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January 17, 2012 / workingsushi

The Iron Lady, she’s well fierce

Given the enormous amount of negative reviews of the Iron Lady that have been flooding the cinema world the last week, I was expecting this film to be equally if not more abysmal than this seasons other political figure turned Oscar hopeful J Edgar.  Yet I find myself unable to find much wrong in this film which is expertly helmed by Meryl Streep who unsurprisingly gives a complex and moving portrayal as Margret Thatcher.

Rather then focus on the ‘truth’ of her ten year as Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Iron Lady in stead focuses on the declining mind of one of the most influential politicians of the twentieth century. It is not a portrayal of her role as the Prime Minister, nor does it try to be. Instead in focuses on the relationship Margaret has to her own life and her past, through the cipher of her late Husband Daniel, acted masterfully by Jim Broadbent. The film skips between her dementia ridden present into multiple episodes of her youth which gradually move forward in time, until her ‘now’ and remembrance of ‘now’ collide.

 

By exploring the issues surrounding trauma and how helming the command of Great Brittan in a rather turbulent time ultimately effected her, the film is largely a move to humanize a woman whose political and social choices have vilified her. Most people seem to be unable to see the film as disassociated from the actual woman, (why would they really) but it so doing forget to evaluate the film on its own unique merits. Furthermore many people seem to think that IRON LADY is a poor portrayal of dementia. Dementia is a concept alone which needs an entire film just to begin scratching at the surface of how it warps and ruins a mind, but here, Phyllida Lloyd has decided to marry dementia and magical realism and bring us the wonderful character of Denis, who is both Margaret’s late husband, as well as the voice of her own self doubt and confusion.

 

A rather lovely little film, it skirts away from any singular political action as well as from making an groundbreaking assumptions about Margaret Thatcher’s personality. Worth seeing for Meryl Streep’s performance alone.

September 27, 2011 / workingsushi

source code

Source code is a heady thriller that asks the question, “what if our actions and choices led to alternative universes?” I sort of hope there is only this one reality, because if there are other realities where other me are maybe, just maybe in a long term and loving relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal, I would be so mad in this reality for not being in the romantic me and Jake reality, that the ensuing rage and torrent of swears that would pour from my lips would be enough to rip the walls of all realities asunder and slam us all into some un-coagulating realty soup. So for all of you, I hope nay I pray that there is just this one reality, and this film Source Code is just a film not a possibility. Source Code is about Colter Stevens (Mr. Jake) who with the help of a new branch of the US anti-terrorism team, works to discover the identity of a person who has planted and detonated a bomb on a Chicago bound commuter train. Thanks to some new (and as of yet untested?) tech, Colter with the help of his guide Colleen (Vera Farmiga) can relive the last eight minutes of a man who was on that train’s life and try to uncover who the killer is. Thing however become complicated as Colter both begins to fall for the entirely desirable Christina (Michelle Monaghan) while struggling to come to terms with who he is when not controlling the body of the late Sean. As films go, Source Code is a breath of fresh air into the recently stagnated world of action adventure / thriller movies. Thanks to its high concept and not un-necessarily overly explained premise the film moves along at a clipped pace which keeps the audience enthralled from start to finish. Granted upon reflection it seems a bit more like a children’s fairground ride then a roller coaster of emotional upheaval, but the good performances and actual chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan are enough to sustain the temporal – crossed lovers thing they got going on. Ducan Jones Directs the film with finesse. Working against him are the confined set, the lack of time for character development, the need for multiple slow reveals, ect.. but he manages to keep all balls in the air and keeps the film moving along with a good amount of rising action and no large lulls. He steers clear of overly contrite ‘time loop’ images and manages to coax from Mr. Gyllenhaal a great performance of a man trying to save one reality while wrestling with his own crumbling sense of self. It’s a very good B list job and yet one can not help but feel if the film was allowed to run longer then its absurdly short 1 hour and twenty six minutes, Mr. Jones could have done more with the movie. Personally I was hoping for more exploration into Colter Stevens, really dragging out the period in which he struggles to understand what is going on. The visual and emotional parallels, for a man trapped in a box and trapped in a train, constantly reliving a deadly explosion, the very thing, which ‘killed’ his actual self, seem ripe for cinematic exploration. Issues of claustrophobia for instance are touched on in the film, but could have been more deeply explored to both increase tension as well as explore Colter Steven’s psyche. In the end Source code is an entirely worth while film. Bonus points go to Ben Ripley for a great script and Michelle Monaghan for making the entire romantic sub plot of this film believable.

August 4, 2011 / workingsushi

captain america you sadden me

I am not usually the most patriotic of Americans, but when it comes to senselessly applauding Chris Evan’s Captain America I am in fact ever so guilty. However for those who are worried I’m going to fly on back home and become a card carrying NRA member fear not, most of my vocal admiration for Captain America lies in my profound respect for his marbled abs and defined jaw. Take these out of the film and im not sure I would have remained awake long enough to be able to write even the semblance of a review. Captain America follows WW2 soldier hopeful Steve Rogers, a skinny boy with a laundry list of personal ailments who just really want to fight. Yet Uncle Sam seems less keen, and time and time again Steven Rogers finds himself denied his chance to fight. Till along comes Fairy Godmother Stanely Tucci as Einstein esq Dr. Erskin a sort of modern jeklyn doctor has a super soldier serum that can turn a man into an almost god. After being the one and only man to qualify for the procedure we watch with envy and admiration as Steve enters an iron lung and emerges as a man who can give Adonis a run for his money. Yet no sooner is his transformation complete when a HYDRA agents (sort of a splinter group from Hitler) attacks the team of scientists and destroys the lab. Now the newly made Captain America finds him self fatherless and in need of a vocation… see apparently being a soldier who can out run a car and jump over huge fences is not good enough and the America army decides to use him as a poster boy for war bonds. Captain America of course wants to avenge the death of his maker and save Europe from Hydra and Hilter and from the RED SKULL, a crazy man with a silly face. It’s from here that the films falls apart most spectacularly. The issues begin right after Steve’s transformation into a muscled man. Chris Evans, a man accustomed to being the recipient of many an envious gaze is unable to perform the part of a dork who suddenly finds himself almost impossibly attractive. Of course the fault is not Chris Evan’s alone, the script seems to have been mindless churned out by some people who forgot that the central element of any story should be character development. Explosions, and guns, and pecs the size of dinner plates are all well and good but if the film lacks heart its dead before it begins. The script does not allow for any exploration of Steven’s new identity and essentially all character development ends the moment Steven’s biceps become large then his brains. For a film that started with such promise, all character exploration seems to have faded in the interest of including as many scenes of Chris Evans in spandex as possible. There is no turmoil within the character of Captain America, no exploration, no joy. For this reason the film not only stagnates but fails to engage the viewers interest as anything more then a popcorn munching spectacle. The film is also accidentally peppered with hilarious moments that are not meant to be funny. Its always a sign of a bad film with the audience is laughing at the scenes you now were meant to be serious. In the end, captain America, is like so many of our other post 9/11 patriotic pieces of propagandist shit that fail to actually engage the viewer/user, in any meaningful way. It’s like watching Toby keith’s RED WHITE AND BLUE over and over again, a song that just makes me sad to be American.

July 24, 2011 / workingsushi

horrible horrible bosses.

I once had a boss who never knew I worked for him. I knew him some because I often frequented his store, but to him I must have just been some passing person who always fiddled with all the rings and never, ever, bought anything. He was this mini-van sized old man who mumble a lot about most things and yet was extremely eloquent and verbose when it came to his favorite subject, hating the gays. Strangely he ran a jewelry store in rural Scotland and his only clients were woman who had lost themselves on the jersey shore and some how swum to Scotland, and men looking for BEDAZZILING numbers for their tranny shows. I only ever worked for him when he was out of the country and my friend needed cover. It was in a way a great set up, he hired her, she hired me, we split the hours and the profit. Yet it always sucked working for an awful gay basher. plus when he would call the office and I was working, I would throw on this awful English accent and have to pretend I was my friend. He must have been nearly def because compared to her summer sounding voice I am a diesel truck down shifting. Yet no matter how awful of a man I felt he was, (and besides for gay hating he seemed rather nice) I don’t think I ever even thought of killing him. it seemed, excessive. It may be for this reason, not having a deep personal connection with the ‘text’ that I found it near on impossible to enjoy this months bromance, HORRIBLE BOSSES, which is more just a horrible film that anything else. Th plot is about three men who all have horrible bosses and decide that the best solution is in fact to kill them. All the jokes are in the trailer, save yourself 7 pounds and watch that on itunes.

June 17, 2011 / workingsushi

Heartbreakers got the best of me

Like a hipster chic bouffant haircut this film is all style and no substance. Set mostly in luscious Monaco and staring the insatiably seductive Romain Duris, a man gifted by the gods with a body that recalls the marble works of ancient Grecian masters and Vanessa Paradis, whose sultry siren songs are but a perfect compliment to her enchanting aura, one was always going to be beguiled into loving this film regardless of it’s insanely loose and otherwise drab plot. Directed by Pascal Chaumeil, Heartbreaker (2010) follows the exploits of con-artist / moralistic breakup expert Alex (Romain Duris) who with the help of his sister and her husband travel the world seducing women away from their awful husbands/partners and freeing them up to once again enjoy life. Yet trouble begins to brew when pretty boy Alex is unable to repay his quickly mounting debts and has to take a high paying job of seducing Juliette Can Der Becq away from her handsome and loving fiancé Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln). With the wedding looming so close at hand Alex poses as Juliette’s bodyguard and tries desperately to fake win her heart while beginning to loose his own. This film is not particularly ingenious but is overall so fantastically fluffy once cannot help but be swept away in its sticky sweet sugary goodness. The suits are well cut, the gown are gorgeous and the dappled sunlight so often illuminating the characters powerful jaw lines and lovely eye lashes shows a deep regard for aesthetic beauty on the part of Chaumeil and his cinematographer. The largest fault however in the film is that Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis while eye candy par excellence are not particularly great actors, or at least in this film lack any form of tangible chemistry. Like oil on water, they seem to simply occupy a similar space with out ever really being aware the other one is there. Such a failing would sink lesser rom-com’s faster then sex scandals sunk Anthony Weiner’s New York Mayoral campaign. The film’s saving grace comes in the form of Julie Ferrier, who plays Alex’s sister and partner in crime. Julie Ferrier has sensational comic timing and elevates every scene she is in with humorous glances and outlandish performances. Furthermore her onscreen relationship with Francois Damiens is so charming it makes one feel at the end of it all that there might be something like true love, which may just be the blind acceptance of another’s faults. Compared to the emotionless story between Alex and Juliette, this relationship foil is a lovely and underrated addition to this film. Very much worth watching on a rainy day when one needs a bit of fluff.

June 9, 2011 / workingsushi

koreas has lost of talent.

if i lived on the street for 10 years i would be a callous bitch, this guy is adorably humble and lovely and i cant help but feel totally proud to be human. 

June 9, 2011 / workingsushi

black venus

Black Venus by Abdellatif Kechiche is a grueling and unforgiving exploration of the real life story of Saartjie ‘Sarah’ Baatman, a South African women who performed in vaudeville shows in early 19th century London and Paris. With a running time over two and a half hours, this film is a marathon made even more challenging by the unrelenting emotional and physical torture Saartjie and by extension the audience is forced to endure. Both mythological and cautionary in it’s content, I highly recommend watching this contemporary masterpiece.

The film begins with a meeting of the Parisian natural history society as a professor lectures the crowd on the physical attributes and details of the museums newest edition to their unique creatures collection, the Venus Hottentot, also known as Saatjie Baatman (Yahima Torres) a young woman who died at the age of 25 from a cocktail of untreated diseases and alcoholism. From this clinical dissection of Saatjie the film jumps back in time to 1810 London where we watch the ‘birth’ of this vaudeville star. Saatjie and her ‘handler’ Hendrick Caezar (Andre Jacobs) put on daily shows where Caezar plays the role of a gentleman explorer who has tamed and caged this wild beauty. He forces her to perform and sing and dance before coming to the climax of his show where the audience is allowed to feel her voluptuous body. As the film progresses we watch the next five years of Saatjie life unfold leading us through a descend into alcoholism, court cases, experiences in the upper echelons in Parisian society, whore houses and ultimately the dissection table of the Parisian natural history center five years later. The narrative is second to content and these vignettes could appear in almost any order with out greatly changing the over all message of the film which reaches for a truth beyond temporality.

In order to address the message, It is important to explore how this movie arrives there. Through the beautifully constructed sets and expertly chosen extras this film appears to be a hyper-real reimagining of the early 19th century. Almost as if the screen is populated with the smoky London streets and hedonistic Parisian parties our collective consciousness calls up with thinking of this time. Coupled with the unquestionably evocative and larger then life performance and body of Yahima Torres, one finds themselves seduced into seeing this film more as a modern cautionary mythology tale rather then a biopic. This distance between content and performance that we the audience want to impose on this film in order to watch it is powerful for it underlies our collective concern as to the nature of performance. To watch this film as the biopic it is, is to unrelenting. One needs this distance to come to terms with the themes so boldly presented by Kechiche. So I applaud his slight fictionalization of the narrative and his decision to create minuscule narrative breaks where within this storm of discontent he allows moments of beauty and joy to escape. Yet perhaps it is a failing of the film that many people seemed unable to remain interested in Saatjie’s plight. The running time is unquestionably long and by the third act, the rapes which are present with such little dramatic flair become unquestionably startling.

From the onset of this film, when Kechiche exposes us to her dissected body asking us to join in with the fellow professors in voyeuristically exploring her corpse, Kechiche is actively opening up this film as a discourse on the forced objectification and sexualization of female performers. Much of this film is comprised of series of performances, and the parallels between Saatjie and contemporary female performers, especially singers, becomes increasingly apparent as we watch more and more characters in the film both objectify and consumer her.

It is this issue that BLACK VENUS so unflinchingly explores.  The parallels between Saarjie and such mega stars as Britney Spears and Rihanna to Miley Cyrus may seem extreme but the differences are much smaller then the similarities. Be it Britney similar role as a performer exploited by a father figure, Rihanna’s disturbingly similar outfits, or Miley decesion to perform ‘savage’ dance routines in cages while objectified by aristocratic audiences in such music videos as “CAN’T BE TAMMED” that beg us the audience to ask. What has changed? Just like Saarjie, who testifies in court that she wants to be an artist and agrees with the performance, one can not help but cry out for justice as we watch her soul slowly whittled away by the pressure society forces on her to confirm to the image of the sexual beast they so long her to become. She is degraded consumed and ultimately left as a husk of a women who can only turn to prostitution to continue making a living. Just as the paying members in the 19th century wanted to feast their eyes on the spectacle of the body, so do we. One might argue that the standards have chained, but like the Mega stars of today, Saarjtie is portrayed as wealthy and financially independent in this film, who is enslaved more by social pressures then social conditions.

This film makes a bold attempt to reach out to a social truth through a complex exploration of societies relationship with their ‘stars’. Through the long running time, the unrelenting images of rape, torture and humiliation one cannot escape this film with out feeling insulted, degraded and victimized by this often un-enjoyable film. Is this film fun to watch? No. Is it worth it? Yes. Through the phenomenal directing of Abdellatif Kechiche and the outstanding performances from all cast members, though especially Yahima Torres, who bring the plight of Saajtie so expertly to life, BLACK VENUS is a must see film.

 

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