Charlie Kaufman’s newest film is a psychological drama with elements of “magical realism”. In the story, one young woman (Jessie Buckley) travels in a snowstorm with her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents in their farmhouse. She is one eccentric and “artsy” person who is unsure of her future with her boyfriend and who often receives mysterious messages on her mobile phone. That is all we can be sure of because, the rest, including all the details, is soon called into question as Jake’s parents start behaving oddly and the characters are forced down the memory lane. Unfortunately, all the philosophy, psychology, good acting and the sumptuous cinematography by no other than Łukasz Żal, cinematographer behind Cold War (2018), cannot rescue this latest cinematic riddle by Kaufman. Wrapped in layers upon layers of tedious and predictable poetic and philosophical musings (or rather outbursts), the film becomes bland very early on and no pretty decorative “wrapping” (including all the wonderful design and wallpaper in the film) can hide the fact that, inside, our cinematic “enigma” is one weird mix of different, well-trodden on, pretentious and almost meaninglessideas.
“Eternal order is prescribed by the sacred engine: all things flow from the sacred engine, all things in their place, all passengers in their section, all water flowing, all heat rising, pays homage to the sacred engine, in its own particular preordained position”.
“A blockbuster production with a devilishly unpredictable plot”, says character Wilford in Snowpiercer. That is what this film, directed by Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) and based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, also is. In this story, there is one post-apocalyptic world and one “self-sustaining” train makes it rounds around the world. On board are human survivors who are divided into strict social groups with one unfair regime governing them all. At the bottom of the social ladder (and the train), one can find the poor masses who are dressed in rags and survive on protein bars, and, at the top, there is the elite, consisting of a few individuals who ruthlessly preside over the masses, while enjoying the luxuries of life. When one man from the bottom of the train sparks the rebellious spirit in the masses, he does not even begin to imagine the complicated way to the top of the train nor what awaits him as he nears the real power propelling the train forward. Snowpiercer is not one’s ordinary action or sci-fi film; wrapped in philosophical reflections and delicately balancing humour and horror, and realistic action and allegory, the film defies expectations, requiring both a leap of faith and open-mindedness from the audience.
Meshes of the Afternoon is a 1943 experimental film by Maya Deren. It is known for its sense of unease, eeriness and mystery – all accomplished using a minimum number of objects and a single location. In this 14-minute film, the most commonplace and everyday objects take sinister contours as the director plays impressively with dream and reality using repetition, silence, innovative camera angles and unexplained sequences. Meshes of the Afternoon undoubtedly influenced such directors as David Lynch (Mulholland Drive(2001) and Roman Polanski (Repulsion(1965)), and was definitely a film ahead of its time.
The Red Shoes is about the rise to stardom of a dancer Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) who falls under the strict control of one charismatic, but elusive and mysterious company director Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). Page becomes truly famous after appearing in Lermontov’s ballet “The Red Shoes”, but soon finds herself torn between her new love – composer of “The Red Shoes” – Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and her professional life. The film is brilliant in terms of cinematography, camera-movements and visual impact. The beautifully-designed production and the ballet, that incorporates a story of one girl whose red shoes take control over her life, are memorable. The film also makes certain observations on the creative process of a theatre/ballet production, and on art and artistic input. It asks – what price a person will be willing to pay for the sake of artistic glory and full professional realisation in theatre/ballet? The story of one girl whose red shoes control her (a Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale) mirrors the story of Victoria Page who, ultimately, has to choose between her romantic interest and her blind devotion to the demands of the man behind the “The Red Shoes” genius – Boris Lermontov. Continue reading “Recently Watched: Films: The Red Shoes (1948), West Side Story (1961) & Black Narcissus (1947)”→
“People view child actors the same way that girls treat their Barbie dolls” (Mara Wilson, former child actress, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)).” A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark” (a Chinese proverb). “Childhood experiences are very important to lifelong outcomes…“ (Andrew S. Garner, MD).
We all know past childhood or teenage horrors/troubles of such celebrities asJudy Garland, Macaulay Culkin, River Phoenix or Lindsay Lohan. We also know the examples of successful transitions from child actors to adult stars, such as the Harry Potter cast. The point is that the cinema industry has learnt much about the treatment of child actors, but it has also done so at a considerable cost, including in terms of human lives. In this post, I would like to highlight three child actors (some alive and some already dead) who were essentially let down by Hollywood, and their cases were really such that more effort and support should have been given to see these child actors’ transition to adult actors or adults with other careers – especially since so much was done by Hollywood to elevate them to their “star” status from their very young ages. Studios often became the children’s second home in the examples below, and since the children relied so much on that early expectation of praise and success (and money was made out of them), these children and then teenagers had to be helped later to deal with their expected career declines. There are those who blame the pushy parents, and I am not saying that personal factors or choices did not play a role in the cases below, but I also believe that no one should have forgotten that the actors below were also mere children, much more sensitive to their environment, praise and criticism than adults, and, thus, later, needing much more support and reassurance in their careers.Continue reading ““(Little) Stars in Their Eyes”: How Hollywood Makes and Breaks its Child Actors”→
Little Joe is a British/Austrian/German-produced film that was selected to compete at the Cannes Film Festival 2019. In this story, Alice Woodard (Emily Beecham) works at a special laboratory that produces genetically-modified flowers for the public market. Alice and her team have managed to produce one type of a plant that requires much attention from their owners, but, in return, is alleged to “make them happy”. The story takes a disturbing turn when Alice takes one of those new plants (flowers) home, gifts it to her son, Joe, and begins to worry that the pollen that the new flower produces may be infecting people in a sinister way. Probably. If that sounds a bit random and confusing, it is because it is, and the film never makes anything in this story compelling or clearer. Though, at first, the idea behind Little Joe sounds intriguing and the memorable production design does leave an impression, overall, Little Joe is nothing more than a very preposterous, excruciatingly dull and badly-acted picture that, in comparison, will make any episode of a British series EastEnders an immediate Oscar winner. Continue reading ““Little Joe” Review”→
“Anton was a dream” (Jeremy Saulnier, director of Green Room (2015)).
This is a moving documentary that explores the life of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Green Room (2015), Thoroughbreds(2017)), from his birth in Russia to the champions of figure skating to his last films made. This is an engaging and respectful feature that aims to pay tribute to a person of outstanding acting ability who was taken too soon (died on 19 June 2016 when he was crashed between the brick wall and the fence when his car rolled back on him in his own parking space at home in Los Angeles). Through his own footages, as well as the interviews conducted with his parents, close friends and co-workers, we find out what kind of a person Anton really was – extremely devoted to his loving parents, loyal to his friends, kind, generous, curious, intellectual, funny, goofy and passionate about many aspects of life. He possessed great charisma and acting skills, having started acting at a very young age and then later acting alongside such stars as Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Albert Finney, Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe, to name just a few. It is safe to say that,given his talent, he was just on the brink of “breaking through” in his career and just needed that one very successful and big movie that will escalate his career much further, a movie that, sadly, will never now come. By recognising him as an absolute star now, we can at least pay tribute to this potential, to the person who was so passionate about acting and films (trying his hand at directing too!) and whose kind, curious and sparkling personality will always be remembered. Continue reading “Recently Watched: Documentaries: Love, Antosha (2019), Tower (2016) & 13th (2016)”→
The Oscars have again surprised the world, and, this time, thankfully, not because they gave an award to the wrong film. Parasite, a South Korean movie, has officially become the first foreign-language film to win the most prestigious award – Best Picture, a fact that is especially remarkable given that it was also nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category and won there too. The Oscars have also been overly “white” this year, did not recognise some (more art-house) films and acting which are also deserving of praise and nominations (that acting in “The Lighthouse“!), and, for the year that is supposed to celebrate women in cinema-making and acting, did not acknowledge great acting and films made by women (for example, no women nominees in the category of Best Director). I will only very briefly comment on the 2020 wins in the following categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actor in the Supporting Role and Best Cinematography. Continue reading “The Academy Awards 2020: Some Commentary”→
Christmas is getting nearer, and I hope everyone is excited! People are probably also excited about Disney’s Frozen II, and, for those who do not know, I want to draw attention to the plagiarism case below, concerning the Frozen (2013) teaser trailer (the first video below) and the short animation titled The Snowman by independent animators Kelly Wilson and Neil Wrischnik (the second video below – access by following the link since it is imossible to watch it on wordpress)). This case was settled out of court in 2015. I previously talked in my review of Frozen how the animation relied heavily on the conceptual story and character vision from Hans Christian Andersen’s tales (which is fine), as well as on the romance from Anastasia (1997) (which is also ok), but it seems that, from the very beginning, the Frozen franchise was off to a start that involved blatant stealing and zero acknowledgement. At the preliminary hearing, Judge Chhabria ruled that “the sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar“. With the world’s most creative brains at Disney/Pixar headquarters, they still could not come up with their own concept for a teaser trailer. The similarities are painfully evident, and if Disney did not think so, they would have battled it in court, rather than settling for an undisclosed sum to be paid to Wilson and Wrischnik. And, Wilson and Wrischnik were paid by Disney.