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Danmarks Radio scores again
With programs like Forbrydelsen and Borgen, Danmarks Radio has secured an international reputation as a powerhouse for serial drama, and this continues in spades with Arvingerne. Writing, acting, directing, etc., all show a level of artistic merit that puts the great majority of UK and American shows to shame (that's why BBC rebroadcasts them and US networks like AMC make crappy remakes). This is a new genre choice, however: the dynastic family drama, centering on the four squabbling children of a hippie artist mother from the sixties. I binge-watched it in 3 days, something very rare for me. In particular, Carsten Bjørnlund, a Forbrydelsen alum, is brilliant in the role of deeply damaged son Frederik, but all the principals are compelling. Just beginning to be available, in various ways, with English subtitles, but definitely worth seeking out.
Get the Gringo (2012)
Sadder but wiser Mel is excellent
Just finished watching this excellent movie, and I hadn't realized how much I missed Mel Gibs on. Like the man himself, the main character in this film, Driver, is worn and weary, sadder but wiser, and comfortable with the ironies of life. And the world built here, "El Pueblito," based on the actual prison in Tijuana, is real and startling. Portrayal of Mexico is outlandish at the same time it's sympathetic. Not much action, but shoot out scene in middle of movie is worth watching.
I understand this movie is getting no theatrical release in the US, and that's a shame. Just hope word of mouth will get around about this great movie. It's time to rehabilitate Mel Gibson.
El secreto de sus ojos (2009)
Deserves the Oscar, and More
El Secreto de sus Ojos is a great film. If you examine the filmography of the director, Jean Jose Campanella, you can see that all his years directing TV in Hollywood has taught him the craft of classic Hollywood style on a high level. But the movie is authentically Argentinian, both in style and in content. Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil are both deeply familiar actors in Argentina, and the romantic melodrama is quite typical, but the tautness of the suspense and the intelligent plot twists bring out the best in both actors, as well as an amazing supporting cast. And I loved the portrayal of politics. Without giving any more away, the scene in the elevator is one of the most effective portrayals of what fascism really feels like.
I'm sure Campanella's Hollywood contacts didn't hurt, and that the movie was done in a pretty standard style (note the tour-de-force long shot in the stadium!), but this is a great movie by any standard.
Leaves of Grass (2009)
Spoke powerfully to me on every level
I grew up in Oklahoma and, like most of my friends, got out as soon as I could and never looked back. My brother, on the other hand, still lives there. Tim Blake Nelson is originally from Tulsa, got out, but like all of us who leave, still is, at heart, an Okie. This movie sets up the perfect device to explore what it means to leave and what it means to stay through the portrayal of twin brothers, equals in intelligence, one of whom ends up a Classics professor at Brown University and one of whom ends up growing pot outside of Idabel (not Tulsa, like other reviews say). Ed Norton's accent isn't perfect, but the passion he brings to the contrasts and similarities of Blake and Brady is incredible.
But Nelson is not content with this level of exploration. He also uses the movie to explore the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy between Bill, who believes truth lies in knowledge and self-control, and Brady, who believes truth lies in experience and passion. Here the character of Janet, excellently portrayed by Keri Russell, acts as the muse, bringing Walt Whitman into the act.
This movie swings for the fences, and some of the plot devices are over the top, but as a portrait of the choices so many Americans face, put in a broader humanistic framework, it is profoundly effective.