Monday, November 18, 2013

Catching up with 2013 Mini- Reviews: Part One

Before Midnight(2013): One of the best trilogies of our times is finally complete! Off course, we don't know if Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke will stop after this third installment. Hell, till this time last year I doubt if I knew there will be this third installment. I remember when the news broke that they are already working on this one, my first reaction was Why? Off course, I loved the first two and coming out of nowhere, this third movie seemed like nothing but a bad idea. Fortunately, Linklater-Delpy-Hawke trio proved everyone wrong. Not only did they prove everyone wrong, I guess now people will be much more receptive of any further installments if there are any. I ain't asking for them but I know I will be if they are up for it.

At the end of Before Sunset(2004), Jesse misses his plane and stays with Celine. Nine years after, they are not only still together but also have beautiful twin daughters. It opens with Jesse dropping his son, from his first wife, off at the airport. They are spending their summer somewhere in Greece at one of Jesse's writer friend's house. Once again, we spend a day of their life with them and once again we get plenty of long takes and beautiful conversations. As a matter of fact, I think I can make a strong case for the dinner table scene as not only the best scene of the whole trilogy but even one of the best ever. Delpy's bimbo herself would win half the battle. And then there is Natalia's story to cap it off. The only difference is this time, having spent nine years together, their whirlwind, perfect romance is through it's spring and is moving more towards its autumn. Conversations here are more about how the other one is suffocating them in this relationship. Sometimes it is just a cordial nudging, teasing while at one point it even transforms into full-blown storm. 

It's obviously hard to see what many of us perceive as the ideal, almost ethereal romance going through these very earthly phases but, if truth be told, I like the fact that they dared to go there. And not only did they go there but they did it convincingly. Sure we can go on playing the blame game, which as a matter of fact both Celine and Jesse do plenty of, but what I liked about it is it exposes both the sides. On many occasions, I found myself leaning back and forth during their fight. And in the end we have a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, if we get another film, they are still together. I really, really hope they are!
Rating(out of 5):
Pacific Rim(2013): Yet another film that I had my doubts about when I first heard about it. I will be honest; from the trailer it looked like another Michael Bay vehicle with all the technology and showiness and not much anything else. Sure, it had Del Toro at the helm but you never know. Well, it was definitely better than that. I like the fact that it tries to go against the norm. For starters, Kaijus come from underground; not the biggest of the difference but hey, nobody thought of that before. Their first strike comes down at San Francisco. Once again, it is still in US but at least not New York and when was the last time someone mentioned Manilla in a disaster film? I was happy for all that but unfortunately, that ends here. 

Everything later on is pretty generic. It sets up the whole film in first 5 minutes with most generic voice over narration. As a typical disaster film, it gets over emotional at the end trying to make a big statement. It has all the typical characters, follows certain pattern and even overthrows logic for making a spectacle of it all. But fortunately, despite all that, it isn’t a crappy film. Even if it is just a spectacle, it is a good spectacle. Actually, it is a good action film. Technology used is brilliant, visuals are stunning, fights are amazing and both Kaijus and Jaegers are designed with great care eye for the detail. There is almost no dull moment in the film and as the movie progresses, even though very predictable and unnecessarily emotional, fights only get bigger and bigger in scale. Even though none of the actors was bad, I don't think they had much to do here. I remember Rinko Kikuchi being the big deal at the time of its release. She is quite good as well but except for the fact that she was a woman who had something to do other than being a love interest, I didn't think there was anything different to her character than all the others in the movie. Overall, I think Pacific Rim was worth watching for its technical feat but on the narrative side, it definitely could have been much better.
Rating(out of 5):
Stories We Tell(2013): I have been a fan of Sarah Polley’s work for a few years now. In the early months of this blog, I watched The Sweet Hereafter(1997) which affected me dearly. In fact, it was the first ever review I wrote. Ian Holm’s harrowing portrait of this guilt ridden lawyer was certainly the main reason for it but Polley’s Nicole, the only survivor of the accident, made quite an impression on me. Then Away From Her(2006), which believe it or not also introduced me to wonderful Julie Christy, and last year’s Take This Waltz(2012) further cemented her position. But even then I don’t think I ever expected something like this from her. Well, I didn’t expect something like this from anyone but here I am. Not only watching it but also writing about it.

Since it made its first screening in last year’s TIFF, Stories We Tell has been on my radar. I have tried to keep my distance but despite my best effort, I was exposed to certain facts about it prior to watching it. [SPOILER ALERT] I knew it revealed that Michael Polley is not her biological father. It even told who is her real father[SPOILER END]. So I thought I would be ready for it when it comes. To my utter surprise, it still sneaked up on me and even more surprisingly; this prior knowledge did not ruin the whole thing for me. What I did feel throughout the film but some sort of voyeuristic guilt, like watching something I am not supposed to and despite knowing that full well, can't take my eyes off because it is so fascinating. I still can’t believe she made a film out of something so personal and here is the whole family talking so candidly about it. Candidly! That’s a word of prime importance here as, despite everything, none of the family seems to be engaging much in the blame game. I am sure there are many families with similar stories out there but what impressed me the most about this documentary was the maturity with which this family handles the whole situation and how Polley presents it exploring every facet of the story.

This whole story is about perspectives. Like Rashomon(1950), this film is trying to tell us how the story changes according to who is telling the story? what are his affiliations and motives to be involved in this story? As Polley says towards end that to get the whole story, she felt it necessary to include everyone that played part in this story or was affected by it. It’s fascinating to watch every person associated with the story has his own version of it. At the end, it drags a bit longer than necessary but other than that I don't believe there are many films that made me think about so many things before.
Rating(out of 5): 


  1. 3 movies, 3 very different experiences for me. Before Midnight pained me. It *was* very good, but I don't know if I needed to watch it.
    Pacific Rim is just awesomesauce. Regret not watching it a second time on big screen.
    Stories We Tell is my favourite film of the year so far. I just never expected it to be what it was. The emotions, the ideas, these people- just wonderful.

    1. Stories We Tell is very near the top for me too and for all the reasons you mentioned but it seems you like Pacific Rim much more than I did. :)

  2. Thrilled that you loved Before Midnight. Having rewatched it recently, it only improved for me. Great performances (again), and I also love the direction they took with Jesse and Celine's relationship.

    I wish Pacific Rim was better, but at least it's entertaining.

    I really need to see Stories We Tell!

    1. Nice! I was almost sure I will like Midnight. :) I am happy that they dared to get there.

      We agree about Pacific Rim too. I loved for it's technical aspects and entertainment value but otherwise nothing special otherwise.

      Waiting for your thought on Stories We Tell. I think you will love it.


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