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Movies i've seen...

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Posted

Hard Candy. I saw this movie last night and what a nice surpise it was. On the dvd are many previews of standard horror fare and the box cover for the film itself suggests it is but this is not a horror movie, not even close. Is it disturbing? Yes. Does it make you squirm? Yes. Terrifying? Maybe. Troubling? The basic plot is about about an online 'date' between a 32 year old man and a 14 year old girl gone wrong( for the man that is). Is it justified? Is it 'right'? Is this 'revenge' or 'justice'? You'll be surprised that you'll be pondering this as the film goes on and the terror increases.

Such a sordid premise is ripe for cheap horror, exploitation and manipulation of the audience but this film is unflinchingly realistic and methodological in the events it presents going to not only into the mind of the predator but those who'd exact revenge on them.

At points in the film you'll wonder why you're sympathetic but that is a testament to the very good directing and writing here. No molestation occurs in the film ( or anything terribly graphic) and most of the 'horror' is suggestive rather than shown for anyone justifiably squeamish about these things.

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The Proposition. A meditative, violent western seemingly more concerned with the larger ideas its characters represent than they themselves. But this is not detrimental to the film. While it plods along at points, I was taken in by the cinematography here - beautiful, hued colors, against the Australian outback make for some spectacular viewing. So yes, this film like Wolfcreek makes the Outback a stage, only this time for an atypical western. The blog MilkPlus provides a good review and synonpsis of the film:

The scenario of The Proposition is as compelling as it is simple. Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is part of an outlaw gang wanted in connection with the vicious murder of a family. At the picture's start, loses a shootout with the authorities. He's arrested, along with his beloved younger brother Mike (Richard Wilson), by Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone). Stanley has bigger fish on his mind, though, and to that end he makes Charlie an offer. Charlie will be allowed to go free, but he has to return within nine days with his older brother Arthur (Danny Huston), the gang's ringleader, in tow. If he does this, he and Mike will be pardoned; if not, Mike will be hanged. Either way, one of Charlie's brothers will be dead by Christmas Day. Can he sacrifice one to save the other?

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Michael Haneke sure has a way of unnerving an audience. In all his films he has thoroughly made me uncomfortable but perhaps none more so than Funny Games. I have some 'spoilers' in this review so read at your own risk but it really is not a problem - you have to watch to appreciate what Haneke has done here.

The film is probably Haneke's most 'conventional' in plot: a family( the protagonist) is terrorized by two men. Haneke seriously gets under our skin with these two young, yuppie, white males not because of their violence acts (which there are) but because of how they skirt social conventions. Haneke has crafted characters here that laugh at conventions - their cold reason totally unnerving us. But it'd be a mistake to focus solely on the villains or to be more precise, only the villains on screen. The film is really an exploration of audience participation in violent films, being within itself a criticism of the viewer's relationship to violent content. Haneke by some very clever directing and subtle tricks implicates the audience in the very plot of the film. The viewer then is not just spectator to what happens but accomplice since our expectations drive what happens on screen. While Haneke employs the same aesthetic style here we see in his other work, in Games his unique style really comes to the fore. Haneke is not content with merely suggesting our complicity but forces us to actually experience it. Thus, in a central scene - a shocking homicide ( which takes place off screen), it is not the homicide itself that Haneke focuses on but what happens afterwards.

Haneke's camera lingers on the total scene itself not the gruesome body (which still lies in the background) forcing the viewer to digest what has happened along with characters. In this sense then, it is not an implicit understanding of what the characters experience but an explicit one: as the characters move from a long period of total silence to violent cries, we are forced to sit and participate in the act not merely assume it went on. But this is not yet Haneke's masterwork in the film. Having been forced to experience with the characters such a devastating homicide, we are apt to cheer later when the protagonist makes an ostensibly 'heroic' act of murder only for the scene to rewind itself and go another direction. At this point, Haneke has "slapped us in the face" as Hugo said in private conversation. We've been had. Haneke's deft manipulation forces us to see what we implicitly accept when we watch violence and celebrate it on screen. We are complicit in the scenes that take place as they are directed towards us, used to stir our emotions - by lingering on the total scene of violence and making our complicity explicit he makes us realize this.

With that said, I have had some time to think about the film and it reminds me of two recent films: David Cronenberg's A History of Violence and Chan Woo Park's Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance both released in 2005. Both films are slower than Haneke

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As you can infer from mosaic's post above, i've been encouraging him to watch Haneke's movies and Funny Games in particular. Haneke is probably my favourite director at the moment and i'd say he is doing some of the most philosophical work anywhere, in any media. I think it's fair to say that one of his aims is to force the viewer to question his or her separation from the world, something he achieves in an unnerving way by allowing us to watch episodes from his characters' lives in a quasi-documentary or even (at times) fly-on-the-wall fashion before shattering the boundary between actor and spectator. Funny Games marks perhaps the most explicit statement of this goal, and at the risk of including more spoilers i'll explain it in a little more detail.

The film has a fairly basic plot, summarised already by mosaic: two young men arrive at a family's holiday home and proceed to torture, humiliate and eventually kill them. As this unfolds, the question "why are you doing this?" is asked repeatedly. At a point near the end, one of the men makes a mistake and the wife is able to grab his shotgun, shooting him dead. The other immediately picks up the video remote as though something has fundamentally gone wrong, pointing it at the viewer before rewinding the scene. He then ensures the shotgun will not be in reach and events play out again, this time differently with the torture continuing. He smiles knowingly at the viewer throughout.

The effect of this episode is to brutally shock the viewer into realising that he or she was taking pleasure in passively watching the violence unfold - in seeing the psychological and physical trauma of others. The protagonists frequently address this, making comments like "we're still under feature length" when the father begs them to end his family's suffering or even asking if we have had "enough". The net result of being drawn into the movie like this is to feel violated, as it were, and to understand that what is occuring on-screen is not entertainment but an indictment of our easy assumption that we are entertained by watching violence even as we are separate from it. That is, it asks us why on earth we derive pleasure from observing others being killed, maimed and abused and don't instead empathise with the victims.

Anyway, here are some links to other discussions: this one is impressed but this one has seen it all before. Cach

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Posted

The Departed This was a fine piece of film making from Martin Scorcese - good action, good story ( the film is based on the same screenplay for the Asian film Infernal Affiars - itself a good film) and the dialogue and acting are superb. Dicarpio and Wahlberg especially do some good work but all performances ( with the normal irritance of too much Jack Nicholson at times) were superb - its really a tour de force of fantastic acting. The basic plot of the film is simple: two double agents, one in the police deparment ( a detetive that feeds information to his crime boss to so he evades capture and raids) and one in a local Irish gang ( Dicarpio who feeds information to the same department unit so they build their case and capture the crimelord redhanded) work at cross purposes. This simply setup obviously is wildly intriguing and becomes very complex as the film goes along but you have enough here to keep you entirely absorbed. Both characters are well developed and Scorcese touches on the usual topics he does in his films.

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. This film concludes Chan Wook Park's revenge trilogy. The two prior films Sympathy for Mr. Vengance and Oldboy were both great films ( Oldboy is however my favorite). The film, in style, is in between Oldboy and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. In look, it is much like Oldboy ( which is to say spectacular) but in pace is similar to the Mr. Vengeance - though not as slow. It is also Park's most explicit statement of what he's after in these films: the idea of revenge and the question of whether or not revenge is ever justified. I will say that what impressed me about Oldboy is some other significant questions it raised while still dealing with revenge and Park's impressive style. In a sense, you can like Oldboy for a variety of reasons while in the other two films, the idea itself and concern with revenge is more explicit.

In this film, the main character (lady vengeance) has planned her revenge for 13 years while wrongfully incarcerated and at the end of the film we're left wondering if she has been redeemed. In short, after all the planning and built up anger, has she been redeemed? Has it been worth it? Park gives his answer in the film but you can probably guess. In a pivotal scene, the victim of vengeance is told " you look like a normal person" when queried about his crimes ( which are terrible - Park does not spare us here) and he responds " nobody is perfect maam" which may seem a trite and ridiculous justification but taken to implicate the seeker of vengeance especially considering what is intended to be done to him raises serious questions. How have you distinguished yourself from me by doing what you'e now doing? Of course, one may just as blithely reply " no one is perfect" but then you've just reduced yourself to his level - but worse of all, you are not redeemed so what exactly has been accomplished?

The film also contain less explicit violence than his prior two films for anyone nervous about "Tartan extreme." Unfortunately, selling the films as "Asian extreme" undermines what Park is doing here - and make it seem like cheap exploitation cinema which they are not.

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Fearless . This is reputedly Jet Li's "last martial arts epic" which means to me he may simply do films like "Unleashed" and other Americanized fare from now on but no one seems to have a clue. In any case, this film contains some truly spectacular action scenes though the plot is fairly thin and 'message' too obvious. Most reviews have found some sort of contradiction in the film: it is brutal martial arts violence used to show that violence is wrong and the critics have their laugh at this obvious and stupid contradiction. Now, this maybe a legitimate issue but the film, on my viewing, preaches no such thing as "violence is bad" as some abstract moral precept but suggests that the use of violence - martial arts at least, is to build's one own self-discipline and not merely to beat up and avenge your own feelings. As such, it is a criticism of particular attitudes. TAmazingly, I think the film wears this particular point too much on its sleeve and becomes slightly soapy but its worth seeing. If not because, it is Jet Li's last martial arts epic and the man has done some great stuff.

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Thank you for Smoking. This was a pretty funny film that satirizes the entire debate on smoking - both the perspective of Big Tobacco and its opponents. The film is anchored by ( and is about) Nick Naylor, played by Aaron Eckhart, who is a spokesperson for the Tobacco industry and responsible for addressing the litany of lawsuits and public outrage towards the industry. What is well done here are the many arguments Naylor proffers in order to get the Tobacco industry of the hook and to explain his own culpability in the whole thing. We're apt to judge people like this as morally shallow and ask them "how they can live with themselves" ( defending an industry with such an appaling death rate) to which Naylor's response is "Everyone has got to pay a mortage." Other than many clever ideas here what intrigued me about the film is Reitman's exploration of Naylor as a person - in the interactions with his son which give a fuller perspective on how Naylor has chosen to live in and the reasons he gives for continuing.

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The Prestige. This was a fine film by Christopher Nolan about two 19th century competing magicians obsessed with outdoing each other. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play trival magicians whose attempt to outdo each other and learn the other's secrets take very grave turns. These two really are not likeable men and go to quite extraordinary lengths to outdo each other. But really, this is all background to what Nolan has achieved here. At another site, a person called the film a "feature length illusion" and I agree.

*Major (thematic) Spoilers*

At the end of the film you've been had but not by some grandiose trick but by you expecting one even as the narrative continously reminds us not to and shows its hand quite early on. Throughout the film we are apt to conversations about what makes a good trick - creating wonderment no matter how simple the illusion itself - but even as the film tells us to "watch closely" ( meaning listen also) we're apt to disregard what we've already figured out in anticipation for something grander. * Major Spoilers*

After the film, I'd suggest that viewers compare Jackman's character and his perspective to the audience's. Should get some traction thinking about that.

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Borat. Well, anyone familair with Ali G should know what to expect here: biting, offensive humor. No one is safe so expect to be uncomfortable but busting up at what you're seeing and the levels Cohen is willing to go. Surprisingly, this film is currently number one in America in grand irony of course, since some of the most biting segments are at the expense of some not so good representatives of attitudes here. Quite a fun time.

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I saw Borat the other night, and it was very funny. The wrestling scene is unforgettable (who knows, it might even scar some folks for life), and I found the Mississippi church scene to be genuinely frightening. What I want to know is how they got all those people to be in the movie. I mean they had to agree to be in it, didn't they? Were there any arrests during filming?

Michael

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No, they didn't have to agree to be in it. The reactions are largely genuine. That's what makes it so funny, and how Sacha Baron Cohen manages to expose xenophobic ignorance through his faux portrayal of an anti-Jewish Kazakhstani.

N.B - I say anti-Jewish rather than anti-semitic because, strictly speaking, muslims are semites

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I watched Wordplay the other night. You wouldn't think that a documentary about crossword puzzles would be that interesting, but I thought Wordplay was very entertaining. It features people like Mike Mussina, Ken Burns, Jon Stewart and Bill Clinton. Clinton had some interesting remarks about how is approach to solving crossword puzzles was similar to how he approached problems in the White House. Also very interesting is the look at how they actually create crossword puzzles. Much of the film follows Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor at the NY Times. He apparently has an undergraduate degree in enigmatology, which is the study of puzzles.

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N.B - I say anti-Jewish rather than anti-semitic because, strictly speaking, muslims are semites

Strictly speaking, muslims are adherents of a particular religion (Islam) and not an ethnic group or racial type. Still your choice of anti-Jewish is appropriate, just not for the reason given.

Angakuk

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He apparently has an undergraduate degree in enigmatology, which is the study of puzzles.

Wow, where does one get one of those?

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Wow, where does one get one of those?

Indiana University, apparently.

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Wow' date=' where does one get one of those?[/quote']

Indiana University, apparently.

Well, kinda. . .he made his major up by himself, so anywhere with an individualized major program would work, I guess.

Shortz majored in economics at Indiana University and had completed all the requirements for his degree when he learned of the Bloomington campus's Individualized Major Program. This challenging program gives students the opportunity to create their own degree. Shortz's lifelong dream of having a career in puzzles led him to create a degree program in "enigmatology"; the art and science of puzzle construction.

from Rusty's article

Thanks for looking up the info. though.

I was wondering because I thought it odd that there would be enough demand for such a major that there would be one already packaged. What would one do with such a major except to do what he did? I didn't think there was that much demand for that occupation.

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Stranger Than Fiction. The bad reviews this film has gotten have been pretty nasty and I don't know why. Some predictably have logic-chopped and have tried to ruin the clever premise of the film which is this: an author (Emma Thompson) is writing a book but unbeknownst to her the character (Harold Crick) she's writing about his actually alive ( Crick played by Will Ferrell) and she is writing his story. Needless to say he discovers this and is petrified and tries to figure out what's going on. This is the basic idea but behind all that is a wonderful love story with some wonderful chemistry shown between Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal - an anarchist baker in the film. The latter is good-humored but some criticisms of the film have taken the anarchist baker to be a substantial character and her glibly saying she deciced to bake instead of going to Harvard to save the world seriously. In any case, the film is very funny and I liked the premise as well as the ending - which some are not too happy with.

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Well, talking about realism. I just came back from Deja Vu - the new Tony Scott and Denzel Washington flick. Remarkably, Scott seems to have put the coffee down in the editing room and hence, for large streches of this film the audience is able to sit and soak in the excellent visuals and 'follow' the story - or better hear attempts to convey it. This is true sci-fi mumbo jumbo based on, it appears various, physical theories that are relatively still in infancy ( such as string theories and multiple universes) and it has to do with time travel - and predictable the consequences of and reasons to. Not bad a film. Not a great one either.

Denzel Washington does well and Scott has managed to restrain himself. Perhaps, one of my favorite scenes in the film is an irritated Washington yelling at his FBI Ph.d physcists to tell him what they're talking about. Talk of worm holes, space folding, the non-linearity of time, all get explored to the chagrin of Washington who like the audience just wants to know what it means - its application. Scott obviously uses the scene to let the audience in on just the idea he's pushing but its clever and amusing. Here again, depending on how you're liking what's going on you could say "that's cool" as many expressed in the theater or you can roll your eyes and ask who was the physic consultant ( I hear it was Brian Greene btw). To help you judge, one particularly fun scene is Washington chasing a man on the highway four days in the past while in the future. How is this done? Well, he hooks himself up with some past seeing goggles or survelliance equipment, drives along the highway with a nifty audio setup that allows his buddies ( the physicists) to tell him what areas to point so they can get the video back where they are ( they are recording the past as they look directly at it). In 'simple' terms, the man is recording a parrellel time zone - which is in the past. Riiiiiggght.

If this sounds too ridiculous, stay away but it was fun.

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The Korean film

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I've passed over

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I

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I didn't realize he was remaking Funny Games. Perhaps, he's trying to update or make it contemporaliy relevant considering he has expressed concerns that the form of the film itself maybe used directly in service of what he endeavored to critique. But I'll have to read up on this.

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I have not seen any of Haneke's films so I googled him and found this review of Funny Games. How would you counter this critique, Kkirilovv? Since I haven't seen his work yet, I'm just trying to get a feel for different points of view on his work.

http://www.deep-focus.com/flicker/funnygam.html

BTW, Kkirilovv- welcome to TGL!

AllBlue

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I think the main criticism - as exemplified in the link you gave (and i gave earlier), AllBlue - is that Funny Games is more an artwork than a horror movie indicting its own genre. (The objection is that "[t]he whole piece bears the patina of Art, negating any real horror or discomfort on the part of the audience".) The pretty obvious response is to ask why a movie cannot be an artwork, explicitly or otherwise, and complaining that we don't go to the cinema to be shown art is just another indictment of our presuppositions when approaching a film, only now on a deeper level (and i suspect exactly as Haneke intended). The viewer who responds by saying "i already know that i'm complicit in the violence i see in movies" is missing the point that in saying this he only demonstrates that he still has an expectation of what his experience will be like. His reaction to being granted no leeway at all by the director - watching Funny Games can make you feel like you're straitjacketed, so to speak - is to dismiss it as a gimmick rather than note that the lesson is that we draw on and require this wriggle room to avoid the consequences of our voyeuristic viewing. Whichever way we look at it - either being shocked that we haven't been shocked before or denying that the shock has taught us anything new - we are attempting to find a way out of Haneke's trap by insisting that we have the last word, when such is the power of his direction in this "artwork" that he gives us no such opportunity. That's the difficult thing to fully appreciate: there's no redemption in Funny Games, and nowhere to hide.

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