1 Jun 2009

Monthly Movies: May'09

Aha! The blockbuster season begins and I scramble from one film to the next! Impatient to see certain "big" films a.s.a.p., trying not to miss out on some of the smaller ones before they get kicked out in favour of the financial juggernauts (am upset I missed a Mexican film "Rudo y Cursi" which was only available for 2 weeks! grrrr...) as well as catching up with some of the "winter films" as they briefly play in a cinema in OV (i.e. undubbed!, the ones with an asterisk). ;o)

So here goes my recap on May's viewings. Movies listed in alphabetic order. Hmmm... perhaps I should have listed them in order of viewing? Oh whatever... :p

Angels and Demons: So, I guess all it took for me to go see the one movie I was pretty sure I wasn't going to see this summer, was for my Sunday afternoon plans to get cancelled at the last minute and my Dad to suggest a movie outing instead. And since there was nothing else even remotely worth watching that we hadn't seen yet... well, voilà! :p I can't say it's better than The DaVinci Code because that would granting both films were actually slightly good... so let's just say it's less bad than DVC, a lot less bad. In part that's due to the story being slightly less preposterous (but still...). While another part is the fact that the story moves along at such a fast pace that you don't really have time to stop for a breath and analyse the idiosyncrasies presented. Nevertheless, in spite of its quick pace it felt rather long to me. I chequed my watch several times to see how much longer to expect (I didn't know the thing ran over 2h!) which is usually a bad sign for me, means I haven't managed to let myself get pulled into the movie magic. I guess part of the reason for that was that it all felt very predictable. Now that could be a sign of lingering memories of the novel (which I read about 4 yrs ago I believe but don't really remember), or just the fact that there's nothing very original. All in all it does make for a decent summer popcorn flic, well put together, and I wish I could have seen it in English to enjoy Ewan McGregor's voice (dude! what on earth were you doing in a movie like this?! argh!!!) as well as Stellan Skarsgaard. And yes, Tom Hanks's hair is a GREAT improvement over the previous film! :p

Doubt*: Excellent work by an amazing cast of actors, no wonder they all got Oscar nominations! I couldn't quite believe that was Meryl Streep... after Mamma Mia! last summer (not to mention Prada a year before), sooo different! So I pulled out the dvd... and I still can't believe it! That woman can do anything! :p
A very powerful story about a rather scary subject. I could tell from the structure that the movie was based on play, and although that transition isn't always a success in the movies, it works very well here, thanks in a large part to the passionate work of the actors involved. Well worth watching!

Good: Well, well. I couldn't have planned this more perfectly! I went with my Dad to see this for his birthday, the day after I saw The Reader (cf a few paragraphs below), and I must say the two complement each other wonderfully! I think the provide a glimpse into the answer of a question that many people have asked themselves when poring over early 20th century history (particularly the period leading up to WWII in Germany): how could people have allowed that to happen? how could so much of the country be complicit to Hitler's actions? The Reader illustrates the case of a person who finds her way into that mess via ignorance. Good complements that by looking at the opposite end of the educational spectrum: a University professor, an author, who is shocked by the book burning right after Hitler's rise to power in '33, openly mocks that "idiot clown" Hitler with his army buddy and psycologist (who is Jewish, no need to tell you what will happen to him) and refuses to join the National Socialist Party when his father-in-law tells him that's the only way he'll advance in the University hierarchy. And from there you follow the paths he takes, the passive choices he makes that eventually lead him to being a full-fledged member of the SS without realising what that means, and then finally waking up to what is really happening around him (in '42). Excellent work by Viggo Mortensen, I don't think I've ever seen him portray a "bookish" character such as this one. He's very convincing (even dubbed in Spanish). This guy's acting range is amazing, he's one of the few actors I'll go see in just about anything! (now there's a post I've been meaning to put together... another time). In any case, I highly recommend this movie, although I understand such a serious subject might not be everyone's cup of tea (particularly in the summer months, am surprised at the release date!) I believe it to be a good lesson/warning for people now who are too complacent, just let things happen around them thinking it doesn't concern them, they're not responsible. Ignorance of what is happening around you doesn't make you innocent of complicity later.

Bienvenu Chez Les Cht'is* (Bienvenidos al Norte / Welcome to the Sticks): One crazy, funny, quirky French film that hit screens in the hexagon in early 2008 (and I saw while in Belgium) and quickly became the most successful French film ever. It came out in Spain this past winter... and much as I wanted to see it again I couldn't bring myself to do so for a dubbed version. But then I got the chance for a screening in OV and I grabbed a fellow francophile and off we went! It's a hilarious take on the North vs South stereotypes in France (applicable to many countries; they could remake it for an Andalousian or Canarian going to the Basque Country or Galicia and it would work perfectly here). A poor postal employee gets sent to work in "THE NORTH" as punishment, while his wife and kid stay in the "the South" because they can't face the hardships of the "The North" (poor kid cries 'cause he's afraid his dad will lose his toes to frostbite). So the fellow heads up North fully unprepared to face the bitter cold (the news says the Temp is about 11C but they must be lying as a way to trick people into going up there 'cause no one would ever go if they knew the real temperatures), the sleet... and the crazy people with the incomprehensible lingo! Needless to say when he gets there he discovers a./ it's not so cold (or rainy) and b./ people are very friendly and open and welcoming! Lots of laughs guaranteed, even if you can't understand the whole dialogue 'cause man who can understand a word when they're talking in "Chtimi"?! :p But that just means you're in the same position as the main character. Was glad to see it the 2nd time with subtitles as helped clarify some things I didn't understand the first time around. I just wonder how the hell they managed to dub it... relieved I didn't see that version!

Star Trek: I believe I've waxed on long enough about this one, so I'll just refer you to my earlier post here, and say: COOL!!! :o)

The International: 2 doses Clive Owen in one Spring (after Duplicity)?! My, my, aren't we being spoilt! This time he teams up with Naomi Watts in Tom Tykwer's (Lola Rennt, Perfume) thriller about an Interpol agent obsessed with bringing down a large, shady, international bank with fingers in the pots of many illegal trades. Some good thrills and fine acting. Nice adrenaline punch! Well paced, plausible characters and interaction between them.

The Reader*: Oh wow! Now there's one VERY intense tale of seduction, regret, shame, awakening, loss, guilt and ignorance. All wrapped up in a neat little package called a movie. I can see how people were passionate about it last winter. Hating it or loving it. I remember reading criticisms by many people who didn't like it, and could tell that what they disliked the most was the perceived apologism of a Nazi prison guard (they seemed to think the movie wants us to feel sorry for her because she's illiterate, that her illiteracy excuses the horrible things she did), as well as the seduction of a 15-16 year old boy by a woman twice his age. And yes that part is a bit shocking (but in part due to our 21st century sensibilities, our boys stay boys longer, once upon a time boys were considered men much younger... society has changed a lot in that respect, for the better I might add), but it is necessary to illustrate just how and why meeting this woman had such an impact on that man's entire life. As for apologism of the woman's actions due to her illiteracy, I don't really think that's the point of the film. I think the point of the story (well, one of them) is the consequences of illiteracy. It's an illustration of what being illiterate is. It isn't just not being able to read and write, it's a lack of an education. It's a woman who was never really taught to think for herself, who just does what she's told. This is shown quite clearly during the trial when she keeps saying she doesn't understand the questions, or when the judge asks her why she didn't open the doors of the burning church to let the people out and she replies "we were there to guard them. they were our responsibility. if we had let them out we couldn't have controlled them and they would have escaped." Her job was to stop them from escaping and that's what she (and the others who manage to shift most of the blame on her precisely because she is too ignorant to defend herself and too ashamed to admit her illiteracy) did. And again later towards the end when he asks her if she thinks about the past and what she has learnt, and she replies "I have learnt to read". It makes a good point that just learning to read and write isn't an education either, people must be taught to think, to distinguish right from wrong, to be able to make rational decisions and not just follow the herd. It all makes me think about the herd mentality nowadays and wondering how many people would balk against an injust system...
O.k., sorry about that paragraph, but I just got back from the film, and as I said, it was an intense experience. The friend I went to see it with hung out for an hour later just talking it over, that hasn't happened to me in a while! And yes, Kate Winslett definitely deserved her Oscar! ;o)

The Young Victoria: Lovely! A very sweet tale of Queen Victoria's (Emily Blunt) accession to the British Throne, manoeuvring around those who sought to influence her (or even more, directly control her actions), growing into the role of Queen (although we didn't really see enough of that), and falling in love with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). That last part is pretty much at the heart of the story and is the guiding thread for the tale. I couldn't help but compare it to another film on the young Queen that I've seen several times: Mädchenjahre einer Königin, the 1954 Austrian film (I've always seen it in Spanish: Los Jovenes Años de Una Reina) with the beautiful Romy Schneider (just before her turn in the Sissi trilogy). Personally -no offence to Emily Blunt, but she seems a bit old for the part- I prefer Romy Schneider as the young Queen. But other than that this newer film seems to be much more accurate and more complete. Both portray events through rose tinted glasses, but the older one is clearly more along the lines of a fairy tale retelling (the queen decides to run off to Paris and meets Albert in a Dover tavern?!).
Hmm... looking through the release dates on imdb it appears as though Spain is actually one of the first countries to see this film (after the UK, Germany and Israel), wow! No release date yet for the U.S., how strange! Well when it does come out over there I highly recommend you go see it. It's a lovely little gem of a movie. Good actors (I never recognised Paul Bettany!!!), lovely sets and costumes, beautiful soundtrack (lots of classical music).

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: I'll send you along to my previous post here, and just add that even though I had a blast and it's a great summer flic, it's still lacking some of the substance and soul that was the basis of the original X-Men movies (yes, even the third) which I saw again recently on dvd to give some context to Wolverine. But if you're hesitating between this and say... Angels and Demons... I'd say Hugh Jackman everytime! ;o)

Woah, this list sure has gotten long! I've been writing this post throughout the month, au fur et à mesure as I've seen the films (most paragraphs were written right after I got home from the movie so they're first impressions, which are usually the best ones when it comes to summer films), and I've been surprised to see this post grow and grow and grow! I hope it isn't too long... I guess part of me must have been over-compensating for having seen so few movies in April! :p Oh well, I doubt I'll be seeing this many in a single month in quite a while. The number of interesting releases will slow down and my bugdet will get tighter as my students cancel my classes for the summer... But there are still plenty of films I'm looking forward to this summer! Check back for reports on Terminator Salvation, Public Enemies, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which I'll get to see in London so in English YAY!!!), Julie and Julia, Inglourious Basterds etc...



  1. People shouldn't take acting classes. They should just watch Doubt! Amazing.

  2. Indeed!
    Actually, all they need is to watch a series of movies with Meryl Streep... it seems like each role she does is different from the next


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