinct pleasure (ahem) of enjoying (ahem) have been Blade, in which he plays the most annoyingly puerile vampire this side of Twilight; Immortals and The Iceman, which I had to look up to make sure he was actually in because I don’t remember him at all; and, of course, those stupid ads for Blu Cigs. To boot, I mix the guy up with Skeet Ulrich, and that’s never good.
And yet Johnny Marco from Somewhere is a categorical douche, and wouldn’t you know it? Dorff is actually a great choice for the part. After he breaks his arm falling down the stairs at a party, Hollywood actor Johnny spends a few weeks at a high-price resort in the Hills getting pampered and watching strippers flail around in his room. He drinks and smokes. He sits. He orders room service and opens another beer and returns to the couch to smoke and sit some more. Every now and then his phone buzzes, receiving texts from a private number that say things like You’re a fucking asshole and You think you’re such hot shit, don’t you? and Johnny hardly manages a shrug as he lounges around his room.
Continue reading Somewhere (2010) →