Author: Jason Ooi

Dheepan Features A Trio Of Brilliant Character Studies

Overview: The eponymous character is given a family of strangers, including a fake-wife and a fake-daughter, none of whom have ever met before, and is dropped in France, an equally strange land, before all their lives are completely reset as they depart the war-torn Sri Lankan jungle that they once called home. UGC Distribution; Not Rated; 2015; 109 Minutes. Father: Dheepan is a freedom fighter. He has fought his war and accepted his loss with dignity. Perhaps it is some ironic sense of redemption that he be reduced to caretaker for the dilapidated French apartment complex Le Pre, the pasture, still...

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Netflix Hidden Gems #67: Young & Beautiful

Young & Beautiful (2013) Director: François Ozon Genre: Drama Wild Bunch Films Synopsis: Isabelle, a 17-year old girl, becomes a call girl after losing her virginity. Overview: For such a cold film, Young and Beautiful is oddly compelling. Its plot, regarding beautiful teenager Isabelle’s unexplained transition into a callous call-girl, within its context, is completely confounding yet altogether believable, begging us to to solve the puzzle within her actions. It is a coming of age film that defies its genre. The reasoning behind every decision within it is generally unexplained – left to the viewer to decipher. And its story, interlaced with title...

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Trumbo Condemns Itself To Obscurity

Overview: The story of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who, in 1947, along with other artists, was jailed and blacklisted for being a member of the Communist Party during the height of the Red Scare. Bleecker Street; 2015; Rated R; 124 Minutes. Producing: Trumbo‘s story, a glorious tale of a group of men exposing certain follies of government, is fascinating. And, with Hollywood’s inherent fascination with itself and film-making, it is a marvel how long it took a star-studded biopic like itself to come into fruition. The film tells the aged story with a second wind. Energy flows through the first act, stagnating in the second, only to rejuvenate again...

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Watching Characters Think About Us: On Meta-Cinema

We watch films with a certain security. The events that occur, however violent, however immersive, and however uncomfortable, are never as frightening as they should seem. We know that these apparitions cannot harm us, for not only are they unaware of our existence as an omniscient spectator to their various plights, but they have no means of reacting anyhow. But sometimes, as we cower behind the refuge of the fourth wall, we find the characters staring back at us. And from this set of eyes gazing back, we are immediately made to form entirely different ideals, about the characters,...

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Victoria is Almost Life-Like

Overview: A young girl working in Berlin befriends four men at the crack of dawn after a night of partying. All is not what it seems, however, as the men share a connection to the underworld that she is now entangled in. Senator Film; 2015; Not Rated; 138 minutes. An Experiment in Real-Time Cinema: Sebastian Schipper’s German film, Victoria, is a two and a half hour film shot in one take and comprised largely of improvised dialogue. While it is this conceit that concludes every mention of the flick, and seemingly at times a veritable gimmick, it is not. The single take here...

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99 Homes Is Captivating, Emotional, and Relevant

Overview: A single father fighting for his family’s home during the real estate crash of 2008 finds work with a real estate agent specializing in evictions. Broad Green Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 112 Minutes. Powerful Performances: Michael Shannon is fantastic as the evil-genius, cold, calculating, and towering over his subjects, but Andrew Garfield does not a desperate father make. Until around halfway through the movie when something clicks and suddenly, Garfield, still reeling from quasi-roles as a teenager, does. It is his most mature performance to date. Garfield plays Dennis Nash, a single father living with his mother. He works in construction, but...

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Queen of Earth Is A Beautiful Nightmare

Overview: Two women who grew up together discover they have drifted apart when they retreat to a lake house together. IFC Films; 2015; Unrated; 90 Minutes. A Worthy Ode to Persona: Two women attempt to go on a vacation to ignore the troubles of society, but their idyllic fantasy cannot mask their dread. The lake house, Queen of Earth‘s predominant setting, is a pressure cooker. The women, their audience, and the various characters that venture into the story are forced to fend for themselves in a place where the woes of the privileged – slight at best – are all that truly matter. And...

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Criterion Discovery: The Double Life of Veronique

Background The Double Life of Veronique (spine # 359) is a 1991 drama directed by Krzysztof  Kieslowski, starring Irene Jacob. It was his international breakthrough, and acts almost as a predecessor to his Three Colors Trilogy. Kieslowski has four other films in the Criterion Collection: Three Colors:Blue (Spine #588), Three Colors:White (Spine #589), Three Colors: Red (Spine #590), and Blind Chance (Spine #772). Story In The Double Life of Veronique, two identical women living in two different countries are profoundly bound to each other. The film is many things. It is a shattered mirror, it is a hazy dream with a...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #50: Funny Games (1998)

Funny Games (1997) Director: Michael Haneke Genre: Horror Madman Entertainment Synopsis: In an interview, film critic and director Jacques Rivette dismissed Michael Haneke’s film Funny Games as “vile,” and, “a complete piece of shit.” And I agree with him. It is vile. But it is not a complete piece of shit. It is actually quite the opposite, and as I give this movie an uninhibited endorsement, I openly cede my last ounce of humanity. Overview: Funny Games (1998) is a bit of an anti-horror, genre feature. It’s a home invasion movie that, upon close observation, criticizes the very genre and all of the people who enjoy...

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Batman: The Hero We Need

Though he transcends history and the media, starring in numerous adaptations and remakes of his character, one thing will always stay the same about Batman: Though his thematic role may shift on the streets of Gotham, he is, as a character, always what the world needs him to be. Whether he is seen as the dark, brooding, and visceral Dark Knight of Christopher Nolan’s films, or the light and campy Batman of the 1960’s, or any and everything in between, Batman stays the same. Throughout various iterations of the Batman mythos, one factor retains its residency in the streets of...

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Overview: The film follows Greg, a high school senior and filmmaker who sees friendship as a diplomatic trial, and his best friend (but he won’t ever say it) Earl, as they befriend a family friend but otherwise stranger, Rachel after she is afflicted with Leukemia. Fox Searchlight, 2015; Rated PG-13; 104 minutes Not a Love Story, but Filled With Love: What starts out as a friendship between two people who don’t really like themselves, founded on maternal nagging, slowly and beautifully becomes kindled as they start warming up to each other and inciting change in each other’s lives. But Me and Earl...

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Are There Too Many Superhero Movies?

  In 2016, there are going to be 7 new superhero movies gracing the screens. In 2017, there are going to be 8, and in 2018, there are already 7 more scheduled to fill theaters. Now as much as I enjoy watching our favorite heroes grace the screen armed with big budgets and ensemble casts, I can’t help but neglect that nagging voice in the back of my head that maybe, just maybe, it is all being overdone a bit too much. Now why is this a problem? Predictability. Every superhero movie is ostensibly a formula: the invincible hero,...

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Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Overview: A young woman living in Japan finds her solace in the form of the Coen Brothers film Fargo within a battered VHS she discovers under a soggy rock in a cave. Amplify; 2015; Unrated; 105 minutes “This is a True Story”: The Zellner Brothers channel their inner Coen Brothers in this quiet but earnest depiction of the strive for individuality. The film is subtle, and despite being sometimes masked with quirkiness, also very bleak. It’s ostensibly about a girl looking for the treasure from Fargo, but it really isn’t about that at all. It’s about escapism from traditional destinies and searching with...

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I Saw the Devil

Overview: A secret agent crosses the threshold between good and bad after his fiancée becomes another victim of a cannibalistic serial killer. Magnet Releasing; 2010; Rated R; 141 minutes Revenge Intensified: Revenge films often showcase an unrelenting and horrific gruesomeness, but Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil takes it much further. The film showcases an escalation of the need for retribution as secret agent Soo-hyeon goes on the ultimate path of revenge after his pregnant fiancée falls victim to cannibalistic serial killer Kyung-chul. On this beaten path, Soo-hyeon obscures the line between the good and the bad, as he vows to...

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