Suffering a nervous breakdown after her long time husband is indicted for illegal business practices, Jasmine, a vapid and narcissistic socialite, is forced to move across country to San Francisco where she attempts to reconnect with her sister. Coming from a life of luxury, Jasmine struggles mightily when she is forced to take care of herself. Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine gives a pensive look into an unlikeable character whose incredibly selfish and borderline delusional. Jasmine is a character whose inability to understand what is truly important in life hurdles her towards a complete mental breakdown and Woody Allen does a great job at capturing the dichotomy between Jasmine and her less fortunate but hard working sister Ginger. The structure of the narrative in Blue Jasmine works extremely well, flowing in and out of past and present to inform the viewer of the various character's relationships, baggage, etc. This is one of Woody Allen's best ensemble casts in years but Allen realizes that Jasmine is the star of this film, and with good reason, as Cate Blanchett is truly phenomenal in this film. The film never sags or slogs along thanks to Blanchett's engrossing performance. Blue Jasmine is not a cranky comedic film that has become Woody Allen's most common genre, but a vibrant and powerful film of a woman's slow descent into madness.
Lyle Rogers and Chuck Clarke are remarkably untalented songwriters who together dream of becoming a successful music duo. Just when all hope appears to be lost, the two men are offered a rather shady gig at a North African hotel, entertaining U.S. armed forces stationed in Ishtar. Heading to Ishtar, Lyle and Chuck become involved in a rebellion against the countries' leader, with Shirra,a mysterious woman, and C.I.A. agent Jim Harrison each manipulating them to serve their agenda. Elaine May's Ishtar is not nearly as bad as I was led to believe but it still suffers from an uneven narrative. The opening sequence, or prelude, is by far the highlight of the film, feeling a lot like other Elaine May character studies. We spend time with these loveable losers with May's direction and writing beautifully defining them while capturing the struggles of a dreamer. This prelude set in New York almost feels like a completely different movie, with Lyle & Chuck's adventure in Ishtar lacking much excitement at all. The narrative through this section of Ishtar feels stunted, revolving too much on a rather dull commentary on Reagan-era militarism that wears out its welcome. In fact, the most entertaining aspect revolves around how these two well-meaning but dim-witted individuals are able to achieve so much while comprehending so little. Through much of their adventure in Ishtar the men are at odds with each other and yet it's through their odd collaboration that they succeed. Ishtar is not a laugh-out-loud type of comedy but at its best it's a sharp, clever comedy but unfortunately outside of Lyle and Chuck's loveable dim-witted characters it's rather forgettable.
Another beautiful, hypnotic film by Theodoros
Angelopoulous, which tells the story of an author who is coming towards the end
of his life. This man is full of doubts and regrets pertaining to his life, and
the film is essentially a quiet journey among a man's thoughts and feelings as
death nears. The film's transitions between present and past is so seamless that it all ends up feeling like a dream. Everything about this film is meticulously designed and thought over from the voice-over of our Author's wife to Angelopoulous use of slow-moving tracking shots eliciting mood. I did find the pace of this film to sag a little in the middle, but it's forgiven just because of how genuine and real everything about this film seems. There are so many small quiet moments which aren't created merely to drive story or plot. The bit about the apartment next door playing the same melody for example, but it's not simply used for coincidence but more so to form the overarching mood, creating a unique feeling of a moment that is 100% real and genuine in life. Another film by Angelopoulos that I have trouble describing, simply put: It's the poetry of life.
Otto Preminger's The Fan, is a timely story
centered around Lord Windermere and his wife, whose relationship becomes
increasingly unstable, mostly due too outside influences. It's a story that is told backwards, starting many years after the events, told by
the character of Mrs. Erlynne, a woman very much responsible for the
instability which plagued
Lord Windermere's relationship with his wife. With a story focused on the
upper-class, narrative style, and visuals, the film reminded me of quite a bit of a Max Ophuls' film. Visually, Preminger uses some nice compositions and exquisite camera moves at the right times, to add to the film in a way that it's not distracting in the slightest. Two of my favorite moments being the transition of Mrs. Erlynne arriving at Margaret Windermere's birthday party, and the handheld use towards the end of the film when Mrs. Erlynee and Margaret Windermere are trying to sneak out of Robert Darlington's home. The Fan does a great job at presenting a simple story which becomes ever-increasingly complex
due to the social-pressure and gossip which takes place in this world. We witness first hand how the Windermere's relationship is completely healthy, but how these forces can and will create conflict, which really has no reason being
there in the first place. The reveal that takes place about 2/3rds into the film involving Mrs. Erlynee was a nice touch, which really creates a strong emotional resonance towards the end of the film regarding the "ultimate sacrifice" she makes. The Fan is a film that examines the decisions we all make,and how the past/present/future all influence our lives and the connection which exists between them.
The last film in Piotr Szulkin's sci-fi trilogy is similar in theme, but like the other two films, its narrative is completely different. The film tells the story of Prisoner 287138 who is dispatched from a space penitentiary ship with the mission of landing on an uninhabited planet and
claiming it for humankind. When he lands, he finds that the planet is inhabited, and its citizens greet him like a hero. Ga-Ga: Glory to the Heroes is an absolute farce where all the characters are essentially exaggerated charactures of modern society. As our hero goes through this world he is greeted by all sorts of outlandish situations and characters which speak to societies glorification of violence, media manipulation and obsession with said violence and how bureaucracy crushes the individual. While it's definitely not subtle in its approach, that doesnt mean it is any less powerful or meaningful. Like all of Szulkin's films it's up to interpretation and for me this film is about how the individual is manipulated and used by bureaucracy for the sake of the collective. Though, in this film Szulkin has quite a narcissistic view of things where towards the end of the film the main character pulls a robin hood, giving money to a poor family who can't afford to pay for their blind daughter's surgery. The scene ends in a way to suggest that the family was just as selfish as everyone else, so this could be another statement Szulkin is making about society. As you can tell from my random blabbering, Szulkin's films are always complex, interesting and thought-provoking.
The Immortal's is watchable essentially because of Tarsem's art design and
visual style which make this film interesting enough from start to finish. The
real problem with this one is that the storyline is very boring and stilted, not really offering anything interesting in terms of narrative. The thing that
impressed me most about this film was Tarsem's ability to direct action sequences. I've never thought he was
particularly strong in that category but this film, particularly the fight scenes with the gods, are impressive and unique action sequences. I can't
say I'm sold on Henry Cavill as an actor yet, he isn't terrible but he came off a little wooden at times throughout this film. Tarsem Singh's Immortals is an entertaining enough experience consisting of impressive visuals that make it watchable, with the narrative being the biggest negative of the film.
Seventh Heaven is an epic romantic melodrama spanning many years. It tells
the story of Diane, a young prostitute who is saved from her tyrannical sister by Chico, a young sewage worker. Although a prostitute, Diane is a very sweet,
kind individual who Chico let's move in with him for the time being. This is
only my second venture into Frank Borzage but It's becoming
apparent that his optimism towards humankind is refreshing, yet far more nuanced
than Frank Capra's. The relationship that slowly forms between Diane and Chico is so tender, and genuine that it's just beautiful to watch. So many films these days are made in a way that at times the characters feel as if they are slaves to the narrative. This film lets the romance between these two individuals form in a very slow-paced naturalistic way, through initial doubt of their living situation even working to full-blown love and admiration. Chico's character is such an optimist--one of my favorite scenes being on the balcony, early after Diane moves in, where Chico professes to Diane that he never looks down, but how one should always keeping looking up. It's a beautiful sequence that essentially becomes the tagline for this film. This is also an extremely well shot film, from the slums of Paris to the WWI battle sequences, Borzage really uses lighting and framing to his advantage. If willing, this is an engaging melodrama that features some truly memorable lines
("Let me fill my eyes with you"), I have a feeling Borzage is going to end up being a top tier director in my eyes.
David is a small-time pot dealer whose life after college hasn't really amounted to much. His clientele is the mild-variety, consisting of housewives, soccer moms, and gourmet chefs, while never dealing to children. After a group of punks steal David's drug money he is forced to settle a major debt with his supplier, Brad. In order to make things even, David is forced to become a drug smuggler, bringing Brad's latest shipment from Mexico to Denver. After some major convincing, David persuades his stripper neighbor Rose, his innocent neighbor Kenny, and street kid Casey to pose as his family in order to increase his chances of successfully smuggling the drugs into the United States. Rawson Marshall Thurber's We're The Millers is a unique but simple comedic concept that delivers a steady stream of funny moments from beginning to end. The formula of the film is pretty simple, with these four characters pretending to be a polite and loving family which more often than not leads to hilarity. We're the Miller's is definitely an R rated comedy and the film maintains an edge throughout its running time even managing to avoid cheesy sentimentality through almost the entire running time. The more I see of Jason Sudeikis the bigger fan I'm becoming as he really has such an effortless brand of comedic timing that is both likeable and certainly comedic. Yes, Rawson Marshall Thurber's We're The Millers is definitely predictable with all the characters falling into place where one would expect but at the end of the day the film strives to make the viewer laugh, which it succeeds at a more frequent rate than most of the other comedies this summer.
Last Resort is about Tanya, a young
Russian woman, who travels to England with her son. On arrival, she is abandoned by her boyfriend, forced into political asylum, and shipped off to a
grim, seaside town where she must wait for her application to be processed, which can take up to 18 months. In a way it's a film about survival, as Tanya
must quickly attempt
to adapt and survive in a foreign country where she has little to no cultural knowledge. She's a very sympathetic character, whose a very emotional
being--often blaming her relationship failures on her will and desire to feel loved. The setting is really perfect for capturing this trapped feeling, as the town feels more like a prison than a small seaside town. It's a film that examines how love is about sacrifice and selflessness just as much as anything else. The relationship which forms between Tanya and Paddy Considine's character is handled delicately as Tanya's character is much more resilient due to her past, while not knowing what the future holds for her and her son. This is a quietly effective film that touches on the tough decisions which must be
made in life and it's realistic and heartfelt.
Oslo, August 31st is a searing portrait of a young man's
isolation and loneliness that he suffers throughout his battle with drug addiction. As much as I liked Joachim Trier's first film, Reprise, I found this film to be stronger in its depiction of an individual's struggle with a
mental illness. Anders Danielsen Lie is such a tremendous actor, breathing such life into this film with his perfect portrayal of our main protagonist. There are so many scenes in this film that capture the mindset which occurs when dealing with loneliness and depression. It really captures the type of self-deprecating attitude which exists with depression and how this character solely blames everything on himself without looking at any of the progress he has made. I think my favorite scene has to be when Anders sits in the restaurant alone, seeping in the conversations around him, absorbing every detail, like he is trying to form some type of connection, or rekindle his passion and desire for life. Its definitely a film which many people would describe as "depressing", but I found myself incredibly invested in this character and Joachim Trier, along with Anders Danielsen Lie, deserve a lot of credit for making a film that can really stand side-by-side with Malle's The Fire Within.
Love of all things cinema brought me here.