Thursday, March 19, 2015

MOVIE REVIEWS #105: "GONE GIRL", "FORCE MAJEURE", "JODOROWSKY'S DUNE", "HATESHIP LOVESHIP", "BORGMAN", "ELSA & FRED", "CESAR CHAVEZ", "NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET", "CAPITAL", "1" and MORE!

Alright, hopefully, in the near future some of these reviews and a few other will be posted on Watch This Space Film Magazine's website, at www.watchthisspacefilmmagazine.com, as well as possibly some other appropriate commentary posts commentary posts. I'm looking forward to that, and once it's more established, I'll add an official link onto this front page.

In the meantime, whew. Eh, I will be busy in the few weeks working on this blog, I'm still catching on all the things I had to push off for the Oscars, and now the Emmys are getting into the news. If you haven't heard their latest ruling, "Shameless", "Glee" and "Jane the Virgin" won their appeals to be in the Comedy Series categories, still no word on "Orange is the New Black" or any of the other shows challenging the new rulings, so we're keeping that updated.

I'm also gonna make an effort to try and watch more series on streaming sites if I can. I actually did the first season of Tina Fey's new series, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" on Netflix, and it's unbelievably funny, I was addicted instantly, couldn't wait to watch the next episode, just a really funny, really great show. Love Ellie Kemper, loved her on "The Office" love her more now. Incredibly funny series,- like, I have been so annoyed at sitcoms lately,that basically I watched "The Big Bang Theory" and nothing else lately, especially on Network, especially after "Parks and Recreation" went off the air, (In fact, one of my future posts will be some of the things that make these bad sitcoms bad in a little bit) but, aaah, I can breathe, I can laugh, there's so much fun in that show. It's definitely still Tina Fey, easily the most fun, best new thing I've seen in a long while.

Anything, that's enough from me. Onto this week's RANDOM WEEKLY MOVIE REVIEWS!


GONE GIRL (2014) Director: David Fincher

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I guess I'm not particularly amazed that "Gone Girl" is so heavily discussed and that there is some debates on the interpretations and motives of the characters, particularly one character, but, I don't know, this felt more like such a classic thriller to me that somehow it seems that some are just taking this movie too seriously. The "Gone Girl", of the title- boy that's awkward. The missing gi- woman, is Amy Elliott (Oscar-nominee Rosamund Pike). She's a housewife in Missouri who's somewhat of a celebrity because her parents, Rand and Marybeth (David Clennon and Lisa Banes) wrote a series of children's books loosely based on her called "Amazing Amy", which as she described almost were, like, child-shaming in inspiration, like everything the real Amy couldn't or wouldn't do, Amazing Amy excelled at. She became a magazine writer and married another writer, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and after both of them loss jobs, Nick then moved them to Missouri after his mother got sick. He's now a professor who co-owns a local bar with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon), where he is hanging out when he goes home to find his home ransacked and his wife missing, on their anniversary coincidentally. Now, I'm gonna discuss the editing of this film from Kirk Baxter, 'cause, the movie cuts back and forth between numerous time periods, there's some flashing back, there's some flash forwards and multiple points of view, a voiceover narrator, cutbacks to what we learn is a diary that Amy has written that has some suspiciously damning material in it,...- there's a lot going on, and how it's told to us, and the order it is told to us is just as important as what's happening, and while I'm trying to give anything away, the way this film is edited is really the key to it's suspect. I suspect that the novel adapted by it's screenwriter Gillian Flynn, also has a similar disjointed structure. Trying to narrow the main stories, first is the investigation, led by Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) which continues to indicate Nick and possibly even his sister somehow in a coverup. There's the flashbacks to the marriage before Amy disappeared, starting with their whirlwind romance and through the troubled marriage. Another thread follows Nick through the media coverage of the event, led by a Nancy Grace-like reporter, Sharon Schreiber (Sela Ward) who's over-obsessing over every little piece of video, cell phone photo from a groupie, new piece of information that comes up from the police, witnesses, Amy's best friend/nieghbor, Noelle (Casey Wilson) and Nick's struggles to both prove his innocence with the police and the press, making him look for consul from a high-profile lawyer, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry, surprisingly really good here) who in one sense is really a press agent/media consultant and on the other is looking into Amy's past, including tumultuous relationships she's had in the past with suspicious boyfriends, one in high school boyfriend, Desi (Neil Patrick Harris) and one as an adult, Tommy (Scoot McNairy). There's a lot of balls in the air, but the way these fall, inevitably is what the movie is about and how these characters really have to manipulate people, each other, and the media to their advantages. I think, in hindsight, it's a little over-the-top and there's a little too much going on. There's a few threads that don't get picked up or explored more and then others that really turn this thriller almost into a dark comedy. It's almost too dark a look at the media, but it's rather strong overall. I was entertained and genuinely wasn't sure where this film would go. It's a good mystery-thriller, with some strong performances carrying the film.


FORCE MAJEURE (2014) Director: Ruben Ostlund

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I truly believe that until you're actually in a situation, you really don't know how you're gonna react. I know there's this great sense of assurance that people have about such things, but I've never found that to be true. The timing, the exact moment, the exact situation at play, are you completely sure? The only way to test that is to actually be in it, without any preparation or foreknowledge and then maybe one can be certain of their own instincts, and even then, the next time it happens, it might be different, 'cause now you have the knowledge of having gone through it once before. I know it sounds like I'm speaking in circles right now, but consider the situation in "Force Majeure", this was Sweden's submission for the Foreign Language Oscar category and it made the shortlist at one point but I can understand why there were some people upset when it didn't getting nominated. Tomas and Ebba (Johannes Bah Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli) are taking their two kids, Harry and Vera (Vincent Wettergren and Clara Wettergren) to the French Alps for a week-long skiing vacation. At first, everything seems fine. There's photos, there's some skiing, there's the whole family sharing the bed in their matching pajamas. Then, on the second day, in one of many striking scenes, there's an avalanche that descends upon them while having breakfast at the rooftop restaurant of the lodge. It's sudden and unexpected, and while the avalanche scares everybody it blankets them in white smoke. It seems everyone's alright, but at that moment, that flight or fight response kicked in, and one of the parents grabbed for the kids, while the other one bolted and ran off the deck. Worst yet, when confronted with this accusation, he denies it, This isn't a film about perspective btw, we see exactly what happened. Was this a simple difference in the flight-or-fight instinct or there something more going on. When they have a double date later with Mats and Charlotte (Kristopher Hivju and Karin Myrenberg), the story gets retold and the facade they had been putting up for the kids and everybody else is shot down. The other couple snickers as they worry about how they'll need therapy, and they're not necessarily wrong, and they also end up going through their own issues in this psychological debate. The story is through the guise of this troubled couple, but the movie is really about this look between our hopeful desires and our instincts and whether or not we're actually in control of either of them. This isn't the only scenario in the movie, the avalanche is only the catalyst of it. I'll speak about a couple others, both happen late in the film, one involves their kids. They see a parent who's normally in emotional control, stoically to a fault in charge of their emotions and suddenly, in the middle of the night, they see that parent on the floor bursting in tears. Watch exactly what their two children do when they're woken up and see the situation. The other happens on the last day, as all four of them are skiing and while there's no avalanche the sky if snow-fogged and you can barely see what's in front of you (And we can barely) see. All four of them go down the mountain, only three do we find at the bottom. What happened, what do you do now? If something happened, you can't know if you don't go up, but if you go up, do you bring the other two with you, and if you do find them, are you going to find your way back? I won't reveal what happens, but the movie is constantly looking at the ways we react to the differing stimuli and how we react to other's reactions, and each of these change us. Force Majeure is originally French for a superior force, that's usually a reference to an act of God, but I think the movie that sometimes it's the force within us. This is really a great film, makes you think and makes you truly wonder about, other such nightmare scenarios, exactly how would your fight or flight or if you would act correctly or not. It's a thought I have a lot on my own so this is a bit in my wheelhouse but this is really a thoughtful and observant new look at it.


JODOROWSKY'S DUNE (2014) Director: Frank Pavich

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First thing's first, I don't know Frank Herbert's "Dune"; I'm planning to see the David Lynch film, very shortly, but I haven't at this time seen it, but I've now seen "Jodorowsky's Dune". I've seen some of Jodorowsky's films though. (You can find my Canon of Film review of my own website, which you can look up afterwards under my name.)  I had heard about this abandoned project before and thought this film might be a new twist on the other great documentaries about filmmaking, like "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse", "Burden of Dreams" or "Lost in La Mancha", but only, told in flashback about how great this movie could've been. Essentially it is, but this could've easily just been boring, like talking heads referring back to the moment that wasn't, but you get more and more entranced as the film goes on and more pieces of the puzzle come together and our brought this project. And then Salvador Dali got involved and I just blurted out loud, "No fucking way!" That's because this isn't about that; the movie is really about Jodorowsky's vision and passion and how and why he was able to convince and acquire so many people to devote themselves to this project. Jodorowsky had made some successful films, pretty much out of the main stream including "El Topo" and "The Holy Mountain", and "Dune" is one of those legendary great pieces of science fiction, and here's one of those few eccentric great directors, willing to go all out for it. I can listen to Jodorowsky read the phone book, he is just a full-of-life interesting figure; he doesn't get the credit he really deserves, and he brings this incredible cast of actors and artists of all kinds from Pink Floyd to H.R Giger to Dan O'Bannon to all these other artists, who get together in Paris and create this incredible storyboard book that was sent everywhere in Hollywood, documenting every single shot of what "Dune" could've or should've been. It was out-of-this-world and ahead of it's time, technologically, thematically, and cinematically. There's supposedly two known original copies of Jodorowsky's "Dune", but it floated around Hollywood and the people who worked on the project would take the ideas and inventions of Jodorowsky and begin adapting them to other projects when they ran out of money. The visual effects would win some of the people Oscars, for "Alien", the shots would be stolen from everybody to George Lucas to Spielberg to James Cameron; to Moebius who worked on the project and would reinvent comic book artistry with the images. Jodorowsky imagines one day that somebody might be able to take this book and turn it into an animated feature, so somebody could eventually film his recognized vision in it's fullest, but it's clear that his vision has it's imprints all over Hollywood sci-fi and numerous other areas of the art world for decades now. (I'd like to see Katsuhiro Otomo take a shot at Jodorowsky's "Dune" myself) There's this amazing passion that you get in Jodorowsky's work, that whatever the fuck it is, (And that's usually the reaction to his films, "whatever the fuck that was") but all so over the top outrageous, but lovingly so, with passion, and yes, it's over-the-top and maybe unrealistic and Matt Zoller Seitz's review on rogerebert.com calls him a bit of a charlatan at times, bringing all these people in on something that maybe was over-ambitious and just impossible to actually make at the time, but you know what, all great filmmakers are charlatans in that way. You have to be; you have to be so passionate that you fool yourself into believing your vision to even get people on board with something like this, that's the only way a film like this can ever get made, or even get this far into being made, Director Frank Pavish, really shows us exactly how that was possible. If you look at this on paper, there's something I like to call "fantasy filmmaking", where we hypothesize who's the ideal people you'd want on a film project. Who's script, who's the director, who's playing the role, etc. etc., I think it's fantasy football for cinema nerds like us sometimes, and usually I only like to think about things like that as though they were plausible, and this movie could've just been that, This "hey, here's this guy and this guy...," but because it kinda happened for real...- and it's not that it happened, it's the way. The inspiration, the idea, this is, ironically how films, should get made, with this kind of passion and devotion to an image an idea, a reinvention even, 'cause he does from the original novel and that's some amazing artistic creativity. "Jodorowsky's Dune", is the kind of movie that shows the kind of people who get into film and more importantly who should be getting into film. This is one of the best documentaries of the year so far. Few films have made me so pleasantly and euphorically happy to see, especially from a perspective of making a movie, this can easily be in that "Hearts of Darkness...", "Burden of Dreams" stratosphere of these kind of documentaries.


HATESHIP LOVESHIP (2014) Director: Liza Johnson

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I'm not completely positive I understand all of "Hateship Loveship"; there's definitely a tragic slice-of-life aspect to this character study and for that aspect, I think I like the film enough to recommend it. Plus it was slightly,- I wouldn't say unpredictable but it definitely went into a different direction than I thought it would. This was based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Munro and I get a sense that this might've worked better in that format than it does as a feature; there's definitely something Raymond Carver about the film. Johanna Parry (Kristen Wiig, strong in a rare dramatic performance, and along with this and "The Skeleton Twins", she had a really good year) is a longtime healthcare worker who has spent most of her adult life going from job to job taking care of the elderly, until calling 911 when she's the one who discovers that they've passed on. This time though, she's hired on as a nanny for Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld) the granddaughter of Mr. McCauley (Nick Nolte) and Iowa man who's taken care of her granddaughter after his daughter was killed in a car accident when her husband and Sabitha's father Ken (Guy Pearce) was drunk behind the wheel. He's visiting when Johanna starts working and she begins to develop a small crush on him. Wiig's character here, is a bit tricky to describe. She's very unworldly and quiet. Mousy almost. There's a scene where she tries to use the computer in the library and is impressed when she's asked what she wants her password to be. She's had very little that's her own, and most of her life has been spent in quiet desperation taking care of others, except no really, 'cause she's never really thought deeply enough to be desperate for anything, or had much to really care about herself. When Sabitha and her friend Edith (Sami Gayle) play a joke on her by sending her emails they claim are from Ken, she begins to get inspired. She takes a lot of money out of the bank, and travels to his place. At first they're unsure what to make of the situation. He actually kinda has a girlfriend Chloe (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who's just as screwed up a junkie that he is. It's not that Johanna isn't completely unaware that Ken is certainly not Prince Charming and is definitely flawed, but she's not quite aware of how to handle it, until she handles it,and to both their credit, they decide to stick it out. They have more in common then it seems these two wayward souls that have been dismissed or ignored by society. I think the movie's more hit-and-miss than some, but I think there's enough here to recommend. It's a bit of a strange relationship and that dynamic is intriguing, one character who's so unknowing that when she does take a chance on an emotion that it's a leap of faith, and the character who's been through too much in life that he's struggling to rid himself of emotions as much as possible and only until that's challenge by someone who actually knows how to care about him does he begin the long struggle to better himself. I think there's a lack of drama that this film misses however. Jennifer Jason Leigh's character is barely onscreen enough to have an impact for instance, and I think the resolution with the daughter feels unnatural and forced at the end, and there's some other interesting choices with the grandfather too that also feel slighted. I think that's the idea of the tone of the film, but I don't know, I think some material could've been stretched a bit more, but even still, "Hateship Loveship" works as a unconventional love story.


BORGMAN (2014) Director: Alex van Warmerdam

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I'm sure there's some kind of strange religious parable that I'm just missing here, but after realizing that the movie was just gonna to be one fucked up thing happening after another, without much explanation or recognition even, I kinda tuned out and just let the movie happen. I suspect that's the best way to approach the material in "Borgman" as well. This was The Netherlands' submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar last year and it begins with a bible quote, "And they descended upon Earth to strengthen their ranks," but the rest of the movie seems to be a literal assault on suburbia, particularly for those who choose not to heed Camiel Borgman (Jan Bijvoet). When we meet Borgman, he lives underground. Like literally, there's earth and ground above him, and has somehow managed to build a living situation underneath it until hunters fall into his hiding spot. Somehow he escapes. He then knocks on the door of a neighbor, Richard (Jeroen Percev asking for a bath and the neighbor beats the crap out of him on his front lawn. Why is he beat up? (Shrugs) He mentions knowing his wife Marina (Hadewych Minis) who eventually decides to hide him in the house behind her husband's back. Other than that, it's hard to say what the film is. Seriously, I could literally say what happens and I still wouldn't be able to make it sound like it makes logical sense, but basically, one person after another gets killed by Borgman and what I believe was about six other Borgman followers, at least it should have been six at one point when they go through the woods during a late scene which had to been a "The Seventh Seal" reference. "Borgman"'s fascinating because of this surrealistic element, but I don't think this would hold up on multiple viewings. Even if you do find some kind of interpretation of the material, it basically falls into a strange pattern where suburban stuff happens and then someone's killed and the more stuff happens. It's taking some shots and it's well-made and definitely worth watching to judge for yourself but it's hard to draw that line between the events of the movie are supposed to be aimless and whether or not it the movie is actually aimless.


ELSA & FRED (2014) Director: Michael Radford

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I don't know what happened to Michael Radford, who I normally think of as a great and special director, and it's not like "Elsa & Fred" is awful or bad, but it's such an average film. This guy's told special films about the power of poetry like "Il Postino" and tackled Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", even "Dancing at the Blue Iguana", has there ever been a more intoxicating and luscious film about strippers than that one? And here we get, "Elsa & Fred" (Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) two old people living out their last days at a couple small apartments that's conveniently located for both their children and for any caregivers the children hire to look out over them. This is actually a remake of a Spanish film, and it does feel like a movie that would've been more interesting and newer ten years ago. Fred is moving in at the behest of his daughter Lydia (Marcia Gay Harden) and has hired a caregiver, Laverne (Erika Alexander). The events that eventually leads to the inevitable romance is Elsa crashing her car into Lydia's husband's (Scott Bakula) car and insurances are exchanged sorta and money changes hands but it gets the two in the room for the long on-again, off-again rom-com cliched plot. Fred's an old curmudgeon, a former musician who's mostly uninterested in people after his wife's passing while Elsa's a little more wishful and free-spirited. Her biggest wish is to reenact the Trevi Fountain scene in "La Dolce Vita" just like Anita Ekberg. (I've had that wish too once in a while, but still I would've shot a little higher on the fantasy foreplay scenarios but alright.) There's good performances all around, including some nice supporting work from Chris Noth and George Segal among others, but it's so boring. We know essentially every beat of this going in, and I've never seen the original either. There's a few of these aging romances going on among independent films lately, they don't always work. It seems nice and touching on first glance, but you still need more than just the gimmick of the characters being old. It's uninspiring, it's un-interesting, you only get, a glimpse or two what maybe with more inspiration could've been something good, but I've seen these actors in so many amazing roles and films over the years, I don't know they're wasting time with this one. I especially don't know what Radford is either; this film is so uninspired; made without passion or interest. How do you get people like James Brolin and Wendell Pierce and everybody else in this movie in a room together give them absolutely nothing interesting to do? "Elsa & Fred" just fails the Gene Siskel test of would you rather see these actors sitting at a table talking over lunch/dinner or see them in this movie; it's just that simple and it's sad that it's that simple. What a missed opportunity.


CESAR CHAVEZ (2014) Director: Diego Luna

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Cesar Chavez is definitely a hero of mine and I always recognized how important it was to tell his story, but at the same time, I also always recognized exactly how difficult that could be to tell his story. It never really comes across even in the history books. If maybe the Catholic Church would call him the Patron Saint of Farmworkers maybe more would understand, but then again, now you've made him a saint, and saints aren't typically entertaining film characters. I recognized these problems with "Cesar Chavez" this new biopic about him, and for awhile it didn't bother me that it was a straight-up hero-worship film of Chavez (Michael Pena, very good). He was born in Yuma, Arizona of Mexican immigrants who worked as migrant farm workers. After he co-founded the NFWA, he began organizing the migrant workers into a Union and began promoting boycotts and really forcing the growers' hands. When they started to sell more of their grapes and wine overseas, he traveled to Europe to get the products banned there. He's usually looked upon as somewhat of a Martin Luther King for the Latino Community, but his priorities weren't as based in race as they were in class. His goal was to make sure the poor had a say. We can use more people like Cesar Chavez out there now. I'm not sure how those hunger strikes would work or not nowadays of his, but, he was media savvy, although the growers and the police were against the workers. There's some good performances here, especially from Pena but Rosario Dawson is good as strong as Dolores Huerta, his fellow Union organizer, America Ferrara played his wife, she was quite good. The family sequences were very erratic though and there really weren't too many nuances with any of the villains, not enough to make them anything more than villains. This is the second directed by Diego Luna, the great Mexican actor, his first film "Abel" got a lot of Ariel Award nominations, which is the Mexican equivalent of the Oscars, but "Cesar Chavez" is a noble effort but not much more, ultimately. It was entertaining for what it was for awhile, but I eventually just got too bored by it. There's a good film there somewhere, but it lost it's way, and just became a generic, forgettable biopic.


NIGHT ACROSS THE STREET (2013) Director: Raul Ruiz

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The great Chilean director Raul Ruiz's last feature before his passing was "Night Across the Street" and unfortunately this is only the second feature film of his I've seen, the other being his previous film, the 4 1/2 hours "Mysteries of Lisbon", his previous film, so I'm in a strange position where I'm not quite sure I have a grasp or sense of what he was all about or if I have only a sense of how good how he was nearing the end of life. Both films are mosaics of images that work when you take them as you experience them, not-so-much as plot-based stories that you follow but as a random of sequence of events and experiences. Moments in time. "Night Across the Street" seems almost built to be Ruiz's last film. It's plot is simple, John Giono (Christian Vadim) is going back over his life, experiences, flashbacks, memories, even fantasies as he believes, either literally or figuratively, a stranger is coming to kill him. Hell, I'm not even positive that's the whole plot come to think of it, perhaps the parts in the beginning were also parts of his recalling, like going to see a movie in a cinema for the first time, questioning why one would go to a movie if one doesn't know what it's about. I like one of the last scenes, where he's and a couple other characters are ghosts having fun at a seance by messing with their friends. There's some other conversations from youth, from adulthood, some seem like they're hypersurreal like from a movie, but apparently the film was based on short stories by Hernan del Solar; I'm sure they're mostly inspiration as oppose to adaptation though. "Night Across the Street" is fitting end to a film career and legacy. I just hope that I'm getting as good a sense of him as I can with these last two films of his. I get a feeling that there's more that I'm missing.


CAPITAL  (2013) Director; Costa-Gravas

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Somewhere in between, "Margin Call," "Arbitrage" and "The Wolf of Wall Street" is Costa-Gravas's version of that story, this one's called "Capital" and while it's a little more international in it's scope and ambition, but it didn't feel like it had a real insider perspective on the world like those other films do. Costa-Gravas is a legendary Greek filmmaker who's most known for his great political thrillers "Z", and "Missing", although there's more variety on his resume than one would think, That said, when I looked back on the film, and it's certainly confusing and convoluted, but I also realized that this film, could've taken place anywhere in any industry really. Maybe it would've been better to do something, in this case, maybe a historical piece like Claude Berri's "Jean de Florette" and "Manon of the Spring" which are two films that are just as relevant to the financial crises. Well, the movie is centered in Paris and the CEO of Pheonix Bank has dropped dead on the golf course. Marc (Gad Elmaleh) is eventually placed in charge as CEO, as the other higher-ups figure he's young and possibly easy to manipulate. Marc recognizes this too though, fully aware that their underestimating him. Honestly, that's basically all you really need to know about 'Capital", Marc is a greedy entrepreneurial newly-high-positioned CEO of a bank, and everything else that he does happens is basically a long out-maneuvering chess game, only taking place in the lap of luxury. The wife who's more interested in how much more money he's making than the job itself, the mistresses and affais, the hedgefund owners, the stockholders, it's basically another story of Wall Street excess gone amuck. And it's not really an entertaining one either. Like Elmaleh's performance, it's cooly trying to be outside the world while also being inside it, and because of that, very little is of interest to us. We know we're watching bad people do bad things and that's about it; that's the only real point that Gravas is making. Oddly, it makes the movie surprisingly dull. In a way, it's so generic that's a weird word to use, but this literally could be anywhere any place and what makes some of these other recent features of the world so special is that they are looking for thoroughly and deeper and unfortunately, that's where "Capital" completely fails.



1 (2013) Director: Paul Crowder

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I guess it's fair to say that I have an interest in Formula-1. (Shrugs) In theory at least. It's not a sport I follow or even know that much about personally, but it's basically consider the world's premiere international open-wheeled racing league? I guess it's a league or an organization of some kind. I know about NASCAR, and I know about IndyCar or the IRL, a little bit more and I'm aware that there's this other league called Formula-1, and they have numerous minor racing leagues below them, Formula-2, Formula-3, etc. I know they're the highest level of that, and the most expensive; that teams have to build their own cars, and I know a few of the races like the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. And I know some of the history from other recent movies, like the documentary "Senna" and Ron Howard's "Rush" made my Ten Best List the year it came out. So I'm intrigued, I do like racing, and I guess, "1", is sort of a tutorial "Formula-1 History for Dummies" version, but honestly, what that really means more or less is, a history of, death. Death by driving. I don't think there's any long-lasting racing league that didn't deal with death, especially in the early days, but there is something legendary about Formula-1's history. Racers, died, maybe 3-4 times a year, multiple ones a month and on the same tracks, survival was practically what won. It gets into some of those nuances, how each automotive brand had their own competition within the racers' competition and while it was an international sports organization, it wasn't well-run. It thrived on it's image of the renegade, and the safety of the races and tracks were secondary to everything else. In fact, part of the appeal was the risking of the lives, and the danger and the constant threats of death. It's an interesting history, but I would've thought other aspects could've been more interesting. Like getting inside the upper levels or Formula-1 and those real discussions of how the organization was run (or wasn't) in the beginning. The movie ends with discussion with Ayrton Senna's fatal crash in '94, which is the last time a racer died during a Formula-1 race. He's hardly the last one to die racing anywhere, I knew people who went to the infamous abandoned 2011 IZOD Indycar World Championship IRL race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car crash considered the most violent many have ever seen, on a track that was not built or adjusted accurately for IndyCar racing and frankly they shouldn't have been racing at. Even under the greatest and most ideal circumstances though, and I'm sure Formula-1, maybe more than some of the other racing leagues is as safe and as safety-prioritized as possible and takes the most effort to make sure these truly amazing athletes stay alive as anybody, maybe moreso, but this is high-speed open-wheel, auto racing, and I couldn't help but think, "Well, they're due." Hopefully I'm wrong, the current Formula-1 season is underway right now, but the best you can hope for is that, anything and everything they can do or even think about doing to make sure it doesn't happen again, they're doing. So, I don't know, I wasn't particularly crazy about "1". I think there were other angles to pursue regarding the early years of Formula-1, so, I don't know, if you're really interesting I guess it's worth a watch, but I wouldn't be shocked if there were better and more in-depth of learning about the history of a sport such as this. I might seek one or two out but I really can't recommend "1" as a film.

Note: The film debuted on the internet in 2013 in America, but didn't theatrically get released 'til 2014.


SONG OF THE SOUTH (1947) Directors: Wilfred Jackson and Harve Foster

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Before anybody asks, I won't get into how exactly I got ahold of a copy of "Song of the South". It's well-known that this film, as I like to joke is somewhere buried under the Disney vault and hasn't been released in America in any manner since the mid-eighties. Scarce VHS copies of the film go for as much as $50 on Ebay, sometimes more. This film is also strangely one of Disney's most beloved works. One of the first films to believably combine live-action and animation, it's very much enriched in the tapestry of Disney. Space Mountain, I learned is apparently inspired by this film. "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Da", the Oscar-winning song is from this movie. The Uncle Remus (James Baskett, who was given a special Oscar for his performance) character would've at the time been regarded as sort of an American version of Aesop's Fables and the tales of Br'er Rabbit, Br'er Fox and Br'er Bear would've been as well at the time of the film's release as say, the Tortoise and the Hare remains now. It's always been a fascination for me, because my family has these references, but I was born just outside of them. From them, they're sorta disregarded like ancient stories like say, "The Velveteen Rabbit" or something like that, while all I ever really heard about was this strange Disney film that seemed to promote slavery and has since been banned. Well, the movie doesn't promote slavery, in fact it actually takes place during Reconstruction, and in all honesty, nothing much happens. Little Johnny (Bobby Driscoll) is struggling with his father's recent departure, and he's told some stories by Uncle Remus that are these animated fables that most of us,- well, most of us back then were familiar with.(Shrugs) I guess I can understand not telling about the tar-baby to kids these day, although ironically most of us would actually just think that that meant a baby was made of tar. Anyway, it's nice to have finally seen "Song of the South", to know exactly what we were missing, but it's still mostly a film that's of a historical note than it is a seminal essential viewing.


ALL OR NOTHING (2002) Director: Mike Leigh

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Going back through Mike Leigh's filmography, I've finally come around to "All or Nothing", and it's a powerful look, at, well, at this particularly lower-class group of families. That's, all, in a way. It's not something deeper or more meaningful than that, but the lives of quiet desperation in a South London housing project. It's hard to describe the movie much more than that and to just say, "Trust me guys, this is a very good film." but, I'll give it a shot here. While there's a few main families, I think the main focus is own the Bassett's Phil and Penny (Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville). Phil is a taxi driver while Penny works at a supermarket. Both of them deal with the public but Phil is the one who's probably more effected by the encounters, witnessing all aspects of life going on in his backseats. Phil and Penny have been together for 20 years, and have two kids, They're daughter Rachel (Allison Garland) cleans houses, with little prospects more than that. They're son Rory (James Corden) an overweight teenage luff that mostly lounges on the couch. During the days, Phil tries to gather money between paydays, often from his family. Penny is a little more active. She has her kareoke friends Maureen (Ruth Steen) a single mother to a teenage daughter Donna (Helen Coker) who's pregnant from an abusive boyfriend and Carol (Marion Bailey) whose daughter's in a relationship Samantha (Sally Hawkins) is a rebellious teenage flirt, who spends some of her day teasing another local kid who she knows is in love with him, but isn't really mature enough to deal with it. Most of the movie, is slice of life, very typical of Mike Leigh, who has this beautiful approach to filmmaking where he gets some regulars in his troupe together and spends months shooting improvisations based on his bare idea and then takes that footage to create the script. The movie turns when something major happens late that I won't describe here, but what's importance is learning and observing these characters before and after the incident. Just learning the characters and their lives at all, the way it observes them. It's quite a beautiful and emotional feature. One of my favorite sequences involves Phil's speech at the end, his explosion is after a long time of reflection and being and seeming aloof. It's emotional, powerful and exactly what this character would say and how he would express it. There's so many moments like that of simple observation of what we think are just simple people that are far more than that. "All or Nothing" is sorta the forgotten Mike Leigh film, it came in between "Topsy-Turvy" and "Vera Drake", two of his more revered and powerful recent films, even the Academy avoided this one, but it's hardly a bad film at all. It's just as amazing, well-acted and poetically beautiful as all his others.


MEET THE FOKKENS (2012) Directors: Gabrielle Provaas & Rob Schroder

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I'm probably being a little meaner on this film than most others, and I guess this really depends on how truly interesting you find the Fokkens to be. Oddly enough, I didn't find myself caring much. "Meet the Fokkens" introduces us to Martine and Louise Fokken, identical 69-year-old twins who have spent most of their lives as prostitutes. Legally, they're Dutch and live in Amsterdam. Martine still works as a prostitute but Louise has retired 'cause of illness, sighting that she can no longer put one foot over the other. I guess Martine enjoys it, she seems like it, as do the few clients we see her entertain but she also does it because she doesn't quite make enough on her pension alone to survive. They're relatively jovial and outlandish, somewhat garish in their appearance. They have led interesting lives, often sad lives and after awhile we hear some of their early, which wasn't that great or pretty. We're not quite sure how they ended up choosing prostitution as an escape, but- I don't know, after watching the movie, I think they're interesting gals but not much more. I just don't know if that's enough for a movie. If was a documentary short I probably would recommend it, but just a couple interesting prostitutes that'd be fun to hang out with at a bar to hear stories about their lives-, well, being in Vegas, I've done that a few times, but still, "Meet the Fokkens" just doesn't quite feel full as a documentary.


SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (2012) Directors: Annie Howell & Lisa Robinson

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"Small, Beautifully Moving Parts", kinda has the randomness of a journey to a family that something like "Five Easy Pieces" had, but with a more pronounced subtext of modern technology instead of music. Sarah Sparks (Anna Margaret Hollyman) is an expert in electronics. Able to fix any computer that gets peed on, or dissect any new-fangled gizmo and gadget, almost instantly. Her boyfriend Leon (Andre Holland) is more interested in the fact that she's pregnant, while she's fascinated by the mechanics of the pregnancy test. Her sister Emily (Sarah Rafferty) throws her a bachelorette party and it's full of friends and family, most of them mothers themselves, and her father Henry (Richard Hoag), but she wasn't brought up with her mother, who left the family years earlier and they have in fact barely talked. Usually she's at least known where she was but now she's gone "Off the grid", and now that she's pregnant and fairly incapable with human beings, so much so that she basically interviews them with a camera whenever she comes around, fascinated, she figures it's time now to go see, what if anything her mother can tell her. Other than a pit stop in Vegas to meet a friend for a bit, she then begins to goes deep into a desert, away from people, and more importantly away from working electronics and GPS. It reminded strangely of how the further out, Robert Dupea went from his life and back to his rich, cultured family, more and more music would be heard and present, the more into the world he became. Here, another different kind of otherside of the world comes as she finally reaches closer and closer to her mother, Marjorie (Mary Beth Pell). "Small, Beautifully Moving Parts" is a reference to the little parts of all machines that essentially make them run, and how when they don't whole things collapse. I might've made that last part up, but it's a beautifully little independent film, filled with good performance, beautiful direction from the team of Annie Howell & Lisa Robinson, you don't see too many female duo directing teams out there, and it's a great little tale about a girl who can fix anything, struggle with things that can't be fixed so simply. I enjoyed "Small, Beautifully Moving Parts", immensely.



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