Posts Tagged ‘Brad Pitt’

The end of the year encourages reflection and celebration. One way I practice both is by commemorating this year’s movies that I regard with personal fervor. My tradition of making lists requires both overly geeky scrutiny and exuberant love for the art of filmmaking; what results is not only a list of movie titles, but an illustration of who I was as a person in the year 2010.

I am thankful I have this blog as an outlet, as it is a time capsule of opinions that come from someone who is currently obsessed with film. Before turning 2010 into a memory, I would like to preserve my thoughts on how five particular movie trailers astounded and affected me this year.

Honorable mentions: The Social Network, Cowboys and Aliens, Inception

5.Black Swan

Accented by a harrowing score, Black Swan’s premiere trailer chauffeurs us through a nightmare of paranoia and disillusionment. Ominous, upsetting colors clash with violent editing to celebrate the terror that only a scathed mind can conjure. With elegance, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis enhance the beauty that ballet already provides, but with an estranged twist from director Darren Aronofsky, this preview mixes charm and delirium to create something artfully unnerving.

4. Buried

Horror/thriller films often exploit the power of sound to cheaply elicit fear. Sudden bursts of noise, typically used in a jump scare, do not motivate freight as effectively as a sound that billows with slow, insurmountable tension. Buried’s teaser trailer recognizes this, as it crescendos from quiet nervousness to riotous apprehension, all with the use of sound. In the preview’s last moments, we finally scrape an image from the darkness to reveal the context of the corresponding audio.

3. The Tree of Life

By widening its focus on humanity, the preview for Terrence Malick’s highly anticipated The Tree of Life transcends mere advertisement and propaganda. This pensive montage gallops towards a threshold that combines the plight of one’s past and the mystery of the unknowing future to illustrate the spectrum of life. Gorgeous imagery and celestial melodies course through its veins, vicariously breathing life into ourselves.

2. Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine’s highly visceral teaser manages to express love under numerous circumstances. Whether it’s through an intimate stare shared between two lovers or through a quarrel that almost dismantles them, the insight into this unabashedly real relationship strikes a chord of imperfection and solace. By juxtaposing such complex imagery with the simplistic tune of a ukulele, this preview somehow eloquently tackles both the joy and frustration of being in love.

1. True Grit

Haunted by a foreboding hymn, the terse preview for True Grit seems to solemnly strip the innocence away from our thirteen year old protagonist. Her stoic voiceover illustrates the audacity of the conquest she’s about to embark on, and I have nothing but fear for her. Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography creates an epic landscape riddled with wrath and retribution, and the characters that fill that desolate space seem just as relentless.


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It is now 2010, and everything from reviews to teasers is suddenly culminating to this. A reflective and hopefully not so irrelevant list of my favorite movies from 2009. I know that publishing such a compilation seems so out of date when we’re already in the new decade, but I want to contemplate on the past year a tiny bit before plunging into the future.

Before we count down, I’d like to share with you the ineligibles and the honorable mentions. The ineligibles are movies that seemed likely in making the list, but are ones I never got around to seeing. The honorable mentions are films that just barely missed the cut.

Ineligible: In the Loop, Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Single Man, The White Ribbon

Honorable Mentions: Drag Me to Hell, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Coraline, Moon

And so we begin. It’s time to throw all numerical scores out the window and to simply go with intuition.

10. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s adaptation of beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is an assortment of innocence, wonderment, and loneliness. The treatment of these consolidated emotions is a bit rushed and unfocused, however, and what remains is a frenetic and rather sloppy movie; but where the film lacks in steadiness is where it succeeds in providing unabashed and sometimes painful emotion. Jonze’s artful construction of a purely fantastical world serves as a harbor of nostalgia for those who were once tormented children. From building forts to feeling ignored, Where the Wild Things Are manages to beautifully exhibit both the wonder and terror of growing up.

9. Humpday

Humpday is a cleverly inquisitve movie. At first, the film asks questions about sexuality and masculinity, but as it meanders to a fitting end, these queries slowly transform into examinations of a concept that is far more frustrating than sex. Growing up. Unbeknownst to our main characters, Andrew and Ben, they do make discoveries about themselves, and their inner demons are quietly exorcised. What makes this overall experience so cathartic is the innate goodness and relatability of the characters we follow. Now being twenty years old, I often bump into the proverbial quarter-life crisis. Thoughts of past accomplishments and future ambitions come up for dissection, and I’m sometimes unsure how to assess myself. Humpday happens to mirror some of my thoughts and apprehensions perfectly.

8. Adventureland

Adventureland isn’t just a movie that’s set in 1987. It’s a recollection of personal memories that vicariously warps us back to our own pasts. While watching this film, it’s natural to recall that sacred instance we first fell in love; it’s reactionary to conjure up memories of simply hanging out with old friends and realizing that life is pretty amazing when shared with the right people. Adventureland’s ability to feel like something in the past tense is a reminder that these years are the best years of our lives. Its depiction of joy, frustration, regret, and inebriation is honest and endearing, making us want to latch onto our own Adventureland, whatever that may be, forever.

7. A Serious Man

The latest Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, opens with the quote, “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.” What follows is an hour and a half of comically tragic torture, all befalling our gentle and very disgruntled subject, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). How we respond to his misfortune depends on our own religious beliefs, considering that Joel and Ethan Coen never pamper us with their own direct discernment, other than to antithetically “Accept the mystery.” Many of this film’s oddities and philosophical undertones are stylistically reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, and that is perhaps why I adore it so much. Its wandering nature is not only thought provoking, but also brave, for it ultimately encourages us to find our own meaning to the movie’s unfortunate events ourselves.

6. An Education

Collectively, college students can be as pretentious as they are naive. I am no different. Nor is the main character of An Education, Jenny (Carey Mulligan). Her desire to become an adult far too quickly is triggered by the splendor of pop culture. She eventually finds herself circumscribed by an exquisite, highbrow life for which she is not yet ready, and it all clusters into a horrible yet calculated mess by the end. The illusion with which she is enamored is undeniably charming and elegant, and credit must be given to those across the Atlantic who made this film. Interestingly enough, behind said illusion is a reality we, myself included, should try to accept. We mustn’t be so quick to let our pretension overbear our not so necessarily terrible innocence.

5. The Hurt Locker

The most cataclysmic dangers in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker are not epic or turbulent. Rather, they are unforeseeable and omnipresent. Trouble could be within a crowd of seemingly innocent civilians, or behind a wall hundreds of feet away, or dangling between loose bomb wires that are within one’s grasp. The notion that these dangers are all “could be’s” and “what if’s” is what makes the experience all the more terrifying. Additionally, the characters we see endure these crises are communally unstable and unpredictable, only heightening the already established tension. The intensity that is embedded within The Hurt Locker damages our characters psychologically, and we are challenged to accept them as imperfect individuals who are merely trying to survive.

4. Star Trek

As made evident by his television series, Lost, JJ Abrams has a penchant for creating thoughtful relationships between strong characters. With Star Trek, he takes familiar faces from a renowned franchise and still manages to create crisp dynamics. It’s an absolute joy to watch the relationship between James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), one that traverses both directions in time, blossom from pure hatred to something a little less vile. Their exchanges, which range from simple bickering to physical engagement, are some of the best parts of the film, and where their individual character arcs conclude makes the journey with them that much more satisfying.

3. Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) forlorn philosophy on relationships is one that I, more often than not, subscribe to. Yet, his gradual but never completed metamorphasis into a more susceptible person is alleviating on multiple levels. I say “never completed” because we don’t really know if he is a changed man by the end. Along the way, Ryan is damaged, betrayed, and abandoned, and we are left without a cathartic, warmhearted climax. Knowing that everything is literally up in the air by the end of this film, we become refugees who are forced to find a home in whatever makes the film seem whole to us. Our interpretations of such a bold ending will be subject to debate, and this is where our human tendencies will be examined. This beautiful experiment that director Jason Reitman conducts is one that I will not forget being a part of.

2. Mary and Max

Australian film, Mary and Max, is a claymation feature that is crude and sophisticated. The tone is childlike in appearance, but its deeply sad themes resonate particularly well with me at this point in my life. Currently attending college, I feel like I’m inside some sort of purgatory or in-between. I’m no longer a kid, but I’m not yet an adult. This place can be, at times, very lonely. The film’s characters are from both ends of the spectrum-Mary is a young, lonely girl, and Max is an old, misunderstood hermit. Where they converge in similarities and differences is exactly where I reside-that bubble of misunderstanding and uncertainty. Complemented by a captivating score, Mary and Max unfolds with the innocence of a children’s book, but its insight is extremely powerful.

1. Inglourious Basterds

I never thought I’d ever be putting a Tarantino film at the top of a favorites list. He’s a filmmaking genius, but the romantic in me doesn’t necessarily anchor to his masculine movies. However, upon further meditation, there’s no doubt in my mind that Inglourious Basterds is my favorite film of 2009. Tarantino’s orchestration of remorseless action serves as a shrewd device for both entertainment and examination, and I love everything that occurs on screen. More impressively, beyond the conscious brutality that Inglourious Basterds sustains is a great deal of lacerating tension that comes from people simply talking. Tarantino’s loud audacity is most prominent in his quietest scenes, creating a wholesome, epic experience-one that I admire from beginning to end.

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Quentin Tarantino’s filmography is like a shoebox of personal belongings. In it are homages to classics, sequences of unrelenting violence, plentiful conversations poked by sharp wit, colorful characters, and nonlinear storylines. Some might say he is a geeky manchild, hoarding every testosterone driven fantasy there is (samurai, gangsters, Nazi killers) into this little shoebox. Yet, without his passion and audacity, we may never have had the opportunity to peek into his personal and meaningful collection of films.

Tarantino’s most recent work, Inglourious Basterds, is his most subdued film I’ve seen (I haven’t seen Jackie Brown or Death Proof). Of course, it has its share of ultraviolence, but drawn out illustrations of tense dialogue are what comprise most of this smart World War II spaghetti-western.

The film follows three specific arcs over the course of five chapters. We follow the titular Basterds, a group of Jewsih-American soldiers dropped behind enemy lines to kill Nazis. They are led by the cartoonish Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), a vengeful native of Tenessee. With his troops, he strikes fear into the Germans with the cruel disassembly of several Nazi servicemen. We also follow Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a Jewish French girl on the run after escaping the massacre of her family. As she recreates her life as the owner of a movie theater, she coincidentally comes closer to the Nazis and is given the opportunity to destroy those in the highest ranks. Finally, we follow Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), the calm and cunning “Jew Hunter” who gets in the way of both the Basterds and Shoshanna.

I wouldn’t be surprised if viewers were bored or irritated with Inglourious Basterds.  The film is very talkative. Some say it’s too talkative. The well known fact that Tarantino loves himself and his dialogue is quite apparent, but I enjoyed every goddamn minute of it. His precise editing and seamless conversations strangle you with utter suspense. Each line, be it in English, German or French, has its own purpose, and as draining as it might feel when reading subtitles for a long time, the pacing is chopped up due to the episodic nature of the film.

Unfortunately, this uneven momentum does makes the film a bit aimless at times. The two plus hour movie is illustrated in vignette form, and while these few individual scenes are brilliant, the overall narrative is not as powerful as any particular sequence. However, this isn’t really a distraction because each scene carries its own weight to add satisfaction to the climax at the very end.

Tarantino manages to sprinkle bits of self indulgence, and they do feel out of place. While these moments are designed to let the viewer breathe and nervously chuckle, they are a bit tawdry; but I guess it wouldn’t be a Tarantino film without the the B movie milieu.

The beauty of Inglourious Basterds lies within the characters. Hans Landa is perhaps Tarantino’s best written character. Perfectly played by Christoph Waltz, Landa’s chameleonic nature makes him the quintessential villain. Underneath his innocent smile lies a black heart, and this makes him the most difficult character to read. With charm and precision, Landa  hangs all of his victims by a thread of suspense, and we are simply at unease.

It is ostensible that Hans Landa is the antagonist, but what’s most surprising is that the rest of the cast is dishonrable as he. Almost every single character in this film is a bastard, and this is a testament to the excellence of Tarantino’s playful construction of “good” vs. “evil”. While we expect to have some catharsis when we see Nazis die, we’re just disturbed. The Basterds’ brutality mirrors that of the Nazis, and we eventually have no one to support. The eventual massacre of Nazis at the end of the film might bring some to delight, but this is the question that Tarantino leaves us with. Is killing always wrong? Or does it warrant cheer when done against evildoers?

The abundance of immorality challenges the viewer in a startling and unique way. There is a reason for this violence, and it tests our beliefs in humanity and the distasteful history we have. Inglourious Basterds is a work of art, and it’s bound to procure a huge following. I walked out of the theater with no immediate qualms, and that hasn’t happened in a while.

9.5 out of 10

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This poster is the epitome of what’s wrong with the glamorization (or bastardization, depending how you look at it) of Hollywood. The idea behind the poster is great; the tone is as epic as Tarantino says the film is. Great match. That blood smear in the back accompanied by some lovely ladies with superb looking poses adds a terrific touch! Yet, it’s ruined by the fact the three humans out in front look cartoonishly perfect. I’d like to see some impurities, some grittiness, some actuality. Eli Roth honestly looks like a video game character to me. It takes me out of the realm of Inglourious Basterds. This just might be an overreaction on my part, I don’t know. I’m sorry.

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An unsatisfying poster for a movie I eagerly await. I’ll admit, I’m still a bit uneasy with Pitt at the helm of the cast; the footage revealed, while appealing in many many ways, hasn’t had me jumping all over Pitt’s bones with excitement. A few of my friends aren’t too excited for this movie, and I can understand why. Yet, if we went back in time to when Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs were released, I’m sure not a lot of people were looking forward to them. And look at how they turned out-classics. I say we should trust Quentin Tarantino, even with his most recent release, Death Proof, which was negatively received.

Well, Inglourious Basterds is set to premiere at Cannes Festival later this month, so the early buzz will indicate if this will be another one of Tarantino’s hits.

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