The Official Review Thread of 2014

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 24, 2015 12:44 am

dws1982 wrote:Leviathan

Not to speak for someone else, but I feel like Mister Tee's reaction to this one might be similar to mine.

Belatedly (I only watched it tonight), I can tell you your instinct was on the money. I'm not opposed to long austere movies on general principle -- I quite liked Winter Sleep when I finally got around to it -- but I watched Leviathan with an ever-increasing feeling of "is this movie ever going to amount to anything?" It had some raw elements of a dramatic story, but it seemed to take pride in skipping over any high points, and making motives/details as opaque as possible. (Just for instance, what was the point of the gunfire heard off-screen at the moment Kolya ran to discover Dmitri and Lilya in flagrante delicto? To fool us into thinking something interesting had happened?) Of course I'd suspected as soon as Dmitri put the screws to the Mayor that there'd be ugly retaliation...but then the Mayor specifically tells all his confidantes he's powerless to do anything, and he underlines, Don't do anything to the lawyer. How does that square with his participating in a public beating? And then the fact that he appears (though the film, reticent as ever, won't quite say it aloud) to have framed Kolya? It just seemed a cheat. Plus, didn't the plan's success rely on the fact that Dmitri was gone from the scene -- something that may not have happened absent the discovery of the affair, something the Mayor couldn't have known would happen?

Ah, the hell with it -- I'm giving the film more of my effort that it deserves (and I agree, dragging in the Book of Job in the last hour to justify the film's content was rather desperate and done half-assed). It amazes me how many people raved about this thing.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Precious Doll » Tue Mar 31, 2015 7:02 am

I actually thought Timbuktu could have been a spoiler in the Foreign Language Category probably because I admired the film so much.

Abderrahmane Sissako has never been strong on narrative, and thanks to the generosity of French funding to Third World nation filmmakers, has been able to make some very interesting socially relevant African feature films.

I was lucky enough to see the film shortly after it's Cannes première knowing nothing about it and was both seduced and horrified by a completely alien situation. It was certainly a brave film to make given what is going on, largely unreported by Western media, in parts of Africa. Sissako's previous film Bamako was a blistering look at the effects of Western financial organisations, in particular the IMF, and their exploitation of African economies and subsequently the people of Africa.

Timbuktu, even more powerful, takes aim at religious extremists, in this case Jihadists forcing their beliefs of their way of life onto ordinary people who simply want to go about their lives and the associated freedoms attached to them.

Ultimately the film is a powerful statement about freedom of choice and a stance against those who try and do impose their beliefs onto others against their free-will. The film never becomes preachy and maintains an urgent cry for freedom.

I have also found Sissako's matter of fact style of filmmaking very effective in conveying the messages of his films.

Highly recommended, Sissako's best film to date and just missed out on my top ten of 2014.
"I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don't think that's right…It's gotten very quiet in here, but that's true." Susan Sarandon on Woody Allen, Cannes Film Festival 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby dws1982 » Mon Mar 30, 2015 9:25 pm

Haven't seen Wild Tales (it comes to town in a couple of weeks), but since we're talking about the Foreign Film nominees...what were the thoughts about Timbuktu?

I saw it in Nashville on Friday, and liked it overall. I think I would've liked it more if it had featured a more firm plot--it was pretty casual and observational and meandered a little bit more than I would've liked--but overall, I really admired the way it opened up conversations about race and religion and gender in North Africa. I wish there had been an opportunity for an actual conversation following the movie.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Okri » Sat Mar 28, 2015 9:48 pm

Re : Wild Tales - Recent events make the opening segment somewhat less amusing, the first story is pretty average and I don't get the road rage one, but I felt the rest were quite strong. The wedding tale is great through-and-through (and talking of foreign analogues to American performers, Romi (the bride) has a striking resemblance to Callie Thorne).

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Precious Doll » Sun Mar 22, 2015 7:17 am

Whilst I did not care for Zvyagintsev's first two films (The Return & The Banished) I found his third feature Elena to be mesmerising, tightly constructing with the sting of a scorpions tail. However, I found Leviathan somewhat disappointing.

I saw the film on Blu Ray (obtained from Amazon.com.uk) as it is actually cheaper for me to do that then to go to the cinema to see it were it opens locally next week. Cinema prices in Australia are becoming so prohibitive that it is no wonder that the total number of bums on seats has fallen from 92 million to 78 million over the last five years (average population during this period is about 22 million).

It is the first Zvyagintsev film I have not seen at the cinema and he is one of those directors whose work does demand a large visual canvas, though with the size of cinema screens shrinking it's becoming harder to view films in that manner.

I found much of the first 2 hours very much drawn out and it never came to life until the shattering last half hour. It also fails to make good use of Philip Glass in terms of use of music, something which was particularly effective in Elena. The general of theme of how corrupt the new Russia is is nothing new and no matter however beautifully made this film is it does not make up for an overall dull experience. Clearly, this film made the Academy shortlist thanks to the selection panel.

Great though to see a Zvyagintsev film nominated for an Oscar, given that Elena wasn't even submitted as Russia's entry in it's respective year (ironically due to a somewhat corrupt selection process).

Zvyagintsev does remain a singular and distinctive filmmaker and it will be interesting to see what he does next.
"I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don't think that's right…It's gotten very quiet in here, but that's true." Susan Sarandon on Woody Allen, Cannes Film Festival 2016

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby dws1982 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 5:38 pm

Leviathan

Not sure if many here have seen this, but I'd be interested in some other viewpoints. Not to speak for someone else, but I feel like Mister Tee's reaction to this one might be similar to mine. I didn't expect to be seeing this one at all due to availability--it only lasted a week in Nashville, for goodness sake--but it was on the listing to play in Huntsville, so in the spirit of giving subtitled films a shot at playing in the north Alabama area, I knew I had to see this. Apparently, for the 12:20 showing today, only one other person in a 500,000 person metro area felt the same way.

It's really well made, like Zvyagintsev's films always are. Well-photographed, well-acted, and there's a definite touch of, well, I don't know if I would call it realism, but authenticity to the world it depicts. But it also feels like a cliche of an Eastern European film: lots of shots of people (usually smoking or drinking) standing in front of vast, bleak landscapes, staring into an empty future. There's a plot, but it's seems only to exists as an excuse for bad things to happen to our main character. There's been talk about how it's meant to be a modern-day spin on the Biblical story of Job (one character even notes the parallel--this movie isn't exactly subtle--even though he misrepresents the story pretty egregiously), but that doesn't quite work, as far as I'm concerned because Job wasn't a dangerous, self-destructive drunk. The significance in Job was that he hadn't brought his troubles on himself. This guy, while he was certainly victimized by a corrupt system, made a lot of his problems worse by his drinking (you get the feeling this movie tries to reinforce the "alcoholic Russian" stereotype) and his violent hair-trigger temper. So with the Job metaphor out the window, what's the point here? Some type of metaphor for Russian political corruption as a whole? Fair enough, but there's nothing unique to what it has to say there, and I think that by this point anyone who pays even cursory attention to the news knows that Russian politics are pretty corrupt. The humiliation conga gets pretty overwrought after awhile, because just when you think hateful old Kolya has got it as bad as he possibly could have it, something else happens. I mean, why did they not include a scene of him standing in the town square being pelted with rotten fruit? It's the kind of movie where you wouldn't be surprised if, after two-hours-and-fifteen minutes of our protagonist getting his face ground into the mud, the final scene showed him getting diagnosed with some disease that would lead to a slow and agonizing death.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Uri » Sat Mar 21, 2015 7:07 am

The problem with Wild Tales is that it’s just not as smart as it presents itself to be. And that instead of being biting and provocative and even tragic it comes off mostly as nasty in its take on human nature. The Pasternak section turns out the best because it’s a snappy vignette which has no pretentions other than instantly serving its cathartic conclusion. It doesn't contains any attempt at presenting character or plot arc, so we have no room to digest and examine the vindictive theme as we can in the later segments, where the longer they linger, the less focused and profound they seem. We were not amused.

I kind of enjoyed the last section though – the fact that it’s a depiction of an Argentinean secular-Jewish wedding (and the ultimate J(S)AP in its center) was very entertaining – and for me, from those Argentineans I know in Israel, quite believable – who can resist listening to the tiresome Hava Nagila or (a cover version in Hebrew I’m not familiar with) of the Eurovision winner Haleluya.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 09, 2015 8:25 pm

I'm apparently the only one who wasn't wowed by the road rage sequence in Wild Tales. All sorts of people I respect single it out, but I found it pretty much a Road Runner cartoon, very familiar stuff, with not one moment that truly caught me off guard.

I thought Wild Tales started off on an ecstatic high (the Pasternak vignette just got funnier and funnier, and ended perfectly) and had an equally thrilling finish with the wedding sequence. In between? I was never less than engaged, but never quite taken aloft. The rat poison story was fine, though no one seems to much remember it (I never see people cite it in reviews). The towing-company segment was weakened by how obvious it was which direction the narrative was going. And, maybe it's just me, but I didn't see how the legal haggling over the car accident fit the film's overall theme; I kept waiting for some revenge element to pop in, to make it cohere with the rest.

Some sense of unevenness is inevitable when you're dealing with an anthology film -- you're bound to sort them by loved/liked/eh? And, as I said, I was generally held by the film. But I couldn't help but wish the film had done better at sustaining, throughout, the lunatic energy of the first and last tales.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Sabin » Mon Mar 09, 2015 2:38 pm

Wild Tales

Really loved, even though in retrospect two of the longer ones fail in the punchline department and another is altogether negligible. Ecstatically directed, acted, and shot. They're all linked as portraits of otherwise rational individuals driven to insanity within powderkeg institutions that have failed them. The best of these (the "road rage" one, the wedding) work so well because immediately they feature characters who almost immediately abandon whatever code they have to fly head onward into confrontation. The weaker ones are just slower boils which remain ecstatically directed, acted, and shot in the moment but only in retrospect you think "Eh, that could've gone better." This is benefited from how these stories are ordered. One of the pleasures of this film (which I know almost nothing about) was watching the audience react to it when clearly less than 50% were on its wavelength. Many of these people were just horrified which made me enjoy it even more. I can't wait to take people hostage into this film.

Another pleasure is noticing how many Argentinian analogs there are out there of our movie stars. If we ever lose Bradley Cooper, there is another out there.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby dws1982 » Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:54 pm

The Homesman

Liked this one a lot. I think Jones's The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is maybe the most underrated and under-celebrated American film of the 2000's decade, and The Sunset Limited was a very interesting (but maybe not entirely successful) project. I loved the stark, uncompromising tone of this, loved the cinematography and score, and I especially admire the way the plot twist in the last part served to reboot the film and make us view it differently, but without turning it into a different film the way these plot twists tend to do. Swank is excellent, her best role since Million Dollar Baby easily, and there's no reason, other than the fact that it was mishandled by its distributor, why she shouldn't have gotten a nomination for this. And even though she's often dismissed as a disappointment, there aren't many other actresses out there who are pretty consistently taking parts and making movies that challenge traditional gender roles.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby dws1982 » Mon Mar 02, 2015 8:01 pm

How did Her play before Him?

Didn't mention it but I LOVED James McAvoy in Him. Definitely a strong contender for my Best Actor award this year. Ditto Chastain for Supporting Actress for Him. (Liked her in Her, but not as much.)

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Okri » Mon Mar 02, 2015 7:44 pm

I saw Her than Him (back to back) at TIFF. Worth seeing, definitely.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby dws1982 » Sun Mar 01, 2015 11:24 pm

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her

Probably worth discussing the differing versions. Him and Her tells the story from both points-of-view. Him is solely McAvoy's point-of-view, and Chastain only appears in scenes with McAvoy; with Her it's flipped. Prominent characters in one film may not appear at all in the other, or only in a scene or two. Them (or just The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) is a two-hour film that apparently takes a neutral point-of-view and is cut together with scenes from both films. Apparently this cut was Weinstein-mandated, and McAvoy and Chastain both expressed some dismay at the fact that Him and Her were more-or-less suppressed. I didn't bother with Them. Unfortunately, I think Netflix is only shipping Them.

I watched Him first. Him and Her are not going to be for most people. They're fairly abstract in their approach to the characters, and in a movie-going world that's so exposition-heavy, these are going to be VERY frustrating for some people. It's about the quick, sudden, and painful disintegration of a marriage--James McAvoy's Connor is totally blindsided when Jessica Chastain's Eleanor suddenly leaves him. We're given ideas as to why but it's not really the type of movie where the explanation as to why she left is given much screen time or weight, because it's not really about why. Him is more about Connor struggling to regain his balance from the breakup, trying to figure out if it's really over, if it's salvageable, or if there's anything worth salvaging. Her is a bit more blunt than Him, and a less successful film overall. If Connor wanted answers, Her provides some, but at the same time a lot of what fueled Eleanor's leaving is as much a mystery to her as it is to him. She's every bit as lost as he is, trying to reconnect with her family, going back to school, and even though the movies hint at a reason as to why she left, it doesn't force it as a end-all explanation the way a lesser movie would. In fact, it's one of the few movies that expresses the truth that marriages don't fail because of this specific incident or that specific incident--marriages fail because the couple believes that there's nothing that can be done to salvage it. I'd say Him is a great or near-great film, and Her is a good one that's trying very hard to do great things.

I would watch Him and then Her. I think Him would more-or-less function on its own, but Her I don't think would make much sense on its own or before Him.

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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby Sabin » Thu Feb 19, 2015 1:49 pm

I'm not sure why I didn't rush out to see Two Days, One Night faster than I did. Maybe I just kinda knew what I was in for before I saw it, and that's exactly how I felt. It's a Dardenne Brothers film. It's a good one. They do a superlative job of fleshing out the cross section of people that Sandra has to engage with. I admire all the choices that they made, but they never seemed more than choices to me. The thing that I admired the most about it, its clear structure, kept me a bit at bay emotionally. Also, I always felt like I was watching Marion Cotillard. Not sure these guys are the best filmmakers for movie stars. What was the joke the Harvard Lampoon Movie Awards tossed at Ingrid Bergman? The Volvo Award for Swedish import that's always breaking down? That's how I felt. I felt like I was watching Marion Cotillard on the edge of sanity for two hours. Like the film, all I saw were the choices.
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Re: The Official Review Thread of 2014

Postby flipp525 » Wed Feb 18, 2015 1:41 pm

I was really impressed by The Homesman - in particular Hilary Swank's, Tommy Lee Jones' and Meryl Streep's performances (a ten minute cameo that wipes the floor with her Into the Woods work) as well as the exquisite cinematography, and the film's score. It's a rather bleak, depressing and pretty much ruthless movie (god help you if you were a depressed woman on the prairie in the mid-1800s), but it had such an ambitious scope and felt very novelistic to me. I'm surprised that it wasn't nominated for any Oscars. Swank especially puts in career-best work.

And I was definitely not expecting the third act twist.
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