Archives for the month of: March, 2014

8 Minutes Idle

It’s cute, quirky and British, but there’s not much else going for this odd little rom-com.  Dan (Tom Hughes) is kicked out of his house by his mother, played by a splendid Pippa Haywood who you need to see in Green Wings and in this little clip. Home and work life fuse when Dan secretly moves into the office storeroom with his cat.  His interactions with office mates unfold in a series of subplots: a tyrant boss who essentially rapes him, a dj co-worker who is seemingly the only one to genuinely care for and help him, a shy goof who can’t talk to girls but knows how to dance, and of course the pixie love interest, Teri.  None can escape the doldrums of this office interplay of relationships and sex, until an outside force changes everything, and the concerns and established hierarchies of the job are rendered moot and so is any chance of Dan becoming a character her drives his own change rather than just being a likable character and nice guy who is pushed around.  We can now focus on the relationship – which cute as it is, doesn’t carry the film.

 

Simon Amstell: Numb

I psychoanalyze vicariously through Simon Amstell. His style of story telling and self-reflection is painfully (hilariously) honest, admitting things to himself (and an audience) that others out of embarrassment and shame would hide away. He says what we think and that adds value.

This clip from his life and mine:

Watch Simon Amstell Numb Online Free Putlocker.

I Am Number Four

This movie is bad and the creators should feel bad.

Maniac

This remake avoids the gross obvious creepiness of the original 1988 main character, by casting Elijah Wood as Frank and he is exceptional.  Wood physically comes off as demure, soft-spoken and seemingly passive, but does perfectly in building up the unseen tension until he explodes in his moments of rage.  Done entirely from the point of view of Frank, we only see glimpses of him mostly through reflections, except for in his imagination when he pictures the ideal life and romance with Anna, a beautiful French photographer.  In those scenes the camera pans around and we see both characters undistorted, together, and picture perfect.  Frank, however is terribly broken by a traumatic past which manifests in migraines and visions that torment him and drive his mania. His brutality is unique and merciless, but at the same time the viewer (at least me) comes to care for this tortured artist character, even when he’s putting a butcher knife through someone’s face, or scalping his latest victim and mother figure stand-in.  In part because he does it out of love.  That kind of love proves deadly.

One scene I particularly enjoyed takes place in a cinema where we get a glimpse of the film, a b&w silent film, where a man is waking and preparing to kill a young woman. This mise-en-abîme mirrors beautifully Frank, and foreshadows what is to come between he and Anna.  Seconds after the glimpse, he feels the onset of another attack and the screen blurs and vibrates as his head throbs in pain. Exquisite.

Carnage
“I am glad our son kicked the shit out of your son
and I wipe my ass with your human rights!”
Nancy Cowan, Carnage

Years ago on one of my first trips to New York City, my friend Maureen and I saw the theatrical version of this film, written by Yazmin Reza and titled, God of Carnage, with Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis playing Alan and Nancy Cowan, and Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini playing Penelope and Michael Longstreet. It’s difficult not to make the comparisons, and I think what made the original theatrical version for me was the script and the actor’s ability to really cut loose in that claustrophobic New York apartment.
Over the course of an afternoon two couples meet to discuss an incident between their two sons, but the veneer of politeness begins to crack and chip away.  There are great moments that expose these characters for who they are, in particular one scene towards the end when Alan (played by Cristoph Waltz) who I think understands best the social breakdown, says, “Yes Doodle, we do care, in a hysterical way, not like heroic figures in a social movement.” At once exposing the hypocrisy of politeness, yuppie causes, white girls in Africa, and freaking out because boys were being boys.

While it gets the point across, the film missed the explosive energy and decent into madness and absolute nihilism  of the theatrical version I saw, and ends less with a bang and more with a whimper.

Filth

Another film with great promise but that doesn’t deliver 100% is Filth, based on the Irvine Welsh novel and starring a fantastic cast led by James McAvoy (who you should watch in Trance).  While I liked the movie for its style, grit and humor, there are plot gaps that are important to the overall story and helping us understand crazed Detective Bruce Robertson’s motivations.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS.

Robertson has these occasional visions of a boy, covered in soot and obviously dead.  Towards the end we discover that this was his younger and higher achieving brother for whose death Robertson feels responsible despite screams and protestations at an imaginary psychiatrist that it was an accident.

We assume this guilt has messed him up, but is it the sole thing that has been responsible for his fall into chaos?  We also get that his wife and daughter have left him, but when was this? What was the cause? Admittedly he doesn’t know, saying,
“I think they’ve left me. I think my family have left me. I don’t know how. I can’t remember why. You see, there’s something wrong with me. There is something seriously wrong with me.” but what is it?!

All that being said, there are some great performances by Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan (who’s really been coming up in the world since Happy-Go-Lucky) and others, as well as a fantastic car scene sing-along to Silver Lady. The lyrics for which say a lot,

“Tired of drifting, searching, shifting through town to town
Every time I slip and slide a little further down
I can’t blame you if you won’t take me back
After everything I put you through
But honey you’re my last hope
And who else can I turn to

Come on Silver Lady take my word
I won’t run out on you again believe me”

Reconsideration
Thinking a bit more, there are scenes that take on a film noirish style where we hear short monologues by his wife Carole, regarding their marriage. Perhaps these scenes (which we later find out are him in drag, acting out his wife to feel close to her), reflect not only his interpretation of her perspective of their relationship, but a deluded version of it that fits perfectly in his world and desires, but obviously did not match up with hers.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

More than once while we watched this movie, Jen asked “Why was this made?” Disturbed acts of sadism, based on the novel 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade takes place in fascist Italy and meant to resemble Dante’s Inferno, but reminded me also of Boccacio’s Decameron, with each day devoted to storytelling with a particular thematic (and usually sexual) nature.
All I know of the meaning and metaphor behind this film I had to glean from Wikipedia, and while the images are terrible and cruel I think it was made to depict the baseness of the fascist ideology and life under the regime.
I’m glad I was finally able to watch it and highly recommend for cinephiles. It certainly merits a viewing and further study.

Watch a REALLY toned down trailer HERE.

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Just to be clear I hate the musical Rent, but the subtle reference seems appropriate because that’s how I’m starting to see the remainder of my time.  Starting March 12, I have exactly 100 days until my Closure of Service (COS) and I am cut loose from Albania.  The countdown never stops.

Model United Nations
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
-Albert Einstein

Last month 121 students participated in the 5th Albania Model United Nations.  This event was the culmination of 6 months of hard work in which students conducted research, held mock debates, and worked in teams to practice writing resolutions and position papers.  They debated issues on nuclear disarmament and development, human rights of migrants and the crisis in Syria, passing over 20 resolutions.

One of the highlights this year was, for the first time in the model’s history, we held the opening session in the Albanian Parliament.  Students from 14 cities across Albania, many of whom have never travelled outside of their city, got to sit in the legislative house of their country, in the seats of their political leaders.  When each stood up in turn to deliver their opening remarks, the pride they felt was palpable.

Parliament Shot

Norman
Molly Grue: Why won’t you help me? Why must you always speak in riddles
The Cat: Because I be, what I be. I would tell you what you want to know if I could, mum, but I be a cat. And no cat anywhere, ever gave anyone a straight answer.
The Last Unicorn (1982)

I just saw Norman’s mom skulking outside.  

DSC_0024

Last Saturday, I took Norman to be castrated. Overnight he had become a man, and that meant pissing everywhere and attracting all kinds of unwanted attention from neighborhood cats.  I had to lock him in the house for a week, a quarantine which ended on a beautiful day, perfect for airing out the smell of cat.  It has been stressful week for both of us what with the large number of guests I’ve had recently for Diten e Veresthe twice daily wrestling match to shove antibiotics down his throat, and the daily poop and piss clean up (why won’t you just use the litter box you ass?!).
We’ve had to reevaluate our ever evolving relationship.

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Closure of Service

Please don’t ask me what I’m doing.

Continuing to keep tabs on the films I watch (so much downtime in Peace Corps) and share my thoughts for those interested.

Philomena

Beautifully adapted by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena, is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman who with the help of Martin Sixsmith, a journalist and recently fired government press advisor, tracks down the son taken from her.  That summary doesn’t do it justice – check out the trailer.

The two characters come very different places and social classes, yet so many times despite her seeming small town ignorance, Philomena shows herself to be more worldly than Martin would expect.  Despite his growing respect for her, however, Martin continues to return to her religion, disturbed by what he feels is blind adherence to an organization that has abused her trust.  There’s one particular scene that I enjoyed where Philomena asks Martin to take her to a church so she can confess.  He pokes at her and her religion saying “It’s the Catholic church that should go to confession, not you…”

Philomena – “I just hope God isn’t listening to you.”
Martin – “Well I don’t believe in God. Look. No thunderbolt.”
P – “What are you trying to prove?”
M – “Nothing. That you don’t need religion to live a happy and balanced life.
P – “You’re happy and balanced are you?”
M – “I’m a journalist, Philomena. We ask questions. We don’t believe something because we’re told it’s the truth. What does the Bible say, ‘Happy are those who do not see and believe’ Hooray for blind faith and ignorance.”
P – “And what do you believe in? Picking holes in everyone else? Being a smart aleck?”

The film sparked some serious controversy, and while the Roman Catholic church in Ireland comes under scrutiny, it is not religion to which Philomena turns, but her faith. Faith gives her the strength to love, to live a life without judgement of others, and most importantly, to forgive.

Dallas Buyers Club

It was good, not great, and the ending fell flat.

In Their Skin

So, I’ve been really wanting to watch a good horror film where the antagonist either so completely owns the situation that the brutality is almost godlike (a la Funny Games) or has the rug pulled right out from under him and quickly find himself the hapless victim (a la You’re Next – so I’ve heard. I still haven’t seen it.).  In Their Skin, was neither and was as flat as its monochromatic color palette.

The film starts off well – a man panicked and running before headlights until he can go no further is brutally executed by a figure who emerges off camera.  We then cut to the brooding, affluent Hughes family heading to their vacation home in a secluded mountain area, after the tragic loss of their daughter.  Up to now it’s a classic set up, with Josh Close and Selma Blair as the estranged couple and parents to surviving child Brendon (the only one seemingly unaffected by the death). Close and Blair do a great job of creating characters who are still shell-shocked and on edge, and it’s best apparent when the strange Sakowskis (led by James D’Arcy) show up.  The Sakowskis are a family un-used to riches trying a little to hard to ingratiate themselves and it creates a wonderful creepiness with tensions on both sides, which peaks in a moment when Mark (Close) suddenly yanks Bobby (D’Arcy) off the steps with barely restrained violence.

From this I felt led to believe that there’s more to Hughes than we know and I’m titillated by the prospects which never actualize.  From here the film goes bland.  The Sakowskis get violent and take the Hughes hostage with standard horror film panache.  James D’Arcy I enjoyed in his role as a crazy person, but there are awkward situations, especially towards the end which felt out of character, or just lazy.  In the meantime the viewer is left with a “twist” that lacks real drama, and I’m left still wanting a good horror film.

W.E.

I struggle with Madonna’s much maligned movie.  There are fragments of the film that I enjoy, but overall feel it deserves the criticism for the vision it attempts and fails to attain.  The story shifts back and forth between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) the famous American who had the indecency to love and be loved by the heir to the British crown, Edward VIII (James D’Arcy), and Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) a woman enthralled by the aforementioned celebrity romance who is struggling in the cage of her own disastrous fairytale.

Stylistically it is a beautiful film and D’Arcy and Riseborough are wonderful.  Polished and glossy, it visually jumps off the screen like a fashion magazine.  Sets, props and costumes are so well placed in their perfection that it is distracting.  And therein lies my main problem with W.E..  It is so perfectly smooth but at the same time fragmented and disjointed with many small elements jarringly pulling you out of the moment, taking away from the overall story.  For example Abel Korzeniowski’s score, stunning as it is, is far too reminiscent of his composition for A Single Man, with some sections feeling directly lifted.  Then during a party scene, which in itself felt unnecessary, guests go wild to the tune of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”, which would be interesting if the anachronism had served a purpose other than being “cool”.

The story is expansive, and Madonna and co-writer Alex Keshishian use the juxtaposition of the two relationships to bringing a new perspective to the Wallis and Edward,  focusing not just on the romance but the sacrifices that Simpson made.  This might have worked, if both women’s stories were equally interesting and dynamic, but the modern tale is banal. The Wallis and Edward story is rich enough without adding an unnecessary and distracting storyline

In fact, it may have been too rich and too big for Madonna’s sophomore foray into directing.

Excited about…

Zero Theorum

Return of Hannibal and Bates Motel