Film review: Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1”

My take is available at Raw Denim. Short version: It’s a piece of shit, and has dialogue that sounds like an alien was trying to approximate human emotions. (Note: That alien failed spectacularly.)

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, John Hughes, 1986

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, John Hughes, 1986

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All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula, 1976

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All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula, 1976

An exquisite copy in “Tim’s Vermeer

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This review first appeared in Raw Denim.

It’s entirely possible Tim’s Vermeer is one long gag. Or a short gag if we’re talking screen time. The 80-minute documentary about painstakingly recreating a painting by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer was directed by Teller and produced by Penn Jillette—you know, Penn & Teller, the guys who craft elaborate illusions while couching them in humor.

What a gag that would be, but such is the drive, the tenacity, the spirit of Tim Jenison—the Tim of Tim’s Vermeer—that the whole things becomes a case study in the way a creative and precise mind works. No, this isn’t the Joaquin Phoenix-Casey Affleck misfire I’m Still Here. This is obsession masked as curiosity, and a fascinating obsession at that.

Jenison is an inventor. Among other things, he founded NewTek, a company that has been responsible for huge advances in desktop video roduction. Another things Jenison did: According to the movie, he taught himself to play piano with a player piano, slowing down the piano’s speed and following along on the keys with his fingers until he learned songs perfectly.

At some point he became enamored of Vermeer—you know, Girl with a Pearl Earring—and got the idea he could recreate one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. Note: Jenison has no training as a painter whatsoever.

Everything is Awesome! “The Lego Movie” is a joy

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This review first appeared in the Santa Fe Reporter.

It may seem odd that a movie based in such crass commercialism would, at its heart, be a tribute to what it means to have a free imagination. But that’s what The Lego Movie is.

Emmet (Chris Pratt, a riot) is an ordinary construction worker with no depth. He, and most other Legos, like living by the rules set forth by President Business (Will Ferrell). Unfortunately for everyone, President Business has decided to use the Kragle (a tube of Krazy Glue with a couple letters scratched off) to freeze every Lego in place to keep order in the universe.

Emmet runs into Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who’s looking for the Piece of Resistance to keep Business from carrying out his plans, and soon they’ve teamed up with Vitruvius (a wonderful Morgan Freeman) to stop Business and his evil team.

The Lego Movie’s rapid-fire jokes and anything-goes visual style outweigh its weaknesses—the plot has a fairly standard you-can-do-it! message—but focus on the gags and you’ll be fine. The voice talent is superior, and the whole thing feels as if it were made by adults who remember the joys of being a kid. Will Arnett and Alison Brie really shine in their roles, and just try not to sing “Everything is Awesome” as you leave the theater.