The Movie “Dark Water” not my favorite

Watched Dark Water, a Japanese ghost film where a newly divorced mother and her young daughter move into a building haunted by the ghost of a girl who drowned there.  It felt a little long, a litte slow, a little predictable and a little unreal (e.g. Where were the neighbors in their building?).  Very meh. 😦

The Movie “Dark Water” not my favorite

Absolute pleasure to watch “Under the Shadow”

Wife M, Daughter L and I watched Under the Shadow last night.  On the surface level, it was a scary movie (although not too over-the-top scary) that got scarier and creepier.  But on a deeper level, like “Moonlight” and “Get Out” and “Babadook” I loved its message.  We have a mother who was an aspiring medical student before leaving school to join her revolution; because of that she can’t pursue her dream (ostracized) later.  Her husband, instead of fighting for her, says “maybe it is for the best.”  As the movie goes on, and the Djinni take over the buliding, she becomes more isolated as a mother.  Her husband is gone, her community slowly leaves, her workout tape is gone, her medical book is locked away then sacrificed for her daughter’s doll, she is told by her husband she is incapable of making her own decision (to stay) then when she decides to leave rather than leave she must stay (“if you love me”) and help her daughter find her beloved doll.  When she escapes all this at last by breaking down the wall with her daughter, the book and the doll stay behind, indicating you can run but you can’t ever escape.  

Oh my goodness, what a message this is to be a woman in a man’s world.  What a powerful (but entertaining) movie.  

Brilliant.  Why wasn’t this nominated for an Oscar??

Absolute pleasure to watch “Under the Shadow”

Mulholland Drive an awesome movie

I watched Mulholland Drive (2001) for the first time last night.  Sensational.  Strange, beautiful, intriguing, mysterious and deep.  Follows a beautiful young woman suffering from Amnesia, her new friend trying to help her remember, a hip movie director fighting off corruption/extortion, and a rugged hit man before suddenly pivoting and showing all the same characters in a new way.

There is lots of debate about the movie’s meaning (with some warnings not to think too hard), but I believe it is Diane/Betty’s brief journey in hell, almost a post-death dream.  The movie opens up with swing dancers then an imposed image of Betty smiling before cutting to the presumed doom of Camilla (preceded by imposed car lights within car lights, like  a dream within a dream).  When Betty steps off the plane with the old couple, when everything is dreamy and pink, then the old couple drive off with demonic laughter (they reappear later) makes me think they are imps; other imps is the god-like figure controlling the fate of the director we learn later was a source of Diane’s jealousy.  So many other things: the blue in the background, the pink paint splatters (like Betty’s pink sweater, lipstick, flowers, etc.) keep reinforcing my belief that Betty is dead and is being shown a new fate.  The dream wakes up with “Wake up little lady” by the Cowboy.  Such a wonderful movie – like Point Blank (earlier) meets Drive (later) and Neon Demons (later).

I’d love to go back and watch the scene with Bob the Director, where he seems to spout nonsense that maybe isn’t nonsense taken in context of everything else.

I *loved* the casting all the way around.  (I’ve always thought a Grace Kelly and a young Jude Law were the most beautiful people I’ve seen on screen – Laura Harring is on par with them.  The camera loved her physical beauty).

Mulholland Drive an awesome movie

Loved, loved, loved (!) the movie “Fire at Sea!” Notes:

I love movies (like Moonlight) where the director believes in the intelligence of his/her audience while telling a powerful story and delivering a powerful message.  For me, “Fire at Sea” was that way.  It was a movie that was comfortable delivery subtle comments and with letting a scene slowly unfold, where it is comfortable showing the doctor give an ultrasound for five minutes or just showing four workers stare out at sea.  It is a wonderful, powerful movie and the most beautiful film that way since “The Great Beauty.”  Some observations (with some spoilers):

  • The beginning of the movie we see the boy making a weapon and hunting birds, but at the end of the movie he is merely singing to the bird – shows our ability to change our ways.
  • The doctor makes a comment that it is the responsibility of all of us to help the immigrants (who are dying).
  • The doctor, during the ultrasound, can’t make out the sex of the second child since they are too intertwined.  “But don’t worry, we’ll get it.”  He patiently, patiently seeks the sex.  I see that scene as stating we are all intertwined and too intertwined, and it will take patience and diligence and care and perserverence to resolve our/this problem.  I also see the scene later in the movie where the woman takes a full five minutes to carefully make her bed as again emphasizing that things take time and persistence and patience.
  • The boy is having struggles rowing – his friend throws his a lifeline so he is not crushed by the boats, then rows him to safety.  That is, we all need a helping hand and we need to offer a helping hand.
  • The boy has a lazy eye, so he works to correct his vision from 20/100 to 20/30 by wearing the eye patch. Later, when he is sea sick he is told to to go the sea when there are high waves to get his sea stomach.  That is, we have a problem (the refugee crisis) but we can fix it with work.
  • The woman wishes for a little health that day, like we all want to be healthy and happy (including the refugees).  It’s not too much to ask.

I’d love to watch this movie again – these are just a few observations off the top of my head a day later and I am sure there are more.

It is a tragic tale but one that also offers help and a nudge for us to help.  I wish we in the US were helping more (at a time when Donald Trump wants to do less!) – I am going to write my congress person about that.  Those poor souls – and the scene of the people dead at the bottom of the boat was awful but moving, like watching the Holocaust images in some ways (and to the people who died in such misery, the result is the same).

The movie makes me want to move to Sicily 🙂

Finally, it has been a great year for documentaries.  OJ: Made in America, 13th and I Am Not Your Negro were all wonderful and deserving; my vote for Oscar this year though is this one (“Fire at Sea”).

Loved, loved, loved (!) the movie “Fire at Sea!” Notes:

One good movie, one meh movie

On Friday evening, Wife M and I watched Hacksaw Ridge with sister K.  It has been highly touted and nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, with some calling it a modern Saving Private Ryan.  To that, I say: seriously?  The thing about Saving Private Ryan is that it took an entire new look at World War 2 using advances in cinematography; I saw SPR twice in theaters and both times the audience was stunned into silence; everyone stayed until the credits were over and the lights went on, and you could’ve heard a pin drop as people filed out.  I couldn’t sleep that first night I saw it in 1997, I was so disturbed by what I’d seen.  But Hacksaw Ridge adds nothing really new, and changed some of the facts of the real story that the real Dodd so desperately wanted unchanged for Hollywood that he refused to sell the movie rights for many years.  Other than the Dodd family, I didn’t feel attached to the characters, and sometimes I suppressed an eye roll (like when the dad broke in at the perfectly correct time, or when Dodd pulled Vince Vaughn at full speed on his rain slicker while Vaughn machined gunned down an entire Japanese platoon behind him).  Flags of our Fathers, Saving Private Ryan, the Deer Hunter, A Thin Red Line, Paths of Glory, etc. etc. etc. were far more creative movies – I give this one a C for telling a decent story decently, but in no way was it a Movie of the Year candidate. On the plus side, I loved the performance of Dodd’s dad, who was the “villain” in The Matrix and the Elf king in Lord of the Rings.

But yesterday wife M and I watched Tony Erdman at the Uptown.  The film was nominated for Best Foreign Film.  It was wonderful!  Three hours long but didn’t feel like it, with a quirky prankster father who is able to finally reach his career-driven and unhappy daughter.  The theater laughed out loud for much of the movie at the quirky dad, and I thought the scene where the daughter struggles in her dress, then out of her dress, then in then out then finally just steps into the party naked was wonderful and brilliant.  I loved the performances, and really liked the daughter’s performance since I thought she did a good job of looking uncomfortable while trying to seem composed.

Wife M went out with girlfriends a few nights ago and they made a plan for a group Academy Award night  where we’ll watch the Oscars together.  Fun!!!




One good movie, one meh movie

I love depressing movies with hope

I continue to think on how much I disliked the movie Lion and the character in it.  Why?  Because I like people who perservere, and don’t like being around mopey people.  

Take Casablanca.  Here we have a heartbroken character who continues to suffer, but he suffers in silence while still running a bar. Elsa also is heartbroken, but tries her best to move forward.  The prince, held in a prison camp before escaping and loses his home (and realizes his wife shacked up with another dude when she thought he was dead) but continues to press on.  Resilience!

Or in Manchester by the Sea.  A brother is given 5-10 years to live and is a single dad, but continues on.  Lee suffers a horrible tragedy, but still presses on.  Everyone presses on the best they can.

But in Lion, the main character wallows. He quits his job, and drops his girlfriend and spends his days wallowing in a dark room clicking at a laptop.  Depressing!  I hate that.

I also have found that I don’t like watching the character Jesse in Breaking Bad.  I like that he is nonviolent and actually a pretty good kid, but there are many scenes where he just sits and wallows.  Again, I hate that.  I find myself fast forwarding through his scenes when I rewatch an episode.

So I am realizing I love grim movies where people press on.  I think that comes from my childhood, where I had a mom whose family suffered from debilitating depression, which was difficult to see, but also a dad who refuses to ever look at the dark side, which was a powerful example for me.  I don’t blame depressed people for being depressed or even suffering so much they can’t function – depression is an awful disease that can’t be helped.  But that doesn’t mean I want to watch it on the big screen. 

I love depressing movies with hope

Thoughts on the Movie “Manchester by the Sea”

Wife and I saw a movie last night.  We walked through the melting snow under a chilly but clearing sky to watch a movie down in Ballard as part of our journey to watch all the Oscar nominees before the Oscars.

I loved (!!) “Manchester by the Sea.”  I’m a sucker for serious (sad), slice-of-life films where people are working very hard to try to overcome something in their life. The story was touching, the characters interesting and the performances amazing and it’s not too over the top on anything.  Also, I loved how it somewhat slowly revealed the past pain.  At one point, I was actually thinking it would be my pick for movie of the year.  But ultimately “Moonlight” is still my pick of the year.

What could have been better in Manchester by the Sea (while emphasizing I loved the movie, and in fact wish it were a book so I could read the book 🙂 )?

Depth.  I love films that add depth.  What makes Citizen Kane great is all the depth to it, i.e. the plot devices added in the background, certain pictures hung a certain way, etc.  I love looking for things like that in film, like in Moonlight how after the character said he’d been called “Blue” once as a boy you could see all the blue in the background.  I kept looking for things here, but I didn’t leave certain they actually meant something (other than the obvious, such as Winter and Spring).  For example, the clock states “12:31” – I was thinking perhaps that was foreshadowing that he had 3 kids and now will have 1 (Patrick) again; Patrick crosses the street and there is a “No Parking On This Side” next to the graveyard and was wondering if that meant something like they will pull themselves out of their misery but am not sure that was true; when Lee was bouncing the ball then passed it to Patrick and said “Let it go” but Patrick chased him down with it, I thought that might mean something but am not sure it did.  The only thing I can wonder is that perhaps the movie — which ended at the beginning of Spring — was showing there was hope for their future but I can’t be certain that is true.  Anyway, there might have been things but I didn’t see them, which is a major difference between an enjoyable story/movie and a great one, for me.

Cinematography.  La La Land absolutely pops off the screen, and Manchester was in a beautiful setting and spent time showing us the shots, but the visuals didn’t pop like Moonlight or La La Land.

Anyway, my two cents.  But I loved that film!!!!



Thoughts on the Movie “Manchester by the Sea”

Did not like the movie “Lion”

Saw Lion at Sundance Theater with Wife M.  

The theater was *packed*, with all showings sold out and loooonnnnnggggg lines at the cocktail bar.  But it also added to some of the fun, and we met a nice woman a little older than me while we waited, and talked about our favorite movies of the year (all agreed that it is Moonlight, so far) and the shock of Trump’s decision to ban muslims from the country (another woman turned around and said she couldn’t believe that this is the modern US doing this).  Our new friend made the comment how awful it must be for Trump’s wife to have sex with him, how she must just closer her eyes and remind herself that it (sex) will soon be over and she now has all that money 🙂

The movie Lion was disappointing. It started out with a great premise — here was a poor family in India whose young son steps on a train that takes him 1000 miles away – it is something I can picture happening and what is worse picture the horror of everyone involved.  

But sooooo much of the movie is formulaic and predictable.  And half the movie is the man wallowing and clicking on the computer while his codependent girlfriend tries to keep him grounded.  At least 10 minutes of the film is watching the boy speed on the train (we got it after a minute) and another 15 minutes is shown with the man clicking on the computer in misery, as though watching a man search Google Earth really can be all that interesting.  Finally, the symphony music plays the entire film without a break.

What is disappointing is the movie could have been so much more.  As Wife M said, what if it were told from the mom’s point of view?  She is poor and loves her family, and one day her two boys don’t return home from searching for food – every parent’s worst fear.  Then she gets word that one of the boys was found dead (the worst!!) and the other has not been found (torture).  So she spends the next 20 years praying every week, riding the rails whenever she can to search for her son.  In the meantime, because she has two less mouths to feed, she can now afford to send her two surviving children to school for better lives (what a bittersweet moment the graduation must have been).  Then, after all realistic hope has been lost for 20 years, her boy arrives again as a grown man.  Goosebumps!  And could have been an inspiring movie for those poor paretns of missing children.

I get why people cried in the film – it is a tear jerker when the mom and boy are reunited to symphony music in the background — but the movie pales in comparison to Moonlight and was not a great investment of 75 bucks for movies, parking, etc.

Did not like the movie “Lion”

It’s Academy Award time!

Wife M and I have been our annual hobby of watching all the Oscar Nominated films.  Below is this year’s nominees, as copy-and-pasted from Huffington Post.  So far, my votes:

  • Moonlight, Best Picture
  • La La Land, Best Director (I can’t imagine pulling off a musical, plus cinematography)
  • Trevante Rhodes, Best Actor, Moonlight, Not nominated but I don’t care.

Best Picture
”Hacksaw Ridge”
”Hell or High Water” – Loved this! Held my interest, great performances, great theme.
”Hidden Figures”
”La La Land” – Loved this!  Touching, stars were great, beautiful cinematography.
”Manchester By the Sea”
”Moonlight” – My choice. Great performances, theme, symbols; touching story.

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”
Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Damien Chazelle, “La La Land”  Great!
Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”
Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”  Great!

Best Actress

Emma Stone, “La La Land” Great!
Natalie Portman, “Jackie”
Ruth Negga, “Loving”
Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Isabelle Huppert, “Elle”

Best Actor

Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling, La La Land” Great!
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Best Supporting Actress

Viola Davis, “Fences”
Naomie Harris, “Moonlight” Great!  Couldn’t believe it was same Miss Penny.
Nicole Kidman, “Lion”
Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges,”Hell or High Water” Great
Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the sea”
Dev Patel, “Lion”
Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Best Adapted Screenplay

”Hidden Figures”
”Moonlight”  Great!

Best Original Screenplay

“Hell or High Water” Great
”La La Land” Great
”The Lobster”
”Manchester by the Sea”
”20th Century Women”

Best Foreign Language Film

“Land of Mine,” Martin Zandvliet, Denmark
”A Man Called Ove,” Hannes Holm,  Sweden
”The Salesman,”  Asghar Farhadi, Iran
”Tanna,” Bentley Dean, Martin Butler, Australia,
”Toni Erdmann,” Maren Ade, Germany

Best Documentary Feature

“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America”

Best Animated Feature

“Kubo and the Two Strings”
”My Life as a Zucchini”
”The Red Turtle”

Best Film Editing

”Hacksaw Ridge”
”Hell or High Water”
”La La Land”  Thought this was great. Some beautiful dissolves.
”Moonlight” Great

Best Original Song

 “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land Beautiful
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
“City of Stars,” La La LAnd Beautiful
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

Best Original Score

”La La Land”

Best Cinematography

“Arrival,” Bradford Young
”La La Land,” Linus Sandgren  Wow!!!
”Lion,” Grieg Fraser
”Moonlight,” James Laxton Wonderful, but La La Land was one of the best I’ve seen.

Best Costume Design

”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
”Florence Foster Jenkins”
”La La Land”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“A Man Called Ove”
”Star Trek Beyond”
”Suicide Squad”

Best Production Design

”Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”
”Hail, Caesar!”
”La La Land”

Best Sound Editing

”Deepwater Horizon”
”Hacksaw Ridge”
”La La Land”

Best Sound Mixing

”Hacksaw Ridge”
”La La Land”
”Rogue One”
”13  Hours”

Best Visual Effects

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
”The Jungle Book”
”Doctor Strange”
”Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them”
”The BFG”
”Kubo and the Two Strings”
”A Monster Calls”

Best Short Film, Live Action

“Ennemis Intérieurs”
”La Femme et le TGV”
”Silent Nights”

Best Short Film, Animated

“Blind Vaysha”
”Borrowed Time”
”Pear Cider and Cigarettes”

Best Documentary, Short Subject

”4.1 Miles”
”Joe’s Violin”
”Watani: My Homeland”
”The White Helmets”

It’s Academy Award time!