Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
1.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

The only thing about Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close that makes it seem as though it belongs anywhere near the current batch of Oscar contenders is that its pint-sized protagonist, the extremely loquacious and incredibly cloying Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), is a kind of kindred spirit to awards-season heroes Lisbeth Salander and Hugo Cabret (he's both an ultra-efficient, number-crunching loner with a photographic memory and the holder of a magical golden key he believes will help him unlock the secrets of his late father). By all other accounts, this needlessly self-important and hugely artificial post-9/11 weepie feels laughably out of place, and could just as well have been brushed under the rug with, say, the throwaways released in late winter and early spring. Like 25th Hour as directed by the Care Bears, the New York-set film attempts to use the ordeal of one to address the pain and interconnectedness of all in the wake of what Oskar calls "the worst day," yet it's presented in a cutesy, sterile, pristine package befitting the shelves at FAO Schwartz.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Review: Albert Nobbs
2 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Albert Nobbs's opening sequence is a typical intro to the daily grind of a buttoned-up world, with suited staffers of a late-19th-century Dublin hotel readying the rooms and hallways, and the eponymous, cross-dressing waiter (Glenn Close) lighting a lantern that slowly illuminates her face. Accompanied by the title, this glowing image is intended to be the film's most telling shot, when in fact it's an empty promise, as light is never truly shed on this guarded, cagey character. Co-written and co-produced by Close, who worked on the project for 15 years after playing the lead in a 1982 play, Albert Nobbs contains a heroine whose paranoid reserve leads to near-total impenetrability, a fault primarily caused by Close's acting.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Review: The Iron Lady
3 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

The wonder and terror of Meryl Streep's performance in The Iron Lady is her formidable ability to nail the disheartening talents of not just Margaret Thatcher, but so many conservative politicians like her, who have a tremendous knack for changing minds and beckoning cheers while underlining their own rigid ignorance. As riveting to watch as ever, Streep is scarily convincing, just as Thatcher was, when offering growling, idealistic justifications for aggressive, divisive actions, like continuing to slash public spending and sending troops to die in the Falklands War on the apparent basis of bitter principle (her proud utterance of "I want [the Falklands] back" is followed by the revelation that it was Thatcher who arrogantly reduced the Islands' naval defenses in the first place).


Thursday, December 8, 2011


Review: Young Adult
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

With Young Adult, her third feature as screenwriter, Diablo Cody constructs a woman out of pieces of herself, pieces of who one can assume were her frenemies in high school, and pieces of a two-dimensional wackjob whose drastic instability comes with flat, long-standing tics like pulling out bits of her hair. Two of these personas lend themselves to brazenly perceptive, delightfully cutting 21st-century comedy, providing firsthand basis from which to launch into character study and pungent generational commentary. Love or hate her artistic output, 33-year-old Cody is clearly someone who's long had her eyes and ears wide open to pop culture, making her hyper-aware of how those in and around her age bracket have both sown and reaped the rampant spread of gluttonous commercialism, leaving many stunted and discontented to a radical extent.



Review: The Sitter
2 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Of today's working directors, is there a bigger genre-swapping sellout than David Gordon Green? After proving his mettle with dramas like George Washington, All the Real Girls, and Undertow, Green must have been growing tired of raves from Roger Ebert not translating into hefty box office, and when the stoner experiment Pineapple Express soundly broke that cycle, the luster clearly proved too sweet to abandon. That may be an oversimplification, but however much he's howling on the set, Green surely can't be finding too much personal fulfillment helming post-Pineapple Express drivel like Your Highness and The Sitter, two utterly worthless comedies that reflect the fatigue of the Apatow-spawned subgenre of rude, random, pop-saturated, pretty-fly-for-a-white-guy romps.


Friday, December 2, 2011


Review: Answers to Nothing
1 star (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

Answers to Nothing is tasteless and out of touch right down to its foundation, embarrassingly unaware that Crash-like, hyperlink narratives went out with bird-flu paranoia. Even Alejandro González Iñárritu had the good sense to get with the times and narrow the majority of his focus to a single character. But writer-director Matthew Leutwyler, who heretofore helmed Z-grade horror like Dead & Breakfast, and the VOD-bound The River Why, apparently gets his memos out of specialty distributors' five-year-old trash. Not even worth the time it takes to watch the trailer, his latest is a shoddy urban pastiche jam-packed with the same sophomoric, faux profundity of that irksome, half-ambiguous title, and it continually suggests he's long been living in a windowless box.