Archive | November, 2010

I Am Love (Io sono l’amore) (2009)

26 Nov

Visually stunning, but a very slow start. Perhaps my first mistake was having such high expectations. I am certain that someone who has studied film, particularly Italian film, may get more out of the movie than I did, and might see my commentary as blasphemous. But I have to say that I just felt that it dragged on, especially in the first half, and it felt rather pretentious. Nonetheless, I do have some good things to say about this film as well.

In I Am Love, Tilda Swinton plays Emma, who begins to feel unfulfilled by her life in a well-to-do Milanese family. This isn’t verbally expressed, at least not in the beginning, but you begin to pick up on her distance from the rest of the cast as they toil over the Recchi family business they inherited from the late patriarch, Edoardo. When Emma tastes the dishes that her son’s friend Antonio prepares, she is brought back to her passions for cooking and her longing for her Russian homeland. Finally the film begins to take off in the second half as desires take form and tragedy befalls the family. In the end you realize that although the men have all the power and money through their tight control of business, the women of this family are the true subjects of interest, following their own passions and not just looking at bottom lines and profit margins. Add to this a dramatic score, comparable in some ways, to Jonny Greenwood’s arrangements in There Will Be Blood. (Although this film’s score still pales in comparison to Greenwood’s). There is promise to this film, and I will definitely admit that I enjoyed it, and certainly became entangled in the story by the end. But it was a slow climb that I am willing to bet many do not have the patience to take in order to reach such a summit.

The beautiful cinematography is the saving grace for I Am Love, as I was unfortunately a bit disappointed in the way it crawled through events and character development. I don’t know why it had to start out so slowly. Maybe so that the passionate love-making to follow in the second half would be that much more explosive. Unfortunately, Tilda Swinton reminds me of an android, and attempts to make her seem sexy and seductive were lost on me. However, as a postscript: I found out that Ms. Swinton learned Italian specifically for this role, and she did not previously speak the language. This is overwhelmingly impressive, the entire film is Italian and from the looks of things, so is the cast. I want to know what method she used (Rosetta Stone??). Maybe I can apply some of her techniques in my Spanish classroom. Oh shit, maybe she is a robot!

Although I complain about the slowness of the movie, I Am Love is like photography in motion, it is art as a film. This comes through in the way the lighting is played with, the style of the film’s flashbacks and fantasy sequences, which are definitely above and beyond many movies I have seen. And as it happens while observing art, it is hard to critique or analyze it without at least minimal background knowledge of the craft. I obviously love film, but I know very little about cinematography, the complexity of lighting and editing. While watching it, when I started to get bored with the way the plot was moving, I would try to put on a new set of eyes and observe why particular shots might have been chosen, what was unique about the lighting, or what emotions were being conveyed subtly by the actor that may not have been apparent at first glance. So it was a nice exercise in considering style, especially since that is about all I got out of the first half.

I would probably give this movie a B/B- because even the titillating parts that made the slow parts worth sitting through eventually became exaggeratedly dramatic. And so it swings like a pendulum from absurdly boring to over-the-top. But it still gets sexy. Passionate love affairs and  and the music tries to keep you with the emotions of the film. If you are in the right mood, I think this can be an excellent film. And when I feel more in that mood, (whatever that mood may be), I will watch it again.

I think in addition to the letter-grade scale  that I have been giving movies on Medicinema thus far, (can you tell I’m a teacher?), I will add the would-I-watch-it-again and would-I-buy it grade. Because ultimately this is what I think at the end of every movie I watch, no joke. So…

would I watch it again: yes
would I buy it: I’m thinking no. I’ll let you know if that changes after a second viewing.

Holy Rollers and South of the Border

20 Nov

I’ll review two movies here to make up for lost time. Also, as a disclaimer: If I did this for a living, (viewing and reviewing movies), I would certainly ensure that only awesome movies would ever make their way to my reviews, but unfortunately my several jobs keep me from constantly screening movies for my critiquing pleasure. Here are two movies worth a looksee.

Holy Rollers (2010)
Here we find yet another drug trafficking movie in which an unlikely protagonist finds himself in the center of an international drug ring. What makes this film different from the others? Said protagonist is Sam Gold (left), a Hasidic Jewish young gentleman played by Jesse Eisenberg who abandons the innocent life to become a drug mule, smuggling Ecstasy from Amsterdam to New York. Falling in love with the fast-paced world of beautiful women, international travel, and above all else, financial prosperity, Sam becomes a key player and right-hand man to his neighbor and “friend,” Yosef, who also falls from the graces of the conservative New York Hasidic Jewish community as he becomes more and more involved with the drug trade as well. Their operation burgeons thanks to Sam’s know-how, and he and Yosef begin recruiting more and more from their conservative Hasidic community. I suppose this film is unique compared to other drug-smuggling movies in that the drug-of-focus is not cocaine (Blow, Scarface), heroin (Maria Full of Grace) or marijuana/hash (Blow, Midnight Express). But for being all about ecstasy trafficking, this film sure is tame on the sex side of things. In addition, the obligatory love story feels unnaturally injected and somewhat unbelievable (though I still enjoyed it). I love Jesse Eisenberg because of The Squid and the Whale, and the premise was enough to keep me entertained, but it definitely didn’t blow my mind or even get all-too-exciting. When it comes to drug-trafficking films, the aforementioned ones are not to be dethroned by this 2010 feature, although it is worth checking out.

South of the Border (2009)
This Oliver Stone doc is short enough that you don’t really have an excuse not to check it out. As a “Latinamericanist,” I have always been interested in the politics and history surrounding Venezuela, so perhaps I am a little biased. For die-hards who are interested in Latin America, Hugo Chavez Frias, Venezuela or US foreign policy abroad, The Revolution Will Not be Televised is a little more bang for your buck. But if you know little to nothing about Venezuela’s 1989 Caracazo, the 1992 failed coup attempt or Hugo Chavez’s current presidency, this documentary does a good job at bringing you up to speed and exposing the ways in which the US and Venezuelan media along with the elite of Venezuela and the US government are constantly manipulating facts, footage and more in order to paint Hugo Chavez as an undeserving and cruel dictator. The film demonstrates why these actors would be interested in overthrowing the democratically-elected leader of VZ, (hint: oil), and how media outlets from all points of the political spectrum have had a hand in painting a negative picture of Chavez. It is an elementary film about the topic, but it covers a lot of ground in a very short amount of time. It is arguably biased, but it is necessarily so in order to counteract all of the misinformation that the world has been fed about Venezuelan politics in the past few decades. I wouldn’t say that I am pro-Chavez, especially in light of recent developments. However, it is refreshing to see “fair and balanced reporting” exposed for what it truly is much of the time: a vehicle for the political agenda of the rich and powerful elite.

Plastic Bag

8 Nov

As an environmentalist and an avid fan of Werner Herzog, this short film is like cinematic crack. Werner Herzog needs to narrate everything. How about the re-release of The Private Life of Plants? (No offense, David Attenborough)

Ricky Fitts, eat your heart out!

Let the Right One In

4 Nov

This entry is part of what I hope will be a weekly review of a film available on Netflix Instant Queue. I think that Instant Queue films are the same across the board whether you are watching them on your Nintendo Wii, iPhone, Xbox, Roku, etc. but in case they differ, this is on the Wii instant queue.

Let the Right One In

Oskar and EliBoy meets “girl.” “Girl” is vampire. They still fall in love. A mutually protective bond ensues. In Swedish. That is pretty much the gist of the 2008 horror/drama, Let the Right One In. Not necessarily a movie to write home about (although is that what I am doing right now?), this movie is endearing and eerie enough to be worth a watch, at least if you’re bored and not in the mood for the other titles on your instant queue. Be prepared for subtitle reading, it’s not really a movie you can multi-task to, though it isn’t like many of the foreign films I am privy to in that you probably aren’t going to lose an important point to the plot if you miss a line or two.

This movie reminded me a little bit of Powder, probably because the young protagonist, Oskar, is a pasty-pale boy who gets ridiculed, bullied, and abused by classmates; a tad bit of Fucking Åmål (American release title: Show Me Love), probably because it is Swedish and deals with unconventional and not necessarily hetero- young love; and a lot of Nói albínói (Noi the Albino) because of the Powder reasoning plus being an Icelandic film, it is snowy or snowing the entire time.

In general, I am not a fan of vampire movies. If you are, I have a feeling this movie will be one of your favorites. I’m certain this film is better than Twilight. We break from the Twilight/vampire-movie formula in Let the Right One In because Eli, the vampire, is a “girl” in this case, but not necessarily an evil, conniving woman as female vampires are often portrayed. So there isn’t a weak and innocent Bella main character that needs to be protected. Eli, herself, shows her own weaknesses and limitations. The film does, however, still follow the vampire movie prescription in that the main mortal character is more of a weakling and hopelessly infatuated with his vampire love interest.

The title of the movie was what drew me in, and the fact that Netflix thought I would give it 4.5 stars, which is a pretty hefty rating. I might give it a 3 or 3.5 to be generous,  just because the violence was pretty good without being over-the-top. It wasn’t too tacky except for a cat attack scene which was totally over-the-top. The child actors are pretty good, slightly creepy, yet endearing. I know that suspension of disbelief is the name of the game with such movies, one thing still bugged me about this one. Although Eli looks twelve, she is probably thousands of years old, being a vampire and all. With all of that worldly experience, what does she want with an actual twelve-year-old boy? And if it is to have another man-slave like Jocke, it totally takes away from the loving elements of Oskar and Eli’s relationship that you are kind of rooting for.

Like I said, you might get something out of this movie, and it is probably worth catching at least once. It got overwhelmingly positive reviews (98% on rottentomatoes.com) from critics and sources that are not mainstream and Hollywood-loving. If you want a touching, foreign-language, and out-of-the-ordinary vampire film, Let the Right One In is your flick.

Here are some scenes that made the film:

  • Both hospital scenes (with Jocke after the face-defiguration and Ginia after her transition into vampire)
  • Oskar sneaking a peak at Eli’s girlhood. Which doesn’t exist because “she” is a vampire! Duh!
  • The pool scene at the end.

Trailer:
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Next time I promise, no more horror for real…