kkl10 mini-reviews collection

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I intend to use this thread as a record of my progress as an amateur writer of movie reviews. I've acquired the recreational habit of forging a few lines of text about the movies I watch and now I want to keep a record of it all in a nice comfy place. This is it, I hope. For now I'll start by just copy-pasting the little I've done in one big single post, if possible, or in as few posts as possible which might take me a bit. From there on, every single addition I make will have it's single post. Won't post any pictures, its just text.

In the future I might add a sort of index system in this first post. Rating system is 1 - 10 scale. Comments and criticism are welcomed.

Note: 15/05/2014 In the following days or weeks, the majority of the texts in this post will be subject to revision mainly to correct ortography, grammatical or structural issues, some texts will be significantly modified. Some ratings will be slightly readjusted as well...

From first (top) to last (bottom) movie seen

Life of Pi (2012) - 8/10

The fascinating story of a boy that survives 225 days on board of a little boat adrift in the ocean with the company of a tiger. Visually stunning and very well directed. A beautifull film.

The Hurt Locker (2008) - 8/10

A film that portrays the precarious existence of a little Explosive Ordnance Disposal team in the Iraq war. Very well directed, excelent acting. Intelligent, thrilling and very raw (in all aspects) from beginning to end. It manages, in an interesting way, to lay bare how insignificant and vain can be the motivations that lead someone to submit itself to the distress of warfare. I'll have to watch this movie again as I feel that it has a lot more to absorb than I got in just 1 view, will probably rate it higher then. This and Kathryn Bigelow's most recent work, Zero Dark Thirty which I'd rate at least 9.5, share the same cinematic tissue, very raw and intelligent portray of real events, but they have a lot more under the surface, a lot more than a literal interpretation of what happens on the screen can unravel.

Avatar (2009) - 9/10

This movie is not particularly intelligent and has some lackluster acting performances but it still managed to cause a great impression on me. The visual delight, the rich variety of fauna and flora in James Cameron world and the technological competence to animated it ( I consider the CGI Na'vi characters much more interesting than the human characters from an acting perspective, which is a lot of praise for the quality of the animation here) are certainly the factors that most contributed for the impact of the film. This is the kind of cinema to experience through the senses and emotions and not so much to analize. It's one of the most marking cinematic experiences I've ever had, although I've seen it only in 2D. The type of movie I'd wish to watch as a child. I feel like seeing it again...

Wall-E (2008) - 9.5/10

A nearly perfect movie in my humble opinion, very well developped and intelligent and an excellent experience for little ones and grown ups. I don't really know why I don't give it a perfect score... As usual with Pixar stuff animation quality here is top noch, it doesn't reach the hyper-realistic and immersiveness heights of Avatar but this comparison is probably not fair because I'm comparing films with different cinematographic principles. Despite not providing the sheer sensorial immersiveness that Avatar provides and as consequence submitting itself more openly to intelectual scrutiny, Wall-E leaves nothing to be desired and manages to have as much emotional impact in me as Avatar which makes it all the more brilliant. I've seen it 2 times and I want to see it again. It deserves to be considered a classic of animation cinema!

Drive (2011) - 9/10

Beautifull movie, beautifull cinematography, competent directing and acting, superb sound design (about time someone uses some brains in sound as well!). Far cry from the typical crime movie with lots of nonsense violence and lacking brains (this movie as some pretty gore violent scenes though!). Drive is, instead, a full-fledged stylistic reverie with great taste and almost flawless technical execution. In some rare moments this wander is taken a bit to far IMO, almost to the point of what I'd consider maniac but nothing too detrimental. A unique and very interesting cinematic experience, this is clearly captivating for my tastes. I'm definitely going to watch it again.

Oblivion (2013) - 6/10

Pleasing audiovisual experience and manages to be better than Prometheus (not a difficult task)... but meh...

Prometheus (2012) - 3/10

Supreme cinematography, special effects (some of the absolute best I've seen), competent sound design and acting (specially Fassbender). But all this waisted with one of the dumbest scripts I've ever seen. After watching it, I wondered if this was a joke of some sort... an insult to inteligence regardless of whether one is an "Alien" fan or not. I honestly felt both offended and amused (literally laughed at some scenes) by it's stupidity. I don't look forward to the sequel of this even if it's meant to answer any of the questions raised...

Pacific Rim (2013) - 7/10

It does what it's meant to do, to provide entertaining kickass mecka vs kaijo action. Basic story and ocasionally dumb (and specially enerving by those 2 freak scientists) acting, cool special effects and creatures. It's a dumb movie but it rocks the way it's suposed to rock.

Inception (2010) - 8/10

I liked it, nice scifi concept, it's competent at a technical level and has the distinct charm inputed by Nolan directing that I also sense in The Dark Knight Rises. I may watch it again but ultimatelly I'm affraid that it can pass as forgetable to me.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - 8/10

Same as above but relating to action hero genre not scifi.

Sin City Extended Edition (2005) - 8,5

4 little stories (one of them being a mini story) in the Neo-noir atmosphere of Sin City. I have mixed feelings about this movie. Not regarding the moral paradigma behind the stories of course, but about some cinematic aspects.. I really like the Neo-noir concept recreated here and there's a lot to apprecciate in this movie - the intelligent monologues of the protagonists, the noir atmosphere carved by the unique and interesting cinematography and colour treatment, the smart and mastertful way how the several plots develop, etc...

But... this is the sort of cinema that ideally transports the viewer into a different world, a fantasy, a dreamlike experience and this movie fails to do so (with me) on a consistent level and as a result it falls short of what I'd consider deserving of reverence. As I watched the movie I often found myself distracted and annoyed by an apparent amateurish nature and/or lack of skill in some technical aspects. I'm talking primarilly about some of the acting and sound work, things here could had been a lot more polished. For example, several characters didn't leave up to the demands of the movie, it seemed like some actors and actresses didn't give enough commitment or that they simply lacked the acting skills for their roles, they looked fake, forced, not authentic at all. The sound design and editing also lacked, in my opinion, as it often failed to immerse me into the Neo-noir atmosphere of the movie, I feel that this aspect was overlooked. Being a multi-plot movie, these shortcomings affected each story by different degrees and I felt that "The Big Fat Kill" was the worse case. It was by far the one I least cared for, pretty boring and little of interest, I often couldn't help but gaze away and sigh due to the lack of polishment in the aforementioned and several other aspects. The plot itself was also the least interestingly developed and the end was... well, uneventful and boring despite what it was... I just didn't feel like I was watching the same movie as the other stories at all... the character played by Benicio Del Toro was probably the only one remotely interesting to observe in "The Big Fat Kill".

"The Hard Goodbye" is a complete 180º turn though. I really liked this one, it was my favorite and if I had to score it alone, it'd be a solid 9. The main character is a brutal and amazeballs badass monster guy expertly played by Mickey Rourke, great work here! most of the acting in this story is pretty competent and the plot masterfully develops at the right pace and the sound design didn't let me down too much. This was definitely the immersive and dreamlike Neo-noir experience Sin City movie was supposed to be. The only oddity in my opinion was the character played by Elijah Wood... cmon man really?? so pathetic and amateurish looking!, it could had spoiled it all, but fortunately the overall work in "The Hard Goodbye" was solid and high quality so this nuissance didn't detract my enjoyment so much, but still it's the only stronger reason why I wouldn't give this single story a 10 if I had to.

On a general note special effects also looked excessively weird and unpolished a bit to often, it's just a small detail but nonetheless still has it's detracting influence on the screen .

I feel that the consistency of Sin City is damaged by the lack of consistency between the several stories that form the whole movie, but maybe it's unrealistic to expect the same quality standard throughout so many different plots and such big cast with a "mere" 40 million USD budget... Laying my thoughts on the available resources and the technical challenges present in the creation of this work I can see how this film may have been too ambitious for it's own good... I ansiously look forward to the next Sin City film and I hope it doesn't disappoint it's own aspirations.

EDIT: Just saw this movie again and I feel I didn't give it fair credit. I revise the rating to 8,5 and take back my negative words on the sound work. The sound work is actually remarkable, what the hell was in my head when I wrote the previous comments I don't know... I guess I didn't fully understand the movie at first... "The Yellow Bastard " story is the most polished work, it's beautifull, but my favourite is still "The Hard Goodbye". Unfortunately my view towards "The Big Fat Kill" haven't changed much, actually most of the things that I negativelly criticise are confined to this part. I wish they hadn't included this story in the film because it really detracts from the overall positive impression I have of the movie. This would easilly become one of my favorite films of all time if they hadn't screw it up with "The Big Fat Kill". It's still a beautifull movie!

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - 9,5

I've lost track on the number of times I've watched this reference work. This is an immensely vast and ambitious film and although I already loved it since early age, I was only able to comprehend it's full magnitude after seeing it numerous times across the span of several years. This film requires trained and cultivated eyes and ears to be fully apprecciated. This work is greater than the sum of it's parts, it's an essay about numerous philosophical themes expressed through some of the most masterful use of cinematic expression. Intemporal stuff and I love how it managed to evoke in me feelings of awe and fascination towards the unknown like no other motion picture did. Mandatory stuff!

I see lot's of people giving too much attention to the special effects and unfairly judging the movie without really understanding it. Special effects ought to be given little attention here, in fact it's not what's literally on the screen that matters, it's what it evokes/suggests. This movie is not about eye candy, (although it has some) this is a conceptually complex work that requires serious intelectual commitment to be trully apprecciated.

My only niggle is that some acting looks slightly artificial, it becomes distracting sometimes, something I've come to notice throughout several Kubrick works. To me this film would be absolutely perfect with just a bit more naturalistic acting performances.

Black Swan (2010) - 8

Good movie.
Great acting by Natalie Portman, competent directing.... I was expecting more from this movie but can't point any flaw, I feel that a slightly different and more interesting route could had been followed... It's fully exploited by a literal interpretation of moving pictures, does not lead to deeper thinking, no second meaning. It tries to grab the attention of the viewer and pull off some emotional reactions here and there in a simple and linear manner... does what's supposed to do I guess.... Entertaining while it lasted and managed to take a few emotional reactions from me but in the end I feel there's nothing special here and I'll eventually forget it.

The Hunt (Jagten, 2012) - 9

Very Good.
Disturbing and convincing movie that shows how an innocent miscommunication or lie from a child can absolutelly destroy another persons life. It displays the ambiguity of human relations and the fragility of the foundations of a social construct where, no matter what happens, our past always hunts us. This movie compels us to reflection and does it well! All thanks to the excelent acting and directing. Thomas Vinterberg didn't forge this work strictly through the formal rules of "Dogma 95", but the film still manages to fulfill extremelly well the primary premisse behind the manifesto: to make itself worth only by the acting and storytelling merits while saving on techological resources and production artificialisms, all this to bring the viewer closer to the core of the movie. It worked with me for sure. This picture has a realistic and fleshed out style and powerfull impact thanks to intelligent directing, minimalism of resources and almost immaculate acting. Very touching to observe the unfair suffering of the main character. Praise must be given to the little girl who played apparently disturbed Klara, very convincing!, great acting skills from such a young child! Great film!

Eraserhead (1977) - 10

Go to your basement alone, make sure it's completely dark and silent then playback this movie and let yourself go. This is David Lynch cinematic language in all it's surreal and bizarre magnificence. To me this movie defines a whole new category of it's own. I know it for a long time but I'm never fully done with it, no matter how many times replayed I cannot free myself from the need to watch Eraserhead again. No other movie is able to make me feel like I'm daydreaming, as if Lynch had extracted a dream from my head and made it a movie. Maybe that's why I'm not able to find anything less than perfect with it and to give it a more imparcial score, seems like every single technical aspect of this movie was literally sculpted to it's last detail to induce me into dreaming, everything here works for the experience, perfection of a singular work. I love this movie f**k all the rest!

A Separation (2011) - 7,5

Within the high censorship context of Iran and the very limited resources available I can see how this movie might be notable. It's competent on most technical aspects and it's well written. But I fail to see anything special about it... While the argument is interesting and relevant in the islamic context, it seemed to me the developments were too much akin to what can be seen in soap opera stuff, or Telenovelas... I'm not saying this work is such a thing, however, for a family drama movie it left me wanting on cinematic and emocional nuance, I found little of it.

The lack of physical tenderness in transgender relations, for example, has taken away some depth and nuance in human relations I would expect to encounter in a family drama, here I suppose the islamic context is to blame with all it's omnipresence even in creative circles. So praise must be given to Asghar Farhadi for still being able to make a movie with some emotional power and, in fact, he might have used this sort of peculiarities to his advantage as depicted in the only scene where there's an act of physical tenderness between a man (senile grandpa) and a woman (young granddaughter): here the viewer is only able to see part of the womans body while the act itself (kiss or hug the question remains) is covered in a very interesting way, I found this one of the rare interesting cinematic nuances of the whole movie. These sort of peculiarities give this work a potentially educational value to anyone who doesn't know the daily life in Iran. I feel that the greatest value of this work are the difficult moral and social questions it arises as a challenge to the viewer which compel to reflection.

The very first scene of the movie promissed a lot (brilliant!), but in pretty much the whole rest of it I failed to see anything that could demark this work from all other alike dramas that abound so much nowadays, the islamic context added it's own quirks and peculiarities to the social, moral and religious paradigmas depicted here but cinematically it contributed little to nothing, in fact I would say that it subtracted some nuance and depth in human relations... but maybe this was precisely the intent of the director in order to most realistically portray the true social paradigma of the country... honestly I got the feeling it was more of a limitation than deliberate choice of Asghar Farhadi, in any case, he surelly has tried to use it to his own benefit... within possibilities...

The thing is, the main complain I have of this movie is that it is emotionally dry and very plain as I perceive it... Those are preciselly the words that first show up in my head to describe it - very realistic but dry and plain in almost every level... and boring to watch despite a few thrills and curiosities here and there... I actually forced myself to see it a second time to try to figure out what I was missing before writting my thoughts, but no, this is not the sort of movie that keps me interested for more, actually it went down on my estimation in the second view, it wasn't entertaining at all.

In the end I fail to see what's so special about it and hardly understand the high praise from critics. I don't think it's a bad movie, I think it's a good movie but not excepcional in any way to deserve so much love and kiss.
If not for the few rare interesting scenes and the external factors limiting it's production, I would willingly rate it lower. I'm curious to see what this director can do in a more open environment, but if The Past is just more of the same I'm affraid I'm not interested.

Eyes Without a Face (Les yeux sans visage, 1960) - 7

A mask wearing young woman, brutally disfigured in a car accident. The father, a surgeon who attempts to give new beauty to his beloved daughter by kidnapping and cirurgically stealing the faces of other beautiful young women. An horror movie from 1960, exploring the fine layer between beauty and grotesque. I found very interesting the way how this movie manages to turn beautiful into horrendous and vice-versa. Pleasently surprised by it's apparent seriousness, it didn't fall for the mistake of comical skittishness as I'd expect for such a movie, pretty sober stuff. It never really spooked the hell out of my and it was somewhat predictable, but I really apprecciated how it handled the goriest and spookier moments, nothing to obvious, the director was smart enough to play with subtlety, suggestion and expectation. And yet, some viewers might be surprised with the level of gore detail present in this 1960 movie. An horror movie it might be, but odd as it may sound, the greatest impression I came out of it was of it's aesthetical appeal and beauty... there's a certain enchantment here mostly thanks to the great sensibility of the director, camera and photography work. This made the movie worth to me, despite the mindless script. I say mindless script because I never felt there was a true purpose or intent behind the majority of the happenings in the movie, a simple succession of events determined by basic and cliché writing, but beautifully carved to enhance the visual appeal of it. This movie is an interesting stylistic exercise in the horror genre. I liked it and highly recommend it to lovers of classic black and white cinema. I may watch it again and revise my rating.

Caché (2005) - 7

A normal couple watches bewildered to the contents of a VHS cassete tape left at their house, it's origin is a mystery. The video consists on a simple recording of the exterior of their house from a fixed point in frontal position with unclear exact location, in the video the wife and the husband of the couple can be seen leaving the house to go on their usual duties... Anonymous phone calls, small postcards with suggestive messages and several other VHS tapes follow and soon it's clear that the couple is under the unwelcome vigilance of a stranger who knows the man of the couple... or so it seems... As the stalking manifestations continue and efforts are made to find out who is behind them, the dark past of the man of the couple is unveiled little by little. The argument suggests a thriller but the ascetic cinematics can either improve, worsen or confuse the experience of the beholder. The movie eventually takes the mold of a psychological study of a man tormented by guilt. This work by Michael Haneke develops in a realistic, sober, cold, raw and analytical style, not given to sentimentality or artificiality of expression and has no soundtrack. I felt that the austerity of the cinematic style also translated into the acting of the main characters, which hampered their authenticity and the impact this film could have. It also didn't get quite clear in my mind what was the real premisse behind this movie: was it to do a psychological essay about a character suffering with guilt? was it to do a thriller exploring an ascetic aesthetic and see how it works out? was the premisse to do a phylosophical essay about observation and guilt? was it all of these things? And the fact that the origin of the stalking is never unveiled gives this movie a surreal aura and makes it inconclusive on various thematic aspects. I think this was a particularly interesting cinematic and aesthetic experiment in the thriller genre, I found it to be a fascinating concept and wished that the result could be fully accomplished, but it didn't seem quite there yet. It's hard for me to rate this work, I think it's a very interesting movie, it has no major technical flaws (assuming that the unsolved mistery of the origin of the stalking is intentional) and it has some trully brilliant moments to behold, but it's premisse is not very clear and several things are just left in blank, seemed inconclusive to me. I'm left with the impression of an experimental asceticism and an inconclusive plot from which only Hitchcock could forge a masterpiece, but I still think it is worth to be seen.

This is one of the most interesting auteur films I've seen in the last years from contemporary european cinema. As usual with auteur cinema this movie is not particularly generous with it intelligibility and requires some commitment from the viewer. To me it was an unique experience and left lots of things open to interpretation. The main character guilt was one of the few certainties I came out with.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943) - 8

Fine movie from Hitchcock and perfect showcase of the charm and enchantment present in Classic Cinema apparently lost today. The pub scene, in particular, with Young Charlie and Uncle Charlie and the waitress in the middle really deserves to be seen and lived in all it's Bluray quality splendor, I wish I was there. Contemporary sensibilities might find the acting very... theatrical, but this was the style of the time and didn't detract from my enjoyment, I was grabbed by the movie from start to finish. First of several movies from the "Master of Suspense" I'll be watching in the coming times.

The Seventh Seal (1957) - 9,5

I haven't seen an Ingmar Bergman movie in a long time, oh how I missed it! I highly apprecciate the cinema produced by the swedish director, philosophical themes, poetic and human sensibility, intelligence and captivating characters - on this last point, one of the things I specially like about his cinema is the way how he seemed to give attention to women feelings and thoughts, I feel he knew how to express the feminine psyche like very few others, but I don't know for sure if any woman would agree with me. This is not so much the case in The Seventh Seal, but one can see here the direction that Bergman wants to follow in several aspects. I admire this work since the first time I saw it, it always gives me the funny feeling that I'm watching a theatrical play (maybe because The Seventh Seal is actually based on a theatrical play written by Bergman himself), it has great poetic and human quality, the whole story is a metaphor for life and focuses on applying an existentialist scrutiny on numerous themes, Death, Faith in God, Destiny and Art itself. It culminates by proposing an optimist view on Art. Bergman is able to essay about complex philosophical subjects through a poetic and human cinematic language, to me this is what demarks him from other directors. I mean that his flms are intelectual but not cold nor devoid of feeling, emotion or humour. Bergman Cinema thrives with tenderness. The Seventh Seal plays with my emotions, it's a bittersweet movie, one of the rare kind that manages to break my heart and break me up (laughing genuinelly). The obvious technical limitations in it's production can be slightly distracting, that's the only reason why I don't rate it higher, but it doesn't matter, this work transcends the sum of it's parts... cliché statement but it's true for The Seventh Seal IMO. Beautiful movie from one of the greatest masters of Cinéma d'auteur.

Memento (2000) - 6,5

I watched this movie last night after Stranger than Paradise, but I'll review it first because it's much easier. Interesting editing work, colored scenes display the plot backwards and monochromatic scenes in normal cronology, in the end we see the middle of the story... I can't see what's so special about this, it wasn't particularly difficult for me to make sense of the story with just 1 view and I didn't find that it added anything apprecciable to the cinematic experience... it merely entertained while it lasted... The story itself is nothing of the other world and is not very believable. A man who with anterograde amnesia is wrongly convinced that some guy raped and murdered his wife and spends most of his time hunting for that man, but due to his condition he mostly wanders in the dark and will do some erratic killing here and there and forget about it. The true is that he killed his wife himself and can't remember it. Now, how exactly has the amnesiac able to survive in such an hostile environment? How exactly did he arrive at the point he was in the beginning of the story? There are several characters in the plot whose intentions or motivations lack clarification, not saying it doesn't make any sense but it's easy to see how it was all forced and manipulated to suit the far fetched story. If this was supposed to be a satirical comedy I could have another apprecciation and maybe rate it higher. Not being the case I wonder if 6,5 is not to high for what I experienced, I would gladly rate this lower, only reason I don't is because at a purely technical level, particularly the editing work, this is a good... cheating it's way up among the dumb critics I'd say. If a movie can get so much love and kiss simply due to some unconventional narrative structure or some other purelly technical aspect while neglecting real depth of story, meaning or cinematography then something is awfully wrong. Guy Pearce acting is another good point as well, the only thing that I found remotely interesting he managed to actually make his unlikely character believable. As soon as plot is cronologically ordered and the amnesiac condition is understood, it's apparent how basic and shallow this movie really is. Pathetically overrated IMO, forgettable experiment.

This movie has an educational value about anterograde amnesia, it's worth fot that.

Stranger than Paradise (1984) - 8,5

Beautiful minimalist film from Jim Jarmusch, it kind off blew my expectations. It has a simplistic plot and yet it provides an immensely more gratifying cinematic experience than Memento, no comparison IMO. All the movie was filmed and edited in minimalistic way, pretty much all the scenes were filmed in single long shots and the transition between them is always filled up by a blackout of few seconds. What makes this work special to me, is the sensible and insightful way how it manages to express it's mood and atmosphere and transport the viewer into it's own low-key and alienated world through excelent camera work, iconic low-fi Black & White cinematography, intelligent sound work and acting that, while not being particularly accomplished, fitted perfectly well within the film's premisse. The plot is what can be expected from the 3 main characters, disillusioned youths in their 20's with no major ambitions but still naive and not corrupted by any sense of proportionality of the world they live in. Apparently alienated, they simply try to "live the moment" as long as they have their own destinies in their hands. The title Stranger than Paradise is a pretty accurate description of the world they find themselves in. In other words, not much happens, this movie is not going to please anyone looking for lots of action or something cheerfully orchestrated. It can come accross as a major boredom and uninteresting, totally understandable. I think this is a great lesson on how to make good cinema in the simplest way possible and with minimal resources. This is somewhat reminiscent, and probably influenced, by what could be seen in the 60/70's "New Cinema", "Nouvelle Vague", etc, avantgarde movements all around the world.

The Ascent (1977) - 7,5

Second time I see this film directed by Larisa Sheptiko. This is possibly the most singular war movie I've ever seen, mostly due to the contrast between the poetic beauty and enchantment it often displays and the cruel and harsh reality of the story. Action is set during World War 2, a whacked and hungry group of soviet partisans wanders on a white frozen desert somewhere in Belarus. After escaping a german attack they lay down and rest on a forest. Two members of the group leave to search for food trying not to be spotted but end up captured by the germans and then taken to a small village under the enemy control for interrogation purposes and to have their fates sentenced. This is a very brief resume of the story but this is not the most important aspect of this movie. Larisa Sheptiko uses all the choreography of events to make her ideological message about Soviet Union come across to the viewer. Unfortunately she takes it a bit too far, up to the point where it does detract from what could had been a true masterpiece of soviet cinema. The acting, the camera work, the Black & White cinematography and sound work are all fabulous and display the artistic merits of the director but her urge to express the ideological message results in some cheesy scenes that do no good for the cinematic experience, clear overkill, it's a pity. The cinematography and camera work are jaw dropping, at times giving a surreal atmosphere, almost fairy tale like enchantment (reminds me some of Yuriy Norshteyn's animation work), and at times giving a very raw and dramatic display of the reality, the picture always displays great expressive momentum. The acting is top noch and the characters have great human depth, which contributes to the emotional and intelectual power of the movie, but sometimes it can look a bit corny. The Ascent will leave it's mark in the minds of a lot of first time viewers, it has great poetic beauty and enchantment but it depicts a cruel and heartbreaking reality. Unforgettable dichotomy.

I just wish that Larisa Sheptiko had left the ideological aspirations out of it, or at least tried to make them more subtle or simply lend it a more suggestive nature, the film would benefit with greater reach and more integral cinematic experience. Not that I have anything agaisnt her stance per se, it's not particularly bothering or uncomfortable to me, but it will inherently deprive the movie from a certain degree of artistic latitude and I did find some of the scenes, particularly towards the end, a bit too melodramatic as a consequence.

Rush (2013) - 7,5

Intense and emotional dramatization of one rivalry episode in F1 history. It's competent, a bit less melodramatism and pointless drag here and there could make it a bit better, but wouldn't expect anything else from a movie aspiring popularity. It is what it is, OK movie, not much to say...

Les Diaboliques (1955) - 8

Henri-Georges Clouzot film that inspired Hitchcock to make Psycho.
As a movie intending to play with the viewer's nerves it's a much more accomplished than Psycho and has all the merit in the way it achieves so. Very sagacious, it never runs into the error of predictability nor does it give too many clues contrary to Psycho, I even felt a guilty pleasure from it's genially diabolical final, lol, it left me with a grin on my face. It's cinematic style, however, is a bit dated and less fleshed out than the beautiful Psycho, so it has less aesthetic appeal. If it had the same fleshed out aesthetics as Psycho, it would be perfect.

Psycho (1960) - 8,5

It is not accomplished like Les Diabolique as an horror movie and to it's detriment is very popular already so has less power of persuasion. But, it is a more pleasant cinematic experience because it's filmed in a trully wonderfull fashion. Very fleshed out aesthetics, great photography, beautiful scenes, excelent music score (appart from the awfully excited parts) and all around acting. The opening scene, for example, from a panoramic view of the city to the picking inside the lovers room through the window, culminating with Marion Crane lying in bed is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen and heard. I get the feeling that Hitchcock knew how to take shots better than necessarily creating suspense or horror... at least in the few movies I've seen from him, some are filmed like true masterpieces of classic cinema... but all this beauty could prove to be counterproductive on a horror movie, dunno... In Psycho, Hitchcock wanted to explore the psychological aspect of crimes and I think that Anthony Perkins acting was perfect to give credibility to the movie premisse. Acting, in general, is pretty good, but once in a while some characters seem to force a certain mood or to give clues in an unnatural way. This is congruent with my acting impressions of most Hitchcock films I've seen, sometimes it's all too much denounced and given away, in my opinion this shouldn't be desirable nor is the best way to create suspense because it just makes the film more predictable.

Down to Earth (Casa de Lava, 1994) - 5

1994 film directed by portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa. It didn't appear to be as polished as it could be, but it was a very interesting display of the minimalistic cinematic language Pedro Costa will refine in his later works. Although I didn't like this movie very much, I have to say it has it's legitimate interest and I'll keep my eyes open for more stuff from this unique filmmaker of my country.

Psycho (1960) - 8.5

Aesthetically it's the most attractive and fleshed out, it has the most contemporaneous style and I admire it's formal beauty and the more natural quality of the acting.

Rear Window (1954) - 8

Rear Window is the one that most literally places us in the voyeur position, this is a very present aspect in Hitchcock cinema. It forces us to think about our relationship with the piece we're watching, smart stuff and the most thrilling of the 3 movies in my experience.

Vertigo (1958) - 9

To me Vertigo is the most fascinating and beautiful cinematic experience, I live this movie more than the other two. When it ends I feel like I'm waking up from a dream where I experienced something big, beautiful and bittersweet.

3 movies from Hitchcock and all very different. I liked them all, but Vertigo exerts more atraction on me because it moves me more. I find it difficult to advance a definitive rating for the 3 movies, I can see fairly well what makes them great and beautiful works of cinema but the slightest flaws or awkwardness are highly distracting... I'm probably not being fair by penalising the ratings because of such, afterall these are movies from the 50/60's, a different and more naive mindset would be more appropriate to fully apprecciate these works... I might revise the rating in the near future... I feel that Rear Window and Vertigo are a bit long... they have some superfluos scenes that could use a bit of cutting here and there... this is pretty much my only complain... Soundtracks of Psycho and Vertigo are TO DIE FOR and they're so effective!, Bernard Herrmann was a crucial colaboration that cemented Hitchcock success without a doubt. I still have to see North by Northwest and some others, but I can say right away that I have become a big admirer of Hitchcock cinema, great artist!

North by Northwest (1959) - 8

A thriller revolving around a slightly eccentric and innocent advertising executive who is wrongly identified as a government secret agent (among other things throughout the movie) and eventually finds himself in epic imbroglio. A silly movie, intentionally silly, very well done with a spice of lighthearted comedy with it's proper dose of intelligence. I like this movie more than I would presume in light of it's apparently lighthearted premisse, mostly due to it's wonderfull cinematography (OH WHY?!! Why didn't Hitchcock shoot Vertigo like this? ARGGHHH!!!) and of course Hitchcock masterfull cinematic skills. At numerous moments of the film, Hitchcock really shows he knows how to move and place the camera like few others, like a genius. The famous cereal crop scene deserves all it's notoriety, I'll never forget it, I can only imagine how off guard people were caught by it when the film was release, fantastically accomplished. Several others scenes got hardprinted in my memory just as well as Eva Marie Saint soothing eye magnet beauty! Oh how I would love to be the reckless Roger Thornhill myself!

3 Women (1977) - 9

Willie, Millie, Pinky.
Willie is asocial and bitter, a misterious woman who runs a bar where Millie and Pinky hang out with cops. She spends most of her time alienated in her intriguing and unsettling mural paintings which seem to fascinate Pinky. Willie is pregnant. Millie is a fullfilled young woman working at an health spa for the elderly and living in a small apartment rented to Willie. She is extremelly confident of her attractiveness towards men and is strangely outgoing and communicative despite the fact that others severely neglect her. Pinky resembles a teenager, she displays almost childlike naivety and impulsiveness. Admitted as a new worker in the spa, she develops a very strong affection for Millie as the older employee guides Pinky through her new job. Pinky willingly becomes Millie's roommate. The roles and relationships between these three women will undergo a metamorphosis as the events unravel and a final hierarchy will be reached. Reality will change as well, a certain degree of abnormality is visible in human relations. Hilarious, heartbreaking and disturbing social dichotomies coexist with all naturality, things that hardly fit within the frame of a real and concrete world. The absurdist aura omnipresent since the beginning intensifies until the movie truly assumes it's dreamy or surrealist nature that leaves us perplexed in the end. The thing is, the relationship between the three women is the reality of the film. The naturalist and bleak landscape of a small desert city somewhere in California can either morph into a poetically beautiful window or into a raw and crude stage of a surreal psychological Thriller/Drama of great emotional power. Top notch (in large part improvised!) interpretations from Shelley Duvall (the director's muse) and Sissy Spacek, as good as the brilliant camera, photography and sound work. This fascinating and misterious movie was literaly born from a Robert Altman dream and it shows the talent of this great master of cinema. A beautiful cult film, I think it deserves more attention. I loved it and highly recommend it!

Aliens (1986) - 7,5

It doesn't fascinate me as it did long time ago, a child is easily impressed but won't be so for ever. Now, seeing it again after so many years in limbo, I'm disillusioned and disappointed by it's obvious cinematc limitations. Despite all the technical prowess used to erect this movie (special effects), I perceived mostly an amateurish work needy of a lot of polishing all around, especially needy of more intelligent directing and better acting. James Cameron doesn't know what subtlety is nor does he practise particularly insightful filmmaking, not a guy deserving of my admiration, that's for sure. He just turned into almost nonsense gun muscle action what should had been a true scify horror masterpiece. Well Duh!!, yeah I know! Big and twisted expectations tend to result in disappointment... I guess the first Alien movie was better left alone and in peace, at least until a more talented someone else decided to try his/her luck with an unnecessary sequel.... then again James Cameron might have been just the right guy for it... I have to give him credit for his ability to make a movie that can happen, in other words, it's not boring to watch and manages to immerse and entertain me despite all it's gut-wrenching cinematic limitations. It´s aftermath leaves me with the feeling of having watched something... though much slimmer than the epic extents of Avatar, of which I felt a kind of déjà vu at times... What really grabbed me through the whole experience was Sigourney Weaver believable performance, good work from this actress here. An interesting and eye opening aspect of this movie is the depiction of how a woman, practically alone, is able to face the most fearsome and mortal dangers the human race could ever encounter and still display, or rather, being propelled by her maternal and sentient side towards someone else, something worthy of reflection. It's not everyday we see a heroin display the most lovely attributes of women with such power and determination in this sort of movie. This is probably one of the greatest endorsements of the female being in the history of cinema and deserves it's notoriety just for that. A pity that the rest of the movie didn't keep up with warrant officer Ellen Ripley.

Now I'll have to see the first Alien to come out happy (I hope so) or disillusioned (to be done with it once and for all) from this saga... Let it be known already that I dislike the 3th and 4th prequels, so I won't be wasting my time with those.

Repulsion (1965) - 8,5

Carol Ledoux (played by Catherine Deneuve) is a beautiful young woman living in a rented apartment in London with her sister Helen, she works as manicure in a beauty salon. Carol sometimes displays very bizarre behavior, she ocasionally disconnects from reality around her and has a very shy and laconic way of socializing with others, especially men for whom she seems to nurture physical repulsiveness or sexual repression.
These are some of the faint symptoms of her mental disorder that will get worse once Helen goes with her boyfriend for a trip to Italy leaving Carol alone in London for a few days. During this period Carol's mental state will progressively deteriorate until the point when she completely looses her lucidity. The schizophrenic nature of her mental disorder, hallucinations, madness and, possibly, repressed traumas will take over her mind and perception of the world culminating in some tragic and horrendous events in her own apartment. The movie depicts her mental breakdown from her own perspective putting the viewer in the same distorted reality Carol perceives and lives in. Psychological Horror/Thriller film from Roman Polanski, potentially unsettling and scary for those who see it for the first time, competent at a technical level, beautiful cinematography, very good acting and directing. This movie explores the psychological background of murder, just like Hitchcock's Psycho, but Repulsion is much more direct and intense, it takes the perspective of the wicked itself and the traditional roles of oppressor and victim have an interesting twist here. It managed to lightly scare me 1 or 2 times first time I saw it but what I really apprecciate in this movie is the claustrophobic and schizophrenic experience created by the cinematic style. Singular cinematic experience, great film!

Dallas Buyers Club (2013) - 8

In a wasteland of opportunity and standardized living, a mere urgent fight for survival can change our lives and lead us to do things we never dreamed of. This was the case of AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in real life.
In his way he had to deal with homophobic bias, AIDS stigma, opposition from governmental institutions, legal obstacles, personal losses. A biographical drama that depicts the herculean hurdles he fought which ended up enriching him as a person. A story of survival and resistance that opens our eyes for some of the menacing quirks of society and capitalism and shows how things can be dealed with from another perspective. A great lesson. Impecable acting from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto which fill this movie with life and authenticity.

Alien (1979) - 9,5

Yep, indeed...
I haven't been this much humiliated by a movie in a long time. And it's not just great scify horror, in my opinion it's one of the best films ever made. To me there's just no comparison between Alien and Aliens, the first is a masterpiece and the second an unnecessary sequel. I like Aliens but I can't leave anymore without Alien. I'm too lazy to be wordy about a movie that compels me to write pages of dissertation, and I probably wouldn't add anything new to what has already been said. I just say this: if you love good cinema and you have never seen Alien, or you haven't seen it in a long time and almost forgot it, and you hate/neglect the horror genre because most movies are crap, do yourself a favor and re-watch Alien alone with all your attention. This classic doesn't get old and is a mandatory watch to any cinephile regardless of being a Scify Horror fan or not. I'm not a fan but I see Alien itself as the definition. I love it!

No Country For Old Men (2007) - 9

This is the Coen brothers at the top of their game. Cumulated years of experience from previous works culminate in this superb film. Something akin to a thriller with the contours of a western and everything that inherently brings as thematic substance and plot machinery, all wrapped in a cinematic style marked by sophisticated laconism of expression. Money, opportunism and maniac whim propel men in this theater of events. The old-timers can nothing but contemplate the past, present and future state of a land that is still inhabited by the stamp of the outlaws, gunfighters and bounty hunters' particular ways of living and business affairs. We contemplate, as well, how the morally nihilistic mindset of these men relates to their actions and has consequences in the world around them and in their fates. Some of the themes essayed in No Contry For Old Men with great aesthetical artistry and sensibility; soberness with delicious moments of dark humor typical of the Coen duo; technically excellent. Based on a novel from Cormac McCarthy, NCFOM doesn't reach the lengths of Haneke's Caché in expressive austerity, nonetheless, this is one of the most accomplished and interesting works of contemporary cinema I've seen from the last years... just like Caché despite both being quite different outputs. A beautiful movie. I may revise the rating...
EDITED on 30/10/2014

Breathless (À bout de souffle, 1960) - 8

First feature film of irreverent Godard and one of the seminal works of the Nouvelle Vague movement in France. In 1960, same year when Hitchcock reached his (and may I say whole Classical Hollywood Cinema) aesthetical apex with Psycho, Breathless was a bold experiment in visual style and editing, it became one of the most influential films ever made. Quite an interesting exercise to contrast both cinematic paradigmas, Breathless makes Classical Cinema look dated, inflexible and of limited expressive range, Psycho makes most Nouvelle Vague statements look reckless, objectless and a mess all over the place. Early result of the transgressive and reactionary agenda of the young elites of the 60's which eventually lead to the rise of post-modern paradigma in arts and society. Being a seminal demonstration of post-modern cinema, Breathless still has a singular and contemporary visual identity. The mix of existential mindset and humour driving the characters dialogues and actions, in the trivial plot, is the icing on the cake.

The Third Man (1949) - 7,5

Carol Reed directed what is considered one of the finest archetypes of film noir. I have to say, although I can't disagree, that I found the musical score to be one of the most anticlimatic pieces ever performed on a movie. It is one of the most notable aspects of the movie but it just didn't work with me, very awkward and detracted too much from the experience. For some reason I couldn't really connect with this movie, I don't think the score is the only thing to blame, but I still can't quite articulate exactly why or what it is... seems like there's some lack of cinematic nuance or stylistic identity, I dunno, it felt flat overall... also something very artificial about the way things develop on the screen, the acting (although generally very good) at moments seemed opaque, very theatrical not subtle, I know this was normal back then, but in Hitchcock movies it never felt so unnatural as in this movie... A pity because this is an intelligent and complex work with great dialogue and humour, interesting camera work and cinematography (even if I was expecting a bit more quality here, but maybe the bluray rip I downloaded injured the true aspect of the picture...). I liked specially those moments where Orson Welles showed up, his acting always seems great to me, I like him very much as an actor and director although I still have seen few of his directed movies. Apparently ambiguous impressions of The Third Man... I wish I could be more clear but this film doesn't compel me to write much either... The rating I give is not an expression of the imparted entertainment nor the affection I have for this work (low), but as an acknowledgement of it's cinematic and formal qualities. I suspect it's my own fault I didn't enjoy it more...

Nebraska (2013) - 8

Simple and competent in execution, dense thematic substance. To me it was a contemplative and bittersweet experience which made me reflect about several things, mostly about the burden of senility and father-son/son-father relationship. Stranger Than Paradise from Jim Jarmusch comes to my memory... the slow pace, the black and white cinematography and reminiscent camera work, the mix of comedy with drama in a plot where nothing spectacularly memorable happens no matter the absurdness of the situations the protagonists live through are some of the elements shared by both works, but they are still very different in premisse, substance and qualities. If not for occasional superfluous directing decisions to add comical moments which distracted more than anything else and a few lackluster acting performances, I'd rate Nebraska higher but I can not judge Jarmusch movie the same way, for example. I enjoyed this Alexander Payne work very much, I wish it was just a bit more polished.

Yi Yi: A One and a Two (2000) - 9,5

First time I see this work from Edward Yang, one of the leading names of contemporary Cinema of Taiwan, whom I completely ignored until now. It brought A Separation from Asghar Farhadi back to my memory, another movie which also depicts the everyday hurdles of a family and with reminiscent aesthetics although not as fleshed out and subtle... I felt that movie was trying to achieve something similar but in much lesser scale, and yet it failed to exert in me a positive impression like the charming Yi Yi. The thing that lacked in the iranian movie was present in the taiwanese in just the right doses to add that touch of nuance so necessary for the authenticity of human relations: affection/tenderness between people of different genders. You'd think this is a ridiculously basic thing to bi**h about, anyway to me any serious familiar drama must be able to depict the fundamental reason why families are formed: love between different gender people (assuming we're talking about hetero relationships, of course)... this can be shown in all sorts of subtle ways, but it was almost non-existant in A Separation, and at times women seemed to have a sort of manly manner to their way of being... very very weird and of putting to me... This, among other things, very much limited the power of persuasion and the ability to touch me of the iranian work, I didn't connect, it felt flat and boring... I guess the fact that it was a familiar drama filmed almost as a sort of thriller didn't help... there's nothing thrilling in familiar quotidian life, it's mostly emotional, an aspect where it felt short for me... All this just to say that contrary to A Separation, Yi Yi is pretty much a perfect family drama, but pointing out this mere evidence (in my eyes) is an insult to the taiwanese work, it's much! more than that. I see Yi Yi as a bigger, better, easier to live through, a trully satisfying cinematic experience.

Yi Yi is an epic drama story, the focus of attention are the life probations of a family where kids, adults and an old lady are all main characters of life and they go through many eye opening experiences that touch us, amuse us, humiliate us, intrigue us, makes us think... life lessons. It lasts for 3 hours and although this amount of time actually seems small for the thematic ambition of this work, Edward Yang manages to develop each theme, human relation, challenge with sensibility and intelligence, in a calm and confident pace and leave nothing left to say. There's indeed no need to say anything more, the premisse is fully fullfilled, by the time the movie ends we are left with the feeling of having watched something as epic, deep and bittersweet as life itself with an extra alluring spell carved by the wonderful cinematic mastery of Yang. The only thing I'd wish to be changed is the soundtrack, it's a bit too trivial... it almost cheapens the experience for me, but maybe I'm being excessively critical here, probably just a matter of taste, I dunno... fortunately it lasts little time and it's easy to forget... That's the only complain, all other technical aspects are more than good enough, the acting is excelent all around. What a wonderful movie, I highly recommend it!

Stalker (1979) - 9

First Tarkovsky premiere in my short cinematic vocabulary. Probably not the most acessible initiation but something tells me that previewing any other films from the russian director wouldn't make Stalker any easier to digest. It's a difficult movie of very slow pace, sober camera work and a plot device apparently propelled by pure intellectual premisse. The cinematic aesthetic is distinctively bleak, one of the bleakest I've ever seen, and yet the cinematography has a singular quality that fascinates me. I look forward to the day Stalker receives Bluray treatment, watching a dubious quality DVD rip on an HD capable screen doesn't work it any favors... this was the main reason why I've been delaying the view of Stalker... and Come And See (this one's rip looks even worse, gah...). Not easy to fully dissect what a first view unravels but I'll say it seemed to me an essay/allegory about faith, about the eternal search for the Truth and about the way how different thought paradigms deal with the task. I liked the way how this last point was worked out. 3 characters: "Stalker", the one who guides the other 2 through "The Zone" seems to represent the religious or moral paradigm, the "Writer", the Art paradigm and the "Professor" represents Science. Each character, ie, each paradigm has it's own point of view and it's own reason to search for the Truth, the way how their interaction was developed seemed well judged and congruent to me. At the edge of the room where the Truth is to be finaly consumated, the 3 paradigms start fighting between each other and with their own reasons, naturally no one goes into the room because the Truth can only be aimed at from a distance, we still cannot touch it.

Hard to give a rating here, this is quite different from most cinema, it's a unique language or Tarkovsky simply masters it like no one else. I feel like it makes no sense to rate it lower than 10, nor higher than 0 depending on the love hate camp we land at... hard for me to see this work in the same scale as most other films, a feeling I share with Eraserhead and The Tree of Life (saw this one a few weeks ago and still haven't decided).
I don't love it (close but not yet) nor hate it, but I highly respect it. In one hand I enjoyed very much the dreamlike quality of the whole experience, the bleak and surreal atmosphere carved by the singular cinematography and camera work, the very interesting "intellectual plot" (I guess it's more accurate to just describe the whole work as an allegory), the excelent dialogues and something about the "Stalker" character that just doesn't go away from my head, his angular face is quite an unforgeteable view, seriously I can't think of anyone else to play his role (I know it sounds weird...), nice acting. But on the other hand this film is almost turtuously slow at times, unnecessarily so, a few scenes could had been chopped a bit, but maybe compressing it all to a shorter work would take away some of the immersion factor and post-impression this film produces on it's viewers... I'm still digesting what I saw and I'm gonna lay my eyes on it at least one more time. I think I will dream with Stalker one day some night...

Solaris (1972) - 9

What a surreal experience, almost like daydreaming! The slow pace of the movie in certain moments can be a torture, but it pays off to see it all. Tarkovsky sculpted a work that slowly modifies and persuades our state of mind culminating in an unforgettable defiance of the logic of reality. Perfect demonstration that our perception of reality is always subjective and prone to misinterpretation. Excellent thematic substance with some common points shared with Stalker (where they are worked more in-depth), several philosophical and ethical problems are raised in this film.

Are Science mechanisms enough to extract all the knowledge we need from reality? How much does subjective experience count into it? How to deal with a previously existing human replica that appears almost out of nowhere? What Are we? Do we love real beings or illusions? Among other things... All this is developed on a plot where Tarkovsky wanted to emphasize the psychological condition of humans in a peculiar environment. I think this movie like no other is able to remind me about the absurdity and preciousness of human experience and consciousness in the universe. Not to say that we are alone as an intelligent life form, but what are the chances that we find anything else like us? All other life forms can be so entirely different, we'll eventually be forced to ask ourselves if our definition of "Life" is incomplete or if it makes any sense at all, still an open debate.

The first 30/45 minutes progression was a bit boring, there was something unnatural, off-putting I can hardly identify, maybe I noticed the technical limitations more clearly in that period due to the slow pace. There's something strange about the sound, voices weren't recorded live and seem to be disproportionately louder than most other sounds, sound effects and score can be hardly heard at times... I don't know if this was a result of deliberate choice or just negligence, it distracted in the first half of the movie. Probably one of the major factors that augmented the awkwardness I felt, but curiously, it seems to have contributed to the quality of the experience on the second half all the way to the end. The peculiar sound work enhances the singular quality of Solaris, the same I say for Stalker. The soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful and melancholic, the cinematography and camera work are, unfortunately, less sophisticated than in Stalker. There's also no intellectual plot in Solaris. It is, therefore, less singular and a more conventional cinematic exercise. Apparently, Stalker is the most ambitious work of Tarkovsky, but I've yet to see his other films. Nevertheless, there is wonderful and evocative imagery to be seen in this Sci-Fi movie and it has great emotional and intellectual depth.

I feel this movie is excessively slow at the beginning, Tarkovsky seemed to not give a damn about the potentially racking nature of his movies on the viewers, he will gladly torture us for a long period before gracing us with cinematic generosity towards the end. He's on his right to do whatever he wants, it's his contribute to the art of Cinema in his own way. But I can't shake the feeling that the deliberate slow pace of his movies is more harmful than beneficial to the experience, it's very easy to shift attention away from the film and, consequently, be reminded that I'm just watching it, not living it. The immersion factor, so important to me, is rather delicate in Solaris and Stalker. I guess it's a matter of being in the right mood. Anyway, Solaris is a movie of great poetic beauty and a fascinating philosophical mind trip that deeply touches our brains and hearts. I highly recommend it!

The Exorcist (1973) - 7

First time I see this horror classic, didn't impress. Technically competent and good acting overall, but it could be more interesting, could be more polished. The horror potential I can see in this movie is the prospect of a mother witnessing the perverse transformation of her daughter with the high risk of loosing her, and that's all there is to it as far as I seriously care. I think that The Exorcist has a greater ability to break my heart than to be spooky just for the sake of it, more of an emotional drama for greater horror effect, a quality I do appreciate, but far from good enough to warrant it's current reputation. This movie exemplifies the reason for the despise I have for the horror genre. It's a challenge to make a frightening movie that is also a good cinematic experience. Most stuff in this genre falls short of being a good cinematic experience for me, no matter how disturbing it gets. I just can't be take most of these movies seriously because they're crap, and the rare titles that manage to be good works of cinema are not frightening nor disturbing at all. It's difficult to come up with something with the right balance nowadays. I can't understand how this film acquired the scariest label, much less how it is deemed one of the best ever made. Maybe the spectrum of the demon or evil spirit does impress or frighten those who nurture spiritual beliefs, go figure... Cinematically and horrifically, The Exorcist doesn't stand to the praise it has received in my opinion. I find it a vulgar and somewhat dated work, not a particularly frightening or interesting experience, it's overrated. Technical competence and emotional power are the pluses in my book, as for the rest... meh...

Gravity (2013) - 9

Gravity is a reference work on the technical aspect gifted with the appreciable cinematic sensibility of Alfonso Cuarón. As good as the best pure entertainment in cinema today, it's a simple movie easily enjoyable for the sheer sensorial experience, but with good conceptual nuance and wittiness. An engaging, frenetic and thrilling dance in the tremendous abyss of space filled with metaphors and symbolisms for Life (which anyone takes seriously/interprets as judged). Very good acting from Sandra Bullock, I enjoyed the character development of Ryan, although some melodramatic moments seemed superfluous to me and distracted. I watched in 2D and still felt immersed in the adventure and assimilated the premisses. I have some doubts about the replay value, after the first view I didn't feel the impetus to re-watch, Gravity entertains while it lasts and it's very clear... maybe too clear. It lacks the mysterious or transcendental factor to addict me, probably it's markedly popular and accessible nature limits it in my eyes. In any case, I think Gravity will become a classic of contemporary cinema because it's a hallmark of technical mastery and it's "... one hell of a ride" like nothing else.

Down By Law (1986) - 7

A "neo-Beat noir comedy" by Jarmusch own words, I think it's an accurate description of this movie blessed with fabulous cinematography. In Down By Law, Jarmusch shifts away from the minimalist method employed in Stranger Than Paradise seeking to explore new ground of cinematic expression. Despite some common aspects between both works, Down By Law has a different imprint to its nature, the plot has more emphasis, it's a bigger melting pot of ideas with high potential for a conceptually sophisticated and gratifying experience, and it has more technical workmanship, especially in the editing department. The cinematography, dressed by German Expressionism, is very polished and beautiful, the camera work is, sometimes, brilliant and even evocative of other films, numerous deliciously comical and admirable moments abound. But in general, Down By Law doesn't seem a technically coherent work, it seems just an outline of what it could actually come to be. The cinematic heritage of Stranger Than Paradise is clear: the deliberate choice of black-and-white picture, the lame acting, the highlight of the comical side in human relations, the way music is employed. But while some technical aspects exhibit a coherent qualitative shift (I say qualitative, not in the sense of betterment, but more appropriate), other aspects don't follow suit and this incongruence is distracting.

For example, the lame acting of the main characters that makes so much sense in Stranger Than Paradise, contrasts sharply with the relatively high polish of other technical aspects in Down By Law, I feel like it takes away from the potential of this movie. It comes down to the cinematography, editing and camera work. These aspects are so polished that they accentuate the lame nature of the acting in a bad and distracting way, it makes it all look very artificial and inorganic. Precisely the opposite of what the low-fi cinematography and minimalist approach did in the previous film. It's as if Down By Law's mise-en-scène is too good for its own good, but I'd rather say it's the acting that doesn't fit well with the rest, it gives this movie an almost amateurish quality in my eyes. Roberto Benigni does a good job in this movie, I'd say perfect, but, in comparison, Tom Waits and John Lurie are so bland and out of context... Not a good thing because they're the other two main characters in a character-driven narrative. Seems like Jarmusch didn't care for this or even wanted it, well it doesn't work for me, Lurie and specially Waits distract too much and impoverishes the experience. Stranger Than Paradise works better because it's more consistent, it makes sense as a whole and is closer to what I'd call a finished work. As a result, it gives me a more believable and immersive experience. Bottom line, Down By Law is limited by its own (not that big) complexity that Jim Jarmusch didn't manage as well as the marvelous simplicity of Stranger Than Paradise. So even though both movies have different premisses, I think it's case to say less is more.

Nevertheless, I want to say that I like Down By Law very much, it's a beautiful and fun movie capable of engaging and entertaining me despite all of its technical awkwardness... Then again, this might actually contribute to the charm of the work for other viewers, I guess it depends on perspective. I have somewhat ambiguous feelings towards this work which can slide for either the better or worst. Despite all my qualms, I like this film and recommend it!

Andrei Rublev (1966) - 9,5

Masterpiece from Tarkovsky.
A Period film set in the Middle Age period, loosely based on the life of the artist referenced by the title, one of the most important painters to ever live in Russia. This film is quite dense and nuanced and I feel I still haven't dissected all its substance, therefore I want to see it again soon. Very briefly, it seems an essay about the roles and relationship of Art and Faith in that particular socio-religious construct, about the character of a true artist and his endurances to stay loyal to himself no matter what happens in life. The implications and symbolisms can be extrapolated to a personal and universal level. Unlike Solaris and Stalker, Andrei Rublev never feels like it's dragging its pace, there's always something happening worthy of attention, so no unnecessary torture. Thanks to this and the cinematic accomplishment I feel easily immersed in this film. The other two are somewhat delicate in this aspect.

There's just one thing that leaves me cold, I miss emotional engagement. In my opinion, this aspect strongly contributes to the appeal of a movie. But Tarkovsky's works aren't gifted with an appreciable degree of sentimentalism (probably judged unnecessary in light of the director premisses). There seems to be a barrier separating the viewer from the characters, preventing us from predicting profound emotional cores and relations. His films are emotionally austere and distant, the viewer is held in a perspective where it's easier to critically analyze the events than to feel like one is part of that world and is experiencing the human interactions in first hand. The acting is competent but not very deep. Can't critique, but it's very clear to me in Andrei Rublev. There are several opportunities for emotional development of a character throughout the movie, but when this seems about to happen, attention shifts to another subject. Seems like this is inherent to Tarkovsky's cinematic language and I noticed this in his two later works as well. Not distracting per se, just a particularity of Tarkovsky's intellectual stance that affects me and can either bore, cause fascination or just make me feel emotionally unsatisfied, depending on the movie. Very noticeable when comparing Andrei Rublev and Bergman's The Seventh Seal, a film that shares substantial thematic gist. Bergman has great generosity of feeling and emotion without becoming cheesy and, in contrast, Tarkovsky seems distant, almost inert.

This is one of those things that could leave some viewers bored or unimpressed with Andrei Rublev, but paying attention to the intellectual nuance and great cinematic artistry at display rewards immensely and fully justifies the movie as it is. The Russian director makes very personal cinema, he doesn't flash the juice in our face we have to look for it, otherwise it's hard to figure out what makes his movies singular.

Andrei Rublev is technically impeccable, which is amazing considering the logistical complexity of moving forward all the resources needed to lift a movie of this scale. Camera work and cinematography are top-notch and I already have an idea of Tarkovsky's style, the black levels are quite poor, but I still like the picture very much. The sound work has the hallmark of Tarkovsky as well, the voices up in the mix to highlight the dialogues, a peculiarity that requires just a bit of familiarization. The scenery is commendable and contributes to the epic scale of the movie. Everything is so well-crafted and directed that despite Tarkovsky's tendency to put me in a distant and analytical position, I feel engaged in that authentic world as if in a dream. Without a doubt, a major work of cinema. I love it. Highly recommended!

Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) - 5

A story unfolds, nothing happens. Curiously I didn't notice the 3 hours running by, throughout the movie I felt in a constant state of expectation, ie, I expected it to justify itself or at least to show any redeeming cinematic merit at any moment... I didn't see anything. To me this is soap opera disguised as cinema with explicit sex scenes to spice up things a bit. The nice cinematography and the good overall acting (not brilliant) are the only things I appreciated. I think it's overrated.

Holy Motors (2012) - 7,5

Holy Motors has a main narrative line which becomes more and more apparent as time progresses, this narrative seems to consist in a sort of fantasy drama which is nothing more than a pretext for Leos Carax to freely express his unrestricted cinematic creativity. This seemed a very interesting concept, a visual and conceptual composition with appreciable poetic value which compelled me to reflect about the craft of Cinema itself. I feel it could have gone much further in aesthetics and cinematography (more exploration, variety and depth) because since there's no need for things to make sense plot-wise and being this work nothing more than a conceptual and visual reverie where each "life" or "staging" of the main character is a world independent from the others with no need for explanation, I can't see the reason to confine it to a linear narrative with monochromatic aesthetics, and even less to make it it's pretext. A movie of such conceptual and allegorical substance doesn't need a linear context, this is restrictive. I feel this is what ultimately limits Holy Motors accomplishment in my eyes, but it's still a singular experience with wonderful and brilliant moments of great cinema and introspection. References to Vertigo and Eyes without a Face (very funny), among other works, are notorious. I think it could have been more polished. Recommended!

12 Years a Slave (2013) - 7

Strangely, only the most brutal and heart-breaking moments showcased the rare glimpses of excellence or interesting cinematic execution and it seems to me those are the ones which most contribute to the emotional impact of this work. As for the rest, I didn't notice much substance worth retaining, the melodramatism ended up distracting and was counterproductive, it harmed power of persuasion. This dramatic language has been used and re-used many times in cinema, to the point where it has become insipid, now it is a glaring artificialism difficult to cover up if the work is not smartly done. The illusion that things flow naturally is too weak to prevail. In my opinion, this movie would be more interesting if the sentimentalism and urge to shock weren't so "in your face", or rather, predictable and higher focus was given to an analytical perspective. I also think that the contrast between free man and slave could have been more accentuated. I was surprised to see how fast one situation turned into another, I expected more development of the main character as a free man to have time to know him more deeply and emotionally relate. This would give more impact to the whole experience. Technically, it's excellent and has great emotional impact which aids the reflection about slavery more thoroughly, but looking at the cinematic merits, I see little beyond a vulgar film with little appeal to re-watch after the first view... nothing new here. I think the greatest merit of 12 Years a Slave is the emotional impact which, according to each one's subjectivity, dictates how accomplished and rewarding the overall experience is, and whether or not this movie is elevated to something bigger than what it is. I found the vulgarity of the cinematic paradigm to degrade the overall impact this movie had on me. What I'll retain in my memory is the most brutal scene of the movie (the poor girl is whipped to near-death), I think it's brilliantly shot and perfectly condenses the essence of this work. OK movie.

Upstream Color (2013) - 7,5

Initially puzzling, probably a challenge to guess what is the real plot without a previous preparation, I won't make it easy won't say a thing, the pleasure of this kind of work is to understand and appreciate it the way it is. There is a linear storyline alright, but things are not going to be made particularly obvious in any way. Upstream Color wanders close to the fields of experimental cinema, displays a very promising cinematic language still in embryonic stage. Technically convoluted, the editing and sound works seem to be mere attempts towards unrealized aesthetic goal, but their direction allows to foresee what's coming in the future works of Shane Carruth. American director who reveals an interesting cinematic sensibility in some divine shots and scenes of this movie. I hope Carruth keeps learning from the best and worst of his still small ouvre to keep polishing and improving his peculiar language. I highly recommend this movie to those who have a mindset for experimental or unconventional cinema, it might very well become one of the most memorable cinematic experiences of the latest times... not necessarily my case, but there's a peculiarity (to me only) in Upstream Color that hinders my ability to impartially evaluate it, a little confession... to laugh: for a moment I convinced myself that I was in love for the female main character played by Amy Seimetz... or at least I felt that I nurtured feelings for her... don't ask me why (she wasn't a special personality or anything like that), I'm not sure if it was the film persuasion power (don't think so, it's not that accomplished), or if it was just a moment of weakness of mine (seems like it)... Pathetic, I know, but the truth is I saw this movie twice to make sure that I got it right and in both views Kris made me feel weak, very weak... A considerable amount of polish should win Upstream Color at least an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and/or Original Screenplay of 2013, but this is probably a long shot.

American Hustle (2013) - 9

A fiction told in flamboyant scenic style (highly influenced by Scorcese) based on real events. I do appreciate this narrative style, but the acting and direction didn't keep up with the aspirations of this work in my opinion. I liked Jennifer Lawrence and always enjoy seeing Robert De Niro playing a badass Gangster, most other characters lacked some authenticity and the dialogues could have been more accomplished (felt like some actors/actresses weren't at ease with the reportedly improvised acting). I couldn't help but notice some rhythmical incoherence or inconsistence throughout this movie, it didn't flow or dance as smoothly as I'd like (and as it was trying to?) mostly due to lack of insight in the editing department and in the way how the narrative is conveyed in tone. American Hustle deserved more technical commitment and clairvoyance from the direction, I think the screenplay is perfect to be explored by this cinematic style. A bit more competence and a modern classic should have been born, for the better or for the worse. I enjoy it as pure entertainment, great soundtrack, exciting and comical moments to be lived, but a few fails as well...

EDIT: ^^^ Crap, that's all crap! I just re-watched American Hustle and now I wonder what the hell was I thinking when I wrote all that Bull***. Any critique I made concern only details of this masterwork. Hell, I love this movie so intelligent and so well done, it invites us to a wonderful dance, an amazingly engaging emotional ride, seems like the very first time I saw it there was some Cognitive Dissonance going on or something... I take back all my negative commentaries about the incoherence, editing and tone, this is nothing less than a masterwork. Classic! Revaluating to 9.

Thief (1981) - 8,5

Very convincing depiction of a crucial moment in the life of a professional thief and organized crime in general. Very intelligent and well polished film, full of socio-cultural and psychological nuances that lend it more depth than the apparently trivial plot might suggest. Beautiful neo-noir visuals, great camera work, the soundtrack consists of electronic music created by the Tangerine Dream group enhancing the singular identity of this work from Michael Mann. Thief has a sober and very consistent style, a very solid linear progression, there's an apparent mindfulness for the little details and quirks of the major criminal acts (particularly Safe-cracking), I appreciated this aspect and I think it enriches Thief with educational value (not that this should be seen as an incentive to practice the crimes here depicted, it's just an observation that aids the cinematic quality of this film in my opinion), but for other viewers, this aspect could be boring and in turn the movie could come across as a bit empty or shallow... not the way I see it.

The acting in general is very competent, I think James Cann did an excellent job playing the main character, even if at times it didn't feel as natural as it could, but Jessie (played by Tuesday Weld) came across as an overly superficial person, the tears failed to appear in one crucial moment of the film, a bit more depth and accomplishment in her role would really help. Obviously wouldn't expect a woman who accepts an openly assumed criminal and rude man as an husband to be a particularly deep or smart person, but I feel that here was an opportunity to study the psyche of such kind of person more in-depth which would contribute even more to the merits of this film and it would be congruent with its cerebral nature anyway. The acting is pretty much my only qualm (besides some other minor details of no importance), but I feel that the overall quality of this movie is good enough that it transcends its limitations, so I say without hesitation that I consider Thief to be a classic Crime Film. It's almost perfect, a model or archetype that is worth to be taken as a reference work (now I see where Drive (2011) from Nicolas Winding Refn got some of it's substance). I liked it very much and highly recommend it! Great stuff from Michael Mann!

Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jō, 1957) - 8,5

Magical film from Akira Kurosawa. The Japanese director made Macbeth, play by Shakespeare, the pseudo-script for this film temporally set in the Sengoku period of Japan. Very inspired cinematic glance at the eternal tale about the thirst for power led to the limits of sanity and self-integrity of men. Throne of Blood easily transports me into a dreamlike, haunted world, but there are a few dragging moments that distract a bit. The nature of the acting is very ludicrous as was customary in this period, this brought good and bad things to my experience, but in the end, I always like it because everything has a way to flow coherently in old Japanese cinema for which I've been lusting these times. Beautiful film, recommended!

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (2003) - 8

A small lake surrounded by huge hills covered in dense wild forest. On the lake, a little one division house rests afloat, this house is a Buddhist monastery. Two people inhabit this idyllic landscape, secluded from civilization: a man and a little boy child. The man is a monk and the boy is a young apprentice. We're guided through a life cycle and the handover of Buddhist life heritage between generations. It's a meditative experience of great enchantment. In the end, this film left me with a faint sensation of nostalgia, seems like I experienced something completely forged by some fundamental Truth. It was highly evocative of my most primordial feelings or memories which are buried in the furthest recesses of my consciousness and so I can't dissect what they are. I'm citing an excerpt of another critique which, in my opinion, describes the kind of transcendental quality I see in this work or at least why it has this quality: (note I'm only speaking for myself, by "transcendental" I don't mean anything about spiritual nature, I mean the ability of this film to be something greater than the sum of its parts)

"Spare and contained, with a timeless quality that makes it seem less a product of an individual human imagination than a collective memory..."

Collective memory, I couldn't say it better. The cinematic and technical craftsmanship could be a bit more polished, but this is still a notable work from Kim Ki-duk, South Korean director. This man created a powerful film that could very well catalyze the adoption of the spiritual paradigm in the hearts of the irresolute. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring has great emotional power and children's tale enchantment yet it's not naïve, it's wise, presenting us a contemplative perspective of its substance grounded on Buddhist sapience. I think this is an excellent universal film for both children and adults, regardless of each one's creed. Wonderful movie, highly recommended!

All new additions from now on will be in single posts.

All new additions from now on will be in single posts.
that really would be better! it's a lot to take in when you write about so many films at once!

My only niggle is that some acting looks slightly artificial, it becomes distracting sometimes, something I've come to notice throughout several Kubrick works. To me this film would be absolutely perfect with just a bit more naturalistic acting performances.
Not sure about his other works but there is a reason why the acting is artificial in 2001. Kubrick made Dave and others look emotionless and machinelike on purpose, obviously. To me this is summed up perfectly in the scene when Dave manually opens the ship's emergency airlock, prior to deactivating HAL. Dave talks and even walks like a robot, it's as if he's totally incapable of feeling any emotion.

"Hey Look it's Masterman"
Prometheus (2012) - 3/10
C'mon, you rated Pacific Rim a 7. Prometheus is a great movie.
--I Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing.

that really would be better! it's a lot to take in when you write about so many films at once!
Yeah, sorry about the wall of text.

Not sure about his other works but there is a reason why the acting is artificial in 2001. Kubrick made Dave and others look emotionless and machinelike on purpose, obviously. To me this is summed up perfectly in the scene when Dave manually opens the ship's emergency airlock, prior to deactivating HAL. Dave talks and even walks like a robot, it's as if he's totally incapable of feeling any emotion.
Yes, I've seen something about Kubrick requesting particular expressions from the spaceship cast. My issue was not really with those characters though, it was in fact with the characters we see before the spaceship travel part, I know this may sound strange but I often find characters in Kubrick films to have an almost caricatural nature to their way of being, not necessarily in all his films. But this is just me being very nitpicky about 2001 because it's the only thing preventing this movie from being perfect to me. I only rate a movie 10 when it's absolutely perfect.

C'mon, you rated Pacific Rim a 7. Prometheus is a great movie.
Hehe, I knew I was getting for this.
My issue with Prometheus is that I just didn't get it's premisse: was it supposed to be scary? was it supposed to be a mistery movie? was it supposed to be a thriller? action? drama? puzzle? It doesn't make any sense in my mind from any angle. Honestly I think they should had just left the first Alien movie alone, all other works of the franchise don't amuse me in any way and seem more like attempts to make a profit of the franchise than a genuine effort of cinematic accomplishment, exception made for Aliens maybe. I think it's a shame about Prometheus because there was some real good technical talent resource, it could had been a beautiful movie but it felt like yet another empty exploration of the franchise to me.

Pacific Rim was at least clear in it's premisse and entertained me.. even if it was often enerving as well, lol.. I felt that Del Toro was trying to bring some of that surreal enchantment of cartons to reality, I thought it was an interesting and laudable effort even if it didn't succeed as well as it could...

Avatar (2009) - 9/10

Memento (2000) - 6,5

Aliens (1986) - 7,5

Pacific Rim was at least clear in it's premisse and entertained me.. even if it was often enerving as well, lol.. I felt that Del Toro was trying to bring some of that surreal enchantment of cartons to reality, I thought it was an interesting and laudable effort even if it didn't succeed as well as it could...

"Hey Look it's Masterman"

Hehe, I knew I was getting for this.
My issue with Prometheus is that I just didn't get it's premisse: was it supposed to be scary? was it supposed to be a mistery movie? was it supposed to be a thriller? action? drama? puzzle? It doesn't make any sense in my mind from any angle. Honestly I think they should had just left the first Alien movie alone, all other works of the franchise don't amuse me in any way and seem more like attempts to make a profit of the franchise than a genuine effort of cinematic accomplishment, exception made for Aliens maybe. I think it's a shame about Prometheus because there was some real good technical talent resource, it could had been a beautiful movie but it felt like yet another empty exploration of the franchise to me.

Pacific Rim was at least clear in it's premisse and entertained me.. even if it was often enerving as well, lol.. I felt that Del Toro was trying to bring some of that surreal enchantment of cartons to reality, I thought it was an interesting and laudable effort even if it didn't succeed as well as it could...
Aliens is the best in the series. Alien 3 is just as good as the first. So ime glad the series carried on. I thought Prometheus was very interesting, and took quite fascinating approach.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) - 8

I saw the Director's Cut version, where Peter Weir eliminated around 7 minutes of play from the original theatrical release. I read several opinions from people who deplored such move because they judged it harmful to the original quality of the movie, I don't know if this is why I failed to connect or to feel engaged in the experience... a shame. Shame because in retrospective I realise that Picnic at Hanging Rock was one of the most enriching cinematic experiences I ever had, I'll explain why in a bit.

Picnic at Hanging Rock reminds me of Caché from Michael Haneke and L'Aventura from Michelangelo Antonioni, 3 films where we are haunted by unsolved mysteries, but each one with a different premiss. The australian film seems to be the one that truly focuses in exploring the emotional and psychological effects that the elements of mystery and the inexplicable have upon the human subject and does it in a very sagacious manner. This movie plays an admittedly manipulative game with the viewer, the less attentive might be led to believe that the depicted events actually happened in real life (like me in the first view). The mystery is about the disappearance of 4 people, 3 young girls and 1 woman, in the whereabouts of a geological formation known as Hanging Rock and the movie depicts, up to a certain point, the efforts that the local community goes through to find the missing ones and the influence the tragedy exerts upon certain characters. But a more careful look reveals that we are in fact observing a work of pure fiction with possibly another layer of meaning underneath the main coating and there are even some prophetic revelations before the impossible disappearance phenomena. Right at the beginning the premiss of this work is conveyed through a voice over citing a beautiful phrase inspired by a poem from Edgar Allan Poe in which the keyword is "Dream", the gist is to make us experiment a surreal universe where the convoluted logic of the reality is reminiscent of dreams with everything it brings as emotional and psychological imprint. This is not done in a literal way à la David Lynch. Instead in a subtly evocative fashion because the bizarreness is not immediately obvious to the viewer, it is suggested and unraveled little by little while the depicted world never departs from its realistic and coherent appearance at the surface even if frustratingly hermetic for those expecting or hoping to see the mystery solved.

Until we arrive at the scene which, in my opinion, is the culmination of Picnic at Hanging Rock, it was this instance that made the "click" in my head where I really understood the premiss of this film - the out of nowhere and unexpected collective hysteria in the dance class demanding explanations to a key piece of the mystery that had been rescued alive but makes no attempt whatsoever to clarify about what happened. Seems like Peter Weir deliberately wanted to repress and frustrate our impetus to know the truth throughout the movie so that he could forge this brilliant scene where, in a way, he gives us what we really want to see after so much ceremony but where at the same time he truly assumes the exploitive and dreamlike nature of this work, it's clear to me because what happens here is highly unlikely in reality so there has to be a second meaning. I loved this cinematic execution because it was something new, I never experienced this before in cinema, at least not in this way so subliminally alluded by the plot itself. In this scene (which has made its way to my favorite scenes list and seems carved out of a Lynch masterpiece) the film becomes self-evident to me - here several key characters of the story are developed in ways that allude to the perspectives (role and intent) of the public (us viewers) and performer (director) through their actions and the way they are treated. This is where the film basically tells us that it is performing a perverse exploitation of our own feelings and attention, so it becomes self-evident. What impresses me is the amount of thought and craft put into it to work so well, it's genius. Perverse exploitation because the film makes it clear that it won't give us any satisfaction, this is a game where the director is in dominant position, it's his film so he dictates the rules. One might think that he "plays dirty" because he's only flirting with us and we remain in the blind (as if tied to a wall from where we cannot move) about the mystery leaving us all the more vexed... or not because it's now obvious that the movie is not at all about what happened to those vanishing girls. The game is practically over now, the film ends shortly after this scene. Not everyone will make the same reading as I do since this film is relatively open to interpretation and those who do might not go well along with this exploitive agenda and think that Weir is being unfair and arrogant, but not really because this movie is actually based on a novel and with such reaction one could fail to notice the extraordinary cinematic feat, in my opinion, from Peter Weir. I can't help but grin every time I watch this scene, it's so revealing and even hilarious that I can only contemplate in wonder.

There's one or two sub-plots whose significance or symbolism I don't feel comfortable discussing yet, but I believe all of it serves to support (or possibly illustrate) the movie's main perverse agenda. This movie has substantial thematic depth, nature is portrayed as an hermetic and potentially dangerous world to Men, the Hanging Rock, one of the main characters of the movie, is often presented in a sinister and haunting tone, animals are constant appearances even in the most improbable places and yet they are as much strange and oblivious to us as we are to them, plants can move, etc... It's apparent that the intent is to show nature as a world impossible to understand, not governed by the same rules as those of the world which humans have built for themselves to evoke the fear of the unknown and incomprehensible, specially around Hanging Rock. Maybe it could be said that Picnic at Hanging Rock is a Psychological Horror movie, and there are indeed a few creepy and disturbing moments, it has elements of Drama, Mystery and Horror. In my opinion, it's above all a self-evident manipulative endeavour intending to engulf us in a pseudo-dreamlike experience and doesn't reduce itself to any particular genre.

So why didn't I feel engaged in this movie? If I see it again (I saw it 2 times before writing these impression) maybe it will have a better grip on me but I doubt... It wasn't the pseudo-dreamlike experience it was supposed to be, I didn't find it boring to watch but I didn't enjoy it either... I think my main issue is with the overall style of the movie and lack of polishment in some acting subjects, it seriously distracts me sometimes. I never manage to extract anything appreciable, or beautiful, or interesting while I watch it (except for that brilliant scene and a few creepier moments), I've seen a lot of praise for the cinematography but I honestly didn't care. The notable soundtrack works to build the singular feel of the movie as much as it does to enervate and distract me often. I will certainly give it another go and try to tune into it, there's a lot to love and admire here and I want to have the complete package by fully engaging in the experience, but I will also search for the theatrical version which many say it's better.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a singular work where Peter Weir performs, in my opinion, a sagacious exploitation of the viewer and for that I admire him. The merit is not all his alone though, this film is based on a novel of the same name authored by Joan Lindsay. This was such an enriching experience that I have included the book in my wishlist, it's the first movie ever to spice my interest for its source literature. I'm taking my chances with this novel hoping to get from literature what I got from this brilliant work of cinema. Picnic at Hanging Rock is mandatory watch for any cinephile!

There Will Be Blood (2007) - 8

This film is largely enriched by the charismatic and distorted personality of the main character, but I feel it's a very big stage for just one man like Plainview. I felt lack of justification for his ways. I didn't see character development as much as I saw portrayal, sometimes almost sensationalistic, of a caricature. It leaves me wanting for something more fulfilling even if I try to appreciate it as is. Plainview didn't fill his stage as sapiently as Charles Foster Kane filled his, in my opinion. But maybe it's not fair to evaluate There Will Be Blood in such manner, there are other qualities in this work. The acting is pretty good all around, especially Daniel Day-Lewis who plays the oblique main character. I'd say There Will Be Blood could be seen as an allegory for the conflict between Capitalism and Morality on both personal and social levels. Fortunately, this is a very pleasing movie to watch, beautiful cinematography, fantastic camera work, singular soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood (although a few weird moments). I enjoyed this movie very much but I feel it could be more... sapient. I admire this work mostly for the aesthetical accomplishment.

Kagemusha (1980) - 7,5

In the Sengoku period of Japan, Takeda Shingen, notable warlord and leader of the Takeda clan, is fatally injured in the battlefield, dying a few days later. Just before his death, the leader reunites with the hard core of the clan and whims that the news of the tragedy remain in secrecy from everything and everyone, even from all other soldiers and employees of his clan, for at least 3 years. They resort to a double of Shingen, a thief, to forge the illusion that the leader is still among them. To impersonate the great warrior is the mission at hand for the thief, a man spared from crucifixion and whose real identity is never known. With such honorable burden as the sole purpose of his life the thief will be carried away by the role and, eventually, share the same tragic fate as the great leader himself, even when it is not required from him anymore. He becomes the shadow of the warrior.

Fine work from actor Tatsuya Nakadai in this heartbreaking film where Akira Kurosawa casts a sensitive look at the interplay of impersonation, identity, status and loyalty. Sober and clean cinematic style with fits of grandiosity in the battle scenes following the trend of the late 70s and 80s to impart an epic tone to warfare. This latter aspect is, ultimately, the source of my problem with this movie - it was all going well until the last 20 minutes or so, where the massacre in the battle of Nagashino drags way too much... what for, I ask? I suppose Kurosawa was trying to convey a tangible sense of epicness here, but he ought to know when enough is enough. It harmed the pace of the movie and distracted me very much, some significant editing work would do wonders, in my opinion. It just didn't seem like a wise effort at all, oh well, I guess the Japanese director was rehearsing for what he would do latter in Ran. I also wish the soundtrack had less Western influenced Classical music and more proper Japanese, it would be more fitting I think. If not for this my overall experience would be much better, but Kagemusha is still a beautiful film worth to see, it has moments of great emotional power, nice humour and some scenes are simply perfect and cast great enchantment on us. This is also a must watch for those who crave for Japanese Classical theater, particularly the Noh (aka Nôgaku) form, I can't get enough of it, love it! Recommended!

Tabu (2012) - 8

How to say ... two stories? Or a monumentally long prelude before the story? Regardless of perspective, I think there's good reason for us to dwell so much time in the quotidian of three ladies, to know Aurora. To know one of the links that connect the two halves of the narrative (or anti-narrative), this senile and insecure woman, prone to fits of delirium and eccentricity who has, as a vestige of past times, a black maid, Santa, that somehow manages to put up with Aurora. Maybe Santa puts up with Aurora because she feels for her a much higher degree of compassion than we do. But old age eventually reclaims Aurora's life, and so appears Gian-Luca Ventura, the other link, to chronicle the Paradise. The memoir of a sad love story, visceral, reckless and adventurous love between Aurora and Ventura held decades ago in the bleak landscape of a former Portuguese colony in Africa. A love story that, by its sheer turmoil, had the unfortunate consequence of triggering the Portuguese Colonial War. Paradise lends another depth and color to Aurora's character and, in the end, it's impossible not to have the slightest compassion for her.

The slowness and monotony of the first half might discourage the least patient, but it pays off to endure to the end with Tabu. Miguel Gomes, Portuguese filmmaker, forged a movie gifted with cinematic beauty as ravishing as the love story itself, the clean, modern and direct nature of Paradise Lost contrasts with the dreamlike and nostalgic enchantment of Paradise, as if those were two completely different worlds (or films). The reward is immense both for the strokes of cinematic genius revealed by Miguel Gomes and for the feeling of having contemplated, over a lifetime, the memory or dream of someone. Amidst all this, the significance of Pilar's role, the other main character of Paradise Lost, becomes incognito to me. The prominent attention given to her persona seems inconsequent, all in all, she is little more than a spectator, just like us ... maybe the director actually wanted to allude us through Pilar, an intriguing reading which boosts even more my impetus to re-watch this film. This is a singular work in the context of Contemporary Cinema which pays tribute to the old B&W Classic Cinema. Wonderful art house film, highly recommended!

L.A. Confidential (1997) - 8,5

Thrilling, funny, intelligent, powerful and a feast to the eyes, I only have praise to shout about the movie's ability to entertain. Haven't seen such an accomplished cop thriller in a long time, I'd say that in L.A. Confidential the formula was polished to near perfection. Money, corruption, personal interests, crime, moral struggles, sex, media, public opinion and even Hollywood, many of the traditional ingredients of the genre are explored, albeit vulgarly, in a sapiently dense script. This movie overflows with contagious charm stemming from the mixture of typical Hollywood narrative profile, well acted characters, wonderful cinematography that flirts neo-noir visual, scenic style reminiscent of David O. Russel and Scorcese, soundtrack that couldn't possibly complement the pictures in motion any better and a captivating plot with the necessary twists. Although there's nothing really new here, the cinematic accomplishment of this movie never fails to keep me engaged in the story, either at the edge of my seat or in indulgent contemplation. All in all, everything very well crafted in a movie that rides us through unexpected ordeals against organised crime in the City of Angels. Directed by Curtis Hanson, L.A. Confidential is the ideal popcorn movie for me, entertains like few others, nothing distracts from the experience, it's accessible yet smart ... and has a very happy ending so it doesn't hurt anyone's feelings (just in case...). Jokes aside, top-notch entertainment hands in hands with fine cinematic craft cannot go wrong. I enjoyed Kevin Spacey very much, such a great talented actor playing Jack Vincennes with humor and charm to spare. Great stuff, recommended!

The Informer (1935) - 8,5

After many years I finally re-watch one of my most cherished films while I was studying in university and I'm happy to see it didn't lose any appeal. The plot takes us back to the backstage of Irish War of Independence pitting the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the authorities of the United Kingdom around 1922. Gypo Nolan is the star of the show, expelled from IRA, he informs the enemy forces about the whereabouts of his friend and former IRA comrade, Frankie McPhillip, in exchange for a monetary reward. McPhillip is killed by the British as a result. Following Nolan after he committed an act of treason, this film is a powerful illustration of the devastating effects that the overwhelming feeling of guilt can stir on a man and it's particularly interesting to see it on a character like Gypo Nolan. A man endowed with imposing physique and superlative strength made all the more intimidating (but also potentially pathetic) by his strange naiveness and volatile temper. I very much enjoy the more or less accomplished interpretation that Victor McLaglen carves of this crude character who ostensibly resorts to alcohol to relieve the weight on his shoulders, he displays good range and even becomes the epicenter of some pretty hilarious situations I can hardly resist. The Informer is a balancing act between sin and redemption, love and patriotism.

Seen through today's eyes, the plot might seem slightly naive, but I am easily taken away by this film because it thrives with that sort of enchantment I worship in Classic B&W Cinema and it is a very well crafted work all around. The Informer was directed by John Ford and it demonstrates just how much cinematic and technical skill this North-American filmmaker possessed with black-and-white pictures, the cinematography and camera work are beautiful and highly expressive, the fog in the outer night scenery adds a layer of surreal claustrophobia to the atmosphere further reinforcing the perception that Nolan is living through a tenebrous situation, there are numerous memorable scenes and images where the contrast between light and dark reveals obvious influence of German Expressionism, the perfect chemistry between moving picture and music effectively builds up the movie's tone and emotional charge. The theatrical and exaggerated acting, typical of this time, fits perfectly in the fabric of this work and is very catchy. Moments of drama, action, romance and even comedy alternate fluently under the insightful conduct of Ford, never hindering the pace. In short, this is a very complete and coherent film where little or nothing distracts me from the wonderful cinematic experience at hand, one of my favorite movies from the 30s, though I still have much to see. The current silence and neglect around this John Ford masterpiece is disgraceful, it deserves much more attention in my opinion. I love it, highly recommended!

Close-up (1990) - 8

Hossain Sabzian is a poor man indistinguishable from any other individual crossing the same streets he crosses, but he is a cinema lover. In a twist of fate he is approached by lady Ahankhah, on a bus, regarding the book he holds in his hands, The Cyclist, and Sabzian tells her that he is the author of the novel and of the movie of the same name. And so began the whimsical artifice that led this man to assume the identity of his idolized filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and to make the house of the Ahankhah family his chosen pseudo-shooting location for a few weeks. Eventually his deceptive agenda is discovered, Sabzian is arrested by the authorities and in the following trial he has to justify his actions to the Ahankhah family and the judge. By staging and monitoring in real time this weird story with the real people involved, Abbas Kiarostami proposes us a reflection on the distinction between reality and fiction, between the true identity of a person and the mere representation of a role.

It's not easy to understand how striking this film really is without seeing it with our own eyes, there's no actors here, all the people we see are the real people involved in the staged (and non-staged) case, they represent themselves. The barrier that separates reality from fiction is smeared to the limit and while watching Close-up, one has the feeling of witnessing the real events as they happen which endows this work with another vitality of persuasion and expression. The lengthy trial is particularly striking to watch because that's real, not staged, and the way that Kiarostami outlines Sabzian argumentation to make his own message come across to us is brilliant. Given its legal and argumentative mechanics, the judgment scene evokes a reflection on the legitimacy and meaning, not only about what Sabzian made​​, but also about the role of art in people's lives.

Close-up is a fine example of what's called Docufiction, maybe the best I've ever seen because watching the film for the first time without the least idea of what it is, I was so engrossed in its ruse that in the end I was asking myself, perplexed, if what I just saw was real or not. This is one of those films that haunt me long days after the screening as much for its cinematographic cunning as for what it makes me think. In addition to the reflection it compels, this intelligent work from Kiarostami also shows that Cinema, ironically or not, can turn dreams into reality, or on the contrary, turn reality into a dream or a film when looked from another perspective. Despite the conceptual genius, Close-up is no eye candy, no significant aesthetical appeal to redeem itself, it is worth for the accomplishment as a docufiction experience. I appreciate the concept and I admire and respect this work for that, I think this is a reference work. I think Close-up is mandatory watch for any cinephile!

Ran (1985) - 9

Once again Akira Kurosawa adapts a Shakespeare tragedy, King Lear, to the Sengoku period of Japan. Just like Throne of Blood, Ran easily engulfs me in a magical world of great enchantment and beauty. But this is a chaotic and cruel world for everyone who lives it. A world made of suffering where gods won't save men from themselves, and where the thirst for power is the mirror of the natural struggle for survival. Ethics and morality are subdued by the samurai conduct and interests of the powerful.

To watch Ran is like watching an epic and blazing Noh (form of Japanese classical theater) performance that reveals the true nature of human existence.
Film of great symbolic significance with countless memorable scenes. Hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Toru Takemitsu whose work I highly appreciate. Top-notch cinematography, camera work and acting; all in perfect harmony to create a deeply melancholic, beautiful and exciting universe. Tecnically superb work.

Ran is not without its shortcomings though. I may speak for a minority, but this would be a virtually perfect film if not for Kurosawa's obsession with redundant battle scenes--especially in the last half hour or so. Some distracting moments ought to be chopped out to keep up consistent standards throughout the film; enough is enough. And hard for me to believe that no life was lost during those crazy shoots. Fortunately, these distractions are relatively minor here, and they don't prevent Ran from becoming one of my favorite movies ever. The heartbreaking final scene also enters into my favorite list; perfect expression of how helpless we are in this world. Masterpiece from Kurosawa, highly recommended!

It is hard to remember everything you've written here in a single post, but from what I recall, I agree with everything you said about Psycho and No Country for Old Men. I think you were a little hard on The Exorcist, but I understand where you're coming from. Your comments on Black Swan were vague and hard to follow, would love if you could articulate your feelings about that movie a little more specifically.

If I remember correctly, I felt that Black Swan was a film anchored by Natalie Portman great performance. I believe I felt Black Swan cinematic language to be too vulgar and melodramatic which didn't work that well to really engage me, it was a bit distracting at times. For all its apparatus I felt it to be an inconsequent effort, it entertained me a bit while lasted but didn't make me think about it nor did it leave me with any particular impression afterwards as I would expect with a psychological thriller/horror movie. The concept of the movie was interesting but Aronofsky directing seemed to cater for a mainstream audience and it was competent on that regard but not really my thing... that's why I have no interest in seeing Noah actually.

EDIT: Uff, the more I think about it the more I feel like lowering its rating, but I loved the damn opening scene... I'd have to see it again to be sure but I don't think I will...

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - 7,5

This is my premiere of Wes Anderson Cinema, a comedy-drama revolving around the Tenenbaum family. This director exerts an unmistakable cinematic style and reveals great attention to detail in all aspects that might influence the mise-en-scene and the expressive quality of the movie, scenery, sound, camera and editing work, cinematography, soundtrack, costumes and even the acting are all conditioned by the formal etiquette of the direction, technical virtuosity serving a somewhat baroque aesthetical sensibility that might not be to everyone's taste. Manneristic Cinema is how the work of this American director has been described. I find it a very appealing style and I think it has great potential to be interestingly developed in future works. Very funny and interesting the way that Wes carves his characters, not being exactly caricatures they have somewhat restricted behavioral patterns and eccentricity, yet they display a certain degree of complexity and this brings out psychological and emotional nuances that escape perception in many other films, but enhance the dramatic and comic effect of Wes Cinema. Artificial or not, the characters make perfect sense the way they are, that's the way they have to be. This film genre is not usually very interesting to me, but Wes Anderson stylized and bittersweet comedy offered me moments of pleasure and was music for my eyes (and ears), the only thing that I didn't care for was the story itself, Wes style and writing works very well to develop these humorous family tales, but it still seemed redundant to me, perhaps a good platform of cinematic experimentation for those starting out. The Royal Tenenbaums is worth a watch for those who enjoy these witty and tender comedies, Wes style fits like a glove in this genre and enriches it with a different cinematic quality.