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.



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nebraska

Films in black and white don't do it for me. I simply find it impossible not to wonder what everything would look like if the director hadn't decided to "go indie". As for Nebraska, it took me about half an hour to get into the film and forget about the lack of life on the screen, but once in, I was amused by the depiction Payne had done of some of the elderly characters. I don't know whether they could be deemed realistic or not, but they felt much so. 

Still, the story was somehow repetitive and slow at times and the fact that I didn't identify with any of the characters made it very difficult for me to feel close to them. There were two moments in the film, however, rendered memorable by Angela McEwan's performance, who embodies to perfection the sweetest old lady ever to appear on film. Her watery eyes in one of the last scenes of the film are priceless. What a pity I don't feel the same way about the rest of the movie. I may need to be my mother's age to like it as a much as she did... 



Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Monuments Men

Things change. Sitting in front of a TV screen watching films and never-ending series has simply lost its allure. I am going back to where it all started: the cinema. 

I had almost forgotten about how fun it all is: choosing a film every week, not knowing if it will be any good, the queues, the loud trailers, the person who, with 100 free seats to choose from, decides to sit in front of you, the changing seats last minute because the person just mentioned doesn't own a watch, the noisy popcorn-eaters, the darkness, the checking that you have silenced your mobile phone once again before the movie starts, the forgetting about the world outside...

I decided to take my father with me on this journey back to the origins. I just had to think of a film he wouldn't sleep through. The Monuments Men seemed a good choice and it was; it kept my father awake and that is what I was hoping for. I unfortunately found the film disappointing.

I am not a George Clooney fan so when I found out he had also directed the film, I started questioning my decision. Five minutes into the film I wondered if he had not only directed it but also written the screenplay. The lines felt phony, like something movie characters would say if they were to write their own dialogue. And so it happens Clooney did indeed co-write the script.

The Monuments Men doesn't bring anything new to the table. The story of an eclectic group of characters joining forces to fight evil has been told 100 times before and 100 times better but not necessarily with a better cast. 

As for the original score, I am curious about what Alexandre Desplat was thinking while editing it. When the music tells me something dramatic is about to happen, I expect just that. Still waiting....




Sunday, February 2, 2014

The List IV

TV Shows are taking over my in-front-of-the-screen life... I still get to see a couple of films every now and then but I've turned into a sucker for series such as Community, New Girl, Sherlock, Once upon a Time, Games of Thrones or Brooklyn nine nine, which means lots of seasons and episodes to keep up with. I will do my best not to leave movies hanging; these lists won't grow longer by themselves...

301-400

The Family
After the Sunset
No habrá paz para los malvados
35 and Ticking
A Case of You
Austenland
The Best Man Holiday
All is Lost
Grand Piano
Ernest et Célestine
42
We are Marshall
Amiche da Morire
Pazze di me
Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue
The Monuments Men
Nebraska
The Grand Budapest Hotel
300: The Rise of an Empire 
Noah
9 Mois Ferme
Les Garçons et Guillaum, à Table!
8 Apellidos Vascos

Monday, December 30, 2013

Team America: World Police

Although a big fan of South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, I was completely oblivious of the fact that its creators had made a second animation movie, this time using puppets to bash actors/activists, terrorism and police forces. 

One could think little lifeless dolls could never embody emotions, let alone do so while being pulled by more than visible strings. However, these puppets can not only act but also sing; together with profanity, violence, sexual intercourse between marionettes 22 inches tall, references to tons of movies and unforgettable one-liners ("Maybe feelings are feelings because you can't control them"), Team America offers an uproarious original soundtrack with titles such as Everyone has Aids, Montage or I am so Ronery. 


Almost 10 years have gone by since this hilarious and irreverent film was first released. And to think I could have missed out on so much fun had I not trusted a friend's recommendation... Well, better late than never; Team America is now one of my favourite comedies and Pearl Harbor Sucked the most romantic song I have ever listened to. I wished somebody needed me as much as Ben Affleck needs acting school... (sigh).



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Flashbacks. And they are not mine.

Yesterday I almost died.
I miscalculated the amount of peanut butter I could swallow in one go and I found myself trying to breathe through a ball of fat stuck in my throat. I said to myself not to panic, it would eventually go down... But it was taking too long and I was running out of air in my lungs. I thought drinking some water would help the lump down but it made matters worse. I started to suffocate. And that's when I saw it: The End.

Did I think of my family and friends? Was I glad I didn't have to learn any more German? Did I wish I had lived a more meaningful life? Nope. I just begged "please, not like this, not like Homer Simpson eating that wedding cake topper in that Halloween Special!!!". Then the lump went finally down and after taking a few anguished breaths I promised myself never again to miscalculate the amount of peanut butter I could swallow in one go or, for that matter,  never again to eat peanut butter.

This experience made me think about all those memories I have which are not even memories but scenes out of the many films I have seen, to which I am transported more often than not. A plastic bag flying around will bring me back to American Beauty, a day that "looks like rain" to 300, a boring story about what someone did over the weekend to The 40 year old Virgin ...

I am absolutely fine with the idea of stealing experiences from fictional characters and shaping them into memories of my own. I just hope the next time I am about to kick the bucket I do so more gracefully than gobbling peanut butter and I get to think of someone more attractive than Homer Simpson. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

La Fiesta del Cine

No alcohol involved, no dancing, no smoking illegal substances and no waiting for the night bus to take you home. This party was only about watching films and went on for two days straight. 

Out of the six films I got to see, there were only two that really stood out: Mud, which along the lines of  Crazy in Alabama tells the story of a boy who becomes a man, and About Time, a romantic comedy that  wouldn't disappoint any rom-com junkie.


Out of the other four, Caníbal, a Spanish production, and The Butler (it doesn't get more American than this) were quickly forgotten. The first one because a film with no music and uninteresting dialogues happens to be utterly boring and the latter because it is the kind of movie you can watch at home after lunch, doze off five minutes here, five minutes there and still don't miss a thing.


And right in the middle stand Wakolda and Prisoners. Both stories were extremely intriguing but they were told in a way that didn't help any of the films become striking.


All in all, this is the kind of party I could get used to. It's a real pity that it gets thrown only once a year...