Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November Blindspot: What's Eating Gilbert Grape

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What's Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

What's Eating Gilbert Grape is essentially a coming of age story set in a small town. Gilbert is a young man living in a small town, and has a lot of responsibility. His father passed away several years ago, he has a mother who is so overweight she barely gets off the couch (much less out of the house), has several younger siblings to take care of, but mainly needs to look after his youngest brother Arnie, who is mentally disabled. Arnie was never supposed to live very long as a baby, but is now about to celebrate his 18th birthday.

This movie is not an overly acclaimed movie, if I'm correct. However, what it's most known for is getting Leonardo DiCaprio his first acting nomination, and what some would say is his very best performance. To be honest, this was pretty much the only reason I put this film on my list. There are a lot of opinions about what Leo's best performance is (and I selected this film before I had seen the Revenant last year), so I really wanted to see what other people saw. Because it was 1994 and Leo was nominated for his first Oscar and was also up against Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List, which is also another fantastic, for the history books performances. So when people always complained that Leo didn't win this Oscar, I always wanted to point to Fiennes also having lost that year, but I wanted to truly see which of the performances was more deserving.

In all honesty, I do actually think this might be Leo's best ever performance. To be fair, I haven't seen his performance in Wolf of Wall Street, but this performance is so unique from a lot of Leo's other performances. Maybe because this was essentially his first big role and what planted him on the map. But his performance here is so pure, and I feel like it's so natural and authentic of children/teens with autism. A friend of mine growing up had an autistic little brother and the character of Arnie and how he acted reminded me a lot of this boy/teen I knew. The mannerisms were just right and the writing behind it felt so true.

Besides Leo's performance, I felt the movie was just kind of okay otherwise. It was a pretty typical coming of age story for Gilbert. He's dealing with all his responsibility of constantly looking after Arnie while also trying to figure out his life and is falling in love. Johnny Depp did a good job here but he was thoroughly outshined by Leo.

Had Leo not been in this film, I would probably have forgotten about the film by now. It's a film similar to many I've seen before, though that doesn't necessarily make it bad. But the character of Arnie and his relationship with Gilbert is what makes this movie interesting.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016


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Sully, 2016
Directed by Clint Eastwood

I roughly remember "The Miracle on the Hudson". It was January 2009 and I was in grade 11. I remember hearing about a plane landing on the Hudson River in New York (a city I had just been in a few months earlier) and thinking that was pretty neat. It was a good story! So naturally, I wasn't surprised to hear a film was being made several years later.

Sully is a pretty typical story of a big event that happened. It shows the major event but also deals with the aftermath, and even gives us a little of the beforehand. However, to me, Sully was a slightly roughly chopped film. There didn't seem to be a good flow to the scenes and they seemed to be in an odd order.

The film opens with the days following the "miracle landing". We follow Sully, the pilot of the plane, and how the landing has affected him. He's suffering PTSD and keeps seeing the plane he flew and landed crashing into buildings instead of landing in the river. We go through a few deposition scenes and then suddenly, and slightly unceremoniously, we get the flashback to the crash/landing. The sequence comes about 30 minutes in and lasts probably 15 minutes. We then cut back to Sully speaking to his wife on the phone and we continue with the aftermath depositions and trials, and while Sully is in a bar, seeing himself on TV, we get another long flashback, etc, etc. I think the film could've been better laid out. Either show the entire sequence at the beginning, the entire sequence at the end, or evenly sit in the present and flashback. But this film was just inconsistent in when they would flashback and when they would sit in the "present". It's hard to describe, but it could've been better laid out and flowed better.

Tom Hanks as Sully was an incredibly obvious choice. Just like Captain Phillips, it seems like a role that Tom Hanks has been playing for roughly a decade now. He does a fine job but it didn't feel like we were seeing anything new from Hanks. Undoubtedly Hanks is a great actor, but I feel he's been playing the same role for a while now.

Honestly, I felt like Sully could've been a lot better. The first 15 minutes showed the PTSD of Sully and his co-pilot, which was something I would've liked Clint Eastwood to focus on more. But after those 15 minutes, it's not touched on much at all. The film just touches on a few things like this briefly, but doesn't focus on it throughout the film. There's a lot of interesting pieces here, but it kind of felt thrown together. This film could've been really great, because it's awesome to see some good news sometimes. But this film didn't do the film justice. It felt like there was some created drama just for the sake of having drama (the question of whether Sully made the right choice in landing in the Hudson or if he should've tried to go back to the airport). But it was a fine film, though I don't think it deserves any sort of awards attention. It's a good film that isn't overly creative or original. It's very typical for this type of film.



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Arrival, 2016
Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Honestly, Arrival is by far my favourite film of 2016 thus far. I mean, this isn't saying a lot because I haven't seen very many good films this year at all. But Arrival is an incredibly-made and a very intelligent film about Earth's first contact with an alien race.

Arrival is a film about communication, about humanity, about love and about how we perceive time. About how everything in our lives affects the way we see things and they change our perceptions. It's a story about Louise Banks, a world-renowned linguist, and how she is used by the army to try to communicate to aliens that have landed on Earth. 12 "pods" have landed all over the planet with no seeming pattern. And the aliens do not speak any Earthly language. Louise, with the help of Ian (a scientist), attempt to teach the Aliens English, and attempt to learn the language of the aliens.

For a long time, the human race has been obsessed with the idea of aliens and first contact. There are countless film about Alien invasions, about first contact, about friendly aliens, but just generally this idea that there is another, more intelligent race out there. But Arrival is a much different animal than many of the other "Alien" films out there. Arrival is both grand in scale but also an intimate human drama. It both tackles how this "arrival" impacts the entire globe, but also very specifically about how it is impacting Louise and her past and future.

Without giving out specifics or spoilers, Arrival is a film that actually knows how to deal with time. I'm not going to say any more about this, but this movie really understands the time aspect of it's film, which I find a lot of other movies don't. It uses time in different ways than other movies have done. I know this doesn't make a lot of sense to people who haven't seen this film, but trust me, you'll understand once you've watched it.

Also, Amy Adams give an incredible performance here. It's so internalized and subtle, but at the same time she's so in control and powerful. Louise is an incredibly strong character and she's incredibly brilliant. Amy Adams was such a great choice to bring Louise to life.

Honestly, Arrival is just an incredibly beautiful film about communication and how we come together as a planet. It taps into this idea that newcomers we don't understand are often automatically a threat. It shows how well and how badly we communicate with each other, both person to person, and on a global scale. Honestly, the ending will probably destroy you (the choice of music picked was 100000% perfection) and it's something very different for this genre.

I don't know how to articulate enough that Arrival is honestly a must-see film this year. It transcends so many different genres and takes the time to actually think through the science and the time of the story and just takes the time to build character. This is not a film with loud booms and lots of explosions. This film is cerebral and intelligent, but also human and heartbreaking in the best way. I would love to see this film make good money so it can tell Hollywood that these kind of intelligent film are important and they are good and are worth making. This should 100% be up for Best Picture come February, and I would love to see Denis Villeneuve and Amy Adams also singled out with individual nominations.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

October Blindspot: Breakfast at Tiffany's

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Breakfast at Tiffany's, 1961
Directed by Blake Edwards

Based on a Truman Capote novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's is about a young woman named Holly Golightly and the interest she has in an older man that moves into her building. But Holly is mainly obsessed with finding a rich husband.

Honestly, I do not understand the hype over this film. I know the opening shots of Audrey Hepburn in this are classic, and even her performance in this film is really good (and quite different from other roles she has played), but I do not understand the love for this film, sad to say. I really did want to like it, but the story was just kind of weird and bland and Holly wasn't an overly sympathetic character. She has a complicated past and the new man who moves into her building (Paul Varjak), she keeps referring to him as her brothers name. Holly was a borderline Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I don't know whether this was Capote's doing (I feel like a novelized version of this is probably much more interesting), or whether this was the director/screenwriters doing, but Holly was just that typical character who seems to live vivaciously, but then has a dark past and isn't actually as happy as she seems.

Like I said, Audrey Hepburn does give a very good performance here, and the music was definitely a deserved Oscar win (as well as the original song). But I just found the movie kind of weird and boring and just not really what I expected. I almost wonder if most people just like to remember the classic-looking opening sequence and forget the rest of the movie.