The Impossible

the impossible

I seriously thought I wrote this one but I must have just written it in my head probably at around 5 am because that’s when my brain likes to write long missives but my body does not want to get up so I can’t write anything down which results in my missives (which I’m sure are excellent and a loss to the writing world) being entirely useless (not like the things I write when I’m awake – they are so useful…). Yet I convince myself I’ve written a blog entry – nice one brain.

So, The Impossible. It’s a true story so it’s another story I was spoiled on before I watched the film not because I read the book (eeuw – nonfiction) but I saw the author interviewed. Also it’s called The Impossible which I feel gives quite a lot away (but that’s all the explanation you get).

The first half hour of this film is seriously some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. It depicts the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in all its horror to the point that it’s almost too real – how did anyone survive this? While it’s a horrible thing to make a pun about, I was literally blown away by the power of the film. Brilliant. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to watch this in the cinemas. It must have been almost too much to bear.

Unfortunately, another hour or so of what amounts to a pile of drama follows which was a real let down. The first scenes were just too good. Nothing could maintain my amazement after that half hour that had me on the verge of tears. The drama that followed just seemed trite. Of course, being a true story I knew I should have felt more but having been spoiled I also felt I had an out – in terms of knowing not to get too involved in the red herring drama moments.

Admittedly, Ewan McGregor and especially Naomi Watts (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie… you know the rest) were amazing. Did Naomi win something for this? She should have. Ewan was sweet but in a lot of ways he really had the easier role. Naomi’s character’s pain was palpable. Every scene clearly outlined the pain in her body and the pain in her heart while also the strength she maintained, mental and physical, for the child she was also trying to save. Wow – that’s some acting there. Without her I think this film would have completely lost me after that mind-blowing start.

It was really hard to write this post without saying I was “swept away” – I hate myself…

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Taxi Driver

Taxi_Driver_poster

I think I left it too long to see this one. For so many years I’ve heard what a genre changing classic it is but maybe now I’ve seen too many films that have been influenced by Taxi Driver and now it feels familiar.

I enjoyed Taxi Driver but I wasn’t blown away by it. It doesn’t seem to have stood the test of time in the same way as Apocalypse Now (which I also took way too long to see but still loved it = blown away!).

It’s great to see De Niro in full form acting Travis Bickle is a fully developed character whose slightest twitches convey so much more than just the dialogue. De Niro inhabits the character and while it certainly becomes clear Trav has some serious mental health issues, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and really just like him. I think this is all down to De Niro. Jodie Foster is also brilliant, it’s hard to believe she was so young when acting such a difficult character and just doing it with such maturity. I’ve known she’s amazing for quite some time but it’s still incredible to see her as Iris.

I love that New York is its own character in Taxi Driver. So dirty, so dank, so seedy. No wonder Trav goes off the deep end when all he sees is dark and dirty New York haunting his rear vision mirror with its filth, both literal and in the people of New York jumping in his taxi late at night to do the dirty deeds they can’t do during the day.How gross that he has to clean the ‘gunk’ (shall we say) off the back seat of the taxi at the end of his shift…. euwwww.

Taxi Driver is a surprisingly slow movie, the final scenes contain the only action and that is all over very quickly. I wondered while watching how much of these final scenes were in Travis’ head? Did he really shave his head or was everything he did with the shaved head a ‘dream/fantasy’? Because in the very final scenes of the movie he’s back at his job with a full head of hair and as if nothing has changed. How do you kill two people and then everything goes back to normal? He was saving Iris from a shitty life but he also murdered people in cold blood. Sure they were jerks but killing a jerk isn’t a defence to their murder (should it be?). A bloody happy ending (literal not swearing) is all it comes down to and it was a bit hollow for me.

I liked lots of things about Taxi Driver, it’s a good film and it’s great to revisit De Niro at his strongest (not the Dirty Grandpa De Niro thank you…) but overall I don’t really get what all the fuss is about. I should have seen it sooner.

 

 

 

Argo

argo

So I was completely spoiled on the story of Argo from the get-go as most viewers probably were. I read a reasonably detailed article about the true events Argo is based on at around the time Argo was released so I knew the outcome of this movie. Nonetheless this is an excellent action film that carries you on it’s stressful progression all the way.

Suspense is hard to achieve especially when a lot of your audience already knows the story. Somehow Ben Affleck (Director and actor in this one) pulls it off. I think it probably has a lot to do with having good writers on your side as well. One of whom is the person who actually pulled off this insanity for the CIA. Also, you can’t see Ben’s chin which is my favourite type of Ben.

It’s a treat to see a version of the CIA portrayed which is full of people who actually seem like they might exist (sorry Ethan Hunt and Mr Bourne (whatever his first name is… I’m going with Bruce, I know it’s not Matt anyway)). Bearded Ben plays a bloke who seems like someone you might know or work with, he’s smart and he’s good at playing it straight but it’s because it’s what he does for a living not because he’s the Batman (…I know…). His boss as played by Brian Cranston is even more realistic and flawed. He’s caught between the job and the politics.

Still, the action arises from their ‘everyday’ charms and their need to save a few people from a horrible fate. It is also the politics/doing-your-job dichotomy that a lot of the suspense arises from. It’s very cleverly done.

I remember some of the controversy in Iran from when I was a kid but I had absolutely know idea how dangerous and scary it got, especially for US citizens. I certainly remember those pictures of the Ayatollah staring down from the TV. Beardy Ben does a good job of overlaying true footage from the events and the new scenes for the movie. It is a true story and it doesn’t hide from it or glamorise events (as far as I can tell). They even cast actors who look like the people who became trapped.

The true fake movie story was well portrayed and, as ever, Alan Arkin shone through the screen (as I struggled to remember his name!) as the producer who faked his way through all the Hollywood fakery to produce a fake film. Go CIA! Best worst plan ever!

I actually chose a very relevant time to watch Argo as there is a strong Star Wars influence throughout. The fake film is basically a rip off and with all the hype about Episode VII at the moment it jumped out at me even more. The influence of Star Wars on Hollywood hasn’t really faded much at all. (Okay, I love Star Wars, sorry not sorry.)

The main issue I have with Argo is that the fake movie was never made. It looked tragically awesome and a lot worse has been made in Hollywood since Star Wars started the craze for Sci-Fi Fantasy in action movies.

 

 

River Queen

River Queen

Hey! Look at me! I’m writing a blog entry! It’s been so long… I blame sitting in front of a computer at work for my lack of interest in sitting in front of a computer at home. But today I am at home sick so rather than watch another movie I’m writing! Woot! (It might stop me scratching… yeah – think on that…)

So, I watched River Queen (no not The African Queen – that’s a different movie which is really quite a bit better in my opinion but actually completely different except for the part with a boat on a river and a beautiful landscape and a woman falling in love with a man she probably shouldn’t but that’s every second movie really apart from the river bit).

I liked River Queen but it was too long but it was pretty and kind of sweet (except for the blood and death etc) so I’d give it a thumbs up.

It’s set in New Zealand which I also give a massive thumbs up though I’ve never been there. It looks amazing! You thought it looked good in Lord of the Rings et al? River Queen wins that battle. If you don’t want to visit NZ after watching this film then fair enough really – but it made me want to.

River Queen is set in 18somethings NZ when the Maori people tried really hard to make the English people leave. Yet  this white girl falls in love with a Maori boy and everything goes a little awry as she tries to navigate two completely different cultures (OMG! It’s a river and she’s navigating cultures! What is she the Queen of?!?). She’s pretty cool and makes some good decisions but I’m not sure a white woman in 18something NZ would really do quite as well as this woman does no matter who loves her.

It’s quite gritty and dark with some gruesome battles and no holds on the horror inflicted on locals by invading armies. It’s hard to watch at times because I couldn’t help but wonder at how easy it was for one group of people not to see another as ‘people’ (continuing crappy issue unfortunately).

Also Kiefer Sutherland is in this, speaking Oirish which I could barely understand and you get to see his bum. Thumbs down on that.

 

 

Dolls

Dolls

Dolls is no doubt a cult classic of Japanese cinema and if it’s not, it should be (well IMHO anyway).

Everything about Dolls is beautiful. From cinematography to story. There are dolls to begin with and admittedly the first sequence is a bit if a trial unless you like Kabuki  (?) theatre acted out by puppets (yes, read dolls). The dolls, of course, are beautiful and the sequence does set up the stunning quiet/cold aesthetic of the film.

There are three separate stories, one being the bound beggars, the other two tell of lost love, loneliness and obsession. The stories twine in and out of each other which is cleverly done by the director. He’s not out to make you catch all the strings but they are there.

The themes are those of selfishness and its outcomes, as well as love lost, and the extreme paths we find ourselves on in our lives because of decisions that seem small at the time. I am sure there is much more to be found if you are Japanese or have an understanding of Japanese culture or history. I don’t, but in the end I still thought this was a great film.

The dolls play a symbolic role throughout as we watch these stories unfold. Through the still beauty of the bound beggars, through the picture perfect backdrops to the characters lives (Japan’s countryside at its most amazing). I’m pretty sure the director made Dolls as a love letter to Japan.

There is one ongoing storyline of the bound beggars which “ties” together the film (“bind” “tie” , oh, the poetic symbolism!!). Our beggars wander through the film, through years, through seasons and throughout Japan I should imagine  (they do a lot of walking). They are beautiful even though past acts were not and their red cord is even beautiful. By the end of the film there is genuine affection for these two even though they barely say a word. Other characters are less likeable but you get that.

This is a very slow film that takes a long time to unfold but it really is worth it. There are subtitles so don’t watch when you are sleepy! Just be warned that once you finish watching Dolls you will probably be immediately overcome by the need to book a holiday to Japan in the spring, then one for the summer, then another for the autumn but probably not for winter that snow looks cold… beautiful but cold.

Brrr...pretty...brrr...cold.

Brrr…pretty…brrr…cold.

A Common Thread

a common thread

Excuse this French…

A Common Thread is in French!!!! French movies – aargh!! Except this one isn’t a comedy so I didn’t have to endure what may be the unfunniest (only appropriate descriptor no matter its incorrectness) comedy movies in the multiverse and it isn’t a sad film so no tears of Frenchness (haha, my spellcheck wants me to change that to Frenchie – lol! I love you spellcheck).

Get this, it’s a French film I like! I also like crafty things like knitting and cross stitch and sewing so of course this film’s central plot thread (pun!), embroidery, tweaks my craft interest. This is a French film about embroidery (I sh*t you not). Well, it’s about a few other things like teen pregnancy, family relationships, grief and motherly bonds but you know, whatever. So embroidery is the reason its on the list because usually ‘French’ would have me running. (That’s not entirely true but I think I’ve made my point here.)

So this French film is set in a gorgeous little country village. The scenery is stunning and captured beautifully on the screen. Initially, because everything was so pristine, I assumed the film was set in the not too distant past but no, we soon see our leading teen working in a supermarket. The scenery really is that pristine and the buildings really are that old and untouched. I absolutely want to visit wherever this is, I was seriously drooling about this place (again, maybe not quite, but you get my point).

The film is quiet, charming and attractive as well. The characters are fully formed and I could relate to the actions of each one, the standoffish older woman suffering through her grief (and embroidering) and the young pregnant teen afraid and disconnected from her family (and really getting some embroidery in).

The main characters are all female and its nice to see such fully formed characters on the screen …oh dear, I’m about to say it… Hollywood could learn a thing or two about female characterisation from this French film (waaah, stoopid Hollywood – making me say that).

Also, the embroidery is stunning. Apparently a lot of haute couture dressmaking includes hand embroidered patterning! Who knew? No wonder it’s so expensive… apparently it takes forever. That stuff aside, the use of the embroidery as a way for the two women to bond through their different forms of grief is very clever. It even leads to a confrontation with the baby’s father (or some guy – as it’s not entirely clear who the father is, well, not to me anyway), clever stuff.

Really not much happens in A Common Thread. People deal with life stuff, grow, change and make an awesome piece of embroidery. Quiet, touching and beautifully made is how I’d describe A Common Thread (dagnabbit France!).

 

 

Purple Rose of Cairo

purple rose

Woody Allen’s love story to the movies – everything about the movies. From  characters and script to passing over your money for a ticket and sitting in a dark theater while munching popcorn. This description makes it sound like I liked this film but I didn’t really fall for The Purple Rose of Cairo.

Set in depression era USA our heroine escapes her mundane life, abusive unemployed husband and lack of money by buying a ticket to dreams or as we prefer to call them, the movies. She sees the same movie over and over again and eventually falls in love with one of the characters on the screen. Everything goes a bit cray cray at this point as the character jumps through the fourth wall and into her life. As far as I’m concerned everything went to poop right about that moment.

Maybe it was a dream but it would just be too convenient. The whole thing is played seriously  (as far as I could tell – maybe I was meant to laugh – I didn’t). Maybe I just don’t get Woody Allen movies.

I like the idea of movies meaning so much more than just moving pictures used to while away the hours, to me they are pure escapism and I love to immerse myself in the stories. I really think with a good film we can change our brains for a few hours at least and lose our worries. Some films have affected me for days afterwards (not just failure to sleep after a horror film either). I love that, unless the film is French and sad, then I hate that…

I would have loved to love this movie (and you baby) but it just didn’t work for me. Maybe if the characters had been a little less abrasive but then that’s the calling card of Woody Allen movies really. A new motto for Woody Allen movies – “Abrasive characters R us”… probably not a good selling point.

I wonder how people really spoke back in the depression era. The movies always depict the American twang the same. Know what I mean doll? Was it always high pitched and annoying (especially the women -eep!)? Was that considered cute or something? I wonder how Australians talked during the depression era – “Crikey, that’s a whopper of a croc mate!”. No, sorry, that’s 90s Crocodile Hunter Australian.

Anyway, The Purple Rose of Cairo was not my cup of tea or cuppa joe or whatever they drank in depression era New York. Not my cup of warmed water from a jar then.

River’s Edge

river's edge

Here’s a dark little ditty about unfeeling Generation X youth not feeling much at all and slowly zoning out of life. It’s as if they’ve all taken Valium and are just getting on with things while half asleep. When one of their number is killed by another member of the gang none of them can really feel much more than apathy which they realise and it’s devastating. Welcome to River’s Edge

The killer is never quite sure why he killed he just wanted the girl to stop talking. He didn’t love her, it wasn’t a crime of passion, it was just death. The dark apathy shown by these kids throughout the film is really sad and kind of scary. They decide they need to protect their mate but at the same time are conflicted by the fact that another of their friends is dead and the killer has no remorse. In fact he just tells them and then shows them the body. Their lack of reaction to her dead naked form is a truly devastating moment.

There is a sense of dread throughout River’s Edge which is odd because we know about the murder from the first scene. The dread derives from the inability of these teens to do anything combined with the driving need for something to be done. It’s like waiting for a bomb to time down to zero but not bothering to stop it even though you could.

The main character (wotshisname) is played by Keanu Reeves. This was back in 1986 so I figure it’s early days for Keanu (pre Bill and Ted’s, pre Dangerous Liaisons). I crush on Keanu Reeves – it cannot be denied. Every time I see him in a film I get a little thrill and I may as well be 16 again. I realise this is horribly wrong as I am very well aware that the man can barely act. He is an emotionless void of stiffness in almost every movie. Sometimes that works because that is what the character is like. Sometimes it does not. In River’s Edge I am not sure that either thing occurs. The character is meant to be stiff and emotionless… but Keanu still seems really stiff and emotionless. I get that teenage girls would like him because WHO WOULDN’T?? So the romance makes sense but unfortunately I don’t think Keanu was the right bloke for this role. Of course, I don’t care because I love him forever and ever.

Further along the ‘not the right person for the role’ path was Crispin Glover as the overbearing patriarch of this little group of zoned out teens. He sucked. Not just in character but in massive over-acting. He was really annoying and repeatedly removed me from the movie because I just could not understand why anybody would have him as the leader of their pack. Also his hair is the worst mullet ever. I could never follow someone with hair like that. The weird thing is it kind of looks like a wig. Why, director, why?

Crispin Glover

“I’m really sad because the director made me wear this terrible mullet wig. Not because I’m over-acting or anything…”

I’m very glad that in the end us Gen X-ers didn’t turn out so bad after all. We all got over our sad sack ways and got on with the important stuff… at least that’s what I comfort myself with… (OMG! What will we do when these arseholes run the world?!? Hang on – they already do! Watch out for the Gen X apathy apocalypse y’all!)

Living in Oblivion

living in oblivion

This movie is an oddball. A movie within dreams within a movie about making a movie with dream sequences. It’s hard to keep on top of the reality and the dream while watching a movie being made as if in a dream world itself. The blending of film and reality is blurry with actors being called by both their names and their character’s names as well as the crew bringing in their problems from home into the filmmaking experience.

I have no experience of filmmaking but I can imagine that directing a film, if Steve Buscemi’s character is anything to go by, is a bit like herding cats. Cats with overbearing egos and a massive belief in themselves and their abilities… oh, just like cats really.

Have you heard of this one? I obviously had because it was on The List but apart from that I didn’t know what to expect. Living in Oblivion is an unusual beast. It is a surreal look into the world of directing an alternative film while wrangling actors, sound guys, camera operators, mothers, dealing with blowout from relationship breakups and sexual encounters – the lot – even Tyrion Lannister (sort of).

We get to watch Steve as the director maybe going nuts or maybe not. Actors come and go while trying to put their stamp on his film and because they are the ‘names’ Steve has to work around them. Clearly the movie making experience takes over all their lives to the point that reality blurs and work becomes dreams (I hate that!).

What I liked about this film was the clever use of black and white for dreams but also for the eye of the camera. There are also a few excellent moments with actors re-shooting the same scenes over and over. One in particular stands out where Catherine Keener begins by giving an amazing impassioned performance but by the umpteenth take is no longer feeling it. That must be pretty much  what it’s like. Acting would be quite draining after a while, doing the same things over and over again.

There is no action and no real outcomes, just movie making. I really liked this film but I’m not sure why. It felt like watching a play and also like reading a short story. Maybe because you’re dropped in after the beginning and leave before the end – there’s more to be said and done but you don’t get to see it.

Interestingly this is written and directed by the same person, Tom DiCillo. Can you imagine how meta it must have gotten while directing a film you wrote about being a director directing a film? Meta!

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning is really normal. Normal in the sense that for once we are seeing the average person dealing with some pretty average stuff. A fair share of disappointment, trauma, sadness, love and laughter. Amy Adams does not have to portray quirky or cute just normal and it’s refreshing.

Of course, she takes up quite an unusual occupation but considering her previous career it’s a not too surprising step to a bit more money. Cleaning is cleaning after all. Why not just escalate and clean up dead people mess? Maybe not very normal it’s true.

I love Amy Adams and it’s so nice to see her being the woman next door rather than the cute sweet love interest with flowing hair extensions and covered in make-up. I also love Emily Blunt who plays the a little less normal, but struggling with normal issues for some, sister.

Sunshine Cleaning is a meaningful family drama about the impact of death on the family especially the impact of suicide on those left behind. Suicide of a family member changes everyone and it certainly changed the characters in the film. It is a defining moment in all their lives.

Sunshine Cleaning is not all doom and gloom. The characters are realistic and humour certainly raises its dark head. The film is not all about dealing with death but it is very much about dealing with how lives are shaped. Why we find ourselves where we are and how much we change along the way.

These are good people having a hard time and each deals with it differently but at the core is love and that never fails.

Again refreshingly, there is no real romance in the movie. There are new friendships that could end up romantic but not during the movie anyway. This is a film about family.

I actually think this could have made the basis of a really good tv show. It was so character driven and reasonably undramatic. I could just see how much more the story and the characters could develop over a season. (I’m thinking along the lines of Six Feet Under here.)

Alan Arkin again hits the nail on the head with his loving but abrasive father/grandfather. He’d do anything for his kids/grandkids and it’s kind of lovely. Only a few actors could really pull off that fine line between grump and love. He did it before in Little Miss Sunshine. He does it again here. (Apparently he has a thing for Sunshine films… he was super annoyed he didn’t get a role in the ultimate Sunshine movie ‘Sunshine’… yeah, you can quote me on that).

Sunshine Cleaning won’t blow you away but it does leave you feeling pretty good. Yet it’s not feel good either, it is after all about cleaning up after dead people and dealing with a family tragedy. It’s hard to say why you’d want to watch it but at the same time it’s a really good little film.

I suppose it made me feel that adversity can be overcome, you can change who you are for the better, and if you can’t do anything else, you can be there for the ones you love. Not a bad thing to take away from a film really.