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American Beauty (1999)
A deep, wonderful, penetrating film; extraordinary irony in a psychological drama about the American life.
I have come to see the movie with a certain prejudice. Everyone saying that it was so wonderful, so touching, so excited -- I usually tend to go with movies that nobody likes. Nevertheless, this one was a certain exception.
It is a wonderful psychological drama, a satire about the American community and about the American life; dark, painful irony and cynicism in the descriptions of life and characters; deep sarcasm on types of people in the community, habits of behaviour such as "...if you want to succeed, you always have to seem successful..." or "never stop smiling", parasites of the community, and, most importantly, the treatment of people who are "different", who are "freaky" to some extent; and eventually, there is no character in the film that is not odd in its way, although we have to wait for the very ending of the film, to discover this.
With very deep and accurate exaggeration, (most of) the characters in the movie demonstrate the worst, the darkest sides of their personality, while still remaining very human, very touching and very involving the observer. Everyone can find a certain similarity with characters and persons who he met in his life, in the characters described in the film. The tragi-comical events, the little pieces of funny, disturbing irony dripping from almost every episode, lead the observer to exploration of the American Beauty -- the beauty in life, and the way that we fail to find it, for all our life; the way we hide our feelings and emotions, even behind sullen walls of our sepulchre.
The acting is truly brilliant, the episodes are built logically, coherently, the dialogues are deep, thrilling, intriguing; every sentence and every word is deeply constructed, containing profound irony and intelligent elements of humors. The plot is very intelligently built, constructing a true indication of the sad situation of the American society, and an excellent ground for the actors.
An amazing movie, strongly recommended. 10/10
12 Angry Men (1997)
A truly wonderful psychological drama, with conflicts and battles between extremely well-described personae.
The entire movie revolves around one single jury chamber, with 12 jurors assembling there. At first, the decision seems obvious, and the point of the film is missed.
But one juror has to break the immediate blitzkrieg: and it's eleven jurors - GUILTY, versus one - NOT GUILTY.
It is this courage and strength of this single juror to change the opinion of all the jury, it is his personal charm and sense of penetration, with a fully convincing tone, that leads the film. Several severe societal conflicts are revealed, and the character of every juror is psychologically and personally enlightened.
The jurors hold their own personal investigation, if it might be formulated that way, inside that single chamber. It is amazing how facts are manipulated with practically no physical evidence whatsoever. It is a truly brilliant psychological drama of characters, a drama of powerful personae, and a true battle for justice. No words can describe the tension that silently fluctuates in that room; the struggle of spirits who first see and meet each other; and, for the totally imbalancing strike, we do not even know the jurors' names.
Murder in the First (1995)
3 years of solitary confinement for $5. Justice in the light of those who are not interested in it.
"Murder in the First" is a movie of undefined genre in my view. The successful combination of a tilting drama and a somewhat-protest movie -- a cry for protection -- attaches the idea and acting of the film to the relationships and dialogs, which are meaningful, brilliantly acted and convincing to the basis.
The timing of the process in the film is appropriate from the aspect of historical expectations -- crimes against humanity -- at the aperture of World War II. Penitentiary institutions -- or how severely can we punish felons -- is a question of honor in this film. A criminal -- once caught -- is no longer a human. But after he attempts to escape from Alcatraz -- his rights ARE BEING REVOKED. Of his last rights -- to remain a human, to wear clothes, to breath air, to walk -- he is deprived. Degrading as a human in a prison -- to become a col-blooded murderer, after being sent to Alcatraz on behalf of stealing $5 for food. 3 years in solitary confinement -- indeed, how would one remain human in such conditions is to be asked. And justice does not prevail in this film, only partial satisfaction may the spectator enjoy.
The polarization: the entire -- corrupted -- system against Justice is the focus of the film. The drama, dialogues, friendship -- which was never experienced by an inmate -- on one side. The sadism, inhumanity, rage, injustice of an entire system and its representatives -- on the other.
A brilliant structure of a fight for justice in an unjust system is demonstrated in this excellent film. Providing every spectator with something to think of, some parallels to make, some lessons to learn. A modern ISSUE until today -- and the MOVIE is the proof that it is so. In fact: a challenge of democracy -- and those who can overtake the power in one.
Democracy can be most easily abused. This is true until our days. The only hope we can bear is that the right people have the power. This film shows that it is almost never so.
Extreme Measures (1996)
True, genuine ethical dilemmas cover the relative weakness of the film as an action-thriller.
A film which causes genuine interest and concern to erupt in regard of the themes treated in it. Unable to sustain a high action level expected from a "medical thriller" kind of film, this movie raises ethical dilemmas of a doctor from a very concerned point of view. The ethical dilemmas are the subject of the film, and the handling of those in the focus of the expected action-thriller, in my opinion, is the right decision.
Does a doctor have the right to prefer to handle a patient first, albeit the (relative) severity of his condition? (In this case, prefer handling a police officer instead of a maniac who has been threatening people with a gun in a bus..?) Does anyone have the right to prefer one man's life over another's? Is it possible to evaluate someone's life and compare it to another's? Is it possible to end the life of a person who is willing to die? (Euthanasia.) Is it possible to kill one man to save hundreds and thousands of others? Is it possible to do ANYTHING so cancer disappears "the next day"?
In the movie, answers are not given. The ethical discussion of the above dilemmas is subject to the spectator's jurisdiction. And even if the people who die for the entire mankind are heroes, we don't have the right to choose that for them. This is the only assumption of the film about the subject -- for homeless men in New York, which can save other lives and return millions of people the ability to walk, to eat -- from their paralyzed state.
The extension that can be made is as follows: if a man wants to die, and by killing that man hundreds, thousands or millions of people will be saved, does ANYONE have the right to kill that person? Does the man have the right to "play God"? This is an issue that is not a subject in the film, but this extension is definitely an issue that has a direct connection and influence on the spectator's eventual evaluation of the film.
The right to choose to kill people to save others is not in our hands. Shall it remain so and is it justice -- it is not we who can judge.
Bob Roberts (1992)
Almost everything beats justice and fairness. So does a campaign of a Senate candidate.
The film is a satire about the political life in the US. As an objective spectator (I don't live and have never lived in the US) I have seen the film without prejudices and attempted to understand what's behind the satire inherently.
The movie describes the rise of one singer-politician, Robert Roberts. Basically, it's an empty nut, without nothing but a bunch of prejudices, evolutionary racist and sexist remarks and a definitely ridiculous outline and image. He is a professional of political demagogy, and he utilizes it perfectly to his needs.
The satire and irony in the movie is pointed towards almost all aspects of this "politician", and every word he says in the film empowers the obvious farce in his behavior. The film is not only directed towards the American politics, with right and left wings of a determined type, but to any modern politician. Almost all politicians have risen via public demagogy, and almost every politician is an artist of subjective speech. The "people" vote for representatives which have no interest in helping them and representing them. The point of becoming a politician is almost like an authorization to enter the Kremlin -- everyone wants it, not everyone has it. So I have to have it! Unfortunately, this is not the consensus of the film. Politicians have power in their hands. And the "modern" American hero wants to get paid before all. And when a politician becomes the American dream, the American hero -- this is a casus belli for justice.
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Two girls in crisis--and not a country in crisis of ethical patterns.
Albeit the actual satisfaction one sees and feels in the cinematographic parts of the film, its special effects and the excellent cast, there are several problems that stop me from grading this movie as high a standing as the plot possibly deserves.
The movie is an attempt to demonstrate a country in crisis, with `ancient' ethical patterns pulverized, innovating concepts preceding their time and credited with gloomy attitude as well as misunderstanding from the society.
A non-conventional friendship of two teenage girls, observation from different aspects on the same theme, different aspects of view against extant axioms of ethics. In fact--a whole world against two teenage girls. And they love it. The girls flee to their own world ("The Fourth World"), which is supported by several excellent effects.
However, the acting itself reminds somewhat a parody on a dramatic film, especially the beginning of it. All the dialogue scenes between the two girls seem to be unrealistic, and the (too) sullen world of one (Pauline--Melanie Lynskey) versus the (too) cheerful reality of the other (Juliet--Kate Winslet). Too many emotions involved in the dialogues, which transform them to a somewhat unreliable form of acting.
We are presented two polarized worlds, but they are too polar. Everything is too flamboyant, and therefore: surreal. Perhaps the idea of such acting deserves attention, but in my opinion, in this film, it failed.
The film is very unusual for the spectator, and uses patterns that are scarce in modern movies. Some people I have discussed the movie with argued that the dialogues in the movie are literally swan of an insane person which have been written down, or an attempt to show a parody on a relationship drama. I disagree with such a decisive overreaction, but it's partially correct. Although the film is based on a true story, it is very difficult to believe in view of the sometimes wretched acting. From the aspect of realism, it's a failure, and therefore the titles in the beginning and the end which give the film a grip of reality are not felicitous.
There is no side that can be interpreted in the film, neither the girls (wicked, warped, going against the entire world, against ethical patterns that are not out-of-date even today...), nor the surrounding world (scorn of homosexuality, strict discipline, parent--child relationship...). It is somewhat difficult to understand the characters' actions, because the acting does not appoint them `evaluations'--not that it is bad, but the characters are not properly `explained' to the spectator. That definitely ill-treats the film. Aside from that, the philosophical ideas behind "The Fourth World" in the movie sometimes don't correlate with the actions and dialogues of the characters--and that is a problem of the plot, without a doubt.
Bottom line: we have created ourselves a world, and no obstacle will stop us! (However, eventually there is one b i g obstacle--the law.)