Montag, 30. Januar 2012

A month of movies: January.

This month's episode of "Ben very unsurprisingly falls for a perky and well-calculated movie" is featured by "Beginners" (trailer), which everybody else has seen a year ago. On the completely opposing side of the spectrum is the excellent war (not anti-, not pro-, but challenging) documentary "Restrepo" (trailer, which makes it look a lot more light-hearted than it is) that everybody who can stomach it should see before feeling qualified to engage in any kind of serious discussion about the war in Afghanistan. The rest is quickly told: Sean Penn as Robert Smith in "This Must Be The Place" (trailer), George Clooney as George Clooney in "The American" (trailer) and nuclear waste as a future liability in "Into Eternity" (trailer).

The short -
Go and see: Beginners (DVD) & Restrepo (DVD).
Well worth watching: /
Also deserving a chance: Into Eternity & This Must Be The Place.
Average: Trust (DVD).
If you're into George Clooney looking constantly stressed: The American (DVD).

The long -
The rules: Only movies seen at cinemas during the month referred to in the post title and recent DVD releases (which will be noted as such) are eligible. This excludes films seen on 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?

Beginners (DVD release). Perky and sweet, as is how I like my rom-drama-coms. The director's background in music videos and design is visible throughout, but an excellent script and a lot of love for the characters prove it's more than a study or feature piece. Maybe that's due to it relating so closely to Mike Mills' own life. It makes for an excellent movie, in any case. 9/10

Into Eternity. Uncertainty is what this documentary is about, and an imagery oscillating between being brilliantly sharp and fading into shades of black is the means chosen to convey it. While the arguments delivered by a questioning narrator do rely on commonplace facts at first, they eventually focus on one of the most basic dilemmas faced by the constructors of the nuclear waste storage site - suggesting that there is no definite master plan, and that these sites face a future as uncertain as anything that involves the unpredictable behaviour of humans. Excellent music score. 7/10

Restrepo (DVD release). In "Restrepo", the war in Afghanistan is shown as the American soldiers on the ground perceive it: As something they don't understand, believe in (despite the motivational speeches and reassurances about how they're doing "something") and as something they're constantly threatened by. Most firefights follow the same formula: They get shot at, they shoot back in the general direction they got shot from and try to keep under cover, attempting to make sense of the situation. Escape is brief and seems superficial. The directors, one of which died in last year's civil war in Libya, manage to filter out a few faces and their thoughts, hopes and fears from the noise, thus bringing back the human factor to the foreground, which is the main achievement of this documentary and what sets it apart from others focusing on more general aspects of war. Morality and politics aren't discussed, but implied in almost every scene, left for the viewers to draw inferences from. 9/10

The American (DVD release). George Clooney walks through an Italian town, somewhat paranoid. Rinse and repeat, add a reason to be paranoid about, set up some beautiful shots and we have an Anton Corbijn movie that makes an effort to keep from gaining momentum, but in the process forgets to at least become interesting. 5/10

This Must Be The Place. Sometime along the way, the humour of the film is lost and things begin to grow a lot darker, culminating in an ending that won't fit. This is unfortunate, as up until then I quite enjoyed the wry comments by Sean Penn's blissfully weird version of Robert Smith. Paolo Sorrentino is trying too hard to put in too much (David Byrne's cameo is great, but completely irrelevant) in a movie that is saved by its characters. 7/10

Trust (DVD release). What starts off as the poor depiction of yet another threat against the all-American family eventually turns around into a decent drama about the psychological effects of sexual assault and the question of how much of the victim's private sphere can, should and will be opened to public scrutiny. 6/10

Previous months of movies: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December.

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