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Lakposhtha parvaz mikonand (2004)
Are we reviewing the idea or the movie?
Frankly, I'm amazed to see this movie get such high scores and review from viewers and critics around the world. According to Rotten Tomatoes, 87% of critics across the United States gave this movie a thumbs up. Yet, after reading several of those reviews, I can't help thinking that these people are missing the point: is the job of a film critic to review an idea, or to review a movie?
"Turtles Can Fly" has a poignant message, there is no doubt about that. In a world where politicians pull triggers and massive wars are waged to establish balance of power, the true losers are and always will be civilians, particularly children. No one can argue against that. However, does that message alone make "Turtles Can Fly" a great movie? No. Because, all things considered, "Turtles Can Fly" is a horrible *movie*. It is carelessly scripted, badly directed, horrendously acted and amateurishly edited. The child actors are clearly just kids picked off the streets and cast for their appearances, rather than any acting skills. They shout out their lines at the top of their voices. The few times they whisper, they talk without any emotion. It doesn't take any knowledge of Kurdish to see that. The movie jumps from place to place without any logic - the sort of thing that can only be attributed to a poorly written script and an editor who can't compensate for the former. If Ghobadi wanted realism, he should've made a documentary.
What blows my mind is that movies like this are not only routinely patted on the back, but hailed by critics and given awards at festivals. Why this double standard just because a movie comes from a Third World country? I understand that film-making needs to be encouraged at all times, but the hypocrisy is unnecessary. If this same film had been made in a Western nation, it would've been deservedly dismissed as a badly made movie. Hailing it as a remarkable achievement in film-making is the equivalent of calling every elementary school crayon drawing an artistic masterpiece. Bottom line: Great movies need more than just great ideas.
Bad Boys II (2003)
You needn't take it any further, sir. You've proved to me that all this ultraviolence and killing is wrong...
Somewhere in the middle of Michael Bay's latest self-indulgent piece of movie dung, I found myself thinking of Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange" and the scene in which Alex is strapped to a chair, his head immobilized, his eyes forced open, and film clips of murder, rape and Nazi crimes are projected onto the movie screen until he finds himself unable to take any more, sickness overcomes him and he cries out for the torture to stop.
I cried too, but my projectionist wouldn't stop the movie for me.
"You needn't take it any further, sir. You've proved to me that all this ultraviolence and killing is wrong, wrong, and terribly wrong. I've learned me lesson, sir. I've seen now what I've never seen before. I'm cured! Praise god!"
Sarcastic or sympathetic?
I've heard many people put this movie in the same basket with "Office Space", but I firmly believe that the two have very little in common - except perhaps the obvious fact that they both take place in an office. While "Office Space" is a brilliant and observant comedy about the corporate office environment, "Clockwatchers" is a much more serious study of people who are incapable of changing their life.
It strikes me particularly odd that so many people think that the temps are the heroes of this movie as if it were some sort of epic "battle against the establishment" flick. How wrong! This movie mocks exactly those temps and their dreadful lifestyle. The four women are stuck in dead-end temp jobs but none of them actually try to find better jobs. In fact, they go as far as to expect to get paid for (not) doing jobs which consists primarily of killing time! When Margaret declares that she deserves a recommendation merely because she's held the same temp job for 3 years (she can't even type!), it's clear to me that we're supposed to feel anything BUT sympathy. "Clockwatchers" is a clever satire, but not at the expense of the corporate world, but rather at the expense of the 20-some-year-old bored kids who don't have a clue how to get their life on track.
More brutal than any episode of "The Jerry Springer Show". The fact that only 5 roles in the movie were played by real actors does not surprise me. It's not difficult to find all those characters from "Gummo" in any of America's many trailer parks.
Crude, brutal, but effective.
Why would anyone want to remake an already excellent film?
**** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!! ****
If you ever read or heard any interviews with film directors, you might've noticed that they often get asked the question, "If you could direct one movie that's already been made, what would it be?", hoping that the directors would answer something along the lines of Hitchcock's "Vertigo" or Bergman's "Seventh Seal." I'm sure Christopher Nolan probably would've answered "Erik Skjoldbjaerg's 'Insomnia'". The problem is that Nolan took the question literally. Instead of admiring Skjoldbjaerg's film, he attempted to make it again.
What happened to the great director of "Memento"? Did he really sell his soul to the Hollywood machine? Fans and critics would certainly hope otherwise, but unfortunately, from watching Nolan's "Insomnia" it seems like the British filmmaking prodigy has gone completely mainstream.
Nolan's "Insomnia" is a heavily Americanized version of Skjoldbjaerg's femomenal Norwegian film. And when I say "Americanized", I'm not just talking about the movie taking place in Alaska. Oh no, I'm talking about all the melodrama and glitter of Hollywood movies that are so difficult to avoid on the big screen nowadays. Subplots are introduced to "spice up" the story, relationships between characters are changed, all the original subtlety is gone, and the two principal characters lack all original depth and are pigeonholed into the Hollywood "good guy - bad guy" scheme.
In the original "Insomnia", the cop character (his name was Jonas Engstrom but I will refer to him as "the cop", to avoid confusion) was a Swedish detective who was sent to northern Norway to investigate a murder. Through an overheard conversation, we find out that back in Stockholm he got intimately involved with a young witness from a case he was working on. So his assignment in Norway was a sort of "punishment". In the movie, this is mentioned only once and never again. In the American version, a whole subplot about Internal Affairs investigations is introduced and it has a great affect on the relationships in the movie. In the original film, the cop and his partner are great friends. In the remake, there is a hostility between them because of the whole Internal Affairs investigation going on back in Los Angeles. So in the original movie when the cop shoots his partner accidentally, it is primarily the guilt of shooting his friend that he has to deal with.
Another aspect that is completely downplayed in Nolan's version is the cop's sense of alienation in a foreign land. In the original, the cop is a Swede. He is perceived as a foreigner and an outsider throughout his entire investigation. He is never accepted; in fact, he is often ridiculed for his accent by both cops and civilians. In Nolan's film, the cop is quickly accepted by the locals. We see them chatting away about guns, drinking beer together, and at the end we get the feeling like they're almost sad to see him go.
Nolan gave Hilary Swank much more screen time then her character had in the original. In Skjoldbjaerg's "Insomnia", the female cop merely investigates the second murder, but never interferes with the original investigation. Yes, she does figure out that the cop shot his partner, but she doesn't do anything about it. In the American version, we see her trying to arrest the real murderer, only to be incapacitated by him - and then Al Pacino, of course, has to come to the rescue.
And finally, the biggest difference between the two movies is that the character of the cop (Will Dormer/Jonas Engstrom) has been completely polished up in the American remake. In the remake, Al Pacino plays a good cop who uses some illegal methods to bring bad guys to justice (planting evidence and such). But hey, as long as he's reeling in bad guys, it's all good, right? :) He doesn't believe in political mumbo-jumbo, he only wants to do his job right. When a local teenage girl (and best friend of the murdered girl) tries to seduce him, he wisely avoids it and instead teaches her a lesson. He despises the murderer and he tries to prevent the murderer from framing an innocent kid. In the end, he dies like a hero, killing the bad guy and saving Hillary Swank's integrity. Damn. That's one good cop!
Now let's take a look at Stellan Skarsgard's interpretation of the cop character. We find out early he's already been in trouble for being unable to cross a line between his work and his private life. When he shoots his friend accidentaly, he panics and covers up his crime, but he never considers telling the truth. His only concern is his own job - he has no other motives. Remember that scene in the American version where Al Pacino shoots a dead dog in an alley? Well, Stellan Skarsgard shoots a live dog! Take that, ASPCA! Furthermore, he frames the innocent young man himself, without any assistance from the real murderer. He tries to take advantage of a young girl in his car. When talks to the murderer, we don't get the feeling that he despises him. No, we get the feeling that he understands him. And finally, in the end, he does kill the real murderer, but he doesn't die himself. His own crime is covered up and he returns to Sweden. He is a cop with many flaws. And as such, he makes a much stronger character. The point of Skjoldbjaerg's movie was to erase the line between cop and criminal. There's no good guy and bad guy in his movie. It's a psychological thriller, where the suspense isn't derived from chase sequences across timber logs, but from the complexity of the main character.
These are such fundamental differences between the two versions. If you change the characters, change the relationships and change the outcome, you've pretty much created a completely different movie. And as good as Nolan's movie is as a standalone project, as a remake it utterly fails because it takes away from the original all the qualities that made it such a great film. It is unfortunate for Nolan that he has wasted his time remaking an already great film. If this was his way of proving his skills, it was completely unnecessary. We already knew that he was a talented director. But hopefully this movie will get Nolan the money and the attention that he needs in order to create a truly excellent and ORIGINAL movie - one that we can all appreciate on its own.
See Erik Skjoldbjaerg's "Insomnia". See Christopher Nolan's "Insomnia". They're both fine films, but Skjoldbjaerg's film definitely has the edge - there's no doubt about it.
P.S. Did I get that right, or did Al Pacino's character really not sleep for 6 days straight? Isn't that humanly impossible? In the original movie, I'm pretty sure Stellan Skarsgard gets some sleep occasionally. He is chronically tired, that's true, but he's not a walking zombie. Nolan, as a writer himself, must know all about insomnia, as I'm sure he's had quite a few insomniac nights himself. But he should also equally well know that after 24 hours without sleep, fatigue will catch up with anyone, regardless of the amount of light coming into your room or the number of cops you've accidentally killed.
Barton Fink (1991)
Coen's self-parody of Writer as the Creator
I see the movie as a self-parody of the writers. In the movie, Fink is an acclaimed Broadway writer, although it's clearly obvious to us that his plays are crap. He claims to be writing for the common people, but he doesn't even socially interact with other people - he admits that at the end of the film when he cries in despair over his loneliness.
Basically, Barton Fink is a highly overrated writer, who tells us cliched stories about writers' suffering, and how misery is the only "true inspiration" that writers have. What is his misery? That he's stuck in a hotel? That seems to be the reasoning behind John Goodman's climactic final appearance - he is really just laughing at Fink and looking down at him. Fink doesn't know real suffering, he's really just full of sh*t. Fink's arogance is fueled by the Hollywood producers, in an obvious exeggarated parody of The Writer as The Ultimate Creator. In fact, Fink plays along with this idea. This is illustrated in several scenes. In one of them he sees his own lousy script appear in the Bible instead of the Genesis (the most important part of the Bible, obviously). In the dancing scene, he gets into a fight with a bunch of guys and then shouts out how he's misunderstood and mistreated although he is better than everyone else because he is The Creator! "I create! Can't you understand?"
I can understand the theories about Barton Fink as a modern version of Dante's Inferno, but taking into consideration that this script was written *while* the Coens were experiencing writer's block on another script ("Miller's Crossing"), I think the idea about Fink being a self-parody of The Writer makes even more sense.
Corky Romano (2001)
Corky Earns an Oscar Nod
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** From its very opening credits this fantastic movie sets the record straight: it's an instant classic. It doesn't take long to realize that this movie is big, bigger than `Kindergarten Cop' or `Police Academy 7.' The sheer greatness of it left me speechless as I walked out of the movie theater and proceeded right back to the ticket counter to purchase myself another dozen of tickets.
This is a movie that simply requires multiple viewings. The first watching will surely leave you with that strange `Huh?' feeling, but don't feel embarrassed - it happens to the best of us. The story is so diabolically clever that one has to wonder about the mortality of its authors. What seems to be a simple story of an idiot infiltrating the FBI, turns out to be an allegorical story that works on several levels and teaches us all about the really important things in life. The complexity of the plot structure will baffle you on your first viewing, but don't give up! Not until my sixth or seventh viewing did I only begin to unravel some of the hidden mysteries of `Corky Romano.' And watch out for the unexpected twist at the end, otherwise you might be caught completely off guard when it is revealed that FBI agent Brick Davis is FBI's most-wanted criminal, Corky is not a real FBI agent, Pops Romano is innocent, Peter Romano admits he's illiterate and Paulie Romano comes out of the closet as a homosexual. Surprised the hell out of me, I can tell you that much.
Chris Kattan's comedic talents are unmatched as he leads his character Corky Romano through a maze of totally unpredictable situations. Reminiscent of John Reynolds' performance in `Manos, the Hands of Fate,' Kattan takes on innumerable multiple personalities and tackles all scenes with perfect comedic timing. However, Kattan is not just about comedy. He is a master of drama as well, as he controls the audience's feelings with the slightest moves of his face. His facial expressions reflect life itself, in a way. For example, in the scene in which he farts into his brothers' faces, you can see the expression of social injustice and alienation clearly reflected on his anguished face. At a moment like that, it's hard to find a dry eye in the house.
Screenwriters David Garret and Jason Ward are the real heroes of `Corky Romano.' With a story of such proportions, it's easy to understand why two experienced writers had to be employed to complete this ambitious project. Their skillful storytelling and unorthodox structuring makes `Pulp Fiction' look like a mediocre Saturday Night Live skit. Garret and Ward's story is so compelling and alluring that it grips you by your hair, swallows you entirely, shakes you around and spits you right out. At the end of the out-of-this-world experience known as `Corky Romano' you find yourself a different person with different worldviews and different ideas, and with only one question on your mind:
Why, God? Why?!?
The Russian "2001"?!? Only by length, maybe...
First of all, I'll dismiss any suspicion that I disliked this movie just because it was 160+ minutes long and was rather slow. "2001" was a lot like that (I guess that's where all the comparisons come from), but I always enjoyed "2001" and it's always been one of my favorite movies of all time.
"Solyaris", on the other hand, could best be described as "flat". It is too long (it could've easily been cut to under 120 minutes), boring, noncompelling and lacks emotional performance. 5 minutes of cars and highways?!? It sounds more like a bad home video of a family road trip or the first 5 minutes of "Manos, The Hands of Fate". I tried to make sense out of the exchange of B&W and color shots, but I found none. The acting was totally flat - even with all the strange things happening around them, the characters seemed totally uninterested and showed no excitement or emotion. I'm sure the overdubbed voices (yes, in Russian) didn't help either.
Sorry, but this movie, in my humble opinion, was a complete waste of time. If you have 160 minutes of your life to spare, you might as well go watch paint dry somewhere.
Bure baruta (1998)
The best film to come out Yugoslavia in the last 10 years
If you know at least something about the events that took place in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, you should be able to understand this movie.
Many people have misinterpreted this movie as a vicious depictment of some sick Serbian mentality or an exaggerated vision of a post-war Serbia. None of this is true. The theme of "Cabaret Balkan" is not violence. A great parallel can be made between "Cabaret Balkan" and "A Clockwork Orange". The violence in both movies is not the theme - it's merely an extreme way of proving an important point.
The oppressors and the oppressed. The small fish and the big fish. The dogs and the sheep (rock fans might find interesting similarities between this movie and Pink Floyd's "Animals"). There seems to be certain hierarchy present in "Cabaret Balkan". The passive majority is constantly oppressed by the violent minority, many of whom themselves are victims of "bigger fish". The passive majority is always ready to turn a blind eye, to look the other way or, as a scene from the movie so visually illustrates, sit on a different side of the bus.
Who should the war be blamed on? Is it the government's fault? Or is the fault of the people who elected the government? Should the criminals in power take the blame or the people who let them stay in power? A key scene of the movie which takes place in the bus seems to tell us the most about this issue. "You finally stood up to me", says the young bully to the old man who refuses to play along and answer his insulting questions. In a way, the young bully on the bus is the only real hero of "Cabaret Balkan". He is the only one with the guts to stand up for his rights - everyone else would much rather look the other way, ignore the situation and mind their own business.
The original title of the movie - "Powder Keg", draws its name from an old nickname the Balkan peninsula earned at the beginning of this century - a powder keg ready to explode, with multitudes of people constantly fighting wars, making up, then fighting again. After all, isn't that what all the characters in the movie do? The strange mentality of the Balkan people cannot be easily explained, so director Paskaljevic takes it into extremes and creates extremely surreal scenes, like the one in the boxing ring and the bar. Fight. Drink. Fight. Drink. War. Peace. War. Peace. What's it going to be? Doesn't matter, as long as we're all in "good health".
Eddie Izzard: Dress to Kill (1999)
This made me a fan!
I saw this video with a bunch of my friends when I was on spring break - and I think the video alone made that spring break memorable. His stand up act is beyond "hilarious". My friends and I still do the "French lessons" about monkeys on trees... :-)
Anyway, to put it shortly: I think I'm a fan.