Sunday, March 4, 2018

Movie No. 15 (2018): SPOOR

Spoor (aka Pokot) (2017)
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Cast" Agnieska Mandat-Grabka, Wiktor Wborowski, Jakub Gierszal
In Polish, with English subtitles

The movie examines sense of community, activism, greed, and vengeance in a remote Polish village near the Czech border. The main protagonist is Janina, a retired engineer who now moonlights as English tutor in an elementary school, while living alone with her dogs who she calls her daughters. She is vegetarian. She believes in astrology more than the Darwinian theory. Her routine existence gets stirred when her dogs disappear, and later finds her neighbor dead. Then one by one, dead bodies of local thugs and powers that be - all hunters- are discovered. This poses threat to the communities peace and order. Janina, fueled by her activism, cannot take the series of events sitting down. 

While I like the movie in general, I'm not sure if it really delivers as a standout as crime movie. The animal right activism angle sometimes skews the narrative away from the crime genre. The movie inject humor in some scenes, while unnecessarily melodramatic in some. The feeling of isolation is effectively captured by the impressive cinematography. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: March 3, 2018

Movie No. 14 (2018): SLEEPY HOLLOW

Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson

I'm faintly familiar with Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I haven't read the book and have no plan of reading it at the moment. But, Tim Burton's screen adaptation is gorgeously photographed to suggest bleakness. It is wonderfully acted, too. Being adapted from a world-renowned classic, the film, with its splendid artful direction and costume design, brings horror or terror at a different level.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: March 3, 2018

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Movie No. 13 (2018): IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD

In This Corner of the World (2017)
Director: Sunao Katabuchi
In Japanese, with English subtitles

This animated movie, adapted from a manga, is a close examination of a small rural community in the midst of war, before the Hiroshima bombing. Everything is told using the point of view of an 18-year-old petite woman who's in an arranged marriage with her husband who's later gets drafted.

The movie can definitely have a different look in live action. But, in animated medium, it elevates the narrative to a different level, where every emotion is magnified and each point easily grasped. The movie uses traditional animation, which always works wonders, unlike modern animations whose advances look fancier and can take away the attention from the more important aspects, such as the narrative and the specific points that every scene conveys.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 24, 2018

Movie No. 12 (2018): THE SQUARE

The Square (2017)
Director: Robert Ostlund
Cast: Claes Bang, Dominic West, Elisabeth Moss
In Swedish, with English subtitles

Christian, a curator of a museum for contemporary art, is preparing for his next show - The Square. His phone gets robbed. A one-night stand encounter becomes a burden. An unexpected online campaign for the show becomes controversial. A creative way to get his phone back creates a ghost that haunts him. In other word, a crisis. 

I don't want to go into details. 

I like the irony. I like the metaphor. I like the close look at a microcosm. I like the narrative flow. I like the humor. I like the occasional absurdity. I like the performances. I may not get everything that the movie conveys, but I like it just the same. 

I like the conclusion. 

Winner of Palm D'or, Cannes Film Festival 2017.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 24, 2018

Movie No. 11 (2018): PHANTOM THREAD

Phantom Thread (2017)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

Reynolds Woodcock and his sister run The House of Woodcock, which make dress for the rich and famous. The period is post-war London. Still a bachelor despite success, he seems to have a tailored life. But, not until she meets Alma, a waitress who soon becomes a permanent fixture in The House of Woodcock - as Mannequin, as muse, and as lover. Then Reynolds world is not the same at it used to be as tension builds up.

I must say there's some incoherence in the narrative flow. But, whatever it is it only adds mystery to the movie. The scenes suggesting tension among the three major characters in The House of Woodcock are splendid. But, better than this is the chameleonish transformation of Daniel Day-Lewis into Reynolds Woodcock. In fact, you will never see a hint of Daniel Day-Lewis. That's how good he is here. I can't discount, too, the performances of Krieps and Manville, especially the former. 

The movie may not appeal to general audience. But, for me, it's one of the best movies of 2017. Maybe, much better than the perceived front runners in major award-giving organizations.

Date seen: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 18, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Movie No. 10 (2018): PATERSON

Paterson (2016)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henly, William Jackson Harper

Adam Driver is Paterson, a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson loves poetry; he himself is a poet. Like the metrics of classic poetry, the movie seems to follow a certain metrics. The movie follows the everyday routine of Paterson. He wakes up as if on cue. He writes poems in front of the wheel before driving the bus out of the garage. He eavesdrop on his passengers while driving. He goes home to his live-in girlfriend who adores him and his poetry. He walks Marvin, a bulldog, who doesn't like him. He goes for a drink, just one mug of beer, in a nearby bar. That's is daily routine. It looks like nothing is happening except when he goes home, he sees changes, which are more of improvement, in the look of their apartment. His girlfriend is an artist in her own way. But, this girlfriend seems to have fixation on black and white and patterns, which are conspicuous on wall paintings, her jazzed up dresses, curtains, and cupcakes. I see this as visual poetry, too. I see the black and white patterns as metaphor for the mundane and routine everyday life or existence of Paterson. It is quite interesting, too, that when certain situation breaks the routine he seems helpless, but always gets over it with the help of strangers. 

Adam Driver is perfect as Paterson. Farahani gives a strong support performance. Jarmusch has just made a film which will be talked about in the coming years. He has complete control of the movie. He makes you aware that you are watching a visual poetry. Paterson, the movie, is a fitting ode to the ordinariness of things. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 11, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Movie No. 9 (2018): LOVING VINCENT

Loving Vincent (2017)
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Cast: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Saoirse Ronan, Eleanor Tomlison, Aidan Turner

Loving Vincent, a painted animated film, is first of its kind. It assembles paintings of Vincent van Gogh, as reproduced by several artists, to weave a story surrounding the mysterious death of Vincent van Gogh. Seeing the film, is like being in a gallery full of van Gogh's paintings, arranged to tell a narrative. The characters of the movie are real people whose portraits were among van Gogh's still surviving works. These people have their own take on the life and mysterious death of the tortured artist.

The film is one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen. The visuals are so captivating that the film's flaws, if there are, are easily eclipsed by its stunning beauty like none I've ever seen before. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 10, 2018

Movie No. 8 (2018): LADY BIRD

Lady Bird (2017)
Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalfe, Timothee Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges

What I really like about the film is how it manages to show two people (mother and daughter) fight a lot about mostly petty things. But their love and respect to each other are not sidelined by these petty quarrels. It also explores Lady Bird's relationships with people she has close encounters with everyday and with the place she currently lives in, Sacramento. These are real experiences that shape her dream and mold her future. 

Great movie.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 10, 2018

Movie No 7 (2018): COCO

Coco (2017)
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt

This animated movie is, in my opinion, the best offering of Disney's Pixar in more or less a decade. What really got me is the stunning visuals and really affecting story with a twist. It really captures the sense of family and its traditions and coming of age adventures. The song Remember Me has lyrics so clever that any character in the movie can relate to. The song is an integral part of the narrative.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 10, 2018

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Movie No. 6 (2018): THE FLORIDA PROJECT

The Florida Project (2017)
Director: Sean Baker
Cast: Willen Dafoe, Bria Vinaite, Valeria Cotto, Brooklynn Prince

The occasional camera shots suggesting a character's point of view are splendid. These are mostly the lead child character's points of view. The movie is told on a child's perspective. The lead child character is called Moonee. She, however, talks like and behaves like adult. But, in one breakdown scene, the way she cries is a giveaway that she is indeed just a child. She's good.

The story is full of irony. The story unfolds near some motels near Florida's Disney World. The children and the tenants who can hardly pay rent live a hand to mouth existence while interacting with tourists. The movie title itself is ironic since the Disney World was build under the so called "The Florida Project." That ending is wonderful.

Willem Dafoe, as the hotel manager, gives a quiet but strong performance. He is Bobby; he hates that tenants pay their rents late. But, he's subtly protecting the kids. You don't see Willen Dafoe; you see Bobby instead. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: February 4, 2018