Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Two-Paragraph Review: Pain and Glory/Dolor y gloria (2019)

There’s no need to underline the level of skill and artistic sensibility that Pedro Almodóvar brings to his works. Yet, like all great artists, he is anything but a one-trick pony. Pain and Glory or Dolor y gloria in original is a fantastic drama that tries to do the impossible and examine the life of a single individual, from its start to the (nearly) end. The subject is Salvador, a lonesome and hurting movie director who tries to come to peace with his conflicting experiences while living in Madrid.

Played masterfully by Antonio Banderas, Salvador is a genius, but also a human being, burdened by his mistakes and the choices he made. In a tale that encompasses many other in-movie stories of both theatre and cinema, Almodóvar tells this personal epic as a mirror reflection of performances and the way they add and/or detract from the unknowable source material. Through a lot of pain and glory, beauty is born and it shines a special kind of light on the most ordinary of moments. As it does, the audience slowly comes to a sobering but also empowering conclusion: we’re all Salvador, each in our tiny yet infinite universe of memories, experiences and undying hopes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Movie Review: 1917 (2019)

There's no need to compliment Sam Mendes and his amazing cinematography. While he might be in the public consciousness mainly thanks to Skyfall and Spectre, in my mind, he's still the man who made history come alive as a present contemporary movie in American Beauty. In 1917, he again showcased his ability to compress small into big and vice versa, showing individuals' lives as a representation of the wider, bigger and the more unknown collective experience.

Also, as a clear work of passion, it is hard not to compare the film with Dunkirk, another unusual war movie from a brilliant director. Yet, while Nolan's work leaves that sense of trying to be something much grander while forcing itself to stay (not completely successfully) grounded in real people, 1917 is all about the people it features.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Short Film Showcase: Fallin' - The Official Movie

Out of all the numerous evils in the world, it is easy to understand why so many feel that domestic violence is an especially heinous one. The idea of someone turning a home - which should be a place where family members feel loved and safe - into one of danger, humiliation and pain is truly terrible. What makes it even worse is that it often takes place all around us, hidden (or barely hidden) behind closed doors and dark sunglasses.

Fallin' is a short film that explores precisely this dark but very important topic. It was directed by Romel Moralez of the Moralez Motion Pictures and from the first moment, it starts to build its tension. Like domestic abuse, it takes place in a seemingly ordinary home where a woman is frantically packing her belongings, all the while keeping a gun close to her. She is interrupted by the doorbell, which begins a cascade of disturbing and ever more serious events. With a run time of just four minutes, the movie is blunt and even shocking in its portrayal of domestic abuse and its potential bloody resolution.

As a showcase of a horrible process that is happening around the world, including many developed nations like the US (where the film takes place), Fallin' shows the reality of domestic abuse. This reality is not pleasant to watch or even think about, which is why movies like this are so important as a means of raising awareness of the problem. With the work of Moralez and other artists who cover domestic abuse, the possibility of things actually changing for the better will slowly take shape in everyday life. Watch the entire film right here:

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Two-Paragraph Review: Jojo Rabbit (2019)

The thing about Jojo Rabbit is the fact that it is basically Life Is Beautiful made for the Age of Instagram. Yes, it seeks to present the same emotional punches (aiming often right for the gut of the viewer) but has no time for a process of buildup or gradual racking up of tension. Instead, it skips a few beats and immediately delivers the viewers to the end stage of WW2 where a small German town is about to be liberated but both the Russians and the Americans. There, a small boy has an imaginary friend called Adolf Hitler and a real future friend hiding in his attic.

Now, while Taika Waititi is clearly talented and driven, his sensibility remains that of a sketch-maker. The movie from the start to the finish, including its attempt at a cathartic ending, remains broken down into chunks that mainly barely work together. This is best seen in the endless and not so clever Gestapo sequence. Lastly, while Waititi is funny, the movie is still missing its Roberto Benigni and it's unrealistic to expect that the young Roman Griffin Davis in his main role does the same. Because of that, the movie remains somewhat entertaining, but not particularly enlightening about the human condition in one of its darkest hours.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Indie Showcase: Home With a View of the Monster (2020)

There is an endless pool of inspiration when it comes to horror movies. While most prefer to use cliche stories that have been seen a thousand times, others go for more unique concepts. Here, the most audacious try to find that uniqueness but also to connect it with something mundane and universally-known thing that is not often seen in a horror light. In the case of Home With a View of the Monster that concept is the idea of services like AirBnB and other home rental options. Here is how the movie describes itself:

Needing a major life change in order to save their rocky marriage, a young couple (Dennis and Rita) decide to place their secluded lake house on a vacation rental app. When the couple returns home early, they find that their current tenant (Kate) has disappeared, leaving only their belongings as well as cryptic and increasingly eerie clues. Dennis and Rita have few clues as to where Kate could have gone. That is until Kate’s boyfriend (Chance) mysteriously shows up not only terrified of the events that he had experienced in the house, but with a warning of what is to unfold next. Joining together the haunted house genre with the world of vacation rentals, Home with a View of the Monster provides a gripping glimpse into the lives of individuals who are each as haunted as their surroundings. This genre blending, psychological thriller takes you on a wild ride, full of unsuspecting turns that all lead to the monster at the end.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Two-Paragraph Review: Bloodline (2018)

If you grew up with movies in the 1990s, chances are that even today, you're rooting for Seann William Scott. After all, he's talented, entertaining and someone who didn't really have a whole lot of good luck in his career. Yet, movies like Bloodline show how big of an injustice that was - thought this serial killer thriller/drama, Scott paints a completely believable and understandable monster. His character is caring high school counselor by day, but by night, he’s a murdering avenger of downtrodden kids (like the kid he had been years before).

While this directorial debut from Henry Jacobson has some flaws - especially in terms of how it treats and manages other characters - Scott carries it through. This presents once again the gigantic Holywood injustice that was brought upon this actor, either by malice and design or by stupidity and indifference. Hopefully, Bloodline will help Scott get into more smaller but well-made films and right the decades-long wrong that has beset him. He very clearly deserves it and has the talent and drive to work on a wide range of different genres and film types.