American Movie (1999)
Grade: B | 1st Viewing
I’m sure I’m not the only one who was very skeptical about the reality of this documentary during a first viewing. After some research, I will now admit that Mark Borchardt and the cast of incredibly colorful characters from Northwest Milwaukee are genuine human beings. For those unfamiliar, American Movie is a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of “Coven,” a low-budget short horror movie. Borchardt, the hopeful director at the center of the film, is willing to give up everything in his life just to make his movie a reality including his non-existent relationship with his children and any opportunity for an actual career. The reason the film is hard to believe is because it is packed with individuals who are so bizarre and unique that they seem more likely to appear in a quirky indie comedy than a non-fiction film.
It had to be difficult for director Chris Smith to restrain himself from making fun of the people his camera was pointed at. Instead he just lets their stories unfold organically, which turns into a cautionary tale about dreams coming before responsibilities. Often times the camera is left to roll for too long to the point where a scene goes from humorous to obnoxious. However, it is certainly worthwhile viewing for anybody who dreams to be great.
Win Win (2011)
Grade: B+ | 1st Viewing
Tom McCarthy’s Win Win is one of the most current movies of the year. By that I mean it reflects the current sentiment of middle class American families better than just about anything else I have seen this year. It is hopeful, but also realistic; funny, but also poignant. Paul Giamatti once again manages to portray a character who could very easily come across sleazy as very sympathetic and Amy Ryan gives one of the best supporting turns of the year. Newcomer Alex Shaffer gives one of the most authentic teenage boy performances in years.
It’s easy to compare Win Win to Moneyball because both in theme and content they are quite similar. However, where Moneyball succeeds slightly more is in its stronger focus on one man’s story as a microcosm for a larger sentiment. Win Win occasionally gets distracted by its fascination with the sport of wrestling whereas Moneyball never let’s baseball get in the way. Still, both are well worth a look as undoubtedly the two greatest sports movies of the year.
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Grade: B+ | 3rd Viewing
In the dozens of Iraq war movies that have been released in the last decade, there is none the portrays the modern soldier experience nearly as well as Kathryn Bigelow’s 2009 Best Picture winner. Feelings of fear, frustration, and confusion seep out of the screen making the conflict in the Middle East seem depressingly hopeless and inspiring true sympathy for the soldiers involved. How is one supposed to differentiate between a suicide bomber and a vendor selling used DVDs when both look and act the same?
On my third viewing of this film I thought it was a little longer than it needed to be and the scene where James leads his two comrades on a late-night manhunt after an explosion felt redundant. However, the film will likely always be suspenseful and fascinating, no matter how many viewings.
What movies did you see this weekend?