As for me, however, another reason I couldn't watch as many movies this week is because I was making one. I wrote a short film for somebody, and we were shooting it this week at the UNLV campus. I'll be posting for an editor soon, but I wanted to thank all those who helped us out on the set, truly, they helped us out a lot, and as soon as it's done editing, we'll send out copies for your reels, and I hope we'll all remain friends, and work again someday soon. It was my first producing effort, and it was a lot of work, and a lot of Doritos, and I'd love to do it again someday.
Oh, some of you may be wondering about the LAMMY Awards, which I was eligible for, and unfortunately, I wasn't nominated, and frankly I'm a little pissed off at that. I should've been nominated in a few categories at least, and I'm more than pissed off about it. Congratulations to the nominees, and I will be reluctantly filling out my ballot later, but yeah, I should've been in on some of them. Well, I'll get them next year.
Anyway, busy week, and like every week, there were movies, so let's take a look at this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012) Director: Stephen Chbowsky
I think the difference between a wallflower, and whatever-the-hell-I-was in high school is that, a wallflower goes to parties and things, when invited (or not) whereas I refused to go. I never read Stephen Chbowsky's book, but I had long heard of it. It's been placed in the modern canon, on the same shelf as J.D. Sallinger's "Catcher in the Rye" and Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar", and now I'm thinking that I missed something having skipped over "The Perks of Being a Wallflower". It's one of those films where you're either gonna have an emotional connection to it, or you're not gonna have any real connection to it. You probably were one of the jocks in high school, who beat up kids like Charlie (Lucas Lerman), or possibly the girl in Advanced English who sat next to him, and called him a faggot everyday. Charlie's had some troubles. He takes medication for it, and writes to a mysterious "Friend" once in a while to discuss his situation, as he counts down, literally all the days left in high school, starting with day one. He's not popular, and when he's not sitting alone at a lunchtable, he lies up against the wall at whatever dance it is. That is, until he meets Patrick (Ezra Miller), the only Senior in his shop class, He's quirky and eccentric, and gets in trouble for making fun of the teacher, but he isn't mean, and Charlie spots that, correctly. At a football game, he goes to talk to him, and gets introduced to Sam (Emma Watson). At first, they're so nice and close, Charlie confuses them for a couple, but they're actually half-siblings, and they take a liking to Charlie. They go out to eat, and they take him to parties, where there's Buddhist goths and a rich jean thief, and brownies, and occasionally other drugs. Patrick we learn is gay, and is having a secret affair with Brad (Johnny Simmons) the school's star football player. Sam, is dating a kid in college named Craig (Reece Thompson) who's an obnoxious photographer, but Charlie has a crush on her, and she knows he does too, although so does, the bossy Buddhist Goth, Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). All these elements would make good or even, interesting high school stories in of themselves, actually, the film doesn't focus on the soap opera and the triviality of hormones and emotions, it deals with the inner pains and struggles, those that aren't obvious, but are carried around them, like heavy shoulders. Charlie started seeing images and had to go to the hospital after his Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey) died on his birthday, which happens to be Christmas Eve. His older sister Candace's (Nina Dobrev) relationship with Ponytail Derek (Nicholas Braun) is abusive, and she's hiding it from everybody, but Charlie knows, and he remember the abusive relationships Aunt Helen was in all her life. Sam had a very rough freshman year, on top of a father who allowed her to be sexual abused. Still, there's dances, and parties, and drugs, and impromptu performance at "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", and relationships starting and ending, and crushes and a surprisingly aware and generous English teacher (Paul Rudd) who always has a new book for Charlie to read. In a particularly rare instance, the novelist, Stephen Chbowsky, not on wrote the screenplay, but directed the film, this is his first feature film directing job since '95, although he's occasionally worked as a screenwriter for hire, like on "Rent", and he created the cult series "Jericho", this is my first introduction to him in any form as an artist, and I am very impressed not only his storytelling, but his filmmaking skills. There are some greats shots here, especially through the Fort Pitt tunnel in Pittsburgh, where the film was shot, and took place. It's unusually well-acted. Ezra Miller, in particular is becoming one of my favorites actors with this part, and his work last year in "We Need to Talk About Kevin", as well as some smaller work he did in "Another Happy Day", I can't wait to see what his next film will be. Emma Watson got a lot of credit for this part, one of her first adult, Post-"Harry Potter" parts, and she is really good here. All three major roles actually, very complicated teenager roles, especially strong. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is strikingly believable as a high school film, as a coming-of-age film, and even the parts that didn't seem as realistic to me about high school, I didn't mind so much. They might not have struck a cord with me, but they feel like they'd strike a cord with friends I knew. I wasn't as open or trying to change my wallflower ways in high school, as I placed my chair in the perfect corner of the cafeteria, next to the Quad, so from outside or inside, I knew nobody would come up from behind me, as I would sit quietly and either study or daydream, occasionally write a bad lyric or two, but to my surprise, people similar in many ways to Patrick and Sam, found me, and friended me, despite my deep resistance. I still didn't go to their drug-fueled parties afterschool, but I didn't sit in that cafeteria very long, or at least it doesn't feel like it was long anymore. There were a lot of things that sucked about high school, and this film gets them right, but more importantly, they get the things that didn't suck right. The parts that were fun and transcendent and life-affirming, as kids have untold stress and pressures that they refuse to talk to their parents about. Well, if you want my recommendation, here it is, this is a movie that makes me want to read the book, and I haven't said that since the original "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", and now I'm looking the book up at my library. Maybe I should've read this one in high school.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012) Director: Martin McDonaugh
3 1/2 STARS
"Seven Psychopaths" is indeed, quite a good title. It's also a rather strange film, although for Martin McDonaugh, it's not really that unusual. He made the funny-as-hell gangster comedy "In Bruges" a couple years ago, that earned him an Oscar nomination, (and he won an Oscar also, for his short film "Six Shooter" before that.) and him, and his brother John Michael McDonaugh, made "The Guard" which is also a bizarre dialogue heavy comedy where a lot people get killed. The story, if one can call it that, begins with Marty (Colin Farrell) a screenwriter, who's struggling to get through his latest script. So far, all he's got is the title, "Seven Psychopaths", and one Buddhist Psychopath. Or Amish, he hasn't decided yet. Obviously, Farrell is playing McDonaugh himself. This film's got a little "Adaptation." in it. At the same time, the Jack of Diamonds killer, is going around killer mid-to-high level mobsters or Yakuza, whoever there, also leaving behind a jack of diamonds. Marty's friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), tries to come up with some psychopaths for him. What few psychopaths he comes up with, Martin doesn't realize that they're actually from other stories someone told him. (Which is called "writing" by the way, but yeah, to those who don't know that, they may think of it incorrectly as stealing.) Billy, works as a con man with Hans (Christopher Walken) an old thief, who runs a dog shelter. Their scheme is to steal dogs that are just lying around the beach, and to keep them until a reward is offered, which is when they drop off the dogs to their owners. Billy steals and Hans returns. Billy is about to go head-on with another psychopath Charlie (Woody Harrelson) the ruthless head mobster killer. Billy has stolen his precious little shih tzu, which causes him to lose his shit, and start killing everybody, starting with his dogwalker Sharice (Gabourey Sidibe). Billy at around this time, places an ad in a paper searching for psychopaths for Martin to write about. He gets a response by Zachariah (Tom Waits) who carries a pet rabbit around, and was young when he and his beloved Maggie (Amanda Warren, in flashbacks) started killing famous serial killers, but they broke up at some point, and he misses her, and he hopes that if he's in the movie, and there's a message at the end where he leaves Maggie a message, he hopes maybe she'll see it and can win her back. The one character Martin does have a good grip on it a Vietnamese Priest (Long Nguyen) who's not really a priest, but still thinks he's fighting the Vietnam war and is preparing an unsuspecting prostitute (Christine Marzano) to be a suicide bomber and blow up during an Army Regiment Reunion. "That's a great psychopath!" Billy exclaims to him, but he doesn't want to use him, or any of the psychopaths really, because what he really wants to do is tell a story about love, and not write about gangsters and killing and killing anymore, but you know, still having the psychopaths. There's some great cameo appearance all around by a wide range of people. Harry Dean Stanton is another psychopath. Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg get killed off pretty quickly. Abbie Cornish also play Kaya, the Charlie's mistress, who he doesn't really like, who's also sleeping with Billy. I've really only kinda scratched the surface of this film, it's really layered, in all the details of the plot, which-, well I guess the word is intricate, but it's the most bombastic intricate plot I've ever seen. "Seven Psychopaths" is a lot of fun, and when it isn't, strangely they no it is. It's very self-referential, and self-referential about it being self-referential. I guess I found it a little too cute for me, but I still enjoyed it a lot, and it's pretty funny. It's a solid second feature from the great playwright McDonaugh; it's being a little overrated by some, but still quite good, quite memorable, and great casting as well. If you're casting a film called "Seven Psychopaths," these are the people I want to see in it, credit for that. Definitely recommending it.
SAFE (2012) Director: Boaz Yakim
I'm guessing that I was originally intrigued by safe, because of the director, Boaz Yakim, who, yes, has made a bunch of action films in the past, but he's also done some good memorable work, like "Remember the Titans" and has done some really great work with his masterpiece "Fresh". "Safe" is not a film of that quality, and saying that is kinda like comparing a matchbox car to a Rolls Royce. Not even a cool matchbox car either. Not Yakim's fault, but the same tired old action movie storyline, that's so impossible that nobody could take it seriously, unless they just want to occasionally see people getting killed and Jason Statham do some cool stunts and shoot people. Actually, it kinda reminded me of 'The Transporter", which I didn't like by the way, but at least that film has some wink-at-the-camera fun to it. Statham, who's been good when given a real chance to act like in Guy Ritchie's films, and especially in "The Bank Job", one of the best and most underrated heist movies, possibly ever, but at age 45, he's still doing these silly, action thriller, and I do mean silly. This is the kind of movie, where everyone gets killed, except for Statham, and a little Chinese girl, who he's fallen into finding himself protecting. The girl, Mei (Catharine Chan) has an eidetic memory, and has a savant-like ability to follow and keep track of numbers, and problems. First, she's working for the Chinese mob, where she witness more death than any girl her age should. Then, the Russian mob steal her. Then she escapes before the corrupt cops can be bought off by either side. That's when Luke (Statham) an old cop-turned-underground cagefighter, who turned in most of the corrupt cops, finds her and starts protecting her, or trying to anyway. The corrupt politicians get into the game later when the Mayor (Chris Sarandon) and the police Captain, (Robert John Burke) have the only really good scene and intriguing scene of dialogue in the Mayoral mansion, about what's happening, and their part in it. That's right, all the action, the stunt, the jumping from trains, the dodging bullets, etc., I remember one good scene of two people talking, because it was the only thing of real substance in "Safe". Oh and, the title, by the way, everybody's looking for the girl, because she has the ability to memorize an elaborate code, that is given to her in multiple parts, and also in multiple locations, that's actually a combination to a safe, that apparently has a lot of money in it. They couldn't even come up with something intriguing for the mysterious code of numbers to be, it's just a safe, just money, things that most everybody in the film, already has. "Safe" isn't so much a movie, as it is,- well, I don't know what it is, but it wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't a good use of it's actors, it wasn't an original story, there isn't an original thought, except possibly the world in which, every single person in the world is corrupt, except for Statham's character, and blatantly so. Well, corrupt or a mobster, one of the two. Actually that isn't even original, but rarely has it been so pointless and cliched, and boring. This is like an action movie by numbers, and nothing else.
DETROPIA (2012) Directors: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
I don't think there's any real surprise, that Detroit, has basically turned into a ghost-like shell of it's former self, especially considering GM's bankruptcy, and subsequent bailouts, and continuous shipping of jobs overseas. Hell, Michael Moore's been warning us about it for decades now. "Detropia," is not a Michael Moore documentary, but it is a tapestry of modern-day Detroit, which is basically a mosaic of graffiti, abandoned businesses and factories, and unemployed workers. GM is working on producing the Chevy Volt, an electric car that they believe will be the alternative car, that will propel Detroit again, but at the car show that shows it off, which it admittedly has problems, China's brought their electric car, which is better and sleeker, and cost $12,000 cheaper, in America. The guy who points this out to the Chevy people, is Tommy Stevens, a former teacher, who runs a blues club, where he is also the chef, since he can't afford to hire a cook. The blues joint, tucked away in the middle of a barren, abandoned street, is cross, often with scenes from the Detroit Opera House. Yes, there's an Opera House in Detroit, has been for years, and is still thriving, because it's funded by GM. We see a glimpse of a performance of The Mikado, where the executioner takes out his list, and starts naming car companies. Competitors but car companies. There's also footage of the Mayor's office, as they begin working out a strange plan, that might actually work, if they can get the people to go along with it, involving a mass migration along the outskirts of Detroit, so that they can use the land for new projects, perhaps organic farming, that could save the city. Ironically, while the local unions disappear as companies close, a youth migration has begun living in Detroit. The cheap rent, has started growing a more artistic youth community to Detroit, maybe the kind of community that would help make an organic farm thrive. I don't think "Detropia" is a great documentary by any means, although it make the National Board of Review list, but it is an intriguing look at a city that's we've been looking quite a lot at in recent years, and still, haven't done much, or at least haven't succeeded at it anyway.
IN ANOTHER COUNTRY (2012) Director: Sang-soo Hong
2 1/2 STARS
"What the point here might be is a bit more elusive. It may be simply to allow Ms. Huppert, one of the most adventurous actresses in movies, the opportunity to try something new. And that might be enough." --A.O. Scott, from his positive review of "In Another Country"
I wanted to begin this review with that quote from A.O. Scott's review, because it perfectly exemplifies my thoughts on "In Another Country," however, I'm not recommending the film the way he did. Is it possible that two critics, (Granted one with far more experience and money than I) can have the same exact emotional and constructive feelings about a film, and still disagree on whether or not it's a good movie? Absolutely. Isabelle Huppert, for instance, is one of those great beautiful actresses, who I have often gone through the rabbit hole with her, and will likely watch anything she's in, and in some cases, I have. Sometimes it's a great and joyous experience like Michael Haneke's most underrated film, "The Piano Teacher", or Claude Chabrol Hitchcockian film "Merci Pour le Chocolat," or the wonderfully erotic "Gabrielle", which got remade by Atom Egoyan recently, and arguably better with his film "Chloe". Those films, make up, partially for some of the really bad films she's occasionally been in, like "8 Women", "The School of Flesh", and probably worse of the worse, the incredibly disturbing "Ma Mere". "In Another Country" is somewhere in between these films. Another little adventure down the Isabelle Huppert rabbit hole for me, and this time, she's in South Korea, the "Another Country", that "In Another Country" is referring to. The film is directed by Sang-soo Hong, it's the first feature I've seen of his, and I would like to see more, as he seems ethereal and Antonioni-esque, something that is lacking in film these days, but I'm hoping I'll get to some of his better films on my Netflix. This film takes place on a seaside resort, and Huppert playing three different French tourists, each of them named Anne, in three separate segments that are actually each dreamed up, or at least, they're being written by a young screenwriter named Wonju (Jung Yu Mi). In the different segment, she's a filmmaker, a lover of a filmmaker, and in the third, a divorcee on the spiritual journey. (Why are all divorcee's going on spiritual journeys nowadays? Have you noticed that? That can't just be an "Eat Pray Love" thing.) In each segment, she has a somewhat strained flirtation with the resort's Lifeguard (Jun-Sang Yu). Well, conversations at least, filled with mixes of loud English and mixed languages of Korean and French. One involves a tent, and a stolen umbrella. Thing seems to suddenly get stolen in each of these shorts stories. There's other recurring characters to, at the resort. I guess they're intriguing segments on their own, but they don't exactly come together, even with Huppert in all three of them. It's an interesting experiment, but I'm not 100% sure it wouldn't have worked just as well, if there were three different actresses playing the same part. Actually, that does have a tendency to work better, such as in Todd Solondz's "Palindromes", or in Luis Bunuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire", whether multiple actresses played the same character. Here, one actress is playing three different characters, while the characters at the beach and resort, remain the same. The people have the resort, seem to have the knowledge of the previous French visitor's name Anne, but I'm not sure, and it doesn't really seem to have relevance in the next segment, but I don't know. The movie is quite beautiful and the resort seems rather transcendent, but it doesn't really or answers any of these questions. I guess if you just want to see Isabelle Huppert playing three different characters, well this is your film, buy I can also just watch three good Isabelle Huppert films for that. There's stuff in it I like, I certainly want to see more of Sang-soo Hong, and I'll continue to watch always anything with Huppert in it, but "In Another Country" seems flimsy, and forgettable. I never felt grabbed by the film, and it never seemed to insist upon my watching it. Seeing Huppert do something new, is enough for me to see "In Another Country", but it's just not enough for me to recommend it.
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN (2012) Director: Linda Goldstein Knowlton
It hasn't been uncommon in recent years, especially on TV sitcoms, for parents to begin adopting kids from China, especially girls, which are less wanted in China, for cultural reasons that I've never fully understood. Another cultural reason for the overseas adoption from China and other Asian countries, is the extreme overpopulation that led to China's one child per family rule. In "Somewhere Between", the first theatrically-released documentary from Producer/Documentarian Linda Goldstein Knowlton, she's in the process of adopted a kid from China, and decides it a good idea to looks at the lives of others kids, all teenage girls, who were also adopted from Asia, and now live in Suburban homes. It's an intriguing conflict, because on one hand, you're apart of a loving family, and having a fairly good life, but on the other hand, you're completely disconnected from your roots. You don't know your birthparents, many of them never learn, and even if they get that lucky, they're literally on the other side of the world. I was surprised at how many of the families, make regular pilgrimages to China, especially when they're teenagers. It's a very difficult concept to not only embrace a culture that's not one's own, but to have to teach that culture to your kid, and for the kids to have to grow up with that. There's a few groups that have been formed to connect Chinese adoptees to each other, one even has a yearly group meeting in London. One of the girls got lucky, and found out which part of China she's from, and when she went there, put up a sign, explaining the situation of her adoption, and soon, she not only found her birthfather, she found practically an entire new side of her family. Her mother was apparently around as well, but refused to come. Another intriguing aspect to this practice, is how often kids are adopted, who weren't given up for adoption, and whether taken or kidnapped, or in some other way, were adopted in America under false pretenses. I was surprised to learn how many of these girls were old when they were adopted. Many still spoke Chinese, even though their family didn't. They were 2 or sometimes 3 or 4, when they were adopted. That was striking to me. I don't know if there was any really great revelations in "Somewhere Between" which briefly profiles four different teenage girls and their families, but was an interesting thing to watch. I'd think I'd rather wait for a more pronounce project on the subject, as oppose to this, outsider point of view, that really give us much more than a simplistic, perspective, but still, it was interesting enough for me to recommend, with the addendum, that the best documentaries about this subject have yet to be made.
CONTEMPT (aka LE MEPRIS) (1963) Director: Jean-Luc Godard
3 1/2 STARS
There's two kinds of films Godard makes. There's the kind that he makes with joy, and the kind he makes, out of frustration, and occasionally anger. Since the late '60s, most of his work is based out of the anger that the political. "Contempt" was his first, and only big-budget production, and it feels like it was made out of the early tremblings of frustration, and hence, it lacks compared to his more passionate and intriguing films like "Breathless", "Vivre Sa Vie", or may favorite Godard from the era, "Pierrot Le Fou". All of Godard's films are about films, and movies, and the structure and form of them. Every aspect about films essentially, and in "Contempt", is very specific about the movie industry, probably reflective about the struggles Godard was going through as he was making the film. Paul Javat (Michael Piccoli, in his acting debut) is a playwright, who's hired to rewrite scenes from a big budget Hollywood film of "The Odyssey" by the movie's producer Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance). The producer's disappointed in the dailies he's getting from his directer (Fritz Lang, playing himself) who's making an art film, while he is under the impression that he's making some kind of Greek epic with Gods and war and battles, or something. I'm not completely sure he's read "The Odyssey", actually. For instance, when he asks Fritz, why he shot the scenes that aren't in the script, Fritz replies that they are. When he's handed the script and sees that they are, he's still angry at him, and throws the back in disgust like he does the cans and the film earlier. He's never written for the screen before, and sorta waffles about the idea, which isn't great for his career. Besides that, the real reason he's getting the offer, is because egomaniac Jeremy has a crush on his wife, Camille (Brigitte Bardot) Paul sees this, in fact, Jeremy isn't exactly hiding his effections. It seems apparent to everyone that the tradeoff is Camille for the job. He knows she'll say no, so he isn't as concerned, or maybe he's actually considering it. He's actually been flirting and thinking about Giorgia (Francesca manini), one of the film's actresses, Georgia (Francesca Vanini). The best scenes are in the hotel room between Bardot and Piccoli, as they have a back and forth fighting over this. While something literally fighting over it, and occasionally fighting over other things, when they're really fighting about this. Bardot adding a nude scene in the beginning of the film of Bardot, because the producer were pissed when they didn't originally include one. (Bardot having been infamous for her nude scenes in "...And God Created Woman".) The scene is of her behind, and is just her and Piccoli, lying on a bed, and she's insecure and looking for validation for her body. In between this, there's more Godard experimenting with film, and breaking the 4th wall. Fritz Lang's disses CinemaScope in one scene, which is interesting considering Godard was forced to shoot in it for this film. There's often sweeping romantic dramatic music playing at odd inopportune times, part of Godard's jokes. Still, while there's a lot of things interesting about "Contempt", as it ranks as an oddity, especially for Godard, it's more of a chore than a film. I'm recommending it, because the parts that do work, are strong, but this seemed to signify his later self-imposed exile from the mainstream film world, and even his abandoning his French New Wave contemporaries, as he challenge the form and structure of film more and more with his later films. "Contempt" is more interesting to discuss than to watch, but you need to watch it first.
TWO IN THE WAVE (2012) Director: Emmanuel Laurent
1 1/2 STARS
Speaking of Godard, "Two in the Wave" is a documentary that chronicles the early beginning of French New Wave, through it's two biggest names, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. Both or course started as film critics for the Cahiers du Cinema, along with names like Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer, before they all began making their own movies, as responses to the American and French films of the era, that they weren't fans of for their artificiality. Essentially redoing the realism methods of Italian Neorealism, but also adding in more light touches and stories, that were emblematic of their love of cinema. Truffaut struck first with "The 400 Blows," which took off at Cannes in '59, and made teenage Jean-Pierre Leaud a star. Leaud worked with both Truffaut and Godard, and Truffaut and Godard often worked together. Truffaut wrote the script for Godard's first feature-length film, "Breathless", which I've written on as a Canon of Film entry in the past:
The movie uses some interviews, mostly older ones, and lots of archive footage of the two, as they're friendship helps start the revolutionary film movement. and then how their paths diverged to the point where they weren't even friends, by the end of the decade, as both filmmakers' style and sensabilites, professional and personal, went into decay. There's nothing particularly new that I learned from "Two in the Wave", but the real wave, but the real reason I'm bashing this movie is because it's boring as hell! French New Wave is filled with such youthful fun and flair. Who "Jules et Jim", for Truffaut, or "Pierrot Le Fou," or "A Woman is a Woman" from Godard, even someone like Chabrol, who can be boring, was often teasing us with his film structure, almost playfully. This movie doesn't really give us any sense of the era, or even much sense of the filmmakers. Godard is alive today btw (and still making movies, even after claiming his "Film: Socialisme" was gonna be his last), and while it's not exactly shocking that he wasn't interviewed for this film it would've been nice to see. They barely even interview anybody who knew them, granted many of them have passed from the era the film centers on. It's more fun to watch their films than to watch this documentary on them, which is usually the case with most docs of this nature, but usually they can still be exciting and entertaining. "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures" for instance, the wonderful HBO documentary. But "Two in the Wave" was painful and intolerable to sit through, and dealt too much with the more trivial aspects of the relationship, like how they both seemed to be fighting over Leaud like two parents in the middle of a divorce. Maybe it's based on facts, but who wants to see that? If you're gonna tell a story of influential lives or a time period, or an era of some kind, with the obvious exceptions of course, I think you'd want it to be entertainment and relatively cheerful, or at least celebratory in nature. "Two in the Wave" makes no attempt to appease it's audience, and only the biggest of cinephiles and French New Wave ones at that, would be entertained by this film, and frankly I'm both of those, and I still wasn't entertained. One of the worse docs I've ever seen about film come to think of it. You want to learn about French New Wave, good, but take a class or go, go rent some movies, but use this film as your jumping off point, you'll think it's something that it isn't, and something you wouldn't want to look into. Huge disappointment for me.
3 IDIOTS (2009) Director: Rajkumar Hirani
While I had heard of "3 Idiots" prior, this is my second introduction to the film actually, after having seen the documentary "Big in Bollywood", about Omi Vaidya, an American actor actually, who became a big star in India, after his performance in "3 Idiots", and that documentary, which I saw at the Las Vegas Film Festival, and really enjoyed, and was sadden to see that it's still playing only on the festival circuit. (Too bad.) Up until now, I hadn't seen that many Bollywood films, and certainly hadn't given any of them 5 STARS. In many ways, Bollywood films are a little critic-proof. The system of movie making in Mumbai is reminiscent of films in America in the old Studio system, particularly in the 30s, where it wasn't uncommon for films to have a little drama, a little comedy, a musical number, a little bit of everything, including a happy ending, in order to appeal to as many people as possible. I remember thinking how strange it was that people would go see a Marx Brothers movie like "A Night at the Opera" or something, and couldn't wait for the Kitty Carlisle teenage romance subplot and was bored by the comedy. So essentially, a lot of movies are alike, and the plots end up predictable and familiar. I think the best of these movie, start with a tone and emotion, and basically stick with it, even as the churning of the machine creeps in and overtakes the film. This is where I think "3 Idiots" succeeds, and overtakes the parts of the film that are lacking. The 3 Idiots, are Farhan (R. Madhavan), Raju (Sharman Joshi) and the memorably-named Rancho Shamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan) who shows up late for the freshman hazing at a prestigious Indian Engineering school. He's told by the Seniors to strip to his underwear, and bow to them, or get peed on. When he doesn't and finally gets in his dorm room, he has to the count of ten, before the Senior pees on his door. In that time, he takes some items from the dorm room, and reconstructs something metal that slides under the door, and when the Senior goes to piss on the door, he gets electrocuted. Saltwater is a conductor, isn't it. Rancho's an engineer genius, who takes great offense to the way the school teaches, and pressurizes it's students. A few have committed suicide because of the stress. Of course, many of them, don't even want to be engineers, like Farhan, who actually wants to be a wildlife photographer, but as it tradition, he was told from birth to be an engineer. Raju, spends all his energy praying to dozens of gods, as his family who's so poor, he lives in black-and-white, like "A Streetcar Named Desire", as his father suffers from illness, and his family remains poor, hoping he succeeds and can support them. The dean of this rigid school of succeeding by all means is Viru Sahastrabudhe (Boman Irani) nicknamed, Virus, who lives by his rigid, structural teachings of engineering, and through pressure to rise to the top of the class. His life is exceptionally rigid, even timing his nap in tune to his shave, so he can even get stuff done as he sleeps. He seems like the father in the original "Cheaper By the Dozen", the timing expert who works relentlessly to time his life perfectly. Rancho is the first student to begin challenging his methods publicly, at every step of the way, and it frustrates him to no end, that not only is it hard to expel him, but also, he's the best student in the class. He even sit-ins on classes he's not in, by sneaking into the major classes with so many students, the teachers don't know who he is. (This comes in handy, when a medical emergency forces the idiots to be late for exams. Rancho is intelligent, creative, logical, and is easily able to outsmart others. The movie box compared the film to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", and their is this kind of fun, lighthearted look at life in Rancho, who in the midst of the most pressure-filled situations, can calm himself by saying his mantra, "all izz well". Vaidya, who I mentioned earlier, plays a student named Chatur, nicknamed "Silencer", for his deafening farts, and is extremely success-oriented, and a bit of a butt-kisser to Virus. The movie takes place in the future, after he makes a bet with Rancho that he'd be more successful ten years from now. This bet takes place, after Rancho, change a Hindi-translation of a speech Chatur was giving about Virus, (Silencer was born in Uganda, and his Hindi isn't strong) where he switched the word succeed with the word "screwed" (That's the American subtitle translation,the actual word his changed to "raped"). Rancho, has been inauspiciously missing since then, and they're searching to find him, so Chatur can claim success on the bet. This is when they discover some secrets about Rancho, that heads towards the second half of the film, which includes, typical Bollywood storylines, especially the one about how the star, falls in love the Dean's daughter Pia (Kareena Kapoor). It always amazes me how often the protagonists, seem to gravitate towards having their arch-rivals be their in-laws. That seems like a naturally bad idea, but anyway. In the end, like with most movies, the real test of a Bollywood picture, is how much you enjoy watching it, even despite the formulaic tendencies of the films, and frankly, I enjoyed "3 Idiots' more than any other Bollywood film I've ever seen, and I enjoyed it more than most films of any kind I've seen, and I think most people will thoroughly enjoy "3 Idiots" as much as I did. I can see why it broke all box office records for a Bollywood film.
BAD DAY TO GO FISHING (2009) Director: Alvaro Brechner
3 1/2 STARS
I've noticed quite a few good and decent films coming from Uruguay lately, and "Bad Day to Go Fishing," their '09, submission for the Oscars' Foreign Language film category, is another one. Taking place in the '60s, and Jacob von Oppen, (Jouko Ahola) is a former strongman who goes from small town to small town in South America, with his promoter Orsini (Gary Piquer) to perform some simple tricks, promoting von Oppen as the strongest man on Earth. Among the stunts, is a challenge set ahead of time, for anybody in the town who can last three minutes with von Oppen in a wrestling ring, and a local drunkard, is pre-selected to be the fall guy, meanwhile Adriana (Antonella Costa), a local woman, who raises the bet with Orsini, who struggles to raise the ante, and promote the fight for her local hero, who's a little more youthful. Just getting the two combatants sober, and then up for the fight is a challenge, but eventually, the fight is the event of the town, and the ticket prices keep getting raised. The movie is slow-moving, but it takes it's time for the characters to build. The film is based on a short story by Juan Carlos Onetti, and has the feeling of one of the Coens more poetic visions. "Bad Day to Go Fishing," foreshadows it's dark ending, which finally answers the question of why professional wrestling uses steel chairs as oppose to wood. "Bad Day to Go Fishing" is not my favorite recent Uruguayian film, that belongs to the transgendered drama "XXY", but it's still quite an intriguing film.