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)
J or Josh Cody’s (James Frecheville) mother OD’s beside him. He calls maternal grandmother Janine (Jacki Weaver), her little, meek voice telling him to move in with her and her sons, family man Barry Brown (Joel Edgerton), ‘don’t call me uncle’ Darren Cody (Luke Ford) – only two years older than J, and fast-moving shirtless Craig. These men are bank robbers. No biggie.
I assumed toughness from these men, and they do exude that on scene and through grainy footage screenshots of them sporting balaclavas and guns. What destroys their bravado is the decline of the bank robbers, as it goes in many films of the same genre. J also confides that they have fear and feel a familial dread, and looking at the brothers supports that assessment. Barry for example looks like he’s holding in a sigh before talking to the detectives staking out near his front door. Or Craig struggling while play fighting on the couch. Or Darren unable to interfere while someone murders a girl in front of him. There is a little part of me that doubts that fear because the narration technically filters our understand of the characters. However, at least it directs into looking at these men’s eyes at quiet moments within the film.
Then the big brother Andrew ‘Pope,’ (Ben Mendelsohn) pops out of hiding. Pervy and destructive even towards his family, he sets off the crucial events within the film. Pope’s to blame for making things worse – I see it, J sees it, but it’s never fully established whether the other characters do too.
In his misdeeds, the audience watches out for two characters. There’s Janine who seems complicit and J, whose estrangement from the family makes him wired differently from them. He can either be part of the fold or snitch to a detective (unrecognizable Guy Pearce). Their performances are underacted, naturalistic. Weaver as Janine surprises by ordering a hit, slyly dangling the reasons why that hit is beneficial to her henchmen while still keeping her motherly cool. Frecheville as J starts out as a silent wallflower but shines in a scene by himself and in another when he maturely wards off Janine’s empty promises of comfort.
However, what I like best about Animal Kingdom is how it treats these subjects and characters with deft and sympathy, while others could have seen them – watching game shows, smoking indoors, going at each other – as crass human beings.
- Movie review: ‘Animal Kingdom’ a wild thriller (sfgate.com)
- Dan Persons: Mighty Movie Podcast: David Michod on Animal Kingdom (huffingtonpost.com)
Shot in digital and under natural light, Ingrid Veringer makes her directorial debut with MODRA. Protagonist Lina breaks up with her boyfriend Tyler. Her classmate Laco calls to invite her to a movie and she instead ends up inviting him to Modra, Slovakia, her family’s home town. It’s not the most original film in visual terms – a shot of the Toronto skyline indicating that the film begins in…Toronto, low angle shots looking up a tree indicating an idyllic summer afternoon. Yes, I’m nitpicking. What also distracts me are the portrait close-ups of Lina’s family members with sound from the scene they cut away from, taking away from the scenes’ continuity. I do like the way the film photographs Modra, a clump of red roofs in between a green field, in many scenes in the point of view of the summer couple.
The impressionistic performances of the characters redeems this film greatly, focusing on the two North American teenagers, nonchalant yet have envy-inducing independence. Lina’s a girl who wears unflattering empire waist dresses yet sings like Feist, Laco’s agile, awkward, not loquacious but a gentle soul. Like teenagers, the couple have unassuming exteriors and hidden anger and sadness that only comes out in economical taps. I also like how Lina is mature enough to deal with family secrets that involves her separation from her home country. Lina and Laco also accept that permanence can’t exist, and whatever happens, they see the trip as the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 3/5.
- AUDIO: Modra’s family ties (cbc.ca)
The narrator (Lewis Black) talks about a large family sitting on a table to celebrate their paterfamilias’ (Ron Rifkin) seventieth birthday, describing every one of the father’s children as a series of mistakes. The civility and silence break when the unemployed singer/actress/dancer Cheri (Sarah Silverman) bellows at her younger, successful brother Nathan for writing a novel, also named Peep World, too accurate for her taste. This is best scene of the film, although the scene isn’t finished.
The body of the film is a flashback eighteen hours before this dinner, unsurprisingly revealing this fictional book’s secrets and more. Jack (Michael C. Hall) has a wife (Judy Greer) who faintly swears at him during her sleep, Joel’s (Rainn Wilson)’s big SUV breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Peep World the film is filming in front of Cheri’s home and Nathan is very condescending to his PR agent (Kate Mara). Every sibling has a sexual Achilles’ heel, all used for effective comic relief.
This film also has sincere moments, like the falling out when Jack’s wife finds out he frequents an adult theatre, a scene both well-shot and well blocked. The film eventually heads to the restaurant where cruelty, revelations of decades of hurt feelings and comic reliefs are the main dishes. The cast elevates this funny film, also including Taraji P. Henson who delivers the film’s best line and Geoffrey Arend, the luckiest man on earth. This is lowbrow entertainment at its classiest and best. Rating – 3/5.
Laurel Canyon, the perfect boring couple, Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) talk at each other and sometimes lie to each other. Sam has to move back to the titular Laurel Canyon to practice psychiatry in a great hospital there, and Alex comes with to finish her dissertation. temporary bunking with Sam’s mother Jane (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ian (Alessandro Nivola), the environment proves to hinder work and shake up relationships.
It’s funny that 60% of the major players in this film are British but make for more convincing Californians than Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. And that bale and Nivola could have changed roles but the American Nivola does fit the hairy-chested, childlike Chris Martin-eqsue role better.
Alex is such a complex character that Cholodenko has to justify the script’s choices within and around her. When she gets invited to join Jane’s group, Jane explains that she can judge Jane’s work because common sense drives popular music, thus anyone can judge it. When Sam pours his heart out to Sara, it follows with a scene when Alex misunderstands everything he’s been saying to her. A question is often followed by an answer, thankfully those answers aren’t too expository.
And oh Lord, Kate Beckinsale. I’ll always love her for her deadpan fierceness, if that exists, in The Last Days of Disco. Her MUBI profile doesn’t show how derided she is after The Aviator. As the soft-spoken Alex, her retreat with Sam lets her go through a sexual awakening at the same time as Sam, but hers is more intense, later on explaining that she’s never experienced fucking up. Within the film, she goes from routine lovemaking to romantic desire. It’s sad that they didn’t go through the full experience together. And she smokes a joint like a true beginner. I miss this girl.
Would it be fair to say that Cholodenko almost perfectly encapsulates the white experience? She doesn’t have the Holofcener/Fey guilt thing, but Cholodenko puts the straight-laced and the wild ones within the same square inch, or in this case, the same family. Most of the movie shows Sam and Jane treat each other passive aggressively until the big explosive scene in the denouement, which air some raw emotions out.
And again, time to download me some Mercury Rev.
Before I talk about the likes and dislikes about the movie, I just wanna say that Despicable Me is in between good Avatar and headache-inducing Alice in Wonderland in the spectrum of 3D films. If there’s any part of a 3D movie when I take off my glasses and don’t see anything different from watching the movie with or without the glasses, we have a little problem. I do like he sleek designof some interior/exterior spaces of the film, however.
Here, however, is the structural conundrum about Despicable Me. The first scenes are boring. I didn’t really wanna see our anti-hero Gru (Steve Carell) freeze-ray his way into getting a latte. However, I can’t think of away to cut any of them because if I do, I won’t have enough background on the characters. Basically, Gru, a worn-down villain, adopts three girls to infiltrate another villain’s lair. These tedious introductions help make the children sympathetic and make Gru’s 180 much more surprising and delightful.
Gru’s Eastern bloc accent is stage-y yet not distracting. The children even make fun of it to show him how incompetent he is at being a villain. There are also flashbacks within the film showing Gru’s childhood when his mother (Julie Andrews) shrugs off his little achievements. Most people with terrible childhoods like Gru’s have shortsighted reasons for having or adopting kids and they treat their children as terribly as they have been treated. However, Gru turns out to become a perfect parent. Maybe it’s because Gru, like many adult protagonists in animated films, are children in adult bodies who is looking for playmates. Maybe it’s because the girls are kinda bratty and sarcastic and they’re not the kind of children you lie to or mess with.
Nonetheless, it’s also very funny. It takes a while for the movie to bring on the laughs, but it’s worth the wait. This movie also has the greatest Godfather parody scene in recent memory, and there are funnier parts of the film than that.
In between watching movies from the Wright Stuff series and watching Scott Pilgrim, I watched another hipster romance movie – Marie Antoinette. Before I get to the meat of this post, I just wanna say that I have to discuss the traces of what I have read or heard about the woman whose life this movie is depicting, and how true this movie is to the life of said murdered queen – if I used the word executed it means she deserved it, which she partly didn’t. Some people believe that the dead are fair game, but then we’re talking about one of the most slandered women in history, so every time Coppola or the film trips, we deduct a point.
I remember the pre-blogging glory days of trying to defend this movie while calling out the royalists who trolled the Marie Antoinette forum on iMDb. That was where I read someone who compared the movie to a series of paintings. And probably where I read someone mistake Marie Antoinette’s (Kirsten Dunst) alleged Swedish boy toy Count Axel von Fersen (Jamie Dornan) as Napoleon. And/or make a comparison between Madame du Barry (Asia Argento) as a Disney evil queen – she did NOT look like that nor act like she was depicted in the film, by the way. There are other directors who make a collage of pop culture references in their work. Those anonymous readings, however, show that Coppola isn’t able to mold those separate images and/or incorporate them into what should be a believable and seamless biopic. I don’t fully believe that it would have been a better decision to invent her own images of these people instead recycling old/different/inaccurate ones, but I’d imagine there’s some who watched this movie who would choose the former over the latter.The movie has always felt like ‘This is what I imagine her life to be,’ which has driven a lot of history nuts crazy.
Need to remind you guys that Coppola’s direction of the character Marie Antoinette evoked Paris Hilton. And being inundated by that comparison by the media, oh my God. Which leads us to Coppola’s apparent aim of turning Marie Antoinette’s story as a satire of the nepotism – biting the hand – and decadence of the government and celebrity culture of Bush-era US. Which is great, but why can’t Marie Antoinette simply be Marie Antoinette?
What is different between 18th century Versailles and 21st century America is the treatment of children’s sexuality. Adults both blue and red-blooded obsessed over Marie Antoinette as a sexual being. It’s tragic how her mother, Maria Theresa (Marianne Faithful) has fought for and keep the crown of the Holy Roman Empire as a woman and became the most powerful woman in Europe after Catherine the Great, only for her daughter to be trampled so easily. Coppola gets it right in this movie by actually showing the ‘people of France’s’ real problem with Marie Antoinette – that it dragged on before she was able to produce an heir. And how full the operating room was when Marie gave birth to, unfortunately, Therese. Also consider the hypocrisy of spying on adolescents’ bedroom action and the Christian notion of not talking about sex and not teaching the poor couple how to have sex.
Marie eventually becomes corrupted by this oversexualized society, having knowledge of her grandfather-in-law King Louis XIV’s (Rip Torn) affair with Du Barry. Marie then derides this fake aristocrat. In Coppola’s film, she unknowingly she becomes just like Du Barry, carrying out her own affair with the Swede.
Today, a 14 year old’s responsibility is his or her homework and some household chore. Marie, turning 14 when she did, has had a quick transition between childhood and adulthood, just like that insufficient carriage ride to the French border. At least two years into adulthood in that day’s standards, she has a responsibility that reminds her that she is still a second class citizen under Salic law. No wonder, as Coppola shows in the film, Marie regresses.
Flaw – The scene when Marie walks with Austrian Ambassador Mercy (Steve Coogan) and Therese in the gardens. The Princess du Lamballe (Mary Nighy) runs to the three and informs them of the Austrian Empress’s death. How did the Austrian ambassador not know that first?
In Roger Ebert‘s review of this film, his second point called Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette as ‘pitch-perfect casting.’ It’s not Interview with a Vampire, or to compare it to the other performances that year, she’s no Penelope Cruz. It’s wonderful watching Dunst’s face react to her husband King Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman) wolf down his food, or how her face reaches us through that infamous zoom out, saying a lot while standing still. Having to go across the palace to a private room where she could cry or fawn – a measured release of emotion from one place to another. Worn down after the deaths in her family. Her poised diplomatic voice as she talks to her husband’s cabinet and even to her own brother, the Holy Roman Emperor (Danny Huston). As some blog I used to read has said in defense of her performance, Dunst was obedient to Coppola’s vision.