It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
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Considering that we normally think of documentaries as some sort of academic discourse at the fringes of popular cinema, this relatively new genre of Celebrity-driven docs is something peculiar. That we now watch documentaries starring Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock, and Bill Maher is something inevitable, I suppose. We already have that tradition of following on-screen directors as characters in their features, including Kevin Smith, Spike Lee, and Woody Allen. But, the point here is that we watch some documentaries because of their host celebrities, more than the topic, even though the topics seem to be extensions of those same celebrities.
I suspect few people outside of his fan base will watch this movie: in Larry Charles' documentary "Religulous," (2008) popular Television talk show host Bill Maher is a playful microphone-toting cynic, roaming the landscapes of Christianity, with a few references to Judaism, Islam, and Scientology. The film is very strong and vastly entertaining in finding absurdities in absurd places, but fizzles when it attempts any serious commentary.
Mirrors and reflections have always been an obsession for filmmakers from all over the world - something that came as a result of the wealth of symbolism that they inspire, of course, but also of the psychological development all of us go through in order to recognize ourselves as individuals. (That led, for instance, to Jean-Louis Baudry's brilliant analogy of the film spectator as someone regressing to the "Mirror Stage" described by Lacan). From Buñuel to Hitchcock and from Fritz Lang to Tarkovsky, directors from different eras and different styles have used doubles as a thematic basis of one or more of their works -- but perhaps it has seldom been used so intensely and organically as in Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan."
In a science magazine I used to read during my high school years, one of my favorite sections was on the science in SF movies. (The magazine is still published; whenever I come across it at the campus book store, it takes me back to when I was less jaded and more anti-social.) It answered my doubts on the climax sequence in "Total Recall" (1990), and pointed out that there were several implausible aspects in the premise of "Jurassic Park" (1993). In case of the movies like "Armageddon" (1998) and "Independence Day" (1996)--well, it didn't require a lot of scientific knowledge to discern that they were brainless.
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The movie starts out so beautifully. The great Indian actor Amrish Puri stands there with his dignity, dressed in a perfect mix of Western and native Indian attire, feeding a flock of pigeons in London's monochrome rain-soaked concrete Trafalgar Square, thinking fondly about the sunny, colorful, musical world he left behind in the bright green and yellow fields of his home country. Twenty years of life in England, he runs a generic convenience store, with the goals of giving his daughters the life he never had. In his daydreams, however, he is longingly feeding pigeons not here, but in India.
That very short moment provided a profound insight into the lives of a whole population of first generation immigrants. But, I'd say that the movie takes a nose dive from there, and it does temporarily, because Puri seems to spend the rest of the film with a frozen glare that is frightening enough to make Indiana Jones pull out his own heart. And, similarly, I just wish that that punk Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) would stop his giggling. This is Aditya Chopra's "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (1995) and it is easily one of the most popular of all Bollywood films, at least for a certain demographic of women between the ages 15 and 45, in a way that "Sholay" is the most popular of all Bollywood films for whatever male demographic I belong to.
Fantastical novels aimed at the young are making a killing these days. And due to the immense success of the "Harry Potter" and "Lord Of The Rings" movies, studios are looking for that next big series to cash in on. But among such film adaptations, rare is the one that finds a figurative truth worth sharing. Most of them are merely content to display the depths of their imaginations, being (perhaps justifiably) almost completely distant from the concerns of real life.
Looking back at the Hollywood blockbuster action films of 2011 when the year was about to end, I found none of them could top the raw realism of the ambitious South Korean thriller "The Yellow Sea" (2010). When I endured "Transformers 3" last summer, I had no excitement at all with its pointless loud action scenes decorated with weightless CGI. In the case of "The Yellow Sea," real people and real vehicles are put into the action on the screen, and they are far more visceral than those big, humongous CGI robots fighting on the streets of Chicago.
I love a black comedy. Always have. You know, all those tragic mishaps that seem to befall Alec Guinness in the English countryside when no one is looking? But then who doesn't love an Ealing comedy. I also like "Dexter" and for similar reasons; it too, has an air of subversive glee about it, albeit darker and more graphic in nature. The appeal is never about seeing people die, though (where's the fun in that?). Nor in watching mindless torture porn like Hostel; a genre increasingly viewed as the favorite pastime of failed experiments in parenting, moreover, and thus to be avoided at all costs. I loathe the entire genre aka "Women in Danger" films as Gene and Roger once termed them. American Psycho however, is anything but a slasher film.
During the 1970s and 80s the typical Clint Eastwood vehicle was heavier in plot than characters. In most cases, he simply played another variation of his usual loner, with a different name and leading lady. The female role was barely relevant, came well in second place to Clint's and was nothing more than a plot resource. It didn't really matter who ended up playing her but for a while Sondra Locke got the part repeatedly.
These days when you mention Iran, we think of a nation on the brink of war. Extremist images come to mind, full of concealed women and bearded militants. Such stereotypes are useful in the drum up to war. But rarely do we step back to remember when Iran was as European as Europe, or that an autocracy does not necessarily reflect its people. We've forgotten how hundreds of thousands of Iranians risked their lives for the Green Revolution, long before the Arab Spring. There's more to Iran than Ayatollahs and Nuclear Weapons.
Iranian Cinema has always been one of the world's best, reflecting the country's incredible artistic heritage. This year saw Asghar Farhadi's A Separation take the much deserved Best Foreign Picture Oscar. Farhadi himself reminded us not to forget his people's shared humanity.
On the subway, the beautiful woman returns his gaze with a smile. Noticing the desire of the man before her, she crosses her legs suggestively, indicating an awareness of what's happening while waiting for a more direct approach. Gradually, however, something occurs to her: the man is not smiling nor showing any sign that he's enjoying the pleasure of mutual seduction, seeming only interested in establishing the possibility of sex before making any move. Suddenly, the situation becomes unbearably uncomfortable and the girl, not understanding exactly what goes on his mind, runs out of the car, fearing the cool evaluation of that look.