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Monthly Archives: August 2010

On the Filmspotting site, they are currently having a poll on who should be cast for the role of the female lead in the US remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”. When I just read that, I had to gulp and felt sad and and and… here is what I thought:
“why the hell would anybody in his right mind want to remake this beautiful film in the first place?”

I know it’s a different story altogether (and maybe an idea for a marathon on “successful remakes”? should be half-marathon at most), but: is it the European insde me or just somebody who likes good movies who CRINGES whenever he hears the word “remake” (or worse: “US remake”…)? I now sit down for one minute and try to come up with a single US film that was remade from a non-English original and that was good. … still thinking … ok, scale it down, that was “acceptable”? … still nothing…  Shall we bet that “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” will become an honourable member of the League of Boring Remakes, joining the likes of “Solaris”, “Funny Games”, “[rec]”, “Ringu”, … and will soon be joined by “Let the Right One In”?
Language is such an important factor in any movie. Depriving the Swedish-conceived and Swedish-written Swedish characters driven by a Swedish conflict of all its local colour and just wrapping it in an American warm-up meal tinfoil box.. I really would like to understand WHY WHY WHY this happens so frequently, even though those not only are not good, I cannot even remember one that has been moderately successful. The audience does not want to get fooled. What it wants is to get trained to watch stories from other regions and other language zones, to take in great stories from all over the world. Language is only a barrier if the film is rubbish. You can savour any Kurosawa, Tarkowksi or Bergman film without understanding the language, because film language and substitles work together very well if the movie is a good movie.

Need to get back to re-watch “Dogtooth” now. Next to “The Prophet” the most interesting film I have seen all year, hope Michael Bay won’t remake either of them.

Paul Thomas Anderson was 27 years old when he directed Boogie Nights… this may be the most incredible aspect about the film, which is very mature, well-written, shows fabulous acting performances and an overall very mature understanding of human drama. Is this one of the best films ever made by a director that young? May well be.
There are too many things to be mentioned: Philip Seymor Hoffman, Burt Lancaster, Julianne Moore, Mark Wahlberg, Don Cheadle, Wiliam  H. Macy form an outstanding cast. Maybe only Luis Guzman’s character gets somehow lost along the way, and it comes as a bit of a surprise when towards the end he is re-established on equal par with the other lead actors.  I have no idea how the director boy got all those people to play along, but maybe it means that there is hope: even actors understand great stories when they see them.
The film does not play with the epic breath of Magnolia or There will be Blood, it is more intimate, following basically one part in a carreer, and playing it harmless for a long time, with segments reminding me of “Entourage” episodes, the pleasures of fame and richness, the pleasure of any need to think ahead being absent from a Hollywood life. But when things take a turn, they do so in a very distubring way, and Anderson does not just let it happen, he very consciously directs these: the New Year’s party where William Macy’s character decides to take his fate into his own hand is a constant swirling of people’s movement from one part of the house to the other, like a bee hive reacting to different information about flower garden’s honey pots. If that was disturbing, then all the more is the scene when Don Cheadle and Mark Wahlberg face their fate at the same time, brilliant editing juxtaposing the scenes, bringing together not just these two, but I think altogether four development archs. Or the cruelty of a crumbling facade of easy living, represented by Amber, the wife of the porn director played by Burt Reynolds, collapsing after trying in vain to get custody over the child from her first marriage, crashing under the humiliation of having her ex-husband describe rather accurately what life she lives, being faced by her own reality and by the fact that she will never be able to accept it for herself. And finally the big finale, the pre-showdown in the house of the crazy drug buyer played by Alfred Molina, with Chinese fireworks constantly scaring the crap out of our brave gang of supposed badass robbers. The cunning final scene, where we are allowed for a second to believe that Dirk Diggler has made true on his belief that he is an actor and his ambition to show this outside the X-rated business.
Just thinking about it, it may be that Anderson is the most consistently over-performer among current directors. Look at that oeuvre and bow your head in admiration!
http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19971017/REVIEWS/710170301/1023
http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/reviews/cl-movie971111-40,0,7782501.story

Boogie Nights 1997.

While [rec] created a very nice original idea (or let’s say: original within the clear-cut confines of the zombie- or crazie-genre), the second part varies this theme with traditional elements, or shall we call it: superimposes the topics of “Exorcist” and “Omen”, some say “Da Vinci Code” (actually, the blood testing is more or less insprired by “John Carpenter’s The Thing”, but maybe all blood-testing-for-vicious-things is), and “Species” and and and…

Some clever ideas prevent the film from going stale after a few segments: the perspective changes with the cameras available, and through tricks like defects and empty batteries, the film gets occasional changes of perspective without necessarily being guilty of neglecting an available one (with one exception, and that is the original camera from the first part, which we will meet again at a stage a bit too late to help anybody).

The film is outright creepy: the subjective camera does that, the ferociously attacking infected tenants (and guests) of the house, and the fact that we already know that there is something wildly more dangerous and terrifying than just rabid zombie-thingies lurking in the penthouse. And through a nice twist of narration, we are forced to live through this nightmare in a mostly ill-lit setting  (because sometimes, there’s more to be seen in the dark …). It would actually be much better to watch this in a movie theatre with the big screen and the lights out and a nice hand to grab your shoulder in terror… but even the home cinema watching was creepy enough.

Interesting that through some complete coincidence, I watched this one briefly after Haneke’s Hidden / Cache, not realising until now that both have the same theme: the importance of perspective and point-of-view, and that they differ in the important question of who’s in charge, the watcher or the watched.

via [Rec] 2 (2009).

What can I say: Stunning opening sequence, terribly moving finale, real tear-jerker. Again a stunning amount of very subtly choreographed details, that definitely require second and third viewing.

I think what made the movie so special that it lingers around the box office charts for months now is the emotional truth about it – and how the toys as well as the people need to make very human choices: towards the end Woody has to face a realisation that he was making the wrong choices all along, and the way he looks, and turns his head, and looks at the box with his friends heading towards the attic… you feel something is off, something is very wrong, and it is an almost terrifying realisation that this friendly film may end in disaster – can you nominate a cartoon character for best actor?

By growing mature in topic and style, it may be that the film is moving slightly away from the child audience: I wonder how old you have to be to not be scared by Dr PorkChop’s Flying Killer-Pig (Pink Floyd, anyone?), or the killer monkeys, or the giant baby, or its bear master manipulator, or the trash shredder and the trash shred melting fire of hell… this is scary stuff, my dear! All the more in the short film that opens: Night & Day, where the images change with such mind-boggling speed that the most fascinating thing about seems to be how they manage to still keep it interesting and terribly complicated at the same time, while avoiding that the audience gets dizzy and sick.

All in all: film making on its highest level!

Toy Story 3 (2010).

Looks a bit like a home video, grainy and a bit shaky camera. But makes it feel very natural in its atmosphere, and all the more terrifying when things go wrong. The story (as many “based on real events” stories) suffers a bit from predictability, but then again, once they are all in the water, the feeling of paralysis and helplessness comes across nicely. Why do they not just swim towards the coast? I don’t know, they may have their reasons, I would have done something, I guess. Don’t blame the sharks!

Open Water (2003).

Too much has been said and written about this masterpiece, apart from: how incredible that up until now I think I had never seen it before? Maybe when I was little on tv, but I had no recollection at all – and I do not believe the film works very well for a kid that has no concept of ageing, of lost dreams, of loss and neglect. The most interesting single thing is surely Gloria Swanson’s performance, and how she is balancing on the thin line between comic and drama, the gestures and faces of silent movie overacting could be ridiculous for the Billy Wilder movie, but Wilder and Swanson keep the ridiculous impact confined to the world of the ageing silent movie star that is Norma Desmond, and hence it is not comic, but it is sad and tragic to the rim. And how brilliant to pull off the only conceivable ending to the film that allows her to leave the stage in dignity without betraying the facts of life, of Hollywood life in particular!

I was thinking about the original opening sequence Wilder shot and edited, where the bodies of the deceased of the day were lying next to each other in the morgue, telling each other the stories of their premature demise, and how that would have changed the narrative. He said he changed the setting after the test audience laughed when the name tag got attached to William Holden’s toe – but I believe the bigger problem would have been that you would have taken the story away from its centre of gravity: the movie star and her huge bubble represented by the car, the house, and all her own memorabilia inside.

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990627/REVIEWS08/906270301/1023

Sunset Blvd. (1950).

This is disappointing: you have an angel directly from heaven or hell or wherever, and all he can deliver is motor-propelled iron drill thing that rips his fellow-angels’ guts out? No, really, since when has being a divine creature become so blunt and technical? And an angel has to get himself into a rotation spin to protect itself from gun bullets? What?? So they are not angels, but just flying guys with tattoos?

This film suffers from a lot of things, but mostly from the complete absence of a reason to make it? I wonder what the pitch to the studio was? “Hey there are some angels, and … well. Hang on, let me think. Hm… these angels come to Earth you know and then they shoot with a lot of weapons.” I am sure they did not mention the baby that will save the Earth in the final battle and that needs to be protected and that is called John Connor … no, but almost.

I have hardly ever seen a film that was so utterly shallow and empty despite having the divine extermination of the human race in its core. Strange, isn’t it?

Legion 2010.

An early pre-study of the setting later to become famous as “Oceans” trilogy. George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh seem to have fun playing it cool, with cons and heists slightly less flashy than from the later movies, but because of that the film lacks the multi-star big-budget burden of Danny Ocean’s metrry bunch. I can hardly remember what they were up to, why they moved from one prison to the next billionaire’s mansion, and why the villains around Don Cheadle wanted to kill Clooney, but Clooney is cute, and Ving Rhames is massive, and it is fun to see that Steve Zahn of the fantastic “Treme” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1279972/ ) actually looks younger now than he did 12 years ago. Jennifer Lopez is in it as well, and did not disturb the grown-ups acting too much.

Out of Sight (1998).

For years I was angry that the movie did win the Berlin Film Festival, but never found a German distributor. Now at last I caught up with it, and actually seem to understand what scared the suits off.

That film is mayhem – it is early Greengrass, in full cinematographic spin, in a whirlwind around his protagonists, but not confined but too many millions of dollars of Hollywood money. He dives into groups of angry mobs, of confused policemen, of scared demonstrators, and lets us share the confusion and the anger and their scare.

The film proceeds like a ticking clock, leading us one tick after tock nearer towards the inevitable catastrophe. This is all no-frills, I believe there was no music soundtrack at all in the film used to enhance atmosphere or suggest danger. The people we meet live in a constant life of frustration about the political reality and a constant need of improvisation for getting ahead with the normal life.

When the Derry citizens assemble for another demonstration for civil rights and against what they see as the English occupation army, everything is normal in the erupting chaos. Only in the intercutting between the various fronts of police headquarters, police in the field and demonstrators do we realise that something goes more wrong than usual, and when the police starts shooting, it almost feels like the most natural thing.

Is it a film that can only be understood if you are well aware of the historical sitiuation in Britain and Northern Ireland between the 1960s and 1980s? No, Greengrass is much too sophisticated a film maker, he tells you a story that could actually be set anywhere, it could also be a complete work of fiction. That it is true, and that it represents one the most stunning bits of unfairness and injustice in modern Western European history (including the government investigation that followed) only makes it even darker. But whoever sees the story unfold will understand how after the events of 1972, the IRA was flooded with angry young men and women convinced that their fight against the British was a just cause. Who could blame them?

 IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0280491/

Roger Ebert: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20021025/REVIEWS/210250303/1023

The latest investigation on the events of the 1972 Bloody Sunday was only finalised and published in 2010, after which then-Prime Minister Cameron formally apologised to the victims and their families. This report is a thrill read in its own right:

http://www.bloody-sunday-inquiry.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloody_Sunday_%281972%29

A ghost story. I like ghost stories, they are the only way to actually creep me out. The Haunting of Hill House in books, Poltergeist in movies, or also the recent “Paranormal Activiy” and that other film where the kid went missing and the mother went crazy trying to find it in the house, until she did find it and we learn what happened at the very end… damn, what’s it called?

Anyway, creepy movies are my thing. So this one works perfectly well with me: there is an eerie mother (Nicole Kidman looks creepy at the best of times, but here in costume and in a darkened Victorian manor … brrr, get a tan!). There are creepy house-keepers (three of them). There are two kids who cannot be exposed to the sun. There is a boy ghost who keeps opening the shades of the windows. And there is the feeling crawling in that something is much more wrong than just a little dead boy in the attic can be wrong. And there is a fine little twist at the end that I did not see coming and without which the film would still be very good –second watching recommended!

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0230600/

Roger Ebert Review

Guardian Reviews: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/movie/89593/others

Sasha Grey sparks bush backlash – Entourage – Salon.com.

At last: I remember what the internet was invented for … and I actually caught me thinking while watching the episode “oh?!”, but the rest of those Internet people are much more articulate about it. By the way: I really like her, watch the “Girlfriend Experience”!

It seems that I have a soft spot for animated movies: I really liked Toy Story 3, even though I am nowhere near elevating it into Citizen Kane categories as some do, but I watched the first two before going to the cinema. And when seeing Toy Story, I saw the trailer for “Despicable Me”, and while there was no real indication of what it was about, I was immediately inclined to check it out. Strange, no? What makes the film interesting is a mix of styles, with those cute little creepy minions working for Grul, apparently the result of a sometimes more, sometimes less cloning experiment. Especially cute when they drink too much anti-gravity juice or get shrunk to roll-on deodorant size (and shape). On the other side, their master, Grul, who not only has French ancestors, but whose design actually seems to be strongly inprired by the likes of Sylvain Chomet’s “Triplets of Belleville” and other slightly surreal European material (no wonder, given the origin of the directors). And the third level is the straightforward US-style villainy, with the Lehman Brother evil bank director and his Bill Gates lookalike nerd son Vector (they should change that to Steve Jobs now, but who asks for my opinion…).

They are all in for a not too quick fun ride, pleasant level of tear-jerking with little cute orphan girls and missed Swan Lake performances, creepy old lab coat with English accent and a good number of fancy inventions going a little bit wrong. As heist movie and father-kids drama alike, I found it thoroughly entertaining!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1323594/

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