1. The East - Brit Marling is just divine. As writer, producer and star of two fantastic movies from 2011, Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, I wondered if it was just a fluke. WhileI don't think The East is as strong as these previous movies, it definitely proves that Brit Marling is a force to be reckoned with. She is so young and so confident in her talent; I think she is going to be one of the few female filmmakers to break into the major league's. She partners again with Zal Batmanglij, as she did with Sound of My Voice, creating the same hauntingly creepy atmosphere that excelled Sound of My Voice. The East has similar themes of cults, personal identity, and religion, but focuses on a group of "anti-corporation terrorists", who call themselves "The East". This group of people truly believe that what they are doing is "right", and embody an "eye for an eye" manifesto. Marling is a former FBI agent, hired by a big corporation, to infiltrate this group and find out their plans. Predictably, she connects with them in ways she doesn't expect and begins to question her own actions, the actions of "The East", and the actions of her employer. There are parts of the movie that I found problematic; the convenient storytelling is my biggest issue, but I also have problems with the maturity level of the group (they play "spin the bottle"...) and something as tiny as the dying of her hair, causes my brain to hurt (does she have any idea how difficult it is to dye dark brown hair to blonde? It would take at least 4 processes). Overall though, the movie has quite a few strong images, fantastic acting and the music is perfectly creepy. The story presents ideas that are thrilling and challenging, but need to be explored. I could see the idea expanded into a television or min-series idea. Right now, the movie sits in my Top 10 list of the year, but it is towards the bottom, so I doubt it will still be there at the end of the year.
2. Antiviral - I was not expecting this to be as good as it is. David Cronenberg is a genius when it comes to science-fiction filmmaking; I thought holding his son, Brandon, to such a high standard on his first film, would prove to be a disappointment, but I was wrong. He sticks to his fathers roots and creates a really brilliant movie. And the main actor, Caleb Landry Jones, is absolutely mesmerizing (I can't believe that's the dorky kid from Friday Night Lights!). The stark white background of the movie made it feel clinical and impersonal but it's effective imagery.It's smart, simple and memorable. The plot is a really crazy sci-fi story about celebrity obsession that has gone too far. It actually makes a a strong, compelling statement (as opposed to The Bling Ring). This obsession blows my mind. I've never understood it. I mean, I am occasionally guilty of reading celebrity gossip, but I think it's more of a way to keep up with "pop-culture"; to be "in the know" about what everyone is talking about, which is pretty sad to think about. However, there are very few "celebrities" that I would actually care about meeting. Living where I live, and previously working in the music industry in NYC and the film industry in Hollywood, I've met plenty of famous people. The most popular question I get asked "did you get their autograph?", always disappoints people. Why the fuck would I ask someone to sign a piece of paper for me? What am I going to do with that? It's all so weird to me. There was recently a D-list celebrity in my place of work and my employees FREAKED OUT. Anyway, I think as a society we've already gone too far with our celebrity obsession, but this movie goes to new heights. It's horrific to think about because there are probably some crazy "fans" who get inspired by the plot. Yikes!!
3. American Mary - The "twisted twins" are pretty popular among horror fans, but I've never watched a movie from them. This definitely made me want to seek out more. It's amateur filmmaking; but, like, really good amateur filmmaking. I really love the main character and her background story. The actress, Katherine Isabelle, has a strangely familiar voice. She's been in a ton of stuff, but her face doesn't look familiar at all - just her voice. I closed my eyes for a few minutes to see if I could figure it out, but to no avail. Some of the body modification stuff featured in the movie, is really creepy - to each their own and all that, but some of it gave me chills. It reminded me of the crazy plastic surgery cases on Nip/Tuck (Love!!).The plot, however, is a little lacking and predictable - classic rape revenge story. It's also an unsubtle story about how far a girl will go to afford to go to college.
4. The Numbers Station - No idea why I watched this movie. It was just sitting there on Netflix Instant and I pressed play. I thought it would be a mindless action thriller, which is exactly what it was. It just wasn't very good or coherent or interesting. I'm not a fan of John Cusack or Malin Akerman. Cusack has been very good in a few roles, but when he's bad....he's really bad. I haven't seen Akerman good in anything since The Comeback (such a great show!). They were both terrible in this movie - no chemistry, robotic dialogue, and bland personalities. I got a little lost with the plot because it didn't really make a whole lot of sense, but then I realized that it purposely doesn't make sense to set up the twist ending. So, essentially, it's not supposed to make sense until the end, which makes it extremely hard to pay attention to. I wasn't involved enough to care.
5. Before Midnight - I was really nervous about a third installment of this story, but after reading so many amazing reviews (it's at an astonishing 98% on Rotten Tomatoes), I set my expectations high. Almost impossibly high. It's perfect. I wouldn't change a thing. I've never rooted for a couple to survive like I have with Jesse and Celine. There is a nice balance of optimism and pessimism in their relationship that makes it all incredibly heartfelt and real. The conversations that they have are just riddled with fascinating theories about love, gender roles, sex, communication, responsibility, lust and the idea of "soulmates". In the third installment, Jesse and Celine are now married with twins, balancing between her career, his need to be a part of his son's life (from his previous marriage) and keeping the romance alive. We can feel the inevitable resentment between them - the only way to maintain a relationship is to constantly compromise. They each feel like they've given more to the relationship than the other, which leads to the EPIC argument at the end. As usual, I agree with the male perspective of the argument (is that weird?), and completely agree with Jesse that Celine is "the fucking mayor of crazy town". If he wants to move back to the states to be with his son, then that's what should happen (sorry, her career is not more important. I don't really have a family, but even I understand that family is more important than anything else.). Her turning it into an argument about feminism is absolutely ridiculous - he doesn't seem to have any intentions of turning her into a "submissive housewife" as she suggests. Also, as a feminist, I have to admit that this type of demeaning "housewife" talk is offensive. Some feminists forget that there are some women that WANT to be a stay-at-home mom and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Either way, both have valid arguments that everyone can relate to. It's hard to comprehend that Jesse and Celine are fictional characters, which is obviously a compliment to the writing, but also to Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Just perfect.