Sunday, May 30, 2010

#155 Fanny Och Alexander (1982)


Director: Ingmar Bergman

Cast: Pernilla Allwin, Bertil Guve, Allan Edwall, Ewa Froling, Jan Malmsjo, Gunn Wallgreen, Borje Ahlstedt

Fanny and Alexander is the story of the Ekdahl family- owners of a small theatre company in early 20th century Sweden. The family is struck by tragedy when the owner of the theatre company, wife to Emilie, and father to Fanny and Alexander dies in his bed. His wife remarries the Bishop, and the family moves into a home of the clergy, undergoing emotional torture by the Bishop and his way of life. The family struggles to free themselves from the cruel captivity.

This film is full of characters-- a loving, nurturing grandmother, a floozy of an uncle who knocks up a maid, servants.. but it still did not ring a positive note with me. The film is slow, and is over three hours in length. It is full of flowery dialogue and mystical appearances of ghosts, talking statues, and mummies. I wanted to like this film, but I found myself irritated by the language/subtitles, and the plot-line was buried in subplots that were far less captivating. Lots of wandering children in dark hallways. Lots of crying and shouting in Swedish and German...Blagh.

I can see how this film may hold an emotional strength for some, but I was bored. I was bored and unsurprised by each turn. Even the uncle's mistresses' baby didn't bring an up-turn in the plot's action. I even had to shut off the sound and read the subtitles for the last 30 minutes because I was tired of listening to the rambling of the stoggy characters.

Definitely won't be seeing this again.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

#154 12 Angry Men (1957)


Director: Sidney Lumet

Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee Cobb, Jack Klugman, Joseph Sweeney, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden, George Voskovec

One dissenting jury member (Henry Fonda) of what seems to be an open-and-shut murder case sends a room full of men into fury on the hottest day of the year. The details of the murder trial slowly unravel (along with the men's tempers) over the course of the film. To even its audience, the evidence seems so stacked against the defendant, it is hard to imagine Fonda is going to have any luck convincing the hotheads in the room that he may be innocent. With a cool head, however, holes get punched in both sides' cases until a verdict is reached, chairs are overturned, rain falls, and tempers cool.

I was worried this was going to be a boring movie, and I'm feeling a bit stupid for that now. It was captivating hearing all the details unravel and solving the mystery along with the jurors. Henry Fonda is such a chill dude, and somehow, seems so trustworthy in his character. All taking place in one room, the acting and dialogue are EVERYTHING in this movie. It's incredible how the director was able to get emotions to rise and fall so rapidly in the story line. And the conclusion! Whether you saw it coming from the beginning doesn't matter-- it's the bare emotion of the way it comes to place that caught me off guard and gave me such a thrill.

Really loved this movie, and I would say it is a must-see.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

#153 The Apartment (1960)


Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray, Ray Walston, David Lewis, Hope Holiday

C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is a young man who is trying to work his way to the top of the corporate ladder. How does he do it? By lending his superiors the key to his apartment, so they have a place to take their mistresses, of course. All seems to go well until he falls for his new bosses' girlfriend--played by Shirley MacLaine.

Light-hearted and fun, the film takes a surprising dark turn when suicide attempts, loneliness, and heartbreak come into the picture.

Jack Lemmon is handsome and funny--hard to believe, considering I first saw him in Grumpy Old Men.

The whole time I was watching the film, I was trying to understand how this film received 10 Oscar nominations. In the end, I really did enjoy the film, but it wasn't the kind of movie to stick with you for long. A snack movie. Between lunch and dinner. But still delicious.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

#152 Le declin de l'empire americain (1986)


Director: Denys Arcand

Cast: Dominique Michel, Dorothee Berryman, Louise Portal, Pierre Curzi, Remy Girard, Yves Jacques

Having read the plot summary for this film, I'm not sure what I was expecting. It's the story of four men and four women who are all neighbors and friends with very complicated love lives. For the majority of the film, the two sexes remain separate-- the men prepare a meal for the group at a country home while the women work out together at a gym. The entire basis of both groups' conversations are their many sexual exploits, most of which are bizarre and involve infidelity. Slowly throughout the film, it is revealed that most members of the group have slept with one another, only excluding the homosexual male, Mario, who seems to have some form of serious STD as a result of his "cruising" for sex in a local park. Eventually, after dinner and wine are served, secrets come out, and not all parties live up to their former open-minded boasting.

The film is undoubtedly sexually provocative, and I liked that it was focused on the sexuality of the middle-aged. What bothered me, I guess, was the overly-done crudeness of it. I'm not a close-minded or prude-ish person when it comes to talking about sex, but the "normal" characters acted in such ways that I found to be extremely exaggerated and unrealistic. If the value of this film is in the shock factor, then perhaps it is lost on my generation-- I'm sure it had a much different effect in the 80s, particularly the rather slanted, stereotypical view of homosexuality.

I guess I rated this film so harshly because it just didn't do the job. Making a provocative and pointed film about sexuality, infidelity, and marriage-- always interesting topics, sure. But this film just didn't hit the right note. It seemed far more focused on shocking, rather than revealing. I feel like it was, in a lot of ways, extremely reminiscent of the approach Woody Allen often takes on the subject, particularly in the film Hannah and Her Sisters. In some way, however, the banter, the noises, the nudity... just left me feeling repulsed and unenlightened. Definitely an interesting watch, but I don't think I ever need to see this film again.