Thursday, February 18, 2010

Movie Week Extravaganza - Film 1

Manufactured Landscapes (2006)
Directed by Jennifer Baichwal

Photographer Edward Burtynsky travels the world observing changes in landscapes due to industrial work and manufacturing.

I'd never heard of this film before but was intrigue by the title alone. Being a big fan of landscape photography I had to see what this was all about.

The opening shot I thought was an interesting long shot of a factory. We don't know exactly where it is or what they are really building but we know it's a factory and it shows the great scope of it and how monotonous it is.

I really liked the color yellow and how much of a presence it had in the beginning of the film. The factory workers, the buildings, the flowers and it all leading to the yellow strip down the street. It really is such a bold and attention grabbing image (seen on poster above).

Two shots that really impressed me were near the beginning and near the end when he transitions from what we think we're seeing is something being filmed but it slowly pans back to reveal people looking at a photo he took as part of his exhibition.

It was really interesting and shocking to how the garbage and recycled material actually does become a permanent fixture of the natural landscape. Almost like becoming their own city scapes, hills, mountains, etc. onto their own. It almost doesn't seem too far off from the images we seen in the animated film Wall-E in the beginning of that film, kind of scary when viewed this way.

I loved the pattern and rythm of the factory workers throughout China. At times there was even some A-Symmetrical images being filmed. The photographer Edward Burtynsky really captured that well, and had some amazing and beautiful images of trash, natural resources, and recycled items that to a person not really seeing it in that light would just be simply see those things for what they are. I think he really opened up the viewers eyes to what these factories and the industry in such Countries as China are doing to the environment and how it's normal and unfortunately accepted to have the natural World being swallowed up by the manufactured one.

Another amazing aspect of the film was how China was building this new dam (the largest in the World) and how it required the destruction of towns and villages that have been around for centuries to be wiped right out like they never exsisted to make way for a new river for Cargo ships and Oil Tankerds to come through. I mean I can't imagine what or how these people could start their lives over, and have no choice about it when they've only known one way of life for so many generations. So not only is the landscape effected but the people are as well to be forced to move on for the sake of modern progress. Including the people of Shanghai who live in the poorer areas that are being torn down and are also forced to move to these new complexes to accomodate it's ever expanding population.

Overall it was a fascinating and eye opening look at the industry in China and the effect it has on the natural landscapes and I am glad I watched it. My only minor complaint was the pace of the film was a bit slow at times and I felt the editing could have been tighten up somewhat. But I still thought it was a very good documentary, it definitely made me see things differently that I normally don't see or even know about.

Movie Week Extravaganza - Film 2

O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen

Loosely based on Homer's 'Odyssey' the movie deals with the grotesque adventures of Everett Ulysses McGill and his companions Delmar and Pete in 1930s Mississipi. Sprung from a chain gang and trying to reach Everetts home to recover the buried loot of a bank heist they are confronted by a series of strange characters.

This is a Coen Brothers film that has taken me several views to truly appreciate it. I think you need to see their films at least twice to get a full appreciation and even understanding of them. This is definitely one of their oddest and most unpredictable films they've done, and that's saying a lot.

As was the focus of a special feature on the dvd, is the look and color of the movie. It really is it's own character and truly adds a great deal to the overall look and feel of the film. You really get that sense of the dry and dusty heat of the South. You don't see many films like that anymore, it reminds of a Leone Western which were shot out in Italy back in the 60's. How they created that warm, brownish tone was pretty amazing. Nobody shot digital back in the late 90's/early 00's so it was a bit more of a laboured process. I know a lot of film makers are shooting digitally now, but I still prefer the look of it shot on film. It just looks and feels more organic and not so smooth, crisp and detailed.

Anyway, like I said it's taken me a few views to really enjoy this film. The first time I saw it I actually didn't really care for it. It's definitely an aquired taste but now that I appreciate the Coen's more than I did back in 2000, and really enjoy their sense of humor a lot more now.

The cast really is terrific, lead by George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson. Such over the top and color characters that have so many great and hilarious moments throughout, which are often seen in the Coen's films. John Goodman (who's been in several Coen Bros. films) was so great in his role. He doesn't get a lot of screen time but he steals every scene he's in, the guy has such an amazing presence, he seriously cracked me up. For me Clooney is a great actor but I always liked him more in a Coen Bros. film, he gets to play much loonier characters and it's so much more fun to watch him. He must have a blast whenever he does a Coen Bros. film. This is probably his funniest role to date.

Like I said the film is so unpredicatable. Each step the three lead characters takes leads them into some bizarre new adventure after another. It's not a dull film, although I thought the third act does drag a bit, and was entertained throughout. I loved the dialogue as well, nobody writes like the Coen's, and I think they are two of the best screen writers out there. They write such quirky and intelligent dialogue, pretty much better than anyone else.

Not my favorite film by them but it's grown on me over the years and I appreciate it much more now. If you didn't like it that much on first viewing (like myself) give it another shot sometime.

Movie Week Extravaganza - Film 3

One Hour Photo (2002)
Directed by Mark Romanek

Seymour 'SY' Parrish has been doing photo development for 20 years. He has a vast knowledge of modern photography and develops photos at a local department store for a living. But SY lives a sad and lonely life and begins spying on the Yorkin family, his biggest customers who seem to have everything in the world. SY begins to feel that he wants to be in the Yorkin's life, but when he discovers that the Yorkins are not as perfect as they seem, he becomes a man on a mission to expose the imperfections of the Yorkin family that could tear them apart.

This is a film that I have seen a few times over the years, as it's one of my favorites to come out of the last decade. A unique thriller that has you guessing every step of the way.

"Nobody ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget" - Sy Parrish

Great quote and a great moment in the film. I thought it was so true and people only take photos of the best moments of their life, not all the moments and things around them that really make up life. Because there's probably a small percentage of our lives that is truly great. That scene really resonated with me a lot.

One thing that stood out to me was the lighting of this film. In the beginning when Sy (played by Robin Williams) is introduced he's always in unflattering flourescent type lighting. It has a cooler tone to it and the way Sy looks it feels like he's seen very little natural light in many years. However, the scenes with the family he becomes obsessed with (the Yorkins) is lit with much warmer, friendlier tones that are more inviting. As the film went on and Sy got closer and closer to the family the two tones sort of blended together.

Robin Williams is absolutely terrific in this role. He's at times just outright creepy but likeable enough that you sympathize with his character and feel his sadness and lonliness. His transformation and how he immersed himself into this character was incredible and it really shows on screen, he did a great job. I think it's one of his best peformances.

I also really enjoyed the indepth look into the photo processing techniques which for us photographers is pretty fascinating. I also liked the funny outlook they had on the different people that got their photos developed. It's probably not far off from reality.

The writing in my opinion was really well done. I though Sy's narrative throughout was really interesting and you get a deeper understanding of the character and that photos really are his greatest passion and that he cares a great deal about them and takes a lot of pride in his work. It was interesting to show that his day dreams and fantasies become more vivid as the film goes along, to the point where he almost forces himself into the family he's stalking. His actions become more and more bold to the point he loses his job.

The side story with the family was a little cliched for me but I think it served the overall story well enough.

This was the Directors first feature film (he directed music videos before) and I thought it was a great start for the rookie film maker. Oddly enough he hasn't directed another film since but finally directed another one last year called Never Let Me Go which is due out this year. I thought his music video skills kind of came in handy for this type of film and there's some interesting visuals that perhaps other film makers wouldn't try or even think about where I thought it complimented the film. Perhaps the most obvious scene being the dream sequence where Sy's eyes start bleeding. I'm not sure what it totally means (although I have my theories which I'll keep to myself at this time) but it's a great and startling visual.

This is a film I've enjoyed each time I've seen it. It has an eerie vibe to it throughout the entire film that keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes your skin crawl, even on multiple viewings. I'm sure I'll see this a few more times over the years, it's a film that's easy to visit again.

It also makes me never want to take my personal photos to a printing place again, haha.

ps- ju-jubes do go well with popcorn!