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Upstream Color (2013)
Bizarre but beautiful
I don't even know where to begin with this film. It's a love story that unfolds in the most far-fetched manner. It's also about humans linked to pigs via worms. Wtf, right? Upstream Color is hard to describe. It's weird and mind-boggling, and I can't even say I fully understood everything that went on. There's something quite beautiful about it though. The way it looked and sounded appealed to me, and the two leads aren't bad either. It kind of reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind towards the end.
This film is not for everyone, but if you're familiar with Shane Carruth and you happened to like his first film, Primer, or if you have a taste for bizarre, eccentric films, you might want to give this a shot.
A well-made film, albeit unsettling and hard to watch at times.
Jagten, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, is about a man whose life is shattered when he is falsely accused of being a pedophile.
Mads Mikkelsen plays Lucas, a school teacher who works at the local nursery. He lives in a small community, the kind where everyone knows each other, and apart from occasional drinking and deer hunting with his friends, Lucas lives a mostly solitary life. He is divorced and currently fighting to gain custody of his teenage son, Marcus. One day, one of his students, Klara, while talking to the school's principal, happens to mention something that implied she was molested by Lucas. She was lying, but being 5 years old, Klara had no grasp of what the consequences would be. What started as a small lie quickly evolved and spread all over the small town, turning Lucas into a pariah.
Jagten was one of the contenders for Best Foreign Language Film in the 86th Academy Awards, and after seeing it, I have to say the recognition is well-deserved. It's affecting and provocative, the kind of film that lingers in your mind after you watch it. Mads Mikkelsen is excellent as Lucas. I'm used to seeing him play the villain (I love Hannibal), but he was effective as a good man struggling to maintain his dignity against all odds. Jagten, albeit unsettling and hard to watch at times, is a well-made film and easily one of the best I've seen recently.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Tom and Tilda were perfect, but not enough to carry the film
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton play vampire lovers Adam and Eve in this film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Adam is a musician living in anonymity in Detroit. His long years of living among humans, or "zombies" as he puts it, has left him so jaded, he actually contemplates taking his own life. Eve, his wife, flies all the way from Tangier, where she lives, to lift Adam's spirits. What follows is a few days in the lives of the lovers, and from their casual conversations we glean a sense of what it's like to see the world through immortal eyes.
I wanted to like this film, but there really wasn't much to like. Tom and Tilda fit their roles perfectly and their performances were enjoyable, but not enough to carry the entire thing. The story does not go anywhere, and probably the reason why I didn't enjoy it so much was that I was looking for a plot that wasn't there. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against plot less films. They can be great when done right. This one just didn't work for me. Basically, it was two hours of Adam and Eve talking, being cool, drinking blood, Adam sulking, Eve trying to make him feel better. At one point, Eve's mischievous sister, Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska, comes in to stir things up a bit. Adam and Eve's conversations about music, literature, etc. were interesting up to a point, but by the time the film ended I was as jaded as Adam had been in the beginning of the film.
It's not a bad film, and I can honestly see how some people would like it. Give this a try if you want to see a different kind of vampire movie. Stay away if you particularly dislike plot less films.
Far-fetched, yet rooted in reality.
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play Joel and Clementine, a couple who, when their relationship goes south, undergo a procedure to erase each other from their memories. It's strange, smart, sad, funny, and just overall brilliant.
This film left an indelible impression on me the first time I saw it many years ago. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, and I was utterly smitten. The material and the way it was translated on screen was appealing in its novelty and eccentricity. Though operating on a far-fetched premise, the film depicts a very real picture of how relationships are - sweet at the beginning, sour over time, and with at least one bitter casualty by the time it ends. What it ultimately asks though, is if it's worth it, taking in all the bad with the good. If the prospect of love is worth the potential disaster it'll leave in its wake. The film doesn't answer it for us, but I'd say the ending wraps up the whole thing in the best way possible.
It may be ten years old as of this writing, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind remains to be as fresh, wonderful and unique as ever.
Third Person (2013)
Less than the sum of its parts
Third Person features an ensemble cast including Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, and Olivia Wilde, and is written and directed by Paul Haggis, best known for the Academy Award-winning Crash. Like Crash, Third Person's narrative consists of several characters whose lives are interconnected, but the similarity ends there. While Crash mostly tackled societal fear and prejudice, this one focuses on more intimate relationships, and the theme revolves around love and loss, trust and betrayal, guilt and denial.
I've read some pretty harsh reviews for Third Person. I personally didn't think it was bad, but definitely there were aspects of it that could have been done better. Also, the runtime could have been a bit shorter. The mystery of how the lives of the characters were all connected was intriguing, but in the end, the payoff didn't feel like it was worth 2 hours (137 minutes to be exact) of my life. I liked parts of it more than the whole. There's a scene with Mila Kunis in an elevator that had me cringing in my seat. It reminded me of that intense scene in Crash involving a little girl, an invisible cloak, and a gun. I loved it.
Good effort from the actors as well. I don't think I've ever seen Mila Kunis in a more serious role. Liam Neeson takes a break from all the ass-kicking he's been doing lately. Olivia Wilde takes her clothes off. Adrien Brody's OK, but his nose is distracting as ever.
A Single Man (2009)
Beautifully directed, acted, and written, A Single Man is one of a very few compelling films I've seen in a while. It's about a day in the life of George Falconer (Colin Firth), an English college professor struggling to cope with the death of his lover Jim, played by the dashing Matthew Goode *sigh*.
Tom Ford does a wonderful job with his directorial debut. I've read others say it was overdone, but I personally didn't think that was the case. It was very stylish, yes, but not disgustingly so. I loved that effect where he plays with the color saturation at different moments throughout the film.
The actors, of course, were very good, and made the film much more of a treat to watch.
A film which strikes a good balance between style & substance, A Single Man is definitely something I would recommend others to watch.