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Rating History

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and her Lover is one of the most macabre movie experiences I've ever had. It is a film so drenched in gothic red colors, Jacobian theatrics, and wonderful performances, that one can't be surprised Greenaway had as much influence from 16th century tragedies as he did from filmmakers such as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Set at the eloquent but menacing restaurant "La Hollandaise", CTWL follows a week in the life of hapless wife (Mirren) who is constantly abused verbally and physically by the Immense terror that is her husband Albert Spica (Michael Gambon). And what an immense terror he is! From the very first scene we realize we are no longer in PG land as Spica humiliates a man by covering him in dog feces and then spending the rest of the night gallavanting at the highest level of obnoxiousness with his slimy henchmen. Mirren, miserable as anyone could imagine, finds a fresh romance in a local patron at the restaurant: Michael (Alan Howard). We, the audience, want the relationship to work, but the menacing undertones of the cinematography hint towards a much darker fate.

There are several qualities that make CTWL a film worth owning. One being the acting: Michael Gambon's performance here is one of legendary status. After watching this film, it amazes me that I have never seen Albert Spica on any "Top Villains lists". From the very first scene we just want to see him dead. My love for Helen Mirren was confirmed with her performance as Georgina. I had seen and loved her in O'Lucky Man, The Queen, and Caligula (I know, I know) but the minute she muttered that famous bad a-- last line I was just googly eyed. The cinematography is also to be adored. It's as if Edgar Allen Poe became a Set designer. Loads of black, mixed with red and plenty of shots that show exquisite depth. The allusions to the Thatcher adminstration that are said to be seen in the plot completly flew over my head, but then again I'm no expert on English Politics.

Due to its infamous climax and candid use of nudity, CTWL has repeatedly been named one of the most shocking films of its era. And while I found the nude-rotten meat truck scene to be quite unsettling I found this film to be a beautiful tribute to old tradgedies such as "Tidus Andronicus" and "The White Devil". And although Spica alone is quite appalling, the film didn't quite reach the stomach-churning heights of "Cannibal Holocaust" or "Salo" (That is not a bad thing). If you are looking for a delicious food movie, go rent Mostly Martha. If you want a gothic tragedy that just happens to be set a restaurant look no further then this gem from Greenaway.

Happiness
Happiness (1998)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Just 10 minutes after seeing Todd Solondz's Happiness, I am in shock at how much I loved this film. Happiness is perverted, dark, and pessimistic but it is also an insightful allegory on human nature. All of these characters are dispicable, except Joy, but there is something in them that we can relate to: and that is the need to be happy. No matter how deeply wretched a desire might be, it is still a desire just like your's and mine, and at the end of the day all we want to do is to gain happiness by fufilling them. Reviewers who say this film isn't honest are completly dense, if anything this film is too honest. There are some scenes here, the father/son conversation near the end especially, that are so open that I cringed. The acting from the entire cast was incredible and Dylan Baker's performance here asserts that he is one of the most underrated (and unsettling!)actors working today. In the end I found the most impressive feat of Happiness to be Solondz's balancing act in tone. He walks this whole film on a thin line between comedy and complete depravity and succeeds. While most will call the Bill Maplewood thread of the film disgusting, I found it miraculous how Solondz managed to make a pedophile somewhat empathetic and three dimensional. The audience is supposed to hate this man, but why do we hold are breath when we feel his crimes have been found out? (The reviewer who made the psycho comparision said it all). Happiness is not a film for everyone, only for those who can see through the dark tunnel of perversions and find the existential truths at the end of it. The sex is raw, the people are mean, the acts are heinous, but the main desire is our own: and that is to be happy. See Happiness, I effing loved it. A+

Brokeback Mountain
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

For many days now I have lingered on this film. I recently rented it off of Netflix, and I was stunned by how much it moved me. For the longest time I avoided seeing this film, because I was afraid of how I would feel about it. Not for it's subject matter, I have sat through and enjoyed many gay themed films. I feared more that this was just another over-hyped oscar winning dissapointment, Like so many other oscar winners over the past few decades. Personally I was deeply moved by this film. There are very many lessons to be learned from Brokeback Mountain. Not necessarily about homosexuality, but about the nature of love itself. Brokeback Mountain makes you realize how powerful a force like love is. It can create such beauty and passion. Yet at the same time destroy lives with the intensity of a furious hurricane. The main thing I liked about the picture, is that it doesn't take sides. Every character in this film is a victim. Jack and Ennis are both lonely and miserable, while Alma and Lureen have to suffer through infidelity and loveless marriages. They could have easily turned this film into a mockery of itself, although people make fun of it anyway, it never made a wrong turn for me.

The performances are revolutionary. I really agree with people who put Heath Ledger's performance up there with Brando. He completly embodied Ennis Del Mar, the way Charlize Theron embodied Aileen Wurnos in "Monster. The moment where he breaks down in the alleyway after Jack left just really tears you up. Saying that, I have to say as great as Jake Gyllenhaal was in this film, I did think he was bit overshadowed by Ledger. But I really loved the way that you could guess what he was feeling just from his facial expressions. One scene that comes to mind, is the one where he is dancing with Lureen and you can see this sadness in his eyes as he turns away from her, like he is pining for something pining for Ennis.
Michelle Williams is an incredible actress, I've seen her in Wendy and Lucy and Synechdoche,NY, and it amazes me that she hasn't gotten more recognition then she's already recieved, the moment when she see's Ennis from the porch she shows such a genuine reaction.This was also a huge breakout movie for Anne Hathaway, who before had only been known for playing disney princesses.


Out of all the films Ang Lee has directed this is probably my favorite of his, or at least tied with The Ice Storm. It amazes me how versatile he continues to be from doing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Sense & Sensibility. I recently heard that he was set to do the Film adaptation of "Life of Pi" and if it is anywhere as good as this adaptation of Annie Proulx's story(which is worth a look) then I will be eternally grateful.

Kes
Kes (1969)
5 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

Ken Loach's acclaimed 1973 film "Kes" is one of the saddest films I've ever seen, literally ever. 90% percent of this film is shown with scenes displaying the public disapproval of small loner Billy Casper; be it by his teachers, peers, or family. No matter where he gos there is always Something someone finds to disapprove of in poor Billy: His appearance, attitude, or just the simple fact that he exists. He is a kid whose past is percieved as horrible, present is obiviously miserable, and whose future is looking as dim as the mine shaft he's destined to plunge into. But in all of this darkness there is one small bright shade of light: Kes. A beautiful kestrel taken from a monastery wall by Billy. He seems to be the only thing in this world that Casper takes a natural interest to. "It's just a bird!" His mother shouts, but it's not. Its his sole reason left for existing.

We have all felt down and out in our lives, but only a few of us have ever reached the level of hopelessness that fills Billy's life. The flying scenes with Billy and kes are brief but beautiful, for they show a kid regaining his reason to live when his society told him he had none. "They beat him. They Deprived him. They Ridiculed him. They Broke his heart. But they could not break his spirit." That is the tagline for this film, and I don't think they could've made one that summed up this film better. In some ways I believe that Kes represents Billy in that he feels the need to take flight, to go make something of himself, but is trapped by the forces of his own environment (that leash).

At Kes' Conclusion we are left in want of a resolution, but are sadly denied it. That to me is what makes the film so painful, we hope deep down that Billy finds a way out of his current situation but everything looks doubtful. All I keep thinking is how many children out there share a similar childhood to Billy's, and all I hope is that each of them has their own Kes. Because without hope, without that spirit, what reason is there for living?

This is not a film that would be enjoyed by a massive american audience. This is not Old yeller and it is certainly not Free Willy. Many will find it overly depressing (which isn't an irrational complaint) and the thick yorkshire accents are difficult to follow (These are not Gosford Park accents). But I would state that this film is incredible for its poigancy, emotional power and the very natural performance by David Bradley. The cinematography is exceptional, especially since the film had such a meager budget, and Ken Loach's directing is acclaimed for a reason. If you are looking for a film with a powerful emotional impact, thou can't go wrong with Kes.