Sunday, October 19, 2014

Relatos Salvajes

In my teens I used to love violent, bloody, scary, over-the-top films where the characters, much to my amusement, went through hell. People change. Now I am more the comedy type who enjoys a drama from time to time but avoids witnessing unnecessary violence onscreen.I still love being surprised, though, and by "surprised" I mean wildly, shrewdly and throughout the entire film. Relatos Salvajes ticks all those boxes.

Instead of doing what many others do and coming up with a final twist that leaves the audience mystified, Szifrón, writer and director of this superbly acted Argentinian film, takes us for a bumpy ride chock-full of surprises. You will be expecting the worst at every turn and find black, savage comedy that will throw you for a loop. And in between gasps of shock there will be laughter coming from the darkest corners of your soul because,truth be told, it isn't funny. This experience is all about allowing the beast inside us take over and create havoc without having to get our hands dirty. The characters will do that for us.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This is Where I Leave You

You only need to check out the Highest Rated IMDb "Top 250" Titles to see that comedies are underrated. They shouldn't be. It seems to me that making people laugh at jokes and lines that are meant for a global audience can be quite tricky, mainly when the film brings together a mixed bag of characters, each one of them with a story to tell in a little over 90 minutes.

However, This is where I leave you not only succeeds in making the audience laugh (and by audience I mean me and my aunt) but also in moving them to tears. Lead by Jason Bateman's subtle and superb performance, all the cast deliver and manage to feel believable regardless of the absurdity of some of the family's storylines.   

I tend to think comedies are meant for the small screen, so when it comes to buying a cinema ticket I usually go for more visually striking films. Nevertheless, taking a look back, I could swear it's often after seeing a great comedy on the big screen that I remember cinema is the greatest invention ever...


 

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
Merci pour le chocolat
What If 
Alceste à bicyclette 
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
This is Where I leave you 
La Doublure
Two Night Stand
La Isla Mínima 
Gone Girl 
Relatos salvajes
A Separation 
And So It Goes 
Entre lobos
El baile de la Victoria
Smother
Step Up All In
Hercules 


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!