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- July 2008
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- Favorite Line From A Movie
- It's a hell of a thing killing a man... You take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna' have.
- Favorite Movie
- 2001: a space odyssey, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Spiderman 2, Citizens Kane, Pulp fiction, kill bill vol.1, Batman begins, The Dark knight, Goodfellas, Raging bull, Taxi Driver, Rear window, Psycho, Vertigo, Apo
- Favorite Critic
- Dave kehr and Roger Ebert
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- Reviews Written:
Posted on 12/25/12 11:14 PM
It's no understatement that Christopher Nolan's final entry into "The Dark Knight Trilogy" was immensely anticipated. "Batman Begins" successfully provided the iconic characters to a respectable manner while capturing the idiosyncrasies, quintessential and thematics that are embedded within this cultural figure. Additionally, Nolan continued his diagnosis of the caped-crusader with "The Dark Knight"; a comic-book adaption that accumulated integrity, a balance of moral distinctions; the first superhero film ground through a sense of reality, morbid atmosphere; and a film that has been embedded within pop-culture - contributed greatly by the late Heath Ledger. So, as previously stated, the anticipation for Nolan's final entry was unparalleled. After six months after its release, whether the film is considered 'great' or not is purely subjective and is a subject that is likely to be contentious. Basically there are people who love it, and obviously ones that depose it. Personally, "The Dark Knight Rises" is an ultimate success; a film that may not compare to its predecessor, but nevertheless accomplishes its sole purpose: a final entry that is grandeur, monumental and concludes Batman's and Bruce Wanye's story in equal measure. However, while the film succeeds on many fronts, there are glaring flaws: plot elements (not plot holes) that have evidently been rushed; sloppy sound-mixing - the score quite frequently engulfs the dialogue - characters that are brilliantly fleshed out, but at times seem superfluous; and dialogue that seems stage-bound. Like most final segments, Batman's finale contains an accumulation of notions, various sub-plots and too many characters. Nevertheless, Nolan juggles the various elements to present - at times messy but also attempting to be cohesive - a conclusion that succeeds on producing the big moments, but failing on the subtle ones.
The plot picks up eight years after the events of Harvey Dent's death. Gotham's climate has shifted from the reigning chaos of the Joker, to a time of peace and solace. After Batman took the fall for Dent's crime, he has been branded a criminal, which in turn sends Bruce Wayne to a reclusive status. When the evasive Selena Kyle comes out to play with accompany of a new mercenary, Bane. The people of Gotham must to turn to the man they once branded a criminal: The Batman.
While the plot may seem relatively simply, Nolan's ability as a story-teller allows it sprawl (similar to a novelistic technique) with continuous bends, turns and the demanding of the viewers attention - as previously stated, there are many characters that contribute to the plots perpetual motion. In regards to this train-of-thought, Nolan adopted the pacing of 'The Snowball-effect.' A technique used for a film to continuously gain momentum, upon momentum to the inevitable climax (think "North by Northwest"). The use of such an effect come with its merits, and its pitfalls. The first hour and a half fly's at brisk pace; action after action sequences with dosages on the relations between Bruce and Alfred within a substantial measure. However, with Nolan continually attempting to gain this perpetual momentum, many plot elements are rushed: John Blake's discovery of Batman's identity is paper thin, along with Bruce's return to Gotham; and within the space of 5 minutes, the time duration goes from twenty-three days to fourteen hours. And while this effect builds to a sensational climax, there are many subtle moments that you wish were taken with that extra care of delicacy.
As with adopting such a pace and aiming for them 'monumental moments,' the atmosphere and mood of "The Dark Knight Rises" tends to lend to the fantastical elements used within "Batman Begins" rather than the gritty realism of "The Dark Knight"; in fact, Nolan's latest entry could well be his most fantastical (comic-boo-key). Consider the various elements: there's the "The Bat," a new-toy from applied sciences which provides Batman with the ol' air-support; then there's the central mechanical antagonist - No, not Bane - a ticking time-bomb (obviously influenced from Nolan's love of "James Bond." Looking at you "Goldfinger"). And it's obvious that the action sequences have been given that extra little bit of juice for a grandeur outcome. Thankfully - and despite striding for such heights - Nolan doesn't substitute the authentic realism of his action sequences for the use of CGI. For example, the introduction is simply breathtaking. Watching Bane - with the introduction of his sinister voice - hijack a plane with the accompany of real props and searing Imax shots is an entity to behold. Furthermore, the climax consist of hundreds of extras with various vehicles engaging in a battle for Gotham's soul that turns the city in a full-blown battle-field. Nolan's craftsmanship towards the film's thrills evokes the aesthetic principles used within the classic studio-era blockbusters.
Despite its focus on action, "The Dark Knight Rises" still contains emotional resonance. At its core, the films sole focus is to conclude Batman and Bruce's story. Similar to the source material and after the events of Rachael; Bruce has become a recluse. His mansion has become a substitute for society, and ultimately, his tale is quite tragic. Living in a world that has rejected his sole purpose and burden, his passion and desires ultimately led to his downfall; continually rejecting Alfred's (Caine) advice, Bruce once again dons the cape and attempts to overt his ideals of liberty, autonomy, and bravery in a world that is obviously oppressed by evil. However, after being defeated by the juggernaut Bane, Nolan takes us back to where it all began, and takes us to a question that his father made him address "Why do we fall?" - as "Hell on earth" functions as a metaphor for Bruce's reemergence with the internal notion that began his crusade: fear.
With Bruce being a central figure (more than actual Batman), Bale provides his best performance yet as the old-crippled Bruce (especially the sequences within 'The Pit'). Besides Bale, the rest of essential Gotham are back; Freeman as Fox and Oldman as Gordon both provide substantial performances. However, above everyone, Michael Caine's efforts as Alfred are truly memorable. Two sequences come to mind that are profoundly melancholic and poignant. And of course there are the new-comers: Tom Hardy as Bane and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle.
Subjectively, if there is one entity that Nolan has perfected within these films, it's the villain - not only as an antagonist for Batman's actions, but rather a menace to societies hypocrisy. All motivated by ideological purposes: Ra's (Neeson) beliefs with destroying certain decaying societies for the next movements within western civilizations; Joker's (Ledger) nihilistic qualities that challenged the moralistic pillars established by the so-called 'Good-doers' of Gotham; and now there is Bane. And while he is motivated (well, initially) by a certain belief that reflects a Marxist extremist, he's a villain that contains eccentric attitudes within comparison to Batman's previous villains: physicality over mentality. With the accompany of some brilliant low-angle shots and Hardy's physical transformation, Bane's physicality is profoundly felt with each appearance. Furthermore, such a villain - a brute force - can drag the characters essential qualities to generic notions (Let's face it, many antagonist that are characterized with such fundamentals are influenced from some of cinema's most generic villains). Fortunately, and thanks to Tom Hardy's acting ability, Bane is provided with seminal actions (purely subjective and a extremely contentious subject), such as Hardy's accent (which is wholly welcomed). A voice that captures the classy, sardonic, sinister capabilities and humanized abilities in various (and interesting) ways. Basically, well it seems, Hardy can convey more emotion that most Hollywood actors with 80% of his face covered. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway's performance works to an extent; her actual embodiment of the characters quintessentials are pitch perfect; encapsulating the desirable, evasiveness, sexiness and the Femme fatal qualities. However, overall her addition seems superfluous to the plot, and while she does to a degree represent the scathing thematic of social classes and functions as the catalyst to Bruce's happiness; her purpose is simply not fleshed-out enough.
Once again, "The Dark Knight Rises"is another Batman film that succeeds on most technical fronts. Wally Pfister's cinematography is richly beautiful; a montage of various Imax shots that are simply jaw-dropping to witness in Imax. In particular 'The Football' sequence and the vast cliff-dropping shots of Wall-Street. Additionally, the elegant grace of Gotham covered with the Snow-palette is a beautiful metaphor of entrapment. Once again Hans Zimmer score is monumental; basically functioning as another character, providing the morbid emotion, the anarchy of base, and at-times the continual lifting inspiration of liberty against evil. However, as previously stated, the sound-mixing is often sloppy - Bane's voice at times is difficult to understand (thank-god for subtitles), and when the characters engage in a minimalistic tone, Simmer's score often engulfs it.
Usually - especially within the superhero genre - I have established such an emotional investment within these characters that I love and care about, the third entry usually leaves me with bittersweet disappointment. Whether it be "The X-men series," "The Spiderman Trilogy" or "The Matrix"; each fail within their final entries. Thankfully I don't have to situate "The Dark Knight Rises" under the previously mentioned categories. A final entry that ultimately succeeds on many fronts, but still contains various flaws. But all in all, Nolan's final entry full-fills his motivations: a conclusion with monumental elements, while concluding Bruce Wayne and Batman's story in equal measure with an ending that leaves us wanting more. And while Nolan will not return, if every wants to, it will be immensely welcomed.
Posted on 12/23/12 11:08 AM
"This isn't a love story, but a story about love." A quote from the ominous narrator that begins Marc Webb's refreshing and eccentric perception on the-now-generic Rom-Com sub-genre. Presenting a film that doesn't let itself be degraded by the popular clichés, but rather encapsulates the mythologies of the generic love story and rips it apart to present - most importantly - a refreshing, realistic and predominate tale of love.
The narrative follows two conflicting beliefs: first, we have the young Tom (Levitt) who believes in the generic notions of love. Secondly, we have Summer (Deschanel), a young woman who rejects the generic notions and claims that 'true love' does not exist. As you could imagine, Tom is the one who falls for Summer, and through their straining beliefs, both are perpetuated into a field of emotion. Upon immediate appearance, it's quite obvious to gather that "500 Days of Summer" is your above-average effort within the repetitive genre. Thankfully, through the films introduction (not mention Tom's hilarious/depressing state), there seems to be no genre blue-print; no archetypal state, but rather an innovative, and impressive aesthetics appreciation towards the films narrative structure - Within a non-linear structure, we are presented with a film that is told through the past, present and future (without losing itself within the middle).
As the story progresses, Tom and Summer divine interests come together at the workplace (A substantial card factory, and you know what they about work-based relations). It's quite impressive to watch a romance that attempts to accumulate plot elements that never seem superfluous, but rather contain meaning - and dare I say metaphorical resonance? Yes, this is what Webb's film has achieved. For instance, consider the previous mentioned workplace where the two central characters meet. In most Rom-Com's (well contemporary ones anyway), the natural or urbanized landscapes and activities that are performed in these locations are simply locations for the back-drop of the characters. However, in "500," the work-place contributes to characters central ideologies: Being a card-factory, it's obvious that Tom's notions of love have been contributed from the perceptions of Pop-culture, - the ideas of faith and 'Soul Mates' - while Summer's perception on love are grounded in realistic fashion rather than influenced by the clichés. As for my previous statement of " metaphorical resonance," Webb's efforts and Tom's job function as metaphor for all the love cliches that society continually absorbs (along with Tom's heartbreaking speech) and "500" stands as and realistic triumphant over the cliché ridden bull-shit.
As stated, with these two separate characters sharing different and various traits towards the notions of love, "500" creates a profound, brilliant and continuous juxtaposition between two separate perceptions of love: the idealistic and the realistic. For example, consider a sequence that occurs later on in the film after Summer and Tom have separated. After countless efforts at winning Summer back, Tom becomes a recluse; a life riddled with depression. Finally, Summer invites Tom to get-together at her new apartment, to which Tom assumes that the situation is the perfect opportunity to regain the love that Summer once shared. Upon Tom's arrival, the current frame is split into two separate parallel sequences (think any Tarantino film), one projecting a perception of reality, the other viewing idealistic
expectations. A juxtapositions that brilliantly captures a moment that contains internal resonance: hoping, and hoping greatly - with the accompany of divine intervention that seems to be contained in most Rom-Com's - that the women that you once loved ('Love' may be an abstract entity, but everyone has engaged with it, whatever the actual entity may be) will miraculously return to the comforts of your arms. But they don't and they won't, because Reality, or the eventuality of Reality will always win. Dare I say: many of the innovative techniques used within "500" evoke Woody Allen aesthetics.
Additionally, with containing as much style as substance, "500" displays the epitome of how execute direct homages. Namely, the use of "The Graduate" and Ingram Bergman to express Webb's thematics. Thankfully, Webb's homages do not only function as a gimmick or an expresses use of displaying the directors cinema-pedia, but further fuel and enhancement to characters internal perspectives and emotions. Consider the various scenes: Tom and Summer's are watching "The Graduate" in the theaters. Upon finishing and similar to the films ending, Summer is left in a melancholic state. Following in similar sweeps to "The Graduate" conclusion - as the film finale identified if the abstract emotions of love where worth to purse - Summer obviously identifies and shares a similar emotional state; she's realizes whatever her and Tom shared (with Tom still containing genuine emotion), has most certaintly became redundant for her. Secondly, the other homage consist of the great Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal." A film that deals with notions that revolve around poignancy, great depression and the entity that all humans fear: death. While the notions of death may be an extremity, the films homage purpose still serves as an appropriate comparison to Tom's internal state.
Personally, the reason I regard "500" with such pride is because (subjectively) it captures the essence of the abstract notions that revolve around 'love.' A notion that has gained its existence through many artificial methods. Within Tom and Summer's final conversation, they highlight the evasiveness of love and it's unpredictably motives - which contemporary romances rarely achieve. Finally a Rom-Com that depicts love with a funny, but most importantly realistic fashion through its off-beat environment.
Posted on 12/22/12 12:55 PM
I guess the most satisfying aspect gained after finishing "The Amazing Spiderman," is that while spidey's latest adventure takes advantage of the familiar pillars established within Raimi's efforts, as a sole effort, the future of this beloved iconic character seems to contain a future that is worth revisiting. As you could gather from my sentence - and with being a reboot after only five years - the previous "Spiderman" and the contemporary one are obviously going to draw parallels. Thankfully, Marvel's latest efforts stick to the essential qualities of a Spiderman story: a plot that is fueled by emotional resonance and the troubles of being in your adolescence than the the generic accumulation of various action scenes. And in this regard, the emotional concepts are contributed marvelously (yes, pun intended) from the leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
As stated, whether you were a fan of the Raimi's previous trilogy or not, you'll notice many similarities and many subtle differences. Basically, a similar plot unfolds: we have Peter Parker, troubled and bullied teenager at school; then we have the archetypal 'radio-active spider-bite'; and then the Dr. Curt Connors who is incarnated into "The Lizard." And while the marketing suggested that the plot would contain an eccentric route that would focus on Peter's parents, the suggested element merely functions as a sub-plot and is obviously left for further investigation within the inevitable sequel. Despite such similarities, the various approaches to the characteristics of Peter Parker are evidently different. While Maguire contained an uncanny ability at capturing - quite effortlessly - the sense of innocence that inhabits the young teenage hero, he seemed have difficulties with other attributes; like the arrogant, smart-alec and naïve nature that parallels to the innocence (quite evident in "Spiderman 3"). This is where Garfield interpretation soars, a performance that creates the perfect balance of the essentials: emotional,arrogant and devilsh-humour in equal measure.
Emma Stone's efforts also deserve praise. An woman that has a pretty face but still contains an incredibly ability as an actor; she embodies the character of Gwen Stacey with expertly fashion. Conveying a character that demands attention rather than being constructed for the superfluous notions of 'Eye Candy'. Once again in comparison with Raimi's (which I do not want to degrade because I am quite fond of them), there's no denying Emma Stone's "Gwen Stacy" excels over Kirsten Dunst "Mary Jane."
Yes, there is also plenty of action sequences and some quite captivating set pieces. The battle between antagonist and protagonist within the High School (with, quite probable, Stan Lee's best cameo yet). However - thankfully - Webb has, in a sense, placed action sequences as an secondary importance; a concept that evidently works, as the entertainment aspects do not stem from the impressive action sequences, but rather the connecting chemistry shared between Garfield and Stone.
Webb has not necessarily created a film that doesn't seem completely superfluous, but nevertheless, it's still a Blockbuster were, as the audience, we share some quantities of emotion within the characters; and that - especially in this day-and-age - is an achievement within itself.
Posted on 12/20/12 05:29 PM
If you were situated within a position to describe "Singin' in the Rain" as minimalistic as possible, your answer would consist of the various adjectives: Magical, Spell-bounding, Elegant and Graceful. The reason for such a answer is due to the the glowing flamboyance and exhilarating energy that is on display; an essential entity that use to be within the Hollywood classics but is evidently lost within the majority of modern movies. Co-directed by Stanley Doden and the wondrous/hypnotizing dance choreographer Gene Kelly, "Singin' in the Rain" was a towering success on its release; a musical that functioned as the epitome at displaying an accumulation of essential elements of the mass audiences most cherished aspects; ranging from laughter, emotions, musical numbers with the accompany of a number of extravagant dance sequences that evoked a level of Chaplin's spellbinding comic efforts. Judging from these various elements, it's obvious why the film is considered a masterpiece within the musical genre: a monumental example of the organic nature that the musical displays; characters continually and beautiful expressing their emotions through the notions of singing and dancing with such energetic movements that it's quite impossible not to watch without having a big goofy smile on your face. Furthermore, it's not only considered a masterpiece within the musical genre, but rather in the broader context of the cinematic universe. With a current 10* ranking on the AFI list 100 years....100 movies, and while there are the minority - thank god only the minority - that question why does a musical hold such towering status against the likes of "Citizen Kane" or "Vertigo." Well, yes it doesn't consist of such lofty thematics as the previous mentioned masterpieces, but it does contain an entity that many, many films lack: Fun.
The story follows Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Cosmo Brown (O'Connor) rise to fame in Hollywood. They begin their careers together through performing duet musical numbers. After numerous attempts, Lockwood finally finds his big break as a stuntman (through a number of hilarious sequences). Eventually, Lockwood becomes a star along with Cosmo and the pretentious Lina Lamont (Hagen). However, trouble strikes as motion pictures begin to transits from silent films to the era of the 'talkies.' While struggling with such changes, Lockwood finds solace and love within Kathy Selden (Reynolds).
"Singin' in the Rain" offers a lighthearted portrait of Hollywood within the 1927's. Riddled with humorous tongue-and-cheek against a slight satirizing innuendo towards the artificial and superficiality nature that surrounds the Hollywood Star (don't worry we don't go into Sunset Boulevard territory, but it does draw parallels). Nevertheless, Tinsel town depiction is simply mesmerizing. The wondrous town contains flamboyance with the accompany of some truly spontaneous characters that makes for a beautiful journey, and while the journey is pure escapism, it's an invitation that's impossible to neglect.
No matter how idealistic Lockwood's life may seem, he cannot tolerate the relations he shares with the superficial, but the undeniably hilarious Lamont - their 'love' or 'relations' simply function as a community for the tabloids. After the premiere of Lockwood's most recent film - with the accompany of Lamont's irritating nature and his vexatious fans - the perplexed star looks for a place of solace. Exasperated, Lockwood comfortable and spontaneous hops, climbs and scatters over the various moving vehicles that eventuate within him meeting the love interest, Kathy (Reynolds.)
The choice of Debbie Reynolds as the femininity lead contains quite the peculiar history. Initially a gymnast before a genuine dancer (let alone an actor), Reynolds time behind production was a sense of hard-ship to say the least. Initially mocked by Kelly himself for her lack of dancing experience, and suffered to point of crying; studio worker Fred Astaire would eventually agree to help Reynolds against her subordinate methods. In later years, Reynolds would comment that "Singin' in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life." Surprisingly, - with all hiccups aside - Reynolds' performance as the emerging star is manifested with glowing elegancy and grace. From her beautiful smile to her illuminating eyes, Reynolds evokes a sense of beauty that parallels with likes of other 50's star Grace Kelly. Additionally, O'Connor's dancing ability and comic genius is simply astonishing. For instance, his musical number "Make 'Em Laugh" culminates in a numerous set of impressive back-flips of the bare walls without the use of wires - now that's talent folks. A sequence that contains (as do many more) a sense of dextrous ability and flamboyant energy that is unsurpassed within the musical genre.
As Lockwood's successes continue, the inevitable occurs, the introduction of the 'Talkie.' With "The Jazz Singer" popular success, R.F Simpson's (Mitchell) studio is sent into a frenzy, urgently pursuing Lockwood's next film to be a 'Talkie.' As previously stated, the film does display parallels with Wilder's masterpiece 'Sunset Boulevard.' However, rather than displaying the transition of the silents to the talkies in melancholic fashion, Kelly and the crew exploit the difficulties for some of their most hilarious gags. Such gags include the frustrated Roscoe Dexter (Fowley) hilarious attempts at capturing Lamont's voice into the microphone, the switching of Lamont's and the antagonist aural presentation at the films premiere, and Lamont's ridiculous pronunciation - "Can'ttttttt."
Furthermore, despite the obvious illumination to the difficulties that film-makers sustained during this grandeur transition, "Singing in the Rain" evidently wants to display the magical commodities that Hollywood offers. Through a brilliant sequence, Kelly displays Tinsel towns magical, dextrous and fantastical ability: using various stage props, Kelly creates an idealistic landscape to overt his love to Kathy. It's an enchantingly sequence that evokes the artificial escapism that celluloid craftsmanship can offer.
And of course there is Gene Kelly. Man, what a performance and what a Icon. His two most memorable dance numbers are an entity to behold: the iconic sequence of Kelly striding through the drowned streets with the accompany of the encapsulating tune "Singin' in the Rain," while Kelly dances, jumps and splashes in one exhilarating and perpetual momentum (with minimal use of editing, but rather tracking shots). A beautiful sequence that captures the essential nature and purpose of the film: delectation. Secondly, "Broadway Melody Ballet" is another sequence that consist of Kelly exuberantly dancing through a 'visualized' dream sequence (which contains loads of extras). Simultaneously a passage that displays Kelly's dextrous ability while providing some truly enchantingly visual imagery, e.g, the moments when Kelly is dancing with a sense grace through the thin, but evidently elegant clothing material. Truly magical.
Ironically, after finishing my first viewing of "Singin' in the Rain," it concluded on a melancholic note (not the actual film but rather a subjective emotion), as there simply isn't a sense of energy and flamboyance like this founded within modern films; I do realize that there is still modern musicals being made, but simply none compare to this, and that is why this film will remain an encapsulating masterpiece. It contains such exuberance, heart, emotion and laughter, that it will never fail to put a smile on your face.
Posted on 12/20/12 01:14 AM
Within my previous review (if you are familiar with it), you'll notice that my previous diagnosis of "2001: A Space Odyssey," is relatively short. A review that barely scratches the surface of its stirring secrets, anonymous mysteries and its unquantified imagination. My opinions are obviously not valid and purely subjective, but over the course of my years as a cinephile, I haven't interpreted a film with such profound effect like "2001." My first experience still contains resonance: Sitting in my lounge room, surround sound, slow but ultimately dextrous and hypnotizing pace, and left within a perplexing and bewildering state upon the films ambiguous ending - Yes, I knew upon soon as I had finished, that this film would require repetitive viewings. Ultimately, I have to thank "2001" for its internal power; a film that was solely responsible for illuminating the possibilities of production values while containing the ability of expressing, thematically and philosophically, views on such a grandeur scale.
Similar to most of Kubrick's films, "2001" was annihilated on its initial release. One critic classifying Kubrick's efforts as "a monumental bore." Besides finding a connection with adolescence (who watched the film frequently with the accompany of marijuana), Kubrick Sci-Fi was lauded. However, the steeped irony of all Kubrick efforts is that, like "2001," many of his films, while disgraced on their release, have evolved in the future generations as classics. The probable reason that "2001" suffered on its initial release is that its final presentation contained such a level authenticity, that cinema-goers were left extremely perplexed; a monumental leap that was light-years ahead of its time; it defied a genre (the Sci-Fi genre usually contained the aesthetics of exploitation B-Movies); used the notions of the mysterious infinite to break the boundaries of imagination; displayed the insignificance of humanity to the anonymous divine; and contained an overt vision of space with a wholly realistic atmosphere. With a run-time of only 140 minutes - and with such lofty themes - it's quite amazing that Kubrick was able to cover a narrative structure - divided into four acts - that basically creates a subjective hypothesis and map of human existence.
Shortly after finishing the audacious "Dr. Strangelove," one thing was ultimately certain about the fearless director: the man contained an imagination unparalleled with. To no surprise, Kubrick become fascinated by the notions of extraterrestrial life (what better way to let your imagination run-wild within the untapped universe of the infinite?). Fixated on making "The proverbial good science fiction movie," Kubrick met with Sci-Fi author Arthur C. Clarke, to which he described as "a recluse, a nut who lives in a tree." Eventually, they met through a mutual acquittance that worked at the studio, and upon their first meeting they would engage on project that would take the next four years of their lives.
Kubrick begins his magnum opus with the first chapter: "The Dawn Of Man." Beginning with a Darwinist approach, Kubrick details genesis' civilization. Accompanied by beautifully shots detailing a natural landscape inhabited by Apes. Similar to various sequences throughout, Kubrick's direction and atmosphere is evidently subtle; with the applications of 'Silent Films' aesthetics, for the first 40-minutes, the auteur allows his narrative to unfold visually rather than verbally. Ultimately, the overall attenuated atmosphere and attention to bantam details forms an emergence of cinematic technicality and documentary presentation; a beautiful example of "Pure Cinema." As the passage continuous, the Apes actions are obviously still primitive; they are subordinate within comparison to the other Apes and miserably fail at defending their area, all due to their inferiority. Banished from their previous position, the Apes wake to a strange Black-facade-God-like-statue (with the accompany of a truly shattering score). The following day - the Monolith has now Vanished - one Ape begins to dismantle decaying skeletons in the vast terrain with the use of a bone. Perplexed, the Ape realizes that the bone could serve as a commodity for physical defense, to which he proves by killing the supposed superior Apes. Conclusively in the opening passage, Kubrick's thematics and personal beliefs accumulate for an audacious statement: the Monolith is symbolically situated with the connotations of a divine teacher, a God like figure if you will, and this teacher is a catalyst for these primitive creatures intelligence - the provider of civilizations first weapon.
Victorious, the Ape lodges the bone of out his palm and into the air with Kubrick following the bones transaction elegantly. Upon its return to earth, the sequence switches from a Bone to a spacecraft in the year "2001." A monumental editing sequence in its own right, but even more granduer as a monumental statement. In one shot, Kubrick transcends a four million spatial span, and with a juxtapostion of weapons (Bone to Spacecraft), Kubrick is suggesting the minimalistic differences over the course of humanity and that our motivations haven't changed from the beginnings of our intelligence. The human race is still manufacturing weapons for the purpose of power, the only difference is that our technological skills have dramatically improved.
The next segment is dubbed "TMA-1" and begins with an assemblage of various Spaceships gracefully orbiting with the accompany of classical music. As stated from the director himslef, the music chosen for "2001" would be vital to the films resonant atmosphere, and as I previously stated, Kubrick's most certainly gained inspiration from the aesthetics of 'Silent Cinema,' as his comments concur "he wanted the film to be a primarily non-verbal experience." Initially, Kubrick hired Alex North for an actual score, but Kubrick being as meticulous as he is, choose the triumphant melodies of classical music, most notably Johann Strauss II's waltz, "An der schönen blauen Donau." Triumphantly displayed within this chapter, and with the accompany of his visceral vision of space with the emergence of Strauss delicate waltz, Kubrick's aesthetics are astonishing; the following passage contains the presentation of a breathing painting, moving with profound elegancy and flamboyance. Furthermore, the special effects still contain contemporary resonance. As previously stated, Kubrick was extremely meticulous and one of his sole motivations for such a movie was to create a realistic projection of space. So as you could imagine, his final projection of the ships would most certainty have to replicate the real prototypes. Obviously, Kubrick most certainty succeeded with the richly detailed Spaceships that he provides. Eventually we meet our first humanistic character: Dr Heywood R. Floyd (Sylvester). Really only serving as the catalyst to the plot, Dr. Floyd is assigned to investigate a mysterious object that he has been assigned to investigate on another planet. Once Floyd arrives, himself and his teammates discover the Monolith as it begins to instigate a piercing sound-wave.
In the third chapter "Jupiter Mission" the audience finally gain their protagonists, Dr. David Bowman (Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Lockwood). Both have just wakened from hyper-sleep and begin engaging daily rituals to form a social routine (accompanied by some brilliant innovative shots that reflect a perpetual rotating motion within the interior of the ship). However (and more importantly), we are introduced to humanity most recent technological development: HAL 9000 - Artificial Intelligence. The most interesting aspect within this accumulation of characterss is Kubrick's humanity paradox, as we begin to gain the various traits of the central characters, HAL - with being simply a red dot within the wall - is the one that seems to contain the most humanistic characteristics and genuine emotion. Where Scott's "Blade Runner" would obviously gain inspiration from, Kubrick's view on humanity and technology displays an irony and a paradox: the irony is that (like the faith of Poole) the entities that we consider as our greatest achievements ultimately lead to a greatest downfall. And the paradox, well, the further humanity race delve into the extremities of technology, we are slowly losing the essential humanistic emotions by developing them in other forms of Artificial life - obviously displayed through the juxtaposition of Bowman and HAL.
Eventually, HAL detects a problem with the ships mechanical functions. To rectify such set-backs, Poole attempts to fix the exterior of the Spacecraft. Through this passage, Kubrick evidently displays his meticulous style. While the sequence is undeniably slow, the attention to detail is astonishing - Kubrick continually interplays between Poole breathing within the interior of his suit to the eerie silences of the cosmic atmosphere. As stated, it is sequences like these that give "2001" that realistic documentary environment. After their investigations, Bowman and Poole realize that there Artificial acquittance is wrong, and quirky enough, a battle of wits and mysterious emotions begins between the humans and technology. However, despite these growing problems, Bowman and Poole continue to the nonfunctional component, with HAL watching all the way. As Poole slowly descends upon his destination, the pod sinisterly begins to move on Poole's position to which Kubrick switches to a three-way interval edit-zoom while simultaneously we see Poole fly lifeless into the depths of space. Dealing with such a passive character (let's face it, he is just a red dot in the wall after all), it's quite astonishing the amount of life Kubrick is able to bring a character that contains very few characteristics: from his questioning of genuine emotions; from his lip-reading which obviously identifies that he is conscious of human deceit; and the final edit sequence previously mentioned, HAL is really a robotic character like no other. Similar to "Psycho," but also in completely different proportions and with HAL assuming the role as the antagonist, Kubrick ultimately leaves us to sympathize with the most recluse (in terms of humanistic) character. And HAL's electronic disposal hits like a poignant jack-hammer as Bowman proceeds in dissembling his functions in a apathetic manner while HAL pleads for humanity by singing "Daisy Bell." Truly melancholic. Through this process, Bowman learns the true nature of his mission: the capture of the Monolith.
Bowman proceeds in mission and eventually engages with the dark entity, and what follows is undeniably perplexing, transcendental, ambiguous, audacious and simply breathtaking. Upon his engagement, Bowman is shot through the"Star-Gate": an accumulation of a range of dazzling, flamboyant special effects and futuristic landscapes that suggest a transcending moment of space and time to another dimension. Eventually, Bowman finds himself within the interior of a lounge room. Slowly we watch Bowman travel through the various stages of his life; eventuating and descending to his death, Bowman is reborn as the "Star-Child" and is perpetuated gracefully over the inferior earth. Perplexing to say the least, Kubrick's conclusion to his monumental efforts is riddled with ambiguity; offering multiple interpretations that would be wholly acceptable. So within this case (and if you disagree that's fine), my perceptions are purely subjective. Ultimately, within this ending, "2001" thematically and wholesomely comes full circle. The projection of Star-Child is the signalization for the 'new'; the redefined species, the next step of civilization. From the genesis' of man, "2001" details the relevance of humans inferiority under the prowess power of the Monolith, and the year "2001" is a manifestation of humanities intelligence; we, as the human race have reached our capacity and the "Star-Child" is the next step within our evolution. Using this train-of-thought, the room that Bowman is situated in could be well argued to represent a laboratory (for the aliens); an area for them to utilize their capabilities on subordinate humans.
As previously noted, "2001: A Space Odyssey" is the epitome of the boundaries and profound effect that the cinema can contain. An authentic experience within its power of conveying such monumental thematics to a transcendental state. "2001" was not only an experience that made me question the concepts of my own beliefs, it provided one for me: there are most certainly outer beings within the depths of the unknown, and if we ever share contact with them, we are most certainty going to be primitive to their superiority. Riddled with sheer philosophical power, "2001" is not only a film you must see, but rather believe.
The definition of a masterpiece.
Posted on 12/19/12 10:34 AM
Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" is long documented: winning the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, nominated for four academy awards, ranked 52 on AFI's 100 years....100 movies, and gained the preserved rights in the National Film Registry in 1994. Yes, Scorsese's second film most certainly gained critical attention for the young auteur. However, not only was it received as a critical success, Scorsese efforts struck a profound effect with the American public, and not only in the terms of 'Box-Office Profits' (to which it did succeed), but rather a transcendental resonance of certain citizens. So profound, that John Hickley Jr attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan. His motivations stemmed from his trans-fixation for Jodie Fosters character "Iris," along with mimicking the cultural iconic 'Bickle Mohawk.' Within the final ramifications of his case, Hickley's solicitor concluded with presenting to the jury the actual film for evidence. Additionally, while delving into the special features, Paul Schrader was once greeted by a mysterious man at his hotel. The stranger began to question Schrader on how he knew him and why he made a movie about him. Perplexed, Schrader realized that this was a man that shared similar - maybe even identical - traits to likes of the central character "Travis Bickle." Releasing a film that utilized Americas anxieties - post-traumatic stress and psychological weakening after Vietnam; the existential anxieties within an urbanized landscape; and a vision of humanity that has gone to dogs (which still contains contemporary resonance) - to say that "Taxi Driver" is merely profound would be a monumental understatement. Undeniably the most powerful, disconcerting and poignant character study of the fragility of the human condition. To quote Roger Ebert "One of the best and most powerful of all films."
The plot is not....well not a plot, but rather an examination and character study of the psychotic Travis Bickle (De Niro). We follow Bickle and his isolation through his endless, mystic and depressing nights as a Cab-Driver - the effects of insomnia. His other affairs include the occupation of Porn-theaters and self-destruction towards self-preservation. As Travis delves into various affairs, he finds a profound interest in two women: a campaign volunteer named Betsy (Shepherd), and the young prostitute Iris (Foster).
Similar to most classics that have sustained a culturally and aesthetically impact on the cinematic world, "Taxi Driver" contains a historical noted production. Beginning with a number of short films displayed within his university studies, Scorsese first introduction into the Hollywood world began in the early 70's. Coming off the critical successful "Mean Streets," Scorsese next film would situate himself under the accumulation of the ever-growing "Movie Bratz"; a list of adolescence directors that included Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Among of his friends, it is cited that Brian De Palma was the catalyst for introducing Scorsese to the script-writer Paul Schrader, and his long term partner Robert De Niro. With any film containing subject matter revolving around subconscious and psychotic elements, much of the story stems from a subjective viewpoint. And while Schrader based the script of the diary of Arthur Bremer (a man who actually shot a presidential canidate), much of the influence for such story was instigated from Schrader's own personal experiences. Schrader suffered depression and was in general a lonesome person; the essential traits to Bickle. Scorsese inspiration stemmed from his favourite notions: sins, violence and salvation. And with both sharing similar interests, Scorsese created his central figure as a blood-soaked angel that cruises the streets of New York in search of redemption while filth, immorality, nihilistic, racism and complete desertification surrounds him.
As stated, "Taxi Driver" is a film where we follow a man. The ultimate anti-hero riddled with a sense of warped morality. However, even though the film contains explicit levels of violence (even for a Scorsese film), Bickle's journey is a poignant one, a man so desolated within his alienation that his social skills are extremely inferior to the norm. But even though his character is one who we do not want to meet, hes essential qualities are ones that everyone can share a connection with: who can say they never been surrounded by a sense of isolation or have troubles in developing the ideological social presentation? I know have, and that is why we ultimately question Bickle's situation: he's a man that makes continuous attempts at forming a social connection, but due to his 'inexperience,' he's obviously rejected because his efforts do not follow the norm. Is his predicament solely his fault? Or rather societies prejudice nature? Consider the various scenarios: Bickle spends much of his nights within the porn-theater. Initially, he attempts to have a friendly chat with the beverages worker but is rejected because 'the people' who go to the porn-theater are anonymous presences - in other words, a porn-theater is not a place of socializing.....but Travis doesn't know that. Secondly, Bickle's idealization of Betsy's presence against the back drop of the "filth and scum" warrants himself a date. Awkwardly, Travis takes Betsy to the porno-theater where, once again, his attempts at socializing are rejected. As stated, it's extremely poignant and melancholic in watching Bickle continuously fail while we are questioning the prejudice nature of society.
With attempt, after attempt, eventuating with a dismal outcome, Bickle's logical state becomes disturbing. Continually losing the fragments of his mind, Bickle's goes from a self destructive physical state, to a self-preservation state; he begins to write down his thoughts, diets with excellent nutrition, begins to exercise, and arms himself as a walking mercenary on the road to redemption (funny oxymoron, I know). He channels this notion of redemption at the young prostitute Iris. Bickle believes, with his twisted morality, that the saviour of this adolescence and the destruction of her pimps will full-fill his wonderment state. However, before the blood-soaked climax, there are many attempts at his disturbing fantasy. Initially, he kills an African American (there are continuous undercurrents of his racist nature); he begins talking to a presidential bodyguard in a psychotic manner; and then attempts to genuinely shoot Senator Charles Palantine. but, as previously mentioned, Bickle full-fills his destiny by annihilating the pimps in a seedy, bloody, and evidently gruesome rage that contains more blood than a blood-bank. Like many Scorsese films, a lot of characters, sets, locations, motivations and situations consist of allegoric and connotations of religious themes; and Bickle most certainly and paradoxically contains the connotations and allegoric qualities of a blood-soaked angel. Like the heroes of "Drive," Ethan in "The Searchers," Shane in "Shane," or even Deckard in "Blade Runner," Bickle was the first to instigate this sense of warped morality with the qualities of a guardian angel, well, for Isis sake anyway. And even though Bickle's actions may be unforgivable, they are evoked with the right intentions. And in a world riddled with cities that should be "just flushed down the fuckin' toilet," maybe his actions could be accepted.
With a film that spends most its time psychological examining an individual, a distinct clarification must be displayed to notify when we are dealing with the internal subject rather than the external, and in this regard, Scorsese's direction is effortlessly sublime. Scorsese establishes the camera as a window into Bickle's subconscious, allowing himself with the flexibility to convey Bickle's internal emotions visual rather than aurally. Consider the two sequences: As Bickle begins his war on a decaying society, he gains his arsenal though an arms dealer. The dealer allows Bickle to gain a feel of the various guns. As the scene continues, the camera switches from an establishing shot, to a POV view displaying Bickle's gaze as he positions the gun towards against the window and takes aim at the various pedestrians. Simultaneously harrowing and brilliant, Scorsese camera work maintains the ability to evoke Bickle's emotions without physical flamboyance, but through a passive state that is channeled internally - quite possible the epitome sequence that shares resonance with the protagonist comments "Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." Secondly, Wizard (Bickle's fellow Cab-Man) engages in various political mumbo-jumbo. Slowly, the camera once again switches to a POV shot on Bickle's gaze which is fixated on a glass of water bubbling and seemingly bursting at its seams. The message is obvious: Travis Bickle is a ticking time-bomb.
Additionally, for a film made within Hollywood's boundaries and the diminishing signs of 'The Auteur, Scorsese directional style contains audacious, innovative, authentic, profound shots and angles. After repetitive viewings, it's quite easy to see the impact of "The French New Wave." Directors that included Jean Luc Godard and François Truffaut. The various films created by these directors were efforts at destroying the cinematic language: authentic camera movements, films that were self-conscious, as in, you could tell a camera existed upon the frame as characters continually broke the forth-wall; paradoxically, immoral characters that are likable, and existential themes that revolved around the individual and the absurdity of human existence. And, sufficient to say, Scorsese "Taxi Driver" most certainly holds a candle to the French's innovation. For example, through the sequence where Travis is talking into an endless phone-line; rather than Scorsese staying on his position for dramatic effect, the camera begins to slowly move from the position of phone to the emptiness of the hallway. While it does represent Bickle's superfluous efforts with retaining a relationship with Betsy, the shot is simply more effective as an appreciation of audacious film-making. Scorsese breaks traditional camera movements to create an ambiguous sequence.
While on the aspects of technical fronts, Bernard Herrmann score is an entity to behold. His final score upon his death in 1975, his final efforts were dedicated to his lasting legacy. To say Herrman was an aural genius is simply an understatement; whether it be the psychotic strings of "Psycho," the anonymous errs of "Vertigo," or the idealistic thumps of "Citizen Kane," each musical composition performed by Herrmann was strikingly profound with the films mood, and "Taxi Driver" is no exception. The score simultaneously conveys two emotions: good and evil. One side manifested with the composition through a Saxophone that signifies the 'Scum' and integrity decay, then the other side perpetuated with a light melody representing the only light within this decaying world: Betsy. However, above all, the mood created from such efforts contributes greatly to Bickle's psychological state and the paradoxical emotions he seems to embody: a sense of poignancy and disturbing fantasies.
Of the course, the film power wouldn't of worked with simply one of the best actors that has ever existed: Robert De Niro. Like most of his efforts, De Niro poured his soul into his characters. Losing 17.5 kilo's and continually dedicating his time Arthur Bremer's diary entries for the role, all entities contributed to one riveting performance as the tormented Travis Bickle. Seemingly conveying effortlessly the parallel dimensions of a psychotic while still displaying the capability of demanding sympathy. After watching "Taxi Driver," you'll never forgot the ever-so quotable "You talkin' to me?" stint in front of his own reflection.
Now upon its ambiguous ending, many have interpreted the final segments as an ironic statement: the media's continual exploitation of a deranged killer celebrated as a hero because he killed the 'right people.' A logical interpretation that points to many of the elements that the anti-hero symbol embodies, while still offering a social commentary on the prejudices of society (which is an obvious undercurrent throughout the whole film). While this perception is the wholly accepted answer - which the director and writer have clearly clarified - many still contain eccentric, but undeniably valid directions. The other accepted interpretation is that the concluding moments are a death memoir of Bickle's desires, a dream-like state of his ultimate idealizations of solace: he has saved the Iris, and Betsy now admires him. Will we ever know the answers to such ambiguity? Doubt it. But whatever interpretation you choose to accept, one thing is certified: Travis Bickle has most certainly gained a sense of redemption - a therapeutic solace that many of Scorsese's characters stride for.
Posted on 12/18/12 11:16 AM
The most illuminating problem with contemporary action films is that too many elements are evidently rushed. For instances, let's use the generic blueprint: usually, they begin with the opening action sequence to grab our attention; then we have the title credits with the introduction of the plot; then the minimal characterization of the central characters; then the film essentially relies on monumental action sequences to grab our attention, but the facts are that we simply do care about the characters. Prejudice? Well I do know my comments sound exactly like it, but the sad truth is that this is, fundamentally, what most action movies resort to. Initially seeing Luc Besson within his second outing "Leon: The Professional," it was obvious that he is was director that treats the action genre with its merits, and that he identifies the key elements that makes an action movie more rewarding: put characters before action, and in this respect, when the action occurs, the audience actually cares about the consequences of the characters. Where "Leon" was in told like a fantasy with glaring melodrama, "La Femme Nikita" hard edge immensely elevates the subject matter into a rewarding experience. An action film that displays a woman searching for an identity in a world that obviously rejects her.
The films central focus is the psychotic Nikita (Parrillaud). When we meet Nikita, she is a drug addict with a gang of dead-beats looking for their next hit. On initial appearance, Nikita contains animalistic qualities; she is psychotic, delusional and blatantly immoral as she shoots an innocent cop without hesitation. It's quite an interesting route that Besson utilizes, introducing his heroine as a monster, then within the next thirty minutes attempting to make us sympathize with her anti-social qualities. It's a tricky situation, but Besson seems to pull it off with ease as Nikita is sentenced to death and surrounded by isolation.
Of course, this is only twenty minutes into the film, so we know she isn't going to die. As Nikita awakes from her purposed death, she is greeted by Bob (Karyo), a government spy that explains Nikita has the choice to gain a occupation as a trained-elite assassin, along with learning societies commodities. As brutal as it may sound, "La Femme Nikita" is a poignant character study. We watch this women start at the rock-bottom - both physically and mentally - and slowly begins her internal and external transformation. She is a lost soul continually searching for an identity as she attempts (and eventually to great effect) to gain and understand the appearance and notions of femininity. Subjectively, the sole reason why this film contains such an emotional effect is solely due to Anne Parrillaud performance; an actor that conveys with raw ferocity Nikita struggles: from her beginnings as dead-beat, drop-kick inferior junkie; to her attempts and changes with the ropes of femininity; then to her life outside closed walls as she attempts to balance her new love while full-filling her occupation; Parrillaud is amazing as a heroine, and what more logical sequence that displays the essential struggles of a heroine than assassinating someone, while dressed in undies, conversely talking to her boyfriend (Anglade) about the struggles of their relations.
And of course there is action, but not normal action, but rather action injected with stylistic European flare. As stated, it's ever-so welcomed how Besson treats the subject matter; he allows plenty of time in exploring his central protagonist to point when the audience form an emotional investment, which in turn (similar to John Ford's "Stagecoach") develops an emotional response to the characters actions and challenges - we actually care of the consequences they may suffer during and action sequence. Furthermore, while the plot may sound fantastic and wholly unrealistic (which it is), Besson keeps the action grounded. Consider the following sequence: Nikita receives a call for her first job in the outside world. She arrives in room and dresses into a maid's outfit and is told to wait. Eventually she is given a plate with coffee that is riddled with poison (I think) and delivers it to the room acting as room service. After she completes the task, she comes back to the room and ask "what's next?" but there isn't a next, she gets to go home and that's the point. Ultimately, if referring back to that generic blue-print, the scenario I have just explained contains all elements to an action sequence, however, Besson is attempting to portray the occupation of an assassin in realistic terms; not every mission consist of a gun-fight or hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Missions at times can be subtle, and if I may be so bold, easy.
As for the ending, it seems many have deemed Besson conclusion as underwhelming and anti-climatic. Once again, Besson ending displays that he a class above the rest. He doesn't want to use a generic climatic gun-fight, but rather tend to drama elements; leaving us with a world where Nikita has become anonymous, and two-males are (most likely) left in melancholic state over her love. Superb.
Posted on 12/15/12 11:57 PM
Each respected genre (when executed to its maximum potential), contains the power to represent a quintessential characteristics that is solely unique to its own capabilities. For instance, there is "Horror," a genre that has found a distinct resonance within its celluloid projection of the fragments and psychological state of the human mind. "Comedy" is quite possibly the most audacious of them all, containing the exclusive ability of satirizing and mocking societies idealized institutions while conversely containing the ability to put a smile on your face (cough, cough "Dr. Strangelove"). And to rattle one more out - the "War" genre, films that portray, like no other, the realism and fatalism between life and death. However, of all them genres (and the ones that I haven't mentioned), Sci-Fi contains the quintessential characteristic of being the most profound - subjective of course. I distinctly remember after finishing Kubrick's "2001," I was not simply stunned from its ambiguous and thematic brilliance, but rather left with an ever-lasting expansion of my imagination and illumination to the power that films can convey. Truly, there's only one of other Sci-fi that belongs in this category; and after my fifth viewing I am still stirred by Ridley Scott's masterpiece "Blade Runner." Each viewing gains a new level of appreciation for its layers: riddled with visual mastery, cryptic thematics, a philosophical of what constitutes to be human and what doesn't, religious symbolism and so many literate devices and references that if William Blake ever made a film, it would most likely contain the same feel as this.
In similar vain as "Star Wars," "Blade Runner" begins with an opening scroll, detailing the plot and the political climate in a futuristic Los Angeles. Within the future, human cloning has become rampant; the clones are referred to as a"Replicates," and with the embedded irony of all humans greatest technological achievements, the Replicates have become a problem to humanity. As a result of these strains, individuals known as "Blade Runners," have been designated to deal with these specific problems. Through Scott's narrative, we only meet one, Rick Deckard (Ford); a man who initially seems to portray distinct hard-boiled masculine values, but is only essentially a psychological wreck. His mission: find and kill the four Replicates that have returned from earth to meet their maker.
As important as it was back then, and as important as it is today and most likely forever within its genre; visual presentation is an essential component to Sci-Fi's. "Blade Runner," - with the accompany of the "Final Cut" and its new print presented in 1080p on Blu ray - contains the most beautiful visual images ever to grace the silver-screen. The opening shot displays a Los Angeles that resembles a hell on earth; obviously developed within manufacturing, the factories flames burn against the back-drop of the dark sky as a ship slowly descends upon the Tyrell corporation - a passage is truly breathtaking. Continuing with this visual prowess, it's not just the grandeur moments that display a richly detailed landscape (which most Sci-fi rely on), but also the subtle ones. Whether you are watching the sweeping shots of the juggernaut Bill-boards, or simply the monochromes of black whites with the accompany of hazy, noirish smoke, or even the interior of Sebastian's (Sanderson) apartment; each individual frame contains the utmost appreciation of visual presentation. Additionally, likewise to Lang's "Metropolis" and Kubrick's "2001," Scott's landscapes have obvious metaphoric resonance; Lang used the the manufactured to display a form of social oppression and a Marxist perspective of social classes, while Scott's world is one of wondrous technical achievements, but paradoxically, suffers the distraught of urban decay. Likewise to Kubrick, Scott obviously believes in the notions of irony embedded within the advancements of technology: our greatest achievements can eventuate in our greatest downfalls.
Ultimately, the world that Scott has created pays homage to previous opus', while still containing a sense of authenticity in equal measure. On the subject of homages, Scott's universe is draped with Film-Noir references; ranging from the silhouette projection of bars from the curtains, evoking "Double Indemity," and Deckard's core characteristics are influenced from "The Big Sleep" Phillip Marlowe.
Surprisingly, after my first viewing of "Blade Runner," the film situated within the "Action" genre. A quick warning: if you haven't seen "Blade Runner," do not expect upon initial viewing a Sci-Fi with space-operish qualities, but rather an adventure handled with elegance and subtly, as there is action (which occurs rarely often), but is often treated within the most elegant process; evoking the fine lines between life and death.
However, the most rewarding aspect that separates this film from the archetype action Sci-Fi is its enigmatic characterization; a world riddled with contradictions, emotional wrecks, morally ambiguous, isolation, and the old whiskey for comfort. To begin with, there is obviously Deckard: a man - as previously stated - that initially seems to represent masculine values, however. As we continually dig deeper, his story and life is quite tragic. Seemingly lost his love, Deckard is an alcoholic, suffers a sense of isolation, and morals are riddled with contradictions. Ultimately, this tragic story against the back-drop of a world engulfed in urban decay all equalize in an atmosphere that conveys a melancholic feel for the future. Once again in the same vain as Kubrick, the Replicates are the characters that seem to contain genuine emotions (H.A.L would fit right in!), especially Rachael (Young). Initially, Rachael seems human like, but after various test and utilization, she is a Replicate with one unique quality: the containment of implanted memories. Rachael is most definitely the emotional beacon; a woman that has come to terms with her existence and the fact that she is simply an exploitation of human use. Ultimately, due to their past and hopefully futures, the relationship developed between Rachael and Deckard is a love story with tragic (and Shakespearean) qualities.
Within the 'antagonist' side of Replicates, Rutger Hauer's portrayal of Roy Batty is mesmerizing. The leader of the fallen Replicates, Batty is a 'man' that glows with provenance. A character that contains an abundance of knowledge, a wealth of intelligence and genuine emotion. Deckard and Hauer existence within the same spatial space lends to a continuous juxtaposition of humans and Replicates and Scott's central, philosophical theme: what constitutes to be human? Consider the climatic sequence: Deckard and Batty begin within Sebastian's apartment and culminates upon the roof-top and in the purifying rain. Exasperated, and about to come to the end of his life span, Batty speaks a Shakespearean soliloquy that deserves quotations:
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die." - Roy Batty
Simultaneously poignant and melancholic, Batty's final words contain profound resonance. They suggest and make the audience question: what does it mean to be human? Obviously Batty is a Replicate, but his final soliloquy displays non-Replicate qualities, but rather that of a human who is fond of his ever-lasting memories with the accompany of genuine emotion. Furthermore, throughout the whole movie Batty fears the one entity that all humans fear: death. And who are we to judge his life-span? Within "The Final Cut," Scott even goes a step further and suggest that (Spoiler alert!!!) maybe even Deckard is a Replicate.
Likewise to its ending, "Blade Runner" is riddled with literature innuendos and devices. And once again, Batty's final passage contains literary resonance. Batty embodies various forms of symbolism and allegoric characteristics. Beginning with the former, Batty's terminating poignancy on the nature of Replicates subordinate position culminates with Batty releasing a white dove into the air; a moment that is symbolically suggesting the internal emotions and essential characteristics that constitute for human existence is also resonant with Replicates. Furthermore, 'Eyes' are a continuous symbolic motif. Suggested to provide the internal perspective of human emotion ( Just watch "The Passion of Joan of Arc"), or rather the gateway to the soul, Scott's emphasis on such a human organ was due to the fact that he believed that eyes were humans most important component. His comments obviously concur:
"I was also trying to say that the eye is really the most important organ in the human body. It's like a two-way mirror; the eye doesn't only see a lot, the eye gives away a lot. A glowing human retina seemed one way of stating that". - Ridley Scott.
A paradoxical gateway if you will. On a subjective viewpoint and the relations of Eyes to "Blade Runner" and its overall thematics, is that the Eyes are the central organ to obtaining memories. And, drawing of the introductions of the Tyrell corporation with the juxtaposition of the retina absorbing the granduer imagery - the message is clear: Eyes function as another counterpart that Replicates share with humans that are not eccentric traits but rather ones that are cohesive with human nature. Within relation to allegoric qualities, the fugitive replicates share many allusions to Christianity traits. Consider the various elements, the Replicates are robotic cyborgs that have fallen from another planet - a notion that contains resonance with the concepts of 'Fallen Angles,' because with all respect, the target characters are really the only ones that seem morally justified. Furthermore, through the final shoot-out, we see Batty poking a silver peg through his hand; an obvious suggestion that Batty serves as an allegory for Christ himself and his final sacrifice, which is Deckard.
As stated, with each annually viewing of "Blade Runner," a new level of appreciation continues in accumulation; continuously excited that each viewing will reveal another secret, whether it be within terms of cinematic qualities, thematically or its conflicted and tragic characters, it's a film that needs the utmost attention from its audience to appreciate its ever-lasting qualities. This is the sole reason why I consider Ridley Scott's early effort a masterpiece; a continuous jig-saw puzzle, and after each viewing I gain various pieces but never obtain the whole image from initially appearance - it's a film that deserves to be analyzed from every frame corner. "Blade Runner" is not only a film that contains the most beautiful Sci-fi presentation, memorable characters, thematics that are studied upon days ends with the accompany of riddled literature references; but a film that deserves the title of masterpiece and even one of the best films ever made. As Rita Kempley would state:
"Grand enough in scale to carry its many Biblical and mythological references, Blade Runner never feels heavy or pretentious -- only more and more engrossing with each viewing. It helps, too, that it works as pure entertainment."
Posted on 12/13/12 11:34 AM
Whether you deem it a unique or eccentric virtue, many have condemned Andrei Tarkovsky's "Solaris" on initial viewing. It's a film that contains layers upon layers thematically, and features the auteur signature hypnotic direction (which - in some cases - is extremely tedious). Personally, I wasn't prejudice towards the subject matter, but - and no doubt about it - within this artistic merit, Tarkovsky's style can seem pretentious. However, it's obvious that the Russian film-maker is self indulgent (similar to the likes of Terrence Mallick), and simply strives for an artistic merit from a purely subjective perception rather than the pretentiousness of box-office profit. Demanding repetitive views to unlock its cryptic labyrinthine on love, human nature and the philosophical resonance on ideals; and riddled with provocative imagery and a unrelenting atmosphere, "Solaris" is - without a doubt - a surrealistic experience.
Frequently regarded as the Russian "2001," Tarkovsky's efforts shares one vital difference: his characters are genuinely humanized. However, the comparison is evidently plausible. Both Tarkovsky's and Kubrick share similar direction style; drawing sequences out to their essences, allowing the viewers to immerse themselves within the hypnotic style. Furthermore, both directors share an appreciation of aesthetics, as both films are riddled with vivid, haunting and visceral imagery that resemble a perpetual painting. Also in similar vain, the plot is based upon the novel Stanislaw Lem, which accounts the strange hallucinations suffered by several astronauts when orbiting the mysterious oceanic planet Solaris.
While "Solaris" is an accumulation of themes, its central focus reflects a philosophical diagnosis on the human condition; dealing with abstract emotions that we generally idealize but ultimately never full-fill, along with the slight question of the reality that we embody. However, these thematics are never spelled out, everything is suggested through allusions rather than verbally displayed - which, in turn, demands every ounce of the viewers attention (which is no easy challenge considering the hypnotic style). The central focus is channeled through Kris Kelvin (Banionis), a man who is introduced through a montage of beautiful and subtle images of nature (Mallick obviously gained inspiration from here). Eventually - after long passages of subtle direction - Burton (Dvorzhetsky), a family friend makes Kris watch a video that describes the hallucinatory events in attempts to persuade Kris to visit the mysterious island.
As stated, the first 45 minutes spent on 'earth' contains frames that are degraded to their essence. Tarkovsky continually draws passages to a tedious state; he deploys deliberate tracking shots and various zoom in's and zoom outs with minimal editing that effortlessly oblige to the anonymous atmosphere, along with the utmost appreciation of the quality and virtues of landscapes - displayed through a brilliant juxtaposition of the urbanized landscape towards an organic one. While Kelvin's introductory seems to convey a man that contains appreciation of nature's qualities, his treatment of people is quite impudent and cynical; in fact, many of the characters initially convey a sense of coldness. However, his moral justification is most certainly in for a bombardment.
After reluctantly questioning, Kelvin eventually decides to travel to the mysterious oceanic field. On his arrival, Kelvin meets the lasting survivors as one of the astronauts has committed suicide. Kelvin is greeted by the remaining astronauts, Dr. Snaut (Järvet) and Dr. Sartorius (Solonitsyn). Evidently, both suffers traumas and difficulties in interpreting the events that have occurred within their space station. The space shuttles interior is projected in a circular arc; Kelvin is literally surrounded by the forms of futuristic technology, mysterious adolescence and a midget - all surrealistic elements combine for an unforgettable atmosphere.
Becoming exasperated, Kelvin drifts to sleep. Upon his waking, a strange and mysterious girls appears before his eyes, a woman that he loved and has died a long time ago: Hari (Bondarchuk). After much bewilderment and attempts to get rid of her artificial presence, the remaining astronauts warn Kelvin that Hari's existence stems from the oceanic conceptualizing powers. Hari's presence is subject of contentiousness. Her existence stems form the subconscious of Kelvin's memories, a woman that has been deceased for decades. Being no stranger at representing his characters internally rather than externally, Tarkovsky's adored expressing such notions, but what really makes Hari the epitome of these notions, is that she is an illusion that develops a self-conscious; a woman that doesn't exist (but does anyone exist?) but has gained, fundamentally, genuine emotion - as I said, a contentious subject no doubt. Furthermore, Hari's presence is another striking contrast between Kubrick's 'Monolith': both are two entities that metaphorically represent the power of space against the fragility of humanity - while Tarkvosky may of disagreed with the humanization that Kubrick portrayed, they obviously believed in one thing: if life does exist upon space, then we, as the human race are surely not ready for the mysteries its dark canvas' contain.
As stated, "Solaris" on first appearance may seem perplexing; similar to all great films and their mysteries, it's viewing that deserves repetitive viewings to unlock its layers. And while I am only providing it with 70%, I dare say this initial score will change in the future. Nevertheless, Tarkvosky's entry into the Sci-Fi genre makes for an authentic experience; a world that is riddle with an unrelenting atmosphere (in the vain of Kubrick's other feature "The Shining"), philosophical questions that range from the questions of the human existence, the abstract notions of love, mans pursue of knowledge and ideals, the anonymous power of space, and existential experiences of the subconscious. Tarkvosky's thematics and subtle approach evoke the power of this genre, and along side Scott's "Blade Runner" and Kubrick's "2001," Tarkvosky's "Solaris" is another shining example of the power contained within Sci-Fi. If you're looking for a space opera, you will not find it here.
Posted on 12/12/12 01:47 AM
Coming off the cinematic masterpiece - and quite arguably one of the most profound artistic achievement of the 20th century - "Vertigo," Alfred Hitchcock was situated at the height of Hollywood's prestige directors. A film that was so dextrous within its themes, that many cinema-goers where left in a perplexing state. It's no surprise after such audacious efforts, Hitchcock was willing to confine to a generic affair. Hitchcock's inspiration and comments for his next efforts concur: "something fun, light-hearted, and generally free of the symbolism permeating my other movies." After finishing "North By Northwest," it could most certainly be argued that this film is the epitome of Hitchcock quintessentials. An espionage thriller that contains an abundance of Hitchcockian elements: the elegant blond dynamite, mistaken identity, "Pure Cinema," pretentiousness of the maternal figure, sexual innuendos and the classic Hitchcock cameo; along with Hitchcock's typical blend of cinematic elements that range from the thriller, comedy, romance and action into one entity. It's no surprise that Ernest Lehman wanted to create "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures," to which - in relations to Hitchcock essentials - he most definitely succeeds. Within this train-of-thought, "North by Northwest" is not only classified - and succeeds - as a satisfying blockbuster, but works in equal measure as a celebration of Hitchcock's aesthetics, style and cinematic traits. And with the accompany of Gary Grant's intoxicating performance, the film is simply a tasteful treat.
What would be a celebration of quintessential Hitchcock without his favourite collaborators: Saul Bass and Bernard Herrmann. Saul Bass aesthetic style has obviously been a vital component to his credit sequences, and with trains being a central figure of North, Bass begins with an accumulation of parallel lines that reflect train-tracks. Along with the sweeping score contributed from Herrmann, the many lines manifest themselves into the facade of a building reflecting a busy New York. After a few seconds, the passage culminates with the classic Hitchcock cameo. Besides the obvious visual presumptuous, Bass' credit sequences were not passive affairs, but rather visual rituals that would reflect the fore-brooding thematics; in this case: mistaken identity - as the jungle of pedestrians reflects that the notions of mistaken identity are immensely possible and that anyone can be subjected to its anonymity power (think "Frenzy"). Ultimately, with the two technical genius' at the top of their game, the opening credits are brilliant in foreshadowing the perpetual motion and the tasteful events that are going to come.
Adopting a plot that revolves around mistaken identity - which he would use time and time again - Hitchcock channels these notions on Roger Thornhill (Grant). A Businessmen that consists of the typical 1960's characteristics found within all prestige men: cynical, impudent, pretentious, and charming (Thornhill would perfectly complement Mad Men's Donald Draper). Fortunately, Hitchcock plucks Thornhill out of his superficial environment and makes him a mistaken government agent by foreign spies which sends him on a wild-goose chase across America.
In relation to Hitchcock's appreciation of story-telling, pace and innuendos, each event consistently arrives organically rather than seemingly forced; and in this regard, the initial sequence when Thornhill first meets the antagonist Phillip Vandamm (Mason) is an entity of beauty. On initial appearance, both protagonist and antagonist share similar traits: charming but reasonable, accomplished but unsatisfied. To display personified labels, Hitchcock lets his beautiful pallet of lighting do the talking - Vandamm's face is unquantified by the brooding shadows, while Thornhill is face is eloquent from the glistering fore-ground projection. It's a beautiful palette juxtaposition that reflects Hitchcock's sensibilities. As the scene continues, Thornhill refuses Vandamm's cooperation which leads to his henchmen forcing Thornhill to consume unquantified amounts of Bourbon to effect his logic state - a scene that is played out with realistic qualities, to which a lesser film would subject Thornhill to a physical beating (or resort to more explicit methods). The continuous subtle approach - accompanied by innuendos - is resolutely more effective, to which no sequence suffers a sense of pretense or impudence. Furthermore, this approach allows the audience to absorb absurd situations (which there are many - most notable 'The Crop Duster sequence'). Consider when they attempt to kill Thornhill. The sequence evidently makes no sense, why would the villains want to attempt to frame a man when they could simply shoot him (obviously for it to look like suicide, but come on, these are soviet spies after all). However, Hitchcock's attention to detail and the characters reactions to the on-coming situations convey a wholly realistic atmosphere; to the point, that we as the audience accept whatever absurdity that Hitchcock continues to belt-out.
List most films in his oeuvre, whether dealing with suspense, thrills, action, horror or romance, Hitchcock always has time for a laugh with injections of tongue-and-cheek; and boy, does Gary Grant's performance perfectly encapsulates the tasteful tone. For instance, consider the passage where Thornhill is arrested for his drunken behavior. Grant's physicality and mentality towards his actions are pitch perfect, especially - considering that Thornhill admires himself greatly - when he resorts to his mother for help. Many of the laughs stem from this relationship, which doesn't unfold itself within the communal routine of a maternal and son bond, but rather that of a sisters and brothers; Grant bribes his mother with fifty-dollar bills, while the mother continuously mocks her sons questionable state (if you are a fan of Hitchcock and his traits, you'll notice the auteur sinisterly mocking the maternal figure).
After being framed for murder, Thornhill's world continuous to spiral out of control (accompanied by some truly beautiful shots of The United Nations). Eventually Thornhill finds diplomacy (we'll believes) with the mysterious, but utterly beautiful Eve Kendall (Saint). A combination of Gary Grant's natural characteristics (let's face it, he is gorgeous) and the auteurs fruitful Blond bombshell.....well, lets just say it's an equation that eventuates in erotic, sexy and simply perfect chemistry. Time and time again Hitchcock would situate two beautiful people together, and out this would stem one of his most dextrous and devilment abilities: sexual innuendos. Under the restrictions of the Hollywood juggernaut and its classification system, Hitchcock continuously pursued its boundaries - in the same vain as Wilder ("Some Like It Hot") and Hawks ("The Big Sleep"). The diner sequence shared between these two characters reflects this greatly. Their conservation is cryptically manifested with sexual evasiveness against the backdrop of a beautiful colour palette consisting of lush greens, blues and browns that remain visually stunning, and is obviously more rewarding than a modern, blatant sex scene.
Eventually, Thornhill gains the knowledge of Eve's discreet (another character that contains three separate identities; it's obvious that even though Hitchcock clearly stated that he didn't want to display thematics, North is clearly riddled with the notions of mistaken identity) through a sequence that is as iconic as it is irreplaceable. The scene I am referring is obviously the 'Crop Duster assault' (well what kind of "North by Northwest" review would it be without the iconic mention?). Hitchcock oeuvre is riddled with them: the "Psycho" shower sequence, the 'Vertigo' shot, "Rear Windows" iconic set, "The Birds" editing and the list goes on. These segments reflect the Hitchcock notion of "Pure Cinema:" moments and sequences that can only exist within the visual medium of cinema. Previous to his Blockbuster, Hitchcock was experimenting with the notion - to great effect - in "Vertigo," and has obviously perfected it with Grant's bewildering attack. The scene is set-up beautifully, beginning with an establishing shot that display the transitional movements from and urbanized landscape to the likes of a vast plain; threat and jeopardy are definite. As the scene continues, and Hitchcock being Hitchcock, anonymous cars continually pass - Hitchcock once again playing with audience expectations - which brilliantly adds to the sense of suspense and dread. As Thornhill becomes exasperated and confused, a mysterious plane begins to circle in fore-ground, and at that point, we, as the audience, know exactly what is going to happen. It's the brilliance of such moments that represent the epitome of this magnificent auteur capabilities. Additionally, consider the climax upon Mount Rushmore (what more logical climax to an espionage and political thriller). Besides the sequence reflecting the notions of "Pure Cinema." it's a climax that is ultimately conveyed organically; an entity that is evidently missing within modern blockbusters. For instance, within the final climax there is no pecking order of the characters status'. For example, within most modern blockbusters, the protagonist and antagonist would contain some sense of physical prowess compared to the inferior, or rather less important characters, e.g, the bewildering Policemen. To great effect, Hitchcock keeps it grounded; Thornhill faces the same struggles as Vandamm's henchmen, and with the accompany of typical Hitchcock editing, the perpetual motion is never halted.
Personally, "North by Northwest" takes second stride against Hitchcock's monumental masterpieces. However, this is no degrading comment, second-class Hitchcock still contained the brilliance of influential power (looking at you James Bond) and a masterpiece within the action genre. A celebration of his aesthetic style, and while it may seem Hitchcock was confining to generics, it seems the trickster was once again executing a prank, as no one would be prepared for the diabolical "Psycho" released a year later.