|Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks in Wet Hot American Summer (David Wain)|
Guide to Numerical Grades
The Hit (Frears, 1984, 6.0)
Frears's conception of each scene is immaculate; The Hit makes the best of the smallest changes in framing or otherwise unimportant sound cues to create tension and affect mood. Yet, the overall arc of the film is rather unexciting and the progression of the plot is so deliberately slow, it's impossible to check the watch every now and then.
Paternal House (Ayari, 2015, 7.5)
One of the most compelling films to come out of mainstream Iranian cinema in recent years. I felt more mixed after the second viewing but later discussing the film for the Hello Cinema podcast, I felt I liked it more. This is problematic film, both structurally
Inside Out (Docter, 2015, 7.5)
Certainly Pixar's best film since Brave, an entertaining, thoughtful experience that continues Pete Docter's fascination with children's mental development. Deceptively simplistic in presentation and scope, but more though-provoking the more I live with the film.
The Algerian (Zelko, 2015, 0.5) (review)
"The Algerian is not offensive because it doesn’t abide by rules of political correctness, but because of its sheer incompetence on every level. This is a film in which story and plot are both mistaken for relentless exposition; political nuance is forgone in favour of the simple rule of thumb that America is superior to the rest of the world; the ambiguity of race and gender relations convey the filmmaker’s misunderstanding of both; and performances are delivered with all the grace and poise of a corporate sexual harassment video. It is hard to encounter a film that lacks even a single redeeming quality; that The Algerian achieves that is probably its biggest accomplishment."
Paternal House (Ayari, 2015, 7.9)
The film's episodic structure suffers from the sheer force of the opening chapter; it is virtually impossible to keep the tension and power of this violently brilliant start. One of the most compelling and strident films about women's rights in Iran in recent years
To Be or Not to Be (Ayari, 1998, 8.3)
Not a particularly adventurous film on a formal level
Wet Hot American Summer (Wain, 2001, 8.4)
Although the film has mostly achieved cult status because of the future careers of its stars, and remains somewhat inconsistent on repeat visits, its highs are so far above the clouds that the lows can be forgiven. Paul Rudd's performance
Jurassic World (Trevorrow, 2015, 3.6)
The lowest common denominator of Hollywood blockbusters. For a film based on a narrative about nostalgia, about people's interest in mechanical and old-school charms, it's frustrating how completely the computer generated animation sucks the soul out of the spectacle. This is a film of incomprehensible storytelling and stylistic choices, with no emotional justification for its chaotic, noisy narrative propulsion.
The Face of an Angel (Winterbottom, 2015, 3.9) (review)
"A fictionalized account of Amanda Knox’s story, the film is contrived, confusing, and, despite dense plotting, severely lacking in emotional or thematic depth."
The Bull's Horn (Ayari, 1995, 5.9)
Adapted from Erich Kastner's "Emil and the Detectives," Ayari's children's film is indicative of the range of his thematic interests and his capabilities as a director. Yet, given the topic
Abadani-ha (Ayari, 1994, 6.7)
Ayari's faithful remake of The Bicycle Thieves, relocated to war-time Tehran, is a competently made, keenly studied and emotionally powerful experience, but falls short at every turn in comparison to its predecessor. Still, De Sica's film is one of the greatest films ever made, so the comparison isn't exactly a fair one.
Two Halves of an Apple (Ayari, 1992, 4.2)
Two Halves of an Apple tells the story of twin sisters, long lost, who find each other and decide to swap places for a few days at a critical juncture in both their lives. Ayari's execution of this intriguing
Beyond the Fire (Ayari, 1990, 8.5)
The absurd and raucous finale of this film, set to Johann Strauss' The Blue Danube, is its most memorably enduring moment, but it shouldn't overshadow everything that comes before it. The barren deserts of the Iranian southwest, and the architecture of fiery oil rigs have provided visual spectacles for several Iranian directors across the decades, from Ebrahim Golestan to Amir Naderi; Ayari's film is one of the most astonishing inclusions in that company. Making the best of the region's minimalist architecture, and the juxtaposition between the rapidly developing oil industry and the wretched infrastructure of poverty and destitution, Ayari's visual language highlights social and personal tensions more than any words could. This is a film for the ages, and one that I only wish I had the opportunity to see on the big screen at some point.
Spy (Feig, 2015, 7.0)
Restlessly hilarious, and that seems to be about the film's only aim, which it achieves quite comfortably. Feig and McCarthy have a perfect understanding of each other's gifts and expectations, creating a chemistry that has so far resulted in a three slam dunk successes. The real star of this all-star show, though, is Rose Byrne. Her comic gifts, subtler than her co-stars here, are paralleled by no one in Hollywood today.
The Grand Day (Ayari, 1989, 5.9)
Ayari's spoof of the Shah's incompetence in dealing with rural problems isn't the brave proposition it would have been had it been made before the Iranian Revolution. It isn't consistently funny, either. The visual language is interesting, however, both because of comic coding
Spectre of Scorpion (Ayari, 1986, 4.4)
Ayari has made one of the more innovative entries in the vast collection of films about the difficulties of working in Iranian cinema. Ironically, for a film about a director whose main preoccupation is with producing "naturalistic" atmospheres, Spectre of Scorpion is contrived and over the top. The heist around which the film pivots beggars belief and the intensity of the film-making
Dust Devil (Ayari, 1985, 5.8)
Produced during the years of war between Iran and Iraq, following the Iranian Revolution, Dust Devil is a product of the highly politicized cultural environment of the time. Paradoxically, the film is both naturalistic in its depiction of rough and dry terrain of Iranian deserts and symbolic in conveying the ideological warfare of the era. It is telling that the resource over which the character fight is not oil, artillery or money, but water, symbolizing the very livelihood that was at stake in the tumultuous atmosphere of war time Iran. The metaphors eventually become overbearing, but as a debut film, this is very promising.
Total: 17 films