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The Hurt Locker (2008)
A Perfectly Shattering Film Going Experience
Kathryn Bigelow concocts a masterpiece of a film without tricks or gimmicks, at least none to be detected and that in itself is a triumph. Realistic yet poetic like the works of the great masters. It enters and fits a genre and at the same time is unique, unexpected. It shutters, moves and alters every sense, like a powerful drug. I saw it last night and I'm going to see it again tonight. Last night Jeremy Remmer came to speak to the audience in a face to face moderated by Sam Rockwell, great idea but it change my perception of Remmer in the film, of his character. Although he praised Kathryn Bigelow, he said things like "I don't tell her how to direct and she doesn't tell me how to act" Watching the film I felt that childish arrogance belonged to the character by his personal appearance showed it belonged to the actor. In any case, it works on the screen. A character you warm up to almost immediately in spite of his contradictions. Remmer will remind you at times of Robert Redford and others of Michael J Pollard. He is truly terrific so try to avoid his personal appearances not to contaminate that impression. The rest of the cast works wonders and the brief cameos by Guy Pearce and Ralph Finnes are the most organic and unobtrusive cameos I've ever seen in my life. All in all extraordinary. I predict, even if we're only in June, that Kathryn Bigelow risks to be the first female director to win the Academy Award. She certainly got my vote.
The Hangover (2009)
Heterosexuals in Sin City
Yes, okay, it's very funny at times down right hilarious. What sets this comedy apart from others of its ilk, is a well structured script and a pace that doesn't allow any form of thinking. The chemistry between the four leads is also a plus. There is a surprising, maybe unconscious, touch of innocence in the midst of this night of debauchery that makes it palatable even charming. Bradley Cooper is coming into his own and I'm absolutely certain that he was born to play Emperor Caligula in a future Ridley Scott flick. The women, as in most films about a bunch of heterosexuals doing childish things, are treated appallingly. They are the enemy that they have to protect themselves from or just escape, run, run as fast and as far as you can. Try to find the hooker with a heart of gold, and if she looks like Heathter Graham, that much better and forget about settling down. "The Hangover" has already become the surprise hit of the summer 2009. I say, well done, it could have been worse
Two Lovers (2008)
The Flight Of Joaquin Phoenix
Perhaps, the most startling aspect of "Two Lovers" is Joaquin Phoenix's performance. Superb. I haven't really liked any of the James Gray's films, until now that is. There is something profoundly moving and profoundly truthful here and I'm sure it has to do with Phoenix's portrayal. Gwynneth Paltrow is wonderful as the girl walking an emotional tightrope. And Vinessa Shaw is a real find. I was also moved by Isabella Rossellini as Joaquin's mother! Beautiful and intense but unlike many of her contemporaries not "cosmetic" A real extraordinary face. In fact she looks more like her mother Ingrid Bergman now than she ever did. So, a smart, romantic "dramedy" with wonderful performances. When was the last time I was able to say that? Go see it and tell me if you think I'm exaggerating at all.
Keanu as Klaatu and other comical touches
Laughter makes the almost two hours not a total loss. But I don't think, somehow, that "The Day The Earth Stood Still" was meant as a comedy. They must have realize however, that having John Cleese as the scientist was bound to provoke some giggles. Keanu Reeves is priceless as the wooden, expressionless alien. A great, unintentional, comic creation. Kathy Bates, in pantsuits if you please, plays the American Secretary of Defense and the whole thing doesn't have a single ingredient of the elements that made the Robert Wise original one of the classics of its genre. The visual tricks are good but repetitive and rather confusing. I must admit I wasn't bored I was just puzzled.
The Duchess (2008)
The locations, specially Bath are the most cinematic aspect of this opportunistic tale. The Duchess, it seems, was a distant relative of Lady Diana Spencer's and there is a certain symmetry in their stories but Keira Knightly projects only an "actressy" air. She was superb in "Pride and Prejudice" but here she just simply poses and stares. Ralph Finnes's awful Duke is much more believable. The extra marital doomed love story between the Duchess and Dominic Cooper left me completely cold and perhaps that's were the problem resides. Their relationship, their "love" should have consumed us for the sketchy tale to work, but it didn't. Still, the locations, I repeat, are breathtaking and "The Duchess" can be seen if you don't expect to be other than an spectator.
Coming of age in another planet
Urged by a film director I admire, I decided to attend a 9:30 screening of "Newcastle" by a director new to me, at the Los Angeles DGA theater. I left the screening in a daze. I dreamed about the film and it was the first thing I thought of this morning. I've never met any surfers in my life - although I've seen "Big Wednesday" - but I have the feeling now that I know them and I was compelled and surprised by how much we have in common. The human drama attached to the waves is what sets this film in a category all its own. Unique. Coming of age in another planet, primitive and futuristic at the same time. A stunning cast of unknowns helps the feeling that we're peeping into something really private. The photography and the score contribute immensely to make this a phenomenal experience. Highly recommended.
K. Il bandito (2008)
I've been hearing about this movie for months now, that's one of the reasons why I waited until 11 pm to see it - The film was announced for a 9:45 showing at the Hollywood Chinese Theater - It was worth the wait. The film is a cinematic poem from beginning to end. A passionate tale of almost everything. Almost should be the operative word because only death is achievable. Love stays at the door, betrayal is never consummated, Brazil is only an excuse. Karlo, our antihero, is a star in his community. He inspires loyalty although he is basically a weak and vain man. Pierluigi Coppola, the actor who plays him, is a star in his own right. Inhabiting the poetry with all its contradictions. Beautiful, ambiguous, sensual, cold. Just like in "Apartment Zero" and "Seeds Of Tragedy" Martin Donovan treats each one of his characters as "the character" when the camera is on them. Stunning close ups of a ravishing cast. My favorite moment the generational transition when the young bandits pass on the ball to their older selves. The images and the music have stayed with me and I suspect this is a movie I'll see again and again.
No End in Sight (2007)
A Horror Story All Our Own
You may think that Charles Ferguson's documentary is filled with things we already know. That's what I thought. But the truth of the matter is I knew it like a rumor of sorts born and nurtured out of anger and frustration. What this riveting documentary does is to show it to us confirming what we thought we knew.The sadness is unbearable. The clarity of what lays at the center of this absurdity is startling, devastating. There were only five people in the theater. Why? I found out about the existence of "No End In Sight" through a radio interview with the film-maker. The film has been released practically in secrecy. Everyone is flocking to see Chuck and Larry while this masterpiece that concern us directly is practically ignored. I want to thank Charles Ferguson for this enormous contribution to the truth. I believe he put his own livelihood on the line for the privilege. Sir, you've just become a hero of mine.
Chacun sa nuit (2006)
Titilated by a titillating beautiful cast
We're told this was based on a true story. Okay. The potential was there for a truly powerful, shattering film. Well, it isn't. However, I stayed glued to the screen due to the beauty of the cast. The girl, a throwback to the cookie females of the 60's and the boys one more cinematic than the other. It is difficult to guess - and why should anyone care - the intention of the filmmakers. An art film this is not and it's not a commercial venture, not really. If money was their objective they could have gone all the way. No. The film sort of works because one feels titilated by those eyes and those looks. So if their intention was to titillate they succeeded, big time. I wish this story could be re told with the same cast but with a great imaginative, powerful filmmaker at the helm.
Seeds of Tragedy (1991)
A Painful Full Circle
Coca leaves making their way from Peru to Downtown Los Angeles. Told in a series of vignettes that are nothing less than startling. The movie ended and I sat in silence staring at the screen. I had been taken for a cinematic ride without any warning. There is something classic about the way the film is shot but there is also something subversive, revolutionary about the ties that link the emotional punches between the different segments. Little Carlito's sounds are carried trough the film, at least, I felt so. Lhamard Tate is breathtaking and he is the one in charge to carry the ball for the last and dangerous stretch. The faces of each one of the characters are as clear in my mind as if I had met them personally. Unfortunately "Seeds Of Tragedy" is not available in DVD.