Film Review : Museum Hours (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%
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Directed By – Jem Cohen
Starring – Mary Margaret O’Hara and Bobby Sommer

When a Vienna museum guard befriends an enigmatic visitor, the grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum becomes a mysterious crossroads which sparks explorations of their lives, the city, and the ways artworks reflect and shape the world.

With such recent film I’ve seen being action packed adventures featuring monkeys riding horses with AK47s, infinite stones and gun wielding raccoons, and train revolutions, films like Museum Hours are able to center you back into a place of calm observance. This film from director Jem Cohen went pretty much unnoticed last year as it traveled the film festival circuit. A film about two people meeting in a museum and talking about life and art isn’t going to draw great crowds. A lot of feedback from the film was that it was boring and tedious. Critically is was revered for its humane look at what it means to connect with people and yourself through art. I can agree with that. I can also agree that this is not a film for everybody. It’s an acquired taste.

The film centers around the relationship Johann and Anne. Johann, played by Bobby Sommer, is a very kind guard at a nice art museum in Austria. On one of his shifts he meets Anne, a woman from Montreal who is in town to be with her cousin who is very ill. Mary Margaret O’Hara, who plays Anne, gives a very layered and subtle performance as she seems to blend perfectly together with Sommer. The two remind me a lot of an older Jesse and Celine from the “Before” trilogy. They have such chemistry with each other and slide between pleasant conversations as if it were happening naturally. Anne particularly has an immense amount of depth to her. She hasn’t seen her cousin, who is in what seems to be a coma, for years but she seems saddened by what has happened to her. She sets the stage for the theme of the film, which is an examination of our own lives as if we are examining the intricacies of fine art. Through her friendship with Johann, Anne is able to start to figure out her life. Johann is our narrator. He describes his early life and the life he has picked out for himself now as a museum guard. He explains how he observes the patrons to the museum almost as if they are part of the galleries he helps maintain. When he’s not watching people he is admiring the art and listening to the words of the tour guides doing their jobs right next to him.

The film is more of an essay than a full narrative. There are plot devices that move the story forward but what we really have here is a look inside what makes people human and the stages our lives go through. The relationship these two had seemed very real to me and I had trouble imagining that the conversations they were having were scripted in any way. It’s a neat little film that will teach you about people but in a nice way will teach you a hell of a lot about art. There are a few segments in the film that are just people talking about paintings. The museum has many pieces spanning many subjects and time periods. Each room is like a little aspect on what it’s like being human. It was a nice little film.


Documentary Review : Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary

Directed By – Zachary Heinzerling

This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband’s assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own.

I am sick. I am sitting in bed trying to breath and constantly asking myself why I have to suffer like this every time the temperature changes. It’s my semi-annual hell hole and it’s also an excuse to watch some films lazily in my bed. My first film ended up being such a joy to watch that I don’t know if I’m going to continue my viewings so I don’t lose this feeling I have.

“Cutie and the Boxer” is a film about a married Japanese couple, Ushio and Noriko Shinohara, who are trying to make a living selling their art in New York City. They have been artists for decades and the film chronicles their artistic journey as well as the journey they take in their relationship.

Let me get this out of the way first. This is a gorgeously shot film. Zachary Heinzerling eloquently constructed this film by focusing on the intimate way that these two artists live their lives. Nothing is held back and we soon realize that holding nothing back is the entire nature of their relationship. It’s really as if Heinzerling isn’t in the room with them as they discuss the problems they have with each other with smiles instead of frowns. They are open books and Heinzerling was able to capture some real forms of the human heart and spirit while following the couple. The film also utilizes a fantastic score by Yasuaki Shimizu. Saxophones and Cellos routinely fill the scenes captured by the camera and add a light and peaceful atmosphere to the film. It’s one of those scores that kind of gets under your skin and makes what you’re watching more relaxing and content. That and I’m a sucker for anything with an oriental feel to it.

The art displayed in the film is pretty fantastic. Perhaps the most interesting art is the pieces that give Ushio his nickname, “The Boxer”, where he straps on boxing gloves filled with paint and punches a canvas from left to right. Did I mention that this man is 80 years old? It just goes to prove that there is something in the Japanese gene that makes them live forever and do amazing work while doing so. Ushio is also a gifted sculture, making make acid filled fantasies from cardboard, usually involving motorcycles. His wife, Noriko, is also a gifted artist and focused more on the art of drawing. Her “Cutie” series chronicles the early part of her relationship with her husband as they raise a child together, mostly while Ushio is piss drunk. This is where the open-ness of the film lies. Her work is literally a series of painting and drawings that highlight how difficult it was to be married to Ushio and standing next to her is that same man with a smile on his face. It’s one of those relationships where you know they’ll stick together through everything due to them being two individual souls spending their own lives together instead of trying to make a single life from two people. I always thought those kind of relationships were the best at making it all the way.

The film also focuses on what it’s like for two people who happen to be artists to share a life together in a business sense. They are both vying for a chance to have their work shown at galleries. Ushio is the more famous artist and Noriko has usually helped the man out and neglected her own work. She was also forced to bear most of the responsibility of raising their child and actually had to give up painting for a long time. She is now able to fully focus on her own artwork and it was great watching her try to succeed. I was rooting for her like I knew her.

The whole film was just magical. It was like watching “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” but instead of fish the art is on a canvas. It may not have been the best documentary in the Academy Awards but it is a completely unique film that will make even the least artistic person want to grab a paint brush. Oh and the montage during the credits is one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommended.


Suggested Viewing – Exit Through the Gift Shop, Wasteland, Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Film Review – Trance (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 68%

Directed By – Danny Boyle
Starring – James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson, and Danny Sapini

An art auctioneer who has become mixed up with a group of criminals, partners with a hypnotherapist in order to recover a lost painting.

You know I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with Vincent Cassel where he didn’t play a slimy criminal. I’m sure there are some that exist but he is probably one of the most typecast actors working today. I guess it helps that he does it so well but come on. I want to see him in like a nice comedy with Rob Schneider. Wouldn’t that be nice? Okay, I’ve gone to far. I’m sorry. He plays a criminal in Trance and along with his cohorts, bullies poor James McAvoy into trying to remember where he hid a painting he helped steal after a bout of amnesia. You with me? I’m not even with me. The film ended up being chore to get through as I repeatedly caught myself hitting the pause button in order to get a snack or play with my dog. Luckily for me, Danny Boyle directed the film which at least left me with some serious film eye candy.

What I liked…

As I just said, Danny Boyle is a stylish mo-fo. The film was pretty dazzling all the way through. Deep reds. Dark blues and pastels. It’s a colorful film. Danny has always been this way though. He masterfully captured India in Slumdog Millionaire and delicately captured space in Sunshine. I mean, this is an Oscar winning director here. I’m always impressed with his work. I also really liked the acting from James McAvoy. He gave a gritty performance reminiscent of The Last King of Scotland. I like it better when he keeps his natural Scottish accent. It’s more, I don’t know, gritty. I like that word. Unfortunately these are the only two things that I particularly really liked. Cassel’s performance was average(Although there is an awesome scene that involves his face in this one) and the script had interesting moments. However…

What I didn’t like…

The script was thinner than a piece of thin cheese…or something equally thin…YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. This is a complicated film with twists and turns and backstabbing and revealed truths and it all seemed to be held together with scotch tape. I mean, we were presented with a finished product at the end but a product that was barely standing up because it’s structure was so weak when being made. Information and plot twists are shoved in our face as if the film is saying “SEE? THIS IS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED! FOOLED YOU!” Like I said in the intro, I would pause to go do something else for a few minutes while I tried to grasp what the hell just happened. I’m also not a fan of blatant lines of dialogue that make absolutely no sense only to be explained later on in the film. It’s a cheap way to create plot twists and really comes off as tacky. Subtlety is a very useful tool in film for when you want to make somebody go “OH, THAT’S WHAT THAT MEANT!” Trance kind of forced you to think that by cheap writing tricks. Not impressed. Also, Rosario Dawson is horrible in this. Horrible. I won’t go as far as saying she’s a horrible actress, but the notion is definitely being explored by myself. She was a distraction in many ways in this film, but when the main reason is horrible acting, that isn’t a good sign.

So, what have we learned? Trance is a film that tries WAY to hard to be a plot serpent. It twists and it turns so much that the value of what actually is happening is lost. It is however a pretty gorgeous film made by a talented man in Danny Boyle.


Film Review : √Čvocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie (2012)

Netflix Watch Instant
IMDB Score – 5.3
RT Score – 86%

Some documentaries are uniquely filmed and offer compelling narrative to go along with beautiful cinematography. Others rely solely on the subject matter to sell the film. √Čvocateur falls into the 2nd category in which simply the story of Morton Downey Jr. was enough to keep me interesting. The story is told from the perspective of the people who knew him personally and also features audience members of his now infamous show. It’s an interesting look into a man who covered many spectrums such as politics, television, and music, and also was batshit insane. The film features plenty of great footage from his talk show which was filmed in Secaucus, NJ, which is a 30 minute drive from where I live. It’s no wonder lunatics of all shapes and sizes comprised the audience and fueled the angry machine that was Morton Downey Jr.


Film Review – Apollo 18 (2012)

IMDB Score – 5.2
RT Score – 24%
Netflix Instant Watch

This was fucking horrible. I like to keep my reviews PG-13 but every once in a while, like a movie now an then, I’ll slip a “fuck” in there. Hey, I just did it twice. I think I broke the PG-13 mold. I had to do it though. This movie was that bad. The scares were cheap, what few there were. The acting was atrocious. The aliens were horribly stupid. I don’t even consider that a spoiler. This movie was so unoriginal what else did you expect besides horrible aliens. It as 90 minutes that felt like three hours.

Never watch this movie. I don’t really have much else to say. I’d be wasting more of my time.