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I want more movies like this
Abortion is an under-addressed topic in cinema; hell, the very mention of it will make a movie unmarketable in certain places. That makes it all the more refreshing to see Eliza Hittman's "Never Rarely Sometimes Always", about a small-town teenager whose unplanned pregnancy necessitates a trip to New York.
The movie deliberately has the action move slowly so as to let the characters develop, and does a masterful job at it. The audience is invested in the protagonist, caring deeply what happens to her. I hope that Hittman keeps making this sort of movie, and I hope to see Sidney Flanagan in more movies. Excellent.
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)
you never knew the full story until now
The 1970 documentary has been known as the story of the Beatles' breakup. As it turns out, that documentary skewed things. Peter Jackson's new documentary "The Beatles: Get Back" incorporates approximately eight hours of footage from the making of the album and shows a completely unknown story behind it. For example, Yoko often gets blamed for breaking up the band, but all the members brought people (Paul brought Linda, Ringo brought Maureen, and George brought Hare Krishnas); at times, Paul could be irksome, often interrupting the other members. What was particularly neat was to see the guys writing songs on the fly.
It's an experience like no other, especially the performance on the roof. It must've been one of the greatest things of all time to witness that performance. I also didn't know that the guys had used the recording sessions to come up with songs that they later released solo.
Anyway, it's a documentary that you gotta see. You won't be disappointed.
some places remain backwards
It is unfortunate that there are some places that maintain outdated gender norms even in the 21st century. Deniz Gamze Ergüven's Academy Award-nominated "Mustang" depicts one such setting. The protagonists are a group of sisters whose supposedly scandalous behavior leaves them ostracized and condemned to get married off. One can see a stark contrast between the bored women and the satisfied men. Of course, once the girls get a taste of freedom, there's no turning back.
I suspect that the events depicted in this movie happen all over the world, even here in the US. In priming the girls to get married off, the suitors say some truly creepy things. No wonder the girls feel inclined to rebel against these traditions.
Definitely one that I recommend. It's enough to chill your bones seeing what these girls have to experience. One can only hope that these patriarchal attitudes die out as time goes by. In the meantime, do see the movie.
Wild in the Streets (1968)
the future belongs to the young
It was inevitable that the '60s would produce a movie like Barry Shear's Academy Award-nominated "Wild in the Streets". This musing on the hypothetical result of letting the younger generation take over the country has to be seen to be believed. I should note that it doesn't depict the youth as heroes; it basically depicts their idealism as the result of LSD. It's easy to see why the younger generation didn't want to trust anyone over thirty.
Aside from that, it's certainly a funny movie. The last scene makes clear what the protagonist has wrought.
Britannia Hospital (1982)
Alex the Droog meets Hagrid and Uncle Vernon (as well as a certain Jedi knight)
With 1968's "If...", Lindsay Anderson looked at the British boarding school system and the hierarchy therein, with Malcolm McDowell playing one of the students. He followed it up with 1973's "O Lucky Man!", wherein McDowell's character enters the labor force expecting to be a big success, only to get ripped off. The final part of the trilogy was 1982's "Britannia Hospital". Again we have McDowell's character, but this time he's only a supporting character.
This black comedy focuses on a dysfunctional hospital. In addition to the hospital's preference for private patients - including an Idi Amin-like dictator - the director of the new wing is mainly focused on a series of perverted experiments. Everything culminates in a protest.
I would presume that the movie got intended as a criticism of the National Health Service's policies under Margaret Thatcher (although as Tony Benn told Michael Moore in "Sicko", Thatcher didn't actually try to abolish the NHS, knowing how popular universal health care is among the British population). Whatever the case, the movie is a fun romp. Maybe not as sharp or biting as the previous movies in the trilogy, but no less shocking.
In addition to McDowell, the cast includes two people from the Harry Potter movies: Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) and Richard Griffiths (Uncle Vernon). There's also Joan Plowright, Mark Hamill, Alan Bates and Brian Glover (one of the bar patrons in "An American Werewolf in London" and one of the inmates in "Alien 3").
family life in pre-war Japan
I didn't know anything about Kon Ichikawa's "Sasameyuki" ("The Makioka Sisters" in English) when I started it. It's an impressive story of some sisters in Japan on the verge of World War II, although I understand that there's a lot that a non-Japanese would miss. I guess that one has to fully understand the Japanese culture to catch the nuances.
Nonetheless, it's a fine look at this family as they try to find a husband for the younger daughter. There's a particularly resplendent shot of the cherry blossoms in one scene. The only other movie of Ichikawa's that I've seen is 1956's "Burmese Harp", but now I'd like to see the rest. Like Akira Kurosawa, Ichikawa was instrumental in revolutionizing Japanese cinema (and maybe world cinema). Definitely see it.
Half Nelson (2006)
so many people STILL believe all that
It's appropriate that dialectics is a major topic in Ryan Fleck's "Half Nelson". It's about opposites. One of the opposites is the double life led by the protagonist (Ryan Gosling in an Oscar-nominated performance). But even beyond that, Gosling's career displayed opposites. He was a child star, appearing on "The Mickey Mouse Club" for two years; and then as an adult, he starred in a series of gritty movies (in addition to this one, there's "The Believer" and "Blue Valentine"). No one would've predicted a Disney child star appearing in a movie where an entire scene talks about the US's overthrow of Chile's government.
Back to the movie. Everything about it is perfect. The naturalistic style adds to the feeling of the rough world that the characters inhabit. Almost every scene makes you feel as if something unpleasant is about to happen.
I hope that more people eventually see this movie. It shows exactly what a movie can achieve when the effort goes into character development as opposed to nonstop CGI.
And to think that fifteen years after the movie's release, there are probably STILL people who believe the WMD hoax.
King Richard (2021)
you've got a talent, so make something of it
I first learned of Venus and Serena Williams in the late 1990s, and heard about what fine tennis players they are. Although I'm not into tennis, there was no denying their talent.
What I didn't know about was their life story. Reinaldo Marcus Green's "King Richard" looks at this, with Will Smith as their father, a man who gave tough love out of a desire for his children to have a better life than he had.
This is a great movie all around. Part of it is that it's good to see Smith taking serious roles (it was fun to see him play hip dudes, but he couldn't do that forever). Beyond that, every cast member puts in a fine performance, and it's lovable to see the whole story plain out. If you have any extra time, definitely see this one.
Are you listening, Liam Neeson?
Nowadays, if you say the title "Taken", it most likely refers to those movies where Liam Neeson engages in torture. Well, as it turns out, there's another production by that title. This Emmy-winning miniseries from 2002 focuses on abductions carried out by aliens, and government coverups. A fine piece of work.
The miniseries covers a 58-year period. It never drags, despite spending ample time on certain topics. Although I got a "Close Encounters" vibe at times, this is its own story. And it's a good one. A real credit to Spielberg. Definitely see it.
The Mushroom Club (2005)
the worst things never go away
Most people have probably heard of the bombing of Hiroshima. That event brought the whole world into the atomic age. Less understood by most people are the lasting effects of the blast on Hiroshima's population. Steven Okazaki's Academy Award-nominated documentary "The Mushroom Club" features interviews with some survivors of that destructive day. They've had to spend their lives with deformities, developmental disabilities, and other problems.
The documentary also notes that many of the survivors are dying out. What happens when none are left? The combination of US reluctance to apologize for the bombing and Japan's refusal to acknowledge its hideous war crimes in China and Korea does pose concern. Is the US and Japanese younger generations going to step up?
It's not the greatest documentary ever, but still addresses important points. I recommend it to everyone. My parents went to Hiroshima's Peace Museum when they went to Japan. It sounds like a place where everyone should go as a serious reminder of history.
no one wants to have to go through this
It appears that I'm the first person reviewing Sandy McLeod's Academy Award-nominated "Asylum". Well, I hope that more people see it. This focus on female genital mutilation is enough to shock anyone who's never had to go through it (although I doubt that even the movie can truly convey the horrors of it).
The Nightingale (2018)
Australia has an ugly history
Knowing that "The Nightingale" is from the director of "The Babadook" and seeing the poster, you might think that it's a horror movie. Well, the horror is the sheer cruelty of the British towards the Irish and Aborigines. Set in 1825 Tasmania, it focuses on an Irish woman working as a servant. After a British official murders her husband and baby, she enlists the help of an Aboriginal tracker to find the officer.
The movie leaves little to the imagination in showing how the British treated those whom they considered "inferior". You can bet money that a lot of the people sent to the penal colonies in Australia got arrested for petty crimes. The movie also serves as a reminder of Australia's continued appalling treatment of its indigenous population (defined by John Pilger as de facto apartheid).
Definitely see it.
The French Dispatch (2021)
Timothée Chalamet gets his annus mirabilis in Wes Anderson's ode to print journalism
I've liked every Wes Anderson movie that I've seen, and to that I can now add "The French Dispatch". If you've seen Anderson's previous movies, then you should have an idea of what to expect here (centered scenes, quirky characters, clever dialogue). In this case, the plot involves the final issue of a magazine and the topics that the magazine will cover. Lots of neat stuff in store.
As always, Anderson casts Bill Murray, while his occasional cast member Anjelica Huston narrates. Also appearing are Anderson regulars Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzmann, Adrien Brody, Bob Balaban, Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. Appearing for the first time in an Anderson movie are Timothée Chalamet, Henry Winkler, Lois Smith, Elisabeth Moss, Griffin Dunne, Benicio Del Toro, Christoph Waltz, Jeffrey Wright and Liev Schreiber (if I remember right, Mathieu Amalric and Léa Seydoux are appearing in an Anderson movie for the second time). With this movie and "Dune", I'd say that Chalamet has had his annus mirabilis this year.
Anyway, great movie. You're sure to love it.
The Company of Wolves (1984)
our fears come through in fairy tales
Since Neil Jordan is nowadays best known for movies like "The Crying Game" and "Breakfast on Pluto", it might surprise people to learn that one of his early works was a gothic horror/dark fantasy. "The Company of Wolves" functions as a look of the disturbing possible origins of Little Red Riding Hood, with the border between dreams and reality getting blurred. One transformation scene in particular is enough to give anyone nightmares.
Basically, it's a reminder that fairy tales are not necessarily cute stuff for the tykes. In this case, we get a focus on the role of sexuality in Little Red Riding Hood. It adds up to one cerebral - if shocking - piece of work. I recommend it, but I should warn you to avoid it if you can't handle grotesque imagery.
Heart of a Dog (2015)
the relationship between dogs and the status quo
I first learned of avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson from a compendium of photographs by Annie Leibovitz, with one of the photos showing Anderson. My mom explained to me what Anderson was famous for. I've now gotten around to seeing Anderson's experimental documentary "Heart of a Dog", focusing on her love of her pet dog Lolabelle. In the process, Anderson also addresses the proliferation of security cameras and similar things after the 9/11 attacks.
What is the connection between these topics, you might ask? Maybe that question isn't meant to have an answer. The documentary is poetic and philosophical. Not any sort of masterpiece, but I like how Anderson told the story. She is one clever artist, and I recommend the documentary.
Een griekse tragedie (1985)
this is a hold-up
The Academy Award-winning animated short "Een griekse tragedie" ("A Greek Tragedy" in English) depicts some female figures holding up a dilapidated structure. The short has clever animation but the plot is nothing special. I guess that these animated shorts don't need to have the most complex plots or anything. Not a bad short, just no masterpiece. Maybe worth seeing once.
En kongelig affære (2012)
watching these productions makes me wonder why anyone would want to be part of the monarchy
I knew practically nothing about the history of Denmark's monarchy prior to watching "En kongelig affære" ("A Royal Affair" in English). That did two things for me. First, it made the movie all the more impressive and fascinating; it's clear that the cast and crew put their all into this movie.
The other thing is that it reinforces something that I wondered while watching season 4 of "The Crown": why does anyone want to be part of the monarchy? Much like how "The Crown" made Diana look absolutely miserable in her marriage to Charles, "A Royal Affair" shows Caroline's unhappiness in her marriage to the mentally unstable Christian VII. No wonder she had an affair.
Anyway, it's a fine piece of work. Even if you know the story, you're sure to love every part of this movie. Hell, I may have studied world history extensively, but watching movies about important events in history makes me realize how much I still DON'T know about world history.
Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander and Mikkel Følsgaard put on outstanding performances, with great support from the rest of the cast. Godt klaret, Nikolaj Arcel!
The Roommate (2011)
not the worst that I've seen, but I've seen far better
"The Roommate" is hardly the worst movie out there, but there are far better movies. I read that this movie is basically a ripoff of "Single White Female", so I'll have to see that one to judge.
The Human Resources Manager (2010)
you're unlikely to find any two cultures exactly alike
I interpreted Eran Riklis's "Shlihuto shel Ha'Memuneh al Mash'abey Enosh" ("The Human Resources Manager" in English) as a contrast of cultures. The title character has to go to Romania and finds a world totally different from what he's used to in in ultra-modern Israel. If this movie is to be believed, much of rural Romania looks untouched from the 1950s. I've never been there, so I can't vouch for it.
If that was the purpose, then it succeeded. What I liked was hearing the different languages spoken. What I found questionable was that the movie presented a number of topics but didn't seem interested in fleshing them out all the way.
Only Murders in the Building (2021)
if Steve Martin and Martin Short collaborate, then you're in for something good
And boy are you with "Only Murders in the Building"! This clever miniseries is a parody of/homage to true crime podcasts, with Martin's and Short's characters (along with a young woman played by Selena Gomez) investigating a murder in their New York apartment building. Plenty of surprises are in store, and there's great chemistry among the cast members (including some guest stars).
You're sure to love every part of it.
Abraham Lincoln meets Edith Piaf meets Virginia Woolf meets Elizabeth I
OK, what to say about "Nine"? You probably know that it's an adaptation of a Broadway musical, itself based on Federico Fellini's "8 1/2". I've seen Fellini's movie but not a stage production of the musical. The movie is an interesting piece of work, focusing on the director's mental stress and relationships with a variety of women.
But, the fact remains that being a musical, a lot of it comes across as silly. Add to that Harvey Weinstein's involvement, and you have something that's just unpleasant to watch. It's not a bad movie, just not something that I wouldn't have nominated for an Academy Award. While it was in the theater, I saw "A Single Man" and "Broken Embraces", and only now got around to seeing it.
All in all, I'd say that it's worth seeing once. Rob Marshall had already directed "Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha", and later directed "Into the Woods" and "Mary Poppins Returns", all of which I'd say had more of a purpose than this movie.
Patrik 1,5 (2008)
I wonder if this has happened in real life
One of the additions to the pantheon of LGBT cinema depicts a gay couple adopting what turns out to be a homophobic teenager. Part of the charm of Ella Lemhagen's "Patrik 1,5" ("Patrik, Age 1.5" in English) is that it shows every point of view, and also lets the flaws in the couple's marriage emerge over the course of the movie. No one-dimensional characters here, just complex and enjoyable ones. Gustaf Skarsgård (Stellan's son), Torkel Petersson and Tom Ljungman put on fine performances. Check it out if possible.
Tel Aviv on Fire (2018)
I bet that a lot of people have to go through this every day
Luxembourg's submission to the Academy Awards as for Best Foreign Language Film (not nominated) portrays the trials and tribulations of an Israeli Arab screenwriter who has to pass through a checkpoint to work on a TV show in Ramallah. "Tel Aviv on Fire" doesn't feature anything shocking, but does show what the Palestinians have to go through in their travels, even as the protagonist becomes acquainted with an Israeli officer who starts contributing to the script. Even as the two of them interact more and more, the facts on the ground remain the same.
It's probably not the sort of movie that'll change your life or anything, but it certainly gives us some insight into the lives of these different populations, and in particular shows us what the Palestinians have to go through each day (although I doubt that anyone outside of Palestine can truly understand what it's like for them). Worth seeing.
PS: Nadim Sawalha (Bassem) is the father of Julia Sawalha, who played Saffron on "Absolutely Fabulous".
Le capital (2012)
it's a money-centric world, we're just living in it
Costa-Gavras has spent his career making movies about political issues: Z (about the assassination of a Greek political activist), The Confession (a show-trial in Czechoslovakia), Missing (the coup in Chile), Music Box (a Nazi fugitive) and now Capital (the whole business world). This one focuses on a young executive's appointment as CEO of a bank and the questionable deals that he starts making. The economic meltdown of 2007-2008 was still fresh in everyone's minds when the movie got released, and we see here the type of world that created it. This collection of cold, amoral - one might say evil - people who put on a facade of carrying out important work are the masters of the world. Much like in "Syriana", the characters are all ruthless individuals; pretty much everyone's a bad guy.
I wouldn't call it Gavras's best movie, but it's an undeniably chilling movie just in seeing the machiavellian goings-on in the business world. Definitely see it.
Ojing-eo geim (2021)
trust me, you have never seen anything like this
Even if you've seen "The Hunger Games" and "Money Heist", "Squid Game" (called "Ojing-eo Geim" in the original Korean) is still going to shock you. The sad thing is that so many people have no other choice but to risk everything like the characters here.
Definitely see it. You'll never look at any children's game the same way again after seeing it.