Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Review Avatar

Colors of The Wind


Score: 7,5

In my blog in Portuguese I wrote about Gran Torino and Fight Club, and these articles resulted in very angry comments and this one is probably going the same path. I'm thankful my blog is not famous and my profile picture is very mysterious otherwise I would be attacked by an angry mob. But even so I won't remain silent! I really like James Cameron. I loved Titanic. But I was 12 when I watched it and its thousands of flaws were completely invisible to my critical views at the time and now they only make it more charming. Titanic is still the biggest box office success of all time, but Avatar is right behind it. But at one thing we have to agree, its plot has been exhaustively explored in much better ways. I was trying to ellaborate an equation with a friend that could result in Avatar, and we got to the following one: Pocahontas + The Last of The Mohicans + The Last Samurai + Dance With Wolves + Atari + Wii.What did you think?

What is it about? Actually it's just an excuse to show what's the latest technology in special effects for motion pictures. I tried to watch it in 3D but it was sold out for 3 days so I watched the regular version. Well, the story is about terrestrials (all Americans, sorry...) who go to a planet called Pandora in order to explore. The team guided by Sigourney Weaver wants to study the planet but the team guided by Colonel Quaritch has other less peaceful interests.

The intention is good, but the script is weak. Let's face it: no army chief in the Middle East will ever say that their interest there is oil as Giovanni Ribisi said to Sigourney that they only want a stone that costs 20 million a kilo. They would disguise it as “Spread of Democracy” or “War on Terror”. But I also understand that the kind of public that is most appealed to this kind of movie is generally not used to think about serious issues or just care about the visual aspect of the movie, so the message must be completely clear otherwise they wouldn't get it.

The leading man, Australian actor Sam worthington, is a marine who's got an avatar (mixed with his DNA) to explore the planet freely, play with the flying jellyfishes (among other funny games), and he ends up becoming friends with the natives, and Zoe Saldaña has the obligation to teach him to be one of them. So he has this double life, part-time human, part-time Na' vi.

This discovery part is beautiful. I was really expecting to see Pocahontas or Vanessa Williams to come along and sing Colors of the Wind. Everything is so colorful that it wouldn't be any surprise if the wind was colored too. It's funny that in Twilight, the glitter-vampire glows in the sun, but here everything glows in the dark. The plants, the animals, everything. You're running away from a predator? You're screwed! Wanna play hide and seek? Don't even think about it... Suddenly I looked down and my flip flops were glowing too. If I had put them up to the air maybe the public would think they were watching it in 3D.

And just between us, this new technology developed by James Cameron to turn real actors in those blue creatures may be revolutionary, but visually it's not of good taste. It's too much information. Reminded me of those gigantic colores pencil boxes. Except for the plants (which were nothing but palm trees, coconut palms, banana plans, ferns and similar things) the animals didn't look real. I felt like watching a Playstation game. The Ets from Evolution (that movie with Julianne Moore and David Duchovny) seemed more conveincing. Pixas does it better... But this technology will be improved. In time no make up will be needed to transform actors for biographies. Special effects will take care of that. There will be no ugly people either. Anyone will have the chance to be gorgeous and slim. Social acceptance expectations rising...

The characters weren't well developed either. They're all plane, shallow, specially the villain. He's a complete stereotype, from the scars in the head to the complete absence of kindness. And it amazes me that someone who fought in a fictitious war in Venezuela (will it actually happen?) to say something like this: On Earth, these men (marines) were the main strenght from the army. Fighting for freedom. But here they were only mercenaries getting their money. Then I ask: whose freedom?

I could write a book about the planet itself. There are many questionable things there, besides the bad taste. For example, if there is plenty of water why there's no oxigen in the air? Why don't the flying mountains fall? Why do the mosquitos fly in circles? I think the script could be more creative about the planet. That luminous tree (Luxurious! The newest trend for the next holiday season) surpassed my expectations. I thought it was about to walk, like in Lord of The Rings, or to talk, just like Grandmother Willow.

The Na'vis are a different chapter. If I were them I wouldn't turn the Ets into giant smurfs. Everything is very similar to what exhists here on Earth and I believe that if there is life outside here it must be completely different from us and totally disturbing. And maybe more than one rational species as we have here. Sometimes the Na'vis act like Indians, specially their social organization, and their religious culture is similar to the African culture, and Pandora, which is a Greek word, was adopted by them as the name of their planet. There's no way for me to say that it was well developed.

And as a designer I have to criticise that millions were spent and they didn't think about hiring a graphic designer to create an exclusive typeface to use as the subtitles of the Na'vi language. They used Papyrus, that everyone has in their own computer. A shame... At least the movie has good values after all. It's against colonialism, imperialism and militarism. And I didn't sleep during the almost 3 hours of it. This is long enough now and I'm gonna stop. I talked enough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Grammy 2010 nominations

This year to me marked the return of dance music. It even reminded me of the 90’s, when Aqua, Ace of Base, Alexia, Haddaway, Whigfield, DJ Bobo, Nikki French, Corona, La Bouche and many other bands of this type of music, called Eurodance, made a huge success in Europe, Latin America and Asia. Most of the hits today recall this period of time. Lady Gaga, Madonna, Britney, David Guetta, The Black Eyed Peas, they’re all following this style.

The Grammy awards have more than 100 categories, and I’m only making comments about the 4 main categories, the dance music category, which is pretty strong this year, and some others that may be announced live on TV telecast.

Record of the year

  • Halo - Beyoncé
  • I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas
  • Use Somebody - Kings Of Leon
  • Poker Face - Lady Gaga
  • You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift

They were all huge this year. Taylor Swift was inducted to superstar after Kanye West’s incident. Alright, it was ridiculous, and I felt sorry for her, but they’re making her something she’s not! My favorite one is King of Leon’s track, but I Gotta Feeling is the most successful one.

Album of The Year

  • I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyoncé
  • The E.N.D. - The Black Eyed Peas
  • The Fame - Lady Gaga
  • Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King - Dave Matthews Band
  • Fearless - Taylor Swift

And here comes Taylor again... This category generally awards a well-established artist, probably because the voters don’t know in who to vote. They don’t know if Beyoncé is better, The Black Eyed Peas or Lady Gaga, so they choose Dave Matthews because he’s got no chance on winning. But he ends up winning after all… It always happens. I would choose Lady Gaga.

Song of The Year (songwriters)

  • Poker Face - Lady Gaga & RedOne, songwriters (Lady Gaga)
  • Pretty Wings - Hod David & Musze, songwriters (Maxwell)
  • Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) - Thaddis Harrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, songwriters (Beyoncé)
  • Use Somebody - Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon)
  • You Belong With Me - Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

I don’t know how they choose different songs for Record of the Year and Single of The Year. It sounds pretty much the same to me. It must be a way to award everyone. If it makes some kind of sense to me, Record of The Year would go to the most successful one, and Single of The Year would go to the best song, which would be King of Leon’s.

Best New Artist

  • Zac Brown Band
  • Keri Hilson
  • MGMT
  • Silversun Pickups
  • The Ting Tings

Except for The Ting Tings, which is pretty obnoxious and has been around for at least 2 years, I haven’t heard of any of them before.

Best Pop Vocal - Female

  • Hometown Glory - Adele
  • Halo - Beyoncé
  • Hot N Cold - Katy Perry
  • Sober - Pink
  • You Belong With Me - Taylor Swift

Adele’s so boring but the Grammy’s love her… I never heard of song of hers on the radio. And never heard this one. I would choose Katy Perry or Pink, they fit better the category. But if it is a fair award show, and Taylor Swift doesn’t win any of the main categories, she’ll win this one.

Best Pop Vocal - Male

  • This Time - John Legend
  • Love You - Maxwell
  • Make It Mine - Jason Mraz
  • If You Don't Know Me By Now - Seal
  • All About The Love Again - Stevie Wonder

The only one I know is Mraz’s track, and he has done better before, but I can talk about the artists. Stevie Wonder may record a burp and he still will win a Grammy. I like his work from the 60’s and 70’s but now he lives from the success of the past. I love Kiss From A Rose from Seal, but not much other than that. John Legend is boring. Maxwell I don’t know much about.

Best Pop Vocal – Double or Group

  • I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas
  • We Weren't Born To Follow - Bon Jovi
  • Never Say Never - The Fray
  • Sara Smile - Daryl Hall & John Oates
  • Kids - MGMT

I Gotta Feeling is the best song The Black Eyed Peas ever done by a clear mile. I adore Bon Jovi. I love The Fray’s song but it’s not as impacting as “How To Save A Life”, “Over My Head” or “You Found Me”. Hall & Oates are always a sure presence on my 80’s playlists. Never heard about MGMT… From the huge disparity of the success of The Black Eyed Peas success comparing to the others, they seem to be the clear winners. But the song is not hard to sing at all.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals

  • Sea Of Heartbreak - Rosanne Cash & Bruce Springsteen
  • Love Sex Magic - Ciara & Justin Timberlake
  • Lucky - Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat
  • Baby, It's Cold Outside - Willie Nelson & Norah Jones
  • Breathe - Taylor Swift & Colbie Caillat

This category and the previous one should be just one, frankly... I just remember Lucky, and I don’t think it’s a big deal anyway.

Best Pop Vocal Album

  • The E.N.D. - The Black Eyed Peas
  • Breakthrough - Colbie Caillat
  • All I Ever Wanted - Kelly Clarkson
  • The Fray - The Fray
  • Funhouse – Pink

From all of them, the only one I think I would listen to all the tracks without passing to the next one is The Fray’s, but isn’t it alternative rock? And The Black Eyes Peas is too much R&B/Hip Hop. From the actual pop ones, I would choose Kelly Clarkson’s.

Best Dance Recording

  • Boom Boom Pow - The Black Eyed Peas
  • When Love Takes Over - David Guetta & Kelly Rowland
  • Poker Face - Lady Gaga
  • Celebration - Madonna
  • Womanizer - Britney Spears

Except for Boom Boom Pow (terrible title, in my native language it sounds totally pornographic) I love them all. Any of the others could win and it would be fine.

Well, the others thousands of nominees you can check out here:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review - A Single Man

A Boring Man

A Single Man

Score: 8,0

If I’m completely honest I have to admit that I expected a lot more from this picture. It’s fashion designer Tom Ford’s first featured film. He produced, wrote (adapted) and directed it. Knowing his work, specially his famous and controversial ads (just google him to check them out), it was expected it to be very daring, but I didn’t think he was just going to leave it at that. The story is and adaptation of a homonymous book, from the 60’s I believe, the same period of time that the movie takes place.

I the story, a college professor, portrayed by Colin Firth, receives the call that his partner, Matthew Goode, died in a car accident. And he gets devastated. And that’s all. Some more people come up (otherwise it would be a monologue), people who cohabit with him (meanwhile we also see several flashbacks of Matthew), like Julianne Moore, Colin’s best friend, who has received great reviews from the critics, and is considered for awards. She has nothing to do there. There is just one important scene she’s in, but it’s not like Viola Davis’ scene in Doubt, for example, something surprising and moving.

Besides the three I mentioned before, there’s also Nicholas Hoult, from About A Boy, and was the villain from the British teenage TV series Skins, that I couldn’t miss a single episode, until they changed the whole cast for the new season and I quit watching it. He plays one of Colin’s students, who totally throws himself over him. And during his scenes they increased the saturation of the image, in order to color up Colin’s life.

Nicholas always reminded me of James Marsden, but he’s so dressed up, dolled up, preppy, tanned and with lighter hair, that I couldn’t help reminding of Zac Efron. With better acting skills, of course. Maybe it was a citation to someone and I didn’t recognize. There are two very obvious citations though, like the American Brigite Bardot smoking in the classroom, or the Spanish James Dean, a hustler seducing Colin in the phone booth of the supermarket parking lot. Kinda cliché. And there’s also Ginnifer Goodwin, who was in “Walk The Line” and “He’s Not That Into You”, but she just waves to the neighbors in her two or three scenes.

A picture by a fashion designer could never look bad. If it doesn’t have much to tell, there are plenty of quiet and plastically beautiful takes though. This part specifically is wonderful. It deserves an Oscar of cinematography or set design. But it’s a very gay perspective. We can notice that through the excessive attention to costumes and in scenes like the one Colin can’t stop looking at two shirtless guys playing tennis. The score is very good too. Everything is perfect, calculated. The clothing, sets, and everything else. It’s all so perfect, and then it’s almost kitsch. It seems like a taped version of a Vogue magazine. A two-hour French perfume ad.

The good side is that the quiet scenes explore the facial expressions of the cast. They’re all great though, in all these scenes and in everything else they have to do. Colin was nominated to a Golden Globe, and is also one of the favorites to the Oscars, but I think it’s very unlikely they award two gay characters in a row. One funny thing is that, except for Colin, they switched the nationalities of all the (speaking) cast. Julianne, who’s American, plays a British woman, and Matthew and Nicholas play American guys, even though they’re British.

And in the end the single man is just a boring man. Very apathetic. His behavior is not understandable. Ok, maybe it is, but there’s no way to agree with it. It’s alright to suffer for his loss, but he can’t stop living. Life goes on. And he’s very weird too. What kind of person watches the neighbors through the window while seated in toilet bowl? It’s a very surreal world. There’s only gorgeous skinny people, except for Colin, who’s far from being fat, though, and the story makes everything look very easy, as if opportunities knock on people’s doors everyday. It doesn’t express reality. Ok, I’ll stop “talking” now before I give more spoilers...

UPDATE: One detail I forgot to mention. The worst part of the movie is the excessive valorization (maybe an imposition) of youth, thinness and richness as beauty standards. Colin and Matthew had a relationship for 16 years and they don’t grow old at all. This is also the worst side of the fashion world, which is a very clear and strong influence in this film.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Review - The Blind Side

Conservatives Have Feelings Too

The Blind Side

Score: 8,5

I knew it! I knew that deep down inside that human being, there was an actress. I think that’s the first time I see Sandra Bullock doing and interesting movie. Ok, I’m lying, but that’s the first defying role she’s done, when she had to become someone completely different from what she actually is. She’s done something similar in Miss Congeniality, but that’s a serious movie. It is written and directed by John Lee Hancock.

It is an adaptation of a book, as usual in Hollywood. The book is about the evolution of one position from that civilized, elegant and friendly game called football in the US, where they use a few more protections, and rugby in the rest of the world. The other part of the book is about the tearful story of Michael Oher, one of the greatest athletes to act in this position (maybe the best one, but once I don’t know anything about US football it would be risky for me to point that out).

Michael had a tough childhood, raised by a drug addict mother, but she lost the guard to the State, in Tennessee, in the South of the US, where most of the people is Republican and religious, and social inclusion is something really important… He is admitted in a rich people’s school because of his athletic potential but hi grades are not good at all, so he can’t take part in the teams. On a Thanksgiving holiday a rich family sees him walking by himself in the cold and takes him home.

The rich family is composed by Sandra Bullock, blonde, flamboyant and imperious, Tim McGraw, the country singer, the teenage daughter, played by Phil Collins’s daughter, Lily Collins and the younger son, who is quite a character. The conservative good Christians take him home for one night but he stays for more and more and he conquers the whole family, which adopts him after all and even hires a tutor, played by the always excellent Kathy Bates (who should have been better used in this picture and in Hollywood in general), to help him to improve his grades, get into the football team and get a college scholarship.

The whole film is totally cliché and the formula has been used thousands of times, but it’s a beautiful story and interesting to watch anyway. The whole cast is perfect, the main actor is very charismatic, Kathy is great, but Sandra is the one who steals the scene and she will be one of the front runners for the main awards in the upcoming award season. I think she has done too much cosmetic procedures in her face, which is always a problem for actresses because it makes them lose the facial expressions, but she found a prefect role. She was nominted to the Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice awards. Let’s see what happens.

Despite of the difficult story the script has very funny moments, like when Sandra complains about the laziness of the service in a public office asking who runs the place, and the attendant points to Bush’s poster on the wall. Or when Kathy is very concerned to say that she’s an atheist democrat in her job interview. The movie has this obligation to say that conservatives have feelings too. I don’t know, I never had much contact with them, but it’s something hard to believe… Right now, when the main Republican public figures are Sarah Palin and the ex-Miss California Carrie Prejean, a movie like this is a good way to show their good side too. But it’s a nice movie to watch after all.

Review - (500) Days Of Summer

Losing Time…

(500) Days Of Summer

Score: 7,0

I had little interest in watching this movie, mainly because I have no sympathy for the leading couple. They’re boring and uninteresting. Thet are directed by Marc Webb, in his first movie. He used to direct before short films and music videos for artists and bands like Counting Crows, Snow Patrol, Fergie, Good Charlotte, Green Day, 3 Doors Down, Backstreet Boys, Maroon 5, Wallflowers, Jesse McCartney, Daniel Powter, Weezer, Evanescence, Gavin DeGraw, Lenny Kravitz and Incubus. Great list. But to my surprise it is not totally bad. But it’s not really good either. I could have been better.

The story is about a young man, Joseph Gordon Levitt, who reminds me a lot of Heath Ledger, in an ugly-teenager version, who falls for a girl at work, Zooey Deschanel, who’s not very friendly to the others apparently. But she actually responds to his moves and they start a kind of relationship, but he was much more into her, than she was into him.

And then we see the 500 days since he knew her and we have to witness all those terrible disillusion moments, and who’s been through the same thing, can’t find this picture funny at all. Even more when the significant other is Zooey. She’s a bad actress, weird, boring, and kinda dumb about herself. The personification of the word loser. She tries to be like Kirsten Dunst or Claire Danes, but she’s not good enough.

The only role of hers I actually enjoyed was in Almost Famous. She’s not particularly good, but everything around her works brilliantly, and the screenplay is awesome. I heard she’s fine in Weeds, but I haven’t watched the episodes she’s in. The films I saw her acting, The Happening, Yes, Sir, etc., they’re all bad. And she ain’t good either. And is it just me, or they don’t match at all? He’s too juvenile for her. But it actually makes sense. It’s not a Love story after all.

And we can tell that it was done by a music videos director when the best scene is a musical sequence with “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates (I love, love, love the 80’s!!!). At least the soundtrack is great, even though the songs are totally different and don’t make sense together. The movie was well received by most critics and has received nominations for awards that have separate categories for comedies. And I agree, the plot is not cliché at all, even though the ending reminded me of My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is much better than this one. But I still think it could’ve been better.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Review - Precious

Welcome To The Doll House

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Score: 9,5

Once I heard about Precious, during the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Audience award, I got interested, but it was eclipsed by Tarantino’s new movie, which I enjoyed until a determined moment, and by Michael Haneke’s movie, that won the Palm D’Or and has been nominated for awards in the Foreign Language categories. But Precious actually premiered at Sundance, where it won awards for best picture, the audience award and a special acting prize for Mo’Nique. Then it received distribution support from Oprah and Tyler Perry. The movie is an adaptation of the novel Push, a best-seller in the 90’s, and directed by Lee Daniels, who produced Monster’s Ball, which earned Halle Berry’s Oscar.

Sapphire, in the movie is called Miss Blu Rain, is the author of the book, and a teacher for students on Harlem, and wrote the book based on the experiences she lived through her students during this time. The story is about Claireece Precious Jones, played by Gabourey Sidibe, a 17 year-old who’s sexually abused by her father since her childhood, she has a daughter and gets pregnant for the second time. Her mother, played by Mo’Nique, is jealous due to her boyfriend’s preference and tortures her daughter physically and psychologically.

Just through this plot you can tell that it’s a pretty tough movie. The cast also has two famous singers: Mariah Carey, who was devastated by critics in her first movie, Glitter, and even though I’m a fan I must admit that it’s a really lame movie. But she did so much better in her next movies. She is really good in this one, and she looks physically older, without fancy make up or other beauty enhancements. Maybe this would be her appearance if she wasn’t famous. She plays a social worker who takes care of Precious. The rocker Lenny Kravitz plays the nurse in the hospital when Precious gives birth.

As I said, the film won the audience award in Cannes, and everybody was crying in the theatre when I watched it. Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar this year, but Precious shows people from the same social class and their problems without appealing to the fantastic or fantasy, proving that fairy tales only exist in book pages. Reality is always different. One is a nice fable, the other is a beautiful picture, the kind of movie that make us dedicate a few hours a week giving soup to the poor or teaching Geography in alternative schools, instead of hoping that they win the lottery or a big prize on TV.

The whole cast, even though it’s not big, it’s superb. Specially the two leading ladies, who could easily win Academy Awards. And they deserve it. But it would be easier for Mo’Nique to win (what I’m actually hoping for so far), because Sidibe has serious competition: Meryl Streep, who won for the last time 27 years ago, has been nominated 15 times and deserves another one for a long time, and Sandra Bullock, who finally showed her power after all this time. But just imagining Sidibe winning, I think even Meryl wouldn’t mind waiting a year or two more to get another one.

Above all, Precious is a film about life, about most of the people that live in this planet, which only celebrates the richness of 5% percent of its people, and Hollywood studios definitely represents that, always investing in the life of the rich and famous or juvenile sci-fi movies disguised as philosophy. But there’s always a small independent feature that shows what the Veuve Clicquot glasses in the movie theatre screens obfuscate from our sight.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Review - Everybody's Fine

The Lost Link

Everybody's Fine

Score: 9,0

In September or October Robert DeNiro won na award for this movie, but He hás been forgotten by the main awards ever since. The same thing happened to Hillary Swank for Amelia. I liked it a lot when I did some research about it later I found out that it’s a Kirk Jones’s remake of a homonymous Italian movie by Giuseppe Tornatore (director of Malena and Cinema Paradiso that I love and desperately need to watch again) from the early 90’s with Marcello Mastroianni in the leading role. My score dropped half a point after this.

Well, the story is about a man who recently lost his wife and gets his place ready to receive his kids for the Thanksgiving Holiday, but he only gets cancellation calls. So he decides to surprise them and visit them all in New York, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas.

His “kids” are Robert, played by Sam Rockwell (Frost/Nixon), who’s part of the Denver’s symphonic orchestra, Amy, portrayed by Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor, Van Helsing, Click), who owns an advertisement agency in Chicago, Rosie, Drew Barrymore (no presentation required), the sweet Vegas dancer, and the mysterious David, a fine artist who lives in NY.

The essence of the story is to show a relationship among father and children Who Love each other, but can’t communicate. And it’s very natural. Normally children spend more time with their mother, and after her death, who used to establish their connection, they don’t know how to make an approach anymore. The father had a distant relationship with his kids, never exchanged experiences with them, and now he wants to recover the lost time.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful story, with its tearful moments, and the ending is different than the original Italian movie, at least! The Italian is more sarcastic, ironic, while this one is more sentimental. I just think the last scene, with Paul McCartney’s song, very cliché. And corny. It could have been a beautiful movie for all seasons, but it turned out to be just another Holiday’s movie to be shown on TV on Christmas Eve, as we can see in the poster.