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The Skin I Live In (#110 of 13)

The Films of Pedro Almodóvar Ranked

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The Films of Pedro Almodóvar Ranked
The Films of Pedro Almodóvar Ranked

Finding the crux of a Pedro Almodóvar film is not unlike asking how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. In each case, the supposed science of the issue at hand is often short-circuited by impatience. Lest the comparison seem too glib, Almodóvar’s entire filmography is, to varying degrees, about the performance of taste, where characters often relate to one another not through their minds, but through their fingers, eyes, and teeth. Sweet tooths are more than a matter of dental hygiene; they’re a means of defining personal placement within the broader spectrum of vivid characters and self-serving interests. The bright color scheme of Almodóvar’s mise-en-scène redoubles these matters by problematizing realism as a dissenting faction amid otherwise psychologically defined characters, whose motivations are typically for sustenance of a rather short-order sort. On that note, Almodóvar’s oeuvre, and the characters that comprise it, can perhaps be best summarized by Carmen Maura’s character in Matador, who says near the film’s end: “Some things are beyond reason. This is one of them.”

Film Comment Selects 2012: Mortem

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Film Comment Selects 2012: Mortem
Film Comment Selects 2012: Mortem

French filmmaker Eric Atlan’s black-and-white Mortem has been billed as a “metaphysical thriller” inspired by David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman. The more obvious comparison, however, would have been to French film noir. Mortem’s opening scenes, in which two young women arrive by nightfall at an empty hotel, bring to mind Georges Franju’s haunted Eyes Without a Face, based on Jean Redon’s novel that also inspired Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In. In all three movies, bizarre experimentation, psychic or physical, and plot reversals ensue.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Score

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Score
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Score

All this talk about Meryl Streep and very few are editorializing much on when the Academy will give John Williams an award just for being America’s most Kennedy Center Honor-ific film composer. He’s been trophied more often and more recently, but it’s still been a pretty long stretch since 1993. Both Williams and Steven Spielberg have been laying low since the latest Indiana Jones movie blew up in everyone’s face, but they’ve returned in tandem and it’s hard to see how the Academy’s music branch will be able to a) resist, and b) choose one over the other. So expect them to have their cake and eat it too, citing both the traditional Wagnerian triumphalism of War Horse (which, up until the last two weeks, seemed a frontrunner for double-digit nods) and the more varied, synth-assisted, Prokofiev-tinged themes from The Adventures of Tintin.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Costume Design

While one hopes that those nominating for Costume Design will be keen to acknowledge the subtle ways that clothes complement character, like the vision obstruction caused by the bonnets in Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff or the dirtiness of the period duds in Bertrand Tavernier’s The Princess of Montpensier, history has certainly shown that pomp and spectacle win the day. And if your pomp and spectacle are housed in a castle setting, all the better. So look for Anonymous, the year’s flashiest bit of dolled-up royalty, to handily nab a slot here, if not the win. (There’s plenty of precedent for this, as The Duchess, another frilly film with minimal Oscar traction, took the trophy three years back, and Shakespeare in Love, which also showcased Elizabeth I in all her lavishly collared regalia, nabbed it in 1999).

Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011

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Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011
Poster Lab: The Best Movie Posters of 2011

Honorable Mention

The Devil’s Double: Boasting the year’s best monochromatic design is this glossy, tacky beaut for The Devil’s Double, the star-making Dominic Cooper vehicle about Uday Hussein (Cooper) and his Iraqi-soldier doppelgänger (also Cooper). Littered with machine gun shells and coated entirely in gold, the poster evokes both the glorious, violent excess of Scarface and the opulence of the Middle East’s corrupt power elite, all the while looking like a gaudy bauble you’d snag at a novelty shop. The poster knows its movie’s milieu, its genre, and its character’s superficial appetite for, well, everything. [Poster]

The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence: Yes, this creepy-crawly, nether-regions one-sheet for The Human Centipede 2 is as “sick” as its tagline suggests, and it’s anyone’s guess what an actual centipede serving as a woman’s landing strip has to do with a psycho’s victims being forcibly, gastronomically linked. But it is, like it or not, one of the more inspired poster designs to be unleashed this year, and for all its intentional tastelessness, it displays a cleverness and certain aesthetic restraint that transcends its content, and that can’t be found in any celeb-slathered collage. Besides, provocation is the chief goal of this after-midnight franchise, and here, that’s not just owned, but laid bare. [Poster]

The Mechanic: A poster that doesn’t look like much, but catches your eye and holds it, this clean and simple image for the Jason Statham actioner The Mechanic makes a fun puzzle of bad boy cinema’s ever-enduring necessity, and forces you to look closer to examine its parts. The amount of negative black space is as strong a visual choice as the inter-locking orange arsenal, which ultimately acts as a kind of starkly graphic photomosaic. [Poster]

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2011

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Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2011
Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2011

From Nick Schager’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2011: “The auteurs had it in 2011, which delivered such a feast of fantastic domestic and international cinema that it’s difficult to remember a year in which it was harder to compile a consensus Top 25. Nonetheless, best-of-year rankings wait for no critic, and our list is practically overflowing with films by young and old masters at the apex of their games, be it Terrence Malick’s sumptuous spiritual odyssey The Tree of Life, Edward Yang’s long-unreleased 1991 classic A Brighter Summer Day, or Abbas Kiarostami’s formalist masterwork Certified Copy.” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots. Happy reading.

New York Film Festival 2011: The Skin I Live In

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Skin I Live In</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>The Skin I Live In</em>

Like a Spanish Woody Allen, Pedro Almodóvar has directed a movie every year or two since 1978, and if not every one is great, almost all are worth seeing. And like a latter-day Douglas Sirk, Almodóvar loves stories about gorgeous, creamily photographed people who commit soap-operatic acts in picturesque settings. His subversive sense of humor and convoluted plots, which often circle back through time, keep his films from being merely melodramatic, but at their worst they can seem frenetic, all color-saturated surface and no substance.

The Skin I Live In lacks the fire and emotional depth of his best work, which includes the brilliant four-film streak that started with All About My Mother in 1999 and ended with Volver in 2006. But it digs deep into the aging wunderkind’s bag of tricks to keep us entertained while slipping in a few pointed observations about how our bodies define us and what people—particularly women—will endure to survive.

Vancouver International Film Festival 2011 Tyrannosaur, The Skin I Live In, The Day He Arrives, & More

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Vancouver International Film Festival 2011: Tyrannosaur, The Skin I Live In, The Day He Arrives, & More
Vancouver International Film Festival 2011: Tyrannosaur, The Skin I Live In, The Day He Arrives, & More

The 30th Vancouver International Film Festival opened on Thursday, September 29 with a full day of screenings and an opening night double-shot event of Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In and Fredrick Wiseman’s documentary Crazy Horse at the Vogue (back in the VIFF stable of screens after an absence of many years).

I arrived in Vancouver mid-morning on Friday, September 30, checked in with the always welcoming staff of the festival office (my favorite press office in the festival world) and jumped into screenings as VIFF expanded to its full complement of ten screens (plus a couple of special event 3D screenings set for the Park Theater), all within strolling distance of one another in the heart of downtown Vancouver. I hope to spend time with a few standout films, but until then I’ll be sharing my journal of day-by-day screenings.

Emphasis, as always, will be on the “Dragons and Tigers” program of over 40 features (plus compilations, mid-length films and shorts) from Asia, but I’ll be jumping around to other countries and films as well when I can.

Here’s my first day of screenings: