Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Pretty self-explanatory.

Late night thoughts on Birdman and mental illness

After watching Birdman, I have come to the conclusion that my mental illness is not Hollywood material. My depression, my anxiety and my panic attacks are not caused by any kind of artistic existential crisis. Rather, my mental illness simply exists and it does not need a reason to be.

Unlike the Hollywoodian type of mental illness, my inner voice makes me lethargic and uninspired. I do not ponder about my reason of being nor do I feel the need to prove myself to the world. In fact, I think about not being at all, ceasing to exist in the most discrete and painless way possible.

It is scary to think that numbness can strike out of nowhere, for no particular reason. In movies, there are always actions and reactions: character A is depressed because of X. That’s the easiest way to understand another human being suffering from mental illness. But what if there is no particular reason for mental illness? What if something starts to go bad inside you and you cannot point to a cause?

Before committing suicide, Robin Williams gave an interview to The Guardian where he talked about him mental state. I always think back on this interview because I resent the ‘tortured artist’ trope: Robin Williams did not kill himself because he was a disturbed artist with too many ideas. Robin Williams killed himself because he was sick and he was in pain, and thousands of people across the world who are not artists or actors go through that every day.

What stood out for me was the following, when he is asked if his alcoholism and drug dependence are about his friend Christopher Reeves’s death.

“No,” he says quietly, “it’s more selfish than that. It’s just literally being afraid. And you think, oh, this will ease the fear. And it doesn’t.” What was he afraid of? “Everything. It’s just a general all-round arggghhh. It’s fearfulness and anxiety.”

Of course the interviewer had to ask what he is afraid of, but this kind of fear is not palpable or definable. I do not know what I am afraid of or why my chest hurts or why I want to sit at home by myself for a few days when I am depressed. It has never been as simple as a career crossroads like Birdman’s Riggan.

Obviously, when someone kills themselves you want to ask: Why? – the possibility of someone taking their own life because of an illness is way beyond our grasp. Why? Was he disappointed with his career? Was he disturbed by one of his parts in his recent movie? Why? How could he? He was so talented! The idea that the crushing pain of mental illness comes without reason is disturbing. The idea that this pain can override everything we have achieved in our lives, everything that we are, is scary. I get that.

I enjoyed watching Birdman: it was interestingly done, the acting was incredible and I wasn’t bored. But as a sufferer of mental illness who has lived with a separate voice from my own in my head, I resent that Riggan’s issues were glamourized in the usual ‘tortured artist’ format. It felt like the subject of mental illness was avoided when it was in plain sight and isn’t that how we already treat it in everyday life?

I would like society to reach a place where depression is understood as an illness, not as a kind of crisis that can be fixed with picking the right path or impressing the right people. It is uncomfortable to stop searching for a reason why our idols or friends or family harm themselves in such a way but I am sick of the tortured artist trope. It’s repetitive and I doubt it has done much to help people who suffer from these illnesses. It means we are constantly searching for what is making us hurt, as opposed to getting treatment for something that is completely curable or in the least manageable.

‘How I Met Your Mother’ and the Hollywood Love Fantasy

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It’s safe to say most How I Met Your Mother viewers were disappointed by the final episode. For me, this show had been going downhill for a long, long time and the convoluted writing of the last episode just confirmed that the writers lost control of the plot several seasons ago. Although I am pretty irritated that Ted and Robin ended up together, the fact is that this show had been failing in my eyes because of its ridiculous portrayals of relationships that weren’t Lily and Marshall’s.

While Lilypad and Marshmallow were a model couple, Ted was a complete mess in regards to dating. That’s completely fine – and a hundred percent realistic. It’s hard to get a grip on dating and choosing a partner while building a career and figuring out who you are. The problem with Ted though – and the women he dated – is that he very much perpetuates the idea of the knight in shining armour and the damsel in distress. Ted also suffers from Nice GuyTM Syndrome, often complaining that he will never find the one because no one is good enough to fit his mail order wife box.

Read more on BlogHer.

A feminist look at the Anchorman movies

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Anchorman has become a cult movie because of its inexhaustible quotability and impossible silliness. But there is something else about this cult that has not been tapped on enough: its feminist social commentary.

Read more.

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Review: Sexual Chronicles of a French Family

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Shocking the public with explicit sex is the oldest trick in the book, right next to shocking with extreme violence. It’s boring and predictable.

How about we normalize sex and make it a comfortable subject for everyone instead? That is the premise of the film Sexual Chronicles of a French Family, a French film that tells the story of a mother’s quest to make sex a more comfortable, accessible subject for everyone in her family.

As Evan Rachel Wood put it, people are more comfortable watching extreme violence than sexual freedom. Sex is a taboo subject, especially in parent-teenager relationships. We could say that such discussions are too personal or awkward to have with parents, but the truth is that open conversations can avoid many sexual traumas or hang-ups.

Claire (Valérie Moes) realizes that she only ever told her kids the basic things: condoms and birth control. Otherwise, teenagers are completely blind sighted when they start their sexual life. No one expects her to teach her kids how to give oral but she wants to help them be more comfortable with their own sexuality.

The story is told from her youngest son’s point of view, as he goes on a mission to lose his virginity. He is desperate when he discovers that his father lost his virginity at 16, when he is still a virgin at 18. His father tranquillizes him and counters the typical belief that being a virgin is shameful.

The sexual relationships are dynamic: there is the sexually frustrated and pressured teenager, the passionate encounters of a young couple in love and the adventures of the bisexual older brother. The best thing about it is that there is no slut-shaming, regret or fake, quick orgasm scenes. There’s no myth of the obligation of orgasms for a healthy, good sexual relationship.

When the bisexual son experiments with threesomes with two of his university friends, a girl and a boy, there was no shame. It was normal, it was just sex. And in the end the intent of the movie is clear when Claire says there’s no need for the label bisexual, everyone is simply sexual.

Review & Interview: Taking a Chance on God

McNeill and his partner Charlie
McNeill and his partner Charlie

John McNeill was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up to be a soldier who fought in World War II. He was captured by the Nazis but survived and came back to America to follow his call to priesthood. It seemed he would have a tranquil, quiet life of devotion to God – but his sexual orientation and a craving for justice and equality turned him into an activist, a pioneer and a Vatican pariah.

The documentary Taking a Chance on God tells McNeill’s life story, revealing the source of the Jesuit’s persistence and strength to fight for acceptance and peace. The film’s co-producer and co-editor Ilene Cutler has been following screenings all over the world and I caught up with her at the 21st Mix Festival of Culture of Diversity in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

After watching the movie Cutler took questions from the audience. One man stood up and thanked her and John McNeill for the film. Teary-eyed, he told Ilene and the audience that like McNeill he had been expelled from his own church because of his sexuality. His boyfriend held his hand and asked if he was OK in a caring whisper.

It was a great moment for everyone, especially for Cutler. The project had been 10 years in the making and it seems this kind of reaction to the documentary is common.

“We get a strong response from many people who laugh hard and cry hard. And it’s very satisfying to me as a filmmaker to have humour and heart in a very important message about love and acceptance,” she said.

Although the film mostly focuses on McNeill’s battle to be accepted in a religious environment it also tells the story of a man who is more than his sexuality. He is a war veteran who was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, he is a scholar and a therapist, and his activism started during the Vietnam war. As a war veteran and a priest, his voice was strong and he relished spreading a message of non-violence.

John McNeill, Dignity NY Contingent, LGBT Pride Parade
John McNeill, Dignity NY Contingent, LGBT Pride Parade

So when the gay community rioted in Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, because of a police raid, McNeill decided to be open with himself and the community by becoming a voice in the LGBT rights movement.

In 1976 he published the ground-breaking study The Church and the Homosexual that defied the teaching methods of the Catholic Church on homosexuality. In response to the public uproar McNeill went on the Today Show and came out as a gay man to millions of people across America.

The Vatican told McNeill to shut up and not mention sexuality anymore.

But McNeill couldn’t stay quiet about something that affected him and so many others so intrinsically. To this day he makes himself accessible to people who need his help – Cutler even offered his email to people who wanted to talk to him

“He is very accessible. He wants to help anyone that he can still. He is 88 years old but still very sharp, very with it and very much involved.”

Because of this persistent involvement despite his age, Cutler and director Brendan Fay felt it was important to finish the movie before McNeill passed.

“He does ministry in Florida, he was able to see the movie in his home in Ft Lauderdale, in Miami, in New York, he was able to travel which is not so easy for him because of health problems. And this was far but he did go to Rome for the very first screening in Europe.

“And there he was, in the home of the pope, with a large Italian audience, crying and hugging and laughing and loving the film. For Brendan and I who worked very hard on making the film finished while he was still with us this was an incredible feeling of accomplishment that he got to be there to see this.”

On April 14th 1987 John’s superiors came to his apartment in New York City and expelled him from the Catholic Church by reading out a ‘Decree of Expulsion’ that had come directly from the Vatican.

In the film McNeill talks of that day with tears and hurt in his eyes, but there is no bitterness.  Despite the expulsion McNeill continued his ministry, forging a life in God and LGBT activism at the same time.

But now the Vatican’s approach to sexuality this may be changing and Cutler tells me McNeill is excited about Pope Francis’s recent statements about the LGBT community.

“He keeps saying to me – can we… we need to talk to Pope Francis! And I do feel like he just needs to meet him and maybe there could be this radical change. He’s already so excited about what the pope has said – ‘Who am I to judge?’ you know? Just that one statement was such a big moment for John and for everyone. So he’s so hopeful that at the end of his life we can be on this precipice – is that too big of a word, precipice? – like on a mountain of possibility on the other side for change.”

His partner of 48 years Charles Chiarelli is a constant source of comfort and love for McNeill. It seems obvious to the Jesuit that the love between them cannot possibly be “an objective disorder” and “a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” like his colleague Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in response to The Church and the Homosexual.

Cutler says the next step is to make the documentary more accessible for people who are more close minded.

“I think it’s so important. Every time I see the film with different audiences they say ‘Oh I wish my mother could see this or my father could see this’, so we are very hopeful that we can get it on television, public television where many more people can see it.

“If we could show it on television or other places that your average person – not just gay or gay allies – could see it I feel like it can have a big impact.”

Ilene Cutler and I
Ilene Cutler and I

The Great Gatsby: In defence of the young

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Beware of spoilers for the book The Great Gatsby (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the movie by the same name, directed by Baz Luhrmann (2013).

The Great Gatsby always failed to resonate with my personal experiences, and for a long time I was confused as to why I hadn’t liked such a literary classic. Perhaps it was my anger at Fitzgerald’s superior tone, criticizing a generation of people he obviously despised. Maybe it was the slow pace of the story, that didn’t exactly match the descriptions of the over-the-top parties. It was, I thought, a non-story.

To F. Scott Fitzgerald, the roaring 1920s was a time of shallow morals and material goals. The lavish amount of money generated in Wall Street had corrupted the young trying to succeed in life, seeking the materialistic instead of the intellectual. This is seen right away through Nick Carraway, whose true ambition was to write a novel, but instead decides to spend the summer working in Wall Street and studying the stock market in hopes to gain a fortune.

30- and 20-somethings like Nick, never short of potential, were concentrating on being rich, having a life of luxurious and expensive parties, nights at the Plaza and unlimited booze to get extraordinarily drunk. To Fitzgerald, these morally empty ambitious young adults failed to contribute to society because they were focused on themselves and the irresistible promise of big money.

Daisy’s cold choice of social status over the true love Gatsby offered her results in his suicide. To Fitzgerald this is the obvious ending. Individualism, he seems to imply, will either end in irreparable depression over what wasn’t achieved, or a heart full of cruelty like Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s.

But in Baz Lurhmann’s version of the story, the superficial aspect of the 1920s takes a backseat, giving emphasis to the struggling of young adults to reach their objectives. The green light becomes a symbol of the unattainable love Gatsby craves for, it is the ultimate prize that will make him fulfilled for the rest of his life. Though his means of achieving it are by illegally becoming fantastically rich and fancying himself a gentleman, his final stop is in Daisy’s arms. Gatsby does everything for Daisy, to please her and his ambition, without seeing through his intentions of love that Daisy’s thinks of nothing more than the pure need for material things.

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Lurhmann’s film is not an adaptation, but an interpretation. The ending is not recognizable to those who have read the book, and Lurhmann’s change gives another meaning to the story. Instead of the ending that seemed obvious to Fitzgerald, Lurhmann orchestrates a plot that ends with the husband of Tom Buchanan’s mistress blaming Gatsby for his wife’s death and shooting Gatsby in the heart then shooting himself in the head. The change from suicidal manic depressive to murder victim results in a completely different take away. When Gatsby kills himself, the conclusion Fitzgerald gives us is that individualism tortures the soul resulting in self-deprecation and death. But in Lurhmann’s version, Gatsby is robbed of a possible future where he could live happily ever after with Daisy or attempt to do so without her.

He becomes the young victim of life’s adversities, not a denied ambitious individualist who lost control.

The cruelty of Daisy and Tom and their insensitive attitude towards Gatsby’s death are the central story to criticize the trifling youth of America. But the green light, ever present as Gatsby’s main goal and significant life-long dream, becomes a symbol of the unattainable for the young, who each day seek their dream – be it a shallow one or one that contributes to society. After Gatsby’s death, Nick reflects on the green light, concluding that it is a metaphor for the human pursuit of happiness, their hope that tomorrow will finally bring them success, and the need to run faster to attain their idyllic life.

Gatsby’s death in the pool, in front of the green light, is no coincidence. He was shot within seconds of the attainability of his dream.

As for the book, in the midst of a non-story, with a lack of true entertainment, Fitzgerald only makes the point of youth’s fondness for the palpable. This, however, is nothing new to this decade at least, and the ones before. The fact stands that adults are always critical of younger people’s idea of the world because of their calow attitudes. But by definition, we are callow, inexperienced and don’t know any better. Though Fitzgerald makes a good point, it is somehow an inconsequential point to make today, though when the book was published it might have been considered an original observation.

“The problem is that when the movie is entertaining it’s not ‘Gatsby’, and when it’s ‘Gatsby’ it’s not entertaining,” writes Christopher Orr from The Atlantic, hitting the nail on the head with only a few words. The tedious dragging of the book has no place in today’s entertainment business, so a change in plot was completely inevitable.

But what the older audience won’t see or understand that resonates with the 20-somethings is the life struggle to succeed. The pressure, the need to succeed and the growing pains of having to run faster and faster to reach happiness are strong themes in the movie. It resonates with the feeling of unattainability and the need for immediate gratification of young people. DiCaprio captures the desperation of Gatsby’s failure and his need to have Daisy immediately. This pain just makes sense in this age of instant responses and expected results of the digital era. With his last breath, Gatsby validates the thought that life can take away your every effort to succeed in the blink of an eye.

“The green light across the water,” explains Gatsby to cold-hearted Daisy. “If it wasn’t for the mist we would be able to see it.”

If only for the obstacles obscuring our path to happiness, we would see our dreams as almost reachable. If only a bullet hadn’t prevented Gatsby’s reaching for the green light.

Photos courtesy of The Great Gatsby.

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Silver Linings Playbook – Review

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Before agreeing to shoot Silver Linings Playbook, Robert De Niro asked to meet director David O. Russell’s son. The script had impressed him, but he needed to be face to face with the person that would directly affect Russell’s direction. The movie is about mental health, and Russell’s son has bipolar disorder.

After meeting with him, De Niro told his agent to make it happen.

Surprisingly, Silver Linings Playbook has impressed other people too – it snatched up eight Oscar nominations without any grandiose special effects (Why, hello, Life of Pi) and overwhelming patriotic appeal that somehow softens American hearts. (I’m looking at you, Lincoln). The adapted story from the original novel by Matthew Quick has a simple and straightforward plot, where the ending is entirely predictable.

What makes it a really good movie is how goddamn human it is. Pat (Bradley Cooper) has been newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and just came out of an 8 months stint in a mental institution after almost killing his wife’s middle aged lover. Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) is a depressed widow who used sex as a way to cope with her grief. They are both lost not only in the real world (both of them live with their parents and have no job as a consequence of their mental illnesses) but also in their minds.

Mental illness is not something that is talked about routinely. A bitter example of this is the dinner scene where Pat and Tiffany meet for the first time and bond over which medications they have been taking and how it feels to be on them. The rest of the people on the table fall silent, awkwardly and uncomfortably trying to change the subject. If mental illness was considered as normal and acceptable as physical illnesses, the meds would be easier to talk about.

But Tiffany, who has been dealing with her depression for a little bit longer than Pat has been struggling with his bipolar disorder, has absolutely no shame in her disease and the things she did because of it. Sleeping with everyone in her office resulted in her being fired, but still she likes every bit of herself, even the bad bits. It comes down to the fact that she became a tough woman, she got stronger and found a passion in dancing because of her disease. And despite her chronic bad attitude towards everyone, she loves herself . Can Pat say the same of himself? Can anyone who ever had a mental illness say that?

The illusion that lies within us all is the idea that we have control over all of our feelings and actions. If one feels sad, they should be able to just snap out of it, get over it. Our brains can be controlled and shaped by us, our thoughts can be sheltered from the obsessive, if only we are strong enough to do it. If only we try hard enough.

That’s not real. Tiffany is constantly judged for her nymphomaniac behaviour, but the truth is she was trying to feel okay and less lonely. She had no real control over her emotions and actions. And neither did Pat when he accidentally elbowed his mother in the face in an explosion where he was imagining his wedding song playing over and over again inside his head.

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Judgement even happens between Tiffany and Pat. Who is craziest? Who did more awful things? Who ruined their own life the most?

It doesn’t matter because at that moment their minds and actions were uncontrollable. And they can hate themselves for it, like Pat does, or simply admit to their mistake and learn from them, like Tiffany.

The medication they are both on is a bonding point because they say it makes them feel out of focus, foggy, weird. I have heard this being said in many instances where the mentally ill person is in some kind of police interrogation. Though this sounds like a ridiculous excuse to not treat yourself when you are sick, it must not be forgotten that the very part of us that makes decisions is what is being afflicted by the disease. Medication for mental illness can indeed make one feel odd, different – and this can be scary for someone who is already out of control. Not taking the meds is something in the outside world they can control. Though eventually Pat gives in (at the end of the day, medication is the answer for him) it’s a difficult step for him – and I imagine most people who struggle with their minds feel the same.

De Niro’s part as Pat’s father is revealing for those who have people close to them afflicted by mental illness. He tries his best to bond with Pat, to give him some of his old life’s routine, but Pat is still in his head trying to find a silver lining in the wrong places. When eventually his father gets through to him, it’s evident that Pat was completely aloof to all his efforts but not on purpose, he simply could not process all that was being done for him. And once Tiffany was able to reach him as one of the only people who seem to understand what he is going through, it was easier for him to get out of his head and finally enter the real world.

Silver Linings Playbook is an honest and sometimes even funny discourse about mental illness, and how overcoming it is a difficult but beautiful journey. Not only that, it is a story about overcoming other people’s flaws as well as your own, reserving judgement when it comes to other people’s problems and moving on from heartbreak.

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Photo found at The Louisville Cardinal, courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Django Unchained awakens debate on slavery and racism

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Squirm in your seat, try to hide behind your hands all you want, closing your eyes might stop you from watching the graphic cruelty on screen – but the reality is there and never has it been captured like this in fiction. Though Tarantino’s Django Unchained has been branded as anti-white propaganda, as a vehicle that tarnishes black history, as too racist for its overuse of the N word, as an extreme of blaxploitation, it has brought forward a discussion about racism and slavery that was very much dormant in the mainstream media.

Though we may celebrate Barack Obama being the first African American man to be re-elected as President in the Unites States, it is easy to forget why we celebrate it and how painful this history can be. Django wasn’t a real person, neither was his blood-soaked journey, but his struggle is true to the reality of slavery that lasted for centuries, and despite the deep fictional roots of Unchained, there is much that Tarantino concealed with creativity and blood.

To clarify, it must be stressed that the centre of the movie was based on an imaginary kind of cruelty: there is little next to no historical evidence that mandingo fighting actually existed, and Tarantino borrowed this idea from one of his favourite movies Mandingo, released in 1975. It has been used as a plot device in movies for years, and though for Tarantino fans it might be evident, many have asked – if it was not a real historical fact, why use it in Django Unchained at all?

“We all intellectually ‘know’ the brutality and inhumanity of slavery, but after you do the research it’s no longer intellectual any more, no longer just historical record – you feel it in your bones. It makes you angry, and want to do something,” he recently declared in an interview, explaining the gore and violence in the movie. “I’m here to tell you, that however bad things get in the movie, a lot worse shit actually happened. When slave narratives are done on film, they tend to be historical with a capital H, with an arms-length quality to them.

“I wanted to break that history-under-glass aspect, I wanted to throw a rock through that glass and shatter it for all times, and take you into it.”

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In his fictional Django world, Tarantino believes to only have shown a fraction of how cruel the human race has been to themselves. As my friend Tom Wardak has noted in his enthralling review of the movie, it is important that the relationship between characters is intra-racial, not inter-racial. There is the sadistic white man (Leonardo DiCaprio), the evil black man that defends not his race (Samuel L Jackson), the good German who tends to murder white men and despises slavery (Christoph Waltz) and the black man who enjoys killing white men for revenge (Jamie Foxx).

Though Django is oppressed, he also kills many, many people (some with remorse, others with much gusto)– yet, somehow we find ourselves rooting for him. Even in the subject of slavery where it seems that wrong and right are simple, Tarantino mixes up good and bad in a huge stew and serves it to us – we might be swallowing it with a bitter taste in our mouths, but the truth is that even heroes can be murderers, and even slaves can torture slaves. Though race and slavery is the centre of the plot, Tarantino has risked speculating how it affects different people, not just the evil white man and the submissive black man. It is complex, and perhaps frightening, but it’s an amazing point to be debated.

This is nothing new. Alice Walker has conveyed this complexity before in The Colour Purple. In speaking about identity, race, slavery and segregation, Nettie points out that though African tribes are oppressed by a white colonial force there is still oppression within the tribes. And though the Olinka tribe knows of the suffering of the African American slaves, they are indifferent to the plight of their brothers and sisters. This is essentially Tarantino’s conclusion; a complication of an apparent straightforward definition of oppressed and oppressor.

Astonishing as it might seem, it is true that Tarantino left much of the cruelty from times of slavery out of his movie. He used the shocking images of mandingo fighting as an allegory of the “worse shit” that happened, but he left out many things that are worth remembering if we want to debate the issue of slavery. Sexual abuse and rape – obviously no one was ever held accountable, or ever punished for any raping of slaves as they were considered property. Working conditions, where slaves worked in the cotton fields no matter what the weather and many worked with bleeding hands. The journey to America, where death by “human crush” was common – too many people in one space resulting in suffocation. Many threw themselves off the ship, and others were dragged with dead corpses and thrown off the ship because they were chained together.

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And once in America, they were imprisoned not only by their masters but by law too. They were forbidden to learn how to read. If they were able to buy their freedom, they could be captured by slavers and sold again. Sometimes, slaves didn’t know where they were born, or hold old they were – identity was not needed for property. If you want to read more, click on the sources below.

Let’s not forget segregation continued for decades after the Civil War.

With a symbolic shot of blood splatter onto fully grown pristine cotton plants, Tarantino has awakened a much needed dialogue about the history of slavery and its effects on today’s society. Despite years of progress, Beyoncé is still photoshopped to look paler, Twitter is full of extremely racist remarks, and I have met people who say we should get over slavery because everything is bunnies and rainbows nowadays in terms of racism.

It may just be because Obama is the most powerful man in the USA that this subject has been off the table for so long. He’s the president, he is African American, so Martin Luther King’s dream is done.

Right? I don’t think so.

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Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be a specialist on the issues mentioned above. Also, I am not a Tarantino aficionado.

All photos from Webmaster’s Toolkit at Django Unchained.

Rio – The Movie

RioAs a Brazilian, I’ll be the first to say that I do not wholly embrace my culture; I really hate those “awesome street parties” – as most English-speaking people seem to call them – that we have during Carnaval and I don’t really listen to samba that much. In fact I barely ever listen to any traditional Brazilian music.

But this is not to say I don’t completely cherish my culture. I do like Carnaval; the actual parade, the part that isn’t a bunch of drunk men dressing up as women pissing all over the street, is one of the most amazing things in the world. I’ve never actually seen it live since it’s quite expensive to get a ticket, but I obsessively watch the floats on the TV.

And I absolutely love Rio de Janeiro, it’s one of the best places I’ve ever lived. So I was quite demanding of a film that promised to show the world how my favorite city in the world really is.

Whenever American films attempt to depict Brazil or Brazilians, they simply fail. Let me make it really clear: we are NOT in any way Spanish, we do not SOUND Spanish or act like Spanish people. We do not keep monkeys as pets nor do our gangsters kidnap tourists to steal their organs. Also, please, please STOP playing Girl from Ipanema whenever people go into elevators or start having sex in films; it’s actually an amazing song, not some track you can use to smooth out awkward situations.

But this movie depicts Rio perfectly. There are a couple of technicalities that were wrong because of how the plot is set up, but despite that it’s pretty right on. I was afraid it would be too stereotypical but it’s not.

Telling the story of  Blu, the only male blue macaw left in the world, it exposes Rio and the kind of culture shock foreigners experience when visiting. This is probably why I liked it so much, there’s little else I enjoy more than showing Rio around to foreigners; I love their reactions to it and their appreciation of it.

Besides that, it really depicts Carnaval how it really is. Everyone can dance (okay, maybe apart from me), and everyone is out partying; and everyone has had those moments when you run into some one you’re really not that intimate with wearing a full on feathery bikini costume in the streets, clearly off their faces, getting with some one they blatantly had never met before in their lives (seriously, true story – I saw one of my school teachers in a similar situation before). Obviously, as it is a movie aimed at children they haven’t made that situation quite so awkward.

The design and graphics left me completely speechless. I am very aware that my city is beautiful but this can’t really be captured by a photograph – but this was just amazing. It literally almost made me cry when they first showed the parade in the Sambódromo Marquês de Sapucaí, with the samba school Salgueiro dancing down the Carnaval specialised street. [Sidebar: This year’s Salgueiro samba parade had special floats and costumes to celebrate being in the movie, as their theme was cinema in Rio. It also had a whole section of people dressed as policemen from Elite Squad 2 – which, by the way is an amazing film as well. Anyway, here’s a link to the real thing.]

Something that really astonished me about this movie is the music. I really had no idea that it would be so concentrated on the music but it makes sense, that is another factor that makes our culture famous. It really annoys me that the most promoted song for the film is the one produced by will.i.am (this is not his first mess around with Brazilian music, actually and here’s another bizarro remix I found) because there are so many better tracks that could better show the Brazilian musical character, like the movie’s opening song. The bossa nova track is also amazing – I’ll post it here when I find it.

Anyway, watch this film! Just do it, I don’t care if you don’t like animations.

Inception

“Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” – Dom Cobb

This movie has been praised to death since it opened seven weeks ago, and I could not wait to see it. When I attempted to watch it the first time, I got to the movies an hour before it started and it was completely sold out. And when I say completely sold out I mean completely sold out; all the showings of Inception were sold out, even the ones that were 6 or 7 hours later.

When I finally managed to watch it, in its full glory, I must admit I became utterly obsessed. If you follow me on Tumblr or Twitter you might have realized that.

This movie is too much to watch only once. I have seen it three times. Why? Because of its complexity and it’s many layers. It’s not only the dream layers (four of them plus the very dangerous limbo) but the motivations and guilt that lie in Dom Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) mind, behind the whole operation of Inception, make the movie all the more meaningful. What are our dreams? Are they what we wish for or what our subconcious wishes for? Is that the same thing? Is it important to dream? To use your mind completely, perceiving and creating a world inside your head – is it not a kind of art?

Christopher Nolan is able to construct dreams; he is a filmmaker. When we watch a film, we use the same part of our brain we use to dream; we turn off our real world, understanding the film or the dream as our reality. This is the magic of cinema, and Nolan has helped us see how amazing it is.

I might be very critical, but I think Hollywood had failed, this year, to produce an amazing movie, until now. Which is quite sad considering the amount of money invested in the film industry. Nolan, however, seems to be Hollywood’s saviour. There is not one of his films I did not love (check out his IMDb page) and they are all, most importantly, films that only give their all when  you watch it in the cinema which is, let’s face it, the kind of films Hollywood need at the moment. Films that are not downloadable.

What I though was a shame, however, was that I did not get to know much about the other characters – but I have to say this would probably have ruined the whole movie. Cobb has enough mental fuck-ups for the audience to deal with.

Nolan, besides writing one of the greatest scripts ever, managed to hire the best cast in the whole world. Ellen Page, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon Levitt (who has reportedly become the new teenage heartthrob), Tom Hardy, Leonardo Di Caprio… and the list goes on.

I love all performances in this movie – on of my favorite, of course, Arthur (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who is witty and incredibly charming, and somehow manages to drop people without gravity (you who hasn’t watched it – work that one out).

However, no one’s performance tops Leonardo DiCaprio. I must admit that for a while – in between Titanic and Catch Me If You Can – I did not think much of mr. DiCaprio. If fact I don’t particularly like Titanic at all, and I find his performance quite mediocre. But this is an actor who has given himself time and space to grow, and choose good parts that would allow him to do this. Inception is his break, and it would honestly surprise me if he does not get a Oscar nomination out of it.

The last scene of the film, when DiCaprio’s character’s personal struggle is almost at an end, should prove that he has become one of the best of Hollywood. His face carries so much emotion, so much pain and healing at the same time, so much disbelief and faith, all at the same time.

It gets me every time.

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PS: I am boycotting the Expendables because Sylverster Stalone is ignorant.
PS2: I will be travelling to Argentina for a week on Wednesday, but please feel free to give me feedback 🙂