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Happily married to my best friend.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Um.... sorry, but... no
I guess I felt compelled to chime in here because so many people (here) seem to think this is a great film, to the extent that they've even elevated into the top #250. I liked the film and could see how audiences might be inspired by the imagery (a man standing up for justice in a dystopian society) and stirring dialogue, but this is no "1984" or, IMO the more brilliant "Brazil". I felt that I must at least record my 2 cents here as a lone voice of dissent in the wilderness.
It starts out very promising, I thought. I found the character of V interesting and charming, and the initial premise captivating (if not original). I was even willing to forgive a certain number of logical and/or technical lapses that inconveniently shattered my suspension of disbelief. But in the second half of the film, we are asked to accept so many strange, unrealistic reactions, logical flaws, and physical stretches that I was truly disappointed. It became a total fantasy to me by the end, and I no longer much cared what happened to these characters.
(spoilers beyond this point) Sure I'll go along with some of the minor suspensions, like security in a totalitarian state is so easily bypassed around government ministers and buildings, that V with his mask on has great, non-fogging visibility in combat somehow, or that he is that deadly with knives only.
But some of the larger suspensions that we are asked to accept: -I guess the big one is the Evey torture sequence, which was effective in conveying terror and humiliation. The inspiration of that beautiful letter was moving. But then, to find out it was all staged by V as a way to teach a lesson/to indoctrinate was... flabbergasting! Stockholm Syndrome aside, I don't think my reaction would be to sympathize with my torturer, when there were at least alternative methods that could have been tried (like simply asking for example).
-After demonstrating to us how brutal and all controlling the government is, are we to believe that Evey's comedy talk show friend had no inkling that staging and broadcasting a show that so sharply parodies and mocks the government would have no real serious repercussions? A person with a house full of contraband at the very least drawing government attention to himself like that is illogical. And even if it was some suicidal final gesture, at least have the courtesy to warn your fugitive houseguest that stormtroopers might be bursting through the door at any moment! -Body armour and combat prowess aside, I could not after a while accept his continued "bullet proofness" and/or great luck in avoiding bullets, and then his fantastic mobility in his body armor.
-Let's not forget, after the totalitarian government is warned (a year in advance) of a specific target building, and all other security measures are taken to protect this target, that they would somehow overlook a railway tunnel that goes underneath the building! or if they did not forget it, then, somehow they missed the big railway car packed with explosives and fertilizer.
phew! I feel better now. It's not a bad film, but I don't see it as a great film. Thank goodness there is no thought police that prevents me from saying this. I just wish that they had.... Oops! there's a knock at my door. I better go ch-- Aaarrrrrghh!!!
Welcome to the Caribbean!
What great fun this movie is! It is in this spirit of fun that I base my high esteem for this excellent, entertaining movie and consider it one of my favorites that I will watch over and over. It is funny, exciting, ahem, er.... sexy, and adventurous escapist fun! It is not meant to be authentic or seriously considered (against the likes of Master and Commander). Rather, it is grand art of a different sort. The key element in this film that made it superior to other pirate fantasy films is the casting. I thought both Johnny Depp and Geoffery Rush were magnificent! It is their endlessly entertaining, outstanding performances that made Pirates of the Caribbean into an instant classic that is very repeatedly viewable. Keira Knightly, Orlando Bloom, Jonathan Pryce and all the rest of the cast were all great also. When I was 8 my father took me to Disneyland for the first time. Although I was apprehensive at first (seeing the talking skull and dropping down through darkness into the caverns in a boat), I ended up loving the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and wanted to ride it again and again! This movie perfectly evoked that same feeling and reaction... creepy apprehension turning into fun adventure and humor... jolly family fun. The various references to the Disneyland ride in the movie just thrilled me. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Center Stage (2000)
An All in One Dance Movie
I loved this charming and comprehensive look at the blood, sweat and tears of the dance world. It was very nostalgic for me, though I never got to that high a level in ballet. The characters and incidents rang very true. The film was obviously made by someone who knew and loved the dance life. Even more memorable than the actual dancing time on stage, I loved the whole drama that goes on backstage, rehearsing, mentoring, partying, preparing, befriending/betraying, romances, cliques, infights, jokes, and politicking leading up to the actual performance that the audience sees. Though understandably compressed for time and what's most interesting to the general public, I thought Centerstage did a great job of covering a lot of ground, and believably at that. The cast was excellent, both for acting and dancing. It had some great camera work for a dance film too, with nice medium shots for the chorus and at other times, great on-stage or in-the-wings perspectives. I loved the music too, a great selection of classic, modern and pop. I often watch just the dance sequences on my DVD.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Can't Help Comparing It to the Beloved Stage Version
I really loved The Phantom of the Opera and I'm so glad that there is at last a film version (which means that eventually there will be a DVD version. wooHOO!). Honestly, I still think I prefer the various live on-stage versions that I've seen, but this is a great and worthy film adaptation. The sets were gorgeous and I especially enjoyed the much closer, more intimate distance from the performers that you can get with film. The casting was great, with really good young singers. I liked the new addition of some swashbuckling fights too. Though I personally loved the Phantom of the Opera film and recommend it, I based my IMDb score of 8 on what I thought of it as a stand alone film. The music of course is the best part of Phantom of the Opera. I really enjoy every song, and even cry for some. However I felt there were just a couple of awkward moments that did not translate seamlessly from stage to film. No spoilers here, but I was reminded of something Michael Caine said as the playwrite character, Sidney Brule in Deathtrap regarding how to stage believable action.... "When in doubt, physicalize."
Lost in Translation (2003)
Lost in Translation is another favorite film of mine, which appealed to me and entertained me on many levels. First the film is an astute exposition on Japanese culture and how westerners might perceive or misunderstand it. Though much of the humor originated from this, Lost in Translation could almost be a documentary on modern Japanese city culture, I think. Also the film mirrored a very similar experience I had when I lived in Japan for a short time. I can totally identify with Scarlett Johanson's character, as I too wandered around in a jet lagged daze, marveling at the sometimes strange, sometimes more efficient, sometimes incomprehensible differences in the Japanese solutions, customs, and tastes. But my main reason for liking this film is that I think it truly showed an uncommonly realistic love story. It was a love story of a different sort with two married people that meet and connect intimately (seemingly more intimately than their respective spouses) without overt sexuality, despite a gulf of age, and, I think, maturely and honorably. To me the ending was apt and perfect.
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Paintings as Windows (possible spoiler)
Although flawed and confusing at times, What Dreams May Come is still one of my favorite films because it coincidentally touched on several things that I find personally very dear and interesting.
First, I grew up in a town in Switzerland next to a lake very much like the one shown in the film. I would sun in a boat just like that, while my father sailed it across the lake, and we would picnic. Although I have different views on an afterlife, it was nevertheless an interesting depiction of a personal heaven and hell and dealing with unbearable grief. I always seem to cry during certain parts. My favorite scene is when Christy encounters his old family dog. I still dream of briefly seeing my old childhood dogs, and we are so overjoyed at seeing each other again. I wake up with happy tears. Visually the film is mesmerizing. The use of such rich and evocative colors and odd, intentionally anachronistic architectures and art designs remind me of a day strolling through an art museum in some ancient European capitol. Some of the images are beautiful, some are very disturbing. I think Robin Williams is so charming in this film too. He once again proves that he is a solid dramatic actor. Probably most importantly, What Dreams May Come is one of the few films that indulges a fantasy I've long had of stepping into a painting. I have many paintings and prints in my home, and I've often wondered what it would be like to step into the world of that scene/that moment in time, as if it were a window. Haven't you ever wondered what was just around the bend in the road behind the Mona Lisa? Or to see 360 degrees around and what's behind the painter in say a beautiful Maxfield Parrish scene? This movie showed it just as I had imagined it, from the squelch of the paint, to the dreamy impressionistic look of the painted world.
What Dreams May Come plays a little preachy depending on your philosophy and it's sad storyline may not be for everyone. But I think it is a beautiful work of art, and I just enjoy it as such.
The Ultimate San Francisco Movie
My father took me to see Vertigo and I instantly LOVED this classic. It influenced me to settle in San Francisco, as it is indisputably the ultimate San Francisco movie, with Bullitt a very respectable second. I have personally visited almost every real location depicted in the movie, and I love to give my out of town visitors the Vertigo tour of the places that still exist. Vertigo is a great tour of some of the many beautiful spots in and around SF.
I love Alfred Hitchcock films and though Rear Window is my favorite, I think Vertigo is his best and perhaps most personal. From the opening titles and wonderful Bernard Hermann music soundtrack to the haunting conclusion, Vertigo is a visually lush and grandly entertaining example of masterful storytelling. I cannot articulate enough how great this film is and do it justice in 1000 words. The viewer is drawn in voyeuristically with the Jimmy Stewart character as he feels the tension of escalating obsession and the just-out-of-reach frustration with an unobtainable illusion. The use of music is one of the best ever in film as it reflects the inward emotion perfectly. You can hear what Jimmy Stewart is feeling. First there is curiosity, then rising tension, rising hope, and then release and resolution. Vertigo has one of my favorite film shots in it too (possibly the first time it was ever used), the zoom-in-while-backward- tracking shot, later seen in films like Jaws. Oh! And Vertigo has one of the greatest on-screen kisses of all time too, so very passionate (and I think shot on a turntable). The way Alfred Hitchcock was able to imply such sexuality in Vertigo without showing even nudity, I think, made the situations even more sexually charged, as what one imagines is far better.
This is a film that earns a rare but well deserved 10/10 in my book.
Lola rennt (1998)
Ein ausgezeichneter Film!
I think I am required to write my review in English language, so...
I know the idea of alternate realities/alternate fates has been explored, sometimes interestingly, in other films, but Lola Rennt I think adds some great new twists, plus an exciting "time limit" factor. When I try to describe Lola Rennt to my friends, it always sounds weird and nonsensical. Basically, it is the same 20 minute story told 3 times in a row, each time with a different outcome because of some small quirk of fate, some butterfly effect, some random chaos in the universe. At the end of the film, it really makes you think, what might have happened if...... Watching it again and again, it totally blows your mind when you start to recognize and remember background characters and action that later factor into other alternate realities. It really is fun and interesting, but to even add to this, Lola Rennt has this amazing and hilarious data-burst effect. For every person Lola comes in contact with, they show, in a rapid series of still fotos, what happens to them later in their life. If you have DVD, some of the still shot stories are very funny or ironic. Franka Potente is just so cool and pretty in this film too.
This is just a well crafted and very different film. Therefore, yet another of my favorite films.
What Film-making Should Be
One of my criteria for great art on film is being able to see spectacle that one would normally not be able to see. I love films that carry me away to another time and another place, to see remarkable things. Master and Commander reminded me of classic adventure films from the last century, done with impeccable modern and seamless special effects and authenticity. Like, you could not obviously see CG in use, or notice scaled down models. I think it is a remarkable film on all counts, acting, cinematography and visuals, story, costumes, music, and detailed authenticity. Even the editing is noticeably superior, because action sequences are fast paced, yet easy to follow (unlike other contemporary actioners using the ultra-close, blurred and jumbled mish-mosh that is in vogue). Acknowledging that there were many other great films in Oscar contention this year (2003), I believe Master and Commander was the BEST PICTURE (but unfortunately released the same year as the conclusion of a great trilogy, which had to finally receive a collective Oscar recognition). I especially loved that the naval strategies made some sense. Both the hero and his adversary were wily, smart fighters and strong leaders, and you could understand why the crew wanted to follow them. The characters were all likable and all of them were superbly acted. My favorites were Captain Aubery, the Doctor/Naturalist (played by Paul Bettany), and the young Midshipman, Mr. Blakeney, whose characters were wonderfully developed. It is somewhat violent, but I highly recommend Master and Commander for everyone. I love this film.
Muriel's Wedding (1994)
Another Great Australian Film!
Oh, what more can I say about this gem of a movie? Another movie that I just love and watch over and over with many laughs and cries. Muriel's Wedding is so funny, yet poignant and true to life.
Toni Collette was excellent in this film (and this was the first of many great film performances I have seen her in). I can so identify with Muriel and Mariel. Well... my family was not dysfunctional like that at all, but rather her self-image and fantasy life, the mean and shallow clique at school, the love of ABBA music (!), and I even had a friend like the Rachel Griffiths character. Overall a delightful and refreshingly different movie. Highly recommended.