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House of Sand and Fog (2003)
Just another bad film
This film is bad.
I haven't read the book, but maybe I should've; then maybe the story would have made sense.
On the bright side: Powerful performance by Ben Kingsley. As always. Anything else would have been a dissapointment.
On the not so bright side: A story that's incoherent. Bad acting from Eldard - wow, that was so bad! - and Connelly, who now officially is the female Keanu Reeves. Useless cinematography. Boring music to a 'powerful' story. As for Shohreh - well, she was good, but even Tammy Faye Bakker could have given that performance.
This film really is bad.
Kansas City (1996)
This film takes exactly 25 minutes before it starts.
At least that's how it can feel for the viewer. For a notorious Altman regular as myself, this is now surprise. He likes to establish the mood of the film, the tone of the story and time before he blends into the characters. It is one of those characteristics about his direction that makes him one of our times' greatest. It is a daring move in an industry that demands fast pace for keeping the spectators attention.
Sometimes Altmans film feels merely as an atmosphere study. In recent films such as THE GINGERBREAD MAN and DR. T AND THE WOMEN, the story never really captivates. Here it does indeed - KANSAS CITY is an underestimated gem.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, who always has that sour tone of bitterness and uncomfortability about her acting, is a perfect cast as Blondie O'Hara. Miranda Richardson, the British Meryl Streep, if you like, tones her dipsy Carolyn 'Red' Stilton down and add a subtle layer of curiosity to her upper class stereotypical wife. Harry Belafonte though is the true treasure in this film. As a black mafioso he shines and gives an oscarworthy performance with splendor, evil and humour.
In smaller parts Jane Adams, Steve Buscemi and Dermot Mulroney is given very little time, but still manages to be remarkable.
The true star of KANSAS CITY is the music and the set decoration. If you are a fan of depression era jazz, this simply is a magnificent pearl, gift wrapped in rich, emotional settings. Combined with the cinematography and a captivating, surprising tale, this is indeed a remarkable Altman movie. Do not miss it.
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Punch Drunk Anderson
Somewhat disappointing, it is. We know Anderson can do better. This simply isn't quirky enough for a Andersonian love story.
Adam Sandler can act, and he does it very well here. That is a pleasant discovery. Emily Watson, on the other hand, is simply wasted - as is Luis Guzman and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The film depends on Sandlers performance, and even though he pulls it off fine, something is missing.
Do we like him? Are we thinking "he needs a shrink" instead of "he needs a love"? Barry is one the line of comedy and reality, but we never finds out where he belongs. It seems PTA doesn't know either.
Not a bad film, but - disappointment remains.
In the Bleak Midwinter (1995)
Shakespeare For Beginners
This is a brilliant, totally overlooked film.
If you are new to Shakespeare and do not get the passion for his works, this is the one to see. A fine introduction to the various people that are touched, moved and amused by Shakespeare.
Brilliantly written, brilliantly acted, brilliantly photographed. The best Christmas film ever.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
I Prefer Jane R.
This film is hardly good, not great at all. A few memorable scenes and the unlucky choice of pairing Norma Jean with an actual actress. Jane Russell has it all working for her, Marilyn's lesser woman and/or actress. One can only wonder why this is considered being one of the highlights of her lame career. 3/10
Hitch's Best Mom Ever
Bernice Edgar beats all the Hitchcock moms and Louise Latham shines as the mother with the well-kept secret in this piece of sweet nothing that displayed Tippi Hedrens limits as an actress and Hitchcocks over-the-top fondness for "psychology". Sean Connery is brilliant as the suave gentleman, but the film belongs to Louise Latham. Why on earth the Oscar did not come her way, I don't get.
I Got It (Still, It's Not Funny)
I confess: I had my hopes high for this one. "Being John Malkovich" was hilariosly insane, created with a wit and drive bound to take you away. With even more praise for this one, I hoped a new sensation.
But alas. This was at best a mediocre film. The interesting plot about deconstructivism and the deconstruction of that plot ruined the film and made it's points seemed forced and perplexed. This had nothing like the energy of Malkovich, and the whole meta-thing wasn't fullfilled decently. Which made me yawn. I never thought Kaufman could be like All The Other Screenwriters and make me do that. But I did - I yawned.
Chris Cooper was the true highlight, Meryl was merylly, Nic Cage was fine. The direction however seemed tame and uninspired. I give this a 6/10. Still, I'm disappointed and definately not amused.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Kitsch! (or alt. title: "The Man Who Was Afraid Of Hats")
"A Beautiful Mind" is an honoured film. Lots of awards has been coming it's way and I understand it as this film is an archeotype of the kitschy image a lot of directors have on making film.
In fact, the film is kitsch. The result is always going to be so when the introductory view from the directors point is that "we are going to make art/history etc.". Indeed Ron Howard has always wanted to make THAT film that could keep everybody talking. Looking at his records show that he so far has not artistically been very succesful. With all these awards, notably beating Robert Altman in Best Directing at the Oscars and DGA, has he then achieved it? Has he made art with "A Beautiful Mind"?
No. Far from. He has elaborated on his very oldfashioned look at making movies, and he has shown his disrespect for the viewers.
Take a look at the dialogue in this one. Do people really talk like this? Did they do that in the '50s? No. Between Nash and his wife there isn't a single real-life conversation. Ron Howard does not have time for such common things. Common things in his mind cannot be art. So the couple are left with a cribbling dialogue that never explain their affection for each other but simply displays them as puppets. They are not real people. (A bizarre thing to say when the plot centers around an authentic story!)
Ron Howard's best effort so far IMO has been "EdTV". That was a charming film that did not try to be more than it was: Entertaining. The characters in it were (so to speak) normal - and so was the dialogue. Strange that even the real people in "A Beautiful Mind" have to be so shallow.
Also, Howard believes that the audience is more or less stupid. This leeds him to giving up on all subtleness and explaining everything very clearly. I don't like being spoken to as if I was stupid - do you? It destroys the overall issues of this film - and I cannot help thinking that it is so odd Howard never even tries to elaborate on Nash's theories and his importance. He has given up on us from the very start.
Russel Crowe is a always a rock, but here his performance tend to be unintentionally amusing - remember Anthony Hopkins in "Legends Of The Fall"? You want to laugh as his character deteriorates - but no no, this is serious stuff. Does Ron Howard really thing life is that serious? Where is the authenticity in this real life story?
Jennifer Connelly is given very little to work with. She whispers and has got a different hair-do from time to time - and then there is the obliged breakdown that gave her the Oscar. Only Winslet and Smith were AMPAS nominees in the supporting category this year without displaying "breakdowns". Food for thought, eh? Anyway; even Connelly's breakdown seems odd. Howard so bad wanted the Oscar for her.
Kitsch is what this film is about. Indeed the weakest of the five Best Picture nominees. Artistically flawed and tame, Howard got what he wanted.
Små ulykker (2002)
Surprisingly boring best European picture
"Små Ulykker" was the film to continue the fine Danish tradition for awards at the Berlin film festival. The movie displays itself in the footsteps of "Mifune", "Italian For Beginners" (two other Berlin winners) in an impro style like "Let's Get Lost", or Mike Leigh.
Centered around Marianne, this film elaborates on the subjects of family and loss but the attempt of facing tragedy with a smile does not succeed. Also there is very little sympathy for the characters here. Pia (Jannie Faurschou) and Tom (Henrik Prip) is half the family but is here only presented as shallow stereotypes and only Jørgen Kiil as the father and Maria Würgler Rich faces the challenge of evolving their characters with a good result.
The film fails as you do not want to like this characters. That way you don't really care with them - or the film. "Små Ulykker" may be award winning, but never the less it is boring and indifferent and leaves the viewer cold and careless.
Norwegian Sensation About Misfits
It is not the cinematography or special effects or costumes or makeup or location. But...
"Elling" is brilliant and cannot be recommended enough. Though it is hard to understand that Norway can produce good films, this one is a pearl. The simple story of two men on the verge of normality is told with heartbreaking simplicity and honesty.
Go see a foreign film. Go see "Elling".