Tag: 2010


Restrepo

July 18th, 2012 — 7:21am

 

***

Restrepo-  Most boys ( and maybe some girls these days ) while growing up play soldier and war. As kids we can recall some war movies that I thought were pretty good. Now days there are the futuristic blockbuster war movies.  In most of these films there is lots of action, soldiers are killed, there is a good cause and usually a hero with whom the viewers will identify. On the other hand there is this documentary film, the real story of small platoon of soldiers in Afghanistan as recorded by reporter Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hertherington who were embedded with this fighting unit. They were assigned to the strategic Korengal Valley and they had to establish an outpost in the midst of the Taliban. Early on in a firefight, one of their group is the first to be killed. They subsequently named this outpost after him, Restrepo. There is no glory or heroic actions (although it is fair to say that they are all heroes). You can see how the memories of their friend stays with them and lingers on as do all the effects of this experience There is constant fear, anxiety, shooting at the enemy or being shot at, having to go on frightening patrols and hanging around in their lonely little fortress which seems so vulnerable. While this gallant group seems to know what they are fighting for, the viewer is never given a very clear picture. It is somehow to let the local people build a road and be helped by the US so they won’t favor the Taliaban. We haven’t figured out if this was the right war for the US to be in and for how long and how we should have fought it. However, we do come away with the feeling that if there has to be this kind of a war, these young men were trained how to do it and were good at it. But we know, so many of them paid a heavy price by loss of life and limb as well as a continued emotional toll. One year after this movie came out and received an Oscar nomination, the co- filmmaker Tim Hertherington was killed, at  40 years of age, while covering the conflict in Libya.  (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, War

Remember Me

October 28th, 2011 — 8:26pm

****

Remember Me- nf  – This is a haunting film which will grab you at it’s beginning and will penetrate your heart at it’s ending.  We are introduced to one of the main characters in a tragic New York moment. We then meet the main focus of the film Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson) whose parents have split up in the wake of his brothers’s suicide. He obviously has not found himself as he struggles with his anger, his alienation from his father ( Pierce Brosnan) and yet we see  his devotion to his kid sister, wonderfully portrayed by Ruby Jerins).  The relationship bewtween Hawkins and Ally Craig (Emille de Ravin) the now grown up 21 year old young women  who was a  participant in that earlier mentioned tragic moment 10 years previously, is the centerpiece of the film . During their first date at dinner Ally wants dessert because you can never tell when you will suddenly be facing death and wish you had that last dessert and another person would have such guilt if they talked you out that dessert. In one sense that is the story of this movie – unexpectedly life can be ended  with lasting consequences to the people to whom they are close.  This is something that many New Yorkers know so well and this movie is a New York movie. Director Allen Coulter has captured it’s feel whether it be a college apartment around NYU, a house in Queens, a private school on the upper east side , a high rise office overlooking the city, or a taxi that might not want to go to Queens.The characters all have depth which is as real as the grit of the city. There is humor, drama  romance, great acting and a very good screen play by Will Fetters. This movie will stick to you and it will be hard to forget it. (2010)

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Mao’s Last Dancer

July 15th, 2011 — 8:34pm

****

Mao’s Last Dancer- nf – You get a lot for the price of your ticket in this movie. First there is an insight into the recent history of China where even after the death of Mao, the Chinese government tried to control the minds their people as well as their freedom and spirit. You also get some wonderful pieces of classical ballet choreographed by Australians Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon. But most of all you get the true, very touching story of Li Cunxin based on his autobiography and an excellent screenplay by Jan Sardi. At age 11 he was plucked from his rural cold, snowy school to leave his peasant parents and 5 siblings in order  to live and study full time at a dance academy in Beijing. We follow him through three  actors who play him at various stages in his youth and finally to his portrayal as a young man by Chi Cao who himself is an accomplished dancer. Interestingly, Cao’s real life parents had been teachers of Li Cunxin.  Director Bruce Beresford switching back in forth to various time periods shows the development of this talented evolving dancer. After leaving his family to train  in Beijing, the next big event is as an 18 year old  when he is  invited on a cultural exchange to the Houston Ballet Academy by it’s director Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood). There is culture shock as he had been brainwashed to believe that the US was quite the opposite of what he saw and experienced in 1980’s Houston Texas. There is romance, his recognition of his talent and his potential. Then there is  a confrontation with the long arm of China that is pulling him back there. Much of the film is actually shot in China as well as in Houston Texas. The scenes and the people in the rural village appear quite authentic. The story easily evokes tears and yet reminds us of an important lesson that is the theme of the movie and a line in it.,  Before You Can Fly You Have To Be Free .  (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

Inside Job

June 18th, 2011 — 4:25am

****

Inside Job-nf- Filmmaker Charles Ferguson takes a long, hard skillful look at the individuals and their actions which brought about the global economic meltdown of 2008. It is hard to come away from this Oscar nominated documentary without feeling some combination of anger and depression. Anger, because you see self-serving greed and even corruption among the financial leaders of this country. Depression, because you see that many of people in charge of our financial institutions today including many in the  highest positions in government are still not inclined to make changes to prevent  another financial crisis. If you can take a dispassionate view of this story, it feels as if you are watching a film showing you something about how the rise and  fall of the Roman Empire came about in some distant time. In this case however we are dealing with contemporary times. We learn how an economic boom led to a desire among those in the financial and banking industries to make  even more money as they transitioned from carefully investing their own money to going public and now risking other peoples’ money for tremendous payouts for themselves. The complicated concepts of derivatives is actually made sickeningly clear as we see how investments were really bets with essentially no clear downside for the bankers but devastating results for the middle class. No place was this more relevant  than in the home mortgage market where the financial guys would make their money on the volume of the mortgages sold and not on quality or  the ability of people who bought them to pay them off. Matt Damon is the narrator of the film although Ferguson does much of interviews. The film is interspersed with film clips of the leading players of this giant debacle from the officers of the big financial institutions to the well known faces in government including Paulson, Greenspan, Geitner and others with major government responsibility for regulation and policy. We see the story of the  march of deregulation from the Reagan, through the Bush years even including some during the Clinton White House. There is also  the apparent failure of the Obama administration , despite their bailout successes , to have regulated and overseen what should be regulated and overseen.  The lack of prosecution of some of the glaring criminal activities is highlighted and the obscene executive compensations, sometimes more than a hundred million dollars,  for people who participated in very questionable actions is spelled out. . (See an article MB wrote in the Huffington Post about this issue  over  a year ago). It is also quite disturbing to see the failure of he academic community to acknowledge the payments they receive from interested parties for their speeches and writings which supported the unstable financial situations that occurred. (These days the medical community is usually obligated to make disclosures of potential conflicts of interest  when speaking or writing ) Granted, the filmmaker is trying to make a point about the inside job, which was pulled off on the American people. There may be some other points of view, which he didn’t show but interviews made with top people, and the facts presented make it pretty easy to vote for conviction if we were the jury (even without cross examination from another viewpoint). Ferguson did have a great deal of access to top people some of whom asked him to turn off the camera once they were shown their inconsistencies. The movie is well edited to one hour and 48 minutes. Most of the film is sharp and well framed. When archival footage is used and it makes a point, you don’t mind if it isn’t top-drawer quality. Although a year old, it is still right on the mark for today. If you have a stake in this economy and the future of our country, you better understand what this film is saying. (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary

Made in Dagenham

June 7th, 2011 — 3:29am

****

Made in Dagenham- nf- If you are one of those people who care about the important equal rights and social justice moments, especially those of the last 50 years, you will not want to miss this movie. It is a dramatization of a true story that took place in 1968 when the women in a Ford manufacturing plant in London who sewed the upholstery for the car seats demanded the same pay as men for their work. The movie shows the coming together of three unlikely allies in the cause of justice for women. Rita O’Grady (Sally Hawkins) a young factory worker becomes incensed when she realizes the inequalities towards women and takes a leadership role in organizing the strike of the 187 women of a factory which also employs thousands of men. She by chance meets Lisa (Rosamund Pike), wife of one of the company executives who despite being wealthy feels treated as a second class citizen even in her marriage and lends encouragement to the beleaguered strikers. Ultimately a meeting with the British Secretary of Labor Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson), who also identifies with the strikers who by this time are quite determined although holding on by their finger tips. Despite facing the serious threat of Ford pulling out from England Carson  then institutes the deal which promises near parity with men and a plan to put forth equal rights legislation. The dramatic victory at the conclusion will send a chill up your spine and a tear to your eye. The acting is excellent and it was well directed by Nigel Cole . There are no big surprises but the movie will grab your emotions. In a sense, it  channels the 1979 classic film Norma Rae which told the true story of one woman’s battle to organize the minimum wage workers in a cotton mill and which earned Sally Fields an Academy Award. We need films like this to remind us what determined people can do and how some things are worth fighting for. (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

In A Better World

February 24th, 2011 — 8:36am

*****

In A Better World- sp – We saw this film four days before the evening of the Academy awards and we do believe that this Danish film could give Biutiful from Mexico a run for the money for the best  Foreign Language Film. (We must confess that these two outstanding films were the only ones in this category that we have seen.) Director Susanne Bier who was guest speaker  at our  screening collaborated with Screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen to bring forth a magnificent story and movie which examines the issues of revenge, bullying, family relationships as well as a friendship between two pre-adolescent boys that is forged in their own painful circumstances. Biers effectively shifts  between scenes in Africa where Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), the father of one of the boys is a physician who makes regular trips to a medical outpost and Denmark where  his son Elias is being jerked around by some  classmates who are bullying him. The other boy Christian (perhaps an ironic choice of a name ) has just moved back from London  with his father to live with his grandmother in Denmark after his mother died of cancer. The main characters find themselves in situations where they can choose to act in a manner that may be wrong and immoral or which could also be considered by some to be justified. The presentation of moral ambiguities in characters that we can understand and identify with makes a stimulating and very riveting film. The scenery in Africa is beautiful and the people living in the refugee camp where they were casted are very genuine since most are non-actors. On the other hand the two child stars who were chosen from 120 auditions essentially carry the film as their characters make decisions which will keep you on the edge of your seat  for nearly the same number of minutes. It is all helped along by an appropriate musical background. We will give the edge to Biutiful but would not be surprised to see the Danes take first prize in this category.(2010) Addendum: It won the Oscar for best foreign film ! )

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Biutiful

February 22nd, 2011 — 3:11am

*****

Biutiful- rm – You will be taken to underside of the streets of Barcelona and get inside people who are scraping by trying to survive and put food on the table for their children. You will meet a man who engages in illegal doings but seems fair and sensitive to his troubled wife, his innocent children and to the immigrants whom he encounters  functioning in the worst possible conditions. You will see him face his own mortality and get a glimpse at what perhaps is Director/Writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s view of where death will take us. Make no mistake about it, this is a powerful and depressing movie. Inarritu uses the technique of  weaving together various jarring scenes as he did in his 2006 Oscar nominated film Babel. He very effectively uses dim lighting in many scenes with dark blue colors reflecting the mood of the people and times.  Ultimately it is the journey of Uxbal ( Javier Bardem) which will captivate and haunt you. His empathic nature, love of his children, desperate attempt to survive when the odds are against him which make him a tragic but “biutiful” figure. It may also bring Bardem his second Oscar (he won for Best Supporting Actor in No Country for Old Men in 2008) . There are a lot of things going on in this movie which may not be immediately clear in your consciousness since they are subtle and most of us are relying on the subtitles. All the more reason why the emotional impact that you cannot help but feel as the story runs it’s final course confirms that you have seen an outstanding movie. (2010)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Black Swan

January 31st, 2011 — 5:34am

*****

Black Swan rm-  This movie is about ballet and there a good amount of ballet in it. It is also about competition, jealousy and the desire to be perfect. There is no better place for these feelings to be played out than when the decision is made for the lead role in the beautiful and powerful Swan Lake Ballet. In the background is the sweeping majestic music of Tchaikovsky which is brilliantly used  by the film’s music  composer Clint Mansell to capture the u underlying theme of the movie. The theme is one of losing touch with reality to the point of psychosis. This allows director Darren Aronofsky to skillfully turn this movie into a horror fantasy where you are never quite sure when Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) has fallen into the abyss of insanity. Once you are into the crevices of the unconscious, repressed sexual wishes are fair game to examine. Portman rises to the occasion in showing all aspects of the  inner self of her character as well as projecting magnificent graceful dancing skills. She well deserves the multiple nominations for best actress of the year which she is garnering. She is supported by an excellent cast which includes Barbara Hershey who plays her mother. The story by Andres Heinz and screenplay by Heinz, Mark Heyman and John McLaughlin along with the outstanding direction of Aronofsky with his technical staff provide a film you won’t be able to get out of your mind. Interestingly, the film ends  as did one of our favorite ballet movies, Red Shoes.(2010).

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

The Fighter

January 30th, 2011 — 7:37am

*****

The Fighter rm-  Why is it that a good fight movie in the end will push your emotional buttons and bring a tear to your eye when it comes to the conclusion? Think Rocky. However, this movie isn’t really about boxing although there is lots of boxing in it. It is about family, loyalty. dreams and aspirations, self determination but not forgetting where you came from. It is based on a real people and a true story. It is the story of the boxer Mickey Ward(Mark Wahlberg)  and his relationship with his older ½ brother Dicky (Christian Bale), a former boxer who once fought Sugar Ray Robinson  but became involved with drugs and spent time in prison. Dicky comes back after much family interaction and soul searching and he trains his brother for the ultimate championship fight . Writers Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy along with Director David Russell provide a story with great character development where you understand them as well as seeing  them grow and change. The acting is fantastic. Mark Wahlberg does a very good job getting into shape and carrying off the role of boxer and the sensitive brother here. But the major acting kudos have to go to Christian Bale who brought the older brother and his fantasies for himself and his kid brother to life. No matter how he came to this portrayal it would be a worthy tour de force but at the very end of the film there is a brief film clip of the real brothers interacting and you can see that Bale nailed all mannerisms of his character. If this film should get two acting awards, the second one would be for Melissa Leo who plays the brother’s Mom as an insensitive, selfish mother who had been managing her son’s boxing career as it was going downhill. Maybe deep down she loves her kids perhaps the older one more but you won’t feel neutral about her.  We have seen Leo in other great performances in Frozen River and Conviction. The latter film along with Kings Speech, 127 Hours , The Social Network, including this one are in our opinion among the best of the films of 2010 and are all based on true stories. Truth may be better than fiction but you have to be able to tell a good story and this one certainly did.(2010)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Sport

Blue Valentine

January 10th, 2011 — 12:50am

***

Blue Valentine rm-  An in depth study of two people in a marriage that breaks apart. Cindy (Michelle Williams)  a confident, somewhat ambitious  young woman who didn’t see much love between her parents but finds herself very attracted to and does seem to fall in love with Dean (Ryan Gosling), a very appealing young man who never made it through high school, who is content to work for a moving company and would be equally content to ultimately accept a job assisting to paint houses and hanging around with his kid. Director Derek Cianfrance through a series of alternating views of his two main characters in the present time and at an earlier time during their courting period shows how their relationship developed and is now falling apart. Their marriage follows on the heels of an accidental pregnancy that almost ends in an abortion but Cindy backs out at the last minute for what reason we are never sure. It appeared that if she had better abortion counseling the marriage might never have happened. Dean drifts into what seems to be alcoholism  but we are never shown whether this because his marriage isn’t working out or if the marriage isn’t working out because of the drinking. In fact, despite good literal and figurative close-ups of these two main characters, there are some loose ends in the plot. We certainly don’t get to know Dean and what makes him tick as well as we understand Cindy,  which is a short coming of the movie. All we see is a guy who has some stunted emotional growth despite his apparent sensitivity to his young 6 year old and an older man that he moves into a nursing home. The film under the direction of  Cianfrance provided a wonderful showplace for the talents of Williams and Gosling who may deserve Oscar considerations for  this movie but the script in our opinion didn’t provide enough internal consistency for this movie to deliver a knockout punch. Special kudos do belong to the make up and styling people for creating a realistic difference in the appearance of the characters during the 10 or 15 year time span in which they are shown. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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