Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Born On The Fourth Of July & The Best Years Of Our Lives


In each returning vet films they focus on the soldiers who individually suffer from post dramatic stress disorder, either being physically wounded or emotional traumatized. Each film focuses on soldiers returning and coping in society. But there are many differences between both films; being two totally different wars, one was won when the other was lost, the cultural change in the US, when the US government was being questioned and was acceptable to question authority and the public view differences between World War 2 and Vietnam.

In Best Years Of Our Lives and Born On The Fourth Of July both film focus on returning vets with a physical or emotional trauma and focuses on getting back into society. The wars veteran’s wounds are both physical and emotional. He is seasoned by hard experience and wary of new experience. The war veteran’s fighting spirit, however, is not necessarily diminished, although his determination to survive might be compromised and society may receive him rudely upon his return. In Born On The Fourth Of July when Ron returns home he is seen as upbeat and proud for taking part in the Vietnam war when his family and neighbours are awkward and embarrassed on his return home. However his proud family is short lived when Ron’s brother doesn’t believe in the war and represents the growing society of questioning the government why they are in Vietnam. During Independence Day parade when Ron is encountered by protestors and is seen as a “Baby Killer”.


Best Years of Our Lives shares a similar view in the post dramatic stress disorder with the three protagonists. However the outcome of the War was very different. Each narrative element in each movie closely presents and discourses of veteran’s problem in both abled and disabled veterans who now has to readjust to their new state of body or mind. Each three returning veterans have to adjust to society with different elements to post dramatic stress disorder. Homer who lost both his hands has to adjust go to his disability and accept the love of the sweet heart next door, Al who creates a habit of drinking and struggles to sleep with having anger problem and Fred who suffers from a recurrent nightmare in war with his acquisitive wife and no decent job.
Although both films show their protagonist having post dramatic stress disorder the cultural and the view on the war in both films are very different. When Fred returns home his wife is always seen pushing him to wear his uniform showing him off to friends and the public. In Born on the Fourth of July wearing the uniform during the Vietnam conflict was seen very controversial. Unlike in World War 2 when the US was fighting the Nazi’s and the Empire Of Japan the US soldiers always found themselves rounding up villagers, farmers and people who were never a threat. There was never a clear enemy for the soldiers and found themselves fighting a guerrilla warfare. “On the one hand, the veteran’s heroism and sacrifices are celebrated and memorialized and debts of gratitude, both symbolic and material, are paid to him. On the other hand the veteran also inspires anxiety and fear and is seen as a threat to social order and political stability” (Gerber 1994:546) this quote by Gerber is a great example of separating both films through different hands; the first hand representing Best Years of our Lives and the other hand representing Born on the Fourth of July.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Jarhead


A coming age journey of a young man desire to join the marines like his father and grandfather and become somewhat of a war hero but instead takes a nose dive into madness and obsession for his first kill. Set in the Gulf War Swofford (Jake Gyllenhall) encounters first at hand how his voyage takes him into war and learns from first at hand the first casualty of war is ones inner self.  Watching Jarhead we first at the how modern warfare today is so very different from previous wars such as the Vietnam War. We see first at hand how Vietnam War may have had more of a death toll then the Gulf War but the psychological impact on the soldiers war far more greater being that the Vietnam War so un-glorified compared to the first and second world wars.

From an external view Jarhead is a story of a young man whose ambition in life was to become this glorified sniper returning home from battle to be greeted with parades and people waving flags. But if we look at Jarhead from an internal view Jarhead is comparing the wars between the Gulf and the Vietnam War. Comparing the two we see how both Wars so different from the public view being that the Vietnam War veterans who was spat on and Swofford in the Gulf War was welcomed back with open arms and as a hero. However his own personal battle with on conscious drives him to question what he actually did in that war? Being that he never did fire his weapon once and the never did kill an enemy. For Swofford the only real enemy of the Gulf War was the blazing heat of the Middle Eastern deserts, countless hours boredom and that his idea of the Band of Brothers of war is not memory of battles but rather him and his fellow soldiers were taking the piss out of each other and relying on each other’s sense of humour.

The perfect scenes when both wars come together is when Swofford is in the parade returning home and a Vietnam veteran jumps into the bus cheering the Gulf War soldiers for the accomplishment they done over seas.  But is cheers are short lived right away when we physically see the Vietnam veteran remembering his traumatic war and how Swofford realises that his war so very different from that veteran. If we look earlier into the film Swofford’s father is also a Vietnam veteran. In the only shot we see him in is at the very beginning when Swofford quickly sums up his life and the relationship with his family. In just one shot that’s about five seconds long we see his father wearing robe still wearing his dog tags and looking so disconnected with the outside world including his son sitting right next to him. Another example how Vietnam veterans are so traumatically affected by the Vietnam War. There’s always a constant reminder and comparing between the two wars and how soldiers from the Gulf War glorified by films like the cinema scene when watching “Full Metal Jacket” and playing Vietnam music from their helicopters but in the end it never was the same for Swofford. The only wounds he gained were the feeling of doing nothing but rewarded as a hero. Comparing the Vietnam veteran to Swofford though his war so controversial and he must of killed people when Swofford did nothing and killed no one and he is rewarded and for sees himself a phony hero.

Friday, 30 November 2012

La Haine

 
The film focuses on the suburbs rural areas of Paris following a group of three boys.  Each of them represents the individual that wants to; escape the suburbs and have a better life, one that is in captivated and openingly glorifies the gangster lifestyle and the last that is somewhat in a stalemate between the two friends. Each friend rubbing off on the friend that at one point seems to want to choose a life of crime and the other somewhat is convincing him to do better. Even though La Haine main subject matter is about a racially diverse group of young people trapped in the underclass of sociality in the rural forgotten areas of France. La Haine is was shot in entirely in in black and white that represents the colourless of the world. In that moment of history Paris was seen futureless, dull and that having no colour shows no racial or ethnic difference being that everyone is the same colour.
 
 
Through the cinematography and editing we are subjected to how the group feels in their surrounding environment. By comparing their; ethically mixed, suburban, lower class home, to the middle white class areas of Paris. For the group to feel more at home and familiar with their surroundings the cinematography shows a great deal of; wide, spacious areas however empty which represents how these boys really have nothing and that the area they live in is a representation of their life; ill manners came from being ill-treated, never being able to escape the area even when on the roofs of the apartment buildings. It is seen as a threat to be so high above the police physically and psychologically. This can be seen as a metaphor for being above the law or trying to look beyond the suburbs. Each shot used has a long duration and the scenes are not rushed. When the boys are in Paris they truly are out of place. Both physically and emotionally they do not fit in. This is shown mostly through the quick fast pace cuts and how they a framed in the cinematography; wandering around maze life streets of Paris, constantly being overwhelmed by the tall buildings surrounding them and the busy fast pace city life, being lost and wandering the unfamiliar streets of Paris. When they miss their last train back home, right away we are subjected to feeling what the boys are feeling; left behind, lost and forgotten.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Woodsman

Kevin Bacon stars in what I would honestly say is one of the most powerful and yet daring films I’d ever seen. Playing the role as Walter, an ex-convict child molester who just finished serving a 12 year sentence and is returning to his own town. Trying to start over and working in a lumber/wood yard. Everyone he knows has turned their back on him apart from his brother in law Carlos (Benjamin Bratt). Trying to live a normal life Walter sparks a relationship with fellow co-worker Vickie (Kyra Sedgwick). Constantly on edge Walter has to also endure horrible visits from detective and parole officer Lucas (Mos Def) who is keep a close eye on Walter hoping he will slip up and throw him back in jail. With his past and the constant temptations of his day to day life, and a detective on his case Walter has to endure his dark obsession and try to live a normal life but his obsession slowly taking hold of him. Walter is conflicted with the question “Will I ever be normal?". The Woodsman is a brilliantly orchestrated and yet thrilling story of a Walter trying to go straight.  The film explores into a very touchy and dangerous territory but the execution of the film is both creepily beautiful and yet disturbing.
 

Kevin Bacon’s performance as a convicted paedophile trying to go straight was no easy task. But with his performance as Walter you can see both physically and psychologically we are introduced to this man contempt by his own guilt, now having to endure an emotional battle within. The scene when we see Walter gaze into nothing shows a great deal of emotional and psychological trauma that Bacon does such an incredible job showing.  Watching the Woodsman we can’t help but feel sorry for Walter but at the same time disgusted with him. This theme of “Will I ever be normal?” runs throughout the drama and we see our protagonist repentant for what he has done. However at the same time we see him delve back into his dark obsession playing with fire once again. Throughout the Woodsman there’s a constant feeling of self-contempt and torn for the crime he did but tries to comfort himself “I molested little girls. But I never hurt them,”
 
What’s so fascinating about watching The Woodsman is the relationship between Walter and the other characters in the film; His parole officer who itching to throw him back to prison, the love interest that discovers Walters past and the only family member that talks to him his brother in law.  One of the tensest scenes is when we are first introduced to detective Lucas. His hostile attitude and disgusted feelings to Walter makes his visits so gut wrenching to watch when Lucas tells Walter stories of previous crimes of mutilated child victims “Have you ever seen a seven year old, sodomized in half?” Having to watch Walter suffer almost what seems to be a psychological police brutality. It’s a captivating scene of which side we should be on?   

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Tyson

 
Tyson is a fascinating self discovery story who reflects on his earlier years both his private and publicly viewed life. Reflecting on his childhood years growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn New York to becoming the youngest ever Heavyweight World Champion. Dealt with bad hand in life Tyson explains growing up in troubled household and a crime ridden area lead him to a life of crime. When Tyson discovered boxing a trainer called Cus D'Amato took him under his wing. Taken from such a deprived area into a Victorian mansion in the country, D’Amato not only psychically trained Tyson but psychologically mesmerized him into being the best. Being bullied all his childhood life, D’Amato taught Tyson discipline and self-respect. Till this day it still brings Tyson to tears. Building his confidence and guiding him to a better path. D’Amato became more than a trainer or mentor but a father figure to Tyson.  James Toback’s Tyson is a captivating and emotional journey of the stages of Tyson life as; Kid Dynamite, Iron Mike and The baddest Man on the Planet. Who better to explain the life one of the most controversial boxing icons that brings a sympathetic and objective light to the story then the man himself.    
 
 
Exploring his upbringings we realise that Tyson’s childhood was a very unforgiving cruel world. As D’Amato took Tyson and looked after him as he was his own. We see that D’Amato had a very profound effect on Tyson both emotionally and psychologically. We realize that D’Amato wasn’t only training Tyson to become a boxing champion but given Tyson a reason to live, change his life from crime and drugs. Through boxing Tyson became a better person, with countless hours of intense training. D’Amato began breaking Tyson down and rebuilding him. It wasn’t just Tyson’s incredible speed and his physical perfection. D’Amato mastered the art of the emotional and psychological elements into boxing and that the key success to being a champion wasn’t physical but psychological. Tyson would become what was known as the “Spiritual Warrior” way of fighting.  By installing fear into the opponents, already before they enter the ring Tyson had already psychological beaten them. With this psychological win the opponent emotionally now has lost the will to win.
 
 
When Tyson become the youngest and undisputed World Boxing Champion, his young age and rise to stardom become both a blessing and cures for the champion. Having achieved so much at such little time his personal issues began to intervene with his personal life also. Being so young and immature lead him to his downfall in life. Going to prison had a very psychological effect on Tyson. Again back to a cruel life but instead of Brownsville, Brooklyn New York it was prison. Having only himself to keep him company, he became his own best friend and began talking to himself. When released Tyson didn’t know how to handle the media or anyone which always lead to furious outburst of rage. It always seemed that Tyson was always surrounded by people constantly using him for their own gain. It seemed that everyone wanted to be his friend all for the wrong reasons. After D’Amato died he signed with what he referrers to as “Slave Masters” taking a third of his wages. He then signed a contract with Don King who stole from Tyson also. Constantly being used he lost all faith in life. Becoming; bitter and sacred it’s almost as if he never left the streets of Brownsville.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Silent Hill



*WARNING CONTAINS SPOILER*

Now I'm not going to say that Silent Hill is one of the most terrifying films I've seen but I can honestly say it’s one of the best film adaptations of a game. It seems like every film that is an adaptation of a game does so badly at the box office, but how can this be? The films they pick already have a great plot, fantastic characters to work on and a basic structure to help write a great script. So it seems that half the paperwork and effort is already laid out in front of them. However film adaptations of games are always a massive flop. In my personal opinion the only film adaptation of a game that really does do the game justice is Christophe Gans 2006 Silent Hill. If you’re a Silent Hill fan like me, you’ll understand that Christophe does an incredible job capturing the; creepy, foggy and quite town of Silent Hill. Just like in the game Christophe visually and emotionally captures the essences of what makes Silent Hill and he really does grasp the Psychological horror with the atmosphere. The constant feeling of being watched, having no weapons, those creepy terrifying creatures chasing you and the bogeyman that’s always stalking you “Pyramid Head”. The film adaptation is a perfect survival horror that takes elements from the game series; Silent Hill 1, 2, 3 and Silent Hill 4: The room.


The atmosphere in Christophe’s Silent Hill perfectly captures Psychological horror that Rose (Radha Mitchell) has to endeavour into. This voyage into the unknown history of her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) leads them to Silent Hill. A Town with a long history of burning witches to fuel their cult beliefs. Silent Hill is almost as if it’s stuck between limbo and that the cult town’s people of Silent Hill have to endure the nightmare of the demon they created “Alessa”. A young girl born without a father was believed to be a witch and was ritually burned alive. Surviving the ritual the pain and rage the cult has caused her pulls the town into a dark dreamlike world. Representing the bodily injuries they inflicted on her. What made Christophe’s Silent Hill so fascinating to watch were the two worlds he created; a world with the living and a world with the dammed.


When the church siren rings “The Darkness” comes and the foggy silent town transforms into living nightmare. Silent Hill now becomes a symbolic meaning of Alessa. What the cult has done to her she inflicts the demonic pain on them. Silent Hill visually becomes a manifesto of Alessa’s pain. The creatures that Alessa summons look as if they are her victims of the towns people, dammed to be her demon forever. They seem to be as if they are monster but actually they are a mockery of human beings. Christophe wants the audience to realise at the end that the cultist town’s people are real the monsters. What I admire most of Christophe Silent Hill is how visually he sets the atmosphere between both worlds of Silent Hill and how beautifully he captures the soul of the game into a film. In one Silent Hill we see a foggy, soulless town with the towns people looking like ghosts but when siren rings and darkness befalls the town. The citizens of Silent Hill are destined to be dammed and made into a unholy demonic mockery.   

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

JCVD

JCVD is not just about a comedy/drama post office heist job that he stumbles into in mid-progress. Playing himself we don’t see the young; Universal Soldier, Bloodsport, Kickboxer and Legionnaire. We see an ageing actor whose films have gone straight to DVD, losing custody of his daughter and not getting the lead roles that he so desires. JCVD in some way is a semi-autobiographical look into Jean Claude’s personal life set in a fictional scenario of a post office heist that turns into a hostage situation that he gets the blame for. JCVD truly is a fascinating personal insight into Jean Claude Van Damme and his performance in JCVD is genuinely not acting any more but instead he’s pouring his heart out. We don’t see our beloved ass kicking action hero in JCVD but we see a self-loathing man that I grew up to believe was the world’s most dangerous man alive today. JCVD shows instead of a man who is “wasted mentally and physically”.
One of the most grippingly chilling raw scenes in JCVD is when Van Damme breaks the fourth wall and begins to confess to the audience how Van Damme himself had to fight his own battles within. Explaining how before he stood by and live as a peaceful warrior. Learning karate and Dojo he lived by the samurai code “Oss” but living in the US, focusing on movies and living the star dream of fancy hotels, hanging out beautiful models and earning millions. In the end he truly regretted having his dream come true “You made my dream come true. I asked for it.” But the biggest disappointment for himself was he never did live up to his own promise. Van Damme became a living lie of his own philosophical code. The topic of his drug addiction comes into play. Discussing how having everything he ever dreamt of as a thirteen year old boy wanting to be a star. Travelling the world, staying at countless hotels and living in a penthouse there’s always something more and so he tried it and got hooked. Our “Van-Damme, the beast, the tiger in a cage, the "Bloodsport" man got hooked”.
JCVD is truly an open book to a confession of man who is just emotional exhausted and is just throwing in the towel. Whenever I watch a Van Damme film I personally see his films as a unique genre of his own.  Of course Van Damme films were always typical cliché actions fighting films of him getting revenge on a fallen brother or friend. For decades Van Damme’s films went straight to DVD but the performance in JCVD gave him a worldwide cinematic release and boosted our kickboxer to a new emotional level that he needed to give such a captivating show.  Even though Van Damme has been acting for years I personal feel that that JCVD has now put him on the map for a bigger and higher budget films like our other beloved action hero’s Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Beginners



Mike Mills Beginners is a story about the consciousness memoires of Oliver (Ewan McGregor) and his journey of love with Anna (Mélanie Laurent). This new found love enters Oliver’s life only months after his father’s death Hal ((Christopher Plummer) who came out of the closet to his son right after his mother’s death. At the age of 75, Hal now lives a full gay lifestyle with his new much younger partner Andy (Goran Visnjic). Embracing a new life with new friends Hal and Oliver become much closer than ever before. Showing Oliver his joyous gay life, Oliver learns from his farther the joys of life and love. Inspired by his father’s attitude to life, Oliver now builds the courage to pursue his new found love endeavouring into a journey of beautiful humour and honesty.

What I enjoyed most of Beginners is the pure, raw and human emotions that each character and including a Jack Russell Terrier? gives to the audience. At the start of Beginners we are introduced to a grief ridden Oliver who is reflecting on his farther. We see a very isolated man who only accompanies himself with his father’s dog Arthur who is also in some way grieving. The two of them are a perfect example of one and other; Arthur refuses to interact with other dogs and stays with Oliver and Oliver also unable to connect with anyone and his art work becomes increasingly depressing focusing his work on “The evolution of sadness”. Whenever Oliver remembers any moment the film interconnects with flashbacks of that moment. With these flashbacks Beginners takes us through two stages; the past and present. The past being moments with his father and the present with Anna. Each two connect in ways to help Oliver make the right choices with Anna avoiding another failed relationship that constantly seems to haunt Oliver.


I'm not a sucker for a typical love film but the first encounter with Anna at a dress up party; personally I found it genuinely beautiful and perfect in every way that it can honestly be true and almost wish it would be. Dressed as Freud and accompanied by Arthur Oliver only connects with other party goers by setting up a mock therapy session and taking in patient like the Wicked Witch from Wizard of Oz. Anna checks herself in as a patient who cannot speak due to laryngitis and communicates by writing in her notepad. Writing in her notepad “Why did you come to a party when you are so sad?  Anna sees through Freud and finds an unhappy Oliver. The two begin to connect and even leave the party to a hotdog stand that leads to Anna’s Hotel room who still hasn't said a single word.


What I admired most in Beginners is the humble soundtrack that really does bring characters and the audience closer. Mike Mills Beginners is wonderful film that shows a journey of Oliver struggle with love but with his father’s new found happiness and inspiring him drives Oliver himself to make his new found love last. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Taxi Driver Analysis



The only parts of New York we are subjected to are the back streets of New York. In most films we’re always taken around the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. In Taxi Driver we’re constantly driven around the more dangerous and crime ridden areas. With Travis relentlessly exposed to these areas his view on New York repulsion. “I think someone should just take this city and just... just flush it down the fuckin' toilet.” In most New York films the cinematography is always typically the same; bird’s eye view shots looking down the busy streets of New York,  low angle shots looking upwards to monstrous like building over shadowing the people and the glamorous typical locations of Times Square and Broadway. Through the cinematography we only truly see New York through the taxi cab passing by. The New York we see in Taxi Driver is the cheap shady bars, strip clubs, 24 hour liquor stores and adult movie cinemas. Of course the people we see are the typical crowd that hang out in these areas; street hookers, pimps, drug addicts and alcoholics. All these elements help fuel the illusion for the projection of Travis’s mind. What Travis sees if what the audience sees and what Travis feels is what the audience will feel. All the mise-en-scene and cinematography that Martin Scorsese uses are all an external projections of Travis’s mind. Through Travis’s mind we are taken through New York on his perception of what New York is and we see his sanity slowly slip with the inner monolog.

Too get a better understanding of who is Travis we have to look at the; emotional physiological and physical journey he undertakes in this film. Suffering from insomnia there’s a persistent feeling of been wide awake and charged. Every time Travis takes medication there’s always a Non-diegetic sound. In the taxi carriage scene when Travis takes his medication both inside the cab and out there’s an electric charge in the background. Both times Travis’s actions give the impression that he is being filled with adrenaline and almost as is he being recharged. The second time he takes his medication is in the café. This scene creates a misconception that Travis’s brain is being almost vaporized. When Travis puts the tablet in the glass he begins to bizarrely stare at the glass as if he’s been memorized. The dissolving tablet in the glass is a perfect visual example of Travis’s inner mind slowly loosing grip in reality. As Travis slowly becomes more delusional the atmosphere of Taxi Driver begins to questions what is real and a figment of Travis’s imagination. To help fuel the illusion of Travis’s imagination the use of colour is heavily over whelming in particular scenes. The red, amber and green of traffic lights or the flashing lights from the bars and clubs are a fantastic visual expression of Travis’s moods.To show more isolation and distance from people, the framing on Travis’s always seemed to make him the centre of the screen. Walking around the streets of New York or in the R rated movie theatre people always seem to stay away from Travis and keep their distance. We see all kinds of people that represent different class status of New York; Pimps represents the womanising dead beats, the prostitutes are a representation of sex, drug addicts are the corrupted and men in businesses suits that look they work in Wall street are almost the yuppie culture. 


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Joshua



Starring Cyrus Trafford as an individual who seems to be at the norm but however within this man we see an obsession that turns monstrous. Tim Porter takes us on a journey of Joshua who has to endure his darkest desire in solitude and isolation. Through Joshua we see the everyday temptations he has to overcome and avoid. But the constant urge soon takes over and we see the monster within unleashed. A subject that is greatly avoided and seen as taboo in cinema, Porter’s vision has no bound for any topic. Porter courageously explores the forbidden desire of the human yearning. A thrillingly suspenseful horror, Joshua takes us into the mind of a man slowly losing his grip of sanity. Captivated through Joshua’s inner mono-log  we see first at hand how the mind of Joshua contemplates. Stunningly shot we’re subjected to colour tempering that sets the frame of mind. The cinematography is beautifully lit up and shot but we’re constantly snapped back to Joshua’s mind with an obscure black and white theme. Watching Joshua it’s almost as if Porter combined Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver to Nicole Kassell’s 2005 powerful and thrilling drama The Woodsman.


Watching Joshua there’s always an unsettling feeling of tension that fills the screen. Cyrus’s performance as Joshua is compelling creepy and convincing as a man with an obsession that soon takes hold of him. Porter explores into dangerous territory but the execution of a man being torn apart by his own self-contempt. It’s a sensational view into the mind of a Joshua.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

There Will Be Blood



There Will Be Blood is a thrillingly dark film that explores the obsessed ambition of success that drives Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) a crazed irascible and paranoid oil pioneer. There Will Be Blood is not just a journey of money, greed and ambition of success but it also shows the slipping sanity of a man driven mad by triumph. With Lewis’s character there’s always a psychotic atmosphere that fills the air. Though he is seen to be at the norm his drive for success shows no bound. We see this ambition of success become more and more murderous. As Plainview is out done by the small California town of Little Boston preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) we see his mask of sanity slip away. Plainview and Sunday’s relationship is a fine example of how far Plainview would go to succeed. In order to seal the deal for Mr, Bandy’s farm, Plainview is blackmailed into joining the Church of the Third Revelation. Plainview is then humiliated by Eli as part of his initiation. In front of the towns people Eli is seen as a “prophet” and him slapping and making Plainview scream “I have abandoned my child!” again and again is seen as if he’s slapping the devil out of him when really Eli is just getting his own back. I find this scene one of the most powerful and significant moments of how far man is prepared to humiliate himself for his own gain.

I have abandoned my child!, I have abandoned my boy!
To really grasps who Daniel Plainview is you have to look into how sees everything and everyone around him. There’s an unceasing competition in Plainview that makes him a very cynical person. Seeing only the worst in people he wishes no one to succeed and his only true goal in life is to “earn enough money that I can get away from everyone.” We never truly see the real Plainview. He never lets his guard down and never shows his true face. Just like how the towns people see him we the audience see Plainview as an ambitious pioneer and a family man who uses his son H.W. Plainview (Dillon Freasier) as means of gaining peoples trust. When he is encountered by a man claiming to be his half-brother Henry (Kevin J. O’Connor) Plainview assumes that his brother is just like him. Realizing that Henry has no ambition and is nothing like him Plainview discovers that Henry is an imposter and is actually a friend of the real Henry who died long ago from tuberculosis. In a fit of rage Plainview kills the imposter. One can argue that Plainview killed the imposter out of spite, tricking him to believe that he was his half-brother. But I like to think that he killed Henry because his constant hate to all human beings and that he can never really trust anyone. Plainview finally had someone to lean on and maybe relate to “to have you here gives me a second breath. I can't keep doing this on my own with these... people.”

I See the worst in people

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The High Cost Of Living

The High Cost Of Living is a story about a drug dealer Henry (Zach Braff) and a pregnant woman Nathalie (Isabelle Blais) who loses her baby when Henry accidently hits her with his car. Having been over the legal limit and having possession of illegal prescriptions he panics and drives away leaving an unconscious Natalie on the street. Waking up in the hospital she finds out that the accident had led to a miscarriage but she still has to carry the baby. Nathalie’s husband Michael (Patrick Labbé) is unable to cope with the tragedy and becomes emotionally disconnected and reserved. As Nathalie becomes increasingly more depressed Henry is unable to shake off the hit and run and decides to search for the victim. As Nathalie and Henry’s lives cross paths once again unknown to her that Henry was the hit and run driver, Henry becomes the guardian angel that her husband can’t seem to be. His increasingly cavalier role of being a compassionate and charismatic stranger brings great relief to Nathalie. While the two become closer the police slowly beings the track down Henry and their new found love shatters as Nathalie discovers the true identity of the driver.
Many people may think that High Cost is a predictable cliché drama but it is a fantastic film that shows a great deal of character development for Henry. At the start he’s portrayed as a Montreal drug dealer and already we have a negative perspective on him and even more so when he leaves Nathalie behind. As his conscious drives him to discover the truth about what happened, he befriends Nathalie and we see him transform from a drug dealer to a husband like figure that comforts Nathalie. It’s a fantastic visualisation of a character’s arch unfolding as the story progresses. Henry’s character arch is driven by wanting to become a better person after the hit and run. The High Cost Of Living really is an emotionally driven film that makes the audience like Henry even though he isn't a character that should be liked.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Killing Them Softly



Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly is based on George V. Higgins' novel about a professional enforcer Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) who is asked to investigate and find out who robbed a mob protected high stakes poker game. The two wannabe hustlers Frankie (Scoot McNairy) and Russell (Ben Mendelsohn) are now prime targets for the mob. Killing Them Softly is a grimy outlook of the mafia set in New Orleans. Throughout the film it seems as if Dominik masked the United States from the “American dream country” to a deeply pessimistic nation filled with hate and violence that is driven by the greed of money. With a tough and beaten look Dominik still brings a great dark humour to the screen with Scoot and Ben’s dialog and the unexpected heartfelt relationship between the two hired hitmen Pitt and Mickey (James Gandolfini).

Jackie Cogan Killing Them Not So Softly
After watching The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford I just couldn’t wait to see Dominik and Pitt work together again in Killing Them Softly. Pitt really does steal the show with his stone cold killer performance. Pitt’s character is the typical outlook of hired gun with some sort of conscience that he prefers to be in the shadows of his killings "I like to kill them softly, at a distance,”. Never the less he is a hit-man and his “it’s nothing personal its only business” existence makes him a ruthless killer. The final scene is truly an Oscar nominee performance with a terrifyingly and thrilling final speech that makes you glad that you’re not in the same room as Jackie Cogan.

Jackie Cogan & Mickey

What really made an impact on me was the unexpected relationship between the two hired Hitmen. It obvious right away that the two have been friends for a great deal of time and have history. We only see the two of them together in two scenes; the bar and the hotel room. What I really admired is how Dominik in just two scenes we can almost compare the two being the same person despite the fact Mickey’s life is going down the drain with his marriage in shambles, the possibility of going to jail and becoming an alcoholic. It almost as if Dominik wanted to show us that Jackie Cogan’s is going to become Mickey in the future.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Goodbye Lenin


By looking into Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin you can see by the protagonist Alex Kerner he creates a theme of nostalgia and deception in order to protect his fragile mother and to help dialog his own personal parallel world creation. With the most iconic moment in history with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Goodbye Lenin main focus of the story is based on; a coming of age story, a story of one worlds collapse to joining another and son protecting mother.  What really made me appreciate Goodbye Lenin is how the political and cultural crises are skillfully constructed by Wolfgang Becker with the impact of change through; landscape, social, political and cultural. How both historical and fiction collide with political and cultural crises. With Alex’s miniature GDR slowly becoming much more than a room full of old East Germany furniture but becomes something much more. Alex creates a different route of history through what he would have wanted with a somewhat more respectful and alternate choices in history. With this re-writing of history you can see how that in Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin the political and cultural crises are depicted through Alex’s theme of nostalgia, deception and the creation of Alex’s parallel universe.


Through the reunification of East and West Germany Wolfgang created this theme of coming to terms with Alex Kerner old Socialist State coming to an end. At the very start Wolfgang shows how political influence shapes the very idea one’s lifestyle when series of flash backs of Alex’s father running off with “His new enemy of the state girlfriend” and his mother becomes totally devoted to the Socialist State “married the Socialist Fatherland”. Wolfgang shows the importance of a strong Socialist regime holding Alex Kerner’s family together with his mother being a passionate crusader for a social justice writing letters for her neighbours “A passionate crusader for the concern of the common people”. Through a series of home archive footage you see Alex Kerner grow up in a typical communist propaganda way with; Socialist cadet uniforms, singing East Germany’s national anthem and his mother being the conductor of the choir. Even during the era of the Space Race between the United States and Soviet Union, a simpler way of seeing the Cold War is looking at the struggle between both ideology of Communism and Capitalism. Wolfgang used the Space Race to set the first scene of Alex Kerner proud East Germany heritage by showing Alex and his sister Ariane watching a news reel of the East German Sigmund Jahn being the first German going to outer space. Wolfgang did this for two reason; one being that it shows the height of the Soviet Union being the first to go outer space beating the Capitalist nation the United States and second showing the political shift will soon change when Alex Kerner grows up.


With Alex mother falling into a coma for 8 months during her time in a deep sleep her world of a Socialist East Germany falls apart and the victory of the Capitalist West Germany reunifying West and East. With the Socialist ideology falling so does the Socialist lifestyle that Alex and Ariane once grew up in and everything they've been taught is obsolete and now must become like the West. With Alex sitting back and watching his mother’s world collapse his sister Ariane embraces the Western culture; getting a job at Burger King and changing the old East un-luxurious furniture to a more modern Western. Through Alex and Ariane Wolfgang shows the culture clash between the brother and sister with old Socialist values to new capitalist ways. Wolfgang shows that as East becomes more capitalist and Socialist products like Alex mother’s favorite pickles “Spreewald pickles” are harder to find "Why would anyone want Spreewald pickles now communism is over?”


The slowly falling power of the Soviet Union and the decline in the economy greatly affected its Soviet zone East Germany. With this falling power it helped East and West Germany to reunify but at a slow rate. As East and West slowly become one many of the Eastern Soviet Communist culture slowly went away and was replaced with Western culture. The Berlin Wall not only kept people from crossing it also kept both cultures separate with East and West unable to see one another “The Iron Curtin”. At times you see clashes of both cultures in Goodbye Lenin such as the scene of the changing of the East German guards and Coca Cola trucks drive by “Mother slept though the relentless triumph of Capitalism”. In this scene it shows an invasion of somewhat of western culture taking over and parading in the streets just like how Nazi invasion of Paris and parading in their streets. Alex’s sister Ariane is a key character of the young generation of that time that becoming increasingly more westernized. Ariane leaves her studies and gets a job at an American fast food chain Burger King; her outfits become more western along with her music taste and change the furniture in their apartment “She missed the increasing Westernization of our 79 square meter apartment”. The most drastic western change to Alex was when he went to his local store and now “Transformed into a colorful consumer paradise” Now Alex has to settle with this new western food rather than his old East food he and his family once grew up with “We’ve got the German mark now and there you come asking for Mocca Fix and Flinchen.”


Wolfgang now sets in for the main focus in the film by making Alex create his own parallel universe in order to protect his mother. In doing this Alex now re-writes history with the Berlin Wall still staying up and East Germany economy doing just fine. At first Alex recreates his mother’s GDR in their apartment but as times goes on you slowly see that Alex creates his own humane GDR. Wolfgang wanted to show us a different view in history by rewriting history with the million dollar question “What if the Berlin Wall never fell?” With Alex shielding his mother from the truth by; redecorating the apartment back to its old days, tracking down old containers, having children sing Socialist patriotic songs and even setting up a mock newscast. Even when Alex’s mother notices a gigantic Coca Cola sign on a nearby building Alex invents the idea through his mock news channel that Coca Cola was invented by East Germany with a political triumph. Through Alex’s lies and deception Wolfgang wanted to rewrite history and show the audience this new direction in East German history “Maybe the GDR I created for my mother, was the one I would have liked to have”. What was once a miniature GDR Alex now created a parallel universe and rewriting history replacing his mother GDR to his own. This can be seen when Alex and his friend Denis who fashioned a broadcast of the rise of neo Nazi parties in the West and settlers in the West take refuge in the East. Alex uses his boyhood hero Sigmund Jahn become the next leader of East Germany. Wolfgang even changes the course of history once again by creating an alternate ending of history by staging a final broadcast with East Germany opening the borders of the GDR “Socialism means reaching out to others and living with other. Not just to dream about a better world, but to make the world a better place. I have therefore decided to open the GDR borders.” This alternate ending of the GDR; opening its borders, having the West come to the East choosing an alternative from the “Dog eat dog society” of the capitalist west. Alex created in his parallel universe a more respectful end and somewhat a victory over capitalism. By creating this illusion that everyone from the west wanted to the join east “Not everyone wants to join in with career addiction and aggressive marketing”.


What Wolfgang shows in Goodbye Lenin is he doesn’t discriminate East and West but empathizes in the dilemma of Alex’s situation. In an uncertain future for a coming of age Alex is in a time when the entire world is watching Germany becomes one. Seeing everyone on the streets of Berlin parade and cheer Alex is stuck right in the middle. Wolfgang doesn’t show the success of the West through political success but through a cultural invasion. This cultural invasion of; old Eastern products coming off the shelves, Coca Cola banners and trucks and even clothing style working its way through East Germany. Wolfgang created an advertisement product war showing the Socialist East of how much there left behind through cultural establishment. Wolfgang noted this when Alex went to the West for the first time discovering the freedom of Western culture “Of course she also missed my first cultural discoveries in a new country”.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Drive



A strong silent type stunt driver by day and by night a gateway driver (Ryan Gosling) stars in what I would call a modern masterpiece with an elegant style of the 1980’s artistic neon elegance. A thrilling car chase film about a loner who falls in love with his neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan). Her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is in debt with the dangerous underworld Mafia. Driver offers to be a gateway driver for a heist that would pay off the debt goes horribly wrong and the Driver finds himself targeted by the Mafia. Not being able to kill the Driver and get their money back they turn to the two people he ever loved Irene and her son.

Personally I see Drive as a film that has barely any dialog and that the entire film is driven by beautifully shot sequence, breath taking cinematography and the elegant 80’s style. What made Drive really stand out for me most was the line between Romance and Violence.  The elevator scene is a sequence where there is no dialog and only emotions is used to reflect the imagery on the screen. When one of Mafia hit-man walks into the elevator the Driver gently pushes Irene back and kisses her. Here we see one side of the Driver as a white knight and shining armour hero but within the same sequence we see a psychotic killer who smashes the hit-man’s skull in, a side that Irene has never seen before. This reminds the viewers that the Driver has a murderous rage and is not afraid to embrace it. This elevator sequence is very defining character moment in sense that we see the romantic side of the Driver kissing Irene for the first and last time and straight away we see him become a monster crushing the Hit-man’s face. This entire sequence is done with no dialog and just movement and what makes it so beautiful is that all emotions shown through movement; caring when he gently pushes Irene back, love when he kisses her and rage when he kills the Hit-man. Though Drive is set in a present day LA the film’s atmosphere is heavily influenced in a 1980’s style. Drive very much has a neo noir nostalgic 80’s elegance to it; with its neon bright pink opening credits that looks similar to Roger Donaldson 1988 Cocktails or Paul Brickman’s 1983 Risky Business. The soundtrack also is a reminder of a 80’s electronic pop with synthesizer tones.

What makes Drive one of my favourite films of 2011, it’s vastly influenced by the genre’s and style that it portrays on the screen and that it stays loyal to its genre. The violence in Drive is very unexpectedly gory and graphic which makes Drive such a brilliant crime and drama film. With scenes like the elevator sequence, car chase or the stabbing scenes it can seem like an action film but it’s not. The genre being a; car chase, crime and drama film with a 80’s style, Drive really does pay tribute the car chase genre with scenes like the opening police chase and the heist scene that goes wrong. The crime and drama is what sets the film and to me that is only the foundations of the film. To get deeper into the crime and drama genre we have to look at the violence and the surprising realistic gore we are subjected to.  To me Drive is a realistic outlook of the dark impulse of murder. The scene when Shannon (Bryon Cranston) gets his wrist cut open and blood starts gushing out is very simple and realistically view of how easy it is to kill someone. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

DREDD 3D



From the Atomic Wars of 2070 the world is now a Cursed Earth. With most of the United States riddled with radioactive wastes. On the East Coast from Washington DC to Boston lies Mega City One. One of the only human habitats left. A dystopian metropolis with a population of eight hundred million people, this city is more of a utopia for violence, criminals and rioters. With the streets full of violence the “Judges” are the law and order protectors of the city. These judges are not your typical court room robed judges. They are a combination of a police force with the power to judge, jury and, on the spot executioner. This justice department and law enforcement are feared throughout the city and the most notoriously dreaded Judge is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban). This gun slinging, bullet dodging and skull crashing Judge has to take down one of the most powerful gang around the “Ma Ma gang” lead by Ma Ma (Lena Headey) who as whole city addicted to a new drug called “Slo-Mo”. A drug that makes reality seems to go at an abnormal fraction speed.

I personally am not a fan of 3D but after watching Dredd I really am pleased to say that this is one of the most visually beautiful films I seen in a long time. I didn’t even go to my mega IMAX cinema’s I just went to my local cinema. So one can imagine how spectacular it must have looked. The plot pretty much had the same story as Gareth Evans The Raid., which again made me question the films possibility of delivering the same action, gore and violence. Again I was totally mistaken once again. Dredd truly did stay loyal to its comic book origins. The whole focus of the Judge Dredd universe is that “The Law” is everything and their sole purpose is to make sure no one is above the law include themselves and that a Judge never relives his identity which is Karl never takes his helmet off.


The most spectacular 3D effects are seen whenever Slo Mo is used. Every colour is beautifully lit up and seeing everything at “Bumper slow speed” really is memorizing. As soon as we’re snapped back to reality the film has a brilliant dark neo noir style. For those who remember back in 1995 Sylvester Stallone starred in a Judge Dredd film also and though the film was a great laugh and I have to admit I did enjoy watching it I wouldn’t say it was the best looking films. Not because of graphics but because it just didn’t look dark enough. One thing I can say about the two Dredd’s they both have amazing quotes and with Karl Urban’s gritty deep voice it makes Christian bale Batman voice seem like a high pitched sissy voice.


I definitely will watch Dredd 3D a few more times in cinema with an IMAX experience and buy my Blue-Ray copy later on this year. Dredd 3D is certainly is a great action film shoot'em up, a thrillingly gory film that makes you shield your eyes and just seeing the spectacular graphics memorize you. Dredd 3D is personally one of my favourite Sci-Fi films of 2012.