miercuri, 31 ianuarie 2018

The Ipcress File with Michael Caine

The Ipcress File with Michael Caine

The Ipcress File has won the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and was nominated for the most prestigious cinema prize:

The Palme d’Or

In 1966, this was a tough competition, with motion pictures like:

The Hill

Michael Caine, one of the best actors that British cinema has given the world, was nominated for:

The BAFTA Award for Best British Actor, for his portrayal of Harry Palmer, the main character of this spy story

This film has a familiar story, but the magic rests in the manner of rendering the narrative on to the big screen.
In addition, Michael Caine is excellent in the title worker.

A number of leading British and other Western scientists have been kidnapped and their return is confusing.
One of them for instance is a reputed professor and comes back to address a panel of colleagues.

He starts his address and then stops in the middle of his second sentence.
Amnesia appears to be the cause.
However, the British Intelligence is working on this issue and has understood what happened in large part.

Moreover, they are not the only ones following the developments, since the CIA has sent agents in the field.
Harry Palmer is the hero of the film and he has a very appealing, amusing at times presence and actions.

He is not James Bond or Ethan Hunt, but he is a rebel and there are resemblances with these other, more famous spies.
Actually, his superior officer relies on the independent spirit of this agent to uncover an inside conspiracy.

For some time, these notes have been looking at the Character Strengths that film heroes have or miss.
Harry Palmer shows:

Bravery, Creativity, Persistence, Integrity, Curiosity, Open- mindedness, Love of learning, Perspective
Citizenship, Fairness, perhaps not so much Prudence and Mercy…

He is also strong on:

Self-regulation, Humor, Hope, Gratitude, Appreciation of Excellence, Social Intelligence, Kindness and Vitality

In his past, Harry Palmer has been on the wrong side of the law, dealing in the black market in Germany.
He was offered a deal- work with the Secret Intelligence Service or go to prison for some years.

With humor, he says:

“And the food is terrible in jail”

One of his hobbies or passions is cooking and enjoying good food, so eating the penitentiary meals must have seemed awful.
Harry Palmer is soon on the tracks of the main suspect and he finds a lot of information…so much that he is kidnapped.

He shows resilience and an incredible strain, his loyalty being put to the test, under the most difficult circumstances.

The Ipcress File is a very good motion picture.

The Guardian, with Kevin Costner

The Guardian, with Kevin Costner

The subject of this film is familiar, but it still makes for a meaningful, gripping story.

In addition, I believe Kevin Costner is excellent.
I can't say that about his partner, Kushner.

In fact, I have such an allergy to the latter that I stopped watching Two and a Half Men, when he took the stage.
I see him as over the to, artificial.

Without him, The Guardian would have been so much better.
For this viewer anyway.

The motion picture dives straight into action.

In the first few scenes, the hero, a Coast Guard rescuer, jumps from a helicopter into the rough waters of the Ocean.
A couple is there and they could very well drown, in the next couple of minutes.

It is a climax reached after a few minutes into the film.
Nevertheless, this is not the only one.

The husband is trying hard to get into the cage that takes victims from the water.
The Guardian tells him that he will take the wife first.

The man would not listen.
The hero has to get rough, but it is still without effect.

In fact, the husband is pushing the spouse into the depth of the ocean.
And the rescuer has to dive to get her.

In some way, the film could be over after these few moments.

So much was packed inside that it felt fulfilling and exhilarating.

Later on, the hero explains to his wife that:

The man was driven by the survival instinct.
It is natural.

The scene has reminded me of a Nordic film wherein an avalanche hits the hotel and the man runs for his life, abandoning wife and children.

The Guardian explains to his wife that he realized something of vital importance:

He was doing the same thing to her...
Pushing his wife to suffocate and die.

Not in water and without intent.
But with the same effect.

It is an awkward, poignant and remarkable moment.
This man is actually ready to sacrifice his life to save others!

What more could one do?!
It is the ultimate Role Model!

The Ubermensch!
Superman without the cape, with the diving costume.

And yet, he realized that being always on call, he made his own wife suffer.
He is on duty and in danger all the time.

And she cannot cope with that.
She needs a husband.

Not a dead body...even that could be denied, if his corpse is taken by the ocean.
So the protagonist understands, belatedly, that his spouse needs him.

However, when the call comes and he has the chance to save his best student, the Guardian does not hesitate for a moment.
And this notwithstanding the fact that he had discovered that he has some limitations now, with age and all that work and effort, he had been ready and had resigned his post.

The Guardian has all the imaginable Character strengths.

Bravery, Persistence, Love, Hope, Gratitude, Citizenship, Modesty, Fairness, Self-regulation, Vitality and the list would never end.

There are other , more popular films that are similar in some ways to this very good motion picture:

Full Metal Jacket and Biloxi Blues are just two of them.

The end of the film is also interesting, without having the sweet, banal conclusion that we are so used with.

luni, 29 ianuarie 2018

Michael the Brave aka Mihai Viteazul, writer Titus Popovici

Michael the Brave aka Mihai Viteazul, writer Titus Popovici

This film used to be such an entertainment and somewhat miraculous achievement…when I was about ten…
Maybe twelve.

However, as time goes by, we become wiser, most of us, and capable to distinguish value from junk.
This is not to say that Michael the Brave is garbage.

In fact, there are many Character Strengths that both the main character and the actor playing it have:
Amza Pellea is portraying this Wallachian Prince and the former has been one of the best actors we ever had.

Michael the Brave used to be celebrated as one of the most, if not the most important of all rulers.
Communists, nationalists used to, and are still religiously admiring leaders that they say promoted the “nation”.

This prince has miraculously united the three provinces that make up Romania today, but had been ruled as separate lands for centuries.
Corrupt or just mistaken historians have attributed this achievement to noble ideas related to one people, one country.

Only the reality was different.
Most likely, Michael the Brave was much more interested in gaining more power and taking control of a large territory.

His motives must have been more tactical, military, diplomatic and political than idealistic nationalism.

Michael the Brave was one of the elements, historical figures that have been used to create a glorious scenario.
In that version of history, which is alas still a holy text for so many lost cases here, the Austrians have been saved by…us.

Perhaps even the French and the Germans!
Because we stood watch over here and protected the Christian West!

The advancing Turkish, Ottoman hordes had to fight us!
In addition, we have so often defeated them!

This is of course just nonsense.

However, Michael the Brave is part of that proposition and the film is supposed to glorify and consecrate the character.
Having said that, I must now emphasize that this was not some silly puppet, maneuvered by the Ottoman sultan.

Here are just some of the Signature Strengths demonstrated by this phenomenal military and political leader:

Bravery, Creativity, Open-mindedness, Perspective-well, up to a point-Leadership, Mercy, sometimes,
Persistence, Curiosity, Vitality, Social Intelligence, Hope, Spirituality, Integrity-to a great extent

As a ruler of a small territory, surrounded by enemies like the mighty Ottoman Empire and the Austro- Hungarian one, choices were bad.

The film portrays military victories that, even if exaggerated by propaganda motives or just silly belief, did exist.
Michael the Brave, Mircea the Old, Steven the Great are just three of the many princes that had to face the Turks.

Their victories must be noted and to a degree admired, but we must not live in a past that is magnified and finally discredited.
Yes, we did try to maintain independence, but faced with a much bigger force we mostly failed.

Nevertheless, Michael the Brave can serve as a role model, but only if we also admit his shortcomings.

duminică, 28 ianuarie 2018

Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele

Get Out, written and directed by Jordan Peele

Get Out is acclaimed as one of the best films of 2017, nominated for Golden Globes and four Oscars…
In addition, some of the most important ones at that:

Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Achievement in Directing and
Best Original Screenplay.

In my opinion, there are small chances for the film to win in any of the categories, albeit Moonlight was an outsider last year.
For this viewer it was lucky that the information that this is a horror film was missing initially, for I would have a different, negative mindset, for I tend not to watch this genre of motion pictures…

-          What am I saying, I never watch horror knowingly…
-          Well, if it is appreciated as one of the best movies of the year, it must be noticed and watched, at least for some minutes

Get Out starts out reasonably and it continues like that, on the horrifying front anyway, where there is not much to terrify audiences.
We have a deer that dies, when the car of the protagonists hit it on the road and the poor animal makes a very upsetting, painful sound.

Moreover, this happens in the first few minutes, while white Rose Armitage aka Allison Williams drives Chris Washington aka the Oscar nominated Daniel Kaluuya to her parents’ home in the country.
Chris is African American and much of the story revolves around that, from the moment when he asks his girlfriend if her parents are aware that he is black.

After they hit the deer, they call the police and the white man of the law asks for the ID of the man in the car…

“Why are you asking for his ID? He wasn’t driving?” Is a reasonable attitude, although the policeman explains that this is standard procedure after an accident happens…only the fact that he is asking an African American raises a question, or more

Once they arrive at the estate, where there is a large, luxurious mansion and a sizeable property, a series of strange incidents start to happen, some of which made me smile, again, not knowing this is actually a horror film.
The parents are apparently friendly and accommodating, albeit in an outré manner and Missy Armitage, the mother, is soon somewhat harsh with the African American servant who spills some tea.

Missy is a psychiatrist and the father, Dean, is a surgeon who quickly asks if Chris is smoking and specifies that the analyst of the family had cured him, through hypnosis, making him sick at the thought of cigarettes.
During the night, the guest walks out to smoke a cigarette, observing the weird behavior of the maid and being almost run over by the gardener, who is also African American, at least in appearance, while he is jogging…in the middle of the night.

On the next day, a large group of guests arrives for the annual party and they all act like if this is a Vampire Ball, one of them measuring the muscles on Chris ‘arms, another saying that Black is in fashion.
The only other African American at this shindig acts in a way that suggests he is either hypnotized or…someone else is in control of his mind.

Chris is intrigued and more and more suspicious of all this “paranormal” activity until a nadir is reached.
The “brother” who seems to be “owned” by a rather corpulent, twice as old woman has a strange breakdown:

When Chris uses the flash of his phone, the only other African American guest attacks him viciously.
This is explained as an effect of the epilepsy that is plaguing the young man, but The hero knows about this disease and is convinced the clarification is actually a lie and in line with all the “shit” that has been going on at this weird place.

When he understands that something awful is taking place, after finding on the internet about the identity of the “epileptic” man, who has been missing for some years, after a career as a jazz musician in New York and is now transformed into a completely different, outlandish “sex slave”, Chris decides to leave right away.
Rose says she loves him and shows compassion, while deciding to find an excuse and leave the parents’ house earlier.

This is where it becomes terrifying and without going into details, I will just say that Things Fall Apart.

Get Out is a good motion picture, notwithstanding the fact that it is not really my cup of tea and some propositions are preposterous…

sâmbătă, 27 ianuarie 2018

The Godfather: Part II, based on the novel by Mario Puzo

The Godfather: Part II, based on the novel by Mario Puzo

The Godfather Part II is an exhilarating, magnificent chef d’oeuvre, one of the best ten films ever made.

Some feminists criticize this work of art as expressing the male admiration for a violent mobster.
Even if there is some grain of truth in that statement, the reality is much more complex, like the protagonist of the motion picture.

Michael Corleone is the Godfather in this sequel to the other masterpiece, wherein Marlon Brando was Vito Corleone.
In addition, this is both a hero and the evil character, making the film so much more interesting, with his complicated personality.

Some of the Character Strengths that the leader of one of the most powerful Mafia families has are:

-          Bravery, Curiosity, Persistence, Perspective, even Citizenship at the time of his volunteer enrollment in the army
-          Also Leadership, Vitality, Love, Social Intelligence, Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, Gratitude…

Some, if not most of these qualities have helped him keep control of the organization and diversify the operations.
However, it is also difficult to appreciate this powerful personality since these skills have been put to the wrong use.

Moreover, it could all have been so different.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie takes place decades in the past, on the birthday of Vito Corleone.

It was also the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and this is the subject of conversation at the table.

Sonny is meant to be the future Godfather and in the same room, we have Fredo, Tom Hagen, Connie and Michael.
The elder brother is convinced that the many thousands that have volunteered to fight the enemy are stupid.

Nevertheless, Michael emphasizes that they will fight for their country and that appears to be the noble thing to do…

-          Fight for strangers?...you fight for your family- that appears to be the credo as expressed by Vito Corleone himself
-          To fight for the country is the right thing to do
-          Yeah? Why don’t you skip college and join the army then!?
-          I did…
-          What?! You idiot…these are not quotes, but the dialogue as I remember it

Then tom Hagen is expressing amazement and he says:

-          Why didn’t you come to us?
-          What for?
-          Your father has pulled a lot of strings to save you from joining
-          I did not ask for that
-          Your father has talked a lot about your future with me…
-          My future?
-          Yes, he has such high hopes for you Michael…

The always impulsive and neurotic Sonny tries to beat his younger brother, but this is so relevant and thought provoking.
In The first part of The Godfather, Michael talks to Kate at the memorable wedding and states clearly that, although his family has this very dark side, he is not like that and he has other ideals.

Therefore, it is so ironic that the young idealist, who saw himself so different from his siblings and father, ends up running the family “business”.

The values of the young Michael Corleone have all vanished? Alternatively, is this just a case of a found identity?
This of course makes the plot and this phenomenal film so much appealing, with its intricate philosophical issues.

The film that the popular vote on IMDB has placed at number three is not just a gangster movie, violent and simple.
The Godfather is an example of failure, for his marriage is finished under the most gruesome circumstances, his brother Fredo is killed, and the family name is tarnished when a Senate investigation is opened.

The Godfather: Part II is a glorious, phenomenal motion picture.

Notes on a Scandal, based on the novel by Zoe Heller

Notes on a Scandal, based on the novel by Zoe Heller

This good film benefits from the performances of the brilliant

Judi Dench, now Dame, and Cate Blanchett.
Bill Nighy is also excellent.

Dame Judi Dench portrays a teacher, Barbara, which has one year or so before retirement.
In her school, a new colleague is played by Cate Blanchett.

This younger professor is called Sheba.
She has trouble facing the noisy, often rude and belligerent students.

One day, Barbara is passing by the class where a fight is in progress.
She comes in, establishing order again and takes the two boys out for scolding.

Barbara is very friendly and amiable.
The younger teacher invites the senior to her house.

Sheba is married to a much older man, Richard aka Bill Nighy.
They have two children, a girl and a boy who is autistic.

The motion picture has a voice over and Barbara is the one telling the story or the

Notes on a Scandal

We gradually understand that Barbara has more than just a "normal, usual" interest in helping a younger, charming colleague.
Details of a previous relationship with a woman come forward.

This film is exceptional and the slow access into the intimacy of the protagonists is part of the secret of its success.
Barbara is just about sure that her friendship with Sheba is set to become ever more resplendent.

During a school play, the older teacher reserves a seat next to her for her friend.
But when the latter does not come, she starts looking.

This is one climax or the nadir of the story, depending on how you look at it.

For in a room near the school, Sheba and the fifteen year old Steven are having...sex!
The older woman is flabbergasted!

Outraged, she is facing her younger colleague and threatens:

You end this now, or I will inform the school master!
Yes, I will!

Barbara is then playing the role of the confidant.
Tell me all about it.

The boy is only fifteen, but so adult in his manner.
He insisted, sent messages and finally seduced his teacher.

If we are to take this view, of course.
It is clear now that Barbara is a lesbian, attracted to the beautiful, younger woman.

She sees this as the amazing chance to play all this adversity and trauma to her advantage.
In the end, Sheba will see that her family, husband and kids are not her happiness.

She will move with Barbara and they will live happily ever after.
Or so the latter thinks.

And all is well for a while.
Until Barbara sees the young man in the garden of her friend.

She is out of her mind with fury.
Threats, blackmail and many scenes follow.

Sheba has not ended her affair with the fifteen year old!

One of the school teachers comes to Barbara to confess that he is in love with Sheba and to ask for advice.
This is another nadir.

The disappointed woman throws the bomb...
Sheba appears to like much younger men, boys really...

They say that she has an affair with this pupil...Steven.

All hell breaks loose.
The boy's mother comes to Sheba's house and starts knocking her about.

Whore! How could you do that! And many expletives are shouted.
The authorities place the teacher under accusation.

Mass media gathers at the gate and of course, the husband is mad.
Barbara has to face consequences too.

The headmaster gives her the option to retire earlier or face the storm.
Barbara has had a very rocky, to put it mildly, relationship with her previous love interest.

The other younger teacher has gone to a solicitor who has sent restricting orders.
Barbara has threatened that woman's boyfriend and has really been more than a nuisance.

Notes on a Scandal is an exhilarating drama

joi, 25 ianuarie 2018

The Caine Mutiny based on the Pulitzer Prize Winner

The Caine Mutiny based on the Pulitzer Prize Winner

This film is included on the New York Times' Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list.
And the original material has won the Pulitzer Prize.

In a strange manner, I have almost missed a chef d'oeuvre.
When I had started reading the book, first the large size, then the introduction to the narrative did not appeal to me.

So I have placed this aside and thought that reading hundreds of pages about men isolated and mutinous on a ship is not my cup of tea.
But luckily, I tried this again and what a treat I have been given.

The film is excellent, even if I prefer the novel.
It is based on a story that never happened.

It is made clear from the start that the American navy has never had a mutiny on board one of its vessels.
Or maybe they said not a successful one.

Anyway, even if this is purely fictional, it is still a gripping account.
The captain of the Caine has so many elements of madness.

He is obsessed with the tail shirts of the sailors under his command to an absurd point.
In fact, while he is reprimanding someone on the ship, the vessel is cutting its own line.

Paying attention to a minor detail, the commanding officer made a much graver mistake of letting the ship sail in a complete circle.
In another instance,scared and afraid for his life, the captain increases the speed of the Caine beyond the limit at which it could be followed.

The attack teams that were supposed to sail with the ship are left to follow a yellow line on the water.
Therefore, the captain became The Yellow Stain.

This neurotic man is continuously playing with steel balls in his hands.
And he becomes crazy about some...strawberries!

The captain finds out that there are no more strawberries and he decides to have an investigation!
Someone has eaten maybe five hundred grams of the fruit and that is unacceptable.

So, in the middle of the night, this commander makes his officer search for e culprit.
He has everyone looking for the...key.

He is sure that the criminal has  made a copy, unlocked the strawberries and has eaten them.
Someone in the right mind would have balanced the gains and losses of this stupid, exhausting action and given up.

Not the captain of the Caine.

And there are other crazy things he does, recorded in a book by the second in command.
In a typhoon, the latter takes over and states that the captain is unfit and cannot control the vessel.

And I totally agreed with that.
Consequently, I was cheering for the mutineers in the following trial.

The accusations wee very serious and the accused could be hanged if found guilty. A
They are fortunate because they are defended by an exceptional lawyer.

Nevertheless, the proceedings of the trial are not favorable for the accused.
It seems that the witnesses, even those thought favorable, do not help their cause.

On the contrary.
But then the captain aka Humphrey Bogart takes the stage.

For some minutes, he appears to be the sane, good commanding officer.
And then there is a dramatic change.

The phenomenal surprise takes place out of court though.
And all that the reader has been made to believe is shattered.

The Caine Mutiny is an astounding, memorable masterpiece.

miercuri, 24 ianuarie 2018

Lone Star, writer, director John Sayles, Nine out of ten

Lone Star, writer, director John Sayles
Nine out of ten

Lone Star is an excellent film that was produced in the same year with The English Patient and Fargo
The writer John Sayles had to compete with the latter, Shine, Jerry Maguire and Secrets and Lies for the Oscar and Golden Globe

Chris Cooper is formidable as Sam Deeds, the sheriff of Rio County, in the Lone Star State of Texas.
At the debut of the movie, some human remains are found in the desert and finding the identity of the dead man will become an activity that uncovers many secrets from the past of the town.

That skeleton had been buried for decades, but the dental information and the sheriff star found help identify it:

-          It was Charlie Wade

Many narratives have a good and an evil character and this Charlie Wade has been as evil as one can get.
Notwithstanding the fact that he had been the sheriff, he did not respect the law and abused his position.

He took money from any illegal activity that took place in the small town and punished anyone who tried to cross him.
That retribution was more than cruel and it meant most often violent beatings, but also killing men.

Charlie Wade has a confrontation with Buddy Deeds, the father of the sheriff that the viewers see in the first scenes of the film.
The narrative involves travelling in the past to learn about the different events that explain the gruesome discovery from the desert.

Buddy Deeds has been a much-respected sheriff who took over from Wade, after the latter…disappeared.
The common wisdom is that after the open conflict, Wade had been killed and then his body disposed of by Buddy.

Witnesses or those who have suffered at the hands of Charlie Wade recount ghastly scenes from the past.
However, Sam Deeds is unhappy with what he finds about his own father, who has been committing crimes.

Although Buddy has been not just much better than the man he replaced but seen as most inhabitants as a kind of protective angel, this sheriff did get people to work at his house, was involved in various illegalities and cheated on his wife.
Nevertheless, Wade was something else…an outrageous brute, which stole and killed with impunity until his end came.

In one instance, he walks into this bar where he takes money as a protection fee and abuses his power.
One new waiter is humiliated and made to understand who the boss is by despicable, sadistic means.

At another moment, a Mexican man who takes illegal refugees across the border has a problem with his truck.
Sheriff Wade drives his patrol car and stops to ask about the traffic with people and mentions, as always that he has to take a cut out of every business.

The sheriff asks about guns and when he is told that the driver has a hunting rifle, he asks to see that.
This is just a trap and the means to have an alibi in case he needs one to explain how the man was shot…
Because as the Mexican man is touching the rifle, he is shot and killed in cold blood, without any reason whatsoever.

There is a love story with a strange twist that is told parallel with the investigation into the death of Wade.
Sam Deeds has been in love since high school with Pilar Cruz, the daughter of a prominent local businessperson.

His father has been very determined in opposing their relationship and making every effort to stop it.
At the end, we see why.

Lone Star is an excellent film, included on The New York Times ‘Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made List:

The Square, written and directed by Ruben Ostlund

The Square, written and directed by Ruben Ostlund

The Square is one of the remarkable films of 2017.
Maybe we should say one of the best of the decade.

It is thought provoking, fresh, unusual, combining humor with drama.
The Square is a work of modern art with a message:

Within this square drawn on the floor, " we all have equal right and obligations ".

This motion picture deals with political themes, such as inequality, immigration, discrimination.
Christian is the hero of the narrative and he is the head curator of the Modern Art Museum of Copenhagen.

Early on, he has an interview with Anne, a journalist who is portrayed by Elizabeth Moss.
And the audience is soon invited to think about

What is art?
If I take your bag and place it in the museum on display, does that make it an object of art?

As a matter of fact, piles of gravel are arranged in a room and they constitute part of the exhibit.
In order to attract attention and funding, the museum decides to work with an agency.

The young men explain that it is difficult to get the attention on the Internet, when there are so many news and events competing for an ever decreasing attention span.
So they suggest something that will take the elements that get people to watch and exploit them...

Beggars, violence

And what they come with and this will shock and cause outrage is a video with a five year old Blonde beggar who is blown up in front of the Museum of Modern Art...
This will get you the attention you crave...and indeed it got a lot of coverage.

While in a public square, Christian is robbed, his phone, wallet are taken.
With tracking devices now widely available, he is able to locate the phone.

The building where it is, not the exact apartment.
So letters are printed and delivered to all the mail boxes, accusing the receiver of being a thief and threatening and asking for the phone and wallet back.

The possessions are returned, but during this process, an innocent child is hurt.
His parents get the letter and are convinced that the innocent boy has committed the crime.

Christian shows here the ugly face of his character.
Although a smart, Creative, Open-minded, sophisticated man, he is also arrogant and at times obnoxious, cruel and discriminatory.

He has sex with the journalist Anne and this is the occasion for some strange situations.
After the intercourse, the woman asks for the condom.

He would not give it, albeit she insists.
The outre moment becomes really outlandish when they both start pulling the used condom.

Perhaps to top it all or just to add another absurd, bizarre occurance, a chimpanzee comes to the other room...
There is another bizarre performance, involving an artist called Oleg, who is acting like a primate.

This "performer" pushes things further and further, until he attacks a woman from the audience, bent on raping her, hurting and pulling the victim by the hair.
Finally, men intervene, but now it is their turn to act viciously and with horrendous brutality.

You have nothing

This is written on the wall of the piles of gravel artwork.
In another exhibition, visitors are asked to make a choice:

If you trust people, enter this door
With mistrust as the chosen option, there is another door.

Christian takes his two daughters and once they reach The Square, they are asked to leave the phones and wallets in that space.
They find that difficult, given the extreme and absurd attachment we all have with out phones aka our souls.

Very provocative, creative, unusual and memorable motion picture.
It was nominated for a Golden Globe and, just a few hours ago, for an Academy Award for

Best Foreign Motion Picture

I'd say it deserves to win as much as First They Killed My Father, Nelyubov aka Loveless, which are the other significant films that I have seen so far in this category.
For a BAFTA Handmaiden has been nominated, but I would vote for The Square instead.

The Animal by Tom Brady, Five out of 10

`              The Animal by Tom Brady
Five out of 10

                The Animal is a ridiculous film
Nevertheless, this is also the case with so many productions from Hollywood and elsewhere, with works like:

-          The Avengers, Transformers and so many more

The premise of the film is preposterous:
Marvin aka Rob Schneider is working at the police department, but in an unimportant capacity.

One day, there is an emergency call from a store that is being robbed, only the staff are off…this is a ridiculous comedy, remember?
While his colleagues are at a game, Marvin is the only one who can take the call and try to find help.

He is unable, so he takes action himself.
On the way to the unfolding event, the would be cop has an accident as he tries to avoid an animal.

In addition, he becomes…The Animal.
One better version of this note is ending here.

Since the comedy is not so interesting and humorous, why go on with a long note that does not add much, if anything…

-          Much Ado About Nothing!
-          That’s why

The car of the hero is overturned, not once, not twice, but multiple times and the driver would be dead.
In a serious film.

Moreover, this is not such a motion picture.
The audience is offered an interval wherein the protagonist is acting weird and we do not know the reason.

For instance, in some of the few worthwhile scenes, Marvin is running fast and appears different.
Whereas before the accident, he was mauled and taken down by the dog of his neighbor, things have changed now.

-          The Animal  is an Alpha Male now
-          So there is a new Pack Leader in town

 In addition, not just that.
This outré character is able to run faster than the rest, including a horse rider, who tries hard to pass The Animal.
The galloping horse is no match for this Brute.

Moreover, the public has the explanation, when a doctor comes out of the woods and explains how he cured the hero, destroyed has he had been after the accident.
Only this creature is not in control of his urges:

When he sees an attractive woman on the street, he engages in sex with a mailbox and attacks other animals, stakes, almost anything that tempts him.
Marvin east from the garbage bin and when he is attending a party, he jumps and attacks the cat of the hosts.
As he is fired from the police force, there is another outrageous development, as this combination of seal, with goat, monkey and other species is given the opportunity to save a boy.

In another incident, and then later in the film, Marvin is tempted by a…female goat that is in heat.
This is the kind of humor that is predominant in this silly comedy that actually has only a couple of minutes of honest entertainment.

There are some macaws early on and since I have two that I love, I continued and watched this silly film.
The female protagonist even says about parrots:

-          They have the IQ of a five year old…well, I don’t know about the humor level of those who wrote this script

duminică, 21 ianuarie 2018

Sullivan’s Travels, writer and director Preston Sturges

Sullivan’s Travels, writer and director Preston Sturges

                Sullivan’s Travels has been included on prestigious lists of the Best Films ever made:

John Sullivan is a celebrated director in Hollywood, many decades ago, when the action of this film takes place.
Nevertheless, he wants to take a break.

The producers that are in charge of his motion pictures and at that time, to some extent the director himself, oppose the idea.
Sullivan is interested in seeing the life of the poor people for himself and therefore is bent on going out in the world.

In addition, Sullivan would take along only 50 cents or about 100 dollars in today’s money.
The studio executives do not want to lose a creative man that has produced some successful comedies.

Therefore, they send a team with him, driving in a bus that keeps a distance of a few meters away from the director.
When a teenager, who is only fourteen, takes Sturges off the road, there is a chance to break free.

For that boy drives like crazy, at…forty miles an hour or so.
This in those days was like 300 kilometers per hour.

This trip ends though and the hero tries to have a drink and some food in a small bar near the road.
As he only has enough, or less, for a coffee, Sullivan has to go to the bus and ask for money to pay the Good Samaritan

The owner of that place has Kindness, Mercy and Spirituality, all Character Strengths and gave the hero food for no money.
He is recompensed when the studio team gives him back much more money than the meal was initially worth.

Sullivan tries again to take the road in order to experience what the live of destitute men is like.
He meets The Girl.

Moreover, one of the greatest stars of that and all time play her: Veronica Lake, an actor I am not crazy for.
She is Open-Minded, Merciful, Brave, Fair, Persistent, Kind, Grateful, Hopeful, Spiritual and has Vitality, among other Signature Strengths

After she pays for some ham and eggs for the hero, the latter offers her a ride and some help with her career.
The Girl wants to be an actor, but is on the point of giving up the struggle and returning to her home.

-          Can you give me a letter for Lubitsch?
-          Of course…Who is Lubitsch?

Sullivan says he has a friend and he could get his car so that The Girl does not have to take the train.
However, they end up in jail, because even if the car belongs to the rich director, he is dressed as a beggar.

In addition, the police do not believe him when he says who he is and that will happen again in the movie.
The rich director invites The Girl to his mansion and pool, after they are released from prison and a love affair is born.

The two go again on the road, as homeless, poor people and they are involved in serious events.
During one of them, Sullivan is robbed and hit on the head by one homeless person and train kills the latter.

The body is disfigured by the fatal accident and with the evidence they find, it is concluded that the director has died.
What is the end of all this?

Well, it is both meaningful and thought provoking, making this one of the best comedies ever made.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, written by Cameron Crowe

Fast Times at Ridgemont High, written by Cameron Crowe

This will be an attempt to look at Fast Times at Ridgemont High using a Positive Psychology lens…
Therefore, it should be a take…

Through a Glass…Brightly

Cameron Crowe has awed me with his Almost Famous, a motion picture for which he wrote the script and directed
He wrote the screenplay for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Jerry Maguire and the less astounding…We Bought a Zoo

The stars of Fast Times contribute as well to the success of this comedy that has been included on some Best Humor lists…
Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Ray Walston and the rest of the cast are very good in this film

Sean Penn is the main character, although he does not have much more screen time than the others do.
Jeff Spicoli is smoking marijuana or some other drug for most of the narrative and this makes him rather slow.

Humor is very important in Positive Psychology and in fact, it is a Character Strength, figured in
The Martin Seligman chart, available on the internet

Spicoli is one of the main funny elements in the story, with his confused apparitions and relaxed attitude…
Well, too relaxed approach.

In school, he is always late and this annoys his history teacher, Mr. Hand who insists that Spicoli is wasting his time…

-          Well, we are here, you are here
-          Yes…
-          This means it is…our time!

Jeff Spicoli has a point there, although his Persistence is not one of the Character Strengths, not in the way he uses it.
This naughty student comes to history class without a shirt on and he pushes his Creativity to invent wrong events.

At one point, during the same history class, a man comes to the door of the room to knock and disturb…

-          Who are you?
-          I am the pizza guy
-          Who ordered the salami with cheese
-          It’s over here…says Spicoli

Only the history teacher also has Open Mindedness and Perspective in this occasion and invites the class to eat the slices.
Outside class, Jeff Spicoli gets involved in other incidents, one of which is dangerous as it involves driving.

The young man is driving recklessly, while under the influence of drugs, and at one turn he provokes an accident.
Stacy Hamilton is another one of the main personages and she in the process of discovering her sexuality.

As she has sex with an arrogant teenager, the girl becomes pregnant and decides to have an abortion.
The cost is $ 150, which was the equivalent of a few thousand dollars in today’s money…I guess.

Mike Damone, the pretentious, selfish male does not contribute to the sum and does not even show up.
Notwithstanding the fact that he promised both to pay half the cost and to drive Stacy, he does neither.

The comedy is good.

However, I would not include it among the very best.

sâmbătă, 20 ianuarie 2018

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

This is a very good novel from the genius author of

Catcher in the Rye

I must say that it was not as exhilarating as The Catcher in the Rye, but Franny and Zooey are memorable characters in an excellent book.
I will insist on what has impressed me and confess that there are large parts that I did not get...

Or dig, as some would say...
These would be passages that I did not really see the point of

In fact, they gave me the impression of a game.
It was like Salinger was playing.

But as I said, I did not really engage with those sections and let me just write about what was inspiring.
Franny and Zooey are extremely intelligent, special siblings.
Franny is Zooey's sister and we meet her first.

She is very interested-in the first place I wanted to write obsessed- in a prayer and the story of a Russian pilgrim.
A very simple man, after suffering traumas, the death of the members of his family, he starts a search for God.

For the truth.
He meets a monk that is very familiar with the Holy book and also religious practices and this saintly individual teaches the Pilgrimhow to pray to Jesus Christ.

The idea, or the conviction is that it does not even matter what the human repeating this mantra believes!
If he repeats it continuously and with a special rhythm, this will just reach the soul...

It is not a quote, but what I gathered.
This speech pattern will somehow affect the beatings of the heart.

In another place, references are made to chakras.
The Eastern incantations are mentioned and their similarly with the prayer of the Pilgrim.

I thought this is fabulous!

I was thinking to start uttering this myself, in spite of my lack of faith.
But they say it works anyway!

On the other hand, it reminds me of that syllogism

Believe in God:
If he does exist, you win...you go to heaven
If he does not, you lose nothing...

Only it does not work like that.
Plus, Nathaniel Branden has a different take on this.
The classic author of Six Pillars of Self Esteem writes that religion is rather catastrophic for the well being of humans.

Zooey is very taken with Jesus.
However, he has the opinion that his sister does not understand the life of Jesus and what he stood for.

If God wanted someone like Francis of Assisi, he would have gotten him.
But Jesus Christ was extraordinary.

He said that we have Heaven within ourselves...
Or words to that effect.

Indeed, if I am not yet Redeemed and I do not yet believe in God, I am nevertheless convinced that if He does exist, we have to take the holy books as metaphors.
The fundamentalists who insist that the earth is only as old as the bible says, literally, do more damage to religion than so many atheists.
Karen Armstrong, maybe the most respected expert on religion, underlines that the scriptures had myths, legends that are not to be interpreted in a simplistic, ultimately stupid manner.

Overall, the reading of Franny and Zooey was a pleasure.

But there have been sections that I did not really enjoy.