Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beginners 2011

It was easy for me to be captured by this movie, I was able to relate to most of the situations. I lost my father to lung cancer and just like the character Oliver I spent all those final days ailing his demise, even the house reminds me of my father's house. I can also relate to the pros and cons af loneliness and the impression that emotional relationships leave in your psyche. I love the idea about the film of starting something for the first time no matter how old you are or the idea of starting over anew.  Both Hal (Christoper Plummer) and Oliver (Ewan McGreggor) are beginners in their own lives and this idea of starting over is beautifully displayed in director Mike Mills' film.

I loved the feeling of the film, created through the excellent photography, the light is always soft and dim. This film is in this beautiful gloomy mood. Which I wish it will always be like that at all times.

The non-linear plot goes back and forth in time from Oliver's point of view - it shows him in phases of his young life with his mother, his adult life with his father, and his own journey in a brand new relationship. There is all kinds of love and relationships intertwining through “Beginners,” connecting mothers and fathers, parents and children, sons and lovers, men and their dogs. The love feels heartfelt but it’s difficult loving other people a hardship that’s evident in the emotional ups and downs.

After his wife' death, Hal announces he is gay after 44 years of marriage, shocking his son.  He also announces he is going to start dating again and starts a love affair with a much younger man (Goran Visnjic, I couln’t recognize him).  In a tragic twist of events, he also learns he has been diagnosed with lung cancer, just as he is getting to experience his life for the first time out of the closet.

While grieving the loss of his father, Oliver has a similar experience of new beginnings when he meets Anna played by Melanie Laurant and starts a relationship with her, all kinds of old relationship memories inundate Oliver. Historically, eager to run from his former relationships, he constantly has his father in the back of his mind questioning why nothing has ever lasted with him. In his journey for understanding within his own life, his relationship with Anna, as well as his acceptance and understanding of his father, deepen. The character of the dog is quite interesting as part consciousness, part bonding vehicle, his affections are clear and simple.

It is a beautiful film full of hope and creates a strong impression on a viewer who might be reluctant to embrace who they are and let others into their personal circle.

Both Plummer and McGreggor give an impeccable acting job. I strongly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Swimsuit Edition 2009

This is one of the movies I watched this year that I really enjoyed. It is what I would call a “masculinist” film not a macho film. It is the kind of film we have seen before that explores men’s issues with their bodies, social-gender idiosyncrasies, self-esteem, etc. The film is in the same vein as “ The Full Monty” but touching on issues not usually found in sports comedies: hard times, fragmented families, reverse discrimination. It’s the situations that are comical, not the characters. There is a good play of the father-daughter relationship between Frederik (played by Jonas Inde) and his daughter.

It is a Swedish movie that follows a group of middle-aged men, not particularly buff or aquatic, as they decided to train for a world championship in male synchronized swimming. The group has been lured into it this by Fredrik, an out-of-work, divorced journalist who lives for the games of floor hockey. Fredrik's life is sort of a mess. He has left his job, he's sinking slowly into middle-age, supported only by his long-time floor ball friends, who have been getting together ever since they were title contenders back in the mid-Eighties.

After they lose their time slot at the recreation center for reverse discrimination issues. They are invited to a weird party, where nobody gets their routine, these guys make a video of themselves through a synchronized routine and are a huge hit. Hired to perform at another party, they play it straight and bomb, but realize that they’re onto something.

Frederik finds himself having to come to terms with fatherhood he has long forgotten, when his ex-wife moves to London, forcing his 17-year-old daughter Sara to move in with him, at least in the short term. Sara (Amanda Davin), who is tired of her father’s competitiveness and self-pity. A synchronized swimmer herself, Sara is at first embarrassed by her dad’s new pursuit but eventually impressed enough to offer to coach. But what starts as a joke soon turns into something a lot more serious as they decide to have a real shot at the sport, in an attempt to win the world championships.

Although the set up is a bit more complex and, it requires suspension of disbelief. Men facing the inexorable tick of time, have a chance at something inherently funny, at the same time find an unexpected level of dignity and friendship. The film’s conclusion is unexpected and sweet. 

Some film critics have found the film lacking some depth beyond the father-daughter relationship, suffering from a failure to either focus on the relationship between long-time friends which reveals latent prejudices, like homophobia or on the kinds of minor prejudices in society which the ageing sportsmen. The film’s script was written by Jane Magnusson and Måns Herngren (who also directs). In spite of this, I recommend this film.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tender Son, The Frankenstein Story

I’ve had a busy year, thus I have neglected this blog, this doesn’t mean that I have stop watching or going to the movies. I have seen good films this year. Although this particular film was exhibited in Cannes 2010, I just saw at the Cineteca in Mexico City, I was really moved by this film. Director Magyar Kornel Mundruczo delivers a contemporary, Budapest-set update of Mary Shelley's gothic novel in "Tender Son, The Frankenstein Project." However in this adaptation, in which the monster is replaced by a 17-year-old who finds his horrible mother and uncaring father, who didn’t know of his existence, before turning into a murderer. Some of the predictions for this film were not very encouraging, but this tale of fatherly love and murder oscillates in that thin line between good and evil, between tenderness and disgust.

On a winter day, morose teenager Rudi (Rudolf Frecska) turns up at the crumbling, scaffolded apartment building where his mother (actress Lili Monori), who has not seen him for years, is the only

A film director and acquaintance of the mother (played by Mundruczo) is holding casting sessions in the building, and the adolescent seems more drawn to the filmmaker. He finally ends up in front of the camera, where he acts out a love scene with a girl (Diana Magdolna Kiss), but when asked to play someone who is loved, his unexplained gut reaction is to turn aggressive. The incident that follows is the first of several violent deaths caused by Rudi, who seems to be entirely without a moral compass.

Though the film follows the novel quite closely, Mundruczo seems to have a confused understanding of the central protagonist's dilemma and tragedy. Without a clear understanding of his psychology or past How was he treated in the orphanage? How does he feel about his parents' absence for most of his life? His random killing spree seems simply incomprehensible and vile.

Though the film lacks the narrative glue provided by character evolution, many of the individual sequences are strong, including the opening and closing scenes set in the filmmaker's car. His character, an interesting take on Dr. Frankenstein, looks to recover human emotions from his incompetent non-pro actors in one the film's few comic moments.

The project hugely benefits from all-around excellent craft contributions. The photography, the atmosphere provided by the decaying building itself was marvelously conceived and filmed with a real feel for spatial relations.

I really liked the film, if you feel intense rent it.

Midnight In Paris 2011

Woody Allen is back! It is what most people say after seeing this film, I disagree with this expression, Woody Allen has never been away. I am a fan of his European films including his last films like “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, films that have received mixed criticism.  I haven’t seen “Whatever Works”, the film takes place in New York. I would say that this film is a confirmation of Woody’s geniality, it has all the classic components that he ahs handled beautifully before, notions like the play of the real and the fantastic like in “Purple rose of Cairo” or “Stardust Memories”. ----Paying homage to a city; making it a character in the film like in ”Manhattan” both have this amazing opening scenes showing the beauty of the city.

The dialogues, references, human and couple’s conflicts are as good as “Deconstructing Harry”, “Annie Hall” or Hanna and her Sisters”-----or simply weird fun line “Bananas”. This is why people like this movie so much, everything works. One of my favorite aspects of the film is the excellent acting job from Owen Wilson, his comedic timing and pace is perfect, lots of actors have played a “Woody’ like character before like Kenneth Branagh in “Celebrity”, Jason Biggs in “Anything Else” or even James Brolin as the writer in “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, all great actors but I think Owen is the best.

This “Cinderella” like story that at strike of midnight he is taken into this fabulous world of the genesis of “Modernity” who isn’t fascinated by this amazing period of the 20th century? All the great characters, writers, painters, bon vivants in general it is my own ideal of a dream world.  You can resist the excitement seeing favorites like Dali, (played magnificently by Adrian Brody), Buñuel, I love the part where Gil pitches Luis the plot for “An Exterminating Angel”, Corey Stoll is excellent as Hemingway and Kathy Bates is Gertrude Stein, awesome casting all under Cole Porter’s music.

The classic social criticism of the couples and family structure, the ridiculous and small minded mother, the “Tea Party” affiliate conservative father, and of course the classic girlfriend that constantly puts her boyfriend down and thinks any man is better and more intelligent than her own, typical these days. She is seduced by pseudo-intellectuals like most people today interested in “light “ versions of culture. A lot of Woody points of view, including political are clear in this movie.

I love the part where Gil talks about architecture and the city, a short essay of the importance of the two and their intimate relationship, as an architect I was a sucker for this part.

Needless to say I strongly recommend this movie.