Movies watched in January
The Social Network (David Fincher) 8/10: Got grandparents to take care of daughter and went to see it. Maybe it is because I hadn’t gone to a theater in while but I loved it. Captures the crazy competitiveness of Ivy League go-getters perfectly.
Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois) 8/10: Grandparents babysitting again. It was pretty good. At times there is a bit of proselytism but it’s hard not be moved when one the priests plays Tchaikovsky’s “Swans Lake” for the last supper.
Together (Lucas Moodysson) 3/10: Back to lovefilm. Idiotic.
Apocalypto (Mel Gibson) 9/10: What a surprise. Contains one of the most nerve-wrecking chases I have seen in a long time. Disclaimer: “This fictionalized work is derogative towards the oppressed Mayans. See at your discretion.”
Peppermint Candy (Chang-dong) 4/10: The movie is interesting but I don’t get the appeal. Memento is, for me, a much better film.
A Serious Man (Cohen bros.) 6/10: Having been raised in a catholic household and thus totally ignorant about jewish suburbia in the midwest I feel I do not get the subtext jokes of the movie. That being said, it contains one of the truest things I have heard in a longtime: “Please accept the mystery”
Céline and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette) 4/10: Oh man. It does have redeeming qualities but the concept trumps the movie and it just gets dull beyond imagination. It is possible that my appreciation will increase with time tough.
Body Double (Brian De Palma) 4/10: Not much to say. Second rate Hitchcock.
Fat City (John Huston) 7/10: Quite good. Nighthawks at the diner.
Ride with the Devil (Ang Lee) 4/10: What a misfire. Glory and Cold Mountain had a baby and this is what you get.
Piano (Jane Campion) 8/10: The movie is good. Kitsch and therefore gorgeous to watch.
Le Cercle Rouge (Melville) 8/10: Awesome movie. Along with “Army of Shadows” it is my favorite. The colors, the characters, the cool style, and above all the ending, everything is great.
Tony Manero (Pablo Larraín) 7/10: If you are into John Travolta you might wanna check this. Travis Bickle sells his car, flies to Chile, gets himself a suit, and a crazy girlfriend. What not to like?
Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat) 3/10: A mess. It ends with a mourning for lost revolutions but it seems to only apply to half the population (the XX half). The symbolism is a bit too heavy for my taste (the prostitute being abuse by everyone is clearly Iran and so on).
Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda) 8/10: Simple and quite constrained but very powerful. The comparisons with “Tokyo Story” are obvious but this one is not that far behind. Must see more Kore-eda!
Wind Will Carry Us (Kiarostami) 8/10: The thing I love most about his movies is the extreme humanity of the characters. They have faults, always walking in some kind of limbo, but they are sooo human that it is impossible not be be moved.
Bright Start (Jane Campion) 4/10: A forgetful movie for me. I see nothing to praise or be excited. I don’t think I will watch many more of her movies unless something out of the blue comes up. I am done.
White Material (Claire Denis) 8/10: My favorite french director these days. I like some of her movies so much. This one does not disappoint: like in her other movies we follow an “alien” which tries to make meaning of where she belongs. The struggle for identification reminds me of Jimmy Stewart in “A man from Laramie”.
Toy Story 3 (Pixar) 8/10: Not much to say. They have perfected the technique to its utmost and make the most exciting studio filmmaking since the “studio era”.
The Heiress (William Wyler) 7/10: Great Melodrama. There is really no likable character, which goes against the majority of the dramas in those days, and that is one of the reasons the movie is so engaging.
Long Day Closes (Terence Davies) 5/10: Of course you admire the cinematography, the music, and all but in the end you leave without much. Very formal and dull.
Reflections in a Golden Eye (John Huston) 7/10: Classic John Huston’s approach: Picks a genre (this time is southern-gothic), chooses some outstanding actors (Brando and Elizabeth Taylor), and throws in a lot of personal drama. To me works always.
Movies watched in February
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik) 5/10: Nothing to cry home about. Midway through it stops making sense but if you get a kick out of trailer park being trailer park you might like it.
The Indian Runner (Sean Penn) 8/10: I got to this through a suggestion of Ray Carney and I am really glad I saw it. Now and then there are some silly parts (the ’’intervention" moments) but the cinematography is great and the scene where Charles Bronson is alone remembering his children just breaks your heart out.
Bitter Moon (Polanski) 3/10: The main theme is incapacity to reject violence as in knife in the water, rosemary’s baby, and so on but it is soooooooo cheesy that you wonder if your are not watching a soft-core 80’s production of Playboy channel. Do you need to do that to the milk, really?
La Belle Noiseuse (Jacques Rivette) 9/10: Huge film! and it works on various levels: it is a love letter from Birkin to Picolli but also a meta film, where the painter (Rivette) is telling Emmanuelle Béart (the spectator) what he is doing while doing it to us. Should watch Celine and Julie go boating again because this movie sheds some lights in Rivette’s process.
La Cienaga (Lucrecia Martel) 7/10: The movie is extremely well made and keeps you hook to the screen with absolutely nothing, just a bunch of old people and little brats running around a dirty pool. On the other hand it seems a bit pointless and well-worn territory such disdain for middle class or bourgeois life. I am puzzled that this was ranked by Cinema tropical as the best latin american movie from the 00’s.
Knight and Day (James Mangold) 2/10: Soooo stupid. I enjoyed Copland a lot and so had some hopes for him but he has clearly stopped even making an effort.
Le Rayon Vert (Eric Rohmer) 8/10: His movies are so real and personal that my appreciation just boils down to whether I can relate to the characters or not. Essentially I either I love it (A Summer’s Tale, Chloe in the Afternoon, Lady and the Duke) or hate it (Ma nuit chez Maud, Claire’s Knee). Now we all can relate with the insecure, indecisive, and bored Delphine. Among the best Rohmer’s I have seen.
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke) 5/10: Help! Haneke is clearly a talented filmmaker but it is hard for me not to see him as the Michale Bay of film snobs. He just gives them what they want but bigger and louder.
The Marquise Of O (Eric Rohmer) 8/10: A movie about a woman who falls in love with her rapist (?!) but it is so amazingly well done that it just looks like a comedy of manners. Very different from all other Rohmer movies I saw but is as good.
The Life Of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi) 7/10: The movie is a pleasure to watch but it lacks the emotional intensity of Sansho the Bailiff.
I Love You, Man (Hamburg) 6/10: It is good fun but not much to say.
La Ronde (Max Ophuls) 7/10: It is similar to Life of Oharu in the sense that both directors are exploring the technique and making it flawless but they fall short when compared with that came next (Lola Montes and Earrings of Madame… or Sansho and Ugetsu).
Springtime in a Small Town (Tian Zhuangzhuang) 7/10: It is a great movie but, even if it tries hard, does not achieve the subtlety of the original.
The Other Guys (Adam McKay) 3/10: I do think Will Ferrel is hilarious but the movies gets dull after a while. The scene where Mark Wahlberg meets Eva Mendes is histerical. Best part of the movie.
The Scent of Green Papaya (Anh Hung Tran) 8/10: It is a really good film. The second half was a clear source of inspiration for “In the Mood for Love”. Mental note: must see his other movies urgently because this looks promising.
Midnight Run (Martin Brest) 4/10: It is not horrible and that is probably the best thing I can say. I saw this because it is somewhat high ranked in TSPDT.
Odete (Joao Pedro Rodrigues) 6/10: Vertigo gone (fully) gay. The soundtrack is perfect.
My Friend Ivan Lapshin (Aleksei German) 7/10: This one clearly needs a second or third viewing. The dialogue is a bit oblique and so are the scenes. A lot of things are left hanging in the air and, like many post-Tarkovsky Russian films, there is a strong effort to not provide decisive characterizations or answers. I am also sure that, as a westerner, that is a lot of suggestions and innuendos that I totally missed in the depiction of soviet life in the 30’s. In sum, the things that are holding me off from embracing this movie are most likely the things that his fans love so much.
Movies watched in March
State of Play (Kevin Macdonald) 5/10: Neither good nor ungood. You watch it, have fun, and then forget it.
The Spider’s Stratagem (Bertolucci) 8/10: Really good. The copy I saw was from VHS so could not fully enjoy all the cinematography but you can tell that it is pretty strong. The thing I enjoyed most is how he draws from Fellini – the nostalgia scenes and so on – but infuses it with a 70’s cynical point of view where there are no place for heroes or mythical tales.
Mother and Son (Sokurov) 5/10: Right. When I see these movies I wonder if Tarkovsky did more harm than good to Russian cinema. My take is that if you just bluntly throw an actress playing a dying mom and an actor playing the grieving son and give me no narrative beyond that than, no matter how gorgeous the images are, I only see an actress playing a dying mom and an actor playing the grieving son.
Law Abiding Citizen (Gary Gray) 5/10: It is okay. Get’s the job done.
Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly (Edwin) 2/10: It is sooooo cheesy and vulgar that if this guy if the future of world cinema good luck with that. The pig metaphor, the kid who does not walk looking straight, the gay couple who nails a dentist to improve their relation…it is hard to top that.
Castle of Purity (Arturo Ripstein) 8/10: The story about an abusive father who locks his family from the world so that they don’t get contaminated. The most impressive thing is that such a preposterous plot turns out to be so credible and everything is handled so carefully that you get totally absorbed by that family’s fate.
The Apple (Samira Makmalbaf) 4/10: She was 17 when she directed the movie and that is clearly an achievement. It is about an abusive father who locks his family from the world so that they don’t get contaminated (I s*^t you not) but she really found such father and decided to re-enact the whole experience with the father, mother, and locked daughters…moreover, when you are 17 you love metaphors and so there is some level of apple chasing, where the apples stand for the new found female consciousness of the daughters. Again, I s^*t you not. I am happy that her movies improved tremendously (Blackboards and Five in the Afternoon)
Wonderland (James Cox) 4/10: Story of John Holmes after he was John Holmes. It seems that if your last name is Cox and you make movies you have an attraction for scumbags (Sid and Nancy?).
An American Werewolf in London (John Landis) 6/10: Quite good for shits and giggles. The idea of making the last scene in a porn theater on Piccadilly pretty much says it all.
Henry Fool (Hal Hartley) 2/10: What a pompous self-indulgent movie. Clearly the guy is so infatuated with himself that no matter how hard he tries the best thing he can come up with is a silly story about being or not a genius.
Soldier of Orange (Paul Verhoeven) 7/10: After Basic Instinct this could be his best movie. It plays out like a traditional WWII drama movie but avoids the usual “resitance” mythology and the cruel truth is there: they were all loving Hitler until they started being bombed.
Clouds of May (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) 5/10: It is interesting and it has some genuinely moving scenes but a lot of it seems just personal episodes between Ceylan and his parents (who actually played in the movie). The obvious comparison is with Kiarostami but Abbas movies are not as private.
Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom) 7/10: Miles better than everything else I saw from him. It is a simple story about familiar ties in London and everything is very convincing and warm.
The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (Mizoguchi) 9/10: Does not have the visual daring of his 50’s movies but, like the Crucified Lovers, the movie is just pure drama. Definitely among the best love stories I have seen.
Berta’s Motives (José Luis Guerín) 5/10: Saw it on youtube where the quality is horrible. It is a very sparse coming of age story an I can not make up my mind whether it is just plain boring or there is something there which could be rewarding on a second viewing.
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky) 7/10: It is the movie that every cinephile will love to hate because 1) it is mainstream 2) it is artsy but campy and thus easy to destroy. The movie is okay even if the all black swan-white swan dichotomy is a bit preposterous.
The King’s Speech (Tim Hooper) 3/10: There is a lot of character analysis nonsense (you stutter because you did not like your nanny? really?) and the movie is just dull. The morale is something I suspected all along: any moron can be a king.
The Fighter (David Russell) 8/10: It is the newest entry into the Boston-working-class drama genre and has it all: the i-am-at-the-bottom moment, the epiphany moment, the apologies-to-loved-ones moment, and finally the from-the-street-to-the-podium moment. Genre filmmaking is rarely that good.
Il Posto (Ermanno Olmi) 8/10: What a tender coming of age story! The main character is the most Keatonesque persona I have seen after, well, Keaton himself. Come rain or come shine he keeps this slight smile in his face that will leave you prepared to endure all absurdities of life.
True Heart Susie (D.W. Griffith) 5/10: It is a favorite of Rohmer and I understand why. Susie biggest impediment to happiness is Susie herself. That being said, I should also say that the moralistic overtones are so outdated that is hard to focus on anything else.
127 Hours (Danny Boyle) 7/10: We got to give him his props because it would be so easy to go Slumdog on this that I was surprised the movie did not totally sucked. It was actually quite worthwhile and is the best movie I have seen from him.
Hotel du Nord (Marcel Carne) 9/10: Starts with a doomed couple executing a suicide pact in a hotel and I was just hooked after that. Beautiful love story and I am sure I will keep seeing this movie for the rest of my life.
Easy A (Will Gluck) 6/10: It is quite fun. Glad my daughter will not grow up in California.
The Town (Ben Afleck) 4/10: Disappointment. I actually liked Gone Baby Gone but this one I found it considerably weaker partly because there is no effort at all to leave the conventions of the genre meaning everything you expect to happen, happens.
Na Wylot (Grzegorz Królikiewicz) 3/10: From film theorists to film theorists and I am neither. The images were gorgeous.
The Woman Who Drinks (Bernard Émond) 8/10: Revelation. Story told in flashbacks of a woman who loses the custody of her son because she is alcoholic.The movie is incredible sober and is among the most poignant descriptions of addiction I have seen.
Another Year (Mike Leigh) 8/10: Neither comedy nor drama, neither happy nor sad, and everyone hugs each other at the end. It is hard for Mike Leigh to make a bad movie.
Gregory’s Girl (Bill Forsyth) 6/10: I guess it is hard to grow up everywhere and Scotland is no exception. I understood only half the dialogues.
The Scenic Route ( Mark Rappaport) 8/10: This could be most underrated movie I have seen in years because it only exists in VHS and seems far of ever being transferred to dvd. Jealousy and passion examined in one of the most singular ways you could imagine. The images are all tacky compositions of famous classical paintings or famous movies but they work just great. The disconnect between the voice over and actors’ actions is pure genius and I am surprised that idea hasn’t been picked up more often. Rappaport is definitely worth discovery!
The Hunter (Rafi Pitts) 6/10: It is a good and mysterious movie. It works as a portrait of Iranian rebellious youth where desperation takes you to extreme measures.
Source Code (Duncan Jones) 4/10: Totally silly and sappy.
Los Olvidados (Luis Bunuel) 8/10: Well deserved classic status. The influences from neo-realism are obvious but he is not so kind to the working class.
Australia (Baz Luhrmann) 3/10: Very dull and mechanic .
Two Rode Together (John Ford) 8/10: After “The Searchers” his westerns took a darker tone and this one is a prime example. In his prior westerns the cavalry balls celebrated communion and shape of the myth but this time it celebrates racism, bigotry, and hypocrisy in the most moving scene of the film.
Hapinness (Todd Solondz) 5/10: Mean to the bone. In the 90’s with California booming it might have made more sense but now everything seems a tiny bit forced.
Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance) 7/10: Follows the “indy” pattern but it is quite well made and the end breaks your heart.
Three Kings (David O. Russell) 7/10: Quite a decent film which caught my attention because it has become one of those midnight tv classics.
Viridiana (Luis Bunuel) 7/10: It is not totally one sided and that helps in maintaining its freshness. The last-supper scene still holds its power. I specially enjoyed how he portrays the lower class as total scumbags.
The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel) 5/10: Features the absurdity and surrealism for which he became famous. A lot of people might love the sociological case study (Stanford prison experiment!) but I was not that attracted to it. I doubt I will see this movie ever again.
Kes (Ken Loach) 9/10: It is encrusted in social determinism but it is so moving and sentimental that is impossible not to love it immensely. The kid stands for all the world sorrows.
Close My Eyes (Stephen Poliakoff) 3/10: Why did I see this? Well, it is one of 1000 best films according to Rosenbaum and I think I will no longer see any other english speaking film of that list. Its campiness reaches the levels of “Bitter Moon”.
Somewhere (Sofia Copolla) 8/10: I like her style and the disaffected boredom of her characters. As usual, the soundtrack is excellent.
X-Men: First Class (Matthew Vaughn) 3/10: Oh dear.
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig) 6/10: Believe it or not this was on a night out with Filipa before Tomás was born. The movie is funny.
The King of Marvin Gardens (Bob Rafelson) 6/10: Lots of drama and it rings 70’s all over.
Next Door (Pal Sletaune) 6/10: The only movie I ever saw which was clearly inspired by Lost Highway. The movies are similar but, unlike Lynch, there was an effort here to be conclusive.
Pistol Opera (Seijun Suzuki) 4/10: Not a fan of Suzuki and this movie did not help at all. Looks like Schrader’s Mishima in the eyes of a 5 years old.
After Life (Hirokazu Koreeda) 7/10: Really good film about souls stuck in the Limbo which have to pick the one memory they want to take to eternity. The movie develops in an almost documentary style until drama occurs.
True Grit (Coen brothers) 7/10: Jeff Bridges is awesome on this one.The movie is a straightforward western like they don’t do them anymore.
Floating Clouds (Mikio Naruse) 10/10: Absolute masterpiece. It is impossible to describe it in such a short note. The final scene is literally divine.
Late Chrysantemums (Mikio Naruse) 8/10: Naruse movies show life as it is. There are no winners nor losers, victory or defeat. Each individual is a complex entity where analysis or explanations are redundant.
Inception (Christopher Nolan) 4/10: Most complicated movie I ever saw. It should come with a textbook.
Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton) 5/10: Why? I bought a Blu-ray player and there are not many movies available which I haven’t seen.Animal Kingdom (David Michôd) 7/10: The Australian “The Town” (or the other way around) but considerably better.
Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood) 8/10: Saw it again. This could be the last good movie that Eastwood will ever do. It is his “Gertrud” and I truly appreciate its sincerity.
Citizen Kane (Orson Wells) 9/10: Saw it again. There is nothing one can write about this movie without sounding pretentious.
A Ostra e o Vento (Walter Lima Jr.) 7/10: Very good movie. It has the same oneiric feel of “Portrait of Jennie”.
Eclipse (Herbert Brödl) 7/10: Sooooo unfairly obscure and forgotten. Set in Amazônia, it is a great love story told in flashbacks.
Centurion (Neil Marshall) 6/10: Effective roman-genre movie.
The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko) 7/10: Hilarious left-wing californian fantasy.
Essential Killing (Jerzy Skolimowski) 6/10: An animal behaving like an animal. I know that is not the point but the plot is preposterous.
The Lincoln Lawyer (Brad Furman) 6/10: Still in awe with my blu-ray player.
The Eagle (Kevin Macdonald) 6/10: It is amazing how without noticing I have seen all the movies of this guy. I am tempted to say that he is quite good within this type of movies. You see them, enjoyed them, and then forget them without wanting to have your money back.
Ballast (Lance Hammer) 8/10: Outstandingly good movie about a poor kid in the south. I would love to say that in the US no one lives like that but unfortunately it is not true. The colors, the pace, the acting are just perfect.
Confessions (Tetsuya Nakashima) 6/10: Choosing Radiohead for the soundtrack was genius because I wish as much he had stopped the movie after the first 30 minutes as I wish Radiohead had stopped after OK Computer.
Mother (Bong Joon-ho) 8/10: Lady Macbeth. One of the best movies I saw this year.
Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay) 6/10: Life in the projects in a social rigid world.
Early Summer (Yasujiro Ozu) 8/10: Classic Ozu. Same actors, same story, same drama, same images and another unmissable movie.
Pigs And Battleships (Shohei Imamura) 7/10: Classic Imamura. People living in the gutter with a tiny glimpse of the stars.
Rango (Gore Verbinski) 3/10: Extremely boring.
Memories Of Murder (Bong Joon-ho) 7/10: I would be surprised if Fincher did not see this movie before making Zodiac. It clear now that if one wants to see a really good Hollywood movie, we should look Korea.
Innocence (Lucile Hadzihalilovic) 7/10: Oniric coming of age story. Beautifully shot.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang) 8/10: One of the last US movies of Fritz Lang. This time he goes after the judicial system and it is interesting to compare with Fury, made 20 years before, when he had just arrived to the US. This time there is no hope nor salvation. Just bitterness and cynicism.
Vincere (Marco Bellochio) 5/10: Got it. Mussolini was already a son of a bitch before being Mussolini.
13 Assassins (Takashi Miike) 5/10: Average samurai film.
Please Give (Nicole Holofcener) 6/10: NY comedy. They essentially come in three types: Seinfeld, Friends, and Sex and the City. This one files under Seinfeld.
Hereafter (Clint Eastwood) 6/10: Filipa liked it but I couldn’t really get it.
El Cid (Anthony Mann) 5/10: Oh man, how can such a great director do such a boring movie.
Onibaba (Kaneto Shindo) 6/10: Scary stuff.
El Dorado (Howard Hawks) 6/10: Remake of Rio Bravo and I would love to understand why I adored Rio Bravo and this one felt a bit boring.
Ju Dou (Yimou Zhang) 7/10: Great movie! Great love story! It’s like Postman always rings twice in technicolor. The only bad thing is that the existing DVD copy is so crappy that it really takes something out of the film.
Fair Game (Doug Liman) 6/10: Nice thriller movie. I followed the whole Valerie Plame affair and so it was interesting to see it.
Doctor Zhivago (David Lean) 7/10: Believe it or not, I had seen this movie many times before on the TV but only now I understood that the real issue is that he falls in love with a prostitute and he cannot take it.
Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies) 9/10: It has this nostalgia for a time past we do not understand and it is so well made, that you are just hooked since the beginning.
The Long Day Closes (Terence Davies) 5/10: Where DVSL is genuine and heartfelt, this one seems overly artsy and cerebral.Read less