Archive for December, 2007

December 28, 2007

>When magic takes place in the real world

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Enchanted (2007) – The first time I heard of this film I thought it would be nothing but a very silly and predictable story. Its end is indeed expected and some scenes are slightly corny, but these small “flaws” can’t ruin it in any terms, on the contrary, it only helps to keep the smile on the face of each person in the audience. The songs are not as memorable as Disney’s most classic songs, but that’s not a problem either, as the lead character, Giselle, is played by Amy Adams in one of the most outstanding female performances of the year. The geniosity of the actress lies in the fact she was able to take the best out of a typical Disney princess, a character who could be easily turned into a cheap parody in the hands of the wrong performer. But as Adams said herself once:

“I think that I’ve always been attracted to characters who are positive and come from a very innocent place. I think there’s a lot of room for discovery in these characters and that’s something I always have fun playing.”

Playing a sort of character so brilliantly isn’t for many. People usually say that “difficult” and dramatic characters are the most challenging roles, and therefore, those that should be awarded when the actors do good. It isn’t every day that comic roles are awarded or even remembered, even though making people laugh, especially in Amy’s situation in this film, is harder than making them weep. At this point everyone must know what the film is about, but here I go… In an animated and typical Disney world called Andalasia, princess-to-be Giselle waits for a prince who will sing to her and share their true love’s kiss. Her wishes come true (in a particular corny-on-purpose and therefore, funny scene), and they’re already settled to marry eachother by the next day. The prince’s stepmom (the always worth-watching Susan Sarandon) is the evil queen who will spoil the singing couple’s happy end, sending Giselle to a world where there’s no happily-ever-after, in order to keep prince Edward single and thus remain queen of Andalasia.

By this moment the film has changed from classic animation to the live-action in our contemporary days, more specifically, in NY York City (could you imagine a better place to tell such a story?) and Amy Adams’ consternated facial expression in the right moment Giselle faces the big city in the middle of Times Square is a sort of early and very welcomed climax scene in the story. Giselle will feel finally safe after meeting the realistic, divorced, single parent and lawer Robert (Patrick Dempsey), who despite thinking she’s nothing but a disturbed young woman, will take her into his apartment where she spends the night. That’s where she will sing a happy working song, while cleaning up Robert’s dirty and messy apartment with the help of the big city’s “cute” little animals. Like the movie trailer says, there was never anything like this among all Disney films ever made. After a year of many disappointing and supposed-to-be entertaining films (Shrek 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, SpiderMan 3, etc etc..), the recycled Enchanted’s fairy tale confirms itself as one of the best entertainment movies of 2007.

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I’ve received a Thinking Blogger Award from Aisha, who writes the blog Coloured Bleu. Copying and pasting: If you get tagged you have to write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think and then you have to put a link to THIS post so people can find out where it all started. Finally, just in case you want (optional), you can display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote in one of your sidebars. I pass down the award in no specific order to Denise from Síndrome de Estocolmo (who persuaded me to stop buying L’oreal and Nestle products, except for condensed milk, as there’s no other kind here… and who shares all her thoughts and impressions while travelling abroad – the China posts were so great), Margie from Margie’s Hideout (for writing constantly about political and cultural issues in a fun way), Morsi from Get Out of Babylon (this is a new blog I just knew very recently, but the post he wrote after someone left a message on his blog saying he stole the poem he wrote himself was pretty interesting), Cherry Blossom Girl (whose pictures are just enchanting and really tell a story through images – just check her Lost in Translation inspired pics in her recent trip to Japan) and Plain Jayne (for writing about Fashion while mixing it with different subjects, like Cinema and her own personal thoughts). I wonder what this award really means, but thanks a lot anyway, Aisha! ^^

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A little more of Enchanted: This is one of my favourite scenes in the movie, and one of the funniest scenes of the year. Pip, the chipmunk, unable to talk in the real world, uses pantomime in order to tell the truth about Nathaniel (Timothy Spall, very good) to the not very bright Prince Edward (James Marsden, also good). This is a great example of how visual effects can be used quite positively to improve storytelling, unlike what happened in some other film also released this year. Before seeing Enchanted, the whiskey drunker polar bear from The Golden Compass was my favourite computer generated character of the year, but now it’s definitely Pip. *WARNING* This scene might contain SPOILERS.

December 21, 2007

>The Last Four Movies I Saw

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Beowulf (2007) – This movie was supposed to be a 3-D live show for those who got the chance to see it with the 3-D glasses and everything, but in a “normal” movie experience, I don’t really see what’s the point of transforming real actors in digital ones. In Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf, the audience we’ll sure have the chance to see how computer generated effects have advanced in the motion-captured live-action performances technique, but besides all this superficiality there’s not much substance. Substance? Isn’t it supposed to be just an entertainment flick? Yes, but that’s where it lacks substance, in more specific words, emotions. Many characters in the story (especially the supporting cast) look like unexpressive zombies uncapable of making a simple eye blink seem true. The story was adapted from an old epic poem and this film focus on the legend of Beowulf, a warrior who arrives in an scandinavian village willing to destroy the monster that terrifies its population. The action scenes envolving the main character are actually entertaining in a funny way, as he swims in the open sea for days without dying of hypothermia and constantly fights naked. Ah, and there’s also Angelina Jolie who plays a seductive creature who basically sleeps with men to later give birth to bipolar-disordered monsters. Besides all that, she has a tail and an incredible computer generated figure. Technology is great when it serves for a better storytelling, but that’s not the case here.

We Own the Night (2007) – Laurence Olivier once said: “What is acting but lying and what is good lying but convincing lying?” The question applies perfectly to Joaquin Phoenix‘s performance in this film. The dramatic personality transformation his character suffers, going from one extreme to the other was hard to believe in storytelling terms, but he’s so willing to convince us, he is such a great actor, that I kind of feel bad for saying I didn’t believe how he could go from family black sheep to… Well, I can’t spoil it to you. Apart from this disbelief, I actually liked this film, that takes place in NY City in the 1980s. Phoenix plays Bobby Green, he belongs to a family of cops but he decided to live in his own terms, adopting a different second name (his real name is Grusinsky) and managing a night club. The fact the club belongs to the russian maphia doesn’t seem to bother Green, who is only interested in enjoying the night together with his beautiful girfriend, played by Eva Mendes in her best performance by far. But things will change when Bobby’s brother and father organize an operation in order to arrest the local drug dealer. Detail: None of the russians, including the maphia’s leader have a clue about Bobby’s family.

The Golden Compass (2007) – I particularly adore fantasy-like films, and for more that I feel happy with the explosion of this genre of films in today’s Hollywood, I also feel disappointed for the fact that some of these films are only made because there was once Lord of the Rings, that made a lot of money at the box office, though there are certainly more producers out there willing for making money, money, money than creative genious like Peter Jackson, passionately willing to make a fantastic film. In short: not all books should become films for the wrong reasons, and in this case, a book which was dramatically compressed to turn into a less than two hours film. No, I haven’t read the book, but I can only guess and, of course, suspect. I had a hard time following the small bits of the story due to the rush of its actions. Everything happens so fast and out of place that the audience is not given enough time to connect to the story. After saving her uncle from poison, the curious Lyra Belacqua (the newcomer Dakota Blue Richards) goes on a trip to the north with the glamorous Mrs. Coulter (a very icy Nicole Kidman, who could have played the White Witch in another fantasy film). In her dark and magic adventure along with a golden compass that can tell the truth for the one who can read it (and she can) , Lyra will search for a kidnapped friend, and along the way she will have the help of flying witches, a balloon pilot and a former whiskey drunker polar bear, among others. I should also mention that in Lyra’s world, everyone has a daemon, who happens to be a sort of visible and audible spirit of the person, who follows them everywhere they go. The creatures change its forms in many ways and in Lyra’s case, it can be a ferret, a mouse, a cat… Watching The Golden Compass didn’t feel like a true escapism, but it was sure a nice visual experience. I quite enjoyed the polar bears moments, though.

Paranoid Park (2007) – This film is Gus van Sant‘s adaptation of a Blake Nelson novel, that basically vagues about the existencial dilemma of a teenage boy envolved in an accidental, but not less guilty death. I haven’t read the book, and the film didn’t persuade me to do so, not even in a late future. Van Sant “alternative” cinema worked positively in Elephant, but here all the camera endless close-ups, walks in the school corridor and slow motion scenes keep as superficial as they can get, without adding substance to the story, in short: there’s nothing going on beneath the artful surface. The lead character (casted on a MySpace page) is a high school kid who never separates himself from his skateboard. The day he and his friend agree on skating at the presumably rough and dangerous Paranoid Park, he gets envolved in an accident. The fragments of that day will be revealed slowly through flash-backs, that should make us comprehend the boy’s actions, but not his constant apathy. The newcomer Gabe Nevins is more apathic than his character was supposed to be, and there’s not a single scene he would look or sound any different, which makes it quite hard to believe in his drama. In the rare scenes the kid is talking to her mom, we never get to see her face, or she’s placed very distantly from him while having a regular talk, therefore, we should assume the kid has distant parents. He has sex with her virgin cheerleader girlfriend, and he’s not a bit excited about it during the act, therefore, we should assume he’s really facing something serious in his life. And then the most obvious scene of all, we get to see what he saw in the day of the accident. The characters are not developed enough as everything else in this experimental project that wastes the work of cinematographer Christopher Doyle (In The Mood for Love, Lady in the Water) in 90 minutes of dullness. One thing else, the teenage female characters in this film, told from an obvious and limited male point of view make me say Thank God for Sofia Coppola.

December 12, 2007

>Prepare yourself for an unbelievable acid trip

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I’m Not There (2007) – Todd Haynes newest film is more complex than what I thought it could be. I remember very well many pre-release reports that claimed the film was nothing but a Bob Dylan biopic where the famous folk singer is portrayed by six different actors, including a woman (Cate Blanchett) and an african-american child (Marcus Carl Franklin). The movie trailer and advertising seemed bizarre enough, but if you’ve had the same feeling, God, you haven’t seen anything! The final result is actually more bizarre than I could have ever imagined. This is not a biopic at all, not even a non-traditional one, as some people would like to say so. The six different stories take part in very isolated atmospheres, one so independent to another that it’s almost like if the entire movie consisted of six short films, that somehow connect themselves in one single and obvious subject – The countless layers of Dylan’s personality, in particular, many phases of his personal life and career.

Despite the very efficient editing, the film is nonetheless caothic, and I believe that’s how it was meant to be, as Haynes’ concept is so abstract that makes it impossible to hide its idiosyncrasy. This is not a film to be easily followed by those who don’t possess a single Dylan album at home and are not aware of the most known happenings in his life and musical career. Haynes is a great admirer of the singer himself, and here he plays of “Guess what this is about” in many frames. I assume that the film will be more transparent for those who have a deep knowledge on Dylan’s biography and musical work. For the ones who are as clueless as I am on this topic, I’d advice you to enjoy this acid trip without making any further questions. Focus on the ensemble cast, the chameleonic cinematography and of course, the soundtrack.

All Dylans are captivating on screen, but it’s particularly impossible to take our eyes away from Cate Blanchett’s messy hair, dark shades, black skinny suit and unseparable smoke. There’s a moment in the film that I could actually forget Jude Quinn was being played by a woman, I saw a male character and I believed him. A slightely feminine/childlike/innocent male, but still, a male. The sequences where Blanchett acts along with Michelle Williams are few, but memorable. Not only because of the great australian actress’s presence, but for Michelle, who walks around in shift dresses, black opaque tights and incredible heels, in a clear Haynes version of Edie Sedgwick, a much more critical and negative one though. Phisically transformed in many aspects, she deserved more recognition for her short, but yet, remarkable performance. For the rest, the great quality this film possesses is the fact it is refreshing, after all, the last thing contemporary cinema needs is another biopic in the modes of Ray or Walk the Line. As a movie critic wrote, “If you’re so tired of the old, then here is the new. Embrace it, or please shut up”. I don’t know exactly what to think.

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P.S.: If you haven’t seen Hairspray yet, and all you want is a couple of hours of fun and light entertainment, here’s the movie for you. This is the sort of film that puts a smile on people’s faces. By the time I left the theater, I even felt like dancing! And even in some parts of the film as well. The newcomer Nikki Blonsky is adorable as Tracy, a teenage girl who isn’t afraid of pursuing her dreams despite of what people would say. Among the veterans’ cast, I loved John Travolta as Tracy’s mom, he gives one of his best and most charismatic performances in a long long time. Watch the trailer here.