Monday, May 2, 2011

April 2011 Recap

April is over, May is here, so lets get recapping!

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in April 2011
1) Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975 - Chantal Akerman) 10/10 - Man, I really short changed this one on first viewing and with some retrospect it was really the best thing I watched in April and in some ways, the best thing I've watched in a while.
2) The Jerk (1979 - Carl Reiner) 4.5/10 - At first glance it's funny, but ultimately it's just not good enough to be surrounded with such good company and in my opinion, had no place in this book.
3) Meet the Parents (2000 - Jay Roach) 7/10
4) L'Avventura (1960 - Michelangelo Antonioni) 3/10 - I'll tell you now that even with some retrospect, the Antoniono films haven't improved.
5) La Notte (1961 - Michelangelo Antonioni) 5/10 - Good, but nothing stellar. One of Antonioni's better efforts, in my opinion.
6) The Thing (1982 - John Carpenter) 5.5/10
7) L'Eclisse (1962 - Michelangelo Antonioni) 2/10
8) The War Game (1965 - Peter Watkins) -- - I'm still deeming "The War Game" unrateable, just because I feel it's something that everyone should take a look at, but I took it as more of an educational video than anything.
9) High Noon (1952 - Fred Zinnemann) 5/10
10) The Red Desert (1964 - Michelangelo Antonioni) 6/10
11) Anatomy of a Murder (1959 - Otto Preminger) 7.5/10 - This was great, but it was just as great as I expected it to be and really didn't exceed my expectations and blow me away...If that makes sense.
12) The Brave-Hearted Will Take the Bride (1995 - Aditya Chopra) 8/10 - And then on the other hand, you have a film that I expected to top out at a '2' or so and totally took me by surprise and ended up being great.
13) Blowup (1966 - Michelangelo Antonioni) 4/10
14) Zabriskie Point (1970 - Michelangelo Antonioni) 7/10 - I went a little overboard on this one at first, probably because of my shock at a good Antonioni film. Still really good though.
15) Amelie (2001 - Jean-Pierre Jeunet) 7.5/10 - Much like "Anatomy of a Murder", this was just about as good as I expected...which was very good.
16) Alice (1988 - Jan Svankmajer) 5/10 - Average rating, but I still say it's "must see", just because some of the twisted stuff in there is "see it to believe it" type stuff.
17) The Thin Blue Line (1988 - Errol Morris) 10/10 - Not sure how far this one will go in my TOP 20, but it is everything you'd want from a crime documentary and highly recommended.
18) The Docks of New York (1928 - Josef von Sternberg) 3/10
19) Dog Day Afternoon (1975 - Sidney Lumet) 6.5/10 - Believe me, that rating even shocks me. But to be truthful, with even myself, that's a just rating and with time this film sours a little.
20) Serpico (1973 - Sidney Lumet) 6.5/10
21) The Queen (2006 - Stephen Frears) 7/10 - Yet another instance this month of a movie being everything I expected and also being perfectly fine.
22) Real Life (1979 - Albert Brooks) 3/10
23) Network (1976 - Sidney Lumet) 2/10 - My review says everything I wanted to say about "Network" and I stand by that review.
24) Batman (1989 - Tim Burton) 8/10

NON-1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in April 2011
1) Black Swan (2010 - Darren Aronofsky) 9/10 - In a word, I thought the film was brilliant. On Facebook, I wrote that the film was one of the most beautiful to come out of Hollywood in a LONG time – that probably needs some explaining. The film probably didn’t come off to many as beautiful, but to me it was beautiful and harrowing at the same time. I thought the director did a magnificent job of mixing graceful, picturesque images with disturbing and sometimes frightening ones. To me, that’s the exact blend you needed in a thriller taking place within a ballet company. I thought the cast did a superb job, especially Natalie Portman, who proved to be an actress who truly deserved her Best Actress Oscar, unlike some of her predecessors who didn’t.

In case there’s any question as to the interpretation of the picture, allow me to give my views. First I’ll say that as long as you pay attention, I really don’t think the film is a confusing one and the plot, to me, is pretty straightforward. The lead is a woman named Nina, who gets the role of her lifetime and becomes the envy of dancers all around the world, when she’s cast as the Swan Queen in Thomas’ new and improved production of Swan Lake. It’s a ballet that Thomas feels is old and dated, but he’s revamped it and is giving the role of the White Swan and the Black Swan to one luck lady – Nina. Nina is the epitome of innocence, however for the dual role of the Swan Queen, she’ll not only have to portray innocence, but also a seductive and evil side. She has no problem getting the White Swan down pat, but when it comes to the Black Swan, she lacks the tools necessary to deliver. As the film goes on, she slowly begins to get corrupted by the people around her, including her dance instructor Thomas and her alternate in Swan Lake, Lila. Her mother, on the other hand, is seemingly trying to protect the other side of Nina, the innocent side. As Nina slowly begins to succumb to the evil side, she notices physical transformations (which may or may not be real) and clues hint that her mental stability may be also waning, as the evil takes over her body and the ultimate battle between good and evil is being conducted inside of her.

In the end, when it’s time showtime, Act One sees Nina, as always, nail the White Swan. Upon entering her dressing room, the final showdown between good and evil is fought inside of her and evil wins. When she re-enters the stage, she has now finally become the black swan and is finally able to portray the dark side that she was never able to before. For Act Three, Nina re-enters the stage and once again dances the White Swan, however this time with a hole in her belly and blood pouring out. It seems to me that the dark side of Nina has now fully taken over and now Nina’s true self can no longer survived, because that’s who Nina was – Nina was innocence and now that she’s been taken over, she can’t live. E

My ideas are a little sketchy in certain areas, but ultimately I simply viewed it as a good vs. evil battle being conducted in oneself. Some questions I might have regard Lily and what her purpose was and why Nina used her to develop her dark side? The final scenes, during Nina’s transformation into the Black Swan and her later revival as the White Swan, were to me both beautiful and frightening scenes and in the end “The Black Swan” is a brilliant film.

2) The Kids Are All Right (2010 - Lisa Cholodenko) 7.5/10 - **CONTAINS SPOILERS**
I enjoyed “The Kids Are All Right”, but had real issues with the ending. In my view, the ending was very flat and plain, which you could argue is true to life, but it just didn’t work for me. I know I play the ultimate tragedy card a lot, but the way I see it, the ending should have seen Paul getting into a motorcycle accident and dying. I think it would have sewed up a lot of loose ends and solved a lot of the problems for the characters. I mean think about it, Paul gets into a wreck and Nic is called into the hospital to try and save him. While working on him, she realizes what an important element he could be in the kids’ lives and tries her best to save him, but to no avail. In turn, Joni realizes that her mother wasn’t just smothering her for the sake of it, but actually trying to protect her (when she remembers Nic’s harsh words about riding motorcycles). Also, we get a point to the conversation that Paul has with Laser about being buried or cremated. Also in all the chaos and sorrow, Nic and Jules work out their troubles and since tragedy has struck Paul, they view his final attempt to reconcile with them as just that and not as trying to butt into the families business. As it is, Paul (who the whole film pretty much revolves around) is left in a pretty bad way as he throws his helmet at his bike in frustration and we get an ending that felt like Cholodenko’s brain just kicked out on her at the last minute.

Don’t get me wrong, I still thought the film was fantastic. I thought EVERYONE did a fantastic job (including Benning and Moore, who I never really cared for prior to this). It just irks me when I see an ending that would have made so much sense and really boosted this film into a better standing, not happen. Anyway, great film, great score and great script…well, really good script.

3) The King's Speech (2010 - Tom Hooper) 7/10 - One thing I can say for sure regarding “The King’s Speech” is that it got me interested in the succession and history of the British monarchs. However, I’d have to say that for as good as it was, it just wasn’t as good as I expected. I expected to be blown away and I wouldn’t go as far as to say I was. For one, I hated the feeble attempts the film made to be funny. Scenes with Colin Firth screaming obscenities to show that he didn’t stammer when he yelled did not amuse me and when I go into a film like this, I don’t expect there to be any comedy. I know it’s minimal but it just seemed weak and it turned me off. Otherwise the film was just fine, as it was. Like everyone else on the planet, I thought Colin Firth was excellent. I can’t really say the same for Geoffrey Rush, who I believe is generally very good, but never great.

I also want to add that it was inspiring to see such a powerful figure being portrayed, whilst he dealt with the perils of dealing with such a personal struggle. I found it fascinating that while the entire country worried about going to war, their King only worried about delivering that message and that, to him, war wasn’t really as big as conquering his fear of speaking in front of a microphone. Very inspiring film, without a doubt.

4) Hereafter (2010 - Clint Eastwood) 3/10 - **CONTAINS SPOILERS**
What a huge disappointment this film was, as I always tend to look forward to Eastwood directed films. The theme of understanding the hereafter just seemed to be really weak, and in my view, the whole theme was very poor in tying the three stories together. In fact, the whole film just seemed to be working toward the ending where the three main characters finally meet up and everything prior to the conclusion was just sloppily thrown together to make for a less than exciting end. The film had a few moments, but all in all I was not impressed in the slightest and couldn’t even be forced to give the film an average rating. Actually, I almost skipped out on the film at the halfway mark, but decided to stick with it and see where it all went. Should have gone with my gut.

Well that about wraps 'er up for another month. I want to take the time to tell you that I'm planning another hiatus at this point. I'm getting a little burned out. Initially, I planned to get to 301 films watched by the time my wife and I went on vacation this June and watching so many films to try to reach that goal, just ended up burning me out. I don't want to watch the films when I'm not in the mood to watch them, because ultimately my opinions and ratings will suffer and it won't be the positive experience that I want this journey to be. So, in conclusion, I'm taking a hiatus. It may only be a short one, so keep checking back. Hopefully I've left you with enough reading material to keep you occupied until I get back into the swing of things.

Also, for fun, I MAY start tinkering around with my other blog at I'll be using that blog to write reviews of the DVDs from my personal collection, working my way from A to Z. Check it out, if you wish and become a follower. Thanks for reading and commenting and I'll see you back here soon.

May 2, 2011 11:53am

Sins of Omission - Entry #94: ZODIAC (2007)

Running Time: 157 minutes Directed By: David Fincher  Written By: James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith Main Cast : Jake...