The debut film from online video essay editor Kogonada, the lush and cinematic “Columbus” is a true surprise beyond its academic aspirations.

Columbus Movie PosterLet me get out of the way the one thing you’ll read in every review of Columbus. This is the debut film of Kogonada, a Korean film critic who specializes in making thoughtful video essays for the web. Critics adore his work because he makes meticulously edited pieces of criticism that break down how a film works and why it matters.

Columbus has the same academic construction and attention to film theory that critics like myself adore. At one point it seemingly argues for the value of slow cinema, and its economical framing and lush cinematography would be catnip to anyone who has been to film school or, better yet, watched one of Kogonada’s videos. But Columbus has heart and intimacy far beyond its pretentions, and it’s one of the better surprises of the year. Continue reading “Columbus”


Christopher Guest’s latest is worse than just a rehash of “Best in Show”

mascots_1sht_usChristopher Guest has been making the same movie for decades. They’re each a mockumentary drawing from the same cast of goofy looking funny people and they parody a subsection of American culture with a combination of snobbery and absurd non sequitors. And for the most part they’re all incredible.

So why does “Mascots,” Guest’s latest as an exclusive for Netflix, fail so poorly? That it’s almost a complete rehash of “Best in Show” doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact after so many ill-conceived performances of obscure farm animals dancing, it’s barely a movie.

“Mascots” starts exactly as “Best in Show,” with a misdirection of a dramatic scene to an unexpected punchline. A man awaits his X-Ray results from a doctor and receives some good news, only for the camera to pull back and reveal that he’s currently sitting in the examining room in a big red plush costume. He and his wife (Zach Woods and Sarah Baker) have an uncomfortable marriage working as a pair of mascots for a minor league baseball team and are about to head out on the road for an annual mascots competition. Continue reading “Mascots”

Rapid Response: Dazed and Confused

I have fond memories of the long evenings as a freshman driving or walking around with nothing to do, looking for a party and a cup of beer so we could continue to stand around at that party with nothing to do, that is until we left and continued looking to do nothing.

The cult high school stoner comedy “Dazed and Confused” is just that; it’s a film about feeling out of place, feeling drunk, feeling adventurous, feeling awkward, feeling anxious and yet feeling loved. Some would say that just about sums up the complete high school experience, and Richard Linklater does it in one night.

“I did the best I could while I was stuck in this place,” says one character near the end of the film, which is about all you can ask of a teenager, and possibly all you can ask of a teen comedy. It follows a group of incoming freshman students and incumbent seniors in the twilight hours after their last day of school. The year is 1976, the only shirt with writing on it says Adidas, the drive-in is playing Hitchcock’s “Family Plot,” every kid’s bedroom has a “Dark Side of the Moon” poster on the wall, and Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane” is playing in the night club. Those were the days. Continue reading “Rapid Response: Dazed and Confused”