Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sayat Nova (Color of Pomegranates) (1968)

So I was on a thread featuring strange and disturbing videos for, uhhh science purposes, and I discovered a music video by Juno Reactor called God is God.  I didn't find it creepy at all like most people did.  In fact I found the images moving and poetic.  I found out that the video was taken from a movie called Sayat Nova (Color of Pomegranates).  I decided to seek out this film and review it.

Today's film is Sayat Nova (Color of Pomegranates), which was filmed in Armenia.  It shows the life of the famous 18th century poet, Sayat Nova.  But, the film isn't told in a traditional narrative, instead the film shows several figurative and imaginative images, almost in a surreal manner.

The characters do not speak, all of the words are narrated by an unseen narrator.  The narration is from actual portions of Sayat Nova's poems, which are mostly romantic in nature.  There's a lot of characters looking deeply at each other, and characters turning their heads very slowly to face the camera.  Some of them stare down the camera and do not lose their gaze.  The slow, abstract nature of the scenes is a lot like a poem rather than a story, which is what the filmmakers wanted.  But, it's not so abstract that it's inaccessible.

Through the film, we see how beautiful the Armenian costumes are.  We watch as Sayat watches the men dye wool, lots of images of intricate rugs, and gaudy ornaments in the monastery.  The same person plays the young Sayat, his lover, and his muse.  We see Sayat's age as he grows up, finds his love of poetry, and later joins a monastery through watching this living poem.  I will rate this film a 7/10.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Django Unchained (2012)

Today's film is Django Unchained.  It's a typical Quentin Tarantino film, that ends in bloody, explosive violence.  I also learned that Tarantino is definitely not a historian.

The film is entirely too long and has barely any character growth or development.  The only exception is Jamie Foxx, who plays Django, a freed slave turned bounty hunter who is seeking to rescue his wife from a cruel plantation owner.

They go bounty hunting for awhile and all is good.  But I remember that this is a Tarantino film and am like, where's the blood bath?  Well it is coming.  Out of nowhere it comes! Followed by revenge! and explosions! Yeah!!

One important thing I try to remember when watching these films is that they are not supposed to be accurate.  Tarantino doesn't specialize in realistic historical fiction, his films stretch the boundaries of time, and shows that people are the same no matter what time period they live in.  For example, we know that Hitler was not gunned down in a theater by two Americans, but we accept it in the universe of Tarantino's films.  It's the same way with this film.  Would a Calvin Candie in this universe drink a tropical drink in a coconut through a plastic straw? No, because it didn't exist in the 1850's (the beginning of the film states it takes place two years before the Civil War).  There also were no cigarette holders until the 20th century. It works because he has the personality that calls for a fancy cigarette holder and exotic tropical drink, because it exemplifies his lavish lifestyle.  So, we accept it. Did Django wear sunglasses?  No, they didn't gain popularity in that style until the twentieth century, but he looks so cool wearing them, so it works.  Calvin compares one slave to a teddy bear, despite the fact they're named after Theodore Roosevelt, who was elected in 1904.

These films take place in a completely different universe than ours, one with lots of violence and one where the geography is apparently different.  Last time I went to Gatlinburg, there were mountains everywhere and wasn't good for growing cotton.  But in the film there are giant plantations there.

Finally, Django gets his revenge via bloodbath and an amazing explosion.  With dynamite.  Despite the fact that it wasn't patented until 1867.  But he looks really cool doing it.  Overall, the film is fun and has a interesting take on historical happenings, but is just way too long.  I will give this film a 7/10.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) (2007)

Today's film is Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly).  At first I wondered what a diving bell had anything to do with a butterfly.  Butterflies don't go underwater.  But as I watched the film, I saw that it was a metaphor a man had created for his body and his life.  An extraordinary event changed him forever and trapped him.

Jean-Dominique Bauby (Jean-Do to his friends) was once a promising editor at the glitzy fashion magazine Elle, based in France.  For some unknown reason, he suffered a stroke at the young age of 43 which attacked the function of his brain stem.  The doctors described it as locked-in syndrome and told him it was a very rare occurrence which trapped him inside his own body.  Jean-Do no longer had function of any part of his body.  He couldn't walk, move his arms, turn his head, nothing.  The first part of the film is shown through Jean-Do's point of view, as he discovers what is going on.  He is sad to learn he can no longer talk.  His brain functions work perfectly fine, as he can still think.  So even though he is awake and completely aware of what is going on around him, he really can't interact with the world.

Jean-Do's super hot speech therapist, Henriette, teaches him how to communicate using the only control he has: blinking his left eye.  The doctor had to sew up his right eye because he couldn't blink.  If he didn't, then it would dry up and get infected.  Henriette tells Jean-Do to try to tell her something.  She uses a series of letters, and he blinks when he hears the letter he wants, spelling out his words. He spells out "I want to Die".  Henriette is shocked and insulted because she is trying to help him, but I can't blame him.  He can't move or anything.  Poor guy can't even use the bathroom.  He's not really living, he's being kept alive by other people and artificial means.  He's moved around by people everywhere, in the pool, in a wheelchair, all to prevent bedsores and exercise him, and he's fed by a feeding tube.

I wonder if he would have benefited by learning Morse code with his blinking eye.

After a while, Jean-Dodecides to write a book about his plight.  He originally wanted to write a book based on The Count of Monte Cristo, that book we were forced to read in high school.  But he wants to tell his own story.  He feels he is trapped in his own body, like a big diving bell, unable to move himself and just floating along down in the ocean.  But, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, his spirit breaks free from his useless body and he finds happiness.   He called his book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

There are so many beautiful moments in this movie as Jean-Do basically lives in his imagination.  Ten days after the book was published, Jean-Do passed on from pneumonia.  He was never able to break free from his body in real life.  I found this film to be inspiring and powerfully sad.  Nobody deserves a fate like Jean-Do, to see the world pass him by and not be allowed to join in.  I will give this film a 9 out of 10.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

It's fun to watch action movies, but sometimes it's hard to write about them because they contain little to no substance.  Today's film is Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and it was filmed in Mexico.  It's near nonstop gun violence and holds very little interest for me.

A Mexican rancher wants the head of Alfredo Garcia for impregnating his young daughter and promises a $$ reward.  So everyone is after him.  Problem is, he's already dead.  We follow Bennie, an American living in Mexico, and his girlfriend, Elita as they travel to the graveyard and to the ranch to deliver the decaying head of the dead body.

Every few minutes someone is killed by gunfire.  That's the entire movie, people being shot.  Pretty much every character in this film gets shot and killed.  Except Elita, who gets whacked with a shovel.  Even though it's violent, it's far from exciting.  It's not an action movie, more like a drama with too much violence.  I felt it was boring.  I'm giving it a 4/10.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Pirate Fairy (2014)

There's a new Tinker Bell movie out! Yay!

Today's animated feature is the newest installment in the Tinker Bell series: The Pirate Fairy.  We are introduced to Zarina, a dust-keeper fairy who is more interested in performing experiments on the dust rather than simply keeping it.  She is successful in her experiments, but is kicked out of Pixie Hollow for not following the rules of the dust-keeper fairies.

However, she finds some people who are far more appreciative of her talents.  Problem is, they're pirates- the enemy of the fairies.  Zarina uses her dust experimenting skills to claim a title of Captain of a pirate ship.  She returns to Pixie Hollow to steal their blue dust (we learned in Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure how important blue dust is to them, as it regenerates the Pixie Dust Tree)

Tinker Bell and her friends chase after her to retrieve the blue dust, but Zarina has tricks for them.  She uses her dust to switch all their talents!  Vidia is especially angry that she is now a Tinker fairy.  How can Tinker Bell and her friends use their newfound talents to stop Zarina and get their dust back?

Oh, and bonus:  It also stars Tom Hiddleston as Captain Hook.  

So there's finally a movie that doesn't involve Tinker Bell screwing everything up and then having to fix it.  It's a different sort of pixie movie than we are used to.  So we are giving this film a 7/10.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Back to Reviewing Films

Hi!  Azalea and I are back after a 10 day hiatus.  We traveled from our home in Florida, to Alabama for a funeral (which takes 6.5 hours) and then to Louisiana for the burial (another 7 hours).  My husband's grandmother passed.  It's fine though, because I've been trying to help get her clean for 5 years, and she ultimately chose the drugs over her own life.  You can't help drug addicts unless they want to be helped.  Then, we helped clean out her apartment, and there were drugs and random papers Everywhere, so that was fun.  Now I am back to the relaxing art of film reviewing and work (school for Azalea).

Tuesday was my birthday and I am still working on my goal of completing the 2012 list of the 1001 films you must see before you die.  So far I have written 315 reviews, but not all of them have been list films.  So far I have seen 398 list films.  That's pretty good for someone with no attention span.  My daughter helps me with my somewhat weekly animated movie review.  This week we watched The Pirate Fairy.  It was okay.  As for my New Year's goal of watching 40 films from 40 different countries, right now I am about halfway through.  We are both glad to be back in Florida.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

District 9 (2009)

Today's film comes to us from South Africa.  It's District 9  and it is mostly awesome.  It took me a few tries to get through the first half of it.  The first part is presented documentary style.
Aliens have landed in South Africa, and are rounded up by the humans and placed in government housing.  And we all know how nice those are.  In the documentary portion, we see the main character, Wikus Van De Merwe, as he and the other humans mistreat the aliens, known as prawns.  They even stomp and kill their eggs.  They have no respect for them. Throughout the film, we see how the prawns and humans interact with each other and it is apparent that this film is a thinly veiled metaphor for apartheid.  

How can the humans and aliens understand each other if they can't speak each other's languages?  Because, the aliens have been on Earth for 30 years.  Even though we can't replicate their clicking noises, and they apparently can't form words,  30 years is more than enough time to understand someone's language.

Later, Wikus touches a prawn's weapon and his arm starts turning into a prawn's arm!  How does touching an alien's weapon turn you into an alien?  That makes no kind of sense!!  I know that Wikus's transformation is central to the plot, but it does throw me off a bit.  It allows him to emphasize with the oppressed prawns and generally become a better person.

All of the action happens as we watch Wikus try to escape the South African government, who want to use him for experiments for their weapons, and the evil Nigerian thugs.  Ironically, his best allies turn out to be the prawns, the very people that he scorned earlier.

This movie is fast paced, full of action, and provides a glimpse of life in South Africa, even though it's sci-fi'ed up a lot.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching this movie.  It also had a nice mixture of special effects and CGI.  I will give it an 8/10.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Great Expectations (1946)

This weekend I had an all night long horror movie marathon, so I will write about that soon enough.  Today's film is Great Expectations.  I remember watching portions of this in high school while we read the book.  I greatly enjoyed the book, and the film does a fine job of going along with it.  My problem is that if I hadn't read the book, I might not have been as interested in this movie.

I was relating everything I watched with everything I read.  I don't think I would have understood Miss Havisham or what she was trying to do with Estella.  It was difficult to tell that she was wearing a wedding dress.  However, since we read the book in class before, the movie was spoiled for us.  I already knew who Pip's benefactor was, so that knowledge definitely affected how I perceived the movie.

I think that even if someone had not read the book before, they would still enjoy this movie, especially if they enjoy period pieces and Charles Dickens' stories.  The costumes were very nice, the acting was great (especially the child actors) and the action was never too slow.  I will give this film a 7/10.