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Bruno is as crude as they come, but funny like no other
Larry Charles, the countercultural writer whose work includes episodes of the sitcom Seinfeld and the anarchistic hybrid documentaries Borat and Religulous comes out with yet another piece of iconoclasm, this one more crude and offensive than the rest. Bruno is like Borat, the innovative mockumentary Charles made with Cohen earlier in 2006, where people are teased into believing Cohen's outrageous actions are true and that Bruno is a real character. As horrible as it may be to more light-hearted audiences, I find this obnoxiously satirical style to be plain funny and in many ways, intelligent. Here, people are made to believe Cohen as a flamboyantly gay Austrian reporter seeking fame by just acting like his tasteless and immoral self. This works into satirical bullets at both Bruno and homo-phobics. In this film, we obviously see satirical pokes at Bruno, whose caricature is as relevant in contemporary Hollywood as any, but the real punches Cohen and Charles are aiming at are the conservative communities who reject Bruno upon sight. Charles and Cohen, being the usually nihilistic pair they are, creates a world of discomfort for the audience as genuinely awkward situations play out in crude but hilarious manners. This film will shock and offend viewers, but it is all in the name of satire.
Scott's performance makes the movie
George C. Scott's performance as General George Patton is by far, one of the greatest in cinema history and fortunately, he gets a script that matches his prowess in acting. The script (co-written by Francis Coppola) is well-written, focusing on a small portion of the general's life in pure detail, underlining both the positives and the negatives of the eccentric man. But though everything in this film is just nearly perfect, it is Scott who truly wins over his audience. Malden also puts on a notable effort as General Omar Bradley and the battle scenes are perfectly choreographed by an expert crew, but then again, it is the on-screen personalities who win this one over.
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
One of the most frightening political thrillers of cinema
The Manchurian Candidate is a splendid film in total, a provocatively relevant thriller. The film is all in all, one of the first to take on the risky subject of mind control and this one remains one of the best in that genre. Used in surreal effect, the film builds for us an air of bizarre mystery, we are shocked not by what is seen on-screen, but the proposition of the film altogether. That is what makes this film more effective, it is not gruesome, but its notions to mind control and government coverts are as frightening today as they were fifty years ago. In perspective, the film acts as a commentary on American and korean politics while providing a shockingly relevant thriller.
An excellent action thriller
Speed is what every non-stop action film should be like: a fast-moving and intense ride (in this case, quite literally). The film's pacing is spot on, never losing a minute of our attention as it continually accelerates faster and faster. Getting Dennis Hopper to play the madman was also spot-on, Hopper plays the role with obnoxious precision and Reeves fairs rather well against him too. The premise is genius and allows the audience to be on the edge of their seats throughout the movie. Of course none of this could happen in real life, but do we care? Not really. We are just propelled onward by the intensity of both the direction and the actors paired with some incredible stunt/ action scenes.
Interesting but boring
Rupert Wyatt's prequel to the legendary 1968 film has its moments, but inconsistently shifts into boring and overlong passages too often and is rather pretentious in its CGI work. The finale is gripping and inviting, with heart-pounding action, but Wyatt's film plods too long, not reaching its punchline fast enough and loses our attention from the truly good parts of the picture. The film features some convincing special effects but lacks the thrusts it needs to propel itself. Fortunately enough, the film does manage to salvage some of my respect I saw from the boring action-filled advertisements. A mediocre action flick at best.
Il conformista (1970)
A dazzling early work from Bertolucci.
Bernardo Bertolucci would become a more well-known director with films such as Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor, but this 1970 Italian film is what really put him into serious contention. Bertolucci's stunning work with a camera plus powerful cinematography make this a visual delight through the slow stretches, keeping our attention well. This film is not one of Bertolucci's greatest, but for a director of 30 years, Bertolucci already shows the signs of a fully developed director able to use both visual and metaphoric symbolism to tell his points. His ending commentary on fascism and homosexuality is certainly proof of such a capable filmmaker.
A movie about everything
Jean-Luc Godard has been known for his intellectual observations and criticisms. This film is no exception, it is one of the director's masterpieces, a film of unique intellect and style, a movie in which feels almost like a documentary with many characters narrating their actions, along with Godard who whispers personal opinions and observations into the camera. The film is miraculous in its acute social observation along with its discussion of almost every facet of Paris life given both a realistic context by Godard and his pseudo-documentary approach and a fictional context by the actors, creating for us a sort of double-sided film of both fact and fiction, of satire and drama, and of love and hate. As with almost all Godard films, subjective to those not familiar with his sense of structure, but an essential viewing for the intellect.
One of Kurosawa's great works
Akira Kurosawa's 1950 study of murder and lies is a thundering moral statement. The film builds for us an atmosphere of lies and deceit in our world, showing the cynical mechanics of Kurosawa's old soul. The film plays out four separate stories, each of which are false in someway. Not revealing the true plot to the audience is Kurosawa's metaphor of how we all lie to ourselves and to others and how we barely know the truth in so much deception. Then, at the end, Kurosawa provides a moment of beauty and belief, sharpening our faith in human kind rather than fading it. This moral statement is among the best of all films and remains one of Kurosawa's greatest works of art. It is conceivable that Kurosawa made better films, but this early gem is still hard to beat.
Il deserto rosso (1964)
A film of other-worldly conception
Red Desert is a film that I believe is not a simple character study, it is an apocalyptic notion of the future in shockingly contemporary terms. That aspect of Antonioni's purely other-worldly and futuristic filmmaking is what makes the film so shocking in its moral statements and so provocative in its overall design. Antonioni uses color masterfully and creates for us a world of industrial mechanics, bleakly emphasizing his apocalyptic terms through a simple woman looking for love in her loveless environment. The characters are merely symbols and rather than the images emphasizing characters I believe that the characters are merely human identifications of his world of doom, which is shockingly contemporary in even today's modern world.
William Burroughs is one of the most controversial artists of the century, his book "Naked Lunch" still disgusts and repulses some readers. Here, Burroughs is examined as a man with little emotion who refused to be loved, but inside the intellect and the anarchy lies a man of much sadness and alienation. The film shows Burroughs and his influence on the counter-culture, revealing his influence on films such as "Blade Runner", bands such as Steely Dan, and the punk movement of the '70s. It also explores his personal life, such as his homosexuality, drug addiction, guns, and his guilt over the accidental shooting of his second wife. Although Burroughs has been examined in documentary features many times, here he is given a more personal look.