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Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: The Handmaiden (2016)

* * * 1/2

Director: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Jin-woong

Lurid. Nasty. Darkly funny. Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden is a lot of things, but it's certainly never boring. A somewhat faithful, but also somewhat loose, adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith, The Handmaiden is an elaborate contraption of a movie that transports the original narrative from Victorian England to the 1930s in Japanese occupied Korea and stuns with its sumptuous costuming and production design, gorgeous (and playful) cinematography, its merciless violence, frank eroticism, and its ability to deftly navigate the turns and multiple turnabouts of its story. The Handmaiden is a savage beauty of a film and it's probably just as well that South Korea didn't make it their submission for the Best Foreign Language Film race at the Oscars since the Academy tends towards the conservative and films this twisted and explicit only rarely get nominated (and pretty much never win).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Los Angeles Film Critics Winners

The Los Angeles Film Critics (who are always good for a surprise or two) voted today, here are their picks for the year's best:

Best Picture: Moonlight

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Best Actor: Adam Driver, Paterson

Best Supporting Actress: Lily Gladstone, Certain Women

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Screenplay: Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster

Best Animated Feature: Your Name

Best Documentary: I Am Not Your Negro

Best Cinematography: James Laxton, Moonlight

Best Editing: Bret Granato, Maya Mumma, Ben Sozanski, OJ: Made In America

Best Music Score: Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, La La Land

Best Production Design: Ryu Seong-hee, The Handmaiden

Saturday, December 3, 2016

21st Century Essentials: Under the Skin (2014)

Director: Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Country: United Kingdom/United States/Switzerland

Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is the sort of film that unsettles on such a deep and durable level that you might never be able to fully shake it. Cold but graceful, inaccessible but hypnotic, it’s the kind of film in which none of the characters are named and nothing is overtly explained, but it’s so full of striking, brutal images that it leaves one so entranced that the “whys” that the narrative might inspire become unimportant. You simply drift along its jagged, treacherous current until you get to its destination. Many shocking things occur during the course of its 108 minutes, but perhaps the most shocking thing about it is that a film that seems so preoccupied with the experience of being a woman in a world so hostile to femininity could be written and directed by men.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New York Film Critics Circle Award Winners

The New York Film Critics Circle announced their winners earlier today. Chalk one up for La La Land:

Best Film: La La Land

Best Director: Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle and Things To Come

Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Best Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Best Screenplay: Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Best Cinematography: James Laxton, Moonlight

Best Animated Film: Zootopia

Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America

Best Foreign Film: Toni Erdmann

Best First Film: (Tie) The Edge of Seventeen and Krisha

Critics Choice Nominees

Here are the nominees for the 22nd Critics Choice Awards, chosen by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Winners will be announced December 11th:

Best Picture
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea