Archive for the Drama Category

DECONSTRUCTING SHOWGIRLS

Posted in Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2013 by Toi Brownstone

SHOWGIRLS, Paul Verhoeven (1995).

Showgirls

When we refer to guilty pleasures we tend to focus only on music. You know, bands or songs you regard them as crap but for some reason you just can’t stop listening to them. I have some hits crushes, but I don’t even consider them worth mentioning, first because I talked about some long time ago, and second because they’re not as shocking as to highlight them.

This time I’m gonna talk about a film, which it’s absolute crap but it’s got me completely hooked: Showgirls, probably Paul Verhoeven’s most epic failure. After his 3 main blockbusters, ultra violent Robocop, the great Total Recall, the film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story and Basic Instinct, the film which mean the explosion of success for Sharon Stone, the guy sure had lots of investors ready to support any of his projects, among them Mario Kassar was executive producer of the film, and completely lost his mind.

I watched Showgirls at the theater because Joe asked me to go with him. Yes, sad but true, I had to watch a movie about BITCHES (not hookers) in Vegas as an act of love. Every time I think of it, it’s followed by a face palm. You can imagine I didn’t like it at all and got quite pissed off. Now I remember it as a funny story, one of those weird things to be included in my CV of Toi’s madness.

For no reason throughout the years I’ve developed some short of addiction to Showgirls. It’s not that I regard it as a great movie, and I don’t have folders with captures wrapped on it. No, no way. The truth is that every time I see it on a TV channel, the world stops and I quit whatever I’m doing in that moment just to see Nomi Malone licking the pole, lap dancing, and fucking in a swimming pool. It’s fascinating on one hand, and on the other, kind of therapeutic. I always feel great and have great laugh. In fact I consider it one of the greatest comedy films in the 1990s.

According to Wikipedia:

The term “Showgirls-bad” has been adopted by film critics and fans to refer to films considered guilty pleasures, or “so-bad-they’re-good”.

Seems like I’m not alone in this.

It’s being broadcast on a channel almost twice a week lately. Fortunately I don’t watch much TV otherwise that’d be my mental ruin, but in the last few months I must admit I’ve been wasting my time with it.

Nomi Malone

I HATE Elizabeth Berkley. Perhaps Hate is an excessive feeling, but you know what I mean, I don’t sympathize with her at all. Poor girl, I never liked it either when she was Jessie Spano, the “intelligent” and smart girl in Saved By The Bell. I think her role as Nomi Malone ended with the slight respect someone could feel towards her. Probably she’s done interesting things after showing tits and pussy for 2 hours, but really, who cares? She’s finally become the heiress of the kingdom of trash. Her performance is so bad, so histrionic and exaggerated, you can’t stop laughing. Every time she’s called, or she understands it’s implied, a whore, she gets angry, grabs her stuff and leaves the scene. This happens at least 5-6 times. When dancing, her movements are three times more remarked than the rest of the dancers, and as for the “sexy” scenes, hats off!

rehearsing

When you’re watching a private lap dance scene which intends to be hot and sexy, and you end up giggling, it means Verhoeven stepped out of line. I’ve tried to see this film with more people, and it’s always the same. Everybody ends up laughing, we comment about her pussy in Agent Copper’s face (what the fuck were you doing there? Had you already spent all the Twin Peaks dough or what?), and the thought of the smell of the set of Showgirls comes to my head: pussy, sweet and cheap perfume. Good I wasn’t there considering I’m super sensitive to smells. As for the shag in the swimming pool, that crazy horse riding seemed more like an epileptic stroke.

As for the relationship between Cristal and Nomi…ah! It’s so funny the way Cristal, whose artistic name was chosen after the classy champagne brand, as if it was granted class would come afterwards, is fucking her over, with the nails, the dancing, the hooking thing…but thank God she was there to a craving for the reckless girl, otherwise, she would have remained at Cheetah’s with her boss Robert Davi (the other Agent Johnson)  trying to sneak an occasional  blowjob every once in a while, and we wouldn’t have been provided such amusing moments in the film history. Right after Showgirls, Gina Gershon was hired for playing the role of a lesbian in Bound, and I remember a hilarious chapter of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David was especially out of line on this regard.

nomi and cristal

Showgirls is the story of an outlaw chick who arrives to the promised land in search for fame and fortune, no matter how. From rags to riches topic, but instead of being a mafia story, Verhoeven tried to find gold and glamour diving in the world of the strippers and showgirls, but in a very sordid and shabby way. Ridiculous dialogues, awful performances, shitty soundtrack, terrible choreographies, lots of glossy makeup, tits beyond a limit, pussy smell all over, yet memorable scenes. An irresistible cocktail of crap, and a definite MUST SEE.

THE MASTER, Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)

Posted in Drama, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 10, 2013 by Toi Brownstone

the master

Last night I went to the movies for the first time this year 2013. There’s a lot of upcoming film releases which have already caught my attention, so seems that there’s gonna be a pretty busy season ahead, which I like, because my foursquare application reminded me I hadn’t gone to a movie theatre for almost 3 months, this is, since I attended some sessions at Sitges Film Festival. My bad!

After almost two months bombed by billboards exposing perfumes, beautiful women in bras, and Xmas season films addressed to kids, the new year brought the invasion of promo posters of the film The Master. How could it be ignored with Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Thomas Anderson right in front of my eyes? Impossible, I had to see that.

It’s been long time since I assumed Joaquin Phoenix to be one of the greatest actors of his generation, able to transmit deep feelings, and always enveloping his characters in a dark halo, somehow tortured and frustrated.

People always remember him for Gladiator or his stunning interpretation of Johnny Cash in Walk The Line, but it was first with Shyamalan‘s weak The Village, and then interpreting himself in the mockumentary I’m Still Here directed by his brother in law Cassey Affleck, when I realized I really digged this guy. For Phoenix, playing the role of Cash was easy, he seemed comfortable in the role of this legend, and I loved him right away. However his performances in Shyamalan’s failure and when offering an unseen (fake) side of the actor risking too much in his personal experiment, made me think of a hard gambler and an adventurer.

Regarding PTA, I wouldn’t say it’s a matter of blind faith, but since I was charmed with the overwhelming film Magnolia, I’ve been always following his steps.

quell

Frank Quell, who’s been sailing for long time serving the US Navy as a mechanic taking part in World War II against the Japanese, is finally dismissed from service, better said, retired, due to a long record of mental disorder episodes and sex obsessive behavior which make him unfit for war times. Now it’s time to rehabilitate into society but his mental issues and his heavy alcoholism bringing out aggressive behavior only cause him problems and do not allow him to adapt. From a photographer at a mall, to cabbage collector in the country, sooner or later he ruins something and has to get away pursued by people.

One freezing night he sneaks into a private yacht, whose commander happens to be Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the leader of The Cause, a philosophical movement, based on the concept of the soul living many lives in different bodies throughout the existence of the human kind on Earth, and the regression therapies recovering the past traumas to wake up and heal.

Dodd will adopt Quell as his protégée and will start using him as a guinea pig, starting with a very revealing informal processing which justifies in some way why the sailor has become a drifter and a misfit. In exchange, on his command, Quell will prepare his secret alcoholic poison, Dodd is so enthusiastic with.

From this moment, he will become part of the family even though Dodd’s wife, the manipulative Peggy (Amy Adams), his son and other members, do not feel comfortable with the stranger’s odd behavior.

As for The Cause, the movement will become more prominent among high society, no matter the ideas and values transmitted are weak and lack of rational sense, as sympathizers find it attractive enough as to adopt it as their guide to happiness and mental awakening, contributing through donation to the support of the movement.

the cause

The Master deals with several different aspects to take into account: first, the decline and evolution of Quell, second his relationship with Dodd, The Cause inspired in Scientologist movement, the relationship of Dodd and Peggy…and so on.

 Also the film, resembling There Will Be Blood, is clearly marked by different stages. First, the mental disorder episodes of Quell while on a mission, and the elaboration of its poisonous beverage, second the attempt of an insane man to rehabilitate into society with no supervision nor care received, the encounter and adoption of Dodd and his family, the adaptation and rehabilitation, the final enlightenment and the separation of Quell and the family.

John Quell is the most remarkable character, and his journey, the main plot in the history. His mental scars from war have turned him into a sick man, unable to adapt into society. He is, in essence, pure white trash, a scoundrel with no goals in life, no interests of any kind, and no feelings towards anyone. His only motivation in life is to prepare his poisonous booze and fuck whenever it’s possible. He used to be with that beautiful girl in his hometown, Doris, but considering his condition, unable to behave normal, he knows it’s not possible to get back to her.

When he meets Dodd and becomes his protégée, all of a sudden he’s granted access to privileges and luxuries he couldn’t dream of earlier: clothes, food, wealth, “happiness”…He just have to be part of the experiments the master improvises, even though they don’t make much sense most of times. A simple mind crippled guy as he is, can only feel grateful to the man who gave him a hand, thus, whenever contrary voices rise criticizing and accusing Dodd of being a liar, Quell will always act as the physical force responsible to defend his master. Submission and gratitude develop into comradeship, dependence and sort of friendship, however, once the poor man finally comes to terms with himself, finding some piece of mind which allows him to put himself together, Quell realizes Dodd is working on a big lie, and will leave The Cause.

Joaquin Phoenix

Some reviews have been too hard on Joaquin Phoenix’s interpretation of Quell as too exaggerated and affected. I particularly think he manages to transmit all the troubles and insanity this guy oozes. It’s necessary and I think he’s realistic. Outbursts and violent attacks are overwhelming, and those intense scenes of processing and confrontation with Lancaster Dodd are impressive.

Regarding Dodd, the more prominent his Cause becomes, and the more renown he gets, the more we see it’s actually Peggy the one who commands, decides and addresses the movement. As soon as she concludes Quell is hard to tame, she’s not longer interested in him and thinks of him as a threat, capable of ruining what she and her husband have been hard achieving for so long time.

It’s interesting the issue of the philosophical movement, and the ability of manipulating weak people charming them as to influence their minds to believe what you want them to believe.

We’ve always been warned of these associations seeking for our dependence and momeny, offering the ultimate truth about life, or about death, the justification to our sufferings, and whatever a hopeless soul would require. Weak people can be easily abducted for their purposes, living in a state of denial and mind induced lethargy. But what is really the turning point which make some of these adapts to suddenly realize the reality they’re living in such environment is not real?

It’d be interesting to dive into the origin of sects, their motivations to be created, and when was the first time one person discovered that creating a movement based on something attractive to some potential victims could be profitable. At the end of the day, if carried out in a harmless way, the idea of providing this mind and soul shelter to someone in need shouldn’t be bad, leaving all the religious issues aside. In The Master, even though everything Lancaster Dodd preaches about is pure fake and nonsense, the truth is that, regardless the stupid experiments performed, Quell improves and manages to keep his anxiety and obsessions under control.

All these sects gather interesting psychologic, philosophic and anthropologic points of view in my opinion. Truth is that, since I was a kid and heard of them I’ve always felt fascinated for them.

WC9V2014.CR2

The Master is not an easy film. I think none of Paul Thomas Anderson are, because of all the side plots and aspects involved, the slow development of the stories, and the excessive length of his films. Many people are not able to focus on stories with so many details to assimilate and get easily tired and bored. The Master is impressive in terms of interpretation, flashbacks are very graphic, and the main story, even though can be confusing at some points and could be dealt with in a different way, it’s definitely worth it. It is one of these films likely to improve every time you review it being able to differ among stories, understand unnoticed details, and focus on the characters in the film. It won’t take me too long before I repeat.

And yes, it smells like some Oscar awards and others to come.

MARFA GIRL, Larry Clark (2012)

Posted in Directors, Drama with tags , , , on December 11, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

marfa girl poster

My attention was diverted towards Larry Clark at the end of 2011, when visiting Moderna Museet in Stockholm, I discovered some photographs which belonged to his famous Tulsa series. I got shocked by its realism, the portrait of a white trash American generation, echoing all the decadence coming from poverty, drugs and sex becoming something nasty and filthy. His extreme style was really appealing, and felt in love with his photos right away.

When looking for more information, I discovered that this photographer, Larry Clark, was the same guy who conceived and delivered one of the most shocking films I watched when I was a teenager, Kids, which shared lots of identifiable resemblances with Tulsa series images, in fact, the film made me think of sequence of captures put into motion.

Since I related his photography to Kids and Ken Park, I decided not to miss any update and started following his movements quite close. His last movement has been Marfa Girl, a film which is not being released in movie theaters nor DVD, and instead, at a quite reasonable price, USD 6, it’s available to be watched online on the director’s site.

Seemed like a perfect plan for Sunday evening.

Marfa is a small shitty town in the middle of nowhere  in Texas, 69 miles far from the border, where there’s nothing much to do.  There’s a curfew for teenagers to be on the streets at night, physical punishment is not only valid but also compulsory at the high school, and people feel threatened and harassed by the Border Patrol  units.

Adam (Adam Mediano) is 16, half white half Mexican, still attending high school, who’s always moving around with his skate board. His mum, Mary (Mary Farley),  is  bird obsessed who treats her pets as if they were human. She’s a genuine hippie. Adam’s got a younger girlfriend name Inez, truly in love with him, however Adam’s also having sex with his 23 year-old single mom friend, named Donna (Indigo Rael), after he surrendered to her seducting skills.

adam

One of the Border patrol agents, Tom (Jeremy St James), is constantly harassing Adam and his mother, being obsessed with both them and trying to get closer using any excuse. He’s apparently concerned with the lack of education and discipline the kid receives, and aims to be kind of a role model for him, and a respectful man to Mary. Tom is constantly acting out of line, treating Mexican residents as if they were shit, in a very racist manner, and always bothering people around him, feeling superior thanks to his badge.

A young and beautiful super hippie artist (Drake Burnette)sponsored by a company, is staying in town for a while, looking for inspiration in the naked bodies of the guys she ends up hanging out with, mostly Mexicans. In this way, we’ll be introduced to the stories of their lives, realizing how their roots and earlier stages have marked their paths and personalities forever.

Marfa is depicted as a town where nothing happens, poor, decadent, with less than 2,000 inhabitants. Local teenagers try to find some source of entertainment by skating, playing some weird music and smoking pot.

Adam is at this turning point at which he’s still childish innocent, however he’s becoming a man, getting in trouble for cheating his girlfriend, and screwing Donna. As not many guys were available in town, seems like young women are interested in new flesh, and Adam is a white and empty book perfect to fill in with the wisdom of the experience he hasn’t yet lived through.

Many isolated stories coming from people take part of a net, Marfa Girl is sewing in order to find the inspiration she needs to keep on working. Thus Rodrigo and Ulysses share with her their own personal points of view about life and sex.   She acts as the link among all the men in town, both young and adult.

marfa1

On the other hand Adam is the connection among the female side of the story. Sooner or later he deals with all of them: his teacher who spanks him before letting him feel the kicks of the baby in her belly, her mother who loves him but is more concerned about her birds, Inez, Donna…

Marfa girl and Adam are quite alike, with the difference of age and experience. At some point she gives him tips, and likely they’d eventually end up in bed together.

They’ve been raised up in freedom, against the violent discipline Tom, the border patrol, received, which caused him deep traumas and damaged him for good.

The feeling of emptiness, the absence of morality, the lack of values and a prominent sense of despair are easily noticeable. The only possible future involves getting away from that shithole, but the problem is that the boredom itself drags you down, and you end up swallowed by the town regardless.

Clark’s films are characterized by being too real. Unknown and inexperienced  actors who keep their own names for their roles in the film, they don’t seem to be acting but living their own lives caught by Clark for a while. As if part of their vulgar intimacy was stolen and recorded. Performances are, for this reason, appallingly convincible. Plots are not strong at all, there are certain peaks at the end of the story, but Marfa Girl is as visual as a documentary, avoiding all the narrating parts.

I’ve always felt amazed by the ability of the director of turning trash into something beautiful. Environments he choose are rough, extreme and very excessive, too alien for average audience, born and raised in what we’d call normal circumstances. It doesn’t matter whether the location of his stories is Manhattan or a remote town, there’s trash and dirt everywhere. Clark digs and finds his treasures.

From Tulsa to Marfa, years have gone by, but society has been decaying, and new generations we like to relate to Our Future, are more and more fucked up.

marfa 2

There was also a reference to one of my favorite novels, which also made an impact on me when I was a teenager. I’m talking about Ulysses’ tattooed arm related to the Lord of the Flies, which is actually the story of the evil in childhood and youth, the practical example of how kids are not as good and innocent as per common belief.

Adam is not a bad kid, he’s just trying to survive without harming nobody on purpose. However stop thinking for a while. He’s got a girlfriend he trust 200%, but he’s cheating on her with a single mom. And he’s aware eventually their affair will be discovered, putting his relationship with Inez into risk, but he just doesn’t care.

The older generations aren’t much better, and all of them are now suffering the consequences of events or mistakes in the past, when they are same age as Adam. It’s as if karma was directly ruling Marfa.

I enjoyed Clark’s new work, seriously. Photography is excellent, performances are too real, and even though the plot is not appealing, the final result is excellent, leaving at your own will the kind of conclusion you might get from it. Don’t expect a love story, jokes or a bunch of stunning actors. What Clark aims to share goes beyond anything physical. He just wants us to see places like Marfa exist, involving much drama.

In case you’re still interested, remember Marfa Girl is not being released in theaters nor DVD. You can watch it online on Larry Clark’s website. Hope you like it.

SITGES PT. IV: CHAINED, Jennifer Lynch (2012)

Posted in Drama, Horror, Serial Murders, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , on October 18, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

After the previous posts talking about films I didn’t feel passionate for, now it’s time to focus on those which fully earned my respect and recognition. Not only mine by the jury at different categories, which make me feel better meaning my taste and judgment is not so crappy as I might have thought.

Chained was one of the main movies I wanted to watch badly for many reasons. On one hand because Jennifer Lynch is David’s daughter, second because I had recently revisited Surveillance, the film which also awarded in Sitges 4 years ago, and I still enjoyed it, and because disturbing Vincent D’Onofrio was the main actor.

In the era of downloadings and streaming, and because Spain is at the back of the queue in screening speaking terms, there were people who had already watched. A wide range of opinions was floating, and I decided not to take them for granted.

Chained was the first movie in Sitges, and was also the first time I attended a screening with the director introducing the film to the audience. Jennifer Lynch explained the film was about how real monsters are made, and finished asking people to medidate on how we raise our kids nowadays, implying the importance of behavior and discipline, and other concepts she left open to our thinking.

On any random Saturday evening, Sarah (Julia Ormond) and his 9 year-old son Tim, take a cab to get back from the mall, after her husband insists them not to take the bus for not being safe. At some point Sarah panics when trying to stop the cab driver, who’s completely diverted from the route and is taking them to a house in the middle of nowhere.

Bob (Vincent D’Onofrio) tortures and brutally kills her, and adopts Tim, renamed as Rabbit, as his slave, after apologizing for not being part of the plan. He will have to do the cleaning, serve him the food, update the newspaper clippings album with stuff related to his victims, and many other terrible things. One word, one forbidden action, and he’ll be fucked up. The servant is watched and recorded by hidden cameras so Bob knows what he does all the time. in a moment of desperation, Rabbit tries to get away but his master is waiting for him, and his punishment will mean carrying a long and heavy chain round his ankle for many years.

Rabbit (Eamon Farren) grows up, and Bob, who is keeping his routine of abducting young girls for his feast of sex, torture and murder, starts thinking of the teenager as his successor, and starts educating him and giving him more privileges. Should he follow the steps of his master? Should he rebel against evil? Raised in an environment of horror, murder and insanity, there aren’t many options.

Disturbing, claustrophobic, insane, terrifying… Lynch was right about the making of monsters. A kid raised cleaning blood puddles, burying corpses of the young victims, being conscious of being locked up while his dad is looking for him, and serving the serial killer who killed his mother… He’s to be stigmatized for life, probably developing all kind of mental issues, and the question of following the pattern he’s been witnessing for so long time, well, seems hard to escape from that fate.

Regarding the reflection on how to raise children, you’ll see and understand what she meant. At the end of the day, children are information sponges, and everything they see, especially if impressive, remains in their memories forever.

The basis of Chained is the relationship between the serial killer and the kid. There are brief characters, which end up buried under the house. It’s outstanding the tension between them, the evolution of both characters after so many years, and the final kind of tenderness Bob feels towards Rabbit, thinking of him as part of him.

Vincent D’Onofrio is disturbing. It’s impossible not to remember him as Pvt. Gome Pyle in Full Metal Jacket, the agony of being bullied and fucked up by his instructor till he blows his head. I can’t forget his face. This time he’s this cab driver, who abducts girls, tortures them and finally kills them. Why? As usual it has to be with childhood trauma. Growing in certain conditions can be mind overwhelming and he just became a serial killer, with the perfect system, starting with his job and the car, to fulfill his needs with total impunity. Bob’s personality and life is absolutely plain except for his secret. Doesn’t talk to much, doesn’t have vices, it’s a very square and monotonous, and hasn’t any passions or hobbies. He’s a grey guy.

What about Rabbit? He’s deprived of any self-thinking, he’s locked down and chained, he cannot talk unless asked, he cannot eat until Bob has finished his meal, and once he’s done he will have the leftovers…when his Master gives him anatomy books to study, he just devours them. He doesn’t want to end as his “stepfather”, but it’s difficult to rebel against the one who’s got the power. How long will he manage to stand firm?

I’m sure Chained is the kind of film which will not leave you indifferent, it’s impossible. It reflects this type of horror which could be real, or at least its origin is too common nowadays. The conclusion of the film left me speechless too. I was in shock.

If you watch it, be in the mood for feeling uneasy, because you will for sure. Still, Chained is a good film supported with great performances and the suffocating atmosphere created. Jennifer Lynch, well done!

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, Michel Gondry (2004)

Posted in Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

Mood affects activies beyond our understanding. Not only that, but also the atmosphere, the companion, the weather…many external factors influence on the impact we receive when listening to a record, observing a painting or watching a movie.

I had seen this film 3-4 years ago, and didn’t understand why such cult around it. I thought it to be boring, abstract, and not very clear, you can add that I’m not a big fan of Jim Carrey, then the final verdict was thumbs down.

The fact that one of my best friends digs a lot, and considering he’s quite rough and extreme in his judgments, black or white and not much of grey in between, made me go for a second chance. This time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made a great impression.

Having the story still very fresh, I don’t really know how to label this film. Many references  come to my head. On one hand, all the memory erasing procedure brings me to Total Recall, and all the love and lack of love story makes me think of Blue Valentine.

Among other qualities and features, chaos and impulsiveness reign in Clementine’s life (Kate Winslet). Sick of her relationship with Joel(Jim Carrey), contracts the services of Lacuna, experts in memory erasure, and undergoes this deleting and resetting procedure. Her decision is irreversible and unilateral, and Joel, after trying to contact her to see why she’s acting so erratic, eventually finds out what she’s done.

Miserable and devastated, he can’t cope with the situation, thus submitting to the memory erasure seems the only logic solution to overcome his pain. He bursts into Lacuna office demanding a quick and urgent action, as they are already involved in his misery.  Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) promises the effective remedy for his suffering, assisted by Stan (Mark Ruffalo), who will conduct all the procedure while Joel is sleeping, together with Patrick (Elijah Wood).

In order to erase any memories, which include the tiniest details, Joes is required to collect any single item which reminds him of Clementine, thus, thanks to a mapping procedure collecting all the bran movements or reactions towards these objects, Stan will be able to reach any corner in his brain which might contain Clem in it. Mapping aside, as standard, an extended interview with impressions, explanations related to the erasing process and the reasons is tape recorded, to be included in the personal file of each client.

It’s the perfect job, with no claiming afterwards, as patients never remember their visit to Lacuna, and they’re responsible for notifying acquaintances of this procedure, so there won’t be any future side effects.

Joel is ready. he buys new pajamas, follows the instructions advised by Dr. Mierzwiak and quickly passes out. It’s time Stan and Patrick take care of business, but distractions related to women will prevent them from performing professionally. On one hand, Patrick had a crush on Clementine and thanks to his knowledge of her situation and things she confessed during her interview, he’s managed to become her boyfriend. But she, for no apparent reason feels awkward and estranged, and needs him to be by her side. On the other, Stan and the gorgeous nurse at  Lacuna, Mary (Kirsten Dunst) are secretly dating, and she stops by to make some companion and have some fun.

The sedatives are not working as they should and within his dream Joel notices something weird is going on. At the same time he’s recalling all those good and bad moments with Clementine and eventually he realizes he doesn’t want to lose those great past times they lived. That’s not the solution for easing the pain. So his dream and his conscious part will turn into a huge struggle against memory loss, trying to hide what le loves most, Clementine, in hidden corners of his mind memories, not related to her.

Things are happening at the same time both inside Joel’s mind, and in the real world. Events and feelings which prove that mind erasing is not the magical solution for certain problems, and all the characters involved, eventually suffer the consequences.

When I started watching the film this last time, and the concept of memory erasing was introduced, I thought that was something that would have perfectly worked for me, and even nowadays, when I can say I’ve overcome my sentimental wreckage but still scars aren’t totally healed, I thought of it as perfectly valid.

Considering an inner mechanism has blocked most of my memories of a 10-year relationship naturally, and I’m talking serious, I found it workable. Truth is that in a relationship you share  experiences such as travelling, shows and many other events I love, and partial erasure is not conceived.

Memory erasure would work  if you never had contact with the source of those memories again, but, and this is the reason why all this procedure fails, memories are highly influenced by feelings, and your sensitivity remains intact. Therefore, Clementine feels weird because she doesn’t know she still misses Joel, and after Lacuna’s intervention, when they meet on the train the attraction is instant. Relationships among human beings are said to be pure chemistry combination of hormones, right?

No, deleting memories is not fair, otherwise people making mistakes or choosing wrong, or hurting people, would be abusing of this method, that would become kind of artificial reset. Whatever causes you pain or sadness must be faced and overcome from within yourself. What would you do if one morning you received a letter confirming your best friend has erased you from his memories and consequently from his life without your consent and acceptance? You wouldn’t react positive, that’s for sure.

The dynamism of the film, the mayhem and unsteadiness of the camera, and the different levels of narration, past-present-future, past within past, and these time combinations, can contribute to a sense of chaos if you’re in the right mood, you won’t definitely enjoy. I remember the first time I saw the film, Clem’s hair color changing, cars crashing on the asphalt, things vanishing… Christopher Nolan’s Inception  was the opposite, with the adding and the creation of a fake world, but carefully explained and detailed, highlighting those changes of stages, however, in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, that separation is subtly marked by lights, settings and attitudes.

The story of Joel and Clementine is as standard as many others. A couple which reaches that point in which monotony and routines reign. Clem as an unstable woman can’t endure that situation any longer and carries out her personal choice without considering Joel’s feelings nor even hers. Too sad and ridiculous, the miracle, the easy way out,  eventually fails.

Progress and the power of our minds sometimes do not work fine mixed, luckily for us!

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, Darren Aronofsky (2000)

Posted in Directors, Drama with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

I’ve been recovering  some very good titles I’ve adored since the first time I saw them and, unfortunately hadn’t enjoyed in very long time. It’s true, however, that the fact that it took me so long to review them, made the experience delightful.

When Requiem for a Dream saw the light, the director, Darren Aronofsky, was only 31.  It might not be an important detail to you, but for me it makes a point. Responsible not only for the filming, but also being in charge of the script, really makes me think of a genius. Perhaps, his filmography is not to extent, but all the movies have made a huge impression, not only on the critics, but also on the audience.

Everybody knows Aronofsky, thanks to his last two praised and rewarded films, The Wrestler and Black Swan, no doubt outstanding, and both commented on previous posts. This time I’m very pleased to talk about my favorite, the one that left me speechless and in shock from long time.

Situations recreated by Aronofsky are not standard at all. We witness  the way characters have to deal with their own Hell and demons, ending overwhelmed and devastated by the whole process and the tragic of their lives. These stories are perhaps too extreme, and we might think ourselves too far from them, but changing certain details and social surroundings, we’re subtle to experience something similar, and it’s really scary.

To approach Requiem for a Dream, we should first mark a division between Marion and Harold, and his friend Tyrone on one hand, and Sara Golfarb, Harry’s mother, on the other.  Rising and fall is depicted in 3 stages, everything starting in Summer, or the season of hope and happiness, Fall, things starting to get messed up, to finally collapse in Winter.

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is a widow  whose only son is a drug addict. Their closest contact consists on the young man, Harry (Jared Leto),  visiting his mother for borrowing her TV set, the only thing that keeps her company and her most loyal friend, to get some money at the pawnshop for dope. As part of the cycle, Sara, will always end up visiting the pawnbroker, in order to recover the TV, as part of the routine, without complaining.

Harry and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are in search of the magic trick that will ensure them money to afford to make their dreams come true. They seem to have found the score, by buying, cutting and dealing heroine.

Harry is deep in love with beautiful Marion (Jennifer Connelly), aspiring to become a fashion designer, and also very in love with substances to enhance her creativity. Marion seems to come from a wealthy family, as she has her own flat, and from time to time, in order to avoid her parents cutting her short, she dates her former shrink, Arnold, ensuring he won’t advise them of her habits and behavior.

On the other hand, Sara, hooked to infocomercials hosted by Tappy Tibbons (Christopher McDonald), receives a phone call, announcing she’s been selected to take part in one of these quiz shows on TV. For a lonely woman, such an invitation is the best that could happen to her, and standing in front of the audience means she must be stunning. Thus, Sara starts trying strict diet in order to fit in the red dress she was wearing at Harry’s graduation, but she can’t bear starving, and will eventually succumb to a magic diet someone suggests, based on these magic color pills, what we know as uppers and downers.

For a short period of time everything seems to be working for all them, the guys dealing in Coney Island and making good money, and Sara getting fit for the TV show, but of course, when all the grounds are unstable and based on dreams out of reality, eventually the world collapses, and things change radically in a nick of time.

The business has to close due to lack of dope to deal with, money runs out,  and all the happiness and perfection vanish instantly, because the reality for these addicts is that they only care for a fix. Just the opposite, Mrs Goldfarb gets so hooked to pills, she starts taking more than prescribed, developing a constant state of paranoia, dreaming of herself introduced by his beloved Tibbons to the set, having Harry by her side…

No need to  point out that the end of this voyage, is, to say the least, shocking and terrifying.

All the plot and issues related to the three young characters does not differ from many other stories related to junkies. Their behavior is a standard pattern, if there’s money everything’s perfect, they get on well, trust each other, love is strong… as soon as there’re no drugs on the street or money in their pocket, relationships quickly decay, allowing suspicion, disrespect, and tension to rise, causing chaos. Of course, despite the events to follow are quite predictable, it doesn’t imply the intensity of this downward spiral has to lessen.

Nevertheless, what I think the big deal in this film is, has to do with  all the way to madness Sara Goldfarb has to pass through to end completely demented.

Starting from the general assumption any intake pill is a drug (forget about natural stuff), prescribed by a doctor, we must think of ourselves as potential users, depending on illness or requirements. As patients we are not walking Vademecum’s either, thus we have to trust what we are advised, considering doctors are professional.

What happens to Sara is a combination of many factors, all mixed up, results into an exploding cocktail.

Sara is alone, living a boring life based only in watching infocomercials and spending sometime chatting with her neighbors. Her son is a drug addict she doesn’t turn in because is the only next of kin she has, thus she allows him to steal the TV set, once and once again. In certain way, she’s supporting his addiction, by recovering it afterwards.

She’s not a very enlightened woman either. As soon as she receives the phone call seeding the idea of making her dream of appearing on TV come true, and bringing her the possibility of projecting  a successful and fulfilling image of her life, to the audience, she’s 100% convinced it is for real, thus she starts setting personal targets for a date not yet confirmed.

And yes, same as usual, vanity comes always the first, when dealing with such events. She wants to fit in the red dress. She thinks it’s only a matter of losing weight, but she’s not considering also years pass by. She’s so narrow minded as to associate this red dress to happiness, just because wearing it before everything was just perfect: her soon graduated, her husband still alive and by her side, and she looking younger and stunning. She wants to be popular and feel loved by her neighbors.

Surprisingly, Sara lacks of will power, so she can’t bear a strict diet program, consisting on reducing not only quantity of food, but also erasing sugar, salt and other fattening additives. The solution is to invest into these wonder diets you don’t feel hungry and weight loss is immediately noticeable, you only have to take series of pills on a daily basis. Although Sara feels the alterations, she assumed them as normal because the pills have been prescribed by a doctor, who is always right. Both her physical and mental states are soon disturbed by the pills, feeling anxiety, euphoria, hyperactivity … Everything is fine as long as she reaches her goal, the red dress.

Her weight loss is directly linked to her developing tolerance to pills. she starts suffering from hallucinations and paranoia, and in order to get going she starts increasing the dose, in order to keep balanced, to eventually lose total control, becoming completely hooked to the pills, unable to establish a drug pattern, being high 24/7, up to a point she’s a unable to differ reality from imagination, turning completely insane.

All this told, enhanced by many shots, crazy close-ups and these cameras showing oneself views, sound effects, and other technical aspects, makes an impression. Montage is super elaborated.

This last time I watched Requiem For A Dream, I had the same feeling as the first time, didn’t matter I was already acquainted with the story. As Sara’s addiction is stronger, and consequently the sequence of images is more disturbing, I started feeling uneasy. Perhaps this time it affected me even more, as I’m quitting smoking. Fact is that as Sara’s sanity is slipping, the rhythm of the film is also mental.

Not sure whether I could refer to the conclusion as a lecture, but somehow there’s a message in this film. In fact there are many, and are quite frightening. I can’t stop thinking of these two:

First one has to do with what I mentioned earlier. Everybody is a potential victim of drug abuse. You might not try cocaine, but you can be prescribed with Valium, or extasis, and depending on your physical and mental condition you could get hooked without the proper monitoring. I’ve met people hooked to relaxants to get some sleep, others playing with laxatives to lose weight. People think as junkies, they are focused on immediate pleasure or results, forgetting about side effects or extended usage consequences. And there’s the real danger.

The philosophy of achieving a goal no matter what, can easily turn against you and ruin your life. You have to be realistic, and work within your limits. Last night a close friend of mine said something about ambition, more or less the idea was that you have to set and renew targets in order to improve but always on a real scale.

Thus, divided into 3 stages, we witness the stories of four people who have dreams of a better life, and how, succumbing to their addictions, they end up hopeless and their lives ruined forever.

Requiem For A Dream is one of the most shocking and impressive films of the past decade, and one of my favorites. The subject is tough and the story is definitely one of a kind, and depending on your sensitiveness, you might find it hard to endure. Aronofsky here, reconfirmed his role as a director wasn’t going to be ignored.  And believe me, if you get to see this film, you will positively want to dig more in his work. Excellent!

JANE EYRE, Cary Fukunaga (2011)

Posted in Drama, Romance with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

First of all, Happy New Year. I’ve never been in mood for resolutions, because I don’t accomplish half of them, thus what I can say is that I will try to be posting at least once a month. Too many things in my head, writing on movies require certain concentration I sometimes lack of. Sorry!

Still having some films I’d like to talk about, but I’m going to start this year 2012, with this movie, I went to see last night, on my own, while it’s still fresh in my mind, and all the feelings and emotions provoked, are still pounding.

If you are familiar with The Brontë’s novels, then you already know their stories are characterized by portraying tortuous and stormy love stories, in which society conventions have a very important role, so as the nature environment.

I was ready for the drama, really, I don’t consider myself a weak and super sensitive girl who always cries at the movies, but I wasn’t expecting such intensity in this film as to end up crying nonstop. Never left a cinema with tears in my eyes until last night, and believe me, they weren’t caused by disappointment at all. Jane Eyre is pure poetry.

Life had never been merciful towards Jane Eyre since she became an orphan and was supposedly under Mrs. Reed’s care. Rejected and abused by the members of the family, she’s eventually cast out and sent to Lowood School to be straightened up. Hard discipline, with beating punishment, miserable living conditions, lacking any expression of affection, will mark her life forever, but Jane, as a rebel character, will develop an inner creative world she will portrait in her paintings.

Once her stay in Lowood is over, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) will have to work for living, she’ll move to Thornfield Hall, working as a governess of a little French girl, Adele, apparently adopted by Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender), due to some kind of former relationship.

These days are the closest to happiness for Jane, teaching her pupil, enjoying the company of Mrs Fairfax (Judi Dench), the housekeeper, receiving kindness and affection. Until the landlord of the estate arrives to settle  temporarily at the mansion.

Edward Rochester is the first male contact to Jane, and initially is not a very pleasant one. He’s a strong character, very moody, strong, rough, who spreads some kind of vice and corruption, completely alien to the young teacher. Still, Jane is not overwhelmed by such destructive personality, and with all the respect, she manages to earn her landlord’s respect, and complicity.

One night, Jane is awaken by the feeling of a presence by her bedroom door, and weird noises. Alerted, she discovers Rochester’s room is on fire, and she will save his life by waking him up and trying to stop the fire. The landlord’s attitude, fully in debt with the governess, will radically change, he trying to earn her body, and soul, something she will initially reject, confused about her feelings and his intentions.

Thus, a tense friendship among them will go on, with Fairfax flirting with Mrs Ingram, and Jane silently feeling tortured, because she doesn’t believe herself worth enough for the gentleman’s love.

Inevitably, once Jane receives the sad news of his beloved engagement to the superficial lady, all the cards on the table, Fairfax will declare his wish of sharing his life with her, and she will finally accept. Unfortunately, the terrible secret he’s been hiding from her all this time, will bring out just about to get married, and Jane will run away from Thornfield Hall, completely devastated, to be sheltered and adopted as a new member of the family, by the young Rivers. But she will be unable to forget who she’s devoted to.

Long sight right now while writing these lines, friends. It is really a sad story, which nowadays, with law adapted to modern times, and women stepping upwards at all levels, after a really long struggle our generation is not really aware of, perhaps could be sorted out easily. Not in that time though, when women were 100 steps behind men, and they couldn’t even freely think, nor act, and even less live.

The director, Cary Fukunaga, knew from the very beginning how to depict Jane Eyre. Not following the current canons of beauty, he looked for a cold and fragile character, still strong as a consequence of the tough times she had to pass through in her childhood. Mia Wasikowska is a gorgeous actress, capable of transmit so many emotions at just a glance, she’s just stunning at her role of Eyre. Really impressive! Those moments, subject to Fairfax’ pressure, when he’s trying to seduce her in the beginning, to finally fall in love with her, are so intense, so emotionally loaded, and she stands firm, because she doesn’t want to lose her freedom, she doesn’t want to endure more pain than is normal, and although she would give him absolutely everything he’d ask, she needs that security, a vicious character as Edward couldn’t ever provide.

What can I say regarding Fassbender? Let’s leave the hot part aside, I’m trying to be objective here. Up to date, I cannot find any weak point to his performance, and definitely he’s to be one of the greatest actors of this new decade, I’m positive. Related to his role as Edward Fairfax Rochester, he’s also fascinating. The strength and manhood he spreads, his strong and vicious character willing to be tamed by the innocence and purity Jane, seeking for an act of kindness which he thinks that will free him from his terrible burden, is just awesome. Passion is the engine of his life, but rejection is something he cannot deal with quite well. Thus, if Jane is not to be by his side, Mrs Ingram will entertain and exploit his superficial side, so he won’t be alone.

St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) is just the opposite to Rochester. On one hand he doesn’t conceive women as equals, and on the other, love issue is a weakness, and he doesn’t not tolerate feelings and passion over pragmatism, tradition nor manners. His intentions towards Jane are too honest, but how can he conquer her after the romance, and its consequent pains she’s been living with her former employer? Jane wants freedom, no matter her life can be miserable.

It’s also remarkable the importance of nature in the film, from the weather to the thick and scary woods, including the palette of tones and shadings applied. Forces of nature really had relevance in the Brontë’s universe. The darkest moments Jane passes through, are enhanced by the rough weather, especially in the beginning, when she’s getting away from Thornfield Hall, unable to stand by Edward, after his terrible secret is reveiled. She’s devastated and heart broken. The storm is full of rage, almost killing her. Lowood is dark and grey, so is her life. But when everything seems to be going well for her, the warmth also accompanies her state. Despite the age of the mansion, she feels fine with the life she’s having, enjoying teaching Adele, and the friendship of Mrs Fairfax, and the hearth provides such smooth atmosphere.

Both the woods and the mansion suffer a transformation when the master arrives. The woods, covered with thick fog and humidity, is the place where their first encounter occurs, the difficult visibility causes Rochester’s horse gets wild, him falling and twisting his ankle. And regarding the mansion, all of a sudden a strange and uneasy atmosphere is perceived by Jane. It’s as if the place was not safe any longer, and some kind of danger was about to happen anytime.

Thus, the characters, the houses, the nature, the lights and tones… everything is masterly put together in order to offer an adaptation of one of the most popular classic novels of British literature, enhancing this tortuous and painful story of love, and avoiding superficial and ostentatious resources, making of this, a direct, stunning and brilliant film.

Believe me when I reckon, it’s been too long time since I haven’t felt so many emotions thanks to a film. You might think it’s a movie for women, perhaps it is, but I really insist, it’s worth seeing.