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An unexpectedly satisfying celebration of love and music
I've always found the singer/songwriting duo of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova aka The Swell Season mildly curious: a fiery, nervous Irishman and an unassuming, shy flower from the Czech Republic. There had to be an interesting story there. But until a few days ago I had no idea they made this movie. They even won an academy award for it!
What a gem. It's a love story that discards the usual Hollywood payoff. On first viewing I wondered what was the point? The movie was drenched in music and the boy doesn't get the girl at the end. Is this a romance or a music video?
It turns out it's both and each holds up the other quite well. The "guy" is a Dublin street musician who churns out one song after another lamenting a busted relationship and yearning to get past it. The "girl" is something of a mystery. A Czech immigrant and mother of a toddler who has fled to Ireland to escape a difficult marriage and a family tragedy.
In the course of the movie both shed a bit of light into each others world. She sees quite clearly at the beginning that his music will win his old flame back. And he refuses to believe that, feeling fiercely that she's the answer to his pain. In turn his furious creative outlet gives her an opportunity to do what motherhood and circumstance have made difficult - creative expression through music.
In the space of what seems like a week or two they make music together in a music store, a cramped bedroom, dinner halls and a recording studio and over that time come to terms with the knotty relationships in their lives. The movie ends on a very satisfying note - not necessarily for the audience but certainly for the characters. The "guy" finally gathers the strength to seriously pursue a music career, patch things up with his old girlfriend and move beyond old betrayals. The "girl" receives a gift from him in return and the confidence to move forward with her musical talent while juggling a reconciled marriage, motherhood and finding her place in a foreign country.
All good love stories are about chemistry between two people and this one is no different but the Hollywood stories we're used to almost all end with consummation. This film avoids that well-worn path in favor of something more satisfying I think - that of old difficulties resolved and the creation of art which speaks to that journey.
A triumph of incredibly low-budget independent film.
The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
What can I say? It sucked.
The first two Bourne movies did so many things right - excellent locations, acting, engaging characters, imaginative action.
Supremacy had many surprises. What was the last movie you saw that had a car chase through the narrow alleys of a coastal town in India? An on-foot pursuit through Berlin or ended with an over the top car chase in MOSCOW? But in Ultimatum we get few if any surprises. In Supremacy we learned that Abbott and Conklin were corrupt and used CIA money for their own gain. Abbott's downfall in Supremacy was a nice bit of acting and was developed very well. What do we learn about Landy in Ultimatum? "This is not what I signed up for"? Next to nothing! The Noah Vosen character just shouts orders and looks incompetent. What an embarrassing role.
We learn nothing about Jason Bourne that we didn't know from the other two except maybe he was an old boyfriend of Nikki.
Beyond a couple of nicely shot scenes in London and Morocco, this movie is a tired failure and an utterly disappointing end to what was a successful series.
Amore, piombo e furore (1978)
An interesting mixed bag
I remember seeing this movie in a revival house in the late seventies. I was a teenager and couldn't suspend disbelief enough to sit through the whole movie. I just couldn't buy the Fabio Testi character. I couldn't handle the accent. In my mind, the American West didn't have people like this although in reality it probably did.
I very much remember Jenny Agutter's love scenes. I felt sorry for the Warren Oates character although he wasn't very sympathetic.
I've recently seen a heavily edited for TV version of this movie and there's a lot of bad stuff in the movie: very low budget sets, embarrassingly under-written scenes, under-developed plot and sketchy acting. But there's quite a few good elements that are mentioned in some of the other reviews.
Now that I know Jerry Harvey wrote this movie along with his pal, Doug Venturelli and worked alongside some of his heroes like Warren Oates, Monte Hellman and Sam Peckinpah not to mention some of the Italian folks who made all those great Westerns - I sure wish the uncut film that I rejected as a kid in that movie house was available on DVD.
Jerry Harvey himself appears in a bordello scene as a tipsy customer.
It'd be nice if this mixed yet positive achievement was around to brighten, if only a little, Jerry Harvey's tortured legacy.
Maybe one day.
Murphy's War (1971)
An old favorite of mine
In scanning through these reviews, I'm very pleased to see that this movie is well liked by many people.
I saw it first around the time it came out and even though I was only eleven or twelve, many things about this movie left an impression on me: the sunny, tropical locations, the excellent cast and the impeccable performances.
The very last scene where Murphy is literally consumed by his own revenge is at least as memorable and disturbing as the last scene in The Planet of the Apes (60's version) and drives home the whole point of the movie as perfectly as I've ever seen it done.
See it! You won't be disappointed.
Så som i himmelen (2004)
a simple movie with an important message
I was drawn to this movie the moment I saw a preview of it on Oscar night. When I read about Kay Pollak, I was hooked. We Americans are suckers for a comeback kid.
I understand this movie was a huge draw in Sweden. As a very provincial American I can only speculate on the reason. Perhaps it is because of the provocative joke that the Lena character makes at the beginning of the movie and other social comment but perhaps it is because of the central message which I believe has the same appeal everywhere in affluent societies.
The message of this movie for me is the same as the movie Titanic. Life is short people and as far as anyone really knows it's all we've got. It can be taken away at any time. So isn't it a pity that we spend so much time hiding behind walls separating us from other people because we're so afraid of being hurt? Tearing down the walls is painful but feeling alive lies on the other side of those wretched walls. Feeling alive is worth taking the risk. Give and you will receive. So start living NOW.
Many people are criticizing this movie for it's lack of characterization and other flaws. I say you are all pseudo-sophisticated. Get a grip folks, it's a parable, a fable for we affluent westerners who are materially rich but whose souls are in abject poverty.
So join a choir or a band or help build housing or distribute food for those less fortunate than you. Spread some joy and make the world a better place as long as you get out and commune with your fellow man. Writing a check is not enough. We are a social species by the way. Even the humblest of your fellow human beings can affect you in ways you never thought possible.
Rugged individualism has its place but it is over-rated.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
Very appealing on a couple of levels *Spoilers*
Please don't read this unless you've seen the movie.
I've seen this movie a half-dozen times now since I got it and I think I've figured out why I keep finding it appealing and entertaining.
At one level it's a pretty good popcorn thriller with gun-play, fights, car chases, the whole nine yards. There's a pulsing, tense, driving electronic score with some good strings thrown in that supports the sometimes over-the-top action scenes. We've seen it all before but it's done well and it works.
But at another level we have a story of a guy who wakes up after being pulled out of the ocean (literally born, get it?). This guy doesn't doesn't know who he is, who his parents or family are, where he came from and he can't remember any event in his life he experienced before he woke up. Despite all this, he can read and write, speak many languages and kick butt on anybody who dares to mess with him. He has survival skills to die for. To top it off, he has an led display sown into his hip that a displays a swiss bank account number full of cash and passports that allow him to travel anywhere and assume any identity he would ever need!
So in the process of trying to overcome his amnesia, he meets a young woman who seems to be only marginally better off than he is. She is rootless and currently homeless, living out of her tiny car. She has lived like a gypsy flitting from one place to another in a seeming quest to find out what she wants to do with her life. It turns out that each has something to offer to the other. He has cash, a Paris apartment and an amazing resourcefulness that is a mystery to them both. She has a car to help him elude the shadowy people who are chasing him. She also has an intact memory of her life which will help him in a critical way towards the end of the movie.
We identify with the Bourne character because all of us are born into the uncaring world helpless yet with some innate skills. We acquire language and mobility in a way that is amazing and mysterious to anyone who has ever had kids, yet we also need help. Bourne finds himself "re-born" into the world, gifted in many ways yet unable to really survive without help. The woman he meets becomes a sort of mother to him and enables him to find his feet in the hostile world where he finds himself.
I think we've seen this sort of story told before in many ways but I credit Ludlum for placing it in the spy thriller context.
Oh and by the way, the boy does get the girl at the end of the movie. What more could you ask for?