Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Education Staff Review

From the first bouncy notes of its opening credits, “An Education” springs onto the screen with all the energy and joie de vivre of a bevy of chattering schoolgirls, and maintains this breezy pace and an appropriately, refreshingly lighthearted tone through to the very last frame. Carey Mulligan, playing the luminous, precocious protagonist Jenny, has been repeatedly likened by critics to Audrey Hepburn — and while her charm and expressiveness are a little reminiscent of Hepburn in her breakout role in “Roman Holiday,” Mulligan is a delight as Jenny not because she is pretty and perfect, but because Jenny is naïve and arrogant, confused and disillusioned, just like so many other bright teenagers galloping headfirst toward the humbling place that is the real world.

The film, set in post-war, pre-Beatles Britain, centers upon Jenny’s budding relationship with David (Peter Sarsgaard), a charming thirtysomething man of questionable repute, who picks her up one rainy afternoon on the pretense of keeping her cello dry. One can almost read her mind as the two sit in David’s car chatting: This man is intoxicatingly sophisticated compared to the boys Jenny is used to — is the age difference simply what it takes to keep up with a sixteen-year-old girl praised by teachers for her cleverness and groomed for Oxford by her parents? It seems that way to Jenny, at least.

David’s courtship of Jenny, juxtaposed with the pitiable-yet-humorous efforts of one of her classmates, gradually progresses. His worldliness and affability help him win over Jenny’s well-intentioned petty bourgeois parents, played brilliantly by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour, who seem just as dazzled by his world of fine art, nightclubs, and spontaneous jaunts to Paris as Jenny is. All they want is for their little girl to have a more prosperous, more glamorous life than they’ve had, and David seems to be offering one — for free.

The story — criticized by some as “safe” and “predictable” — is admittedly a fairly straightforward coming-of-age tale. But the conventional plot is precisely what allows the rest of the film to shine: Mulligan and Molina are tender, humorous and wonderfully real, Olivia Williams (“Rushmore”) and Dominic Cooper (“The History Boys”) provide solid support, and Emma Thompson is hilarious and horrid as the cold-hearted headmistress. A dynamite soundtrack is present throughout — with the exception of a very out-of-place modern number during the final credits — featuring less predictable artists, like Mel Tormé instead of Frank Sinatra, for instance, who give the film a vibrant atmosphere without being so familiar as to distract viewers. The production design, costumes and makeup are slick and stylized without forfeiting accuracy, making pre-swinging London look as pristine and chilly as a glittering Swarovski figurine.

The unrelenting lightness of “An Education” is what makes the film truly great; director Lone Sherfig and writer Nick Hornby allow the darker moments to flit by in a way that creates a gripping sense of tension as the older and wiser audience realizes the dangers Jenny is dancing frightfully close to. Humorous moments, too, are peppered throughout, particularly whenever things threaten to take a turn for the sentimental. (“If it does happen, it will never happen again,” says Jenny before sleeping with David. Why? Well, she clarifies, the first time can only happen once, can’t it?) Though the resolution of this fairly brisk film is a bit rushed, not a minute of any of it is dull. “An Education” will be opening at The Loft this Friday.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Loft's Favorite Films of the '00s

Combined List:

1. tie Mulholland Dr. / George Washington
2. There Will Be Blood
3. Let the Right One In
4. Downfall
5. tie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind / Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
6. tie Grizzly Man / Mister Lonely
7. Moon
8. tie In the Mood for Love / The Pianist
9. tie Shaun of the Dead / Amélie / Amores Perros / Pan’s Labyrinth
10. tie Memories of Murder / Synecdoche, New York, / The Royal Tenenbaums

Jeff, Program Director

1. Mullholland Drive
2. George Washington
3. Waking Life
4. Far From Heaven
5. Mr. Lonely
6. Ghost World
7. Synecdoche, NY
8. Sexy Beast
9. Das Experiment
10. Ginger Snaps

Dave, Facilities Manager

1. Synecdoche, New York
2. The Fountain
3. Big Fish
4. A Scanner Darkly
5. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
6. Pan's Labyrinth
7. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
8. Amores Perros
9. Inland Empire
10. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

Dale, Projectionist

1. Downfall
2. Che
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
4. Brick
5. City of God
6. Baader Meinhoff Komplex
7. 28 Days Later
8. The Aviator
9. Volver
10. Old Boy

Anthony, Floor Staff

1. Let The Right One In
2. Memories of Murder
3. There Will Be Blood
4. Grizzly Man
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
6. Adaptation
7. The King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters
8. The Incredibles
9. A History of Violence
10. Kill Bill Vol. 1

Dan, Assistant Manager

Me and You and Everyone We Know
The Darjeeling Limited
Lost in Translation
The Royal Tenenbaums
A Very Long Engagement
Punch-Drunk Love

Tim, Floor Staff

A Girl Cut In Two
Bad Santa
Brokeback Mountain
Kill Bill 1
Kill Bill 2
Shaun of the Dead

Luanne, Membership Director

In the Mood for Love
49 Up
Afghan Star
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Dancer in the Dark
Dead Snow
Donnie Darko
Frozen River
Gosford Park
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
House of Flying Daggers
Kill Bill
La Vie en Rose
Let the Right One in
Man on Wire
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Moulin Rouge
Mulholland Drive
Spirited Away
The National Parks: America's Best Idea
The Station Agent

Daniel, Projectionist

1. Shaun of the Dead
2. There Will Be Blood
3. No Country for Old Men
4. High Fidelity
5. The Wrestler
6. Snatch
7. 28 Days Later
8. Let The Right One In
9. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
10. Frailty

JJ, Operations Director

1. George Washington
2. Mister Lonely
3. Mulholland Dr.
4. Irreversible
5. American Astronaut
6. Gozu
7. Taxidermia
8. Grizzly Man
9. The Piano Teacher
10. Amores Perros

Zach, Director of Theater Operations

1. Mulholland Dr.
2. George Washington
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
4. In the Mood for Love
5. There Will Be Blood
6. Lord of the Rings
7. Grizzly Man
8. Memories of Murder
9. Amores Perros
10. Punch-Drunk Love

Amy, Development Director

1. Y Tu Mama Tambien
2. Departures
3. The Pianist
4. Gran Torino
5. Juno
6. The Kite Runner
7. Wanted
8. Elf
9. Best in Show
10. Traffic

Steve, Office Manager

1. Old Joy
2. Elephant
3. I’m Not There
5. Grizzly Man
6. In the Bathtub of the World
7. Trouble Every Day
8. The Piano Teacher
9. Mutual Appreciation
10. Punch-Drunk Love

Peggy, Executive Director

George Washington
Mr. Lonely
In the Mood for Love
Breath (Ki-Duk Kim)
Infernal Affairs Trilogy
Man Push Cart
Duck Season
Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Pedro, Assistant Manager

1. Pan’s Labyrinth
2. Downfall
3. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
4. Let The Right One In
5. Memento
6. No Country For Old Men
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
8. 28 Days Later
9. A History of Violence
10. The Aviator

Christian, Floor Staff

1. Amelie
2. The Royal Tenenbaums
3. There Will Be Blood
4. Moon
5. Mysterious Skin
6. Brick
7. Elephant
8. Ghost World
9. Secretary
10. Love, Actually

Alyson, Floor Staff

1. I Served the King of England
2. An Education
3. The Pianist
4. Almost Famous
5. Lost in Translation
6. Downfall
7. Ghost World
8. American Psycho
9. Moon
10. Love, Actually

Kyle, General Manager

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Amores Perros
3. Grizzly Man
4. Moon
5. Spirited Away
6. Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
7. Station Agent
8. Dancer in the Dark
9. Memories of Murder
10. The Darjeeling Limited

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Baader-Meinhof Complex Staff Review

The Baader Meinhof Complex is a highly stylized and pretty well-paced film, clocking in at over 2 hours long. The film does not stray far from the facts, yet such a history lesson in late 60’s through the better parts of the 70’s West German socio/political upheaval never disappoints, except maybe in that it is missing some of this man’s favorites in the German acting world. But I do digress. The film starts out with the humble beginnings of what would later become the Red Army Faction, also known as the Baader Meinhof gang.

We see the respected leftist journalist Ulrike Meinhof played by the stunning actress Martina Gedeck coming into her own as a politically active journalist when she takes the side of student demonstrators who, while peaceably protesting the visiting Shah of Iran, were attacked by the Shah’s entourage, then later the German police force. Her compassion for the students' and leftists' views were obviously not stomached well by the establishment’s right-wing eyes. But nonetheless Ulrike strikes a chord with the burgeoning student subversive groups. The political situation at this time in Germany was one of much suspicion towards those in political and economic power on both respective sides of Germany. Former Nazis still managed to find their way back into positions of power in the political and business sectors. And great suspicion of Nazism and/or American Imperialist influence did not sit well with the distrustful younger generation. Enter social unrest, the setting for the rest of our film.

Johanna Wokalek delivers a sexy and substantial breakout performance as Gudrun Ensslin, the other intellectual brain of the early RAF days. She drives the film and the newly born terrorist group like a jockey at the bridle. She also holds the bridle to the movie's other namesake, Andreas Baader, the psychopathic strong-arm of the RAF. Moritz Bleibtreu plays Andreas with a rageaholic’s vigor, both convincingly and fearfully. I cannot truly express the delivery these actors employ in their powerful roles as real life figures. Even after watching the film a second time I can’t with all honestly say I have seen any blatant over-acting, which one could expect from people who have the chance to play idealistic Marxist radicals (the vilified enemy of the Cold War generation) in a movie.

The first half plays like a youthful deviant’s joy ride in a stingray corvette of yesteryear. The last half is still a fever dream-paced ride, but in said stingray with blown struts and grinding gears as our proto-terrorist heroes begin their downward spiral in the same fashion of their fiery rise. Once again the film never strays far from fact; as the grueling trail and prison confinement grates on the souls and sanity of the group's incarcerated founding members, friendship and organizational dynamics take a boot to the head as solitary confinement and hunger strikes work chaos and ravage their respective psyches. The trailer does not lie about the birth of modern terrorism, as these influential but tragically egotistical miscreants help set off a tirade of international events in their wake, even after their capture. Excitement and a damn good history lesson is what one gets from The Baader Meinhof Complex.

Once again my only qualm with the film is that I would have loved Alexandra Maria Lara to have a speaking line and not just be gratuitous eye candy. And a bit more screen time for the ever-brilliant Bruno Ganz. But, none of this diminishes from the film itself. Hollywood should take note of Uli Edel’s direction and learn how one can make a film that is sexy, fast-paced and dripping with style that can somehow still contain substance. In closing, the film is more than worth seeing, not only for educational and entertainment value but also for its relevance to today’s trouble with terrorism and the consequences of free market capitalism. It brings food for thought to anyone who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s seeing the fall of the great enemy of communism and its ideology, and forces you to wonder if both sides took their views too far in one direction. Which in the end was perhaps a loss to both sides. Come watch the film and take from it what you will. Love, D.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The All-Night Scream-o-Rama 2009!

The Loft Cinema's ALL-NITE SCREAM-O-RAMA returns with 12 hours of eye-popping, mind-blowing, stomach-churning horror movie classics, ghoulish guests, trashy trailers, scary shorts and spooky surprises ... it's a Dusk till Dawn nightmare you'll never forget!

Meet legendary Scream Queen BRINKE STEVENS, the sultry star of such clas-sicks as SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY, NIGHTMARE SISTERS, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, HAUNTING FEAR, TEENAGE EXORCIST and many, many more (hundreds more, to be not-quite-exact)!

Below are trailers for the films with their VERY APPROXIMATE start times. Be there this FRIDAY THE 13TH or be DEAD!

Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama with Special Guest Brikne Stevens in Person! 7:00PM:

John Carpenter's The Thing 9:30PM:

Pieces 11:00PM:

Hellraiser 1:00AM:

Fright Night 3:00AM:

City of the Walking Dead AKA Nightmare City 5:00AM: