Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
One of the best of the year
If you're sitting in the back row of a theater, hiding your tears as the credits roll for a movie, you know it delivered the emotional effect it was aiming for. I was lucky enough to catch "Bobby" at the Toronto Film Festival -- its North American premier -- and what I got was an incredibly beautiful story, cinematically gripping to say the least.
Like in all great ensemble movies, "Bobby" offers a stellar cast, none of whom disappoint. From the neurotic and self-conscious character of Samantha (played by Helen Hunt) to the outspoken, confident Edward Robinson (Laurence Fishburne), there is a vast mixture of personalities that work to provide a complex interwoven plot line. But the most notable performance (and the most surprising) is that of Virginia Fallon. Brillianty portrayed by Demi Moore, Virginia is a foul-mouthed, insecure alcoholic who sways around on screen in delicate form, both heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.
Director-writer Emilio Estevez put his heart into this project. The direction is without a doubt highly impressive. The subtle colorful hues reflect the emotional grip of each scene, and extenuate a modern feel to the film. He puts us head-first in the crowd that witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, on what would seem to be one of the most heartbreaking moments in American history.
But what really stands out in this movie is not the screenplay, nor directing, nor acting. The emotional intensity is brilliantly brought out through the use of sound. An actual audio footage of RFK is heard in the background as the tense score sways by over the muted dialogue. And what works for this type of film-making is the amount of anticipation it builds up, and even after pivotal scenes, the impact it leaves on the audience.
There is a key scene in the movie in which all the characters prepare to greet RFK when the energy of the entire screen seemingly drips with positivity towards the American society. It's as though we forget the fatal tragedy and give into the thought of this story having a happy ending. We are reminded of classic ensemble films such as "Short Cuts", "Magnolia" and "Crash" and immediately juxtapose that feeling.
Though I do fear that politically this movie may not hit home for a lot of the critics once it hits a wide release, it is definitely going to leave a lasting impression on the majority who sees it. It's a movie that presents a magnificent cast, superb directing, and flawless scriptwriting. An undoubtedly obvious ingredient for the Awards season.
The Descent (2005)
One of the best horror flicks in the last few years.
Like "Open Water" and "Blair Witch Project", this is a movie that holds more in its setting than it does in the fear factor. "The Descent" isn't your typical screaming, jump-fest, it's a film that creates the situation more scary than the atmosphere. However, what makes a movie like this work is the constant feeling that something will in fact trigger that atmospheric feeling that every horror tries to manipulate onto the audience. And even though there are certain scenes that have you jump out of your seat, this is not an exercise in just how many surprises you can take. It's an exercise in how long you can have your hands squeezing the seat before it starts to hurt.
It is a movie that centers around Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) and her female friends who, every year, take a trip somewhere adventurous and explore. After Sarah's husband and child are tragically killed in a car accident, she suffers emotional pain but decides to bond again with her friends and do something fun to get her mind off of everything. This time, they decide to explore a deep cave. Of course, being a horror, the cave isn't really ordinary. In this cave, there are dead ends, rocks falling, bridges collapsing, deep holes, and-- oh yeah, mutated creatures. These deadly creatures hunger and without warning, eat the living flesh right off your body. Sarah and her friends must avoid all obstacles and reach the exit of the dark cave, before it's too late.
Neil Marshall, previously famous for "Dog Soldiers", creates a movie so intense, so teeth clenching, you have no choice but to feel tense. His use of space and camera angles creates an almost surreal claustrophobic feel. There you put yourself in the situation, and as you imagine yourself walking through a dark cave full of monsters, you get more terrified. Never before has a movie put me in such terror without even realizing it.
In the day and age where horrors are all the same, and where they're only made for money, a horror fanatic needs some sort of reminder that there are some movies that still excite. Being a huge fan of the genre myself, it was a pleasant treat, and definitely a scary one. Call it being biased, call it too early, but "The Descent" makes its way up into one of my favorite movies of the year.
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
A big kudos to Bjork and von Trier...
It's your typical setting: a woman lives in a small town where everyone knows each other, everyone does hard labor, and everyone is money hungry. Realizing that this is a big melodrama doesn't take much thought, and director von Trier isn't shy to blatantly face this fact. "Dancer in the Dark" is a sort of psychology test. It asks just how long one can live in shame, and how far people will go to defend their honor.
Lars von Trier doesn't hide the fact that he hates America. Unafraid to show the dark side of it, he often shows his characters isolated and withdrawn from the world, stopping at nothing to get what they want. But he doesn't do it so that it seems as though this is the only way the people are. He carefully places psychological elements in order to manipulate the characters to seem more bitter. In this case, he focuses on greed.
"Dancer in the Dark" is about Selma Jezkova (Bjork), a Czechoslovakian woman who moves to America in 1964 to pursue her dreams of being a musical actress. However, while in America she realizes her condition: she is going blind and there's nothing she can do about it. She has a son who is at huge risk of also getting the disease and to protect him, Selma slowly saves money for an operation. She does this all while going blind.
I was skeptical about Bjork playing the part for a number of reasons. She doesn't look eastern European, she doesn't sound eastern European, and she certainly has never been in a large motion picture before. But then something happened, and from minute one of Bjork's presence I knew there was something about the performance that gets right down to your bones. Here is a movie that throws you in powerful emotion, and Bjork was able to pull it off. And then some.
The story itself isn't very complex but it does represent how constricted a community can be, and just how hunger for power can only go so far. Like his later work, "Dogville" and "Manderlay", von Trier simply relies on the performances to drive the movie more than anything else. He and Bjork, though often hated each other on sets, pulled off the best performance of the year, and the most emotionally charged film since "Titanic". This is a movie that in my opinion was wrongfully snubbed at the Oscars for at least a Lead Actress nomination. But I digress, and the Cannes Film Festival win surely proves that Bjork can in fact, act.
A class example of how to make a fantasy epic
"Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" is a visually stunning reach into the imagination. It is a deep and complex journey into the unknown, the dangerous and the inescapable. The previous two installments, "The Fellowship of the Rings", and "The Two Towers" present elements in which this film connects them together to quietly and subtly present nostalgia as the journey finally ends. The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy is by far the most cinematically beautiful trilogy ever created, so it's no surprise that this final chapter in the saga goes out with a bang. This is a tale about courage, survival, fate, and friendship. More pleasant to watch than the previous film, it is a bold ending to a bold adventure.
In this final installment, Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) must realize his destiny as the king of men and gather his army for the final fight of Middle Earth. Meanwhile, Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin) and Gollum (Voiced by Andy Serkis), formerly known as Smeagol, lurk through the dark cities and mountains in order to reach Mount Doom and destroy the ring once and for all. Complications arise as Frodo suspects Sam of betrayal and theft, while Gollum plans to murder Frodo and take the ring back. Gandalf (Ian McKellen) rides with Pippin (Billy Boyd) to Minas Tirith to warn the humans of the attack, while Arwen (Liv Tyler) realizes she is to become a mortal and have a child with Aragorn. The story comes to its final climax as Frodo reaches the core of Mount Doom and Aragorn, together with his army leads the Mount Doom army away to set a clear path for Frodo.
From minute one, you get sucked into the insanely arousing visuals. The stellar special effects and the epic battles that include incredibly intricate fighting scenes, along with stellar sound, to make the epic battle realistic and fast. The most complex and stunning CGI creation is the creature Gollum (who we see transform from human to monster in the first 10 minutes of the movie). His fish-eyes move around and his body language sways and we forget that he isn't real. And as he attempts to steal the ring and frame Sam, that feeling sets in as though we've been watching a villain kill the main protagonist. In some ways, he has more character traits than a lot of the human actors in the movie. For example, when he talks to himself while looking at his own reflection in the water, he exhibits countless emotions and we know the torment he is experiencing.
Peter Jackson combines CGI and real settings but we never know it. We cannot tell whether a pathway is computer generated or built, whether a door that leads to a lava pit is trick photography or just a different setting. He is able to direct in such a way that the city of Minas Tirith looks both impossible to build, but very convincing. Even Mount Doom seems realistic and we question whether it is a real volcano or just another one of Jackson's genius visions. Not to mention the final battle of Middle Earth, we're constantly thrown into moving mammoths, flying humans, arrows appearing out of nowhere, rocks falling from the sky, people running, swords swinging. And it's all done in one single scene. Our eyes widen with excitement and disbelief, and we can't look away.
Not far away from the complete CGI fighting, Frodo and Sam walk up a set of stairs as a shortcut that Gollum showed them to get to Mount Doom quicker. Sam's becoming restless but still gives all of the food to Frodo. Gollum is becoming more impatient, and Frodo is walking into the dark side. We question whether or not Frodo will make it to Mount Doom, and whether Sam will be able to help him. But even if they do make it, will they make it back? We want hope, and no character better than Gandalf offers that to us. He says "I see Frodo. He is alive" as he smiles and cheerfully pats Aragorn on the back.
There are many scenes in which the audience feels emotion for the character, the situation and the outcome. For example, Denethor (John Noble) finds that his son had been killed and summons his younger son into battle. Upon his son's return he loses his mind and starts to burn himself and his son alive in an attempt to rid himself of guilt. In another very powerful scene, Pippin stands in Denethor's presence as he starts singing a song. This song parallels beautifully the beginning of the big fight, as the Orcs fly and run towards the castle.
The directing is undoubtedly superb, and every aspect of the visuals is brilliant. There isn't even a need to comment on the details since from one look at the movie it is a given. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" is an incredible gem and a wonderfully directed film. This final film is a perfect example of how a fantasy epic can work in every way possible.
Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994)
The final chapter in a flawless saga
Trilogies are very interesting. Some go out with a bang (Lord of the Rings), some get progressively weaker (The Matrix), some get lost in obscurity (Blade, Back to the Future), but some maintain the genius, that seemingly ever-growing bright light that floats beyond the surface of its flawless exterior. Case and point: "Three Colors Trilogy". This chapter in the trilogy, being the last one, is the most philosophical and thought-provoking. In "Blue" we had a more visually stunning, more character-driven plot, in "White" it was more of a light hearted, narrative-driven story where we listen more to what the characters say than anything. "Red", however is focused on the "what ifs" and "how comes". It questions our own fate and focuses mainly on the past and the future than the present.
This chapter is about a young model who runs over a dog and brings him back to his owner. She soon finds out that the owner of the dog is actually a cynical retired judge who spies on his neighbors' phone calls through advanced spying equipment. All three films in the trilogies have very basic plot lines, but bring a lot more to the story. Consider in "Blue", the story of a woman dealing with the loss of her loved ones. We are constantly shown ideas about the contemporary French society and how that reflects the character's behavior. "Red" is not only about a young woman who finds shelter in an older man's life, but it is also about chance, hope, and fate.
Irene Jacob stars as Valentine Dussaut, who at first finds the old man (Jean-Louis Trintignant), whom we never find the name of, extremely self-centered and disgusting. Though through self reflective analysis, and her voyeuristic intentions, she learns that the judge would be the perfect man for her, if only he was 40 years younger. Irene lives across from another, younger judge, who highly resembles the old man. This is the "what if" that keeps circling in the movie. What if Irene were born 40 years ago? The old man would have been her perfect match. But what if the younger judge is actually her perfect match, since he so closely resembles the older one. Valentine doesn't know this, only we do, and Krzysztof Kieslowski subtly suggests this in almost every frame which Irene is in. We are constantly smacked in the face with his presence, as almost a suggestion of Irene's fate.
I mention that the old man does not have a name for a reason. That reason is because it is very symbolic to the overall theme in the story. We are to compare the old judge to Auguste (Jean-Pierre Lorit), the younger judge, in more than one way. We learn that the old man once had someone he loved but she got away. In another scene, we see Auguste heartbroken as the love of his life gets away with another man. There are constant reminders of whether or not Valentine will ever meet this man. Even though they pass each other without noticing every single day. There is also the motif of the telephone, to Valentine it is a way of keeping sane and updating her life, to Auguste it is what leads to his heartbreak, and to the old man, it is the only thing he has left. These three elements serve to shadow the characters own psychology. It is a sort of statement about what they are and who they are.
All three "Colors" films stand for a certain principle, most common in France. "Blue" stands for Liberty (the personal being), "White" stands for Equality (being accepted by more than one), and "Red" is Fraternity (to socialize, to learn). And although this final chapter is an obvious focus on the Fraternity principle, Kieslowski makes sure he brings in the other two as well, in order to connect all three stories. For example, we see the old man trying to reach out to Valentine and enlighten her with his spy equipment, which is a reflection of the Equality principle. We also see near the end that Valentine is doing some soul searching and that she's more concerned about herself than others (not picking up the phone when Michel calls), a clear example of Liberty. And with all three principles established, Kieslowski nicely connects all of the characters as well, in the final and most heartfelt scene.
"Red" is about where you could have been if you were older or younger. It is about whether or not there is someone completely perfect for everyone, and whether or not one person can change your life. The final chapter in the most awe-inspiring trilogy ever made, this film breaks barriers in both directing and storytelling. It is not only about our modern life, but about where life could and should be in our modern time. And although the movie is more subtle than both "Blue" and "White", it boldly exclaims a statement of love and compassion.
It's hard to imagine that "Red" was Kieslowski's last film, and that he died at such a young age. Nevertheless, the trilogy will always be his masterpiece and we will always remember him for his work that ranks right up with Bergman, Fellini, and Wenders as a truly remarkable director who's never been awarded with an Oscar. Kieslowski, you have been missed!
Trois couleurs: Blanc (1994)
Least favorite of the three, but doesn't stop it from being genius!
This is the second installment in probably the best trilogy ever created. Though this one is not as strong as its predecessor, it does offer a unique and stylistic way of looking at life. It's a dark comedy about acceptance, love and betrayal. Can one man really start over in a new place? Can he heal from the pain that his wife caused him? Like in "Blue", it questions such things but does not mention it as much as it visually suggests it. And while it's not as powerful or complex as "Blue", it does play as a very unique and flowing transition between the two more dominant and relevant films.
"White" is a story about a man named Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), a professional Polish hair-cutter who marries a young and beautiful French woman. He moves to France to live with her, and not long after, she divorces him because he's unable to have sex. He then again leaves France in an attempt to start a new life and win Dominique's (Julie Delpy) heart back. While on his journey though, he gets incredibly lucky and becomes wealthy, then pretends he's dead and waits for Dominique to come in order for him to see if she still loves him.
This is of course a perfect plot for comedy and it makes a lot of room for silly, slapstick jokes. Kieslowski wants to emphasize on the philosophical aspect of the movie just as much as the comedy. He chooses element that represent freedom and life (the statue of the woman that reminds Karol of Dominique), and the post-communistic lifestyle of a born communist. There is both a lighthearted and a more dark, sinister quality about "White". It's a typical 'you love me so you can't forget me' film, but does not play out in your conventional clichéd way. And while this lighthearted moment is shown, a dark overtone is prevalent. For example, when Karol meets Mikolaj and tells him of his beautiful wife, he goes and voyeuristically points her out, only to find her in bed with another man. He calls her and tells her he loves her, but she puts the phone up to her mouth and moans as loud as she can.
I mention voyeurism because that is a very reoccurring theme in the movie. Even Julie from "Blue" acts like almost a spy as she walks into the courtroom while Karol and Dominique are privately settling their divorce. Kieslowski creates a very voyeuristic feel in the movie so that we as the audience feel like we are overlooking the lives of others. Unlike Hitchcock though, Kieslowski does this but does not make us feel guilty about it, since of course, we don't witness a murder!
In this second installment, "White" is a quiet reminder that you can have a great film without going too deep into the themes and symbolisms. I have to agree with most of the people that "White" is the weakest of the genre, but it is a tremendously genius transition movie, a sort of light presence in the other two more darker films.
It delivers...but without a bang
"Delivery" reminds me of a short story I read in high school. It was about a village who found a hole in the ground that had almost no end. To restore their environment, they threw all of their waste into the hole, only to realize that everything they throw in there comes right back down from the sky. In this case, however, an old man lives in an isolated area where there is nothing but his house overlooking an industrial little city. He gets a delivery from the city and in it he finds a strange box. He opens this box and discovers that it is actually a gateway to the sky above the city. So after thinking hard, he puts his hand in the box and restores the environment.
There is no telling how far filmmakers will go when they find a good idea. In this case though, the idea was good but already taken, the animation is great but minimal, and the only thing that really got my attention is the score. This is a film that sends a blatant message about the environment but offers no emphasis on the character in the story. If they were to make this character look interesting, why not then make him a little deeper? He speaks nothing, he dreams nothing, he thinks nothing. We only know that he likes to water his plants.
At the beginning of the movie, it offers no real insight as to where the delivery came from. Who sent it and why, or why it's been sent to that specific man. Surely someone from the city wouldn't want to send someone a package where they literally become God to their city. Unless of course that person happens to be some menacing maniac. This of course isn't established and as a result we as the audience choose to ignore it. Another thing I found questionable is the use of space in this movie. We feel very trapped and blocked off from the outside world, yet the man lives in a house that has nothing around it, no houses, no people, no roads.
"Delivery" is a sort of allegory about our current environment and the philosophy of what we would do if we were God. Though to me it lacks much of the drive that most animated shorts can create, it does play nicely as a very artistic expression. Like aforementioned, the animation is great and the score is brilliant. But what it does not show, it does not attempt to explain. And that's a bit weak.
A bizarre yet unique animated short
"More" plays out more like a music video than like your typical animated feature. Some things that come to mind are Tool videos and a few Marilyn Manson videos. Inevitably, it's the 90s cinematic style that inspired this type of film-making.
It is a story of a person. This is a person with no sex but we assume it's male because a clear obsession with machinery is shown. This person has no distinction between anybody else in the world. He wakes up in his crummy apartment, goes to his job where he fixes and puts together gadgets for an immensely popular brand of toy. This person however is hungry for something and we can't figure out what. His stomach opens up and shines a bright light, and determined as he is, he invents a new toy that makes you see nothing but happiness. Ultimately, the light in his stomach goes out and he's no longer happy.
The opening scene in the movie is very unique. It shows us a couple of (we assume) children playing in what seems to be a park. This represents happiness, and the scene jumps to a more saddened setting where the main character is living. The juxtaposition shows us just how pitiful this guy's life is. And after becoming happy with his new invention which leads to his emptiness, we realize that the title of the movie is exactly what he wants: more.
This is a very quirky movie. The haunting score is almost taken out from "Koyaanisqatsi", but yet feels very Tool-esquire. The music plays endlessly in the background as the visually stunning animation is shown. This is a very useful technique in keeping not only the viewers attention, but also keeping the audience in a more suspenseful mood.
"More" is not a typical animated short. It's very avant-garde and it mostly only tries to emphasize the music rather than the visuals. Had it been a more successful company, this film would have won the Oscar. The nomination was however good enough.
For the Birds (2000)
Ah this is just genius!!
I love it when little cartoons like these win an Oscar. There are so many variety of little animated shorts, some that are really innovative and some that are very deep, but some just deserve the win for being so fun. For three whole minutes, this little film has you in hysterics. From the amazing sound effects that the birds make, to the incredibly genius ending, it's fun to keep watching this just for kicks.
It's about a couple of little snobby birds who fly onto a telephone wire and start hilariously chirping at each other. They suddenly hear a loud scream and they look over to see a funny looking big bird who wants to join in. The bird comes over and stands with them, pulling the wire down. The bird flips and holds on with one leg and the snobby birds start playing a game of "this little piggy..." They look down and as they're taking off the last finger, they notice that the telephone wire is at ground level and that the big bird will surely just fall an inch and they will get shot up. In a hilarious ending, the bird falls and the snobby birds fly up, losing all of their feathers.
This is an animated short that everyone can enjoy. It's not exactly targeted to children, nor is it targeted towards animated short buffs. It's something fun to watch before starting a good movie, or something hilarious to see when you're down. It always puts a smile on your face.
"For the Birds" is definitely an animated short that focuses more on the humor aspect, rather than the animation and story. The real fun comes when watching it with different people, knowing you'll all hysterically laugh once that bird falls and the snobby birds fly up. Definitely worth at least one viewing for pure entertainment! 9/10
Geri's Game (1997)
There's not much to say about this animated short since it runs at about 3 minutes. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short (and although it's very memorable, I would agree that there were better ones that year). The animation is superb and the attention to detail is obviously prevalent.
This is a story about an old man who sits down at a table to play chess. He takes out his pieces, sets both sides up and begins to play... by himself! He switches back and forth slowly and moves each piece. After a while though, the man stops moving and he's playing with an imaginary friend who looks exactly like him.
There isn't much to this story, and it was probably written in about 5 minutes, but the fact of the matter is that for its time, the animation is perfect. The movement of the character is utterly realistic and the setting around him is amazing. The old man's face is also very real, and as he sways from hysterically laughing to frowning, we not only find it hilarious but also very creative.
"Geri's Game" is one of those animated shorts you just love to see before a movie. As I remember watching movies like "George of the Jungle" and "Men in Black", I remember this little film was always on before, and I always loved it. This is an animated short that children would love to watch over and over and over.