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Monthly Archives: July 2011

The Beginners (2010) – 95/100

The Beginners is a beautiful love story that is unique in its presentation and its central character. Not too often is there a romance movie where the lead is having difficulty loving because he isn’t sure what love is. And so, The Beginners is more a film about self discovery rather than the forming of a new relationship. The incredible Ewan McGregor plays an endlessly self questioning and self doubting man, who is trying to find out how to fill his life after he has lost so much.┬áThis film is perfect for anyone who chronically over-thinks, and is always asking themselves about anything: “is this really how this should feel?”

Throughout the film is great photography and composition, and under lighting a scene becomes a powerful tool to tell the darker parts of the story. There are several scenes that are filmed so perfectly that they are shockingly good on screen. And, the occasional deadpan humor is a welcome and very funny addition that livens up the film.

The Beginners is a great film. Its sad tone and subject matter may not be for all, but if you’re open minded, don’t fear, as a whole the film is a great pleasure to watch.

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Another Year (2010) – 89/100

Another Year is a methodical character study of several senior British citizens. While you won’t find any typical examples of “excitement” and “drama” in their winding down lives, this narrative driven story drew me in and was a pleasure to watch.

The attraction of this film is the touchingly sad story that acts as a warning to those who left settling down and coupling with someone until their further years. Quite melancholy throughout, with some moderate uplift at times, the film rotates through all its main characters and adorns each with equal screen time. This type of storytelling equalizes all the players, and seems to present each character’s misfortune as derivative of their situation, rather than any inherent personality flaws. This initially victimizes the players, and makes them all the easier to sympathize with. However, throughout the film, as the year goes on, the film shows how the characters create additional situations to displeasure themselves, and so, a vicious circle of suffering becomes apparent, which only brings out more sympathy from the audience.

The art direction is pretty standard throughout, nothing experimental here, and everything is done extraordinarily well. Costume and prop choices felt incredibly authentic, and really helped solidify the genuine feeling of the film. Set design was impressive, with the colors and furnishings of each location exaggerating the feeling of the scene. The best thing about this film though, was the dialogue. It wasn’t terribly funny, but was completely natural and free flowing, and above all, relatable.

Overall, Another Year is a peaceful journey that illuminates the difficulties of aging without anyone to age with. See it if you’re in the mood for a well presented melancholy film; the film’s appeal is greatest when you’re feeling slightly sad and nostalgic.

The Trip (2011) – 94/100

The Trip is a hugely entertaining comedy for anglo-philes and well watched movie goers. I say this because the entire basis of the humor is based in snide British cynicism (which some define as cruelty not humor) and impressions and movie references. The references aren’t especially mainstream either; the more memorable ones include Sleuth, Heat, Get Carter, and Silence of the Lambs. And, though I enjoyed the references and impressions I couldn’t recognize, I do consider myself a big lover of British comedy, so my opinion might be a bit more rosy than anyone else’s.

One thing that did surprise me is the sudden shift in tone during the movie, from light-hearted friendly male joking, to lonely sad single Steve Coogan. I even debated with myself if this might have been done comically, because such a strongly terse message from this kind of a film seemed like it could be just another one of the two comedians’ jokes. But, after deliberation, I’ve settled that this movie does indeed try to show the joy that can come out of a light friendly relationship, versus the enormous sadness that comes from loneliness. Despite The Trip having a trailer that illuminates it as a shenanigans filled fun drive around the British countryside, at its heart is hidden the sad truth of Steve Coogan’s life (at least in the film, who knows about reality).

Though the focus of The Trip is clearly the hilarious characters that it documents, the film is still filled with some interesting camerawork and occasionally stunning landscape shots. However because half of the movie takes place in restaurants, you mostly see the typical TV show type camera navigations like in Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. The editing is especially seamless and organized, and laid out the story effectively, plus the music chosen was natural and enhanced every part of the movie.

For its laugh out loud and pleasantly bantering dialogue, The Trip is already great. But coupled with the idea that all this comedy is a colorful tapestry drawn over a dark vacuous wireframe makes this movie feel like it has genuine depth and makes it truly interesting. So, unless you have some sort of disdain for British humor, and hate impressions, and become irritated when you don’t understand movie references, go see this film right away.

Bull Durham (1988) – 71/100

Bull Durham is an adorable film about baseball, yet at the same time incorporates steamy sex all over the place. Just because it is a sports film, there’s too many stray curse words and too much focus on sex to be ideal for younger viewers. But Bull Durham isn’t so strangely obscene that any adults would be uncomfortable.

The best way to describe this film would be “likable.” The three leads are a joy to watch, especially the endlessly ranting Susan Sarandon, whose bouts of philosophy are a welcome entertaining spice sprinkled throughout the film. Kevin Costner and Tim Robins are both charming in their respective ways, but at times, Costner’s acting comes across a bit passionless and forced. Yet, the 2 scenes that he completely underacts are tepid oddballs in Bull Durham, which is otherwise pretty composed and lively.

This is a film for entertainment, so the cinematography, music, or editing is nothing special. The central romance also seems like an age old story which anyone could predict. And on top of that, the lead female, who is supposed to be some hot sex diva, really doesn’t attract me at all. Yet, I would say that the likability of this movie comes across in its funny but not enchanting performances, especially evident in the silly narration, done by Susan Sarandon’s quirky character.

Bull Durham is unique in that it combines baseball and love. At its core it is a fun romantic comedy, and I would recommend watching it for its entertaining value; that said, it’s not quite as good as Field of Dreams.

Badlands (1974) – 82/100

Badlands is an interesting, but not particularly thrilling, narratively driven story of a couple on a crime spree. The film is unusual in its subject matter, as the lead couple seems strangely unaffected by the havoc they cause. This makes the viewer question that if these people have no passion to protect life, how could they possibly love each other? So, Badlands turns out to be a telling of an alienated feeling boy who is strangely drawn to a prude girl, and starts killing just because people get in his way, and this gives him a sense of direction in his life. Mostly because of the subject matter, this is my least favorite Terrence Malick film.

Badlands is an interesting character study, which is cemented by its strong setting shots which aptly document the lonely midwest. The film itself is beautiful and well constructed, and the music, as in any Malick film, will be left to play on repeat in your head for a few weeks after viewing.

Martin Sheen is great, and his behavior in the film at first appears predictable, but reveals itself as insane and lonely as the film progresses. Every motion and gesture and face he makes powerfully portrays the serial killer this movie documents. However I did think the female lead, played by Sissy Spacek, was underacted and strangely sedate. Although this could have been part of her intended character, her bored behavior seemed too non-sequitir to be part of the film’s script.

Overall, I admit that Terrence Malick’s midas touch has been left all over the art direction of Badlands, but I didn’t find Badlands as enticing as his other films, so I would recommend seeing Days of Heaven instead if you want a short (hour and a half) and plot driven yet artistic Malick film.