Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Higher Ground - I have been in love with Vera Farmiga ever since I saw her in The Departed and have been following her career very faithfully ever since. I was really happy that she was making her directorial debut, but I must admit that the religious theme of this film is not exactly my thing. The story follows Corrine, a woman who through a series of events ends up in a very tight-knit religious community (I would describe it as very cult-like but others may disagree). The beginning was a little slow but Vera was conveniently able to cast her younger sister, Taissa Farmiga (from American Horror Story), as her younger self - which was a brilliant move. The film actually became quite interesting when she starts to question religion and her role in this religious community (it starts when her clothing is questioned and she is told to "not teach men" but really develops more when her friend, Annika, develops a brain tumor - that leaves her mentally disabled which was described as "the will of God"). As weird as it sounds, I actually identified with Corrine simply because I am fascinated by (and almost jealous of) people that have faith in things - I feel like life must be much simpler this way. When Corrine ultimately denounces this community - she gives a really beautiful sermon-like speech that was absolute perfection. She never denounces religion or even spirituality because she states that sometimes God has been there for her but it's the times that he has not been there for her that has led her to lead her life differently. This is definitely a film that will stay with me for a while, which is always a welcomed result.

2. The Ides of March - I was disappointed in myself for not catching this film in the theaters especially since I had been anticipating it for so long. I feel like once it hit the theaters, I was already over it - the reviews weren't spectacular and everyone that I knew that saw it said " was ok". I think it was actually a good thing that my expectations had been lowered because I really liked it (not enough to make it into my "best" list though....). No, the story wasn't that original - set around a political campaign, of course a scandal is expected. The reason that it still worked was mostly based on the solid acting performances from every actor along with a few things that weren't expected (at least for me) and it moved things along pretty quickly. George Clooney plays a Democratic presidential candidate with such ease that I actually thought I would totally vote for this guy (too bad that doesn't happen in real life) while Ryan Gosling is his Campaign Press Secretary - also a seemingly good guy, so when they let the evils that come along with politics get the best of them it is disheartening and perfectly cynical.

3. The Tempest - Another film that I was looking forward to, but this one came as a bit of a disappointment. I was excited for a female adaptation of Shakespeare because it is very much a "mans world", but Julie Taymor created a visually stunning, but ultimately a very messy film. 'The Tempest' is probably amongst my least favorite of all Shakespeare plays so that doesn't help. The play is a bit over-dramatic and long-winded, about Prospero who is banished to an island with his daughter. He decides to get revenge on those who brought about his misfortune by causing a ship-wreck on the island. The play is part romance, part comedy, part tragedy in typical Shakespeare fashion - but it isn't all that interesting or memorable. I was disappointed that the film didn't give it any new depth or direction - it had no voice of it's own. It also felt very stagey (is that a word?) and precise. Helen Mirren was obviously great, along with the rest of the cast. At first, I was confused by the acting choices- *Cough* Russel Brand *Cough*- but then it made sense in context (because Russel is the perfect fit for a typical Shakespeare "jester" character). I just enjoy when films make Shakespeare interesting again - and this one did not.

4. The Devil's Double - The only reason I had any interest in this film was because I heard such amazing things about Dominic Cooper's performance as both Uday Hussein and his 'fiday' (body double). That is a tough thing to pull off and I think Cooper did do a pretty good job (not as good as the praise...but still noteworthy). I absolutely loathed the film - it was very one-sided about the son of a Dictator who basically represents the ultimate evil - he rapes young girls and also a woman on the day of her wedding, kills people impulsively, is obsessive, maniacal, obnoxious and basically an all around creep. He declares things like "Allah gives me nothing" and "I love cunt more than God", which is probably pretty insulting to a lot of people. I wanted to scream at the film - WE GET IT...HE IS A BAD PERSON...GET TO THE POINT! But that was the problem with the film - it had no point. It actually becomes quite comical - almost a parody of itself. I would recommend it to acting enthusiasts, but everyone else should stay far away.

5. Moneyball - I have to say, I avoided watching this film for personal reasons - I knew that it would remind me of an ex-boyfriend. He was not just any baseball fan - he was the ultimate fan. Not just of the sport but of the "business" of baseball (he even got a job working for Major League Baseball). Anytime we would go to games, while others were cheering on their favorite players - he would talk about statistics, the value of each player, how every game effected the entire year. I can't say that I was all that interested, but I can't help but be inspired by his passion (and I'm sure I often bored him to death with all my "film" talk). It's sort of a shame that we aren't together to witness the 2 things we love the most come together so beautifully. Brad Pitt was sublime (might be my favorite performance of 2011....definitely a tough one between Ryan Gosling in Drive). Pitt portrays Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's, a team that is struggling financially. The film sets up the "underdog" mentality from the beginning - they are a simply a team that isn't going to win. Along with a Ivy league graduate, played surprisingly to perfection by Jonah Hill - they come up with a way to beat the system and turn the entire sport upside down. They start relying on statistics to build a team of players that are more likely to get on base (and therefore score) for bargain prices. At first, it is a bit of a mess but once the system starts to work the team is unstoppable (they win 20 games in a row - which I believe is still the record). These 2 guys changed the entire sport - a sport that has been around since the Mid-18th Century. It's a lovely and inspiring film about how with enough passion and determination anything can be accomplished. It definitely moves in to the empty #9 slot in my top 10 films from 2011.

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