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2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
8 ½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973)
Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2014)
Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)
A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
The Godfather: Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)
Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
Inside Out (Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen, 2015)
Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais, 1961)
The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
Love Exposure (Shion Sono, 2008)
Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
Mysteries of Lisbon (Raoul Ruiz, 2010)
Old Boy (Chan-wook Park, 2003)
Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
Only Yesterday (Isao Takahata, 1991)
Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1995)
Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
Satantango (Béla Tarr, 1994)
Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2007)
Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952)
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
El sur (Victor Erice, 1983)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)
Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2014)
The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
The next 50, also in alphabetical order (updated: 07/2015)
1900 (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1976)
The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)
Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
Autumn Sonata (Ingmar Bergman, 1978)
Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946)
Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Corn Island (George Ovashvili, 2014)
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
Demonlover (Olivier Assayas, 2002)
La dolce vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1991)
The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)
Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959)
Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967)
High Noon (Fred Zinneman, 1952)
The Human Condition III: A Soldier's Prayer (Masaki Kobayashi, 1961)
Jules and Jim (Francois Truffaut, 1962)
Landscape in the Mist (Theodoros Angelopoulos, 1988)
Les Miserables (Tom Hooper, 2012)
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schrader, 1985)
Mon oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache, 1973)
Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)
Nostalghia (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1983)
Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)
Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961)
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
Three Colors: Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
Up (Pete Docter, 2009)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini, 1953)
WALL·E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Whisper of the Heart (Yoshifumi Kondô, 1995)
2015 films I've seen (going by IMDb release dates, updated: 11/23)
1. Inside Out
2. The Bride
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
4. The Club
5. Mistress America
7. The Martian
8. Arabian Nights
11. Jafar Panahi's Taxi
12. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
14. The Clan
17. Mountains May Depart
18. Beasts of No Nation
19. Far from the Madding Crowd
20. Shaun the Sheep Movie
21. Bone Tomahawk
23. Our Little Sister
24. Ex Machina
25. The Final Girls
26. Black Mass
27. The Second Mother
28. Slow West
29. Irrational Man
30. Mr. Holmes
34. Ma ma
35. Crimson Peak
37. Wednesdays Don't Exist
38. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
40. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
42. Jurassic World
43. My Great Night
44. Avengers: Age of Ultron
47. Fifty Shades of Grey
The main criticism I've seen towards this film is that it has a detached approach, but I thought it worked wonders here, surprisingly. Thing is, you can handle a story about night life in two ways: by focusing on the frenzy and excitement, that ephemeral state of euphoria non-stop party and excess will do to you, and that's probably what most films of this kind do, and thus have little lasting power beyond the final credits. Or you can go for that other feeling often associated with such activity, which is one of emotional vacuum, of estrangement and low mood, which is more profound and permanent. This is what Løve is going for and succeeds in portraying: the life of someone who wants to be a DJ at all costs, and stick to it throughout the years, while knowing he won't be able to afford living like that. So he often feels unsatisfied and lacking in some kind of deeper personal realization.
On the other hand, those around him do move forward, in one way or another, and so his relationships with all of them reach some kind of closure, making it even more depressing to him that in over a decade he pretty much hasn't gotten anywhere, hasn't really grown up nor learned anything from when he was a teen. An adequately long runtime, encompassing various states of the main character's life and various locations to where his work takes him, also contribute in making his frustrating journey so believable. Technically the film is a marvel, moving so naturally, so organically, from one sequence to the next, from one set piece to another, with a flow that is obviously aided by a powerful and almost constant soundtrack. If you like house music, it's pretty much guaranteed you'll love this film. But it has a lot of other qualities that really make it worth watching. I hope those of you who haven't seen it do soon.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Film noir of our times
The film got a pretty good reception in Cannes although it was absent from any prizes and seems to have been forgotten as far as awards buzz go for now. It's a shame because it's very well done and is definitely a film of our times: although the context (it's actually more than a context or subtext, it's really a plot line all by itself) of the economic crisis is handled in a sometimes obvious fashion, it never interferes with the main plot or storyline since almost every situation in it is naturally connected to said story, at least if we follow the interpretation of Andrew Dominik, which is quite straightforward yet pretty brilliant at the same time. So the film includes about a dozen times these excerpts from the radio or TV of speeches given by Obama or Bush, talking about the economy or even the state of the nation in general, but every time it reinforces the scene in question, giving it a deeper meaning but without hammering it into us. The way Dominik found and included all this footage into the story is pretty neat, I thought. Good examples are the flashbacks in the first act, the fact that the mob that hires Jackie is never present and doesn't get any names (just like the financial powers at the top, which are also "killing us softly") or the last sequence, but in general it always works.
Having said that, without this context the film wouldn't be as memorable, but it would still be pretty powerful, given that its main qualities come from the dialog, the performances and the atmosphere/directing style. Most noticeable of all is probably James Gandolfini, playing a worn down, alcoholic gangster whose wife is leaving him, at the prospect of going to jail again. It's a character of interesting pathos and surprising complexity, since it could've turned out to be a one dimensional, almost stereotypical impersonation. Also worthy of notice is Brad Pitt, delivering an effortless turn in his portrayal of Jackie Cogan, quite a cynical yet somewhat vulnerable character. But all actors involved give strong performances, and the conversations between them (almost always between two characters, thus more intimate or enclosed) are delightful to hear and watch. And the film acquires its unity through its dark, stylized atmosphere, with more showy moments like the killing of one particular character or more brutal situations like the beating of that same character: scenes of violence that break the calm the film occasionally seems to be going for with its prolonged scenes of dialog, thus keeping the viewer in constant tension. How the pieces come together in the last sequence also provides said unity under a narrative angle and makes the film all the more satisfying.
So this isn't a flawless film, but it's an ambitious one, one that, after Drive last year, brings us back one of the genres we love the most while at the same time shedding new light on it. It takes its chances and delivers both as an intense and thought-provoking picture, and as some kind of broader entertainment. It's an art-house film in a commercial frame. And a hell of a good one. ****
Captivating and exciting
Some of you already know I'm a huge fan of Love Exposure, but I hadn't seen anything else from Sono until this, so I was greatly anticipating it. It's set in post-tsunami Japan, and this setting is not only a context but a very important part of the plot, perhaps too much so especially at the ending when the film turns a little into a moralizing or even propaganda piece, with the main character crying "Don't give up!" repeatedly while we see images of the ravages of the flood. I gotta say those last minutes moved me to the verge of tears though, but that has more to do with how it builds up and connects previous elements shown in the film in a rather messy way. But I think that's the Sono way, with quick shots and thoughts put together, unexpected transitions, poetry mixed up with violence, sometimes inscrutable characters... This film also has some powerful cinematography going for it, with thinned down and warm colors, probably with some filter involved or maybe just postproduction grading to create this beautiful effect. Also worthy of notice is the soundtrack, with pieces from Mozart and Barber that enhance the poignancy of the film.
So in the end it's a tragic and also hopeful love story, with different situations involved that make true sense only towards the end. It has some disturbing scenes, with parents who want their children dead or people who want to kill other people in the street for no rational reason... Situations that are quite effective in portraying not only the material but also the moral and mental damages that can be caused by such an event as last year's tsunami. Still, it's no match to Love Exposure, and I don't think anything else from Sono is/will be.
Fresh and warm
Beginners tells the story of a father and his son, and how both of them manage to cope with their lives. The father, played by Christopher Plummer, knows he's gay since the age of 13, but only comes out after his wife's death, much to his son's surprise. Then he tries to enjoy life as much as possible (meaning as much as he hasn't been able to when married), especially considering he is soon diagnosed with terminal cancer. Meanwhile his son, played by Ewan McGregor, begins to understand his father better, and after his death, uses what he's learned to begin a new life of his own, most importantly in the form of a relationship with a French actress, played by Mélanie Laurent. This last part takes place in 2003.
The funny thing is that the first part of the storyline is directly based on the director's personal experience, which explains how much he cares for these characters. And it shows. The film is warm and touching, without falling into cheap sentimentality, but conscious of the hopeful and sincere message it has to tell by the end. It does so quietly, progressively, only revealing it at the very end. Thus the conversations and situations are about many different things, apparently not leading anywhere when in fact they are. Furthermore, apart from the two time periods indicated in the first paragraph, the film also goes back to the son's childhood and his relationship with his mother, and also features three or four short slideshows of historical pictures, accompanied by the son's voice-over, not to mention occasional, very brief flashbacks within the 2003 narrative. So all those different time periods are interconnected in the film, not chronologically (only the 2003 part unfolds that way), and still manage to mirror one another. And the wonderful thing is that this complex time structure never becomes confusing and doesn't hurt the film's fluidity one bit.
The result is a highly creative film, as far as the screenplay goes, and such originality feels like a true breath of fresh air. In that sense, some highlights are the scene when McGregor's and Laurent's characters first meet, attending a costume party, the former dressed as Freud; the subtitles showing the viewer what the son's cute dog is thinking; or the religious essay that the father writes. Another consequence is a very dynamic editing work, providing the story with the necessary harmony and at the same time keeping the viewer from falling into a comfortable passive attitude, as the story in question never moves in the most expected direction, but rather diverges and converges into apparently independent scenes which, like I mentioned above, only come together little by little. In other words, the film is a thought-provoking one; with much more to it than what it seems at first sight.
So overall this is a film with a heartfelt story to share with us, technically well made, with some risky directorial choices that for the most part succeed in their purpose, and with some noticeable performances to round it up, especially Christopher Plummer's affecting turn, undoubtedly deserving of Oscar recognition in the Best Supporting Actor category.
A beautifully made crepuscular western
Spanish filmmaker Mateo Gil has been constantly collaborating with Alejandro Amenábar since his first film; Tesis (1996), the latter subsequently putting the former in the shade. Thus this is only Gil's second feature film. I haven't seen his first work, and apart from Amenábar's films and little projects of his own, he also spent his time trying to adapt the novel Pedro Páramo, which proved to be unmanageable. And that brings us to Blackthorn, a film that must have been on Gil's mind for quite some time, whether directly or indirectly. In any case, it is a great film, so it makes me hope it's not too late for Mateo Gil to develop a fruitful career as a full-length film director.
On the surface, Blackthorn doesn't tell anything new; it brings back the crepuscular atmosphere of the likes of Sam Peckinpah's westerns, with an iconic but worn-down figure as the main character. The man is getting old and wants to go back home; he's saved enough money for that, but he loses it when he runs into an adventurous and foolish Spaniard. So the two of them must now work together to get the money so that the old man can leave. The most original aspect of the film, again only at first sight, comes from the setting; this western takes place in the barren landscapes of Bolivia, the country where supposedly Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid got killed (see the last shot of George Roy Hill's 1969 movie). The film starts off from there, imagining that in fact Butch Cassidy never died.
So Sam Shepard plays a 50 or 60 something Butch Cassidy, now going by the name of Blackthorn. Shepard brings the right amount of wisdom, melancholia and roughness to the character. His performance is somewhat reminiscent, without going very far back in this comparison, of Jeff Bridges' in True Grit. They also have in common that they are both worthy of award recognition. Sam Shepard should pick up at least a handful of nominations for his touching, restrained yet aggressive turn, but considering the kind of film we're talking about, it probably won't happen. Shame. As for the rest of the cast, everybody's all right. Eduardo Noriega does an OK job at keeping up with Shepard's performance, and the other relatively fleshed-out character; Mackinley, is played by Stephen Rea with skill, despite the character in question being quite underused.
That brings me to the first and main flaw of the film; the way the flashbacks are structured is questionable, at least for the first few of them. Unless I'm wrong, there are six flashbacks throughout the movie, showing us the younger years of Butch Cassidy and his teaming up with the Sundance Kid and their lady friend Etta Place. The flashbacks have potential, and it's hard for me to say anything against flashbacks being used in film narrative (in my eyes they usually improve a film a lot), but said potential is not exploited that well, thus achieving sometimes confusing transitions between the present and the flashbacks (which is reinforced by the fact that these are not clearly differentiated, tonally speaking, from the present scenes) and lacking the lyricism (except for the last ones) they could've had. Regarding Mackinley, he only shows up in one of these flashbacks. So when we see him in the present, supposedly as a character with great relevance in the film and in Butch Cassidy's life, it doesn't work very well because we've only seen him for about a minute before that.
Blackthorn has a few other flaws, mostly in the form of missed opportunities, not to mention a somewhat unsatisfactory ending, but its qualities easily outshine them. Apart from Sam Shepard's terrific personification, the cinematography is a strong highlight (which isn't that surprising given the genre and setting), as well as the score, making a risky move by alternating between some epic music and country-like songs. Some of the dialogue is also memorable, and as far as the progression of the story goes, every plot detail is worked out competently. But what I liked most about the film was the nostalgia surrounding it, those letters Blackthorn writes to his kid, the mountains and the deserts where he quietly rides his horse, his memories, and his determination to go back home. In his words (approximately), "there are only two significant moments in a man's life; when he leaves home, and when he finally comes back."
Yi yi (2000)
Sit down and watch
What Oriental cinema has to offer is often an escape from our hectic world. A long breath of fresh air, where time feels suspended. A clean, lucid view on life and the time to study some of its meaning, and let the viewer get a grasp of it. Contemporary directors from Asia, heirs to Ozu's tradition, while also incorporating elements from modern culture, display their talent shooting apparently familiar stories, everyday situations, struggling to reach their essence. I am talking about the works of Zhang Yimou (The Road Home), Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine), Hou Hsiao-hsien (Flight of the Red Balloon) or Hirokazu Koreeda (Still Walking), among others. And now Edward Yang. Yi Yi is a masterful film in that sense, for many reasons and at the same time just for one; for conveying a perfect, beautiful blend of cinematic and real life, leaving its audience in admiring and understanding silence.
Edward Yang indeed takes his time to quietly develop the different stories intertwined among the members of a rather common family in Taipei. The film starts off with a slightly confusing mix of characters, wanting to give us short, individual scenes for each of them, and the connection at first is hard to establish. But what is made clear from the beginning is that we will frequently watch these characters from a distance. For example, every time two people kiss, or have a love conversation, the shot is considerably wide. Whether you want to interpret that as a sign of modesty, respect or purity isn't what matters most. The film doesn't give answers to every point it deals with; it shows you a series of events from an almost neutral standpoint. And that is valid when the distance from the camera to the action is objective but also when it is subjective; when it represents the viewpoint of one of the characters.
In any case, the film also has a subtle but definitely marked dramatic crescendo. The pace of the film is slow and measured, contemplative almost. So the viewer might not get into the story from the start, but once he does, the experience is rewarding, as you acquire the quality of a visitor in this family. Basically three love stories are witnessed; those of N.J., Ting-Ting and Yang-Yang. The remarks in the previous paragraph could be downplayed by a recurrent element in the film; the use of glass reflections and mirrors. This would introduce a definite judgment or symbolic illustration on the image that is shown, maybe even in a similar way as in Flight of the Red Balloon. So this would make the visuals far from neutral, although not exactly distorted... And definitely ambiguous. Does this photographic aspect represent the way the three love stories mirror one another? It is obvious how Ting-Ting's love relationship features events from her father's (most obvious of all; when the man runs out of the hotel room, much like N.J. did when he was young), and you can even draw some common elements from Yang-Yang's incipient love interest. Or maybe the use of reflections is just seeking to enhance another one of the film's main themes; the hidden depths of life.
But are these characters really looking out for some sort of liberation or some other type of meaning? Well, it is true that Yang-Yang takes pictures of people's backs in order to let them see that part of life usually hidden from their eyes, but maybe the whole family is just accepting life as they have it. Another directorial choice that hints towards the fact that they might be trapped in some way is the recurrent use of doorframes to enclose a given character from both sides of the frame. This is a rather typical composition in cinema and usually means, if only in the scene in question, that the character is "trapped". And at the end, these characters, particularly Yang-Yang, have indeed learned something from their respective experiences and see things a bit differently. And Edward Yang has pulled it off beautifully; the film has beautiful, thought provoking imagery, beautiful and sincere performances, a beautiful yet only occasional use of music (even though Beethoven's Moonlight sonata has got to be the most used piece of classical music in film history)
This is a truly moving tale that quickly grows on you. Rather than rational explanation or interpretation, what the film demands is simple observation. And its subsequent internalization.
Mistérios de Lisboa (2010)
An experience not to be missed on the big screen
It's almost a miracle to find a film like this one in theaters nowadays. An exceptional rarity, something that reminds you that cinema like this can still be achieved. Being a period piece, and with almost 5 hours of runtime (the 15-minute intermission included), it defies almost every convention of commercial cinema. And it doesn't drag one bit; every minute of the film is required, and while it absorbs you and doesn't let go, you feel grateful for it For those magical hours of hypnotic escapism.
"Mysteries of Lisbon" is en epic, mesmerizing adaptation of the homonym novel by Camilo Castelo Branco. It tells a series of interconnected stories set mostly in 19th century Lisbon, although the main plot is pretty much unique. In any case, the way each story leads to the other and how it all comes together towards the end is brilliant. The two main characters are Pedro da Silva and Padre Dinis; a priest and an orphan destined to form a close bond. But all characters are carefully fleshed out; apart from those two, Ângela de Lima (Pedro's mother) or Alberto de Magalhães, among others, stand out. It is the film's purpose to explore the enigmatic nature of most of these people, leaving them and coming back to them with deeply measured fluency, bringing forward through the set occasional details of their personality, frequently using voice-overs to convey their inner thoughts while staying faithful to the literary source material.
This last idea is also present in how much the act of observation matters in this film. In a great number of scenes, a lesser character is either listening to what is happening or watching that given scene from a distance, thus often adopting the viewer's external point of view. This objective is made clear through the miniaturist theater that Pedro receives as a present from his mother, a toy that Ruiz goes back to on several occasions to mark the transition between a scene and the next. It is a beautiful little trick and, in some way, it provides part of the film's complexity. This complexity is reinforced by a few ambiguous notes, some surrealist touches and of course the multiple layers of the plot.
Another remarkable aspect is the use of clear-cut sequence shots for the majority of scenes, each of those shots more impressive than the other. The film has therefore very few close-ups, something that would also contribute to create a certain distance with the viewer. Only in a couple of situations (usually of lesser significance) does Ruiz go back to a more orthodox way of shooting. But those delightfully crafted sequence shots give the film an extraordinary, almost intoxicating energy, especially when they are accompanied by the film's haunting score. That way, every shot is a wonder in terms of composition, but also as far as the lighting is concerned. Just a few marvelous examples would be the scene at the opera hall or when Alberto de Magalhães confronts another man while Padre Dinis is traveling in the calash. Indeed, this must be one of the most striking films I've had the chance to see on the big screen.
On the whole, this is a moving, tragic and awe-inspiring masterpiece. A feast for the senses, and an immediate entry in my top 50. *****