Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Great Beauty aka La Grande Bellezza (2013)


Jep Gambardella: This is how it always ends. With death. But first there was life, hidden beneath the blah, blah, blah... It's all settled beneath the chitter chatter and the noise, silence and sentiment, emotion and fear. The haggard, inconstant flashes of beauty. And then the wretched squalor and miserable humanity. All buried under the cover of the embarrassment of being in the world, blah, blah, blah... Beyond there is what lies beyond. And I don't deal with what lies beyond. Therefore... let this novel begin. After all... it's just a trick. Yes, it's just a trick.

This film was made to remind us of what we all forget to appreciate; beauty. Raw, extravagant, extraordinary, magnificent, omniposcent beauty. It's all around. Just sometimes we do not stand still to glorify it. Paolo Sorrentino made this film to help us remember the beauty in everything. From the silliest of conversations to the most magnanimous piece of art. 

'The Great Beauty' is about journalist Jep Gambardella, who has charmed and seduced his way through the lavish nightlife of Rome for decades. Since the legendary success of his one and only novel, he has been a permanent fixture in the city's literary and social circles, but when his sixty-fifth birthday coincides with a shock from the past, Jep finds himself unexpectedly taking stock of his life, turning his cutting wit on himself and his contemporaries, and looking past the extravagant nightclubs, parties, and cafés to find Rome in all its glory: a timeless landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty. (source:

Pay close attention to the word 'absurd' in the description above, since it plays a key part in Sorrentino's film. The film is stylized in such a way that one cannot help but make the comparison between Fellini's masterpiece '8 1/2'. The visually stunning spectacle of Rome's landscape and the high society represented in both film is simply inescapable. From Rome in 1963 to Rome 2013 we see that 'the artist' is still struggling with himself to find his inner peace. 

Sorrentino cast Toni Servillo as his leading man, the tortured soul of the artist who goes from one luxury party to another, from one great hedonistic adventure to another all the while feeding us with the absurdism that surrounds still this modern society. In this journey of self discovery and inner peace there comes the brilliance in Servillo's acting; the haunted man, who finds little pleasure from the high end lifestyle he was so far leading, searching and yearning for a greater beauty.

Speaking in visual terms Sorrentino has drew great imitations from Fellini's Roman filmmaking, 'La Dolce Vita' and '8 1/2', all equipped with the glitz and the glamour of the decadance of the elite; the high society who circles its prey until they are left hollow and with no purpose in life, aimlessly wandering trying to find what it's all about. This point Sorrentino cleverely gives us a glimpse of what that hollowness feels and tastes like after years of endless extravaganza. 

The film however, tends to become somewhat of a long and tedious journey of an artist's search of his inner psyche, that at the end concludes into a nothingness of air; in other words as sarcastic as Sorrentino is trying to be about how vain our small little lives are, his visual eye seems to drift and strecth so much that it can easy pass on as nothing more than a story of surrealistic narrative. 

Despite its wombly bits, this film aims to rekindle a long forgotten bond between past and present, drawing to an open conclusion of what is real beauty in the end for each person. 

An excellent submission from Italy for this year's Academy Awards and from the looks of it this might be getting the dear old Uncle Oscar in the end, since it is truly a marvel to watch the evocative restless spirit of Servillo on the big screen. 


Monday, 24 February 2014

August: Osage County (2013)


Violet Weston: I'm so glad one of my girls stayed close to home. In my day, family stuck together.

Tracy Letts wrote a story about a family; a disfunctional family, a normal family. Something that resembles very close to home for anyone with a big family. Drama is of course a key ingredient, especially when you have family coming over. Do you want shouting? You got it. Do you want lying? You got it. Do you want deep dark family secrets? You certainly got it. Do you need excellent acting skills? You have it even before you think it. This film is a family symphony gone bad. 

The story is a look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. (source:

Much to our anticipation, the films starts somewhat off beat introducing us to the characters one by one, and their little quirks, up until the big family gathering at a funeral table. What a sheer delight that was. What every person is looking forward to when getting together with family after a long time. Of course script and play writght, Ms.Letts, does so brilliantly keep us entangled in each story line, reminding us, that this could easily be our family or the family next door. 

Staring from the spectacular, if not inconceivable, Meryl Streep, leading a cast that one can only but dream to see all gathered up, she portrays the matriarch of the family, the one who always survives, the grumpiest of them all, the oldest psyche that never ceases to be the sting that starts up everything. She is the core of everyone, and ultimately their destruction. 

Her wonderful cast of fiction siblings include actors such as Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor,Juliette Lewis, Sam Shephard, Chris Cooper, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch and Margo Martindale. As would anyone see, we're talking about an incredible line-up of actors who not only surpass the audience's expectations, but come to make justice to the originality of the characters from the play as well. 

However, and as truthful as we can be, as the plot thickens, and the best kept secrets are slowly being revealed, the film oftentimes feels to become strenuous and dragged on. The absurdity in which the family dialogue operates tends to strech past its supposed duration time, thus making the viewer lose even the slightest inclanation to what's going on in their drama. For this reason, we can easily pin-point from the beginning that the film tends to feel more like a dramatization of a stage play than a film altogther. 

The juice in the story is how vulnerable every character is, and the mutliple layers that they keep deep beneath. As soon as the yelling gets going, there seems to be a flare for the overexaggerated plot twist; the siblings who have fallen for each other. Oh the hubris. It happens in the best of families. Only with this one, the deterioration comes slowly and painfully at hand. But what a delight it is to see that life is so unprogrammed, that even the best of people can lose their way at some point.

One should definitely watch it with his folks, or spouse, or children, at that, and remember how it feels to not be able to stay away from your own blood, no matter the heartache and the traumas. 

Not much intented to say regarding the technical particulars, just to point out that the locations make it all too real to be in their family territory. Pulitzer winner playwright Letts, offers us a truly dynamic family drama that resonates for everyone who's ever been part (or even a hint) of dysfunctional in their household. Not the best drama out there, but definitely passes across some powerful messages regarding family bonds. 


Sunday, 23 February 2014

Philomena (2013)


-Philomena: And after I had the sex, I thought anything that feels so lovely must be wrong.
-Martin Sixsmith: Fucking Catholics.

There's always something heart-warming when you sit down to watch a film about self-discovery and atonement. And it's always equally surprising when you enjoy the film more than you initially anticipated.

'Philomena' tells the real life story of Philomena Lee, who after years of keeping mum, she went seeking for her long lost son. When former journalist Martin Sixsmith is dismissed from the Labour Party in disgrace, he is at a loss as to what do. That changes when a young Irish woman approaches him about a story of her mother, Philomena, who had her son taken away when she was a teenage inmate of a Catholic convent. Martin arranges a magazine assignment about her search for him that eventually leads to America. Along the way, Martin and Philomena discover as much about each other as about her son's fate. Furthermore, both find their basic beliefs challenged. (source:

Steve Coogan (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Hot Fuzz, In the Loop, Tropic Thunder), who co-wrote the script with Jeff Pope, also stars as the gifted yet misunderstood journalist who is trying to find himself after his horrendous dismisal from the BBC. Coogan has proven time and time again what a brilliant comedian he is, but with this one he goes one step further in showing to the wide audience that drama suits him equally well. 

The sensitivity and the humanity in which both Coogan and Dame Judi Dench treated Lee's real life story is extraordinary. Two very un-similar characters onto a journey of soul searching. The humourous blends ever so subtly with the dramatic, keeping the viewer to sympathize even, with what the characters are going through. Who said that drama can't be hilarious? This film proves that even evil nuns can have their funny side. 

In all seriousness though, the genious behind the film is truly owed to the evocative story of the real Philomena Lee and the man who sought out to make her story be heard. Coming to add a little bit more of his genious is Oscar nominated director Stephen Frears (The Queen, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons), who makes sure that his audience does not fall into the trap of the melo-drama, but instead builds up the suspsense in sweet down-to-earth agony of where this story could end. 

The film is beautifully shot in locations between Ireland, England and the United States, giving the viewer a travelling feast between the then and now moments, whilst at the same time raising some serious fundamental issues regarding religion and faith. Cleverly so, the writers implemented their stories with philosophical and moral questions such as 'Is there God?' or 'Should one believe in God?' or 'How do you keep your faith, even after the nuns sell your child to the Americas?'. Coming back to an age where a good Catholic girl should be pious and pure, Philomena Lee had sinned, and for her mistake, she was punished rightly so, by having her son taken away from her. 

The humanity and the empathy in which Dench operates as Philomena is remarkable. Her humility and her strength to forgive makes us realize that there are greater things to hold onto nowadays than the anger that we are taught not to let go in modern day society. This wholesome feeling of faith is what truly inspires audiences and what makes them connect to Philomena's story.

A very heart-warming film that it is definitely worth a watch. Albeit nominated for Best Picture as well, it rightly deserves its place in the list. 


Friday, 21 February 2014

Blue Jasmine (2013)


Jasmine: Who do you have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?

Last week I happened to be in an interview and I was asked if my ambition in life would be to become Woody Allen. My response was 'God forbid, no'. And it was absolute. My answer was not due to any dislike towards Woody Allen. On the contrary, I relish in his filmmaking genius. How can one suppose himself that he can ever top this tiny little man with glasses and his profusion of witty dialogues and story lines? Truly this puzzles me. 

'Blue Jasmine' is a film that speaks to every neurotic nerve in every person's body. And I mean that in literal sense. It tells the story of Jasmine French, who used to be on the top of the heap as a New York socialite, but now is returning to her estranged sister in San Francisco utterly ruined. As Jasmine struggles with her haunting memories of a privileged past bearing dark realities she ignored, she tries to recover in her present. Unfortunately, it all proves a losing battle as Jasmine's narcissistic hangups and their consequences begin to overwhelm her. In doing so, her old pretensions and new deceits begin to foul up everyone's lives, especially her own. (source:

This time around Woody Allen chose to portray a woman who goes full circle in her journey; kind of more like a Mother Courage type of psychological journey, rather than a journey of atonement and self-discovery. The dialogue is beyond caustic, going from action-interaction in nano seconds. So brilliantly witty that one would be too ignorant or too much of a snob not to actually appreciate the hilariousness of the whole situation. 

To accompany this wonderful executed script came an equally talented actress, from the land down under, an actress whose proven more than capable to take on the role of Jasmine French. At first you would think that an eloquent name as Jasmine, would be the tale of a romantic 'flower' ahead. What Cate Blanchett so brilliantly give us is a much more perplexing yet at the same time endearing tale of a woman going from one nervour breakdown to the next. She is the kind of actress that makes a nervous breakdown a sheer delight to watch. Her microcosmos is nothing but a blimp but nonetheless is so absurdly humaine that the viewer cannot help but empathise with.

Aiding this wonderful journey of superficiality is the British born actress Sally Hawkins, who portrays Blanchett's sister; she is the other side of the story, the sister who was never given half the things her sister had in life but who is willing to stand by her blood. Hawkins and Blanchett blend so gloriously together that you get to such points as to relate with their sisterly bond, albeit the fact they are suppose to be step sisters. 

The brilliance of this film though comes all too much from the characters journey; this circle of the psychological journey they go through remind us of a much loved role by Tenesse William's "A Streetcar named Desire". Albeit the low budget look that the film carries with it throughout the film, the Blance deBois psyche praddling from our screens back and forth is there to show us that once the brain is rewired everything is on a non-stop repetitve rollercoaster. 

Worthy to briefly mention the appearance also of such actors as Alec Baldwin, the liar in the plot, Peter Sarsgaard, the false hope and the joker but ever so brilliant Bobby Cannavale

Perhaps not one of Allen's best ever, but personally I glorify the man's genius way of approaching female roles. My opinion is that he sees women as these wonderful creatures he can derive so much from and he knows as an auteur and a director, as well as a script writer how to fairly portray them on screen. 

Hope you enjoy his humour for those who will indulge in this film. As for the people who simply do not enjoy his sense of absurdism, try to read Ibsen and compary Allen's female characters with his to see how much relative their treatment of female psyche is. 


Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)


Jordan Belfort: Let me tell you something. There's no nobility in poverty. I've been a poor man, and I've been a rich man. And I choose rich every fucking time.

Martin Scorsese is a filmmaking legened. Leo DiCaprio is fast becoming one at that as well. This dynamic duo have proven to us time and time again, movie after movie, that they work wonders together and that when you sit down for a screening in one of their films, you should be prepared to be razzle dazzled. 

So what is it that makes 'The Wolf of Wall Street' a piece of remarkable filmmaking? Is it the snorting cocaine of a drug Wall Street addict? Is it his exessive sexcapades? Or is it his overwhelming greed for money? In my opinion, it's none of the above. Although all of the above are widely futured in this film, none of these really play a key role to what Scorsese and DiCaprio are trying to create; the goal is the absolute transfixion of the viewer. No more, no less.

Let us not stall too much ahead and get on with what the plot's about: This is the real life story (yet again this year) of Jordan Belfort, a Long Island penny stockbroker who served 36 months in prison for defrauding investors in a massive 1990s securities scam that involved widespread corruption on Wall Street and in the corporate banking world, including shoe designer Steve Madden. (source:

The admiration of this film comes from the empowring cast and crew throughout, scene in and scene out, to give us a masterful picture - if you will - of what really goes down at the other side of the grass. Despite the film running on a usual Martin Scorsese time duration - 3 hours long - you never miss a scene where DiCaprio won't be flaring up his acting stamina and battle away each scene like it was yesterday's chinese leftovers. His growth and resilience in recreating Jordan Belfort is something of a mastermind genius; I'm mostly talking of course of this horrendously hilarious scene where he has to crawl from the casino place to his car, all the while being as high as the Empire Estate building (aka on cocaine as it was his vice). 

Overacting is a must in this film. Going all out and giving it, not the best but your super powers best, was what makes this film memorable. The endless dialogue about making and conning out money is an absolute thrill to wrap one's mind around. To come full circle in this bombardic cast comes as the cherry on the cake, a Mr. Jonah Hill, who throughout the years he's proven a most capable comedian and an actor who's not in the least bit ashamed of giving physical acting a kick in the head. Again, I'm talking about the much-buzzed about scene of Hill mustarbating in one of the infamous parties of Belfort, going as far as to show off his goodies to the entire filmosphere. Of course, by all means the penis was a flook but the scene got its thumbs up for its daringness and provocative attitude. 

A very intriguing guest appearance comes to give another one of those Scorsese razzle-dazzle moments, with Matthew McConaguhey being the man who started it all for DiCaprio's character; his first money-grabbing-lying-addict-piece-of-two-time-egomaniac-mentor, who first introduced him to this world of power and endless greed. And there again you have the brilliance of Scorsese letting his actors overpower the screen with their wit and their impending improvisation. Once more, I am talking of course of the famous scene where McConaguhey's character  first wines and dines DiCaprio's character, whilst teaching him all the tricks and turns of what it takes to make it to Wall Street. A little bit of musical humming proves none so fatal on screen, as this is - and you have my sincerest word on that - the scene that initiates it all. You're hooked after that. 

Admittedely, and as I like to be as frank as possible when reviewing films out there, I will say this was not a film that I could brand as 'my-cup-of-tea'. Far from it actually. But given the history and the desperation both in the acting and the direction, I relented and really went in wanting to give this film a chance. Despite the overwhelming views and buzz this film has been receiving, both for acting and script material, I must admit that by the end of the film I was left high and dry as it did not give me the full satisfaction I went in seeking for. 

It's all nice and good to be wanting to be razzle-dazzled but when it's too much, it gets overbearing and overboard. This is what happened here; everything was in such an excess that it felt jaded and overstuffed at various points throughout the film. Kinda like a beef turkey on Thanksgiving; too much for just one day of feasting. I am of the opinion that, whoever said that 'toning it down' and 'simple is best', knew exactly what he was talking about. 

Of course, lest we forget ourselves, this is a Scorsese film we are talking about, and toning it down, is not a phrase one might find in his filmmaking vocabulary. The passion and the zeal of treatment in this story is what truly gives it wings to take off, and it seems that it most certainly did fly as it reached all the way to the Academy Awards as a Best Picture Film and with Oscar nod nomations in categories such as Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and last, but not at all and not in the slightest very least, Best Achievement in Directing. 

If you haven't yet indulged yourselves in this particular cup of tea, you have been warned; be prepared for most about everything!!! And most of all be prepared to witness some foxy full frontal scenes with a rising star on the go, Ms Margot Robbie, who's proven that being sexy can be both by wit or by having a killer body figure. Watch out for that!

Hope you enjoy this filmmaking Colossus!


                                       The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

12 Years A Slave (2013)


Solomon Northup: I will not fall into despair till freedom is opportune!

There are some films you just know that they will be landmarks in film history. '12 Years A Slave' is one of them. I herby herald this film as the Best Film of the Year, 2014. 

'12 Years A Slave' is based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty - personified by a malevolent slave owner (portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses - Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. (source:

It has been known (to me - and the rest of the film world) that Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) is a superb director, who never ceases to amaze and leave his audience engrossed in the stories he tells. This time around, he chose a very difficult journey to embark on; slavery. This specific subject has been dealt with in films many times, but what distinguishes it among so many others it's its brutal honesty of it. The way McQueen treats the issue of total human wretchedness comes through his established resolution that he will not beautify or scratch the edges of the negro slavery, but rather serve as cold and as harsh as it was. 

In collaboration with his extraordinary cinematographer, Sean Bobbit, he once more manages to transmit the raw emotional unstability which his characters are journeying through. This is wonderfully and skillfully executed by the roughness of the film's photography; those extenuous long shots that are filled with complete silence and you're left with the actor's facial expressions to convey emotions, those blistering shots of sheer brutality and that hopelessness you feel out there in the sizzling fields of the gathering crop. 

It's become somewhat of a director's trademark those long steady shots that has the actors either having an on-going dialogue for more than 5 minutes long or simply by letting the actor release emotional energy on screen through facial expressions, a very theatrical technique as well which seems to be working brilliantly for McQueen as he chooses to let the camera follow the unravelling drama without flinching with editing cutaways. Personally, I believe that this is an stylized directorial achievement since it keeps the suspense elevated without losing the focus on the characters' narrative. 

Coming to all of that is an astounding string of thespians - to merely brand them "actors" seems rather pettish - who not only offer us the unique oppoprtunity to glimpse superb acting at its finest but also refuse to let the audience leave from the filml theatre without tearing up or the very least being left silent stunned. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Love Actually, American Gangster, Melinda and Melinda, Children of Men) is what acting is really about; moving, gut-wrencing, all consuming, with an unbelievable strength to let his charact grow and sustain all the brewing emotions of injustice, is a most excellent example of an actor mesmerizing it's audience for all the right reasons his director called him for: marvel on the big screen! Amongst the major contenders for a Best Actor award this year is also Ejiofor, whom I whole-heartedly wish that he receives this award (although I'm greatly torned between him and McConaughey). 

To this dedicated and engrossing cast come a great deal of actors but to name a few, the ever so entangling Michael Fassbender, who is something more of an acting giant, he's an explosive embodiment of how to methodically and carefully execute an actor's psyche on screen. Similarly, actors such as Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson and last but not at all least, Lupita Nyong'o, who gave an excruciatingly painful but equally so brilliant performance throughout

Worthy to also mention the gloriousness of the musical score, written by none other than the ever so great Hans Zimmer, who seems to have had some freedoms to create a brutally invented score that not only tie up really nice with the cinematography but also make sure they extract the right level of emotion at the right time in the film. 

McQueen raises once more the issue of equal rights, that every human life is worth the same and the on-going struggle of people in slavery and their fight for freedom. In watching him the other day receiving his 1st Bafta Award for Best Film of the Year, McQueen carefuly pointed out that "today, in 2014, there are 21million people into slavery and that his hope is that in 150 years time there won't be the need from another filmmaker to make a film about slavery". On that point, I commend and applaud this film for its ability to speak to the public about an issue every so relevant and fragile as the individual's freedom.

Personally this film oughtta win the  Academy Award for Best Picture as it is exatly the reason why cinema still exists; to profit - and by profit I mostly mean to educate - and delight - and by delight I mean offer intellectual entertainment or in more plain words offer food for thought. In this case McQueen offered us a  whole lotta banquet to feast and act on. Let's respect that.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Hunt aka Jagten (2012)


Theo: The world is full of evil but if we hold on to each other, it goes away.

You know, I''ve often thought that the melancholy and the angst which the Scanddinavian films offer no other cinema will be able to surpass them. "Jagten" is no excpeption. 

The story follows a teacher, who lives a lonely life, all the while struggling over his son's custody. His life slowly gets better as he finds love and receives good news from his son, but his new luck is about to be brutally shattered by an innocent little lie. (

The film starts off like a serene symphony, slowly leading you into the events that are about to unravel. And just like that, without the viewer's keen or suspectful eye you begin to sympathize the lead character within those first few minutes into the film. 

The brilliance in the script, co-written by Tobias Lindholm (The Hunt, Sumbarino, A Hijacking) and Tomas Vinterberg (The Hunt, Festen, It's All About Love) - also the director of the film - offer a subtle exammination into the human relationships and their limitations. As the plot thickens, and the chracters are left with all those harrowing feelings to deal with, we are also being asked  ever so quietly to answer questions such  as - How far are you willing to go for the people you have loved all your life? How much do you trust them? How much are you suppose to trust them, and love them? How much are you suppose to know about your neighbour? How much gravity are we suppose to give in a child's words? How are we raising our children to behave and act? Where are we going as a 'free' society? And ultimately, how accepting have we become? 

So many philosophical enigmas all thrust within this film, that one cannot but commend the excellence of how both script writers decided to approach the themes and questions being raised above. 

However, the key in most films is the performances, and Vinterberg is still a winner with this one; like his so far biggest film success, 'Festen', the line of actors he chose to cast was with precise consideration and precision. First up, the best Danish export in acting for the past few years - Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale, A Royal Affair, Hannibal, After the Wedding). A proper A-lister master of seductory acting, Mikkelsen, not only charms and engages intensely, but he also makes sure you understand the full reasons why you should side with his character. His powerful resilience as the scorned teacher, deflects the viewer from conlcuding into the most crude and vulgar assumptions of what really might has happened, and instead focusses in presenting us with the real issues that should be of our concern; how we treat people within a society, how far will our social norms allow us to accept people. Mikkelsen, is a mastermind in not losing our trust throughout the film, thus not letting us lose our way on where also the director wants us to go as well.

In regards to directing, Vinterberg is a glorious architect of the human psyche. He ever so subtly let us eavsdrop in the lives of a small Danish society, and he presented us with the issue: now it's up to us to decide how we would choose to solve it. Would we choose to solve it? Vinterberg uses long atmospherical moments to transport this eerie brokenness  that the modern society is facing, the evolving deterioration of a hypocrital society and the need to trully believe in human goodness. Whether we choose to believe that there's still such a thing or not, it's not up to the characters to solve. It's up to us, yet again.

It's only worthy to note the excellent collaboration of Vinterberg and Thomas Bo Larsen (previously collaborated in 'Festen' - with similar thematology) in the supporting role; a character who chooses to believe society's opinions rather than be willing to believe a different reality. Larsen is such an evocative actor that demands your attention whenever he's present on screen, he's not an actor to turn to violent mockery to pass on the massage of sheer hopelessness and devastation in his eyes. He's there, full on, battling with his volcanic emotions which will ultimately lead him only to a silent desperation in his approach to his dilemma; a friend or a foe. 

This film is breaking boundaries, is willing to break social norms and is not shy to give it to us as realistically as it possibly can; how open minded are we after all? How accepting are we with one another and how far are we willing to go to co-exist. It raises some fundamental issues that were constructed to build this modern society, which Vinterberg once again chose to show us, even in a society in Denmark - which is known to be one of the most evasive and fastest evolving societies in the world - even in a small little town, how people are still reacting and thinking in terms of sexuality and what is constituted as right and wrong. 

All these Vinterberg elaborates into his long eeries shots in the forest or even in the momentous silences between the actors' interactions. 

In my opinion this film surprasses any of this year's Oscar nominations - I shall carefully analyze in other posts as well this opinion - and it most definitely would be a worthy winner for Best Foreign Film .

Watch it with a tranquil mood, ready to feed your mind with questions and let the characters touch and humanize your soul.


The Hunt/ Jagten Trailer

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)


Ron Woodroof: Let me give y'all a little news flash. There ain't nothin' out there can kill fuckin' Ron Woodroof in 30 days.

'Dallas Buyers Club' is this year's 'The Blind Side'. The reason for this comparison is due to the unexpectingly splendid acting surrounding this film's main themes. 

Just to clarify a little bit what the film's about - The story follows a Texas electrician - Ron Woodroof - and his battle with the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies after being diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1986, and his search for alternative treatments that helped established a way in which fellow HIV-positive people could join for access to his supplies.(

This is another one of this year's big contenders which is based on true life events. As it's becoming somewhat of an epidemic for Hollywood to focus on real life stories, this one doesn't lose it's target purpose, whose aim is not to shock or amaze its audience, but engage them on a profound level in how far will society go to shield its corruption and insensitivity towards victims that need urgent medical care.

This is a tale about a man who fought against all odds to provide for people diagnosed with HIV+. The astounding tale of this man was brought to life by screenwriters Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. The screenwriters do not gimmick any bits in the story, but give it to us straight up, as harsh as it was, as unfair as it was, without though in the process eliminating the tantalizing drama and sorrow of people who are seeking to bend the system's hypocricy just so they can live to see another day.

Coming to add on that wrenching story is the exceptional acting. However, let me be frank and note that in my screening for this film I was sceptical for the main lead, who was none other than the all-mighty buzzing Matthew McConaughey (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, EdtvMagic Mike, Mud), who seems recently that he has taken a turn for the serious - I call that a 'Sandra-Bullock' move - and has made it into the big leagues of Hollywood thespians. Granted in the past he may have shown glimpses of what he could really do - A Time To Kill, Amistad - but in Dallas Buyers Club he seems to have surpassed every expectation regarding his acting skills. 

He grabbed this role by the horns - and I mean that in literal sense. He actually grabbed it, he held onto it, he claimed the role and fought for it like it was his life depended on it. His extraordinary will to bring Ron Woodroof to life gave him the stamina and the ability to centre himself on what was important to pass onto his vewers; those emotionless gut-wrenching feelings of hopelessness in the eyes of a man in desperation to hang on to dear life. All this, McConaughey brilliantly transmits and is not afraid to truly expose himself on camera full on. He just lets the story move him and guide him through this tantalizing storytelling. Hence, needless to relish in the fact that his Oscar nomination for Best Actor Award is a well deserved one.

Equally coming to that are his other two co-stars, who come complete this tale of narrowing survival chances - Jennifer Garner (Alias, Juno, 13 Going on 30, Daredevil, Catch Me If You Can) and Jared Leto (Requiem For a Dream, American Psycho, Fight Club, Lord of War, Mr. Nobody) , who is also up for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor Award. Both Garner and Leto give out astounding performances in their support to the main character's journey. 

A note goes out especially to Leto whose emodiment of an HIV+ transvestite heralds him as the backbone of what this story is all about; compassion, humanity, kindness, sensitivity. These undying qualities are transformed in the role of Leto, who ripped this role apart to show us how deeply open we, as a society, should be, how open we should let our hearts be, in our aid to accept and love one another just as we are. Leto completely bedazzles in this role, who seems to have been stitched up just for him. 

Equally so, Garner herself, provides her unique skill to support the main lead with her kind mannerisms as the doctor who will stand beside her patient and extend him the hand of kindness in his battle for survival. 

In terms of direction, Jean-Marc Vallée (Young VictoriaCafé de Flore) is a quiet traveller of cinematography as he ever so gently places us on the spot to let go all of our preconceived notions of what we know is right and what we should accept as right. The method he uses in this film, somewhat resembles the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately acceptance. This journey we undergo through Vallée's empathetic lense as he lets us first unload any feelings of misconception and find again our humanity by the end of the film, manages not only to engage the audience but to also bring out sympathy for this story. In retrospect, Valee reminds us that nothing is black or white; not even this film. The multi-layers he lets us eavsdrop within his characters allows us to be more patient and understanding to a person's journey. It goes as much as to prove that old saying that "you shouldn't judge someone, unless if you've walked a mile in their shoes", only with this film Valee gives us those shoes and he lets us walk the long walk. 

Personally I believe this movie should be awarded for its humanity, for its never-ending battle to break down barriers of how we should treat people that suffer from HIV+ and of how each and everyone of us can aid in this life-long battle. This film aims to teach us, to de-anesthetize us, to make us see behind closed doors and finally to never stop fighting for what is right no matter the odds. 

I definitely recommend this film, albeit heavy and admittedly sad at times, it is a worthy film to have an eye out for, which certainly does deserve all the praise and the buzz it's been getting. 


Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Monday, 10 February 2014

Captain Philips (2013)


Captain Richard Phillips: Listen up, we have been boarded by armed pirates. If they find you, remember, you know this ship, they don't. Stick together and we'll be all right. Good luck.

I'll be honest, before this film came out, I knew very little about it, I didn't even know it was in the Oscar-horizon. And let's face it, it's not a high-alert contender in this year's filmmaking battle. 

First of, let's see what Captain Philips is all about - Captain Phillips is a multi-layered examination of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates. It is - through director Paul Greengrass's distinctive lens - simultaneously a pulse-pounding thriller, and a complex portrait of the myriad effects of globalization. The film focuses on the relationship between the Alabama's commanding officer, Captain Richard Phillips (two time Academy Award®-winner Tom Hanks), and the Somali pirate captain, Muse (Barkhad Abdi), who takes him hostage. Phillips and Muse are set on an unstoppable collision course when Muse and his crew target Phillips' unarmed ship; in the ensuing standoff, 145 miles off the Somali coast, both men will find themselves at the mercy of forces beyond their control. (

So what is it about Captain Phillips that makes it so appealing to the Academy Awards panel? I guess it was a little bit about the 'heroic' escape of an ordinary captain, and a lot to do with Tom Hanks. Much less so about the Somali pirates. 

But let's recap. Let us go back and look at why this film found its place into this year's Academy Award nominess in the Best Picture category. And where else to begin than the storyline.

The script was adapted from the book "A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, and Dangerous Days at Sea" written by Richard Philips and Stephan Talty, which was later adapted for the screen by Billy Ray ('The Hunger Games', 'State of Play' etc). As a story, this one seems more than intriguing...sadly, more on paper than it did on film. The story starts off bit, nothing more than an ordinary man going on about his daily routine in transporting a cargo ship through the Somalia gulf. All goes well then action hits, aka pirate attack by Somalian pirates. To the rescue comes the heroic captain, who makes it his mission not only to protect the ship but save everyone on board. 

This hyberbasis from the character of course, soon seems to backfire with dramatic results during the film. The slow paced rhythm along with the indifferent direction at various points seem to give out. They made the film tedious and its action packed climatic points seemed more like a mundane action video game that had better be called 'Save the Captain', rather an Award winning true story film. 

In all the kind respect I have for both the lead actor, Tom Hanks (The Green Mile, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, PhiladelphiaToy Story), and the director, Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Supremacy, United 93, I can fairly say that this film left me wanting and disappointed. I felt emotionally disconnected with the lead character, not caring as much as I should have, and worst of all wanting to wait around to actually to see whether he lives or dies at the end. 

The thumbs up for this particular film should go for cinematography by Barry Ackroyd, its film editing by Christopher Rouse, and its sound editing/mixing. The technical departments seemed to try to overcompensate to fill in the gaps and holes that the plot was leaving behind, which by the end of the film seemed to be providing a miniscule effort as well in the telling of a gripping story-telling.

It is worthy to pay notice to the actor playing the Somali pirate, a Mr. Barkad Abdi, who from the background check the media have made on him, he seemed to have been a limo driver before being cast in this horrifying ordeal of Captain Phillips. His agonizing performance as the Somali pirate who would do most about anything, even lose his own life and the lives of his companions, seemed, in my shockingly surprise, to surpass any of the over-acting that was done by the rest of the characters in this film.

A fair mention to the guest starring screen wife of Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, who seemed to be more of a prop and an empathy symbol, rather than a character to even begin to establish an emotional connection with.

Bearing in mind that this tale is based on true events though, one might be a little more lenient with the events unravelling in front of our screen and even go as far as to extend a form of sympathy by the end of it, mostly for the lead character.

Personally, I found myself in excruciating agony of when the film was finally going to wrap up and gloriously exhilirated when it finally did. Likewise, I can understand why the Academy snubbed Tom Hanks for an Oscar nomination this year, but equally so I seem to feel buffled with the Academy's choice to include this film into their Best Picture category.

Granted for anyone who is a Tom Hanks supporter, watch it for the tale of it but be warned, that there's not many thrills and chills in its resolution. Nothing you haven't seen before, nothing you won't see again.


.                                       Captain Phillips Trailer (2013)