up

June 16, 2009

“good afternoon. are you in need of any assistance today, sir?”

one thing i have learned to not do, is doubt pixar.  they are in many ways unstoppable (or from the ones i have seen so far).  they can do no wrong.  i love every single film of theirs i see, and i love it more than the one i saw before.  last year’s wall•e solidified them (and andrew stanton) as one of the biggest forces in movies (not just animation, because let’s face it….they are the kings.  except for maybe miyazaki)  today.

one thing i was not expecting when i went to see up, was how extremely serious it was.  and how quickly i was on the verge of tears in the theater (almost 10 minutes in and i was about to loose control — but i fought off the urge to wail and not make a scene).  i mean the early montage scene in this film of carl and his wife ellie, might be the greatest montage sequence i’ve seen this side of citizen kane.  it was simultaneously hilarious, heartbreaking, and truly moving.  and all without that little thing called dialogue.  and when you’d think that this would just be during the beginning, the film doesn’t stray from really difficult situations all throughout.  we learn that the main character boy of russell’s dad is out of the picture, and not to keen on reentering.  i mean we’re dealing with love, the loss of loved ones, broken families, broken homes, and broken dreams.  it’s unbelievably moving and realistic.  and all in a family film!  it’s awesome!

one thing that struck me as interesting, was how i could see this paralleled with other animated films.  i could see miyazaki’s influence all over this film.  just in the way the characters encounter other supporting role characters who all have their own certain quirks, whether it’s the dog who can talk or the bird who is named kevin but is really a girl.  or in the way they fly through a house greatly reminded me of howl’s moving castle or castle in the sky.  i also just felt like this film held form to classic adventure cartoons.  i felt like i had seen the story (in terms of structure) a bunch of times, but rather than that becoming redundant for me i found extremely nostalgic.  and i think that’s what the film is relying on.  it’s interested in this sort of time period right from the beginning, of recreating something from your childhood.  of becoming a part of your memory and bringing back the joy of what once consumed you.

one thing that i thought could be improved was that the villain in the film could have been a little more drawn out and complex.  it seems odd that at once he’s happy to see the main characters, and then turns into a man bent on murder.  i felt i didn’t understand enough of his motivation, or his motivation wasn’t great enough, for me to really get where he’s coming from or why he would react the way he reacted.  that being said, it wasn’t a huge problem i had and was really able to enjoy the film in spite of it.

one thing i would say to you if you were considering going to see up: do it.  it’s one of the best film of the year by far, and i think you will be pleasantly surprised at how the film deals with complex emotional problems while at the same time being a great action/adventure children’s story.

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the brothers bloom

June 13, 2009

“as far as con man stories go…..i think i’ve heard them all.”

an inherent problem i think with con man movies is that now the audience has seen too much.  we know that the guy we were supposed to never expect is the one that did it.  we know all the tricks in the book.  we know that it’s kevin spacey.  we know.

so what makes the first half (the first half or so, i’m not sure where the turning point was) of brothers bloom so great is that it wasn’t about the cons at all.  it was about the characters who just so happened to be great con artists.  and they’re great characters!  i love that adrien brody (bloom)  is a con man of regret, that he feels he’s lived a fake life.  i love that mark ruffalo (stephen) writes cons in a literary sense, that he pulls narrative structure into his cons to bring them to life.  i love that stephen writes bloom as the central figures of all his cons.  i love rinko kikuchi.  and i love that her character’s name is bang bang.

the film starts out with so much gusto.  we are at the beginnings of the brothers bloom career, when they’re kids.  the editing is quick, the camera movements are fast, and the dialogue is witty and snappy.  then were moved right into one of the greatest title sequences i can remember.  the brothers bloom in gigantic letters of lights, exploding with a great swell of music.  this lets us know that we are in for a ride.

rian johnson made one of my favorite movies in recent memory with 2006’s brick.  he was able to infuse a great amount of style, with a wonderfully written script, and meld it with tremendous performances.  and one of the things i loved about brick was that he was able to take a very gritty and serious noir story, set it in high school, make it work, and not shy away from humorous situations.  he has a hard boiled detective story, and is able to inflect humor into it.  and in the brothers bloom he has a humorous film which he tries to inflect some serious moments in…….and it doesn’t work as well.

the film works best when it’s just trying to be a, more or less, lighthearted con man film.  with his patented quick and witty dialogue and quirky characters, the first part of the film is amazing.  i wanted to spend all the time in the world with these characters and go on adventures with them.

and we loose this sense of fun that the film has, as it goes on.  there came a point near the 3/4’s part of the film where i sort of stepped back and said “wait…what happened?”.  i wasn’t confused by what i had seen plot wise, but was confused as to how the film i had loved so much, how the film that had swept me up like nothing up to that point this year had swept me up, how this film could have turned so sharply into something that felt like a chore to sit through.  it just completely lost all of the gusto that it once so magnificently had started with.

so the film is an odd mix.  at times it’s the most fun you’ll have in the theater all year, and at times it’s close to the worst (well maybe not the worst, but it’s certainly not as good as those fun times i spoke about earlier).  rian johnson still excites me enough to go out opening night to see whatever he puts out there, and i hope he continues to infuse his films with as much style and humor as his first two.

oh wow.  i almost forgot.  mark ruffalo, adrian brody, rachel weisz, and rinko kikuchi all absolutely brilliant.  especially ruffalo.  i want to see him more in leading roles.  the man is brilliant.  and i wanted to own every single outfit that ruffalo and brody wore.  every single one.

jules and jim

June 11, 2009

“if i’d known she might still come, i’d have waited til midnight.”

welcome back.  the problem i have sometimes is when i sit down to actually watch a film, it feels more like work or schoolwork than it does a thing that i love to do.  i never thought that i’d reach this problem, but i think it’s especially prevalent with films like this.  films that i haven’t necessarily viewed for school, but fall under categories or time frames which i have studied.  and the french new wave is something that they don’t pass over in film school.

one of the best things about this film was just to see how heavily it influenced some of my favorite filmmakers today.  i can see a lot of what wes anderson does taken right out from jules and jim.  the rapid pans across to someone sitting in a chair, the use of the city’s architecture, i felt like i was watching wes anderson’s creation.  and i could’ve sworn that rian johnson does the subtitle to the spoken word just as it’s done in this film in the brother’s bloom (though i’m not positive).  and come to think of it, the opening of the brothers bloom sort of montage of them as kids is very similar to the opening of this film.  to see a film of such great influence was fun in and of itself.

and for the first half or so i was really with this film.  really with the characters, really with their sort of adventures, really with the relationship of jim and jules.  it made sense to me that these men were best friends.  they loved to discuss shakespeare and go to the theater and talk about art and poetry, they make a trip to an adriatic island just to see a sculpture (and they have the same white suit made).  i wanted to be friends with these guys.

but when the character of catherine enters, or more accurately, when jules and catherine marry and start to have problems, is when i start to have problems with the film.  maybe it’s just the way my mind works, maybe it’s my own beliefs or what have you.  but i cannot for the life of me understand why the characters do the things they do in the last hour or so of the movie.  seeing them flip flop on whether or not they love somebody, holding people at arms length, cheating on their spouse with their spouses best friend.  a lot of it really infuriated me and a lot of it is not something that i call “inspired” or would consider truffaut’s best.  maybe it’s just me, but i kept wondering why the characters were doing what they were doing, and could not get past their “stupid actions” (that quote is from me.).

i did however, find a lot to like about the look of the film.  i was taken aback by how in your face truffaut seemed to be about his camera movement.  he was all of the place in terms of movement, angles, and especially editing.  there were jump cuts galore in the film, and it really gave it an interesting feel.  i love that he was unafraid to buck the traditional system (as all new wavers were i suppose) and just through in cuts and movements where he wanted to.  that being said, i was fairly underwhelmed by the film.

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if there is anyone that still reads this blog, i am sorry (for many things).  i will make more of an effort to keep it updated.