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2009

I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris

Love, exciting and new. Come aboard, they're expecting you

dir: Glenn Ficara and John Requa

Gee, I wonder why this flick, which has somehow only now reached Australian cinemas (Cinema Nova in Melbourne), nearly three years after its production, never really got a decent release at the cinemas in the States.

Could it be because of the subject matter: a con artist in love who perpetrates stacks of scams in order to keep himself and the object of his affections in the comfort they have become accustomed to? Is it because it’s based on a true story? Hollywood hates that. Is it because of where much of the flick is set, being prison? Is it because Jim Carrey is the lead actor, and no-one’s heard of this young up-and-comer, or Ewan McGregor in a supporting role, and studios are reluctant to release flicks with such unknowns in the lead?

Or is it because it’s the gayest flick this side of one of those Sex In the City movies?

Brokeback Mountain didn’t really break down that many barriers or walls of prejudice in terms of changing the dynamic that dictates what flicks get out there into the intellectual marketplace or the cinematic marketplace. Sure, a casual stroll through one of those dinosaur DVD stores might grace you with the vision of a section devoted to movies considered to be representatives of the Gay and Lesbian genre (a ghetto that resides next to the world movies and ‘special’ interest documentaries and such.

Rating:

Agora

dir: Alejandro Amenabar
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It’s about time there was a biopic about the life, loves and times of Hypatia. You know, the famous 4th century mathematician and philosopher? One of the most renowned and virtually unknown women of antiquity?

Okay, unless you were a desperate and insecure teenage boy who struck upon the brilliant strategy of reading up on feminist icons believing that it would somehow result in some girl with low standards throwing you a pity grope every now and then, you might not have heard of her. But I had, and so when I heard that the director of Open Your Eyes, The Others and the superb The Sea Inside was making a biopic about this Hottie from History, I thought, “meh…”

Still, it’s turned up in our cinemas this week, and in a choice between watching something enjoyable, and watching something edifying, I chose Agora over, let’s say Monsters, or The Town.

More fool me.

Agora is the rare case of a biopic that works despite being about a person who’s not that interesting, and with not one but two ‘wrong’ performances from two of the main characters, but which still gets enough of the feel right and the depiction of the setting looks impressive enough to make you feel like it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

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I Am Love (Io Sono L'Amore)

I Am Love

Of course you are, there's no doubting that

dir: Luca Guadagnino

You wouldn’t think a title like I Am Love would pack them into the multiplexes. I guess in Italian, if you’re not an Italian speaker, Io Sono L’Amore sounds that much more exotic and alluring. Despite these obvious obstacles, these wonderful people still thought they’d get together and create an exquisite flick about how passion makes idiots of otherwise rational people, as if the books Madam Bovary and Anna Karenina were never written, and no-one ever read them.

Honestly, I can’t recall the last time it was implied in a flick that women could have sex with someone outside of their marriage and that it didn’t result in death, murder, suicide or the end of the fucking world. Is it really that catastrophic? Male characters cheat constantly, and the world seems to keep turning, and yet whenever a female character, and a mother, no less, finds passion or solace in the arms of another, someone always ends up dead.

Of course it would be unfair of me to assert that this flick is going for anything close to a moralistic or judgemental tone in the slightest. It’s anything but what it sounds like I’ve described, because it’s an amazing construction. I rarely see flicks, and I’ve seen a bundle, so exquisitely and meticulously put together. It’s so intricately put together, from a cinematography, set design, sound, score and editing point of view, that there’s almost little room for the acting performances.

Almost, but not quite. This flick is an engine, or a machine at least. Not a single shot is taken simply when it can be done in a far more fussy and seemingly meaningful way. Even as I marveled at it from a distance, and realised I was more impressed with the construction that the content, I had to remind myself that it’s still about people. Rich people. Rich People With Problems.

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Splice

dir: Vincenzo Natali
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Ah, Canadians. They make different films from the rest of the world, don’t they? Even though almost every single Hollywood flick that gets made seems to get made in Canada, there is a world of difference in style and sensibility between the two rival North American empires.

Vincenzo Natali came to prominence when he made a flick called Cube oh so long ago now. Whatever its merits, a lot of people talked about the flick for long enough that it established a career for what I’m sure is a sweet, sweet man (for all I know he stabs puppies in his spare time).

He has a reputation for make relatively low-budget high concept science fiction flicks that are ultimately, in my humble opinion, thoroughly ridiculous. The ridiculousness doesn’t completely detract from the interesting elements of his flicks, because he knows how to put them together in a competent fashion. Yet something always happens to make you doubt your commitment to his singular lunacy at some stage of his flicks. Like night following day, like hangover following binge, his flicks always, always go wrong at some point. It’s a lovely kind of wrongness, however.

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Crazy Heart

dir: Scott Cooper
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I didn’t like this film. I don’t like Green Eggs and Ham, either, but the fact still remains that I really didn’t think Crazy Heart was a good flick at all. At all.

Even as I acknowledge that Jeff Bridges is a wonderful, wonderful man, and I’m happy to see him get an Academy Award for his services to the acting profession, it’s painfully obvious to me that he got it not for this performance, but because of his body of work.

You know, star turns in stuff like Star Man, Blown Away and How to Lose Friends and Alienate people.

Yes, he’s done great stuff in the past, but it’s hard seeing the character he plays here as being the pinnacle of his performances.

Bad Blake (Bridges) is a country singer / songwriter, who’s never hit the big time. He ekes out an existence playing shitty venues (most ironically, at film’s beginning, a bowling alley, considering The Big Lebowski) for booze money. We are given to understand that Bad could have been somebody, a contender even, if his alcoholism, boozing, drinking and pride hadn’t gotten in the way.

Because his songs, you know, are just awesome!

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A Single Man

dir: Tom Ford
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You may not know who Christopher Isherwood was, or care, or know who Tom Ford is, or care. If you’re a woman, then odds are you know who Colin Firth is, and, depending on your age, you’ve thought he was dreamy ever since he played Darcy in thirteen or fourteen different variations on the role from Pride and Prejudice.

After watching this flick I’d wonder if you care any more about anything anywhere, since it plays out like the longest, tamest, gayest cologne commercial you’ve ever seen. Every scene is set designed and framed to within an inch of its life, and the performances, especially by Colin Firth, and Matthew Goode, as the central couple, are note-perfect.

But I’m sorry to say I walked away from this with barely anything having registered.

The love that dare not speak its name, but these days proclaims itself from the rooftops would seem to be the central premise, since the flick is set in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but really, it’s just about love. It’s about loving someone, and losing them after 16 blissful years together, and not being sure how to or whether to carry on.

The love that not only heals and elevates us, but that also hollows us out with its loss.

Rating:

Valhalla Rising

dir: Nicolas Winding Refn
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The dastardly Danish director of the Pusher trilogy and Bronson hits back at your tame and bourgeois sensibilities with the longest heavy metal film clip to a non-existent song that you’re never going to sit through. Ever.

Good goddamn is this a pointless, but nicely shot and atmospheric, film. And like a pointless and nicely shot film clip, when it only goes for three or four minutes, and has decent music, it can capture and maintain your interest. When it goes for 90 minutes, its impossible to feel like it wasn’t a colossal waste of your time.

One Eye (Mad Mikkelsen) is a one-eyed chap who kills anyone who gets close enough to him. Some bearded, dirty Viking types keep him captive, and occasionally let him out of a cage in order to have him fight and kill other guys in pointless contests out of which he always emerges bloody and victorious.

He eventually escapes by killing everyone except a boy who wasn’t too horrible to him. He hooks up with some Christians who want to go to the Holy Land.

They end up in the Americas. Almost everyone dies. The film ends.

Rating:

Whip It

dir: Drew Barrymore
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I never really thought I’d be writing a review of a film that has Drew Barrymore listed up top as the director. It’s not because she often acts, depending on the circumstance, so bubbly that you’d think she’d never be able to get it together long enough to call action, sitting not in a director’s chair, but in a bubble bath.

No, it’s because there’s a disconnect between her public persona (super girly and bubbly), her film personae (super girly and bubbly), and what she’s apparently like behind the scenes in the turbulent world of film production (a don’t-fuck-with-me-or-I’ll-destroy-you player).

More power to you, sister. She’s got money and sway, so surely nothing can stop Drew if that’s what she wants to do?

I guess making a flick about women’s roller derby manages to satisfy two of her main criteria for what she wants to project to the world about herself: being girly and tough at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact I find it very endearing, the way people find virtually everything this woman does endearing, and have done so ever since she was an adorable little moppet who started abusing cocaine at age 12.

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2012

dir: Roland Emmerich
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Oh my good gods, I think I’d rather have the world destroyed than ever watch another movie directed by Roland Emmerich.

Honestly, this has to be coming from a completely and utterly egomaniacal place, doesn’t it Roland? A director so focussed on destroying the world has to be taking himself very fucking seriously. What greater feeling of god-like power could he derive from that ruining the world twice in flicks so long, so implausible and so boring that they could themselves lead to the mass extinctions he creates stupid stories about?

Look, I’m not saying that the FBI and local police should be investigating this guy to see if he’s a serial killer or not, but someone with this kind of taste for death doesn’t restrict himself to the editing room. That desire for power over life and death over other people often results in a lot of dead hookers and hitchhikers. That’s all I’m saying.

That’s all I’m saying about that libellous topic, not about this monstrosity of a film.

I tried, lords almighty, I tried. I tried to approach this flick in the spirit of fun, of open-mindedness, of curiousity.

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Bodyguards and Assassins (Shi yue wei cheng)

dir: Teddy Chen
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Sometimes, movies, and indeed film reviews, ask a lot of you. They demand that you know a little bit about something in order for you to either give a fuck about what you’re watching / reading, or that you have some idea of what’s going on in order for it to make some sense.

What I’m talking about, in this instance, is not a knowledge of relevant history, contemporary or ancient. Nor is it a demand for understanding of the incredible history of one of the longest continuous civilisations on the planet, being the Chinese.

No, what is demanded in this context is a deep/superficial knowledge of just how much the Chinese, and Hong Kong, film industries, desperately need to pacify and placate their Communist / Totalitarian / Capitalist masters by popping out propagandistic swill occasionally.

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