Monday, October 25, 2010


Review: 127 Hours
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Danny Boyle's sun-washed survivalist drama “127 Hours” is a movie of intensified, palpable sensations – a character study so closely intimate and keenly hip to human responses that it creates a psychic, near-tactile link between viewer and protagonist. One of the earlier sensations Boyle perfectly captures is the grating, “now-what?!” frustration that erupts when a wild inconvenience wedges itself between us and our practical plans. There's no one who hasn't felt it – the sense that some unseen force sent an asteroid plummeting to Earth to demolish the day. When these roadblocks strike, and when the screaming and stomping have died down, we have little choice but to switch tracks and chase after a solution. The things of which we're capable multiply, as we'll do anything not just to survive, but to gain back that comfy practicality.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Review: Secretariat
2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Oscar Wilde wrote something to the effect of, “what was good enough for our fathers isn't good enough for us.” It's a line I've been thinking about a lot lately, and it's as good a place as any to start when discussing the problems with “Secretariat,” a beautifully made movie that's unfortunately so precious and archaic it leaves you feeling like you're floating on a cloud of mothballs. At first glance, the film, directed by Randall Wallace and written by Mike Rich, looks like “Seabiscuit” meets “The Blind Side,” and that's about right. Featuring Brady-Bunch family dynamics, broad comic tics, Magical Negroes and religious elements that creep up like Jehovah's Witnesses at your doorstep, it's the sort of bizarrely conservative entertainment that may still have an audience, but feels unwelcomely transplanted from the youth of our fathers, or even our grandfathers.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Reviews: Waiting for 'Superman' and Freakonomics
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Quite possibly the most talked-about documentary in a year overflowing with them, the manifoldly educational “Waiting for Superman” is prime Oscar bait. The worst thing about it is it's fully aware of that. The notion that more effort has gone into the marketing of this standard-structure doc than the actual filmmaking persists like a devil on your shoulder, as does the feeling that the film itself is being plugged more than the issue it represents: the dire state of American public schools. Directed by “Inconvenient Truth”-helmer Davis Guggenheim and backed by Bill Gates and Microsoft, “Superman” (named for the send-us-a-hero desperation felt by many underprivileged students) presumably has enough money behind it to start a new chain of the charter schools it champions, let alone clinch a promotional appearance on every major news show in the country. Armed with subject matter that's about as Oprah-friendly as it gets (the talk-show giant, herself a major Oscar-influencer, has already devoted at least one full episode to it), the movie is one that's so outwardly admirable that few would dare stand against it, or notice that, compared with the many jewels of its genre, it's quite underwhelming.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Review: The Social Network
5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

If there's a downside to “The Social Network,” it's the very real likelihood that every movie you'll see for some time after will pale in comparison. Disappointing films, like “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and “It's Kind of a Funny Story,” will seem much worse. Even fine, important films, like the change-the-public-school-systems documentary “Waiting for 'Superman,'” will register as second-rate. On top of being so many wonderful things, “The Social Network,” or, “the Facebook movie,” as many are calling it, is a movie-ruiner. It's that good.