Reviews written by registered user
Vargas

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17 reviews in total 
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23 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Waiting for What?, 26 September 1999

An engineer (Behzad Dourani) travels to a remote Iranian village on an inexplicable assignment that involves his unseen assistants digging holes. The men work near a hill that turns out to be one of the main settings, and even characters, in Cannes Palme d'Or winner Abbas Kiarostami's new movie, "The Wind Will Carry Us."

Throughout the picture, the perpetually befuddled engineer drives up to the breezy incline to receive cell phone calls that don't come through clearly in the village below. Do the calls concern an old woman who's dying? A search for buried treasure? The exhumation of dead bodies? We never hear the other end of the conversations, so we never find out.

The modern hero's jeep and cell-phone dominated life seems empty of purpose, other than the impulses and sensory input of the moment. The lives of the traditional villagers don't seem any more meaningful. Kiarostami's picture is no ethnographic celebration of simple-hearted, but wise peasants with a profound culture.

The movie is like Samuel Becket's definitive theatre of the absurd, "Waiting for Godot." But while the depressed Irish playwright's characters wander around in a desolate landscape, Kiarostami's engineer is placed in a spacious, richly colored world that yields tantalizing, paradoxical hints of meaning, despite the random, aimless movements of the human beings who inhabit it.

Perhaps we're seeing this story from the wind's point-of-view.

14 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Let's Go to Nollywood, 21 November 2008
10/10

Samir Mallal and Ben Addelman's feature-length doc about Nigeria's hugely successful film industry bursts with color, light, and sound. Vibrantly shot and sharply edited, the film is a whirlwind tour of Nollywood, offering multiple insights into the world's third largest movie-making center.

Mallal and Addelman take viewers deep inside sprawling Lagos, capturing the throbbing rhythms of its streets, its wild contradictions, and how they feed into Nigeria's speedy, soulful, fabulously lurid film-making. The people in the doc, particularly unbelievably prolific director Lancelot Imasuen, are as compellingly dramatic and funny as the characters in ultra low budget Nollywood classics like Private Sin and Highway to the Grave.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The Return of Frank Capra, 15 September 2000

A highlight of this year's Toronto International Film Festival, The Contender plays like a Frank Capra picture for the 21st century. Epic and intimate, tart and sentimental, ex-entertainment reporter's Rod Lurie's second feature is appropriately cynical about U.S. politics while (like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) celebrating the triumph of idealistic values in a heart-throbbing finale. On top of that, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Gary Oldham deserve the various acting awards they receive for their performances in this terrific movie.

A Luminous Gem of Animation, 1 February 2005
10/10

This short animation film, which has screened in Australia with Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock, shares that movie's evocation of nature's mysteries and menacing beauty. In Viviane Elnécavé's film, (made with an etching technique), a little girl wakes up into a dream of a nocturnal forest. She sleepwalks through it, encountering the creatures that come alive at night. Then the forest goes berserk. Trees groan and grasp at her. Spirits whirl and spin as she runs for safety. The bats attack and leave her hanging upside-down, suspended from a tree branch, eyes wide in terror. It takes an incandescent lunar rabbit to rescue the little girl from the nightmare, which dissolves into a circus trapeze act presided over by another rabbit - a chuckling magician in a top hat, frock coat, and checkered pants.

Like Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter, Luna takes you into the world of the unconscious, a child's world of seductive mystery and barely escapable peril. The film anticipates Tim Burton's evocative atmospheres.

Big Fish (2003)
It Leaps, Glistens, and Snaps, 10 December 2003

Some critics complain that the movie lacks Tim Burton's customary darkness while others kvetch it's so twisted, it undermines its own aspirations to the light. Mixed Reviews, shmixed reviews. Big Fish is so blatantly hyperbolic in its optimism, it has a sinister undercurrent, even as it sparkles before eyes fatigued by bloated studio monstrosities and too much arthouse pretension.

One esteemed writer for a powerful daily is unhappy that Albert Finney's/Ewan McGregor's compulsive storyteller may not really be such a nice man. Hello! Obviously, we're not sure about him, even as we're falling in love with the guy. The character is a descendant of Mark Twain's go-getting charmer in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court; he's too ruthlessly determined to be entirely trustworthy. And yet, like America itself, he knocks your socks off with his driving energy and star-spangled grin.

It goes without saying that Big Fish is beautifully designed and shot, and Burton, generous in a way that he's never been before, regales viewers with images they've never quite seen. On top of that, the picture is the best re-invention of the American Tall Tale (one of the wellsprings of American storytelling) since Pulp Fiction.

I Am Sam (2001)
Blondes Rule, 23 January 2002

I can understand the hostile critical reaction to the movie, but personally, I'm willing to get my tears jerked by pictures like I Am Sam. It recalls (and even references) Kramer Versus Kramer, and echoes Rain Man with Sean Penn doing his bravura best in the Dustin Hoffman role. And like those films it conveys its sentimentality with a sleek, hip shooting and editing style. The thing I find weird about I Am Sam (and I am speaking as someone who is definitely not Politically Correct) is the fact that most of the ultimately good principal characters are fine specimens of WASP breeding. In fact, Rita (Michelle Pfeiffer), Lucy (Dakota Fanning) and Randy (Laura Dern) are blinding blondes. Meanwhile, the baddies in Social Services and the courts, the cold-hearted grinches who want to yank Lucy out of Sam's arms, tend to be self-righteous African-Americans and ethnic types. Yes, I know. The latter gravitate toward public service jobs. But still. What's going on here in this paen to difference & and embracing minorities? I'm sure Jessie Nelson and her team are stalwart Hollywood liberals. So why the subtext I'm referring to? Is something bubbling up from the unconscious?

This Is the One, 2 October 2001
10/10

(I'm re-sending this because the first time, my computer crashed.)

Rapturously beautiful, hilariously funny, thematically multi-layered (among other things, it's about Hollywood: once upon a time & right now, for better & for worse, ridiculous & sublime), Mulholland Drive is like the eponymous road it begins and ends on. It lifts you, drops you, blesses you with its vistas & fills you with apprehension. Despite the many things that could be said about David Lynch's excursion into a new region of Dreamland, one I hope to re-visit often, you keep hearing the tired kvetch: "It was terrific, but the last 20 minutes were too weird." Even if that were true, and I don't think it is, what a pathetic response to one of the few early 21st century movies that loves and respects its audience, assuming it wants to be astonished and provoked, rather that jerked off by cheap thrills and re-assured by boring platitudes.

The Beach (2000/I)
The Overrated Mr. Boyle, 12 February 2000

Danny Boyle's idea of movie style is shooting frenzied, bug-eyed closeups through a fish-eye lens. In lieu of genuinely powerful images, insight into character, compelling drama or even effective suspense, he offers rants and raves that in Trainspotting and Shallow Grave were an amusing novelty. Of course, those pictures are now as dated as the corniest sixties psychedelia.

As for The Beach, it's a watchable, mildly entertaining movie that stumbles and bumbles in its attempts to go where the material is pointing. The references to Apocalypse Now are a sad reminder of the difference between an ambitious mediocrity and a director who knows how to make the screen throb with life.

Atom's Dead End, 2 December 1999

Not once, but twice, you are compelled to watch Bob Hoskins' ridiculously spotless and unscratched little Morris-Mini driving past an ominous nuclear power plant. To make sure you grasp the full significance of this bombastic image, Egoyan keeps it on the screen so long, you start nervously looking for the exit. If Torontonians don't stop encouraging this guy's ballooning delusion that he's on the same level as the Hitchcocks and Kubricks of this world (rather than being a modestly talented filmmaker whose early movies were pretty jolting and funny, particularly in the grim Canadian context), Atom will either implode, or become the most obnoxiously self-important motion picture artiste since the dreaded Peter Greenaway.

It Is an American Beauty, 22 September 1999

I just saw "American Beauty" for the second time, and although I was more aware of the picture's mechanics, it moved as much as it did two weeks ago at the Toronto Film Festival.

Backlashers will gripe that the film goes mushy, that Sam Mendes and Alan Ball are not Todd Solondz, that they are smoothies with too many tricks up their sleeves, blah and blah-blah.

But the fact is that "American Beauty" is a richly textured, emotionally generous, continually surprising movie with moments of poetic subtlety. And could the public's strong response be a sign that it is finally smarting up?


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