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The Revenant (2015)
DiCaprio - the Revenant
I must say that DiCaprio is continuously over the top
To explain the least Mr. Glass, DiCaprio's character, is a strong source material. But to be able to deliver such a performance, you have to not only dedicate all your strength and stamina, but also have a huge talent something which Leonardo has in abundance. Combining this with Inarritu's perfect directing skills and Lubezki's paranormal filming abilities this one had to be the best of the year.
And indeed it is the struggle between man and nature, the vengeance trip, the human relationships, the environmental message we all see that in its entire run. I must admit that the rawness of the shots were a bit too much at some times for me, but this indeed made the movie true to the real life of these people at that time and at that place.
The music is by Ryuichi Sakamoto and I strongly recommend it to every open soul which desires to hear something new and vibrant. The costumes are profoundly adequate and the narrative is rich with pristine survival instincts.
But the main character in this film is the nature itself. No matter if we speak about the snow, the trees, the bear or the wind itself this is what really shakes the viewer in his seat. I purposely didn't pay much attention to the dialogue, but rather enjoyed the "conversations" between Glass and his environment. His journey is delicately decorated with flashbacks and dreamlike visions which explain not only the personal story of the character, but also his urge to finish this journey and do what he has to do.
The movie is long enough for you to be able to immerse in the setting, so take your time and don't rush to deduct or explain it. There will be plenty of reasons to do that in the next years which I am sure will prove it to be a classic.
The Force of Star Wars
So, yes - it's been some time since I wrote here... And I'm sorry to have left this website without any update for a long time. But changes have happened for good and this is good. But everything has its time and now it's time to pay my respect to Disney's Star Wars...
I can't really explain in details, but since a child I have felt that "Star Wars" is bigger than "Disney". You might thing this is ludicrous, but it's somewhat true to me. As a child I was exposed to "Empire strikes back" and I loved every second of it. And after that all the other old movies. It's just that the whole imagination in that trilogy was so enormous that it encompassed me and made me warm back then...and still it is like that.
The thing is that after that Lucas made the Prequels which was a good move, a fresh breath and certainly they were written and produced in a respectable manner. The problem is that too much CGI and further lack of acting skills made those films look bad in various ways. You can't say that Lucas made a mistake, he just didn't hit that same spot with the audience.
So that interesting point is that JJ Abrams hits that spot with the new movie. And does that using the whole specter of starwarsmanship. He directs good actors, films on beautiful places, gets the right writers...but something is amiss. And it's hard to tell what it is...
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are performing very good. Harrison Ford is stellar as usual. The others - not really adding that much to the on screen chemistry. But anyhow the movie is performing well and strong. The music is enormously beautiful, the shots are spectacular, the details are really cool, and the robots are, of course, adorable.
So my final question is - if everything was so good and reminded me of the old Star Wars trilogy that much, why did I feel partly a bitter taste throughout the movie? For now it is hard to explain the reason, but I feel that maybe to keep a person warm, you need to fuel the fire not only with new stock, but to be able to produce flames which were not expected to blow...
Perhaps this is why I have so much high hope for the spin off movies... :)
Mad Men: Person to Person (2015)
The happiest saddest truest ending of Mad Men
It's all about what makes us different and what makes us all the same - something like the meaning of life...
It took me some time to come to terms with the final half season of Mad Men. Not because it was something that I didn't expect, or that it was a finale which bothered me. It's just because Mad Men is a show which encompasses all the emotions and steps in life which we as ordinary people take in life. And it is both so far away from my Bulgarian life and yet so close to my human life.
Don Draper, Peggy Olson, Pete Campbell, Betty Francis, Joan Harris and the others are representing all the features of the contemporary female and male person. It's really a show for everybody. And yet it represents something new to television. This show has inner energy which doesn't necessary culminate into some unexpected action or drama scene. Topics such as self acceptance, family, work relations, romantic relationships and interpersonal connection are heavily dissected. This show started as a period drama and ended as a characters' piece. Which is a good development, considering how TV shows tend to lose their face, morphing into multiple genre money making machines.
Anyway - about that finale... I am certain that Don Draper is consciously separated from the other characters. And his fate is more about the inner cosmos, than what happens in the outer, interpersonal space. That journey towards his self acceptance is far away from the development of other character's lives. He escapes from the others, the new office, his responsibilities, his second divorce, his home, his family - he strips himself consciously from his name and face. Dick Whitman wants to come out and show what a hobo he is. But Don is a much more layered person in season 7, than in season 1. And yet he is still that kind of a man who has invented the phrase "what you call love was invented by guys like me, to sell nylons.". And what a better nylon than Coca Cola. The dream advertising job stalking Draper since season 1.
Don Draper is that good in advertising because he is as selfish as it gets when it comes to preserving his sanity. When embracing his mirror image and crying out his despair after showing empathy at the retreat, Draper becomes enlightened in a way which is true to his nature. Commercialism is very close to Don's true self only because he ultimately really finds solutions for his problems in advertising.
Yes, Peggy's roller skating moment and her badass entry moment with that famous painting were super cool and very much in the style of Mad Men, but there were some moments which felt a little bit as a fan service - Peggy and Stan embracing each other, Pete returning without a problem to Trudy. Only Betty received a rather dark ending. But Sally really embraced the chance to shine through this final half season.
Since Mad Men is so influential in our modern society - as characters piece, as a style textbook, as a narrative choice - we owe a huge "thank you" to Matthew Weiner. We cannot miss the chance to thank his choice of actors and the way he drove this piece right till the end. After Don's enlightenment life goes on, nothing changes. But something is different - we are all influenced by the way introspection is combined with retrospection in this show. People's life goal has always been to find a meaning in their life, a purpose. Don has found again his place in this ironic world, have you found yours?
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
What a lovely day!
If you haven't watched one of the best action movies this year, go to the nearest 3D movie theater and correct this mistake...
It's been a while since I have watched a grand cinematic masterpiece with lots of quality action sequences. Maybe since "Prometheus".
Anyway, I want to say a few words about the 4th Mad Max movie which is a true heir to the old movies, and especially to the first one. The exhilarating survival story is concentrated on the desert pursuit of our main hero Max Rockatansky who is helping Imperator Furiosa and the beautiful women, who happen to be running from the die-hard Immortan Joe. This being said - there is no more story setting, no time for prehistory, for building characters in the beginning - the action starts immediately. And it is fueled with relentless strive to overcome dire situations with desperate measures.
What strikes me most is the visual perfection of the execution of each action sequence. It is real, it is scary, it is fast and it is furious. Yes, the dialogue is not much, and is not that good. But the presence of each character and his/her traits are true, visible and charming. We get to see each of the main characters pursue their way of survival, but in the end only together they can achieve survival and fulfillment. Only Max is the ever estranged and wandering loner.
The truth is that this film is not about the depth of its plot, or the growth of a character in it. It is about the unique world in which this survival story is set. It is about the weary road warriors who battle each other over the only true and meaningful things left in the world - water, gas and procreation. Because there is no Green Place, no end destination, no other refuge than the one of the mind. And as the main character is driven by his guilt and the ghosts of his lost relatives, the world in which he lives and wanders is driven by the mad desire to survive, to live, to prevail. This may seem and sound crazy (as crazy as the man with the flame- throwing guitar), but more or less I'm used to see this same battle over and over again in our daily life. We may fight over more elitist values, but survival of the fittest is the most common theme in each argument, in each battle we fight in our lives. Because one can leave his/her legacy only as a victor.
No matter how primal it may seem, the message behind Mad Mad is vigorous - through the ecological collapse and moral decadence one can survive only through constant refueling of the inner values and fighting for them. We can truly see the family metaphor with Max, Furiosa and the five wives and War boy Nux in one truck. And the dream of reaching home as a journey back to the beginning after escaping from it.
It is very important for me to note the excellent soundtrack and colorful visuals. I very much like this post apocalyptic desert world of Mad Max. The desperation is tempting, the solace is futile. In order to achieve something better, one has to accept the gritty nature of this aggressive world and fight it in every possible way he/she can.
This is a weird but grandiose roller coaster journey for the eyes, the ears and the mind. A long expected treasure for the road warriors out there.
Inherent Vice (2014)
Did the modern society miss its chance to achieve something big in the 60's and 70's...?
It's been some time since I first saw the trailer for "Inherent vice" and liked it. It seemed free, dopey and careless enough to make me want to experience it. And after all - this is Paul Thomas Anderson's work. Not that I am a strict follower of his films, but they all show some resemblance to each other. It is not that easy to represent the social tides in a truthful to the original manner. And the director has done it again. I very much liked his movie "The Master" and "Inherent vice" is even better and more sophisticated in a way.
First I have to give it all to the actors - Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin. All of them perfectly cast and gladly enjoyed as late hippie-era characters. They represent very good this feeling of almost getting what you want, but not exactly. As there is no full happiness, so there is no full description of that epic era of social change. The early 1970's is the time when these people began to lose momentum and were already feeling the pressure which the state was apply on them.
This counterculture has grown to a point where it threatened the established order and power distribution. And that is why the hippies were denied their rightful position in society and this tendency became a symbol of a movement led by outsiders, strangers from the mass. But this is not what it is, this is not what it should be.
My main impression from this movie is that the director wants to convey his vague impression of what we as people could have been and could have done, if history hasn't been led by powerhouses which exploit the natural human fears, weaknesses and desires. All the characters of this film are aware that they are not in control of their lives, they are unsatisfied, they strive to achieve more, but cannot do so, because they are influenced, led, used and left behind. Only "Doc" is drifting as an ambiguous epitome of self sufficient libertarian hippie. He and his delusional ex-girlfriend Shasta coincidentally repeat twice the slogan of the movie (at least I think that this is it) "This doesn't mean that we're back together. - Of course not."
It is most important to note that we don't see a coherent storytelling or sequential human relationships, turning a plot into a message. We witness a fragmented story of characters which live in a time which is different than the one they were born into. For me it is crucially important to feel the emotional state and the atmospheric resemblance of this film and to share it. Because one cannot rationalize what is already lost, but can experience this reminiscence of counterculture ideas and epicurean lifestyle.
The Salt of the Earth (2014)
Le Sel de la Terre
The lines on his head were deep as the lines of the earth...
Wim Wenders' new masterpiece is a visually stunning lesson about our planet and our lives. We, the people, are both the salt and the scorch of the Earth...
Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and Wenders have made a thoughtful emotional journey through the life and work of the famous photographer Sebastião Salgado. Both his personal and professional journeys are depicted through the photographs of the talented humanist. The adventurous journey is becoming a discovery of the human nature and after that of nature's condition. A masterful revelation this picturesque travel envisions the marks which we leave on our planet and the traces which we imprint during our stay here.
It is important to note that the overall feeling of this movie is beautifully embodied by the soundtrack as well. And this feeling is surreal - a deep voyage into darkness and light - into the power of drawing with a camera. As a photographer too, I am once again amazed how a single picture can foretell, tell and commit to a certain topic. A person, a landscape, an overall feeling - this is what we get from this film.
Intricately constructed and simplistically presented, the meaning behind these shapes and colors is not ambiguous - we are the spice which could make the Earth both a better and worse place. It is very interesting to see this whole story told in French. I felt a certain feeling mystery and wisdom throughout the whole narrative. And although some scenes were striking, one can only feel humility watching this.
I strongly recommend that every photographer, who is striving to create, should see this movie. This documentary is very much a universal message of the ever repeating cycle of anger - despair - hope. This honorable look at the artist and his power which can transform people and nature is mesmerizing. As a conclusion I truly hope that we can learn from our mistakes and not repeat them all over again. Because when you immerse your soul into the soil, you cannot stay away from the imminent introspection which comes after that...
Professione: reporter (1975)
Across the sands of time there is little comfort for the identity of loneliness...
I've been willing to write about Michelangelo Antonioni's Masterpiece. It's just that when you sit down to describe and reflect upon such a monumental artwork, you need time and patience to be able to focus on the most important conclusions. For me it is always important to see the consequence of implications which you get from a movie. And I am pretty sure that "The Passenger" is indeed one of the best film I have ever seen.
The psychological drama about loneliness, alienation and the trouble of finding one's identity stars Jack Nicholson as a television journalist who assumes the identity of a dead arms dealer in Chad and then escapes his own identity and life cycle. We witness the typical 1970's movies feel of losing something real while trying to live the life. I am unsure if this film's intelligent script would've had the same impact if there were no such beautiful landscapes which complement the psychological transformation of the main character David Locke. The cinematography by Luciano Tovoli is distancing the characters of the film one from another. A deliberate alienation which represents a person's desire to escape oneself. Losing his identity Locke finds during his journey a soul mate - an architectural student in Barcelona (Maria Schneider). We witness their unconventional relationship and route through exotic and deserted villages and cities.
At the same time Locke's real life (represented by his unfaithful wife) tries to reach and find him. The main character is deliberately avoiding being found and desperately is trying to not go back to his original existence. France and especially Spain present us with both fascinating and haunting images of nature and architecture. It is very important for the viewer to notice Nicholson's character being "blown by the wind" from one deserted place to another. David Locke is a traveler through time and space who is attracted to his young female companion and spiritual soul mate, but ultimately is troubled only by his own escapade.
And although his new arms dealing identity finally takes its toll, he is presented as a newborn soul, freed from the constraints of his ordinary life. This alienated freedom provokes many viewers to try to find what is not right in their own lives and reflect upon how to change that. My feel about "The Passenger" is very similar to what I got from Antonioni's "Zabriskie point", "Blow-Up" and his trilogy "L'Avventura", "La Notte" and "L'Eclisse". A distant both haunting and beautiful cry about longing for a change and true meaning of one's life. It is very inspiring to see how a genius director can evoke true feelings in us with this enigmatic and intricate movie of possibilities. And there is no better example for this than the penultimate 7-minute tracking shot at the end of "The Passenger"...
The best chemistry between two leading actors within years...
I have been waiting to see this movie for such a long time and for that reason I am really sorry that I couldn't enlist it in my Top 10 films of last year. But now that I have enjoyed it I am pretty sure that it is in my Top 3, maybe just behind Birdman.
Why? Because of the perfect acting lessons displayed in it. Best supporting actor of the year no doubt. J.K. Simmons destroys Miles Teller's character and then builds him depending on Teller's inner talent to produce perfect music. I am really starting to think that most of all I enjoy the overall feel of a movie and then the actors' play. These two factors maybe are the two most interesting and inspiring aspects of a movie for me. And the music of course. Jazz is improvisation, polyrhythm and swing which we have a lot in this wonderful piece of movie history. I have no doubt that "Whiplash", "Grand Hotel Budapest" and "Birdman" will without a doubt find their dignified places in the history of cinema.
The intense play is inspired by the beautiful script showing human emotions as we rarely find them in movies. This brilliant acting lesson is a true revelation for both leading actors and the director Damien Chazelle. It is no wonder that the American critics love it so much. It advocates the true statement that no talent can emerge without tons of hard work and practice. But the more compelling storyline is the one which shows us how the character of a person can grow when confronted by a real catalyst - the mentor, the teacher, the challenger. This is what I really liked in this film - the human emotional development within a talented young person. And Miles Teller is such a young talented actor too. So the symbol is perfect.
For us Europeans it is really refreshing to see this psychological clash between the two main characters in this movie. All the more challenging is the setting - the stage seems like a gladiators' arena. It is by the end of the movie like a true battlefield! The hero of the story is challenged by this "villain" - his mentor. And he strives so hard, beyond the flesh and bone, to reach perfection, that he surpasses perfection by the end of this beautifully shot film piece.
And the music in this movie is performed so well that it accompanies the characters' journey through this immense psychological arena of "war". The interaction in some scenes is so intense that it is simmering with uncompromising sharpness. We are viewing not only the main character's growth, we are seeing our appreciation of hard work grow too. And in a country like Bulgaria this kind of a lesson (although lifelike obvious) should be much appreciated.
"Whiplash"professes the things that matter to us and more importantly - how we can achieve them. It is the uncompromising will of our own souls which can only bring us to success and peacefulness. Perfection is not a mirage, it is a state of mind, a focus so clear, that one can achieve only by working hard on his talents. Every day, every second and every way possible. Even beyond the possible...
I tried to avoid this movie, but after some serious recommendations I watched it in the end. And the result is mind blowing insight into every man's nature...
So let me explain again - I didn't want to watch this film at the very beginning, because it radiated darkness so much, that I felt it would definitely affect me. And I like my movies like my every other art form - to enjoy it when I am in the proper mood for it. I will always think that an art piece (no matter if music, movie, literature, painting, sculpture, etc.) has to be perceived when in the proper emotional condition. But after all I was impressed by the fact that so many reviewers who's opinion I value have recommended it. I have the similar case with the movie "Under the skin", but I will deal with that film later. So here's what I think of it...
First of all - I discovered Denis Villeneuve as a director. Wow! A great line of movies which will surely build up my expectations for his next works. Second - Jake Gyllenhaal is in a winning streak... I cannot remember if I have watched a "not so good" movie with him. Every single film he has done in the last years is almost perfect - Nightcrawler, Enemy, Prisoners, End of Watch, Source code, Love & Other Drugs, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Zodiac...way back to Donnie Darko - all of them are pretty decent to great, almost perfect movies! The script - amazing! Metaphors, Symbols, Analogues, etc. - almost every single stylistic device is used in this movie. Coming as an adaptation of the book "The Double" by José Saramago this movie is truly a masterpiece of cinema.
Maybe I didn't give it 10/10 only because the style of the atmosphere was not what I like most, but it truly fits the psychosis emotions of the main character(s). The music was also fitting - I really liked how Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans embodied the characters' emotional transitions between guilt, angst, rage, curiosity, depression, disappointment, relief and frustration. The conscious and subconscious war going on between Adam and Anthony is on purpose and leads indeed to a repetitive rejection and susceptibility to lustful yearnings. Yes, maybe the main character feels as if the spiders - his wife and his mother (maybe it all comes from her?) try to take his freedom, but the decision to keep the key at the end of the movie is all his farce.
And as we think - it is in men's nature to always be yearning, conquering and obsessive. So the solitary side of the main character is representing the man's will to set things right and not fall into the pit of desires. And the egoistic and hypocritical, always evasive, side is constantly interrupting, trying to prevail at any given chance and sign of hesitation.
Overall this movie is a very good character study and brilliant example of questions being asked directly to the viewer without being answered before that. This piece of cinematography is a genius acting lesson and an ideal example of the classical regret and shamelessness altogether. And is all this circle of dissatisfaction and regret sane? No, it's rather whimsical... After all it seems that men are whimsical even more than women. The process of interpersonal alienation has never been more accelerated than in the 21 Century.
The sad story about The Hobbit franchise
I have just watched the new video game "The Hobbit: The Battle of the five armies" at the theater and tried to stop myself from writing about it, because this video game does not deserve this attention, but I still am going to do this in memory of Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the rings" which was truly the reason why I gave the new trilogy a chance.
"Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."
And this quote says it all...
But let me rephrase that. I have just witnessed how Peter Jackson (due to his own meanings or pushed by the new studio bossing around) has beheaded the little faith I had in him. The third Hobbit installment brought me to laughter, anger and almost to tears because of its outright stupidity and insipidness. And to stop generalizing, I'm going to put some points in front. First of all Peter Jackson has indeed committed crimes against the true story and characters from the children's book "The Hobbit, or There and Back Again". Too many people have seen this coming since we saw the first movie (which by the way was the least miserable from the three pieces). The imaginative character of Tauriel and the ludicrous relationship between the elf and the dwarf Kili is such a "gem" in this set of tragic mistakes that I must not say more. Mr. Jackson thoughtfully incorporated made-up parts in the story which didn't only made these movies look silly, but they destroyed his own credibility as a director loyal to Tolkien and to the fans. Yes indeed, three films will make much more money than one film. But this will never bring Jackson to the high place which he held in the hearts of the fans and in the minds of the critics. "The Return of the King" took all 11 Oscars for which it was nominated namely BECAUSE it was true to the books. J.R.R. Tokien's writings are true mirrors of the human nature and history and are indeed beautiful examples of how a person can relay humanity. None such occurred in at least the second and the third Hobbit films. I think that we saw a fantasy equivalent to the Avengers' stupidity. Still "The Avengers" was mostly true to its origins. Which is why "The Battle of the Five armies" cannot win the audience only with perfect character design, major battles, wonderful music and brief winks towards "The Lord of the Rings". The intended soul of the new trilogy - the friendship, the loyalty to comrades and keeping the given promise - were vaguely affecting the viewers back at the theater. Not only because the director and the actors did not meant what they were showing us, but also because it was NOT true. There is no such big emphasis in the book on these highlighted moments. Thus there is such a logical fiasco in front of us.
Maybe I am too harsh on this movie and on Peter Jackson. Maybe I am just a fan of Tolkien who feels hurt, because the book material of J.R.R. Tolkien was treated like a source of money. But I think that as Sam said before in The Two Towers - "Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why." And Jackson just had to do one movie true to the book. Nothing else. Maybe it would have been less successful than the previous trilogy. I think that it would have not earned any awards at all. But it would have been still an interesting piece to be seen and the true fans of Tolkien's work would have liked it. As a matter of fact I think that most of the people would have liked compared to the situation now. The true story is always emotionally overwhelming and mindfully compelling. So what am I holding onto? The good story? The loyalty to the book? No, I am holding onto the truth of creativity and artistry. There is some good in this world and it's worth fighting for!