Friday, January 25, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS #54: "BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD", "FRANKENWEENIE", "SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN", "PARANORMAN", "5 BROKEN CAMERAS", "RED HOOK SUMMER", "TOAST", and MORE!

Hey Everyone! Since the Oscar-nominations were announced, everybody, like me, who watches most of the films on DVD, have started pushing up their Netflix queue, all the films that got nominated, and are available to watch, and this week, is no exception. In fact, we can call this week's blog, our Special Oscars Review Blog, as I'm reviewing 5 films that received Oscar nominations, including a Best Picture nominee. So preparing has begun, and Seth MacFarland is already half-drunk.

Now, as to the blog itself, I mentioned awhile back that I might be willing to make some changes to the blog. Some of it's in design, others maybe in structure, or maybe even the regularity of my posts. Change things up a bit. I flirted with doing some of that, but, for me change can be hard, and besides that, I didn't like anything enough to make any changes right now. But, I also wanted to ask some of you, what you would like to see on my blog! Just in general. Do you want to change a color or something? Have more pictures, that's an idea I've been considering. Any particular subject you guys would like for me to talk about. I have to keep a quota and regular updates, and sometimes it can be hard coming up with new subjects to write about. I mean, I can't discuss everything, and I'm not gonna go, plotline by plotline, discussing every little nuance of some TV show plotlines, especially if it's a show I don't know, but some general ideas on what you might like for me to discuss, would be very much appreciated. We've past 25,000 hit mark, we're averaging almost 100 hits/day, and that's because of you the readers, and I really do, just want to write stuff that you guys would like to read. So let me know sometime.

Alright, that's all the blog news and reports for today. On to this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012) Director: Benh Zeitlin

4 1/2 STARS

Few mainstream have such a keen sense of place as Benh Zeitlin's debut feature film, "Beasts of the Southern Wild", a film who's four recent Oscar nominations, all in major categories including Best Picture, didn't surprise a lot of insiders who've been praising the film since last Sundance. The movie was made in Louisiana, by Court 13, as it said in the credit, and starred many locals in the area, known as The Bathtub, which is, what can charitably be called, an island in southern Louisiana, that's on the wrong side of levees and got hit badly with Hurricane Katrina, and is surviving so barely by the skin of its teeth, that the talk is as much about melting glacier in Antarctica, for fear that the water rise, might sink The Bathtub. In this world, we meet Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) a six-year old girl who lives with her dad Wink (Dwight Henry), in a trailer that requires a flamethrower and a frozen helmet to turn on the stove. Hushpuppy is young, and ambitious, but Wink, like most of the people of The Bathtub, don't want to leave the area, and are determined to save it, even as a second storm is heading to the area. Hushpappy lives in a world of magic realism, and giant animals are just as likely to pass as voodoo witches. From a couple days, Wink is missing, and is clearly sick. He comes home with a hospital bandage on his arm, and for much of the movie, Hushpuppy is alone, wandering through town, and trying to consider when to start eating her pets, if Wink doesn't come, who provides the food, through whatever means necessary, including noodling catfish. After the storm, much of the town, is sunk, and in one amazing sequence, what's left of the town, is floating, as Wink and a few other relatives, make a ballsy attempt to blow up the levee to get the waterlevel to sink, as though much of The Bathtub would still be intact. In flashbacks, and exposition, we hear about Hushpuppy's mother, and how she left The Bathtub when she was young. The only thing she has of hers, is an old Michael Jordan jersey, that she covets. I think if you wanted to be critical, the movie has plot and character issues, but the real strength of this film, is the incredible world that the movie creates. This can easily be compared to, something like, "Days of Heaven" the Terrence Malick, or the early southern gothic films of David Gordon Green, and a few people compared the film and Quvenzhane's performance to Mary Badham's in "To Kill a Mockingbird," and there is some Robert Mulligan, to this film, and this sense of place, is what's amazing and some of the shots-, I'm always impressed with films with animals in them, 'cause there's nothing trickier than getting animals to do what you want, on film, but the whole movie, is really just an amazing combination of pure willpower, and community, and a little magic. The friend of mine who watched the movie with me, kept talking about, how this was a tough place to live, The Bathtub, and how he wouldn't want to be there. I amazed to find that, when looking this up, the "The Bathtub" doesn't actually exist, 'cause I wouldn't been convinced it did. I wish I didn't know that, because I think I prefer the idea of "The Bathtub", existing. No, it wouldn't be the ideal place to live. Hard work, below poverty level, having to fish and hunt animals all the time, but, I bet I would enjoy it, if I was born there. It's a little piece of nature, still struggling to survive in this civilized world, where beasts still roam free, and an amazing little girl named Hushpuppy lives.

FRANKENWEENIE (2012) Director: Tim Burton

2 1/2 STARS

I'd long heard about, but of course, hadn't seen Tim Burton's famous original short film "Frankenweenie," which launched his early career. I found a copy on youtube.com, but it's in Italian, but it doesn't seem that different from this animated remake that he's done. I've always been a little apprehensive about Tim Burton, especially when he's creating his own material. There's no denying his visual brilliance, I always think he's better when he's adapting other work, or has a good story to begin with like with "Ed Wood" or "Sweeney Todd...", his best films. This is his third foray into feature-film animation, however and yes, shame on me, it's the first of his animated films I've seen. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is somewhere on my Netflix, I swear, I just ignored it as a kid, because personally I always hated Halloween, and here it was invading Christmas, so I've always apprehensive about viewing it, despite many friends who find it beloved. I think I skipped "Corpse Bride", because I didn't see "The Nightmare...", and like I said, I've always been a little skeptical when Burton comes up with his own ideas. This version of "Frankenweenie", starts out well enough, but then I kinda ran into my same criticisms and problems of Burton, he's so caught up in visuals, that I think he overlooks a lot of the story, in this case, I don't know if this story should've been expanded to a full-length feature. Like the original, it's shot in gorgeous black-and-white, and it's especially great to look at with this claymation animation version. It starts pretty much the same, with young Victor (Charlie Tahan) showing another of his home movies with his beloved dark Sparky. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein (Martin Short and Catherine O'Hara) are concerned that he's a bit too much of a loner, and spends all his time making movies, and hanging with his dog. This leads to him, trying out sports, and when he hits a home run, Sparky runs after the ball, and gets run over and killed. You get, one sad Victor, but a new science teacher, Mr. Rzykurski (Martin Landau) teaches a strange science that explains how electricity could work to reanimate the dead. You notice, that you never see a movie about reanimating the dead, where nothing bad happens afterwards? Just an observation. Anyway, he digs up Sparky from the pet cemetary, and soon, he secretly patches Sparky together, and brings him back to life, but he can't keep this secret too long, and a couple kids, particularly one named Edgar (Atticus Shaffer) wants to have Victor's ability to reanimate to help him out, and meanwhile, as other things start coming back from the dead and causing, Victor has to figure out a way to save everybody else. Honestly, I was a little disappointed in "Frankenweenie". Visually stunning, but just turned to typical Frankenstein movie, and didn't really add enough to the original story, for me, to say that it was worth doing. It's a bit of a tough call, but it started well, and then, went downhill, and since it went downhill, that's where my recommendation goes, down. Tim Burton fans will naturally love it, but I wasn't that impressed; I can't really recommend it.

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN  (2012) Director: Rupert Sanders

1 1/2 STARS

Let me say this about "Snow White and the Huntsman", as a film buff, cinephile, filmmaker, critic, etc., I will sit through a lot of crap. I will force my way through, some of the worse movies, ever, just to improve my film viewing knowledge. I rarely, walk out an a movie. The last time I did that, was three or four years ago, when after an hour and ten minutes or so, of "Jesus Christ Superstar", that I turned the DVD off, and returned the movie to the library, 'cause I was physically unable to sit through another second of that film. With "Snow White and the Huntsman", I came damn close, to stopping the DVD player, and returning, not-even halfway through. I didn't, but it was the closest I've ever been to doing so, in years. This was ironically the second feature I've seen this year, based off of "Snow White", after the beautifully lavish "Mirror, Mirror", which I thoroughly enjoyed, as a fun piece of wondrous escapism, the way a fairy tale, usually should be, and no two movies could possibly be any different from each other than these two. (Although ironically, both of them got Oscar nomination in the Costume Design category this year.) The story, is rather familiar, Snow White (Kristen Stewart, really being, badly typecasted [Seriously folks, watch movies of hers other than "Twilight"!])  is sent to the dungeon, after her stepmother Ravenna (Charlize Theron, way over-the-top) murders the King, and sends the Kingdom into ruin, and begins a process of killing local virgins for the blood, to make her beauty last eternally. (If you want to see a good movie, about somebody who actually did that, go find Julie Delpy's film "The Countess".) The Huntsman, who doesn't kill Snow White, as ordered is played by Chris Hemsworth, who's fairly forgettable, but eventually plays a big role, when Prince William (Sam Clafin) begins an attack on the Kingdom. There two lands have a long history. "Snow White..." is dreary, dark and dull, and just bad, for most of the whole film, but especially. The movie is the first feature directed by Rupert Sanders, I don't know how he got a job directing a major Hollywood production like; he has the smallest of resumes on imdb.com, although he's been announced to direct a retelling of "Van Helsing", which is a strange enough idea to begin, as well as an announced rumored, sequel, to this movie. A sequel to "Snow White...", why? But my big problem is that he has no idea how to direct actors. If anybody seen Charlize Theron in her best work, knows that, she's being given bad instructions here, because how he picked, some of the early takes of her, for this film, is just disturbing. He basically gave Kristen Stewart the instructions of be like Bella as well. The movie does look amazing though, and especially late in the movie, there are some really good special effects I must say. There's some amazing ones, during the final battle scenes, where the Queen, who's also a witch, is using her power to turn people into this, black glass-type creature, and it's quite amazing to look at, outside of the rest of the film. The dwarfs are played by some recognizable actors like Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone and Toby  Jones, which is interesting, although, it seems unnecessary to, not only to take a job away from actors who are dwarfs or little people, or whatever the PC vernacular is, but the Dwarfs aren't even that distinguishable in this film, other than the fact that they're recognizable actors. The other issue, and I had this a bit with "Mirror Mirror" as well, was from a creative perspective, I always think The Queen is a very shallow-driven character, that I always figure, there should be more to her actions, then simply, power and beauty, and I always thought that's the flaw of "Snow White..." but this movie does less, to give her any kind of emotional want, other than that, and I think that's another problem with this film. I said, I came really close to leaving, and maybe I should've.

PARANORMAN (2012) Director: Chris Butler and Sam Fell

5 STARS




As disappointed as I was with "Frankenweenie," I was pleasantly surprised with "ParaNorman". Both films jumped near the top of my Netflix list after they recieved Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature, both films deal with the supernatural, and the dead, and after I had seen "Frankenweenie", I wasn't expecting anything out of "ParaNorman", only to find a truly interesting story, that I hadn't seen in animation before, and afterwards when I thought about it, I was amazed I hadn't seen this story before in animation; it a story that fits so naturally into the form. The movie takes place in one of those Massachusetts towns that using it's history of burning witches to be an out-of-the-way tourist destination. Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a weird little kid who insists that he keeps seeing dead people everywhere, and hates that his dead grandma (Elaine Stritch) keeps talking to him. This upsets his parents Perry and Sandra (Jeff Garlin and Leslie Mann), who want him to just be normal, but it's no use. He sees numerous dead people as he walks to school, where he gets made fun of and beat up, by Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who's twice Norman's size, but about 1/3 of the intelligence he should have. Norman is a medium, and he actually reminded me of some of the stories John Edward (Of "Crossing Over..." fame, not the former Senator) about how he wasn't able to control the people who contacted him from beyond and how he'd work at a videostore, and you'd get "Basic Instinct," and your Grandfather. His wishing it would go away, also reminded me over Matt Damon's character in Clint Eastwood's underrated film "Hereafter". He has one reluctant friend, Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) who's also at the bottom of the school pecking order, but Norman would rather be alone, hard enough to do, dealing with the living, damn-near impossible when the dead won't leave you alone. He soon has run-ins with an ostracized member of his family, Mr. Prenderghast (John Goodman), who's been secretly following Norman, and knows that his gift can help prevent the town by being attacked by zombies, summoned by the spirit of a witch that the town killed, exactly 300 years ago. The town was planning a tricentennial of the event, including a school play where Norman freaked out at, seeing more dead people. His attempts to stop, however don't work, and soon, the town is filled with zombies, and is being ravaged by Aggie (Jodelle Ferland) the witch who put a curse on the conspirators to her murder. There's also a good subplot involving Norman's self-involved sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick) who's trying to impress Neil's physically fit older brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) while trying to go find which cemetary Norman has run off too. I particularly love, how inventive the animation of this film is, in creating this second world, inside Norman's mind, with the regular real world animation, and it was quite spectacular at moments, particularly when the two worlds would combine. I was genuinely surprised and awed at "ParaNorman".There's some twists on the traditional zombie movies aspects of this film, and outside of the plotpoints, there are some really interesting characters in the film. If there wasn't a story about having to save the town from a curse and zombies, and all that, genre stuff, I would've probably been very interested, in just a story about Norman, having to deal with being a child medium; this is an unusually complicated and enriching kid character, for a live action or an animated film, actually. It brings you in, with the genre and the animation, on top of the character very rich, and it surprised me. Big recommendation for "ParaNorman", a far more interesting film, than I thought it was going to be, very impressive, and lots of credit to the writer and co-director Chris Butler, it's his first feature-length animated film, worked in the art department for a few films prior to this, very much looking forward to his next film.

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (2012) Directors: Emad Burnatt and Guy Davidi

4 STARS

Despite what the general consensus, that this an excellent and overloaded year for documentaries, the little-seen "5 Broken Cameras," was probably the most surprising name to show up, when the movie got the Best Documentary Oscar nomination. The movie was shot by a Palestian farmer, Emad Burnett, and the title comes from the five cameras he used to record the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts over years in his town of Bil'in, where a separation barrier is being constructed by the Israelis. The cameras, broke, oftentimes more than once, as he shot footage of the conflict. A couple times, Israeli soldiers pushed the camera aside, a couple times, the camera was hit with a bullet, that could've potentially killed Emad. A few of his friends were in fact killed and beaten, and it's on camera. Much of the battles and conflicts and protests, and,-it really becomes this long chaotic portrayal this neverending conflict, so chaotic, that thinking back on the film, which has no narration other than some title cards about the time periods that the camera recorded, I have a hard time reconstructing the film, and maybe that's the point. There's a lot of dramatic images, sometimes it's contrasted with more banal and ordinary scenes, like Emad's wife, wishing he'd stop filmming and putting his life on the line. He got shot a couple times during filming, and was in a coma for apart of it. "5 Broken Cameras" is very on-the-ground, 1st person account of a microcosm moment, of this larger conflict, which, I don't know if you can fully diagram on film, and the movie doesn't try to. I don't know, if I had a personal connection to "5 Broken Cameras", after the movie was finished, emotionally, you do get swept up in the chaos. I don't know if there's enough there, for me personally, for an Oscar nomination, that the film got, other than from this, risk-your-life for film-type aspect, which is certainly appreciate, but it's an amazing,- the word that keeps coming to my mind is chaos. Everything seems chaotic. The situation, the reactions, the violence, it all feels like a small piece of the world, this farmer's piece of the world, that is so much bigger than the situation he's filming, that it's to grasp "5 Broken Cameras" for me. I might be missing stuff from being a little uneducated on some of the specific events I was watching, but it is a powerful documentary, but I don't know if it's really a digestible one, for me, but definitely worth recommending.

RED HOOK SUMMER (2012) Director: Spike Lee

3 1/2 STARS

Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer", started a little bit like "Crooklyn" in reverse. It's got that neighborhood feel of that film, as well as his best previous works like "Do the Right Thing", and for awhile I was wondering where he was going with this. The film slowly reveals itself to be a commentary on religion more than anything else, at least that's how I read this movie. Not so much, the hypocrisy or the recent scandals involving the church, although there's that too, but I think what he's really trying to get at, is this disconnect between the people who preach the Bible, and their complete inability to translate the lessons to the modern age. To some degree, he's criticizing the modern age to, for their lack of interest, but somehow the lessons themselves, do seem to reach the kids, just not by having them forced down your throat, or even using it at all. Red Hook is a section of Brooklyn, an area near the docks which is heavily African-America and has a way-above-average unemployment rate, but it's where Flik, (Jules Brown) is spending his summer vacation to be with his grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clark Peters), who runs the local congregation, and spends his days and nights preaching God on the streets, much to the chagrin, or most of the street. Flik, who's real name is Silas, lives in Atlanta where he goes to a private school, is a vegan, and holds up an Ipad 2 all day. Often he uses it to record. Enoch left Atlanta many years ago, for reasons that aren't known for most of the film, and are better left unsaid. This is the first time he's even met Flik, and probably the first time in years that he's even seen his daughter Colleen (De'adre Aziza) who drops him off. The way that he kept preaching and coming back to the Bible, reminded me of Caine's grandparents in the great Hughes Brothers film "Menace II Society", giving no parental guidance, other than the Bible, which had long become static in their ears. It's pretty much the same sort of forcefulness that Enoch uses. He claimed that when he was at his lowest point, he complains to Sister Sharon (Heather Alicia Simms) that the Bible was all he needed. When we learn something about him later, we wonder if he was being honest with himself with that statement, but at that time, we believe it. Flik does make a friend in Sister Sharon's daughter Chazz (Toni Lysaith) who's delightful, in this typical role of the spunky young girl who intrigues the quite guy, and helps them get into some, eh-, "trouble" to harsh a word, but yeah, trouble. There's a slimpse of Lee's character Mookie from "Do the Right Thing", late in the film. A more interesting movie might be a look at what he's doing now, but "Red Hook Summer" intrigued me, despite it's flaws, and yes, the flaws are problematic. Lee shot this film, guerrila-style and on an indy budget, like her first feature film "She's Gotta Have It", I'm gonna pretend "Red Hook Summer" is one of his better films, it's nowhere near that, but there's enough here, despite some of the issues with the plot that I can appreciate for what it does do well, and I do think he's making some interesting points about the role of religion in a modern world, and a young world at that. There's a scene early on, where a community group invites Flik to go swimming with them one day, but Bishop Enoch refuses to let Flik go, because they don't preach the Bible. There's no other mention of this group of kids, but they all go on to their place across the street, and it seems like fun, and it's disconnect, between the way the Church, and Bishop Enoch, see the world, and preach the Bible, as oppose to, the actual world, that probably takes more to-heart, the lessons of religion and the way to approach life, better that the church, and in a realistic and modern world. It's a little bit of a mild recommendation, but I liked how Lee approach this theme, and had it, kinda float in and out the the film.

TOAST (2011) Director: S.J. Clarkson

2 1/2 STARS

Originally airing as a TV movie in England, "Toast", is a light little film, based off of the memoirs of Nigel Slater, the world-renowned chef. Nigel's (played by Oscar Kennedy when young, by Freddie Highmore when older) mother (Victoria Hamilton) was possibly the world's worst cook. The only thing she could make was toast. She only bought vegetables out of a can, and then to cook them, she put the cans into the pot. Somehow I doubt that, she didn't know to open the cans, but apparently she didn't. This lack of food, other than toast for much of his life, led Nigel to try cooking and dream of great food. He tried teaching them to cook spaghetti, but his family couldn't appreciate it. After his Mum's death, his father hired a housekeeper, Mrs. Potter (Helena Bonham Carter) who was an amazing cook, just as the time for Nigel to begin showing his skills were taken away. He appreciate her amazing food, but he realizes first-and-foremost, her superobjective of eventually marrying his Dad, and taking his Mum's place, which she does. He hardly accepts her, but he grows use to her, at least until he starts taking home economics classes in high school. He's the only boy in the class, but he begins making delicious meals, and Mrs. Potter becomes jealous as she's determined not to have Nigel take over the cooking duties in the house. She undermines him at every turn, and backhandedly dismisses his food, and refuses to give her away her secret to her lemon meringue pie, which she's shocked that he eventually figures out on his own. At first I was gonna recommend "Toast", barely, but I decided against it. There's nothing really wrong with the film, admittedly, but the movie just is a little to light and fluffy for me. There's some nice moments at the end, when Nigel gets into a restaurant kitchen and comes to terms with his homosexuality, but I saw the movie, I liked the movie, and then I instantly forgot this movie, pretty much. Nice story, probably better told in Slater's memoirs, but if you were to ask me, what changed, in me after seeing the film, the answer would be, nothing. It just didn't have much effect on me. There's no harm in watching it, I wouldn't discourage anybody from watching it, but there's no real need to see it either. It really properly titled not that I think about it. It's kinda like toast. Warm, crispy, buttery, wholesome, heartwarming food, but you wouldn't really make a meal out of it.

CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 (1962) Director: Agnes Varda

3 STARS

At five o'clock, Cleo (Corrinne Marchand) gets her cards read by a tarot reader, in the only scene that's in color. The tarot reader seems suspicious to me, but Cleo is fearing a Doctor's call. She's had a test; she's waiting for results, and is afraid she has stomach cancer. "Cleo from 5 to 7", takes place, in the hour and a half, time frame from 5 to 6:30. (Not sure why it's then called "Cleo 5 to 7," but.... anyway.) It's the first film I've seen from the legendary New Wave director Agnes Varda, who if I'm totally honest, despite, what I like to think is a large vat of film knowledge, I don't think I had ever heard of her, until I saw the documentary "The Beaches of Agnes" about her last year, which she also made. She's spent much of her career in documentary format as oppose to many of her contemporaries like Truffaut and Godard, Cleo is the first  non-documentary feature of hers I've seen, and I think I should probably see more of her work before making much of a judgment. Cleo is a pop singer, with a few minor hits that you can find in an occasional jukebox. Whether she's a big star or not, seem up in the air. She seems to be able to walk through Paris, trying on hats, and eating at a diner, where her song is playing, but remain relatively undisturbed. She makes love to her Lover (Jose Luis de Villalonga), and talks with her composer Bob, the Pianist (Michael LeGrand, who did the film's music). There isn't as much plot in the film. Cleo seems to go from place to place, and person to person. When she meets her friend Dorothee (Dorothee Blank) she's posing nude for an art class. They hit the town briefly, and have a long sequence where they're just listening to the radio in the car. All the while, all signs point to Cleo, preparing herself for the bad diagnosis. It's under that prism, that everything seem to increase her awareness of the things around, like the woman in the diner, complaining about her song on the jukebox as noise, which she ignores. At the end, she runs into a French soldier Antoine (Antoine Boursellier) who's going of Algeria soon. I think the movie would work better for me on second and third viewings possibly, but my initial instinct is that the film, tends to work better when the concept and scenes are explained out then they do onscreen. In French parlance, the hours between 5 and 7, is supposedly the time when lovers meet. Wish I knew that in High School, I would've stayed after and gone to more dances and events if I knew, but for Cleo, it's a time for reflection, on the superficiality of her life, and of the world. I think the film might have been better had I read it as a book, and we get to consider Cleo's thought  more than just her actions. Still, I'm curious as to Agnes Varda's other films now, and I have a feeling that the more I dig into her films, my thoughts on this film might change, but in the meantime, I'm recommending, with trepidation. The trepidation of a film-viewer, who recognizes he's somewhat limited by his lack of familiarity with the director, to give an adequate analysis.

IF.... (1969) Director: Lindsay Anderson

4 STARS

"If...." is the second film I've seen by Director Lindsay Anderson, the first one I saw was a film called "This Sporting Life", which was really powerful kitchen sink drama about an abusive rugby player, and his reluctant wife. This film, is equally realistic and shocking, although in an entirely different way. "If...." takes place at an English boarding school, one of those ones with such rigid traditions, and where individuality is heavily frowned upon. There's the teachers, or headmasters, who are somewhat in charge, but don't have nearly the authority as the upper class of students, called in this film, the Whips. When new students come in, they're expected to learn the derogatory slang of the school, and some of them get taught it. This year, there's a group of crusaders, led by Mick (Malcolm McDowell), who clearly doesn't think like the rest of the students, who seem content to be mindless drones, who follow the rules brought about by the head Whips, like Rowntree (Robert Swann), who believes in corporal punishment and discipline for those he considers out-of-the-norm. This frustrates Mick, who slowly begins plotting his revenge, while also, breaking with some of the rules, like going out to see The Girl (Christine Noonan) who lives across the street in telescope range, and works at a diner, at has a sexual appetite that's as adventurous as Mick's rebelliousness. This is another movie that often switches from black and white scenes, to color scenes, rather surprisingly so. The movie, originally played as allegorical, now comes off as, a haunting predictor of some of the violence we've seen at schools in the recent past. "If...." still remains fascinating to this day however, and for that, it should be commended. It's also showcases a pre-"A Clockwork Orange" performance by Malcolm McDowell, which probably is a strong precursor to his Alex in that film. I also enjoy how the black & white, and color switching, gave the film both, a realistic emotion, that then, switched to a more dreamlike and surreal feeling, normally I wonder how/when something like that is useful or needed, I think it worked here. Controversial, but still quite powerful, and I'm really starting to get interested in Lindsay Anderson's work. He gets some and realistic performances in his films, that are really dark and brutal, and they're very intriguing to me, and I'd like to see more of them if I can.

THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST (2002) Director: Aki Kaurismaki

3 1/2 STARS

I've been going through some of Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki films lately, and his movies are instantly recognizable the minute your first see one. I loved his latest feature, "La Havre", and "The Man Without a Past", begins with a man, M (Marko Peltola) who gets off a train with a briefcase. He's in Helsinki, but that seems to matter very little to him, as he takes a seat on a park bench and falls asleep. The hoodlums come up, and one of them, knocks him in the back of the head, with a baseball bat. The rest continue to pummel him as they take everything in his briefcase and his wallet. He dies in the hospital. Then, he wakes up, and has no where he is, or who he is. "The Man Without a Past", goes through, one by one, all the strange problems that this conundrum brings up. He doesn't recognize anyone, and he claims his one friend, doesn't remember him. He tries to get help from the government, and social services, but they all need his name, and he can't give it. He finally rent a small shipping container, which strangely a lot of people rent from a landlord, and soon, he tries to begin growing into the community. "The Man Without a Past" was a nominee for the Best Foreign Language Oscar back in 2002, and it's got the same wonderfully whimsical quirkiness that all of Kaurismaki's films have. The first of his films I saw was "Lights in the Dusk", and I didn't know to make of it. The more films of his I see, the more I can kinda grasp him. Seems like Wes Anderson might have been influenced a bit by him. His movies seem odd enough, and then there's usually a bunch of modern rock/pop music, showing up out of nowhere, often with a rock band playing. "The Man Without a Past," I think isn't up to par with "Le Havre," with was really touching on top of odd and quirky, but it's still quite good, and the more I watch Kaurismaki films, the more I enjoy them.

PAULINE AT THE BEACH (1983) Director: Eric Rohmer

4 STARS

"Pauline at the Beach" like many Rohmer films, begin near a beach, this one in the north of France where fashion designer Marion (Arielle Dombasle) is watching over her 15-year old cousin Pauline (Amanda Langlet) Like many 15-year old, they're confused but intrigue by the concept of love, and their quite skeptical, like I was in my early twenties about love. (Which explains a lot of my early screenplays) Like all Rohmer films, the talk is about love and sex, moreso than their is actual, love and sex, but "Pauline..." is life a comical farce, as seen through the confused eye of the fifteen-year-old, almost like an anthropologist. Okay, I'm gonna admit and checking a scorecard here to recall everything, but, let's start with Marion, who's currently divorcing a husband, who she claims she's never falling in love with, although she seems concerned about Pauline's lack of emotional connections moreso than her own, Marion's former boyfriend, Pierre, (Pascal Greggory) wants Marion to come back to her, while she is eyeing a fellow divorcee, Henri (Feodor Atkine) who's vacationing with his young daughter. Pauline, finds her own acquaintance in Sylvain (Simon de la Brosse) who's also skeptical about love, and isn't particularly fond of how the adults seem to be constantly playing angles with each other over love and affection. These five form of a bit of a group over this summer, where they talk and have sex, and occasionally hide the sex that they're having, usually poorly so. There's an occasional sixth member in Louisette (Rosette), who's sells candy on the beach while juggling, at least two boyfriends that we know about. The reason I would compare this to a farce is the way in which the pairing go down, and double up on themselves, and everybody's in a house, and they occasionally walk in on people  naked. You wouldn't necessarily think it's a farce by watching it however, but it is, instead of door-slamming and running around like a production of "Noises Off...", it's more of a, accidentally, walk into a room, sneak out quietly with a disturbed look on your face, go out, talk about, then, move back on to your sexual dilemmas. It's hard to double-back and remember the exact order of events, but it's pretty entertaining while watching it.
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