October 12, 2013

NYFF 13'- Only Lovers Left Alive: "That certainly was visual"

Out of all the films at NYFF this year, I was determined to see Only Lovers Left Alive. I love Tilda Swinton and I have grown to like Tom Hiddleston. And they were in a vampire movie that didn’t involve teenage angst and glitter? No brainer! I couldn’t make the press screening for this, but did manage to grab a ticket to one of the showings later on that week.

This film isn’t long, but it may feel like it is based on long scenes of instrumental swells and dialogue.  I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, just be prepared to check your watch on occasion. Granted, this may be, because I was running on 5 hours of sleep and just walked out of seeing HER.

However, Only Lovers Left Alive was not what I expected. The humor surprised me greatly and drew me in off the bat. Playing the antithesis of each other, Adam (Hiddleston) is a somber,  rock musician, who is growing tired of the world around him. The word “emo” is so played out, but in this case it describes Adam to a “T.”  Then there is Eve (Swinton) all in white, who still sees the beauty in life and tries to draw Adam from his hole of depression.

There is no real plot to the movie. There are several conflicts that arise, but overall it’s sort of a slice of life piece. You follow these cool, sexy vampire couple around Detroit as they try to deal with the constantly changing world. It’s a very beautiful looking film as well. It captures that Dracula Gothicism while incorporating some elements of rock n'roll. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton have a very nice chemistry.  There is a sweetness between them that is so intriguing, and you get the sense that that the actors themselves are quite fond of each other. This film will probably have a mixed response, but if you’re a fan of old  gothic vampire tales then this will wet your appetite. 

NYFF13'- HER Review: "I've never loved anyone the way I loved you"

When I first read the plot for Spike Jonze’s HER I was immediately turned off. I have always been a fan of Jonze and his originality has a filmmaker. But come on, how can you make a story about a guy falling in love with his computer interesting and not creepy or pathetic?

HER is the story of a lonely guy named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), who is assigned a home operating system called OS1. The OS1, voiced by Scarltett Johansson, is named Samantha, and she and Theodore begins this world wind, unconventional, romantic relationship. When I walked into the press screening today, I had no idea that I would love this movie as much as I did. The film even received bug reactions from the usually reserved press, which I found very telling. There is one scene in particular involving phone sex and a cat, which will be embedded in my mind for a long time (trust me, it's hilarious.) Besides, the comedy, the film is also undeniably sweet and sentimental. Like you're floating on a cloud for a good portion of the film (maybe it's the coffeehouse soundtrack that puts me in a calming mood, I'm not sure.) You just become very invested in Samantha and Theodore's relationship, and you do (despite the peculiarity) want them to together.

The real stand outs are the leads Phoenix and Johansson, who create this romantic world for themselves despite their strange situation. You completely forget that Samantha is a computer and you start to believe that she is this real living breathing person. I don’t know the rules for award season, but don’t be shocked if people start pitching  a nomination for Scarlett. It really is extraordinary work on her part.
And Phoenix is just a chameleon, I swear. Seeing Joaquin in HER and then seeing him right after for the press Q &A was like day and night.  Phoenix was acting a tiny erratic and looked like he still needed a few hours of sleep. He gave a few awkward answers which amused me greatly (some were not that amused I learned later.) 

One thing I loved was the color palette for the film. I didn’t know how to describe it, until Jonze said the color scheme was inspired by Jamba Juice. Perfect description.  The film is a peach Jamba Juice smoothie. Sweet, refreshing, and inspired. This is what I want when I ask for new material form Hollywood. Original content like this, that leaves me pleasantly surprised. I know some people may find this a little too weird for their liking, but I feel that HER will win a lot of people over and may go all the way to the Oscars next year.

October 7, 2013

NYFF13'- 12 Years a Slave Review: "I don't want to survive. I want to live"

Writing a review for this film is going to be extremely difficult for me. Not because of the subject matter, but because putting into words how incredible this movie was, will be damn near impossible. I have been a fan of Steve McQueen for a very long time. Hunger gave me chills and Shame emotionally drained me. A McQueen film always resonates with me no matter how I feel about the movie as a whole. When I heard he was going to tackle the memoirs of  Solomon Northrope the first thing I thought was “Oh, this is going to get real.” As I’ve said in the past, Steve McQueen doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable  topics. In person he is very frank and no nonsense.  Instead of tiptoeing around a subject he tackles it head on and gives you are unfiltered look into some of life’s most horrific aspects.

12 years a Slave follows the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man, who is abducted and enslaved for 12 years. Solomon is determined to survive despite impossible odds and dreams of one day reunite with his family in New York.

  This movie hit it out of the park when it comes to ensemble casting. There is not one weak link in the film at all. Everyone plays their part and it adds to the already heart wrenching story. Chiwetel Ejiofor will be nominated. I’m saying it right now. The Academy has ignored some great performances, but they can’t ignore this one. There is a scene where Solomon just stares at the camera and it’s one of the most heartbreaking moments in the film. Ejiofor lays everything on the table and showcases a performance range, which will blow you away.

  Ejiofor has been in the game for awhile (mostly known in Britain) and I am so happy that this film will give him the recognition he rightfully deserves.  And you can't write a review on this film without mentioning Michael Fassbender, an actor who came in, guns blazing, last year with McQueen's Shame. After last year's disappointing snub from the Acadmey, Fassbender comes again with another amazing perforamance as the slave owner Edwin Epps whose cruelty and ruthlessness knows no bounds. Another performance, this year that the Acadmey can't afford to ignore. I can say with all the confidence I can muster, that Fassbender will be nominated for this role, no question.

 Another person who I feel is going to knock the award season on its ass is Lupita N’yongo. Do not sleep on her people, this woman is going to be the one to watch for. Her performance as Patsy is the best of the film hands down. Patsy’s tragic story  is displayed through the incredible performance of N’yongo.  Just pure, unfiltered excellence through and through.

I could go on and on about each actor and actress, and how wonderful they were, but I’m just going to urge you to see it for yourselves. 12 Years a Slave is not for the faint of heart, but it is an important film and one that should be discussed right afterwards.

September 27, 2013

NYFF 13'- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: "Alan Partridge! Who the f- Alan Partridge!"

While I was spending my summer in the UK, I took it upon myself to see some movies. During the trailers, I noticed that this character “Alan Patridge” would pop up and  give some goofy pre-movie psa about turning off your cell phones. Didn’t really think much of it, until a co-worker informed me that Alan Patridge was the creation of Steve Coogan, and was very popular in Britain.

Alan Partridge, a bumbling, clock radio DJ, soon finds himself in a bit of a predicament when his career is on the line. After throwing his friend under the bus, he is soon swept up in a hostage situation, which gains media attention (much to Alan's delight.) Partidge becomes the head negotiator and must try to calm the situation before it turns violent.

I'm always fascinated about the subject of comedy between Brits and Americans. I wrote a paper on the matter while I was studying in London, and started to notice a lot of the classic characteristics in this film. This is an extremely British film.  Plain and simple. Queen and country. It was intended to cater to a British audience. I saw this movie twice (press and general audience) and there were way more laughs in the general screening, funny enough. There were many fans of Steve Coogan in the audience as well, so that was probably part of the reason. During the Q & A Steve Coogan admitted that he was surprised that the film was making its US debut at NYFF, because it didn’t seem like the type of film that would fit. Steve then started talking about the difference between American humor and British humor and how it's evolved over the years. Coogan also brought up the fact that American love when their protagonists are confident and cool while the English enjoy when their characters are kind of losers and average Joe's. This holds true to the character Alan Patridge, who prides himself on being suave and above it all, but is really kind of a schmuck.

If you appreciate British humor and the nuances that come with it, this film is right for you. It's nothing groundbreaking, and I wasn't on the floor in stiches, but I did find myself giggling and smiling through most of the film. I, also, feel that if you're trying to get a grasp on basic British humor (besides Monty Python) then definitetly check it out.

NYFF 13'- Captain Phillips Review : "I'm the Captain Now"

My NYFF 2013 kicked off with a press screening of Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks. Captain Phillips, based on the actual events of Captain Richard Phillips, who was taken hostage by Somalian Pirates back in 2009, has to be one of the most intense films I have seen in a very long time. There isn’t a second that goes by where you’re not completely on edge. I squirmed in my seat as I watched Phllips go through hell and back, knowing that he could be killed at any moment.

Hanks’s portrayal of  Captain Phillips is nothing short of excellent. There is a sincerity to his performance, which makes you worry about his safety throughout the entire movie. His performance elevates until it hits a boiling point in the last 10 minutes of the movie (a scene which alone should get him a nomination.)

One actor who is getting major buzz is newcomer is Barkhad Abdi who plays Bilal. Once a limo driver, he is now in talks for a nomination! Amazing, since this is his very first acting role. From the way he presents himself, to his interactions with Hanks, you are always on your toes. The movie gives no room to breathe, and that's what I loved so much about it. Not sure how much creative license the film took from the real situation, but it did keep me focused for the 2 hours and 14 minutes.
The problem I had with the film, however, is that I feel that everything starts off strong in the first half, flatlines a bit in the middle, and doesn’t pick back up until the very end.  Despite the massive amount of tension involving Hanks’ life or death situation, I couldn’t help but check the time several times throughout the screening. It did start to get a bit repetitive at points, which made the time feel a bit longer as well.

As you would expect, Tom Hanks was an actual treasure. He answered, press questions with charm and humor (and made a dig about how much he hated stupid interview questions. Don't we all, Tom.) He discussed his experince filming on water and how he prepared to play the role of Phillips.

I, honestly, don't expect this film to sweet the awards season, but at the very least they will get nominations for acting, directing, and maybe camera work as well. Captain Phillips was definitely an excellent way to start NYFF 13.