Three-Quarter Moon

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May 292012

Germany. Highly recommended.
A movie about a grumpy, prejudiced old guy saddled with an immigrant kid. Its odd, that sounds like a total, done to death cliche of a premise.  But there are a million ways to tell the same story, and some of them, like this one, just stand out.

The director was asked how he pulled such an amazing performance from his female lead, playing a 6 year old Turkish girl. When she was supposed to look thoughtful he gave her addition problems to do in her head, and when he wanted her to look confused he gave her multiplication. Anyway, she was very good. Its set in Nuremburg, and there are a lot of great shots of the old city. An audience member who was German asked about the “:dialects” that were used. I think we would say “accent”. I guess Nuremburg is in the south, and the lead actor is sort of a Tommy Lee Jones: enough of an accent to sound southern, but not hard to understand at all. If you know German. I forget that a place like Germany has regional speech differences, it all sounds like German to me.

 Posted by at 8:56 pm

Safety Not Guaranteed

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May 292012

USA. Highly Recommended. Sometimes at SIFF we go to movies we don’t think we are going to like for basically logistical reasons, and end up loving the movie. The kiss of death on this one is that it is a local production which, alas, often equates to being bad film making.

I loved this movie, as did the rest of the audience, except, apparently, the grouchy looking lady next to me. (Not, I hasten to add,  Marion, I went alone.) It did everything a comedy is supposed to do, which is make people laugh. The ending is perfect. As I mentioned in a post last year that both of you may remember, Scifi is a really good genre for low budget film making, because you can make up any facts you like to make the scenario work and the audience will go along. This is a romantic comedy. A big element of the story is whether the male lead is crazy, or on to something, or both, and they make this hold up really, well. They make knowing/ironic use of various movie tropes like the character who is supposed to be a plain-jane portrayed by a hot actress. Her role is really very nicely constructed, and she has all the best lines. Mary Lynn Rajskub, The actress who was Chloe O’Brien, my favorite character in “24″ has a cameo.


 Posted by at 6:43 pm

Liberal Arts

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May 292012

USA. Recommended
This one will probably get released and do well. Very well made romantic comedy. Apparently, the cast is well known, although the only actors I recognized are the great Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney in character roles. Its basically about getting older and maturing, in one sequence or another. It is,  I suspect, aimed as much at boomers as at the demographic represented by the main characters. Funny movie very effectively acted. There are lots of those lines that you know must be scripted, but seem so perfect to a moment that its hard to believe.

 Posted by at 6:16 pm


 Movies  Comments Off on Goodbye
May 292012

Iran. Probably a very good movie.
There was a technical problem, the subtitles were about 10 minutes out of synch with the movie, or it seemed so. Lots of people left, us included. The movie centers of a woman trying to be treated decently, which differs in degree but not greatly in kind from the difficulty experienced by a lot of people who want to be treated decently  in highly organized countries, ours included of course.

The director is appealing a six year jail sentence is Iran for his movies on charges of “assembly, collusion, and propagandizing against the regime.”

 Posted by at 6:03 pm

Woman in the Fifth

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May 282012

France. Pretty Recommended.
A French movie, mostly in French with two Hollywood stars. The director is from almost everywhere in Europe except France. I’m not sure what that is about. I have a bit of an attitude toward Kristin Scott Thomas. She seems to have a taste for roles portraying people I seriously dislike, often in that genre of movie I think of as privileged-people-making-themselves-unnecessarily-miserable. Except she has been in a number of French movies and I generally like both her character and the movie. She is great in this movie. Her character is intended to be very enigmatic, the audience is not 100% sure she even exists. She does this wonderfully. She conveys the ambiguity of the character as surely as if she were winking at the camera, without being a bit obvious even about that.

There is a storyline in this movie that is always intriguing. Guy randomly walks into a café and with no particular plan becomes involved in that scene, becomes one of the people in the ecosystem of that random café.  Walk down the street and a door will be open, look in and people are interacting and there is a little universe spinning on its own axis in there. Behind every door.

Its best to see some movies without knowing anything at all about the story. This is one of those. Try not to read anything. All I will say about it is that there is one element that is often used in movies that I think is kind of a cheat.

 Posted by at 12:15 pm


 Movies  Comments Off on Breathing
May 282012

Austria. Recommended.
A young guy on work release will either find a reason to be a whole person or will remain a fuck-up. I see this as kind of a man vs. machine story. (Machines often win in these stories.) In this case Man is the guy and the Machine is our apparatus for disposing of the excess population. The audience roots for the guy, of course, and every time something even a little nice happens to him its heartening.

 Posted by at 11:51 am


 Movies  Comments Off on Rose
May 282012

Poland. Recommended, with a warning.
This is set in the aftermath of WWII in a really horrible place. A part of Poland whose inhabitants, the Masurians,  just to stay alive had to adjust their loyalties every 50 or 100 years or so from Poland to Prussia to Germany to Poland again then back to Germany under the Nazis, and then to the Soviet Empire. So, everyone hates everyone. The Nazis thought the Poles were defective, the Poles hated both the Germans and the Russians, The Russians were commie bastards. Pretty much everyone hated the Masurians at a time where there was no limit to the crap available to dish out to despised groups of people and in a place where the fighting had turned everyone feral.

It’s a love story between two people trying, against all odds, to get back to normal. It’s a very engaging story and the audience really roots for things to go well. Stories set in the immediate aftermath of a war always interest me. The norms have all been destroyed, people are choosing which to adopt and which to discard. There are possibilities that do not exist in normal times. There is also a bit of man-with-no-name style western in this movie. The main guy kind of shows up from no where and we get little by way of his backstory, and he is a definite good guy hero type.

It being a love story, complications ensue and some of these are pretty violent and creepy, hence the warning. The violence and creepiness took me pretty close to my personal threshold, which is not that high.

 Posted by at 10:54 am

Madrid, 1987

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May 282012

Spain. OK movie.
“My Dinner with Andre” naked and in Spanish. I’ll say I like this better than “My Dinner’, and not because of the nudity, which was pretty understated. The horror show that was the mid 20th Century started early in Spain, and lasted a lot longer there. The movie in large part is the occasion for a character who went through that crap with his dignity intact to muse coming to grips with a world where its not so challenging to live honestly. His muse is a very pretty cardboard cutout with the word “youth” written on it. Some people liked this movie a lot more than I did.

 Posted by at 10:28 am

My Brother the Devil

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May 282012

United Kingdom. Recommended.
Let this be the occasion for me to bitch about the movie descriptions in the various SIFF guides. For a start they can be completely misleading. In this instance the blurb contains a spoiler, that mortal sin of movie guides, presumably in order to appeal to a niche audience. This one is especially egregious in that highlighting it shows that the blurbographer pretty much missed the main point of the movie. So do not read the blurb if you can manage it.

Set in youth gang culture in London its about what most guy movies are about: loyalty. This youth gang culture is not white soccer hooligan types but native Londoners of Arab and African descent. Interestingly, its not Arabs vs. Africans, but one group of Arabs and Africans vs. another similar group. The competition among gangs is incidental to the competition between gang life and straight (in the sense of, like, getting a job or a degree) life, which is the main conflict of the movie in various ways.

The lead actor bears a striking resemblance in both visage and manner (and accent) to the young Jude Law. The cast also includes the excellent Saïd Taghmaou, who played the torture guy in Three Kings, the guy with the deathless line “What is the problem with Michael Jackson?”.

 Posted by at 10:14 am

Oslo, August 31

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May 272012

Norway. Total drag of a movie.
Our bias against Scandinavian movies is reinforced. Really depressing movie with no discernible point, and the most rudimentary and meaningless story telling.   Movie that follows this one guy around for a day. There are movies that do this wonderfully and we love. This is not one of those. Its like watching creepy paint dry.

 Posted by at 11:56 am