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 ♥ hated it . ♥♥ 'sok . ♥♥♥ liked it . ♥♥♥♥ loved it . ♥♥♥♥♥ will force you to watch it

***

Sunday
Nov042012

Cloud Atlas

♥♥♥

It takes a great disappointment to drag me back into writing reviews again. Perhaps my expectations were lifted too high to match the ambition of this film, unfortunately, on many levels, it just fell short.

It certainly is the most ambitious film to probably ever be set on celluloid. The scope, the worlds, periods, races and genders it traverses, are not just near impossible, it would appear that they are actually impossible. My main issue, however, is the lack of coherence between the stories. I see elements of the same narrative threads through the different segments (helped along by having the cast play dressup), but the themes and issues of each segment does not carry onto the next. This would not be a problem if the film was a collection of shorts, however for something that is trying to be strung together in this epic fashion, it felt messy.

People have likened this film to The Fountain, I can't remember who, but it was more than one person. Let me make this clear, this is not at all The Fountain. Aronofsky's film, though riddled with it's own problems, is very clearly a 3 hour long love letter. All the different puzzles point to the same solution, as it were. It was about fate, and love, and despite every challenge in their way they will love again in a different time. The problem with The Fountain was that it was stylistically indulgent. The last hour became an agonising wankfest.

Cloud Atlas has the one puzzle, that points to different solutions. They use the same motifs, signifiers, words, phrases and also, obviously, actors, to serve entirely different purposes. One thing that stayed consistent is that Hugo Weaving will be an evil henchmen, regardless of race or gender. I liked most of the individual stories, and even the direction of them all (Tom Tykwer moreso than the Wachowskis, incidentally). But squeezed together like that, things begin to unravel.

The Wachowskis have questionable taste, or at least taste that does not line up with mine. The most err... ambitious and creative uses of makeup, all occur during the Wachowski segments. Let me say something about makeup here, since it's something that is clearly close to my heart, even more so here because there's a lot of Asian/Anglo lines being crossed in this movie. When it was Halle Berry in the Frobisher storyline (Tykwer), it was just a matter of lightening her skintone just enough to pass off as a tanned white person, which wasn't very much at all. When we came to the Neo-Seoul storyline (Wachowski), it perhaps had the most offensive of all makeup jobs ever attempted. Let's be honest here, it's on par with black face. You're in the year 2144, did these white boys really have to look that cartoonishly Asian? MUST you put prosthetics over their eyes to give them a drooping monolid? Have you looked at an Asian man lately? Do they look like aliens to you? The answer to all of these questions should be a resounding "no". Hell, they're already all speaking English, for whatever reason, it's probably safe to let them keep their own eyes, 's all I'm saying. All the attempts to make the two Asian girls look white were somewhat more successful, at least from afar. In the closeups, when you can see the artificial high crease line they drew on (in grey, by the way. I mean, what?) it was less convincing. (There's this thing called an eyelid tape that Asian girls with monolids use to create a crease, that might've been a wise investment here. Although they both already had creases, but it can be used to raise it higher. It won't make you look less Asian, but neither did that crude eyeshadow crease). END OF RANT.

Tom Hanks tackled a whole myriad of ambitious, and ultimately inconsistent accents. Worst of which is in the post apocalyptic feudal island segment. The pidgin English they use, coupled with the slips in and out of (...what is that...Naw'leans accent?) by both Hanks and Berry makes the whole sequence kind of hilarious. It's one of those tropes I can see working in a novel, and could see possibly work in a film if it was uniform and I wasn't so distracted by the fact that I was seeing two actors play dress up. Eventually, it was a game of "spot the cast" for me. Especially when it seems like they threw in some cast members in the background for this very purpose. Let's see what wigs they throw on this time! I am proud to say, I did pick up on almost every costume change for almost everybody. Even the Hugh Grant as tribal native with full face paint, that one I was the most proud of, judging from the "oooh"s and "aaaah"s by the audience during the credits when they reveal the answers.

Speaking of audience, they seemed to really enjoy the movie. Reacting in ways I assume is the intended reaction. So by all means, disregard everything I've just said. Roger Ebert loved it, so what do I know?

Ya know what? It looks stunning, so go see and make up your own damn mind.

side notes:

* I could watch Ben Whishaw do anything and it would break my heart. Someone please, cut the Frobisher scenes into one short film and give it to me. I'll add it to the rotation of Ben Whishaw in period costume films that I watch on the regular.

* He also makes a very handsome middle aged woman. Hugo Weaving, on the other hand, does not.

* The only Asian phrase spoken by a cast member in the Neo-Seoul story, is in Cantonese. ?!

* Jim Broadbent could never be menacing. Ever.

* The only mention of Cloud Atlas is the Cloud Atlas Sextet. Which is truly a beautiful piece of music.

* I always like a good Soylent Green reference. "PEOPLE! SOYLENT GREEN IS MADE OF PEOPLE!"

Saturday
May282011

Tree Of Life

♥♥♥♥♥

*************
SPOILERS
*************

I can't even...

This is not a review so much as I'm trying to dump everything coursing through my brain right now here. I scribbled some quick notes on the subway so. Where do I begin?

First things first. This is magnificent. That is a fact. Everything hence forth is mere conjecture on my part.

Terence Malick steps away from a straight narrative and offers up this prayer in an operatic three act return to the screen.

Act One: The Violence of an Ending.

Tonally and stylistically setting the scene, and outlining the précis. In a few quick sketches, we understand and learn all there is to know narratively about what we're going to dive into. Everything else happens within these parameters of these initial moments.

If you happen to be someone who scoffs at what might seem to be pretentious art film ploys, I beg you to please sit through the Stan Brakhage style montage at the end of this act (which does, indeed, include dinosaurs). The payoff would be immense. Please, please, please view it in this way; as a piece of visual art of which the title and theme you know, compounded by the orchestral score. Let the images of majesty and violence wash in and work on you as would a painting. As far as I'm concerned, this act is about the magnitude of the particular ending that is important to us narratively, and the rest of the film follows the thought process of the owner of this narrative, the son, as he traces back and comes to terms with it. In the opening sequence we follow each of the mother, and the father, and see the immediate reactions as well as the initial stages of grief. The memories begin with an apology, which is also the beginning of the son's reckoning of events past.

(This review was never finished, because, readers, it's a year later and I'm unable to come up with the words)

Tuesday
May172011

Hesher

♥♥♥

I'm rooting for this movie, I really am. Despite its broad stroke direction and heavy handed edits, the not terribly well constructed characters or the pretty average script. I want it to do well. So you know what, stop reading, and go see it. It's on at the Angelika, I'll still be here when you come back.

~~~Musical Interlude~~~

Subtlety is not this film's strong suit. Especially concerning the title character Hesher. From his punctuated introduction to the metaphoric anecdotes he doles out. Pretty much everything he does is the film trying to convey to you who this character is, in the end, not actually offering you a real person. And apart from Hesher, every other character is just, pretty sad. They use some very decent actors in this. "Use" is probably not the right word, they weren't really used to their full effect. With so little to work with, no matter how touching the performances, it all just fell short of the kind of emotional impact you know they were going for.

It was enjoyable enough, there were some funny moments, some oh-shit-fuck! moments, one poignant moment, and only once did I think I was getting a little bored (this happens more often than you'd think). Moment to moment I did like this. You know what I think it is? Looking at the last 3 heart film I reviewed (Water for Elephants), even though I thought it was just kind of alright, the whole production was so slick and seamless, you were in safe hands. It follows the formula of minor conflict every 3 pages, major conflict rearing its head in every act, everything culminating at the climax, etc etc. It was like the conveyor belt of Hollywood Narratives. When you veer away from that formula, a lot of other things needs to work together just to keep the audience interested. In most successful indie films, this means either some superb acting jobs, or careful observation, or ideally both. In the case of Hesher, it just wanted to yell the story at you. I think I just never want to feel like I'm being told the story, but rather I'm discovering it along with the eye of the camera.

The themes of this movie is loss, grief, and juvenile aggression. I feel like there are plenty of films out there that deals with just this, in a more elegant way, but somehow I can't think of any just at the top of my head. So hey, what do I know?

Monday
May162011

Water For Elephants

♥♥♥

It's been a while since I saw this so I don't have that much to say about it anymore. It's that kind of entertaining.

Lush, beautiful sets, costumes, people in the costumes, animals. I love stories involving circuses during the dustbowl era. Did you guys ever watch Carnivale? You should, and this totally reminded me that I need to watch that again.

As predicted, Christof Waltz stole the whole shebang. He was well and truly fantastic in every aspect, in every scene; terrifying and pitiful in equal measures. Reese kept up decently, she was charming and delightful and her chin wasn't too much of a distraction, which is always amazing. Rob Pattinson held his own well enough. He was a bit impassive and monotoned, but it kind of worked for the character (barely). I feel like he has good instincts, but is just not going for them yet, or doesn't know how to let it out somehow. I'll tell you one thing though, during a pretty pivotal scene involving Rob and Reese, the fact that neither of them have been formally trained became glaringly apparent. They were like two bobbleheads, shaking their head at every single word. But maybe it's one of those things that only annoys other actors, I'm not sure other people even noticed.

It all came to a happy, but bittersweet present day ending. Kind of striking at that Notebook chord but missing a few notes because, well the book didn't have that much drama in the present day I guess.

Oh, oh the elephant, how could I forget the elephant. That elephant was amazing. If that was a real act, I'd pay the couple pennies it cost to see that.

If you want some lush epic romance, and is the kind of person who would sometimes want to watch a fluffy lush epic romances, this is probably exactly the kind of thing you're looking for.

Sunday
Apr102011

Sunday Reverie: Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)

(Photo courtesy of If we don't, remember me)

To be honest, I never watched this all the way through back at uni. I knew just enough and had seen just enough scenes to be able to write my essays comparing this to Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days (1995). But I was too afraid to actually watch this. It was either going to be too disturbing and would haunt me for days, or even worse, that it was going to be disappointing. Also it was hard to find in the days where internet pirating only really worked well on major new release titles, so I'd contend myself with the David Cronenberg phase I went through and continued on my merry way.

Cut to 2011, netflix instant play comes and saves the day again. This sat on my queue for the longest time before finally, one night last week, I couldn't sleep and started doing some reading on voyeurism and decided it was finally time.

In hindsight, this was probably the worst possible choice of film to watch right before bed.

My fear of it being disappointing was entirely unwarranted. For someone who I would say is quite media savvy, and largely unperturbed by pretty much anything, this still managed to surprise me at times. It's psychologically interesting, complex without ever talking down to the audience, and creepy as all hell.

It's available to watch on netflix, or hulu as part of their Criterion Collection.

Sidenotes:

- "Tell me what's troubling you, Mark."

- "Take me to your cinema."

- "Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? It's fear."

- "Whatever I photograph I always lose."

- "What do you think you have spoiled?" "An opportunity. Now I have to find another one"