Thursday, September 4, 2014

El Niño + a rant against narrow-mindedness

When I first saw Tesis back in 1996, I remember thinking I could never ever direct a film that could hold a handle to the one I had just seen. So, as much as I loved cinema, I decided I wouldn't earn my daily bread making movies. Instead, I would just admire Alejandro Amenábar's ability to reinvent "Spanish cinema" in every one of his films. And that I did, until 2009, when he decided to take a break from stardom.

Since then, I have been "Amenábarless". I did look for a new Spanish director to admire, but none seemed to make me feel consistently envious of their ability to write and direct. Now that Amenábar is finally on his way back to the big screen with Regression, Daniel Monzón, who already surprised everyone with Celda 211, has outdone himself with El Niño, a clean, well written film, with a mix of new faces and acclaimed actors that offers a top quality story with heart and humour. Monzón has shown again what a film worth seeing on the big screen looks like. He has also made it to my list of "directors to keep an eye on".

Unfortunately, in Spain, a expensive-looking, classy film that doesn't revolve around sex and in which the female actresses keep their clothes on is deemed, by many, as looking like a typical Hollywood film. Those same people think a typical Spanish film should look cheap, have bad sound and "proudly" showcase gratuitous sex scenes and profanity. Nothing wrong with that (to each his own) but that doesn't make films like El Niño any less Spanish.

From a while back, thanks to a wave of great directors among which I would include Monzón, Amenábar, Bollaín or Bayona, just to mention a few, el cine del destape (the let's-show-tits cinema) is little by little becoming less typical Spanish. And at this pace, who knows, maybe one day Hollywood won't be able to hold a candle to the cinema made in this country.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No Distance Left to Run

A friend of mine used to be an avid fan of Oasis and Blur back in the 90's, when both bands were fighting to reach the top of the charts. I, on the other hand, was starting to get into cinema and had no interest in Britpop whatsoever. If anything, I thought Alex James was really hot (I was 16 at the time and allowed to be immature) and, like everyone else, I listened to Wonderwall too many times.

But yesterday,  thanks to a thing called Youtube, I had the chance to learn a little bit about Blur and the band's four members. Even though I expected Albarn, alcohol and fame to be the main characters of No Distance Left to Run, I was happily surprised to see how Graham Coxon, the guitar player, took centre stage. 

It's funny how the leading members of a band may not always be the most interesting ones. I admit James is still hot (let me rephrase that, for I am no longer 16: extremely attractive), but Coxon managed to grab my full attention from minute one, and as I listened to him, I grew more absorbed in the band's story.

As it was the case almost 20 years ago, I still find Blur's music unappealing, but I do love a good story and this one doesn't seem to be over yet: can't wait to get hold of James's Bit of a Blur: The Autobiography!



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I usually ignore reviews. I am more the trailer type; I check them out online, if I see one I like, I stop watching midway and just trust my instinct, which 
usually gets it right. Anyway, this time, without even taking a look at the trailer, I decided to throw caution to the wind and follow the starry reviews all the way to Guardians of the Galaxy.

I am surprised this film has received so many excellent reviews. Indeed, it is fun, original at times and extremely colourful but after a while I was feeling a The Fifth Element  meets Fantastic Mr.Fox vibe. Don't get me wrong, I like both films, but I have already seen them, so it felt too familiar. Had it not been for Mr. Fox, aka Rocket, I wouldn't even be writing this post, so kudos to the CGI experts for bringing this irreverent, raccoon-like character to life and to Bradley Cooper for lending it his voice.

Other than that, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the same old same old: a baddy (with the personality of a toothpick, in this case) wants to destroy and conquer (kind of contradictory) using a tiny but powerful thingy (I still don't know where it came from or what it does) but he first has to deal with a  a group of heroes whose personalities clash for the amusement of the audience. Luckily for me, in Guardians all these elements are sprinkled with the right number of explosions, chases and impossible fights. I still wandered off while the screen became fuzzy but not for long and only as far back as my last summer holidays...


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The List V

Let's see how long it takes me to hit the 500. Place your bets!

401-500

The Fifth Estate 
Love Punch 
Mataharis 
Femmine contro maschi
Maschi contro femmine
Guardians of the Galaxy 
No Distance Left to Run
Kids in America
Die Herbstzeitlosen
Locke 
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio 
The Rookie 
13 Assassins
N. (Io e Napoleon)
Slap Her, She's French! 
Il 7 e l'8 
El Niño 
Lucy
Com'é bello far l'amore 
L'enlèvement de Michel Houllebecq
La maison du bonheur
360
Stephanie Daley
Le code a changé 
Butterfly on a Wheel 
Bienvenue à bord
The Romantics
El Principio de Arquímedes
Le prénom 
Je préfère qu'on reste amis
Viaje a Surtsey 
The Squid and the Whale
Reign over me 
The Grand Seduction
Joe 
Barbecue 
A Million Ways to Die in the West 
Prêt à tout
Amour & turbulences
Babysitting
22 Jumper Street
The Homesman
Your Sister's Sister 
Little Voice

What If 


Alceste à bicyclette

Monday, July 7, 2014

Stockholm

By the number of people listed in the closing credits, you wouldn't think Stockholm is a small film, but all you'll find here is a city, two characters, some conversation and an intimate story. That is all I can say without saying too much.

It is not easy to find a small production among the many films that are out there shouting "Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!", and whose only purpose is to make double the amount of money they invested in big stars, mind-blowing effects and forgettable dialogues. Don't get me wrong, like most people do I enjoy a good blockbuster and an action-packed film if it is somehow well written and acted, but after a while those films become all interchangeable and my brain mixes them together into a sparkling bundle of fun. That is why, whenever I come across a film like Stockholm, I know the story and the characters will have their own special and clearly demarcated yellow brick in the cinematic memory I have been paving in my mind for over 20 years.

As much as I would like to elaborate on why this Spanish little jewel deserves a post, I'd rather you found out for yourself. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Snowpiercer

I am of the opinion that the shorter a movie is, the less possibilities there are of ruining a promising story, and, consequently, of spoiling the fun. Lately I have been enjoying the first half of many films like crazy, when, all of a sudden, they seem to take a wrong turn into Overstretchland never again to leave.

Snowpiercer is a good example of how to turn a fun, interesting, action-packed film into a chain of scenes leading to distracting thoughts: "That doesn't make any sense whatsoever", "Who had the clever idea of getting rid of the best characters?", "I wish the film had finished an hour ago, when I was having fun"...

Nevertheless, Snowpiercer is worth a post. The story that serves as centrepiece is indeed interesting and original, to say the least. Leading the cast, Chris Evans, on his no-make-up and no-muscled-up format, does a very good job as the tormented soldier turned hero, and both the extremely funny Tilda Swinton and the always young-looking Jamie Bell are great on their charismatic supporting roles. And yet, none of these elements are worth being put together if halfway through the movie, the writer/director/producer loses focus and forgets that a futuristic film can also make sense. 

In short, Snowpiercer is half a great film, half a shabby one. Maybe now that you know what to expect, you will be able to enjoy the whole ride.




 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

HOW TO MAKE 99 MINUTES FEEL LIKE 180


Ingredients:

- 20-odd insipid characters
- An extremely uninteresting plot
- A cardboard puppet stage
- A lively soundtrack

Directions:

1. Make sure the 20-odd actors playing the 20-odd insipid characters are famous and go back a long way so as to understand their unnecessary presence in the film as cameos. It is imperative that they are all instructed not to smile or show any kind of human emotion throughout the film. Cinemagoers' feelings are not to be tampered with.

2. Build a high number of expensive cheap-looking sets and take the use of pastel colours to a whole new level. It is important that everything look aseptic, that is, neat, clean and cartoonish so as to avoid any resemblance to reality.

3. With the help of sticks glued to the lifeless characters' backs, move these from one set to another. Just make sure you don't tell a captivating story. Instead, stretch a hollow one by employing every one of the characters, regardless of how an irrelevant role they play, against the many different cardboard backgrounds you have worked so hard on.

4. Add an upbeat soundtrack. You will want to keep the viewer somehow awake. But, again, be sure to leave their emotions untouched. In this way, you will achieve the it-feels-longer-than-it-is effect you desire.