Monday, December 10, 2012

What I watched after the HSC (so far)

I've been watching so many films after finishing my final HSC exams and perhaps it's a routine I'm getting used to and I like it. With all the difficulty of starting myself in finding job and Chris Brown like mood swings, I've been watching more movies than anytime this year.

As of 8 December 2012, I've watched:

Let the Right One In (2008) - the first film I watched after the exam and from watching it a second time, it was equally better from watching it a second time. I still stand by the fact that it's my favorite movie of the 2000s, though I still haven't seen Mulholland Drive, Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King or any movies that have the potential to represent filmmaking in the 21st Century. Tomas Alfredson's cold framing remains distinctive as ever and the performances from the two leads leave the characters more fascinating.

Heat (1995) - Watching this movie, I'm still baffled at the reception of the film. Sure this is a well directed film from Michael Mann with glamorous cinematography and some visually striking shots of LA skyscrapers, but since the film is stretched to almost 3 hours, the film quickly loses its pacing when they switch to several storylines that is not within its focus. And it's really disappointing to see that Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, two of the most prominent performers in film only seen together in two scenes and those scenes are beyond underwhelming.

The Sessions (2012) - my thoughts, my review. Check this movie out.

25th Hour (2002) - This isn't the movie about 9/11 people actually expected. This is a movie set after 9/11 but it's about Edward Norton going to jail and spending his last days of freedom with his girlfriend and friends while wondering who framed him. Norton's performance is one of the film's many highlights as well as his curse-ridden monologue of New York. But it's Spike Lee, who owns this movie framed as the perfect farewell letter to the big Apple already suffering from a real life tragedy. I already had a list of best movies of the 2000s, but I would insert 25th Hour into the top five if I want.

Dancer in the Dark (2000) - This is by far Lars von Trier's best film since I've haven't seen Breaking the Waves yet. Every aspect of the movie is emotionally devastating that I cried my ass off in the final shot of the movie. But almost every aspect is stilted from the dialogue to the musical numbers, but I think it may have been intended. Bjork's lead performance is deservedly bombastic as her character is importantly virtuous and despite the sins and grievances she face, her character Selma is willing to sacrifice anything for her son's welfare. 

Gomorrah (2008) - I didn't really enjoy this film. I think there was two storylines that I find more fascinating and with that the performances are pretty convincing. In fact the entire cast is actually persuasive. That said it was too long, the plotlines were disjointed and uninteresting while few of the characters were actually sympathetic. The camerawork is really shaky that it doesn't deliver much realism expected from its lack of restraint. Gomorrah is the Crash of gangster movies in which both movies are told in separate non-linear narratives, but where the latter crashes in conveying a conflicting subject matter the former actually passes. The storylines may not be fascinating, but at least in comparison, the characters contain much persona to carry the film especially when they're at their most unlikeable. E.g. - two boys who decided to become part of the mafia because they watched Scarface too many times. Or a boy who has to get into the underworld to become a man in the town.  

Antichrist (2009) - A profound film that is visually striking yet disturbing on the issue of depression and the state of psychosis that affects the worst of humanity. The amount of conviction from Charlotte Gainsbourg and William Dafoe is highly convincing, but by the end of the third act their characters are so perplexing that we don't know who would be the hero of the film. Was Gainsbourg supposed to be rooted for because she is trapped by her husband's pseudo-medical help? Is she possessed? Did Lars von Trier intend in mocking religious values coming from the title and the references of The Three Beggars and Adam and Eve? Is this film misogynistic? Sure it is, but it's a comment of how women are trapped with their male counterparts. All of these questions are worth intepreting, and they stay with you long after you finished the film. Antichrist is no masterpiece, but it's a fascinating in observing Von Trier's darkest of dark souls.

21 Jump Street (2012) - I had a lot of fun with this film and it's perhaps the core friendship between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill who used to be high school foes that carries my enjoyment with the film. Ultimately the plot is pretty predictable and the character development occurs when Tatum and Hill commit reverse psychology, but the self-aware humor and satirical knock out of high school comedies makes this a hysterical romp.

The Raid (2012) - if you're expecting plot or character development, you won't enjoy this film. It's all about the excellently choreographed martial arts action delivering some of the most intense fight scenes of this and any other year. It is structured like a video game and it works like a video game. It is all balls to the walls fighting where once the scene takes over you feel completely bruised that you wanted to watch again. It's like the world's most dangerous theme park ride but you want to go again because it is still exciting as hell.

The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - apparently I was told off by friends when I say I absolutely resented this film, but I still stand by my opinion that Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard wasn't even good. It's too meta to the point it's not against it's narrative or characters and where the film reaches its self-indulgent peak. If you want to know more, my review explains it all.

Reality Bites (1994) - There are generation defining movies and then there are movies defined by a generation. This is the latter and I expressed my thoughts here.

Trainspotting (1997) - So this was what Reality Bites should have been. A portrayal of horrible people stuck unemployed with little to gain and little to lose. But what RB lacks that exists with Trainspotting was self-awareness and consistency with its tone. It captures the disillusion and disenchantment of 90s youth that is stuck with so-called friends, drugs and unemployment. It is Danny Boyle who strikes this film with bizzare visuals of (SPOILER) a dead baby crawling on the ceiling and Ewan McGregor crawling into the world's dirtiest toilet (which I'm not going into further detail) where he swims underneath fresh sea. 

Seven Psychopaths (2012) - I am trying to write a full review for this movie, but if you want my quick thoughts, then here it is. This is a brilliant and hilarious comedy from Martin McDonough on par with his other hilarious previous film In Bruges with a brilliantly standout performance from Sam Rockwell and Colin Farrell. It is about Hollywood and its love for following cliches for the serial killer genre which Farrell's character is trying to avoid a la Adaptation.

The Life Aquatic of Steve Zizzou (2004) and The Darjeeling Limited - so I saw these two films directed by Wes Anderson which leaves Bottle Rocket as the remaining movie I have yet to see. Life Aquatic for me was too deadpan for my taste. This was where Robert Yeoman's cinematography was too distracting and that Bill Murray's lead performance as Steve Zizzou becomes increasingly sardonic he barely engaged me. While I did appreciate a diorama shot of the Life Aquatic boat, there was nothing special about the film I could recommend. Darjeeling however should have got more praise than it currently have because I think it is Anderson's best film he made (if you're counting live action). Why do I prefer this over his other films? Well this is what I expected from Wes and this was what I wanted from Wes. The characterization of Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody made them fascinating yet remaining quirky, that  you really believe the situations that they have to escape in coming for the trip. 

The Double Life of Veronique (1991) - Kryzstof Kieslowski's film before he made the Three Colors trilogy is visually mezmorizing and is extremely challenging. This is where Irene Jacob (who then appeared in Red) plays two figures of herself - Veronique and Veronika. Both are accomplished musicians whose lives start to fall apart as they take a first glance at each other. Veronique would be her real life self, but Veronika would be Jacob's post-mortem. Before writing this, initally Double Life didn't really engage me due to its glacially slow pace. But the film grew on me with its doppleganger concept Kieslowski aimed to convey in its narrative and Irene Jacob's performance playing both figures who meet their downfall is exhilarating. The cinematography of the film is also gorgeous giving the film a fanatical feeling. In fact, the more I think about the more I could recommend this movie to anyone with this large amount of patience.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012) - my thoughts, my review. I loved it.

Argo (2012) - I finally had a chance to see Ben Affleck's latest film and despite the amount of flaws I found within, it is nonetheless an entertaining thriller. The first and final half hours are the most intense scenes in this or any other movie out this year and Ben Affleck (am I the only person who thought it was Keanu Reeves who is in it) gives out a spell-binding performance as Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who assist in helping the escape of six Canadian diplomats in Iran by masquerade as a talent scout whereas the diplomats roleplay as a film crew of a science fiction movie. There is some witty dialogue within the film such as "Argo fuck yourself"and the comic relief from John Goodman and Alan Arkin is much welcome. Personally I didn't find Argo compelling as a whole and one of my main problems is that after a tense moment, the movie then takes a break in where you find yourself exhausted from that scene and it drags towards the next scene that will have an equal degree of conflict. But still, it's worth watching and it shows that Ben Affleck is a talented director third time around. Check it out

Bad Santa (2003) - This is a film that is not about Christmas, yet it's about a con artist who every year works as a department store Santa while boozing his way into self-destruction. Coming off from a hilarious performance from Billy Bob Thorton as the Bad Santa, the film is simply laugh out loud funny. It may establish itself very slow and crude, but the movie's comedy begins to kick in. Thorton's redemption (if there was any intention) is based on the friendship with an obese and naive 8 year old and they seem to make a really odd couple that it builds more heart the movie needed.

Persepolis (2007) - Majane Strapi's autobiographical animation still leave me wanting to watch it again and again and it stills remain fascinating. I am currently writing an article about the movie and everything about it, so watch out for that. But about Persepolis. Please watch it. The animation is brilliant and the storytelling is well-flowed describing the events in Strapi's life in the ever-changing nation of Iran.

Requiem For A Dream (2000) - So I finally watched this film for the first time and even though it's labeled as "the one great movie you would only want to watch once", I think otherwise. I mean there were some movies I would want to watch once due to its content like Boogie Nights or City of God, but Requiem For A Dream is a movie that has much more repeatability than anyone would estimate. It's really intense and it never takes a break. But away from these problems, the performances from Jared Leto, Jennifer Connolly and Ellen Burstyn really sold this film out and it drives how we use a dangerous supplement to fulfill a supposedly impossible dream in life, especially with drugs. 

Drive - Watching Nicolas Winding Refn's mainstream foray for the fourth time made me realize of how much more layer it contains. It's already one of my favorite films of 2011 and I already expressed praise in Ryan Gosling's minimalist performance and his chemistry with Carey Mulligan, Newton Thomas Sigel's eye-popping cinematography and Albert Brook's chilling character. But I just watched Drive now and I had took full grasp with almost everything the movie delivers. If you haven't seen this movie, check it out now. But be warned. It will take a lot of patience to enjoy it.

And finally...

Skyfall (2012) - I am currently writing a review for it now. Let's just say I watched it for free and it was worth it

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