FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Stanley Kubrick |||
Stanley Kubrick

A filmmaker of international importance, Kubrick was one of the only directors to work within the Studio System and still have full artistic control over his films from scripting through post-production, prompting Time Magazine to compare Kubrick’s early independence with the magnitude of Orson Welles.

An uncompromising antiwar film, this gut-wrenching drama depicts a World War I officer as he labors with an ultimately futile defense for three painfully sympathetic men tried for cowardice. Kubrick artistically utilizes a beautifully washed-out black and white photography to represent the muddied boundaries of right and wrong, and the many gray areas that lay between.

A fabulous and inspiring adventure, this visually stunning epic stars Kirk Douglas as the heroic slave who fights to lead his people to freedom from Roman rule. Although a clear departure from Kubrick’s oeuvre, “Spartacus” is an all time classic helmed by a man with a precise vision who is equally capable of crafting colossal spectacle, tense tęte-ŕ-tętes, and a tender moment between lovers.

This film is so stylish it’s easy to forget it’s a horror film at heart. Considered to be the thinking man’s thriller, Kubrick molds this very particularly “Stephan King” material into the portfolio of his films about human failure, as the hero’s desperate desire to become somebody ends in frustration and tragedy.

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Hard Candy

By BrianOrndorf

April 13th, 2006

A tale of a pedophile that faces his greatest enemy in a 14 year-old girl, “Hard Candy” is provocative entertainment. It also is a crass, overdirected picture with the sheen of independent film cleverness, but all the screenwriting depth of the average 80s horror sequel.


After flirting on the Internet for weeks, Jeff (Patrick Wilson, “The Alamo”) and Hayley (Ellen Page, Kitty Pryde in the upcoming “X-Men: The Last Stand”) have decided to finally meet. Trouble is, he’s 32 years old and she’s 14. After bringing Hayley back to his place for drinks and seduction, the situation takes a turn for the worse when the young girl reveals that she’s more clever than she originally seemed, beginning a day of agony and torment for Jeff.

“Hard Candy” has one of those calculated attention-grabbing premises that delighted pushover Sundance Film Festival audiences, where it played over a year ago. This is provocative material, pointing a spotlight on sexual predators and their prey, possibly leading many parents to go home and hug their teenage children extra tightly, and shut off all their access to the Internet. So there’s one positive to be found.

“Candy” is the directorial debut for music video filmmaker (aren’t they all?) David Slade, and what ultimately trips up the film is Slade’s habitual visual overindulgence. The picture is aiming for a runaway mine car ride into hell, where Hayley exacts revenge on Jeff for her own safety and for every girl pursued by a pedophile; “Death Wish” for the Jane magazine crowd. However, the film isn’t reliably ingenious like the average thriller. Perhaps originally structured to be performed in a theatrical setting, Brian Nelson’s script keeps the characters talking feverishly and the locations at a minimum, leaving Slade to come up with his own cinematic treatment to tell this unconvincing story.

Slade makes use of a dazzling primary color design for Jeff’s house to keep the location interesting, and employs almost nothing but tight close-ups for the acting. The framing does create the claustrophobic nightmare quality Nelson is writing, but inspiration is soon drained completely out of the film by an old enemy: the shaky-cam. Whenever a moment of violence or action occurs between Haylie and Jeff, Slade goes crazy with open-shutter photography and handheld camerawork, unnecessarily attempting to conjure up intensity with cookie-cutter artifice instead of piercing originality. It robs the film of any potential terror.

The visual ideas kneecap the performances as well. While Patrick Wilson oozes reptilian menace and carefully measured lust as Jeff, Ellen Page’s performance as Hayley is the film’s single biggest miscalculation. Page’s acting is puckered with indication; the actress bounces off the walls trying to convey the character’s power of mind and willingness to use blunt force to keep Jeff in his place. By shooting Page so tightly at almost all times, Slade amplifies the actress’s limitations, and soon pushes her into pure shrillness. Toward the end of the film, the hope that maybe Jeff should come out as the victor in this struggle passes through the mind, which directly contradicts Nelson’s script design for Hayley’s heroism. Wilson might be playing a rapist of teenagers, but after 10 minutes of watching Page contort and stammer in such a loud, self-aware fashion, he doesn’t look like such a bad guy after all.

Near the end, “Candy” heads into a lengthy genital torture sequence (male viewers will be crossing their legs in the film’s second half), which should be this monumentally satisfying act of revenge, but it comes off as a hopeless horror gimmick in a picture with all the dramatic and logical impulse of a latter “Friday the 13th” installment. In the end, Slade dramatically hammers home the Red Riding Hood imagery, while Nelson’s script makes her into a sort of Batman figure for underage instant message vixens. And while at this point the film gets completely absurd, at least Page has finally stopped acting.

My rating: D+