Month: May 2011

Satantango (1994), Bela Tarr, B-

I am snob. I can be as pedantic and didactic as the most frustrating cineaste you can find on the Internet. But I’m also a reality check and I’ll tell it like it is: there are a lot of neat things happening Satantango, but those that call it a next step in cinema are fooling themselves. I’m glad I saw the 7 hr and 15 minute movie. But I think Tarr’s done better work. And there are better films about post-Communist countries/communities tearing themselves apart. And better films of drunken Eastern Europeans acting nuts. And better movies about people watching things, or parallel action POV sequences (none top Gus Van Sant’s Elephant.) I’ve just given you a golden opportunity to say, “but where’s the movie that does ALL of this!!?” And of course, the answer is Satantango, which is why I rate this slow-as-molasses endurance run as high as a B-. Okay, send the flames my way. Would you rather I just lied and repeated the word “masterpiece” like everyone else? (Lastly, I’ve seen 3 other Tarr films and, by and large, love the filmmaker who inevitably comes up when discussing him, Andrei...

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A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Steven Spielberg, B

I haven’t seen this movie since the theaters and, alas, I’m not 100% sure it holds up. I remember defending this movie quite a bit back in the day – but on second viewing I see there are a lot of problems. The script is uneven, maybe even meandering. There actually isn’t that much “excitement” during the Act II Odyssey and, frankly, I don’t think that much of the world-building makes a whole heckuva lot of sense. What’s to like? The core questions at the heart of the film, of course, and the special effects. 10 years later and most of the robot shots still look impressive. Lastly, I will always salute this film for having enormous balls. It states “robot wants love” and just goes with it. It is a forceful and straightforward narrative – kid won’t give up. For 2000 years in the ocean, he won’t give up. Gotta respect...

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The Lineup (1958), Don Siegel, A-

This is one helluva picture. What begins as a routine policier shifts dramatically about half-way through. Breaking with traditional screenplay structure, we abandon the detectives that’ve been trying to uncover a dope smuggling operation that accidentally killed a beat cop, and wind up tagging along with the smugglers for the second half of the movie. Who you are supposed to root for is entirely between you and your God. Very much...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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