Tag Archives: Under the skin

H. (Sundance 2015)

4 Feb

Artsy. Wierd. Pretentious. Experimental. Cryptic.

Whatever labels you throw at it, the 2015 Sundance film H. is a hard one to tackle. Equal parts romance, sci-fi, relationship drama, and visual poetry, H. tells the story of two couples whose lives slowly start to intersect into each others’ in conjunction with the passing of some celestial object from space.  The first characters we encounter are Helen and Roy (played by Robin Bartlett and  Julian Gamble respectively), an aging couple from Troy, New York. Helen likes to purchase life-like baby dolls and treat them like real newborn (or as she calls them “reborn” babies, which includes pretending to put them to bed, feeding, and burping them. Roy likes fishing. There is another woman named Helen (Rebecca Dayan), but she is in her 8th month of pregnancy and is into artistic photography along with her husband Alex (Will Janowitz). Both couples seem to innocently carry on with their lives until a mysterious something (natural disaster? meteor? space aliens?) causes the city to go into chaos, triggering a domino effect that weaves in and out of the city.

Featuring some fantastic imagery from this year’s festival (rivaled only perhaps by Lubezki’s work in Last Days in the Desert and the stunning visual palette from The Witch), H. was designed and experienced as a bold visceral journey. Along the way are various cryptic messages referencing the great Greek drama The Iliad. H.‘s music is also intensely compelling. If you haven’t already associated the beautiful cello and piano piece Arvo Part with great cinema after watching There Will Be Bloodyou will now; almost every scene in H. has some variation of the intense melody.

The story itself is pretty inaccessible – most of the audience’s understanding (or lack thereof) comes from subtle visual references – but H. is really a must see because of it’s ability to exhibit and celebrate a truly unique flavor of film. The tone of this thing washed right over me from the start and I was completely entranced by it’s hypnotic spell. In an age where most films feel the need to explain everything to the point of redundancy, it’s incredibly refreshing to see something trying so hard to be ambiguous. H. does feel a little like an amatuer student production at some points, but I absolutely think filmmakers Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh have a solid future ahead of them. Its lack of a concrete explanation (or any explanation at all) for the events on-screen will surely leave some viewers frustrated, but H. is a bold execution in ambient, atmospheric filmmaking and deserves to be seen.

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Rating: 7/10 

Similar to: Enemy (2014), Under The Skin (2014), Upstream Color (2013) 

Check out the trailer below:

MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 2014

30 Dec

For your viewing pleasure: my favorite films of 2014. I only counted films that had a theatrical or VOD release this year, so some stuff I saw at festivals (like Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter & Infinitely Polar Bear) and late Oscar films (like Foxcatcher & Inherent Vice) will be saved for next year.  Enjoy!

EDIT – unfortunately, Vimeo took down my video, so here is a direct link to view it from my Google Drive (thanks Google!)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9ugyZi0NsQmZGwwVkt0bmVMREk/view?usp=sharing

I want to hear your thoughts. Anything you think I missed?

Best Film Scores of 2014

22 Dec

Sorry, I have been inactive as of late. As tradition, I have been editing a year’s worth of film viewing into my annual “Best of” video series. Today, I’m happy to present my top 10 film scores of the year which you can check out below (headphones highly suggested!).

2014 film scores from Tyler Belk on Vimeo.

I also plan to have my Top 10 Documentaries video out tomorrow, so stay tuned 🙂

The best of 2014 (so far)

23 Jun

With June winding down, the year is nearly reaching its halfway point. Now it’s time to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly, and take a look at my favorite 15 films of the year so far. Keep in mind there are a few films released with a lot of good buzz I have yet to see (Ida, Tom at the Farm, Hellion, Cold in July, Night Moves, Obvious Child and Snowpiercer). Note I am also using the word favorite as opposed to best or greatest – these are simply the ones I enjoyed most. So without further delay:

 

15 – Edge of Tomorrow 

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Why? – I was pleasantly surprised by how tight and free-flowing this film was. It has a great time with the whole time-loop ting but still manages to be kickass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 – Grand Piano

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Why? It’s so refreshing to see a “concept horror” that actually knows how to have a good time and not suck. Plus Elijah Wood playing a non-hobbit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 – The Grand Budapest Hotel 

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 Why? Wes Anderson has outdone himself again and created an enchanting film with an all-star cast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 – X-Men: Days of Future Past 

Why? –  The action is playful and fun and character dynamic between Magneto, Prof. X, and Mystique is great stuff. Plus – time travel. What could have been a TOTAL mess-up ended up becoming my favorite summer blockbuster.

11 – The Immigrant 

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Why? Great performances all around, but Marion Cotillard absolutely steals the show and gives her finest performance to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 – Joe 

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          Why? Because Nic Cage is still a total badass (seriously).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 – The Babadook 

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Why? Australian horror gets a makeover with a genuinely terrifying film that satisfies with smarts as well as scares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8-  Infinitely Polar Bear 

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Why? This heartfelt film shows the ups and downs of mental illness and boasts some of the best child acting I have seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 – Whiplash 

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Why? With great performances from J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller  make this is an absolute must see for music fans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 – The Double 

Why? A clever, dark comedy from Richard Ayode brings an introspective examination of identity, corporatism, and fate.\

5 – Borgman

Why? This weird, surreal tale about a mysterious vagabond probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s still an incredibly bold exercise in filmmaking.

 4 – Blue Ruin            

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  Why? A new arthouse take on the homestyle revenge thriller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 – Enemy

Why? Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this trippy, Freudian story of the dual nature of sexuality and manipulation.

2 – Under The Skin 

Why? A beautifully creepy film featuring aliens, sexual tension, and jaw-dropping cinematography. Oh – and that haunting score by Mica Levi is genius.

1 – Boyhood 

Why? Richard Linklater delivers the year’s best emotional high with his 12-year film which lets us follow a child who literally grows up right before our eyes.

So there ya go. Let me know in the comments of via email what films you think deserve a spot here, as well as any titles I might have missed out on.

Under The Skin (2014)

27 Apr

Under The Skin is the new thriller/sci-fi/horror from Jonathan Glazer, a director known mostly for his work in music videos though he did direct the feature films Sexy Beast and Birth. Voluptuous leading lady Scarlett Johanson stars in this trippy, abstract, and provocative story about a space creature who roams the Scottish countryside preying upon innocent male victims.

The film starts out with a very impressive montage of bizarre imagery set to a screeching musical piece as Scarlett’s character soon makes her entrance unto the earth, and into the lives of those unfortunate enough to cross her path.  The rest of the movie is a slow-burning and often dark examination into the nature of love, loneliness, sexuality and the value of connectedness.  While some sequences Glazer directs with a pin-point meticulousness, others seem entirely spontaneous and impulsive resulting in a film rich with a variety of atmospheric tones.  Boasting a wonderful score from Mica Levi, and featuring some of the best visuals of the year, Under The Skin makes for a sublime and rewarding cinematic experience.

My biggest issue with the film is that it puts too much style over substance, and unfortunately borders on the fine line between being artful and being pretentious. A forty-second shot of a mountain – though gorgeously shot – is still just a forty-second shot of a mountain, and adds little to the film’s rhythm or narrative. If you are looking for an artsy and experimental take on the genre, Under The Skin is bound to satisfy, while those looking for something a bit less cryptic are best left to check out Scarlett in Captain America 2. I was completely spellbound.

Rating: 9/10 

Similar to: Enemy (2014), The Master (2012), Upstream Color (2013)