duminică, 27 august 2017

Note on Manchester by the Sea with Casey Affleck

Note on The Academy Awards Nominated Hidden Figures

Note on The Bourne Supremacy, director Paul Greengrass, with Matt Damon,...

Note on Thursday, written, directed by Skip Woods, with Aaron Eckhart

Note on À Nous la Liberté, written and directed by Rene Clair

Note on Kill Me Three Times, directed by Kriv Stenders, with Simon Pegg

Note on Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, with Marlon Br...

marți, 15 august 2017

Note on Killing Them Softly, written and directed by Andrew Dominik, wit...

Note on Between Sea and Land, with Manolo Cruz

Note on 300, Zack Snyder director, Gerald Butler, Lena Headey, Michael F...

Note on L'Atalante, directed by Jean Vigo, with Dita Parlo, Michel Simon

Note on Fatal Attraction, with Michael Douglas, Glenn Close

United 93, written and directed by Paul Greengrass, 10 out of 10

United 93, written and directed by Paul Greengrass
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

United 93 is a gripping, tremendous drama.
The entire world has been shocked, alas some have cheered, when the terrorist piloted airplanes have crashed into the Twin Towers.

This film refers to that, albeit not directly, and the phenomenal account of the men and women aboard the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.
It is one of the most astounding dramas that describes the heroism, bravery, strength, spirit of sacrifice of a group of passengers.

Terrorists had taken flying lessons and then went on board civilian airplanes to crash them into important targets.
Tragically, two have hit The World Trade Center and one the Pentagon, the latter with fortunately fewer casualties.

The fourth plane selected gives the name to this fantastic film that describes passengers, relatives, communication with them and the accelerating pace towards the denouement, which is known but no less impressive and horrendous.
Tension is slowly building up, with people getting on the airplane together with their would be kidnappers.

Part of the plot involves the men and women on the ground, controlling the air traffic, who learned about the situation on United 93.
On a side note, air traffic controllers- and people in other jobs- are supposed to have a negative attitude, because those with a positive mindset see the big picture better, but miss on details and psychology research proves that negativity helps with the small parts- in positions like those of lawyers, policemen investigating crimes, etc.

At a chosen moment, the terrorists use knives to highjack the plane and take control of the cockpit, flying the plane.
After September 11th, a decision was taken to improve security on board airplanes and make access to cockpits more difficult.

The passengers have their mobile phones and some get in contact with the dear ones on the ground and keep talking throughout.
This is in fact one of the main sources from which we learn what happened on United 93, the narrative and all the acts.

The relatives or friends that communicate with people on the plane see the news and what happens to the Twin Towers and The Pentagon.
And the passengers on United 93 come to realize what the use of their aircraft would be, if they do nothing about it.

It must also be said that the United States government, learning about the three attacks and the high jacking of United 93 made some plans…only they were not put in practice
If they watched the plane fly too close to Washington, where it became increasingly clear that it would target Congress or another strategic institution, then they would resort to a drastic, dreadful decision:

-          Take the plane down

In effect, fighter planes were not given the order to shoot down a civilian air craft, for fear of accidental shoot down.
Only the people on the flight took action themselves, understanding full well the consequences, risks and odds.

A group has decided that the only option is to attack the terrorists, hoping to regain control of the plane.
With grit, courage and determination, these Superheroes, heroic men and women went to face the enemy.

They did not manage to avoid their own deaths, but with their sacrifice they have saved the lives of others…

“Todd Beamer: [to Mark Bingham after Ziad Jarrah on purpose causes the plane to lose attitude as it gets closer to Washington D.C]. This is a suicide mission. They are not going to land this plane. They are not going to take us back to the airport. We have to do something. I don't think we have much of a choice.”

United 93 is an outstanding motion picture, about extraordinary, unique, courageous, powerful, unforgettable heroes.

luni, 14 august 2017

Note on Auf Kurze Distanz aka Point Blank, with Tom Schilling

Note on After Love, with Bérénice Bejo, Cédric Kahn, Marthe Keller

Note on Jasper Jones, with Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Angourie Rice

Note on Paulina aka La Patota, with Dolores Fonzi, Oscar Martinez

Note on Welcome to the Dollhouse, written and directed by Todd Solondz, ...

Day for Night, written by Jean-Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman and François Truffaut, directed by the latter, 9 out of 10

Day for Night, written by Jean-Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman and François Truffaut, directed by the latter
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Day for Night or La Nuit Américaine is one of the most acclaimed films.
It is included on the All-TIME 100 Movies list:

The motion picture was also nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director and Writing.
It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Director and Supporting Actress.

The narrative is perhaps as complex as possible, with the problems of making a film intersecting with personal issues.
We learn how difficult it could be to handle the crew, sometimes –or most of the time- superfluous stars.

There are scenes wherein not only humans have to be persuaded, cajoled but also cats, which do not obey the script.
Many scenes are funny, in the beginning, the younger and middle aged stars are asked about the story of the film they making and the younger says “it is about a young man”, while the mature: “it is about a middle aged man”.

La Nuit Américaine is about the making of a film called Je Vous Presente Pamela and the effort involved…logistics, stuntman, stars and their idiosyncrasies.

In fact, I have learned from a stunning book called Adventures in the Screen Trade about what real stars can be up to.
Dustin Hoffman and his shenanigans on the set of Marathon Man, Robert  Redford and his bad behavior after Bud Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and preparing for All The President’s Men, Al Pacino and others.

In the film within the film, a woman marries a young man only to find that she really loves- or is just infatuated?-with the father.
The audience learns about the problems that one actress has with remembering her lines and the solution they resort to.

This happened in another way with Marlon Brando, who, at a later stage in his career refused to memorize any lines and asked to have them written, on the forehead of the other actors if need be…the last story might be untrue though.
In Day For Night the lines for the forgetful star are plastered around the set and she can read them as she moves around.

Jacqueline Bisset is beautiful, charismatic and at times ingénue as Julie Baker, an actress married to a much older man.
Jean-Pierre Aumont, fabulous at a tender age in Four Hundred Blows, is Aphonse, who has the role of the young husband in the film within the motion picture, but on the set, he falls in love with a woman who runs away.

So Julie Baker tries to comfort the young man who, after his lover had departed with the stunt man, falls into a depressive state.
Julie and Alphonse end up spending the night together and the older husband, an Anglo-Saxon doctor is called to solve the problem.

It is bizarre and outré to see how difficult it could be to manage- finally, the director looks like he has to be a good manager- a team in which one has a funeral and he has to go away, another two have sex on the way to the set, where the crew had been waiting for them to bring in props and whatever else was necessary…

François Truffaut has the role of a…director, Ferrand, who has to show Julie Baker how to keep her head or hand, but also to listen to various members of the crew and their chagrins and pains, anxieties.
At one point, there is a major problem with one of the leading actors, playing the father and the director says that there is always this worry that the film cannot be finished or is compromised by the inability to use the star to the end.

Many references are made to other classics: Citizen Kane, Godfather- which is in cinemas at the time of production and is all that people want to see.

A jealous wife is present on the set, as she needs to continuously supervise her husband and she delivers a wild attack on those who make motion pictures.

duminică, 13 august 2017

Note on The Terminal, directed by Steven Spielberg, with Tom Hanks, Cath...

Note on Cast Away, directed by Robert Zemeckis, with Tom Hanks

Note on Captain Philips, directed by Paul Greengrass, with Tom Hanks

Note on The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, with Steve Carell, Steve Buscem...

A Short History of Film by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, 10 out of 10

A Short History of Film by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

A History of Film is fascinating, even when short.
And the brevity of the work is relative.

At fifteen hours in audiobook format, it is not exactly an afternoon read, even if it would definitely be enjoyable at the beach.
It is not light and the subject matter is colossal in magnitude and scope, so in this sense it is appropriate to call it short.

It is a joy ride that is also instructive, for it will familiarize the reader with names that might have escaped him.
We hear about the evolution of the Coen Brothers, from their first film noir Blood Simple, moving to Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowsky and more recent hits like No Country For Old Men.

Werner Herzog is another of the many cineastes mentioned in this gem of a book, with his first production that was made with an apparently stolen camera, his collaboration with the edgy, haunted, magnetic, incandescent and uncontrollable- because probably somewhat mad-Klaus Kinsky on magnificent works like Aguirre- The Wrath of God, the adventurous Fitzcarraldo and what extraordinary that entailed.
In fact, in a documentary on his cooperation and frequent clashes with “His Dear Friend” Klaus Kinski, Werner Herzog explains and shows the wild territories were they filmed, the leading actor fought with colleagues, accidents and injuries, with the incredible transportation of a whole ship across the mountain, which takes place in Fitzcarraldo and was actually done in real life and not brought to screen with any special effects.

The list of important artists, directors, heads of studio, actors and finally various financial and multinational companies involved in the film industry and mentioned in this fantastic book is impressive.

The reader finds about Charlie Chaplin and his on screen and real life events, with his inclusion on the infamous black list, together with other celebrities- Trumbo, Edgar G. Robinson and others, sometimes named by their colleagues.
Neorealism in Italy and its influence on the so many other directors is emphasized with masterpieces as The Bicycle Thief- one of the best ten movies ever made on various lists- La Terra Trema, Paisan, with the latter mentioned by Martin Scorsese in the documentary American Cinema as one of the productions that have had a huge impact on him.

Some films that have marked a landmark, like the aforementioned Bicycle Thief have their story briefly narrated, with details once in a while, regarding the production, backstage or technological achievement.
Film makers from around the world are also mentioned with the homage they deserve- Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini and his affair with Ingrid Bergman, who had a child with the director, compromising their careers.

In more recent times, the ascension of Spike Lee is mentioned, up to his later achievements, like Malcolm X, which had serious financial problems, with backers pulling out afraid that the subject and hero will inflame spirits and cause riots, so that the director had to enlist Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby to support the film
Kathryn Bigelow is one of the women directors that have achieved great success, even if the book was completed before her crowning achievement in 2008 with the Hurt Locker; it touches on her success Point Break and K-19.

In the past, the studios have had a tremendous power over stars and staff who had been under contracts, up to the Olivia de Havilland ruling, in which the actress won, a victory that had eluded Bette Davis when she had tried years before.
It may be an exaggeration in the other direction today, when a few celebrities have an astonishing power to launch or sink projects, their name on the short list could send the film beyond the sixty million dollar budget, before any scene is even shot, for some stars have passed the twenty million dollar benchmark a long time ago.

Alas, many if not most are in a category that I have no desire to watch- Avengers, Transformers and stars that I personally do not like in any case, like Dwayne Johnson “The Rock”, fantastically nominated as the best actor of 2016, or 2015 and Melissa McCarthy, in the same spot for actresses.

It is exhilarating to read about a genius like Elia Kazan and his involvement in masterpieces like A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, with the latter now seen as a condemnation of trade unions.
At the same time, the director, John Wayne, Ronald Regan and others seemed to have been involved in fighting the communist influence in Hollywood and therefore Elia Kazan was cheered by some in audience and disapproved of by many who attended the Academy Awards ceremony at which an honorary prize was given to the latter.

On both sides of the barricades we could find Ayn Rand, Robert Taylor- as one of the first friendly witnesses- Walt Disney, Gary Cooper and opposing them Humphrey Bogart, John Huston, Gene Kelly and others who had to abandon their “committee for the first amendment”

Note on Hands Over the City, written, directed by Francesco Rosi, with R...

vineri, 11 august 2017

Note on Sleeping with Other People, written, directed by Leslye Headland...

Note on Thank You for Smoking, with Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello

Note on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with Andy Serkis, James Franco, ...

Note on Evan Almighty, with Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman

Note on Hoodlum, with Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, Andy Garcia

Paths of Glory, written by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, 9 out of 10

Paths of Glory, written by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Paths of Glory is a…glorious film.
The audiences have places it at number 58 on the list of top rated films, on IMDB and The New York Times has included it on its list of 1,000 Best Movies Ever Made:

Stanley Kubrick is one of the best five directors ever, with achievements such as:

-          2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Lolita, Barry Lyndon

And in the leading role we have the phenomenal Kirk Douglas- Spartacus, The Bad and The Beautiful, Lust for Life being just some of his memorable performances, after we include his role as Colonel Dax in this masterpiece.
From the introduction to this chef d’oeuvre the audience learns about the World War I and the situation on the front, where the battle lines have stayed in the same place for about two years, moving with only few hundred yards.

The cost of any maneuver, for any centimeter of advancement towards the enemy lines was measured in hundreds of thousands of lives lost.
General George Broulard is talking with another general, Paul Mireau about an operation that the commanders have in mind, which would be dangerous- actually will mean the death of many- but would gain a promotion for the latter officer.
In the first place, Gen. Paul Mireau talks about the eight thousand men that he is responsible for and that he would rather not let them down than gain honors, decorations, but pretty soon changes his speech and talks about artillery support.

On a visit in the trenches, this general meets with the effects of war, talking with a soldier who is evidently absent and unaware of what is going on and his comrades explain that he is shell shocked, an explanation refuted by Paul Mireau.
He has a conversation with Colonel Dax, who is the officer responsible for the planned attack that will result in more than half of his men being killed, according to ruthless estimations made in advance of the reckless manoeuver.

The Colonel appears to be the only superior officer that really cares for his men and does everything he can to protect them, throughout the battle and then in the court martial trial, quoting Samuel Jackson to his superior: “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.
Lieutenant Roget is on a reconnaissance mission when he gets too scared to continue and abandons one man and is responsible for the death of another, sending the surviving soldier to be executed in the aftermath of the ill-fated attack.

The plan to attack the enemy was destined to be a catastrophe right from the start, the only reason for launching such a mass suicidal mission being the vainglory, desire for fame, power and applause that generals had.
When the vicious, murderous general sees that the some of the soldiers cannot even go out of their trenches, faced with a terrible barrage of artillery, he orders repeatedly that his own guns fire upon their own troops.

In a vicious manner, after the failed attack, instead of having the superior officers that designed the catastrophic “advance” taken to task and trialed, innocent soldiers are selected, most at random, to face a court martial.
Some of these “accused” have had to draw a ticket at a “death lottery”, since there was no way to distinguish between combatants, they had all acted with bravery in previous battles and now they all had to wait when faced with imminent death from a curtain of enemy fire that made it impossible to take a step ahead.

The inhuman general, when faced with the result of his orders wants ten men from each company to be executed for the fiasco that was his and his superiors responsibility and he talks about insubordination and their refusal to attack which his contradicted by Colonel Dax who says that they obeyed orders but could not make any headway.

A flash court martial is organized to demonstrate that the accused did not advance but retreated when fighting the enemy, which was the only possible thing to do, short of committing suicide and walking straight into exploding projectiles.
Colonel Dax is the only honorable, just, compassionate, positive, brave, decent, responsible officer and he is right when he expresses his disgust in court, as he defends the accused, a task that he had asked for:

“Gentlemen of the court, there are times that I'm ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion…The attack yesterday morning was no stain on the honour of France, and certainly no disgrace to the fighting men of this nation. But this Court Martial is such a stain, and such a disgrace. The case made against these men is a mockery of all human justice. Gentlemen of the court, to find these men guilty would be a crime, to haunt each of you till the day you die. I can't believe that the noblest impulse for man - his compassion for another - can be completely dead here. Therefore, I humbly beg you... show mercy to these men.”

Too Big to Fail, written by Peter Gould, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, directed by Curtis Hanson, 9 out of 10

Too Big to Fail, written by Peter Gould, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, directed by Curtis Hanson, 9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Too Big to Fail is one of the best films I know.
It is about the most dramatic events in recent history- and if The Donald and the other lunatic, the Korean leader will not decide to blow millions of people away it will stay at number one for decades- the financial meltdown of 2008.

I have noted a few days ago on an exceptional documentary about the same subject, Inside Job, here: http://realini.blogspot.ro/2017/08/note-on-inside-job-written-and-directed.html
This motion picture has an all-star cast and furthermore, the protagonists of the film had been the most powerful men in finance, on Wall Street, at the Treasury and hence some of the Rulers of the World…

Big egos, narcissistic personalities- much like the egotistic man in the White House today-macho men, alpha males are walking around in this film.
From the failed Chairman and CEO of The Lehman Brothers, Richard “Dick” Fuld, portrayed by James Woods to Ben Bernanke played by the outstanding Paul Giamatti, all these personages are fascinating, if most are outrageous.

Henry Paulson aka the great William Hurt has been criticized for his activity and richness accumulated prior to his role as Secretary of the Treasury, but the image we get from the film is that of a man doing the right thing under pressure.
Timothy Geithner played by a talented Billy Crudup was president of the New York Fed and part of the team that was trying to persuade the head of the major banks to take the official offer, together with Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson.

In the first part of the this incandescent drama, frantic efforts are made to convince a British or Chinese bank to salvage one of the Too Big to Fail, but this attempt fails and it looks like a possible domino effect.

Jamie Dimon, chairman, president and CEO of JPMorgan Chase aka Bill Pullman, John Mack, at the time chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, John Thain, the last chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch, played by Matthew Modine, Vikram Pandit, the then CEO of Citigroup, Jeffrey Immelt, leader of GE, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, Christine Lagarde, the then finance minister in the French government and today head of the IMF, Warren Buffett all have a presence in this End of the (financial) World epic.

Some are trying to hide the extent to which their banks are exposed or outright bankrupt, while others are reluctant or totally opposed to getting involved since their operations are running smoothly…
“Ben Bernanke: I don't really understand why there needs to be so much tension about this. The country is facing the worst economy since the Great Depression. If the financial system collapses, it will take every one of you down.”

Still, some saw this intervention as a helping hand for their competitors, while John Thain for instance was hoping that Bank of America would offer the best terms and he will get ahead of Dick Fuld who was also in the race to save Lehman.
Richard Fuld: [on the housing crisis] You know, people act like we're crack dealers. Nobody put a gun to anybody's head and said, "Hey, nimrod, buy a house you can't afford, and you know what? While you're at it, put a line of credit on that baby and buy yourself a boat."

Some felt the need for pause and approval from Congress, while others saw the emergency, there were critics who said- why save AIG when Lehman Brothers was allowed to sink, invoking the “Moral Hazard”
“If we do not act, boldly and immediately, we will replay the depression of the 1930s, only this time it will be far, far worse. We don't do this now, we won't have an economy on Monday”

And the dialogue is brilliant throughout, with some involuntary, absurd or dark humor included and possibly the best explanation for the whole collapse that has affected almost everyone, including the undersigned, who has never gone out of the city ever since and still has not recovered financially, albeit in the meantime, with the help of positive psychology I understood that other aspects are much more important than material things, which anyway are offering only brief periods of satisfaction, after which the hedonic adaptation phenomenon takes place and we get used with whatever object we bought:

-          Jim Wilkinson: Okay, here's how you explain it. Wall Street started bundling home loans together - mortgage-backed securities - and selling slices of those bundles to investors, and they were making big money. So they started pushing the lenders saying, come on, we need more loans.
-          Henry Paulson: The lenders had already given loans to borrowers with good credit, so they go bottom feeding, they lower their criteria.
-          Neel Kashkari: Before, you needed a credit score of 620 and a down payment of 20%; now they'll settle for 500, no money down.
-          Jim Wilkinson: And the buyer, the regular guy on the street assumes that the experts know what they're doing. He's saying to himself, if the bank's willing to loan me money, I must be able to afford it. So he reaches for the American Dream, he buys that house.
-          Neel Kashkari: The banks knew securities based on shitbag mortgages were risky...so to control their downside, the banks started buying a kind of insurance. If mortgages default, insurance company pays. Default swap. The banks insure their potential losses to move the risk off their books, so they can invest more, make more money.
-          Henry Paulson: And while a lot of companies insured their stuff, one was dumb enough to take on an almost unbelievable amount of risk…Michele Davis: AIG.
-          Michele Davis: And when they ask me why they did that?...Jim Wilkinson: Fees!
-          Neel Kashkari: Hundreds of millions in fees.
-          Henry Paulson: AIG figures the housing market would just keep going up. But then the unexpected happens…Jim Wilkinson: Housing prices go down.
-          Neel Kashkari: Poor bastard who bought his dream house? The teaser rate on his mortgage runs out, his payments go up, he defaults.
-          Henry Paulson: Mortgage-backed securities tank. AIG has to pay off the swaps. All of them. All over the world. At the same time.
-          Neel Kashkari: AIG can't pay. AIG goes under. Every bank they insure books massive losses on the same day. And then they all go under. It all comes down.
-          Michele Davis: [horrified] The *whole* financial system? And what do I say when they ask me why it wasn't regulated?

-          Henry Paulson: No one wanted to. We were making too much money.

joi, 10 august 2017

Note on Heist, written and directed by David Mamet, with Gene Hackman, D...

Note on The Way Back, directed by Peter Weir, with Ed Harris, Dragos Bucur

Note on Enemy of the State, with Gene Hackman, Will Smith

Note on The Medusa Touch, with Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Lino Ventura

Note on American Gigolo, directed by Paul Schrader, with Richard Gere

City of God, written by Braulio Mantovani, based on the novel by Paulo Lins, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, 9 out of 10

City of God, written by Braulio Mantovani, based on the novel by Paulo Lins, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Critics and audiences agree on Cidade de Deus.
The public has rated this violent, extraordinary film at number 21:  http://www.imdb.com/chart/top?ref_=tt_awd

And TIME magazine has included this motion picture on its All-TIME 100 Movies list:

And City of God was nominated for four Academy Awards, in the year when Lord of the Rings took so many prizes.
In my book, Cidade de Deus is better than the winner of the Oscar for best motion picture and the director prize for that year.

Having said that, it must be added that this film is quite difficult to watch in many if not most of its scenes.
From the start, I think we are shown how they kill a live chicken on camera and if not all the blood and death dance, at the very least, the images of the seemingly still warm body and the plucking of feathers are gruesome.

Veganism is the way out.
One bird gets away and a whole band of children mostly runs after the animal, which escapes miraculously.
“What should have been swift revenge turned into an all-out war. The City of God was divided. You couldn't go from one section the other, not even to visit a relative. The cops considered anyone living in the slum a hoodlum. People got used to living in Vietnam, and more and more volunteers signed up to die.”

It all happens in the poor slums of Rio de Janeiro, where rival gangs fight with no mercy and apparently no mercy.
In one scene, Li’l Ze, perhaps the cruelest, most despicable of the killers involved, catches a few children.

True, there appears to be no lower limit to adhere to a gang or just start with a few buddies to rob stores.
Li’l Ze is the leader of most of the City of God, at least for a period, having killed rivals and leaders of various territories.

When he has the two kids in front of him, he is asking them to choose- leg or hand, for he will shoot them where they choose.
And not just that, after the children, who are no more than six years old, are shot in the foot, in spite of choosing the hand this Godfather has other ideas.

He picks one of his upcoming underlings, another child, aged twelve maybe, who wants to be part of the gang and says to him

-          Now it’s your moment
-          You choose and kill one of them

Being raised in this extremely violent environment, little boys become killers at a very tender age and they steal and fight.
“Filé-com-Fritas - Steak and Fries: A kid? I smoke, I snort. I've killed and robbed. I'm a man.” And most of the other characters have the same point of view.

Peaceful bystanders cannot stay of this all out, continuous war, for they get trapped and killed without any remorse.
In one instance, Li’l Ze and his band attack a young man and his girlfriend- the narrator explains that this is the only way the gang leader knows to get close to a girl and the general attitude is one of sexist, macho chauvinist males.

After he abuses and rapes the girl, beats the young man, the crazy mobster stops away from the scene of his crime and thinks- “why didn’t I kill that dude?!”
So he goes to his house, shouts that he wants the boy out, his brother comes and tries to reason with the gang of maybe 30 killers.

Unsatisfied, they kill the brother and start a shooting spree, covering the poor house in a rain of bullets, killing an uncle too.
The police are not just corrupt and involved in the drug trade and taking sides according to the pay off, but itself involved in killings.

miercuri, 9 august 2017

Note on Rabbit Hole, with Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart

Note on Waterworld, with Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn

Note on Ghostbusters, with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd

Note on Blame It On Rio, with Michael Caine, Demi Moore

Note on Swing Vote, with Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper

Chinatown, written by Robert Towne, directed by Roman Polanski, 10 out of 10

Chinatown, written by Robert Towne, directed by Roman Polanski
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Chinatown is one of the masterpieces that will remain in history and I have it included in my top twenty favorites.
It is also on All-TIME 100 Movies list:

Robert Evans, the producer of this film and the man responsible for other major motion pictures, one of which might be the very best of them all, The Godfather, writes about Chinatown in his book about movies:

-          The Kid Stays in the Picture

We learn from there how Robert Evans was involved in getting roman Polanski to Hollywood and how they worked on Rosemary’s Baby.
There is the funny aspect of Frank Sinatra, his request to have his wife, Mia Farrow, back soon and how she wanted to pay back.

Roman Polansky is the magician directing Chinatown, after the immense success and Oscar nomination for Knife in the Water…
And of course, the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby, for which the director wrote the screenplay, nominated for both Oscars and Golden Globes.

Chinatown was nominated for all the major Academy Awards and had to compete with Godfather II, but won for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

The magnificent Jack Nicholson was discovered by Robert Evans and that story is included in the aforementioned book.
He is a private detective called Jake Gittes and he is asked to work on what seems to be a usual case, the wife suspecting her husband of infidelity.

Jake and his associates follow Mr. Mulwray and they think they have found the very young woman with who he is involved.
The story gets in the newspaper and Jake is visited by Evelyn Mulwray, who informs him that he is being sued…

The woman who had hired the detective was doing so on false pretenses…the real wife is Faye Dunaway.
Chinatown is about human relationships, love and betrayal, greed and power, money and fame, but also about…Water.

It is notable that a long time after the time of the story, California and Los Angeles have a huge problem with water.
So severe that over the past few years, draconic measures have been taken in places where taking a bath instead of a shower was forbidden, watering the lawn- indeed many lawns had been painted green.

Hollis Mulwray is found dead, with salt water in his lungs and it becomes increasingly obvious that the water is the key to this murder and that the dead man found out that water had been dumped at night, in the middle of a…drought.
Enter the stage Noah Cross portrayed with outstanding talent by an actor better known as director- John Huston.

He is the rich former owner of the water supply, in partnership with his late son-in-law and he has concocted a plan to become even richer.
Noah Cross wants to hire Jake Gittes to find “the girl „who is actually the key of the investigation and the motion picture.

The hero is attacked and beaten in various circumstances, his nose is cut- by a hoodlum played by Roman Polansky.
The detective is doing an outstanding job, proving to be a real superhero, for he follows the trace of corruption into the orange groves, in the offices where the registers are, in an asylum for old people, supposedly owners of huge areas of land that would make them incredibly rich, onto to the salty pond at the Mulwray house.

This where he becomes too violent and the aura of superman is disintegrating for he is very aggressive with the woman he had an affair with and he suspects is responsible for murder, having the wrong evidence.
The glasses he holds as irrefutable proof had not belonged to the victim and therefore even the best of detectives can be wrong.

This is an exceptional film.

marți, 8 august 2017

Note on Exam, written and directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Note on The Invisible Woman, starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, wit...

Note on Savages, directed by Oliver Stone, with Salma Hayek, John Travolta

Note on RED, with Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Bruce Willis

Note on The Edge of Seventeen, with Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson

Some Like It Hot, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond suggested by stories by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan,10 out of 10

Some Like It Hot, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond suggested by stories by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Some Like It Hot is one of the best films ever made, included on various prestigious lists, including my favorite top 50.
It is on the All-TIME 100 Movies list:

the writer and director Billy Wilder is also one of the best in the “Screen Trade”, winner of Six Academy Awards and responsible for masterpieces like:

-          Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Seven Years Itch, The Apartment and perhaps his best: Some Like It Hot

Leading the cast is the incredible Marilyn Monroe, also in one of her best, if not their top performance in this fantastic comedy.
Jack Lemmon as Jerry and then Daphne and Tony Curtis as Joe aka Josephine aka Shell Oil Junior have written pages of cinema history here.

Joe and Jerry are two musicians that are accidental witnesses of a bloody attack by mobsters led by Spats Colombo.
They are desperate to get out of town and remain alive, for they know what the mafia does to those who see their murders.

Alas, the only way out of town, in a band of musicians is to join a band of…women performers and they take the ticket.

They arrive at the train station and watch with infinite desire the passing Marilyn Monroe in a scene that is also included in cinema history.
Joe and Jerry have now become Josephine and Daphne respectively, but they both long for the beautiful Sugar Kane Kowalczyk aka Marilyn Monroe.

When they reach Florida, another historical moment is staged, where a line of men, all sitting on chairs, look after the all-girl band, moving at the same time- legs, necks and all…
Joe has an idea about how to seduce Sugar, who told him/her about her dreams of meeting a young, rich playboy.

So Joe is no longer Josephine, at least for a while, as he dresses again as a man, Shell Oil Junior to be more precise.
This rich contraption has a yacht and more importantly, a cunning plan to conquer the heart of any woman- maybe.

One could think of the greatest writer ever- Marcel Proust, who says in Remembrance of Things Past that we want what we do not have.
And Shell Oil- what a wondrous name- is not interested in women, although he has tried to see an analyst about that…

Meanwhile, Jerry stays in the shoes and clothes of Daphne and a real millionaire, Osgood Fielding III becomes infatuated with him/her.
The result is hilarious and the writers have been using comedy for what may be subversive themes for the time.

Behind all the laughter, there may be a message of tolerance and acceptance, in a period when homosexuality was illegal.
This is not a gay themed film, but the idea that a man can be attracted by another male, albeit dressed as a woman could be seen as advanced for 1959.

-          “Jerry: Have I got things to tell you!
-          Joe: What happened?
-          Jerry: I'm engaged.
-          Joe: Congratulations. Who's the lucky girl?
-          Jerry: I am!”

Well, how much funnier or subversive the dialogue can get? The answer is in the next quote form this magnificent, glorious comedy:

-          “Jerry: Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all.
-          Osgood: Why not?
-          Jerry: Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde.
-          Osgood: Doesn't matter.
-          Jerry: I smoke! I smoke all the time!
-          Osgood: I don't care.
-          Jerry: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player.
-          Osgood: I forgive you.
-          Jerry: [tragically] I can never have children!
-          Osgood: We can adopt some.
-          Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! Ohh...[Jerry finally gives up and pulls off his wig]
-          Jerry: [normal voice] I'm a man!

-          Osgood: [shrugs] Well, nobody's perfect! [Jerry looks on with disbelief as Osgood continues smiling with indifference…”

luni, 7 august 2017

Note on Summertime aka L'estate Addosso, with Matilda Lutz, Brando Pacitto

Note on The China Syndrome, with Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas

Note on Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, written, directed by Alex ...

Note on Black Hawk Down, directed by Ridley Scott, with Sam Sheperd, Ewa...

Note on Cedar Rapids, with Ed Helms, John C Reilly, Anne Heche

Catch Me If You Can, written by Jeff Nathanson based on the books by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding, 9 out of 10

Catch Me If You Can, written by Jeff Nathanson based on the books by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

This is one of the best films ever made.
It is included on various lists with the greatest motion pictures and on my own best 100 films, maybe 150.

The director is also one of the best in cinema history, the one who offered audiences unforgettable memories with:

-          Schindler’s List, E. T., Saving Private Ryan, Munchen, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, The Color Purple

Even if the story sounds incredible and obviously some scenes have been created for the screen and dramatic effect, this is based on a true story.
With the credits, we also learn about what happens next with the protagonists and even if I will not disclose it, it adds to the feeling of exhilaration.

Frank Abagnale Jr. is a fantastic hero, otherwise an avid reader of comic books, from which he takes one of his aliases.
Leonardo di Caprio is fascinating in this role, together with the other mesmerizing members of the cast:

-          Tom Hanks aka Carl Hanratty, Cristopher Walken aka Frank Abagnale, Martin Sheen as Roger Strong, and splendid Amy Adams in the role of Brenda Strong
Even he never finished high school, The Talented Mr. Abagnale is so skilled at making false documents that he spends millions of dollars.

Because he is still so young and he has some psychological issues, he poses as a doctor, airline pilot and lawyer.
He is chased through most of his criminal life by Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent who becomes attached to his nemesis.

There are funny scenes, one of which has Carl entering Frank’s room to arrest him, only to stumble upon a Secret Service agent.
The latter explains and boasts that they have been ahead and the FBI was not the only ones chasing for Abagnale.

When Carl is asking for an ID, this Secret Service man gives him the wallet and distracts him by showing his partner who escorts the criminal to the car…
Only looking at the wallet, after being alone in the room for some time, Carl sees that he has been fooled- that was Frank and the wallet has nothing but useless newspaper cuts.

If an analyst would try to explain the personality of the young impersonator, perhaps he would say that Frank was dissatisfied with his life, the divorce of his parents and would desperately seek a new ego…
He used the false checks to get money, costumes like the ones James Bond was wearing, a car of the same type and used the name Fleming to travel around, meeting a woman who asked for an offer to spend the night…

Frank is facing a beauty (Jennifer Garner) and when they come to the price of $ 1,000 for the whole night, he cannot help but use a scam, yet again, pretending to go to the reception to cash a check and then taking $ 400 from the woman, because he fooled her with a useless piece of paper that had $ 1,400 written on it.
In a hospital, he meets Brenda Strong- irresistible Amy Adams, especially without the braces-and seduces her, pretending to be a doctor and vomiting when called to work on a bleeding patient, his credentials being obviously all false.

Frank decides to marry the girl, meet her family and Roger Strong aka Martin Sheen who has a law degree and therefore the would be son in law decides to use his law degree (yeah, right!) to work as a… lawyer.

When asked about his degree, it turns out he went to the same school as the father- Berkeley- and there is an awkward moment when Roger Strong asks about a mean professor and his dog…what was the name?...after a long pause in which he kept his cool, Frank says that the dog is dead now, alas.
Then he is invited to say the prayer at table, before they would proceed to eat and the young man does not hesitate:

-          Two mice fell in a bucket of water…one of them fell and drowned and the other kept moving until it became butter…

Even if this is the most outré, fanciful prayer that I have heard- but then I am not a believer, so I do not hear many- the mother was thrilled with it.
After this, Frank has passed the bar exam and his follower Carl keeps asking about how did he pass it…did he cheat?

duminică, 6 august 2017

Note on Buddy, Buddy, directed by Billy Wilder, with Jack Lemmon, Walter...

Barney’s Version, written by Michael Konyves, based on the novel by Mordecai Richler, directed by Richard J. Lewis, 9 out of 10

Barney’s Version, written by Michael Konyves, based on the novel by Mordecai Richler, directed by Richard J. Lewis
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Barney’s Version is a very peculiar narrative of a strange man- Barney Panofsky.
He is portrayed by the always superlative Paul Giamatti.

The rest of the cast is splendid, with cameo appearances from four Canadian directors, including Atom Egoyan.

-          Dustin Hoffman is the heavyweight, but he is far from the days of The Graduate, Rainman or Kramer vs. Kramer

On the other hand, the actresses playing the wives of this producer who had charm, but was not so attractive are doing a good job:

-          Minnie Driver and Rosamund Pike especially

Barney Panofsky has a first infatuation that ends up in a marriage in Italy, where the humor is involuntary.
In front of the authority that makes the marriage legal, the future husband is surprised by his bride-to-be:

-          First, he finds out that he does not really know her real name, for she had been married and did not change the passport…
-          Then, when a rather unhappy man is asking about further secrets, things he should know…like are there any children?
-          The answer is…yes…two

Very disturbed by all this, the otherwise mild and pleasant Barney keeps away from his first wife for a while.
When he asks his friend about any mail, he discovers a message from his spouse, inviting him to a specially cooked meal, for the evening of…a few days ago.

Realizing that he had missed this and it could be serious, Barney is off to her place, where, alas, he finds her dead.
There is no spoiler alert needed here, since this is a story told by an older man and we know from the start most of what had happened.

The death of his first wife comes up again at a later stage, when there is another incident and the detective investigating the missing friend believes that is a case of murder and he cites this past suicide as supporting his case.
Anyway, after a while, Barney meets with Minnie Driver aka the second wife of the hero, their marriage being marked by odd events.

First of all, Barney’s father, Izzy Panofsky- a rather tired and not phenomenal Dustin Hoffman-has a special wedding gift: a gun
But most important, at this special ceremony, Barney falls in love…and not with his wife to be, but with a guest…

Miriam Grant-later Panofsky- is there and the groom is fascinated and infatuated with her at first sight, confirming in a way the theory of “thin slicing” explained in the masterpiece Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by the genius Malcolm Gladwell.
In a few minutes, the groom suggests going to Rome, but Miriam aka Rosamund Pike refuses the invitation.

Notwithstanding this rejection, the groom abandons the ceremonies and guests and goes to the railway station.
The two do not run away with the train, but a dissatisfied husband, right from day one is a rare occurrence and this one is just bored and annoyed throughout his honeymoon and subsequent period.

His wife does cheat on him with his friend and there is a kerfuffle and the two friends have an argument near the lake.
Boogie, a good friend so far, falls in the lake and then disappears, in what the police believe to be a revenge killing.

Barney marries, after some ridiculous scenes in which he gets drunk and instead of seducing Miriam, he forces her to support him to bathroom, where he vomits, is then helped to the bed and pampered by the woman.
Paul Giamatti is outstanding in a complex, challenging role for which he received the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor.