All 17 entries tagged Film
February 20, 2006
So many films that popped out in the last quarter year or so, that it took a long time to get through it all. I find that overhyped films that other people seem to enjoy don't persuade me, seemed more like they wanted to enjoy it because it makes them feel highbrow or something, I don't know – that's generalisation. What I do know is these – I've finally found my own perfect list. The others that people talk about, like Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night, & Good Luck., Munich, Crash and The Constant Gardener did not get to me.
Instead, films which were truly emotional, which heavily affected me, caused me to think about it days after, the kind that sucks one into the screen and refuses to let go, in ways that I do not know how to explain they way I usually can for other films where my tendency to analyse prevails – these films are:
1. CINDERELLA MAN
This could have so easily been the most boring concept, most unnecessary film of the year, but under the inexplicable je ne sais quoi that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer puts into it, add to that the more than competent acting that the cast put into it, and with the combination of a creative cinematographer, excellent sound mixing and the services of the incredible talents of Thomas Newman for the score – the film actually made me tear up for the first time in a long time at a cinema.
2. WAR OF THE WORLDS
Lots of people don't get it – I shan't address that for fear of insulting anyone. But I think Spielberg delivered one of the most frightening films. I don't care about frightening films in the horror or suspense genre – what this film did is to convince that all that is happening is real, and that the characters would do what they did. In effect, they are like billiard balls, being knocked around, and they react the best that they can – a metaphor applied to Crash, but apparently no one sees it here. Perhaps I have a higher capacity to suspend disbelief than others – I understand the flaws in the ending, some apparent 'plotholes' (they're not), but I think this came out a better film than most last year.
3. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
Sure it's a kids film. What I like about it: depiction of the elder brother's sense of responsibilities, medieval knights, the dated way in which the kids speak, the way the film can be touching in unexpected ways (the scene at the train station), the brilliant shot when the two armies approach. Now, there are lots of films with clashing armies nowadays – but this one did it in momentous silence. The film is without its flaws, but it is forgivable as the undertaking was huge. For example, I thought the kids were potentially great – they just need someone to tell them to cut down on the pouting and the insecure mannerisms.
The most important film of the year. Frightening in the way it reveals how ignorant all of us are, and why. Depressing in its truthful conclusion that nothing will change because that's the way it is. We are all heading towards the precipice; some of us see it, but we cannot turn back because we are tied to those who don't see. A sincere but violent look at the realities of our hopelessly capitalistic world.
5. PRIDE & PREJUDICE
Period dramas get me – except when they're boring like Ang Lee's Sense & Sensibility. Director Joe Wright infuses this with such furious passion that every single nuance and subtlety is highlighted to the audience – if the audience fails to perceive it, it is no one's fault but their own. Less about telling the story and more about making the audience feel every single idea and emotion that the characters go through. Every single one of the cast turned up top notch performances. As I haven't seen the BBC one I cannot say whether I'd ever think the BBC version of Darcy and Bennet are better. Chances are I won't – MacFadyen and Knightley were completely compelling.
February 05, 2006
FROM DIRECTOR Stephen Gaghan
AND STARRING George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Siddig, Amanda Peet, Chris Cooper, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, and so on …
What is it about? It's about the world we live in today. It's about oil, corruption, the Middle East, terrorism, capitalism, fundamentalism, unemployment, American corporations, the CIA.
Who's in it? Everyone. It's about fathers and sons. The disillusioned CIA undercover agent. His son. The idealistic energy analyst. His wife and son(s). The reformist Arab prince. His father and brother. The quiet oil lawyer. His father. The Pakistani boy trying to ekk out a living in the Persian Gulf. His father. The corrupted heads of corporations. The old man behind the whole thing. The invisible heads working inside the CIA. The ulamas spreading the word of Allah. The anonymous-looking Chinese who are taking over firms one by one.
What's the point? Everything is connected. Who's right, who's wrong? You're asking the wrong questions, baby.
This film is about oil, but not a single drop of it is seen anywhere, the same way oil lawyers never came across the commodity they're defending. The movie keeps moving forward, so fast that if you miss a beat you realise you suddenly don't understand the whole story. And even if you were following the story carefully you may not be able to hold the entire thing in your head.
Because such is the current state of our modern capitalistic world. The film is based on a book, which is based on true events; however, everything in the film is fictional. What writer-director Stephen Gaghan (who won an Oscar for Traffic) tried to do was to present a film that reflects the way the world is, without any political bias or opinion – and he spent a couple of years just to research and write the movie. I trust him. The world he presents is a scary place. It's scary because we've been so ignorant of what's going on, most of us.
Gaghan is aided by a great cast – every one is a bit player, but they are all well-portrayed, and many will leave their impression on you. The cinematography and music are kept simple, chaotic only when it needs to be. All of this helps, because the story is complicated enough as it is.
Film is not just entertainment. Does this entertain? Depends on who you are. But if you want to have an understanding of how our world works – do yourself a favour.
Deserves Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (for Alexander Siddig and Jeffrey Wright, not Clooney), Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Screenplay.
November 24, 2005
- Der Untergang
Der Untergang, or Downfall, portrays the final days of Hitler and the Third Reich. Basically, what you see is an empire on its downfall, a once glorious vision reduced to fantasies, an ambitious man reduced to ruins without ever fully realising that he cannot control the world, a group of people forced to make choices for which most of them didn't realise they have in the first place … a world gone mad.
Last week I saw the Korean war drama Tae Guk Gi Hwinalrimyeo (Brotherhood), which tells of two brothers during the 1960 Korean civil war. That one sees a country tear itself apart, people killing their own people, most of them not even knowing at an intellectual level what they were fighting for. It's almost as if everyone's brainwashed, and the result is hell on earth.
Der Untergang does this with a terrible sense of dread. The dread is mostly on the audience, and does not fully descend on the characters (and we are introduced to at least a dozen main ones, which I found very impressive, even in a 156-minute movie) until the final third of the movie. We sense that dread because of what we know today.
We know that Hitler was a monster, and that Berlin would fall.
And in the movie, we are wondering what the hell these people are doing there.
The film is essentially based on the memoirs of Traudl Junge, who serves as a makeshift lead character here, allowing us to see the event through her eyes. At some point we realise that we need to understand her urges to see Hitler as a great man. She was giddy with excitement when she found out that she was to be Hitler's secretary. The less intelligent of the audience members will probably think she and the others are buffoons.
My point is, what is going through the head of Hitler? I think the film brings us closer to understanding it. As many have pointed out, the film humanises Hitler. Now, 'humanising' someone doesn't mean making him nice. It just means that it's showing the fact that YOU COULD HAVE BEEN HIM AS WELL. It all comes down to this fact - Hitler was an ambitious man. (Now, before I continue, let me just say that this is what I think from watching the film ... is Hitler like that in real life? well, history as we know it is never, ever actual truth … do you understand what this means?) He had a grand vision, and I actually found myself thinking, what IS that vision? What does he see in that head of his? Why does it have to involve killing millions of Jews? I'm not a historian so I don't know the context, and I don't really care (really, this film is only gonna occupy my entire being for a rather short period of time, a matter of hours).
Certainly I can understand the feeling when EVERYBODY is letting you down. That is how Hitler sees his world in his final days. Everyone is either betraying him, or not able to execute his orders. Extreme and intense disappointment sets in. He goes into one of his depressive moods – all is lost, it's over, yada yada. So he brings Eva in and they kill themselves. And a scapegoat is born.
I like that the film did not exactly concentrate on him. There's Eva Braun – how is it that she can remain so calm? Cheerful, even. Is she really just chronically naive? And there's Goebbels and his wife – and in this movie, Frau Goebbels really steals the limelight. She insists on staying with Hitler, like many others – along with her kids. 6 of them. All seem to be below the age of 12. She's is a determined woman – my, in today's world, in another movie, she'd be someone you would admire.
She brought the kids there so that she could kill every single one of them. Poison. She could not live in a world in which the Third Reich and the Nazi doesn't exist. A very disciplined woman. She'd rather Hitler live, they might be able to salvage the remains of their world some other time; but if Hitler wants to commit suicide, she would have to bring the kids along with her down with him. I'm sure most of the audience are shocked at that scene, played out over many minutes, yet each minute is compelling. One by one she poisons them.
Among the generals, you see some who seem like they have common sense, who actually considered the consequences on the people of Berlin. And then you get those who only knew how to obey Hitler. To suggest something else is like forcing someone to think out of the box – have you gone mad? Out of the box? Most of the latter committed suicide in the end. So many of them, you get the feeling of them 'dropping like flies'.
And then you get the youth army. So loyal and courageous. They really believed in it all, and were prepared to die defending the city. Such an honourable (read: fun) privilege. So you see this girl with pigtails telling her comrade to shoot her. He shoots. Then he shoots. Two bodies lying on the floor. What would become of them had that not happened?
I doubt anyone would read till this point … in which case, I don't know why I just typed that. When I saw The Pianist for the first time, I was left with feeling like I was about to collapse. Most people saw that film and thought, 'meh, Schandler's whatever was better'. (Fuckers, can't even pronounce the title properly.) However, for me I was really in the moment … every step the pianist took, especially outside, he could be shot for no particular reason. That was frightening … frightening in a way that most of you won't understand because you don't take films as seriously as I do.
Watching this one reminded me again of that fear.
Because this will probably happen sometime from now. I'd like to find out whether I will be able to live through it.
(Who will start the next war? Corporations? It will probably not be obvious that it's WWIII. You drink your milk and then you fall over dead – chemical in products. Things like that. Basically, something we cannot imagine yet.)
(Can you survive that?)
November 22, 2005
Yeah, it's finally done. I don't know why I feel so happy – it's not like it's the best ending I could punch out, and for most of the last week I just kept thinking the things I thought of just doesn't work. At this point I don't know whether it works, but still, I feel happy.
The bloody screenplay is done.
Now all I need to do is to polish it, and send it off to the relevant people. I hope Bea's done with her own film's post-production …
UPDATE: I've finished my screenplay and now I'm listening to depressing music. What does that say?
November 14, 2005
… and there are many. You have no idea, huh?
(Note: Not strictly speaking end of the year, as UK releases tend to be later compared to the rest of the world. So backward.)
As soon as he finished promoting War of the Worlds, Spielberg dived straight into this one – leaving him six months from production to release date, which was even shorter than for War of the Worlds. He might not finish it in time for the Oscars. Starring Eric Bana, the story is about a group of Mossad-hired assassins sent to kill the Palestinians who were involved in the killing of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Not your favourite action thriller, this one – seems more like a serious exploration of guilt and the damnation of one's soul in participating in something one can never reveal about.
MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
For a lot of people their interest in watching this one is due to having read the book and liking the story. I couldn't give a damn about the story – it's set in Japan, involves the curious world of the geisha, is directed by Rob Marshall (reason enough to see it), and stars three major Chinese actresses.
Originally I thought – ach, give this one a miss. I never liked LOTR, and King Kong? What the hell? The first trailer was a disappointment. Then details arrive – it's gonna be three hours. Now I'm paying attention. Any movie over 2 hours I usually like – or if not, will try my very best to enjoy. Long movies are great. Then there's Jamie Bell, rising young star. Then there's Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody. And Jack Black in a serious role. And then more trailers appear, and the special effects looks more sound than LOTR. So yeah, I'll be watching this on the big screen.
Starring Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs … and a whole bunch of other people we don't know. Early previews indicate this one would be good. Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes …
Do you like political conspiracy thrillers? I do. They're so difficult to write – but when written well, hoo boy, it doesn't take car crashes to excite you. No, mere words are needed to send you going crazy over suspense, mouth agape. This one has a long cast list – (a very fat) George Clooney, Matt Damon, Amanda Peet, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper … and so on. The trailer was not bad, great choice of music – does suffer from giving too much details though.
THE NEW WORLD
From the director of The Thin Red Line. Story of John Smith and his men arriving at the New World. Captured, he gets to know no other than Pocahontas. This isn't your cartoony Pocahontas – she's like 15 or something. They try and understand each other – but soon the Indians and the white men will have no peace. Trailer indicates scenes were Pocahontas is taken back to white man's land.
From a novella written by Steve Martin. A dramedy that slants more towards drama. Seems to be about loneliness, trying to make connections. Looks interesting. Stars Claire Danes and Steve Martin and Jason Schwartman. No, there aren't any sex scenes between him and Isabelle Huppert here.
THE FAMILY STONE
Another film with hundreds of movie stars. The list goes – Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and so on. Looks like a good comedy, with charm and feel-goodness.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal – another rising young actor very shrewdly choosing his roles. Directed by Sam Mendes. If you know that name, I know you're going to the theatre already. A war film where the soldiers get bored with war coz nothin's happenin'.
Meryl Streep. Reason enough to watch a movie, don't you think? Anyway, Meryl Streep is a therapist with a patient in the form of Uma Thurman scared of embarking into a relationship with a guy younger than her. Meryl Streep is also a mother with a son in the form of Bryan Greenberg who's just found himself a girlfriend. Those two parts of her life collide – go figure. Trailer indicates it'll be really funny.
Okay, I'll be honest. The only reason I wanted to see this one was because of the last bit shown in the trailer. Heath Ledger plays Casanova, trying desperately to court Sienna Miller. He arrives at her house with a pig in tow. "May I enter the house?" Sienna Miller sends her maid to greet him. "My mistress says the pig cannot come in."
Then she grabs the pig. "But the animal, we'll take." Door slams.
From the twisted mind of Mel Brooks, apparently. It's not Tim Burton twisted though, but it's really really funny. Starring Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Uma Thurman (again) and Will Ferrell. Two producers decide that the best way to make money is to produce a flop. And very quickly they find the flop they were looking for – Springtime For Hitler. Guaranteed to shock and anger! Some of the wittiest lines ever found in a trailer …
(After Uma Thurman does a dance …) "I'd like you to know, my dear, that even though we're sitting down, we're giving you a standing ovation!"
Uma Thurman: Do la dance again!