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Let me entertain you: reviews by ash

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after much serious debate, i'm finally starting up a proper ash review thread. i don't promise consistent reviews or even anything overally interesting or insightful, but i promise the reviews i do bother to write up will be sparked by a real interest in the author, always.

oh, i'm also probably going to refrain from reviewing anything terribly mainstream, because i want to write reviews in hopes that maybe at least one person finds something "new to them" new.

cool, right?

i'm SUPER GOOD at Jewel karaoke
We Need To Talk About Kevin
2011, Lynne Ramsay

I went into this one the best way: without reading the book first. It's too difficult for me to evaluate a movie on its own merits if I have a book to compare it to. Anyway, for some reason I canít put my finger on, Iíve been thinking about this movie, like, non-stop since I watched it. That happens to me sometimes. In this case, Iím not sure why (or maybe I do and it scares me to admit it or something, I dunno). I wasnít even going to write a review about it, but Iíve thought about it so much it seems a waste not to.

Told mainly in hindsight, the story unfolds through snippets of memories Ė Tilda Swinton is Eva, a young newlywed who gives birth to a son she names Kevin. As the movie progresses and Kevin ages, he exhibits what appears to be construed as early signs of sociopathic tendencies, but this is mostly left up to viewer interpretation. Itís interesting the way itís done, though, Iíve never seen it from this angle. Most movies Iíve seen about serial killersí childhoods has always been more one-dimensional than this. As itís told from the motherís POV, it shows her anxiety over her sonís lack of communication and detachment from other people. The strange part is while he rejects any affection she tries to give him and seeks out ways to be cruel towards her, he adores and seeks affection from his father much like many young boys would.

The mother/son relationship here was easily the most fascinating thing about this movie. It's like Eva tries to be maternal and loving, but it never comes off genuine or relaxed; her every action is forced and resentful. This in turn made her a very unsympathetic character - and that's saying a lot, because her son is awful to her. The ongoing power struggle between mother and son is so unsettling that it makes for awkward viewing, to say the least. I'm wondering if it's the intention of the author to make the viewer think that Kevin's contrary cruelty is a result of his own mum's lack of real emotion. It's like the harder she tries to coddle him and love him, the more obvious it seems she wants nothing to do with him.

Kevin, even from an extremely young age, continuously challenges and psycho analyzes everything his mother does. Since the narrative jumps back and forth a lot from the present day to about 10 and 15 years prior, the viewer is actually shown the end result without context. This being the case, I initially doubted that the person we need to talk about was actually Kevin, but rather the mum.

For what the movie lacks in straightforwardness it more than makes up for it with the use of symbolism. I suppose one could say a lot of symbolism isnít ever really straightforward, since itís something which represents something else entirely, but We Need To Talk About Kevin is so in-your-face with it that it actually gets really sickening. No joke, Iím pretty sure there is something red in every frame of the film. It seems pointless to have blatant symbolism Ė isnít it supposed to be sort of vague and hidden, like a sort of poetic backdrop to the story at hand?

Anyway, since I'm not really sure what this movie deserves exactly, I'm going to rate it based on how much it's made me think and how unsettled it made me feel (answer: a lot).

i'm SUPER GOOD at Jewel karaoke
2010, Chang-dong Lee

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'm going to fall short majorly when trying to capture the real 'essence' of this movie, so forgive me. The plot focuses on Mija, a sweet, gentle Korean woman in her late 60's who makes a meager living as a caretaker for a rich old man a few times a week, and also takes care of her teenage grandson, whose mother lives in Busan. After experiencing a tingling sensation in her right arm, she goes to the doctor and they do some tests and a cat scan. Turns out Mija has something a lot more serious than a few muscle spasms - she finds out she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

Rather than tell anyone about it, she carries the weight of this news on her shoulders in secret, and instead throws her mind and soul into a poetry class she has recently signed up for. Her instructor promises that each student will write at least one poem by the class end, and Mija is determined to write something especially inspiring. She is convinced she has a poet's vein after her daughter tells her "she likes flowers and says lots of odd things, therefore, she must be a poet", heh.

A lot of tragedy and tumultuous happenstances take place in Mija's life over the course of the film. She learns she has a fatal disease, yes, but she also finds out that her grandson had something to do with a school girl's depression and suicide (I shall refrain from getting specific to avoid spoilers). On top of that, Mija must come up with an extremely large sum of money to appease the mother of the dead school girl, which is something she feels she should do, but cannot bring herself to do it out of sheer disgust.

Though I have been explaining the main plot of the movie, I'm probably doing a piss poor job of really capturing what it's about - that's because the movie is mostly about Mija's own journey of self-discovery as she comes to gripes with her own conscience and begins to see things as they really are for the first time. Above all else, her fellow classmates and poetry teacher help her along with this. On the first day of class, her teacher brings in an apple and tells them all they have never really seen one because they have never looked at it through a poet's eyes. There are also a couple scenes of open poetry readings, which were especially fun to watch, as was Mija's transformation and realizations about herself and those around her. Supposedly, Jeong-hie Yun was a pretty popular Korean actress during her prime (I wouldn't know, I've not seen much Korean cinema), and I have to say, she was an absolute joy to watch - really charming and lovely and realistic.

i'm SUPER GOOD at Jewel karaoke
i don't think i've seen anything else by Chang-dong Lee. have you seen this?

i have Still Walking and Nobody Knows on my list, actually. thanks for the head up, maybe i'll bump them to the top.

Her poetry teacher tells the class the essence of what poetry is: seeing something for what it really is. The moment of inspiration is when she holds up "the apple" and looks and actually "sees" what is happening in her own life.

A good first Koreeda film is After Life. When you die you're given a week to choose and film (you're given a film crew) one memory of your life to take with you for all of eternity.

Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Wow it's conversations like that which make me feel so clueless when it comes to my film knowledge! Not heard of any of the films mentioned in the last few posts. I used to think I was so knowledgeable until I cam here!

i'm SUPER GOOD at Jewel karaoke
Midnight in Paris
2011, Woody Allen

You know what my problem with Woody Allen's films really are? The damn characters. I try so hard, I really do, every time I watch a Woody film, to like it. Because everyone else always seems to really like his stuff. Not just regular Joe Schmoe's, either - but people whose opinion I generally really respect and stuff.

It's all an exercise in futility, though, because I can't do it. They always start out on the right foot, too - in this case, the main couple, Gil and Inez (played by Owen Wilson and Rachael McAdams) start out pretty well. The upper-class, poetic white Americans on Holiday in Paris with their parents shortly before they tie the knot - their chemistry and interactions came off cute and casually realistic to me. Sure, they were pretentious and intimidating, but then, there wasn't anything overly unrealistic or grating about them at first glance.

I don't think it's as simple as, "I hate Woody Allen films because his characters are pretentious and unrealistic or annoying and ridiculous" - I have a large amount of suspension of disbelief, and I can often get lost in the story telling or suspense or beautiful imagery so that any other qualms I might have would melt away. I think the thing that really bugs me is that I always feel like Woody Allen's characters are being sold to me - almost like he's putting them on an ornate, delicate platter for me to observe and size up. It's like I look at the life of a typical Woody Allen character and I know it's not realistic, but I'm supposed to think it is because there's a sign right under the platter that says, "This is how humans really behave! This is how people really talk!" and I'm like, "No, they really, really don't."

In fact, I probably wouldn't have watched this at all, but the roaring 20's/Fitzgerald storyline appealed to me a lot, and I knew it'd probably look pretty, if anything. And I was right. There's actually two parallel stories being told here: one, Owen Wilson is engaged to Rachael McAdams and they are vacationing in Paris, supposedly antique shopping for their house and also doing typical Paris-tourist stuff. Owen Wilson's character is also a Hollywood screenwriter who's been working on a novel; 2, the roaring 20's/Fitzgerald storyline, which comes about because Owen Wilson somehow manages to travel back in time when he's out strolling the streets of Paris after midnight half-lit. He gets to meet all his icons: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, etc. At first, I thought we were supposed to believe he was hallucinating the whole thing, but about halfway through the film I figured out you were supposed to actually believe he was traveling through time - ok, whatever, I didn't much care if it was make-believe or not, because really what you're supposed to be focusing on is Wilson's adventures with his favorite contemporary writers and how it makes him start to question the direction his life is taking. This was the most interesting part of the whole story. I just wish the whole thing had been told in this old-timey golden age rather than skipping ahead and making me suffer through the present-day storyline which only managed to make me roll my eyes so much I feared they'd be stuck that way. I mean, the golden age characters were kind of Woody-ridiculous, too, but I was a lot more forgiving of them because they looked so pretty and I didn't take it seriously - like, they were supposed to be sort of silly and ridiculous. Plus, the main girl he falls in love with, Adrianna (supposedly Picasso's girl) was absolutely charming and pretty easy on the eyes, too. The story was much better when she was apart of it.

Taking all of this into account, I'd say this is probably one Woody Allen film that wasn't a complete failure, but it still makes me extremely wary of anything else with his name on it. Oh well.

Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
This is as direct, honest and uncondescending as I can get. I still don't understand what it is you don't like about it, besides the fact that you're completely prejudiced against Woody Allen; the fact that you actually watched it? Is that the main problem?

It's true thatr Woody's characters are often the idle rich, but they weren't in the mid-1980s when he made Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo and Radio Days. My wife has an extreme distaste of Woody because of hs personal life. My daughter adores him because she believes he was about as funny as she thinks somebody could get for most of his career. Anyway, we convinced my wife to watch this, and she said she really liked it and wished Owen Wilson had ditched the "bitch" and her family about ten minutes into it.

Anyhow, it's quite obvious that all the characters do "hallucinate" where they go, whether it's the Owen Wilson one, the Marion Cotillard one (traveling back to La Belle Epoque) or the Private Detective who gets in trouble in his own "period of choice".

I don't think it's a great film but it's the most original thing he's done in over 15 years, and I'd rate it a
. I'm not exactly sure why you feel his characters are being sold to you any more than any other characters are, but hey, that's obviously not up to me. Happier viewing in the future. I'm not trying to be a dick, but maybe I just can't help it.
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
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