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A beautiful adaptation
Kenneth Branagh makes (or at least used to make) beautiful Shakespeare adaptations. Henry V was a powerful adaptation but i would say that this full, four-hour adaptation of Hamlet is even better. Everything is done with such great eloquence.
Hamlet of course is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's play about Hamlet, the prince of Denmark (played by Branagh) who believes that his uncle Claudius (Derek Jacobi) murdered his father to become king. Hamlet starts to make plots to get his guilty uncle to confess his foul act while Claudius starts to plot the murder of Hamlet.
The thing that i loved about the fact that this film was the full version of Hamlet is that this way all the nuances and social statements weren't left on the cutting room floor. In for example Olivier's version of the story all this is left off and the film feels like a lamer, less powerful version of the story no matter how beautiful that film looks. The dialog is of course Shakespeare's original words and those words feel as powerful and meaningful as ever.
And maybe a part of that power in the words is because the lines are performed so well. Kenneth Branagh plays the role of Hamlet with such power and calmness. He reads the lines so beautifully. Derek Jacobi's Claudius feels like an actual character in stead of being a two- dimensional character like in some of the other film adaptations (another advantage of the full four-hour version). Other good performances include ones by Julie Christie, a young Kate Winslet, Richard Briers and Michael Maloney.
As good as Branagh's performances is i think the way he directs the film is even more amazing. For a four-hour adaptation of a 16th century play the film is incredibly cinematic. Every single scene is directed with such intensity and power. His attention to detail with the technical aspects of the film is phenomenal. The production design is beautiful as are the costumes. The score is really good and is another one of things i liked about the film.
One might ask after all this praise why am i not giving it a 10/10. I'm not sure. Pretty much all the aspects of the film work really well. But i just wasn't perhaps blown away by it enough to give it the highest rating. But it still is a phenomenal film that i recommend very much. It's especially a must see for Shakespeare fans.
The Social Network (2010)
I watched this movie for the 7th time today because because Gone girl is coming out next week. And once again I was struck by just how good this movie is. Wonderful acting, excellent directing, beautiful cinematography, incredibly sharp editing and an amazing screenplay.
The movie opens with Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook talking to his girlfriend Erica in a bar. At the end of the conversation Erica breaks up with Mark. From this starts the story of the birth of Facebook. The story is told through flashbacks while Zuckerberg is going through two lawsuits: one from the Winkelvoss twins, from whom Zuckerberg might or might not have stolen Facebook and one from his former best friend and the co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. In the flashbacks we follow birth and rise of Facebook.
The script of this movie is amazing. It's easily the best script in years. The dialog is smart and fast, just what you would expect from the film's writer Aaron Sorkin. Mark is an interesting and layered character but he's not a nice guy. The script is actually full of mean and annoying characters and that's quite shocking because everyone else would like to tell the heroic story of how young Zuckerberg created the great Facebook. But Sorkin doesn't. He's not interested in that. Perhaps none of these guys are good but they're interesting and through these characters Sorkin tells a much more important and interesting story. The movie has themes that don't have anything to do with Facebook so it doesn't matter if you don't care about Facebook. I actually personally hate Facebook and think this is a great movie. Because this movie is not about Facebook.
The movie is of course about human relationships. All that Mark wants in the end is to have friends. He is someone who has almost no friends (pretty much only one) and he is not a nice guy. He is rude to everybody and he doesn't even notice it. He wants to be someone like Sean Parker, someone who has friends and still can say exactly what he wants. But even Sean can't do that even though he looks like that is exactly what he does. And in this play of wanting to be powerful and get friends he actually loses the one person who he could actually call his friend. He has surrounded himself now with people who aren't his friends but just people who act like they like him. And he is not happy about that because he knows that these people aren't his friends. So he tries to connect Erica, the one person who has been his friend and who he cares about that might be able to forgive him and who is probably the most honest and caring person he knows.
The performances are wonderful. Andrew Garfield is really good as Eduardo but the movie's best performance is easily Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. He is excellent in every single scene he is in. The way he performs Sorkin's incredibly fast dialog is amazing and he also knows how to perform the quieter scenes.
But this movie wouldn't have been nearly as good as it is without David Fincher. He knows exactly what he wants from every scene and he goes and does it. Every scene is masterfully made and the feeling of the movie is really interesting.
Fincher also hired a lot of great artists to work on the technical aspects of the movie. The editing by Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall is close to perfect, Jeff Cronenworth's cinematography is excellent and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's score is extremely good.
I watched the movie for the first time when it came out in 2010 and I hated it. I thought that it was boring and Zuckerberg was annoying. And when Mark betrays Eduardo I became really angry at him because the only character I really cared about was Eduardo. Now I've grown up a bit and understand and appreciate the movie. The social network is a great movie and one of the best movies of the 2010s so far.
Is 22 main characters too much for a 2 hour movie?
The short answer to the question above is yes but maybe not how you might think: you never wonder who is that character even though you have seen the character before. The actual problem is that the characters feel underdeveloped because you focus on a character for an average of less than 6 minutes. There is no sense in doing a 2 hour movie with so many main characters.
The idea of different kinds people meeting is used many times in different films with changing success. This time some of the people include a singer who is an alcoholic, her husband, a retired hotel doorman, the hotel manager, his wife and lover. The 22 characters are all at the Ambassador hotel for their own reasons during the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy. Some work there, some used to work there, some are guests and some are working on the Kennedy campaign.
Like I mentioned in the beginning there are too many main characters. They could have just had less characters because some of the story lines just felt pointless. There were some interesting characters but they were crushed by the short amount of time that they had. The ending was a bit weird: of course all the characters that clearly seemed like they were dying ended up surviving (especially the Elijah Wood character seemed already dead). I know that the director Emilio Estevez meant well with the story but he perhaps failed by taking more stories than he can tell (or most directors to be honest). Some of the dialog wasn't that excellent but it was never anything truly horrible. The actors are great and are perhaps the best thing about the movie. The directing wasn't spectacular but it didn't make it worse.
Bobby was a movie with a lot of potential and good acting but it didn't meet with my expectations.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Inglourious Basterds is set in Nazi-occupied France and is about a group of American soldiers called the Basterds working behind enemy lines, killing and scalping as many Nazis as possible. Their leader is lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a man who for example likes to carve swastikas to the heads of Nazis (he usually lets one go to tell the story of the Basterds). In 1944 the allied forces plan "Operation Kino", an operation where most of the Nazi high command is killed during the presentation of a new movie. The Basterds are ordered to execute this important operation. The theater where the presentation is being held is owned by Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) a French Jew whose family had been killed by SS colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) and is planning to burn the cinema down during the same presentation to kill the Nazi high command. But then something shocking happens: Hitler decides to attend the presentation.
The reason why this movie that is so good is the script. It's a very original story that feels like it couldn't have been written by anyone else than Quentin Tarantino. The dialog is sharp, the characters are interesting (except a couple of characters could have been developed a bit more) and the way that Tarantino keeps what is happening unrealistic in a way that it still doesn't feel like a joke is great . Especially the character of Hans Landa is extremely well written.
The second great thing about this movie is the acting. Christoph Waltz clearly gives the best performance as the charming but scary Hans Landa. I also think it's the best performance by a supporting actor that year. But the rest of the cast is really good as well, especially Mélanie Laurent, Daniel Brühl and Diane Kruger. But those performances are a bit less showy than the performance that Waltz gives.
The film is also well directed by Tarantino with some great directorial choices that make the film more than just a movie with a good script. The look of the film is also very good: the cinematography is very good and the production and costume design are just like what they're supposed to be.
As a whole Inglourious Basterds is a great entertaining film with an excellent script, great acting and directing, good cinematography and design. The final line of the movie feels like Tarantino is saying that this is his masterpiece. Whether it is that depends on the viewer. I personally think that this is Tarantino's best but this is coming from someone who has yet to see Reservoir dogs, Pulp fiction, Kill Bill vol. 1 and Death proof (although I don't think the last one is going to be that good). But I do think that Inglourious Basterds is one of the best movies of 2009.