Monthly Archives: February 2012

Howl by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman

The life of writer-poet Allen Ginsberg is presented through magic, impeccable filmic tools.

What strikes a very personal chord are the mockumentary fragments when Allen Ginsberg talks about the life of a writer; how he could write whatever he wished because he knew it would never be published. He never wanted his father to read whatever Ginsberg had to write. He wrote for the drawer only.

The film is short and intertwines the jumps through time back and forth, where the main action takes place in the courtroom where several literary men are asked to establish whether Ginsberg’s HOWL has any literary merit. It is being compared toWalt Whitman’s LEAVES OF GRASS.

It should be a must watch for English Literature students, writers, poets, aesthetes, cinema geeks, poetry geeks, 1950’s and 1960’s enthusiasts, Mad Men fanatics, bohemians, artists, indie cinema lovers… and their friends.

A masterpiece, slightly too short perhaps…

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Moneyball by Bennett Miller

Brad Pitt is nominated for the Oscar as the Best Actor for this one. Script is also nominated as best adapted screenplay.

I am not a baseball fan, even more – I don’t think I understand the rules of baseball.

Aaron Sorkin co-wrote the script, but the pace of the film is very far from his usual.

I hope Brad Pitt does not get the Oscar for this film. He is definitely a great actor, but this does not show in this movie.

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Margin Call by J.C. Chandor

Nominated in the Best Original Screenplay category for the Oscar in 2012.

Well paced, made with a pleasant attention to detail. Depicts 24 hours marking the beginning of the credit crunch in 2008. Probably simplified so that non-experts can follow the plot – successfully passing the message on.

Dry, concrete and capably played by the big stars of Hollywood such as Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons.

Eric – one man who seems to be the grey eminence triggering the sequence of dramatic events is a stoic engineer who has no choice but to surrender to the firm’s decisions. There is a lot of giving up by those low on the ladder to those high up. The film ends on a naive note that the top business fish seem to be sharing. Yet the viewer knows there will be no choice for them after the film credits stop scrolling down. We are richer knowing the history.

A very nice work.

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The Help by Tate Taylor

This is another of the Oscars 2012 nominations.

A very powerful film, a meaningful one and carefully directed.

In one of the opening scenes we hear Johnny Cash’s  song about Jackson, where the plot is set. Johnny Cash has this specific notion and bears this exceptional note of the American South. The South in the 1960’s – somebody pointed out that this story is historically parallel to what we see in the Mad Men. Only New York City at that time and Mississippi are very distant places. From every possible angle. Also, this film shows what Mad Men ignores: the polarisation of white and black in the society. What in Mad Men is naturally acknowledged as the status quo, The Help questions.

Emma Stone plays a young journalist filled with idealistic belief that she can change the world. Perhaps she might. Not totally, but certainly the character catalysed something important which later waterfalled into a massive change in modern America.

This film should be  appreciated at tomorrow’s Oscars Gala. I really hope it does.

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The Descendants by Alexander Payne

In the Oscar nominated section.

George Clooney plays middle aged father of two girls. They live in Hawaii – on one of the smaller islands. The mother and wife undergoes an accident – on a motorboat, which lands her in a coma. The exposition shows clueless Clooney who does not know how to interact with his 10-year old and calls his 17-year old for help. At the same time, he has a business decision to make.

The plot is predictable – only the film is set in Hawaii. George Clooney is George Clooney and he had better roles in the past, so I really hope he does not get the Oscar for this one.

Beautiful clouds, a new, interesting face of Shailene Woodley, who plays the older daughter. It is a nice film. But it is also a mainstream film and in the grand scheme of things, it is not an important film. A pleasant watch for a Sunday afternoon. To watch and to forget. Thank you.

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The OSCARS

For a few years now – since I have consciously followed the Oscars as a viewer, I noticed one specific trend, which is not necessarily a good thing.

It happened a few times – probably this is most remembered in my head in the Best Actor category, that the actor who should win – for best performance, best effort, an important role in his career, does not win the Oscar that year, when he gets nominated for that role. He gets the Oscar one year later, for a different film, of lesser power, importance and sometimes an easier, less important role.

Examples:

Russel Crowe. He should have been awarded the Oscar for his role in “Beautiful Mind” where he played the schizofrenic John Nash – Nobel laureate in Economics. But no, he got the Oscar for “Gladiator”.

Colin Firth. He deserved the Oscar for the role of a peculiar English professor in California of mid 20th century in “A Single Man”. No, he got it for “The King’s Speech”.

Another thing is not to nominate actors that should have been nominated for great roles, for playing outside of their emploi. Please note that in my opinion the two examples above actually rewarded the two actors as playing within their characteristics, not outside of their usual role selection. Which totally defeats the purpose the way I see it.

The other category: Best Picture. For some reason, actual best films get Oscars such as Best Sound Mixing or Best Editing and not in the so called ‘crucial’ categories.

Last year’s selection was very strong with Jesse Eisenberg and Javier Bardem. The year before a tie between Jeff Bridges and Colin Firth.

Who should win this year? First of all – Michael Fassbender was omitted in the nominations overall. Many have pointed this out and I second that. Shame isn’t perhaps a great film, but certainly Michael Fassbender is great in the role that he created.

Best Actor – Gary Oldman – for playing against his usual emploi.

Best Picture – Midnight in Paris – for a great come back of the great master of great cinema!

Best Director – Woody Allen. YES!

Best Writing – Woody Allen.

Best Writing Adaptation – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Best Foreign Film – tie between A Separation and In Darkness. This will be interesting.

Well, let’s see..

 

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The Hangover by Tod Phillips

In the Catching Up section. I did not expect much having heard mixed opinions. I actually loved it.

It is silly but it is just silly enough not to offend the audience’s intelligence.

It is funny, has a great pace and in general is quite likeable. Go watch it, good entertainment!

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Casablanca by Michael Curtiz

This is not the catching up section. This is enjoyment and pure pleasure of having watched the new remastered, incredibly sharp version of one of the best films ever made.

It is a goldmine of film quotes, a political story, a war story and a romance. An eternal classic with no happy ending. It historically flows from the golden age of Hollywood and its traditional film noir era onto more modern times.  A fantastic combination of humour, cynicism, honour and history.

An absolute must. For the most adorable and sparkling couple of Hollywood – Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, a masterpiece script with golden dialogues with the perfect mix of tears and laughter.

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The Darjeeling Limited by Wes Anderson

One more to the Catching Up section.

I have never been to India, but couldn’t escape the impression that the presented world is very far from how India actually looks.

As I found out later reading the trivia section on IMDB page, I was right. Apparently the vast majority of the first draft of the script was written without the writer ever going to India.

The world presented is an idyllic vision of India which is colourful, stylised and incredibly clean.

It tells the story of three brothers; Francis, Peter and Jack (apparently named after Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Jack Nicholson) who take upon a spiritual journey, which term is quoted enough times to make sure that the audience knows it to be irony.

The three brothers are Owen Wilson (since watching ‘Midnight in Paris’, I will always perceive him as Woody Allen), Adrien Brody (he is an amazing comedian!), Jason Schwartzman (barefoot again – just like in ‘I <3 Huckabee’ – will need to investigate whether this is a permanent feature…).  Natalie Portman is a girlfriend in an episodic role – in fantastic shape with short boyish haircut.

Great smart comedy with amazing colours, interior design and a play with convention. Recommend!

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No Strings Attached v. Friends with Benefits – a comparison

Two films made in the same year – after the triumphant record of Oscar nominations for Black Swan with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. The two actresses separated after the film, where they played two dancers competing for the leading role in the ballet and then both took part in two identical projects. The two films have to be looked at together given they treat the same concept – of physical relationships without actual personal or emotional involvement.

Very surprisingly, it was the film with Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake that had any depth at all. I was very surprised that Natalie Portman agreed to take a shallow and flat role of the character in No Strings Attached alongside Ashton Kutcher. None of the two films had my expectations high, or should I say I had absolutely no expectiations. Yet Friends with Benefits is a quite ok film, whereas No Strings Attached is a total kitschy flop.

Dear readers – do not watch any of the two films, but if you really want to, pick Friends with Benefits.

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