Sawako Decides

Hikari Mitsushima is one hell of an actress. I haven’t looked too much into her past, but from what I gather she is a gravure idol-turned-actress, who started out with small bit parts in feature films, notably the live-action Death Note series. I have not seen these films, so this means next to nothing to me. She first really made waves in circles of Japanese Cinema fans in Shion Sono’s masterpiece, Love Exposure, as the protagonist’s obsessive love interest, who put him through hell. Though she was one of the major characters in Love Exposure, it is in Yûya Ishii’s Sawako Decides which she truly shines. After having only seen two of her films, she has already put herself in contention to be one of my favorite young actresses working today.

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Black Swan

Before Black Swan was released, but when the hype machine was already in overdrive, I stated on one film message board: “Aronofsky has earned my willingness to see any film he makes. Even his failures are interesting.” Indeed, Aronofsky may be the most interesting young American director working today, if only because with every film he genuinely seems to be shooting for the moon in an age where most directors are much more modest in their ambitions. But he also makes the kinds of films that are as fraught with faults as they are strengths. In many respects, I’ll take interesting failures over uninteresting successes any day, because it’s often just a matter of time before those faults are transformed into strengths upon reconsideration. Read more of this post

The Fighter

Micky: “Everyone said I could beat him.”

Charlene: “Who’s everyone?”

Micky: “My brother, my mother.”

Between the ultimate stand-up-and-cheer-for-the-underdog Rocky, and one of the most brutally visceral character studies ever in fiction in Raging Bull, one wonders if there’s anything left in the field of the boxing sub-genre to cull. All those since have added precious little to the formula, except Million Dollar Baby, which substituted a female boxer and became a film about the most unusual of friendships. Really, the best boxing films all have one thing in common, and that’s that they’re about character infinitely more than boxing. Even Rocky would be nothing without Stalone’s iconic performance, and who can imagine Raging Bull without DeNiro’s ferocious Jake LaMotta? At its core, The Fighter is another such character study. Read more of this post

Megamind

Science-Fiction, Action, Comedy; 96 minutes; 2010; U.S.; Directed by: Tom McGrath; Procuded by: Lara Breay Denise, Nolan Cascino; DreamWorks Animation, Pacific Data Images, Red Hour Productions

There are two things I’ve never enjoyed in Hollywood matter how hard marketing tries to make me enjoy them: Will Farrel movies and DreamWorks movies.

Well, that last one is a slight exaggeration. The first two Shrek films were enjoyable for me when they were funny. But the franchise was quickly exposed to be no more than a mindless and spiteful Disney mockery when their jokes failed to entertain those watching them, even if the viewers did tire of the Disney formula that DreamWorks was trying to demolish in their own jerky way. And as for Will Farrel, I’ve never enjoyed him in… anything. To me, he just comes off as a sick joke that’s trying too hard to be funny. Heck, I didn’t even like Elf, and that movie was trying to stay away from Farrel’s usual tacticks.

So why would I even watch a film that packaged these two annoyances together into one set for the Hollywood studio to throw at me? Well to be honest, I don’t quite know why myself. But I’m sure glad I watched the new DreamWorks film starring Will Farrel: Megamind.

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Never Let Me Go

Very early on while watching Never Let Me Go I was struck with the realization that I must be watching an adaptation of a novel. There’s simply a certain quality that such adaptations have that original screenplays don’t. They’re marked by a certain stately elegance, a temporal broadness (for whatever reason, feature film screenplays tend to stay rooted in one time period), and, most of all, a feeling that the visuals are struggling to capture the original prose and say more about the characters than are possible through a camera lens. Other such films in the past decade that also had these qualities were Chocolat, The Hours, Atonement, The Reader, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Perceptive readers might note all of these films were nominated for Oscars as well, and there’s a part of me that’s surprised Never Let Me Go wasn’t. Read more of this post

Winter’s Bone

 

“I live in the Ozarks… every scene looked like it was being filmed from my backyard.” So says one poster on IMDb, and I’m inclined to agree with him. I may not live in the Ozarks, but I do live in the Deep South, barely 10 miles from terrain that looks eerily like the locales that dominate Winter’s Bone. The location sweats out every pore of the frame, forming a vast and ominous character that’s more majestically dominating than anything, much less anyone, in the film. Director Deborah Granik and cinematographer Michael McDonough have certainly captured the frostbitten austerity of winter, but they’ve also found beautifully bleak images in the disintegrating landscapes, like a hillbilly version of the Vienna ruins of The Third Man. Read more of this post

The Social Network

There’s a moment in King Lear in Act I Scene V when, amidst all the raging storm of emotions, the most devastating line in the entire play is uttered quietly in a rare moment of reflection for its self-absorbed title character: “I did her wrong”. At its tragic conclusion, we’re left to wonder how radically different things could’ve been if those four profound words of self-fault recognition had manifested in Lear’s actions. There’s a similar moment in this film during the climactic confrontation between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and his best friend, or now ex-best friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). After the Mephistophelean character of Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the creator of Napster, has ruthlessly excommunicated Eduardo from any further participation in the business that Facebook has become, Mark turns away from Sean, drooping his head and lost dejectedly in thought, and says “you didn’t have to be so rough on him.” Shortly after, it’s back to the immense business of creative dedication that running a soon-to-be multibillion-dollar business like Facebook is. But it’s moments like those, amidst the whirlwind of ceaseless involvement of being swept up in an up in an obsession that, almost imperceptibly, has become bigger than you and taken over your life as quickly and deadly as poison running through your veins from a viper strike, that give the film its lingering quality that transcends the drama of moment. Read more of this post