Montag, 28. Februar 2011

A month of movies: February.

The Oscars have come and gone without surprises. Unlike last year, I didn't see enough of the contestants in advance to feel brazen qualified enough to comment on the nominations and predict what will be as well as what should be. Judging by everyone's reactions, at least I didn't miss out on much when not seeing the award ceremony. Fittingly, the past month didn't exactly blow me away with absolute must-sees either - while delivering a lot more solid work than usual. The results are in:

The short -
Go and see: /
Well worth watching: True Grit, J'Ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother), Ausente (Absent) & The King's Speech.
Also deserving a chance: La Tête En Friche (My Afternoons With Margueritte), Das Lied In Mir (The Day I Was Not Born) & Made In Dagenham.
Average: Poll (The Poll Diaries).
For those interested in the subject matter only: Die Jungs Vom Bahnhof Zoo (Rent Boys).
Forget about: Hereafter.

The long -
The rules: Only movies seen at cinemas during the month referred to in the post title are eligible. This excludes films seen on DVD, video or television. Also excluded are movies from festivals, which may or may not get treated in separate posts. Premieres and previews, however, are fine. The reviews are listed in alphabetical order. Finally, ratings are given on IMDB's 1-10 scale. These rules, likely to be broken at the discretion of yours truly, solely exist because no rules are fun, and we cannot have that here, now can we?

Ausente (Absent). An interesting concept: seemingly obvious, the largest part of the movie tells the story of a student trying to seduce his teacher and getting him into a moral dilemma. Only in the last fifth ambiguities are at first hinted at, then revealed. Most of the film is dominated by a subtle sense of dread that always is just a little out of grasp - and thus can't be resolved. In that sense, it reminds me of the excellent "Innocence". 8/10

Das Lied In Mir (The Day I Was Not Born). By accident, a German woman learns that she has been adopted from Argentinian desaparecidos as a kid. At first developing too quickly, the story soon calms down, giving more needed room to the characters. Unfortunately, the conflict between the woman and her foster father seems implausible in its intensity, especially on behalf of the former and especially in the beginning. With more details uncovered, things gain a whole lot more weight and thankfully don't get resolved in the ending - which, considering the subject, seems most fitting. 7/10

Die Jungs Vom Bahnhof Zoo (Rent Boys). Too little for feature film format. This would have fared fine as a television documentary, but unless you're really into the topic, it fails to holds your attention for the entire length. Rosa von Praunheim gets his point across just fine, but then keeps telling it for another hour. Without any technical merit, that simply won't suffice. 5/10

Hereafter. The worst Clint Eastwood film to date. It reeks of sentiment, is long-winded - thirty minutes or more could have easily been culled - and for the most part, plain boring. Matt Damon, who I consider to be a hit-or-miss-actor, misses and the other actors and actresses don't fare much better. There was one moment maybe about halfway into the film where I found myself wishing for the story to move away from where it was, into the direction of a cooking show - most likely not the best sign for a movie. 3/10

J'Ai Tué Ma Mère (I Killed My Mother). Les quatre-cents-et-un coups. Much has already been written about Xavier Dolan being a multitalented wunderkind, so let's focus on the movie instead, shall we? It's very reminiscent of Truffaut's classic, not only in content (the coming of age-story) but also in images (the sea) and in spirit (clearly taking sides with the kid). Interspersed are small clips of the main character's thoughts and feelings, sometimes abstract, sometimes spelled out, that add a decidedly hip style to the movie. It's self-indulgent, all right, but it was made by a teenager after all. 8/10

La Tête En Friche (My Afternoons With Margueritte). "Warm and sweet" to the nth degree. What under different circumstances might have collapsed under a sticky barrel of honey is turned into a lovely tale by the gentle (- at least up until the rushed ending) direction and the two leads Gisèle Casadesus and Gérard Depardieu, who are both very much suited for their respective roles. 7/10

Made In Dagenham. Bold, yes, and formulaic, for sure, but still fun. If there's something really wrong with this movie, it's that it's at times doing exactly what it aims to criticize: Being sexist by reiterating tired gender stereotypes. This ruins it as a serious piece, but if you can see past that on account of it depicting another era, it'll serve to entertain. Bonus points for the real footage thrown into the ending credits. 7/10

Poll (The Poll Diaries). A decent historic movie with truly impressive location design set to a background that's not been done to death already. But in the end, it's noticeably over-produced. The kind of music you'd expect from a big production is playing at the moments you'd expect it to play, the plot is structured in obvious and often-tested ways and every detail is polished to the nth degree. That's no fun. Also, the voice-over could have been left out altogether. 6/10

The King's Speech. In terms of production, this is one of the year's great movies. Unfortunately, it lacks additional depth and after the end of it, little will stick with you. Every moment is calculated and every detail aims at winning popular awards - judging by last night, the formula still works. Nevertheless, it delivers very good entertainment and Colin Firth in a truly amazing and Oscar-worthy acting performance. 8/10

True Grit. The Coens have finally gone to the most American film genre, the Western. As expected, they deliver. They seem to deliver a modern anti-Western, full of humour (more often than not: slapstick), non-heroes (and a heroine) and yes, grit. In the Coens' depiction of the American West, a price is put on everything, and everyone seems to be willing to do anything that's required to cash in. The word "seem" is where my criticism comes in, as in the end, unlike previous anti-Westerns, good and bad is allotted quite clearly and little left for the viewer to ponder. 8/10

Previous months of movies: January.

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