Dec 31, 2012

December recap & Resolutions

December was quite an eventful month, so I didn't get to see that many movies- I wanted to read more, so I focused on that. Here's a short recap:

Movies 5
Silver linings playbook [2012]
Beasts of the southern wild [2012]
Amour [2012]
Perks of being a wallflower [2012]
Sideways [2004]

Books 5

Now that we're very close to the end of 2012, I decided to re-check my 2012 resolutions that I set at the very beginning of the year. Here they are, plus my FAIL/SUCCESS markings.

1. Watch at least 150 movies- FAIL 125 movies seen

2. Out of those 150, at least 60 will have been released before 2010- SUCCESS 60 before 2010 :)

3. At least 15 will be foreign movies- SUCCESS 15 foreign films seen :)

4. Review or summarize/write about every movie I see- SUCCESS I have a 90% rate, that qualifies for green, right?

5. Do 2 marathons based on a director's portfolio- SUCCESS I did, on Coen brothers and a little bit on Paul Thomas Anderson and Cronenberg

6. Mantain my 18 posts/month for the blog-  FAIL, especially during the second part of the year

7. Have more then 20.000 views by the end of the year 2012- SUCCESS just surpassed 50.000

8. Rely less on piracy and more on cinema and festival viewings- SUCCESS, although I can definitely do better

9. Improve my writing (Longer reviews, with more depth and a better vocabulary)- SUCCESS i really do think I have improved, but you are the best judge to that

10. Diversity for the blog posts  (more essays, special features, monthly round-up etc)- FAIL I need to work on this one

I am happy to see so many SUCCESS marks and I hope next year I can say the same! Check back tomorrow for my 2013 resolutions!

Until then, I wish you a fantastic New Year, full of happiness, accomplishments and fun times!

p.s. Did you have resolutions? how many did you tick off?

Dec 29, 2012

Best of 2012- FILMS

Thinking about the past year, I actually think it wasn't a strong one for movies- I wasn't impressed or moved by most of them, and the few who succeeded that had other flaws that made me reconsider the overall opinion. I, personally, think there was no film in 2012 to take the masterpiece or instant classic prize, although some came close to it (Moonrise Kingdom, Holy Motors, Silver Linings Playbook or Perks of being a wallflower), but there were definitely some very good films that need to be showcased and seen by most people. I still haven't seen many of this year's late releases, like Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Django Unchained or Zero Dark Thirty, but my list would probably look almost the same.

As you know, I don't like to make a top 10 or 20 or give specific marks, so I will just name my favorites of 2012. In no particular order (maybe just release date), here they are:

Avengers Assemble- because of its amazing characters, action scenes and overall entertainment factor

Moonrise Kingdom- quirky, funny, sweet, visually beautiful and wonderfully scored. One of my favorites this year

Searching for Sugarman- a sweet, moving, rather interesting and unbelievable documentary that is definitely worth seeing

On the road- a personal and subjective choice, because of the book it is based on and the people involved. I was probably one of the few who loved it

Holy Motors- crazy, unpredictable, imaginative and wild. Totally different from most releases this year. A must see

Anna Karenina- a masterpiece in set and costume design, not to mention art direction. Visually stunning.

Sightseers- a British gem that is not showcased enough. Dark and violent, but surprisingly hilarious!

ParaNorman- probably my favorite animation of this year, even better than Frankenweenie, in my opinion. Verry funny!

Beyond the Hills- a Romanian masterpiece and one of this year's best all around. I am so proud of Mungiu and his work.
Skyfall- James Bond at its finest- amazing action sequences and surprisingly good script.

Argo- very good in almost all areas. A well-deserved contender for Best Picture

Cloud Atlas- I am, probably, one of the very few who loved it. From the greatly directed action scenes, to the characters and storylines and the way it was build, it's one of my favorites this year

Silver Linings Playbook-perfect example of a simple, yet moving and entertaining movie that can deal with delicate themes and get out of it successfully. Surprisingly good performance from Bradley Cooper!

Perks of being a wallflower- it made cry like I haven't cried in a while. A wonderful and realistic coming-of-age story that I wish everyone would see. The soundtrack and Logan Lerman & Ezra Miller's performance seal the deal.

Other notable mentions: Hunger Games, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Ruby Sparks, Amour

Do you have a number 1 of 2012? Which is it?

Dec 23, 2012

Amour [2012]

Amour is a French film, winner of Palme D'or in Cannes this year. Directed and written  by Michael Haneke, the movie is close to a masterpiece, with its subtle performances, emotional story and wonderful direction.

Amour has a touching script, a sad, often desperate and lonely script that makes this movie ten times more effective and beautiful than it already is. It tells the story of an old couple who have to fight with the sudden illness of Anne, the wife, whilst Georges takes care of her the best way he can. It features funny moments, but also melancholic ones and sad ones and desperate ones, all mixed with normal, sometimes boring scenes like a guy waiting or a woman cleaning the house. That being said, I don't think the screenplay was one of the film's strong points- it had very few moments of action, but a number of intense ones; it was, however, immensely helped by the performances, but more about that later.

Number two on my favourites list of Amour was the wonderful direction. I love Haneke's style-it's so simple, a little peculiar at places, but beautiful and interesting to watch, with rarely any close-ups, just only in the important moments. There was no music or score, and that made even more bleak than it already was, but it was nice to hear only classical, piano songs when it was needed.

Number one on my favourite list of this movie was the acting. Many have raved about Emmanuelle Riva and her portrayal of Anne, the sick woman, whose condition worsens over time, but my heart went to Jean-Louis Trintignant , the man playing the husband. His performance was heartbreaking, realistic and interesting, and in my opinion, his part was much harder than Riva; it had so many small details and little expressions that offered ten times more to the audience than a phrase would. I loved how he played the old man who was so in love with his wife, that he would do any usually embarrassing thing in order to keep her happy and safe- he took care of her better than most nurses would, but her sufferance forced him to darker things and, as weird as it may sound, I understood him and why he did what he did.

The ending was incredibly subtle and mysterious- was it Haneke's way of showing us he followed her into a new place? Has his guilt and sorrow overtaken his sense of reality? Maybe, and it was a very moving scene, as ordinary as it seemed. I would have much preferred this to the actual last scene with the daughter.

Amour is a stunning movie that deserves attention, but not as incredibly emotional as advertised. It's very well acted and interestingly directed, but its bleak course of action cuts some of its high points. Still, I highly recommend it, especially to film lovers.

Dec 18, 2012

The Christmas List (blogathon)

Christmas is coming and on my mind, lately, have been only presents- for my mom, my dad, my sisters, the nephews, the brother-in-laws and so on. I'm not particularly good with presents- I am picky and I take so much time trying to find something nice, not very expensive, that I know they would like, use or, at least appreciate, that I always end up not being satisfied with what I got for them!

So that made think- if I could, what would I buy my fellow sweet bloggers? if time/location/money wouldn't be problem, what would they find nicely wrapped underneath the Christmas tree?

Here's what I came up with- THE CHRISTMAS LIST:

Alex from And so it begins- since Alex is one of the very few people who has seen almost every movie out there (I am exaggerating, but you know what I mean), I would probably get him a Criterion gift certificate or maybe this Early Bergman Criterion collection, if he doesn't have it yet.

Nikhat from Being Norma Jean- she is lively, bubbly, sweet and fond of very nice things; we have a lot of things in common, but I know how much she loves Doctor Who, so I would get her this amazing mug and this poster, or maybe a Johnny Depp DVD collection.

Anna from Defiant Succes- I would think long and hard before getting her something- she is one of the smartest, sarcastic, interesting bloggers I've seen/read. But I would choose Old Hollywood for her, since I know she likes it: maybe a Glamour Portraits photo book or something for her British love

Stevee from Cinematic Paradox- now, Stevee is a smart girl, but also one who loves photography and interesting people like Ezra Miller or Jessica Chastain, so I would go for either this fantastic book of Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage or a lesser-known Ezra Miller film on DVD

Margaret from Cinematic Corner- if you know her little obsessions, you know what to get her. Let's see: Lana del Rey's new deluxe album, anything Idris Elba (maybe a poster?), or something funny for her lovely dog, Gustav?

Josh from The Cinematic Spectacle- I would pre-order Cloud Atlas for him, since I know he liked it as much as I did

Ruth from Splendid and Lovely- I love how passionate Ruth is about audio and sounds, so I thought this book about Sound Effects would be very interesting for her; plus, I'd top that with an Amazon gift card, to choose what she wants to see/listen/read!

Andy Buckle- I know how much he likes music, so I would probably get him a subscription to NME or Rolling Stones, 2 great music magazines.

The list could continue for ever and I wish I had the money to buy everything for them, but I guess it's the thought that counts, right? That's what my mom always says and, in this case, she is right!

As for WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO RECEIVE this year....well, the list is endless, but here are some ideas:
- a new notebook/agenda that I will use for my job, starting January :)
- Amazon/Book depository/iTunes gift certificates
- chocolate, lots of chocolate :)
- work/office clothes
- DVDs
...and so on!

I'd love to see what you would buy/do for your fellow online friends! Please write a post with your Christmas list (presents for other and/or what you would like to receive) and send me the link, I'll post it here!


Anna from Defiant Succes CLICK
Cat's got culture CLICK
Stevee from Cinematic Paradox CLICK
Margaret from Cinematic Corner CLICK
Steven from Surrender to the Void CLICK
Ruth from Flix Chatter CLICK

Dec 15, 2012

Beasts of the southern wild [2012]

Beasts of the southern wild is a 2012 production which premiered at Sundance and gained immense success throughout the year, especially for first time director Behn Zeitlin. It tells the story of a young girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhan√© Wallis), who lives in an isolated part of the world with her father, Wink, and a handful of people who refuse to leave their homes, in spite of the incoming water rise that is threatening to destroy their houses and lives.

Beasts is a very good movie, with a touching story, interesting direction and fantastic performances, but still it failed to completely move me. I think it's because the script was not the strongest point of the film. It started out strong- I was taken aback by the wild, dirty and unexpected aspect of everyday life south of the Levee, but also containing something beautiful and natural that you are attracted to, no matter what. I loved the fact that the people were celebrating life even when they didn't have anything else but those houses, when all hope was lost, when they knew the storm is coming. The Bathtub (the town) was made of survivors, and Hushpuppy was the first and strongest of them, despite her age. Wink, her father, is tough on her, but mostly because he wants her to succeed, so he treats her bad enough to make her strong and resilient. But this where the story mostly lies in- survival- and it doesn't go much further than that, unfortunately, which is a pity. Also, a thing I didn't quite get or see the relevance in the end, is the monster deal, although the confrontation was interestingly made.

That being said, the rest of the aspects of the movie were pretty flawless. The direction was beautiful and suited the wild nature of the environment, especially with its shaky camera and, sometimes, not very focused camera shots, and the set design was very well made and incredibly realistic. I also loved the score of it, and I think it should be rewarded somehow. What we should really talk about is the casting, and especially the performances of the actors. Quvenzhan√© Wallis was flawless and, for such a young girl, she delivered much more than expected. Dwight Henry was also very good and played the part of the father with the right amount of love and toughness, and the rest of the supporting cast was great.

Beasts of the southern wild is a wonderful film from many points of view, but in the end, it fails to make a real difference or, better said, fails to impress and give a lasting impression over time. It is a well made film, beautifully shot, but just not....enough.

"I see that I am a little piece in a big, big universe, and that makes everything right!"

Dec 11, 2012

Cloud Atlas [2012]

Cloud Atlas is a 2012 production, based on a David Mitchell novel and directed by two sets of directors: some parts were mastered by the Wachowski brothers, and others were done by Tom Tykwer. It tackles different themes like love, betrayal and hope, across thousands of years and including characters of all sizes and appearances.

One of the most discussed aspects of this film is the level of complexity of the script: it is, indeed, a bit difficult to explain each story and the connection between them, but one thing I have to mention is the fact that it is not that hard to understand. I have read many posts saying some scenes don't make sense or that they found it difficult to grasp the links between the plots, but I wasn't in the same situation: for me it was pretty clear and, moreover, I was engaged and interested in each storyline and the sequences of scenes. Even the almost 3 hours passed by quickly, with the exception of some small parts.

I loved the idea of illustrating a specific theme or feeling across different time periods, showing that it is similar in so many ways, no matter the current status. Love, hope, survival, betrayal and instinct, all are feelings experienced in any situation, in any part of the world, and in the end, Cloud Atlas is a great way of showcasing humanity in all its forms. My favorite storylines involve the 2141 Neo Seoul time, and the music composer one, with the lovely Ben Whishaw, who was criminally underused.

From a filmmaking point of view, it looked amazing- the action and future scenes looked intriguing and interesting, shot in a dynamic way, while the past or present ones were done in a more simpler, subtle way, but not lacking beauty. I particularly liked the score, and I thought the sets and costumes from the future looked very good.

As for the acting, there's not too much to say. All did their job well, some even exceeding, like Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent or Hugo Weaving, but no one stood out from the cast. I definitely think Tom Hanks and Halle Berry were overused, and I wished Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw were more present, but overall it was well acted.

I strongly believe that Cloud Atlas is an underestimated movie by most and I don't know why-usually, the complex and star-studded films get rave reviews, but this one is different. Maybe it's the sci-fi. Or because it's directed by the Wachowskis. Or maybe people just don't like to bother with complex storylines. Who knows? I just wish more people would love it. I definitely do, and I highly recommend it. (Expect even a spot in my best of 2012 list)

Dec 7, 2012

Silver Linings Playbook [2012]

Silver Linings Playbook is a 2012 production directed  and written by David O.Russell, based on a novel by Matthew Quick. It tells the story of a recovering mental illness hospital patient (Bradley Cooper) and his struggles to get back his old life. Things get interesting when Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

I was pleasantly surprised by SLP and interestingly enough, 30 minutes into the film, I was already thinking it was one of the year's finest. The script is definitely one of the best things about the movie- it's realistic, on point, with no-bullshit or overly dramatic sequences, and most importantly, it manages to be both emotional and funny, both unsettling and easygoing. I also thought the main theme, that of mental illness, was well represented, even if they overreacted in some cases; moreover, since there have been so many people affected by it in the last decades, that depression or anxiety symptoms are common knowledge, unfortunately. The good thing is the film gives it a happy ending and enforces the idea that people can get past it, that you can survive and live a normal, happy life with it, if you just fight hard enough.

One of the SLP strong points was definitely the cast, starting with Bradley Cooper- who knew he could act? I never paid too much attention to him, I always considered him to be just another Hollywood heartthrob, but he was outstanding in this role and I sincerely hope he will be nominated at least for some awards. Jennifer Lawrence was amazing, as expected and she is definitely on her way to stardom, although I wouldn't actually say she is Best Actress material, but close enough. Even the supporting cast delivered, starting with Jacki Weaver, who I love, and continuing with Julia Stiles, her husband, played by John Ortiz, and even Chris Tucker. Robert de Niro was also exceptionally good and worth of its inevitable nomination, but not enough for a win, at least in my eyes- I think the supporting category is very strong this year and will be won by either a Les Mis actor or by DiCaprio.

The direction was very good, although I wasn't a fan of the often shaky, dynamic shots that Russell used, but I did love the close-ups. The music was particularly interesting, especially the Alt J song which I will definitely look up soon, and there's nothing good or bad to say of the sets and costumes- they were perfectly fine for the film.

In the end, Silver Linings Playbook is, indeed, one of 2012's best films and you should definitely see it, for its strong story, approachable characters and way of dealing with a delicate theme.