Monday, January 16, 2017

La La Land (2016)



1. I hate musicals. 2. Romances are depression triggers. 3. What the hell I'm doing at this movie? ... I was asking myself around a week ago when I was ready to jump from my seat and head to the nearest exit of the cinema hall where "La La Land" was running contrary to a strong habit of finishing a movie once I started watching. And while I was trying for one more time to justify to myself that I'm there for blogging interests in respect to an almost certain Oscar contender, that initially seemed tolerable and to be in the same line with "Whiplash" = where music is the movie subject, not the way of expression (didn't watch the trailer, big mistake), well ... the change arrived ...

So, to be clear, "La La Land" is a classic musical = we have the specific singing and dancing intermezzo scenes. Maybe not so frequently, but definitely hits you from start with a scene of a traffic jam in a sunny Californian winter where people have nothing better to do than get off the wheel and develop a group choreography in the middle of the highway. After that the focus moves at last on the main characters, she - an aspiring actress in Hollywood with no success, he - an aspiring jazz pianist in Hollywood with no success. A couple (with no success) gets formed quickly and up to the middle of the movie the story advances in a painfully jolly, optimistic and ... well, musical way (I'm a grumpy grizzly, but even so, trust me... there are limits...). From halfway onward we have a gradual change towards the cruel reality, which I don't know how harsh and/or credible might be, but anyway it gains a lot from the contrast with the first part, so much that I thought I'm watching a different movie. Which ended in an emotional climax with an "what if?..." scene featuring an alternative reality flash that has all it needs to hit you hard if you have some unsolved question marks for turning points in your life. This and the camera work, which I have to admit it's really good, save this movie. Even so, I hate musicals (maybe less now, but still...)

Rating: 3 out of 5 (totally subjective)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)


"Your magic is growing stronger. You need to learn control. But when we grow stronger the world grows more dangerous."... is an advice given in "Kubo and the Two Strings". An animation which seems initially to be addressed mostly to a younger target range. I don't know if it's hard or I'm really too lazy to unfold every piece of tale we have here, but one thing is certain: This is not a children's movie. Looks deceive. It's an allegory from start to end, which requires a lot and sometimes in-depth analysis to understand...

Kubo is a boy missing one eye living in a Japanese village, without a father and whose mother struggles somewhere between dementia and Alzheimer as days go by... One day, Kubo forgets to obey the rule of coming home before the night sets. So the fantastic threats saying that his relatives on the mother's side = 2 aunts and The Moon King - an evil grandpa from another world will come to take his last eye left become real. With a final appearance his mother saves him sending Kubo on his father's path, a great samurai, to search for a legendary armor made out of three pieces, which will solve the problem. The search or the armor?... That's one of the many questions left after the ending. Where you probably should become aware that everything you've seen it's probably a symbolic dream of the main character, and the effective reality in the movie is in a very tiny amount. Well, if you're in the mood for a bit of analysis :)...

Starting with the title, where it's relatively easy to infer that "the two strings" are the parents, and that the third string of the Kubo's shamisen is actually Kubo, the first line in the movie - "If you must blink, do it now." that initially might look like a bad cliche, but when it gets repeated seems to catch a meaning, and up to the ending with a short break on a black screen finished with a "The End" said before a really nice cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by Beatles, this whole movie is cryptic... So cryptic that at some point you get lost. I guess that not even the screenwriters could give a cohesive interpretation of everything it's there, some parts having maybe a different meaning independent of others. I could say that the result is quite close to Miyazaki's animes, where behind the childish facade lie often meanings that are much more mature.

As I said in the beginning, it's hard, both subjectively and objectively, to give an interpretation of what I've seen in "Kubo". I actually think there's a bit of room for a personal meaning to be found by everybody, the common element being: family. Maybe just a warning, and that's if you have issues in this area... think again before watching this, or expect some tears...

I've tried in the latest days to close the year, as usual, with an entry that's really worth watching - that's why the frequent posting :). I think I finally found it, so I'll allow myself to wish a Happy New Year! for a hopefully better 2017 & Happy Holidays! for what's left of this season ;)

Rating: 4 out of 5

P.S.: I don't know if somebody really went that far to think this on purpose, but there's a third verse in the final cover which says something like "I look at the world and I notice it's turning / While my guitar gently weeps / With every mistake we must surely be learning / Still my guitar gently weeps". Well, the same verse, in an older, demo version, sounds a bit different ... "I look from the wings at the play you are staging, / While my guitar gently weeps. / As I'm sitting here, doing nothing but ageing, / Still, my guitar gently weeps.". Now, figure out, which and where fits in this story ;) ...

Monday, December 26, 2016

Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)


In 1665 Johannes Vermeer painted "Girl with a Pearl Earring", a portrait of an unknown subject (or a so called "tronie" = face/expression, to describe it more precisely). In 1999 Tracy Chevalier wrote a novel with the same name offering a story for the mystery behind the face with a pearl. And in 2003 the movie came out. Which I, looking for a more serene movie subject, I've decided to watch today.

The girl in the painting is identified in the novel as a maid hired by the painter's family. From here onwards we have a drama mingled with romance, which to be fair I was a bit afraid of, but my assumption that an artificial subject integrated in real history can't get too far fortunately confirmed. Or more precisely it stopped on time so I didn't get overly subjective on this. Therefore, the movie is indeed "calm", maybe even a bit dry in its story development. But I didn't decide to write this entry for the tale of a mistery as big as the painted pearl...

The main reason for which I would recommend "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is the way the movie is shot and backed up by the score. Eduardo Serra got an Oscar nod for his camera work in this back in 2003 and (since we're getting closer to the season) I think it's one of the situations when the Academy snubbed the right winner sending the statue at the time to "Master & Commander".. This doesn't matter that much. The result stays, where the light in the movie is used such that we have an entire series of frames that look basically like painted photo stills. Alexandre Desplat was not yet very known at the time among the composers in Hollywood, but you can clearly see here why he got to be. The conclusion is that if you want to watch a movie technically worked as less and less unfortunately are, no matter what you think of the subject, you should probably watch this...

Rating: 3+ out of 5

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The BFG (2016)


Since a while ago I'm trying to get a bit more selective with the movies I'm watching due to the lack of time. And that sort of excludes from my "to watch" list the range of movies where the main attendance target is age <15. For "The BFG" I made an exception because long long long ago I've read the book by Roald Dahl, which at the time I liked a lot. Unlike other books by the same author though, as "The Witches" or "Matilda" that I've also seen on scree, or "Fantastic Mr. Fox" where even though I can't compare with the written material the video version was excellent, I always found "The BFG" hard to get into a movie. And I guess I was right...

The context puts face to face Sophie, a girl in a London orphanage and The Big Friendly Giant aka The BFG, who being discovered decides to take her to the giants land, a location probably somewhere close to the British coast and inhabited by other large humanoid creatiures, however less friendly and more hungry. Let's jump to the moment when the girl decides that action should be taken against an oversized cannibal threat, and what's a better solution than the help of her Majesty - the Queen of England. There are more details (in particular a connection between the BFG and Sandman), but let's stick to the essentials...

The reason why I thought "The BFG" hard to get on screen is not that much the difficulty of a realist integration of a giant in the real world, which is actually quite ok in the movie. Technically the production is gorgeous, and Mark Rylance "plays" the BFG part flawlessly. The issues is that the written tale somehow convinces the reader (well, at least a young one...) that the Queen, woken up in a normal sunny day, could have an official meeting with a fairytale creature + other stuff like that. In writing there's a way that this sense of "believable", within the limits of a fantasy, is kept. In the movie this mixture of real and imaginary a bit too forced... Something doesn't seem to work, but I have to keep in mind that we're talking after all about a children's movie, and I'm a bit older (around 20+ years) now than when I've read the book...

Rating: 3 out of 5

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Rogue One (2016)



I'll make this short: "Rogue One" suffers of what I could define as the "Two Towers" syndrome... Meaning, the unfortunate position of a middle piece. Not to be confused with the second episode in a trilogy, or the k < n part in an "n"logy. A second episode doesn't generally imply a finality in the third. A middle piece is a filling between an existing beginning and an existing ending. That's what we have here. This never works. And still "Rogue One", really manages to bring "A New Hope" in the "Star Wars" line, compared to the force awakening of last year ... Even if we don't have much of a story, set somewhere immediately before Episode IV as an excuse to bring on screen back the Death Star together with some short Vader scenes (= good way to cash in $), the result still seemed closer to the original trilogy feeling. At least the details and the way the characters were built felt like that... Even so, it looked a bit too much driven behind as a side story in one single piece (oops, big spoiler), just not to hijack the public of next year's Episode VIII...

Rating: 3 out of 5