The National Society Of Film Critics Honors Goodbye to Language!

Goodbye to Lanugage

Earlier today, the National Society of Film Critics announced their picks for the best films of 2014!  By one vote, they named Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye To Language as best picture of the year.

Thank you, National Society of Film Critics, for reminding us that, occasionally, unexpected things do happen!

Check out the winners and the runner-ups below!

*1. Goodbye to Language 25 (Jean-Luc Godard)
2. Boyhood 24 (Richard Linklater)
3. Birdman 10 (Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
3. Mr. Turner 10 (Mike Leigh)
*1. Richard Linklater 36 (Boyhood)
2. Jean-Luc Godard 17  (Goodbye to Language)
3. Mike Leigh 12 (Mr. Turner)
*1. Citizenfour 56 (Laura Poitras)
2. National Gallery 19 (Frederick Wiseman)
3. The Overnighters 17 (Jesse Moss)
*1. The Grand Budapest Hotel 24 (Wes Anderson)
2. Inherent Vice 15 (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Birdman 15 (four co-writers)
*1. Mr. Turner 33 (Dick Pope)
2. The Immigrant 27 (Darius Khondji)
3. Goodbye to Language 9 (Fabrice Aragno)
*1.Timothy Spall 31 (Mr. Turner)
2. Tom Hardy 10 (Locke)
3. Joaquin Phoenix 9  (Inherent Vice)
3. Ralph Fiennes 9 (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
*1. Marion Cotillard  80 (Two Days, One Night)
2.  Julianne Moore 35 (Still Alice)
3. Scarlett Johansson 21 (Lucy; Under the Skin)
*1. J.K. Simmons 24  (Whiplash)
2. Mark Ruffalo 21 (Foxcatcher)
3. Edward Norton 16 (Birdman)
*1. Patricia Arquette 26 (Boyhood)
2. Agata Kulesza 18 (Ida)
3. Rene Russo 9 (Nightcrawler)

Film Review: Venus in Fur (dir by Roman Polanski)

One of the best films to be released in American theaters last year was also one that never really got as much recognition as it deserved.

Roman Polanski’s Venus In Fur (which, itself, is based on a play by David Ives that was loosely adapted from a novel written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose name and book would inspire the term masochism) features only two characters.  Thomas (Mathieu Almaric) is a neurotic playwright and director whose latest production is based on Sacher-Masoch’s book, Venus in Furs.  Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) is an actress who shows up late to audition for a lead role.

At first, Thomas is annoyed with and condescending towards the actress.  After all, she shows up late for the audition and gives a rather long and convoluted explanation as to why.  (It involves a dog wanting to fuck her.)  Despite the fact that she’s auditioning for a play set in the 19th century and featuring repressed members of the upper class, she shows up for the audition wearing leather and a dog collar.  (“I’m usually really demure and shit…” she assures him.)  At first, Thomas refuses to allow her to audition and says that there’s nobody in the theater for her to read with. Vanda suggests that he read with her.  Reluctantly, Thomas agrees…

And suddenly, Vanda goes from begging for his permission to taking control of the situation.  It turns out that she’s brought a period costume with her.  Before going up to the stage, she skillfully sets the stage lights to create the perfect effect.  (A stunned Thomas admits that he’s not even sure how the lighting board works.)  And when they’re on stage together, Vanda stuns Thomas by suddenly transforming herself into the character that he wrote.

The audition itself quickly becomes a not-quite friendly game between the two.  (This is a film that anyone — even little community theater actresses like me — who has ever auditioned for a role should be able to relate to.)  Vanda frequently interrupts the audition to question what Thomas has written and Thomas finds himself growing more and more disoriented as he’s frequently pulled out of the world he created and into reality.

Whenever challenged by Vanda, Thomas argues that the play has no deeper meaning.  It’s simply an adaptation of a work of literature.  However, as the audition continues, it becomes apparent that there’s more to the play and to the two people on stage than was originally apparent…

Venus in Fur is a fascinating film.  In its way, it’s also a playful one.  (You have to love the scene where a lingerie-clad Vanda suddenly takes on the role of therapist and perfectly psychoanalyzes Thomas’s fiancee.  Never has the invoking the name of Jacques Derrida led to so much laughter.)  Intelligently filmed by Polanski and wonderfully acted by both Amalric and Seigner, the power struggle between Thomas and Vanda makes for compelling viewing.

And hey, it’s currently on Netflix so you can watch it anytime you want.  Of course, it is subtitled but so what?  If you don’t know how to read, how did you make it through this review?

Seriously, find 93 minutes to spare and watch Venus In Fur.

2014 In Review: Lisa’s Picks For The 16 Worst Films Of 2014


Continuing our look back at the previous year, today I present you with my choices for the 16 worst films of 2014!

I have to admit that 2014 was a strange year for me.  While I saw a lot of films that I didn’t think were very good, none of them quite inspired the amount of loathing that I felt while watching previous TSL worst film “winners” like Love and Other Drugs and Man of Steel.  Looking at the 16 films below, I’m struck by how many of them were simply films that failed to live up to my expectations.  (The Judge and Endless Love are obvious examples.)  Some of the other entries are films that we all knew ahead of time would never be good but they made the list because they represent everything that annoys me about mainstream film making. (Case in point: Transformers: Let’s Deafen The Audience or whatever the Hell that thing was called.)

Of course, some of the films listed below are on the list because they just plain sucked.  In fact, one made-for-Lifetime movie was so mind-numbingly awful that it made the list despite having never actually been released in theaters!  That’s pretty bad!

(Be sure to click on the links in this sentence if you want to see what I considered to be the worst of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013!)

Without further ado, here’s the list!

16) Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart 
15) Ride Along
14) The Judge 
13) Into the Storm
12) Endless Love
11) Nuse 3D
10) Barefoot
9) The Best Of Me
8) I, Frankenstein
7) Left Behind
6) Paranormal Activity — The Marked Ones
5) The Legend of Hercules
4) Transformers: The Age of Extinction
3) A Million Ways To Die In The West 
2) The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story

And finally, without further ado, here is the worst film of 2014!

1)  April Rain

Birdemic 2 April Rain

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments!

Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting my 10 favorite songs of 2014!

Others Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2014:

  1. Things I Dug In 2014 Off The Top Of My Head
  2. 2014 In Review: The Best of SyFy and Lifetime

REC 4: Apocalypse (Official Trailer)


Found footage horror films have always been hit or miss with me. When done well they’re quite effective horror films that really pulls an audience in. When done as a way to exploit the current craze for it then one just gets nauseous both intellectually and physically (I think Lisa Marie would agree).

The [REC] found footage horror franchise by Jaume Balagueró has been leading the way of late, but a decision to switch from found footage to traditional filming halfway into the third film in the series was a disappointment to fans. With the fourth film now set for a U.S. release such fans may find themselves yearning for the franchises found footage roots as the fourth and final installment will dump the found footage technique altogether and just go for straight out traditional style.

REC 4: Apocalypse also sees the return of the franchises heroine from the first two films, Manuela Velasco, as the trailer shows her being on a ship out to sea for testing. Anyone who has watched the first two films in the franchise knows that she may or may not be a carrier of the demonic plague accidentally cooked up by Vatican researchers who wanted to find the biological source for demonic possession.

REC: Apocalypse is set for an early January 2015 release at selected theaters in the US.