Day 174: Fill the Void (August, 30)

Fill the Void (Lemale et Ha'halal) beggins with a transgression: a Hasidic Jewish mother gets through a religion prohibition and finds a way for her daughter to see her probably future betrothed. Mother and daughter are looking around a grocery store for the young Jewish guy. 

Despite this first scene, the impression that I got was the one of an ordinary sense for those that are outside of a Hasidic community: the ultra-Orthodox Judaism is too harsh with women, and too repressed for our taste. But slowly, scene by scene, individual by individual, we see the other side of the story, one that we cannot usually see - thanks again, movies, for taking me to places and time that I wouldn't know if not for you :)

A rabbi interrupts a meeting to help an old solitary woman to choose a new stove. He gives the matter the same attention and careful appreciation that we would expect only in more serious subjects. 

Rama Burshtein, the director, a Hasidic Jew, as some of the actors on the cast, shows a portrait of her community, but doesn't defend a thesis other than we cannot know what really happens behind those closed doors. She recognizes what is difficult, but doesn't limit her tale to that aspect. We can judge the outside - the clothes, the more visible habits -, but we cannot really know the dynamics in her Jewish community. We can also disagree with all of it, but we should be aware that we don't know much about it. That's the void to fulfill here, I think. 

And, at last, when it comes to a man and a woman intimacy, we'll know anything about. They keep the key to their relationship, and that's how Burshtein ends her delicate tale about love and life in a Hasidic community in Tel Aviv.

Fill the Void (Lemale et ha'halal). Directed and written by Rama Burshtein.
With: Hadas Yaron, Yiftach Klein, Irit Sheleg. Israel, 2012, 90 min., Dolby
Digital, Color (Netflix).


Day 173: This is Where I leave You (August, 29)

Still with the echoes of the movie on  the day before, I wanted to remain in the same place of feelings, as to say. This way, I looked for a movie that would put me into that place, and for that reason This is Where I leave You was what I saw on day 173.

During the first half of this movie, despite the predictable events in the beginning, I was exactly where I wanted to be, with the perk of an stellar cast: Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne, Corey Stall, Timothy Olyphant (this last one was a big surprise, I didn't expect to see him here). Most of them are in different roles than their usual. The tone is sober, their performances are different from what I would expect from them (except Adam Driver and Jane Fonda, always the exuberant ones). It is a nice perk, as I've noticed on day 171. And like that, enjoying what I was seeing, I got to the second part of this movie.

And then what was easy, natural, familiar turned into a unnecessary psychoanalysis. The scenes became disconnected, the characters lost the natural relationship they were presenting until this point, and everything acquires an forced feature. A lot is said in this film, and I agree one hundred percent with it. I think the same way, but I also think that it shouldn't be presented as it is in here, by explicative and wise words that, despite being correct, take out all the connections until then present in this story. A good story about all the individual and familiar craziness, became sanitized. It was sad, because I was really enjoying this movie, the performances and the story in it until the writer decided to embody all the therapists in the world's history. 

I'm curious about the book, though. What didn't work so well in film maybe turns out to be great in words. Possibly the story got lost in translation, what is not a rare event in a movie adaptation. 

This is Where I Leave You. Directed by Shawn Levy. With: Jason Bateman,
Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda. Writer: Jonathan Tropper from his
own novel. USA,  2014, 103 min., SDDS/Datasat/Dolby Digital, Color (DVD).

PS: Joe, please don't be sad that I couldn't enjoy this one as much as you, ok? :)


Day 172: Your Sister's Sister (August, 28)

The magic shuffle is still on!

That same old story happened on this day: too tired, no idea about which movie to watch, hoping for a film to match my mood, Netflix in front of me... blah, blah, blah. You've read any of the posts here, you know the drill already. 

Nevertheless, even if I trust the magic shuffle with my whole heart, I think I'll never cease to be amazed when, halfway through the chosen by chance film, I see myself deeply in love with the story and characters. Usually, those movies are small indie productions, with a delicate focus on people and their relations. Sheer love.

I've already knew Mark Duplass from Togertheness, and I like him a lot in that TV show, but I wouldn't call him cute. That's why he convince a lot in Your Sister's Sister as the messed up Jack. He is troubled, no doubt here. But he is so F&*&%%$ cute, there's no other way than to fall in love with him (his final speech is so sweet, I saw it again and again after the movie ending). It is also inevitable to fall in love with Iris and her sister Hannah. Emily Blunt goes straight to the point, and she delivers in every movie, doesn't matter her role. Rosemarie DeWitt (such a perfect name for her, congrats to her parents :), usually is kind of standoffish, and here she is no different. It's something in the way she carries herself in her different roles. But Hannah has such a fragile trait, that we forget to distrust her, and we end up in love with her too. 

By the way, love is the word in this movie, in its wonderfully different manners. And my heart was so full of love by the end, that I wasn't able to do anything else but go through the story all over in my head, sprawled on the sofa in a dreamy state. 

Your Sister's Sister. Directed and written by Lynn Shelton. With: Emily Blunt,
Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Dupass. USA, 2013, 90 min., Dolby, Color (Netflix).


171: Irrational Man (August, 27)

See? Even the poster is different.
I was a bit surprised at Irrational Man, the most recent film by Woody Allen, with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone (who worked with Allen in his 2014 movie). 

At first, it didn't look like one of Allen's productions. Usually, his characters take his personality traits, but Phoenix is sober as the disturbed and absolutely disillusioned philosophy teacher. Only at the last part on the movie he becomes more similar to Allen. But until then he is dark, serious, blunt about how life makes no sense to him anymore in a very somber manner. He is intense and sad without being fulsome. His friendship with Emma Stone's Jill is compelling, and both actors are very good together. Parker Posey looks like any college teacher that I see walking on the halls in the university that I attend. However, neither character is stereotyped. It is just the opposite: they look like other people around us - and the events here are sort of scary exactly because of that familiarity. And they are not whimsical like Allen's characters usually are. 

Another difference comes from that: we don't laugh hysterically with all the perfect nonsense of daily life. I was mostly intrigued and curious about what would come next. And here's the point in which the story gets closer to a Hitchcock's plot. 

Even the jazz in the soundtrack is of another kind than the usual on Allen's films, setting the narrative in a different pace from the filmmaker other movies. 

I kept waiting for this film to turn into what I expected when I bought my ticket, but it never did, and I was happy with that. It is still a Woody Allen film, and we can notice that in tiny details, in some of the director's trademarks, that don't let us forget who is telling the story here. It was not remarkable to me as one of his previous movies, what didn't prevent me to enjoy this well constructed tale.

Irrational Man. Directed and written by Woody Allen. With: Joaquim
Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley
(from If I Stay).
USA, 2015, 95 min., Dolby Digital, Color (Cinema).

Day 170: Nobody Walks (August, 26)

It was late on the night, with less than one hour to the next day. I was exausted, not in the mood to even think about choosing a film, not even by the magic shuffle. So I looked tiredly at my stack of waiting DVDs and decided to choose the shorter movie on the pile.

I felt like it was the end of all illusions. But it wasn't, really. Just a way to stay true to this (wonderful) challenge.

I'm not sure why I bought Nobody Walks on DVD. Maybe it was a gift. I don't know. Even with John Krasinski in the cast, I don't think I would buy it. But the fact is that this film was living in my Pandora's box (the chest where I put my DVDs) for a while. The rating on imdb.com is staggering low, some comments fiercely state that the story goes nowhere, but I actually got interested by it. Movie production is a part of the plot, especially sound design, and just this element would be enough to hold my attention. But the film is not just it. The story is interesting too.

And it is not an easy one, despite not being heartbreaking or anything of the kind. It is just a blunt look to the way people can let their lives became a chance event.  And when the consequences of the way they're conducting their lives knocks on the door, they are surprised by how hurtful it is. It is not a moralist tale, as the part about the consequences could imply. It is just a view about the mess we can make of our and others lives. 

The film is co-written by Lena Dunham, what explains how crude and unforgivable  this story can be. And how the characters are just people, confused by what they want or don't want or what to do with all the empty space on themselves. Not a bad choice at the end.

Nobody Walks. Directed by Ry Russo-Young. With: John Krasinski, Olivia
(in a very unusual role for her), Rosemarie DeWitt. Writers: Lena
Dunham, Ry Russo-Young. USA, 2012, 86 min., Dolby Digital, Color (DVD).

Day 169: Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (August, 25)

Every movie in this series let me with a big smile on my face from the first notes in the theme song at the beginning till the last scene (that I've already forgot, obviously). Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation wasn't an exception. As a kid, I used to watch the TV show with my family in front of a black and white TV that, at its last days before the Color TV make an appearance at our home, had only sound and no image. But that never spoiled the fun for me. And to think that today I'd rather see a movie in a big screen with Dolby Digital in a good sound system. Silly old me.

I particularly like the 5 seconds of the auto destroying messages - that always has been my favorite part. And in this last installment, it has an unexpected element, that even take Ethan Hunt by surprise. 

Frenetic action, the usual conspiracy plot, nice dynamic between actors (and characters)... there's no way to be disappointed here, I think. Two hours of entertainment, with lots of popcorn and, let's not forget, the ever present smile related to cherished memories from another time.

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation. Directed by Christopher McQuarrie.
With: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Alec Baldwin.
Writers: Chrstopher McQuarrie, Drew Pearce from the television series
created by Bruce Geller. USA/Hong Kong/China, 2015, 131 min., Datasat/
Dolby Digital/Dolby Atmos, Color (Cinema).

Day 168: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Augsut, 24)

Do wathever, just stay alive...

I've seen The Secret Live of Walter Mitty when it premiered here in the movie theaters, in a cinema with a big screen and great sound system. It was almost two years ago, and since then I watch it regularly. I'm serious. I love this movie, and each time it becomes more special to me. It hasn't made an appearance here yet, but you sure will see it a few times during OMAD.

On this day, I was so awfully tired, I couldn't see myself enduring two hour in front of the TV - I wasn't able to make any movie justice. So I called on the magic shuffle and turned on the TV. and there's was Walter Mitty, in its first scenes. There's was any doubt then that it would be the movie for my day. Again. 

There was something that I haven't realized yet: this movie begins with a guy in his daily life, one that he didn't choose but hat to embrace after his dad's demise. He is simply trying to talk to a girl from work that he's interested in. But he can find the guts to do that. As he is not able to live the life that he constantly imagine he could live.

An entire life lived inside our heads. Who does not do that? Maybe not in the same explosive heroic extraordinary way of Walter, but it is not difficult to imagine other life than one that seems pretty boring sometimes. Or everyday. I used to ask myself obsessively if I was living the life I should. Until I realized that there's not such a thing. I looked at my life up front and saw that I was in the place I want to, in the present moment. There are dreams to fulfill, they never cease to be in me... But in my actual circumstances, I'm where I must be. 

Walter had so many plans to his life when he was younger, but the need to support his family after his dad died put him in another track (there's a dialogue about it that is so heartbreaking and honest and simple). Life does that with us like nothing or nobody else. It is life's bigger skill, I think. As I've said here before, dreams are the matter of life, but they change, as we change. And sometimes we have to let the older ones go in order to open some space on us to new adventures.

Water works for Life magazine, and everyday deals with photographs ans stories about people that are adventurous, that risk everything when he couldn't risk anything. But Life (the one we live, no the magazine :) presents new opportunities to Water to achieve what he had dreamed when he was younger, and he accepts the invitation.  He jumps from helicopters, skates in Iceland (I love this scene), climbs mountains... Just to go back to his life in the exact point where he left: trying to talk to a girl. But the man that leaves the island is different from the one that comes back - that's the hero's journey, and every man is a hero in his daily life. 

Even the smallest characters here are important - I love how Todd from E-Harmony turns out. There's also Shirley MacLaine, and we never should forget about her. As Walter's mother, she reminds us that there's a time to let go of things that we have cherished for too long. Kristen Wiig I tried to dislike for a time, but it was in vain. The connection between people here is very precious, actually, and it is a fundamental reason for why this movie is so good. 

Ok, not every character is so endearing, Ted is a little too stereotyped for my taste, as are some lines, but that's it. The rest is perfection to me. A good use of music makes everything more beautiful (Major Tom always makes me cry). At the same time, silence is a part of the soundtrack here. There are amazing carefully constructed details, that never cease to amaze me - and so it is not a surprise that I see this movie again and again. The letters on the places around Walter remind us of what really matters here. The dialogues are witty - the one about Greenland and Iceland not being the same is funny. The action scenes are extraordinary (very good, actually), but the people are just the ordinary ones that we meet everyday. Going through life trying to understand what we for God's sake are doing here after all. 

That's the purpose of Life. 

And if we think, the extraordinary is with us in our ordinary days.

Sean Penn's photographer is a bit of a cliche (the Indiana Jones of photography...)
but a cool one :)

The Strange Life of Water Mitty. Directed by Ben Stiller. With: Ben Stiller,
Kristin Wiig, Jon Daly. Writer: Steve Conrad from a short story by James
Turbher. USA/Canada, 2013, 114 min. 

PS: I was seeing a part from a movie that I've watched some time ago, and there's a dialogue that goes more or less like this: a man and a woman that have just met (in weird circumstances that link them). They are in a pier, and there's a boat leaving the shore. He asks if she would embark on that boat and to where she would go. She says that yes, and that she would go to Iceland. Why?, he asks. I don't know, she says, I saw it in a movie and thought it was beautiful. I don't remember what brought me the strong wish to be in Iceland. The movies, of course, as always. My niece Mari told me once that Iceland is one of the few places where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (the biggest mountains chain in the planet, the most of it is under the ocean) is on the surface. At that time, I  already wanted to with to go to Iceland, though - and this fact increased substantially this desire. There's also a book by Neil Gaiman that ends in Iceland - I will not tell you which, because this was a big surprise for me, many years ago... But if you're curious and have read everything by Gaiman, here's the link for the book. Even then Iceland was already a special place to me. How to find the beginning of a dream? But, as I have been seeing these days, many productions has chosen this Nordic Island as a scenery for their stories.

PPS: One day I was thinking that I had to introduce Rodrigo to Water Mitty's soundtrack. it is so amazing, I though the would enjoy it. At the same time, he as telling me about a Swedish musician called José Gonzáles - yes, he said, I know. Who would guess that, with a name like that, this guy is from Sweden? So, another day, I decided to send Rodrigo one of my favorite's Walter Mitty's songs... and he replied telling me that THAT was José Gonzáles. Synchronicity rules :)

PPPS: All this talking about Iceland reminded me a story that I wrote some time ago. 

A Titans duel: drunk, lost and covered in ash

The following events occurred on last Saturday, 05.21.2011,

Pedro was starting his journey back from his adventures in the Icelandic fields when he saw a tall guy, alone by the road, asking for a ride. There was no one else nor anything around him. Iceland is a fit place for those who seek isolation. Right there, near the biggest glacier on the island, Pedro thought he would come across a lack of human contact. He had spent ten days in a friend's cottage – a way to be alone in order to figure out his next story. He wanted to jump into the void to reach a feeling of solitude. That was his first idea, but in reality he made many new friends around Vatnajökull. His time spent in Iceland turned out to be more of a nice vacation rather than work time. Well, good ideas are born in leisure time too, that's a fact.

The small village was very cosy, but, from the moment he returned the cottage keys, entered his rented car and took the road towards Reykjavík to catch his flight back to Spain, the land around him had become a ghostly place. Thirty minutes into the ride, and he had seen no one. No one. That is, until he saw the guy in the middle of nowhere looking like nothing but a ghost, for sure. Pedro pulled up the car and lowered the window on the passenger's side. “Hijo de la Putíssima Madre. What the F*&#?” That was not possible. Or was it? Dumbfounded, Pedro said: “Hola, amigo. Do you need a ride?”

Let's move back to the other side of this story. 

Amidst the terrible pre-production bureaucracy for his new movie, QT had freaked. He was completely spent. The only alternative he could foresee was to get away from everything. He had put some clothes inside a duffel bag, headed to the airport and got on his way to Iceland. Yes, that’s right: Iceland. In Reykjavík, he’d met with an old and good friend, who had a cottage near the biggest glacier in the Island. But there was someone else there already. Besides, he had to go to Cannes soon, where he planned to stay for a few days during the festival. Afterwards, he would enjoy some deserved free time in the French Riviera, before start shooting his new movie. But he almost collapsed before his vacation. Hence the runaway to Iceland.

That's why QT was alone in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. What happened next, however, was not very clear to him. He had tried some sightseeing, met some crazy Aussie tourists around the city... His rest time became a sort of Nordic rave. He woke up that morning with no memory of the night before, and so he decided to escape before the Aussies could wake up. With a few belongings on him, he took a bus to somewhere. To anywhere. After that, he wandered the deserted roads of Vatnajökull. Many stories came to his mind as he wandered around the empty roads. Middle Age and the Nordic invasion in an end-of-the-world plot that began to unravel in his head. A crack on the Ridge would split the earth again, and new species would be created. The only survivors would be the US Cowboys and the Eskimos, who would meet in the new land to repopulate the world.

Finally, he stopped at a kind of Inn, in the tiny village, to have lunch and get some rest. He wasn't sure as to where he was actually going. And after too much lamb and a long, weird chat with one of the Inn's owners – who didn’t recognize him –, he grabbed his things and resumed his journey. To everywhere.

It was getting late; the day was nearing its end, although the sun didn't set at that time of the year. Which was very weird, even for him. He stopped in the middle of nowhere and stood there, hoping for someone to drive by. When he finally noticed a car moving his way, he thumbed a ride, and as it pulled over, he could not believe who was driving. Not even in the craziest plot could he imagine such thing to ensue.

Window still open, Pedro waited for an answer to his offer. “I have to go back to Reykjavík. Is that where you're headed to?” Pedro thought the guy was a lucky bastard, after all. “I am”, QT replied. “Get in.” QT took the passenger seat, and Pedro got back on the road. They remained silent for a while. They knew who each other was, but hadn’t met before. The situation, so far from ideal for both of them, turned the recognition into an awkward meeting – the worst of them was Quentin, of course. Scruffy, terribly hungover, and almost frozen to death in the Icelandic Summer, lost in the middle of nowhere. And so, they went by some time without talking, until Pedro got uncomfortable with the silence and decided to put an end to that nonsense embarrassment.

“Tarantino, right? I have to fill the tank. Do you mind if we stop at this gas station?”
“No problem. Hey, look, hot dogs. It’s amazing how you can find hot dogs everywhere here. Even in the middle of an ice field, maybe.”
“Or especially there...”, said Pedro.
“That's true”, Tarantino nodded as he stepped out of the car. “They barbecue around here, in the middle frozen gardens.”
“There's no other way, I think, in a place with six months of snow each year.” Pedro felt like a Tour Guide. He could imagine his introdution to a bus full of bored faces: “Iceland: low population densities, hot dogs, snow and midnight Sun...”  If the silence had been weird, the conversation was even worse. For reasons unknown to him, he was being weirdly shy.

QT headed to the restroom. Pedro filled the tank. Each one on their own pace. Finally they met at a table outside the gas station, near the hot dog truck. Another amazing thing in Iceland: even in the cold weather - and it was summer, believing or not - people used to eat outside. Peculiar people in a cinematographic land. Their love for vanilla ice cream, shopping carts and hot dogs had an almost sacred feature. Pedro and Quentin looked around. A deserted and overwhelmingly beautiful place. 

- I'm thinking to shoot a film here – Quentin broke the silence at last, at the same time he took a big bite from one of his three hot dogs - A western. 

Pedro nodded in agreement. Genius crazy bastard. 

- In the other hand, you wouldn't find any challenge in filming here. 

- ???

-  It is an extremely liberal community. Icelandic gay guys  Gays in Yeti suits wouldn't have a great impact. 

And the man could put the foot on his mouth too. He would never shut up now? 

- You know, – the chatterbox kept going on – Clinton had a heart attack soon after eating one of these hot dogs. 

- Here?

- What? No! In Reikjavik. The world's best hot dog. Haven't you tried it?

- No, I've left to the glacier as soon as the plane landed. I haven't spent much time in the capital. 

- Hmmm.


Another silence. and Pedro couldn't decide what was the worst. 

On his turn,Tarantino had to admit: one of the most creative filmmakers in the world, the Spanish guy wasn't able to keep a conversation though. He, for other side, was. This way, he looked for a familiar subject to both of them. 

- Hey, I really enjoyed Los Abrazos Rotos. – He just declared, surprising Pedro by the subject and also by his not so terrible Spanish.

- Sí?

- Absolutely. It is wonderful, genius - His enthusiasm was coming back. - Penelopeissobeautifulinthatscenewheresheseesherselfonscreenandputherhandoverherselfansalsotheresomepartsthatremindedmelapeliculaataquedeniervos.... 

It was unbelievable how fast the guy could talk. 

-  An outstanding homage to the cinema. I was absolutely overwhelmed with amazement in the movie theater when I saw it the first time. 

- Gracias, man. You made a great homage to the movies in Basterds too. Both films are from the same year, right? 

- 2009.  I usually don't hear such comment about Basterds

- Entonces, that was what called my attention in it, besides Pitt crazy accent and Christopher Waltz, of course. He is too good. But cinema as a place where we can change history is a fantastic idea... Who doesn't went through the WWII knows Hitler mostly from the movies. The holocaust is a cinematographic experience for those that wasn't there, and maybe even for them. It's a kind of testimony, more then the history books actually. So, if there would be an ideal place to kill Hitler it should be a movie theater. I've seen the film three times. 
Now Pedro had  seated on the talking chair, and Quentin had not other option than to be uncharacteristically quiet. Two amazing features for such a short speech. Quentin had another admission to make:when the man decided to talk, it was for real. 

And he wasn't embarrassed to also admit how proud he was about that unusual compliment to Basterds

- Most of times we don't realize how our views about the world comes from the movies. Sure, we're both live to create those views on film. But as individuals in this disturbed world, we are also influenced by the photographic, surreal, unreal and incredibly close cinema's images, such as Hitler's face being totaled by a gun. 

- Genius idea, wasn't it?

- Yep. Genius. And the fire on the screen... So... A beautiful tribute to movies. 

Another silence came over them. What had reunited them, the cinema, was also responsible for another shy moment in two men that wasn't used to this feeling. However, one didn't know what hos to deal with the other. 

Not even the Icelandic wilderness was big enough for those two giants. 

- What’s that? – Quentin  broke the silence one more time - and he didn't know yet, but at this moment all the awkwardness was beginning to vanish too. What would follow next was with no doubt an icebreaker, After all, going through a volcanic eruption, closed airport and too much malt+applesin was ahead the two crazily genial men. 

One looked to the other. Almodóvar could already see a smoky cloud in the distance, in the direction of Vatnajökull. It was too big to be a failed barbecue.

- There's a volcano near here, right? – Asked Pedro.

Quentin thought for a minute,but he wasn't able to remember the location of the infamous volcano.  

Really? An eruption? Wasn't it last year? No, it couldn't be another one. Or could? Again? Who would think Iceland could schedule a volcanic eruption once a year?

Peculiar visitors, fantastic place. Surreal, unreal, e incredibly close.

NoteIn my previous blog, published in Portuguese, the idea was to comment about movies through a fictional short (tiny, actually) story. I had this idea after watching 2012, the movie. I thought how the world had ended so many times in cinema, and so I had the idea for a story and, therefore, for a blog to publish them. It was part of my doctorate project, that is no more, though. Nevertheless, I think it is interesting to bring here one of those stories. What motivated me to write it was how Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodóvar, two genius filmmakers, had presented in 2009 what I thinks as two beautiful and strong homages to the cinema - Inglorious Basterds and Broken Embraces. I had envisioned this story during the volcanic eruption in Iceland, but I took too long to write it. But one year after, another event in Iceland allowed me to resume this idea and finally put Tarantino and Almodóvar together, as they had been in me with their two amazing films. Their feelings and words in the story are my own - no way I would dare to guess what both madly genial filmmakers actually say to each other :) At last, it is important to explain that the story's translation to English was the reason why I took so long to publish this post. 


Day 167: Source Code (August, 23)

I didn't think much of Source Code before seeing it, I first thought it would be a bit too mainstream. What do I know, right? Because this unpretentious sci-fi is pretty smart and interesting. It's pretty cool, actually.

There's two main plots that  are developed simultaneously, and we realize that slowly, through a good storyline and good performances. I was nervous, and wanted to know what would come next, despite the repeating train scenes - those repetitions add to the mystery in fact.. 

I love sci-fi, and this film lives up to the genre. I wasn't expecting to be surprised, though, and that is a really good thing to happen to us with a movie. 

It had happened yesterday and today again. Two good consecutive days with intriguing, clever, well written and performed movies :)

Behing the scene pics are my favorite

Source Code. Directed by Duncan Jones. With: Jack Gyllenhaal, Michelle
Monaghan, Vera Farmiga. Writer: Ben ripley. USA/ Canada, 2011, 93 min.,
Dolby Digital/DTS, Color (DVD).


Day 166: The Drop (August, 22)

Tom Hardy has been a constant source of good surprises. I'm following his career (thanks to Joe), and he never disappoints. It's the opposite, actually: he shows us how we'll see much more from him in the future. In The Drop, it's not different. What we expect in this movie is never there. It is clever, full of suspense, quiet, intriguing... An outstanding crime story. I will not write much about it, and I advice you to not read about before watching it. Seriously, embark on this clever story. It is worth it.

This post is tiny, but that doesn't tell how much I loved this movie. I was curious - it is so gripping. And there's a bittersweet bonus: this was the last film appearance of James Gandolfini. He died just one month after shooting this movie. He is always a remarkable presence, and in this one he had the good company of a great rising actor.  

The Drop.Directed by Michael R. Roskam. With: James Gandolfini, Tom
Hardy, Noomi Rapace
(It was nice seeing her, she is amazing in the Millenium
 movies). Writer: Dennis Lahane, from his short story Animal Rescue. USA,
2014, 106 min., Dolby, Color (DVD).


Day 165: Strangers in a Train (August, 21)

When I started to watch Strangers in a Train, I didn't expect at all to be so amazed. At the beginning, It was a classic Hitchcock, meaning that I could identify the usual elements presented by the filmmaker. However, on the second part, two scenes were so stunning that I had to remember to close my mouth several times. 

The tennis match scene is the best depicting the sport I've ever seen in a film. Wimbledon is a dear movie to me, but despite all the technology available on 2004, they could not present all the never wrecking elements of a tennis match in the same simple way of a real match. Hitchcock not only did that as he inserted the sport as a element of suspense in the story. It was beautiful and, as I've said, absolutely never wrecking.

And there's the famous merry go round scene. That he could film it on his time is a big achievement. Even the over dramatic aspects of that time couldn't decrease the suspense and anxiety of this scene. 

I'll have to think more carefully about all the homosexual subtext in Hitchcock's more controversial characters. He couldn't present it explicitly at the time, because of the censorship, but nowadays his references are clear in his movies. 

It is the second movie with Farley Granger this week (the first was Rope).In Hitchcock's hands, the actor plays a somewhat dubious characters, with sly manners. We can relate to him, but just to some degree, not entirely. He's always in the between,it this makes any sense. And, after all, it is an interesting development for a character - we never know where he really stands. 

Outstanding feature, a intriguing story... Hitchcock never ceases to amaze, even in his earlier movies.  And Strangers in a Train was one of the biggest surprises that I had on this dare until now. 

Hitchcock had a way to say things in an amazing manner...

Strngers in the Train. Directed by Alfred Htichcock. With: Farley Granger, Robert
Walker, Ruth Roman. Writers: Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde, from the
novel by Patricia Haysmith. USA, 1951, 101 min., Mono, Black and White (DVD).


Day 164: 12 Angry Men (August, 20)

I usually try not to plan which movie I'm gonna watch in the day, with a few exceptions. And was without planning that I put 12 Angry Men, the 1957 movie, on the DVD player. Some time into the movie, I realized how fit to the present moment this film is. 

Brazilian Congress is deciding about the age for criminal liability - currently  it is 18 years old, but there's a project defending its reduction to 16. It is a sad chapter in our history, and I think that this movie could add to the subject with a strong voice.

How prejudices lead our views about things is the theme here. Also, there is a debate about how, by being centered mostly in our own surroundings, we don't focus in what really matters, such as human life. We usually lack perspective while debating important subjects, especially when it concerns others lives. 

Interesting here is that it is in fact a trial, someone is being judged. But others judgements not related to the trial per se seem to be more relevant than what is argued in court. 

For both different point of views in the jury's room, the human subjectivity is the protagonist. Despite not being named, the jurors are men with uncertain, prejudiced,  messed up opinion, as we usually are about the most important subjects. They identify themselves to others in the claustrophobic room by their jobs - another way to judge someone -, besides their own opinions on the subject. They are tired, anxious to leave, impatient to contrary views, but bit by bit they stop to think about what really matters there, provoked by the first opposed opinion. And so the question presented here is: it would be valid to condemn someone to death according to others flawed views? And would exist another kind of view that not partial?

It is the first theatrical feature directed by Sidney Lumet, and as stated by Henry Fonda in the projection room, it is magnificent. The claustrophobic feeling of having to decide about something that are not a sure thing but that has a final consequence is there. It is also there how we can act vainly while in front of such life or death matters. It doesn't get old, as I said before. I've seen it before, as the 1997 remake with Jake Lemmon, and it never ceases to amaze me. Its relevance for why and how we judge others is remarkable, and ever actual. 

12 Angry Men. Directed by Sidney Lumet. With: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb,
Martin Balsam. Story by Reginald Rose. USA,1957, 96 min., Mono,
Black and White (DVD)

PS: Fragment: Rain (Lluvia, 2008), a melancholy movie about the connection between two people lost in their own lives. 


Day 163: Summer in February (August, 19)

After 20 or 30 minutes into Summer in February, a example for one of the classes I've attended this week came to mind. Lecturing about meaning and enunciation, a teacher presented this  sentence: She was here. The point was that we can infer nothing from that. Of course, we always can imagine... but what someone is telling with this affirmative is unknown to us without a referential.

I felt just like that in this movie, until I paused it and decide to go to imdb to understand my bearings. There, I realized that the film is based on a book that, in turn, is based on the journals of Gilbert Evans depicting his relationship with British artists in Cornwall just before the WWI. Those are some of the famous  artists in England, and after reading this, I could understand the lack of a context here.

Some well known stories make bad adaptations in movies. It is not their fault, of course. For being popular, the screen writers seem to not be compelled to locate the viewer in the story - surely, everybody should know about that, right? Well, I didn't. So, the whole movie seemed tidbits of facts in the lives of a group of people that didn't make much sense to me until late in the movie. They were there, and that was it.

I only was able to elaborate better about this love triangle on the early 20th Century in the magical Cornwall when I read about it in the Internet. But that I have to resort to this kind of knowledge is terrible. The movie should have told  me all that and more, actually. There's something about telling the called "true stories", especially by an adaptation, that seems to lead to the idea that a context is not necessary. Well, every story needs one, and if you are presenting a tale, it doesn't matter if it was told before endlessly... you still have to tell it in full, giving your audience a way to go even further, and not to be stuck in the lack of imagination. Even interesting lives and characters (as it is the case in this movie) crave a well constructed narrative to be alive through a story.

Alfred James Munnings - The Morning Ride (ca. 1912).

Summer in February. Directed by Christopher Menaul. With: Dan Stevens,
Emily Browning, Dominic Cooper. Writer: Jonathan Smith. UK, 2013,
100 min.,  Dolby Digital, Color (Cable TV).

PS: Soon after his infamous exit from Downton Abbey, Dan Steven was cast in this movie. In the promoting interviews at that time, he was constantly questioned about why he have done such evil to the beloved characters on the TV show. I hope he has regretted it, because I'm one of the accusers that don't forgive him for nothing :)


Day 162: Heights (August, 18)

At one point in Heights, Glenn Close's character says that New York is so small... I immediately thought how the whole world is tiny when we think about human connections. 

People leaving in a big city can get the illusion of solitude and individuality. People around that don't usually see us. We don't see who is near us. Alone in the crowd. Heights talks about that, but also how our connections know no limits in space (and time). And so what we thought was ours alone, or a well kept secret, is not just ours, but is a shared ownership with other, those who are part of one's life. 

The cast here is well known, and even stellar. As I've said, there's Glenn Close, beautiful in this role. I've missed her since Damages, and here she is strong and flawed, but still suave. Elizabeth Banks is so young and fresh in a different character from the more recent Effie Trinket.  James Marsden and Matthew Davis are also familiar faces. And there's others good actors, that give face to people that are part of our lives, even if we are not aware of that. Yet. Because 24 hours can change lives in a unexpected but still announced ways (When you don't know, you know, you know:? - I'm not sure from where I've heard it... but it is very accurate). 

Thanks, Joe, for not just telling me about a movie that made all the sense to me (again and again :), but also for giving it to me (it is really difficult to find).

Heights. Directed by Chris Terrio. With: Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks,
James Marsden. Writers: Amy Fox and Chris Terrio, from Amy Fox's
play. USA,  2005, 93 min., Dolby Digital, Color. 

Day 161: Rope (August, 17)

Hitchcock's nostalgia from the day before was still on. I was curious to re-watch another of his movies, one that is a hit on cinema's studies (My first proofreading job was a dissertation about this film). Rope is well known for its long shots, a difficult choice of filming in that time. I've seen it last some 10 years ago, but I've already had lost bits of this story about the cruelty and danger of ideas of superiority - the most harmful plague in humanity's history.

Truffaut's interviews with Hitchcock became a book, Hitchcock/Truffaut, and it is a movie's class for sure. About Rope, Hitchcock's first colored movie, there are many interesting aspects. Essentially, Hitchcock was a bit frustrated by his own attempt to create the same idea of continuity from the play on which the film is based. to achieve that, he chose a the single plane, with cuts being disguised by the focus on  a plain surface - Brandon's suit, the infamous wood chest, etc. Being aware of all the challenges in filming, the movie becomes even more stunning. Camera and actors movements had to be carefully planned, and I tried to observe every tiny detail. I got some of them, but this film is not just technique, and so I got lost in what was happening in front of me.

The dialogues are outstanding, and the conclusion is not a small feature in this. The most outrageous and hideous crimes in humanity are summarize here, in the delusional and arrogant feeling of a teacher and his younger students. Other subtleties are also discussed here, as the implicit homosexuality of two characters - because of that  the movie was banned from many cities on the US. 

James Stewart didn't like this movie, but I love him in it. His gradual realization of what was in fact happening under a dinner party on a luxury flat in NY is created without excess by his solid performance. His character lives in the world of ideas, but is confronted with his own beliefs in a horrendous act. John Dall reminds Ben Affleck, both sharing a striking resemblance to a rat (It is truly annoying), so it wasn't difficult to me to despise him from the beginning. The snobbish features of some characters are so well represented by this actor, and also by the dialogue, that the conclusion is a coherent way to finish this tale about the futile cruelty of men that thing they are better than their peers. 

Rope. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. With: James Stewart, John Dall, Farley
(the credits are a curiosity by itself). Writers: Hume Cronyn, Albert Laurentis
from the play by Patrick Hamilton. USA, 1948, 80 min., Mono, Color (Cable).

Ps: There's a whimsical dialogue about a movie with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman with a one word title - it is probably Notorious, but the old lady is not able to remember it - actually, she couldn't remember the name of anything (she's worse than me). 

PPS: If you are patient, the part about Rope in Hitchcock/Truffaut's interview is very interesting:

FRANÇOIS TRUFFAUT. Rope was made in 1948. In several respects this picture is a milestone in your career. For one thing, you produced it; for another, it was your first color film; and finally,· it represented an enormous technical challenge. Is the screenplay very different from Patrick Hamilton's stage play?
ALFRED HITCHCOCK. No, not really. Arthur Laurents did the screenplay and Hume Cronyn worked with me on the adaptation. The dialogue was partly from the original play and partly by Laurents. I undertook Rope as a stunt; that's the only way I can describe it. I really don't know how I came to indulge in it. The stage drama was played out in the actual time of the story; the action is continuous from the moment the curtain goes up until it comes down again. I asked myself whether it was technically possible to film it in the same way. The only way to achieve that, I found, would be to handle the shooting in the same continuous action, with no break in the telling of a story that begins at seven-thirty and ends at nine-fifteen. And I got this crazy idea to do it in a single When I look back, I realize that it was quite nonsensical because I was breaking with my own theories on the importance of cutting and montage for the visual narration of a story. On the other hand, this film was, in a sense, precut. The mobility of the camera and the movement of the players closely followed my usual cutting practice. In other words, I maintained the rule of varying the size of the image in relation to its emotional importance within a given episode. Naturally, we went to a lot of trouble to achieve this; and the difficulties went beyond our problems with the camera. Since the action starts in broad daylight and ends by nightfall, we had to deal with the gradual darkening of the background by altering the flow of light between seven-thirty and nine-fifteen. To maintain that continuous action, with no dissolves and no time lapses, there were other technical snags to overcome, among them, how to reload the camera at the end of each reel without interrupting the scene. We handled that by having a figure pass in front of the camera, blacking out the action very briefly while we changed from one camera to the other. In that way we'd end on a close-up of someone's jacket, and at the beginning of the next reel, we'd open with the same close-up of the same character.
F.T. Aside from all of this, I imagine that the fact that you were using color for the first time must have added to your difficulties.
A.H. Yes. Because I was determined to reduce the color to a minimum. We had built the set of an apartment, consisting of a living room, a hallway, and a section of a kitchen. The picture overlooked the New York skyline, and we had that background made up in a semicircular pattern, so that the camera might swing around the room. To show that in proper perspective, that background was three times the size of the apartment decor itself. And between the set and the skyscrapers, we had some cloud formations made of spun glass. Each cloud was separate and mobile; some were hung on invisible wires and others were on stands, and they were also set in a semicircular pattern. We had a special working plan designed for the clouds, and between re~ls they were shifted from left to right. They were never actually shown in motion, but you must remember that the camera wasn't always on the window, so whenever we changed the reels, the stagehands would shift each cloud into the position designated on our working plan. And as soon as a cloud reached the edge of the horizon, it would be taken off and another one would appear in view of the window at the other side.
F.T. What about the problems with the color?
A.H. Toward the last four or five reels, in other words, by sunset, I realized that the or­ ange in the sun was far too strong, and on ac­ count of that we did the last five reels all over again. We now have to digress a little to talk about color. The average cameraman is a very fine techni­ cian. He can make a woman look beautiful; he can create natural lighting that is effective without being exaggerated. But there is often a problem that stems purely from the cameraman's artistic taste. Does he have a sense of color and does he use good taste in his choice of colors? Now, the cameraman who handled the lighting on Rope simply said to himself, "Well, it's just another sunset." Obviously, he hadn't looked at one for a long time, if ever at all, and what he did was completely unacceptable; it was like a lurid postcard. Joseph Valentine, who photographed Rope, had also worked on Shadow ofa Doubt. When I saw the initial rushes, my first feeling was that things show up much more in color than in black and white. And I discovered that it was the general practice to use the same lighting for color as for black and white. Now, as I've already told you, I especially admired the approach to lighting used by the Americans in 1920 because it overcame the two-dimensional nature of the image by separating the actor from the background through the use of backlights-they call them liners-to detach him from his setting. Now in color there is no need for this, unless the actor should happen to be dressed in the same color as the background, but that's highly improbable. It sounds elementary, doesn't it, and yet that's the tradition, and it's quite hard to break away from it. Surely, now that we work in color, we shouldn't be made aware of the source of the studio lighting. And yet, in many pictures, you will find people walking through the supposedly dingy corridors between the stage and dressing rooms of a theater, and because the scene is lighted by studio arc lamps, their shadows on the wall are black as coal. You just can't help wondering where those lights could possibly be coming from. Lending some books to the father of his victim, John Dall ties them with the cord he used to kill his friend. I truly believe that the problem of the lighting in color films has not yet been solved. I tried for the first time to change the style of color lighting in Torn Curtain. Jack Warren, who was on Re­ becca and Spellbound with me, is the camera­ man who cooperated. We must bear in mind that, fundamentally, there's no such thing as color; in fact, there's no such thing as a face, because until the light hits it, it is nonexistent. After all, one of the first things I learned in the School of Art was that there is no such thing as a line; there's only the light and the shade. On my first day in school I did a drawing; it was quite a good drawing, but because I was drawing with lines, it was totally incorrect and the error was immediately pointed out to me. Going back to Rope, there's a little sidelight. After four or five days the cameraman went off "sick." So I wound up with a Technicolor con­ sultant, and he completed the job with the help of the chief electrician.
F.T. What about the problems of a mobile camera?
A.H. Well, the technique of the camera movements was worked out, in its slightest details, well beforehand. We used a dolly and we mapped out our course through tiny numbers all over the floor, which served as guide marks. All the dollyman had to do was to get his camera on position Number One or Number Two at a given cue of the dialogue, then dolly over to the next number. When we went from one room into another, the wall of the hallway or of the living room would swing back on silent rails. And the furniture was mounted on rollers so that we could push it aside as the camera passed. It was an amazing thing to see a shot taken.
F.T. What is truly remarkable is that all of this was done so silently that you were able to make a direct sound track. For a European, particularly if he works in Rome or Paris, that's almost inconceivable.
A.H. They'd never done it in Hollywood either! To do it, we had a special floor made. The opening scene, you will recall, shows two young fellows strangling a man and putting his body into a chest. There was some dialogue. Then there is more dialogue as they go into the dining room and then to the kitchen. Walls are being moved and lights are being raised and lowered. I was so scared that something would go wrong that I couldn't even look during the first take. For eight minutes of consecutive shooting everything went very smoothly. Then the camera panned around as the two killers walked back toward the chest, and there, right in camera focus, was an electrician standing by the window! So the first take was ruined.
F.T. That raises a point I'm curious about. How many takes were there for each reel that was completed? In other words, how many takes were interrupted and how many did you complete?
A.H. Well, there were ten days of rehearsal with the cameras, the actors, and the lighting. Then there were eighteen days of shooting, including the nine days in which we did the retakes because of that orange sun I told you about.
F.T. Eighteen days of shooting. That would mean that the work on six of those days was totally useless. Were you ever able to complete two whole reels in a single day?
A.H. No, I don't think so.
F.T. In any case, I don't agree that Rope should be dismissed as a foolish experiment, particularly when you look at it in the context of your whole career: a director is tempted by the dream of linking all of a film's components into a single, continuous action. In this sense, it's a positive step in your evolution. Nevertheless, weighing the pros and cons-and the practices of all the great directors.who have considered the question seem to bear this outit is true that the classical cutting techniques dating back to D. W. Griffith have stood the test of time and still prevail today. Don't you agree?
A.H. No doubt about it; films must be cut. As an experiment, Rope may be forgiven, but it was definitely a mistake when I insisted on applying the same techniques to Under Capricorn.
F.T. Before winding up our discussion of Rope, one remarkable aspect is the painstaking quest for realism. The sound track of that picture is fantastically realistic, in particular, toward the end, when James Stewart opens the window to fire a shot in the night and one hears the noises gradually rising from the street.
A.H. You put it very correctly when you referred to the rise of the noises from the street. As a matter of fact, to get that effect, I made them put the microphone six stories high and I gathered a group of people below on the sidewalk and had them talk about the shots. As for the police siren, they told me they had one in the sound library. I asked them, "How are you going to give the impression of distance?" and they answered, "We'll make it soft at first, and then we'll bring it up loud." But I didn't want it done that way. I made them get an ambulance with a siren. We placed a microphone at the studio gate and sent the ambulance two miles away and that's the way we made the sound track.
F.T. Rope was the first film you produced. Was it financially rewarding?
A.H. Yes, that part was all right, and it had good notices. It cost about a million and a half dollars to make because so many things in it were being done for the first time. James Stewart was paid three hundred thousand dollars. M-G-M bought the rights a little while ago and they reissued the picture.

(TRUFFAUT, François. Hitchcock/Truffaut. Simon & Schuster, 1985,  p, 179-184- with the collaboration of Hellen G. Scott).