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A story like an onion.
Based on what a few people who had seen it told me, I expected to suffer through this and dismiss it, but it turned out to be an onion story, a story where you peel back one layer to find another layer below it, and as you go through the layers you realize they are both the same and very, very different.
If you casually watch you might well dismiss a quirky aside in one episode, but if you pay attention that quirky moment turns out to be key to what happens two episodes later, and the story changes and inverts, alters, and morphs as it progresses-- and that is part of the story.
I subjected one of the people who had dismissed it to watching again, and noting to her to remember this moment, or that action. A couple of episodes later she slugged my arm and muttered a few things I suspect I did not really want to hear, but then she went back and watched it again, from square one, noting the "things out of place" and connecting another story, hidden below the several stories above it.
She's still angry with me, but part of that is that is because she loved the underneath story at the same time she felt the outside story was bland, but as a third story actually liked the changes and morphing that took place.
You want to find out, you need to watch, and remember the things that seem out of place.
There is a story hidden there.
A more "real" story than you would expect.
In this case Gunslinger Stratos shows a surface battle and fantasy and science fiction package, but underneath it is really the story of how there are two versions of us living inside us all the time.
Two versions that do not like each other.
Our environments shape us to some extent, and to some extent we are shaped by the people around us, and to a small degree we have some innate core of self that interacts with the environment and people around us to create the person we are. In this case there are two very different environments, and those different environments combine with different versions of the same friends as they wrap around the inner self to create paired different versions of all of the characters.
Yes, it goes overboard sometimes, but it also needs to do so as a means of camouflage as the inner story unwraps. We don't want preachy "look inside yourself" stories, but add weapons and violence and emotional buffering and battering, and you can slip the inner story under the threshold and make it something to consider.
As just a shoot'em up it is barely better than average, but with the inside story, the relationships in each of the two worlds, and how the two worlds are each real in different ways-- that really works.
It is not really a spoiler, but the final reconciliation is a nifty tear-jerker, and has a beautiful bit of bite that is amusing. In summary, the outer story is okay, the inner story is far, far better.
Divine Gate (2016)
an unfortunate melding
The premise of Divine Gate was to combine several different versions of "god tales" to produce an interlocking story of humans rising above the level of being merely human to become something else.
Unfortunately the attempt turns into a mess, contradictions abound, and sometimes you cannot tell if what seem to be errors in translation to create the subtitles are actually errors or if they are some some form of mocking the very story playing out on the screen. Somehow the story shows facets of being overly complicated at the same time it plays at being far, far too simplistic.
It is worth a watch because Divine Gate at least tries to go beyond the normal story level of most "gods versus man" anime. In that respect it shows writers what not to do, how not to gloss over holes in the plot, and why you need to know the how and why of the character's actions before you write their story, before you show their actions, before you try to reveal their inner thoughts.
Hataraku Maou-sama! (2013)
Look for the allegory--
The anime that is both a story and an allegory.
The story is what you see, the allegory is the parallel between Satan (of the story) and Japan (before and during WW2 versus afterward) where you see an acceptance of what is normally unspoken, that Japan did horrible things, things that are echoed by the things Satan does in the other world of Ente Isla.
The jump to our world is the break in behaviors after the end of the Second World War, when Japan had to start over, and changed its behavior, its attitudes, and seemed so disjointed it was difficult to draw the connecting lines between before and after versions of Japan.
The the killing of the hero's father and village and the rise of the Hero is a sly play on Japan's attack on what was the 17th largest military in the world on December 6th, smashing its fleet at Pearl Harbor, and the rise of the United States to become something that was overwhelming, an impossible hero born of the tragic.
The "good" Olba Meyer was drawn as the Soviet Union-- to be so powerful he could not be defeated, and Mitsuki Sarue being an unshaped force that represents good being bad, and a threat to bad becoming good. They spiral into the former enemies being united to preserve a new something, even though neither was really prepared for it.
It is amazingly well done for that purpose, the Chiho Sasaki character representing what Japan is becoming, and how it accepts how bad it was but is changing; but it really doesn't understand what it is doing, either.
Normally anime is just anime, but in this case, it is allegory in a manner and fashion that makes acceptance of the past a building block for the future.
It is history, fiction, parody, and allegory, all mixed and poured into the mold of light entertainment.
If you watch it twice you may see a different story the second time.
Or you can just watch it for the laughs.
The approach of humanizing weapons is an established Japanese method of enhancing the story, and in days long past to hold that a sword was alive and that the sword had a soul was a means of making the combination of the swordsman and sword a supernatural combination.
Upotte!! tried this approach, but somehow managed to link "military assault rifles" to young female teens. I had quite a bit of trouble with cute kids being deadly, and having been created as teens, never to age or change, just to be replaced, and the story simply did not make sense. That there was a deliberate sexual aspect assigned that flew in opposition to the independent aspect of behavior and the training, and it sometimes seemed like it was trying to parody the genre.
Those were stumbling blocks, but the huge stumbling block was the description and statements made about the weapons. Most of the information seemed to be copy and paste from sales brochures, and most of it was incorrect. Not somewhat incorrect, not a few tiny errors, but so wrong it boggled the mind.
A story that did not make sense layered onto incorrect basis of character construction is not likely to produce a strong series. It was interesting in the same way that a train wreck is interesting, and the less you know about human motivations, the weapons in question, and about warfare the more likely you are to be able to enjoy it.
It does have pretty good music, and there really is nothing like it, so it stands alone in its field. You may enjoy watching it in the same way that a deliberate train wreck was staged for audiences a bit over a hundred years ago, but at the end, it was still somehow lacking, at least to me.
Good luck with it.
Naughty Boy (2006)
This is presented as an Indian format satire, the acting deliberately bad, the songs and dance the main thrust, with the kiss being "adult" content in India. To most westerners this is not a very good movie, but if you look at the Mike Meyers "Austin Powers" movies you will see the same deliberately bad performance, just without the song and dance.
The actors are playing for laughs, the story is written and directed to be an outside of India satire and farce, and on that level, it performs.
It is good for a laugh if you can accept the satire premise, if not, avoid it.
The Black Dawn (2009)
An incredible waste of potential in the details
This is a basic "end of the world" type of story, and the main story works as it drives to a conclusion.
The problem is that the science is so badly botched and ill handled that it cripples the story, makes it nearly impossible to even accept the premise, and repeatedly takes the viewer out of the story.
A bioweapon is deployed to render cities empty of life but undamaged. If everyone in a city were to just drop dead there would be incidental fires that would erupt, and without fire control units the cities would be engulfed in flames in less than ninety six hours, but that is ignored as LA keeps its lights on and nothing happens except for a black cloud that blocks the sun. If sunlight was blocked for a prolonged period of time the surface temperature would drop, too. That is ignored and the action takes place in an LA is just LA at night for over three weeks, the temperature never dipping because of the sunlight blockage average of a slightly over 1.5c per day reduction accumulating during the over three weeks of the story. What volume of particulate mass would be required to block sunlight over that large an area? Hint: It would be well over a one and a half million metric tons, and to have it not dissipate over a three week period means the mass needs to increase by a factor of over twenty. The bioweapon is a toxin, but they keep referencing it as a virus, and they speak gobbledygook more than anything else in dealing with the science aspects.
This bioweapon (toxin) would kill not only people, but most of the other animal life, too. If you only consider the people in LA and average their weight, children and adults, to nominalize at one hundred pounds (forty five kilograms) each that means over six hundred million pounds (over two hundred seventy two million kilograms) of rotting flesh from humans alone, and rats, dogs, cats, and other animals would easily double that amount. You would not be able to tolerate the environ of the LA area if that was taking place, but they didn't even notice a bad smell?
An interesting series, a bit abrupt, but gutted by so many absolutely basic details being mishandled it makes it painful. As a calling card for the actors, perhaps this is a good card, but the technical work is only so-so and the writing is painfully bad.
It is seven short episodes, and it is worth a watch if you can get past the idea of a totalitarian anarchist group using an impossible bioweapon with preposterously bad effects and behaviors by alleged college students that don't seem to think ahead at any point in the story.
Hwaiteu ballenta-in (1999)
different because of the culture from which it springs
White Valentine is strongly "cultural based storytelling" instead of canned and stale boy-girl meet/part/reconcile structure storytelling.
Many Americans only think of a romance or love story as having one format, one way of progressing, while the rest of the world might be very familiar with the "American" format, Americans tend to miss the nuances of other cultures.
In this case the lack of money-- not poverty, just a lack of money, the cross generational bonding and emotional ties, the way the characters need to balance their family ties with cultural norms as they try to move toward goals that they personally choose, this set of culture based guidelines makes the story more difficult to understand, and, on top of the simple cultural difference, the story is a story that is less romance that the personal journey story for the two leads as each heads toward their personal destination.
The question of what happens to "the two" is less important to the movie than the question of what happens "to each" of the characters. Not for everyone, be it in Korea, China, Japan, or the USA, this is a story of two personal tales, two personal stories, each bouncing off the other, each providing the other story the dynamic to stay in motion.
Voy a explotar (2008)
what starts out interesting--
In this case, what starts out as an interesting "outsider boy meets outsider girl and their inner selves bond" premise slowly gets lost as it repeatedly diverts from their story into trivia and returns to the "pair bonding story" before it finally concludes without a real resolution. leaving you wondering "and what happened THEN?"
There is semi-nudity and sexual activity, large dollops of "language" scattered throughout it, but the promise of the premise is washed out and lost before the ending, making the story ring hollow, neither fish nor fowl when the credits roll.
Most of the viewing audience liked it, they just could not fathom why it didn't "really" come to a conclusion of some kind.
Last Bullet (2008)
an interesting effort
This is an overall well done and pointed emotional story based in the middle of a combat situation, the effects and behavior done much better than many larger productions. It suffers from one major flaw-- the weapons (as shown) are incorrect for the period, apparently because those involved simply are too young to know the difference between an M16a1 and later models, or which models of the AK47 were used in that area at that time.
For people young enough not to have lived through it this is an excellent short. For those old enough it is an irritating quibble, and a shame.
the way it REALLY was
Here's a story we haven't been told repeatedly, a story of the way it really was "way back when."
"Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling" interviews the rather plain spoken, straightforward women who were the pioneers of women's wrestling, back when it was know as "the girl wrestlers." Anyone who wonders just how far the women's rights movement has actually come needs to watch this, and then be thankful that these 'tough broads' paved the way for women to be what they want, just like men-- and just like men, no matter how stupid the goal, it gets to be their choice.
I want this doc on DVD. Tough, brutal, plain, and worth every moment. .
an interesting take on pain
This is a doc that makes you squirm in pain at what you see happening on the screen-- no matter how you feel about the "Harvey" referenced repeatedly in the film, Troy Duffy manages to make you take Harvey's side. That, in itself, is a major accomplishment. There is no sugarcoating what you see on the screen, no Moore-ish distortions, just Duffy managing to show the viewers exactly what he is made of, and how he feels about himself, and everyone else to boot.
A great documentary, well worth watching-- and when available, buying on DVD to keep on your shelf in case you need to remind yourself about "staying humble."
An interesting take on pain-- emotional pain-- on giving it, receiving it, and living through it. .
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
. . . a potato chip movie!
Napoleon Dynamite is a true potato chip of a movie-- and it appears that the younger you are, the more likely you are to dive into the bag and stuff yourself on it. Technically, the work is slightly below average, the writing and acting aren't anything to write home about, and like the potato chip that has too much salt and too much oil, the mixture of a couple "too much" elements comes out to be something you otherwise wouldn't expect, and the audience gobbled it up.
With one exception all of the acting seemed slightly wooden, twitchy, and self conscious, which actually fit the story quite well. Okay, maybe according to "mature" tastes it really isn't that good for you, but it was entertaining, with the younger audience laughing while the older members cringed in their seats, thankful it wasn't their life on the screen.
Oh, and the one actor who actually appeared to be a normal person, who did not twitch, flinch, and who wasn't either self conscious or wooden? Haylie Duff, off all people. I have no idea how they wound up with her here, but she appears to be a normal, self centered teen in a dysfunctional society-- which means either she is doing a great job of acting, or she's the only one who couldn't pull off a wooden twitchy teen act.
I'll bet on her being the better actor in this case.
Interesting but naive writing, naive and slow direction and editing, naive, twitchy and wooden acting. . . the movie reinvented as a potato chip.
This one should be around a while.
Potato chips sell. .
Rhinoceros Eyes (2003)
I was looking forward to this feature, and I took time off work, headed out and fought traffic to get to see it on the big screen at Madstone-- as in Madstone Theaters, the exhibition arm of Madstone Films, which was responsible for Rhinoceros Eyes.
After watching it I came back and reread the comments and looked at the user votes again. Somehow these people must have seen a different item than the Rhinoceros Eyes I saw-- even though the cast and crew lists matched, the comments didn't jibe with what I saw. The clarity, content, and tonal range of the image was pathetic; what could have been an astounding set was crunched by some capture method or seriously degraded in post and turned into. . . into this, whatever it was. The lighting may have been some of the worst I have seen on a large screen, but even so, the image on the screen far outshone the story. At least, they called it a story, even though it was missing major elements, didn't really make sense, lacked continuity, refused to actually go anywhere, or come to a conclusion. One of the supporting characters seems to be smoking a lot of weed during this production; perhaps he was not the only one.
Maybe, just maybe we have a new generation of video only kids who don't know colors, or contrast ranges, the importance of a storyline-- a plot-- or any of the other things that make up a modern "movie." That is the only reason I can see anyone allowing the public to see this; the makers just don't know better.
This hurt. It comes off as a couple of kids, a camcorder, a great location, lousy lighting, half a story, and some actors who really, really tried.
The actors have my most profound sympathy. .
I don't know if I had any expectations other than that this was to be a most somewhat unusual film. . . but unusual applies to this as would "moderately abnormal" apply to a mass murderer.
Bluntly, simply, without reservation, this was an anti-American piece of hate shot on DV. From the American iconic names to the use of words to paint a bucolic American setting, every line of this work was aimed at ripping open America to see the rotten insides, to lay open a country of hate, of abuse, of pride covering an ugliness inside that would have to improve before it could even be called depraved. I was astounded-- astounded at the hate on the screen, at the painting of Americans as lower than slime on the evolutionary scale, at the attempt to rip off a facade to show corruption and horror within; and even more so, since this is not the America I know.
Before Cannes there was much hoopla about it being the odds on favorite to win the top prize, perhaps to dominate the prizes. Now I understand why it was ignored, ignored by those who might not love America, or things American, but who saw a vicious, hateful attack made without foundation.
So what do we say? If America was like Lars von Trier painted it, then he would already be dead, and the copies of the film destroyed. Perhaps nothing could better illustrate the fact that the America he "revealed" in Dogville is not America than the fact that Americans have seen it, openly and freely debate this film, and its message-- even when it is a message of hate, defilement of the principals and goals of America, and contrary to the proven way America acts.
Designed to have poor production values, and delivering a message of hate? Lie after lie about what America is, even at its worst, in an overly long and ugly presentation. . . I'll rate this one as pure anti American propaganda, nasty, vile, and false.
Any idea why he hates the United States so? .
What Alice Found (2003)
not quite a gourmet feast
The early user ratings for "What Alice Found" baffle me. The pace was so slow that counting ceiling tiles seemed interesting to several people in the audience-- instead of capturing our attention, then telling the story visually we were treated to a shot of uninteresting scenery, then of vehicles in parking lots, of people walking, of vehicles on the road, of anything handy that could be used to fill up time, then a tiny slice of the story, and back to the fillers. Hidden inside this feature was a great story, but why was it hidden? Paced properly this would have made the basis for an interesting short, and if some of the conflicts had been explored, and the characters allowed to evolve, the story could have served as the foundation of a good, quirkily presented offbeat feature length movie.
The pace was slow and there was too much padding, but even so, there is no excuse for flat, uninteresting lighting. DV does not mean boring images, and to shoot in DV requires the same care and finesse in lighting as any other motion picture image, but it sure didn't get it here. A fill light, a high kicker, a touch of sparkle light in the eyes, anything to enhance the skin tones, and the audience would have forgiven the lower image detail. Lighting is a good thing no matter if you are shooting DV or film, but it was neglected in this feature. Even if you wanted flat, uninteresting lighting for some reason, thirty dollars worth of ND film on the RV windows would have kept the background from overpowering the foreground so badly that the compromise degraded the viewer's attempt to see nuances of the performance.
Assuming you slide past the slow pace and extraneous shots, then squeeze by the flat lighting, you trip over focus and depth of field. Repeatedly the camera is not focused on the subject or point of interest, but someplace else, as if the camera operator either forgot or just didn't care where he was focused at that moment. When the buildings outside the RV are sharp and clearly defined, but the actors involved in the action taking place inside the RV are out of focus, something is wrong, because if the point of focus does not include the main action the scene simply does not work. Sometimes the depth of field was too great, and the background intruded on the action; sometimes it was too shallow, and not enough was in apparent focus at a given moment to look real. I could not accept that as an artistic choice as it plainly did not fit the story or action. Focus, point of focus, and depth of field are vital to each scene.
After you slide by the pace, squeeze by the lighting (or lack of it), and trip over the focus issues, you find yourself confronted with underdeveloped characters. No, they were not the most undeveloped characters in the history of cinema, they were ninety percent developed-- but they need that final ten percent to come to life. Alice had a life that was more boring than anything else, but there was no real cumulating of events or a triggering factor worthy of her sudden and drastic action. Maybe the supporting roles could be allowed to remain more two dimensional (although I feel it is better if they, too, are fully realized), but the protagonist should be fully developed, three dimensional, and each action should be based on cause, reason, and must be believable. Yes, being bored is bad, being unhappy is, to state the obvious, being unhappy, but there was not enough demonstrated cause for Alice's action to trigger the trip, and no arc to show why she made the choices she chose during her time in the RV. The character was somewhat too shallow.
Emily Grace may be a very good actress, but given only the role of a bored, unmotivated, semi impulsive young woman "without too many smarts" to play here, then put into a flatly lit, frequently improperly shot scene, you really cannot tell if she was brilliantly defining the role as it was presented to her, or if she was struggling to find the character, too.
Many, many of the right ingredients, but the wrong mix, prepared wrong, an edible meal, but not a gourmet feast.
And that's the pity. .
Touchez pas au grisbi (1954)
an interesting time capsule
Touchez Pas Au Grisbi is a most interesting time capsule, with the slang, feelings, and behaviors of the early to mid fifties France put on the screen in the form of a black and white time capsule. There is a new print, with newly translated subtitles theatrically released in the USA, and it is getting a very heavily Francophile audience, most of whom seem enthralled at the beginning.
By the time the first twenty minutes of it have unspooled they are not quite as enthralled, and seemed (at least at the well attended screening I was present for) to be on their way to irritation. Continuity was more than poor, it was horrible; within a scene clothing sometimes changed at random, Sten guns were unpacked, became MP40 submachine guns, then Thompson SMGs, then something else, back and forth, the pictures on the walls went from straight to crooked to straight for no reason-- by the end of the show there was a large contingent of older viewers who simply could not believe that was the same movie they remembered. The subtitles in small, thin white letters did not always stand out from the background well enough to be read, but the audio track was crisp and clear. For a re release such as this the picture could have been printed in B&W on color stock, with the subtitles in a pastel or neutral color; why they were not baffled the audience, many of which were lost in the fifties idioms of French they flatly did not understand. (This included a French Diplomat who had to ask his wife what something said in French meant-- she knew, but he had never heard the term!)
An interesting movie, with strange touches (white hand grenades so they could be seen in the night shots, pause timing to allow dubbing into other languages) and the ability to open a window to the early French gangster film era. .
Pieces of April (2003)
Artistic triumph, technical failure
In an interesting juxtaposition superb writing and fantastic acting run head-on into technically flawed, poorly delivered images in Pieces Of April. Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, and Katie Holmes hand us a performance worthy of an Academy nomination, Peter Hedges wrote and directed a piece better than the vast majority of commercial releases-- and a sputtering, muddy shadows, burned out highlights, details missing, visually offensive picture sabotages it, distracting from a great storyline delivered so well it is easy to forget that these are actors working from a screenplay.
Bluntly put, this may be one of the better arguments against DV projects using currently available technology. Focal lengths are shorter than optimal (chip size versus film frame size) and thus the shots frequently "feel wrong" when presented on a large screen. The lighting ratios in many scenes far, far exceed the ability of the chips to handle it, resulting in the loss of one quarter to one third of the information in the scene, information needed to provide the "texture" and background to make the story truly come alive. Scenes are too dark, losing nuances and undercutting the emotional structure, or have burned out highlights that distract the eyes away from the point of attention, or may be simply blown out, so poorly exposed that you wonder why the shot was not redone to make it useful. Looking at details you wonder if a better job of lighting would have helped, bringing the shadows up to a level close enough to the highlights to make the scene viewable. Maybe, but reducing the ratio of brightest area to the darkest area would also have make it look fake, too much like a TV sitcom's lighting. The only way to keep the much needed very, very bright points in a darker scene and to keep from blowing out portions of the image would be to use film. All protests about DV being new, cutting edge, the coming thing-- all of those protests fail when the image clarity and brilliance turn into third rate mush and flare. Pity the DP and camera operators, because they will take the blame for the failure of their tools to do the job properly.
In summary: Great writing, very good direction, good composition, superb acting, all undercut by the use of DV in a situation where it was unable to do the job properly.
And THAT is a crying shame. .
Amazing what a difference forty years makes in looking at a film. While some work becomes more and more appreciated, some of it. . . well, some of it just doesn't hold up. About forty years ago Dr. Strangelove seemed cutting edge, strongly satirical, and vibrant-- today, seen again by means of an original print on a full size screen (thanks, Madstone) it makes you flinch.
I remembered a couple of minor technical bobbles from long ago. Today, sitting in that big, dark room with sticky floors I lost track of the lighting problems, the bad plates, the voice and foley synch errors, and found myself wincing at poorly thought out writing and acting that should have been kept under control. On a small screen at home it doesn't look nearly so bad, but in a theater? Go to see it as a document of history, not as a work of art. Now it is obvious that Kubrick had an anti American bias-- of which he was accused then, but without the hysteria of the cold war polarization to cover it, is now blatant. While it was known, and even acknowledged in the preamble that there were safeguards that would prevent this from occurring, today we know that five years before Kubrick filmed Dr. Strangelove this problem was addressed by military and civilian leadership in both the USA and the USSR. It was a serious concern, but Kubrick treats it shabbily.
It feels strange to watch a DVD of Dr. Strangelove and enjoy it as a light satirical comedy, then to go watch it on the big screen and wonder if it would be considered even fair work today from the technical standpoint. Maybe this was the best they could do "way back then." Trouble is, other work from way back then does not have the bumbles, the flaws, the bias, and the heavy handed political message.
Take a look at Runaway Jury-- in the same way a heavy handed political message is used to justify the actions, there are technical errors throughout it, and the flaws overwhelm the whole; even so, it will be acclaimed by people who are unwilling to hold it to the standards all of the non political movies are held to.
It is a pity, and it hurts to see just how bad on the big screen a great memory and good DVD can really be. .
Bad movies are their own art form--
"Waitress" is a bad movie when judged by the Hollywood standard. The technical aspects fall short of generally accepted norms, the editing sometimes makes you wonder if they resorted to using what they had instead of the best takes, the acting wavers between inspired and insipid, and the writing cannot stay on track long enough to get any single aspect of the story to the front, to allow a single thread to connect the feature.
All of the above combine to make a lurching, bumbling, lost in the dark movie that just also happens to be fun to watch. It could have been better-- but a better film would not have been as good.
Waitress is fun. Not "PC" in any form, not a glossy product, just fun in the context of the time it was made. A bad movie that is fun to watch-- another example of the contradiction of the American Dream.
An "almost" event...
Unfortunately this version of Solaris focuses on the actors and the process, not on the characters and story. No matter how charming the actors may be, no matter how well crafted the sets and lighting, a movie is entertaining because of the characters and how they embody the story.
What happened? Solaris failed to grip the attention of the audience because while the audience came to the preview to see George Clooney (in some mode of undress, it should be noted) they left disappointed because they saw him, but without the role and story to put him into context, thus falling short of cleanly telling a story.
An idea not quite realized--
Start with a budget of almost zero and you find yourself in a position where you need a great plot developed with great writing, great acting, and witty dialog to squeeze past the lack of dollars.
Despair seems to have plot holes you could use to parallel park a semi with two trailers in. We have mental health and financial problems put forth as the motivation for the couple's actions-- but there is not enough depth or detail to make this even somewhat plausible. Perhaps the title was intended to give us a feeling of the depths of the problem, but "Despair" comes in degrees, and nothing was developed to show why they reacted to their problems in such a manner. A much greater explanation as to mental health, finances, et cetera, is needed to demonstrate this level of despair. Absent the pressure of a loan shark threatening obscene levels of violence against extended family bankruptcy would handle the problem; absent more background on mental health and medications the reaction simply seems too forced. Too many holes in the plot, too little development. Most of the action appears to take place at random, not as a logical development of actions or circumstances shown.
Great acting? It is hard to tell, but the acting seemed to stretch as far as the writing would take it. Baranowski and Morgan did as well as could be expected, at least, and it should serve to showcase their talent.
Witty dialog is the savior of the super low budget flick. It costs little, it does not have to be rented, doesn't have a turn in time, and usually works as well in shabby surroundings as in the midst of opulence. Despair chose to dispose of dialog.
Okay, I bought it. I try to support indie work, particularly the fringe areas of indie production. I admit I really do not understand this flick, and since I believe that "if it has to be explained it was not well developed" I have to leave it up to other viewers to tell me if it is simply beyond me or if it would have benefited from greater development. It does have non erotic nudity, not very gory gore, and a soundtrack that makes you scratch your head.
Buy a copy and see for yourself, then make your own judgments. I feel it was worth the small cost, even if "I don't really get it."
An unusual film
Barely after lunch may be an unusual time to go to a movie, but the midweek showing at the theater had thirty or so adults in it when the lights when down (interestingly, the sound did not come up until several patrons nudged the staff!), and when we turned our attention to the screen.
After the credits rolled and the theater emptied there were most of the audience still hanging around the theater, unwilling to leave until they had talked IRIS over with others-- comparing notes, so to speak.
The older, wiser, better educated members of the audience were the most affected, the younger, less educated, more self centered ones tending to view it in a superficial manner at best. Some staff members admitted that they were seeing it in bits and pieces because they felt it was a bit too intense, a bit too much for one sitting.
I recommend it-- if you are mature and intelligent.
If you are shallow and self centered, avoid this film.
Kissing Jessica Stein (2001)
A story about finding yourself . . .
The plot device of lesbianism is used to help shed light on the journey a young woman takes as she seeks to find herself. Jessica Stein has a history of dating the "wrong" men, but in reality her problem is in getting in touch with herself. Too many films have high handedly treated the quest to find your inner self, obscuring the goal rather than revealing it as they place layer upon layer of symbolism on top of the simple motives that lead all of us on that quest. Kissing Jessica Stein avoids that, showing Jessica as she struggles to evolve and mature, putting the warts and worries on display front and center.
The leads did have the huge advantage of having written the screenplay (and were thus able to avoid having an egotistical director or producer destroy it by trying to make it "their own") and knew how to avoid the over acting and substitution of skin for plot that afflicts so many of today's indie films. Even so, no matter how great their advantage, the achievement still stands.
They wrote a good, solid screenplay, they made a great movie. And they made it fun to watch.
Italiensk for begyndere (2000)
More is Less. . . and Less can be More
Slightly too fast paced for the extensive subtitles, Italiensk for begyndere can be watched and enjoyed even if you do not understand a word of the dialog. In an audience of "English only speakers" over two thirds of those present were unable to keep up with the subtitles-- but all present enjoyed it. The writing was superb, the acting wonderful, and the overall product well suited to the dogme95 concept. Even so, it would have worked as well (if not better) as a standard production. I'm almost afraid to say it, but I expect an American remake before long-- in spirit if not in word for word translation.
See it in the theater, then enjoy talking it over with the rest of the audience, or wait until it comes out on DVD and invite a least a dozen people over for critical mass viewing.