Friday, January 9, 2009

Lots of Short Reviews

Hello all! So I have seen a lot of things but I do not have time to write full reviews of them so I will do shorter reviews all in one for everything I have seen.

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) Grade: A- This was my first Mike Leigh film and I absolutely loved it. I understand that this is a much more positive film than his other works. The unique way Leigh prepares to shoot his films is absolutely fascinating. While I wanted to strangle Poppy many times she is one of the most artfully crafted characters of the year. Sally Hawkins gives a performance of unmatchable realism and gives the best female performance of the year that I have seen. I love how there is little plot, yet I was completely interested the entire time. It does not adhere to the typical mechanisms of scripting again due to Leigh’s techniques. It is like getting a peek into a real person’s life and seeing how they function in different situations. Eddie Marsan is also incredible as Scott the driving instructor. This should be in the Best Picture race. But of course it isn’t.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008): Grade B. A worthy new effort from Woody Allen. Slight, but definitely worthwhile. The film looks incredibly beautiful as a sort of love letter to Barcelona. The omniscient “Magnolia” like narration is one of my favorite devices in film. Like “Little Children” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” it is like reading a novel but with visuals presented to you. It may save the actors from getting their own characterization across at times but it saves time and actually does give a much fuller understanding of the story and characters in a short amount of time even if it is a short of shortcut. Rebecca Hall proves why she is one of my favorite actresses. Javier Bardem is really good as is Scarlett Johansson. Penelope Cruz should not be sweeping all of these awards for Supporting Actress but she is absolutely terrific bringing the film to a new level when she enters it. I like how essentially nothing changes by the end and nobody have learned anything and pretty much ends up where they started. It is a refreshing change from the characters learning something and their lives changing in the film.

Gran Torino (2008): Grade: B The character of Walt Kowalski made this film. And the score. I really very much enjoyed all of it actually. I do not know how great of a film it is except that I was affected by it. The Hmong boy was horrible, essentially ruining the dramatics of any scene he was in. The Hmong girl was better, still not great but I just really liked her despite not being all that natural. I also really liked the priest. Clint Eastwood is fantastic here, creating a full character that I became attached to. While I do not know how successful the film is I did really enjoy it so I do not really know the criticisms.

Passengers (2008): Grade: D. Ugh this was just awful. The last 10 minutes were good and Anne Hathaway did a great job with it but the rest of this movie despite appreciating the director’s ambitions is just a mess. It has no idea what it is doing for the entire run; I actually had no idea what I was watching despite the illusion of an actual story. Terrible.

The Reader (2008): Grade: A- I have no idea what the lukewarm love for this movie is about. I thought it was excellent on virtually every level. Yes it is very clearly an Oscar movie from the Weinstein’s but other than that obvious push from the beginning this film brought up tough questions without any easy answers. It presented complex characters and provided an interesting and refreshing take on the post WWII Germany. It brings up the question of how does the younger generation after WWII function knowing that their elders participated in genocide, not knowing who did what and having to carry the weight of all of the anger from others on their shoulder despite not actually being a part of the genocide. This is very interesting stuff that is addressed in very subtle ways. Kate Winslet knocks this one out of the park as Hanna Schmitz. This is not a supporting performance but a lead one and one that should be the lead category. It is a stronger performance than hers in Revolutionary Road. While both contain equal amounts of subtlety and extremes, Hanna is a more complicated character and one that I felt that I got to know more despite actually learning less about her. David Kross also impressed me so much here. He learned English for the role and really matched up with Winslet in the intense scenes. Ralph Fiennes tops off his great year with a third terrific performance. The film looks beautiful, is paced fantastically and should be getting more love this Oscar season because I feel that it is a better film than 3 of the frontrunners for Best Picture.

Hamlet 2 (2008) Grade: C – The film itself is a mess, despite some gems within the dialogue and story. Elizabeth Shue felt out of place, Catherine Keener and David Arquette felt completely misguided and the kids have no motive for their participation in this play at all let alone their enthusiasm for it. But Amy Poehler is fantastic, as is the child critic. The real reason to see this though is Steve Coogan who just goes completely over the top with his performance in the best way possible. It is maniacally inspired. Worth seeing for him and that honestly the entire film was enjoyable because he was in every scene. As a film though, it is all over the place.

Flight of the Red Balloon (2008) Grade: C+. While this is beautifully made and I always love seeing Juliette Binoche, personally this was not for me. Everything involving the red balloon was entrancing and I liked the point of its presence in the film but the rest just was not interesting enough for me. I do not think this is a bad film at all, quite the contrary; it just is not to my taste.

Non 2008 Films:

Grey Gardens (1975) (Documentary) Grade: A
Could I have liked this more? Unlikely. I do not even know what to say about it except that the eccentric story and seclusion of Little Edie and Big Edie on Grey Gardens is a glimpse into 2 very interesting lives, one unregretful and the other full of regrets. As opposed to trying to hide the fact that the conversations are natural, there is an interesting twist here. While the conversations are entirely authentic, the Maylses brothers do not hide the fact that these conversations that bring up the past arise because the brothers are there as they each try to talk to the Maysles brothers about their lives within real life and not through specific interviews or questions being asked because this is cinema verite style which is my favorite form of documentary.

Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) Grade: B+. I would not have liked this if I was younger when I saw it. Today when I am more admirable of atmosphere in a way than some stories and even character development, this film was absolutely delightful. Virtually no plot, the jokes are subtle and not as catastrophic as the back of the DVD suggests but it is a masterpiece; easily one of the greatest films I have ever seen. Jacques Tati is a genius. His film is a take on the dull routine of French vacationing and the need to inject youth and freedom into it as the vacationers desperately try to keep everything in perfect order. The little dialogue there is, is all very low in volume, a purposeful move by Tati. It sucks you into its framing and shot composition; it is a stunning film.
The Thin Blue Line (1988) (Doc) Grade: A- Oh God did I get into this one. Absolutely fascinating documentary that helped get a man released from jail from a life time sentence. The way that this case was handled is mind blowingly horrific; as terrifying as any horror film. I cannot explain how horribly this case was handles and Morris’ acute and meticulous construction of the course of events really puts into perspective how and where everything went wrong. Also, Mrs. Miller in this film, in maybe about 10 minutes of it, is the most terrifying woman ever to be seen in a documentary. The woman is a fucking nut job. A nut job. Oh and David Harris is pure evil.

Gimme Shelter (1970) (Doc) Grade: A- I learned that I never would have gone to Altamont if given a chance. That said, this movie ruled and I do not even know what else to say about it except that it ruled and I am getting tired of typing.

Harlan County U.S.A (1976) (Doc) Grade: B. Interesting and heartbreaking account of the year long coal miner strike in Kentucky. I loved the inclusion of the woman’s actions during the strike. I loved the music. I also loved how it depicts so well how hard it is for so many people to get basic things included into their jobs and how unwilling the companies are to give them anything that they justifiably ask for. This is a never ending circle that these people go through. Also Pete Boyle is a nut job as well.

The Fallen Idol (1948) Grade: A. I need to own this. This was one of the best movies I have seen in years. I liked it better than The Third Man. The deep focus was incredible. The little boy is the cutest little British boy I have ever seen. Everything about it was just perfect. I do not have one complaint about this movie. I could watch it over and over and over again. Brilliant.

1 comment:

Shana said...

i think its great you saw grey gardens i'd been thinking to put it in my queue and this reminded me to