This is the first film I saw at the 34th Telluride Film Festival. A word on the festival - it has opened a lot of important films in the past, though it remains unknown to most people. Last year, the films that opened here included Babel, The Last King Of Scotland, Venus, Little Children and The Lives Of Others; almost all of which went on to garner Oscars. Actually, I first heard of this festival through The Triplets Of Belleville, which opened here as well and advertised so on its trailers. It is known generally as an unpretentious film festival, where everybody queues up (they literally don't care if you're Spielberg or Cruise). Roger Ebert describes it 'as if Cannes died and went to heaven' ... whatever that meant.
Now to the film. It's not that I hate Bob Dylan, it's just that I don't understand the obsession with him or his songs. It always sounded to me like any other type of song - I guess it doesn't help that I like film scores and virtually no other type of music. What's so special about Bob Dylan? I still don't know.
With that in mind, watching this film is even harder for people like me.
What I knew about the film, and what you knew if you knew at all that the film exist (and provided you're savvy enough to not ask the question 'Bob who?'), is that it isn't a biopic of Bob Dylan, but some poetic representation of who he is or what he sings about or something like that - there isn't a Bob Dylan here, but six different characters with their own storylines that are somehow relevant to Bob Dylan, played by the likes of Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger ... and Cate Blanchett.
So what I know about it is that it's weird, it's specific to Bob Dylan fans, and it's going to contain a lot of his songs which don't do anything for me.
And guess what, that's exactly what it is - exactly what I thought the film would be. As a result, while my attention was sustained for the first hour through the weird stuff that was going on (including an absurd but hilarious sequence involving Cate Blanchett's 'Dylan' and The Beatles), I began to get tired of it after that and was waiting for the film to end.
And it wouldn't end.
And it wouldn't end.
And oh, it looks like it might ... nah, it wouldn't end yet.
It finally ended, with a running time of more than two hours.
If you're a Bob Dylan fan, this might or might not be for you. If you're not, I can't imagine why you should want to watch it. Thankfully for the film, lots of people seem to worship the fellow ... unless I misinterpreted the intensity of enthusiasm from individuals as volume of support.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10
How Much I Liked It: 4/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 30 mins
* Links to my thoughts and reviews on other Telluride films.
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This is the thirty-eighth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
The film is known for being the film Matthew Vaughn insisted on directing after his success with Layer Cake - instead of Mission:Impossible 3, that is. So, while JJ Abrams took his chance and went off with a relative success, Vaughn worked on this Neil Gaiman story (why is he so popular all of a sudden?) and ... the film earned 9 mil in its first weekend. A flop considering its rumoured 200 mil production budget.
More's the pity - the movie's not bad, as far as fantasy films go.
It's a slightly unconventional fantasy film, in that flashes of science and logic enters the context from time to time, like in the opening. Also, the dialogue occasionally veers into more modern dialect and slang (nothing gratuitous to the point of distraction, mind you); and certainly the twist to Robert De Niro's character is ... rather contemporary. But it's all good fun (and in De Niro's case, it made sense for the joke of it), and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The special effects is as it should be - real enough but still clearly CGI-ed.
How Good I Think The Film Is: 7/10
How Much I Liked It: 7/10
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This is the thirty-seventh film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
It is inevitable that the film shall be compared, perhaps rather unfairly, with the last offering of Pride & Prejudice, having come so close on the heels of it (2 years is close enough). To me especially, for Pride & Prejudice was one of my favourite films of 2005 (a particularly strong year for films in general), and certainly, to my consideration, the most finely directed classical period English film I have ever seen.
It didn't help that the structure of this film, at least initially, reminded me of Pride & Prejudice. Here, it begins quietly, and then humorously, as Jane Austen plays the piano to inspire the muses. And then there's the quintessential ballroom dance sequence while characters converse between movements (less accomplished here - who talks in quiet tones facing the other way and expects the opposite party to be able to hear what they say?). And then there's the bore of a bachelor hoping to propose. And then there's Rev. Austen being played by an American, James Cromwell (having just finished his stint as Prince Philip in The Queen) - just as Mr. Bennett was played by Donald Sutherland.
And then the happy ending arrived, and it was then only halfway through the film, thus revealing it not to be a happy ending, but the beginning of the brilliance of the film. What is the film about? I didn't realise it until I got nearly to the end, and then the title Becoming Jane began to make its sense.
This is probably a more matured film than Pride & Prejudice. It doesn't necessarily make it much better or worse, just different. When I say matured, I meant, more emotionally and morally complex. Protagonists and their antagonists are not so clear-cut - everyone is both at some point in the film (and remember, one can be a protagonist and antagonist to oneself). In short, I had an idea of the film I was watching, saw it as that for nearly half of it, only to have that idea turned on its head.
The direction was well done but I wasn't impressed with it like I was with Joe Wright. Still, it's a much better directed piece of work than many Hollywood offerings - again summoning my yearnings to work for the British film industry. I was, however, surprised by Anne Hathaway, who disappeared into the role enough that her accent was never called attention to, and is always honest to the feelings of the character Jane Austen. She is ably supported by ... everyone else, both well known (the rising James McAvoy, the always magnificent Maggie Smith, and the suitably forceful Julie Walters) and not so well known.
Ultimately, I enjoyed the film, though I suspect much of the American populace won't. The language is absolutely sophisticated, much more so than Pride & Prejudice, but if you catch enough of it you're probably the right audience for it and the wit and cleverness of the dialogue will capture your fancy. Also, as mentioned, the moral current the film portrays is not the easiest to understand (unlike most films, in relative terms), as it is not about who gets what he or she wants, but about the nature of desire and truth and how they contradict and the choices that arise from that (very eloquently analogised by a discussion on irony).
Pretty sophisticated for a film about love.
How Good The Film Is: 8/10
How Much I Liked It: 8/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 40 mins
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Films about historical events don't get more faithful than this, yet Ron Howard manages to maintain, uncertainty, thrills, fear, excitement, drama. A roller coaster ride of emotions, from the awe of being in space, the pain of not reaching such an ambitious target, to resolution, to elation. Always inspiring in the end, no matter how many times it was played. No other film has managed this thus far.
(1996) INDEPENDENCE DAY
Highly destructive film, this one launched me into film mania, and can explain why I love films with scenes of epic scale destruction. Storyline was pretty engaging. Large cast but all of them fit. A fun film, though I never saw it that way. The sequence of the cities being destroyed is classic - watched it over 100 times.
Robert Zemeckis is a master at blending Hollywood un-reality and the randomness of real-world reality. Fascinates by inviting the audience to be fascinated by the world of science and maths, of Occam's Razor and prime numbers - and how these can actually apply for real when an alien message arrives. Feels real.
The best example of perfect filmmaking. Every element of film production came together to create a sumptuous (yet never distracting) feast for the eyes and ears and heart. The romance is not everything, nor is it the point of the film. The first half of the film brings to life early 20th century high society life, while the second half sucks in the audience as they live through the weirdest experience to ever happen during the entire 20th century. That was the point.
(1999) FORCES OF NATURE
Rom-coms aren't usually remembered. This one is, due to brilliant direction from Bronwen Hughes, as obscure as she is. There is great chemistry between pre-Armageddon Ben Affleck and the always bubbly Sandra Bullock. As unreal as these characters are, they are liked. Score was surprisingly emotional - and the ending was simply unpredictable yet inevitable.
Mesmerising. Completely sucked into the world of the Roman Empire. At the same time, the story is extremely well written, the direction was masterful, the actors all up to the job, the score was powerful and soulful, the fight sequences great. Favourite film for a long time.
(2001) BLACK HAWK DOWN
Extremely intense portrayal of urban warfare. Gritty, visceral - common adjectives used to describe the film. It's not a film about entertainment, it's not about good action scenes. It's about living in a war, in an extraordinary situation - and not having to die at the end of it.
One of the most joyous, fun, cheeky, sly films. Songs are great - deliciously black and sexy. Casting was incredible. The dance moves were mesmerising - can't stop watching the Cell Block Tango sequence. Best musical film made thus far. Rob Marshall is a genius.
(2002) THE PIANIST
Due to tight focus on Szpilman's point of view, we see what he sees, this is more effective than Schindler's List in forcing the audience to experience what the Holocaust was like. The horrors, the fear, the paranoia - everything feels real. You almost live and die with the character.
(2003) THE LAST SAMURAI
All historical epics should be like this. Tom Cruise perfectly personifies the story of a character that undergoes psychological and emotional and cultural changes. For once, Eastern values are valued higher than Western values. Edward Zwick is now in my favourite directors list. Maintains a tight, effective balance between plot and action. Great storytelling.
(2004) THE BOURNE SUPREMACY
All action thrillers should be like this. (Except that they aren't.) The story is compelling, the twist in the beginning is heart-wrenching, the jerky cam surprisingly apt, the action consequently intense, the hero's motivations plausible, and the score is just mindblowingly awesome.
(2005) WAR OF THE WORLDS
Grabs your attention and sustains it throughout by its almost tunnel vision focus on one person's point of view of an all-out alien annihilation. The year isn't over but I suspect I won't see a better film than this ..
(2005) CINDERELLA MAN
... and I was so wrong. I really don't know how Ron Howard does it, but he has done it again. Russell Crowe is once again great here. I couldn't stop thinking about the movie, and the music. I couldn't. Damn the Academy for not recognising this.
(2005) THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
And surprisingly, I had to include this one. I was really trying to eliminate one of the three (three best movies in a year seems indulgent), but I just can't. The story, the film, is just so well-made. There's spectacle, there's sibling love, there's adventure, and so on, and everything just fits. Couldn't be more endearing, poignant and memorable even if it tried.
(2006) HAPPY FEET
So, the first animated feature to hit this list. Surprisingly strong story that is inventive without ever becoming cheesy or corny, combined with highly expressive percussionistic music from John Powell. What especially surprised me is the sense of heroism imbued on Mumble Happyfeet with the story and the music (see the scene where he dives off the cliff).
(2007 - tentative) THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM
I had really high expectations with this one, and it managed the near-impossible by surpassing it, so even though I felt a little unfair including it on the best of the year list, it does deserve it. It continues the style from Supremacy, and storywise manages to pare down the plot and pile up the action set pieces (which were more tense in effect of desperation rather than exhilarating).
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So, finally, the third Bourne film is out, and along with it another amazing soundtrack from John Powell. Here I include a couple of tracks that contains action cues from the film - but do buy the full soundtrack. Along with Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, this is one of the best soundtracks of the year.
The first track here incorporates North African drums into the signature Bourne theme, and quickly becomes very energetic, and I love the way it segues into relentless, pulsing action mode halfway through the track - unannounced, very efficient, very cold-blooded, very matter-of-fact, just like the films themselves.
The second track is an extended track that accompanies the cat-and-mouse hunt, which is an action sequence but less intense than, say, a car chase sequence. Here, the music very slowly builds up to its climax.
Now Playing: Tangiers
Now Playing: Waterloo
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This is the thirty-sixth film I saw at the Hollywood Arclight Cinemas.
I've always told everyone who cared to listen (or not) that The Bourne Supremacy is the best action thriller to emerge in recent times, because of its boldness and ferocity and intensity. Paul Greengrass, for one, is a fearless director who's not afraid to do certain stuff others think of as 'wrong' - namely the ultra-shakycam style employed throughout the whole film, even through dialogue scenes; it is still disliked among a good proportion of current audiences, many professing that they don't care for the film or that it gave them a headache and they couldn't enjoy the film.
(Here, he does something that got my fellow film students talking even before they saw the film - in a shot that can be seen in the trailer, it was accomplished by having the camera operator jump out of the window along with Bourne and landing into the opposite balcony (in the Tangiers chase sequence). That is, if nothing else, very, very ballsy.)
John Powell, on the other hand, composed a brilliant score for The Bourne Supremacy, taking a fairly good but overly-electronic score from the first film and transformed it into a masterpiece of action music that carries a momentum that's almost tangible, which adds on another huge factor of success in the equation of the film. On top of that, the writing for that film is solid, the choices made in the story daring and refreshing (killing off a major character so early into the film ... never got over that one); and the actors were great - leave it to Matt Damon to pick the more intelligent of action heroes to play. And as much as Julia Stiles gets flak for ... I-dunno-what, her little performance in The Bourne Supremacy left an impression on me.
All that's saying is, I have enormously high expectations, unbelievably so, the sort that kills films for me, for this particular film this year.
It did not disappoint. Which is an amazing feat.
The story does continue (very immediately, as you'll find out) from the last one, and this being the third part of the story, doesn't stray back to old territory but pushes further, as all sequels should do. Although, having said that, I found that the story structure is uncannily similar to the last one; as in, many events in the story happen at exactly the same point in the same manner as the last one (I'm talking about near-identical inciting incident or plot point, the way the story moves from one act to the next). It's just an observation - if this seems overly-analytical, I guess I just didn't want to talk about the storyline too much, in case I spoil it for anyone.
Just a note. If you haven't seen the second one, please don't watch this one ... and if you haven't seen the first one, don't ever watch the second one first.
Now, if The Bourne Supremacy is famous for its car chase sequence, The Bourne Ultimatum will be known for its staging of cat-and-mouse street chases (there are two). They are breathtakingly suspenseful, in a way one doesn't expect it to be - after all, it's just people chasing people. It is very, very well done here, basically my favourite sequences in the movie, and it doesn't chicken out by giving you 5 minutes of it - each one lasts at least 10 minutes.
Another thing. If it seems like the trailer revealed a lot of information - yes, but they were smart about it and they used it in such a way that still builds suspense for the audience.
There are also a lot more actors in this one, and people I like. Joan Allen is back, and once again shows why casting her as one of the directors of operations of the CIA is a brilliant casting choice (but one that isn't immediately obvious before). David Strathairn sinks into his part well and provides a good head-to-head with Joan Allen. Daniel Brühl shows up in a small role that's fitting (though I couldn't forget about the fact that it's Daniel Brühl). Paddy Considine, an actor I liked - and quite versatile he is too, as he plays one of the Andies in Hot Fuzz - shows up here in a sympathetic role that is well-handled. And as the trailers reveal, Julia Stiles is back, and no she is not a romantic interest. If you thought that was going to happen, you have utterly underestimated the intelligence of the filmmakers of the Bourne films.
The music, however, is distracting. Actually, I was uncomfortably self-aware about the fact that I'm watching The Bourne Ultimatum, the sequel to one of my favourite films ever, throughout the film ... I wasn't too happy with myself over that, because I really wanted to sink into the story. Half the time I was, but because of the importance I placed on the film I simply couldn't get into it as fully as I wanted to. And the music is part of that. It's not that the music is bad, it's that the music is so good - that they resorted to using a lot of the music from the previous two films here. It works, and most audiences won't realise it - it's just me. The score to The Bourne Supremacy was the most important score to me (since Gladiator), so there's no way around it. Doesn't stop me from getting the soundtrack for this one, though. And just as I expected, it once again ends with Moby's Extreme Ways.
Ultimately, a film that I'm biased towards, hence I'm giving it the highest rating I've ever given a film this year. I'm so in love with the style that Paul Greeengrass employs with the shooting of the film now, and truly, I really wanted to chat with him if given the opportunity. I listened to his commentary for United 93 and that one proved without a doubt that the fellow has a mind of his own, not just a whiz-kid who's great at screwing around with handheld shooting styles. In fact, this film premiered opposite my school, at the Arclight Cinemas actually, and I was able to catch a glimpse of Paul Greengrass coming out with his family, and I wanted to talk to him - if I knew how, but there were too many security guards and it wasn't the right occasion anyway. There was Matt Damon and Julia Stiles and Edgar Ramirez too, and they got the louder cheers (no one had any clue who Paul Greengrass was ... and I was the only one among my classmates who recognised who he is).
I wish I can come up with something similar, or something that's me that's just as intense and ferocious as this film. That I cannot as of this moment just screams out my lack of talent to me.
And now I feel a little sad, as I tend to do when a highly anticipated film (and this one has been one to anticipate since 2004) finally arrives and passes by.
Goodbye, Jason Bourne - and I hope to see you again in a fourth one.
How Good The Film Is: 9.5/10
How Much I Liked It: 10/10
At What Point Did I First Looked At My Watch: 25 mins
Oscar Noms That It Deserves: Best Original Score
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Well, in the following films, I was laughing and laughing all the way, uncharacteristically. It has helped to decrease my rate of depression thus far this year, rather visibly.
Hors De Prix
The Simpsons Movie
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Going Away (on hold)
20,000 Miles On A Bicycle (tentative)
The Story Of My Mother
Malaysia & Singapore
Big Dead Place
The Dynamite Terrorism War
Untitled "200 Years Later" Project
Uncle Tom's Cabin
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