luni, 30 decembrie 2019

The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang - Eight out of 10

The Farewell, written and directed by Lulu Wang
Eight out of 10

The Farewell is not just critically acclaimed, with an astounding, if perhaps exaggerated average Metascore of 89, nominated for two Golden Globes, one for Best Motion Picture and the other for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for Awkwafina – that’s right, she only uses one name, maybe because she is so amusing or she thinks she is on the same level with Madonna and the rest of one-name celebrities.

However, although this film has also won the Movie of the Year at the American Film Institute Awards –and others to boot – for this cinephile, this was interesting, with merits, but in no way equal to say The Current War and furthermore, to put ever more emphasis on how flawed the undersigned is, the nominated, appreciated Awkwafina is, if not the main, at least one of the most important reasons why the comedy flopped for this viewer, with her exaggerated, artificial and inadequate accents on various emotions highlighted in the movie that seems so déjà vu, sugary and easy to anticipate with clichés at every corner…
Having gone over the top with his silly dismissal, this viewer must say that the feature is spot on so many aspects, such as the exposition of differences between the East and the West – for a more comprehensive, if not the ultimate analysis on this subject, you could do no better than read Words at War: The 2,500 –Year Struggle Between East and West by the magnificent Anthony Pagden or at least the short note you find here: or the magnum opus Why the West Rules for Now by the glorious Ian Morris

The latter has one splendid joke, among so many fantastic tales, anecdotes, predictions about the future, extraordinary details – the fact that the Chinese, when they had a navy that would put Columbus and the West to such shame, decided to stop navigating the high seas, otherwise, the explorers would have found Chinese welcoming them in Central and south America…but here’s the joke, which explains so well what happened in Soviet Union, in our parts, where they brought the ‘benefits ‘of communism, which we still enjoy, after so many years after its demise and in Britain and elsewhere, were the proselytes of the Corbyn type to win elections:

Three Russian presidents, actually called General Secretaries, are taking the train and this stops in its tracks…
                - Take the train mechanic and flog him, says Stalin, only to discover that they are still stuck on the train
                - Rehabilitate and re instate the mechanic, decrees Nikita Khrushchev, but without any positive effect…
                - You know what, let’s just pretend the train is moving, concludes the third…

In The Farewell, Billi aka awkward Awkwafina speaks with her father and an uncle and one of them insists on the differences: in the East, one belongs to the community, to the family and indeed, this is what the major books aforementioned and surely so many others insist on, while in America, in the West in general, they insist on individuality, the right of everyone to act, do according to his own desires and taking less, if any, consideration of what the good of others would require.
Hence, the family that takes its Farewell from Nai Nai – Shushen Zhao, who acts in this role would have been a more legitimate nomination for this viewer – is scheduling a wedding to part with the honored grandmother, who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, but hide it from her – which would be illegal in America, as Billi, who lives and studies there, points out – just as she had done for her husband, until the last stage of his disease set in.

There is humor and we can admire especially Nai Nai and her old friend as they at times engage in some outré – for the West – physical exercises and when the matriarch conducts the ceremony at the grave of her departed husband, telling the others to bow three times, say one thing and other three or maybe four times…
Thus, the motion picture is educational, perhaps inspiring for those who have written so admiringly about it and listed it with the best of the year – and indeed, this could be equal in value, or lack thereof, to Once Upon time in Hollywood, Knives Out and even the glorified Marriage Story, in the book of this cinephile – but not for the undersigned, but this might just be a reason to say mea culpa…if one does not get it, it does not mean that the feature is bad, ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’

duminică, 29 decembrie 2019

The Grand Budapest Hotel, written and directed by Wes Anderson, inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig - 10 out of 10

The Grand Budapest Hotel, written and directed by Wes Anderson, inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig
10 out of 10

First, why not The Grand Bucharest Hotel? It would have been so fabulous to have our city with such a popular – included on the list of Top Rated Movies at 193 – critically acclaimed magnum opus – its average rating approaches 90 out of 100 – winner of 4 Oscars (although not the major ones for which it was short listed, Best Motion Picture and Best Director, it was won nonetheless the Golden Globe for Best Comedy – Musical and many other trophies)…our town is after all so frequently confused with Budapest…

The source of inspiration for this major, legendary by now motion picture could not have been any more impressive, for Stefan Zweig was a genius (not of the ‘stable’ variety that keeps barking from the White House, the golf courses and anywhere really) and his works are phenomenal from Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman, included on the Le Monde Best 100 Novels of the 20th Century list ( and Confusion (
Gustave H. aka resplendent Ralph Fiennes – deserving at the very least of nominations for the Oscar and the Golden globe – is at the center of this complex, most often hilarious, often dark, with accents of horror if we consider the murder of Madame D. aka Tilda Swinton (for some bizarre reason, one of the least favorite artists for this cinephile), beheading of one character, the knifing of others, the fingers cut off and eventual killing of Deputy Kovacs aka serene, aristocratic, Zen like Jeff Goldblum film that is also a thriller, an action movie wherein the hero and his Sancho Panza aka Zero Moustafa aka the remarkable newcomer Tony Revolori have to go through sensational adventures.

Gustave H. is the concierge of the iconic Budapest Hotel that interviews the lobby boy, dismissing in the first place the qualifications of the young man, up to the point where, with naiveté and genuine, if somewhat childish aplomb Zero declares that ‘anybody would want to be lobby boy at that institution’, when asked about the reasons for his wanting the job, which he gets and then he becomes entangled in a very convoluted affair, trying to find the witness that would prove the innocence of the concierge, accused as he stands of killing the deceased Madame D., a former lover that leaves in her testament an extremely precious painting, that the hero promises that would bring 1.5% to Zero, if he helps him in this adventure and, eventually, after he will have been dead, the boy would inherit this and everything else the main character has in possession.

When he learns of the death of Madame D., the main character takes the train with his companion, only to be stopped by the police, brutalized and then released by Henckels aka Edward Norton, who knows him from his stay at the Grand Budapest, but who would still have to conduct the chase, when Gustave becomes a suspect – he is announced that there is a warrant and comically, he starts running on the stairs of the establishment, pursued by a troop of men of the law, then he escapes and is helped by the gild of hoteliers or something like it, with Monsieur Ivan aka divine Bill Murray coming to the rescue with a car and refusing the symbolic, traditional tip offered from the meagre savings of the rather poor Zero.
Eventually, in conflict with Dmitri aka Oscar winner Adrien Brody, who sees the inheritance as legitimately his and hires the services of a ruthless, cruel goon and hit man, Jopling aka Willem Dafoe, who cuts the fingers of the executor of the will, Deputy Kovacs, and then kills him, threatens the main witness of the defense, Serge X. aka fabulous Mathieu Amalric – indeed, this tremendous, without equal, international cast in which an extraordinary star like Karl Markovics, leading actor in the resplendent The Counterfeiters and other gems, only has such a small role as to be almost a cameo, is one of the highlights of the movie – and may kill him and decapitate his sister in retaliation.

As Gustave is jailed, he comes to the allowed visitor with black eyes, claiming he has established his place as an alpha male within the group inside, and then does make some useful connections and friends among the inmates, some of whom decide to take him on an escape plan designed by Ludwig aka Harvey Keitel– as aforementioned, this seems like half of Hollywood, albeit Keitel lives in New York, participated in the making of this film – which looks like a parody of other celebrated escape movies, from Shawshank Redemption to the Great Escape, seeing as the escapees use what appears like nail tools to break through the bars of a massive prison.
Agatha aka Saoirse Ronan, Zero’s fiancée, helps with a cake in which some those tools are hidden, they all break through – there is a brutal clash between one of the inmates and maybe five or more guards and they all get stabbed and killed, causing the funereal Gustave to state ‘I guess you call this a draw’- they then ride on cable cars, arrive at a monastery where they are given monks’ clothes and told to…sing, they meet with fugitive Serge, but he is dispatched by the serial killer Jopling and then they all put on…skies and engage in another massive chase, up to the point where the concierge is cornered and looks like he would fall into the precipice…this may be a reference to North by Northwest, the iconic Alfred Hitchcock movie, wherein the hero hangs by a thread on top of Mount Rushmore and then it all changes and ends within about a minute…

Wes Anderson has a place assured in the History of Cinema, among the most important film makers of all time, with beauties such as this one and Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ( or The Royal Tenenbaums (

sâmbătă, 28 decembrie 2019

Bad Santa, written by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, Joel and Ethan Coen - Nine out of 10

Bad Santa, written by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa, Joel and Ethan Coen
Nine out of 10

Part of the reason for the success of this comedy drama is that the main character is such a complex figure, played with aplomb and extraordinary talent by Billy Bob Thornton, a tormented, apparently depressed, bored, often vicious, foul mouthed, amusing, careless, quite obnoxious, philandering, at times charming, indifferent man that might overcome his ennui when he is involved in crime, but eventually, if he does not have an epiphany, at the very least maybe he would become a better man…Insha’Allah.

Willie aka Billy Bob Thornton likes to dress as Santa for the holidays, but not because he is so keen on talking to children and bringing them joy – on the contrary, when he is not annoyed, he can be quite abusive in language and much of the humor is dark, for instance, when a child says that he has seen him in another mall, the antihero retorts ‘good for you’ and then adds for good measure ‘let me show you some magic and see you disappear’ pushing him away.
Bad Santa uses his cover, with his very short – one wonders what the politically correct term would be here…perhaps vertically challenged? – partner, Marcus aka Tony Cox, seen before in Seinfeld, to rob the malls in which they work, and where Marcus is the elf and has a list of what to steal from his girlfriend, Lois.

Willie seems to be a determined alcoholic, when he steps out of the BMW taken from the house of The kid, perhaps a dozen bottles fall to the ground and then the apparently always inebriated antihero drives over them, smashing glass in the parking lot and another time, he just throws the bottle he drinks from onto the windshield of an SUV Mercedes as another proof that this man does not care.
Indeed, it is often more than surprising to see how far this troubled personality can swing in one direction, showing a deeply sad, haunted and disabused man, then in the other and have him engaged in sex in the changing room for the tall and large – vocalizing and stating that ‘you won’t be able to shit proper for a month’ – or in the car, with Sue aka charming Lauren Graham, the bartender who has a penchant for Santas, because as the daughter of a Jewish man, they have not celebrated Christmas and apparently this was a sort of a forbidden thing.

When Bad Santa has coitus within the premises of the department store, the manager, Bob Chipeska, is aggravated and summons Willie and the elf to his office to announce that the ‘fornication’ would be punished and the culprit laid off, only to have the vehement antihero use – somewhat like the other ‘hero’ from American Beauty – the card of the abuse, threatening that the dismissal would bring a few dozen protestors in front of the office.
He makes it about Marcus, his height and race, for he is African American and the confused and now scared manager talks nonsense with ‘you people’ and gradually understands that he would not win this game and the issue now is how to limit the potential damage and therefore he backs off, but would address the problem through Gin.

The regretted, wonderful Bernie Mac plays Gin, who appears to be in charge of the security of the department store, or perhaps the much bigger mall, but he works more like a ‘fixer’ – probably in charge of much smaller con jobs than Cohen executed for the Master Con Man, Orange, Stupid Trump – and he explains to his boss that every man has issues and he would find whatever Bad Santa has in his past, parking tickets, anything, and he would make him pay for it.
However, when he looks at the two characters, he finds that they had been involved in intense criminal activity, as we have seen, when the dressing up job would be finished, they would disarm the alarm, Willie would break into the safe and they had done that in many places and now Gin is impressed, but he wants a cut…a big cut from the next job, no less than fifty percent, in spite of the protestations of the partners, who point out that there are two of them and it should be 33%.

This is obviously not about karma, but this greed might nevertheless come back to haunt Gin, when Marcus would really get tough on the matter, but until then, they are blackmailed and have to at least pretend to accept the conditions, while Bad Santa has met with The Kid, a boy that is abused by older colleagues, until the antihero would put his foot down, and to begin with, he seems to annoy Willie beyond endurance, but causing some of the most hilarious exchanges in the film…when The Kid insists on knowing about the elves, the names, the consort, the former convict replies with careless, serene obscenities or vulgar implications
Fuck…he is with Mrs. Santa’s sister, has no idea about the names of the reindeer…who cares, who gives a damn.

Gradually however, he may come to feel pity for the Kid who lives with grandma, who is absent from this world due to some ailment, Alzheimer or who knows what, has no parents, is attacked by others and desperately needs attention, affection…and then this weak feeling might develop into empathy – Milan Kundera explains in one of his major books, perhaps The Unbearable Lightness of Being, that we feel pity for someone we feel is inferior to some degree, while empathy is reserved for those who are on the same level…

vineri, 27 decembrie 2019

The Current War by Michael Mitnick - Nine out of 10

The Current War by Michael Mitnick
Nine out of 10

This motion picture has been at least as satisfying for the undersigned as the Golden Globes nominated Knives Out (, even Pain and Glory ( or the one that has most impressed the Hollywood Foreign Press and so many others, Marriage Story -

The plot of The Current War is captivating and instructive, educational and far superior to the ones guiding the films aforementioned, with three exceptional characters, not just one or two – actually five if we add J.P. Morgan in the mix and only one of the spouses, Mary Edison or Marguerite Westinghouse, or perhaps an assistant – towering over the rest of the people, one could arguably consider all three geniuses, unless we consider what one personage in a book – memory fails as to the title – argued, which was that we should limit ourselves to naming Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci as geniuses and not debase the word by throwing it with laxity around.
Benedict Cumberbatch is formidable, self-assured, able to portray nuances in a very complicated man, changing between wrath and kindness, selfishness and supreme assuredness, in the role of a phenomenal outlier, probably the most efficient inventor of all, for although his personage, Thomas Edison, would have to admit to losses and perhaps eventually even defeat in The Current War, he would be the one who would give the world the phonograph, the Dictaphone, electric lamp, the kinescope among others…

As for one of his inventions, the light bulb, according to Harvard Professor Tal Ben-Shahar, he was asked about the many failures and the scientist supposedly answered that he had not failed ten thousand times in trying to get the electric bulb, right, he just proved ten thousands versions that are wrong and the psychology professor uses this outstanding example for his leitmotif: ‘Learn to Fail, or Fail to Learn’.
The incandescent light bulb is also part of a scene in the movie, wherein the competitor in The Current War, George Westinghouse aka the splendid, haunting, mesmerizing – and yet such a late discovery, was it after The Revolutionary Road that this actor would be really set on the present successful trajectory? – Michael Shannon asks Edison about the moment when he knew that he has the secret of the bulb…

Thomas Edison recalls how they had tried so many alternatives for the filament and they had all burnt out within minutes and when finally, ten, fifteen minutes passed without the now expected phenomenon taking place, they would wait for one hour, then two, and then seven hours have passed and a little later, the inventor would know that he has just found what is needed for the coveted incandescent light bulb.
For most of the film, Edison is fighting the War against Westinghouse, whose alternative current is gaining more clients, for it is seventy percent cheaper and simply works better, or at least this is the argument of Westinghouse and many others – at one point, when he presents his case for the Chicago Exhibition, a massive, fantastic event and the best opportunity to advertise and launch the ‘product’ in so many markets, George Westinghouse makes the briefest of possible speeches and just states that his offer is simply working better and costs much less and then…goodbye to the gentlemen of the jury that would decide the fate of the bidders.

Edison pushes the idea that the Westinghouse alternative is dangerous and could kill multitudes, given that so many people now use his source of power, he presents such a danger that he should be stopped and in arguing this case, the inventor gets involved in the move to use electricity (the competitor’s) for an execution that would be humane – there had been so many cases in which hanging had been botched, with victims having heads cut off or having to be hanged twice or thrice – for it would kill the man on death row immediately and for that, a horse is electrocuted in front of the press.
Nonetheless, when the first execution takes place using the new method and the argument against Westinghouse would have been so severe, it turns out to be a horror show, in which the poor man – who had admitted to killing his wife and thus had been sentenced to die – would suffer agonizing pain, he would be burned and tortured beyond belief – one reason why today they try the sedatives and then execution with a syringe that poisons the man – rarely a woman – and then death is declared.

Throughout this Current War, Thomas Edison is mostly the negative character, albeit the audience learns, if they had not known already, how admired and celebrated the inventor had been, with people asking for his autograph while almost nobody knew who Westinghouse was, and for good reason, for outside this conflict, in which the competitor had the better solution, the inventor would gain so much more fame and honor, because he would invent so much more…

Nikola Tesla aka the excellent Nicholas Hoult – who seems to specialize lately in roles of iconic, legendary figures such as Jerry Salinger in Rebel in the Rye and J.R.R. Tolkien in Tolkien – works for a while under the supervision of Edison, but the latter seems to have offended the bright Tesla, when he joked about paying him $ 50,000 and Tesla took him at his word…
As one ironic twist of The Current War, George Westinghouse would be honored with the most important award…The Edison Medal.

joi, 26 decembrie 2019

If Beale Streets Could Talk, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, based on the book by James Baldwin - Nine out of 10

If Beale Streets Could Talk, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, based on the book by James Baldwin
Nine out of 10

James Baldwin is the magnificent author of Go Tell It on the Mountain - - included on The TIME Magazine’s and modern Library’s Best 100 Novels lists and The Guardian’s 1,000 Novels Everyone Must Read list, as well as the appreciated Giovanni’s Room -

If Beale Street Could Talk is another remarkable work and as adapted for the big screen it been nominated for three Oscars (for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – which the brilliant actress has won) and three Golden Globes, winning for Supporting Role for Regina King, among other trophies and prizes…
Tish Rivers aka remarkable Kiki Layne seems to be the most important character in this narrative that has racism, the associated injustice, but also love at the core, and she is an extraordinary Wonder Woman, capable of deep, true feelings, resilient, brave, loyal, kind and at the same time fierce, in love with the sculptor Alonzo ‘Fonny’ Hunt aka formidable Stephan James, creator of abstract works – his friend, Daniel Carty aka charming Brian Tyree Henry, speaks about the sculptures and laughs – ‘heavy stuff’.

One first severe, terrible trauma is the abusive, wrongful abhorrent arrest of Fonny, just because he is African American, for a rape he has had nothing to do with – he was at the time with Tish, but as the lawyer points out, her testimony does not count, and his friend Daniel, but the latter has a criminal record, has been to jail, where he has suffered unimaginable torments as he tells it ‘because they can do anything to you in there’
The victim of the rape has identified the innocent as the attacker because the police had told her to do so, she is in shock and would disappear, making the task of defending the depressed, terrorized innocent man ever more difficult, even if the white lawyer – somewhat rejected by the family of the imprisoned man – tries his best and seems a world apart from the racist police, that have been against Alonzo before – in one incident, Tish had been harassed by a white man and when her boyfriend tried to intervene, a white officer was willing to take him in, instead of seeking justice, up to the point where the owner of the shop takes the young man’s defense and saves him from jail, albeit only temporarily…

Alas, this is not the only adversity that the heroine has to cope with, for she has to announce that she is carrying the child of the imprisoned man, they invite his family over, but while his father is ebullient to hear the news, the mother, impressive Aunjanue Ellis, is more than offensive and actually speaks about the curse on the unborn child, the sin and the wrath of Jesus, God or both and does not stop until her husband hits her so bad, she falls on the ground and has her two equally fanatic daughters take up the task of confronting their hosts, up to the moment where the sister of the protagonist says something like ‘from the start I did not know how to get your Adam’s apple out, with my fingers or my teeth, but if you touch my sister, I will have to decide quick…’
Fonny is desperate in prison and perhaps only the strong, tenacious, sustained support offered by his lover would keep him together, allowing him to survive Hades, helped by her family as well – Sharon Rivers, the mother aka Regina King, winner of the Oscar, Golden Globe and many other awards for her memorable performance, travels to Puerto Rico to speak first with a relative of the rape victim and has a heavy task convincing him to allow a conversation with the woman, but when she tries to speak about her would be son-in-law, his innocence and upcoming conviction, the woman has a breakdown, so bad that she starts howling.

Indeed, before this ghastly injustice, Alonzo had been talking with his recently released from jail friend, Daniel, and the latter was very upset by the fact that he had done nothing to be convicted and Fonny recalls what had happened to him recently, when Tish had tried and thought she had managed to find a place to rent in town, but the landlord was only interested in sex and had had in mind only his perverted ideas, therefore, when he would see Fonny with her, would immediately speak of the tenants from…Romania, that would be coming in the next half an hour, provoking a severe reaction – ‘you are full of shit’ and the threat that the police would come.
Alonzo would like to leave this racist country, but he jokes that Tish cannot swim, so they have to stay and very soon he is taken in, placed in a line up and the raped woman is told to identify him, even if she had never seen him before and the pressure would soon be on Daniel, as the only admissible witness for the alibi – the lover’s statement would not count – and soon the victim would be convinced to disappear.
It is a narrative about injustice, the sufferings of the Black Americans in a society dominated by whites – indeed, in the present America seemed to have come a long way, but on the other hand, if we consider that Trump has won the elections and not only that, but may win the next ones as well, in spite of the fact that he is a racist, idiot, sexist and the list is too long to insist, then we wonder how much progress they have really made.

Furthermore, if that is what the most advanced democracy in the world has produced such a ridiculous leader – “parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus” – then what can we expect from our own efforts to advance, transcend the inheritance that the Soviet Union has left us?

luni, 23 decembrie 2019

Jojo Rabbit, written and directed by Taika Waititi, based on the novel by Christine Leunens - Nine out of 10

Jojo Rabbit, written and directed by Taika Waititi, based on the novel by Christine Leunens
Nine out of 10

This is a note on the film based on the book.

Having seen the enchanting, original Hunt for the Wilderpeople - - this viewer has had the occasion to appreciate the considerable talent of Taika Waititi, writer–director Oscar nominated for another, short film, the one who has been appreciated for this motion picture, nominated for two Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and other awards, but also criticized by outlets such as Variety:

“It’s like a Wes Anderson movie set during the Third Reich. ... And yet it’s not as if it’s a terrible movie; it’s actually a studiously conventional movie dressed up in the self-congratulatory “daring” of its look!-let’s-prank-the-Nazis cachet.”

If you consider that this may be The Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, in which you have the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes, in just a couple of weeks, then you will be in a quandary and have to decide for yourself if the critics that have dismissed Jojo Rabbit as too conventional, ‘safe, sanitized, without daring or at the extreme
“Waititi is incapable of dealing with the twin horrors of oppression and indoctrination beyond cheap-seats sentimentality and joke-making…Slant Magazine”

This cinephile is in a mind to consider Aristotle and his Golden Mean – “The Golden Mean is a sliding scale for determining what is virtuous. Aristotle believed that being morally good meant striking a balance between two vices. You could have a vice of excess or one of deficiency. This is known as Virtue Ethics”

In other words, this is not fascinating, actually far from the outstanding, glorious film of the year, winner of the Palme d’Or at the most important cinematic gathering, The Cannes Film Festival, Parasite -

At the same time, it looks equal, if not superior to Marriage Story - - and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, two of the most talked about,
acclaimed movies of this rather feeble year in cinema, with the granted phenomenal exception of the South Korean superb film.
Jojo Rabbit aka the very promising, Golden Globe nominated, very young, about eleven years old Roman Griffin Davis lives in Nazi Germany, and we look at the days that mark the end of that horror, wherein the boy lives with his mother, Rosie aka excellent Scarlett Johansson, nominated for a Golden Globe herself, but for Marriage Story, and talks frequently with an imaginary, buffoonish, Trump-like Hitler aka Taika Waititi.

Sam Rockwell is as always fabulous in the role of Captain Klezendorf, a mostly vicious, cruel, idiotic fascist, who would be the paradigm of the monster, if not for a crucial, brief, but essential exception when he would have a pivotal role for the escape or condemnation of the hero.
Jojo has been brainwashed by the Nazi propaganda machine – on a side note, psychology studies have looked at the powerful effect that authority has, indeed, if figured prominently in Influence a quintessential work by the marvelous Robert Cialdini, from which we learn that the Principle of Authority is obeyed, even in tests which seem to put the life of participants in danger.

Therefore, the main character is shocked to find a Jewish girl, Elsa aka Thomasin McKenzie, remarkable, if so young in Leave No Trace - - hiding in his house, brought there as we would learn by the mother, who would soon suffer the tragic consequences of her rebellion, subversive activities, which include distributing printing material calling for the end of the fascist repression and liberation…
The initial confrontation between Jojo and Elsa would be transformed into a love story; the girl would soon see the self-proclaimed Nazi, enemy of the Jews as a younger brother, while the boy is a bit more confused by the butterflies that he may, literally see in his stomach.

Thus, the motion picture is rather spectacular in its performances, the subject matter, treated with both humor and the needed seriousness attached to such a calamitous period.

As for its place in the history of cinema, it is far from sure that it has one, except as a footnote, but then you may have a very different opinion.

duminică, 22 decembrie 2019

Pity aka Oiktos, written by Efthymis Filippou and Babis Makridis, directed by the latter - Nine out of 10

Pity aka Oiktos, written by Efthymis Filippou and Babis Makridis, directed by the latter
Nine out of 10

Though less famous for those who are not within the circle of cinematic professionals than Yorgos Lanthimos, celebrated for the triumphal The Favorite, Efthymis Filippou has collaborated on the scripts of Dogtooth aka Kynodontas – reviewed at - The Lobster - - and The Killing of a Sacred Deer -

Indeed, very early, if not from the start, Pity strikes one has having the same strange, outré atmosphere, bizarre characters, aloof manner, absurd attitudes as in the aforementioned, acclaimed movies and the undersigned was thinking that Greek filmmakers might follow in the footsteps of Lanthimos and Filippou, when watching this feature on Cinemax, before looking it up and finding that it is actually written by one of the famous two screenwriters.
Yannis Drakopoulos is remarkable as the Lawyer, the main character of this narrative, married to a woman that is in a comma, about whom people ask, including the Dry clean shop owner aka Makis Papadimitrou – in his turn, excellent in the leading role of Suntan -

The Lawyer has a son with whom he tries to continue a ‘normal’ life, although it seems as strange as it can be, even when they play badminton or something close to it, under the sun, on the beach, or when a neighbor brings in an orange cake, a few times, before she stops, only to have this weird man ask for a cake, when the woman says she has had no time, he insists, is told again about the duties the neighbor has, only to arrive at the door and demand, again, for the cake!
The sadness, gloom of the movie is somehow, to some degree, attenuated by this absurd, dark humor, such as the continuation of the cake episode, wherein the main character talks to the daughter of the ‘baking woman’, asks to see the mother, insists on having a cake which could be ‘baked now, for he can wait’ and when the woman says that she has to take the girl to the school, the hero still does not get it and she has to close the door in his face…

Once in a while, the Lawyer talks to his father, known as Grandpa, and here this is not clear for this viewer- would this descend into sheer horror, or is it just the sick imagination of the antihero, who has images of Grandpa, killed, most likely stabbed, with pools of blood under the deck chair on which he sits, in front of a fantastic, panoramic vista…
Actually, most settings are phenomenally beautiful, perhaps in order to contrast even more with the grim reality of this depressing man, with sunny views of the sea, beautiful architecture, at times monumental, modern, splendid…

The hero tells his father about the dog they have, an intelligent, beautiful shepherd of some kind, who, according to her master, ever since the Wife has been sick and in a comma, she comes to her side of the bed and indicates with the paw that she misses the sick woman…when the accident took place, it seemed that the bitch has had a premonition of some kind.
However, perhaps the most gruesome, terrifying side of this peculiar, cruel, ultimately vicious man is exposed when he takes the dog in a speedboat, somewhere far from the shore, only to return without her and then we have a view from the sky, perhaps from a drone, which shows the poor animal swimming desperate in circles…

Will she die in the sea?

vineri, 20 decembrie 2019

Taste of Cherry, written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami 10 out of 10

Taste of Cherry, written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami
10 out of 10

In short, this is a glorious magnum opus, about the Miracle of life, Optimism, Positivity, or as some critics have been quoted on the poster: ‘a work of art, exquisite, Kiarostami continues to astound, extraordinarily beautiful!’

Indeed, the marvelous motion picture has been included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies ever Made list - - and it has won the most important cinematic prize in the world – in value terms, not for the fame acquired – The Palme d’Or at The Cannes film Festival in 1997, where the writer- director has been nominated for an incredible seven awards in his outstanding career, including for a phenomenal Four (!) Palmes d’Or, of which he has won two, another one for Through the Olive Trees –

what makes Taste of Cherry so much more fabulous is the fact that the audience is overwhelmed by a narrative that revolves around a single main character mostly, Mr. Badii aka the remarkable, complex, emotional and yet so restrained Homayoun Ershadi, who drives his Range Rover through the hills, in what looks like a rather remote, rural area where some construction and extraction work is going on and where he invites a few strangers in his vehicle, to help him with a delicate, outlandish, serious issue.
To begin with, one may think that this is a homosexual man who tries to find an occasional partner and he is offering good money – actually, he insists with his first two interlocutors that it does not matter what the final object of the request is…’have you been working in construction? Then you know that it does not matter if you lay the foundation for a school, a mosque or something else and they do not tell you what the purpose is for the wall you work on’.

Indeed, in the opening scenes, one passerby is threatening violence, if not to smash the face in for the insistent driver, who offers money, insists on offering a ride, so much so that the suspicion is that there might be something immoral, objectionable, perhaps perverse to the demand and it would in fact appear to be both more innocent and at the same time heavier, more consequential than the suspected indelicate advance.

After he is severely rejected by one man, Mr. Badii offers a ride to a soldier, whose name we never learn – indeed, we never know what causes the severe, apparently irremediable depression of the hero, in order to give depth and make the subject cover a broader area, it is about all those who are at the edge, ready to say good bye for good – and the young man insists he has to be back at the barracks before six, then he admits he is short of money and becomes interesting when he has the prospect of winning a large sum.
The hero talks about the job, but when asked what it implies, he goes a long way to avoid revealing details, insisting that this would be all the money the soldier makes in six months and it only takes ten minutes and they need to insist on the sum and forget the task, it is only minutes and therefore what is to object, but when he finally has to explain that the young man is expected to arrive at six next morning and shout Mr. Badii and help him out of the hole or, if there is no answer, to shove earth in the hole, on top of him, the stranger recoils and even jumps out of the car, at the next opportunity and never stops running through the nearby green valley.

As the main character drives through the winding, earth roads that send clouds of dust in the air, he meets various people, some of them help lift the car when it is stuck in a ditch, one asks him to move the car when he blocks access and others shout and ask the careless driver if ‘he wants to die’ – we now know that this is the plan, although it seems a bit odd that he is so concerned about getting those shovels of earth on top of his would be cadaver, though the thoughts of those who want to die are not necessarily among the most logical and sensical.
The hero meets next a seminarian and starts his plea for help, without giving the details, suggesting nonetheless that when man has had enough, he cannot wait for God – probably called Allah here – to take him so he has to end his life himself, but he does not convince the student of the holy texts – the latter insists that Allah does not accept this, even quotes some of the texts, only to have the driver somewhat upset and retort that if ‘he wanted someone to give him a sermon, he would go to one who will have finished his studies’.

Which brings us to Mr. Bagheri and the climax of the film, for albeit this is an uneducated character, just like all, with the exception of the owner of a Range Rover – probably not the latest model, but still an expensive model – the man who works in a Natural museum, for which he had killed a number of birds to have them stuffed, has a brilliant mind and the story that gives the name to the movie and is the highlight by all means:
Mr. Bagheri has been through a similar experience, many years before, after he had married, he became so disconsolate, dejected that he decided to commit suicide, went to a mulberry tree and tried a couple of times to tie a rope to the branches, in vain, so he thought of climbing to fix the problem, only to find the mulberries delicious, offering some to some passing children, that ask for them and then eventually to his wife at home.

This Messenger from God then speaks about the miracles of life, the Taste of Cherry, the sunrise and the beautiful moon on the sky, although we never know – if you have this knowledge, please share it with the undersigned – how the movie ends, if this spectacular, divine, buoyant contribution from Mr. Bagheri will have had any consequence and eventually make the suicide pact redundant…

miercuri, 18 decembrie 2019

The White Crow, based on the book by Julie Kavanagh - Eight out of 10

The White Crow, based on the book by Julie Kavanagh
Eight out of 10

This is a note on the film inspired by the book…

There is a lot to like – presumably – in this motion picture that has an intriguing, provocative, admired, outré, fascinating artist, Rudolf Nureyev, at the center, the story of a daring escape, the background of the Soviet oppression, the KGB and its activities – the outfit that has given the world the infamous Putin, and through him the orange fool now sitting, watching TV, tweeting up to 100 times before known – it isn’t as if he has some important job to do anyway – attacking the great Greta Thunberg and a myriad others in the White House.

Ralph Fiennes is a fabulous actor, most famous probably for his roles in The English Patient and as the loathsome Nazi in Schindler’s List, among other phenomenal performances and this cinephile has loved The Invisible Woman, where, just like for The White Crow, the actor is also the director -
Alas, albeit he is excellent as Aleksandr Ivanovich Pushkin, the most important teacher, the mentor of the young, upcoming, brilliant ballet dancer that would amaze the world, Ralph Fiennes has not been so inspired, at least in the view of the under signed, when he has selected Oleg Ivenko to interpret the main character of the film.

The narrative is nevertheless compelling, offering insight into the workings of the Soviet Union- surely relevant and worth watching now that the likes of Corbyn, the self-entitled socialist Sanders and the too leftist Elizabeth Warren have attracted so many supporters, have so many fans that should watch more stories about the glories of the communist regimes – as one who has lived under Ceausescu and still ‘benefit ‘from that miraculous doctrine, I have no patience for those on the far left…
The soviets have been very close to destroying the career of Rudolph Nureyev – and we can only guess how many geniuses, scientists, artists have been dispatched to the gulag and other such horrendous camps and been wiped from the face of the earth, depriving humanity of who knows how much progress in the arts and sciences.

In one scene, the famous dancer has to argue with an apparatchik, one of the infamous bureaucracy, figures out of The Trial by Kafka, who insists that the artist has to travel to some god forsaken place, a small town in the middle of nowhere – or maybe right in the middle of Siberia – and perform there because the Soviet State has given him the papers and the order to go.

The under signed knows about this, for he has graduated Geophysics and was told to move his ass to the Danube, at Drobeta Turnu Severin and since he did not want that, he has had to change careers and thus never worked a day in his life in the field he had trained for more than five years in.
As for Nureyev, there are some awkward moments when he travels with the Ballet to Paris, where he is searching for ‘special shop’ which sells trains, he is followed by the KGB, allowed to walk around only when he has a ‘tail’ and wherever he travels, there are agents shadowing him…

Very interesting, indeed, even fascinating as the narrative could be and it actually is, it is affected – on the subjective side, the opinion of this viewer – by the lack of charisma, or maybe the insufficient magic that Oleg Ivenko may or may not have, depending on how you look at it.

marți, 17 decembrie 2019

Pain and Glory, written and directed by Pedro Almodovar - 8.5 out of 10

Pain and Glory, written and directed by Pedro Almodovar
8.5 out of 10

For some strange reason, this cinephile is not overwhelmed by the selection for the 2020 Golden Globes, with the notable exception of Parasite – which is indeed surely the main reason why the other nominees are so unrewarding, because when compared with this magnum opus, they pale and seem to lack the power, originality, complexity, challenge of the South Korean masterpiece – from The joker, through Dolemite is My Name to Knives Out and finishing with Dolor y Gloria, the acclaimed Spanish production.

Pain and glory has been nominated not only for two Golden Globes, for Best Motion Picture – foreign Language and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama – but more importantly, apart from nominations and prizes won among other places at the European Film Awards, this movie has been short listed for the most important cinematic award in the world, the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won for Best Actor.
Furthermore, the Metascore for this film is a wondrous 88 out of 100, with Variety stating that this is “A mature work of meticulously tuned meta-fiction…” and other critics writing admiring reviews of the motion picture…

However, this viewer has if not the opposite view, wrong as it evidently is, when placed against so much appreciation and “Glory”, at least a take in which this is not so exhilarating, it maybe borders self-indulgence and that could be sustained by the signature of the filmmaker, who writes at the end that this is a film by “Almodovar”, without Pedro, which could be a sign of modesty and self-effacement, but for the undersigned it signals the fact that the writer-director has entered the gallery of those who would be known by one single name, like Madonna, Sting and a few others.
The story of the main character, Salvador Mallo aka highly acclaimed Antonio Banderas, winner at Cannes and maybe at the Golden Globes, is emotionally compelling, if your heart is in the right place, which in case of this cinephile it surely is not, for he has found so much to disengage with in this otherwise universally honored work.

It could be – perhaps it is – inspired by elements from the life of the real life creator, Almodovar as we may have to use it from now on, for the protagonist used to be a writer who had enjoyed success, before retiring, suffering from various ailments – by the way, this seemed exaggerated, in the sense that yes, very often we have the disease of the hero mentioned – Walter White of Breaking Bad fame comes to mind – but to give so many details of muscles, tendonitis – if it was mentioned – headaches, the spine, the blockage within the neck, the many pills, the various conditions seem to transfer the feature into a documentary on the diseases of the human body, for sizeable segments …

The relationships that are revisited, if not restored, between the hero and two men that have been a crucial part of his past, after so many decades can be seen from two points of view- evidently, most critics and judges at festivals and the Golden Globes have been enthused, but others may find this rather artificial and or bizarre, given that the conditions seem to be improper.
For this viewer, Pain and Glory has recalled the recent creations of another master, Woody Allen, who, just like Almodovar (without Pedro from now on it seems), has had glorious divine masterpieces…Manhattan, Annie Hall and so many others, but in his late years, although he has had recognition for the likes of Blue Jasmine, most of the work has not been at the level – granted, it is stratospheric – of the early, Olympic years…

luni, 16 decembrie 2019

The Prestige, based on the book by Christopher Priest and directed, adapted by Christopher Nolan - Nine out of 10

The Prestige, based on the book by Christopher Priest and directed, adapted by Christopher Nolan
Nine out of 10

This is a note about the film, inspired by the book…

The Prestige has had a…prestigious relationship with the audiences as evidenced by the 1,099, 489 viewers that have given it an average of 8.5 out of 10, placing it with that appreciation at 48 among the Top Rated Movies, although the critics have not been equally ebullient and have given it a Metascore of 66, which means that on average, they have enjoyed the film, but not with exaggerated enthusiasm for a twice nominated for the Oscars production.

The astounding Christian Bale as Alfred Borden – and perhaps another, mysterious character – Scarlett Johansson as Olivia Wenscombe, Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier, legendary Michael Caine as Cutter, Rebecca Hall in the role of Sarah and all the other artists, including Andy Serkis and David Bowie, as Tesla, work resplendently under the direction of Christopher Nolan.
Robert Angier and Alfred Borden work together at the beginning of their careers, helping a ‘magician’ perform, tying up an assistant that jumps into a huge box filled with water, only to appear spectacularly outside, if the ties are correct and the special lock is in place, but when one of these conditions are not met, she dies drowning, before the hammer can break through the glass to release the now cold, dead body.

This is the beginning of a vicious, lifelong hatred between the two main characters, for when confronted, Alfred Borden claims he does not remember what type of knot he had used – he had been contemplating changing the style and that might have been the cause of the fatal entrapment – and with that he becomes a mortal enemy of Robert Angiers, who had loved the dead woman, who had been his wife and whose leg he had used to kiss during the performance, making Cutter tell him to stop, for the public seated in the first rows could see it…
Alfred is working with unscrupulous, cruel performers, one of whom uses in his act birds, like so many others, but his ‘act’ has him kill the poor feathered animals, for the pretense that the little soul disappeared was based on the monster slapping his hand over the covered creature, thus squashing it and then bringing out from a hidden pocket in the coat a new, different canary or other small bird, pretending it is just innocent magic.

Alfred Borden works on a different performance, involving a revolver, that a member of the audience would fire at him, without killing him, because he has supernatural powers allegedly, only he shows his wife, Sarah, that she has nothing to worry about, because the bullet he is supposed to have caught with his chest, will have been always in his hand and the gun is manipulated in such a manner as to be unable to hurt him.
Indeed, as we can all see now on Discovery or other channels, the secrets of ‘magic tricks’ rely on a few aspects, such as the distraction technique – while the audience is concentrated and watching intensely one hand, the other does the ‘trick’, based also on the psychologically tested fact that we tend to accommodate to very fast changing circumstances – or and the agility and dexterity of those who practice all day, every day in their trade…an example that comes to mind is included in bobby Deerfield, with Al Pacino, where the hero asks a magician how he does his act and in answer, the latter plays with a coin that keeps moving through all his fingers and when the main character tries to do the same, he is unable even after plenty of tests…

When they are still comrades in arms, Robert and Alfred go to see a Chinese old man – at least in theory – perform his unbelievable act, in which at one point a huge bowl with a fish appears and they realize that the man pretends he is feeble and walks with great effort, while he trains all day and he has immensely powerful muscles in his legs, which allow him to carry the huge, round fish tank covered under his traditional dress and thus present it as a miraculous apparition on the table.
When they are adversaries, first Robert shows at the act of his mortal enemy and he is the one who offers to fire the gun in the act, only to use a real one and shoot off the ends of a few fingers, and in return, after this happens, the wounded Alfred returns the ‘favor’,  by appearing on stage at the other’s act, which involves a disappearing dove, only to injure the spectator that volunteered to help and kill the bird in front of the public, ruining his prospects.

The confrontation continues when Alfred creates a new, unseen magic act, in which he seems to disappear at one side of the stage, only to materialize instantly at the other end, a presentation which Robert immediately copies with the help of his partner, Cutter, who states that this is made with the inclusion of a ‘double’, and in this case they find an unemployed actor, who drinks too much and in fact would cause much trouble when he is approached by the rival, Alfred, who would speculate on this vice and thus mange to include himself in the show of the enemy, only to advertise to the audience his own, better production that is staged across the street.

The famous Tesla aka the late, famed David Bowie is included in the movie, albeit the suggestion that his experiences would have resulted in cats and top hats that multiply and appear somewhere else is odd and evidently preposterous, but the relationship with Robert Angier and the presence of hatchet men sent by Thomas Edison is interestingly presented.
To conclude, the film is indeed special and rewarding, with wondrous acting all around and the creative, original direction of the now established Christopher Nolan adding a splendid flavor to the movie.

duminică, 15 decembrie 2019

Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson - Eight out of 10

Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson
Eight out of 10

To make a silly, wrong-sided joke, we can read the impressive names in the cast, with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Toni Collette, and then stop, for there is nothing else to say in favor of this motion picture…

Unless of course, we look at the long list of nominations and awards, including three for the upcoming Golden Globes, for the most important categories of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actress and an Actor in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, the exceptional Metascore, average rating with the critics, 82 out of 100 and the 8.1 out of 10 given by the public, also on average.
Variety says:

“Knives Out recalls a time when audiences could still be surprised by such mysteries, before the genre devolved into a corny parody of itself. Johnson keeps us guessing, which is good, but the thing that makes this a better mousetrap than most isn’t the complexity, but the fact he’s managed to rig it without the usual cheese.”

Evidently, Variety is correct and the fact that this cinephile has found very little to entertain him in this acclaimed comedy – drama is rather, nay, perhaps absolutely irrelevant.
Furthermore, even he knows that there is so much to appreciate in the performances, although Daniel Craig might be phenomenal for some and over the top for others.

vineri, 13 decembrie 2019

Marriage Story, written and directed by Noah Baumbach - Nine out of 10

Marriage Story, written and directed by Noah Baumbach
Nine out of 10

If we look at the numbers for this motion picture, the only questions left to answer might be how spectacular it could be and if it would be included with the best of the year, the decade or maybe it would get even better, considering the fact that it has the most nominations for The Golden Globes that will be awarded in a few weeks’ time, including for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading and supporting Role, for Scarlett Johansson and Laura Dern respectively, for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Adam Driver, for Best Screenplay and for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

And yet, this viewer was not overwhelmed, although the quality of the performances is not in doubt, they are solid, remarkable, if not crushing – indeed, seeing one small, independent film on Cinemax, Le trip a trois, which only had one critic writing about it and connecting the note with IMDB, the under signed wondered what is the tremendous difference between it and Marriage Story that would cause one work to travel into oblivion and the other to collect all the laurels.
Much of the (nonexistent) trouble lies with the high expectations that are associated with a feature, and so much else for that matter, that is declared one of the best of the year and the tendency we might have to look for flaws where otherwise we would not be so critical – then ‘the mind is its own place, it can make heaven out of hell and hell out of heaven’ and for the negative ones, this heavenly production might attract criticism, albeit audiences have rated it with 8.4 out of 10 and thus this has become one of the Top Rated Movies, at 115 among all-time favorites…

Critics have been exhilarated and have given it an astounding 94(!)out of 100 on average, with some reputable outfits seeing it as perfect – The Telegraph, Time Out, The Hollywood Reporter and Varity among others, indeed, the latter says this about the film:
“At once funny, scalding, and stirring, built around two bravura performances of incredible sharpness and humanity, it’s the work of a major film artist, one who shows that he can capture life in all its emotional detail and complexity — and, in the process, make a piercing statement about how our society now works.”

Ergo, it is difficult to argue with others who evidently know much better – besides, what would be the point – and we could say that this accomplished movie is surely more than worth watching and stick with the idea that we just need to establish to what degree we are taken aback by the acting of Scarlett Johansson – very good, but is it really historic? – and Adam Driver – very efficient, but again, should it win over Robert De Niro in The Irishman?

In conclusion, this cinephile enjoyed better an earlier work by the writer director Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale, from 2005, starring the iconic Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney and the now established Jesse Eisenberg, who was launching his successful career back then, although Marriage Story is a very good motion picture, with or without the immense buzz surrounding it

miercuri, 11 decembrie 2019

Le trip a trois by Benoit Pelletier - Nine out of 10

Le trip a trois by Benoit Pelletier
Nine out of 10

It seems quite unfair to see that this amusing, intriguing, fresh comedy is destined to voyage through obscurity, apart from the airing on some of the HBO channels, where this cinephile could watch it yesterday, on Cinemax 1 or 2, while Marriage Story or Dolomite is My Name sail to the Golden Globes ceremony, where the former has the most nominations, six, including for Best Film, Actor and Actress, Screenplay.

This is not to say that Marriage Story is without merit, but it appears that there is little, if any difference between the two motion pictures, in terms of performances, in fact, if anything, perhaps Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin as Estelle Legrand and Martin Matte as Simon Monette might have shined more than Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, in what may be more challenging roles, at least from the perspective – biased as it probably is, for if one does not expect outlandish representations form an average movie, audiences expect more from an acclaimed, multi nominated feature – of the under signed.
Estelle Legrand aka Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin is 34 when she starts feeling – well that was wrong, for she had been in this quandary for some time – that the clichés, regular life, the déjà vu of every day are bearing on her – in fact, Stefan Klein in his magnificent Rules of Happiness explains that one of the quintessential paradigms of wellbeing is change, diversity.

Therefore, the protagonist is first aware that her sexual life is tedious – in one scene, early on, she has coitus with Simon and she keeps telling him not to finish – surely because she must be still away from her orgasm – but the partner is off in matter of minutes, maybe seconds, lies on the bed and then pats the woman on the back, in what looks like a condescending, maybe futile gesture.
Estelle talks to her friends, finds encouragement to explore…one of the girlfriends is very audacious, she keeps suggesting that men want their partners to be rather slutty, she exemplifies at one moment by approaching a stranger that she had thought remarked her, looked at her mouth insistently – at least in the mind of the woman – but when she walked to the man, his date arrived.

In a bar, the heroine is kissed by a stranger, a woman that takes this as a challenge, then she thinks of exploring beyond the limits with Simon, telling him to tie her up for a bondage, BDSM session, but when she thinks she has had enough, the man would not budge…in another instance, she uses handcuffs in the toilet, at the office, while the female boss is outside waiting, and both keys to liberation are broken and hence, she has to have a colleague release her with a saw.

While they think about exploring Le trip a trois, which stands for a threesome, ménage a trois – if a brief, one night stand one – their child hears them and furthermore, when they are asked on some issue at school, the boy – I can’t remember if it was a boy or a girl – comes upfront and tries to talk about Le trip a trois, only to be interrupted by the teacher, who, looks like she is actually interested in the idea, although not to be discussed with the very small children, but to engage with the parents…
Another amusing chapter is the one in which various potential lovers audition, one suffers from a hearing impediment and has her thoughts and desires translated by a man, who, when asked states that he would come along, to watch, for he comes everywhere the woman goes…another woman, potential sexual partner talks about the $ 500 that it would take to bed her…

luni, 9 decembrie 2019

Bacurau, written and directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonca Filho - Seven out of 10

Bacurau, written and directed by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonca Filho
Seven out of 10

Given that this motion picture has won the second most important cinematic prize of the year, the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival of 2019, where it was also nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or, which is the most relevant, although not at the box office, not appreciating this feature seems to be important in that it can show the shortcomings, the lack of substance, the narrow horizon, not of the film itself, but maybe of the cinephile, in this instance, the undersigned, which has not been just less than overwhelmed, but kept waiting for something spectacular, transcendent to happen to redeem the first half an hour, then the hour and finally the whole two hours, with only eleven minutes left to the final.

Alas, it seemed nothing but an ordinary horror movie, with a group of alien killers, apparently hired by a corrupt local official to eliminate voters that reject his ways – though one intriguing aspect was the campaign of this hoodlum, who had all the modern, latest technology available in the middle of a rather depressed community, that of Bacurau, with pickup trucks that have big screen at the back, where videos with the political candidature are aired, together with the more traditional amenities of campaigns, that we ‘benefit ‘from locally, where corrupt politicians buy votes with kilos of oil, flour and other foods.
Variety describes it best:

“Though shot in striking anamorphic widescreen and laced with references to John Carpenter, Sergio Leone and the like, Bacurau doesn’t quite work in traditional genre-movie terms. Rather, it demands the extra labor of unpacking its densely multilayered subtext to appreciate.”

A take that could explain why some viewers might not be able to enjoy this killing ride – by the way, one other inexplicable aspect is why the film is not labeled horror, given that quite a few depart, in rather gruesome circumstances and then some even lose their heads…literally – and that would be the inability to ‘unpack the many layers’…but then the question is are they worth unpacking?

luni, 2 decembrie 2019

Downton Abbey, screenplay by Julian Fellowes - Nine out of 10

Downton Abbey, screenplay by Julian Fellowes
Nine out of 10

This is an excellent, formidable production that highlights the British School of Cinema at its best, showcasing exceptional, superb acting (on a side note, this cinephile has recently seen The Irishman and finds the two films almost equally powerful, but the performance of the once fantastic Al Pacino is inferior to what the cast of Downton Abbey offers audiences) with actors that form a perfect ensemble, without a strident note, as seemed to be the case with the aforementioned Martin Scorsese achievement, where one actor is somewhat at odds with the rest…

For those who have seen the equally entertaining series, the subject, setting, family and connections are familiar, although there are some new highlights here, the main point, the zenith of the movie being the visit of the king and queen and the big and small dramatic complications that this rare honor brings, from the attempts made by one who hates the royals, to the complicated arrangement that such a guest brings with him, the entourage, the preposterous, pompous personnel (one of whom steals) that reduces to humility the known butlers – the one who had retired, but is brought to active service to deal with the serious challenge, and the one in office, who has a brush with law, because of his sexual orientation which was punished by law at the time…
Imelda Staunton, one of the best British performers, plays Violet Crawley, an aristocrat from the entourage of the royals, a new figure for the series fans, who has a maid that seems to inherit her fortune, causing the wrath of the invincible, often hilarious, but also infuriating Violet Crawley aka the unforgettable, iconic Maggie Smith, up to the end when the secret is revealed (the one that would stay in the dark here) and the lady that towers over Downton Abbey, often influencing her son, Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, would show remarkable emotion, genuine emotional intelligence.

The team of servants from Downton Abbey has to engage in a conflict with the visiting employees of the Royal House, from the manager to the French chef, because while they felt – most of them, with the notable exception of Daisy Mason – honored by the visit – the hilarious, admirable Mr. Molesley aka excellent Kevin Doyle, is actually so overwhelmed that he provides quite a few mirthful, buoyant scenes when he is flabbergasted by her royal highness, the queen – and see the fact that they are actually excluded from any task and hence a contact, a feeling of satisfaction as a provocation and inadmissible in ‘their own house’.
The ‘rebellion’ has some amusing effects, for they all conspire to put the chef to sleep, make a call to the man in charge to ask him to leave the premises on an invented reason, lock some others in their own room and when the case required, they used information about misbehavior or plain theft to make the visiting crew abide by their demands…

It is a formidable motion picture, which can be used in schools of acting, with everything in the right place, the task of organizing a very large team is daunting, but handled here with perfect ease.

duminică, 1 decembrie 2019

The Irishman, based on the book by Charles Brandt - 10 out of 10

The Irishman, based on the book by Charles Brandt
10 out of 10

Given the glorious reception received by this magnum opus, the only thing that may be left to establish would be what will be the place of the motion picture among the other quintessential classics, would it be in the same top twenty best ever, with Goodfellas and The Godfather, or right behind…Variety has perhaps a very accurate, awed take on the latest Scorsese achievement

“The Irishman is a coldly enthralling, long-form knockout — a majestic Mob epic with ice in its veins. It’s the film that, I think, a lot us wanted to see from Scorsese: a stately, ominous, suck-in-your-breath summing up, not just a drama but a reckoning, a vision of the criminal underworld that’s rippling with echoes of the director’s previous Mob films, but that also takes us someplace bold and new.”

This viewer was equally exuberant, although the Al Pacino performance as Jimmy Hoffa seems less than overwhelming, maybe somewhat exaggerated and a little artificial, although the undersigned is not in a position to dispute the quality of the overall production, which is not affected by the exaggeration, and even this estimate is probably wrong, for there are surely many who would say that Al Pacino is flawless.
The saga is complex and there is no point in trying to touch on the plot line, which has Frank Sheeran aka The Irishman aka Robert De Niro at the center, with a thoughtful, restrained, perhaps perfect performance from the legendary actor, surrounded by an ensemble that is equally phenomenal, perhaps with the exception aforementioned, including formidable Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino, Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin and so many others.

A film that would enter the History of Cinema, together with The King of Comedy, Goodfellas and most of the other films directed by the divine Martin Scorsese.

vineri, 29 noiembrie 2019

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino Eight out of 10

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
Eight out of 10

If we look at what the – major- critics say about this motion picture, we would conclude that it is monumental, perhaps perfect, given that The Guardian, The Telegraph, Time Out have rated this at 100 out of 100 and quite a few others have ebullient words for it – “DiCaprio and Pitt fill out their roles with such rawhide movie-star conviction that we’re happy to settle back and watch Tarantino unfurl this tale in any direction he wants.”- Variety.

Nevertheless, the undersigned was less than overwhelmed, the word is in fact disappointed by the very, perhaps too long movie that seems to confirm though that after the masterpieces of the early period, the gigantic, glorious Reservoir Dogs and quintessential Pulp Fiction, Tarantino has not come anywhere near the value of those fundamental features, although many, or most fans have been buoyant about Kill Bill one and two and some of the other productions, Inglorious Bastards and the rest.
Brad Pitt appears to deliver efficiently as Cliff Booth, but Leonardo DiCaprio does not seem quite spectacular in the role of troubled, very often gauche, tense, ludicrous and exaggerated Rick Dalton, although the most serious challenge is the lackluster script, which has many references to amusing, sometimes celebrated old films and as specialists have declared, there is enough in there to satisfy the cultivated, distinguished audiences, but this cinephile was not happy with it.

Many years ago, I have seen Stalker by the Russian genius Andrei Tarkovsky (I preferred his Andrei Rublev though) the ultimate philosophical, thought provoking motion picture, with a dark atmosphere prompting, maybe forcing the viewers to think, engage in profound meditation or/and deep thoughts, only Once Upon a Time does not have the same quality, it is therefore difficult to take in episodes like the long scene wherein Cliff is taken to this abandoned property by Pussycat aka the excellent Margaret Qualley, daughter of the miraculous Andie MacDowell and perhaps the inheritor of that immense talent.
The search for George aka Bruce Dern goes on and on, it looks like forever and it is also difficult to see much point in that vain search and what is there so fantastic as to give this movie a perfect review…it is a sordid, dilapidated property with many hippies living on it and it would have been enough to take the tour in less than one minute, instead of, I don’t know the quartet of an hour that it takes to find the old man and establish that he is fucking a young woman and there is nothing much to it.

On the other hand, this can be evidence of how flawed this note is, for the viewer had missed all the major points, the divine setting, the members of the community who were so relevant and representative for the period, quintessential holders of the ‘make love not war’ mantra, complex human beings that proselytized and preached peace and nonviolence, while at the same time offering a spectacular surprise when three of them show up at a house and maintain that they are there to ‘do the devil’s work’.
Surely, the undersigned is wrong in saying that this is not a rewarding motion picture, but that is just what it looked like from here.