Film Critiques

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Each and every year for as long as I’ve lived in Cleveland, the Cleveland International Film Festival comes into town, much like a bad-boy that wants to lead you into temptation for 10 sinful, but delicious days of film watching.

Because I try to fly below the radar as much as possible, I tend to pick films that run at more obscure times during the week, instead of fighting the masses that tend to be movie-bound on the weekends. No offense to anyone reading this, but that’s too much crowd fighting for this movie buff. The CIFF has become quite fancy in their presentation over the years too. Listing all the films, with their descriptions onto their website, or you can do it the old fashioned way, which is my method of madness – skimming through the colorful CIFF catalog and circling the films I simply must see, then go back and edit like hell, because no one really has that much time to spend watching movies all day, regardless of how sexy that bad-boy visitor that’s come to town might be. Yo.

This year I’ve been lucky to see 1/2 dozen films. And instead of giving you a play-by-play of each, like the film catalog already provides you, I’ve narrowed down my critique to three: The Paradise trilogy, by Ulrich Seidl – Paradise: Love, Paradise: Faith, Paradise: Hope. Interestingly, my read on these films was that they were the antithesis of paradise, more like hell here on earth. Each film can be seen independently, but they do share a common connection, family. And to me, the most intimate of all relationships. I found each of the three to be painfully compelling and even after days have gone by, I’m still haunted by each of them – all for different reasons, but mostly because the characters in each film are so unlikeably likable – much like pieces and parts of myself, or others that I know, mostly family members. Fancy that, Mr. Seidl.

If you want to experience some amazing films about human struggle that also offer superb acting, directing and over-all cinematic excellence, then please seek out Seidl’s, The Paradise Trilogy. I will warn you though, these films are not for the faint-hearted.

 

CIFF Correspondent
Neve Black

 

As the weather turns cold and the Academy Awards countdown approaches, I find that I want to watch more films. And for those of you that know me, know that I have an opinion about nearly everything – and film is no exception. True, it’s my humble and not-asked-for opinion, but it’s my website, so I’m critiquing at will!

I promise not to say anything too horrible about a film that I didn’t care for though, however I will apply my rating system to each film, which does speak loudly:

 

***** (Oscar Worthy)  **** (Flawless)  ***! (Damn good)  *** (Good Film)

**(Catch it on DVD)    * (Thank Gods the theater sells beer/wine)

 

I’m Remiss In Seeing and Rating This Year’s Oscar Nominations:

Looking at my list of films seen this year as Oscar night approaches quickly, I realize I’m somewhat deficient in viewing all the Oscar nominations. Uh-oh. What can I say? Work, travel, boyfriend, good friends and my recently discovered beer love, Southern Tier has preoccupied my dark theater time.

I do miss seeing good film though. And with that being said, I’d like to recommend to The Academy the following idea: create a new category of best scenes from all movies ever made. For example, best all time scary scene, or best acted scene within a movie.

I have a few categories in mind and plan to add to this list as time permits and as the film epiphanies come to me. In the meantime, your comments and recommendations are welcome too.

So one of my favorite scenes in a  movie that first comes to mind is a from the film, Mulholland Drive. Naomi Watts goes to a film audition for a part in the film that we’re watching. Can someone say, time travel? Yes, it’s quintessential David Lynch and so well done, I think this scene put Naomi on the Hollywood map for life. Here’s the scene, called, Betty’s Audtion:

I thought of another over-all best scene category, soliloquy. And the prize for that category goes to Virginia Madsen in one of my favorite quirky movies, Sideways. This is called, Maya on Wine:

I would be painfully remiss if I didn’t mention who I think is one of the top five directors of all time and his amazing films, Krzysztof Kieslowski. This is just one of the many, many scenes from this movie, Blue that makes this movie spectacular. If I had to give a scene category, it would be pain. Run, don’t walk and find the film, Blue.


My good friend and over-all great artist and foodie, Juan Q mentioned an addition to these categories listed, which is: best ending to a movie scene. One of his favorites as well as one of mine, is a wonderful love story that really has some of the best dialogue created, as well as being a sequel to its predecessor, Before Sunrise is the film, Before Sunset. This last scene is called,  A Waltz for a Night:

 

 

***! Skyfall

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For my love of fantasy, childhood reading of Ian Fleming, gadgets, beauty, intrigue and shaken, not stirred martinis, I was really excited to go and see the latest Bond, James, Bond movie. Sam Mendes directs this 007 version and damn that Sam, he doesn’t disappoint – it’s just campy enough with its thrill-of-the-chase scenes, queued music and flashy secret agent fantasies all converging at just the right moments with good acting, good versus evil characters, vulnerable, beautiful women and a bloody good story line.

Let’s just say, I was wowing. I was ooooh’ing and I was ahhhh’ing throughout the entire film.

I enjoyed how the film blended the old against the new – in both characters and theme. And the brilliant subplot strengthened the main thesis of the film: past and future. The film in of itself was a montage of other films: for example, the Javier Bardem’s menacing character’s blond hair was similar to a previous Bond film, A View To A Kill, and another past Bond villain, played by Christopher Walken. Also the reference to Scotland, which is where Ian Fleming’s Bond grew up, was noted and Sean Connery, a previous Bond is also from Scotland. The drinking games with a scorpion, which reminded me of Indiana Jones, homo-erotic scene with Javier Bardem, Lawrence of Arabia and booby-trapping a house to catch the bad guys, Home Alone.

Finally, my only critique was the length of the film: I saw a few scenes that lasted a bit too long and some of the footage would have landed on the editing floor, had I been working on the film, but overall, I really enjoyed Skyfall. Nope, it’s not going to win an Oscar, but this Bond film, directed by Mendes was more emotional (typical Mendes style) than other Bond films. And with that being said and not wanting to give too much away, helps soften the painful ending of Skyfall for the viewer.

Not the least bit vexed
Neve Black

 

 

***! Argo:

 

argoIn Novemeber, 1979 I was in 11th grade, a high school junior when the Iranian crisis situation happened. I do remember watching the television and talking about it at our family dinner table. The terror, the fear and the media’s criticism of the Carter Administration not taking stronger action and going into Iran and forcefully taking the 52 American hostages was played morning, noon and night. What I didn’t know was this administration was scheming a covert operation called, Argo.

Truthfully, I’m not a huge Ben Affleck fan, but maybe it has something to do with his personal life – he’s seems to be a content family man, which makes me think that may have something to do with why he’s managed to direct a steady stream of very good films. Argo certainly falls into that category as well.

What I didn’t really like: I like some humor in an action-packed, high-drama film. I think it’s needed to break-up the constant state of peril the viewer feels. However, if I were involved in the making of this film, a few of those humor-bone lines that Alan Arkin (who I adore) would not have made it to the final film cut. Too many funny lines took me away from my focus on the drama – especially at the end, when I wanted to be focused on the drama of the hostages.

What I liked: the incredible acting of this cast and what seemed like, but I know better, an effortless collaboration. The directing, Mr. Affleck was amazingly good. The Argo plan to save the American hostages was so outlandish that it actually worked -who doesn’t like the movies? And the jab at Hollwood, which really was an on-going sub-text plot to this film. Hollywood will say, “sure, make fun of us, but you need us as much as we need you…” I also think the Academy will appreciate all of the same things I’ve already mentioned, so this film will be nominated, but it most likely won’t win for best picture. One last note, I’m a Breaking Bad fan these days, yo… so having Bryan Cranston playing a leading role in this film, well…I did already mention how stellar the acting was, didn’t?

Argo Fuck Yourself
Neve Black

 

***! Looper:

I didn’t want to like this film, mostly because it’s been receiving a lot of media attention. No offense, but media hype usually equates to mainstream and mainstream and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. I love time travel more than life itself, so I really needed to see it. I’m so glad I did too. It’s an exciting, action-packed (Bruce Willis) film that keeps you guessing and on your toes. The acting, story-line, directing and time-travel believability factor all got aces in my book. In the end, what I learned was that time travel really was just the vehicle and not the premise of this film.

Time Travel Junkie
Neve Black

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