Friday, June 21, 2013

More New June Titles (2013)

A few more noteworthy titles that showed up on Instant this month:

Chasing Ice (2012)

A sobering, provocative documentary that follows nature photographer James Balog's on-camera quest to document how unnervingly fast the world's glaciers are melting and what this implies for the planet's future. Not simply an environmentalist polemic trumpeting the latest global-warming theories to mollify the already converted, Chasing Ice is an adventure story and travelogue about one man challenged by the elements, his own hardheaded determination, and the breakdown of his increasingly fragile body while seeking empirical evidence for what many of us already suspected but which until now had never been witnessed. The time-lapse images of enormous glaciers receding and shrinking into muddy splotches are horrifying and heartbreaking, but also beautiful and miraculous, especially once you've seen the struggle it took to achieve them. Balog's art and sacrifice may have worn him down physically—like one of his own compromised ice floes—but with any luck enough people will see his amazing work and be inspired to act. Or at the very least question their views. The evidence is here. All you have to do is look.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I Like Coppola in June, How About You?

A number of new and notable titles snuck onto Instant this month. Among those are a handful of films directed by Francis Ford Coppola, an important filmmaker by any standard and one who obviously needs no introduction. What makes these titles worth noting is that they join Tucker (also reviewed) and The Conversation to form a solid collection of the director's least heralded, but most interesting, work. The one exception is the indispensable Apocalypse Now (1979), second only to The Godfathers I and II in the director's ouevre and arguably the greatest war film ever made--even if calling it merely a war film fails to account for its greatness as a film, period. There's simply no movie that better depicts the darker corners of man's soul, particularly as filtered through the psychedelic fog that permeated the conflict in Vietnam. With its basis in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the film elegantly channels a literary sensibility into one that's uniquely cinematic, creating a dramatic and powerful journey upriver that's as much existential meditation as war drama.