Archive for July, 2012

After having been laid off at a ship’s wharf where he’s been working at for more than 35 years, a sixty year old French man decides to restore an old freight ship and make it into a couscous restaurant. In the meantime his family is having their own issues. There are too many to list as this is basically a family chronicle even though the whole story takes places in just a few months. It may sound boring, but it’s not. It’s an incredibly honest movie about everyday things. And about dreams, hopes, frustrations, devotion, love and pain. Quite remarkable for a movie with inexperienced actors who seem to improvise in all the scenes and get away with it tremendously.

The movie only has one HUGE flaw: some of the scenes are way too looooong which makes this a tough movie to sit through. It had my attention for about 2 hours, but the last 30 minutes were boring. Especially since the end is by then very predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I would have wanted it to be a three-hour movie or even a ten-hour miniseries. But some of the scenes just drag on and on and on.

Director Abdellatif Kechiche excels in bringing realism to a new level. This isn’t a documentary, nor is it filmed as a pseudo-documentary. It is fiction. But just because of the length of the improvised scenes, it feels like you’re in the middle of the conversations happening on the screen. There’s this scene where one of his daughter-in-laws lashes out at him because his son – her husband – is cheating on her and everyone in the family knows about it. Improvised theatre doesn’t get better than this. Realism neither. The woman just goes on and on and on. But in the meantime, you realize that this is how it would occur in real life. People don’t express their frustration into a few well-scripted lines. People go on and on and on. There are several other scenes in the movie where the characters just talk on and on and on. Even though you want the story to just hurry up , you do find yourself listening to the entire conversations, regardless of how long they are. It’s human nature to be curious about the lives of others.

Luckily the movie has some humor and the acting is superb! As you get absorbed in this man’s life you start rooting for him, especially since you are not sure he will succeed in his dreams. This is the great advantage of European cinema: you can never tell if the movie will end happy or sad. Hollywood still seems to always want the main character to win and prevail, which makes most American movies non-suspenseful.

I’m impressed, but i would have been more in awe is they had gotten rid of the 10 minute belly dancing or the 10 minute running after a stolen motorcycle, etc… and had focused a bit more on the lives of the remarkable supporting characters.There was more to this story then what we’ve seen.

In one word: YAWN!

In 53 words: What a boring movie! It’s predictable and tedious. Even Marion Cotillard failed to impress. Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon-Levitt surprised me though. And all the known supporting actors deliver too. They kind of save the movie from being a total disappointment. But I didn’t expect much, so I shouldn’t complain.

I never quite understood all the fuzz about The Dark Knight, and now that I see the movie for the second time around, I really don’t think it’s better than Batman Begins. Sure, Heath Ledger is amazing as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart is good as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, but Batman is still Batman, a very boring movie character played by a very emotionless Christian Bale. I just don’t understand how popular this hero is. Am I the only one who thinks he’s a hypocrite? Nobody probably cares, but this guy kills a lot of innocent people with his reckless driving in that jeep-looking batmobile.. Yet, when he catches a criminal he lets him live. You don’t actually get to see those people killed, but I’m just assuming. And what about Gotham city? Sorry, if the city is so corrupt and dangerous, why stay there? Good people should just move to the country side or Bruges or so. 😉 There’s nothing appealing about that metropolis. It’s depressing. If people haven’t been killed by criminals, they probably just commit suicide. And those who do want to live there, are just there to make money. So fuck them if their city is corrupt and dangerous.

Yeah, I’m just not a fan. Makes me wonder if I should go see The Dark Knight Rises or not. Christopher Nolan is a great director, but what’s the use of shooting your action scenes at night in the dark? That’s just boring. All that latest technology and car chases still haven’t improved compared to the ones in Bullit and The French Connection, made in 1968 and 1972!

Yeah, The Dark Knight really isn’t the masterpiece everybody says it is.

With the new installment hitting the theaters this weekend, I felt like watching the first two episodes of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Starting off with Batman Begins.

Couldn’t really remember much of the movie until I started watching it again and it all came back to me: the training in the Himalaya’s, the child trauma shown in flashback, the scarecrow gas masks and the weird hallucinations, Katie Holmes as a ‘tough’ lawyer and love interest, the dry one-liners of Morgan Freeman, etc… I just forgot how ‘dark’ the movie was and how chaotic the action scenes were filmed. I also forgot how emotionless Christian Bale interprets DC Comic’s most popular hero. And how a lot of stuff happens that just doesn’t make sense at all.

But I enjoyed it a lot, 7 years after the initial viewing, which makes this a good movie. Just not a great one.

The Wrestler – ***

Posted: July 20, 2012 in 2008, Drama, USA, XXX

This movie has been on my dvd shelf for three years or so. It’s a movie about a professional wrestler who used to be successful in the eighties and has trouble making ends meet now. Yawn. It stars Mickey Rourke. Yawn. But it’s directed by Darren Aronofsky. And it has Evan Rachel Wood playing his daughter.

Evan Rachel Wood is excellent in every single movie I’ve seen of her so far. She’s only in three scenes here but steals the show! This girl should get main leads soon! Aronofsky does a brilliant job in just registering scenes as they happen. He never uses obvious tools to make stories more dramatic or more spectacular. He just shows a guy who used to be very popular in the eighties and now leads an insignificant and struggling life. What makes the movie really good though are the two things that made me postpone watching this awards favorite for so long: wrestling and Mickey Rourke.

Rourke used to be a promising actor in the eighties and now leads a very insignificant life in Hollywood. There couldn’t have been a better choice of actor for this part and truth be told: he is fascinating. His character is a real ‘fuck up’ as his estranged daughter calls him, but thanks to Aronofsky and Rourke himself, it’s a fuck up you can sympathize with. There’s one scene that leans towards cheap tv movie sentiment, where he opens up to his daughter on a New Jersey boardwalk. But it feels very natural. Very honest. He lost the Oscar for best actor against Sean Penn (for Milk), but should have won it. Maybe the industry didn’t like him that much and just appreciated seeing him play a fictionalized version of himself. In any case, Rourke is impressive! And then there’s the wrestling. I’ve never understood the fascination of this form of entertainment. I never understood how people could be fooled in the scripted competition and the over-acting of their ‘athletes’. It was interesting to see how the show gets prepared in the locker rooms. Enemies in the box turn out to be buddies once the show is over. It almost makes you have respect for the show they deliver. Because in the end it’s all about pleasing the audience.

Well directed, well acted, well scripted. This movie definitely pleased me. Shouldn’t have waited so long to watch it.

Entourage is no more. I just watched the last 20 episodes and kind of feel sad there isn’t going to be another season. This was a great show! It still is. I can imagine looking at it again in a few years or so. I can also imagine HBO making another series ten years from now.The show ends with a LOT of open possibilities. So who knows what the future will bring. It’s brave of the producers to end it now and not let it drag.

Both seasons form one unity. Season 8 just starts off where season 7 ended. Vince kind of loses it in season 7 after having to perform a car stunt on his own. He somehow feels the need to start living on the edge. He’s dating a porn actress, takes coke and becomes hostile to his friends. Drama on the other hand needs to make a decision that might finally give a new boost to his failed career. Turtle sets up a new business and is really motivated to succeed. And E just still struggles with his relationship with Sloan. Oh and Ari Gold has marital problems. There you go. To be honest, the story lines aren’t all that exciting and the finale is far-fetched and unconvincing, but the atmosphere throughout these two seasons is great and there’s a lot of cameo’s.

I’m not a big fan of celebrities playing a fictionalized version of themselves, but Entourage kind of made this a trend. It works for the celebrities cameos (Eminem, Mike Tyson, etc..), but it works less for the reoccurring characters (Bob Saget, porn actress Sasha Grey,…) Why would actors consider doing that? They must really be desperate! A great new actor on this show is Scott Caan (son of James) who plays E’s business partner and Vince’s new best friend. That guy was a great addition. Too bad we don’t get to see Lloyd that much in these seasons.

Entourage may be fictional, stereotypical, superficial and exaggerated, but it does give an accurate depiction of a certain LA lifestyle that fascinates and disgusts at the same time. It may not be all that critical, but it entertains. And that’s all a series about the entertainment industry should do. I’ll miss the guys (and the women). But it’s time for all to move on.

It took me 38 years to see Jaws on a big screen! I have waited for this day since I saw the movie for the first time back when I was 12 or so. Jaws! I have three different VHS cassettes and two different DVD-releases. I have a dozen of books published on the phenomenon and I’ve collected even more dozens of articles over the years. I’ve written an essay about it in college. My friends from back in the nineties have given me hundreds of Jaws-like postcards, mugs, bottle openers, teddy bears, t-shirts, magnets, key chains, etc….  I’ve seen Spielberg’s masterpiece more than 20 times. at least. Yet, it took me this long to see it at the movies. But I did and I wasn’t disappointed. I was even surprised to see things that I had never noticed before. Minor details but still. I was ALL ALONE in the theatre room, which gave it an even personal touch. It may not have been the biggest screen in the world, but it was bigger than any flatscreen in any home I’ve been. So hooray!

Still my favorite movie of all times!

Two years ago, I visited the most interesting artist retrospective at the MOMA in New York. I hadn’t heard about Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic before, but I was immediately fascinated by her work. I was really intrigued by the stuff she had done in the past, either on her own or during her 12 year relationship with fellow artist Ulay. Ms Abramovic was actually present during my visit. In fact, she was present for three full months. Not walking around in the retrospective rooms, but sitting on a chair in a huge hall close to the museum entrance. There she sat for three long months (going home after closing hours of course), on a chair, hardly moving, just waiting for the next person to come and sit in front of her. It was a weird spectacle. People waited for hours to just sit a bit in front of this 60something, attractive woman who hardly moved. And even more people looked at the whole experiment.

HBO decided to make a documentary about the event and the artist, which is now being released in selected cinemas in selected cities such as London. It’s a must for anyone who has seen the performance and a recommendation for anyone who’s interested in the build up to a crazy art performance and everything that happens around it.

The documentary is as fascinating as the art performances of Abramovic. It will lead to interesting discussions amongst those who’ve seen it. Is it a true depiction of an artist at the peak of her career or is it all scripted and staged? The truth lays somewhere in the middle. The cameras show Marina Abramovic as a confident, ambitious and level-headed woman, which contradicts to the image people might have of her during the performances she’s famed for. This is a woman who at one time carved a symbol in her belly, just for the sake of art. Or stood naked in a museum room with a table that contained all kinds of products visitors could use on her. Guests could tickle her with a feather or shoot her in the head with a gun. She ran against walls, physically bruising herself or filmed herself and her partner slap each other on the face continuously. None of that craziness shows in the documentary. You get to watch a pretty normal person, preparing for the most important performance of her career. Hey, you even see her in the kitchen making a pasta sauce! Real artists don’t make pasta! They smash it against the wall, lick it and film the whole thing. But it’s good to know artists are just human like everyone else.

The staging of the documentary however is obvious in all the cameo’s you see. The first half of the documentary focuses on the reunion of Marina Abramovic with Ulay. It almost feels like a romance story of two people who used to mean the world to each other, not only as lovers but also as an artistic duo, and meet after years of avoiding. The meeting was necessary, as part of the retrospective concerns Ulay too and he had to be at least consulted if his art could be at display. It’s normal that he is featured in this documentary and he has some interesting things to say. But many of the scenes they have together feel staged. It doesn’t harm the documentary, it just makes it less real. The second half of the movie focuses on the performance in New York. A great event that got a lot of buzz and had indeed people line up for hours to sit in front of the artist. Here as well some scenes feel staged, like the one where James Franco shows up or where a girl takes off her shirt. This might have happened without directorial intervention, but it just doesn’t feel like that.

There’s a scene in the movie were the MOMA curator says about The Artist Is Present-performance that it will be a failure if people consider the performance fake and not real. Well, according to the curator this documentary is a failure. But I still really liked it. I would have wanted to hear more about the artists who enacted her previous performances in the retrospective. You get to learn a bit about their selection and training, but that’s about it. And I also wanted to learn more about what Ulay is doing at the moment and what he’s really feeling, because even though he says he’s proud and impressed about the status of his former lover and partner, he did call her sarcastically the diva of performance art. Which Marina Abramovic is. Art critics and lovers will ridicule me for writing this, but the entire movie made me think of Truth Or Dare, the documentary about the build up to the Blond Ambition Tour of that other confident and ambitious artist Madonna, diva of commercial pop culture. That was an entertaining, funny, fascinating look at an artist at her peak as well, directed by someone else but staged by none other than the artist herself.

Episodes – Season 1 – **

Posted: July 4, 2012 in 2011, Comedy, USA, XX

At times I feel like moving to LA and just write and see whatever comes of it. Then I watch the show Episodes and I never EVER want to work in Hollywood. EVER. The superficiality! The cock-sucking! The shallowness! No! This is a show about a British couple moving to LA to re-write a tv series that was successful in the UK. At the end of shooting the pilot, the network says: “now we have to show it to real people”, to which the writer replies “they exist in LA?”, to which the network responds: “no, we have to bus them in.”. Exactly. Nobody is real in LA.

I lived there. I know. And I don’t care about the exceptions.

Of course this show is fiction, but if you have Matt Le Blanc play Matt Le Blanc, then you can’t really talk about it being non-fiction either. There’s something WRONG about having actors play a fictitious version of themselves. Actors really need to be very desperate to do so.  Moreover, Matt Le Blanc is and will always be Joey. Even this show is not giving him any credit as an ‘actor’. (although he won a Golden Globe for this part) Basically, if it’s not obvious yet: I hated the whole Matt Le Blanc part in this series. But,  the whole show is about giving Matt Le Blanc a new show so he can pick up his career again.

What I did like about the show is the British script writer couple who moves to L.A. to re-write their hit show in the UK for an American audience. They get to live in a huge mansion and get invited to the Hollywood parties, but they are really NOT liking LA at all. At least Beverly isn’t, who can’t get along with the arrogance of Matt Le Blanc, is constantly annoyed by the superficiality of her assistants and starts to become incredibly jealous of her husband’s great relationship with Matt and the female lead of the show: Morning, a surgically perfected blonde.

Yeah. Beverly and her husband Sean are actually funny in their observations of the Hollywood lifestyle. Some of the quotes are hilarious. And there are some hilarious scenes that make you laugh out loud. It’s not original, it’s another culture shock show, but it’s enjoyable. Just too bad they chose Matt Le Blanc to be the actor who no longer has a career. And just too bad the surprising, yet unsurprising finale, makes it an American comedy show and NOT a British one. But I do want to see Season 2.

Actually the whole show is in the trailer:


The Dictator – 1/2

Posted: July 1, 2012 in 1/2, 2012, Comedy, USA

Well, I finished it and laughed maybe five times, which is little for a comedy. I’m really not sure why Sasha Baron Cohen could only come up with this mediocre stuff. The best scene is the speech about dictatorship and democracy at the end. It could have been a cool satire, but now it’s just cheap and corny. I don’t mind dark humor and I love political incorrect humor, but there’s almost nothing of it in this one. Pretty much a failure.

Oh it’s about a dictator going to New York to address the UN about his nuclear program. He almost get eliminated by this uncle who has replaced him with a lookalike. The real dictator can escape and tries to get his position back and gets help from unexpected corners.