Category Archives: 2012 cinema releases

What I have watched on the big screen in 2012.

Imagine by Andrzej Jakimowski (2012) #OffPlusCamera2013

Jakimowski makes visually beautiful films. This one is no exception.
It tells the story of a progressive professor extraordinaire who wants to teach blind children how to orientate in space without their white canes. The teacher himself has no eyes, which makes the task even more difficult than it sounds.
Few things happen, few things are shown, and yet this film makes us – people who can see, identify with the necessity of trusting our all other senses instead of sight. This could be done in darkness or blindfold.
The beauty of this film lies as usually in Jakimowski’s films in lighting and cinematography (thanks to Adam Bajerski).
Imagine brings magic to the lives of those who watch it. And think about it – it is set in Lisbon, although it takes a little while to figure that out. Mainly because little is shown and a lot is imagined. Great cinema. Lovely film.

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Paradies: Liebe by Ulrich Seidl (2012)

2012 contestant in Cannes for the Palme d’Or against Michael Haneke’s Amour.
Teresa is a lonely woman post her prime. Overweight, unable to communicate with her teenage daughter, at work dealing with retarded adults – her life is colourless.
She sets off on a journey to Kenya. In search of sunshine, in search of adventure, in search of entertainment.
Hanging out with three other overweight women her age, she learns about the phenomenon of local lovers. What she fails to learn is that a holiday romance should be a fair exchange rather than just obtainment. Teresa keeps having ethical and moral questions but fails to understand she should give something in return for moments of pleasure in the arms of young attractive men. When one of them tricks her into giving him money, Teresa gets angry. Her anger is unjustified given the game she decided to take part in. Yet, she fails to understand that.
It’s a sad story about cultural differences and post-colonial thinking which should have been changed about a hundred years ago. Somehow, it is visible in this film (which is to be followed by two more in the series) that certain way of thinking stays carved in white European brains and it will take ages to erase that.

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Monsieur Lazhar by Philippe Falardeau (2012)

Canadian-Quebecois candidate in the foreign language category in last year’s Oscars.
It tells a story of one class of 12-year olds, whose teacher Martine hangs herself in the opening sequence. What follows is a tale of dealing with shock, dealing with loss and how youngsters do not differ much from adults. Maybe only to the extent that they are half adult size.
Their new teacher is an immigre from Algeria. Monsieur Lazhar deals with adapting issues, culture shock and as we later learn, with a private loss of his own.
His teaching is way more traditional and strict than any of the other Canadian teachers, who are mostly women. Slowly he learns how much the craft of teaching has progressed. Gradually, it is craftily shown, how teachers are the opressed at school. How teachers are unable to cope with the challenges of contemporary upbringing of their pupils. In the end, it turns out that perhaps, just perhaps, the system is skewed. And Martine couldn’t deal with the inability to act, to help the kids, who are in the end – only kids.

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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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2012 in the cinemas – opinionated view by Blondoner

Also a little bit before the Oscars.

Adele will most probably bag one for the theme song from the latest James Bond film ‘Skyfall’.

I should probably do a Top 10 of 2012. I wasn’t as lucky in 2012 as I was back in 2011 – I haven’t watched as many films as I would like to. I did do a little bit of catching up with old classics and I did do a little bit of catching up with American TV series. I will do a short few posts about what is or has been on with regards to both American and British TV.

Now just feature films, just those that were in the cinemas in 2012 or were made in 2012.

Here it is:

Please note Top 10 is as always presented in no particular order.

1) The Dark Knight Rises by Christoper Nolan. Sadly this film will be remembered for a long time because of the Aurora massacre when during one of the first screenings a phD student killed 10 and wounded over 70 people.

The film was good. One particular detail that caught my heart was how Batman nominated his heir and follower – Robin.

2) On the Road by Walter Salles. Adaptation of the cult classic road novel by Jack Kerouac. Beautiful in the attention to detail in costume, interior design, gadgets.

3) Argo by Ben Affleck. Because I like fact fiction, because I admire how well the costume designer has done their job. Because it kept tension until the last second like a good old action movie. Because I felt like back in the 1970’s and I felt like I watched a good old classic made back in the golden age of Hollywood – the magic 1970’s.

4) Dans la maison by Francois Ozon. Because despite the fact that I hate voiceover in book adaptations, this one does make sense.

5) Silver Linings Playbook by David O. Russell. Because Robert de Niro and Jacki Weaver in supporting roles steal the show and because Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are an amazing pair of freaks on screen. And the dialogues are written well beyond genius.

6) The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey by Peter Jackson because it’s The Hobbit!

7) Shadow Dancer by James Marsh – because everyone should see this film to see the craft, the subtle psychological nuances and how hard can life be without the basic liberties.

8) Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson – because of how he showed the bliss of childhood.

9) Tomboy by Celine Sciamma (technically made in 2011, but I haven’t seen it until 2012) – for the universality of her story.

10) Skoonheid by Oliver Hermanus – because I admire the bravery and courage of making such a film about obsession, beauty and innocence + plus how the three clash brutally.

TOP post-edit (at least one of the films mentioned above was not made in 2012 or even released, and I forgot to mention  one of 2012 personal favourites):

Skyfall by Sam Mendes – for the classic wink at the audiences more than once, for the return back to the roots, for the best Bond villain ever in the persona of Silva played by the incredible Javier Bardem. And for Daniel Craig. Again, for he is the best Bond impersonator of current times.

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Argo by Ben Affleck (2012)

One of the 2013 Oscar contenders.

Made with meticulous attention to detail – reflecting the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Costumes, gadgets/props (as glasses, hairdos) bring to mind childhood memories when dads and moms wore those ridiculous tartan and tweed jackets. From that perspective (plus the cars) it is a job well done.

The grainy film takes us almost for trip back in time. Back into the times, when everyone constantly smoked, when smoking was allowed onboard commercial flights, when Swissair was an operating airline, when no industry crisis was heard of in Burbank, California.

This is based on a true story, therefore shortcuts were necessary. Unfortunately Affleck did not avoid oversimplifications – such as the moment when six people slowly walk out of the embassy under siege unobserved and undisturbed by anyone.

Overall, this is a good film, and probably an important film depicting the social changes in Iran over the last few decades. To an extent it fits into my favourite political genre and it is better than last year’s George Clooney’s “The Ides of March”.

I  would like to see the Academy appreciate the costumes, set design and the carefully led suspense.

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Looper by Rian Johnson (2012)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Bruce Willis, Bruce Willis plays himself.

Once you have this sorted in your head you can start watching the Looper.

The Looper is a tragically confusing mix of too many genres. Take horror, science-fiction, romance and buddy movie. Too much.

As much as I love both actors plus Emily Blunt (who NB has made most unfortunate script decisions recently), this film turned out to be a disappointment.

In 2044 – before time travel has been invented, there is a dirty business going on. Contract killers called loopers shoot death sentenced sent from the future. Time and place is known where they land. The only thing is to pull the trigger without thinking. The body will be loaded with silver bars – as your dough. If the bars are gold – that means you just killed yourself and your career is finished. You get exactly 30 years ahead of you. You just closed the loop.

A futuristic setup in its vision brings to mind Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner straightaway. The future is urbanised, humans are selfish and extremely divided in a caste-like system.

Joe’s (can you think of a better name for an everyman?)  old self is late for the execution and then appears without a headscarf and looks back at him.

With the above setup many things can go wrong, can go various ways – this can be a good story.

The flaws involve too many gaps in the plot. I don’t know how Joe manages to sit in the same scene twice if time travel hasn’t been invented. As far as I get the idea and the convention of the genre, there are too many elements that just do not fit the usual logics of a futuristic vision.

There should be certain rules, right? The mere concept of being able to speak to your older self is fair enough but then this story falls over into pieces on so many levels.

As always mending the future by time travel into the past is tricky as every step does change what you end up with. But this is just unsuccessful. On the verge of boring and too many threads are unexplained, illogical and at times gory for no particular reason. Very disappointing.

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Skyfall by Sam Mendes (2012)

Skyfall

Skyfall

As Peter Bradshaw has neatly put it in his review of the newest James Bond film for The Guardian – this is the blond-on-blond Bond. Both the villain (amazingly portrayed by Javier Bardem) and the 007 are fair haired.

James Bond embodied one more time by the square shaped Daniel Craig is a tough guy with elements of self-irony, which has been one of the main traits of Craig’s great predecessors . I love the scene when he is being brought on a boat to the casino in Macau and his bow-tie is unevenly tied. I read this as means of reflecting his rebellious character – same as in Casino Royale where we saw the shaping of his personality with the help of Judi Dench’s “M.”.  Dame Judi Dench has been with the series for so long it will be a massive change to future films but we see her leave.

Craig’s Bond is not predominantly a gentleman. He is predominantly a tough guy with a gun who can tell an occasional joke. He is an intense agent licensed to kill with few remainders of humanity in him. This Bond is down-to-earth physical and much less intellectual (see the elevator scene in Shanghai), with tons of passion and sense of duty in him. In a way he has also become a robot (that can be explained by the cruel Vesper from Casino Royale) which is not only visible in the way he fights but also in his love moves. Disturbing, shaken not stirred.

Javier Bardem as Silva is a perfect villain this time perhaps more than ever an antagonist so close to Bond, to who he is, to who he might become any minute. The first scene where Silva appears is a magnetic demonstration of power which is not brutal at all and yet intensely hypnotic. Some of Bardem’s face expressions and body language bring to mind the late Heath Ledger’s energy from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The innuendos of that scene are bringing the audiences to tears of laughter.

The opening sequence is introduced quite late after the actual beginning of the film – so late that it actually comes as a surprise. But it works great and the opening titles tie in well with Adele’s co-written and performed song Skyfall we all heard on the radio so many times already. Bond is killed in action before the opening credits so for us Bond experienced viewers we know what we’re dealing with. Again he will come back to life and again he will embrace the evil side. His audience knows his tricks and this Bond film is a magic combination of old with the new. As his fellow agent says at one point Bond is an ‘old dog with new tricks’. And ‘old’ is the adjective permeated throughout the whole story multiple times. Because he feels old or is perceived by others as too old. It is true as others have pointed out – this is a film about Bond (and so was Casino Royale in my opinion). A very successful one at that.

I love how thanks to an unexpected twist we are taken back to the classic old Bonds with Miss Moneypenny heading M’s lair (i.e. office).

I love how London has no tourists, no cyclists in the streets and how nobody gets stuck in its normal daily traffic. London is made up to look more like in the good old days.

It’s a great story that looks good, feels good and does not fail the James Bond fan base.

Thank you Sam Mendes for this challenge that you have decided to take. Skyfall is funny, fast and phenomenally close to the classic Bond films in the spirit of Ian Fleming’s novels.

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Dans la maison (2012) by Francois Ozon #LFF

 

Complicated story of a relationship between a master and an apprentice, a teacher and a pupil.

This is an adaptation of a play, yet the way Ozon transformed it onto the big screen does not give that feeling. The voiceover which I usually strongly oppose – here works perfectly and I even did not realise it was there – as it blended so smoothly into the narrative, into the story, into the film.

Emmanuelle Seigner as Esther is the perfect middle class woman, fascinating a 16-year old Claude. As a crude experiment he lets himself into her house by trickily making friends with classmate Rapha, who appears to be Esther’s son.

Claude also teams up with his literature teacher who, spotting a rare talent, becomes an unlikely ally to Claude’s excursions. Mr. Germain is married to Jeanne (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and the duo become avid readers of the story that Claude unveils in front of them inch by inch. Every episode (submitted in the disguise of homework) is finished by the ‘to be continued’ term.

Magically all the characters get entangled into what soon becomes a very blurred mix of fiction and reality.

As Germain teaches Claude the basics of storytelling, it is Claude who will soon take over the baton and teach his professor a lesson he will never forget.

Ernst Umhauer (Claude) has the magnetism of an Adonis, with an inconceivable amount of innocence. It is immensly hard to depict Claude as the evil puppet-master.

What opens up as a light comedy turns out not so light towards the end.

Great costumes, interior design, amazing dialogues – brisk and canny, impeccable acting and as always fantastic entertainment with a grain of salt.

It’s a story about crossing the lines and seeing what’s on the other side. It’s a story about exceeding the limits that would normally not be reached. It is a valid lesson for those who write and do not hesitate to source their inspirations from real life people. Sometimes it is simply safer to rely on imagination. For both sides.

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On the Road by Walter Salles (2012)

Adaptation of the cult book by Jack Kerouac. Many argued it was one of those books almost impossible to convey onto the big screen. The strongest two comparisons that overshadow the appreciation of the screening are obviously the famous novel and a recent biopic on Allen Ginsberg – Howl.

The film does carry the magic of the novel. The 137 min version I had the opportunity to watch pulls the audience in and as a result leaving the cinema feels like getting back from a very distant journey in time.

What I am never a fan of – especially  in case of book adaptations – is the voiceover intruding into the narrative. Films should not be told but shown as the old rule goes. However, this attempt at the impossible is breathtaking in its realism, in the effort of set design, number of locations, richness of costumes, music and in how the relatively young actors cope with re-enacting characters of a certain baggage.

All in all – a great piece of cinema – surely not an educational tool as how to party for the teenagers but definitely a great shot at portraying the Beatniks.

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