Earthquake Bird (2019): Crime / Drama / Mystery

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A translator in Japan becomes a prime suspect after her friend goes missing and her utterances and actions only worsen the situation for her.

Enigmatic, slow-burn, awkward. Mystery surrounds not only what Lucy Fly says and does but what everyone says and does. Interestingly enough, there is no character development as all characters are already developed. The amazing is how we get to wonder throughout the film how everyone got there. As for the story itself, the fabula and the syuzhet create a storyline that balances between the generic – the life as an ex-pat in Japan, and the specific – Lucy Fly’s paranoia in her world of sadness. If, eventually, the ending is to your liking or not this is up for you to decide.

Meticulously written, brilliantly acted, masterfully directed, and very carefully and patiently edited. Last but not least, this is arguably the best photography of the year. Netflix keeps the surprises coming, firstly because its Marketing is non-existent (I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it), and secondly because it dares once more to invest in diversity, quality, and the different.

Let the ‘mystery’ bring out the best of the genre. Let the film fill the gaps whenever it’s ready. Let your mind work it out in its own way.

 

For Ben! How could this not remind me of you mate? ūüôā

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Midsommar (2019): Drama / Horror / Mystery

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A young couple and their two friends decide to fly to Sweden and visit an isolated community’s midsummer festival only to experience events they never expected they would.

Ari Aster knows how to portray death. He has mastered the art of perfectly shooting people die – one way or another – and then how to cut to either their beloved finding out or straight to their reaction after it happens. That said, I can see why the film critically and financially disappointed. Did I like it personally? Yes, I did. Would I recommend it? Before I answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I would ask myself ‘who would I recommend it to’? Horror fans are disappointed already – is there such a thing as mystery or drama fans? I’m not going to answer with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but I would hint the following:

  • The film is unnecessarily two and a half hours long and Aster promised (threatened?) that the director’s cut will be thirty minutes longer!!! For a horror film, the first duration is too long, and the second is tooooo long.
  • About an hour into the film and I wanted it to end and go on IMDb to find out if there is such a Swedish or Scandinavian paganistic/folklore festival. As much as this is a good sign, I couldn’t help but wonder that if there it’s shocking, but if there isn’t why on Earth would he go to such great lengths to elaborate/analyse/delve into something that doesn’t exist. Wondering that, I missed a third of the film and then wanted to cut to what the trailer had promised; some thrill.
  • As stated above, the deaths taking place in the film are definitely worth watching.

Now that you know, it’s up to you to realise if it’s going to float your boat or not.

American Son (2019): Drama

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While their son goes missing, an estranged couple, having a lot of issues to deal with, must wait at the police station until further news arrives.

As a big Kerry Washington fan, straight after watching the trailer, I put on Netflix and watched it. The disappointment was huge. So, where do I start…

Characters: All four of them are dislikable. In a nutshell: Kendra throws out there a few times that she has a Ph.D. in Psychology and not even once, can she hold her emotions, lashing out at everyone. Scott, an FBI agent, who acts nothing like it – more like a wannabe CEO with his head way up his arse. Paul is just a dumbass and Lt. Stokes an obnoxious bellend.

Acting: Jeremy Jordan could have made his naive character act like it; he could have done a lot more with it. Steven Pasquale looks like he doesn’t want to be on set; it’s like he forgot he is going out with his mates for pints and he has stood them up. Eugene Lee acts as if he’s a judge, dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and, as with Steven, he’s in a rush to leave the set and go back to sleep. Last but definitely not least, my favourite Kerry Washington who, while raising political and social issues, constantly grimaces and acts as if the importance of those issues matters to her more than her missing son. Something that leads me to the…

Story: Feels very forceful! In an hour and a half, it is trying to address racism from… Every. Single. Angle. The topic changes and, not very creatively, every time comes back to that. Repeatedly. Over and over again. And the damage it does is that it overshadows the parents’ greatest fear: the worst-case scenario about their child. Which may or may not be the case here (watch it). When your child goes missing and ultimately is proved that you know a lot more than you reveal in the beginning you are not preoccupied that much with racism. You wait until your child proves to be alright, bollock it to tears, and then argue with anyone about anything. In¬†American Son,¬†everyone argues with everyone and it all boils down to race. White on black, black on white, and black on black. And this notion to fully develop and thoroughly analyse such a perplex and painful issue as ‘racism’ in an hour and a half ruins the plot which should have been the parents’ agonising drama. Period. All the rest is a subplot.

Really shame as all actors are brilliant (apologies for favouring more Kerry) but the story’s unfolding doesn’t do justice to neither the characters nor the acting. Here in the UK, racism is a massively sore issue as well but I have hardly ever heard any conversation going down like that. One of the best films I watched last year, which tackles racism in a very creative, subtle but also kind of a funny way is Blindspotting (2018) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Blue Mountain (2019): Drama / Romance / Short

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A woman lies in bed watching the love of her life sleeping and can’t help but wonder if life is how she perceives it to be.

Watching Blue Mountain¬†you stop debating with yourself regarding whether a short film can convey the message as effectively as a feature can and start wondering if what you perceive as real is everyone’s reality or just yours. Translucent Film Studios, Congo Station Productions, and one (wo)man army Jasmine Brotzman produces, writes, acts, edits, designs, and directs life’s convolution, focusing on the antitheses of certainty and doubt, love and the perception of it, and the human mind’s complexity as it endlessly and relentlessly weaves our story’s should haves, could haves, would haves…

A proud addition to the Film Festival Circuit (www.filmfestivalcircuit.com), Blue Mountain deserves all the spotlight it can get, and so does Jasmine.

The Farewell (2019): Comedy / Drama

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Using a wedding as an excuse, a Chinese family gathers after many years to bid farewell to their grandmother who doesn’t know she is dying.

“Based on an actual lie”… Lulu Wang’s real-life same case scenario inspires her to write and direct a bittersweet film about death, the way it brings people together, and the human awkwardness surrounding it. Powerful is also the subplot showcasing the moral differences between East and West even when language is not a barrier. The film consists of amazing, everyday, relatable characters, beautiful music (Wang’s behind the piano) that doesn’t dictate how one should feel, meticulous editing that balances the aspects of comedy and drama, and Lulu’s daring lens that unfolds a funny, yet heartbreaking story.

I proudly take my hat off to all cast and crew as well as the financers that I can only imagine the risks they took behind such investment. A great addition to the modern cinema that will make you laugh and cry while reconsidering what, when, and how you would like to say to the people you love the most.

P.S. SPOILER ALERT: After watching it, I urge you to find out what happened in the end in Wang’s real-life story https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8637428/trivia?item=tr4647494

 

Shiying… this is for you! Thank you wholeheartedly for your wonderful recommendation!!!

The Crow (1994): Action / Drama / Fantasy

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A man, after been brutally murdered, comes back to life to avenge his and his fianc√©e’s death by killing the ones responsible one by one.

Even though deeply stigmatised and remembered as the film that Brandon Lee was killed, The Crow¬†still remains Lee’s legacy and a ’90s goth, revenge, Halloween classic. One of Alex Proyas’ finest films that unfortunately spawned sequels that should have never been made. Ranked 37th in IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Heroes, the film has significant differences to the graphic novel but, proudly growing up with it, I can reassure you that, despite its flaws, it will be admired by every future generation to come.

The production details vary from ground-breaking VFX to complete the film after Lee’s death, to sets getting destroyed, to numerous people getting injured, and to cast and crew constantly abusing cocaine from the set to the toilets. Regardless, if you grew up with it as well, it will take you for a stroll down memory lane and if you were too young or not born yet, it will travel you to an analog world before the digital era took over.

Both father and son will always live in our hearts.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019): Action / Drama

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After Breaking Bad finale’s massacre, Jesse Pinkman, the sole survivor and now Albuquerque’s most wanted, goes to extra lengths to gather money and flee the country.

It’s only natural to have the highest expectations after having finished Breaking Bad (2008‚Äď2013). That’s right, 9 years ago! But¬†El Camino¬†is closure for Pinkman and not for the series. It is important to realise that it doesn’t settle any scores. It is about a man, doing everything in his power to get away and start clean. That’s what El Camino is about. The combination of Netflix announcing it and pitching it the last minute, and people not even wanting to watch the trailer to avoid any kind of spoilers created false expectations, hence the mixed reviews and feelings.

On a final note, Aaron Paul proves to be a brilliant actor once more. And my last sentence is a farewell to the great, astonishing, mesmerising, and colossal human being and actor… Robert Forster! RIP!

Joker (2019): Crime / Drama / Thriller

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Before Joker became the infamous criminal, he was Arthur Fleck, a mentally disturbed aspiring comedian who cracked under the pressure of an even more disturbing city called Gotham.

It feels like psychological studies could be written on¬†Joker.¬†As I only do short film reviews though, I’ll keep it to the point. Todd Philips has delivered a purely cinematic experience. Everything works like a swiss watch with all the cogs serving their purpose. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is on an Oscar level and, possibly, in the audition, eliminated the competition without a sweat.

But this is the obvious information, and I will skip the technical and trivia production details, to write from the heart. Joker¬†wouldn’t be that successful if it wasn’t for its astonishing character development and an unexpected accomplishment through that. Joker, from DC’s most disturbing criminal personality with deranged followers, was turned into a symbolic for the oppressed antihero. Todd Philips and Joaquin Phoenix take all the time in they need to unfold the antihero’s journey and idolise him in a similar way that “V” was (V for Vendetta). And how is that achieved? By creating a relatable, everyday man who wakes up in the morning with a sole purpose: To make this world a little bit better; to make people laugh. And somewhere down the line, to make the people they love, and they love them back, proud of them for doing so. Take that from someone and what are they left with? Arthur Fleck is the product of that part of society that constantly sinks you under the surface; the haves that don’t give and the have nots that don’t want you to have either. But Joker springs from that product and becomes the one who will readjust the scale, and for the first time, will give the opportunity to the underdogs who “…haven’t been happy¬†one¬†minute¬†of their entire fucking life” a chance to do that. And that feeling that, even for a couple hours, you root for someone like Joker…¬†causes heart palpitations.

This is why Joker is that successful.

 

For you Ioanna!

Climax (2018): Drama / Horror / Music

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Talented and diverse dancers from every walk of life gather in a remote, empty building to rehearse but a hard day’s work goes really awry while celebrating as their drinks get spiked and the hallucinations take over them.

Writer/director Gaspar Noé, well known for making his audience feel uncomfortable, helms Climax with bravery aplenty. Forget classic narratives, forget Hollywood morals and standards, forget scripts written in detail. Get into Irreversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009) mode and just let go.

The largely improvised monologues and dialogues in the beginning and middle of the film respectively could have been trimmed a tad as the audience don’t need this large amount of information to establish a point of view about each and every one of the characters. Of course, the turn the celebration takes, creates the colossal contrast between the first and the second act.

Excellent camera work, amazing photography, powerful soundtrack, divine choreography, and brilliant performances. Especially, given that, other than Sofia Boutella, no one has had any acting experience prior to the film. The protracted shots will fascinate you as the uncut surrealism reveals in real-time the escalating paranoia reaching its… climax!

Mesmerising! Sensual! Hallucinatory! Enchanting!

 

Parasite (2019): Comedy / Drama / Thriller

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Father, mother, daughter, and son – all unemployed – con a wealthy family into giving them jobs and manage to get access to their house… that is more than meets the eye.

Joon-ho Bong… the writer/director that brought you Memories of Murder (2003), The Host (2006), Tokyo! (2008), Snowpiercer (2013), and Okja (2017), to name but a few, strikes back with a comedy, drama, thriller that makes you laugh, cry, and hold your breath, and not necessarily in that order. Avoid spoilers at all costs.¬†Parasite¬†deserves to be watched with an “uninfected” mind. Then, and only then jump to conclusions about its metaphors, Bong’s thematic similarities with previous films, the clash of classes, and how similar concepts have been filmed in ways that yield entirely different results. Bring to your mind a new or an old film, one that had an impact on you or simply became popular. I still can’t stop comparing it and contrasting it to the same year’s Us (2019). Enough said…

Parasite is the first-ever Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes and I can only imagine how Bong fell during the prolonged standing ovation it received. Hats off and congratulations to all cast and crew.