In The Loop
Armando Iannucci‘s In The Loop, a condensed version of his BBC series “The Thick of It,” is very masculine about the events before the War in Iraq. It also begs the question – how did Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, get into power? Did he intimidate the PM or ‘demonstrate’ what he could do others? The funny thing is, Tucker’s bravado and invasive methods also calls into attention how we’re only seeing ministers, directors, secretaries and generals. They in turn tell their lowers and the interns that war is good and that’s what the heads of government think is best. There’s skepticism in my part at least, the real powers that be are faceless, and Tucker and crew use that quality to do what they want.
I try to up the voices I hear within the movie. Nationality? It’s funny enough to watch thrice, but maybe it’s because hearing curse words in a Scottish accent or whispered in an English accent than is better than doing so in an American one. Capaldi layers the torture quip, breathing life on Tucker’s un-bottled energy and exasperation. Or maybe gender is the sharp knife to cut the roast? Maybe not, with Judy Molloy (Gina McKee), at one point telling Malcolm ‘Do you like how I’m telling you what’s going on where you are.’ She’s gentle yet strong despite of Malcolm’s bellowing, refusing to play the game unlike US. Assistant Secretary on Diplomacy Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy) and one of her aides, Liza (Anna Chlumsky). Liza, by the way, uses too many hand gestures and widening her eyes showing how overwhelmed she is with her situation, being the one who has written an unwelcome paper outlining the likely negative outcomes of the war. And the thing is, it’s not Karen or Liza that comes out unscathed, it’s Judy.
The more I watch In The Loop and get to its ending, the more it makes me feel like crap because on the surface level it lets the loudmouthed bad people win. Politicians. Maybe I’m just seeing a disconnect between then and now, the movie not foreshadowing the consequences for the people who pushed the war. But what about Liza, being reluctant about her paper because her career is on the line. Judy’s boss, Minster of International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), is an equally spineless climber, stumbling into an anti-war quotable and becomes ambivalent about it after Malcolm ‘bollocks’ him. The movie intentionally the movie doesn’t have a good guy with any fortitude, neither.
- Peter Capaldi joins BBC drama The Hour for Season Two (telegraph.co.uk)
Cool Story Bro: “Antichrist”
Showing up to screenings two hours before the movie starts, I headed off to the rush line at the Ryerson Theatre. An hour later an older man sells a pair of tickets to whoever wants to see Antichrist. I raised my hand a second later than someone behind me, who happens to be a French woman who is also pregnant. Dammit. I’m pretty sure this woman lives a twelve-hour drive from Cannes Why didn’t she just see it there?
Half an hour later, she comes back and says “Mai hazzbahnd won’t cam zee eet.” Obviously. Why the fuck do you? Or me? “I want feeftee dallarz for zeez teekehts.” (I am so racist). Fine.
I join the ticket holders’ line and find kids from my university, the ones who make fun of the slightly special needs kid in the film studies department or talk about how Amanda Seyfried was ‘The most BEAUTIFUL woman I’ve EVER seen…” because that’s what sexy hipsters talk about. We eventually headed to the doors where the most beautiful hipster tells some security guard “This film will win People’s Choice.”
It was one of the most fucked up movie I have ever seen.
Later, the most beautiful one tells us that she gave the movie a 3. “He’s a master master master master master master but…” I can’t remember what she said but it’s something like how gruelling he is.” I tell them that I bought my ticket off a pregnant woman. ‘You saved a pregnant woman and her child.” Imagine someone giving birth while watching that movie.
I have no idea how notorious that screening was compared to others. Watching it at Cannes might have been an experience. There’s another fest somewhere in middle America where the audience chanted “CHAos REIGNS!” Apparently someone vomited during the Toronto première but I was probably drowned by my own reactions to hear someone retch.
Days later, in other screenings, I meet industry guys before the Micmacs where the cuter business guy kept saying “That scene where she hammered his BALLS and I’d cross my legs every time he said ‘balls.’
I have new goals during the festival while writing for myself and others – next year’s choices will be actress-y because of Nathaniel. But because of that first movie during that first real TIFF, one of my goals is to see the grossest movie ever. Last year’s is Black Swan and LA Zombie. This year’s is Lovely Molly. Swear I’ll do the best I can to catch the Midnight Madnesses.
- Grizzly Review: Melancholia (grizzlybomb.com)
Reel Asian: Piercing 1
I tweeted earlier that Liu Jian’s début movie Piercing 1 is like “Beavis and Butthead Do The 2008 Economic Collapse And Its Effects On China.” The animation is like Mike Judge’s early work – gaunt two-dimensional figures, the movements are pretty one-two. But it also adds its own spin to a seemingly primitive, 90’s era take on the visual medium. It’s as if there’s no air in this fictional universe – flags and lamps don’t move but smoke rises up in the air. And the palette, lacking the colours yellow and purple, is dour and dark, which seems right with its depressing and scary subject.
Among the handful of characters that it follows are two men who have moved to Beijing. After a boss beats one of them for allegedly stealing, they hang out on a public space. Their litanies in their first scene together resonate with younger people and/or immigrants, as one of them is more defiant against returning to their small town, not even considering if their lives have been better or stable there. It’s like this refusal of an alternative because it feels like a million steps back. The more defiant youth also seems attracted to the trappings of capitalism. The money, the clothes, the promise of women – of which there are only two in the movie who aren’t sexually pursued – the exciting day and light lives, the population.
It loses steam after that scene, as it’s littered with Kafkaesque accusations and assaults. It’s as if every person they meet is misanthropic because of the anomie-inducting big city. The beaten youth comes back to his boss and asks for ‘mental damages’ and gets beaten. While eating noodles, he sees a woman get hit by a motorcycle only for that woman’s police officer daughter to beat him again. It’s like Jia Zhangke and Sion Sino collaborated and made an animated feature, the former’s portrayal of ghostlike modernity mixes with the latter’s theatrical violence. The last scenes veer into ridiculous heist movie territory since i this movie’s world, all Chinese businessmen are also sketchy money dealers. But I do give the movie credit for going into unexpected places.
TIFF Hangover: Fish Tank.
Sleep deprivation in 2009 would probably have made me wonder ‘What is this HORSE doing in Fish Tank?!’ But the day before this year’s festival’s kickoff might be the perfect time to watch this to prepare for Michael Fassbender and Andrea Arnold‘s new works. This movie also has the funniest one liners and might be the only Criterion that features a Cassie song.
Nick wrote that Katie Jarvis should have been nominated for an Oscar, which my friends doubted because she was playing ‘herself’ here. I’ll never know what ‘herself’ is, but it’s probably the only time I’ll see an actress convey emotion even when her back is towards the camera. Her performance, the imagery and even the horse adds to its novelistic feel.
Writing about Past and Future Oscar Films
Sandra Bullock is serious business at my guest post at The Film Experience.
TIFF just announced their Gala and Special Presentations line-up which had many lovers and some doubters, but over at Anomalous Material I chose around ten of the fifty films that they announced. I suppose I could have written about more films that I was excited for, but I believed that it wads better to write about the why as much as the what. Although I’m ambivalent about not including Eye of the Storm, the image of Chloë Sevigny‘s friend Charlotte Rampling is captivating enough as her character, Elizabeth, chooses everything about her life including her ‘society’ and her own death. I then hesitated because of that synopsis but a cast that includes Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush are good enough for me.
I’m equally ambivalent about Hick, a coming of age story where a young Chloë Moretz finally plays a real person in a movie and Blake Lively might become a great talent, as potential and hype about her was around for a TIFF release two years ago, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
- TIFF 2011: U2, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and more (thestar.com)
Three men look for their mysteriously estranged college mate, Ranchoddas or Rancho (Aamir Khan), and coming along later in the journey is his on-and-off girlfriend Pia (Kareena Kapoor), their ex-headmaster’s daughter. Rancho is so memorable to these characters because of the joy he has brought to their younger selves, since most of these other characters are prone to suicidal thoughts, mental breakdowns and quarter life crises brought on by the general competitiveness of middle class, college life. ‘Life is a race,’ but Rancho thinks that a musical number is decent cardio too. Standing between the binaries that this film and its context present, he’s Western because of his idealistic view on education and love, Eastern because of his altruism and anti-materialism. What’s also admirable about this film is that it lets Rancho be wrong sometimes, its most heartfelt moment is when the headmaster, teary-eyed, tells him that he can’t be right all the time.
There’s also Pia, who, by learning how to stand up against her former fiancée as well as her father, is a woman more feminist than a Deepa Mehta protagonist. And since we’re comparing movies about India, the film also echoes the triumphalism of Slumdog Millionaire, the but the ride is wilder this time, taking characters to opposite emotional cliffs and back.
- Aamir’s tricky marketing strategy (aamirkhanblog.wordpress.com)
Indefensible: Observe and Report
Jody Hill’s (“Eastbound and Down”) dark comedy Observe and Report got a lukewarm reception at the box office mostly because of unfortunate timing – Warner Brothers released the movie about a mall cop three months after the Kevin Smith ahem, blockbuster vehicle Paul Blart: Mall Cop and suffered for it. Thankfully, Criticize This writer and Indefensible founder Andrew Parker and Exclaim!’s Will Sloan are ready to make us believe that this movie is a masterpiece. The film’s star Seth Rogen won’t be at the Toronto Underground Cinema at both this Friday and Sunday screenings, but for us gays and girls who like our guys ‘Rogen size,’ Torontoist‘s John Semley will come to Friday along with CinemaScope’s Adam Nayman – unconfirmed – to trash the movie. I have no idea what size Mr. Sloan comes in. Then this Sunday, NOW Magazine‘s Norman Wilner will introduce, defend Observe and Report and show its similarities to another film showing at the Underground that night – Taxi Driver.
I have cheese factory duties on both screening times so I won’t get to see Rogen and his apparently career-best film performance. Neither will I see the great Celia Weston, nor apparently the greatest fight scene in an English language film, nor the longest full frontal scene ever – not a pun. Nor will I be there to snark that ‘I hate malls, I like boutiques better, I hate the suburbs, I live in Toronto.’ I will be there in spirit. Supporting cast includes Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Patton Oswalt, etc. Both screenings start at 7PM. Proceeds go to the Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorder.
- Picks of the Week, April 9, 2009 (mrmovietimes.com)
Oscar Hangover: A Single Man
Chandler Levack called A Single Man an ‘interesting failure.’ I agreed with her to a certain extent, reminding me of its disappointments, all but one are the film’s fault. A mix of diaspora story and American Gothic, I devoured the book about a day in George’s (Colin Firth) life and it devastated me (that’s a good thing). I found flaws within the casting, since George is ten years older than Firth when the film was released, or that they turned Asian Lois into white, or that all the actors are good-looking except for a Jewish bit part. I’m also going to back sell that despite Firth being theoretically miscast, he should have won the Oscar for this role.
The heading for this film indicates that I saw this again eight hours after I passed out while watching the Oscars. Sure it’s not a great condition to watch and write, but I retained a few things:
Director Tom Ford has given more attention to the film’s surfaces than any of the other film’s aspects, but I finally concede that George and his house, described as a constraining home across a bridge, can look stylish since every self-respecting middle class gay man in the early 1960’s should be dressed or living with class. Charley’s house actually has a better description in the book. But everyone else? And turning gruff Kenny (Nicholas Hoult) into a twink? I suppose the style adds a fictionality within the film, and you can decide whether the latter is a good thing.
George and Jim’s (Matthew Goode) couch scene also makes me think that he has taken Jim for granted when the latter was alive. There’s a power dynamic between them that heteronormative or fictional homosexual relationships have, their book choices show how one is supposedly more masculine or intelligent than the other. This dynamic is subverted by Kenny’s entrance into George’s life, Kenny being more game than George, the latter submissively lusting over the former. Anyway, I actually appreciate how the script and Goode characterizes Jim with sunny optimism, despite seeing him through George’s nostalgic goggles. Goode has always been my second MVP in the movie, but too bad he’s such a jerk.
Emily Watson could have been a great Charley (Julianne Moore) since she’s the right age and nationality. I’m however warming up to Moore’s performance now, and for some reason, it’s because of her dancing. Despite the beautiful exterior that she’s grown into, she dances like she’s trying too hard, making me think of someone who wasn’t loved in her younger years, who certainly isn’t loved by George in the same level that she does.
In this contemporary yet arguably obtuse adaptation of Plato’s “The Myth of the Cave,” an allegory of the stubborn insularity of totalitarian regimes or a depiction of terrible parenting, Dogtooth is set on a large house on an exurb in Greece where a family man wants his wife and children, the latter in their twenties, never to leave the house and to know anything about the outside world. Why do I never get interested or hooked in the first part of the films I’ve been watching recently? Sometimes the camera doesn’t show the characters’ heads, frustratingly obscuring them in long takes. I wasn’t even fully interested when the father brings Christina, a security guard, to his house to have sex with her son without intimacy, their bodies connected but separate. Maybe I answered my question there.
The parents misinform their children of the definitions and functions of objects associated with the outside world. For example ‘sea‘ is an armchair, ‘excursion’ is a floor material and that airplanes fall out of the sky into their garden.
For some reason, model airplanes mark the relatively exciting parts of the film, as the older sister Bruce – she names herself – steals an airplane from her brother and throws it out towards the gate. The first airplane incident creates a chain of accusations and violence. She accuses him of stealing the plane. In the next scene, she slices her brother’s arm. Next scene, Father slaps her. Bruce becomes the least favourite, having the least stickers, being hit in the head again by the VHS tapes she has watched. He inflicts lesser forms of abuse to the other members of the family, telling them to walk and bark like dogs in case a dangerous cat intrudes their home.
The father also hits Christina, who smuggles the tapes to Bruce, with a VCR player even if she’s an outsider. Violence in this film isn’t set up with intensity nor is spoonfed, happens surprisingly after calm dialogue, an animalistic release from the children who are raised by it. Other critics have assumed that the parents have secluded the children for protective purposes, but ironically, the most violent and sexually perverse encounters to ever occur to a child happens in their own home. That’s true in this film, and it would be less groundbreaking without showing this damaging effect of seclusion to both the children and parents.
In order to get the plane back, the son has to ask his father to drive the car outside the gate so that the latter can pick it off the ground. Here we have two different versions of maleness, the father obviously victorious over the son he has emasculated. The son’s practically a grown man but going outside is naturally verboten to him. He has the most stickers but he’s starting to lose contests. His arranged sexual encounters with Christina and Bruce – because eventually they can’t trust outsiders anymore – doesn’t have any intensity. He even has reservations on his second time having sex with Christina. It’s also arguable that the father is emasculated, carefully peeling off the labels of the water bottles he brings home, bloodying himself up when he discovers that a cat has intruded his home or mouthing words to his wife when they’re arguing. He’s so committed into his lies that he doesn’t break character both with or without his family’s presence.
Speaking of the differences between family members, the film includes a contest between the children on who gets a plane that falls out of the sky. The son almost gets it until Bruce trips him, grabs the toy and makes it to the finish line and doesn’t get punished for cheating. Bruce is the oddest out of these oddballs, and possibly the one who’s most experienced with the outside world. After having sex with her brother, she threatens him of killing his clan, as if quoting from a movie. The parents have also raised these children with competition, inevitably raising a child who years for freedom even if she’s never experienced it.
This film has been nominated for the Best Foreign Picture by the Academy in 2010. We’re going to win.
- Dogtooth: Disturbing dark comedy with a bite (theglobeandmail.com)
Enter the Void
The festival talk about Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void, sometimes accompanied by stills of women stripping, made me think it was gonna be like his earlier effort Irreversible but with glow sticks. The trailer shows us Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) reminding his promise to his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) that they’ll stay together forever, and he tries to stick to that promise despite his unplanned journey into the afterlife.
Yes, the film lived up to the first assumptions. I verbally reacted to the gunshot that kills Oscar in a bathroom of a Tokyo dive. Because seriously, who threatens the police with a gun he doesn’t have? There is also a car crash that kills their parents while both younger Oscar and Linda are in the back seat. Other moments in the film, especially the unconventionally disturbing sexual encounters, are arguably violent by definition, but Noe softens the blow for those other moments. In comparison I guess.
We’re seeing this through Oscar’s perspective, with the camera’s distracting pans and tilts, blinks, or when neon-coloured fractals as he trips out. After his death, the camera follows the back of his head, it neither blinks and the digital resolution is blurrier. It’s sad that we barely see the protagonist’s face that’s too handsome and youthful to belong to a character doing hard drugs. I’m even suspecting that the drugs in the plot is just an excuse to level with the neophyte actor’s lack of talent. Brown’s acting is so comatose it’s a relief to see the other characters instead. The actress who plays little Linda (Emily Alyn Lind) is a better actor. de la Huerta gives a great performance but is marred by the camera blurring her or zooming away.
I saw this film someone. We took time before starting the conversation. She then talked about the incestuous ‘undertones’ between the siblings, bringing us to my second set of assumptions, that instead of traumatizing me and tripping me out, that it was gonna be about an emotional bond between the siblings. That Noe grew as an auteur, showing us two great characters together. The accident sets off a series of events, depicted in a non-linear fashion, that separate the two but they eventually meet as sexually charged young adults. Their relationship isn’t the only one seen under a Freudian lens – experiencing the afterlife, Oscar remembers every woman he’s been with and compare them to either his mother or sister. Which I guess is an interesting perspective but it doesn’t pan out well on film. It even felt perverse and unnecessary to me.
With the good and the bad, it also presents an contrarian perspective on reincarnation. The psychedelic gimmick of the film, a feat in itself, isn’t even worth the content.
Singin’ in the Dark!
Hey, it’s Lucy from “The Office UK“/”Studio 60″/”Ugly Betty.”I don’t know which one of those shows that she had a character named Lucy but I’m gonna call her Lucy anyway. And a guy who plays Poppy’s (Sally Hawkins) brother-in-law in Happy Go Lucky. I swear casts in British films are so incestuous, although they never mix the ‘rich’ ones with the ‘poor’ ones. The one on the middle is Simon Pegg and the one who’s back is facing the audience is a zombie.
His name is Eddie…Paulson? Fact! The first time I saw this film was at Daylight Savings Time at Much More Music. Technically the movie went on for an hour. I also can’t remember how it ends. I’ve always been afraid to watch the movie on the big screen because apparently if you mess up the words, you get stripped in front of everyone. Anyway, Meat Loaf is telling off that boy something fierce. Also, why does every ‘bad’ movie between 1967 to 1980 need a muscle-y blonde man bimbo? That rule still exists today, a muscle-y blonde man bimbo appears as a character in Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats.
Was Alfred Molina ever this skinny? Is my question too generous? Although I’ve only seen it enough to get the gist of it, I have the DVD here and my rusty French translates the title to Nights of the Devil or Diabolical Nights or something.
Ohh, Gaad! Anyway, I’ve always thought of Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) as Quentin Tarantino‘s on-screen double. Also, Coconut is so the best song in this movie.
Note to Americans: only the gay Canadians have the ‘beady little eyes.’ And fine, it’s funny hearing Anne Murray being called a bitch.
If I was a Congressman, I’d make America F**k Yeah the national anthem. Although best part of this film involves its parody of Susan Sarandon. And I usually hate homophobia in film, but seeing Tim Robbins and Sean Penn be called F.A.G.’s seemed really funny. Well, mostly because I hate Sean Penn.
After the Team America clip, we have this, and for a split second the curtains and the wallpaper made me think of the balcony space in ‘The Muppets.’ But no, this is a real person from Blue Velvet‘s wacky world. There’s always interludes of 1960’s American songs, and we thank David Lynch for seeing something dark in that decade. Speaking of the 60’s, I wonder what would happen if David Lynch directed an episode of “Mad Men.” Oh wait, that already happened.
Sookie! When I yelled that at the screen, the hipsters in front of me laughed. Funny thing is I don’t even watch “True Blood.” And again, I didn’t even know she was in this movie, especially since I loved Anna Paquin as a child. I previously blogged about how I hate Kate Hudson, but I kinda like her again here. Here her face still looks like that of an awkward teenager’s, and it’s still mesmerizing to watch her sing. I declare an Almost Famous curse, because the cast members except Billy Crudup ended up doing bad movies. Well, Paquin did have 25th Hour, and she’s better than doppelgänger Claire Danes can aspire to be.
I’m so ashamed to not know the lyrics to this song, because my dad is like the biggest Tears for Fears fan and I listened to this stuff in high school. My dad thinks the members of Tears for Fears met in a mental ward. Anyway, my favourite movie in high school, and one that needs revisiting stat! Also, when Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Gretchen (Jena Malone) kiss. Joy Division has never been better used in a soundtrack.
Joseph Gordon Levitt for mayor! Although Joe Levitt would sound like he’s running in the South.
Dance, white boy, dance!
‘Singin’ in the Dark’ programmer Shawn Hitchins says that this is what it’s gonna be like if Rob Ford gets elected for mayor. Best film criticism I’ve heard all year.
Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Nancy in… Sid and Nancy, but the casting agents considered her too young and it went to Chloe Webb. Love thanks the gods for not giving her the role because British TV called Chloe Webb ugly. I agree. And was Gary Oldman ever that young?
And we end this ding along with blasphemy. This is both optimistic and cynical. The Eric Idle character tries to comfort us, but they all end up alone and deserted, no one venerating them for their deaths. Yet.
Multitude of thanks to Hitchins for giving me the list of movies he chose for his sing along “Singin’ in the Dark” as part of this year’s Nuit Blanche, which is like the only event in my calendar. Photos courtesy of Universal (Shaun of the Dead, Blues Brothers) 20th Century Fox (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Alliance Atlantis (Boogie Nights) Miramax (Reservoir Dogs), Paramount (South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut), Pandora Films (Donnie Darko), MGM (Blue Velvet, Sid and Nancy), Fox Searchlight (500 Days of Summer) Warner Brothers’ Pictures (A Clockwork Orange), HandMade Films (Life of Brian).
Julie and Julia
Am I the only one who thinks that Amy Adams wasn’t that bad in Julie and Julia? Other critics get reductive when talking about her performance, pronouncing it as one nail in the coffin of her career – the other would be “Leap Year.”
It looks as if some of the critics were just watching the trailer. An actress’s look pigeonholes her, so she’s gonna look cute until she reaches an age. Her performance wasn’t aiming for cute, she was aiming for outright misery bathed with obsession and narcissism. I’m projecting a bit yes, since she’s part of the lost generation. You have no idea how many married people I see who are twice my age yet dress like freshmen skateboarders. Just like her.
Julie belongs in that cover of New York Magazine. She is the face of her generation, a carte blanche that has assigned herself to live up to the archetypes of a previous generation. She aspires to become a great cook like Julia Child, who has already made a mark on an already over-saturated American culture. Julie can only fawns and sighs at this unattainable perfect vision. How can she top that? She also covets what she sees every week – her suit wearing, phone call interrupting bitch friends. The only redeeming part of this table of friends is that Casey Wilson is a good character actress and is funnier here than she was in SNL.
You know who else is awkward, Julia Child (Meryl Streep). So much has already been said about her part and performance on the movie. I’m also the only person who thinks her accent goes in and out, but the stature and mannerisms are there. I still feel the same sentiments when this movie came out, that having Streep in a movie is almost lazy casting. That I don’t know if, say, a more deserving Kathy Bates too on the role and would have gotten the same nomination.
There are so many parallels with the characters Julie and Julia. Both are fish out of water in the recovery periods of tumultuous eras. Both were miserable at the things they were doing before they found their paths. Both adopt the American frontiersman attitude. Julie wasn’t the first blogger nor Julia was the first cook, but they were the right persons at the right time. Some critics just wanted to drop the Julie thing altogether, but Julie makes Julia more human and relatable by showing that Julia was at one point lost like we are lost now.
Also, Jane Lynch and Stanley Tucci steal their own slices of the show from Meryl. Fun movie.
Inside Out: Children of God
(The last waltz. ph. insideout)
“Children of God” is an island of clichés. The progressive white gay guy, the closet case Uncle Tom, the female preacher infected by her homophobic closeted husband. It’s also a cautionary tale for smarter young gays and gay filmmakers. If you’re gonna let a man inside your rented home after knowing them for a day, do not let them sleep over because he will steal from you or kill you (this doesn’t happen in the movie). Do not pretend ‘allergies’ is an excuse. Do not give bedroom eyes to another guy only to shut him down while your beard pours her drink at his face. Fight homophobia through activism instead of making some ’empowering’ speech only four people will hear.
Inside Out: I Am Love
(Just so you know, Jil Sander > Prada)
“I Am Love” has aspects of the perfect art-snob film: style, deconstructing the rich and a baffling ending. Set in Milan, the film profiles the Recchis. Edo invites to dinner his middle class girlfriend Eva. His sister Betta reveals her lesbianism to him and to their mother Emma (Tilda Swinton), who’s bound to show her wild side soon. The film has a sensory feel to it and is capable of tragedy – the latter making us wonder how the family’s rebels are going to carry on. The audience laughed at the ending. I liked the movie, but the worst thing I can say about it is that it’s partly a movie about food that’s never made me feel hungry. Who eats flowers? What is wrong with rich people?
Hot Docs – Shadow Play
Is it just me, or does Anton Corbijn take a little credit for the celebrity of the musicians he took pictures of. He even preferred that the Moonmen of the MTV awards go to the directors instead of the musicians. Well, I guess he could be right about that.
“Shadow Play” does give you new insight on Corbijn’s aesthetic. He’s stereotypically a dark photographer who took pictures of gothy artists like Joy Division and Depeche Mode. What the documentary shows is how Rembrandt influenced him. There’s two or three sentences dedicated to how his father only took him to those art shows. But everything makes sense after hearing about that streak in him. The iconography, the tenebrism. EVERYTHING. I wonder if he gets blurrier as he gets older.
It also shows his humourous side. I didn’t know he directed “Heart Shaped Box.” I didn’t realize how funny and surrealist those images were, and the documentary makes it look exactly that instead of the hallowed interpretation the original video had. I didn’t know I could respect Cobain again. I didn’t know Corbijn did colour.
The movie also documents him shooting his first feature, “Control.” Seeing the making-of of that film takes away the varnish that black and white films normally present. Although Sam Riley gives the performance of his life, I do prefer Ian Curtis as a character in”24 Hour Party People” better.
Corbijn looks a bit like Mario Testino. Both tackle celebrities although the former’s gloom is nothing like the latter’s luxury.
And I didn’t catch on with the daddy issues.
And despite me apprehensions I can’t wait for “The American.”
Hot Docs – We Don’t Care About Music…
Because of financial mismanagement and boozing, I didn’t get to see anything from HotDocs until last Thursday. “We Don’t Care About Music Anyway” was my first taste of the late night screenings. The documentary portrays a few collaborative artists in the Japanese noise rock music scene. So these people make music that our grandparents think all teenagers listen to.
The first scene is that of a trash dump, rivaling apocalyptic Cormac-esque imagery. Then we see a quasi-classical musician in an abandoned school doing things to a cello that would make Yo-Yo Ma cringe. Then we have a round table of these musicians talking about the economy their weird performances, their weird performance habits, their understanding of music.
The cinematography is effectively garish, watching darkness and trash and sweat evaporating off a man’s body. Then we see a bright white sky above heaps of garbage.
The movie comes off as an interpretation of Tokyo arts and culture, and as one of the musicians featured would say, the lack thereof. It shows Tokyo as a noisy city, and the music, if you can call it that, is a commentary on urban overstimulation and anomie. It’s like watching Dadaists if they had amplifiers and guitars.
Is it a documentary? I don’t know. It doesn’t flow or narrate like one. But one of the functions of the genre is exposing the audience to people and cliques and situations that exist, and the movie accomplished that. It’s just a confused reception to something so new. I imagine to have had the same reaction to the Sex Pistols had I lived in the 1970’s.
Hot Docs – I Shot My Love
I met these male Lufthansa flight attendants at Woody’s the weekend of the volcano eruption. They were stuck here, they decided to go out. One of them is Swiss, can speak German, lives in Germany, but hated it when I asked if he’s German. This either involved the shaming of Germany or because he didn’t like some North American ditz who can’t tell the difference between one European country from another.
Tomer Heymann, director of “I Shot My Love,” also directed the award-winning “Paper Dolls” about Filipino drag queens, so I already like this guy. “I Shot My Love” is a Don De Lillo-esque pun, the movie being about the documentation of the pains of the two most important people in Heymann’s life. One is his mother and the other is his boyfriend Andreas – both of whom get along by the way. She likes it when he sings her beautiful German folk songs. The pain of said persons are connected to Nazi Germany – his mother a Jew whose parents are exiled Berliners and Andreas burdened by his family and country’s history.
Interestingly, there’s this over documentation of both his mother and his boyfriend’s bodies and much as he’s capturing their back stories.
Heymann, mostly invisible in the film, plays the caregiver to his mother. As presumably the youngest of five boys, he’s the only one left in Israel to take care of her as she goes through one surgery after another. He’s also the man who encourages Andreas to live in the present. Heymann, however, is your traditional documentarian in his objective stance towards the lives he’s capturing on film. Despite of what I’ve said above, the people who are weeping in front of the camera are ones personally closest to him while he mostly doesn’t react to them, or at least we don’t often see that in the frame. I’ll accept it if you think Heymann isn’t directly emotionally involved towards the ones he’s documenting.
Despite that flaw, the movie still pulls on the heartstrings. And this is my first HotDocs screening so maybe that’s why I like it more. And among other things, the movie goes to show that if an Israeli and a German can founder a functioning three-year relationship by meeting in a gay club in a city they’re both visiting, the rest of us have no excuse.
p.s “I Shot My Love” just won the Best Mid-Length Documentary Award.
WE DIDN’T CROSS THE BORDER
THE BORDER CROSSED US!
I haven’t gone to AICN in a while, but this is just too good not to share.
And this is the reason why I can’t hate on Jessica Alba anymore. Happy Cinco de Mayo. You have one more hour to celebrate!
I saw this movie at the barbershop, eleven months after its theatrical release. Can I rank that higher or lower than seeing a movie on an airplane?
I only go to the barber twice a year. Either way he’s five subway stations and two buses all the way to the East End, which is a whole ‘nother universe where I could have gotten beaten up in high school. Most of the movies my barber shows are Uwe Boll movies, which are less repulsive than their reputation but woah are they bland.
Instead he had “Up.” The shop was popular and comfortable enough for me to wait for the duration of the film. I couldn’t get half of the dialogue because there were blow dryers all over the place but you know, that’s their livelihood.
Whatever dialogue I could grasp was very sophisticated. And it’s visual enough of a movie anyway – it’s gorgeous animation and Pixar to boot – that the balloons and Mr. Fredrickson’s (Ed Asner) Spencer Tracy-esque face was enough for me. The married life sequence melts the heart. The soundtrack accompanying said sequence and the whole movie has this optimism that could only be imagined at that of an earlier time. Weight and volume are also taken into consideration in this movie – the house, the balloons and the clouds seem to be fleshed out objects instead of drawings. And it’s agenda free unlike “Wall-E.”
Then the movie finished, and I’m getting my haircut, and the barber suggests to put on a UFC fight. For a child to watch.
May-December Series: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Mikael Blomkvist, a well meaning but scandal ridden journalist and Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) a young hacker with dyed black hair find themselves working on a forty year old cold case about the missing niece of an industrial magnate. Well, the journalist was there first until he realized the young girl was hacking into his laptop and decides to get her help. The missing girl’s other relatives, who ironically are the suspects of this familial crime and have Nazi pasts to boot, are a bit alarmed by this collaboration because the newspapers got a whiff of them and decides to call the girl “his whore.” Is their apprehension legitimate?
Well, they did sleep together.
It’s not as disappointing of a plot turn as it sounds. She comes on to him and it’s obvious that she’s looking for something more physical, but the movie doesn’t portray that clumsily. The shame that the Vangers try to attach to this relationship isn’t floating around it neither. They’re both cautious to fall in love and he thinks it a bit unfair that she’s so closed up and distant. It’s a bit one sided in that he looks at her with admiration and she has to muscle up to solve the case and save his life. But they’re taking their relationship one step at a time, and that seems very mature. The relationship feels unprofessional but not creepy, since she’s just as much as an adult as he is.
I’ll talk about Lisbeth the character and performance, that I was forewarned that Noomi Rapace looks nothing like the girl she plays made me concentrate on detaching the facade of ‘Lisbeth’ while watching the movie. That her face looks cheekbone-y and angular unlike the soft faces of most women in Hollywood. That she’s allowed to be an adult especially when meeting Henrik Vanger’s lawyer, and she exceeds expectations in this part. There’s just something about her mannerisms, her black clothing, her gait, the she smokes to escape tense situations. Everyone’s excited about Lisbeth because she’s not passive like many Hollywood female characters. But when I watch her I feel like I’m seeing another archetype instead of a full, nuanced character.
And I could have done away with one of the rape scenes. And done away with “fuck,” “evil motherfucker” and other ub-subtleties. And I’m not sure if people on probation in Sweden are that defenceless against their parole officers. And I don’t like the direction of the denouement of the movie. And I don’t like how the movie portrays certain sexual acts as punishment. And why is Clarice doing research while Crawford is with the killer? That’s not how it works although I respect the spin.
I also have issues with the trailer of the film, or at least the version that I’ve seen. It barely lets us in on any dialogue. Why hide the fact that the movie’s in Swedish?
The Secret in their Eyes
(Sequence in their Eyes ph. SPC)
I’m taking everyone I know to see this movie.
The movie, portraying Argentine detective Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) trying to write a novel about a rape-murder case he’s had a twenty-five year obsession with, could have been a “baffling masterpiece” if I left it alone. But like every great film, I can’t, and it becomes more cohesive the more I think of it.
The movie, comfortably jumping from 1974 to 2000, has everything. Class conscious banter. The Hitchcockian theme wherein a man acting out on his impulses reminds another of his repressed desires and romances. A portrayal of human stupidity by Esposito and his partner Sandoval, whom, despite its intentions, prove that they’re neither cunning nor untouchable as they think. All of that in a slow marinade that is neither sleepy nor frustrating.
Then it has a climax like the seamless, much talked about chase scene in a full capacity soccer stadium.
The second half is, forgive me, a series of what-the-fucks. It’s one of those movies that can end in so many places, with slow dramatic volleys from one possible scenario to its exact opposite. One of those possible endings transports us to the year 2000, when both Esposito and his love interest, Irene Menendez Hastings, are older. She examines the novel and becomes dissatisfied where and how the rough draft ends, her way of encouraging him to find real answers and truths that both the characters and the audience deserve. This second half isn’t jolting but is nonetheless disturbing. Saying ‘that was the most fucking up thing I’ve ever seen’ was a gauge learned to judge great movies in high school viewership, and it’s still just as effective. The real ending that the characters and audience do deserve took a lot of buildup, and it’s believable and nonetheless human made by a director who can make great films.
The movie’s about how people treat each other, how people punish each other, a desire for vindication. It’s about a new cinematic language to articulate an idealism that hasn’t vanished in the personal nor national level, although it’s easy for that ideal to slip away.
Now that’s done, I’ll reintroduce Nathaniel R’s discovery of Natalie Portman’s three block rule, a rule that the Cumberland audience is notorious for breaking. And it’s funnier when middle-aged bourgeois feys break this rule.
“I thought the movie was so horrible.”
“Have you read the New Yorker review? I think you’re alone in this.”
“Just everything was set up. The female judge just happens to have her shirt a bit open when the suspect was there. And the elevator…”
“That’s like every other movie. It wasn’t as bad as the movie yesterday.” (Please don’t tell me these idiots didn’t see J.Lo)
“And the judge closing the case just like that.”
“Well, you don’t know what the Argentinian (ARGENTINE!) justice system was like. And it was the 70’s. It was a dictatorship.”
And so forth. I’m pretty sure I’m a loser for forestalking them (walking in front of the person you’re actually following). I just thought the dialogue was gold.
“Empress” Double Bill
(Poor little rich girl ph. secret)
My English teacher in high school pretty much said that you can write a unifying topic about any two texts. I’ve used that spirit in this blog, and it’s been useful while watching both “The Young Victoria, out on DVD last Tuesday, and “Alice in Wonderland.” My focus is not on how good they are. “Young Victoria” is passable and “Alice in Wonderland” sucks donkey. I thought at first that the Queen Mother documentary and my kooky mind was the only thing both movies had in common but boy was I wrong.
On the surface, both movies are about girl power. My basic knowledge of the titular “Young Victoria” was her older self, she was the most powerful woman in the world but is crippled by mourning her husband’s death. What the film shows is a girl (Emily Blunt) who, like many renowned rulers, have no or have lost her siblings and cousins. It also shows her fighting off her stepfather Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) who wants her to sign her regency away to him in what could have been her deathbed. It’s a typical female royal narrative about having to deal with the men who try to influence her, the movie thankfully incorporating treaties and negotiations and letter writing culture that Royal history was full of. Nonetheless, the men break down either through her own strength or through fortunate circumstances. She forges political partnerships with men like William IV (Jim Broadbent), Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) and her husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend, our generation’s Omar Sharif).
Alice in “Alice in Wonderland” goes through the same things as Queen Victoria. She’s the daughter of a businessman who’s imaginative as he is – he wants to venture into other continents, she dreams of fantasy lands. Growing up (Mia Wasikowska, groomed as a pallid Gwyneth Paltrow), her mother and sister thinks of her good enough to marry into blue blooded English snots. If she even thinks about not marrying the aristocratic Hamish, her peers remind her of the delusional old maid Aunt Imogen. She storms out of her engagement party not defiantly but to chase a rabbit she can only see, hence out of a compulsion to regress into her childhood dreams. Going into the rabbit hole she falls on hard surfaces, gets scratched up by huge animals and gain the courage to meet her destiny and kill the Jabberwock.
The most interesting parts for me for both films were the last acts, since the emancipation of one results into the slavery of many.* We feel her empowerment when she snips at Prime Minister Peel about her ladies-in-waiting, but a bit uncomfortable when she has a shouting match with her husband about her ladies-in-waiting. Sure, both sides have their faults, but she asserts herself to him many times that she’s her Queen and he can only leave a room when he’s dismissed. They kiss and make up, and the title cards in the end show that Victoria births nine children who will rule the crowns of Britain, Germany, Russia, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Serbia, Greece and they forgot Denmark. Ironically, at least half of those monarchies still stand.
In “Alice in Wonderland” Alice stays true to her father’s mercantile leanings but now uses aristocratic influence to do something profitable. She refuses Hamish’s hand in marriage but has a business proposition in store for his father, Lord Ascot. Her father and Lord Ascot’s business has posts in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, but she presents the opportunity to tap into China and its products. Ambition wins him over, and she gets her ships. In a way China becomes her wonderland – they do have tea after all. And as we historically know, China really loved every minute of that.
We can’t, however, show our disdain towards womanhood for heralding English political and economic imperialism, since men just have a hand in shaping both characters. “Young Victoria” implies that Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, takes credit for making many crowns in Europe bear the name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Victoria and Albert can be either lying to themselves or actually have made an honest, loving relationship out of a marriage strategized by those above her. “Alice in Wonderland” has a bit sinister – some may call it honest – portrayal of a man behind the great woman. Alice maybe seen as her father’s daughter. Lord Ascot notices the look in her eyes that eerily reminds him of her father, but goes ahead and follows her whims anyway. Both women are figureheads in both an active or passive definition still makes me uncomfortable for a few seconds.
*I know that I’m treading murky waters here, and I’m blaming my red-eye working habits and thumping headache/sinuses if I get un-PC).
(Should I say fierce. ph secret)
(Repeat viewing, again I didn’t blog at TIFF ’09)
One of my favourite scenes in “Mother” is the abandoned amusement park scene. There’s awesomeness in the closeups of Jin-tae’s boots as he willfully beats the shit out of the horny, gossipy teenage schoolboys . But what I’m here to talk about is when Jin-tae’s best friend’s Mother (Hye-ja Kim) interacts with the same boys. She lights a cigarette and plays good cop to Jin-tae’s bad cop. She asks where the murdered schoolgirl Moon Ah-jung’s cellphone is. The previously fragile mother now looks tougher and sharper than nails, easily she gets the answers she needs.
That’s one of the hurdles that the titular Mother has to go through to prove that her slow-developed son is not the murderer of a girl. She tears up, she bravely ventures to places like the victim’s funeral and a sleazy Karaoke bar, she lies through her teeth. She’s technically a supporting character in her son’s life, their view of each other both Freudian and furious. But we later realize that it’s all about maintaining her world order as much as it is about getting her son out of jail. Hye-ja Kim also fills this character’s highs and lows, giving the best female performances of the past year.
(Pretty much explains and summarizes the movie)
This is the second Joon-ho Bong film I’ve seen (the first one was “The Host”). He explores known terrain/archetypes like schoolgirl innocence, low functioning emasculated men and according to Rick Groen, incompetent government officials, but he twists them in “Mother.” I’m not an expert in South Korean history and culture – cellphone culture and interconnectedness and other Asia-na is assumed as a part of a depiction of the said culture. But this movie’s so character driven anyway that it doesn’t get pigeonholed as a ‘film as national metaphor.’
Almost every frame in this movie is beautiful. From the close-ups to the natural landscapes of a Korean city to the valley-like cemeteries and streets to its attention to water and rain to its willingness to explore darkness. Blue hues are neo-noir’s best friend.
Sure the movie’s a bit slow and even the shocking twists (they’re the best ones in about a decade) don’t give it the punch that “The Host” did, but “Mother” is becoming more enigmatic the more I think of it.