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I've decided to start a review thread, with the goal being recommending you movies you might've not heard of before, or stating my grievances that I feel alone on.
Expect a Marketa Lazarova review within the next hour



"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



Marketa Lazarova






Most people's first association with Františel Vlačil's Marketa Lazarova are those high-scale, high-budget auteur-driven films. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev, Emir Kusturica's Underground, so on and so forth. That's a fair comparison, but what sets Marketa apart from the rest of the pack, besides not getting the recognition it deserves, is how much effort was put into it. I mean no disrespect to the other films, but consider the following: the cast and crew of Marketa Lazarova, prior to shooting the movie, lived by themselves in the woods for 2 years, hunting their own food and building their own settlement. Even the instruments used for the soundtrack were all hand-made during that time. This is effort that you don't see every day, and it absolutely shows.

Actors don't feel like actors, they feel like barbarians. There's no showmanship, no teary monologues, and no sarcasm. Barring the eponymous character, nobody looks like someone you'd see in a club. Instead, expect scars, filth, humility, and stoicism. The music and visuals also give off the same vibe; the camera sneaks through the branches, viewing the action from afar. It constantly looks around, as if expecting to be pounced. It looks up at the cathedral in awe, feeling dwarfed by real civilization. A number of these shots is accompanied by fitting drums or chanting. The atmosphere is thick enough to be cut with a knife, and for the duration of the film, you'll feel like a savage.

Two last things I have to mention: first, the way it treats violence. In most movies, you get one of two kinds of treatment; the Christopher Nolan kind, where the gore is obscured in some way to not offend anyone, or the Quentin Tarantino kind, where heads splat like watermelons. Marketa Lazarova goes for a third option; the completely unceremonious kind. There's piles of dead bodies, but there's no close-ups, gasps or anything. It just doesn't make a big deal out of what was normal in the medieval times.
Second, it's a demanding movie. As in, it demands you read the plot synopsis online. That's my one complaint: it's hard to follow, even with its narration. I can forgive that, for reasons stated above, but it's worth mentioning.


To summarize, Marketa Lazarova is more than just great, it's one of the greatest. I'm sure it would be given its well-deserved legend status if it was given more attention, but you don't have to take my word for it. The whole movie is on Youtube with both English and Spanish subtitles. You can see for yourself why I decided to gush about it.



There will be a Social Network review some time soon
Cool, I actually am very interested in those as a general rule, because I think it's sort of an interesting/challenging film to review. I find reviews of The Social Network disproportionately interesting to others.
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The Social Network


Poor Social Network. How does a movie with this much going for it end up being so unremarkable?
There you have a movie about an angsty nerd, from the same director as Fight Club, with a soundtrack composed by the front man of Nine Inch Nails. Both Fincher and Reznor clearly put their heart and soul into this movie. You can tell so by the little things, like the characters having to yell while talking in a club, or the clever bits of dialogue.
A million dollars isn't cool. You know what's cool? A billion dollars!
The other trademarks of Fincher's directing are all there; the robotic camera, non-flashy CGI and artificial colour scheme all convey The Social Network's mood perfectly. Trent Reznor's score adds to that mood and then some. It radiates anxiety, drive or wonder in the same way his masterpiece The Downward Spiral radiates anger and dread. It is one of the best scores ever put in a movie, no joke.

So, then, why did the whole movie leave me so cold?
It's because I couldn't care less about any of the characters or what was going on. Sorry, but the characterization in this movie is garbage. The emotional hook of the story is supposed to be that Mark's getting over a break-up, a la The Great Gatsby, but we're never shown why his girlfriend was so important to him. Was he hoping to propose to her soon? Was he just in need of some affection? Does getting dumped bring up some sort of insecurity? I have no idea.
There was also that B-plot about Mark falling out with Eduardo, with the idea being will Mark pick success over friendship, but I don't get why he'd do so. His supposed reason for chasing success is the breakup, so you can see why, without fleshing that out properly, the whole movie goes out the window.

Don't take me for a hater. I wanted to enjoy The Social Network as much as everyone else. It's not bad at all; it's not even the most disappointing movie I've ever seen. It stands head and shoulders above the self-insert fanfictions like Princess Mononoke or Pan's Labyrinth, but it's nothing I'd watch again.



Spirited Away





Poor Spirited Away. Such an enjoyable movie, and both critics and movie buffs treat it like it's just another Japanese cartoon (the biggest meme-genre in cinema). That means they'll praise it to hell and back, but not even clue you in on what its appeal is. That is exactly what I'll attempt to do in this review.

If you want to enjoy this film, it is essential that you relax. For a movie about a little girl trying to survive in Wonderland, it's very slice of life-esque. The story will advance when it feels like it, and until it does, you'll take in the strange atmosphere of the spirit world, arguably the true star of the show. It's a very beautiful, vibrant-looking setting, and the spirits themselves are imaginatively designed. It's like they come from 30 years worth of Miyazaki's idle thoughts. Some of them get their own short sub-stories, like that polluted river spirit, that have little to no bearing on the main story, adding to the meandering feel of the movie.

That is the true appeal of Spirited Away. Many strange and confusing things will happen, but there's no point in stressing yourself about it.

The spirit world has its own set of rules, but we never learn them fully. Do we need to? No. Whenever Chihiro is faced with some hard task, like getting a job from Yubaba, does she solve it with some complex premeditated scheme? No, she relies on instinct and improvisation, like the everyman she is. That ties onto the much-discussed theme of growing up, as a metaphor for how, when you enter adulthood, you won't know everything about it immediately, but if you learn to go with the flow, you'll know what you need in due time.

Spirited Away doesn't feel like a Japanese cartoon. There's none of the self-satisfied edgy retardation that marks its peers. It feels like a mix of classic Disney and arthouse animation. Despite being intended exclusively for 10-year-old girls, I feel like anyone can have a good time watching it, no matter your age or sex. Sit down, grab a snack, put it on, and remember; stress is your enemy.



Spirited Away





Poor Spirited Away. Such an enjoyable movie, and both critics and movie buffs treat it like it's just another Japanese cartoon (the biggest meme-genre in cinema). That means they'll praise it to hell and back, but not even clue you in on what its appeal is. That is exactly what I'll attempt to do in this review.

If you want to enjoy this film, it is essential that you relax. For a movie about a little girl trying to survive in Wonderland, it's very slice of life-esque. The story will advance when it feels like it, and until it does, you'll take in the strange atmosphere of the spirit world, arguably the true star of the show. It's a very beautiful, vibrant-looking setting, and the spirits themselves are imaginatively designed. It's like they come from 30 years worth of Miyazaki's idle thoughts. Some of them get their own short sub-stories, like that polluted river spirit, that have little to no bearing on the main story, adding to the meandering feel of the movie.

That is the true appeal of Spirited Away. Many strange and confusing things will happen, but there's no point in stressing yourself about it.

The spirit world has its own set of rules, but we never learn them fully. Do we need to? No. Whenever Chihiro is faced with some hard task, like getting a job from Yubaba, does she solve it with some complex premeditated scheme? No, she relies on instinct and improvisation, like the everyman she is. That ties onto the much-discussed theme of growing up, as a metaphor for how, when you enter adulthood, you won't know everything about it immediately, but if you learn to go with the flow, you'll know what you need in due time.

Spirited Away doesn't feel like a Japanese cartoon. There's none of the self-satisfied edgy retardation that marks its peers. It feels like a mix of classic Disney and arthouse animation. Despite being intended exclusively for 10-year-old girls, I feel like anyone can have a good time watching it, no matter your age or sex. Sit down, grab a snack, put it on, and remember; stress is your enemy.
Great review, yes, Spirited Away is much more about beauty and atmosphere than a stressful plot. It's solidly in my all-time top ten and I find I can always come back to it whenever I'm feeling upset about life.
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Lists and Projects



H-8...

I have a fascination with hidden gems. Finding something like Dark Void, a great game that stems from a lousy trend, or Goth Kids 3, Dawn of the Posers, a nu-South Park episode that's as entertaining as the classics, makes me inexplicably giddy. Just like the cover shooter trend, the Croatian film industry generally brings out mediocre entertainment. However, it has its Dark Void in the form of H-8..., an amazing disaster thriller by our or anyone else's standards.

The disaster in question is just a bus crash, nothing that will level cities or end civilization as we know it. However, H-8 makes this small-scale misfortune seem huge: it tells you right off the bat that the crash will happen, but doesn't tell you who exactly dies. It keeps you hooked with character interactions. You're engaged in what's going on between the characters, wondering if they'll resolve their drama before the spaghetti hits the fan, and afraid they'll lose their loved ones.

The intro sequence in which they explain all that is amazing. The rising sense of panic, the way it switches between the two narrators, how their tone grows more and more judgemental, and how it ends focused on the eponymous unknown driver, gave me goosebumps. The idea reeks of Hitchcock's bomb theory, but it knows how to deliver exposition and make it exciting.
Seven people died on the highway. To you, it'll just be a number in the newspaper, and numbers are easily forgotten. It's not hard to watch numbers die.
Another great asset of H-8 is its dialogue. It is both backed by great acting, and sharp enough to cut through steel. The exchanges are so full of pizzazz and charm, you'd never guess they predate Pulp Fiction by 46 years. If only the writing team for A Serbian Film had taken notes from this movie.

There's a few negatives to be thrown out here, such as the extremely basic cinematography, but those are just stains on the window of a class-act vintage car. It's a shame H-8 never took off as much as the black wave movies, because I could easily see it making top lists of old-school Hitchcock-esque thrillers.



That's a good idea, actually. If I see someone has dozens of reviews and they're all positive, I have to wonder about it. At worst it means they like everything, at best it suggests they avoid risky or challenging films. Which is fine if someone's just trying to pass some time, but I'd say if someone is trying to appreciate film more as a medium and/or become a better critic, dissecting why a film is bad is almost as important as analyzing something great.



That's a good idea, actually. If I see someone has dozens of reviews and they're all positive, I have to wonder about it. At worst it means they like everything, at best it suggests they avoid risky or challenging films. Which is fine if someone's just trying to pass some time, but I'd say if someone is trying to appreciate film more as a medium and/or become a better critic, dissecting why a film is bad is almost as important as analyzing something great.
Most of my past reviews have been positive, but that’s only because I review my top 16 favorite movies in my tournaments... that said I’ve written some bad reviews. But I like positive reviews more.