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Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
Sonata for a Good Man
Artists watching this will shudder at the callousness of politicians and at how little they mean to government, unless the all-mighty entity decides they need something from you. What could that be? Your loyalty, your voice, or possibly your girlfriend or to shut your voice down when they care to. When that has been decided, no action is too grotesque. NSA hating liberals will simply see this as a universal film to justify their cause against humanity. I used to say that as long as I have nothing to hide, why should I care? We all have our agendas, apolar from Gods' will. What a sad existence our characters found themselves in as East Germany was artistic quicksand. This touching film allows us inside each persons mentality from disgusting politician to bully spy to idealistic writer to actress subservient to her desire to perform to the career saving autocrat who carried out the "business" at hand. Each is powerful but none are in true "concert". This is why to break the stalemate created by selfish leadership, it all begins with one good man.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Dysfunctional humor is rarely funny....
Laughing at dysfunction is like enjoying daytime TV. The one constant is feeling better about yourself in comparison to what is presented on TV, despite it being presented as "entertainment". It's quite possible I may have liked this more ten years ago, but I feel like there were new dysfunctional characters, but the same conflicts are the source of the humor, not the characters themselves. The end pay off is great, but fizzles halfway through and doesn't justify the quirky direction and forced reconciliations. The lighter moments were highlighted by seeing our little family centerpiece in the backseat of the old VW bus tying to reconnect the squares of the travel puzzle in the proper space to form a smiley face. It was quick but captured the movies point in three seconds. Unfortunately, the movie last a lot longer. When ideals clash in dysfunction, the casualties can always be found in the audience.
The Hurt Locker (2008)
A horror story within the war genre
Previously stated, not a fan of horror films, and this film is thinly veiled as a war encounter. The sadistic nature of the suspense can only be chalked up to shock and gawk, Each turn of IUDs is filled with onlookers, phone bombers, and others waiting their eventual turn to be in the life or death turnstile. I had such high hopes, but every war movie I've seen has drafted young men, Here, they are all recruited or volunteers and the sympathetic viewer is automatically disarmed from real war cruelty of harm or worse to those who want no part of the war. Frankly, it seems so obvious that this war is portrayed for it's random violence. We never see the attackers as people or an army but four soldiers who don't grow or grow on you. We experience a bleak existence without meaning and that is not a movie in the making.
The French Connection (1971)
A trip through a dirty New York.
William Friedkins' capturing of this detective story seems almost too honest. Yes New York City is dirty and cold and can be seen by outsiders as a diseased environment with cancer cell like people flowing through its streets. It was just as I remembered visiting it many times as a young boy. That in itself is direction, not fact. It is opinion presented as in an art form but it lacked the pulse of the everyday man that one can easily find in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. I mention this because the rest of the story appears mundane for a cop and robber story, even one that is more cat and mouse as evidenced in the early subway scene where Hackman is seen getting on or off the subway car based on his counterparts chicanery. I found these scenes too honest structurally and uncompelling, which continues throughout the end. While one can not compare this film to todays uber superhero cops, the comparison to the subway heist movie is quite a contrast. Both out top cop and robber captain exude emotions other than anger or control as well as cunning and likability. I found Fernado Rey short on "kingpin status" and Hackman unsympathetic in his performance. Corny to sell the character, as he was in "Bonnie & Clyde". IN the end, I learned nothing about and felt nothing for these characters. For me, the destination wasn't worth the trip.
Some of us grow up and some continue to burp for laughs
Having seen this upon its' theater release and its relevancy in 1980, I feel guilt for not deeming this more import than it seems today. Spoofing the disaster films of the 1970's was genius and bringing in the pure slapstick approach of literal comedy also gets my nod. The satire along the way is also poignant, but this feels so dated, and has been aped ad-nausea to the point that rude belching is acceptable on the Disney Channel, and Leslie Neilson followed this up with a slow dearth of un-repentful lunacy takes this further down. Let's not forget that "Kentucky Movie" was the genesis of the "artform" which seems left artful today. Don't get me wrong, I'll still laugh out loud at some scenes, but acknowledge the potty humor doesn't tickle my funny bone at 52. This was a fine effort that is simply out of date with what I really go for as a reaching adult. The minute the movie is over, so is the experience.
A trip down somebody else's memory lane
It's kitchy, it's sassy, it's full of adults acting like kids trying to act like adults. In a way, it's very confusing in the discrepancy between how cool Tavolta is in contrast to his suck up cronies, who are as nerdy as can be. Then there's Stockard Channing, looking like a cradle robber but delivering the best lines of the movie. Understandably overstated, as all Broadway Musical Hollywood remakes are repackaged, but if the mix of 1970's BeeGee-ism at the beginning of the film doesn't throw you off your tour of somebody else's' mash up of 1950's nostalgia (and let's face it, most of the theater goers 1950's exposure was pretty much limited to ABCs' "Happy Days") then the rest of the picture is pretty easy to swallow. And just like cotton candy, it disappears very quickly and is quite unnutricious. That criticism aside, there are classic song and choreographed numbers that have stayed with me throughout the generations. "Greased Lightening", "Summer Loving" and the eternal Frankie Vallie singing "Beauty School Dropout" are outstanding. I'm always surprised to have forgotten the best song of the film sung by Channing, "There Are Worst Things I Could Do", which I deem the only honest moment of the entire film.
Mou gaan dou (2002)
You can change your ways, but you van never go back, because it doesn't exist
Peeked by the American box office remake ("The Departed") I picked up Infernal Affairs to see the genesis of the art I am very familiar within an art form I enjoy watch (crime thrillers). While there are varying viewpoints on remakes, most come from seeing the original first. On its; own, Infernal Affaiars is great story packaged in a fast paced, action laced, Miami Viced and MTV spliced send up to to the Cops & Robbers genre. Interwtining the two sides from the beginning to the end is the twist that is twisted. On the anti side, I found the Directors' storytelling rushed and emotionally forced. The supporting characters state their lines to tell us about the main characters, both of whom are charming. Lets' face it, the charm in our polarized stars can not be equal in style. Within 10 minutes, it was clear that The Departed was plotted step by step and that watching the other 90 minutes was to see how the Chinese Cinema entertains their public and I felt as if this were TV paced, no room for real emotion or explanation, just enough time to collect sponsor money and credits. My summary above describes our two moles who want to reset the clock, but is also about just as much about listening to the original rock and roll albums as it is seeing movies that inspired new movies. The past era in which the art was generated in now gone, so propping it up in any other era is placing it out of context. Is time a hero? Not in this case.
King Kong (1933)
A fun romp through Hollywood and its production values of the time.
I'm not a historian or a fan of this genre, simply watched for face value appreciation. Is the adventure, special effects or drama riveting? As seen through todays' eyes, the answer is no. The director in the movie is always talking to the audience, whether or not the characters on screen know it, so there is certainly another level of appreciation to experience. Yet the events play out as corny set ups for the next Hollywood writing set up. Fay Wray and her exposure to the colossal beast that is Kong is both funny and poignantly. As out giant gorilla kills things he begins to see that lifelessness as curious but sad. He doesn't know why he wants to hold, caress and protect the his blond beauty but he does so with vigor. Of course the American shoot at what they don't understand, and don't care about the culture they are overrunning in their efforts to make a popular film that will make them rich and famous. yet it is the beast that is driven by love. Hard to miss that. Also hard to watch the film all for the final showmanship line.
Propaganda and denial crash in Nazi Germany
This is another in the long list of powerful reminders of the atrocities of the Holocaust with some insight into how such a horror can happen. The viewpoint from this BBC film is from that of a family representing the different Germans caught in the vast tornado of fear and hate. The father is a Commander who Serves: doing what he has to for his family's' survival (his country) in a land where you are either for or against, and against means death. The mother represents Denial: until the violence appears in here home where it can no longer be ignored or tolerated. This is sympathetic stating that not all Germans were "all in". The daughter represents the brainwashing of Nazi Youth and then we have the boy, portrayed by the blue eyed Asa Butterfield (before he became our family hero in "Hugo"). Young Bruno shows us the innocent, both he and the persecuted. It's his viewpoint we watch the events powerfully play out. Not an easy watch, but worth the point of the film.
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988)
The movie nostalgia faded before the movie ended
I so wanted to be engrossed by a film about a filmmakers romance with his villages movie theater and their projectionist. I wanted it to validate my own love of escapism, so wonderfully woven by incredibly directors who take us to such wonderful places that even our imagination couldn't have dreamed of. With such a grandiose name, the (lack of) family, village square, theater and boorish patrons fell short of endearing and, at times, fell short on many levels. Meaningful bits went on too long carried to 1970's made for TV levels by a overindulgent soundtrack. The actors played their parts, but with such inconsistent overdubbing, I felt for none of them. Yes the boy and projectionist bit was sweet, but not enough to carry the film. The older Totos' added no depth to the little boy. Conceptually nice and the scenes reenacting the crowds reaction to the theater and its limitations worked even if they were crude, but did we find a way to connect to movies as a character. I don't believe it was introduced until the final scene evidenced the character shunned from them by the church and I just couldn't relate, just like the film