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Do You Wonder
Overall this film is a compelling look at the power of suspicion and how it can color one's interpretation of events and appearances.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is excellent as the priest in question. Streep's and Adam's portrayals of catholic nun's feel a bit like caricatures at times but overall are sufficiently believable.
The power of this film is the crevice it places the viewer in between actual proof and mere probability while never resolving all reasonable doubt. Situations can be more complicated than meets the eye when one begins to scratch below the surface. Individuals are more than what isolated deeds may say about them.
Personally I enjoy movies that leave you in a place of uncertainty and wonder .
Film-making out shines the story.
Simplistic story telling and predictable plot, unrelenting action and violence, a film that is more legend or myth than believable history but all told still compelling to watch. The reason being is the masterful film-making style of director Mel Gibson and cinematographer Dean Semler. Mel decides to give us a slice of life of Mayan culture by telling the gruesome tale of one particular family who lives a life based in the ways of the jungle struggling to survive in the midst of being over run by a brutal urban style tribe who's out to capture slaves and humans to sacrifice to their god to win favor. Stimulates the imagination and transports you do another time if you can stomach the brutality.
I'm Not There (2007)
Bob Dylan's 2007th Dream
Take all the music, everything you've heard, read, seen in documentaries about Bob and throw them in a blender and pull them out and what you get is "I'm not there" And it's a tasty concoction of a movie that comes off like a dream of everything that's publicly known about his life. Perhaps even Bob himself dreaming about the course of his life. The more you do know about what's out there about Bob the more you'll be able to make the connections with the scenes in this beautiful montage about the poet, songwriter, and musician genius of the last 60 plus years. This is a great film about a very complicated artist who could never be pinned down as representing any one ideology or persona although he seemed to imply many. I suppose Dylan will always be the great enigma and this film only helps to perpetuate it, which is part of what makes it so successful but as we all now know there's no success like failure and failure's no success at all.
Cowboys With Issues
Even the cold blood killer can have a heart and a conscience and appear to be a man of integrity. Clint Eastwood brought the western into somewhat new territory with this film about cowboys with serious misgivings about how they've chosen to live their lives in the past when they were murderous gunslingers. Even still in their new lives when things turn difficult with hardship down on the homestead they cease an opportunity to do perceived justice by reverting to old ways for a profit, although with some hesitation. This is much in the vein of the Eastwood mold that has developed where the line between good and bad characters is blurred and qualities of both show up in the main characters, you know, more like real people. Eastwood seems to be fascinated with presenting hero's with flaws and here it's especially effective in a genre that was well known for presenting well defined good and bad guys. Everything works about this film, casting is spot on with great performances from all involved.
Man Push Cart (2005)
Haunting, Sensual Mood Piece
Moving with a slow even rhythm, this film portrays a man's struggle to get by as an immigrant to the U.S. from Pakistan. His life centers on his work as a street vendor who must pull his cart to a New York city street corner every morning and sell coffee and such to the busy urban customers. The cart, like his troubles in life are quite allot for him to keep under control as he makes his way through the crowded NYC landscape. What makes the film work so well is the overall atmosphere and style in which it was shot. Ahmad is a reticent soul and much is expressed in his eyes and demeanor, his world is urban and dark, the vast majority of this film is at night and Ahmad seems to be living in a nighttime existence. There's a feeling of confinement and being trapped as well. Even when Ahmed loses his cart it seems there is no place to go to look for it. The relationship that develops with a woman that he meets who also works as a street vendor is tentative and cautionary in its process but also intriguing and sensual. The film is non manipulative and non judgmental, it's an outsider's gaze into one man's lonely isolated existence far from his past and former self.
Kôhî jikô (2003)
Slow, Meditative and Beautiful
This ain't no Hollywood movie, it isn't even the run of the mill foreign film. It is pure Japanese Zen. The isolation of the crowd lack of meaningful contact between humans In Yoko's family more words mean less- A soulful sort of warmth exists between Yoko and the book store friend, he searches for something significant in recording of train sounds- The warmest exchange is between Yoko, her mother and a neighbor during a scene of borrowing sake and a glass for the father- who is a walking stone sculpture. The father of the unborn child is a mysterious stranger to us the viewer and is only referred to but never seen. One young woman and her relationship with trains is as significant as any human contact in her life.
At any point in this film you can push pause and have an interesting photograph to ponder every scene is a composed beauty.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
More Bleak Than Funny
More than attacking either side of the tobacco debate too viscously, this film lampoons how our modern society and government often operates and how superficially people are swayed: sound bites rather than substance, demonizing those of the opposing view, statistics and research findings twisted and spun until data fits the agenda, doesn't matter if your statements are truthful just make the other guy look more wrong and most important of all in American life: justify whatever you do as worthwhile as long as it pays the mortgage! The film is smart and searing in a curious, undercurrent way and creates a bleak atmosphere that overshadows the dark comedy. I couldn't help wondering if those in the audience laughing the loudest were the ones who most identified with these characters and were laughing out as a defense mechanism. It has become an increasingly complicated, conflicted society that often makes many seemingly paradoxical demands on it's members and as people struggle for survival, which in America means: "paying the bills" we have become adrift and comical in the way we justify the means by which we meet that end and in the ways we try to influence social change. Sort of childish in the sense that we'll lie, cheat and steal and go to untruthful extremes and feel justified as long as it gets more people to agree with our view than the opposing one.
Revenge As Boredom
Did it really take 2 hours 45 minutes of watching angered Jews plan and execute murders of their perceived Palestinian enemies to tell a story about the cost of the endless suffering and bloodshed that constant attack and revenge, attack and revenge, brings to our world? Gandhi but it simply enough when he said: "an eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind." This well directed, well acted film still manages to be quite boring, tedious and predictable. The ending is really watered down and weak, the message would have been so much more powerful and devastating if Avner and his young family would have been murdered along with him and thus driving home what the real cost of the constant game of violence and revenge leads too. A film with a thought provoking message about revenge but never really embraces an alternative, it's overly long and misses its chance to really be daring. This could have been a very interesting exploration of the dichotomy between forgiving and seeking vengeance. It is not and doesn't come close to Spielberg's best work.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Stunning, Mesmerizing and Not Without Some Good Laughs.
Barry Lyndon is as great a film as so many say it is. It truly does transport one to another place and time with a sense of authenticity. I too was completely taken in with Barry's story and the eloquent way in which Kubrick presented it and allowed it to unfold. It's remarkable how time slips by unnoticeably while watching this film despite its 3 hour length and deliberate slow pace. What also struck me about it which I've not seen others comment on is the sense of humor that this film evokes about many of Barry's fortunes and ironic twists that it takes. I feel it evident in everything from the opening and ending statements displayed on the screen to the dry droll of the narrators voice along side some pretty comical situations Barry finds himself in. The dueling scenes, the style in which battles were fought, the narrator explaining how Barry's lonely German Frau took many passing lovers into her cabin during the course of the war as he rides off into the misty morning after their romantic liaison. The base human desires, not so noble emotions and flaws that arise in the characters often bring a wry smile to the proceedings. This sense is especially strong in the first half, after the intermission when things become quite dire for Barry I felt less of this comical undercurrent or only in a much darker shade. Whether one senses an undercurrent humor to all of this or not, it is a stunning memorable film and easily one of the top 100 of all time.
What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (2004)
A Bunch Of Ideas and Imaginings
Contrary to some comments on this film, I didn't find this film preachy or attempting to shove anything down our throats. This is a film of ideas and theories and that's all it claims to be. Some of the ideas presented are far fetched without much validation (the Indians not seeing the ships, frozen water changing formation with thoughts) and I found the dramatization aspect amateurish and at times embarrassingly bad but I suppose it was an attempt to keep the film from becoming heavy-handed. One of the commentators named Ramtha comes off as arrogant and pontificating, but most of the others seemed well aware of the speculative nature of these theories and ideas and also appeared quite amused by the very mystery of it all, which I liked. Near the end it's clearly stated in the film to take none of this at face value but to check it out for yourself. It wasn't until after I saw the film that I learned of the filmmaker's connection with this "Ramtha" character and the "Ramtha School of Enlightenment" so quite possibly there was an agenda driving the film but I wouldn't say it's blatantly obvious. A much better film dealing with the nature of our perceptions of reality called "Waking Life" by director Richard Linklater would be my recommendation if this sort of subject interests you.
Big Fish (2003)
The important truths of one's life are revealed in how they embellish the facts, maybe not the dry hard truth but certainly the more profound emotional truth. That's what Will (Billy Crudup) comes to realize in the last days of his dying, eccentric, story telling father, a man he feels he's never gotten to know because he believes that his father's tall tales are an annoying diversion that prevent anyone from knowing the real man. What he comes to learn is exactly the opposite, which is that his father with his amusing yarns has been telling the world volumes more about himself and the real truth of his vision than any fact sheet could hope to reveal. In essence he's come closer to baring the inner dreams of his soul than most men do, no matter how "honest" they might attempt to be.
This is a Tim Burton masterpiece and a gem in storytelling in itself. Of course the trademark Burton visuals are here and never used to better effect and have never been more appealing. This one stands high right next to "Scissorhands" and "Nightmare" as a film that will mark Burton's place in film history. This one's a bona fide 10. If you find a good fish story told well brings a wry smile to your face then by all means don't let this one get away.
Incident at Loch Ness (2004)
Clever, Amusing, Con Job That Leaves You Wondering
Like a big budget Blair Witch Project this is a clever and amusing con job that shows the manipulative power of the documentary but as the film becomes more and more preposterous and the con becomes more obvious the joke goes a bit flat.
Lately the documentary genre has been messed with royally with blending opinion and personal agenda with fact mainly for entertainment value ala Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, but this one side steps in yet another direction and seems to me to be satirizing the whole mocumentary process which would make it a joke within a joke and a true original. It's not entirely clear if this is the intent of the film, which only adds to the enigma. I like to think it is.
It is refreshing to see a legend like Herzog willing to poke fun at his own obsessive reputation and it's his charismatic presence that carries the film.
I don't know when the mocumentary first showed up in film but one of the first I recall that's well worth checking out if you like this sort of thing is Woody Allen's great from 1983: Zelig.
The Deep End (2001)
It's Deep All Right
Rarely does one come along a pile of you know what as deep as this. Just how gullible does this writer think one audience can be? One of the most contrived, convoluted plots around. It's all pretty ridiculous and laughable and a classic film for making fun of as you watch. My friend and I were on a roll by the time we got to the last half hour and really enjoyed some good laughs. From a woman who makes some pretty stupid decisions in her obsession to protect her son to her totally oblivious family to developing a crush on the man who is trying to blackmail her for 50,000 dollars, yes, this is the deep end of suspending disbelief in film. Hey, maybe this is some kind of offbeat black comedy; if so, then it deserves the highest rating.
In Cold Blood (1967)
Ending Makes This A Stand Out.
As stated by other commentators the black and white cinematography is excellent and had an effective unsettling quality to it. I also thought the investigative detective team had a bit of the Dragnet style stiffness to it but John Forsythe was very good in his role as an intelligent non emotional, non judgmental investigator. What sets this film apart for me is the time spent after the conviction. The time spent on death row by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock. Here we get to witness what their lives became and how they individually dealt with what they had done and where it had lead them as they waited five years to be executed. Many crime films end shortly after the point of conviction or with a captioned epilogue scrolled across the screen about the final fate of the murders. Here we witness the quiet agony that they endured in the stark, cold barren surroundings of their prison which is probably the greater of punishment for their deeds than the actual execution. These images of their desolate existence on death row along with the actual murder scenes are the strongest of the film and the ones that stick with me the most . The contrast of the two murderer's personalities was striking and especially so in the way they expressed themselves in the final moments before their deaths. It's always difficult for a movie to match up to a good book but this film succeeds quite well in capturing the feel of Capote's work.
Refrigerator and Movie both take a tumble.
Peter O Toole tries to carry this film on his back, similar to the character `Boris' in the film trying to single handedly carry the refrigerator up the long flight of stairs, but you guessed it, the film just like the fridge goes tumbling down, cascading head over heels with that obnoxious, sappy soundtrack, the perfect background to it's painful decent. What the heck was that piece of new age fodder anyway, its sounds like a 15 second loop that they kept repeating over and over, talk about a low budget soundtrack. I give Peter O Toole allot of credit though, his superior acting skills and charm bring this film it's only worthwhile moments. But the story is so contrived, and poorly paced that one excellent performance can not save it. If, as one commenter suggested, a woman were to show this movie to me as a test of the potential for a meaningful relationship with her, I would thank her sincerely and then head straight for the exit. This is the fairy tale, head in the clouds kind of romanticism that usually gets people in trouble in relationships when the reality of day to day struggles sets in. One surprising note: the trailer to this film that's included on the DVD is actually much better and funnier than the movie and is all you really need to watch! What a great time saver.
Masked and Anonymous (2003)
Great Film And Even Better With A Shot Of Tequila!
Like one of Bob's epic songs, full of ambiguities, mystery, mind twisting meanings, implications and innuendos and then again maybe nothing real at all. Like a film of Desolation row, or Brownsville Girl this film conjures up all kinds of thought provoking images that don't lead anywhere specific but fascinate with what seems to be just below the surface. Whether or not it was the idea to make a film with as much intrigue about implied ideas and meanings without really being specific like what Bob Dylan so often does in his best songwriting; that's what has been accomplished here with far reaching success. This by far is the best Dylan on film that I have ever encountered and so refreshing to finally see Bob paint a masterpiece on film! This film also had me laughing at times more than any film I've seen in a long time. There are some truly hilarious scenes.
'Sometimes I think that new Dylan material should first be released underground to his most ardent fans. Because it's only them -- only the ones with haunted eyes and motorcycle minds, the electric men and the silver lightning girls -- who have the emotional vocabulary and derelict vision to faithfully interpret his material.'
'Bob Dylan has always articulated an alternative reality. To those who can relate to it, his songs sting and heal, lift and reveal.'
If Dylan's songs speak to you and get inside your psyche, see this movie, it will too! 10/10
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Absolute Gem Even Better With Age
This is an absolute Gem that holds up even better some 21 years after its release. A sign of a true classic this film will forever be an insightful look into a certain slice of the American experience of the time period in which it was made and yet speaks to all time. I don't think people say they like this film to be cool or hip. Just possibly they like it because they are able to perceive its brilliant depth conveyed with minimal dialogue and profound simplicity. What the characters are going through, the extent of their boredom and disillusionment is so palpable. The best humor is not that of jokes and punch lines but in the irony and bemusement of the way things transpire. The revealing way people go about their lives. There can be a smile within the desolate, maybe it's a more profound sense of humor, that gets inside one when they begin to see it and they're whole world perception is altered. Less judgmental, more aware, an understanding of how sublime and absurd the human condition can be at the same time. Jim Jarmusch's movies are always an alternate reality within the one we all pretend to walk around in. He's a refreshing original, I'm grateful he's around making the movies he does in the mist of the formulaic, conventional heap of fodder the Hollywood machine tends to churn out.
Japanese Story (2003)
What makes this one so good is not so much the story itself but how it's told. So much of the story unfolds through very effective visual imagery and not words. Dialogue here is the essentials only, which adds to the beauty. Cinematography is very good and the music compliments and completes the picture.
The range of emotion that Toni Collette's character (Sandy) goes through is fascinating to watch and she deserves the recognition that she received for this role. From despising, to beginning to appreciate, to developing deep feelings for, becoming physically intimate with, to suffering through deep grief and guilt, in regard to this Japanese man that she has thrust upon her, Collette pulls it all off with an uncommon realism. It's one of the best acted strong female leads that I've seen recently. The added element of her mother's obituary collection that Sandy in the beginning shows distain for, to her contributing to it with respect in the end is a surprising and effective way the film is brought full circle. This film is well worth a look.
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Classic, Masterful, Horror
In an age of over the top visual and sound effects it's a real treat to look back on this one for an example of a horror flick built around great story telling, excellent direction and attention to detail, where implied horror is much more powerful than anything that could be shown on the screen. An expecting mother is one of the most vulnerable states of the human condition already filled with worries, doubts and insecurities and this film plays on that to the hilt. The dream, drugged scenes leading up to the encounter with Satan himself are an excellent depiction of the subconscious mind and this movie itself has a way of slowly seeping into the subconscious and getting under the skin. This one uses the technique of beginning in the most common and pleasant of situations and then slowly descending into a paranoid nightmare as well as it has ever been done. John Cassavetes does one of the best husbands as jerk roles that you'll see. Everyone in the film is excellent in their roles, Ruth Gordon almost steals the show and Mia Farrow's delivery is perfect at conveying her emotional state with the inflections of her voice in the delivery of every line. This is a must see film and well worth a revisit if it's been some time since you've seen it. One of Polanski's very best with a nod of course to the obvious Hitchcock influence.
The Station Agent (2003)
People can be so much more than what meets the eye. Everyday situations often hold much hidden potential. Four strangers each with their own peculiar traits, decide for whatever reason to take a chance on each other with meaningful, amusing and life changing results for each in this excellent film that's profound in its simplicity.
Blood Work (2002)
An interesting, stylish, well done, (even if predictable) detective murder mystery for the first hour 15 minutes. Then the typical, ridiculous, over the top, outlandish, Hollywood ending kicks in and ruins the whole package. Never quite sure if it's the lack of talent on the part of the writers or just what the Hollywood formula dictates because they think the audience needs some big so called `suspenseful climax' to be satisfied. I expected much better from Eastwood at this point in his career. A low point in films under his direction.
One Hour Photo (2002)
A Laugh of Two
This movie was creepy at times and a mild thought provoker but I most enjoyed the humor. Seeing an icon of middle America blandness: the whitewashed surreal overabundance of the SavMart made sinister, gave me a chuckle. Then when Sy appeared with one of the most generic bland autos ever produced: his Toyota Echo I had to bust out laughing. Seeing these great symbols of normalness in the context of something disturbing left me feeling
Xi zao (1999)
How powerful and captivating simple quality filmmaking can be. This film tells it's tale with everyday scenes that manage to revel the poignancy hidden within. It's true as others have stated, how this film really makes it glaringly obvious how lost Hollywood is in it's special effects, overblown emotionalism and over the top climatic endings and have forgotten the essence of a meaningful story told with simple realism. So much of what these characters are going through is implied by the scene rather than spelled out in wordy dialogue. One aspect that I really enjoyed about the film was the contrast of the two brothers, one so very openly expressive in his childlike way and the other completely stoic but both able to evoke deep emotion. The older brother needed to say little, as he usually did, it was all there in that deadpan face of his! Beautiful cinematography, wonderful acting, great direction! Not to be missed!
Lovely & Amazing (2001)
This movie doesn't need to `go any place' It's simply a slice of life film involving 3 sisters and their mother. All of them with faults and problems and all of them with endearing qualities and strengths. You know, human beings. This movie simply takes an honest look at them and if any thing, appreciates them as examples of the human condition. The film is like what the character Kevin says after he at first reluctantly but then very honestly and evenly evaluates Elizabeth's naked body and is not recriminated for it: `That was kind of refreshing.'
A Midnight Clear (1992)
Low keyed war story that humanizes the soldiers of both sides quite effectively. Story is developed well but holds no big surprises. Interesting to think that this may have really happened but it has an air of unbelievability about it. Good character study with solid performances all around. War stories that deal with the intimate experiences of the soldiers actually in the field are always more moving and thought provoking about the nature of war than the ones with grandiose themes or political messages. This is one of the former. Definitely worth watching.