81: Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block

Speaking of good science fiction, Attack the Block envisions the marginalized urban periphery as a literal war zone where authorities are content to let both their homegrown poor and intruding illegal alien invaders eat themselves alive in a bloody struggle for survival — until a Respectable Attractive White Girl is put in danger, of course. […]

80: Another Earth (2011)

Brit Marling in Another Earth

Like its contemporaries Tree of Life and Melancholia, Another Earth (written and directed by Mike Cahill) deploys astronomical imagery in order to provoke what the Catholic Church used to call the “fear of the Lord” but which now goes by the slightly more mundane “wonder and awe”:  the sense that the celestial body which dominates […]

79: Drive (LAFF 2011)

Ryan Gosling in Drive

The Stateside debut of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive (adapted by Hossein Amini from the James Sallis novel) is obsessed with the directionality of time. In a city like Los Angeles that’s built more for automobiles than for people, a slick driver with a fast car is an aspirational avatar that provides the promise of freedom, […]

78: Mamitas (LAFF 2011)

E.J. Bonilla in Mamitas

(This year’s Los Angeles Film Festival may have drawn to a close, but I have a steady backlog of entries to work through…) At times, Mamitas (the feature debut of writer-director Nicholas Ozeki) doesn’t know what it wants to be: parts of it are teenage romance replete with sizzling repartee, before it segues into family […]

77: The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (LAFF 2011)

Ron and Russell Mael

(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) Though it wasn’t the official close to the Los Angeles Film Festival, the live musical production of The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman is perhaps the best reflection of its ethos. It’s a Los Angeles story that reflects on the […]

76: Suite Habana (LAFF 2011)

Suite Habana

(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) The 2003 film Suite Habana is the Cuban film at the festival most disconnected from questions of politics, mostly because it’s also the most disconnected from questions of narrative. Director Fernando Pérez crafts a solid entry in the genre […]

75: Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba (LAFF 2011)

Operation Peter Pan: Flying Back to Cuba

(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) Operation Peter Pan was a facet of the powder keg that was early 1960s U.S.-Cuban relations, less visible than the Bay of Pigs or the Missile Crisis, but with its own traumatic historical legacy. Supported by the CIA […]

74: Boleto al Paraiso (Ticket to Paradise) (LAFF 2011)

Miriel Cejas and Héctor Medina in Boleto al paraiso

(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) Boleto al Paraiso, directed by Gerardo Chijona, is somewhat more explicit in its political examination. It’s set during the Cuban “special period” following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting economic downturn, taking us on a […]

73: Habana Eva (LAFF 2011)

Prakriti Maduro and Juan Carlos García in Habana Eva

(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) The representation of Cuba in cinema is exceptionally difficult to separate from its political context. Whenever the island is invoked in the movies, narratives turn into statements, if not full-blown mystery plays, designed for the exorcism of geopolitical […]

72: Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul (LAFF 2011)

Skateistan

(This review is crossposted as part of The House Next Door’s coverage of the 2011 LA Film Fest.) A sunrise cutting through the haze overlooking a dusty cityscape, a gang of ragged street kids playing among crumbling buildings and burnt-out military vehicles: These are familiar establishing shots from any number of Afghanistan documentaries. (And Iraq films […]