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* I'm very disorganized
* I compete in figure skating
* I'm bad at math
Types of Films I Enjoy
I enjoy character-driven dramas--my favorite film is Sophie's Choice. I also must admit that I occasionally enjoy romantic comedies, such as Pretty Woman.
Sophie's Choice (1982)
Script: Wonderful. The pacing is a bit rocky and awkwardly handled, which prevents the viewer from really being able to sink into the power of this film. For instance, after a particularly thought-provoking and powerful scene with Sophie and Nathan reading Thomas Wolfe, the script quickly flashes to a light, comedic scene with Stingo and a sexually repressed virgin. But besides the pacing, the script is great. Using Stingo to show how Sophie's story fits into the world is an ingenious and highly original technique to put Sophie's pain in proportion. Notice I didn't say diminish Sophie's pain--instead this film puts Sophie's pain into proportion, thus making Sophie's pain even more powerful. One of my favorite lines: " When I could finally see again, I let go of the rage and sorrow I held for Sophie and Nathan, who were but a few of the butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the Earth. This was not judgment day: Only morning. Morning: excellent, and fair." This beautiful line is an example of Pakula/Styron's ability to capture many things in a single sentence. In this line (that is, when you hear this line in conjunction with the previous choice scene), they capture: * the neurotically absurd way human beings pursue hope no matter what. The short, snappy quality of "morning: excellent and fair" conveys humans' outlook on life: we love it, and that's that. We don't care for logic when it comes to our view of life, we only care for emotion, for example, hope. * the hope that God has brought to us manifests itself in oddly scientific ways: for example, the way the sun rises to bring us morning. * how we are all rooted into Earth. * the grief the human race has in the past endured and will continue to endure * the way our love of life is consistently "betrayed" and yet we continue to believe in life, in goodness, in hope. Acting: Kline just barely scratches the surface of Nathan. To play Nathan convincingly you'd have to give a truly great performance, equal to Theron's in Monster. But I'll give Kline points for scratching Nathan's surface as Nathan is such a difficult role. Streep: Best performance I have ever seen. As good as what everyone says. Captures how humans are incapable of handling God's responsibilities, like choosing between children. Intellectually and emotionally a great performance. MacNicol: very, very good. At first view seems blank and whiny, but with many viewings you realize how intricately he is able to portray thought. His best scenes are with Sophie. Better even than Kline. Deserved a Golden Globe or maybe even Oscar nod. Everyone else: very good, especially Jennifer Lawn and the guy who plays the guy who makes Sophie choose. Except for the guy who plays the guy who talks to Sophie while Sophie is showering, and the girl who plays Leslie Lapidus. They aren't very good. Overall, very good acting. Camera-work: Very good. I particularly like the two blackouts, which are elegantly effective, and the shots of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge shots convey the universal quality of the emotions portrayed in Sophie's Choice. And the fade-out of Sophie's face reminds us that, though there is always hope, the hope in no way diminishes the pain in life. Another thing I like: Elsa's face fades out on a background smoke--the smoke which gassed her. As the shot closes in, we see that the smoke that Elsa's face faded out against is the smoke of the concentration camp which Sophie has to work in. It reminds us how enraged Sophie must have been that she is working at a place that killed her daughter. Very effective, very powerful. Cinematography: beautiful. I particularly like the drabness of the flashbacks. They convey the emptiness of the Nazis' lives. I also particularly like the cinematography during Sophie's monologue: the colors of Sophie's face are clear, crisp, absolute, and crystalline, like Sophie's emotions. However, the colors are not screaming or loud. They are delicate and finetuned, also like Sophie's emotions. Music: beautiful and moving. I love how the song that Elsa was playing on the trainride to Auschwitz is the theme song of the film. It gives the music, along with Elsa's character, weight. Overall: Absolute knockout of a film. The only film I've seen that is maybe as good as this is West Side Story. As a whole, West Side Story resonates with a power SC lacks, but Sophie's Choice reaches higher levels of emotion many in individual scenes.
Monster's Ball (2001)
The best thing about it is the script, but the rest of it, though rough around the edges, isn't too shabby either
FEEL FREE TO SKIM THIS: IT'S QUITE LONG. ALSO, THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW, SO IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM DON'T READ MY REVIEW. Summary: The death of his son awakens intense feelings of love, suffering, and humanity in the previously hate-filled Hank Grotowski. Hank meets Leticia, whose son has also died, and the two of them save each others lives from going down the same despair-filled, hate-filled path. THOUGHTS/COMMENTS: Well, I suppose I should start with the sex scene. It's what you're all reading this for, isn't it? The sex scene. All right then, let me see... It wasn't too graphic. It was very graphic, but these two people have been locking up their emotions for a very long time and to tidy up the graphicness would be to tidy up the emotion. So my problem with the sex scene wasn't the graphicness. No, my problem with the sex scene was the acting. It was mainly Berry's fault. Her elaborate hand gestures were too fancy, too choreographed, and they threw the entire scene off kilter. It wasn't that she didn't capture ANY of the emotion of that scene, but she didn't capture most of it. Thornton wasn't very good either in that scene, but I think that's because, in that scene, his character is following Berry's character very closely, and Berry made it difficult (though not impossible) for him to do that by her bad acting. The second sex scene, near the end, was much more well acted, very powerful and moving. The sex scenes near the beginning seemed gratuitous at first; then when you saw the cold impersonality of that sex scene, in contrast to the emotion and spirituality of Hank's sex with Leticia, you understood why the filmmaker had put the earlier sex scenes there. Now for the rest of the film. Well, the script, as I said, was wonderful. It's a truly great script. The detail each line is laden with, the interesting ways the events interconnect, and the profound themes of love, death, hate and forgiveness create an excellent script. Some people say that the script is too incident-based and doesn't have enough flow, but I feel that the script's incident-based quality captures something about the stark lack of communication in Hank's and Leticia's lives. The camera-work is very good, as well. It's a bit too downright, a bit too direct, which causes it to have little room for complexity, but sometimes (for example, when we learn that Leticia's son has died) the downright, direct quality is quite effective and appropriate. I also like how, often, we are unable to see the faces of the characters: it conveys the closed-off lives the characters lead. The music and cinematography are good as well, providing a subtle, melancholic mood for the film. The lighting was maybe a bit too staged, though--I'll have to watch again. The acting...Well, let's see. Puff Daddy is abominable: we feel no emotion coming from him at all, only dull dreary nothingness. Thornton is very good. Though he never reaches the emotional intensity of Berry's best scene, he sustains a higher level of acting throughout the film, and for that I'd probably say his performance is the best in the film. Berry is unconvincing at majorly crucial moments, but in the scene where she learns of her son's death she's...I just can't describe how good she is, you'll have to see for yourself. Her acting in that scene will make you proud to be a member of humanity...and make you feel a lot of other things. Calhoun, Boyle, and Ledger are good as well. Ledger occasionally becomes too shrill, but mainly does a very good job. The more I watch him, the better he gets. Calhoun and Boyle are very good as well--not Oscar-nod caliber as many are saying, but they are very good. Calhoun's acting has a mature air of elegance which all the adults' acting (especially Berry's and Boyle's) seems to lack. Overall, I liked this film. At first I felt it needed more energy, but by the end of it I realized that it had been slowly building energy for its seemingly quiet but really tremendously powerful climax. I think it had a lot of flaws, but many of the flaws could have been overlooked if Puff Daddy hadn't given such a bad performance. I don't know how to rate it numerically. I'll just rate it "very good."
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
Perceptive and Insightful but Not Without Flaws
FEEL FREE TO SKIM THIS IT'S GOING TO BE VERY LONG
Acting: Heather Matarrazzo is very good with the subtle moments, but not the big emotional moments. For example, when begging her boyfriend to not leave, or when begging her teacher for a re-test, her voice gets too whiny and thin for me to be convinced by her. Subtle moments and big emotional moments are equally difficult, and every actress should know how to do both, but in this film Matarrazzo is only capable of handling subtle moments. Luckily, this role requires mostly only subtle moments, and she therefore gives a very contained, intelligent, and strong performance. Her performance is somewhat repetitive---there are many scenes in which she just plays the same emotion over again, and that emotion is: " Hey, I'm being mistreated, but no one is paying any attention." But she does have other emotions besides that---for example, her crush on her boyfriend and her crush on the high-school star of her brother's band. Overall, I would say that, despite the flaws of her performance, she still gives a good performance. She mostly doesn't have much to express herself with but her facial expression, and for that I admire her performance. The rest of the acting isn't very good. The person who play's Dawn's mother acts more like a cartoon than an actual person--though perhaps that's what the director was trying for. The person who plays Dawn's boyfriend is OK, I guess, but there are a lot of moments when he didn't convince me. The boy who plays Dawn's homosexual friend gives a very good performance, but unfortunately he isn't given much screen time. He and Matarrazzo give the best performances in the film, however. The script: My criticism of the script is that it chops the film up into separate scenes instead of connecting them. It also doesn't really tell us that much about Dawn, leaving us to fill in the blanks ourselves. These two things combined gives the film a somewhat stark, spare feel. Stark and spare is appropriate for a film like "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring" not appropriate for a film about the richly intricate worries, fears, and secrets of your typical 11-year-old geek. I also don't like that Dawn's mother didn't notice when Dawn ran away to New York for a few days: that was just over-dramatic. But I've gotta give the script points for perceptiveness. It also never dips into clichés or tries to smooth over Dawn's geekiness to make the film less embarrassing. And overall, though it is flawed, I'd say that the script, like the film, is pulled up to being very good by it's perceptiveness. Costume design: Very, very good. Captures Dawn's geekiness, Dawn's sweetness, Dawn's emotional honesty, and Dawn's attempt to be cool.
Cinematography: Nothing special. Adding this all up, I'd say it was a good film not without flaws.
L'histoire d'Adèle H. (1975)
Very Good Film About A Talented Writer Who Falls "In Love" W/ a Leiutenant
Summary: A talented writer, Adele Hugo, becomes obsessed with her former lover , the indebted and womanizing Liutenant Pinson. Her love for him consumes her entire life and she eventually goes crazy because he doesn't love her back.
Acting: Except for Adjani's performance, the acting is not very good, but that doesn't matter too much because the only person with a large role is Adjani. The guy who plays Pinson is pretty one dimensional. Anyway though, Adjani gives an Oscar-worthy performance, and balances her character's vigorously muscular and blunt aggression with her character's silky-fine desperation and entrapment. Another actress might have played Adele as being recklessly obsessed, but Adjani doesn't do that. Adjani actually shows us the thoughts and rationality of her character; we first see Adele as an intelligent, innocent young woman who somehow, some way, becomes slimmed down to a stub of passion in Pinson's presence. Cinematography: bland and bleak, which works in a way because that's how Adele views the world in comparison to her own out-of-proportion sadness, but also doesn't work because that's all it does: show us how the world looks like to Adele. I would have preferred if the cinematography actually captured the different emotions Adele was going through in each scene, it would have made the cinematography less one-note. This flaw in the cinematography unfortunately carries over to the overall tone of the film. Script: Good. It definitely conveys how Adele is always trying, with a passion so great it verges on the comical, to form the confusion of her life into a solid piece of truth. Part of this passion seems to be part of her neuroses; part of it seems to be the artist in her at work.
The one flaw in the script was the voice over at the end: it didn't really give you a good idea of the rest of Adele's life, and I bet the writer put it in there because he thought, " Whoa, this script is pretty long. I'd better gloss over the later years of Adele's life." Costume design: Adele's red dress seems appropriately color-coded with the cinematography of the film, which, as I stated above, isn't such a good thing. Nothing else besides that red dress stuck out at me, and the rest of the costume design was pretty mediocre. Camera-work: Very good. I particularly like the slow zoom-in on the picture of Pinson, it was very powerful. Another good camera-work choice was when Pinson realized that Adele had told her father that she and Pinson were getting married. The director filmed this scene with the door blocking half the screen, which made the viewer feel, like Adele, very cut off from Pinson. I really liked the camera-work here, actually. Music: Powerful and fitting. I particularly liked the music when Pinson was walking towards Adele at the end. Overall: Very good film mainly carried by Adjani's excellent performance.
Well-acted film with many flaws, but overall rather good
Introducing Dorothy Dandridge is about Dorothy Dandridge, the first black woman ever to receive a Best Actress In A Lead Role Oscar nomination. We watch Dandridge endure multiple traumas, including sexual abuse, something quite awful happening to her daughter (I don't want to give anything away), and many bad relationships with men. This film has quite a few flaws. The set design is quite awful. Besides being unrealistic, it is much too small and enclosed for the audience to really settle into a scene. The set design also has a fakely glamorous and rather Hollywoodesque tone and feel to it. The costume design and camera-work are adequate: nothing more and nothing less. The script is rather good--something about how almost the whole film is a flashback conveys Dandridge's despair quite well--and has a cut-and-paste quality which conveys the broken-to-pieces quality of Dandridge's life. The acting is very, very good. Spiner subtly brews a cauldron of intense thought and emotion, often being able to use only his face to convey what is going on in his character's head. Brandauer gives a fleshed-out and realistic performance as the cruel Otto Preminger, and Berry gives a moving Oscar-caliber performance as Dorothy Dandridge. Even the girl who plays Dandridge's daughter, though she has a tiny role, is quite good. In the courtroom scene, she and Berry worked together to become so moving they flooded me with emotion and sympathy, something not many scenes are able to do. The film does have its weak scenes. Berry is a very bad singer and dancer: her singing and dancing is boring and lacks energy. Thankfully, most (though not all) of her singing/dancing scenes are supposed to be weak because her character is on drugs. Dandridge's audition for Carmen is another weak scene: this scene is filmed, written, and acted in a Hollwoodesque and silly way. Though Brandauer is good in this scene, Berry is not: all she does is act cute and smile. This scene was a crucial scene in the film and had the potential to be quite powerful. I was disappointed. All in all, I would definitely recommend this very good, if highly flawed, film. It's ending is subtly, insinuatingly powerful, and will definitely have an impact on you. A very good film!