Showing posts with label Ballad of Narayama (Movie Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ballad of Narayama (Movie Review). Show all posts

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Boyhood" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Boyhood," the DVDs "Copying Beethoven," "Life of Crime" and "The Good Lie" as well as the book "The 10 Best of Everything."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" - "The Ballad of Narayama" and "Audition" - and share an "A-HA Moment."]


We literally watch Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grow from age 6 to age 18.
And I do mean literally.  This masterpiece of filmmaking took 12 years to shoot with the actors meeting up every year to film about 30 minutes of the movie over a period of three or four days.  What we have is a seamless, fluid story of the passage of time in a boy's life and the lives of adults as seen through the eyes of their children. 
I know this film is now out on DVD but I had to give it pride of place in this post because it is truly the best film of the year.
The parents get divorced. Patricia Arquette plays the Mom, Ethan Hawke the Dad.  When the film begins, Mom is raising the kids alone and Dad hasn't been on the scene for over a year.  Mom remarries.  It starts out OK, but the stepdad drinks and soon becomes a violent tyrant.  She leaves him which is painful for the kids because Mason and his sister, Samantha (played by Lorelei Linklater, the director's real-life daughter) have forged a bond with their stepdad's kids.  Mom goes to stay with a friend and the kids are uprooted, having to go to a new school.  Parents live their lives, make mistakes, do what they need to do and the kids get dragged along whether they like it or not. This film is as much about parenthood as it is boyhood.
Director Richard Linklater, who is best known for his brilliant "Before" trilogy, has created a masterpiece of filmmaking, seamlessly recording the passage of time. The kids get bigger, the adults get older. Relationships change and become more complicated.  First kiss, hairstyles and clothing changes. Keeping this cast together and filming over 12 years is one masterful undertaking, but his skill with the camera and creating a story that keeps you riveted for all two hours and 45 minutes is a feat unto itself as well.  The camera acts as the eyes and ears of the kids. It's those "big eyes" in the backseat while the adults argue, oblivious to the affect it is having on the kids.  It lingers on their faces as things happen around them.

This film could be compared to Michael Apted's astonishing "7-Up" documentary series where he has followed 14 British children since 1964, checking in with them every seven years, but here Linklater had to deal with actors and a script, no easy feat.

Ah, boyhood.  Ah, childhood.  It's a wonder we survive it.  This film was so real it made me cry, especially as Mom experiences the empty nest at the end and Mason heads down the road from boyhood to adulthood.  You feel as if you have really spent this lifetime with Mason.  Not because the film is long (it is), but because the characters were so real and compelling you feel as if you were in their lives.
At the end of the film when Mason is at college he is talking with a girl he has just met:
You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment?” she asks. “I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
“Yeah,” he replies. “Yeah, I know, it’s constant, the moments, it’s just — it’s like it’s always right now, you know?”
And that is the way this movie is.  You are there, right now with these characters.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Seize the moment and see this film.  It is a masterpiece of filmmaking.

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
A fictionalized biopic of Beethoven's last year.

The film begins with Beethoven (Ed Harris) on his deathbed with Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger) rushing to his side.  Flashbacks reveal that Anna is Beethoven's "copyist," a little known aspect of classical music where the composer needed someone to copy his score by hand so the performers had sheet music.  No copy machines in the 18th century.

When we meet Beethoven he is not a happy man. There is a reason he is known as "The Beast."  He rails and yells and carries on, firing copyist after copyist. He is a bit of a brute and likes to shock people. Then Anna shows up and we have some conflict because who could believe a WOMAN could do this work?  Anna convinces him.

He is working on his Ninth Symphony, but he has already become passe and being taken for granted so that accounts for his mood.  He is also deaf but he hears his music in his head. Beethoven controversially adds a chorale to the end of his Ninth Symphony, thus shaking everyone out of their dismissive attitude toward him. The Ninth is successful and puts him back into the Pantheon.

The crux of the film is the fact that Beethoven is deaf and yet he wants to conduct his Ninth Symphony himself, not a good idea for someone who is deaf. Anna ends up positioning herself amongst the musicians and keeping the time for Beethoven so he can follow her lead.  This I found very far-fetched and would have had some weight had it been true.  Sadly, it was not.

The music in this film is sublime, a classical music lover's dream, especially if you are a Beethoven fan and Ed Harris channels Beethoven to a certain extent and Kruger is a gorgeous, underrated actress but her character is not fleshed out very well.

Comparisons to that other film about Beethoven "Immortal Beloved" are inevitable and I found that to be a better, more compelling film.  Though Harris looks the part, his one note characterization grated at times.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Beautifully photographed (Budapest stands in for Vienna), beautiful music but ultimately unsatisfying.

Life of Crime (2013)

What if you are kidnapped and the kidnappers want a ransom but nobody wants you back?

That is the premise of this funny caper film with ineffectual criminals set in Detroit 1978.

Frank (Tim Robbins) and Mickey (Jennifer Anniston) Dawson are unhappily married. Two kidnappers Ordell (Yasiin Bey) and Louis (John Hawkes) and a creepy white supremicist guy (Richard played by Mark Boone Jr.) don't know that and target Mickey because her husband is a wealthy real estate developer.  He's also a philandering bastard.  When the kidnappers get to the house to kidnap Mickey, they don't know that Marshall (Will Forte), a friend of the family who is also interested in Mickey romantically, thinks she is home alone and has shown up to hoping to seduce her.  Instead, he interrupts the kidnapping so they bonk him on the head and lock him in the closet.  When he escapes, he is so embarrassed that he doesn't bother to report Mickey's kidnaping. No one knows she is missing and Frank is in a hotel room with his mistress. When the ransom demand surfaces, Frank and his girlfriend start wondering how their lives would be if Mickey were dead. Poor Mickey.

This is one of those "what if" movies - what if they kidnap a wife for ransom and the husband doesn't want her back?

One of the bad guys goes to the hotel room to confront Frank and find out what's up and meets up with the mistress, Melanie (Isla Fisher).  She is more interested in money than Frank, so conspires with him to get rid of the wife.  Mickey conspires with Louis to kidnap Melanie because Frank might not pay to get Mickey back but would pay to get Melanie back. Mickey knows that Frank has been committing fraud by squirreling money away overseas so decides to nail his ass. Nothing goes as planned and there are all kinds of double-crossing shenanigans going on.

Based on Elmore Leonard's "The Switch," this is a fun little-seen caper film with a great cast and nostalgic 70's clothes and music.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Lot's of fun.

The Good Lie  (2014)

The story of "The Lost Boys of Sudan" who come to America to make a new life.

In 1983 war broke out in the Sudan, with the North and the South fighting over religion and resources. The North attacks the villages of the South, burning the villages and killing everyone.  Six children survive  one of those raids and they head on foot to Ethiopia.  One child dies en route and they are forced to drink urine to survive.  They encounter other refugees who tell them Ethiopia is not safe so the children join them and head to Kenya.  When the children are separated from the group, they are spotted by soldiers and Theo, (Ferni Oguns), the ostensible leader of the group, gives himself up to save the others.  Mamere (Arnold Oseng) is then made "Chief."  They walk 785 miles to Kenya and make it to a refugee camp.  One more child dies at the camp.

Thirteen years later, our survivors are now young adults. Mamere, Jeremiah (Ger Duany), Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) remain.  Mamere is helping the doctor at the camp and hopes to be a doctor some day, but they also want to get to America.  When they finally are chosen, the film moves to the U.S. where Mamere is separated from his sister, Abital, and you have your typical "fish out of water " scenario as the boys try to adapt to a new life.

Enter Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon) who works for an employment agency and is called upon to pick them up and find them jobs.  She is a woman of uncertain virtue who is eventually redeemed by the innocence of our boys. The boys don't understand the concept of a woman living on her own.  They ask her where her husband is and say "May you find a husband to fill your empty house."  When she leaves them at their apartment, they play with the novelty of the light switches, put mattresses on the floor because they don't get the bunkbeds and don't understand what to do when the phone rings.  This is the most entertaining part of the film, though predictable "fish out of water" stuff.

Another funny scene is when Carrie brings the boys to a waffle house to get a job.  The owner asks, "What brings you to the U.S?"  The sincere reply:  "My parents were killed in the war in Sudan and my sisters were taken as slaves."  Uh, OK.  Whew.  Awkward.

Carrie then decides that she must take them to her boss so they can get some tips on how to interview.  Her boss lives on a farm and the boys are taken with the environment and the animals.  The boss tells them to say they have experience even if they don't.  They can't understand being insincere.  Later, the three boys walk hand in hand to see the animals and the boss says to Carrie: "Gee, I wish they wouldn't do that."

They finally gets jobs, Mamere and Jeremiah in a grocery store and Paul on an assembly line.  Paul makes friends with some stoners and is introduced to marijuana and then things start falling apart a bit. Paul becomes depressed and is arrested.  Mamere feels guilty about Theo being captured to save them and is tortured by his memories.  They all miss Abital.

Carrie is a bit of a hardass but when she researches the Sudan she realizes what the boys have been through and that softens her toward them.

"The good lie" refers to the kind of lies one must sometimes tell to survive or to benefit someone else and that is the crux of the film as Mamere tries to make amends for allowing Theo to get captured to save them.

What makes this film work is the engaging personalities of the unknown actors playing the three "brothers" and the sister, all of whom actually experienced the war firsthand.  Directed by Philippe Falardeau, with script by Margaret Naglethis film avoids the clichés and sentimentality usually associated with stories of refugees coming to the United States, where the kindly American shows them the ropes. 

Not sure what Reese is doing in this film as her part is actually secondary to the unknowns, despite the marketing.  This is NOT a Reese Witherspoon movie. But that is a good thing.  The story remains about the refugees, not about her. 

This film reminded me a bit of the John Hamm film "Million Dollar Arm," where Hamm recruits Indian cricket players to play U.S. baseball.  Same "fish out of water" sensibility, but this one has more heart.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a feel good movie that deserves to be seen and that the whole family can enjoy.  Have some hankies ready.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

280 to go!
Have YOU seen these?

The Ballad of Narayama (1983)

According to Japanese folklore, once a person reaches the age of 70, he or she must travel on the back of a male relative to a remote mountain (Narayama) to be left there to die of cold and starvation.

Life is difficult in the village. Orin is 69 and in good health, but Orin is determined to not go past her time.  She is embarrassed that she still has her own teeth (at her age), so she smashes them out.  She spends her last year fixing her sons up with wives and getting her affairs in order. She looks forward to her trip to Narayama, but it's not an easy trip. Her son leaves her there just as snow begins to fall.  A treatise on how not to treat our old folks.

Why it's a Must See:  It won the Palm D'Or at Cannes and many other awards.

Rosy the Reviewer says...very strange film.  If you are worried about getting old and how your family is going to deal with you, don't see this film.  I certainly don't want my adult children to see it.  I don't want them to get any ideas!
(In Japanese with English subtitles)

Audition (1999)

After a man's wife dies, he spends the next seven years raising his son.  But now he wants to remarry and, since he owns a video production company, decides to hold auditions for a fake role in a made up production to find a new wife.
The film starts out light-hearted and innocuous as Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) holds the auditions with his friend.  One girl, Asami (Eihi Shiina) strikes his fancy and despite the fact that she is very mysterious and her references don't check out, he can't help but pursue her only to discover that she is pursuing him and it ain't for a date  She has torture on her mind.
Why it's a Must See: "After Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998) proved that contemporary Japanese horror was a force to be reckoned with, Audition effectively reworked the genre by masking its true intentions behind a wall of melodrama...the film's terrifying third act duly had many audience members hiding their eyes -- if not running from the theatre."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Rosy the Reviewer says...I must confess, I covered my eyes (but peeked through).  However, this is a very stylish horror film that deserves to be seen.
(in Japanese with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Aimed at travelers and published by National Geographic, this book attempts to tell you the ten best things in a variety of categories, for example The Ten Best Things to Do on a Sunday Afternoon in Rome or the Ten Best Museums and Galleries.
These are quirky lists and you may or may not agree with them and some are probably not of interest to the average traveler, such as The Ten Best Polo Clubs, The Ten Best Climbs or The Ten Best Cigars.  But most of us can relate to The Ten Best Chocolates, The Ten Best Barbecue Joints and The Ten Best Markets and Food Stalls.
I am heading to Rome this summer and plan to get a drink at Il Palazzetto on a Sunday afternoon as directed.
Rosy the Reviewer says...for the sophisticated traveler and most arm-chair travelers who wish they were.
***This Week's A-Ha Moment***

I had used my broiler pan to roast some chicken with a sticky sauce on it and when I tried to clean the pan, that sauce was so baked on even soaking it overnight didn't help.  My sponges didn't work either so off I went to the store to get some SOS pads, hoping those would work and then I spotted the steel wool.  I remembered that my mother always used steel wool to clean her pans, that and "elbow grease."  So I bought the steel wool and A-HA!!!  My gosh, my broiler pan has never looked so good.  Mother was right.  I can't wait to hear MY kids say that one day!

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

Retirement Fashion:
Fabulous from A-Z:
(A Must-Have Fashion List for Curvy Women of a Certain Age Who Will Not Go Quietly)


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