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Captain Phillips (2013)
These waters run pretty deep.
"It's gonna be alright, Irish."
That's what the leader of a frightening gang of Somali Pirates, Muse, keeps telling the Captain of the ship he's just hijacked, when in fact, it's his own need to keep hearing those optimistic words, again and again. He's a man, one of the many, who is doing things he does because he doesn't have any other way around it. There is no time to question morals for him, and yet he is still miles away from what you may call an amoral human-being. "We are not going to hurt you. We are not Al-Qaeda." , he keeps reminding.
As these pirates have boarded the ship and captured Captain Phillips on gunpoint, one of them asks about the ship's nationality. "It's an American ship." , replies the Captain. One of the pirates shouts gleefully, "America! Yes!" There are such subtle snark and commentaries throughout the film which makes it much more than an average thriller. At a certain point in the film, as Captain Phillips and Muse are building an empathy for each other, it transcends into one of those Michael Mann-esque moments where there is no individual sense hero or villain, just two guys, on very opposite sides, finding much more in common between themselves than they might have thought earlier. "We've all got bosses."
Tom Hanks could not have had better opportunity to show the subtlety of his performance than the arc of the titular character in this film. He embodies and introduces us to the character as a confident, alert and pragmatic guy, but as the things get more dreary, you can sense the breakdown and hopelessness on his face. I wonder about the sequence of shooting the final scene with Tom Hanks. It feels perfectly natural collections of emotions the character goes through after all the actions that went before. It also marks as one of the best moments in the actor's career.
Paul Greengrass has developed a certain flavor of hand-held cameras in his films. I guess it's one of the things he has kept from his experience with Documentaries. It does help in creating a sense of realism in the film, but ultimately it was because of bravura performances and intensity of the screenplay which got me absorbed in the film than the Documentary aesthetic.
The film's editing is jarring and urgent just like all of the director's films, but it needs a certain clarity and grace. The film's weak moments are those when we are broken from Captain's or Muse's perspectives. While I can understand the need of keeping the story in clarity about the rescue operation, it's cringe-worthy when these scenes are presented in stylization that reminded me of Bourne films. In a way, it takes the realism away. For some moments, anyway.
What starts as a slam-bang action thriller about a hijacking situation turns subtly into the play of ambiguous duality and parallels with relevant political undertones. It asks the questions it should ask, but also never taking one side or turn preachy on audience. It's one of those films that take more depth in post-contemplation than during watching the film itself.
Stories We Tell (2012)
Stories They Tell
Intriguing, but not as emotionally overwhelming for the audience as it is for the storytellers. There is ever so palpable, cold detachment from the story's emotional spine. Maybe, it's because of the lack of perspective of the person who wanted this story to be out there- Sarah Polley herself. You can sense subtle reactions coming from her whenever she is on screen, for however little time, and build her point-of-view in your head. But that would be just another version of story in this baggage of different perspectives. Also, I would rather she hadn't filmed dramatized clips of real-life incidents and trust the audience's imagination.
All that being said, it does not take away anything from the fact that "Stories We Tell" is a fascinating concept. If nothing else, it works as a brilliant think-piece on subjectivity of memories and distorted truth by different perspectives.
Meeting People Is Easy (1998)
"You will become a hypocrite. You'll become a liar. You'll try and paper-up your own cracks and... you know. And everybody does it. And that's what being an adult is. And then you have babies and... that's it."
An interesting insight into, arguably, one of the greatest bands of all time, "Radiohead"--and its front-runner, Thom Yorke. You'll see loads of documentaries about glamor and classy lifestyle of musicians in limelight. You'll see very few, or maybe only this one, documentaries about how this fame and hype messes with your head as an artist. After the release of "OK Computer", the album is acclaimed as the best of the year, even as one of the bests of all time, by critics and audience around the world. However deserving this acclaim was, it came as a shocking surprise to the band who had released the album as just something they naturally wanted to say, and not as something they wanted people to like. The percussions of this sudden and massive change is something that's touched beautifully in this documentary. These guys are one of the most honest artists out there. They are just being themselves. (It's good to know that they didn't let blinding hype confuse their vision, and they kept pushing the envelope and raising the bar higher in following albums in future.)
I regard the band's music as something that is always commenting about existentialism, materialistic lifestyle, technological dependence, and love, and hope, and dreams, just about everything, while their music always being abstract and subtle. That's why it's great to see that the visual style of this film complementing their style really well.
It won't be a comfortable or easy watch for those who aren't familiar with their music, but it can give you a new perspective on a few things.
The Kings of Summer (2013)
A self-conscious cartoonish movie that knows its reason and purpose for being cartoonish isn't as frustrating watch as a movie that has strong ideas going for it, but completely goes off the rails, and still maintains the smugness of being serious and better. This film is the latter. A poorly thought-out screenplay which is never sure about its characters and doesn't ever develop a point. These characters couldn't have been more under-developed, and amateur performance by leads doesn't help either. The visual style comes up without serving a purpose, and is distracting and shallow. The problem here is the writer and the director's manipulation. They artificially set situation for our "adventurous" teenage leads to angrily leave their homes, looking for an escape into nature. They treat these characters as derivatives of Christopher McCandless. How insulting for that great man! Before you even notice, this faux-self-discovery film turns into a teenage romantic melodrama that puts even the most idiotic rom-coms of Bollywood to shame. The film is under a delusion that it has earned its seriousness, that its characters have been on a self-discovering journey, profoundly changing their lives or perspectives. Nope. That isn't the case.
P.S. An extra half star for using a "Youth Lagoon" song for end-credits. That guy deserves more recognition, but in better films.
"If I sense a teardrop in my eye during a movie, that is evidence more tangible than all the mighty weight of Film Theory." - Roger Ebert
"The Lunchbox" is the kind of Bollywood film I've been waiting for. Where you no longer feel the barrier of the screen. You are no longer watching a film, but experiencing it, empathizing with every characters' emotions and getting to know them, little by little. There were moments where I was able to anticipate certain reactions from characters because I understand them now. I can sense what they're going through and why. It's a sign of well-developed characters, and a well-told story.
"The Lunchbox" shines in the silent moments, when there are no dialogues, but just the subtle beauty of emotions. These are the moments that prove the director's clarity of vision and the actors' dedication. Apart from certain key-moments where the leads go through a change of heart-which is presented in quite unsubtle manner in an otherwise graceful film-there is hard to find any flaw.
And you know what, I don't need to find a flaw. Because like Roger Ebert put it, I did sense a teardrop or two during this film.
Moody. Dark. Atmospheric.
"Prisoners" is the kind of mystery/drama that stays with you long after you've left the auditorium. Denis Villeneuve's choice to emphasize and build tension by long takes gives the film an engrossing feel, and also helps the actors to really sink in and disappear into the characters. Supported by Roger Deakins' masterful cinematography and Jóhann Jóhannsson's haunting score, the film develops a bleak world which will keep you captivated for days.
P.S. The film's mood reminded me of two shows that I immensely love: "Twin Peaks" and "Forbrydelsen".
Be sure to check them out, if you dug this.
The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
Powerful Drama With Beautiful Country Music
The film feels like jumbling through shuffled photographs that hold bittersweet memories. Non-linear narrative has become more recognized device to sketch a contrast change in a relationship. It's an effective device which makes it easy to tell a story with a sense of tragic irony. A film that followed this style in my recent memory is 'Blue Valentine'. 'The Broken Circle Breakdown' tells a story of a couple trying to deal with the sickness tragedy of their leukemic child while jumbling through their past. The scenes with this sweet child girl feel most honest, and hence deeply moving. It has one of the most hard-hitting and realistic scenes of post-traumatic stress in a relationship I've seen in films. The film is helped by some fine performances by its leads, and country music is a driving vector of this story. But the film is at its disadvantage because of distracting, and sometimes incoherent, editing. You're shifting from a moment to another moment. Some stick with you, and some don't.
Shuddh Desi Romance (2013)
Who Are These People?
This film presents itself as a refreshing and youthful approach to "Bollywood" romance, which is admirable for a mainstream film, but what cripples it from the start is the characters. Especially the male protagonist. I didn't care for these characters. I didn't care they find their supposed true love or not. And when you make the characters that annoying and careless, no matter how self-consciously, you end up detaching the audience from them. I could just sit back, and observe, and cringe.
And you know what, maybe these "romantics" do deserve one another after all!
Now You See Me (2013)
The Closer You See, The More You Find It Disappointing.
"The closer you think you are, the less you see."
Oh, right, Mr. Morgan Freeman. If you say so. But seriously! Whatever the actual heck is that supposed to mean?
It's this type of smugness and self-arrogance of the film that makes it a bit distracting to enjoy. It thinks itself as too intelligent and smart, but in actuality is a bloated excuse to make a mediocre story around mediocre twists. Not a single character is worth remembering.
In short, the film is fun while you're watching it, but when you stop and think about the story, it comes up being really dumb. And that's a cleaver illusion the film creates for itself. I'll give it that.
Le silence de la mer (1949)
One Of The Best Debuts Of All Time!
"Le Silence De La Mer" is a film based on the novel of the same name written by Jean Bruller which was published secretly in Nazi-occupied France. The film plays like a video-book of the novel as most of the story is told either through narration or monologues. The film's such patience-testing style is quickly suggested by its opening scene which plays as if it literally drops the viewer inside the novel.
The film is told through two point of views. An old french man, who lives with his niece, and seems to be quite content with wealth and art. The other viewpoint is the Nazi soldier who stays in their house for a quite period of time. The key to delve into the former's mind is by his narration, and the latter's is by his monologues. It's an interesting dynamic which really shines and gets its point across over the course of time.
"Le Silence De La Mer" is Melville's debut feature, and it's fascinating how clear he is about the subject and style of the film. It's no wonder that his later films grew to be even more tightly constructed.
The film opens with lines which suggest that the feature is in no way constructed to present as a solution to conflict between France and Germany, but I'm sure both Bruller and Melville, and the rest of us would have wondered, "..but what if?".
One of the finest films of this year!
'Mud' is a coming-of-age story told with subtle, heart-warming grace. We're introduced to a mysterious man calling himself 'Mud' in perspective to two teens, Ellis and Neckbone. Ellis is an innocent teen who has his own optimistic ideas about 'love' until he finds it fading between his parents. It's the reason why he wants to help Mud to get back together with his. In a way, Mud is a reflection of Ellis. They both feel dedicated to the person they are attracted to. And with this adventurous journey, they both shape each other's ideas without knowing so.
This film is an atmospheric and memorable tale about influencing ideas about love on a child, and interesting dynamics between fathers and sons. I don't need to tell you that Matthew McConaughey disappears into the character. 'Mud' should go down as one of the finest films of this year, definitely!
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
Technically Bigger. Emotionally Smaller.
JJ Abrams delivered a neatly-woven prequelboot in 2009 which admirably established already iconic characters with a new perspective and vision. What worked for that movie was that it was a refreshing take on the franchise, and maintaining the old roots.
Now he returns with a sequel, and as the case is with most of the sequels, they tend to be grander and bigger than its former instalment.
Star Trek Into Darkness is grander and bigger (also grittier, because we live in a post-the Dark Knight world), but unfortunately, it is mostly in relation to the action and technicality instead of emotional investment. And that's kind of ironic considering Abrams' TED Talk, where he insists on emotional depth with technical grandeur for entertainers with a giant budget. I do think he was trying for that approach as it's apparent from the amount of confrontations and conversations between characters amidst all the chaos and boom-bang! The effort is evident, but it is too lazily done.
The film starts off with a promise of intriguing mystery, but the final reveal falls short of the worthiness of build-up. This also gets me back to the Abrams TED Talk where he talks about 'the mystery box'–I won't go in depth of that talk, see the video for yourself–and he's right about 'the mystery box' being in every work of his–LOST, MI:3, Cloverfield. The advantage of this idea is that you have the audience already anticipating something groundbreaking. You have practically already made a promise that it is going to be awesome. And the key here is that the promise has to be delivered. That's exactly where this films falls short. We have this compelling mysterious figure terrorizing the Star Trek Universe, but when the curtains go up, the drums don't sound as loud as they did before. It's just as predictable as it gets, in some aspects, for the better, but mostly for the worse.
It helps that it has Benedict Cumberbatch being all badass and menacing– savagely terrifying. His voice is so evil cold that it sends chills down the spine. It also helps that Simon Pegg's Scott has his own shining moments. It helps that despite of its predictability, there are a few surprises in the bag. It also helps that Abrams' Lens Flare fetish is in more control than ever before. But all of this gets drowned in the disappointing bigger picture. There were a few occurrences where Michael Giacchino's weeping violin score was suggesting me to be really moved by what was going on the screen, but I just wasn't. The characters just seemed distant from me. What's ironic is that the movie's most heavily emotional moment is downright unoriginal, and is in fact lazily lifted from one of the older movies in the franchise, possibly meant as a homage. Homages, I feel, should not be an excuse for building up a story that's been told before. They also shouldn't be shoved in the story just for the sake of fan-service. There are so many references in the movie (good ones, some of them) that it is nearly a remake.
I would add that the movie is visually breathtaking. I would suggest to watch it in IMAX, if possible, since some parts of the movie are shot on actual IMAX cameras, and carry images with immersing resolution. I would also suggest to tone the expectations down. It's fun, but not exactly an improvement over the first one.
Cinema driven by empathy!
Empathy is a powerful emotion. It's one of the primary reasons why Cinema affects us. Because we empathize with the characters. As Roger Ebert once appropriately put, "The audience is concerned with the lives that are not its own." Jagten or The Hunt is a film that works because of empathy. The protagonist is an innocent man whose life is torn apart because of an innocent lie. There is injustice, but no one exactly responsible for it. All you can do is hope that matters get well for our protagonist. You're so easily invested in the character that it leaves you feeling angered and gloomy for the events he has to go through. I believe most of the credit has to go to Mads Mikkelsen.
There is a scene where he turns back and looks at the camera, almost as if he's staring back at the audience with his soul-piercing eyes. And then a character in the movie speaks out exactly what I had in mind, "I can tell by looking at him."
It takes a compelling performance to achieve that.
Upstream Color (2013)
This is an abstract film. I guess that's the right way to describe it. Does it have a point in being abstract? That's a bit tricky question. The film's free-flowing visual structure is captivating. I think the process of constructing a story or an idea starts with images in your head. You're shifting through these random frames in your head as you are knitting a story, and you would try to arrange them in a manner that would serve to be a concrete narrative--and that isn't the case here. Shane Carruth preserves those jumbling abstract frames and presents to you just as they are. The result is a film that's wildly interesting but fairly isolating. You're in the moment, and you are not. You can observe things and try to make a sense out of it, but it would be hard to empathize with the characters. The film has a visual structure that seems to be of this world, and it feels alienating. I think I'll just have to admire the cinematography for that.
Does a film have to have a point in order to be admired? I don't think so. Immersion is the key to enjoy a film, and Upstream Color fairly succeeds in creating a world that stays with you long after you've left it. But there is still a hollowness. A bitter test at the end of a very fine cocktail. But I would be lying, if I said I didn't enjoy the cocktail for most of the time.
An Orgasmic Audio-Visual Fair!
Here's a fine example of a film that may have an inconsistent and a familiar screenplay, but still makes up for an exciting watch due to its director Joseph Kosinski's extra-ordinary sense of creating spectacles that feel like breathing artworks. The effective background music makes them feel even grander. I think Kosinski's creative process starts basically from the music. It's essentially an orgasmic audio-visual fair, just like Kosinski's previous and debut film- Tron:Legacy. He's more ambitious here, and more passionate. Although, you can't help but recognize the influences behind the story-which are some sci-fi epics I won't name here-and feel deja-vu; it still never stops being exciting and interesting. Oh, BTW I suggest to listen to Oblivion OST by M83 (amazing shoegaze/electronica band) before going for the film. Really! M83's soundtrack feels like Hans Zimmer-Daft Punk-M83 all together at once. And that's effing awesome!
I wait for the day when Kosinski is handed an ambitious and promising screenplay. That day, I believe, he will make a master-piece worth savoring for lifetime.
An ambitious drama.
'Melancholia' starts with one of the most beautifully captured prologue scenes in cinema. It's apocalyptic, melancholic and yet beautiful, yes, beautiful. The movie tries to explore relationships between two sisters as one of them has got just married and earth is about to get shattered by a collision with a planet called, 'Melancholy'. It's pretty obvious here why Von Trier chooses this name for this planet, isn't it?
The movie isn't your typical sci-fi adventure, those who are familiar with Lars Von Trier's works would know that already. It, most importantly, tries to explore psychological and behavioral study of the people who are attending the wedding, at a grandeur palace, I might add. When your planet is about to be doomed, how much importance would one give to things like social nicety or hiding your honest emotions? No, Lars Von Trier makes his characters emotionally naked. There is a sense of desperation but with honesty in each unpredictable actions of the characters. And also, yes, melancholy.
Melancholia is definitely a work of art. And like all the genuine artsy creations, it might just connect with you or not.
Young Adult (2011)
Charlize Theron on Self-Discovery!
'Young Adult' is the fourth feature of Jason Reitman, whose movies have always had a refreshing indie feel. When I look back to his filmography, I think they all have these protagonists who are in process of self- discovery. Over the course of events, they found the new one/lost one of themselves. 'Young Adult' also joins this culture.
Marvis Gary, played confidently by Charlize Theron, is an adult writer of 'Y.A. (Young Adult/Teen) Literature' living in a big city, far away from home for a long time. Her daily routine seems to be like all the lonely writers- writing, sleeping, eating, drinking, and then sleeping again. Course changes when she receives an invitation from her ex, Buddy, for a baby naming ceremony and then she is back, back to the memories of her 'glorious' past, as she likes to think of it. Marvis has always been a popular girl in high school, we learn that from numerous conversations. Now she is a struggling (her series is about to be canceled) writer living alone in a city and dealing with a recent divorce. It's no surprise that she wants to relive her popularity and more specifically, get his ex back. I think, because of living in this teenage world while writing literature and also having fame during here teenage, she's still stuck in that phase. She's still a 'young adult.' Which might be the reason why she still thinks that life can change the tracks and get her and Buddy back, like in the movies. We learn that Buddy is a happily married man and a father. And soon, over the course of events, Marvis also comes out of her illusion and teenage dreams and faces reality. Like I said, it ends with a self-discovery.
Reitman knows what he's doing. Like all of his other movies, he doesn't try to stuff you up with heavy emotions. Even the most melodramatic events would be presented with a light and refreshing approach in his movies. That's where his vision stands out. And Charlize Theron does a wonderful job supplementing Jason Reitman's vision.
Crazy roller coaster ride!
The thing with the movies taking shape under one roof is either they can be really captivating or they can be that dull that you wouldn't even care to finish the movie. Fortunately, Carnage is more of the former type. Adapted from a French play 'God Of Carnage' and directed by Roman Polanski, this is a fresh take from the director, who is more famous for his atmospheric thrillers.
The story is simple but not so simple. After an incident of two school boys having a fight on a playground and one of them getting his "teeth knocked out", the parents of "victim" invite the parents of "criminal" to their house to solve the issue. Now here's a situation where so little can happen, right? But the movie starts off like a roller coaster ride, once you've passed the initial straight tracks, it's all about up and down crazy tracks.
Now here's a movie where much of the captivity depends on the performances. I think that also must have been main concern of Polanski while making this film. We have got 4 main characters and he gets them played by all academy award winner actors and actresses. Each of character has this characteristic presented subtly with conversations, which leads them to cause a particular reaction. It's pretty interesting to see that as every next scene in the movie can be unpredictable. I guess the play would have been more difficult more to perform and also more interesting to watch. As you're there watching, enjoying and observing reactions/expressions of all the 4 characters, not the same case in movie, obviously. As the movie progresses, we begin to see how a social nicety turns into verbal mayhem and carnage. If there was a graph to intensity of emotions of these two couples' discussion in this one room, it would start as up and down spikes, meeting and reaching to a point where this emotional intensity is saturated. Much like what we usually see in everyday life. Once two persons start arguing over something and none of them wants to give up, they kind of reach to a point where both of them don't care about the so called politeness which was evident at start and start showing their true colors.
I really enjoyed this calm and sarcastic behavior of Christopher Waltz's character. He is brilliant. Jodie Foster does overdo his performance in the second half, which kind of was annoying. Kate Winslet and John C. Reilly are also impressive in their parts.
A nice afternoon comedy. Go, watch it!
Transcending, Mind Boggling and Poetic Revenge Tale.
Confessions is Japanese movie which was nominated for Best Foreign Lang. Movie category in Academy Awards for last year.
What I loved..
- Mind Boggling first act which is like 20 min long and it's guaranteed to leave you gob-smacked. Not to mean that rest of the movie doesn't live up to the mark of opening scene.
- Beautiful cinematography and unforgettable slow motioned frames which are very much relevant to the situations.
- Although, it's one of the most terrifying revenge tales which will do nothing less than haunt you for hours after finishing it, the director still manages to make it sound poetic. A very difficult task, if you ask me.
- Beautiful use of Radiohead song - Last Flowers To The Hospital , which only made the movie better.
My only problem..
- Artificial dialogues which are delivered unrealistically from 13 year old characters! I think writing was quite manipulated in this regard.
Overall, I wasn't disappointed because of manipulated writing at a time. The revenge tale told in this movie was too haunting and hammering to care about any negative points.
A transcending and unusual psychological thriller, which presents a revenge tale in a quite unusual fashion and goes beyond the limits that you may have expected.
Paris, je t'aime (2006)
'Paris, I Love You', I Love You!
Ah, Where do I start? Well, The Movie is a compilation of 20 stories set in the background of Paris. Presented by 22 Directors, Most segments are touching and heart warming. The crew has some big names like Coen Bros., Alexander Payne, Alfanso Curaon, etc. but the point is everyone succeeds in making their point in merely 10 min. per story. Now, that's a difficult task. To pull out emotional impact and develop the characters in 10 min. There lies the magic of the movie. All these segments work like different music instruments and make one beautiful tune together! Having said that, this movie is not just about Paris, no!! It's a celebration of life, living both joyous and sad moments, exploring yourself and feeling alive. That's what this is on larger aspect. Needless to say that it has many wonderful performances and mesmerizing cinematography.
The last segment, directed by Alexander Payne, particularly left a deep imprint on me. It's about a middle aged woman who is alone on a trip to Paris. Living in Paris, she explores herself, she enjoys working for letter posting company. She's there enjoying her lunch everyday, alone. Enjoying the sight scenes of Paris, alone. There she finds a meaning to life. When sitting alone in a Park and looking at all people around her, she describes that she was filled with a particular feeling, a feeling mixed both of joy and sadness but less on the later part. Perhaps, that's what we are, the audience to this movie, looking at these characters.. we feel both joy and sadness!! We explore ourselves. Well, that was my thought.
The movie ends with a beautiful monologue supported by a lovely song by Feist -
We all go round and round / Partners are lost and found/ Looking for one more chance / All I know is .. We're all in the dance!!
How appropriate! :)
There's a lot more to Biutiful than you may see!
First things first, Bardem was robbed of Oscar! Here, Javier Bardem's character, Uxbal is so intense and deep that only Bardem could have pull it out. The raw emotions he brings to the screen is to die for. Uxbal is not a righteous man but still we sympathize him. That's only because of Bardem's power house performance. I'm glad that he at least won at Cannes.
This is a complete different piece than Inarritu's previous creations, which all dealt with multiple narratives. Here, he tries to dig up at basic level. I won't go much into plot to avoid spoilers.
The best part of the movie is its metaphors. Cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto has worked as a genius here. He succeeds portraying Uxbal, his thoughts, emotions visually to the screen. That was achieved by grainy saturated images, changing aspect ratio and a lot more. I'm sure I would find many new things on second watch. It was fascinating that how Prieto and Inarritu decided to make 'Metaphysical' element of the movie to be presented in 'realistic or 'believable' way because that's Uxbal's reality. That's the way he sees the world around him. The title name also shares a 'biutiful' metaphor in the movie.
I have always been fan of Inarritu's movies. He manages to portray his characters in gray shades and the way he deals with interactions between many characters in a movie is just fascinating. Visual appeal has always been a great deal in his movies thanks to Prieto.
Definitely one of the bests of last year and I say this again, Bardem was the best of the lot in Best Actor nods.
It's not the best work of Inarritu but I can sense that it's the most 'passionate' work by Inarritu.