Friday, February 8, 2013
Friday, January 4, 2013
Beasts of the Southern Wild *10*
Benh Zeitlin, 2012
This is a mesmerizing and powerful film by debut director Benh Zeitlin, from a play by Lucy Alibar, a fellow writer that Zeitlin met in a writers workshop as a teen. The unlikely star of the film is six year old Quvenzhané Wallis, who had to pretend to be six when she was five to beat out 4,000 others for this part in auditions.
The basic story is that of a motherless girl called Hushpuppy in a bayou region of an island in the Mississippi River delta area of Louisiana, the part past land's end. As you will see early in the film, this is a much more responsible child than we were at age six, her survival depends on it.
This quote from Hushpuppy's narration tells the situation succinctly:
"If my daddy doesn't get back soon, I'll have to start eating my pets."
Her father, Wink, is brilliantly played by a New Orleans 7th ward cafè owner, Dwight Young, also with no previous acting experience, and already two awards for best supporting actor. He plays dad Wink, who has heart trouble, and knows he won't be around while Hushpuppy grows up, so he is raising her to be the man. He demand of her "who's the man?" and she flexes her biceps and says "I'm the man!" This is probably going to be repeated often by fans of this film.
Her name is Hushpuppy likely because she feeds all the animals, their only source of food other than the river, where they catch catfish, crawfish, and other local bounty. Wink even shows her how to catch a catfish by hand in the bayou, by grabbing him when you feel him on the bottom. These people are living in danger like everyone in low coastal areas, here in a makeshift village known as The Bathtub. Without any connection to the mainland, they are constantly endangered by storms, flooding, and global melting, which will easily inundate these low lying areas.
This is the best made coming-of-age story since To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wallis' performance is much tougher and more demanding than Mary Badham's, and seems more natural - you get the feeling that Nazie is not far out of her element in boats and mud in the delta.
Rather than ruin this film by too much story or analysis, as its a magical journey of myth-making proportions, I'll let you see through these links the impact of this film, which Barack Obama called "a spectacular film - even my 4 year old niece was captivated".
Currently Beasts leads with 35 (six so far for Nazie Wallis), including wins at Sundance, and four at Cannes (next high film is Zero Dark Thirty at 21, The Master with 20, and Argo with 19):
The film's trailer from Cannes
The film page at Facebook, where people are telling their stories of this film's impact on their families or children, as well as many other links.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
It's hard to describe this film without making it sound perhaps incohesive and out of control, but quite the contrary, this is a long, complex work of art that is very well constructed, and one which will warrant and reward the true cinema fan on repeat viewings.
What director Jaco Van Dormeal has done here is not new, he shows us alternate realities in one life, similar to the visual style used for the same by Tom Tykwer in Run, Lola, Run - and triggered by one incident involving a train, like Gwyneth Paltrow's character in Sliding Doors. As a child, Nobody is known as Nemo, and at age 9, he must choose which parent to live with when they seperate. The decisive scene takes place at a train platform, and little Nemo must either stay with dad or get on the train with mom. This being a film, he does both, and we see both lives.
This is really a science fiction story, which is about a Mr. Nobody, who is called that because they don't know his name, and he can't remember it, but it's Nemo, which we find out in flashbacks. Nemo is now the last living mortal at age 118, in a world where apparently everyone else no longer ages and dies (at least not naturally, I'm sure you can still blow people up or shoot them down, because, as they say here, "some people just need killin").
The film begins with a professional type suit, who is interviewing Mr. Nobody (for broadcast live to the masses), about his life and how he feels being the last mortal. When Nemo remembers his life, it's not always the same exact story he remembers, and this is the point of the film. It's not "a story" that matters, but that you travel the journey of life not knowing the final destination. This film has as many visual ideas as 10 average films, in fact, Van Dormeal spent nine years on this one project from writing to completion, and it shows.
There are so many mind-boggling images in this, that its best not to describe the film at all, but to urge everyone to watch it, then watch it again. There is one problem: it's not available at Netflix, you'll have to either borrow or buy it on dvd. You also want only the director's cut (it's 157 minutes, the original is 141, so it's hefty in either format), that's the version I saw and it has one added scene I thought particularly important: Nemo is going through a car wash inside his car, and we see closeups of all the action on the windshield, which is uncannily like nebula activity in space: the macrocosm becomes the microcosm. If you don't understand that, then you may not like this film, and you probably didn't enjoy The Tree of Life either, another visual masterpiece.
Jared Leto stars in this, that's him in makeup as the 118 year old man (Mr. Nobody) as well. He had just made Aronofsky's incredible Requiem For a Dream (2000), so apparently he only stars in a director's "magnum opus", or greatest of his work. He should be a better known actor, he's quite accomplished in every film I've seen. Canadian director-actress Sara Polley (Dawn of the Dead, Go, The Sweet Hereafter) plays one of his wives, Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds, Troy) another, and Viet actress Linh Dan Pham (Indochine) the third. All are perfect for what the film required - of the three, Polley is the most accomplished actor having won 31 awards so far, and she shows it here.
This may bore or confuse the more literary cinemaniacs, those who want a beginning, middle, and end of one story. To me, that's like criticizing the impressionists because the realists painted the same scenes more realistically. Do you want life to imitate art, or can art just be the creative expression of an artist's inner philosophy? This film toys with the idea of "string theory", which always baffled me, but the idea is that there may be several universes or realities occuring at the same time, it depends on your choices in life. That's such a scary thought to some, that one reviewer said he couldn't leave his house for three days after seeing this film!
This film is going into my top 100, easily (out of about 10,000 seen, the top tenth of one percent), and also on my short list of must-see science fiction-fantasy films, which is less than 50 at this point. To which I would only say, as Rossanno Brazzi told Katharine Hepburn in Summertime, "You are hungry, senora - eat the ravioli!" EAT THIS MOVIE! Then again, and again..
Friday, August 10, 2012
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
This story has happened far too often in my lifetime of 60 years. After awhile, you realize this is the scam. You extract as much money as you can from a corporation, then declare bankruptcy. If you an figure out a self-sustaining scam, you'll succeed longer - but remember that the world first corporation, The Dutch East India Trading Company (who are the 'bad guys' in the Pirates of the Caribbean series), also declared bankrupcty after years of success, so the pattern and con is as old as the first time it was pulled off. It's the oldest grift in the west and legal if you can get away with it.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
This is a rarity among films, a science fiction film that has little to do, really, with that aspect of the story. Instead, the fact that a hidden planet has emerged from behind the sun and is heading on a path toward earth really is little more than a metaphor for the characters psychogically complex stories.
Von Trier has created his most mesmerizing film to date, full of dreamy, surrealistic images more reminiscent of painters like Magritte, De Chirico, and Dali, than any film references (see film still at the bottom) – except perhaps early Antonioni.
Kirsten Dunst won five acting awards for her gutsy portrayal of a newlywed bride mired in her own melancholia, and whose dysfunctional personality seems to deteriorate as the planet, named Melancholia, moves closer to earth. Charlotte Gainsbourg plays her long-suffering sister, who seems determined to take care of her sister in spite of the apparent hopelessness of the situation, as her personal demons seems to have no cause or origin.
Like most of von Trier’s films, this one is also slow to develop, and eerily like a Bergman film of introspection and inner turmoil, and may not hold the attention of the average viewer, but if you stick with this one you will be surprised and rewarded, I believe, especially in comparison to his other efforts. This is the type of film rated higher by critics (80 at Metacritics) vs fans (7.2 at IMDB), but those are often the more unique and unforgettable films, as critics see so many of the mundane variety that it takes something different to wake them up from mediocrity.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Best Picture (AA, BAA)
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Gore Verbinski, 2011 (8.8*)
Academy Award, Best Animated Film
I loved this trippy, clever, irreverent film! You know you’re into something heady when a family's pet chameleon character, hilariously voiced by Johnny Depp, falls off the family car on a highway, and gets blown by traffic smack into the windshield of the convertible driven by Hunter Thompson with Dr. Gonzo in the back, and Hunter and the lizard are wearing the same shirt ! That’s an indicator right there that this film may be a little induced by altered states.
Director Gore Verbinski directed the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and once again he seems to have fun directing this wacky stuff.
After falling off the car, he meets various desert dwelling critters that give him advice, with Alfred Molina as an armadillo telling him he needs to find the town of Dirt, out there somewhere. When he does, it’s inhabited by an odd assortment of western dressing animals. He meets a snotty girl, tho tells him, after mutual insults, "strangers don’t last long here", but when he discovers the town needs a sheriff and a hero, he volunteers, being lost and having little choice. He picks up his name in a bar, but I won’t spoil how he gets it, it’s mostly visual.
Much of this film is like that, references to classic westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, High Noon, even the later Quick and the Dead. There are also scenes paying homage to Chinatown and Apocalypse Now, and likely others that escaped me.
Ned Beatty gives his best John Huston (a la Chinatown) voice, as the mayor, who may or may not be involved in a plot involving the town’s water supply. British actor Bill Nighy is a dead ringer for the voice of Jack Palance as the villain Rattlesnake Jake. The plot is eerily similar to that of Chinatown, a parched town needs water, it never rains, and for some reason the town’s supply faucet has gone dry, spewing out mud and no liquid, so everyone is about to die of thirst like the crops already have.
Depp is perfect for this, delivering lines like "and stay out of my peripheral vision", and "we should follow the pipe to it’s hydraulic origin, capture the criminals and solve this aquatic conundrum".
If you like classic westerns, as well as Depp’s irreverent, inebriated style, this will be right up your alley. Perhaps more enjoyable for adults than kids, it’s still a G-rated comedy that the entire family can watch together with many guffaws – though I’m sure the kids will often ask “what did he say?”, just like the background characters do.
There’s an uncanny scene by Tim Oliphant as the voice of Clint Eastwood, delivering the film’s best line.
Depp: “The Spirit of the West. Hey, is this heaven?”
Spirit of the West (as Eastwood): “if it was, we’d be sharing Pop-tarts with Kim Novak.”
I’m sure all the kids are asking, who’s Kim Novak? Well, she and Clint Eastwood are 60’s stars that both live in Carmel, California now – that should clear that up somewhat, and of course, Pop-tarts imply breakfast, which insinuates.. er, the hokey-pokey – that’s what it’s all about!