Monthly Archives: February 2013

Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino (2012)

I didn’t really want to go and see it. But well, it did get a Bafta and the Academy nomination for script, so I eventually did watch it.
Great costumes, seductive music, very good acting. All of that will not replace the usual agility that Tarantino got me used to. Tarantino’s cameo is less subtle than Hitchock used to implement.
a) It is a western genre, b) although it does carry a breath of Tarantino, it is, in the end, too long.
I am used to Tarantino’s films galloping lightly through plot and it was hard for me to slow down, to adjust to the pace of this film. Certainly great artists (and Tarantino definitely is one of them) have to evolve, but I am just not sure if by evolving here Tarantino stays true to himself. The metaphoric explosion at the end (without revealing too much of a plot) I read as the end of Tarantino. Perhaps I was wrong. But in order to judge that, I will need to wait for his next project.

I am very curious as to which film will become the Best Motion Picture on Feb 24th 2013. And am sincerely rooting for Argo.

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GIRLS (HBO series 2012-) by Lena Dunham

Written and created by Lena Dunham, starring mainly Lena Dunham and others such as Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Christopher Abbott, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, Zosia Mamet and many more.
Labelled as the younger version of SATC, as it tells the story of 4 female New Yorkers. Hannah (Dunham) is a writer, contesting the consumerist society – mainly because her parents decide to cut her off all financial help at the very beginning of the series.
What follows is a fascinating tale of 20-somethings who don’t want to fit in, when at the same time they need to somehow make it in New York City. They talk homegrown philosophy, they drink wine, involve themselves in relationships, breakups, but above all – they are connected by friendship. There is a lot of ex-boyfriends, accidental encounters, overanalysing, flesh on screen, most disturbing outfits and a considerable amount of disconcerting truths.
What I loved about the latest episode (Season 2, episode 5) is that it can be perceived in multiple ways. And this is how I define good narrative – it’s open for interpretation. This episode could have been Hannah’s dream. On the other hand, it might have actually happened. Still, it’s amazing how it analyses and invades Hannah’s character. How it strips her of everything she thought she was and whatever she thought she didn’t want to be. I like it because it is always fascinating to see another person, whom you perceive to be the most ‘together’ of all the people you know, and then that person breaks in front of you. In screen fiction it is the most telling of moments. And this is what defines truthfulness of the characters who are not paper characters any more. They feel real. They have their breakdowns, downs and almost no ups. And somehow, they carry on. Not necessarily calm and I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next, very much.

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Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow (2012)

I perceive this film as a demonstration of power. The way in which an American CIA agent ‘owns’ his prisoners makes me strongly uncomfortable. Although, I have been aware of the unthinkable methods of torture applied by the Americans in the war on terror, I have never thought a filmmaker would decide to show them on screen with no shade of doubt in any of the characters. Not even one of the opressors has any moral or ethical discomfort at any point. And this is one of the major issues I have with the film. Another, is that the sides are presented as black and white. I have never fought a war, but have a deep feeling that nothing is ever black and white. At one point in the battlefield I suppose it is easier to divide all across a line – friend/foe. But this film does not show the battlefield. It shows prisons, interrogations of helpless people, who certainly at times do not have the answers.
This is a story of a crusade of one female CIA agent against Osama Bin Laden that took her over a decade. She won. She did find him and had him killed. I am just not convinced that victory at such price can ever be perceived as a victory.
Kathryn Bigelow made a film which does not leave us indifferent. It makes us hostile. It antagonises the people of the world against the Americans. I am not sure anyone should be comfortable with this.
There is no evidence about black CIA site in Gdansk, Poland – the cradle of the Polish Solidarity movement. It is very unfair to locate one scene of the film there. Now the Poles will have to answer uncomfortable questions all over the world. And very few people will bother to check the facts after having watched the film.

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Searching for Sugar Man by Malik Bendjelloul (2012)

searching-for-sugar-man
This film is a must watch for several reasons.

One – because it is a fascinating story, two because of the incredible music and three and probably most of all for the cinema geeks out there – the cinematography in this one.

Swedish-British-SouthAfrican coproduction results in a project where a Swedish cinematographer – Camilla Skagerström did marvels. Rarely do we have a documentary looking this good.

The story has been dug out by Saffa music journalists back in 1990’s. Sixto Rodriguez was a cult artist in South Africa in 1970’s. However, completely unknown in his native America. Rodriguez was more popular in Cape Town than Elvis or even the Rolling Stones. Given the political separation of South Africa from the rest of the world – the artist didn’t know this and the legend in the country of success went that he was dead.
With the development of internet, it turned out that he is not dead and he went to Africa for a tour, where the story actually unveils.
The music sounds well so many years after Rodriguez recorded his first of the two albums (1970 and 1971). Having heard only one of his songs on the radio (“I wonder”) – it stayed in my head for weeks. Such is his music’s power. It is unclear up till now as to why he got no recognition in America. But these are dry facts. A genius musician and artist whose life went differently to how it could have gone. Which is yet another reason to watch this film.
A must – and it’s nominated for the Oscar this year.

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Gangster Squad by Ruben Fleischer (2013)

There are some films that leave a bitter aftertaste when you get back home from the cinema after the screening. It’s not that there is something wrong with them. But something isn’t right either.

This is a film noir – chapeaux bas to the idea. Well, there is a grain of Tarantino style goriness which was probably what caused a little bit of disgust to my taste.

It is an ensemble cast led by Josh Brolin, who has a good role – in general all is exceptionally well written. The dialogues work. The costumes are obviously spotless, the job of the set designer is indeed amazingly done.

It feels more like a music video than a feature length film. Maybe because too much has been presented in a shallow, simplified way. What in a classic film noir was unsaid and therefore not shown, here is depicted to the tiniest detail. A film noir is a genre where certain rules should be followed and even though Emma Stone does look like a cartoon wife of Roger Rabbit, I am not convinced by her acting.

Even Ryan Gosling’s character is uneven and unconvincing for whatever reason.

Josh Brolin is great and so is Sean Penn. Giovanni Ribisi also deserves a special mention. But overall – this is not a masterpiece.

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