World Cinema Wonderland 2
Here is another round of word cinema goodness:
12 Monkeys: Terry Gilliam has always been very good when it comes to dealing with dystopian futures (Brazil anyone?). And this film is another prime example. A mind bending exercise in alternate pasts and grim reality. This is what happens when a present collides with a meddlesome future. Brad Pitt needs to be singled out for his delightful but edgy performance.
2001: A Space Odyssey : A stoner paradise for many but behind that spacey, chilled out vibe is the quietly effective brilliance of Kubrick. From the scientifically accurate special effects, minimalist set design and vague dialog to the brilliant marriage of music and motion Kubrick shows why he is one of the best directors of all time. This is how science fiction should be. And that sequence of docking spaceships set to Strauss’s Blue Danube? So delicate, so graceful and oh so beautiful. Go watch it please.
21 Grams: Stark, hard hitting and sad. Inarritu’s use of non linear narrative continues with this film from where he left off in Amores Perros. Naomi Watts is the pick of a talented ensemble cast.
Almost Famous: An ode to all that was good about rock music before it got lost in self-indulgence and soulless stadium rock. This film is about the fallibility of rock musicians seen through the eyes of a wide eyed rock fan. Based on Crowe’s own experiences as a writer for Rolling Stone and touring with rock bands. Essential viewing for anyone with a passing interest in rock music.
American Psycho: Less disturbing than the book but still quite effective as a window into the vacuous greed of the yuppie culture in the late 80s and early 90s. Christian Bale gets into the skin of the character and behind his glassy persona you glimpse the other side of the American dream and it is scary for the depth of its emptiness.
Battle Royale: Fukasaku offers this inventive but violent vision of the future. What if troublesome and rebellious school kids were packed off to an island and given lethal weapons with license to kill? Would that solve society’s problems and the travails of parents? See the film to know the answer.
Battleship Potemkin: A masterpiece in every sense of the word. I’d see this film again and again just for that famous Odessa steps sequence. Makes it hard to believe that the film was made way back in 1925.
Zodiac: Fincher’s return to form. A dark and edgy thriller dealing with a true story about a serial killer who was never caught. Fincher’s films always have this distinctive look and this is no different. The muted, slightly desaturated cinematography is highly effective in creating a confined world where danger seems to lurk around the corner. Jake Gyllenhaal is surprisingly effective as the reporter who is not willing to give up.
Training Day: Mainly known as the film that finally netted Denzel Washington his best actor Oscar. But beyond that the film is a disturbing exploration of the corruption that power unleashes. Apart from Washington’s bravura (but slightly over the top) performance watch out for Ethan Hawke’s sensitive portrayal of a rookie cop.
Y Tu Mama Tambien: Sexy and funny. This film about the road trip of two hormonal young men and a woman seeking to escape her troubled marriage explores in seemingly casual fashion deeper topics such as relationships, jealousy and the meaning of friendship. This is a road film with a difference.
Dalkomhan Insaeng (A Bittersweet Life): Kim Ji-Woon’s moody and stylistic meditation on loyalty and love. Gorgeously shot night sequences mingle uneasily with graphic violence but it all serves to bring to the fore the distance to which a man will go to keep true love.
Mala Educasion (Bad Education): Almodovar’s partly autobiographical look at the diverging lives of two school friends and their shared past. Garcia Bernal is as always brilliant in his multi-faceted role. Memory, friendship and cinema come under the scanner in Almodovar’s noirish universe.
Short Cuts: In many ways the film that jump started the trend for multi-character narrative dramas like Magnolia, Crash etc. Based on Raymond Carver’s minimalist short stories, Altman gives us unique fly on the wall views into an assorted bunch of Californian characters whose lives are interwoven in more ways than one. When so many characters are handled with such ease without letting the film run aground you know that this could only have been made by a master film maker.
Tron: A dated but still amusing film about out of control video games. That unique 80s feel clearly comes across in the special effects and music but the film is worth a watch for the weird video world it takes us into.
The Cell: A flawed but intensely surreal film. This is a journey into the twisted universe of a psychotic mind. Every step in that world is an exploration of the surreal with out of the world stunning visuals. Tarsem Singh’s experience in making music videos shows in his sleek cinematography and vivid colors. Some scenes are like paintings out of Dali’s universe. And for once Jennifer Lopez is bearable.