Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hank and Asha

Hank and Asha was one of my favorite movies from last year and as of TODAY it's now available on Amazon. Support independent film and support romantic comedies that don't belittle the genre.

With the benefit of modern technology, it feels like we’re able to be in communication with anyone at any time. At this very moment, I can use free technology to talk and see someone on the other side of the planet. It’s a level of global intimacy that has never been available to mankind before, where you can know someone better than you know anybody else…but you have never been in the same city before.

Asha first heard of Hank when she saw his film at a festival in Prague. Smitten by his talent, she decides to send him a video of appreciation. When he receives the recording in New York, he returns the favor. Then she responds. And he responds. And she responds.

What they create is something special. The entire film is composed of these recordings they send each other with the titular characters looking right into the camera as they imagine the one they care about on a different continent. While a show like Peep Show uses this device to bring the audience along into their spiral of awkward destruction, Hank and Asha uses it to make you part of the romance. We become even more invested because, more than any other film, we feel that we’re in the room for their most sincere moments—even though nobody technically is.

This experiment could have easily been a series of Skype calls with the leads always moving a bit too close to their laptop camera. Since both characters are enthusiastic documentary filmmakers, this allows director James E. Duff to make every video they send each other to be more visually dynamic. These are two people who want to depict their own individual truths. So they create experiences that they can capture on film to share with each other. This includes setting up the camera before they try the famous beer from the Czech Republic for the first time or when they are at their most emotionally confused, they press record so they can convey exactly what they’re feeling when they receive surprising news.

Enough cannot be said about the two actors who have to carry the film. Andrew Pastides and Mahira Kakkar never miss a beat for even a millisecond. They have no one else to react to but the all seeing-lens and the results are incredible. They control the frame with their expert understanding of the characters as Pastides and Kakkar are able to portray all the emotions the characters mean to put onto film and the ones they can’t hide. This gimmick is incredibly challenging for actors and without them this could be an unfortunate disaster. Instead, thanks to their charmingly perfect performances, a beautiful vision and a wonderful script by Duff and Julia Morrison, this is one of the most likable and rewarding romantic films in years.

Monday, February 17, 2014

House of Cards is Better Because It's Not Great TV

I’ve seen the first five episodes of Season Two of House of Cards. I will absolutely be spoiling the first episode and mention minor things in the next four.

I thought the first season of House of Cards was fine. It had a cool style and fine performances, but it never lived up to the hype that it was creating for itself. Then something changed during the premiere of its new season. It decided that it was going to be crazier.

Sure Frank killed Peter Russo at the end of his convoluted plan to make the Vice President quit. However that was seen as a dark scary moment in Frank’s psyche that allowed him to improvise from his scheme and learned a bit about his psychotic ambition. Yet it still wasn’t that interesting of character inspection because I never cared about Frank. I didn’t care about any character on the show; I felt bad about the lack of control in Peter Russo’s life but now he’s gone.

In Season Two, the show seems to embrace how emotionally distant the show is and will just let us enjoy the chaos. And this show really wants to be chaotic. It’s taking the Breaking Bad big moments without any of the emotional stepping-stones it takes to get to those moments.

At this point in the show, we have a vice president who is essentially a serial killer, a wife who is threatening unborn babies, a McPoyle hacker who will bark like a dog to save his beloved guinea pig and a possible Christian lesbian—definitely Christian, maybe lesbian—who is converting a prostitute who can blackmail the aforementioned VP.

This show is silly.

So very silly.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Top 61 Films of 2013....Because Why Not

As I write this, we are now 27 days into 2014 which means thanks to the effect of New Year’s consumption, the polar vortex freezing our brain cells and probably something that has to do with Rob Ford, we can’t remember 2013. Every publication wraps-up the year with a billion slideshow articles they turn in before winter break because they’re pretty positive nothing will happen during those last two weeks.

Then we’re done! No more 2013! Now it’s time to focus on “films” like I, Frankenstein and….what the hell is The Nut Job? Today I’m going to go against the grain and write about the best of cinema from last year even though we are almost a month into its predecessor. I can never do it at the end of December because there are too many movies that I want to see before I write my (pseudo) definitive list.

This year I want to go even crazier. I want to talk about my Top 61 films because I see this as one of the best years in cinema I’ve ever experienced. Also I think the film market is changing. Right now you have access to amazing films so you don’t have to go see The Legend of Hercules. There are more options!

Last thing before this gets any longer (Ha!), even though I waited to see more movies, that doesn’t mean I saw everything. I still missed About Time, After Tiller, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Bastards, Best Kept Secret, Beyond the Hills, Caesar Must Die, Clear History, Deceptive Practice, Ernest & Celestine, Escape From Tomorrow, Go For Sisters, The Hunt, Night Across the Street, Paradise: Love, Pieta, Post Tenebras Lux, Sightseers, Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers, Something in the Air, Starbuck, Tim’s Vermeer, A Touch of Sin and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. I’ll get to those…one day.

Last first thing, why 61 films? Because I was going to do 60 and then I realized I forgot to put one on my list halfway through writing this. Why even have this many? Make it to the end of the article, but now let’s get started…

How to Make Money Selling Drugs

This movie is so obviously influenced by The Wire it’s even bold enough to have scenes from the HBO masterpiece and interviews with David Simon. The gimmick of making this movie a “How To” guide is a lot of fun and serves as a nice counterbalance to the depressing financial statistics about how the decades long War on Drugs has severely damaged America.

Currently Available on DVD.

Hey Bartender

Another year, another documentary about an awesome niche world I’ve never seen before. This movie shows the cultural rise of the cocktail and how the right bartender could be just as exciting as the brilliant new chef. Always cool and slick, this brings such a nice allure to this world and the work it takes to make a successful environment.

Currently Available on iTunes