Monday, December 14, 2009

You can't forget, but how do you forgive?

Directed by Jim Shridan

As a person who thrives on the alternative, I surprise myself when I’m initially disappointed by an unpredictable storyline. I almost like it more when I leave the theater thinking, “What the hell was that about”. It gives me a chance to let is soak in and fester in my phyche . When I saw the previews for the film Brothers, I assumed it would be a melodrama about the relationship between the brothers much like Legends of the Fall (1994). Instead, the film is about how circumstances reshape a new version of yourself and learning how to live with those decisions you make. While watching the movie I was comparing the film to Stop-Loss (2008) a film that also depicts solders needing to face their family after war.

This is a basic story of good brother turns bad and the bad brother turn good, but this isn’t where the story lies. I think the reason why I was first disappointed IS because I wanted to see the characters pay for their actions, but there is nothing predictably dramatic and there is no moral of the story. Instead, the film documents what happens when you have to live with yourself for the decisions that you made. It’s a pretty simple but profound concept.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bay Area Love

Medicine for Melancholy
Directed by Barry Jenkins

I stumbled across this movie and was excited to see what this new director had in store for me. At a glance, this film is very simple boy meets girl story. It takes place a day after a one-night stand as two strangers correspond over the course of a day. Jenkins captures San Francisco single life perfectly by creating characters who have interesting conversations and an intimate connection within a shallow relationship. The conversations between the two characters are dialogs every black person living in the bay area has had at least once. Issues of gentrification, inter-racial relationships and bay area culture were all talked about, but it was manner in which the conversations unfolded is what made the film interesting. In between the dialog were long periods of silence where cinema-photography gave you a tour of San Francisco, while the characters reflected the personality of the bay area. If you haven’t lived in San Francisco you might not appreciate all of the subtleties of the dialog, but for someone who has lived here for almost five years it was like looking in the mirror
I look forward to seeing Jenkins next project.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The wait is finally over…

Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
Directed by Lee Daniels

Precious is a film about an abused overweight 16-year-old black girl with two children and her incredible heart-wrenching journey to push through. It’s easy to have compassion for this story but Daniels’ ability to make you love, hate and respect the characters makes this movie a success.

I love this film, because it wasn’t a cliché. The main characters are round and complex, played by exquisite actors. There are scenes so uncomfortable it makes you cringe but not too long to the point that it’s vulgar. I was prepared to cry throughout the whole movie, but instead it was broken up with humor and creative dream sequences. Precious is a perfect example of a story so personal it touches on many aspects of society and the human condition without being preachy or disrespectful.

Lots of variables come to place when a film of this caliber is able to reach mainstream audiences. Not many studios are looking for a depressing movie about a girl who gets raped gets pregnant and contracts the AIDS virus. Lets not forget that she is black, overweight and poor. A story filled with ugly social stigmas doesn’t scream blockbuster success. The brutal honesty of the film can only leave the viewer feeling a sense of respect for the journey weather you can relate to it or not. The ability to grab audiences with truthful hard-hitting storytelling without alienating the viewers is a testament to the filmmaker.

I have waited a long time for a film like this. Many films with all black casts get turned into stereotypical depictions of right and wrong instead of just telling the truth. I can only hope this is a beginning of a new genre of black cinema. Thank you Lee Daniels!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Don't get suckered into the Tim Burton Producer credit!

9 (2009)
Directed by Shane Acker

I went into this movie with low expectations and I still left disappointed. I usually like man vs. machine stories, but this just didn't hold my attention. Starting a storyline at the end of a disaster is intriguing, but in order to do that, something else has to happen, a new species, another form of life, something! Perhaps I didn't care enough about these characters because I spent the whole time wondering what the hell they were.

Even though the storyline was week, the visual aesthetics of the film was stunning. The level of detail and creativity were remarkable but this is the kind of movie you put on mute to watch. Perhaps they show it at your favorite bar!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Film Comparison: Picking Battles Depends the Century

Jude 1996
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Revolutionary Road 2008
Directed by Sam Mendes

Jude is a British film about a man who fell in love with his cousin and they lived out of wedlock during the Victorian period. I felt perplexed through out the movie because I couldn’t get over the fact that they were social outcasts, not because they were cousins, but because they weren’t married. I know this sounds terrible to say, but in this case I just feel like they needed to suck it up and get married. Perhaps I can’t really understand this movie because I’m too far removed from this old fashion concept. Some could say people living out of wedlock in the Victorian age, would be equivalent to gay couples unable to get married today. However, I wouldn’t be one of those people. You have a choice if you want to get married or not, but you don’t have a choice if you are gay, or a different nationality. I’m all about standing up for what you believe in, but for me, the fight for staying single isn’t a worthy one. What’s the point of all that sacrifice if you end up losing the people you love? I couldn’t really grasp the concept of Jude, but I respect the emotional journey.

Jude’s co-star, Kate Winslet is also in the movie Revolutionary Road (2008), directed by her husband Sam Mendes, who is famous for telling the emotional journey rather than a plot driven storyline. His films have always been a nice breathe of fresh air for me. Not only are his films visually stunning, but also he says a lot without saying anything at all. Too many characters in films talk too much about what they are feeling.

Revolutionary Road is a perfect example of how Mendes tells a story with what is left unsaid. The film is about a married couple in the 1950’s who saw themselves as different then everyone else, but soon succumbed to the an unfulfilled suburban life. In a lot of ways this film has similar characteristics as Jude. In both films, the characters undergo social pressures but deal with the pressure slightly differently. However, both films, the couples meet a breaking point that tears them apart. The time period difference aloud me to relate more to Revolutionary Road. I also liked that the emotionally oppressed feelings the characters have are reflected in the overall look of the film. The pastel and washed out color palette I felt was thoughtful and appropriate.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

There is funny “haha” and then there is….hmmm

Funny People 2009
Directed by Judd Apatow

Funny people is yet another movie made by the Judd Apatow stoner comedy franchise, fusing cock jokes with life lessons. Movies like Funny People are like those dance movies, you appreciate them trying to include a plot, but really you just came to watch amazing choreographed dance sequences. You expect offensive ‘TMI’ jokes and cameo appearances from your favorite young up and coming comedians. However, Apatow always blurs the lines of comedy and drama seamlessly, catering to multiple audiences. Funny People, unlike previous Apatow movies, is more drama and less stoner with an all star funny cast of comedians like Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, and Aziz Ansari. It’s a film about a successful self-involved stand up comedian who has a near death experience that makes him reevaluate his life. Although I enjoyed the sour sweet ending, the premise of the movie seemed a bit contrived and unrealistic. The best parts of the movie are the interactions between the roommates, a group of up and coming struggling comedians. Not only because they are hilarious, but I have a huge respect for the struggling career of a beginning artist.

The more I thought about this movie the more I realized how many movies like this are being made. It’s fascinating how the movie studios catch on to a certain genres for a few years because they discover a specific formula that will have blockbuster success. I saw an interview with Seth Rogan and he said that he makes movies he thinks his friends would like to see, not movies studios want to make. Seth Rogan’s friends I’m assuming consist of single white males from the ages of 20 – 50 who sit around, smoke pot, play video games and talk about sex. The studio executives are not too much different. That being said, it obviously easier for Judd Apatow to get a movie made then lets say a women who wants to tell her own story from a different point of view. That’s not to say that other films made by women or people of color don’t get made, it’s just a much smaller amount. The people in a position of power always seem to be rich white men. I know, such a cliché statement, right? That being said, a true artist holds their own cards by staying true to their artistic voice and doesn’t allow studio executives, or anyone else to stand in their way. A time will come that the industry will find a new genre and I’m optimistic that more untold stories will have their moment on the big screen.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tarantino’s Basterd

Inglourious Basterds 2009
Directed By Quentin Tarantino

They're certain aspects of a Quentin Tarantino movie that you expect to get before you even walk into the theater:

1. His use of dramatic music
2. The 4 sequence breakdown
3. His long camera shots full of lengthy poetic dialog
4. Disturbingly funny violence

The way he neatly weaves in humor and violence together some would say lacks sensitivity but I find it absolutely beautiful. Tarantino not taking himself too seriously in these very serious situation makes for a wonderful juxtaposition. So when I found out he was making a Nazi movie with Brad Pitt I just knew I was in for special treat.

What's interesting to me about this movie is that most of the dialog is not in English which I think is important to the story. During the first scene of the movie with Colonel Hans Landa (Christopher Waltz) of the Waffen-SS, proudly known as the "Jew Hunter", interrogating Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), a French dairy farmer, over rumours that he had been hiding a Jewish family. Landa. Colonel Hans sole purpose for speaking to Perrier in English is to prevent the family from listening to the conversation. This seems like such a simple detail, but not many films carry that same respect for the language barrier. I enjoy the way Tarantino takes his time with this scene sets the tone of the movie.

I also love the way Tarantino creates rich female characters by allowing them to have strong and powerful personalities but keeping their vulnerability. Women in his films don't get spared the dirty violence and I think that’s a testament of him having the same type of respect for women in his films as he does for men. There is a scene with Shosanna Dreyfus played by Melanie Laurent where she keeps her composure as she eats dessert with the man who killed her family. Col. Hans Landa grabs her hand, making her wait for the cream to put on her pastry. The way Tarantino builds up the suspense, with his use of close-up shots and dramatic music, grabbing her hand seems just as terrifying as if he had slit her throat. As the viewer, you wait for the moment that she cracks.

Many people asked me if it had a lot of violence and for me its not really about how much, but how the violence is being used. I think Tarantino uses violence to tell the story, not shock value. I really enjoyed this movie, and if you are a Quentin Tarantino fan, you will leave the theater feeling satisfied.