Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movie No. 72 (2017): I, DANIEL BLAKE

I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires

First, the movie is angry, but humane. 

The titular character, Daniel Blake, a widower, turns to social welfare after surviving a heart attack, only to get disappointed by the red tape there. The  story of a man who fights bureaucracy, often with tragic outcomes, is not uncommon. Here, the story is told with compassion. It's universality is easily comprehensible.

The movie is well written. Dave Johns, as Daniel Blake, is outstanding.

The movie won the Palm d'Or Award in 2016 at the Festival de Cannes.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: October 8, 2017

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Movie No. 71 (2017): THE CRANES ARE FLYING

The Cranes Are Flying (1958)
Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
Cast: Tatiana Samoilova, Alexei Batalov, Vasiliy Merkurev, Alexander Shvorin
In Russian, with English subtitles

The movie is tragic and melodramatic. But, it shies away from being manipulative. Instead, it effortlessly suggests the damage war can do to relationships and life in general. There's loss. There's longing. There's betrayal. There's death. But, there's hope.

The black and white photography does wonders to the milieu and mise en scene of every frame. The lead actress delivers an outstanding performance. 

I saw it in late 1990s on VHS. This is just the second time to have seen it again. I remember to have liked it and affected by it the first time I saw it. In the second watching, I find more reasons to love it, despite it being tragic.

The movie was awarded the Palm d'Or at Festival de Cannes in 1958.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: October 7, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie No. 70 (2017): BABETTE'S FEAST

Babette's Feast (1987)
Director: Gabriel Axel
Cast; Stephane Audran, Bodil Kjer, Birgitte Federspiel
In Danish and French, with English subtitles

"Feast" suggests food. Yes, there's feast, and there are foods in the movie. But, the movie is not about food. Foods, in this case, are a metaphor. Foods may represent temptation or worldly aspirations, which the people of the remove island village in Denmark reject. The movie's cinematic achievement is right there in the feast, where the dinner guests are transformed into personifications of guilt, regret, and hope at different stages of the dinner. 

Babette prepared the extravagant dinner. She was introduced earlier in the movie as the stranger fleeing the French Civil War; she ended up as housemaid and cook, serving the spinster sisters whose father was a preacher who everybody in the island revered. Babette was referred to the sisters by the rejected past lover of one of the sisters.

This is my second time to see the movie in full. Just like the first time, I feel attached to some of the dialogues which I think are central to the narrative:

"Like the wedding at Canaa, the food is of no importance."

"An artist is never poor."

"Through the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best."

The movie is one of my favorite movies of all time. In fact, I consider it one of the greatest movies ever made.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 30, 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Movie No. 69 (2017): TAMPOPO

Tampopo (1985)
Director: Juzo Itami
Cast: Nobuko Miyamoto, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho
In Japanese, with English subtitles

The movie consists if several vignettes, or comedy sketches, that all contribute "deliciously" to this this rare treat of a movie. The centerpiece story of course is that of Tampopo's and her "search" for a perfect noodle (ramen) and a noodle restaurant that will "steal" the customers from competing restaurants. The real treat is Tampopo and her gang of so-called "ramen ronins" spying on the secrets of the competition, which is executed in very entertaining fashion, akin to "spaghetti westerns." 

I really enjoyed the movie. Sure, it's comedy. But, just like a complete ramen dish, it has some other "ingredieents" like action, eroticism, death, and drama, that makes the movie more "delectable."

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 16, 2017

Movie No. 68 (2017): 11 MINUTES

11 Minutes (2015)
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Cast: Richard Dormer, Paulina Chapko, Wojciech Mecwaldowski
In Polish, with English subtitles

The movie weaves several stories of totally unrelated people which happen in 11 minutes. The movie's running time, however, is stretched to approximately 80 minutes. Of course, it's quite acceptable that simultaneous stories can't be fit in the same frame at the same time. It needs masterful editing. The movie does just that, resulting in a smoothly flowing narrative. 

This is a kind of movie which, in my opinion, doesn't need thorough characterization. Actually, I don;t care about the characters. I care more about the achievement of this kind of 'experimental' story-telling.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 16, 2017

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Movie No. 67 (2017): ARRIVAL

Arrival (2016)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner

Okay. This is science fiction. But, not the usual summer blockbuster science fiction. Its strength lies in its quirky script and narrative. Do I say cerebral? I like it when the a movies challenges or disturbs or tickles my brain cells. Amy Adams is terrific her performance is so affecting. The scenes leading to the ending are jaw dropping. Saw this a few weeks back; but, as of this writing I'm still in awe. I really like the message of the movie, or of "Abbott and Costello." And, I have to commend the technical quality - cinematography, sound, score - of the movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie No. 66 (2017): DIVINES

Divines (2016)
Director: Houda Benyamina
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Deborah Lukumuena
In French, with Englisg subtitles

Two high school girls are at the center of the narrative. They both want to get out of the present predicament they're currently in. Douna, being the impatient and ballsy, is the first to walk out of school and seek the treacherous path to the so-called "freedom." Her best friend, Maimouna, joins her though tentative for a reason that's well established in her back story. We'll meet some characters that will contribute to shaping the movie's narrative, down to the bleak conclusion.

The characters are not likable. It's easy to understand their actions, but difficult to empathize with them. Whatever they do are enough to justify the consequences of their actions that will lead to the final resolve. The lead actors are believable, particularly the one who played Douna. She's so effective you'll want to hate and hit her for being the drama queen that every one can easily despises.

Divines looks like a movie from the film movement that was French New Wave.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Movie No. 65 (2017): BITTER HARVEST

Bitter Harvest (2017)
Director: George Mendeluk
Cast: Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Terence Stamp, Barry Pepper

I'm not sure if the original audio track is Russian or Ukrainian. I saw the version with English audio. I would have preferred the audio track to be in the native language (Russian or Ukrainian, or dialect), with English subtitles, of course. Despite the competent cinematography, the movie is easy to dismiss as wanting.

The movie is confused. While it appears like an account of the genocide by starving the people of Ukraine, by virtue of Stalin's policy, the fate of the lovers, whose point of view the movie is told, gets in the way. That dark phase of history has just been set aside as mere backdrop, which, in my opinion, is an utter disrespect to millions who died during these dark times. And, by the way, the melodrama is just not appropriate.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: September 3, 2017

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie No. 64 (2017): THE MISSION

The Mission (1986)
Director: Roland Joffe
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson

The movie, set in 18th century South America, is about missionaries and slave traders who compete for the trust of Native Indians living above an enormous waterfalls. The story is told in terms of letters which appear like a reportage about what happened to the mission. 

I have to admit, the movie has some lapses in the narrative. Despite this, however, the movie still manages to be something that's so beautiful to watch, even up to the heartbreaking finale. Even after seeing the movie, I tend to forget the lapses. What remains lingering in my head are the stunning photography, proficient editing, great performances of the lead actors, and the haunting musical score. Gabriel's Oboe (by Ennio Morricone) has been one of my favorite music of all time. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 30, 2017

Movie No. 63 (2017): HOWL

Howl (2015)
Director: Paul Hyett
Cast: Mark Huckerby, Nick Ostler, Amit Shah

The title suggest the movie is of the horror genre. It lives up to expectations from a horror movie. It may not be among the best horror movies ever made, or the best of the werewolf sub-genre, but Howl really gives real and decent thrill, all with near-escapes and gore. 

Howl's milieu is similar to Train To Busan's. The former has werewolves while the latter has zombies that haunt and terrorize the passengers. In both cases, there are more reasons to like than to dislike the movies. In Howl, in my opinion, it would be more thrilling had the werewolves not been shown in (many) close-ups. Their howling and shadows as they move past the bushes are more than enough for the audience to feel the terror. 

But then, I enjoyed the show.

Rating: 3.0/4.0

Date seen: August 27, 2017