Danijel J's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Closer (2004)
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Mike Nichols' Closer is a sophisticated movie. I say this after having thought about that designation for a while, a process which only made me certain about being right in the first place. Why would it need such a careful evaluation? Well, maybe because people in it speak like sailors, act like primitives, and display a behavior which could be interpreted as spoiled more than anything else. It is sophisticated, however, and that has nothing to do with the empty cultural aureole that surrounds it, and everything with the filmmaker and screenwriter allowing it to have some of the liberties this field more than allows, without feeling obligated to blush.

The starting point for enjoying it is to take it as a Hollywood production. That isn't so hard to do. It stars actors who were, at that time and even now, some of the more bankable ones, falling in and out of love (lets stop it at that), and is directed by an Oscar winner who made financially successful movies right from the first one. We meet Natalie Portman and Jude Law first, in a slow motion, which is a perfect way to look at their relationship as it is set up. She is hit by a car while walking the street, and he takes her to hospital. The injuries are insignificant, but the destined slow mo meeting results in them living together.

Fast-forward a year or so, something this movie does without consulting us too much. Her past experiences make her too possessive towards him, he can't handle it, and his love of a different kind finds Julia Roberts' photographer attractive. She does not respond at once, a situation made extra complicated by him accidentally setting her up with Clive Owen's doctor. The following interaction of these four is not interesting to describe or, from a certain moment, even try to understand. I kept the desire to follow them until the end, however, though, gradually, the actors were forced to carry more weight than this production welcomed.

These people from the big city of London want security more than anything, ready to cry or scream in public if that would mean that they have a chance to keep it, and who can, precisely because of that, sense, from miles ahead, every temptation which poses a danger to their status quo , even if the source lies in their person. The necessity of succumbing to those temptations gives the film an intellectual weight which, in general, made it work for me-the powerlessness and the awareness of its inevitability.

That exciting feeling of being thrown out of your comfort zone by raw emotion, which, combined with pure noise, prevents you to regain your composure, fades in that obligatory moment when you want not so much to form an opinion about the characters, but certainly understand the position they are coming from. The desire of the film-making team for this quartet to explain their actions so clearly doesn't help with that, as words tend to lose direction as the action progresses and the emotional core, which makes them say the things they say, will sometimes be so far away that you just want have enough time to find it before everything becomes loud again.

The eloquence, however, is not missing. Observe how Nichols' camera respects the need for expression of each character. There are few instances where the he turns our attention on certain shots, but shortly after they are established, he makes sure we keep it where it should be. The humor, delicious at times, is reinforced by the self-confidence of the actors, especially Owen, who plays it as a boxer who never shows intention to tell you in which instance his call for a fight is just a joke.

Now about those liberties. Verbal direction and rapid-fire deliveries take us back to the old times when people from the silver screen spoke in a different way from us, common mortals, and when the realists of the day were not so annoyingly loud as they can be these days. It is easy to forget, after the early nineties, that designed dialogues don't always have to be followed by scenes of designed violence. Call it an excuse for enthusiasm if you want, but I found more bravery in here than one would expect with such a precious cast.

Barbary Coast
Barbary Coast (1935)
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

When we put aside the obvious talent involved in making of this, Barbary Coast is just another movie which almost completely depends on Edward G. Robinson's screen persona, legendary even in that time when it was still fresh and rising. There were many filmmakers who counted on him being one of the rare constants in the history of motion pictures, but what's peculiar is how many of the weaker ones than the two he got here managed to get through with it. I mean, you'd think Ben Hecht (who wrote it together with Charles MacArthur) and Howard Hawks would have had more fun with him on board! Still, this is one of the rare instances where Hawks missed because he aimed too high. He was always one of the most careful ones in that respect, so the reasons for that probably lie on the side of his partner.

One can say that this was thematic exorcize for the westerns he made in every upcoming decade of his distinguished carrier. The setting is San Francisco of the nineteen century (during The Gold Rush) where Mary Rutlege (Miriam Hopkins) from the civilized New York settles to be married, following the previously existing arrangement. On arrival, she is shocked to find out her groom to be was shot dead by chief local gangster Louis Chamalis, a shock increased with the knowledge that all of his money was also confiscated by the man. Even there, we begin to suspect her motifs. Our doubts are confirmed when she accepts platonic relationship with him, for a chance to enjoy some of the luxury.

This is not a first collaboration between writer-director tandem. They did Scarface, the best of the early gangster pictures and Twentieth Century, which I thought was a little overrated, but still enjoyable on its own terms. Both of those pictures, even with the shortcomings of the later, always looked like they are coming out of the same mind. That synchronicity, or the lack of it, is the key reason Barbary Coast was the first of their collaboration which could be called a failure. When Hecht goes on one of his ramblings about the importance and lost honor of journalistic profession, Hawks looks interested. It brings us picture's best sequences, most of them involving the head of the printing paper Colonel Cobb, played by Frank Craven in a supporting performance of the film. But there are parts of this script Hawks doesn't seem to take seriously, and we can't be to harsh on him because of that.

Somewhere in the middle, we are presented with Jim Carmichael (Joel McCrea), an idealist who spent last 3 years alone in the wilderness, trying to use the best of The Gold Rush. As he becomes more and more of a conscious call for Mary, we can almost feel Hawks snoring in his chair. From than on, it is a situation of two pictures in one, battling for the domination. McCrea is perfectly fine in all of his misplacement, but that doesn't do the picture much good, and Hopkins is at her routinely convincing and uniquely sexy in calm moments, but is left entirely on her own in dramatic ones, coming out as a bad stage actress appearing on the screen.

The strongest feeling Barbary Coast leaves us with is lifelessness, a flaw even Hawks' biggest detractors can't find in his best work. He collaborated with Hecht again, most famously in His Girl Friday, when they recreated the early magic. This one remains for the fans only.

Gangster Squad
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

What made the original noirs of the forties so magnetic was the sense of something being different without the explanation of what that is or where the difference came from. That change manifested itself both as a shift in movie realism and as a new kind of world those movies were portraying. The cities remained the same, the cost of California was, I believe, as sunny as before, but people who inhabited this familiar world were, the filmmakers suggested, pushed away from the pleasures of the west coast by something deep inside them. If you wanted to search for causes in the big world event of that period, nobody had in mind the idea of stopping you. Indeed, you would probably have been on the right track. You were not, however, pushed in that direction.

Back to the present now. In the very first sentences of this over the top, politically correct picture book named Gangster Squad, Sergeant John O'Marra (Josh Brolin) informs us that he has been fighting abroad and winning a couple of medals. He is now back in the ever more corrupt LA, where his pregnant, devoted wife isn't capable of turning him out of the desire to set straight all of the wrongs. When he finally gets his chance to go after the big guy Micky Cohen (Sean Penn), the next logical step is choosing couple of brave ones to take along, which he does in Brian De Palma Untouchables style (though it comes of as flashiness worthy of Armagedon). They include his partner Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), technician Keeler (Giovanni Ribisi), an old timer from the south, a black guy and a Mexican (Indian minority was covered in a brief scene where a witty comment was made about their mistreatment in Hollywood). One more connection with Cohen is the hooking up of Wooters with gangster's mistress Grace (Emma Stone).

As it manages to even be self-referential about the war experience in the first 30 minutes,Ruben Fleischer's film takes a moral stand right from the beginning, one where an honorable badge and justice are placed against greed and moral corruption, and it does that in such an blatant way that you are forced to consider of taking it seriously. And there is nothing more deadly for a film this devoid of any character substance or story wisdom than for us to take it seriously. It suggest that violence can be defeated with more violence, and that the final result of that will be harmony and peace. Maybe Fleischer's friends should buy him few history books as a birthday present, desirably about any revolution that ever took place. One must wonder what to do with scenes like you know the drill. If you haven't seen it, I'll let you discover it by yourself in all of its misplacement.

Of the main performers, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone look less ridiculous then the others. This has got to be the ultimate low in Sean Penn's carrier. His boss comes out as an impersonation of Robert De Niro in those comedies where he parodied his tough-guy image. As for Ryan Gosling he continuously mails to us just how thin the facade of his cynicism really is, not that the script works in his advantage, since that facade is crushed after about 20 minutes in order for him to join the just cause of the operation. This is the first film in which I could see why he gets on the nerves of so many people with his acting style.

Ultimately, it is one of those film where its aficionados will defend it by saying things like: "they've done the blood realistically after that head shot or when the old man took those shots to the can, he fired exactly six bullets, the maximum amount for gun of that caliber. They don't get those small details right in most cases." That's all true, no doubt about it. Fleischer also shows his superficial fascination with the glamor of the forties and for excessive use of childish violence to as a narrative device. Interested?

Beyond The Hills
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Decade lasting Romanian invasion on pretty much all of the prominent European festivals continued last year with, among others, Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills. Mungiu brought his film to Cannes, the same place he picked up a major award for his 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, one of the most acclaimed works of the past decade. As is the case in these situations, all eyes were pointed in his direction when he finally announced his second feature. If the five year gap between two films tells you he's been aware of those looks, his film confirms that notion in few unpleasant ways. It is obligatory longer than its predecessor, has an obligatory controversial theme and has won him few obligatory awards. It also presents itself as an obligatory viewing for fans of serious cinema.

This time around, director stays in the present (months, weeks, days happened in the late eighties) in the story set in a remote orthodox monastery, where nun Voichita (Cosmina Stratan)receives a visitor from Germany, her friend Alina (Cristiana Frutun, both very convincing). Two girls were friends in the orphanage, became something more (we can be pretty sure of that) later, had an arrangement to go work together abroad, but that's now in danger of being delayed because Voichita has found in the monastery life calm and security she feels she has no chance of getting anywhere else. Alina decides to stay with her for a while, with both girls showing substantial dependency on one another, without the courage to admit their paths can't go in the same direction any more.

Alina's attempts to adjust to a life in monastery and become member of a community whose strict readings of The Bible she has no desire of accepting induce few convulsions of rage, prompting the well-meaning priest to believe she is possessed by Satan. The cure is one many moviegoer's have seen on the big screen in the last 40 years, but not often, if ever, in a picture like this.

There are several times when we follow characters leaving the monastery and interacting with regular people. They visit dreary, unequipped hospitals, cold rooms of the police station , take a quick gaze in the hopelessness of the orphanage Alina and Voichita grew up in. After a while, those scenes cause the movie to loose direction. Social themes, structurally set in the background, come to the fore in an intensity that does damage to the balance of the entire piece. Voichita, burdened with group mentality, takes the sacral direction mainly because she has been either failed by other formal institutions, or she has had no reason to rely on their help. In the monastery, separated, she knows all of the promises, though modest, will be fulfilled in the end.

The other conflict, one that puts the ostensible security of blind faith against the risks of giving confidence to another human being threatens to fade away as a consequence of the permeation mentioned above. One gets the feeling that all of the time spent inside the church walls has no real purpose, other than stressing out the social context. As a consequence, some might find the exorcism scenes sensationalist or out of place. Either way, their futility remains.

Mungiu can probably justify two and a half hours running time with a carefully choreographed turn of events, where he needed the last half an hour to put a stamp on many points he pursued. Still, one truth remains. All the layers of suggestive darkness that soak the screen from the first minutes (this is one of those pictures where shades of black are covered by the shades of gray) can't conceal the lack of one memorable scene. Everything is staged with monotonous expertise, as if writer-director thought some small burst of spontaneity would violate his overwrought plan. I'm talking, for example about that wonderful scene in Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, where the first appearance of a female figure, almost an hour into a film, makes both us and the characters forget about everything else. In a picture with contemplative pace this strict, we have a right to expect at least one of those.

Silver Linings Playbook
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Silver Linings Playbook has been described in many different ways, properly so only if you look at it too broadly. It has, infiltrated in main narrative, themes such as bipolar disorder, OCD, sex addiction and job loss in these insecure times we live in, with some hyper-tetchy people as its subjects. Still, it's not a particularly complicated thing to classify. Break it down, and you get all of the elements of a romantic comedy. The fact that this genre has been dragged down the mud in last few decades in particular dosen't mean Davis O. Rusell's film should leave the comfort zone it works so hard to cover.

When Pat (Bradley Cooper) comes out of the psycrhiatic institution, he finds a lot of things which could trigger his bipolar disorder (for which he has an appropriate document as a proof). His wife has left him (he ended up behind the key because he beat up her lover), he can't come back to the job, and his obsesive compulsive father (Robert de Niro, doesn't have a proof for it, so it is not formal) has lost his job too, and is now planing to open a restaurant somehow. In the early stages of his rehabilitation, he meets Tiffany, who first serves as a madness evaluation meter, but has some ideas of her own about the direction of their relationship.

This is not a kind of filmmaking I usualy respond to, openly unsubtle, rough around the edges and sometimes schizofrenicaly pumped up to an extent that you expect the projector to go up in flames at any moment. These people expres their nature exclusively by means of language, using the rappid fire delivery as an out and out attack in desperate attempts to claim the right for hope. Nods to Rusell for calming things down somewhere in the middle and saving the movie. As he also penned the film, I got the feeling he writes not for the camera, but for the editing room. It is through editing esspecialy that he puts the nature and maybe even the existance of medical problems these people deal with entirely at our evaluation, showing us the border of insanity solely through basic human contant.

The most prominent theme in his film, that of finding positive reaction on every situation you encounter and than expressing it without being missunderstood, is almost brilliantly covered up, which makes this first and foremost a director's picture. He found a perfect sense for pacing, understood what he wants to achieve with it and saved the film from becoming a tyranny of cheep idealisam (the kind in which everyone who is not talking about happines and love to one another is deemed a cynic). And be certain the danger of that was always on his mind.

Jennifer Lawrence, who is 21 is cast against Bradley Cooper (37), in a move which inevitabely calls to mind the old days, where these kinds of films often lived and died out of that gap. While it's not hard to addmit that Cooper can not be equated to, say, Cary Grant in Charade, Lawrence takes full credit for us not having to perceive this as a situation which needs to be saved from either one of the actors. There is a sense of immediacy in her screen preasence, not very different from her character in this film, which doesn't allow anyone to think she hasn't had enought expirience to confront any co-star. Like Lawrence, De Niro is more than capable to carry out more complex characters, but given his track record in recent years, let's be gratefull he dignified us with this one.

Rusell's quest for freshness this material lives of before plunging into familliarity brought us stuff like the segment where characters overcome communication breakdown by investing all of the savings in one game of American football. Even that sort of nonsense shouldn't be able to spoil the picture. It appears in the second part where your involvment, if it exist, can't be shattered that easily. The same goes for the ending. This is one of the rare occcasions where a picture and its characters deserve to have a standard rom-com conclusion glued to it.