Tabloid (Errol Morris)
Morris takes a break from his recent political documentaries with Tabloid, a frantic portrait of a former beauty queen and self-described “incurable romantic” who became a notorious media figure when she kidnapped and possibly raped her Mormon beau. The subject, Joyce McKinney, is endlessly quotable. Her conversational demeanor makes her the best person to recount her life’s story, even if Morris makes it clear that she’s not above taking liberties with the truth. What emerges is a tale of obsessive, mostly unrequited love, which grows increasingly unbelievable as the story unfolds (there are absurd disguises, sexy secrets, and clones). The tabloid press’s unethical obsession with figures like Joyce is a marginal concern here. It mostly permits Morris to play up the sensational aspects of the story, which he does most memorably by flashing headline-like graphics of the salacious terms that his interviewees use (e.g. “SPREAD-EAGLED”). The result is something less than a profound meditation on Joyce’s life, but it is one heck of a story.
Rating: 59 /100
Hereafter (Clint Eastwood)
After a harrowing, effects-filled opening, Eastwood’s latest transforms into a quiet consideration of death. Following three characters, the story adopts three approaches toward its subject matter, alternating between intellectual, emotional, and supernatural modes of inquiry. What results is an unpredictable, consistently beguiling work that could only have come from a master filmmaker. Its unrushed demeanor and willingness to hold back from commitment lend it a profundity that escapes the schematic traps of similar films like Babel. Instead of forcing a point of view upon us, Eastwood simply flirts with various ideas and genres, until his quiet search becomes a quiet release from that search. Because it’s so low key, it’s less immediately impactful than many of Eastwood’s recent work, and the scenes set in London sequences are weaker than the others, but this is a film of uncommon insight and patience.
Vanishing on 7th Street (Brad Anderson)
This apocalyptic horror film, in which a mass disappearance afflicts an unnamed city, attempts to make us scared of the dark once again. Featuring a small cast of characters who must remain in light lest some shadowy boogeymen snatch them up, the movie boasts an intriguing premise at its start, but things barely develop, leaving the impression that we’re watching an extended, gimmicky episode of “The Twilight Zone.” Clumsy expoisition (e.g. one character just happens to be reading about the Roanoke colony’s disappearance at the film’s start) and some terrible performances (Thandie Newton’s in full-on Beloved freak-out mode) harm the overall effect, but really the most damning thing here is Anderson’s inability to capitalize on his dark versus light motif in any but the most obvious ways.