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On this day in history as it relates to the movies...
Five quick takes because otherwise I won't get around to writing about these! Grades are not binding and these are first quick impressions.
45 Years (UK, Andrew Haigh)
That sound you hear over a black screen as the film opens is a slide projector. If it hadn't been for Mad Men's Carousel that long defunct sound might not have been so easy to place. The slides will be important later on but to quote that famous episode:
This is not a spaceship, it's a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards, and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again."
Don Draper's famous monologue could well be a description of this film, too. The past suddenly rushes forward into the present via a letter bearing strange news and the husband (Tom Courtenay) aches too visibly to go back to it as the wife (Charlotte Rampling) slowly begins to reframe their lives between then and now. In his very short film career Andrew Haigh has shown a remarkable skill at romantic drama through the prism of time (the impactful of the moment and the brevity of a Weekend, and the half century of a marriage through recalled feeling). The film is cooly mounted, not just in its color palette and the weather but in its chill vibe; nothing at all is really happening but everything is being considered and reframed. 45 Years opens on December 23rd - Sundance Selects is apparently trying the exact same play they did for Marion Cotillard last year for Charlotte Rampling. Let's hope it works because she rises exquisitely to this film's challenge. A-
Invisible (The Philippines, Lawrence Fajardo)
The first scene in Invisible focuses on a steam pot that's getting ready to blow as we hear a conversation offscreen. That's a non too subtle way to announce a slow simmering drama ahead but typical of the visual strategy of placing a camera in one place and just watching, even when there's little to see. Fajardo looks at the plights of Filipino immigrants in Japan with both tenderness and hopelessness in these interconnected stories. Aunt Linda () ties the stories together as a landlady who permits illegals to rent her apartments -- she is not an illegal as she has been married for decades to a Japanese man -- but her heart is still with the Filipino immigrant community who she checks in with regularly.
Among the stories is a middle aged gay romance, a sad hustler aging out of good paychecks and starting to look pathetic in the stage shows with his young twink competition, and a hardworking young man who runs into dangerous trouble with a coworker. I really wanted to love this picture. It's heart is in the right place and certain scenes have distinct empathetic pleasures. But the director, who admitted in a Q&A afterwards that he was trying to convey the drudgery of these lives, does that too well. The pace is excruciating in the way only art films can be when they aren't careful about when to hold a shot and when to let one go since there's actually no scene there. B-/C+
As I Open My Eyes (Tunisia, Leyla Bouzin)
I believe this is the first Tunisian film I have seen and I was often at a loss for exactly what was happening. To explain: the plot is easy enough to follow but the politics are not. Set during the Arab Spring this sensitive picture circles a young woman who is due to start medical school but just wants to sing for her band. The band is continually warned that they're in trouble with the police -- but they each have different ideas about what they can get away with -- but listening to their lyrics I could never suss out exactly why they were so threatening. The music is a major selling point and the young star is lovely though I wish the concert scenes and the camerawork had not been so repetitive from a visual standpoint -- the star's innocent but flirtatious smile is totally endearing but there are a thousand closeups of it. The combative but loving mother/daughter relationship which starts as the subplot and gradually takes over is unexpectedly compelling by the melancholy older-but-wiser end. B
Eva Doesn't Sleep (Argentina, Pablo Agüero)
Finally a movie for Argentinian Politics Majors who are also Necrophiliacs!
What did I just watch? I think it was good --- possibly very good though it's unpleasant. This brilliantly titled film was among the most challenging films at the fest. Agüero presents a stylized history of Argentinian politics from the 1950s onward through the much-fetishized dead body of Eva Peron and the various men in charge who are defeated by both her memory and their inability to rid the country of her body. It's rare to see a film so fully embrace the POV of its villains -- the various narrators, dictators, politicans, soldiers and so on are nearly all misogynists who hate Evita (you hear "that bitch" more times than you'll be able to count) and despise the working classes who adore her. Some scenes go on interminably but many of the images have a weirdly hypnotic resonance and willfully begin or end in abstraction from lighting (particularly in Gael Garcia Bernal's segment), color (particularly in the Embalming sequence) or Denis Lavant (particularly in the Denis Lavant scene).
The Witch (Robert Eggers)
If you've managed to stay blind and deaf to this film's content, stay that way. Do not read this blurb because it's best to go in cold. The Witch takes place in the 17th century when a Puritan couple, banished from their village community in New England, seek to begin anew. They build a home and farm in the clearing near a heavy wood for their goats, chickens, and four children. Almost immediately an unthinkable tragedy strikes. Debuting director Robert Eggers is supremely confident with the slow build even though he has the nerve to reveal the culprit immediately and then make you wait. Though some of the scenes are predictable once you're inside them, by then the film already has you frozen in your seat with its commitment to the unfortunate collision of Pious, Ignorant, Paranoid Christians and Terrifying Unfathomable Evil. It's hard to describe how spectacularly creepy and perverse it all feels in the last half hour. What a ballsy debut! A-/B+
A happy 56th birthday to the Queen Herself. I was out for drinks with two friends the other night (Hi, Sue & Jordan!) and somehow the conversation turned to Madonna -- I can't remember how it got there -- and the Best Actress for Evita Golden Globe was discussed. 'Her one shot at an Oscar' ...but then of course she wasn't nominated. (1996 was an overstuffed year in Best Actress of course but even if it hadn't been, The Academy probably would have resisted.) But of course it wasn't her only shot at Oscar. They've snubbed her repeatedly in that Best Original Song category though two songs she sang but didn't write won the actual gold man ("Sooner or Later" from Dick Tracy by Stephen Sondheim and "You Must Love Me" from Evita by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber).
Her original songs from the movies in preference order:
And I don't even want to talk about Truth or Dare (1991) not winning a Best Documentary nomination when it's one of the best docs ever made... or at least in the top 5 most entertaining. And while we're Oscar dissing, how is it that Stephen Sondheim's rousing "More" from Dick Tracy missed a nomination? Did they only submit the one song or was it the way Warren Beatty edited its production number to smithereens so there was barely any of it there -- one of the weirdest directorial decisions ever when there was clearly a big festive Madonna/Sondheim production number filmed?
Madonna's dreams to become "A Real Actress" (I love that she has a Moulin Rouge! "Satine" connection!) seem to have ended at the same time her marriage to Guy Ritchie wrapped and the only movies she's made since have been behind the camera with Filth & Wisdom and W.E. But she'll always have the music. If you haven't yet read it you should check out this excellent essay from Savage Garden's Darren Hayes on 'why the world needs another brilliant Madonna album'. And hat tip to Erik at Awards Watch (who've been holding a Madonna Week) for pointing that one out. I hope she writes a killer song for a movie again soon, a song so strong that it would be shameful for the Academy to ignore.
Director Alan Parker, who our youngest readers will probably beunfamiliar with, used to be a prestige director. He's been retired for ten years but his taste in material was quite awards-baity. He's receiving the BAFTA Fellowhip (aka career tribute) in February at the BAFTA ceremony. Because the BAFTAs aren't aired live and weirdly only ever broadcast parts of that show who knows if we'll see it.
So I thought we should look back at his career through Posterized. (We haven't done one of those in a while!)
How many have you seen?
Three arguable classics right off the bat? And 11 more movies after the jump
Don't cry for these three readers who've won themselves a 15th anniversary Evita Blu-Ray. I asked contestants to submit a photo of themselves in the famous arm(s) up Evita pose if they weren't shy. It was super fun to read the stories of Evita moviegoing and musical obsession, so a big thanks to everyone who participated. I wish I had dozens more copies to give away.
The winners, drawn randomly, go like so...
Winner #1 BRIAN, NEW YORK
I had the privilege of traveling to South America last year, and in a two-week trip filled with "money shots" (Machu Picchu, Rio, etc.), the attached photo is probably the champ. It was taken of me on the actual balcony at the Casa Rosada. (Madonna popularized the neighboring balcony, inaccessible to tourists, but Eva used both.) I mean, come on. How much better does it get for an Evita/Madonna fan? I still get chills thinking about approaching that balcony.
Wow! I never thought when I asked for photos that I'd get a real Casa Rosada shot for posting. Well done, Brian.
Winner #2 ROBERT, UTAH
I remember it was cold and snowing a little, and the line stretched out into the parking lot. Evita was important for me because it was when I fell in love with Madonna. Of course I had sort of followed her career, but I was young (12 in 1996) and I didn't really get into her until I got the soundtrack. As a kid I loved musicals and musical theater, so this was like crack. The curtains opened, the audience fell silent and they were enraptured for the next 2+ hours. I saw it two more times.
It's also just a very special memory with my family. That Christmas was ALL Evita ALL the time. My friends and I would stage "Buenos Aires" or "Another Suitcase" or "Don't cry for me Argentina" in my garage. Great times.
Winner #3 ALAN, CALIFORNIA
I was living in London in the 70s and was one of the lucky theater goers to first see Evita. London went wild over Elaine Page when she brought Evita back to life. I love both the theater and film versions. Madonna most captures the look and essence of Evita. Listening to the score always transports me back to that London night and the magic of Evita and Buenos Aires.
Congratulations to the winners!
It'd sing "Another Suitcase in Another Hall!"
Where am I going to??? ♫
Oh who knows lonely singing Blu-Ray. You'll get by you always have before. But you could be packing your bags Monday for the home of just about any Film Experience Reader.
don't ask anymore ♫
Last day to enter folks! I've got three copies of the 15th anniversary blu-ray to give away.
Raise your arms together in unison and sing it with me. Go on, raise 'em -- you know how she do.
What are we singing about exactly? Evita, kids. To celebrate the film's recent 15th anniversary they've rereleased the movie musical adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's megahit on DVD & Blu Ray. From the press release:
Join two of the world’s greatest and most enduring superstars, Madonna and Antonio Banderas, in the epic musical event that is Evita. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Alan Parker, Evita is the riveting true-life story of Eva Peron (Madonna), who rose above childhood poverty and a scandalous past to achieve unimaginable fortune and fame. Despite widespread controversy, her passion changed a nation forever...Now, with a new state-of-the-art digital restoration, you can experience every astonishing scene and unforgettable song like never before!
Awards obsessives will remember that Evita correctly won Best Original Song at the Oscars ("You Must Love Me") as well as three Golden Globe Awards including Best Actress for Madonna. Yes, she's an award-winning actress. Shush!
I've got three copies of the rerelease to give away to musically inclined readers. Anyone can enter but you'll have to e-mail me by Friday, June 29th with the following:
I'll give you an example. Here's me singing about my love for Madonna as Evita.
I look slightly possessed but it's appropriate because that's how I get with Madonna. True story: I practically knocked over an old lady to get to my middle-middle seat on the sold out opening night at my favorite Salt Lake City movie theater. I'm not proud of the old lady part but that opening night was sacred and she was in my way!
Yes, that's a Breathless Mahoney doll in my cleavage. What of it?