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1ª Vez 16 mm (2008)
You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
I was at the premiere of this.... movie (?) in Lisbon. A few hundred people attended. It was shown in the biggest cinema in the city. What to expect, shall I say? Well, I'm sure I wasn't expecting anything this unbelievably poor at all levels. I can assure you, the only thing in this movie that is coherent and seamless is its awfulness. The director, which braves an apparent shyness by putting himself in front of the camera and becoming the least likable leading man ever committed to celluloid, doesn't even know how to handle the non-existent dialogue. It's unbelievable how a person who calls himself an experienced film maker can put together something this poor. It looks like they were trying to make the worst movie ever by going against every single rule of movie making, thus destroying the little aspects that could appeal to the public. I can't stop wondering how on earth they managed too go to Venice and Paris and make both cities look BAD. I can't stop thinking how they managed to get some decent actors and destroy all the appeal that they could possibly add to this mess. My jaw dropped at the god-awful sound editing, with music fading in and out randomly, inexistent cross fades between scenes and incomprehensible dialogue. You can try to convince me that they were trying to make an exercise in deconstruction. To me, a guy that spent two hours (that seemed to go on forever) in that movie theater, it's insulting to call this a movie. Until when will people in this country keep believing that if you point a 35 mm camera to something you are directing a movie? What about narrative, appeal, basic notions of what is film, editing, usage of music and so on? This movie should make you people feel ashamed of yourselves. I understand that you don't have any money. But after watching this, I just KNOW that a kid with a video camera could do much, much better. I don't know what do you expect of this movie's career. I just know that yesterday, people were leaving the room while the film was still going, the audience were roaring their asses off in laughter in a funeral scene, and I had a laughing fit several times during this excruciating experience, while trying to understand what the hell was poor Marisa Paredes doing there. Her baffled face on the last shot on which she appears says everything.
Do you want an advice? Go buy a video camera. At least you have an excuse.
As much as you'd expect it
Alright, so it isn't fair. In an era where the people on their early thirties are granted constant revivals of everything that defined their youth (Blade Runner, Star Wars, forty-year-old bands meeting together and performing on stage again), Indiana Jones was really the last straw. Over the years, the mouthwatering prospect of seeing another Jones film made us sniff every hint of a rumor and every shred of news related with it. It finally has arrived, with a mammoth-size ball of hype on its shoulders. Let's admit that nothing on Earth could ever satisfy such a monster. So after we face it, let's get to the facts. It certainly is another age, and the filmmakers know that. We are not in an era of gaudy excess and over-the-top sequences. The days of campy, slick humor and faster-than-you-can-have-it action seem to be gone. And it's no wonder. Never forget that in the last ten years Steven Spielberg dedicated himself to much more serious fare, with very mixed results. As a result, Indy's much more dark and slow. He faces different kinds of problems and challenges, his reactions are different. He's starting to give in. But then again, the man is 67! Therefore, it seems logic that he no longer is the one-man-army he used to be. It's perfectly natural that he relies much more on his wits that on his fists. But don't let my word fool you: the movie has action, lots of it. What's really ironic is that the things that should help the movie in this age of digital possibilities are the things that cram it with unbelievability. It really bugs me that they achieved a film look that is up to par the 80's originals and then goes the "King Kong" way with CGI jungle scenes that completely take the realism out of it. It's a great statement of how computer images are starting to get really cheesy when they're made in quantity and not in quality (Mutt's vine-swinging anyone?). But to dismiss this movie as trash is to be cruelly unfair. It is a worthy successor to the original movies, and a truckload of fun. Yes, maybe they could have gone deeper with their main theme, yes it sometimes succumb to the George Lucas school of "do it in CGI", but it doesn't sacrifice the heart and soul of this movie. You just have to take it lightly and not like the violation of something holy. The new Star Wars trilogy proved that you can't take things too seriously. If even so you will choose to remain glued to the past and don't accept that Indy also ages, then you will be very annoyed. Everyone else will have a blast.
Uma Rapariga no Verão (1986)
It's still the same old story...
This could be... well just another Portuguese movie. But it had a special meaning, it was directed and produced by a few teachers of mine, and in my school many tried to see it, many went to the session our local Cinemateca provided, many went asking themselves what it would be like. I just happened to catch it at my work, at the national television's archives. Well, my friends, if you need another example that bad Portuguese movies are not stereotypes but in fact very real things, this it, the real example of how boring, badly dubbed, pretentious, tiresome, grey, badly illuminated and infuriatingly unbearable could be our movies twenty years ago. The problem is not the movie "per se" (I'm sure many those who participated in it feel sorry for themselves today), the problem is that two days ago I tuned in my TV and on was a Manoel de Oliveira movie from 2002 which looked exactly like this, or worse (even more pretentious). Bad acting included. Why isn't the audience even entitled to understand what are they talking about, or simply what they are saying? Why this obsession with complete disdain for the people who are already making an effort by continuing to watch the movie? This one's depressing, confusing and the worst part is that it could choose not to be. But maybe I am beating around the bush. It's a naive exercise in film-making, an irritating and amazingly boring one. But my sympathy for the director himself as a person is not in question. I learned a great deal from him back in my school days. My main problem is that in Portugal there are TOO MANY movies like these, to the point that the words "portuguese movie" are synonymous with "don't waste your time because it's boring, pretentious and impossible to watch until the end". 3 for some shots, and out of sympathy.
I wandered a bit from commenting movies. But I had to return. This movie made me do it. I didn't know anything about it. I only saw one trailer, that did its job perfectly. Everyone said it was incredible. I went and saw it. I found it more than incredible, staggering at least. It start as a pure, simple story and never wanders from its main character or its story not the slightest bit. Its jaw-breaking stripped-to-the-bone structure is a true novelty. Its young actors reveal themselves worthy of a standing ovation. It's difficult to find words to talk about this movie when it conveys such emotion by so few means. It's a fantastic, cold and often unbearable voyage through a deserted horizon, and one of the best movies of the year.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Fanfare for a common man
It's back, and it promised razzle-dazzle galore and a tremendous amount of ass-kicking to go with it. The question, however, lied in if they would be able to equal the first one's uniqueness. They should, they created it, but the Wachowskis failed and they were masters and commanders of their creation. Good to know that, for the first time in years, the sequel beats its own predecessor. The bar was raised very high, the responsibility was huge. But with great responsibility, as the movie still says, comes also great power. And such power comes not from the jaw dropping set-pieces or the superior CGI. It breathes from its script, teaching a Jacksonesque lesson to Hollywood studios that movies can't rely in effects to amaze its audiences. They got to have a huge heart, and bathe everyone who sees it in its glow and its magic. To succeed, you gotta have great actors, and, most of all, great stories. And the way this story rages through the screen is unbelievable, all centered in one man: Peter Parker, a simple guy that, like many people of his age, goes through changes and personal conflict. That and a spider costume. We can be watching a CGI-filled scene with heavy explosions and hyperkinetic action, but we never forget that behind the mask is a human character, who suffers due to the incredible powers he has been given. And boy, does he suffer. Rarely a leading character was so put to the test in a Hollywood blockbuster. And I'm not talking about Doctor Octopus' fightback capabilities (which make him one of the toughest movie villains of recent memory). I'm talking about the way the way Parker, the man, dives to hell and comes back. And this is what really puts "Spider Man 2" among the best of the year: it is a haunting tale of fall and ascension of a simple guy who is trapped in many of life's webs, the story of the person beneath the layer. And such situation has its high point in a sublime sequence, after the showdown in the elevated subway (won't give it away). Of course, all the things that surround it are essential to the glorious sights presented here: it is still a joy to see Spidey flying among the skyscrapers to the powerful choirs of Danny Elfman's score. But after that you can always count on an having an even more powerful dialogue scene which could be taken from a melodrama. The movie's ending, unlike the first one, is such a punch for such an experience that it leaves you craving for the third picture. Superior fare, an unexpected move from Hollywood, that has learned much with the "Rings" trilogy, specially that the audience is getting more and more demanding these days, and the bar is always rising...
The Ring (2002)
Creepy, even if flawed
Coming at the end as no more than good Friday night fare, "The Ring" is, even so, a scary movie. Since we can't talk about originality (this is a remake), our attention focuses on the way the concept is handled. As a horror movie, it has a great idea to watch: a cursed tape, which kills anyone who sees it in seven days. Naomi Watts comes across the tape, and the story unfolds, revealing finally that such original concept wouldn't survive for long. Soon, the formula comes roaring, and you'll start to see some clichés (face it - ever since "Shining" we have seen endless times a creepy girl with a covered-up face that says "you're gonna die" or something like that). Even so, it manages to twist a little and to get some surprises. I was glad to see that they didn't repeat the "screeching orchestra" gag too many times, which is always nerve-challenging. It's basically a classy horror movie, that doesn't extend on the gore and the guts, and wisely relies on the unseen to help us take it seriously.
Clean fun with flaws
Ok, this story had to be adapted. It was far too epic and super-sized to remain in Homer's pages. To do it, of course they would have to get all the best money can buy, and the results when you see it are as expected: massive sequences, massive sets, amazing sights, amazing visions. But "Troy" falls a bit flat specially because of the way the source material had to be juggled in order to adapt itself for a two-and-a-half-hour movie. So, apparently, the gods are dropped in favor of a much more militaristic, "gladiatoresque" approach - in the original tale, men fought alongside the gods, which were pivotal to the battle events. Here, men fight for honor, for their homelands, for greed, for courage, for love, but are never aided by some sort of divinity. This makes "Troy" little more than an extended battle scene, divided into several set pieces, some amazing (the fight between Aquilles and Hector is an eye-opener), some a already-seen (those rings movies already defined and claimed the massive battle shots we witness here). Of course, as an epic of gigantic proportions it certainly achieves - the shot of a thousand ships sailing to troy is unforgettable. But even if Brad Pitt transpires charisma, and Eric Bana provides a much-needed nobility, this enterprise sounds like little more than Hollywood dollars to the service of popcorn entertainment. Not deep, only fun.
Les triplettes de Belleville (2003)
Seriously, how frequently can you catch such a unique movie experience? "Belleville" is a sheer ride of the senses, combining our fantasies, our fears and our imaginations to make a movie that makes us want to let go and dream about it. I think it should be specially effective to everyone who was a kid in 1960's france, and in my opinion, the collective imagination of those years in that country are the building blocks of this picture. I was mesmerized by such an unusual amount of imagination, and such an explanation to questions like: "why do animation movies exist?" and "why is traditional animation still worth while?". In the USA it seems difficult for people to understand this, and impossible for them to make a movie as daringly dark and expressionistic as this. Amazing experience, which allows you to go over the entire spectrum of emotions you are willing to unleash.
A fart-full barrel of laughs
God, how far have we come. Human evolution was always aimed at higher knowledge, higher goals, higher dignity. The result of such bluff was being called. It all is explained in Tremors 3. Are we so humble? Let's all kneel before such powerful beasts, lizards creeping from the underground, hatching eggs inside them to give birth to some unbelievable creatures, with unbelievable skills which end up involving flying farts. Magnificent piece of work, in all details of its piss-poor CGI, of Michael Gross' overacting talents, and the amazing capability of its screenwriters to sustain for such a long time a movie that goes nowhere, and which showdown is as climatic as the sight of the dumpyard it's based on. Let's all crown this movie. It's an achievement of epical proportions, a reminder of our own mediocrity as humans, a reminder of how such amazing beings end up as deep as the atoms in the atmosphere. This movie is admirable, as significantly as any other sign of our own achievements as humans. All praise Tremors 3!!! It made my eyes become open!!!
Watch out, Hollywood robots!
USA be warned, for South Korea is doing you shameful. Today it's possible to see a South Korea blockbuster that is at american level, and, most times, above it. The mood reminds us of "Speed", and is, at first look, a very close interpretation of it. But they had a great eye for spotting clichés, and soon you'll see what this means. It kick starts with an impressive shootout that makes Heat's centerpiece run for its money. It then heads the action to the subway and the fun begins, right until the formula-defying end. Technically, i's a triumph of Hollywood level. Artistically, it has too many real gems to be overlooked, and sometimes you'll be applauding what in american hands would be quite standard. The end section is quite surprising, at a point that no american movie would reach, because "it's not crowd pleasing". So wrong. It really is, and much more. Solid, fun fare, which proves that today the americans are not the only ones who make us thrill.