Monthly Movies 10/08

Working Girl (01 10 08) – So 80s! I like 80s Harrison Ford; he’s more fun and silly. I think this is one of the only things I’ve seen Melanie Griffth in. Odd. I really needed a girl power movie to inspire me since I can relate to the Tess McGill character somewhat.
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (02 10 08) – This was a bit slow to get into, but there are some fun, Almodvaresque moments. I really liked the gazpacho scene at the end. I saw the dub version sadly, but still an okay film. There is a young Antonio Banderas in this movie who wears big 80s glasses.
Dream for an Insomniac (02 10 08) – A 1996 romantic comedy with Ione Skye, Jennifer Aniston, and Sean Astin’s brother Makenzie Astin. Notable things I learned, Ioane Skye really reminds me of Nicole Kidman. They have the same cheekbones and have similar eyes. I also did not know that she is folk singer Donavon’s daughter; that explains the name. This was an okay rom-com. I liked the cafe, but I do not know if I related to any of the characters at all. Ione’s character was much too intense.
Sisterhood of Traveling Pants (04 10 08) – It could have been worse. I liked the Greek scenery. It’s a bit cute if anything.
The Ipress File (06 10 08) – A spy thriller from the 1970s staring Michael Caine. It’s a tad slow moving, set in London, and has rather deadpan Caine wearing black square glasses. When he isn’t, the director likes shots of his nice eyelashes; did they put mascara on him? Since this is a 70s movie, I am inclined to think yes. Unsurprisingly, Caine is a ladies man, and his impassiveness is rather good. I can’t say it’s shot well or badly, but the director was obviously going for intense, dark spy thriller. It’s just a sloth paced thriller and most of the interesting things happen rather late. It is by no means an excellent or rewatchable film, but I liked it just for Caine’s expressions or lackthereof.
Mamma Mia (18 10 08) – The cast is the only reason to watch it. To be honest, I barely paid attention to this and did other things while it was one. It makes no sense plot wise because of Sophie’s age. Amanda Seyfried is cute in it. It isn’t bad, but that much ABBA after awhile can be irksome.

Total: 6

Rewatched Movies:
Paris Je T’aime (02 10 08) – I showed this a friend of mine who hadn’t seen it. We rewatched all but two of the vignettes. I find that most of the ones I liked initially I continued to like. The others did not grow on me. It’s still a good anthology.

The Complete Persepolis

The two volume omnibus edition of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoirs and Bildungsroman of growing up in Iran.  I actually did not know about the French edition until too late. As is the case sometimes, I regret not having found the original French version to read especially since I perpetually need to brush up my linguistic abilities. I did see the movie in French. Overall, I found this read immensely enjoyable and wonderful. I love it as much as I love The Complete Maus by Art Spielgman, another identity searching and family history memoirs of conflict. Persepolis was moving, tragic, beautifully drawn, funny, painful, and honest. It is beautiful memoirs of childhood and finding one’s own identity with change and upheaval. I liked all the characters; I could feel for them. I liked young Marji’s spirituality, faith, and religion, and while it was difficult to watch her go through her teen years, I could relate to her in a way I have not for a character in a long time. While I did not live through the political and violent times of war and revolutionnary torn Iran, we have similar family dynamics and other things such as the scene with Marji as waitress that hit home.

I often do not cry for movies or books which is quite odd since I can be so sensitive to things. I must admit that the scenes with Marji and her Uncle Anoosh left me verklempt. I read it twice and it affected me, and the film’s scene with it left me in tears. I cannot say why it particularly resonated with me more than some others things, but the scene moves me above so many others.

The film is wonderfully done as well, and while it is a condensed version, it still has the same simple yet affective black and white imagery. It has a couple of things the graphic novel does not, and it is nicely voice acted all around. It is harder to find a more truer to the novel adaptation than with Satrapi as the co-writer and co-director of the film. Both are recommended.

Lust, Caution

I saw the uncensored NC-17 version. I have not seen the 17 min of cut sex scenes which is apparently circulating around the internet.  First off, I adore Ang Lee’s work. He is awesome at setting up a shot, and I think he may be my favourite Asian director ever. as he is able to reunite the East meets West. I like Wong Kar Wai too, but Lee has the ability to still capture me with his shots and storytelling. The sex scenes did not disturb me as much as I thought they would. Watching the movie, you wonder why Wong (played by the beautiful Tang Wei) is so committed to this undercover. Another observant blogger noted the character’s desire for fiction and to feel. It is indeed true that she only seems to really let go emotionally when acting on stage or escaping to the movies. Maybe it was because I recently saw All About my Mother, but it really did make me think of All About Eve, and those actresses who play actresses. It is such a difficult role to play, and just as with Eve, you get some of the real her, but not all of it. The performances were excellent in the film. Tony Leung is talented. Even though for most of the scenes in the film, he reminds me of Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. I still feel pathos for the screwed up traitor because it’s Tony Leung. Wong Kar Wai once said that TL was like Jimmy Stewart due to his honest and nice babyface. That comparison has always stuck with me because TL is like Stewart; I’ve even seen him in his comedic TV days. It’s unnerving to watch him play such an intense and disturbing character.

There are also so many themes in this film. The art design is impeccable making it feel very authentic, and there seem to be many themes of the historical and political tensions running at the time both Communist and Nationalist. I liked Lee’s use of mirrors and reflections, and the moments when Wong is in a shot as if on a stage. An interesting film, and I hope AL goes back to doing more Asian films.

Monthly Movies 04/08

Juno (13 04 08) – As predicted, this movie is likable. Lots of Canadian actors too. I enjoyed all of the performances and the script did have a lot of heart. Sweet and enjoyable little flick.
I am Legend (13 04 08) – Slow stuff, but people watch this for Will Smith. This is actually my first Will Smith movie in a long time. It’s well shot, and I liked the dog as I usually do.
A Room with a View (13 04 08) – I’m fairly understanding of Andrew Davies’s scripts and his lack of subtext at times, but he does not do well with Forster. While it wasn’t all bad, it was boring and just not as good as the Merchant-Ivory version. The most annoying thing was he changed the ending to one that felt empty and just weird.
Dan in Real Life (14 04 08) – It feels like ages since I’ve seen a typical rom-com. This was such a cute one too. I actually did chuckle a few times, and I adored the Steve Carell/Julie Binoche pairing. I like how romantic tension is played, the setting, and just the simplicity of a nice adult romance. Underrated and sweet.
Lars and the real girl (15 04 08) – Well, this was fine. Nothing too extraordinary, but Ryan Gosling does make this movie. I’ve been watching RG since his TV days (so about 10+ years), and he has always had the screen charisma. Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer also did well in this. I hope EM gets more work; I warmed to her from Match Point on.
The Swan (15-6 04 08) – This is a 1956 film directed by Charles Vidor starring Grace Kelly, Alec Guiness, and Louis Jordan. It’s a bit slow moving, but the ending is a nice twist. There’s the right humor, and Grace Kelly plays a very convincing shy and awkward Princess. Harder to discern what AG was going for in his immature Prince character, but Louis Jordan is as gorgeous and romantic as always.
Becoming Jane (19 04 08) – I avoided watching this for the longest time because I had heard iffy reviews based on its fictionalization of Ms. Austen’s life. It had a trite Hollywood ending, but the best thing about this is James McAvoy. I am really glad his star is on the rise, and he is one of those actors that can make a movie so much more bearable. His acting and screen charisma is off the charts.
Hable con ella (Talk to her) (24-5 04 08) – REVIEW
Across the Universe (25 04 08) – I love the Beatles. I like interpretations of their songs, and the only good thing about this musical is that some of the numbers (Let it Be, I want you so bad) are well done. It is also well shot, but it is clear they wrote a story around the music. I felt absolutely nothing for the characters. You never get a sense of them at all, and my emotions rang from indifference to annoyance. The characters didn’t even seem to care about each other either, and there were some irksome plot holes. I’m not really keen on any of the actors either. It has no real humor like Moulin Rouge or warmth like Singin in the Rain or the Astaire/Rogers movies. This is how you should not do a musical. As a result, this movie was extremely slow even though I knew all the songs and sang along. It was trippy and well shot, but it was far more tedious.

Rewatched Films:
Moulin Rouge – I own this film; it was given to me by friends for a birthday years ago. It was my third DVD I think, and I’ve watched it a couple of times since. I’m not in the habit of rewatching or rereading many things, but I wanted to watch this again after Across the Universe which has nothing (except the Beatles song) on MR. If Baz Luhrmann decided to do a musical with solely Beatles songs, it would be funny, have some warmth, and a decent (albeit melodramatic) romance. It’s sad for me to admit this, but this truly seems to have been Nicole Kidman’s career height. Right after this movie, she went on to do The Hours (which I also loved), Dogville (I am never watching a Lars Von Trier, but she was good in it), The Others (great reviews; have not seen), Birth (same), but lately, her choices have not been great. I am cautiously optimistic of Australia coming out this November because it is Kidman reunited with Baz. I am only seeing it it because it is a Baz film. Back to MR, based off Dumas’s Camille (I only realized this until after seeing George Cuckor/Greta Garbo’s Camille), this is a fun movie. The songs have been on my playlists for years; I like all of the musical numbers and interpretations. Another thing that AtU lacked was charismatic acting. All the actors in MR seem to have fun and really get into it. Kidman is incredibly zany in the beginning, and I have rarely disliked Ewan Macgregor or Jim Broadbent in anything. Maybe I shouldn’t have rewatched this because now I’m more annoyed by AtU.

Hable con ella (Talk to her)

Hable con ella (Talk to her) My third Pedro Almodóvar film, and if I haven’t said it before: I really like this guy’s work. Auteurs are interesting and getting rarer. First off, the silent erotic movie scene is one of the weirdest things I have ever watched; it’s pretty great how he put that in the film. As usual, it’s well shot, well written, good soundtrack, and nice performances all around. Javier Cámara plays Beningo with such a soft intensity and even as creepy as he can be, it’s hard not feel sorry for the guy which the performance should take credit for. Now, a big reason I enjoyed the film is because I really adored the Marco character played by Darío Grandinetti. I’m not surprised he’s a Piscean like I am because he cries beautifully and convincingly on screen. He shed tears during so many scenes, and it was not cliched or old at any point. Maybe I just like a man who is can cry because of beauty or memories. I think I developed a small crush on Marco as a result and Grandinetti has this soft intensity about him. It’s too bad he hasn’t worked with Almodóvar again.

More and more, I appreciate Almodóvar’s writing and themes of relationship, women, love, desire, and his eclectic story telling. I really appreciate how slow yet well paced his movies. He takes time to elaborate on extras, secondary characters, and the little moments. For example, he does not cut directly from Marco going to see Beningo at a critical point in the movie, but there are various interactions with secondary characters, seemingly pointless, but wonderfully normal. I have liked all three of his movies I have seen so far, they are all different yet the same. His style is pervasive in them or at least the directorial, acting, and writing quality is high in all. Since I have unintentionally being going backwards in his filmography, my next Almodóvar should be All About my Mother followed by Live Flesh.

La Doublure (The Valet)

First of all, La Doublure does not translate into The Valet. In the movie’s context, doublure is French for  stand in or double, usually in theatre. Many of of Francis Veber’s comedies have games of pretense in their plots involving a character named François Pignon. Previous well known Veber films of similar nature are Le Dîner de cons (The Dinner Game) and Le Placard (The Closet). I think the latter is still my favourite of the three Veber movies I’ve seen so far. La Doublure is still very enjoyable though with nice comedic performances, and as with the others, the protagonist’s evolution in the movie makes for a feel-good movie. Veber’s comedies are not as vulgar as Hollywood ones, but still definitively French. There are is almost always a cool blonde or two, and there are a lot of rich jerks. I think Hollywood could pull off his scripts, but it would not seem as clever or with the right tone. Watching Veber’s films makes me consider how few good American comedic films are being produced.

Volver

My first Pedro Almodóvar film; I just didn’t manage to watch any of his films until now. This Spanish drama has a great cast, strong script, good music, and wonderful direction. I love the overhead shots employed. The theme of death, and the strong focus on women is poignant and well executed. The twists are a bit predictable if you’re an avid film watcher, but that does not mean the movie does not hold you with its characters and the acting. I have only ever seen Penelop Cruz in Vanilla Sky, her presence in this movie is charismatic and definitely shows her as a star. The ease of which she inhabits her character and dominates the screen is wonderful. As I’ve read someone say, she is the Diane Keaton to Almodóvar’s Woody Allen (Cruz is actually going to be in the next Woody Allen movie). I am definitely going to go watch Talk to Her and Bad Education when I can the chances.

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

Oh, how I’ve missed watching foreign films. I am seemingly fond of German films what with Goodbye, Lenin, Run Lola Run, and Wings of Desire to name a few films. I can admit that I am an Anglophile, a Francophile, but I often forget how much German art I love. Not only films, but I listen to classic and baroque music; Rainer Maria Rilke is one of my favourite poets. Brecht is referenced in this film which reminds me I should check him out more too.

Art and beauty is an important characteristic in this drama and political thriller. A little goes a long way in this film. It is subtle, intricate, and layered. I was left speechless when the movie ended and wondered how I was going to write a review. That is usually an indicator of how much the film affected me. The script is incredibly well written. The music plays a character and is superbly scored by Gabriel Yared. The movie features stylized colours, very GDR, and shot with soft focus.

The acting is crazy good in this film. I don’t want to go on and on about how amazing some of the performances were. Listening to the director’s commentary, it’s clear he is an “actor’s director”. He appreciates actors. He cast non-speaking parts to well known German actors just to make every detail worthwhile. There was such meticulousness imbued into this film. Without a doubt, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck is a promising director/screenwriter. Will he be be able to follow up with this debut? No idea, but even if it isn’t half as good as this film, it would be still be a very fine movie.

Random Book and Movie Recs

Things are slowly going to get busier from here on out so I have less time to do the things I like which include blogging so I’ve decided to rec books and movies I’ve seen previously, but not formally reviewed on this blog. I’m not going to write full reviews because t’s usually been some time since I’ve read them. I am also going to aim to reccommend books and films that are relatively under rated.

I did review both of these on allconsuming.net, so I’ve included them which I wrote over a year ago.

The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa and film directed by Luchino Visconti

The Leopard - film“I learned about the movie and book from Roger Ebert’s Great Movies II. I read the novel first, and I enjoyed that. This adaptation does the book justice. Both of them have the same maudlin and sad nostalgia that everyone may not appreciate, but they are lovely. The movie is a beautiful period piece. Burt Lancaster said this was his best work, and he captures the character very well. If you like sentimental, beautiful, historical, foreign movies, I’d recommend this.”

A Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

“I tried to find this before I went to Poland, but I’m glad I read this after I came back. Having seen Auschwitz and other camps, and met Holocaust survivors, I’m able to visualize this book more. It’s very powerful in its understated imagery. I love the personal and meta commentary. It’s deeply reflective and introspective.

Brødre (Brothers)

BrothersMichael (Ulrich Thomsen) has everything under control: a successful military career, a beautiful wife (Connie Nielsen) and two daughters. His younger brother Jannik (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) is a drifter living on the edge of the law. When Michael is sent to Afghanistan on a UN mission, the balance between the two brothers changes forever. Michael is presumed dead, and Sarah is comforted by Jannik who becomes more responsible and capable as a friend and uncle to the girls. Michael is captured, and returns home after a horrible experience, but his trauma can not be helped as things are irrevocably changed in the family.

How often do I see Danish films? I think this is my second after Babette’s Feast. I’ve wanted to watch this one for awhile having heard good things overall, the performances notably. It was quite emotional, and Michael’s experiences in Afghanistan were provocative. The movie is about PTSD, families, grief, and the tragedy of life. Michael’s experience may be an exception, but his coping and aftermath are not to a soldier. I knew watching the movie that were not be a clear-cut or happy ending, but I think it was satisfying with a little hope. A lot of the film is done with handheld camera making the scenes more visceral and documentary. The performances by all the cast are good here, and Connie Neilsen looks luminescent and almost angelic in the whole movie. I liked her character a lot, and it wasn’t contrite to see how both brothers would find her beautiful. Both Thomsen and Klaas were splendid, and the triangle was underplayed compared to what you would see in most films.