Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Favorite Films 2011

1. The Tree of Life

Another great film with Brad Pitt in it? I guess he is becoming a good actor. A definite winner at Cannes this year, Terence Malilck’s piece is indeed a great film. The film starts in a strange sequence, then it goes into aspects of evolution, biology, a sort of cosmic vision, non-narrative spectacle, scenes with prehistoric reptiles, deserts, galaxies and spiral DNA shapes, complete excess challenging notions of realism, a meditation on memory, time, and the look at love and loss.

The character Jack played by Sean Penn, an architect, is taken back to his 1950s childhood in a small town in Texas. He remembers his relationship with his overwhelming, demanding, disciplinarian father, played by Brad Pitt, His loving mother, the father’s opposite, his two brothers and the one brother who died at the age of 19, presumably for being part of the military.

As a young boy Jack has to face his father, a God-fearing family man, he is angry with him and his brothers; he respects the severity of traditional religious beliefs, but aspires to riches and worldliness, negotiating with patents and spending the family's means.
He is very tough, for example, he challenges his boys to hit him, to toughen them up, to become men. He is a frustrated musician; his frustration and rage simmer from every pore. His boys feel fear as well as love him. They seem to have fused both into the same complex emotion.

Jack realizes that time, far from healing the wounds of loss, only makes them more painful. The dream-like scenes from his childhood, in a sense, the purpose of these gigantic visions is to obliterate the pain of living and not comprehending their purpose.
Lot of people has made the comment that they found the film boring. This film is not for everyone. The final sequence could be interpreted as “religious” in Western Metaphysical way, suggesting closure and redemption. The film asks several questions about the reason for redemption, healing, survival and existence. A must see.

2. Moneyball

I have to say I really loved this movie. It was very inspiring to me. At first, I was a bit skeptical about Brad Pitt. After I saw it my opinion changed, he was really good, this was a role made for him.
Inevitably, I had to make the comparison to the world of architecture, this parallel dialogue with a discipline like architecture makes a lot of sense, and it was sad to realize that baseball is far advance in so many ways that architecture is and should be. The story of a guy that has the vision of change, understands the game, but comes to the understanding that the old standards have to be questions. The main character has to negotiate with old guys that understand the “classic ways” of making choices, qualifying people and understanding the game.
Billy Beane, the character’s name, is the provocative general manager of the Oakland Athletics whose unconventional ideas about what a team with limited resources could do to compete with profligate powerhouses like the New York Yankees continue to infuriate the sport's traditionalists. Billy finds a young guy that uses technology as a way qualify a player based on parametric statistics. He begins to trust this criteria and this takes him to challenge everything he has known so far and is familiar with, but knows that there is something there. He goes after in a strong way. The fantastic combination of experience, intuition and technology, this sounds very familiar. The film is inspiring in a way that we have to understands that thing need to change if we want to continue being relevant. I find myself just like Billy dealing with “young-old guys” that believe things can’t change.
I highly recommend this film.

3. Midnight in Paris

4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The history of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'” takes us to 70’s. The failure of a space mission in Hungary triggers a change in the commander's control dome of the British services. One of the uncontrolled ones is agent George Smiley. When Smiley already has come to terms with the idea of retirement, he is put in charge of a special mission. There are suspicions that a “mole” has been infiltrated between the high instances of the Service and only somebody from outside can discover it. With the help of other retired officers and one faithful agent, Smiley will be successfully obtaining information and fitting the pieces that will take to the traitor. During this process he will find treason histories, ambition and lies.

At its narrative, the film is an old-fashioned whodunit; yet it’s the thematic circumference that dominates loyalties betrayed and the betrayals compounded. As the narrative develops, the scenes grow thicker in sinister subtext, until the flashback becomes about: The past is never simple and not even past, it always sows the seeds of the present.

Nearly 40 years later, this superb remake has the inevitable look of a period piece, a smoke-filled rendering of things past. John le Carré wrote the novel in the early seventies and the BBC adapted it. However, thanks to Tomas Alfredson’s great direction and a brilliant cast, with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Tom Hardy among others, the film also retains its contemporary relevance, as a reminder that the ethical ambiguities of today’s geo-political climate are hardly new, that there was never anything simple about the simple dialectic of the Cold War. A greatly acted film; go check it out.

5. Beginners

6. The Ides of March

The last work of George Clooney as director. This was the opening film at the “Mostra” of Venice. The film is also acted by the Clooney that apparently has been very pleased by the result, also in the film is perhaps the best American young actor, Ryan Gosling, This is a plot of suspense with political background. “The Ides of March” has been co-written by Clooney as well, demonstrating its faith on the story adapting the Willimon’s work “Farragut North”. The story takes us to the last days of primary elections in Ohio. The cast is completed with other stars that put a heavy weight to the film, including Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Max Minghella and Jeffrey Wright, besides the always stimulating Philip Seymour Hoffman, plus another great performance by Gosling this year, hard to tell which performance was his best this year out of this one, “Drive” and “Crazy, Stupid Love”. A super cast!

This movie is about politics and of course that means that it is filled with lies and deceptions and all sorts of interesting stuff. People are tempted onto the other side, forced to indulge in cover ups that will prevent the competition from finding out their hidden secrets, and brought into all sorts of betrayals. This movie will keep you drawn to the screen in order to find out exactly what the truth is and what the lies are. But don’t be surprised if you aren’t sure which is which until the very end. You’ll love this movie.

7. Shame

This is the new film from director Steve McQueen. The main character played by Irish actor Michael Fassbender. Brandon is the main character of the movie and he’s got a horrible sexual addiction. All he really wants to do is connect with someone in a real and genuine way but it just never seems to happen. His sexual escapades are raw but you can see that he is searching for more, something else. When his wayward younger sister, Sissy, (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment shaking memories of their shared painful past, Brandon's insular life spirals out of control. Sissy is a cutter and equally damaged character comes to stay with him and he tries to protect her from life but it isn’t always possible.

Brandon is isolated by his addiction. He takes regular masturbation breaks in his workplace restroom. He orders prostitutes at night, sometimes several. His laptop at home has by pay-per-minute cam-girls who know him by name; his desktop at work is so rotten with porn that IT support takes it away. Brandon has sex compulsively, indiscriminately, and for the sake of release rather than for intimacy or even pleasure.

The movie is extremely slow-paced, Director Steve McQueen lingers on scenes until they reach, and surpass, emotional breaking point. Shame is not exactly a sexy date movie, but it is not disgusting either. Brandon doesn't have sex like normal people, his entire sexuality seems to be rooted in self-hatred.

The film ends with Brandon on the moment of a decision, but we don't know whether he's going to take the one that could actually help him. There is little indication in the movie that there is hope. This is one of the best movies you’ll see this year and you will not be able to stop thinking about these characters.

8. The Artist

I was a bit apprehensive before I saw the film. I was questioning the idea of the remake of a silent film. I quickly changed my mind. This is a French, silent movie in black and white, however “The Artist” will make you feel the love for cinema. 

Set in 1927, Jean Dujardin stars as George Valentin, the biggest movie star in the whole world.  He's riding high in the time of the silent pictures, but those times are coming to an end.  The head of the studio, Al Zimmer (John Goodman), is ready to embrace the talkies, and he wants to bring in a new stable of stars. 

Of course, George is too proud and stubborn to embrace the future, so he leaves the studio determined to continue his silent stardom.  Along the way, he meets Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) an Argentinian born actress, she plays a young lady looking to become a Hollywood star.  As her fortunes rise and she becomes the biggest star of the talkies, George's fall, but the attraction between them only seems to grow, especially as Peppy tries to help. The question emerge whether he will have a comeback, will they fall in love, will he be in a talkie film? 

The Artist is in the list this year because of the great job they did, great artistry and skill needed to recreate a silent movie, but, also, because it has a story and acting that excites your emotions.  Director Michel Hazanavicius and his team relentlessly adhered to the silent movie formulas and characteristics in ways that cinema experts will be raging, and the less experienced movie fans will find entertaining. 

The Artist is a great movie, whether it is silent or not.  Bejo is the girl all guys hope to fall in love with as she bats her eyelashes, sings, dances and performs one of the most brilliant pantomime scenes since the golden days silent film when she is in George's dressing room, Peppy plays around, pretending to have a romantic, flirty encounter with the man of her dreams.

A silent movie needs to be broad to express the story to the audience, but George (Dujardin) also brings in some more subtle moments and steadily shows the dissatisfaction, disappointment and growing depression in George to make the fall of the movie idol so poignant.   

Dog lovers will love this film after the great dog’s performance, Uggie charms his way, for sure. It is a great cinema lesson. Go check it out. You might like it. 

9. The Descendants

Based on a novel of Kaui Hart Hemmings, this film “the descendants” tells the history of Matt King (George Clooney) who is not exactly a good father or a good husband. Matt King has to give the decisive vote to sell his family land in Hawaii. It is in fact a terrible moment, because his wife Elizabeh has been in a comma for 23 days after an accident. It is another tremendous decision to disconnect her from the vital tubes. Matt (George Clooney) finds out that the paralyzed Liz was planning to leave him and divorce him for her lover (Matthew Lillard) whom the betrayed wishes to know.This ignored adultery is revealed by Alex (Shailene Woodley), his 17 year old sarcastic daughter, whom he never took the time to understand.
In summary with so many marriage and paternal complications, it is surprise to see how the director, Alexander Payne, maintains lightness of this astute comedy with an argument that another director would have intensified with almost tragic narrative.

Matt King is terrified to become responsible of Alex and her 10 year old sister (Amara Miller), but with their help he undertakes the search of the elusive Lillard. Irony is vital to observe in proximity as well as from a distance this cornucopia of Cuckolds this offers Clooney the most ambivalent character in his career, at moments with almost perverse temptation to cry with outbursts of laughter in a moment where Payne has the supreme tact to do a take where Matt is facing backwards.

Matt creates believes he has control of his life or at least of its family. The supposed descendants assume ascendant dominion in a future where tha contradictions abound. Alexandra cruelly removes her content father’s blindfolds, as she shows him that to live on a lie it is the equivalent to die on installments.

In Alexander Payne’s filmography, The Descendants surpasses “Election” and “Sideways”, by its absolute control of the cast. Woodley, the young boyfriend (Nick Krause) and the grouchy grandfather played by Robert Forster steal scenes from Clooney, adding spice to the situations. In the sunny places of Hawaii, we are allowed to turn this story around and turn it into an almost mocking melodrama. 

10. Melancholia

I have never been a fan of Kirsten Dunst; although I loved Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, for this film she won best actress at Cannes, which I don’t think this performance was particularly great. The movie has an interesting premise; the rich behaving badly can be entertaining. Lars von Trier's latest apocalyptic drama, "Melancholia," takes a similar route, but at the risk of overplaying the apocalyptic narrative.

Melancholia is the name of a planet that's on a collision course with Earth, just in time to spoil the extravagant wedding party of hedonistic rich girl Justine (Kirsten Dunst), whose marriage to Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) gets off to a rocky start. At first the bride and groom seem intoxicated with each other, but soon she's ripping her clothes, urinating on the grass and raping a guy named Tim.

"Melancholia" tells us the tale of two sisters who are polar opposites in every respect. Justine (Dunst) is a free-spirited career woman who's blond, attractive and just about to have it all marrying a perfect man, and by her nature, rejects it all.   Charlotte Gainsbourg plays Claire, a dark-haired, extremely thin in appearance and has given her life over to her very successful husband and perfect son, and yearns for Justine's life. This is literally set against the backdrop of the discovery of a new planet named Melancholia that's careening through space, supposedly only going to pass by Earth.
It's the end of the world as von Trier knows it, and he seems to dig it.

Their portrayal can be seen as both sensitive and pretentious and that can certainly come at odds for how you'll feel about them by the end. I've come to embrace the pretentiousness of von Trier's work simply because he knows how to balance it all with effective technical proficiency and leaves it all open to discussion, however as is the case with all of von Trier's movies, he invites you to bring your agendas and make your own interpretation.
It's an absolutely beautiful looking movie that brings to play all of von Trier's visual tricks. Pristine composed shots that work in combination with intentionally jittery handheld camera moments all designed to provoke and force the viewer to put together the pieces. Von Trier uses excerpts from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde to punctuate his scenes and furthers the haunting beauty of his film.

Perhaps "Melancholia" sounds less ponderous than it is. Certainly it's easier to grasp than Von Trier's previous epic, "Antichrist," thanks in part to the casting. Hurt and Rampling make an especially volatile ex-couple, though the wildly eclectic soundtrack sometimes seems to be fighting them. I'm a fan of Lars von Trier and any new movie from him is worth going to see. I found "Melancholia" to be mesmerizing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Favorite Foreign Films

Pedro Almodovar

Matador 1986

Law of Desire 1987

Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown 1988

Tie me up! Tie me down! 1990

High heels 1991

Kika 1993

All about my mother 1999

Talk to her 2002

Bad Education 2004

Broken Embraces 2009


Denys Arcand

                        Love and Human Remains 1993

                        The Barbarian Invasions 2003


Michelangelo Antonioni (my favorite)

Cronaca D’un Amore 1951

Le amiche 1954

Il Grido 1957

L’avventura 1960

La notte 1960


Red Desert 1964

Blow up1966

Eros (2004)


Bruno Barreto

Dona Flor and her two husbands 1976

Amor Bandido 1979

Gabriela 1983

Bossa Nova 2000


Ingmar Bergman

The Seventh Seal 1957

Wild Strawberries 1957

Persona 1966

Cries and Whispers 1972

Autumn Sonata 1978

Fanny and Alexander 1989


Bernardo Bertolucci

Last Tango In Paris 1972

Stealing Beauty 1996

The Dreamers 2003


Robert Bresson

A man escaped 1956

Pickpocket 1959

L’argent 1971


Luis Buñuel

Andalusian Dog 1929

Los olvidados 1950

Nazarin 1961

Viridiana 1961

The exterminating angel 1962

Belle du Jour 1967

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouisie  1972

That obscure object of desire 1972

The Phantom of Liberty 1974


Alfonso Cuarón

Solo con tu Pareja 1991

Y tu mamá también   2001

Children of Men 2006


Jules Dassin

The Naked City 1948

Rififi 1956


Phillipe De Broca

That Man from Rio 1964


Jacques Demy

Lola 1961

Bay of Angels 1963

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg 1964


Vittorio De Sica

Bicycle Thief 1948

Umberto D. 1952

Garden of Finzi-Continis 1971


Atom Egoyan

Family Viewing 1987

Speaking Parts 1989

The Adjuster 1991

Ararat 2002

Adoration 2008

Chloe  2009


Sergei Eisenstein

The Battleship Potemkin 1925

Que Viva México 1932


Federico Fellini

Nights of Cabiria 1956

Il Vitteloni 1957

La Dolce Vita 1960

8 1/2 1963

Satyricon 1968

Amarcord 1974

And the ship sails on 1983


Emilio Fernández

Flor Sivestre 1943

María Candelaría 1944

Rio Escondido 1948

Salón México 1949

Reportaje 1953


Mike Figgis

Libestraum 1991

Leaving Las Vegas 1995

Loss of sexual innocence 1999

Time Code 2000


Jean-Luc Goddard

Breathless 1961

Woman is a Woman 1961

My life to live 1962

Contempt 1963

Alphaville 1965

Pierro le fou 1965

Masculin-feminin 1966

Weekend 1967

Praise of Love 2003

Notre Musique 2004


Alejandro González-Iñarritu

Amores Perros 2000

21 Grams 2003

Babel 2006

Biutiful  2010


Peter Greenaway

The Draughtsman contract 1982

Belly of an Architect 1988

Drowning by numbers 1988

The Cook, the thief, the wife and her lover 1989

Pillow Book 1996

81/2 women 1999


Alfred Hitchcock

The man who knew too much 1937

39 steps 1939

Rebecca 1940

Suspicion 1941

Lifeboat 1944

Spellbound 1945

Notorious 1946

The rope 1948

Strangers on a Train 1950

Rear Window 1954

Vertigo 1958

North by Northwest 1959


Juan Ibáñez

Los Caifanes 1967


Krysztof Kieslowski

Double life of Veronique  1991

Blue 1993

White 1994

Red 1994


Stanley Kubrik

Dr Strangelove 1964

2001 Space Odyssey 1968

Clockwork Orange 1971

Barry Lyndon 1975

Full Metal Jacket 1987

Eyes Wide Shut 1999


Akira Kurosawa

Rashomon 1950

Seven Samurai 1954

The Bad Sleep Well 1960

Yojimbo 1961

High and Low 1963

Ran 1985

Dreams 1990


Fritz Lang

Metropolis 1928

M  1931


Claude Leluoch

A man and a woman 1965

And now Ladies and Gentlemen 2003


Joseph Losey

Eva 1962

The Servant 1963

Modesty Blaise 1966

Doll’s House 1973

Mr. Klein 1975           


Louis Malle

The lovers 1958

Time to live and time to die 1961

The Fire Within 1961

Human too human 1974

My dinner with Andre 1981

Au revoir les enfants (1987)


Chris Marker

La Jettee 1962

Sunless 1982


Tonie Marshall

Venus Beauty Institute 2000


Ko Nakahira

Crazed Fruit (1956)


Silvio Narizzano

Georgy Girl 1966


Christopher Nolan

Following 1998

Memento 2000

Batman Begins 2005

The Dark Knight 2008


Ermanno Olmi

Il Posto 1961

I Fidanzati 1963


Francois Ozon

8 Women 2002

Swimming Pool 2003

Time to Leave 2005

Hideaway 2009


Roman Polanski

Knife in the Water 1963

Rosemary’s Baby 1968

Chinatown 1974

Frantic 1988

Bitter Moon 1992

The Pianist 2002


Alain Resnais

Hiroshima Mon Amour 1959

Last Year in Marienbad 1961

Private Fears in Public Places 2006


Tony Richardson

A Taste of Honey 1961

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner 1962

Mademoiselle 1966

The Hotel New Hampshire 1984

Blue Sky 1994


Eric Rohmer

Night at Maud’s 1969

Cholé in the afternoon 1972

Good Marriage 1982

Pauline at the beach 1983

Boyfriends and girlfriends 1997

Tale of Springtime 1990

Tale of Winter 1992

Summer’s tale 1996

Autumn’s tale 1998


Roberto Rossellini

Rome Open City 1946

Paisa 1946

Germany year zero 1947

Stromboli 1949

Voyage to Italy 1953

The greatest love 1951


Carlos Saura

Blood wedding 1981

Carmen 1983

Elisa my love 1977

Tango 1998


Ismael Rodríguez

Los tres García 1943

Nosotros los pobres 1948

Ustedes los ricos 1948

ATM 1951

Pepe el Toro 1953


Jacques Tati

Mon Oncle 1958

Playtime 1967


Andre Tarkovski

Solaris 1972

Nostalghia 1983

The Sacrifice 1986


Francois Truffaut

400 Blows 1959

Shoot the Piano Player 1960

Jules et Jim 1962

Farenheit 451 1966

The bride wore black 1967

Stolen Kisses 1968

Bed and Board 1970

Day for Night            1973

Man who loved women 1977

Confidentially yours 1983


Agnes Varda

Cleo de 5 a 7  1962

Happiness  1965


Luchino Visconti

Ossesione 1942

La terra trema 1948

Le Notte Bianche 1957

Senso 1954

Rocco and his brothers 1961

Death in Venice 1971

The Innocent 1976


Kar Wai Wong

In the Mood (2000)

2046 (2005)


Win Wenders

Paris Texas 1984

Wings of Desire 1987

Far away so close 1993

Notebook on cities and clothes 1989

Lisbon Story 1994