There is something distinctly unique in the experience of watching a Nicolas Winding Refn film. No matter what the subject matter, there is always something antagonistic waiting under the surface to either shock with visceral intensity or disturb with subtle ease. As the Dutch writer/director has said in interviews, he wants people to have such a strong reaction to his films that they walk away either loving or hating them: no middle ground. Also a professed fetish filmmaker, Refn presents his movies with an obsessive visual desire to burn permanent images of moments and ideas into the minds of his viewers, and, in so doing, creates an atmosphere that’s either hypnotic or repelling—either of which depends on the viewer’s approach to each of his films.
Luis Prieto’s Pusher (2012) is a remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s directorial debut of the same name. Advertisements make that painfully clear, as his name is plastered all over the posters and trailers. I liked Refn’s film just fine, but I didn’t love it. It didn’t feel unlike any other gangster/crime movie I’d seen before—he has certainly made better and more interesting projects as his career has gone on. I neither loved nor liked this British update. In fact, this is a perfect example of a remake that has gone in the negative direction. I equate this to a band playing a bad cover to a song I didn’t have much affinity for. The characters and plot developments were so cliché that this may have worked better as a parody of the genre instead of a sincere effort.
In honor of the release of Argo, Spencer and Greg discuss Bryan Cranston.
With 2011 officially in the books, it’s time once again to look back and reflect on some of the best films that have come out in the past year. As with all movie writers, coming up with a list like this is usually expected, but also damn near impossible. To me, reading and writing these types of articles are only beneficial in spreading word about titles that really had an effect on me, while stirring up debate between those who strongly agree with my choices, or vehemently disagree. No one list is ever truly definitive; what is considered great to one may not register the same way to another. The only real truth is that 2011 had a wide range of very interesting and fascinating films, and just like every year, there’s always a good handful worth noting.
I think Top 10 lists are fun. Many critics write beleaguered sorts of “I don’t really want to be doing this and it’s stupid and rankings are meaningless” disclaimers at the beginning of their lists. Ugh. Look, it should go without saying that any list (or review) is a reflection of the writer’s personality and their un-duplicate-able individual experience. If you’ve read the rest of my writing this year, you will not be shocked by my list. What I’d like to say before I dive in I don’t consider to be a disclaimer, but just necessary context: the films I didn’t/couldn’t see that are on my mind anyway.
It is a rare ability for a film to both rely on a sense of nostalgia and simultaneously introduce something new that is its own. Drive, a neo-noir thriller from director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising), is a perfect example of one of those rare films. The story follows an enigmatic man who drives stunt cars for films by day, and moonlights as a getaway driver at night. The driver, who has no name, meets his neighbor and her son one day and establishes a relationship that leads him into a web of betrayal and violence.
It is always hard to tell in a given year what is going to be a good film. I have a notoriously bad track record for predicting what movies I will end up loving. The trailer and the premise of the movies are always misleading because you can never get the full picture of what you are going to get from your characters or the action on screen. The Social Network, my favorite movie of last year, had a trailer that did nothing for me; it seemed the boring story of Facebook instead of one of the most interesting character studies of the year. Or there’s Avatar, the overly special effected movie that seemed it had nothing else going for it, but it ended up being an extremely fun romp that I enjoyed immensely.
*Competent production values
*Good, even beautiful (though not unique) photography
*By no means a masterwork of technical filmmaking, but is probably passable enough to get a solid A in a film production course
*Historically inaccurate (takes place in 1000 AD; Crusades didn’t start until the close of that century)
*Racially…confused? Maybe? If you go by Netflix’s summary, it’s a terribly racist film.
*Confusing and contradictory plot
*Lacking any conflict, resulting from the structure