Waking up drenched in your own piss has got to be one of the most unbearable ways of being reminded that you’re too old to take care of yourself anymore. It’s humiliating, yet a flagrant depiction of the most unromanticized reality that defines Michael Haneke’s Amour.
Amour is, yes, a story about “old people in love.” But it deserves to be recognized for more than a mainstream simplification. It tells the story of a reality that we all know exists and how the nature of a love that is true holds up against a world where everything seems to be growing more and more strained.
Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Gorges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) are in their eighties when Anne suffers from a stroke. She only asks her husband for one thing when she returns from the hospital: “No more hospitals.” But the film is not sad because we know she will die; it is poignant because we must experience the process.
The scenes noticeably drag on. Throughout the film there are long shots of Gorges sitting in a mustard-yellow armchair and Anne moaning gibberish in her bed. We never see the outside, but, then again, what’s the point? They are both stuck in their apartment—she at the end of her life, and he with only her to live for.
In one scene, Gorges forces Anne to drink. When he finally gets the water into her mouth, with a sour expression, she spits the water back into his face. He slaps her, and then he cries apologetically. His love is the anger, the frustration of watching her relinquish the will to fight to go on. How dare she starve herself to make her death come more quickly and leave him to be on his own… but is her life really worth living? Does she get any value out of having her husband help her up after she falls out of bed, or having a nurse—a stranger—bathe her? Whatever joy that resonates in the picturesque paintings that decorate the house is long gone from the people who inhabit it.
Amour will not win The Academy Award for best picture. The story is heavy, and its conclusion is not fulfilling enough to make sense of it all. However, that being said, it deserves the nomination. It’s a raw film that demands superb acting and doesn’t disappoint in that regard. It does a good job telling a story that, frankly, many people don’t want to watch.
The Impossible may be the best movie of the year. It is haunting, it is poignant and it is true. The Impossible captures the story of the thousands of people in Thailand who suffered through the 2004 tsunami. The film follows the incredible survival story of Maria family. But what Belon stresses more than anything else is that the purpose of the film is not to shed light on her family, but to pay respect to all of the people who met the same fate, many of whom were not as fortunate. She attests that the story is about discovering that there is a part of human nature that can only be exposed in times of disaster and utter vulnerability: a proclivity to help others. Rather than to push other people away, many victims of the tsunami came together to help one another heal. Naomi Watts does not only play Maria on screen, she plays the role of the universal mother, a woman who has more courage than she has pain. The Impossible was not produced to be the next Hollywood blockbuster. It was made to tell the stories of the people of Southeast Asia and it was made to show people not to fear the possibility of being thrust at the peak of danger. Most people believe that they would fall to their knees; they are convinced that they are weak, maybe even selfish. But Belon disagrees. She promises that we all have a will to be resilient and a nature to love and to nurture others who are plagued with the same struggle. The Impossible keenly affects the way you perceive human nature. Whether it is a connection to the past or an anticipation of the future, the film is an emotional experience that reminds you of your own ability to cope with such strife or shows you the courage you have stowed away inside that you are prepared to apply when such a wave hits. The Impossible is one of the few stories that keeps you conscious of being grounded securely in your own seat, while making you feel somewhat removed as your emotions seem to leave your body and touch the palms of the hands that burst out of the water on the screen.
You can count on the adorable kid. Really, those cheeks could win a cuteness award. But, in all seriousness, You Can Count on Me has more depth than the cutesy maxim of a title.
When a brother (Mark Ruffalo) returns home to snag some cash from his sister (Laura Linney), a sporadic visit turns into an extended stay. While Terry (Ruffalo), upon introduction, appears unkempt, lonely and lost in the grand scheme of things, you quickly realize that Sammy (Linney) is no better off. Raising her son (Rory Culkin) as a single-mom in the same hick town she grew up in, it is evident that Sammy feels an obligation to stay close to the place where her parents lost their lives on that fateful day. She might have a stable job, unlike her brother, but between a fling with her boss (a married man) and a haphazard relationship with another man, Sammy realizes that she feels sorry for the both of them and doesn’t care enough about herself to change her routine.
What I like about this film is that it’s not your classic family bonding makes all problems fade beneath the surface plotline. It’s a refreshing look at a dysfunctional family and how interaction divulges identity struggle and personal conflict. When it comes time for Terry to leave, it’s hard to make either the argument that he’s the closest thing to a father figure Rudy (Culkin) has, or the argument that he’s too disorganized in his own life to try to guide that of a child’s. His character lies somewhere in between. He’s the one person who sticks it straight; he tells Rudy how life really works without sugar-coating anything. A kid needs to learn how to be tough, and that starts with learning the reality of his situation. However, Terry’s master-plan to show Rudy the kind of man his father really is, is a radical endeavor that could have only ended in utter failure. A plan that, in the end, passes over the child’s head as Rudy truly believes that his father meant “He’s no son of mine” literally.
I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about how much a good soundtrack shapes a film until I watched this one. Personally, I love Johann Sebastian Bach’s work; however, an independent film about family conflict and bonding is not the right match. And, it’s not funny or amusing listening to “The Other Woman” playing in the background when Sammy is driving to meet her married lover, it’s just incredibly irritating. They couldn’t think of anything else?
As a whole, You Can Count on Me is a nice watch. Don’t count on it to be a high-class film; but, if you’re like me, and take ten minutes to scroll through Netflix, trying to settle on a film, pick this one. You can count on it…(sorry I had to say it at least once)
I want to commend Zoe Kazan for writing one of the most original and beautiful films of the year. Ruby Sparks seeps deeper than the comedic effect of a boy bringing an imaginary girlfriend to life through typewriting the story of their love life; it is a testament to the reality that no single person can control a relationship.
Swearing never to write again, Calvin (Paul Dano) soon realizes that a real life relationship requires more work and sacrifice than the glory of manifesting the perfect girl out of your imagination. The fact is, without the help of his typewriter, Calvin might lose the relationship that he himself created. But when he returns to his typewriter, Ruby (Kazan) never seems to fulfill the phrase Calvin had hoped might save the relationship. The point is that, no matter how frustrating the situation, as one person, you can never garner full control over a relationship with two people. You can’t make the other person do what you want, say what you want or act like you want. And, if you can, then it’s sullied because it’s artificial.
As much as I enjoyed the concept of the story, I think there was too much cheese to the ending. I really liked the idea of having the will power to break loose of the binding nature of control. But, then again, she did write this for them—them being Kazan and Dano, her boyfriend of three years. So, naturally, the movie had to have a happy ending.
Having become recently obsessed with Brandon Stanton’s Facebook revolution, Humans of New York, it was interesting to watch a film about the man who, arguably, inspired the beginning of the grassroots of popular street photography. At 83-years old, Bill Cunningham has spent the past several decades of his life documenting the cultural evolutions of the city’s most eccentric and extraordinary people in a weekly New York Times photo spread.
Bill Cunningham New York introduces you to a man who clearly needs no introduction amongst the pedestrian and elite who constitute New York, New York. What makes the documentary so captivating is the character study of Bill that is becomes. It seems like a paradox that a man who regularly attends socialite events as one of the most highly regarded photographers actual lives a life of parsimony. Bill was one of the last two owners of an apartment in the Carnegie Hall building (before he moved). The one-room apartment had enough space for all of Bill’s filing cabinets, which include copies of every photograph he has ever taken, and a bed. He had no closet, no kitchen and a residential bathroom on his floor of the building. Unlike many of the people he photographs, Bill prefers a life of thrift, traveling around the city by bike (at the time of the filming he was using his 29th bike as the previous 28 had been stolen) and patching up the holes in his rain poncho with duct tape.
Bill is a character and throughout the film speaks witty remarks but my personal favorite is his commentary about the attitude of the city environment. He said, I just try to play a straight game…and in New York that’s almost impossible. To be honest or straight in New York…that’s like Don Quixote fighting windmills.” But that’s exactly what Bill is: honest and straight, wich is why, without a doubt, he is one of the most important men in New York.
Broadway Danny Rose brings one word to mind: Agita! The amount of times this song is played or sang in the film is in the double digits. That said, it is extremely catchy and absurd enough to compliment the rising action of such an ingeniously bizarre plotline.
Danny Rose (Woody Allen) is a theatrical agent who works to bring to light miscellaneous, “understated” acts like the Jascha Heifetz of singing glasses or the expert balloon-animal makers, apparently ready to leave the scene of six-year-old birthday parties to make their debut on Broadway. However, aside from most of Danny’s codswallop investments, he does represent one stout, Italian man with a decent voice.
The story begins when Lou Canova (Nick Apollo Forte) lands a job at an esteemed club and insists that his mistress Tina (Mia Farrow) be there to calm his nerves. And so commences Danny’s crusade to bring Tina to watch Lou sing. In the process, Danny must assuage the heated temper of Tina who is fuming after hearing that her lover was seen out with “a cheap blonde”—which is funny and ironic if you take a look at Tina’s garish, blonde mound of hair. But cooling Tina off is only the first of Danny’s difficulties. As it turns out, Tina’s ex-boyfriend and his family mistake Danny to be Tina’s new lover. It should also be noted that they are part of the mob…and thus begins a goose chase large enough to include mafia men, the nerves of Danny Rose and the poor, unfortunate Barney Dunn (Herb Reynolds) aka the worst ventriloquist ever.
It’s no secret that Woody Allen plays himself in every film he acts in, but Danny Rose might be one of Allen’s best renditions of himself onscreen. Allen’s character is always whiny and neurotic, but there’s just something about a mob-driven goose chase that makes Danny’s persona that much funnier. Whether it’s between Danny’s plenty of failed attempts at civil negotiation or his insistence to run back to his apartment to grab his “pills and shorts” amidst the chaos, you get quite the picture of what would happen if Woody Allen ever found himself dodging bullets. He would probably have to Agita! Quickly.
Death to the Tinman is the kind of film that allows me to breathe a sigh of relief. Ahh…modern creativity has not yet died. Ray Tintori’s short rendition of the Tinman’s origin before he got to Oz is both twisted and ingenious. In Tintori’s story, the tin man has a heart, but does not bare the flesh beauty of his original physique. He must fight for his love by thriving on emotion and arousing revolution, anything—no matter how absurd—to shift Jane’s focus from the emotionless, lackadaisical meat-puppet she had fallen in love with; a body identical to that of the Tinman’s past but bereft of a heart. The heart lies beneath the ugly metal chest of Tintori’s version of a jagged metal man of Tin. The story slowly becomes a question of what Jane regards more: the beauty of the heart or the beauty of the appearance.
Like Beasts of the Southern Wild, Tintori’s undergraduate thesis film for Wesleyan University is a cinematic beauty. Death to the Tinman’s black and white footage is contemporized and complimentary to both the storyline and Benh Zeitlin and Dan Romer’s glorious music composition. The film editing is very reminiscent of Amélie’s quick-changing clips, each one partially amusing, but simultaneously building on the one before it, creating a greater significance and solidarity of a story.