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Entries in Yossi & Jagger (3)

Monday
Mar112013

Capsules: 28 Hotel Rooms, Yossi, Caesar Must Die

In an effort to review every new film I see this year --  a task I have never accomplished but there's a first time for everything -- I will resort to capsules like these when I haven't reviewed properly. (I realize that my "Oscar" section of reviews implies that all films should be seen through this prism. This implication is not literal or an endorsement -- it's just something that's fun for me and some of you to think about.)

YOSSI
We're ten years on from Yossi & Jagger and Yossi is now a doctor, who buries himself in work to avoid living life or moving beyond that love cut short. When a chance encounter with Jagger's mother shakes him from his stupor, he ends up on holiday. Some of the notes are beautifully played -- the early tearful scene with Jagger's mother is super -- but Yossi is a maddeningly passive protagonist. The film happens to him rather than with hi, or even with his permission. He stubbornly refuses to participate in his own story which makes the redemptive new romance a really tough pill to swallow. Why would this vivacious younger man be interested in Yossi when Yossi himself isn't interested... in anything!? 

Yossi & Jagger & Tom

Grade(I would have loved to heartily endorse this movie because Yossi & Jagger was such a perfectly pitched mini-gem but it frustrated me despite a few really strong moments. So if you haven't seen Yossi & Jagger, please do rent it.)
Best in Show: Oz Zehavi almost sells you on the unfortunately lopsided romance as the young soldier Tom but I have to hand this one (emphatically) to Orly Silbersatz Banai as Varda, Jagger's mother who packs a surprising amount of drama into her two scenes. The rug is pulled out from under her but since she kept pretending the rug didn't even exist for ten-plus years...
Oscar Chances: Writer/director Eytan Fox has made 4 feature-length films prior to this one, and most of them have received international release, but he has yet to be selected for submission to represent Israel at the Oscars.

28 HOTEL ROOMS
A novelist (Chris Messina) and an accountant (Marin Ireland) have a fling in a hotel room on a business trip. She tells him it's one and done but they keep meeting on subsequent trips and a confusing, passionate relationship develops. It lasts for years. This is undoubtedly a 'one for the reel' project for both actors and sometimes plays like an acting exercize albeit a good one. Though it never quite transcends its gimmick (the title is the structure), it's affecting despite or maybe even because of the limitations of scope; their lives outside of these rooms begin to feel like fantasy or, in the inverse, like intrusions of reality on fantasy. (But honestly, for a drama that hinges on sexual compatability, it could've used a couple more sex scenes, or longer ones that developed the relationship. This is possible to do in sex scenes. See the great Israeli drama Late Marriage (2001) which is the film I always think of when I think of sex scenes that function as integral narrative and character development, like a great song in a musical or a perfect setpiece in an action film.

GradeB
Best in Show: It's a complete duet so it'd be rude to pick one!
Oscar Chances?: This was from 2012 and got a teensy-teensy release. Now available on DVD.

CAESAR MUST DIE
This Berlinale winner from the Taviani brothers recreate an art therapy program of sorts in which inmates perform plays. By filming at a prison where they saw a play performed by inmates (a different play) with some real inmates and some actors, some play scenes and some scripted discussion of play scenes the movie effectively walks a line between documentary and drama. The line is no highwire though. The reality and fiction of the program and this particular production is blurred enough that the film never has the knife's edge of real danger that you'd think you'd feel watching real prisoners acting out murder plots, politics and betrayals. As we crosscut between auditions, production, and both formal and informal rehearsals we see the art begin to bleed into life for the inmates. The end result is intermittently moving as most productions of great work tend to be but it feels strangely abitrary; why wasn't it just a documentary?
Grade: B
Best in Show: Salvatore Striano as Brutus. There's a reason he became a professional actor after prison.
Oscar Chances?: Italy submitted this Cannes winner for Oscar consideration last season. It was one of the highest profile titles to not make the 9-wide finalist list.

Tuesday
Feb052013

Burning Questions: What Kind of Sequels Should Be Made?

I've hijacked Michael C's column this week because I have a burning question of my own to ask. 

With that hot buzz for Before Midnight from Sundance warming the expectant hearts of even the coldest cinephiles this winter (it'll win more fans in warmer temperatures next month at SXSW), I've been thinking about movie sequels. Why do we get them, how we receive them, and whether or not we need them.

The first and usually sole reason of "why" is money. Humans are creatures of habit so it's an organic reality that nearly every artform indulges in sequels (whether they're named as such or not) and has since long before "branding" was a term people without business acumen understood. Branding is so common and catch-phrasey now that even non-sequels feel like sequels. What is, for instance, each new Johnny Depp and Tim Burton collaboration but an endless series of sequels Johnny & Tim: Now...Vampiric. Johnny & Tim: Now... Caloric... Now... Johnny & Tim: in Garish 3D. Usually sequels make enough money to suggest that Hollywood should make them forever and preferrably split each sequel up into two parts to double investment. And, if they can control costs, make them for everything that was successful. 

But what kind of sequels should be made?

Maybe it's the edge-of-my-seat expectant bliss/wracked nerves regarding Before Midnight (dare I trust the critics who've already seen it? Critics are least trustworthy, I find, during the heat of festival mania and during the heat of awards season when constant conversation/groupthink and jetlag/movie-binging are most likely to affect them.) Maybe it's my now comical tries at seeing Yossi (things keep going wrong and I still haven't seen it!) which is the ten-years later sequel to the charming Israeli gay drama Yossi & Jagger (2003). The point being that I've decided that my absolute favorite kind of sequel is the "let's drop in on these characters again for no particular reason" When these films are done right it feels like they're done for the art of it, to illustrate what changes and insights the passage of time brings. And because we love spending the time with the characters. Now of course this doesn't always work out. The Evening Star was a big letdown for anyone expecting Terms of Endearment 2. But in concept, why not revisit one of the most indelible characters of 1980s cinema?

Terminator 2: The Return of Sarah Connor

Come to think of it this stance also helps explains my super-intense abiding love for Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) which is a sequel of the traditional kind (i.e. this will make TONS of money!) but which I would rank -- easily -- near the tippity top of a list of the greatest sequels ever made. And that's largely because of the authentically shocking evolution of character. The Sarah Connor therein is nothing like the one we met in 1984 but once you're past the 'what the hell!?'reveal the new one feels like a natural progression nonetheless to traumatic events from the first film. And it immediately shows how lazily written most characters are in sequels where nothing between films has ever affected them. Big blockbusters so rarely feel that deeply rooted in actual human drama. 

What kind of sequels do you long for?
Which film characters would you love to drop in on again?

 

Sunday
Apr222012

Linkers Assemble!

The Guardian Loki himself Tom Hiddleston wrote a piece defending the superhero movie genre which he thinks ought to be taken more seriously. Well written and impassioned but let's play devil's advocate for a moment. Isn't the money enough? Wouldn't it be nice if people could respond to dramas about the human condition without the comforting distance of genre?
Slant 15 famous movie monkeys in honor of the just released Chimpanzee
Ultra Culture makes a funny re: "exclusive image" of Katy Perry. Honestly I rarely open emails with the word "exclusive" in the header. They'll have to drop it from Websters soon since it lost its meaning somewhere at the tail end of the 20th century.

Pajiba screw context. Just appreciate the Jennifer Lawrenceness of it all
IndieWire somehow in the midst of my manic schedule, I missed the news that Eytan Fox had made a sequel to the wonderful Yossi & Jagger (2003) called simply Yossi with Ohad Knoller reprising his role as the closeted gay soldier (this time back in civilian life) 
Insanely Gaming popular websites as dresses. This is quite awesome. I vote Facebook 'best dressed'
IndieWire the controversies surrounding HBO's Girls. I liked the debut episode but it really did feel like Tiny Furniture Redux (without the fun visuals that came with the title territory) 
Low Resolution did you ever read Joe's awards for the film year? Yes, I know I still have to finish mine. Ugh.
Monkey See terrific piece on Zac Efron's transition (possibly) to full grown adult movie actor  

Finally... Odin's Boys Loki (Tom Hiddleson) & Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are having some serious giggles at one of many premieres for The Avengers

 

 

 

Or maybe they're laughing about Joss Whedon's evil robot from the future sketch for Equality Now?