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After Dark my Sweet
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Talented Mr. Ripley
The New World
Top ten songs:
Pixies - Hey
Pearl Jam - Black
Nada Surf - Killian's Red
My Morning Jacket - One Big Holiday
Stereophonics - Dakota
Oasis - Stop Crying Your Heart Out
Pavement - Spit on a Stranger
Built To Spill - Goin' Against Your Mind
Bloc Party - This Modern Love
Youth Group - Skeleton Jar
Top ten authors:
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Top ten Directors:
Mr. Nobody (2009)
A meta-physical, philosophical love letter to the universe itself, thwarted from being a masterpiece by it's own unbridled ambition
What would happen if ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY had a love child? Not MR. NOBODY, but it could be the nephew of said love child. Because although it sports ambition, some of the time it feels like one influence is killing off the emotional or intellectual resonance of the other.
To further elaborate, I liked large chunks of MR. NOBODY but can't embrace the whole as a success. Even a cirque du soleil juggler drops one every now and then when he's got too many balls up in the air.
On a side-note (before I forget), I found the music to be bloody aggravating. I find that's a common complaint with Belgian or French films. Something a little more haunting along the lines of the violin tugs of the REQUIEM FOR A DREAM score or the subtleties of the BENJAMIN BUTTON score might've done more to reinforce the poignant scenes.
The Belgian director is drawing heavily from films like BENJAMIN BUTTON, DARK CITY, AMELIE POULAIN, ETERNAL SUNSHINE, 2001 and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. To make a film with such diverse influences that still makes the tiniest bit of sense is a feat. If there were an Oscar for best casting, this would deserve it with flying colors. I don't think I've ever seen such striking resemblance between actors portraying the characters from several different ages. Jared Leto is back in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM form, and I like the fellow's daring. Heavily heckled after 2007's risky indie CHAPTER 27, he dives into the deep end again and this time it works out brilliantly. His dreamy, cloudy, confused stare into the camera lens defines the protagonist perfectly. The supporting cast is in ship-shape form as well, Diane Kruger with the brittle ghost of the naive lovesick puppy teenager still in her, Sarah Polley's self-destructive depressive is thoroughly sad and convincing and the actress whose name I can't find on IMDb (the one who played his mother) displays the right degree of life-weariness that comes with being a single mother.
Unlike Nemo Nobody, I claim no ability to see the future but I am adept at educated guesses. Quite easily MR. NOBODY could become a cult classic and hailed more with every passing year by film aficionado's. Quite easily could word-to-mouth be the salvation of a film so poorly marketed. Let's hope so. It'd be a shame to see this fine film disappear from mainstream audience's reaches.
The Road (2009)
Bleak apocalyptic moral tale that investigates humanity itself.
Bleak apocalyptic moral tale that investigates humanity itself.
THE ROAD is absolutely breathtaking and almost unbearably moving, not in the least through the merits of the child actor Kodi McPhee. He really does a swell job in representing the moral core in a rotten apple of a world, and Viggo Mortensen hasn't looked so miserable since he was being cornered by an army of orcs in LOTR.
The casting of Charlize Theron as an object of desire and beauty from a lost world of light and flowers is inspired and she nails her part once again as we see her slowly losing hope and coming to the only conclusion left to draw namely that living isn't possible any more, only surviving, and that it isn't good enough. We also see Robert Duvall do what he does best, he's still a beacon of good-natured wisdom, gentlemenry and old-fashioned kindness.
The only complaint is that it takes so very long for a shimmer of light to appear through the thick gray clouds, that you feel so miserable half-way through the film you hardly have energy left to watch the last act. The ray of sunshine I speak of is the discovery of the bomb shelter with the food reserve. I guess many bleak, dark drama's have sluggish paces, one of my other all-time favorite films AMORES PERROS can be accused of that sin too. And I don't love it any less for it.
If you're looking for a movie with lots of chills, thrills and action scenes, this is not the movie for you. Watch THE BOOK OF ELI instead, the premise of which is almost completely identical, but turns into a religious action fable rather than a moralistic drama.
If you're looking for a deep, slow burner of a drama that may keep you up at night, this is it. McCarthy who won a Pulitzer for this novel and unlike similar brilliant novels by Nobel prize of literature winners such as BLINDNESS, this one's message doesn't get lost in the adaptation to film, and you never feel the wagging finger of elitism, the easy kick in the gut of misanthropy, nor is the meaning behind it all spoon-fed or the moral black and white.
The brilliance is easy to miss. Take for instance the simple fact that the cannibals are represented as vicious but above-all go about their activities very carelessly. They come home from a day of hunting humans and make small talk about the weather, they've been doing this for years and don't think twice about it. They keep their "cattle" like people nowadays would keep sheep or chickens and cut off an arm or a leg now and then, never more than they need to eat for that day. That's horrifying b/c I bet that's what I'd be like if there ever was a disaster which killed all fauna and flora. They wouldn't bite people's necks like vampires, they wouldn't turn them on a spit like so many caught rabbits or pheasants, or do any of the other things previous portrayals in Hollywood movies suggested. I'm sorry if I shocked anyone but if I have, a word of advice: don't see the movie b/c there are two scenes that near holocaust-degree of horror, the highest level of horror as far as I'm concerned.
The father-son relationship is expertly fleshed out and will be relatable for the audience even if the circumstances are extreme, there's still the same special bond that exists between some fathers and sons; the problem with many of these post-apocalyptic movies is they choose to pair up side-kicks who just met in order to have their protagonist tell all about themselves. A useful enough narrative tool, but following two characters who've been through thick and thin together and have no social awkwardness (which some screenwriters find so charming and disarming) interests me infinitely more.
If you're not skilled at reading between the lines, you can always read the lines. In other words the dialog is superb. The author has a knack for laying painful questions on you straight and direct. Here's an excerpt copy-pasted from the script.
BOY "I wish I was with my mom." MAN You mean you wish you were dead. BOY "Yeah." MAN You musn't say that. It's a bad thing to say. BOY "I can't help it." MAN I know but you have to. You have to stop thinking about her. We both do. BOY "How do I do that?"
There's no answer to that question. And McCarthy knows it. And the readers know it too.
Funny People (2009)
Nuanced portrait of a sad clown.
"Funny People" paints a life-like portrait of the stand-up comedy scene, the cast members all succeed at the difficult task of playing a character so close to their own persona without playing themselves entirely. Nuance is the keyword here as this is neither a laugh-out-loud comedy all the time, neither is a mature drama all the time.
This can't be compared with Knocked Up or Superbad at all, all of them are great in very different ways. Superbad captured the bromance, Knocked Up was about people stepping up to the task when life hands them a challenge and falling in love with somebody after a slowly growing friendship, Funny People shows how comedy routines are born and deconstructs the myth of "the one that got away" as well as the "purifying quality" of a near-death experience. For a comedy, it's a quite stunning piece of work that, so it appears, is not appreciated in it's own time. Just look at the scene where Sandler's character completely bombs on stage with his "dark material" because death is on his mind. Big thumbs up for this film, it's more than just another comedy.
The most realistic effects in a disaster movie ever and a strong cast are wasted in an overlong, poorly written and cheesy film.
2012 is the year the Ancient Mayans predicted the world would end. Perhaps they should have scheduled the film for 2012, because the CGI is ready for this story but the director most definitely isn't. Inadvertently hilarious fact number 1: the Mayan theory about the Apocalyps is a tiny footnote in the story. Number 2: The Academy Award for most appropriate tag line of the year goes to...: "We Were Warned". Yes we were.
Some of Roland Emmerich's previous movies were fun but very very guilty pleasures, one I'm still not ashamed of loving the - in my social circles anyway - popcorn classic "Independence Day". Lesser entries in this veteran disaster movie maker's career include "10,000BC" and "Godzilla".
It would've made a great radio contest to give away a meet-and-greet with the cast or something of the like if you could guess the budget of this CGI orgy. The right answer: $260,000,000!!! To get a scale on this, the disaster movie "Knowing" from earlier this year cost $50,000,000. This certainly makes you look at the controversy about the budget of "Titanic" back in 1997 in a different light, the sum of that 7-time Oscar winner: a "measly" 200 million smackers. I don't think the Oscar to budget ration will be quite as high with this disaster of a disaster film.
This was a film of a great many surprises, surprises in every department except where it matters: the plot. Considering the genre, the acting throughout the entire movie was without exceptions great. Should actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Cusack or Oliver Platt receive an Oscar just for keeping a straight face delivering the script's epically cheesy lines? Another bright spot were the effects, the only fleshed out character of the film. The world sort of implodes and it's quite a treat to watch on the big screen. For me the scenes of the plane crash and the burning forest in "Knowing", or the rolling head of the statue of Liberty in "Cloverfield" were far more unsettling than the destruction of the White house by a mammoth of an aircraft carrier.
And the final scenes of "Knowing" were far more emotional than any of the goodbye's in "2012", there's one exception where I almost felt sincerity: the part where Cusack and Co have to land in the Chinese Sea and the kids realize that they're going to die, I have to credit the great acting of Cusack and the decent child actors for that moment. There's one scene that looked incredibly fake to me: the part where Cusack's running to catch the plane after the exploding Yellowstone volcano, you can clearly see he's standing still and just moving his knees up and down. Overall, these remarks are pet-peeves and the effects of this disaster movie are a landmark achievement.
The less pleasant surprise: what a tediously bloated film. 150 minutes! 150 minutes of a story that spans 70 years and takes us all over the world such as "Benjamin Button", that's entertainment! 150 minutes of cheesy dialog and paper cut-out characters is torture. This is not a joke: this was the first film since Savage Grace (well over two years ago) that I would've walked out of if I wasn't with company. How scary are tsunamis still when you've already been overexposed to destruction of whole cities, the Eiffel Tower, the Christo Redentor statue, and Woody Harrelson by way of a giant fireball.
At one time they travel on a plane and talk for about half an hour, a journey that could and should have been cut shorter. When they finally encounter a helicopter that can rescue them, they don't have the right pass and the script takes us on an unnecessary detour for about twenty minutes. That's about an hour right there, begging for the cutting room floor.
This is such a waste of deliciously cheesy potential. This was an attempt at the disaster movie to end all disaster movies, and that's admirable. In other ways it's just a redoing of "The Day After Tomorrow" with better actors and a bigger budget. The last thing I want to do is come across to the reader as elitist and humorless. I have dozens of guilty pleasure action flicks such as Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout, Mortal Kombat, Independence Day, Bad Boys, Speed, Wanted, etc.
I'd like to see a 90 minute fan cut of 2012 realized but this theatrical cut is an hour too long and will never find it's way to my screen again.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Tarantino is back with a bang!
I just left the theater so I'm still walking on air and will try to tone down the praise words in this '"high" state of writing. "Inglourious Basterds" - no that aren't spelling errors - is already declared film of the year by many critics, though I must add predominantly by the ones that have a sense of humor. In Tarantino's latest revenge parable, fire is fought with fire: Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) leads a group of scalping, brain bashing, trigger happy Jewish-American soldiers through occupied France. But, surprisingly, that's not the whole plot-outline. For the first time since his Elmore Leonard adaptation (Jackie Brown), The Big T. hangs on to correct chronology, and one can hardly call Inglourious Basterds a plot-driven thriller pur-sang but it's got some thriller-elements. Tarantino is restrained and he creates tension in his plot, and builds up to a climax beautifully.
Mélanie Laurent (playing Soshanna) is a slightly fantastic revelation and nice name to add to the list of "Tarantino girls", which has become an understanding much like - no disrespect - a "Hitchcock blonde". Her role requires her to play an understated kind of fear - the German soldiers musn't suspect her Jewish ethnicity nor her plan to blow up the cinema. After his brilliant moron in "Burn After Reading", Brad Pitt once again gets to fit the shoe of comic, and he wears it brilliantly. The part where he introduces himself in Italian to the German officer in quite possibly the thickest accent in cinema history floored me, and he steals about a dozen more scenes with his deadpan delivery of dialog that can only flow from Quentin's pen ("You know, fightin' in a basement offers a lot of difficulties. Number one being, you're fightin' in a basement!").
I thought the scene in the bar (with the three-finger order of whiskey) easily stood as brilliant among some good and excellent sequences (I'm not the story of the Negro coming to America? Then I must be King Kong then!) The opening scene was also jawdropping, the close-up of the hiding Jew's eye through the floorboards, amazing.
These are two twenty+ minute scenes, very talkative and large parts in German or French. Quentin doesn't need the dialog to be in English to create almost unbearable tension! That's one of the things I admired most about the film. Did the subtitles bother anybody? I hate how Tarantino casted his director-friend (not actor-friend) Eli Roth (of the horrid "Hostel" movies) as the Jew Bear. He barely manages not to ruin his scenes. Barely. Diane Kruger's capable of better acting, she's another weak link, especially since that other blonde (Mélanie Laurent) is SO good, it's not a thankful role for an actress/actor with not a great deal of experience in high-profile movies, your co-stars will overshadow you if you don't watch out.
I'll be surprised if Christoph Waltz (Colonel Landa), come Februari, doesn't get an Oscar nomination. We already know the Academy's much less conservative these last few years. The dark "The Departed" won best picture and Javier Bardem also took home the gold for his portrayal of a sadistic "basterd" Wink.
At the time of writing, IB holds the number 35 spot (IMDb top 250). Pulp Fiction still stands strong on 5 and Reservoir Dogs claims number 71. Mathematical conclusion: IB is Quentin's greatest movie since Pulp Fiction. Reviewer's conclusion: damn straight! The Verdict: 8.5/10
Two Lovers (2008)
James Gray finally realizes his potential!!
This is a genuine masterpiece. Vinessa Shaw and Gwyneth Paltrow star as Joaquin Phoenix' two lovers, who are involved in a time bomb of a triangle relationship; the film deals very well with how people are drawn to people who need them rather than people they need, how scarred people will fall back on self-destruction because they believe they don't deserve to be happy, and how difficult it is for a damaged person to dare hope again.
This gem cost 12 million. That's one tenth of the Transformers 2 movie's budget. What a sad sign of today's cultural wasteland. I hope you'll find some time in your busy day for this film.
I Love You, Man (2009)
Paul Rudd as a leading man, at last!
While my search for a crystal ball as of yet still remains fruitless, I can't predict the future with hand-in-the-fire, steady-handed certainty and confidence, but I will tell you there's a 95% chance I'll declare this the most complete and consistently funny comedy of 2009 when the time for best-of lists rolls around the corner.
Before people get annoyed with the term ( too late?), ILYM is a "bromance"; the non-sexual love, well friendship, story between two men. Realtor Peter Klaven (Paul Rudd) is struck by a weird realization after proposing to his girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones): he's never had a best friend. He's never even had close male friends. He meets Sidney Fife (Jason Segel) at an open house and they hit it off immediately. Zooey begins to worry about the closeness and time consumption of the fellas' friendship and Peter's never learned how to talk or act around male friends. He constantly tries to force cool 'slang' into his vocabulary (he nicknames Sidney "City Slicher", in an unfortunate burst of spontaneity) and they jam together in a garage. Peter struggles to balance his new-found lost adolescence and his sense of responsibility in the weeks before his marriage.
I Love You, Man is 2009's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and proves the upward arch of mainstream comedy quality since "the 40-year old virgin", comedies with heart are taking over from misogynistic, gratuitously violent and inappropriately disgusting or dirty comedies.
State of Play (2009)
Intelligent, tasteful thriller with all players in good form.
I believe in today's cinema, films have never looked or sounded better and fine actors manage to find their way to fine directors. There's one stipulation: the industry targets teens. Once you've seen a tastefully done, intelligent film actually aimed at adults instead of teeny boppers, you just have to admit to yourself you're in for a two month dry spell.
"State of Play", the remake of a 2003 BBC mini-series, is one of those rarities. An all-star cast comprised of Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, and the criminally underrated Jeff Daniels work together with less experienced thespians such as Rachel McAdams, Ben Affleck and Arrested Development's Jason Bateman, all under the confident guidance of Scotland's cinematic pride Kevin Macdonald, whose "The Last King of Scotland" gets defined by Forest Whitaker tour-de-force acting but never on it's own merits, unfortunately.
The title "State of Play" is defined as "the current political situation", what's the status of the players in the political field at this very moment. And that's exactly where the film takes off. A multi-national company by the name of Pointcorp supplying the bulk of arms to the US's oversea forces is under investigation by Congressman Collins (Ben Affleck). When the lead researcher of Collins' team dies under suspicious circumstances, investigative reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) starts turning over rocks and finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he's cornered by his own boss and PointCorp's unofficial employees, the more he pulls the roots of the tree out of the ground, the more he realizes how far PointCorp's influence has spread.
Regulars of "Arrested Development", or folks who watched last year's summer blockbuster "Hancock" will be pleasantly surprised by Jason Bateman's impressive dramatic performance. Yet another reason to not let this old-school thriller pass you by.
Seven Pounds (2008)
Almost unbearably moving dark drama with an ingeniously constructed script and a masterful performance by Will Smith, who is well underway to Academy Award worthiness
Featuring a fascinating performance by Will Smith and a story that tugs at your heartstrings harder than a rock guitarist mid-solo, "Seven Pounds" races past the director's previous collaboration with the actor (The Pursuit of Happiness), a flick which I also loved. Remember Gabriele Muccino's name because some of his movies may skip by unnoticed if the actor attached to the project isn't quite so high-profile.
Too bad I figured out Will Smith's scheme early on, I put two and two together when he calls in his own suicide in the first scene and the scene when Rosario Dawson's character is introduced as having an incurable heart-disease.
However, I still think the writer/director made the right choice putting the bookends (bookends are the first and the last scene) in that way, it's the source of urgency and tension in the movie, finding out gradually how exactly a man can be driven to that ultimate sacrifice, and it was heartbreaking to see the relationship between Smith's and Dawson's character flourish and develop, knowing in the back of the mind always what was in store for these unlucky two.
One of my friends with whom I saw the movie thought Smith's character could have a divine gift, and I understand why: his performance is almost angelic when in the presence of his seven elected ones, yet at other times he could be harsh and scary, and when he's alone the full weight of his situation got too much for him and he breaks down completely. It's quite a versatile performance.
Lastly I can't forget to mention the crash scene re-enactment, which was really quite stunningly done in terms of cinematography paired with music. Put this on your list.
The Kissable Writer reviews David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (part2)
For you wonderful people hopefully still enjoying my musings of questionable value but guaranteed real emotion and passion, you'll find a lot of elements discussed in this review, but I refuse to bash the movie on account of it's crazy enthusiastic optimism, so disaster tourists and pessimism-is-realism snobs can take the next exit out. In case you're wondering, I didn't write this review in a fever dream of ecstasy right after watching the film, I let it sink in for a week, and believe it or not I took a 300 word chunk out.
You see, "Benjamin Button" is not a dialog-heavy movie, it is not a 4 hour soporific trial, but there are scenes so beautiful in it I almost can't stand it, I can write a thousand words about such a scene alone, this probably is what it must've felt like for American Beauty's eccentric voyeur to see the plastic bag dancing and twirling in the wind.
Blanchett's Daisy and Pitt's Benjamin eventually do get together, even long before they "caught up with each other" age-wise. This junction leaves me with the fewest words to spill out, yet it's the best part of the movie, it's a challenging task to do any degree of justice to a love story worked out in detail on the screen. Daisy is the first girl to notice that Benjamin's a special boy. They share a moment under a blanket(no, not in that way) but soon enough life happens and Benjaming takes off on a tugboat and unwillingly ends up in WW two. He writes her whenever he docks a new town and doesn't relent in doing so for a great many years. When he returns home, she - at the age where her hormones are racing - wants their relationship to crystallize in something physical, but he as old as he looks hasn't reached that maturity yet. Hurt, she loses some wild hairs when she moves to the city to pursue her artistic ambition as a ballet dancer. He very sweetly tries to woo her on a surprise visit and is hurt on his turn when she displays no enthusiasm towards him whatsoever. Again they tragically part ways. Fincher turned the genders around as Benjamin symbolizes the girl who isn't ready to sleep with her far more eager boyfriend yet. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is filled with these subtle innuendo's and double bottoms. For instance, he demonstrates how the stars can align just as plausibly to drive two people apart as fate can bring them closer together. A series of the most unfortunate of small events costs Daisy her dancing ability, after which she is too humiliated to let Benjamin take care of her.
The two soul-mates ultimately do lock lips and experience many happy years together, as she matures physically and he matures mentally, their love grows and they couldn't be more in love than the moment right before they part. Which brings us to the most surprising plot twist in the confident, not plot-driven film namely: Benjamin leaves Daisy way before he's forced to in an effort to give her the opportunity to find a second husband and mostly a father to their newly-born daughter, who is perfectly baby-faced by the way. Another surprising scene tells about a later re-encounter between the two broken hearts, making for one of the movie's very best scenes.
They picked up the pace for a lot of the scenes in Benjamin's later, pre-pubescent life, as they contour the bleeding heart of the movie, the fleetingness of everything, even love can not stop time. Mortality is an endlessly interesting theme, yet most movies steer clear of it consciously. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a musing on it, and even though the odds are stacked against it, it un-selfconciously embodies hope, optimism, beauty and it succeeds in reaching an emotional plateau that will give future filmmakers nightmares in awe of the achievement.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a grand movie sans the pretension, it is an intelligent movie sans the esotericism, but most of it all it's a movie with a tremendous heart and emotional intelligence that, helped by it's dreamy style, elevates the viewer into cinematic heavens.