Category: Movies Magnifique


Furry b4 it was cool

‘Fritz the Cat’ (1972)

by Ralph Bakshi

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Fritz the Cat, described by Roger Ebert as “an X-rated excursion into the urban underworld”, is an idea by cartoonist Robert Crumb adapted by Ralph Bakshi that instantaneously lets you know what you’re in for. Released in a decade where the art of animation would be no more crude than the grittiest works of Walt Disney, especially if the animations starred talking animals, here is a film that opens on anthropomorphic creatures discussing societal problems of the era right before an ox whips out his manhood and his golden shower transitions into the film’s title sequence. Continue reading

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FAVORITE MOVIES: ‘The Abyss’

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‘The Abyss’ (1989)

by James Cameron

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Those who hail The Revenant as historically significant in what a mentally and physically grueling production it was are not wrong. But there was a time, before the most meaningful work on a movie was turning the giant green sheet behind the actors into landscapes and monsters, where such hardships were commonplace. And never once has it reached the same extreme as in 1989 with James Cameron‘s The Abyss – which, fittingly, is also one of the earliest movies to employ advanced CGI, making it both a quintessence of practical/traditional filmmaking and a prediction of how filmmaking was going to change in the next few years. We would come to see such films as Terminator: Judgement Day, Jurassic Park, and that adaptation of Lawnmower Man that I was too dumb to understand. An exciting couple of years it certainly was. Continue reading

alles is loss

‘All Is Lost’ (2013)

by J.C. Chandor

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I am always astounded by films that can accomplish much by using little, especially so when it works to the same extent as J.C. Chandor’s 2013 drama All Is Lost. It is a story of man vs. the elements that mainly takes place in and around one small sailboat out on the open sea, features almost no dialogue, and stars not one single actor besides leading-man Robert Redford. And with so little baggage, it manages to be one of the most arresting and devastating movies I have seen in years. “Sometimes less is more” I believe the experts say. Continue reading

blip

‘Back to the Future’ (1985) – ‘Back to the Future Part II’ (1989)

by Robert Zemeckis

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Clarification: I will be discussing both of the first two Back to the Future movies in one post because, at the end of the day, they feel like one long movie, not only because the second film contains countless scenes from the first one viewed through a different perspective but because the third one feels more like “the sequel” in how different it is. At some point I’ll get to that one too, but we shall see when I feel like doing that. I will say this: I don’t find it as great as the first two. Continue reading

SOUND OF SOUND

‘Sound of Noise’ (2010)

by Ola Simonsson & Johannes Stjärne Nilsson

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There are often excuses for movies not to make sense. If a film knows it’s non-sensical and embraces it in a way that ultimately makes it fun and eccentric instead of infuriating, you become more engrossed in its events than if you were to watch a film that tries to make sense but doesn’t. Most films featured on Honest Trailers, for instance.

I often complain about the lack of great films in my homeland. For every Kung Fury, there are a hundred formulaic teenage angst movies, 20 generic cop dramas, and uncountable amounts of idiotic comedies (usually based on the Sune novels). But every once in a while, there is a film like Sound of Noise, which is a contender for the greatest Swedish film I’ve seen. It is an extension of a 2001 short film entitled Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, watchable here. Continue reading

MICROCOCK

‘Microcosmos’ (1995)

by Claude Nuridsany and Marie Pérennou

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I am not sure what originally ignited the fascination I’ve always had with the insect world. It’s just one of those interests I have that, somewhat understandably, has made more than a few people look at me funny and ask if I’m alright. Perhaps it began when my grandmother looked at anthills with me as a child, or maybe that time I got to borrow my cousin’s VHS copy of Pixar’s A Bug’s Life? I don’t know, but no matter the reason, my immense fascination with this tiny world that exists in and around our own is not a recently acquired interest. Continue reading

beauty and the booty

‘Beauty and the Beast’ (1991)

by Kirk Wise &  Gary Trousdale

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A film as great and universally beloved as Beauty and the Beast is a sign that Disney will always find a way back. After a streak of poorly received features and the occasional box office bomb, they came back big in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, and even bigger a few years later with Beauty and the Beast, which also happens to be one of the first Disney films my mother showed me. Continue reading

Babel mexico

‘Babel’

by Alejandro González Iñárritu

“Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” — Genesis 11:4–9 (The Tower of Babel)

Being lost in a place that doesn’t understand you, especially when you are in desperate need of someone’s help, is not easy. It is a fear that relates to most of everyone and in 2006’s Babel by the formidably talented Alejandro González Iñárritu do we see four different storylines take place on three different continents dealing with four different yet very similar things, all tied together by one Japanese firearm that has made its way into the sand-laden lands of Morocco. Continue reading

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‘Contagion’

by Steven Soderbergh

Hollywood often looks for its tension in the wrong places. They believe the key to keeping filmgoers perched upon the edges of their seats is flashy actions, state of the art visual effects and overblown fight scenes (Desolation of Smaug comes to mind). Some filmmakers, however, realize that there are movies that will require none of this.

Steven Soderbergh‘s Contagion is more or less the Argo of 2011. Like Argo, this film employs plausible and completely realistic scenarios to make itself more terrifying, and it works. Its focus is on the spreading of a lethal virus, its mystery is in how this virus started and its terror is in the way it affects the main characters. The first person (that we see, at least) to fall victim to this  is Elizabeth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her death makes her a central figure in working out how everything started. The scene in which her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) is informed of her death at the hospital is one of the greatest moments in the film. Any other Hollywood picture would more than likely try to ham this scene up and have Damon shout “NOO”, lash out at the doctors, cry exaggeratedly or do something else that’s not very realistic. Instead he just asks the doctor that gave him the news: “Well, can I talk to her please?” He doesn’t understand that his wife is dead.

That’s perfect. Not only is this so much more emotionally loaded than making it overly dramatic with a sad soundtrack or a hammy performance, but it also feels so authentic. Realism is what makes something sad and horrifying; not gimmicks, and I am so glad Soderbergh did this. It is a scene that I keep thinking about and the more I do, the more I admire it.

'Contagion' is an ensemble piece. Pick a favourite big name.

‘Contagion’ is an ensemble piece. Pick a favourite big name.

Contagion revolves around dozens of different characters who play some significant role in figuring out what’s going on. Maybe not Damon’s character so much, nor his teenaged daughter played by Anna Jacoby-Heron, but other than that we got Jennifer Ehle and Elliot Gould working on some manner of cure for the virus, Marion Cotillard trying to trace its origins as she suddenly gets kidnapped by her Chinese colleague (Chin Han) who has another purpose for her in mind, Jude Law sharing what secrets he can find to his conspiracy theorist blog, Kate Winslet investigating cases of the virus, ultimately getting herself infected, and Laurence Fishburne being in charge of most things involving all the aforementioned research and detective work. Even Bryan Cranston gets to be a part of the cast.

Another element that helps the realism of the movie is that there isn’t really a hero or a villain. Fishburne’s character discusses with other characters that the virus might be a bioweapon but there is no villain revealed to have done this at any point in the story. Chin Han kidnaps a woman, yes, but it becomes more forgivable once you find out what motivated him to do so. Also, in many other films, Jude Law’s conspiracy theorist character would probably turn out to be the only one who’s got everything figured out in the end. Thankfully, this isn’t really the case here.

But the concept that the horror of the movie primarily runs on is definitely the very real notion that anything can infect you. Every doorknob you turn, every room you walk through, every seat you touch; all these things can very well have been in contact with a dangerously sick person with no way for you to know for sure. Anywhere could be a trap. Anything could be invisibly contaminated but contaminated nonetheless. You don’t know where anything has been. Wash your hands often, is what I’m saying.

The more times I watch it, the more impressed I am by how good it is and how well it enthralls the viewer with its realism. I often think and wonder why I didn’t put this film on  my “Top 7 Best Films of 2011” list. If I were to re-do that list today, I would most likely put Contagion in the place of, perhaps, Another Earth, which I realize in retrospect I didn’t actually like as much as I might have made it seem. I certainly don’t, contrary to what the list suggests, find it a better film than Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It’s a terrible list. I honestly contemplate removing it from my blog altogether.

If you haven’t seen Contagion, see Contagion. And don’t forget to wash your hands afterwards.

Contaggg

Chaos takes place.

black swat

‘Black Swan’

by Darren Aronofsky

There are two big movie franchises that over the years have made me doubt the talents of those involved, but I have always believed that some of them can be skillful actors when put in the right film. These franchises are Star Wars, which could have easily killed the career of poor Natalie Portman, and Spider-Man, which made me doubt the potential of Kirsten Dunst. But, just as Dunst proved finally to possess formidable talent in the movie Melancholia, so too did Portman when starring in Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan.

Black Swan is a superbly made film with a consistently unnerving tone and a multitude of horrifying moments that, when described, might not sound like much. Were it not for the director’s brilliant interpretation of an actor’s collapsing psyche under the unbearable preassure of a life-changing role, surely a scene involving her getting her toenails trimmed wouldn’t be as disturbing as they are in Black Swan?

Nina Sayers (Portman) lives with her mother (Barbara Hershey) in New York and has aspirations of becoming a great dancer, just like mommy. But what is the role that is tearing the soul of pour Nina asunder? Why, none other than the main part in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, as directed by Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), who keeps torturing Nina with demands on better acting and better flow and whatnot. It is, alas, driving poor Nina mad.

Nina Sayers as the Swan Queen.

Nina Sayers as the Swan Queen.

Her madness is worsened by the ominous precense of co-star Lily (Mila Kunis) who is the polar opposite of Nina. Thomas says she lack’s Nina’s technique, but has a certain self-confidence that isn’t to be found within Nina, meaning she can very well play the White Swan, but the Black Swan will simply have to be Lily. After some sexual tension between the two dancers, she finds that Lily’s true intentions may well be stealing Nina’s part entirely, and play both swans herself. Nina’s hallucinations meanwhile get more bizarre as she starts to see herself transform into a gian swan herself. Painful scenes and disturbing sequences ensue.

One might see a few similarities with Aronofsky’s previous film The Wrestler within this film’s plot, which brings me to a fun fact: he orginally intended for the two films to be one and the troubled ballet dancer was going to be the wife of the troubled wrestler. Even though the two films are so radically different in style and atmosphere, it is apparent at times, especially in how the protagonists of both films meet their fate. The Wrestler also included Aronofsky’s trademark skill of making small injuries appear nightmarishly painful. Compare the stapler scene in The Wrestler with the finger-skin scene in Black Swan. Or the scene from The Fountain where Hugh Jackman deliberately pricks his fingers on a pen.

The film is also well-made in how it’s shot, especially in scenes where the camera should be visible in mirrors, but skillfully manages not to be. Great editing, visuals and music also helps, but I’d say that the main attraction for this one is the performances and characters.

Natalie Portman certainly puts her damndest into her performance. She creates a devastatingly sympathetic character and she inspires my new motto “One should never judge an actor by the Star Wars prequels”. Her having smashing set of co-stars certainly helps. One of them is Winona Ryder, whom I must admit I failed to recognise at first. Another is Mark Margolis, who like an Observer in Fringe becomes harder and harder to spot for every Aronfsky film he shows up in.

But it is Portman who steals the show and it is inarguable that she deserved her Oscar and that she needs to be put in a similarily dark and complex role soon enough. Her most recent apperances in film are Marvel’s Thor and – whoop-dee-doo – the upcoming sequel, Thor: The Dark World. I’d say this is evidence enough that she deserves the oppurtunity to once more appear in a film as dark, surreal and beautifully disturbing as Black Swan. Soon, I hope. Soon.

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