Month: January 2015

In Theaters (SF) – “TIMBUKTU”

index4Timbuktu (2014; Dir.: Abderrahmane Sissako)

GRADE: B+

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco.

This Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee from Mauritanian director Sissako (Bamako) looks at life in an African city forcibly placed under the rule of an inexperienced but brutal jihadist regime.  Before your eyes glaze over and you start dreaming about Kingsman: The Secret Service, rest assured that Sissako cuts his searing social realism with significant doses of absurdist comedy and dreamlike beauty.  When a truck full of machine gun-toting jihadists drives into the town, installing themselves as overlords and instituting a repressive new set of laws, hardly anyone bats an eye – there is an impression that this city has seen more impressive “conquerors” than these pious hooligans.  But even as the jihadists are initially made to look foolish, hypocritical, and ineffective, with their every act of repression met by a reflexive act of artistic expression (the most beautiful moment – a soccer game played without the ball after the sport gets outlawed), there is a sinking feeling that this situation will inevitably explode into senseless violence.

Daniel Barnes @ the SN&R/CSIndy (1/22 and 1/29 issues)

images#barnesyardbumps:

*J.C. Chandor’s awards season nonstarter A Most Violent Year is smarter and slyer and more carefully crafted than a lot of the obsequious crap that actually received nominations.

*Mike Leigh’s gorgeous and unconventional biopic Mr. Turner features a career-defining performance from longtime Leigh favorite Timothy Spall.

*My American Sniper review was reprinted in last week’s Colorado Springs Independent.

index*FOX News scumbags aside, American Sniper is still a complex, conflicted, and profoundly moving film.

#barnesyarddumps:

*Jennifer Aniston goes awards-grubbing in the facile indie Cake, and sticks us with this indigestible slice of grief porn.

The Barnesyard’s Now Playing Power Rankings (January 30 – February 5)

index$ = new this week
* = SF Bay Area only

*1) Inherent Vice
*2) Boyhood
3) Mr. Turner
4) Foxcatcher
*5) The Grand Budapest Hotel
6) American Sniper
*7) The Duke of Burgundy
*8) Two Days, One Night
9) Gone Girl
$*10) Timbuktu
$*11) Mommy (pictured below)
12) A Most Violent Year
*13) Citizenfour
14) Whiplash
15) Selma

MIXED-POSITIVE

*16) Still Alice
17) Big Hero 6
18) The Theory of Everything
*19) Wild

indexMIXED-NEGATIVE

*20) Interstellar
21) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I
22) Penguins of Madagascar

DUMPED

23) Birdman
24) Unbroken
25) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
26) Cake
27) Into the Woods
28) The Imitation Game
29) Taken 3
30) Project Almanac

HAVEN’T SEEN (in alphabetical order)

indexAlexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
$The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamim
Annie
Blackhat
$Black or White
$Black Sea
The Boy Next Door
Dumb and Dumber To
Exodus: Gods and Kings
$Hawaizada
*Human Capital
*The Humbling
$The Loft
$*Mary’s Land
Mortdecai
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Paddington
$*Song of the Sea (pictured above)
*Song One
Spare Parts
Strange Magic
$*Suburban Gothic
The Wedding Ringer

This list is updated every Thursday evening/Friday morning. The rankings reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes only. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as select films playing exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area.

IN THEATERS (SF) – “The Duke of Burgundy”

indexThe Duke of Burgundy (2015; Dir.: Peter Strickland)

GRADE: A-

By Daniel Barnes

*Now playing at the Opera Plaza in San Francisco.

This luxurious and layered psychosexual drama is director Peter Strickland’s follow-up to his hypnotically stylish 2012 mindfuck Berberian Sound Studio, which followed the breakdown of a mousy sound engineer working on a gory Italian horror film.  There are myriad similarities between the two films – the opening credits sequence of Burgundy, which includes a “Perfume by…” credit, could have been produced and mixed at Berberian in the 1960s, and Strickland’s camera fetishizes butterflies and bondage here in much the same way that it swooned over mixing board knobs and smashed fruit in the earlier film.  It’s tempting to label the all-female Burgundy as Strickland’s sex-movie-without-sex  B-side to his violent-movie-without-violence Berberian, especially since both films seem to encode their protagonists’ third-act psychological breakdowns into the DNA of their images.  But Strickland penetrates much deeper into the psyches of his characters in The Duke of Burgundy, finding the erotic in the banal, the banal in the erotic, and infinity and insanity between a lover’s knees.

images

A meek “innocent” (Chiara D’Anna, another holdover from Berberian) arrives at the country mansion of a sexy, middle-aged butterfly expert (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and is ordered to begin cleaning: she is forced to scrub the floor on her hands and knees, wash panties with her bare hands, and receive punishment when she fails her duties.  It gradually becomes apparent that this encounter is role play in a dominant/submissive relationship, but Strickland flips perspectives and challenges and confounds notions of relationship power in almost every scene.  “As long as I’m yours, I’m alive,” says the submissive, but it’s apparent early on that she actually controls every aspect of their relationship.  Even with Strickland’s weirdly seductive, David Lynch-goes-Giallo visuals and narrative discursiveness, the human conflicts in The Duke of Burgundy are hilariously mundane.  The sudden appearance of a ghostly, moth-like saleswoman peddling custom-made bondage furniture eventually reveals the banality of an older woman failing to satisfy the petulant birthday wishes of her younger lover.  “Would a human toilet be a suitable compromise?”  Well sure, of course it would, but when you injure your back moving furniture, it would be a lot nicer to receive a back rub from your partner than to walk around in heels and read pre-approved humiliations off a 3X5 card.  Both actresses are very good here, but Sidse Babett Knudsen is absolutely brilliant as the older woman,  imperious and vulnerable at the same time.  Between Knudsen, Anne Dorval in the upcoming Mommy, and Juliette Binoche in the upcoming Clouds of Sils Maria, my 2015 Best Actress ballot is already filling up fast.

THE BARNESYARD’S NOW PLAYING POWER RANKINGS (January 23-29, 2015)

index2THE WEEK OF JANUARY 16-22:

* = SF Bay Area only
$ = new this week

1) Inherent Vice
*2) Boyhood
*3) Mr. Turner
*4) Foxcatcher
*5) The Grand Budapest Hotel
6) American Sniper
$*7) The Duke of Burgundy
$*8) Two Days, One Night
9) Gone Girl
*10) A Most Violent Year
*11) Citizenfour
12) Selma
13) Whiplash
*14) The Babadook

indexMIXED-POSITIVE

*15) Still Alice
16) Big Hero 6
17) The Theory of Everything
18) Wild

MIXED-NEGATIVE

*19) Interstellar
20) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I

DUMPED

21) Birdman
22) Unbroken
23) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
24) Cake
25) Into the Woods
26) The Imitation Game
27) Taken 3
*28) Awake: The Life of Yogananda

indexHAVEN’T SEEN (in alphabetical order)

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Annie
$Baby
*Big Eyes
Blackhat
The Book of Life
$The Boy Next Door
Dumb and Dumber To
Exodus: Gods and Kings
*Human Capital
$*The Humbling
$*Killers
$*Loitering with Intent
$*Manny
$*Match
$Mortdecai
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Paddington
$*Song One
Spare Parts
$Strange Magic
$The Wedding Ringer
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

This list is updated every Thursday evening/Friday morning. The rankings reflect the opinion of Daniel Barnes only. All films playing in Sacramento area theaters are listed, as well as select films playing exclusively in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Barnesyard @ the SN&R/MCW (1/15 issues)

images#barnesyardbumps:

*Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper offers a complex, conflicted and profoundly moving look at the military machine, and the toll it takes on the soldiers who keep getting shoveled back into the fire.

*My 5-star review of Foxcatcher was reprinted in this week’s Monterey County Weekly.

#barnesyarddumps:

*Taken 3 director Olivier Megaton couldn’t direct his way out of a paper bag without changing screen direction seventeen times.