Thursday, 29 September 2016

September Blindspot: The Pianist

The Pianist, 2002
Directed by Roman Polanski

The Pianist piqued my interest, mainly because of how often I see Adrien Brody winning the Oscar for this film on the list of "biggest shocks/surprises" at the Oscars. As well, Roman Polanski is extremely controversial (duh) and I wanted to see the movie that won him his Best Director Oscar, a movie that is based very much on his own childhood.

The Pianist tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a famous Polish pianist, who lived through the ghettoization of Warsaw.

My husband commented after the film that it was disappointing there aren't more movies set around the Polish Ghettos during WWII. And after watching this film, I do agree. Not that it was a comfortable movie to watch, but because there are so many stories to be told! And indeed, while The Pianist isn't quite on the level of Schindler's List, in terms of Holocaust/WWII movies, The Pianist is indeed beautiful and heartbreaking.

Adrien Brody is indeed exceptional as Szpilman. He goes through so many different stages and Brody plays them all so well. He has just such an emotional face and he carries the weight of Szpilman's experiences so well.

As well, just the storytelling in general is just so heartbreaking. It's not a quick flip through the scenes, but a studied look at the Polish ghetto and how demeaning that experience was. But also you think about how much luckier they probably were there than at any concentration camp, and you completely depress yourself.

The Pianist is a beautiful and heart-wrenching film that should be seen by more people. This is a movie where I can absolutely separate art from the artist. While what Polanski did was so sketchy and wrong, he was also a man who grew up experiencing the things that we see. And stories like this, about Jewish discrimination and extinction is so important.


Mini Reviews: Cafe Society, The Light Between Oceans, Where to Invade Next

Cafe Society
I would compare Cafe Society to a beach read, a book you bring on your beach vacation. It's pleasant and even sometimes charming and fun, but overall, it was nice in the moment but it's not overly memorable. However, that's not at all to say Cafe Society is a bad movie. In fact, it's probably Woody Allen's best movie in a few years.

It's the simple story of Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) who leaves New York to come to Hollywood in the 1930's. He gets a job working for his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) at a casting agency for Hollywood stars, and falls in love with Phil's assistant Vonnie. Vonnie is beautiful and cool and she and Bobby become only friends because Vonnie is in a relationship with Bobby's uncle Phil (unbeknownst to Bobby).

I actually loved Kristen Stewart in this movie. I think she finally found the right part that made me think she was so cool and I wanted to be her! Kristen's performance as Vonnie was cool girl with a hint of hypocrisy. She was just so great to watch, and I'm happy she's finally coming into her own as an actress. As well, I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg, though it was once again a role similar to many things he's played before, this time with a little less arrogance. It was a fun, simple film with some nice performances and left you feeling nice.


The Light Between Oceans
I actually read this book about a year ago and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to see this film, despite the middling reviews. And honestly, it deserves a little more credit than it got. Michael Fassbender is in a role unlike I've seen him in before, and Alicia Vikander reminds us why she won her Oscar.

Tom is a lighthouse keeper and he and his wife Isobel work on Janus island, miles and miles from civilization. After several miscarriages, a boat washes ashore with a small, crying baby and a dead man. Instead of reporting this to the authorities, they decide to keep the baby and claim her as their own.

I was excited that Derek Cianfrance would be directing this because I felt like the subject matter was up his alley in terms of grim portraits of relationships and people. However, it was much more "soapy" than I was expecting from him, which indeed was a disappointment. However, the film was one of the most gorgeous I've seen all year, with beautiful cinematography, costumes and a lovely score from the ever-dependable Alexandre Desplat. Again, the performances were good and I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the film very, very much. It starts to get a little long in the end and it takes its time about wrapping up, but it's still an enjoyable movie about life and love, and doesn't deserve to be quite the bomb that it was.


Where To Invade Next
I saw one Michael Moore film once and I remember not enjoying it at all. To me, Michael Moore is that guy who knocks on peoples door and confronts them and yells at them about injustices/conspiracy theories/etc. So when my parents recommended I watch this, I was a little skeptical but thought the premise was interesting.

Indeed, I enjoyed the film very, very much. In this film, Michael Moore visits other countries around the world to see what things they are doing well (things like education, women's rights, vacation pay, etc) and "claiming" those ideas for America. In fact, I felt this film really communicated a lot of the frustrations I have with the United States while actually being somewhat gracious and hopeful about it!

Michael Moore was not angrily banging on peoples door here, but he was sitting down with real people from and having real conversations about how France treats lunchtime as a class and teaches kid manners and proper nutrition, how Slovenia has free college education, how Norway has a much more rehabilitation approach to prison, and how Italians get a lot of vacation time and how employers want their employees to be happy. It was a great look at so many countries around the world and how backwards the US is in a lot of these ways. Michael Moore was much more gracious than I had ever expected, and it ended on a much more positive and hopeful note rather than an angry/negative one. This film is definitely a must-watch!


Monday, 26 September 2016

Deepwater Horizon

Image result for deepwater horizon poster

Deepwater Horizon, 2016
Directed by Peter Berg

I was a really big fan of Peter Bergs last film, Lone Survivor. I think it was a really well made and well told story. It was a simple story, but it was treated with complexity and subtly. And it also kind of made me believe in Mark Walhberg again. So naturally, I was actually kind of looking forward to this one. While it's a little less nuanced, even in just the subject matter of the story, it was still a well made film.

Deepwater Horizon tells the story of the biggest oil spill in history and gives us a full picture of what "oil spill" actually means. We follow Mike Williams and his crew as they board the Deepwater Horizon to find out the previous crew left early before doing some cement tests on the actual well. The crew insists that they need to do more tests before actually drilling, which the visiting BP men are hesitant to do because this rig is already 43 days behind schedule. However, even after the test results are sketchy at best, BP insists that it's fine. But only a few hours later does everything go wrong.

I vaguely remember hearing about this spill when it happened. It was 2010 and I  was a senior in high school. I remember hearing the term "oil spill" and pictured one of those Captain Phillips-like freight boats was carrying oil and somehow the ship was sideways in the water, oil spilling out. To me, back then, that's what I pictured when someone said oil spill. I don't remember hearing about the fires that took days and days to put out.

Peter Berg makes a smart move and contains the events of the movie simple to April 20th 2010. The first part of the film is a little disorienting, as it jumps straight into oil rig jargon and we don't have a "new person" to have all these terms explained to, for us. While you don't 100% know what's going on, you do get the gist. But the second half, with the explosions and the oil spill, you don't really need words. It's almost like watching Titanic, where nowhere the crew can go is safe.

To me, the films running time at 1 hour 47 minutes is perfect. It's not too long and Berg knows not to draw things out. He keeps the beginning simple, and the second half of the film is just as long as it needs to be. It's a brisk film but it really gets to the point. The only drawback is we probably don't get enough blame pushed onto BP and the big corporations that skimped on a lot of the safety tests, but when you limit your film to only the day-of, that happens. We get enough blame and questions asked as you can for a setting like that.

Honestly, I actually quite enjoyed Deepwater Horizon. In a summer of really meh movies, this is probably the first movie I've genuinely liked in a while. Mark Walhberg does a serviceable job, and it's nice to see Gina Rodriguez up on the big screen. Deepwater Horizon is simple in premise, and while it doesn't make as huge an impact as Lone Survivor did, this is still an admirable film that treats the subject matter with both anger and dignity.