Archive for February, 2008

February 24, 2008

>This is the story of Briony Tallis


Atonement (2007) – Over five months waiting for this film to come out in the danish theaters almost discouraged me to see it. Unflattering comments from those who had seen it already too. “This is a melodrama that doesn’t provoke any good discussions”; “how forgettable it is”; “how confusing and hard to understand”. Being melodramatic doesn’t always mean bad, after all, great part of the classic film history is what could have been called a “melodrama”. And if there are people out there who couldn’t follow the story without great difficulties, I don’t see that as a narrative problem at all. And as for being forgettable, it’s truly a personal matter. I know it’s too early to say something of the sort, but so far I have the entire film in my mind, and I feel that it will stay with me for a long time.

As in Ian McEwan’s novel, the film belongs to Briony, whose personality layers are exposed in her very first screen appearances, as a result of Saoirse Ronan’s sensitive performance, the editing and even the soundtrack and costumes. Briony is a child with fertile imagination that hasn’t yet realized how words can be powerful, instead, she intersperses imagination and reality and interpretates the world around as a consequence of these two. Briony is innocent and sexually clueless, she feels somehow left-out from the adult world she misunderstands, she feels awkward between two very distinguished borders. The sin she’s about to commit is not only fruit of what she can’t yet comprehend, as her fantasies are also attached to a deeper reason that conceals truth and generates lies.

Robbie, the charlady’s son, as for his social origin, as for the words of Briony, as for the “wrong” message in the envelope, is denied the possibility of defense. His redemption and possibility of being with Cecilia once and for all is the Second World War. Yes, it’s melodramatic. The entire nucleus revolving the two lovers is tragic from their first kiss to the very end. However, the acting saves this segment of being emotionally manipulating. Keira Knightley abandons for once all the exagerated facial expressions that even gave her an Oscar nomination in the past and decides to give a subtitle performance that enriches not only her acting, but the narrative as well. James McAvoy doesn’t even need words to demonstrate what Robbie has gone through.

And when Romola Garai takes the screen as a 18-year-old Briony, now a nameless nurse that traded the university and everything else her aristocratic condition could proportionate for nothing but sadness, pain and horror; it can be seen that it’s only her haircut that is still the same, because the old and romantic-minded Briony is buried forever. That child was replaced by a young woman whose feeling of guilt is so transparent that can be read in her eyes and posture, and whose possibility of atonement is all she aims. Life won’t make it possible, only words. Words that once so powerful and inventive, destroyed lives, words that now nothing but facts, atone those very same lives, although it’s too late, and it’s always been too late.
February 23, 2008

>Bizarre, weird or awkward movie scenes in 2007*


Executive Koala (2006)Absolutely everything from the opening scene to the end

A successful business man in a pickle company, Keiichi Tamura is also a koala, but that doesn’t seem out of place to his co-workers. Well, considering the fact the company’s president is a rabbit and the local shopkeeper is a frog, it starts making sense why everyone acts so normal around Tamura. When Tamura’s (human) girlfriend is found murdered, police will think he’s the prime suspect. But the poor sweet koala seems such a nice fellow, he couldn’t have commited such an awful crime! This absurd plot directed by japanese Minoru Kawasaki was one my best laughs in the movies last year.

Inland Empire (2006) – The crazy dance

Any Lynch film is what some would call peculiar, even before seeing it. At this point, most of you must know I had a hell of a hard time to figure out what the heck was going on from its very beggining, but hey, this is a Lynch film! Then, the movie was over and instead of credits being rolled, a crazy dance took place. It almost looked tribal. And…why? I believe to this question there’s no explanation at all. It was just because. Watch the trailer here.

300 (2007) – Leonidas eating an apple right after the battle

I don’t quite remember if it was right after the first battle against the persians or later in the movie, I just couldn’t forget how bizarrely funny it looked when he did that. The effect is immediately felt by the audience, as from the last battle frame to Leonidas’ snack, the editing was very fast. This is Sparta, people! Watch the trailer here.

I’m Not There (2007)A few Cate Blanchett scenes and almost everything Richard Gere is in

Todd Haynes’ film is hard to catch if you don’t have plenty of knowledge about Bob Dylan’s life and career. I really would like to know what does the giraffe in the Billy the Kid (Richard Gere) segment mean when it appears out of nowhere, so awkwardly. I also would like to meet someone who could reflect well about Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett) hanged by his leg in the open sky like a balloon. I believe all of these scenes aren’t there without a purpose, unfortunately I’m not sure what many of them symbolizes.

Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006) – Nicole Kidman shaving Robert Downey Jr.

As I’m Not There, this is not a cliche biopic, it’s more like a fiction piece inspired in the life and work of photographer Diane Arbus. I don’t know her work so deeply, but from the few photographs I could see and from this film, I could say Arbus had an attraction to the bizarre and to the marginal, focusing on the hidden beauty and goodness these possess. Maybe the relationship she develops with Downey Jr. character, a man who suffers from a rare disease that causes excessive body and facial hair, is a symbol of the love and understanding Arbus felt for her main photographing sources. I know, it all sounds so nice and oh, how good it feels to watch a comprehensible and actually interesting film, however, the shaving scene is still weird:-) Watch the trailer here.

Knocked Up (2007)Alison and Ben second sex scene

Ok, the first sex scene was understandable, after all, the woman was drunk, folks. But the second one couldn’t be more awkward. I suppose the pregnancy hormones can make a woman lose her mind. Well, at least in Katherine Heigl’s case, it sure did.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) – The very end

A single scene in the end of a movie can ruin the entire good cinematic work from its beggining until that very last moment? Perfume could have been a great film, if it wasn’t for its “poetic” last minutes that completely destroyed the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the young man who collected the scent of his victims in the search for the finest fragrance ever made. Adapted from a novel, Perfume was extremely strict in its adaptation, which just proves that what works in Literature doesn’t always go well in the cinema. Watch the trailer here.

*Bizarre doesn’t mean bad. In some films, certain bizarre moments were actually nice for the film, like adding humour to it, for example.

February 22, 2008

>Some of my fav movie scenes in 2007


I know it’s a little too late to start posting a sort of 2007 top list, but since this is not actually a traditional Top 10 list (there’s not even 10 movies mentioned here!), and since it’s Oscar weekend soon, talking about memorable flicks I watched during the past year is not quite such an aged topic. I know some of the films here might have been released earlier than 2007, but well, I’m considering everything I could watch in the theater or on dvd last year (Sofia’s films was the only one listed that unfortunately I couldn’t see in the dark room…) So here it is, in no preference order:

Marie Antoinette (2006)The “I Want Candy scene”

Sofia’s third film is not only as good as her previous ones, but it was one of the best films made in the year of its release. Loved by some, but hated by others, Marie Antoinette could be seriously understood as “the work of a mature filmmaker who has identified and developed a new cinematic vocabulary to describe a new breed of post-postpostfeminist woman”, in the words of a film critic. Nevertheless, this is a film made for girls, that enchants their eyes and understands their inner emotions.

Exiled (2007) – The opening shooting scene

Perhaps only nerds like me loved this film, the greatest surprise I had during a film festival last year. I’m not a big fan of traditional westerns, but I tend to love films that get inspired by this classic Hollywood genre while building it up in a new context. Johnny To’s camera created a beautiful and eye-pleasuring ballet of guns in slow motion. The frame which the shooters are seen from a top angle is a picture to remember. Watch the trailer here.

Death Proof (2007) The second segment’s end

Yes, it was a homage to Grindhouse pictures, but Tarantino is not Rodriguez, and Thank God for that! It’s hard to comment on this particular scene I have in mind without spoiling it to the ones who haven’t seen it, so I shouldn’t say much. Just one advice: don’t take it too seriously and have fun. I laughed a lot.

Eastern Promises (2007)The sauna fight scene

Too bad I didn’t find a picture of it, though the photo up there is another memorable scene from David Cronenberg’s movie. I’ve already said it, but I’ll repeat it: “He (Cronenberg) makes us wonder about the main character’s identity by one single fight scene where a naked Viggo Mortensen brutally manages to defend himself from two men in a bathhouse. Cronenberg tells us stories through blood, and no guns are needed. This is non gratuitous violence in its best shape.”

Ratatouille (2007)The flashback scene

It must be a few people out there who disliked this film, and seriously, not even Freud could explain why. Deep inside, Ratatouille is nothing but that same story already told hundreds of times before, about crossing beyond all borders and prejudices and truly following your heart to achieve your dreams. And yes, it’s told through the point of view of a little mouse who wanted to become a chef in an important parisian restaurant. That’s cinema. This is another scene hard to describe while not spoiling it, but I’m sure many who saw it would agree this is “the scene”.

Michael Clayton (2007) – The “No, the truth cannot be adjusted” scene

I liked Michael Clayton, although I think it was a little overestimated in the current awards season. I found the plot interesting and its editing is really relevant to the story, as that seemed a little confused, and without a good editing, it could have been ruined. This is the scene I truly liked Clooney’s acting. Watch the trailer here.

Enchanted (2007)The scene Pip, the chipmunk, pantomimes to the dumb prince

Pip: HELLhmmOhh… (…) *impersonating Giselle* (…) Ean Appooh? (…) No, thank you. (…) It’s goooh. (…) Hmmmf. Ommk.

The prince: You feel you’d die without me here!
Priceless ^^

Tomorrow, I’ll post some of the most bizarre movie moments.

February 21, 2008

>The paparazzi, the popstar and the bum


I’m a licensed professional photographer, you #%%%###

Delirious (2007) – The media celebrity system behaves like a parasite that needs to be fed from both the audience (or the fans) that are interested in reading about their favourite celebrities or any celebrities at all, plus the paparazzi that do all the candid photographing. Certain celebs and paparazzi are so intertwined that one depends from the other and vice versa. Andy Warhol once said everyone would have 5 minutes of fame, and there was never instant fame without the help of a camera lence, ilegal or not. Directed by Tom DiCillo, Delirious is a satirical comedy that intends to be a little dramatic in its edges. It’s never too dark and it’s never too realistic, as some of the characters are caricatural (the characters, not the actors’ performances), however, I understood this was a movie that didn’t intend to go further in the discussion it starts.

He’s my hook-up tonight

The best in Delirious is the acting, as all the cast delivers genuine performances, especially Steve Buscemi, who plays Les, a paparazzi who dreams of shooting the next tabloid cover that will give him “respect”. Les finds a street kid, the innocent looking Toby (Michael Pitt), who gets to live in Les’ grubby apartment while working for free as Les’ assistant. Les will teach him how to enter in celebrities parties he wasn’t invited for, among other things of the sort, and as the clueless boy intends to become an actor, Les is willing to help him. In the meanwhile, Toby has a crush on the hot popstar of the moment, the singer K’Harma (Alison Lohman, in a less trash version of Christina Aguilera in her Dirrty times), and as they coincidently meet in very different ocasions, they end up “hooking up”.

“Because the sky is blue…”

Delirious finale is not hard to figure out, and its trailer tells quite some part of the story, however, all of this doesn’t end up rotten, as for a comedy it truly makes the audience laugh (at least me and the others in the little art cinema last weekend..). Besides the three major characters, there’s still the missing Gina Gershon (!) playing a casting director who seduces Toby and gives him a role in a reality-fiction (!) TV show. As for the technical filmmaking aspects, the cinematography and editing in the movie’s first minutes are a true eye-catching, showing Toby’s survival as a homeless kid from day to night in NY City.

P.S.: After the film credits are rolled, there’s an extra scene that tells a little else about Les’ destiny.

February 13, 2008

>Where have all the five star pictures gone?


Six months ago I read a blogger’s opinion on contemporary films, stating that a particular David Lynch film was the only good film produced in the current decade and how cinema these days is boring to death. I thought it was a very radical opinion and contested it, as I think films these days can be as good and as creative as any other decade. Although I still disagree with opinions that underestimate today’s cinema, I’d have to agree it’s not that easy to leave the theater genuinely impressed by something. I could use my fingers to count the films that in the last five years remained in my memory, and if I had to diminish the number of years (let’s say 2004-2006), perhaps I could remember 3 or 4 films as being the best ones I had seen in those years. What’s going on? Is it something wrong with the movies or with me? I’d not say that’s something wrong with me or anyone, but one thing is certain: “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are”.
I’ve seen thousands of films in over 10 years. At the time I fell in love with cinema (around the age of 11), I wasn’t as hard to be pleased. Many films I got to see at home because I was simply not old enough to go to the theaters. However, I saw many “free” censored films that I liked in the dark room, moments that were never forgotten. At the age of 10 I saw Batman Returns in the movies and I didn’t forget that dark atmosphere for days. Two years later I rented Pulp Fiction and I will never forget how me and my three-years-younger-than-me brother laughed histerically at the moment Uma Thurman‘s character wakes up from her OD. And of course there were the sad ending romances, and the cinema to dream and to escape, as well as the epics. I suppose all my genre and style film preferences were built up at my early cinephile times, as well as my favourite actors. Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino were two of my first big movie crushes. Around the same time I saw Heavenly Creatures and I would never erase Kate Winslet from the top of the best actresses alive. And those afternoon sessions replaying Edward Scissorhands from now and then. Johnny, Oh sweet and talented Johnny.

I wonder if it’s ever going to be another Burton film that will top that one. Sweeney Todd? Hell, no. I actually liked the film, a lot more than I liked Michael Clayton, for example (I just haven’t been able to see that much Oscar-nominated films so far), but that’s something lacking in it, something I can’t even explain what. I love its opening with the camera penetrating each dirty spot of that surrealistic gothic and dirty London in rapid flashes, the cinematography is brilliant, and so are the art direction and the costumes created by the long-time Burton collaborator Colleen Atwood (watch an interview with her on the film here). Depp is scary like I’ve never seen him before, and I like his singing, especially in My Friends and Epiphany, and Helena Bonham Carter as his leading lady is equally good and deserved more attention. The supporting team was not quite impressive, except for a very happy surprise, the young actor Ed Sanders. And I guess that’s it. It’s a good film.

Charlie Wilson’s War. I’m not really sure what to think of it. As a comedy is not very funny, except for the Philip Seymour Hoffman moments, and as a political flick, it’s very hard to take it seriously. Maybe, it was meant to be something in between? The film begins with Tom Hanks in a jacuzzi in the company of two strippers and a playmate surrounded by junkies and white powder, though he’s actually interested on what’s on TV, that shows the fight between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Settled during the cold war times, it’s Hanks and Julia Roberts going all the way to the war zone to defeat the red menace. It actually sounds interesting, but I didn’t think it was after seeing it, especially after the moral lesson in politics around the end, told through a very obvious metaphor. I miss Tom Hanks from Forrest Gump times. I never get sick of watching him in it. As for Julia Roberts, I just can’t stand her anymore. She aged, had twins, injected botox on her face and decided to deceive herself saying that not smiling anymore means great acting.

Cassandra’s Dream. It could have been another Match Point, but it wasn’t. I’d rather see another Scoop, another typical Allen neat comedy every year, than seeing a nearly disposable Dostoevsky drama. The best thing in this film is Colin Farrell‘s acting, and I never thought I would ever write quite a sentence in my life. Match Point was a masterpiece, it deserved all the awards it could possibly run for, but I believe Cassandra’s dream was made through lazy hands. Ambition, irony and a not so easily expected twist are back in this second Woody Allen moral tale, that lacks the brilliance of the previous one. And then… Things We Lost in the Fire. A woman is all alone. It’s easy to understand her pain and despair, played by Halle Berry in her best performance since she won the Oscar. Right after seeing it, I really liked this film, but a week later, I realized I hadn’t liked it that much. Perhaps it has to do with how Susanne Bier insists to state in every single frame that this is a Susanne Bier film and she’s not kneeling to Hollywood. Eyes close-ups, ears close-ups, close-ups here, close-ups there. Accept the good. The things they lost in the fire and tears in my husband’s eyes, not in mine. Small things like that. This is not a bad film, but it’s not a great one, though. However, I liked it more than I expected.

The horror, the horror

All these films were directed by very talented filmmakers and they were ok. I’m not bashing any of them. I’d recommend each not for the film itself, but for particular aspects in each of them. But if you really wanna stay away from something, don’t bother seeing El Orfanato and don’t dare to rent Stardust. Have you ever heard of Romance & Cigarettes? It’s dreadful, only worth it for Kate Winslet and NOTHING else. And Morvern Callar? Boring and pretentious, just like another one I saw in the movies recently, the same boring long walks, just that this time it’s a young woman instead of a brainless male teen. At times like these, it makes me relieved to know there’s always something fresh and new around the corner, something hard to be found in movie theaters and blockbusters. There’s always pearls to be discovered, I just feel sorry that many of them are not discovered in the darkness of a cinema theater.
February 12, 2008

>The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and a little else


After a sunny weekend, the sky is back to its grey wintering colours again. I should have enjoyed the blue sky and the warm 10 C more (10 C in february means “hot”), but instead, I was at home doing some ordering and enjoying cookies and a cup of tea while watching The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg in the original french title), and I guess that now I’m almost ready for seeing foreign languages films in the theaters. Whereas I’m still insecure when it comes to speaking/listening danish (Hvad siger du? Arghhhhh!)*, the reading has been quite ok, though the fact the film’s plot was nothing complex and the singing dialogues were quite simple helped. At the beggining I was a little bugged by the non-stopping singing and the obviousness of the entire film. A young couple in love, the girl’s widowed mother who owns an umbrella shop is going through financial issues and doesn’t see with good eyes her 17-year old daughter’s romance with the poor young man. The guy leaves to some war without knowing the girl got pregnant, he comes back years later and… Nevertheless, the beauty of the costumes and art direction made me follow each scene after the other, and overall, I liked the film.

Geneviève (a pre-Buñuel Catherine Deneuve) and her mom might be going through hard times, but they sure can display one different outfit after the other inside or outside their umbrella shop. Too bad I didn’t find so many pictures of the movie, as the early 1960s costumes are just so pretty with a slight innocent touch due to the pastel fabrics and how Deneuve wears them with ballet flats and a good girl hairdo. Which is quite remarkable is the phisical transformation the character goes through in the end. Deneuve, at the age of 21, was quite convincing as a teenager and afterwards, as a sophisticated mature woman. It’s true that she acquires elegance in natural gestures, but the costumes and make-up definitely helped through her characterization.