Darwin’s Nightmare

Darwin's Nightmare

I’ve been finding it so hard to keep on top of this blog stuff and watching all the movies on my list. It’s quite overwhelming. But I’ve decided to give it all a red hot go (without causing myself a whole lot of stress… hopefully). Maybe I can also drop the quality of my writing (no comments on that one please…) so I can write faster. Anyway if this is the quick and dirty version of me blogging I may just click out a few low word blogs. For example – new blog on Dredd would be “Nope” and for Darwin’s Nightmare it would be “good but needs to be shorter” but I’ll add more shall I?

This is one of those documentaries that create life conundrums. Do I keep doing something or do I stop? Who benefits and who loses?  Basically it comes down to “is it better to keep buying a type of fish which is destroying an environment or do you stop buying and take away the only livelihood of an entire country”? Yes, that kind of life choice conundrum. There are so many – Do I stop buying clothes made in Bangladesh (one of many countries I could choose) where people work 7 day weeks in terrible conditions or do I keep buying clothes made in Bangladesh so those people working in terrible conditions at least have jobs? I could go on but I won’t because this is supposed to be about Darwin’s Nightmare.

Back to the doco – the Nile Perch which we all buy (in just about every country apparently, except Tanzania where the locals can’t afford it!), has destroyed the waters of Lake Victoria. It’s an introduced species which has eaten all the local fishes and is now cannibalising its own littlies for food. Ewwww, right? So it’s completely destroyed the water quality because all the small fish that ate the algae are gone and the water is becoming polluted with algae and Nile Perch poop.

At the same time these fish are the only source of income for Tanzania (except for prostitution it seems). There are some people who have profited from Nile Perch fishing but they didn’t look like locals.

This is an interesting doco, in parts, it could have been really good but it’s just too long and the director keeps himself completely out of the picture which can work but I thought here there was explanation needed. At one point a woman was talking about how lucky she was to have a job (and not have to be a prostitute for the fishermen) while she was hanging out fish carcasses covered in maggots and walking through maggoty entrails (sorry, and yes, it was really that gross) but because the director wasn’t making an appearance I have absolutely no idea what job she was doing or what was going on with the super gross fish carcasses.

Darwin’s Nightmare really will make you think about the effects of worldwide consumption on third world countries but it also leaves you in a conundrum with regard to the actions you take in spending. Unfortunately though it would have been a whole lot better to watch this over an hour on a tv show like 60 Minutes than to go movie length and I really hope someone told this director to explain themselves in future.

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.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

A movie that makes you want to read the book – just so you might have a chance of finding out what in the world is going on… Yep, that’s Cloud Atlas.

This is a long film, at 172 minutes it’s a pretty long slog and for about 160 minutes of that I basically had no idea what the film was about. Which inevitably is kind of annoying, no matter how beautiful the camera shots are and how well acted and interesting individual storylines are. I mean, I knew the tagline was “everything is connected” and it’s quite clear that the same actors are playing characters throughout all the stories but that didn’t really help the film make sense or have a point…apart from “everything is connected“.

I can see how all this would make a pretty good book as you explore characters and repeated events but it felt like this needed to be further developed into maybe an 8 hour TV series or a mini-series. I really think it was a mistake to try to contain this much story in a movie.

I adore the Wachowski’s movies in general. I even like Jupiter Ascending and I liked Cloud Atlas but it just never quite reached any highs or the high silliness of Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowski’s never do anything by halves though and Cloud Atlas is no different in that regard. I just wish I could have seen some sense a bit earlier instead of just feeling like I was watching disparate stories evolving in very small ways for such a long time.

Also I couldn’t really cope at all with the clearly “asianed” actors that populated the New Seoul storyline. I mean it’s the future, just havewhite folks or Koreans (radical!) with interesting future haircuts living in New Seoul. The actors just looked terrible. It was another mistake I think.

Adding to my list of mistakes was the use of the neo-English in the far future scenes. It was just impossible to understand – it needed subtitles. Using some neo-English would have sufficed but having far future Tom Hanks narrating in that language was really jarring and didn’t help at all with having a clue what might be going on.

Then there was the religious aspect that turned out was really the basis of everything. The reincarnation kind of religion based on love with the same “souls” (New Seoul – get it!?!) reoccurring in peoples lives. Interesting, no doubt, but it took too long to get there and by the time I worked it out I kind of didn’t care.

So, redeeming features were the action sequences and some pretty self-referential inside jokes as well as some really good acting (not so much Tom Hanks and Halle Berry unfortunately – but that’s probably because they were stuck trying to speak neo-English – not good). It was fun catching the actors made up in different genders and cultures but I suppose that was a bit weird too when you think about the current discussion of cultural appropriation and also how bad the white actors in New Seoul make-up looked. But I don’t really know how you could make it clear that souls were being attracted to the same souls over and over again in a movie anyway.

Time to read the book I think.

The Raid

The Raid

Oh. My. Golly Jeepers! Here it is – the action holy grail. The Raid – basically the perfect action film yet no Tom Cruise (weird right?). If you think of any Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan (pre Hollywood films anyway) then this is that chop sockky film on steroids, played seriously and absolutely not for laughs.
The Raid has just enough storyline to make sense, in fact, it was almost too complicated in parts (more action, less thinking!!). Really, asking for more action is ridiculous because where would it fit!?!
The main actor is obviously some sort of Indonesian superhero of martial arts as he completely destroys everything in his path much like Beatrix Kiddo and the Crazy 88. I hope he is in all the Indonesian films I see from now on (as long as there’s no kissing). The Raid is seriously the best Indonesian film I have ever seen.  (No, it’s not the only one I’ve seen. I’ve seen two, but the other one had kissing so while the kissing Indo film currently rates second in my Indonesian movie ranking I’m pretty sure it’s about to be usurped by The Raid 2…)
I have to admit it was a bit hard to keep up with reading the subtitles and catching all the action but I truly hate dubbed live action films so I couldn’t recommend trying that. I also don’t have a strong hold on Indonesian names so they all turned into “the guy with the …” and “Mr Superhero Martial Arts Guy who will never be forgotten”.
This is a seriously gruesome film with never ending blood bath fights that look fully sick (in both ways). I call this not suitable for children although I think Miss 15 could watch it just fine.
Just like the (for me) miss that was Dredd, The Raid is a reverse tower defense game where the good guys are locked in the grotty tower trying to take it from within. The bad guys know they are there and basically much casualty ensues. The Raid is done purely for action as well but somehow works so much better than Dredd.
I actually smiled all the way through The Raid. It took me back to all those awesome Hong Kong martial arts movies I watched as a teen. It was very early Jackie Chan in style but with absolutely no comedy or slapstick to be seen. This movie is not funny. But, yes, I was smiling through every sickening snap, every punch, every guy who got up and kept fighting after being beaten to a pulp, every gunshot, every bullet that missed, every bullet that found its mark, every explosion and absolutely every scene without kissing.
I look forward to The Raid 2…

Dredd

dredd

Oh dear, this film…

Do you like action for the sake of blowing things up and killing people? Do you like wooden acting by otherwise good actors? Do you like pretty explosions and scenes of drug taking? Do you like excellence in lower face acting? If you answered yes to all of these I suggest you see Dredd. Otherwise don’t.

I like action films it’s true so I didn’t hate Dredd but I would’ve liked a bit of character development or even a story line I couldn’t see coming a mile off. Dredd is disappointing. I’m not even sure this version outshines the Stallone version, except it has to just because the explosions are bigger and the action grittier.

Karl Urban makes it through the whole film not taking his half face helmet off thereby becoming the world’s best lower face acting actor. Not a good thing unfortunately. You can only see his mouth so no clues as to what’s going on in there. Basically Karl spends a lot of time pouting or keeping his mouth in a perfectly straight line. Not wooden at all, no sir. On the other hand his girl sidekick who’s name I’ve forgotten leaves her helmet with her motorbike so we get to see all the girly extremes of her experience. Pfft. Apparently she’s less psychic with her helmet on but personally I’d have it with me because everyone is trying to shoot judges so stupid girl really.

Dredd 3

dredd 2

Karl Urban's wide range of lower face acting skills exemplified.

Karl Urban’s wide range of lower face acting skills exemplified.

This is basically a fortress defense game on film except the ‘good guys’ are already in the fortress and are destroying it from the inside and the baddies are defending the fortress. Start at the bottom, work your way to the top, kill everyone you see and destroy everything you can – the bigger the hole in the walls the more points! At the same time the baddies are destroying everything while trying to kill the judges. So destruction really.

I like (in terms of the imagination not in terms of wanting to live in this future… I’ll stick with my now thank you) the dystopian future imagined in Dredd, a place where drugs are illegal but give the only form of escape from the horror of a poor existence, regular people are trapped by poverty and the most violent arise to rule the slums. This kind of future feels kind of real as the gap between the poorest people in the world and the richest grows and grows. It’s not hard to see slums developing where gangs are the law and the law just stays away. It is very bleak and very dark. This is a large scale version of places that I’m sure very much already exist.

Lena Headey is reasonably good but she’s basically playing Cersei Lannister with bad hair, a scar and no money. Her character is in charge though which makes for a different take on gangs I suppose but the character is poorly developed and could have been played by a man or a woman really.

Oh dear, this film…

Karl's emotional reaction to this blog entry.

Karl’s emotional reaction to this blog entry.

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!)

Orange County

oc

Here ‘s another movie I wish I’d seen at the time it was released. Unfortunately, since Orange County was fresh and new  (13 years ago – I probably should learn not to wait a decade to watch films…) I have seen the equivalent film about ten times. It’s pretty much every angsty boy goes to college movie you’ve ever seen but with cool cameos. It was great seeing Lily Thomlin, Chevy Chase, Kevin Kline and Harold Ramis going hard at the comedy acting. It’s a good film and it’s fun but it’s not new to me.

Also, OC has Jack Black being very Jack Black which isn’t particularly clever but is very Jack Black so it’s kind of funny but you’ll have seen it before. His tighty whiteys (floppy yellowies really) should have been a credited character you see so much of them. (I think they would be called Jock Jaundice.) May I never see them or their ilk again…

Colin Hanks plays a really likeable young man with a neurotic streak the size of a cow and a girlfriend who is way too innocent and way too good for him. The initial mix up that sees our young hero denied access to his college of choice plays the role of causing generalised mayhem as his girlfriend, father and brother (the aforementioned Jock Jaundice – sorry Jack Black…) move money, blackmail, a van, heaven and earth to get him in. Eventually everything turns out heaps good, which is nice.

I loved seeing Harold Ramis playing the Dean of Admissions and taking the “aspirin” from JB’s pocket was gorgeous. It’s so sad that he’s not with us any more he really is a delight to watch on screen. His comic timing is genuinely perfect.

Colin Hanks is  almost totally overshadowed  by everyone around him which is, I suppose, the point. He can’t find himself  or his place in the world while surrounded by those who are taking up their space in the world so loudly and dramatically.

I loved his alcoholic mother who loves him so much yet manages to constantly make his life hell. I love that she’s secretly happy when he doesn’t make it into college and quietly enjoys Jack Black’s stoner lifestyle and jaundiced knickers. I think I’m going to be like that – not liking yellowed undies, yich! – always wanting my kids to be around every day! Hopefully, I won’t become an alcoholic in the lead up to that though.

Orange County is a clever version of lots of other movies you’ve seen about starting, being at, dropping out of or living through college while you’re dysfunctional family stuffs up, is overbearing, drunken, drugged up or accidently giving the Dean of Admissions ecstasy but with way more Jack Black and a little too much Jock Jaundice.

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!