Tuesday, 29 December 2009

(500) Films of Empire - Day 105

I'm now off work until 2010! A great statement to make, until you realise that it only means a couple of days. But that is a lot of time for movie watching...

492 - Amores Perros - 3 stars
Is it just me but I am beginning to worry about Inarritu. Is he unable to make a film that isn't made up of interconnecting stories? Between this, 21 Grams and Babel, it has become his M.O. Can't he come up with just one story that could sustain a 90 minute film rather than lots of little 30 minute stories?
That being said, he is very good at this type of film. Inarritu draws good performances from his central cast, keeps the action moving well by knowing when to cut back and forth between the stories, and by having stories that people can invest in to begin with (although I would liked to have seen more in the Daniel et Valeria story about the seperation between him and his wife).
This is not a happy movie though, given that the title roughly translates to "Love's a bitch", and while not as emotionally raw as 21 Grams which deals with death and loss, this examines the pain that people experience for love, whether that is for a human or a dog! Just witness the heartbreak 'El Chivo' suffers when he returns home to find his dogs have been killed.
It was clear from this performance that Gael Garcia Bernal was destined for great things, displaying charisma and bravado that would make him a worldwide star.

399 - Greed - 2 stars
Begins with a title card reading 'personally directed by Erich Von Stroheim', as if it could have been impersonally directed by him? The film is also dedicated to his mother, a back handed compliment perhaps considering the film is called Greed?
Stroheim's original vision was a 9 hour epic on how greed corrupts and destroys. It was cut down by the studio to just over two hours, and it is amazing that something vaguely coherent could be salvaged from that.
Even for two hours the story plods along at a pedestrian pace, as a woman's obsession with her lottery winnings threatens to alienate her husband, family and friends, ultimately leading to tragedy.
The film's message is clear and due to the style of silent filmmaking, most of the subtlety is lost.
This is the only silent film on the list and you can forget how important music can be in a film till you see a silent movie, where it relies on music to create mood and emotion.
P.S. The husband in the story is dentist and I just wanted to highlight the two greatest dentists in cinematic history; Szell and Orin Scrivello

328 - The Truman Show - 4 stars

It shares a central theme with The Matrix, in that what do you do when the world you are living in turns out to be a lie?  This is what happens to mild-mannered Truman Burbank as he slowly loses his grip on his sanity as it is revealed that he is the star of the biggest reality TV in the world - but without his knowledge.  "We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented" - Christof

It is a deeply satirical look at the world's obsession with reality TV, yet this was made back in 1998 when the craze was just starting to take off.  It touches upon issues like product placement (Truman's wife dropping brand names into the conversation) and Big Brother-style control of what we see and do (in the form of Ed Harris's Christof aka The Creator)

But the revelation here is Jim Carrey, delivering a beautifully understated performance.  It showed the world that he was able to successfully do dramatic roles as well as the zany, rubber faced comedies he became famous for... although try telling this to the Academy who have criminally overlooked his performances in Truman Show, Man On The Moon and his best film, Eternal Sunshine.

Days remaining - 260 Films remaining - 349

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