Archive for August, 2012

Screened In Sundays: Fish Tank

Posted in Drama, Foreign, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , on August 26, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

It’s rare to see a movie today with a strong female protagonist, let alone one who can fully take care of herself. In Fish Tank, Katie Jarvis plays Mia, a 15 year old girl who lives in the British equivalent of the projects. Mia has a lot of shit to deal with on a day to day basis, stuff that a normal teenager doesn’t have to deal with. Her mother is almost completely worthless, and her younger sister seems to be on a dark path. Mia’s relationship with the two of them is strained, to say the least.

Mia’s only vice in her loner life is dancing. She believes that one day she will be able to escape her sad life with her skills as a dancer, even though that dream is clearly a long shot. Her life takes a turn when her mother starts dating an Irish man played by Michael Fassbender. The two form a relationship that may or may not become inappropriate. Actions taken by both characters come the end of the film are both shocking and sad. It’s a great double performance by an acting vet and an inspired newcomer.

Screened In Sundays: Margaret

Posted in Drama, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

Director Kenneth Lonergan’s film has taken a long, arduous road to get into viewers’ homes, but it’s now finally available to the public. Shot back in 2005, the studios and filmmakers squabbled over god knows what, which prevented the film from ever getting a wide release. This is surprising because of its star studded cast. Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Matthew Broderick, Allison Janney, Mark Ruffalo, Kieran Culkin.

A pre-True Blood Anna Paquin plays the lead character of Lisa. Seemingly just an innocent bystander, Lisa witnesses a bus accident that ends a woman’s life. The movie goes down many different paths after the accident, but the story mainly focuses on Lisa’s struggle to make things right after she feels responsible for causing the accident. The biggest problem with this? Lisa is annoying as hell. And spoiled. And whiny. And self righteous. And just – ugh. She comes across as very unsympathetic as she makes everything that happens throughout the film about her.

While most movies could not survive such a grating protagonist, Margaret somehow manages to be interesting in every scene. This is kind of remarkable considering the movie is a 2 1/2 hour tale about a teenage girl’s struggles with her past, her family, her friends, and herself. The editing is often peculiar – scenes cut back and forth with no real rhythm or cohesion – which screams studio interference. Apparently, Lonergan originally wanted a 3 hour cut so I’m sure many characters’ arcs were either cut down or cut out completely (e.g. Broderick’s).

While Margaret is by no means a perfect film and is actually quite flawed, I couldn’t help but be sucked into every scene. The acting is superb on every level and the articulate dialogue kept my attention. A film that makes you question your personal views on life and death is always worth a watch.

Screened In Sundays: Mother

Posted in Drama, Foreign, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , on August 12, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

After the well received Korean monster movie The Host, it was no telling what direction that director Joon-Ho Bong would take with his next film. Mother, which in my opinion far surpasses The Host, was a creation that I was not expecting.

A beautifully filmed and powerfully acted tale about a mother who will do anything to prove her son is not a murderer, actress Hye-ja Kim gives a performance for the ages – possibly one of the best portrayals of a mother in the history of film.

The story plays out like a mystery. The Mother’s son is accused of murdering a young girl early in the film. She refuses to believe such nonsense – this must be a false accusation. What makes the accusation interesting is the fact that her 28 year old son is mentally challenged and very calm mannered. The story goes through some twists and turns until it arrives at its shocking conclusion. But along the way, as the tagline reads, “she’ll stop at nothing.”

Screened In Sundays: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Posted in Drama, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2012 by judsonw

One underseen gem every Sunday.

Based on the remarkable true story of former Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby’s life after suffering a major stroke, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the most beautifully shot films I’ve ever laid my eyes on. After Bauby’s stroke, he entered into a physical state called “locked-in syndrome,” which left him completely paralyzed. The only parts of his body that he could control were his eyes. The doctors decide to sew up his right eye to avoid infection, so Bauby is left with only his left eye to¬† communicate with the world.

The subject matter of this film can quickly turn depressing, but the cinematography, acting, and Bauby’s determination make it surprisingly invigorating. Shot entirely in French by an American director, much of the film is shown through Bauby’s perspective, as if we are seeing the world through his one eye. His eyelid even closes upon the camera from time to time in a blink. Besides tackling the immensely difficult feats that Bauby must accomplish to communicate – speech therapists use alphabet cards, in which he blinks on the letter he desires – the film also shows us deep, complex relationships Bauby has with his family.

I guarantee that this is a movie unlike any you’ve ever seen before.