Saturday, 24 December 2016

December Blindspot: The Maltese Falcon

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The Maltese Falcon, 1941
Directed by John Huston

Wow, already at the end of another year! I have now finished two years of Blindspot movies and am trying to put together a list for my 3rd year. However, my final film to review is the noir classic, The Matlese Falcon.

The Maltese Falcon is one of Humphrey Bogart's earlier films. He had just come off the success of "High Sierra" and did "Casablanca" right after this film. The Maltese Falcon is a crime film that tells the story of Sam Spade, a PI, who gets in the thick of a bunch of eccentric criminals and the hunt for a fabled jeweled falcon.

To be frank, I actually didn't care a whole lot for the Maltese Falcon, and I feel kind of awful for admitting it. I found the film to be somewhat boring and a little hard to follow. I thought Humphrey Bogart gave a really masterful performance, and I really did think this would be a film I enjoyed. However, it was not to be, apparently, and I feel bad for saying so.

To be honest, I just don't really have a lot of opinions on this film. To be fair, my husband and I were both a little sick when we watched this, so our attention span wasn't the highest, but I don't really remember even all that much about the film itself. Like I said, I found the plot a little hard to follow as it always seemed someone wasn't who you/Sam Spade think they are and things are constantly twisting. That's not to say that this was a bad movie. Maybe if I give the film a rewatch when I'm a little more alert I'll enjoy it, but right now I found it a little disappointing. I'm a much bigger fan of Casablanca (who isn't, though?).


Monday, 19 December 2016

Manchester By The Sea

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Manchester By The Sea, 2016
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Lee Chandler is a janitor. He's quiet, prone to surliness and alone. But one day he gets a phone call and finds out his brother has died of a heart attack. Living an hour and a half away, he drives to Manchester, Massachusetts to where his brother and his brother's 16 year old son lived. Manchester, the city he grew up in and lived in for a part of his life before leaving. In the wake of grief, he finds himself newly made guardian over his 16 year old nephew, Patrick. But Manchester brings back old griefs, old heartaches and ghosts from his past.

Casey Affleck has been among my favourite actors for a while now. His work in The Assassination of Jesse James and Ain't Them Body Saints was stunning and it's been frustrating that he hasn't had a lot of good work since Jesse James. However, finally he landed the role of Lee Chandler. And now he's tipped (for now) to win an Oscar for the role.

Manchester By The Sea is not a showy film. It's a film about small moments and subtleties. It's a film I know I'll be thinking about for several days, still processing and digesting everything about it. It's a simple story, and one that's been told often. I can name several films about anti-social/awkward people who find their sister/friend/brother dead and now have to be guardian of a child and it helps them grow as a person. I can even think of a Katherine Heigel movie with that plot. But Manchester By The Sea wasn't like that. I mean, the story itself isn't breaking any new ground here, but the execution was flawless.

To be honest, it took me a while into the movie to see what the big deal was. For about the first 45 minutes or so I was kind of whatever on the movie. But finally, when we hit the scene that explains why everyone is talking about Lee Chandler, saying "THE Lee Chandler?", my heart broke and I was stunned. I won't spoil it, but from that point on, the film had me. This is a heart-wrenching film, but it never tries to make you sob in your seat in the theatre. It's simply a film that addresses loss and grief, and how we all deal with it (or don't). It's simple, but it's a film you'll be thinking about for days to come.

Casey Affleck here is spot-on for this role. However, this is not a showy role. There's not really any big juicy Oscar-clip moments. It's a subtle performance, but extremely nuanced. Casey is oozing with this sadness and desperation of Lee. He could not have given a better performance here. And then we also have Michelle Williams. It's a very small role for her, but she really packs the emotional punches here. Her scenes are much more juicy and emotional. I won't say much about Michelle's character, but she really punches you in the gut. And we also have newcomer Lucas Hedges (he was in Moonrise Kingdom! More people should talk about this). Lucas Hedges plays Patrick, Lee's nephew. He gives a great performance here and really nails how teenagers often deal/don't deal with grief and loss. They are lost, but don't know what to do. And Lucas was able to nail that.

Overall, this isn't a film I can see winning Best Picture, even though it is definitely one of the best films of the year. But this is a film filled with fantastic and must-see performances. Casey Affleck delivers a career-defining role here and it's not to be missed.


Friday, 16 December 2016


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Lion, 2016
Directed by Garth Davis

Lion is based on the true story of Saroo who, as a young boy growing up in India, got separated from his family and was lost on a train. He eventually gets adopted by a nice Australian family but he never forgets the events that led to him being separated from his mother, his little sister and his beloved older brother. As a young adult, Saroo learns of the new technology called Google Earth, and he sets out to try to figure out where he came from and how to get back home.

Honestly, I wasn't sure whether I would like Lion or not. I mean, I like true stories, and sometimes movies would've been better had they been true (ie Flight). However, I am often skeptical of whether the movie will actually be a good movie, rather than just settling for telling a good/true story. That being said, I felt like Lion mostly succeeded.

What worked for Lion is that it wasn't told in flashbacks. We don't go back and forth from past and present. The story telling here is linear, which I think works to the films benefit. Often film like this rely on this back and forth narrative, and indeed I expecting Lion to be the same way. But immersing ourselves in young Saroo's world for the first 45 minutes-1 hour was a treat. It was sad without purposely tugging on your heartstrings (too much) but was still a heartbreaking story of a young 5 year old, separated from everything he knows, in a part of the country that doesn't speak the language he knows. And young Sunny Pawar, playing little Saroo, is a treasure to watch. Sunny is incredibly adorable, but also feels very natural as a child actor. He just runs with the innocence and lostness of Saroo.

As we hit the second half of the film, we finally meet Dev Patel, playing grown-up Saroo. Dev Patel, most known for Slumdog Millionaire, has grown up. Only 17 when he filmed that film, Dev is now almost ten years older. And he has certainly grown as an actor. Dev is able to delve into the complexities of Saroo, both trying to embrace the world around him, but also trying to remember where he came from. As well, we have Nicole Kidman, playing Saroo's adoptive mother. While the early moments in the film of young Saroo and his new mother are heart-warming but also somewhat devastating, in their grown up years is where the film seems to lag somewhat. We aren't really given context to what their relationship is now besides that Saroo is a "good son". They are given a spattered relationship, at best, and I feel this drags the film down. However, Nicole Kidman is given some very juicy scenes and she plays them beautifully. I won't spoil much, but two scenes in particular had me teary.

Overall, the first half of Lion was by far the best, in my opinion. Almost completely in subtitles and led by a 5 year old, it is the most beautiful and heartbreaking. The second half of the film seems to drag a little too long and give too little context to Saroo and the relationships he has with others. However, Lion is a moving story about a man feeling lost, trying to find his way back home. It's certainly weepy, but that's in the very nature of the story itself. The cinematography is beautiful and Dustin O'Halloran's score is haunting and beautiful. It's not an overly memorable movie, but it's worth seeing.