Archive for the ‘Social Drama’ Category

Getting a Netflix account will make up for not traveling far this winter! No need to re-visit Salvador do Bahia if you got movies like Ó Paí, Ó on your tv. Not sure what other ‘world cinema is available on the streaming network, but that’s to find out in the near future.

This movie is very confusing though. It starts of as a musical comedy, but it ends as a drama with a message. The confusing part is what that message is. Throughout the movie you get to see Salvador the way no other travel documentary has shown it. It’s a beautiful and exciting city. A lot of the sights that tourists want to see are shown in this feature. The stories are set in the famous Pelourinho area with its colorful houses and the charming cobblestoned streets. If you’ve been to the place, you want to go back as soon as you see it on screen. However, the reality of the city is harsh and it’s like this whole advertising clip ends with the message: don’t go there!

The first characters to appear on-screen are played by Lazaro Ramos and Emanuelle Araujo, both from Bahia. They immediately have a sexy scene together in which he paints on her naked body after he just showed off dancing to a samba beat. Within ten minutes you’re thinking: wow, a movie about gorgeous Salvador with even more gorgeous Brazilians making out. However, half an hour later or so, twenty more characters are introduced and they all represent a stereotype. An hour into the movie, the list of clichés is so long that you can’t take it anymore. But then drama sets in and there are some strong scenes with social commentary. It’s like the parody becomes a political manifest.

The clichés are confronting though. If someone else makes a movie about Brazil and adds too many clichés, they get burned. If a local makes a movie about Brazil and fills it with even more clichés, they get heralded. A Brazilian friend told me the movie was well perceived and quite important for the local community, but for a Western European this movie feels awkward. Sure, everyone in Brazil or who has visited Brazil can relate to some of those stereotypes. But to see them all in one movie is confronting.

The hypocritical evangelist who worships the bible, but loves the gossip of sexual adventures by others. The white trash drug dealing nut-head, who blurts out racist insults to feel better about himself. The cheating husband of a pregnant wife, who fucks the ‘mandatory’ transgender. The emigrant who lies about her successful life in Europe. The rascal kids who find it amusing to rip off tourists. The promiscuous girl who get another abortion because she always forgets to use a condom. The corrupt police officer who needs to keep an eye on the store of his landlord in order to postpone paying for last month’s rent. And then there’s the candomblé (Bahia’s spiritual religion), acarajé (great street food), the music from Olodum (Salavador’s famous carnaval drum band), flirtatious behavious by all, the shouting when communicating, etc…

It’s an interesting movie to watch. But it’s a tough one to sit through. Most of the acting is terrible. It’s just over the top. Wagner Moura for instance is so ridiculous that it’s not even funny. And he’s a good actor! Lazaro Ramos however is excellent. That one scene where he replies to a racist insult is quite powerful. The story though, that’s another weak point. It’s a collection of stories happening during the days before Carnaval. They do intertwine, but it’s nothing like Crash or Short Cuts where they merge.

Again, it’s not really clear what the director wanted to tell. It’s both a lot and nothing at all.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0895777/

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Mudbound – **(*)

Posted: December 26, 2017 in 2017, Social Drama, USA, XX1/2

So, Netflix, I’m finally a client!

First movie is the ‘Netflix Original’ Mudbound, nominated for two Golden Globes and maybe up for an Oscar as well. It did get a limited theatrical release in the States, but it was made for television.

It’s good. Just not as great as the buzz makes you believe. Maybe if you’ve followed Mary J Blige’s career, you may be impressed by the fact that she doesn’t look glamorous in this picture. But looking less glamorous doesn’t make you deserve an award. Her role is very small and nothing more than just plain good. If someone from the cast should get a nomination it should be Rob Morgan !

Both play Mr and M Jackson, who work on farmland that isn’t theirs and dream of owning a piece of rural land at one point in their life. They are descendants of slaves and live in poor conditions, but seem to be happy. They have several kids and one of them is fighting nazis in Europe. New tenants, the McAllans, arrive to live on the farm however and the atmosphere changes. They are also quite poor, but they are white and privileged. Mr McAllan (Jason Clarke) just wants to run his farm successfully and Mrs Jackson (Carey Mulligan) tries to support her husband, while raising two daughters. They do have a racist elder living with them. Things definitely change when the war is over and both welcome back a family member. Ronsel Jackson helped liberate Europe and was welcomed with respect and joy in the old continent, but is confronted with racial issues and subordination once back home. Jamie McAllan was an air force pilot dropping bombs, but comes back traumatized and starts drinking. Especially after his dad calls him a coward for not having looked the enemy in the face when killing them. Both Jamie and Ronsel feel out-of-place and easily bond. But this is the South of cotton fields and the KKK, where blacks and whites don’t ‘bond’…

It’s a good movie. The acting is good. The cinematography is great. The setting is interesting. It’s all very intriguing. The bond between the army guys feels real. They share a similar experience. It makes total sense that they bond. It’s not a best buddy bond. It’s not a forced black & white bromance bond. It’s just a natural bond. The relationship between the Jackson and the McAllan households also feels real. There’s some kind of respect between them, but they are also not the best of friends. It would have been more intriguing if they had focussed more on those relationships. Now the story leads to a dramatic moment that is negative, shocking and depressing. Fine. That story needs to be told. But it kind of felt like the story was going to lead to something more positive.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2396589

Ae Fond Kiss – **

Posted: November 14, 2017 in 2014, Romance, Social Drama, UK, XX

For a movie made in 2004, this Ken Loach film still functions well in 2017. Nothing has changed in 13 years. A sad conclusion. The premise still intrigues these days. Can a catholic, female music teacher and a muslim accountant find happiness as a couple in modern-day Western society? Yes? No? Maybe?

Ae Fond Kiss feels like it was made by a debutant graduating from an unknown film academy. Which is not a bad thing, apart from the fact that it’s made by an experienced and award-winning director. The script is so predictable. Of course the catholic school environment will be depicted as being as old-fashioned as the Pakistani tradition of arranged marriages. The social commentary is too gentle. If you want to confront viewers with racism, don’t do it by just mentioning it. Go for the uncomfortable feeling! Some scenes don’t make sense. Like the moment where the guy discovers a tattoo on the body of his new girlfriend, which he has been licking and kissing all night long a few days before. Duh! The acting of most of the cast is non-professional. Which is fine. Eva Birthisle is quite remarkable as the teacher. Atta Yaqub looks lost as the Pakistani accountant. But playing the character as a bit of a shy loser, makes him more sympathetic. The rest probably didn’t even get paid for being extras with lines.  It has a terrible end. Totally opposite of what any rational person would conclude. But the whole experience is worth the watch. A Scottish movie to recommend!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0380366

 

 

 

It all looks a bit surreal at the end, when a group of underprivileged kids from a favela in Sao Paulo perform a classic musical piece perfectly. Especially since months before the concert, none of them could even read scores or hold their instruments the right way. But hey, it’s cinema. And it comes with a good story. Based on true facts apparently. Far from original, true. But it’s set in Brazil and doesn’t quite feel the same as similar Hollywood stories. A talented violin player can’t secure a place in the National Symphonic Orchestra and needs to teach music in a public school to make some money. The school is surrounded by drug dealers and other criminals and even in the band are some kids who do credit card scamming in their after hours. But the teacher somehow manages to inspire the kids and they end up performing well, making him confident enough to audition for the orchestra again. See. All very predictable.

It’s an okay movie. But the acting by some of the kids is very basic. And the story doesn’t dig deep enough. We never get to learn why the teacher, who is so talented, doubts his own capacities so much. We also don’t get to learn more about the kids and their situation. Sure, there’s that one scene where this girl shouts out that playing music helps her escape from everyday problems. But it feels forced. This could have been a good tv series. Now it’s just an okay movie. Lazaro Ramos is great tough. And Kaique De Jesus (that name!) is set for more starring roles!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4972904/

This is a movie for those who love Jane Austin stories, but think they are too white. It’s set in the same period of time, but this time the female heroine is a mulatto heiress.

The illegitimate daughter of a wealthy navy officer (and a slave from the West Indies) is raised by her uncle and aunt, who are already raising another niece. When her father dies she has a good fortune, but that doesn’t mean much, because as a mulatto she can’t really go higher up in society. Until a noble man fancies on marrying her, telling her that ‘unlike others’ he is ready to ignore the traits she received for her mother because ‘it is clear that the traits of her father luckily are more evident’.

In the mean time, the uncle is settling a case about a (slave ship) company that threw their human cargo overboard in order to get money back from their insurance. A young lawyer is trying to convince the uncle that he should speak against the company. Soon the mulatto heiress falls for him.

Yawn.

It’s a period piece. With a different take. But it tells the same story. It sucks being a woman at that time. Let alone a mulatto woman with money.

Somehow, British people love seeing movies and series about class distinction so they can continue using it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2404181

Moonlight – ***

Posted: February 4, 2017 in 2016, LGBT themed, Romance, Social Drama, USA, XXX

By the time Moonlight hits European theaters (i.d. now), so much has already been said and written about it that you already kind of know what to expect. And that’s a shame.

It’s a great movie. An excellent movie even. But the story just isn’t as compelling as you’d hope. A black kid is raised by his crack addicted mother in a poor part of Miami. The kid grows up to be a teenager and then later an adult. The same character is played by three different actors who are all unique, but excellent nonetheless. The supporting cast is brilliant as well. That Naomi Harris filmed her scenes in just three days and that should give her a benefit to win an Oscar. Which she probably won’t. But it’s the directing that really deserves all the credits. The way Barry Jenkins tells this story is fascinating. He’s the kind of story teller that doesn’t need much dialogue, but can tell a lot by just shooting a simple everyday scene that tells it all. His choice of music works really well and the camera work is perfect and unique.

The first part is a good introduction, the second part is the most compelling and the third part feels like it’s added on with less inspiration. It’s the kind of movie that you’ll want to watch again (if you liked it the first time around) and then rate it even higher.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4975722

Classic: Rocky – **

Posted: January 19, 2017 in 1976, Drama, Social Drama, Sportsdrama, USA, XX

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Rocky remains quite an important and popular movie. The story is well known. A street boxer, who hasn’t really made anything of his life, takes up the challenge to fight Apollo Creed, the reigning world champion. He has no fair chance, but he’ll get plenty of money and it’s all for the good as he’ll be the underdog and that attracts crowds.

Rocky was the first in a series of six movies focussing on the ‘Italian Stallion’, the underdog who ends up being the champ. Back in the eighties Rocky III and Rocky IV were smash hits at the box office, with chart topping soundtracks and every tough kid in school trying to replay the fights between Sylvester Stallone and Mr T (III) or Dolf Lundgren (IV). Back then anyone who was a fan of these action blockbusters had little interest in seeing the first movie, which is more of a social drama. As a kid, I couldn’t understand the fuzz about this boring motion picture of the seventies that has only one fight. As an adult, I can understand the fuzz a bit more. The zero to hero-story always works. Especially back then. Stallone is really good in this movie. The soundtrack was refreshing at the time. The rich and successful guy was black ! The dialogue isn’t PC at all. The fights look real. All great.

But what’s with all the shouting? Everyone shouts. All the time. It’s like watching a modern day Egyptian movie. And what’s with the side characters? Rocky’s future wife Adrian… Rocky’s trainer Micky… Rocky’s supposedly best friend Paulie… Rocky’s maffia employer Gazzo… Every scene they are in is annoying. And there are a lot.

However, after watching last year’s reboot Creed it’s interesting to see this classic again. A lot of references make more sense now.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075148/