Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Be With Me

This is just a small jewel of cinema. More than a year ago I heard about this movie and since then I wanted to watch it. Finally I did and it was a huge surprise. Guess I wanted to watch it for the wrong reasons.

This is a triad of intertwine stories about love, hope, destiny, broken hearts and loneliness, told from three different life stages. So In Love is a teenager’s story, Finding Love is a middle age story and Meant To Be is a “golden” age story.

Is a very slow film and you have to be really patient to be able to watch it, but it is worth it! For more than 30 minutes you keep wondering, what is this? Until everything starts to make sense and you “discover” what an incredible film you are watching.

One of the most interesting aspects of this movie is that it shows reality blended with fiction. It is a documentary and it is fiction. As a documentary is one of the best I have seen, as most documentaries tend to bore me with too many fail intentions to keep my attention alive.

As a film is the first time I ever watched what I could call the “Sounds of Silence”. Sometimes silence is bliss and here is brilliantly used to blissfully show us what life is truly all about.

This is an Eric Khoo movie that had great accolades at Cannes 2005 when was presented as the opening film for the Director’s Fortnight event. Also, was the Singapore submission for Foreign Language Film to the 2007 Oscar’s, but was disqualified because it had too much English! I just wonder if they timed the silence, they would find that it has more silence than any other language, including sign language… and silence really is a foreign language in Hollywood!!!

Not for all audiences or tastes, but one not to miss, if you truly enjoy art cinema.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2007 Academy Awards

I have been thinking and thinking if I should write (or not) about the Oscars telecast, the winners, and the host. My too much thinking is because my net-net take away is that I did not enjoy the 2007 Oscar’s show.

First lets talk about the telecast. It was way too long and dull/plain/flat and boring. The main awards where all near the end of the show… so, if you really wanted to know the winners “live” you where forced to watch the entire show. Obviously, this was done for ratings purposes, but I am sure it will backfire next year with fewer viewers… unless, there is something really interesting to watch!

Let me elaborate on this. I do not need to be forced to watch all the show, I do it because I like movies and of course, I like the “mother” of all awards, which I think is the only show that really shows the intrinsic glamour of this industry. No one expects the Golden Globes to be glamorous, but the Oscars have-to-be glamorous. This telecast was not.

In past telecasts, I really loved the movie clips which gave me a feel good feeling because I’ve seen most of the movies … and I even wanted more! This telecast had too many interruptions, with too many movie clips (I got want I always wanted and I hate it!!). But, the problem was that the themes make no sense within the flow of the show… or that they were simply boring.

Then, the show really started 30 minutes after the hour; the first half hour of red carpet was absolutely unnecessary. Usually they have an “official” one-hour red carpet show before 8pm, which works just fine as you have the choice to watch it or not. This year they forced you to watch it.

This is an awards show. Seems someone had to request to make it more entertaining and it end-up trying to be a “regular” entertainment show. But actually, it end-up being a dull magazine show with too many things. Okay, I liked the shadow performers, but they had no place there. I always liked the presentation of the nominations for original songs and best movie, but this year unless you know who is performing the song or that it was a best movie nomination, you were kept wondering who is that and what is that. Who knows James Taylor (is that his name?) besides Americans and maybe some Brits and Aussies?

I can go on and on about this terrible telecast, but I will stop with one last comment, the one I consider the most important flaw. The rhythm. Any good show, film, book has to have a good rhythm… could start slow/fast for the build up, then rise, relax, another rise to climax, a climax and sometimes, relax again; or any combination of those elements. This is what keeps your attention and interest. This show was flat, flat, one tease after like almost two hours (the supporting actress award), flat, flat, another tease with some climax (Eddie Murphy did not win the supporting actor award) or was before the Pan’s Labyrinth not winning?? I do not recall. But my point is that the show rhythm was always flat, some teasing and very little climaxes and this was due to the decision to place all the main awards later on the show and to have way too many distractions from the main event, the awards.

Second, lets talk about the winners. There were too many sure winners and most of them just did the expected, Helen Mirren, Forrest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Scorcese won their first Oscar. Upsets? Foreign film and support actor. There was some heat about the best film, but The Departed winning??? I could not care less; there was not one nomination I really think it deserved to win. Well, maybe with the exception of Letters of Iwo Jima, which I have not seen yet, so I give it a chance. So, there was not much suspense about the winners, there could have been suspense about the acceptance speech, the presenters jokes, the original song performers and/or the glamour of the show. The later brings us back to the third paragraph of this … lament!!!

Third, lets talk about the host. Yes, I like Ellen Degeneres … I guess I am a fan. I like her rambling comedy. I liked her ABC show and was very disappointed when was cancelled. I like her current daytime show with her dancing, her easy-going attitude, her unusual entertaining gimmicks (like the viewers videos, shows from viewers houses, etc) and even her serious moments. I even like her visibility as a lesbian. So, no surprise, my expectations where high for her performance at the Oscar's.

I cannot say I was disappointed as Ellen was Ellen in the Oscar’s show and she was great being Ellen. But, Ellen, this Ellen did not belong to the Oscar’s, it belonged to her daytime show. I do not understand what happened because when hosting the two Emmy telecasts she was a great host, witty, funny and definitively, not the daytime Ellen.

Okay, she had good moments, but you have to be extremely familiar with American events/ways and if you are not, like millions of international viewers, it just was boring and disrespectful. Well, the crowd loved her and they showed their love during the broadcast and even after the show; but, us millions of viewers around the world where left with a bitter taste that just completed the total perception of an awful, terrible, boring, glamour less Oscar’s telecast.

I do not blame Ellen (he he); I blame the director and producers of the show. Many bad changes and decisions make bad results. The woman director should have stayed directing her film (which is almost ready) Spider Man III, instead of venturing into this most sacred show.

One little (or big?) thing I liked. This broadcast will be the most gay … no, the most lesbian Oscar’s, or any other special event show, ever!!! (Ellen, Portia, Melissa winning, Tammy, Jodie, Queen Latifah, so many others not that visible and those who simply choose to be in-the-closet). But, I regret that this happened within an unworthy to remember telecast.

Well, there is always next year!

Paris, Je t'aime

My first reaction was too many stories!!! By the time I watched the last story, I could not remember most of the other stories.

I like French movies … no, I LOVE French movies. But, this is no French movie, is more an international director’s ensemble piece. There are 17 love stories from the city of love, Paris. There are 17+ directors involved in this Emmanuel Benbihy and Matthias Batthyany production. Yes, is a collection of shorts about one theme set in one city.

Seventeen story names are hard to remember and even after reading the reviews from the usual sites, I am not able to truly identify the names of each story, the director/s and even the actors related to each story. And this troubles me. I know, I have to watch it again, to be able to identify everything!!!

If you can understand French, the best site to read about this movie is allocine. There you can find very interesting facts, like the challenge each director had to face when doing their short, the limited budget and production constrains of the project, which was a challenge for all directors and many other interesting details.

Spontaneously, I have a favorite story and is in a genre and subject matter I do not particularly like, vampires! It took me a long time, but finally I was able to identify the name and who directed! Quartier de la Madeleine by Vicenzo Natali and his idea is an homage to Wes Craven, who appears in the short. This short make me laugh real hard, it is so funny.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting idea and the best collection of shorts I have ever seen, especially because they truly have a relation and the transitions gave the feeling of watching a movie and not short after short after short. But this comment is about the technical side of this film, not about its content.

I will watch it again and I am sure I will enjoyed more than the first time.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2007 César Awards

Les César Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma 2007

Palmarès 2007

Acteur: François Cluzet - Ne le dis à personne
Actrice: Marina Hands - Lady Chatterley
Acteur dans un second rôle: Kad Merad - Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas
Actrice dans un second rôle: Valérie Lemercier - Fauteuils d'orchestre
Espoir masculin: Malik Zidi - Les amitiés maléfiques
Espoir féminin: Mélanie Laurent - Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas
Réalisateur: Guillaume Canet - Ne le dis à personne
Film français: Lady Chatterley - Pascale Ferran
Premier film: Je vous trouve très beau - Isabelle Mergault
Film documentaire: Dans la peau de Jacques Chirac - Karl Zéro, Michel Royer
Scénario original: Olivier Lorelle, Rachid Bouchareb - Indigènes
Adaptation: Pascale Ferran, Roger Bohbot, Pierre Trividic - Lady Chatterley
Musique écrite pour un film: M (Mathieu Chedid) - Ne le dis à personne
Court-métrage: Fais de beaux rêves - Marilyne Canto
Photo: Julien Hirsch - Lady Chatterley
Décors: Maamar Ech Cheikh - OSS 117 - Le Caire nid d'espions
Son: François Musy, Gabriel Hafner - Quand j'étais chanteur
Montage: Hervé de Luze - Ne le dis à personne
Costumes: Marie-Claude Altot - Lady Chatterley
Film étranger: Little Miss Sunshine - Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Oui, j’aime beaucoup le cinéma français !


Why am I crazy about movies…

Yes, someone asked me that question. Wanted to know why someone could go crazy for something that is supposed to be superfluous and somehow irrelevant for your life… or something like that.

The obvious answers relate to entertains me, for moments takes me away from my everyday life, enjoy a good laugh, enjoy a good cry and even a true smile, kills time, distract me when bored, like to see what I think/believe are good looking actors/actress, enjoy good stories, storytellers and filmmakers, and many more obvious reasons.

But, the most not obvious reason is: most films make me THINK!

One of the most difficult challenges I found during my professional career was to teach people to think. Well, according to others I know how to think. I did not even know how I learned to think! So how could I teach others to think? And by this I do not mean thinking before doing something, which so many people need to learn this. Is more about analyzing and synthesizing; about splitting and putting things back together again in your brain. More tangible, it is about acquiring a discipline to provide results and not just another idea. Well, just let me tell you that eventually I was able to teach quite a few people to think … which was very rewarding to me and of course, to my different then bosses and superiors!!!

So, what this has to do with the infamous above question?

One of the issues I identify in the learning process to stimulate people to think is that you, as a teacher, have to know what the person likes and dislikes. Then focus on the likes, to find what they “really” like or if you wish, are truly (not blinded) passionate about it. You will find that those things people truly like, facilitate them to really think. The thinking process is spontaneously inherent in there and when you uncover it to them and they rationalize it, then they can apply it to other things they do not like, care less or are not interested at all.

Get the idea now? Got the answer?

No, okay, lets go to plain English. I discovered how I learned to think through my liking of movies!!! Learning to think is a process, so I continue to stimulate my learning process by watching and watching more movies!! So, after all, it is not that crazy to be crazy about movies, isn’t? Books work for me too, but nothing else works like movies for me.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)

What a horrible and most beautiful movie! Brilliant combination and blending of extreme opposites! Outstanding screenplay and outstanding storyteller/filmmaker!

I was subdued and appalled by this movie when I watched it some weeks ago. It was a voyage into a dark children fantasy with non-gracious and awkward child characters like the faun … and just this situation should have given away what was coming, but it did not; so, at the end I was just shocked with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I am not that familiar with Guillermo del Toro’s work. Have seen some not so good movies by him like Hellboy, Blade II and Mimic, and I was not aware of El Espinazo del Diablo, that after watching this masterpiece, I will have to watch it. Seems that some people consider him as a horror film icon … well, this movie is no horror movie; but still, is full of realistic horror.

Considered by some to have a simple and straightforward plot with layers and layers of intelligent writing, metaphors and message. I could not agree more. Yes, the story is outstanding and enough I said.

But, as a movie, is truly a masterpiece. The dry and dark look makes total sense as the movie develops and without it, it just would not be the same. It was essential. Then it has Guillermo Navarro’s fantastic cinematography that just blows your senses. Relies heavily on visual and special effects, including the computer-generated kind, and you will never be aware of them. This is brilliant use of special effects by Jeff Barnes and Reyes Abades!! This is a smart reason why technology has a place in movie making.

One thing that almost always is overlooked by us common viewers is film editing. In this film Bernat Vilaplana editing was excellent and keep the film flowing flawless.

Add a terrific cast, lead by Ivana Barquero’s outstanding performance as the heroine, Sergi Lopez that creates a complex, indelible and vaguely Freudian portrait of chauvinism and fascist mania run wild, and the incredible Maribel Verdu’s performance (as she has done it before!) and you have a movie that works splendidly in all of its parts.

I am not one that pays much attention to crew names, besides the director and sometimes the screenplay writer. But, did you notice that I mentioned many names here? I had to know who was doing what, because their work deserves so much recognition.

One of the best movies I ever seen, and this is hard to say, when I realize that has a very disturbing story. This is an adult fairy tale not to be missed.

Last, but not least, this movie is nominated for 6 Oscars and has already 30 wins and 40 nominations allover the world.


Hmmm! What do I think about this movie? This is a good movie with a great ensemble cast that tells a story about how one little meaningless event -give a gun as a present- can develop into international newsworthy and senseless situation.

Somehow, this movie became an IF story. What would have happen IF the gun were not given away? What would have happen IF the kids did not play with the gun? What would have happen IF the couple had not traveled? What would have happen IF the maid found another babysitter for the children? What would have happen IF they stayed overnight instead of traveling back home? It was because the way the story developed that I was motivated to think about so many IFs and that just ruined the story for me.

It is Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu third movie with the same intertwining story structure that worked especially well in Amores Perros and was finely crafted in 21 Grams. Unfortunately it does not work in Babel where the movie and story loses some much-needed focus.

Out of the three main story lines within Babel, the Japanese moment is the most interesting and could have been a great story to tell by itself. Koji Yakusho, which you may remember from Memories of a Geisha, has magnificent screen presence and Rinko Kikuchi is outstanding as his daughter. Believe me, I will follow this actress career and look forward to watch the still in pre-production film The Brothers Bloom.

If you like Cate Blanchett performances then do not miss this movie as even if she has very little screen time, she will amaze you with her subtle and alluring ways.

Lately I been watching some Chinese and Japanese movies that use the three intertwining stories structure; some are good others are not. But, it is refreshing to lose some ignorance and learn that this structure it was well developed in Asian cinema long before Gonzales started using it. Then, Amores Perros was such a good story and movie, that my innocence and ignorance attributed this structure to him. Nevertheless, I still believe that Amores Perros is Gonzalez best movie up-to-date.

This film is nominated for 7 Oscars and has already 17 wins and 59 nominations in different awards around the world. Also has been awarded as the most overrated movie by the AMG awards (OK, these awards are a private affair by the allmovie guys –but, I do agree with them!!

L'Enfant (The Child)

This is a very interesting movie that can be described as an urban-realistic parable from Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. Set in a blue-collar milieu tells a story of two young adults that make many mistakes; the one most remarkable is having a baby.

The story develops following Bruno (Jeremie Renier), the baby’s father and a thief interested only in making money –to survive his common and meaningless life. He makes and appalling mistake and his reaction to its aftermath leads him, improbably but always believably, towards grace.

One thing I love about French movies is that most stories do not have a beginning nor and end. They are like a slice of life where you have to imagine what happened before and what could happen after. This movie shows just a slice in this two characters life and does it brilliantly with suspense and even thrilling moments.

Most remarkably is that this is a movie that has no special effects, planned cinematography or any soundtrack and yet, it involves you totally.

This is what I call a very European movie, that unless you love European cinema, it will not be for your taste. Honored with many award nominations, won 10 awards, including the 2005 Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival.


Children of Men

I watched this film a few months ago and I was not impressed by it. I found the story to be much of a fantasy, even if I do enjoy most of Clive Owen, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore performances. But since it has been honored with 14 nominations in several awards, including 3 for the Oscars, I decided to “borrow” a positive comment from a viewer for your consideration.

"The apocalypse arrives on film once again in a plot so simple it's horrifyingly believable. It's 2027 and the world is close to annihilation because no child has been born in 18 years. London office worker Theo (Clive Owen) is offered cash by a radical ex-girlfriend to escort a refugee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to safety. Their lives are soon at risk from both government and revolutionaries

Although the camera work and cinematography is nothing short of stunning the focus always with our protagonist, ensuring we're kept in the middle of the action throughout. It is also undoubtedly one of Owen's finest performances to date. Theo is never far from danger yet he struggles on with convincing dignity. Occasionally baffled but far from stupid - Theo is essentially a reckless, underplayed action hero that doesn't jump at every opportunity to arm himself with a gun. This works well with the international ensemble of incredible talent: Michael Caine's charming pot dealing hippie, feisty Julianne Moore, key role Claire-Hope Ashitey, the wonderful Pam Ferris, the increasingly busy, excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Huston and writer/director/producer Peter Cullen (gloriously sadistic Syd) to name a few... This is surely a casting coup to be jealous of.

The episodic nature of the story makes Children of Men difficult to place into one genre alone. Briefly glimpsed futuristic sci-fi technology is grounded in reality and looks entirely achievable while grey, graffiti ridden concrete locations provide an excellent backdrop for the near satirical look of our current social and political climate. There's poignant drama interspersed amongst exhilarating action and yet enough twists to call it a thriller.

This is not to say it's flawless. Some exposition is handled better in places than others for instance. However Alfonso Cuarón has achieved a completely remarkable experience. Arguably the film could have been longer given how strong most of it is. The only really hard pill to swallow is the comedy juxtaposed with some stark imagery that looks all too familiar to anyone who has ever seen the News from the past few decades. Nice to see a Pink Floyd reference though (pigs might fly!), and someone finally found a use for Battersea Power Station.

Ideally an audience should see this film with no preconceptions and know as little about the plot as possible. This will be unlikely though due to a staggered box-office release schedule, word of mouth and a plethora of reviews and trailers that are eager to give much of the game away. Ironic then perhaps that it must be said - Children of Men is a cinematic milestone. Great special effects and an effective soundtrack accompany this heartfelt, moving and thought-provoking film. Easily one of the best films in recent memory."

Well, I do not agree with these comments, maybe the only exception is Michael Caine excellent performance in this movie and that is a theme that could be related to past and more relevant, to current world events.

One movie interesting element is easily lost if you do not remember the following fact. When Miriam is taken off the bus in the refugee camp you can hear the song "Arbeit Macht Frei" by The Libertines. "Arbeit macht frei," meaning "Work shall set you free," was written above the entrance at the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz.

Watch the movie and please, tell me what do you think and with whom you agree, the unknown viewer or me.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

10 Items or Less

A light-hearted, feel-good independent film that you can enjoy only if you are a true fanatic of independent movies. Has some funny moments and the story is a fantasy, a well-known actor spends a day with a common person. Yeah like that could happen.

Morgan Freeman is an excellent actor and without him this movie will probably not work, his presence is very charming and he is as suave as in most of his roles. By the way he produced this movie directed and written by Brad Silberling.

Then, there is Paz Vega. I believe I have seen almost all her movies, so you could say I am her fan. She is good actress and her movies are very European, but to be honest, I watch because she is very sweet eye candy for my dry eyes in movies like El Otro Lado de la Cama and Lucia y el Sexo. So, I do not understand why she is in this movie, especially because people that probably have only seen Spanglish will see it. This definitively will not help her to build her career in the other side of the world. Why they do that? If you want to meet Paz, check here

So, if you really enjoy Morgan Freeman performances watch it, otherwise go on with your life, you do not need this type of fantasy to entertain you.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Supervoksen (Triple Dare)

Released with great commercial success in Denmark, it achieved the highest attendance record for this genre -even higher than the teen flick Superman Returns- (I had to write this!).

So it is no surprise that this first full-length film by Christina Rosendahl won the Robert (Danish awards) for Best Children/Family Film and had two more nominations for best cinematography and best make-up.

What is not to like if a film has three cute female teens? Yes, is a nice-to-watch movie with some extras. Cinematography is quite interesting and the visual effects greatly improve the dramatics of the moment. Those leaves surely represent the autumn of their childhood!

The story is the same as many other movies, teens rushing into adulthood. But, it seemed that this story was more a satire of all the traits and tribulations teens go through, especially at that limbo age, when they are no longer kids and yet, they are no adults.

Well, I am a sucker for most teen themed movies with females in the lead and of course, I liked this is one. Shame that is mostly distributed in Europe, so not many people will be able to watch this smart satire.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Efter Brylluppet (After The Wedding)

This Danish film is nominated for best foreign film at the Oscar’s along with Pan’s Labyrinth, The Life of Others, Water and Days of Glory. After watching it, I cannot figure out why this film is along such good films. Water has a strong story with great cinematography; Pan’s and The Life of Others are truly amazing, this film is not.

The story is about a man’s past that catches up with him at present time; but it is also about a good man that tries and succeeds to fix the future of his family before dying. Two very different men with their lives intrinsically entwined. And then is also about manipulation. The good man is very rich and used to get whatever he wants.

The story is too melodramatic for my taste and reminds me of soap opera’s, that I definitively do not appreciate and like. So, there is no good news for me about the story.

As a movie is slow and you keep wondering when the plot is going to develop; nevertheless, it has very interesting camera angles, nice scenery and actors performances are quite good.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Synopsis: Yella

A woman's near-death experience causes her to relive another person's final moments in life.

From Variety: After the disappointing sidetrack of "Ghosts," German writer-director Christian Petzold returns to top form in "Yella," another precision-helmed, tightly wound, metaphysical thriller that confirms him as one of Germany's finest middle-generation directors. Topped by a mesmerizing perf from Petzold favorite Nina Hoss ("Wolfsburg," "Something to Remind Me") as a young businesswoman unwrapping her inner demons and ambitions, pic could click on the fest and arthouse circuits in the same way as Petzold's earlier "The State I Am In" (2001), with critical support.

More?? Here:

Interesting!! This movie is from the same director of Gespenster.

Synopsis: El Otro (The Other)

El Otro/The Other

A run of the mill, one-day business trip to the country becomes another journey: upon reaching his destination, Juan Desouza discovers that the man traveling at his side is dead. Secretly, almost like a game, he decides to adopt the dead man´s identity, inventing a profession for himself, finding a place to stay: the possibility of not returning.

In his new days off, in a state of availability, the man undertakes, without knowing it, an adventure into nature, into the rediscovery of his tastes, his basic instincts, trying to grasp the idea that the life dealt out for him, and which he chose to live, is not the only one possible.

Un hombre maduro, situado entre las coordenadas que trazan su padre (en franca declinación) y su mujer (embarazada por primera vez), se encuentra con que todo lo que parecía garantizar su propia consistencia -vale decir su identidad- presenta síntomas de fragilidad. Frágil el cuerpo, frágiles los afectos, frágil la conciencia.

Este hombre tomara distancia respecto de lo que hasta entonces parecía constituir su dia a dia y así, en ese movimiento de desapego, indagar la fragilidad. Un habitual viaje de negocios de medio día al interior del país se trasforma en otro viaje.

Al llegar a destino, Juan Desouza, descubre que el hombre que viajaba a su lado no se despierta. Secretamente, casi como un juego, decide tomar la identidad de este hombre, inventarse una profesión, conseguir un lugar donde dormir: la posibilidad de no regresar. La posibilidad de ser otro, de ser muchos.

En sus nuevos días libres, en estado de disponibilidad, el hombre realizará , sin saberlo, una suerte de travesía hacia la naturaleza y al reencuentro de sus gustos, de sus instintos básicos, intentando abrazarse a la idea de que la vida que le toco y que eligió vivir, no es la única posible.

Seems interesting.

Winners 2007 Berlinale

Golden Bear for the Best Film
Le Wang, the producer of Tuyade Hunshi/Tuya's Marriage by Wang Quan'an

Silver Bear - The Jury Grand Prix 2007
El Otro/The Other by Ariel Rotter

Silver Bear - Best Director 2007
Joseph Cedar for Beaufort

Silver Bear - Best Actress 2007
Nina Hoss for Yella by Christian Petzold

Silver Bear - Best Actor 2007
Julio Chavez for El Otro by Ariel Rotter

Silver Bear - Outstanding Artistic Contribution 2007
To the ensemble cast of The Good Shepherd by Robert De Niro

Silver Bear - Best Film Music 2007
David Mackenzie for the use of music in his film
Hallam Foe

Alfred Bauer Prize 2007
Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a/I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok
Park Chan-wook

Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)

I am truly speechless and very moved by this picture. Yes, the story is incredibly painful to watch, but the movie is so well done, that even if early you guess what is going to happen, you cannot take your eyes from the screen one second.

It starts slowly and somehow even boring, but suddenly Ulrich Muhe, that plays Hayptmann Gerd Weisler, takes you inside the movie, he grabs you and you become him. From there on there is no way out and the ride is heavy. Great actor and great performance.

Being Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck opera prima, as a writer and as a director, it is a masterpiece of story telling in cinema and hopefully some day I will read the book. No, I am not German; I have only been to Berlin, where I met several people that lived in the East. That’s about my only direct relation to this story. So, my reaction is more to the drama and how well it was presented and performed. Besides, the surveillance story is so universal; well, at least not with the “happy” ending of this story.

But, to me the story is about acquiring a conscience. When you realize that everything you been doing, believing, breathing, being passionate and sometimes blinded with faith (believe- do not ask) just crumbles into tiny little pieces. Most of the time stories like this take the main character down into the fall, but this one shows that conscience can be acquired fast and you can redeem yourself, for your own sake, not for others acceptance and recognition. The silent heroes.

The Oscar nomination is very well deserved and yes, it is a stong contender for Pan’s Labyrinth. Two very different movies with one thing in common both showed tragedies of the world’s past.

This movie trigged quite a stir in Germany. Besides winning 7 Lola’s, made the Stasi files very popular with people reading their own files double in a year.

A must be seen movie.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Man Chen Jin Dai Huang Jin Jia (The Curse of the Golden Flower)

This is Zhang Yimou latest movie based on the book The Thunderstorm by Cao yu about the Tang dynasty that seems to be stirring quite a controversy among viewers and not viewers of the movie, because a non-traditional portrait of Chinese history. Well, to me, this is a movie that tells an incredible story with such a dramatic and intense display of colors, emotions and grandeur that is a must be seen movie.

One thing I do not do with Chinese movies is to compare one to another. Couching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and so many other movies are outstanding and some are cinema groundbreaking all by themselves. For example, I liked Hero because its colors and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon because the incredible beautiful scenes with unbelievable special effects.

The Curse of The Golden Flower has magnificent scenes full of color and textures, amazing special effects, beautiful and grandiose battle scenes; but, most of all, it is a powerful drama with outstanding performances by Yun-Fat Chow, Gong Li, Ye Liu and Jay Chou.

For moments I swear I felt like I was watching a classical Greek (a la Oedipus) or even a Shakespeare (a la Hamlet) tragedies, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out is based on an actual Chinese drama.

This movie has the first story of this genre that really catches me and becomes more interesting than all the outstanding cinematographic effects most of these films have. I watched it at home, but this is a movie that has to be seen at a theater to enjoy its grandeur, and I will do so, if ever comes to my country. I really hope it will come to a theater near me!

A must be seen movie for so many reasons, especially if you enjoy classical tragic dramas brilliantly performed.

2007 Berlinale

300 by Zack Snyder, U.S. (World Premiere, Out of Competition)
Angel by François Ozon, France/Belgium/U.K. (World Premiere)/Closing Film
Beaufort by Joseph Cedar, Israel (World Premiere)
Bordertown by Gregory Nava, U.S. (World Premiere)
Desert Dream/Hyazgar by Zhang Lu, Republic of Korea/France (World Premiere)
Die Fälscher/The Counterfeiter by Stefan Ruzowitzky, Germany/Austria (World Premiere)
El Otro/The Other by Ariel Rotter, Argentina/France/Germany (World Premiere)
Goodbye Bafana by Bille August, Germany/France/Belgium/U.K./Italy (World Premiere)
Hallam Foe by David Mackenzie, U.K. (World Premiere)
In memoria di me/In Memory of Myself by Saverio Costanzo, Italy (World Premiere)
Irina Palm by Sam Garbarski Belgium/Germany/Luxembourg/U.K./France (World Premiere)
La Môme/La Vie en rose by Olivier Dahan, France/U.K./Czech Republic (World Premiere)/Opening Film
Les témoins/The Witnesses by André Téchiné, France (World Premiere)
Letters from Iwo Jima by Clint Eastwood, U.S. (European Premiere, Out of Competition)
Ne touchez pas la hache/Don’t Touch the Axe by Jacques Rivette, France/Italy (World Premiere)
Notes on a Scandal by Richard Eyre, U.K. (International Premiere, Out of Competition)
O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias/The Year My Parents Went on Vacation by Cao Hamburger, Brazil / Argentina (International Premiere)
Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále/I Served the King of England by Jiri Menzel, Czech Republic / Slovakia (International Premiere)
Ping guo/Lost in Beijing by Li Yu, China (World Premiere)
Saibogujiman kwenchana/I’m a Cyborg, But That’s Ok by Park Chan-wook, Republic of Korea (International Premiere)
The Good German by Steven Soderbergh, U.S. (International Premiere)
The Good Shepherd by Robert DeNiro, U.S. (International Premiere)
The Walker by Paul Schrader, U.S./U.K. (World Premiere, Out of Competition)
Tu ya de hun shi/Tuya’s Marriage by Wang Quan’an, China (World Premiere)
When a Man Falls in the Forest by Ryan Eslinger, Canada/U.S. (World Premiere)
Yella by Christian Petzold, Germany (World Premiere)

Festival runs from February 8 to 18. So many films to look forward!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Loving Annabelle

Katherine Brooks’s first major motion picture gives us a contemporary version of the genre classic “Madchen in Uniform” and she succeeds as a storyteller. This is a fantastic modern story that will titillate you until the main characters consummate their love. That is if you in real life really –and I mean really- enjoy the smooth seduction that usually comes after two women meet and feel attracted to each other; and in this movie, this moment covers almost all the picture. If you do not enjoy this situation, you will not like that much this story.

Miss Brooks also brilliantly succeeds in teasing you once and many more times. This is why it becomes so titillating and you just cannot stop watching what comes next. She succeeds so much, that you forget that this is a forbidden, legally liable, story of a teacher and a student; especially, in the country where the story is set. Well, the released end remembers you about this fact and then, you realize that what has kept your total attention for more than an hour, is an unconventional, not socially, nor legally accepted story.

Most of our reactions to the forbidden story are related to “who cares, as it happens in real life”. Yes, most of us are romantic and fall deep down into romance –and more when is a well-done romance. But, is Miss Brooks storyteller abilities that makes us feel this way and this is just genius. If this have been a man/woman affair and no good storyteller involved, the end product would have been disastrous, an often seen drama or latelly, regular news story.

Besides, lets be realistic, we do not have many good stories in this genre and less stories that become movies. So, we easily react to Miss Brooks intended stimuli with great pleasure.

Yes, I just loved the movie because of the way the story is shown; as a movie, it lacks many production values, even for an independent movie. Yeah, I know is a very low budget production, filmed in a very few days with many takes per day. Still, I think Miss Brooks is a very talented filmmaker and she will make sure that production values in future films will be taken in good care. Sometimes, it is not a matter of money; is making sure that with the few resources that you might have, you and your team make the best effort ever! Not just your best effort.

I know it is a long shot, but seeing Miss Brooks in the picture remind me of Hitchcock!! Probably it was done to save money, but the gimmick worked to the best advantage of the filmmaker and us fans that get to see her pictures.

I used to be in Advertising and it was easy for me to notice the good integrated campaign behind the marketing of this movie. Bravo Miss Brooks!!! But, be careful, a one-year plus campaign before having access to the actual product could backfire terribly. It was good the teasing in the movie but, not so good the teasing before being able to watch the movie.

Miss Brooks seems to know her main target group, not only because the outstanding story co-written by her, but also because her approval of a great and beautiful cast. Erin Kelly is just so credible in her “falling in love” process, even if I cannot say the same about the two times expelled from school rebellious teenager side of the character. But then, it may be that the filmmaker did not gave that much time to character development, at least more than Kelly’s acting abilities.

The story and Miss Brooks storytelling abilities are so powerful that I wish there would be a book. In the book, she can take time to explore more into her characters and go deep into their motivation, desires and emotions.

I believe this movie will become a classic in this genre and will be remembered and watched one and many times in the years to come. Suffice to say that I liked very much the original Madchen in Uniform –not so the Romy Schneider remake- but, Loving Annabelle is not a remake, it was probaly inspired by it, even do Miss Brooks says it was a little autobiographical.


Varuh Meje (Guardian of the Frontier)

After wanting so much to watch this movie well, it was a disappointment. That is the bad side of expectations.

Labeled as Drama/Horror/Mystery/ Thriller I could say that only the first, drama, really describes this story. But, it is a bad drama.

Still, is nice to watch rural Slovenia scenery and the portrait of Eastern Europe youth and how they are clashing with their traditional culture. Even if it made no sense to show these themes within the main story, it was interesting to watch the nonexistent separation between Slovenia and Croatia, xenophobia and rural/urban prejudices.

You would not miss much if you do not watch this movie.

The Last King of Scotland

After reading the usual sites for critics and users comments, I realized that most people comment about Forest Whitaker performance and less about the movie. Yes, his performance deserves all the recognition he is getting and more honors will come his way. His performance is truly brilliant. For moments he makes us like and enjoy Ibi Amin, until the we realize how brutal this man was and Forrest Whitaker rides smoothly from one extreme to the other as we follow him with our brain and heart totally submerged into this, for many, terrifying story.

The movie is based on a novel, so is no biopic and I say thanks for that as they could have shown more terrible scenes, two horrifying scenes are more than enough for me.

I live in a country full of military coups, a few dictators and less democratic governments. So, torture, death, fears, and horrifying events became “part of my life” since a very long time ago. This story could be the story of so many countries allover the world, including mine. This is why maybe the story in this movie did not seem to me that terrible (ouch!). My skin depth tolerates my reality.

This story made me laugh and make me feel emotions so close to home that it became disturbing, especially when the story changes mood and Ibi Amin becomes his probably real self. But I am glad that some people are starting to tell this type of stories, it was about time.

Not an easy to watch movie, but Forrest Whitaker performance is one not to miss because of a so real story.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nina's Heavenly Delights

This is a funny, witty and entertaining movie by Pratibha Parmar. A romantic comedy centered on how people tend to deny love to be part of their lives because traditions. In this movie relationships are of the traditional and unconventional kind.

Not a curry cuisine lover, but I got hungry watching the magnificent dishes. Food, fun, love, music can describe this delightful movie. By the way, Shelley Conn (Nina) is a true exotic beauty that will feast your eyes.

Well, the story might be predictable, but still is fun to watch.


What a surprise. I usually do not like to read much about movies I have not seen – I read after saw them. So, sometimes I get pleasant surprises. Venus was one very pleasant surprise.

Yes, Peter O’toole deserves recognition for this role. He is incredible as an actor and not because his advanced age, but because his fantastic abilities.

This is a very British movie and even if you are not familiar with all the symbols they show, it is still very entertaining and you can follow the story with no mayor pitfalls.

The story is about old age, old habits and your good old self. The glory of life, recognition and experiences that you still want to have when you know your life is coming to an end. But, how lucky can you be to smooth the ride and still enjoy yourself for the very last minute of your precious (and lonely) travels through life??

I read that in London at some showings, people left the theater at the beginning of the movie. I can understand their reasons because, if you tend to be conservative, the beginning of this movie seems like the story of a dirty old man. But stay, go on watching and soon you will discover more … so, much more. Nevertheless, it is not an easy watching story and this speaks of the grandness of precisely the story.

In our society old age seems to be when you “have” to stop being yourself. Where you flip a switch and become someone else … just because you are old. So, all the trouble you had to become yourself it was worthless because when you are old you cannot behave accordingly. This especially applies if you are the type of person that is not socially accepted or politically correct. Maurice (O’toole) was one of these types.

I am not young, but I am not old and I am one of those not likeable types. Wish me luck and hope that when I reach that old age I could still be experiencing my life as much as Maurice did.

Music stopped being part of my life for a long time ago; but I noticed the music in this movie. Incredible singer! Her name is Corinne Bailey Rae. She has great success in UK. A newcomer with her first cd released just last year. The movie has several songs from that cd. This cd is to relax and just listen.



Incredible movie about a Capote I imagined. This movie reminds me of the book that I read many, many years ago and of a Truman Capote that I knew then and followed throughout his colorful life.

There are so many things I liked about this movie that I will try to share some of them. First Capotes’ life was glamorous and this movie shows it. His reputation was to be a gossip “lover” and somehow “vicious”, this movie shows it. His most famous and celebrated book kill him as a writer; this movie shows it and gives an interesting angle to reasons behind the motive to his milestone.

In Cold Blood is a hard to read book because the assassination it covers. But is disturbing to find that you sort of like the story, basically because we all are humans and no matter what we do, there is always an emotional human being involved. This movie shows it.

To be an out-of-the-closet homosexual was outstanding in those days and being queer probably was harder. This movie shows it. One outstanding scene is when the farmer speaks to Sandra Bullock’s character and completely ignores Truman Capote.

The book kills three people, two killers and Capote and this movie shows how he is killed as a writer, but also as a human being. He seems to become more emotional and seems to show it to others. If is true or not, it is a credible consequence of “falling in love” and opening to another human being with your deepest secrets and hidden truths. This movie shows and suggests it.

Outstanding performers and outstanding performances complement a good story. I watched Capote the previous movie. I did not like it. The story bothered me and the acting bothered me. But, I love cinema and still amazes me how one same story can be told so differently.

One last thing, it might seem very intrusive that characters speak to camera. But, soon enough it makes sense the use of this resource.

It was a shame that this movie did not get more promotion and that not many people watch it. Marketing was almost non-existent.