Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Last Christmas, I watched several movies with my mother, who loves it as much as I do. So I thought it would be a good idea to write a few words (actually, a lot of words) on my taste in cinema. I am nothing like a specialist and I know I have seen more shit than artworks, so the content of this post might be completely uninteresting for those of you who share these passions; but I hope they will take pity on me and comment with good advises to educate myself.

The problem with me is, I am very demanding. I mean, I have some very tight rules regarding what I'll see. There are only few of them but I will hate breaking them, which happens too often, always by accident.

Rule number one is: good story and good acting, both are essentials to me. I might notice the director's work, but only accidentally, when it's too bad or too good; for instance, I hate when the camera is moving too fast, it just makes me sick. But I remember watching Tarentino's "Jackie Brown" ten years ago just for the director's work. I couldn't tell what the story is about, but I still see the scene when Samuel L. Jackson has a friend enter his trunk, then the car leaves the scene, the camera silently and slowly moves forward through the street and fields, and a few seconds later, one block further, the car reappears, stops, Jackson gets to the trunk and kills the guy. No change of scene, no violence. Quiet and neat.

So: story and acting. The story can be awesome, but some actors are so unconvincing that you can hear them reciting a text. Daniel Radcliffe is one of them, definitely; while I litterally LOVE Harry Potter's novels, they made me cry and everything (yes, I'm a child), I can hardly stand the same Harry in movies. Compare to Haley Joel Osment and you'll see what I mean. I'm not terribly demanding, but please, I need a minimum.

Now, if this first condition is met, I'll have a problem: I'll get inside the movie, I'll live it. I can't help it, I just can't keep any distance from the story. If it's sad, I'll cry; if it's frightening, I'll hide under my seat; it's cruel, I'll feel pain. After a lot of bad experiences, I sadly had to protect myself and I'll try and avoid these three categories. But sometimes you don't know. It's the same for books. Some months ago I bought Markus Zusak's "The book thief" at random in an airport. I loved it so much I had to finish it the same night. Bad idea: the last pages were so sad I kept crying all night. I litterally did: after soaking my pillow for an hour, I repeatdly fell asleep and woke up in tears after devastating nightmares. Nightmares is also what made me gave up on Stephen King's work as a teenager. A pity, really.

Sometimes, it feels like authors are just cruel and trying to persecute their readers/viewers. See, in the movies category, "The perfect storm" (with George Cloney). Not an artwork, by chance - I did not have to cry too much. But consider. All the movie is just working at making you feel sympathetic with a bunch of sailors; they all had a tough life, but things are getting better, the lonely one is finding a soul mate, the father is getting closer to his kids, etc. But they still have one task, a fishing adventure, almost nothing, they'll be back soon. They leave, they face a big storm, they fight bravely, and well, they end up dead at sea. Now what the hell is the point of that movie, except for waking up the "life is a misery" part in you ? That's what they call "entertainment" ?

Sadly, there are also amazing movies I couldn't see - or couldn't finish, or regret seeing - because I knew I would feel too bad. "The green mile", I gave up after the first execution. To my defense, I knew I couldn't stand it (I couldn't stand seeing a guillotine in a museum as a child, I probably was executed in another life). So I asked a friend watching it with me and who had seen it before to let me know early when I'd have to leave the room. Only he didn't remember the story well and thought that execution wouldn't really happen. So I saw it, and couldn't sleep the next night.

In the very same category: "Cold Mountain". Amazing movie. The first kiss between the main characters, who had hardly said a word to each other, made my heart pound like hell - and not (only) because Jude Law was involved. But then happens a scene where parents are tortured in front of their kids in order to have the boys come out of hiding and be murdered. Yek. I never saw the end either.

These are my two rules. They are the online ones I've got; I'm not picky about the original country, the genre, the release time, and I'll enjoy some blockbusters as well as some small productions. I'm just asking for entertainment.

Now, here are a few of my good memories I'll share with you.

In the category: best love moment. Our winner is: Amélie Poulain (I'll start with a French movie, but it's so good it's been translated in almost every language). The part when she finally comes close to her lover, at the very end. She'll forbid a single word, but kisses him slowly on various parts of his face and he'll immitate her. No music, just silence. I loved it. In that category, I'll also nominate Cold Mountain (see hereup) and The Piano, the love scene between Ada and George. Only, if you're as sensitive as I am, skip the last five minutes of the movie - trust me on that, they are terrible.

In the category: best stunt. Our winner is: Casino Royale - the car barrel-roll stunt by the Aston Martin. Not only because it made seven rolls, a world record I've read, but also because it comes completely unexpected and it's very beautifully recorded. There is another James Bond movie, whose name I can't recall, where dear James gets into a car chase down a hill in a tiny yellow Citroën 2CV car. I saw it as a child and really enjoyed it.

In the category: best dialogue. Two winners here. Once again, Casino Royale: the part between Eva Green and Daniel Craig in the train. Daniel Craig's been extremely annoying up to that moment, he's looked like an arrogant kid. But in that train, he finds his match in that very beautiful woman. I had never seen Eva Green before, and I fell in love on the spot; her face, her voice, her acting, she's just wonderful. Even Craig is obviously impressed. She's too spirited for him. They try and guess each other's personnality and past, and although we will never know what they guessed right, they're both more real afterwards.

The second winner is American Gangster: the part, at the end, when Lucas (Denzel Washington) and Roberts (Russel Crowe) make a deal on denouncing corrupted police officers. A very few is said, a lot implied. Lucas thinks at first that Roberts is just a good civil servant who was lucky enough to destroy a business that was collapsing anyway, and that, like with any other policemen he's met in his gangster career, will be asking money. Roberts on the other hand is surprisingly respectful with his prey; you realize that he's been working at taking down a business killing people, not at destroying a man. Now there is a little coffee cup danse, two great actors. Lucas talks a lot, Roberts says almost nothing, and certainly doesn't promise anything. But they understand each other, and in the end, Lucas sees Roberts a lot differently. So he'll collaborate.

In the category: best out of time movie, our winner is: The Great Dictator, the famous Charlie Chaplin's movie. It's the only movie I saw from him (I should work on that), but I love it and love watching it again and again. It seems hard to make people smile about the second world war, but he did it. Some of these scenes are just unforgettable: Hinkel's speech, the barber's dance, or the coin in the cake's part. Now, bonus question for my readers: can you tell when, in that movie, is the name "Finland" mentioned ? Hard to find, but you will if you're careful.

Another oldie (although not as old as The Great Dictator) that I enjoyed a lot: MASH. Looks like I love movies making fun of horrible historical events, but some parts of this one are really hilarious.

In the category: made me cry the longest, here is the winner: La vita e bella (Life is Beautiful), the Italian movie by Roberto Benigni. Super romantic in its first part, super touching in its second part. I saw it in a theater with my sister when it came out long ago, and we had to remain in the room some 15 minutes after the end of the movie, for I was crying too hard to show up in the street.

In the category: a movie no one has heard about but that would deserve a world-wide recognition: "Elles étaient cinq", a French-Canadian movie from 2004, titled in English "Five of us". I saw it purely by chance, during a movie festival in my hometown; I got free tickets for that one and didn't know what to expect. To tell you the truth, I was so deep into it that I found out only during the ending credits that I had been crying. It's about five girls having a party at a summer cottage somewhere in the woods close to Montréal. Two of them go to the closest city to get beers and hitchhike on the way back. One of them will be murdered. Several years later, the survivor finds out the murderer has been released and is forced to face again that story that almost destroyed her life. A very, very powerful and touching movie, where the actors talent the story and the way it's filmed are combined to make you really live that story. The horror of what's happened is disclosed all along the movie, in a very powerful and yet sober way, and it's pulling tears right out of your heart. I haven't seen it again, and couldn't manage to find it on DVD anywhere (and certainly not in Finland), but I hope I will manage to get it some day.

In the category: makes me laugh every time I see it, here is the winner (and you're going to be surprised): "For the birds", a Pixar short movie. It comes with "Finding Nemo"'s dvd, if I remember well, and I saw it first at the theater as an introduction for the same movie. I guess it was during an afternoon screening, for there were only kids around me in the room, but when they showed the birds on their telephone wire with their mean looks and human behaviour, I was laughing harder than any of the kids. It still has the same effect on me every time I watch it.

I also liked "50 first dates" quite a lot, it's not a big thing but a very good piece of entertainment, and the humor worked well on me. On the other hand, I just can't stand Jim Carrey's idea of jokes. I only like him when he acts a bit seriously, like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Speaking of him... in the category: I gave up watching the soonest, our happy winner is Dumb & Dumber. I don't remember what it was about, I just remember it was so lame I had to leave the room or destroy the tv set.

In the category: best adaptation of a book into a movie, I'll name The Lord of the Rings (all three parts). I had read and loved the books, and I expected to be disappointed by the movies. But no. Of course, some great parts had to be left out. Of course, it never looks like the way you imagined it would. But it's a great movie anyway, and it truly gives a sense of the grandeur of the world described in the books. Every actor plays his part well, the story is altogether making sense even in a shorter version. A good work.

And finally, the best musical movie: Evita. I loved it and still love it. My favourite part: around the end, the waltz between Evita and the Che. The music and the danse are beautiful, the colors and the atmosphere are amazing, but listen to the lyrics: he's critizing her, she's responding, and their dialogue is sort of summarizing her all life with its good and bad sides.

Now I think that's about it, at least for the moment. From now on I'll try to keep track here of the movies I've seen, with an account on my opinion about them. But the main purpose of this long post was to make you, readers, understand the kind of movies I like and have you propose me new ones. Because, to be honest, I'm running out of ideas lately. So please, help if you can !

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