I know these blog posts are becoming awfully sporadic (no longer the weekly updates they used to be in case you hadn’t noticed already) but the gap between this one and the previous one is possibly the longest time between posts. If you’re wondering why, there are various reasons but the most obvious is that I’ve moved places. It’s not a dramatic change though. I mean the place is literally across the road from my previous home but because of it, I’ve exhausted a lot of time and energy into helping the family get everything over, unpacking and rearranging furniture. That and I hadn’t had direct access to the Internet thanks to the move (that’s obviously changed now). So if you needed an explanation. There. You. Go.
Remember I said that I had interviewed anime director, Mamoru Hosoda? Well, the full interview is up online for everyone to read over at Japan Cinema! I’ve had some great feedback about the interview but I think the best thing to have come from the experience was the fact that the interview made it onto the front page of the official English-language website for Hosoda’s new film, Wolf Children!
It’s things such as this that make me feel more at ease with the industry that I’ve chosen to associate myself with. It’s also nice to know that I’m also one step closer to my goal of having a movie’s marketing team use quote my review in their trailer or poster, hahaha.
In the midst of all the moving, I managed to attend my official graduation from La Trobe University! It’s pretty strange to think that I was officially graduating half a year after I concluded my final class though. Funnily enough, I do think I’m going to be heading back for further study (perhaps not at La Trobe though) so this probably won’t be my only graduation procession. Only time will tell.
Also, I got around to seeing a live Mexican wrestling event too a few weeks back which was insanely fun. I’m a huge wrestling fan and yeah, we all know it’s fake and allt, but it’s fun as all hell to take part in the absurdity of it all. The event I went to was in the city and it was to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (The Day of the Dead). My mate and I used this opportunity to wear our wrestling masks and by the end of the night, my voice was completely worn from all the chanting, singing and yelling. I hadn’t been to a wrestling show since I was a little kid so it was fun to enjoy it all in a completely different environment and age.
WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING
So what are some of the films Hieu has been watching in his down time? Over the last couple of weeks, as you could understand, I didn’t have too much time to watch as many films as I would have liked (a nagging problem that’s on its way to being put down soon hopefully). With that said though, of the films I did manage to catch, both at home and in the cinema, I can say that I enjoyed most of them - some moreso than others.
Based on the true story of Chile’s election to overthrow their dictator, Pinochet, No tells the story of the advertising team that put together an unusual campaign to overthrow the dictatorship in Chile. It’s like a weird mix between Mad Men and Argo if I had to describe it any other way.
The most immediate thing that I loved about the film was the actual presentation of the film. No tells its story through a Betamax-like video presentation which really hammers across the feeling of authenticity in the film. Moments in the film become hard to distinguish – is this archived footage or is this a staged scene I’m watching doesn’t distract at all and if anything adds to the immersion.
I think No is on par with films like Argo and All the President’s Men and it’s as interesting as those films too (though not nearly as theatrical as the former). It’s as interesting as a movie about politics can get and is occasionally funny throughout. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t find the advertising campaign to be inspired and incredibly catchy.
One of the great things about Marvel’s recent run of films has been the fact that they have all built towards The Avengers – a move that’s never really been done before in film. It’s a move that’s paid off extremely well for Marvel but at the same time in trying to build a cohesive universe around their heroes, they have also lost a bit of sight in terms of establishing their heroes’ own stories and backgrounds.
Iron Man 3 doesn’t falter from this problem as much as its predecessor, the forgettable Iron Man 2, but the more I think about the latest Iron Man film, the more I think that it doesn’t deserve the praise that it’s getting. Honestly, it’s not as good a film as people are making it out to be. There are far too many inconsistencies that stand out. Subplots are opened up but never resolved (or are conveniently tied up); Marvel's completely forgotten to take care of its supporting characters within these films (who are otherwise pointless when you consider that they have little to no mention in the eventual team-up film); characters are introduced only to be discarded for no real reason (real shame to waste Rebecca Hall, seriously) and the film is essentially eclipsed by two great set-pieces with a middle that staggers.
I thought I liked Iron Man 3 but the more I began to think about it, the more absurd the film became to me. It’s passable entertainment but it’s nowhere near as good as the first film.
The Place Beyond the Pines is an exceptional film and ranks as one of my favourite films to have been released this year. Unlike director Derek Cianfrance’s previous feature, Blue Valentine, this film plays it straight and takes place in a small New York town over the span over fifteen years. Ryan Gosling plays an outlaw of sorts – he’s a motorcycle performer who robs banks in an effort to provide for his son. On the flipside, we have Bradley Cooper play a police officer who clashes with Gosling’s character. Their stories intertwine and the result of their actions trickle down onto their sons who must each wrestle with the legacies that they’re fathers bestow on them.
Cianfrance emerges as one of my favourite directors after viewing this film and it’s not just what he does on a technical level as a director but with his competencies to compel through the film’s larger thematic qualities. Aside from getting great performances from all his actors, Cianfrance works like an auteur – knowing just exactly the right amount of information to convey in each shot of the film. Parallels and recalls run rife all the way through and it’s decisions like these that make the profundity of the film’s themes all the more emphatic.
More than just a tale of cops and robbers, The Place Beyond the Pines is a film about how the mistakes we make aren’t ours to keep and that the ones who suffer most from our wrongdoings are the ones we try to protect. Definitely one of this year's stand outs.
I honestly had no idea what to expect when I sat down to see Spring Breakers. Director Harmony Korine - who I honestly hadn’t heard of until publicity for Spring Breakers started circling around – is known for creating some pretty “out-there” and bizarre films – a look at his filmography over at IMDB will prove that.
From the outside, Spring Breakers looks like his most accessible and straight-forward film but it’s anything from that. Don’t let the trailers fool you, Spring Breakers is one of the smartest and challenging films of the year. I daresay that I probably won’t encounter another film like it this year.
This film doesn’t project the idea that spring break/party culture should be celebrated but should be criticized, maybe even condemned. The opening of the film should look like an advertisement for Miami and for spring break - and for some perhaps it will be - but instead shows the culture in all its wince-inducing depravity. Mind you, this is more or less, the point of the first half of the film. Once the second half comes in (at which point we’re introduced to rapper/gangster Alien, played by James Franco at his most gonzo), the entire complexion of the film changes.
Pundits have noted that the film can be seen as an examination of the new American dream – taking the ideas of old and re-appropriating it within the context of this current generation. It’s an idea that works – the idea that the dream for these girls, and for many others, is the idea that spring break is a chance for them to break out of their monotonous lives and seek thrills and pleasures that can’t be obtained within the bubble of university – and throughout the whole film, they pride themselves on the hedonistic pleasures that come with spring break. It’s a perversion of the American dream, instead of aspiring to success they’re aspiring to the celebration of destruction – the American nightmare, if you will.
There’s so much more I would love to write about the film but I feel like I’ve taken up enough space to discuss it. It’s an absolutely enthralling film, I feel, but it’s certainly hard to recommend to anyone because it’s easily subject to immediate scrutiny. I feel that years from now, when people look back on the film, they’ll be less critical. However, due to how the film functions in the society we inhabit today, the film is subjected to the ire of those who’ve already made a decision about the film before even seeing it (dubstep music + objectification of women = misogynistic trash). For me, however, Spring Breakers is one of the best films of the year. Also, it features the best use of Britney Spears ever committed to film!
In preparation for Man of Steel, I decided that I ought to sit down and watch Zack Snyder’s first foray into the world of animation with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole. Narratively speaking it’s not a particularly strong film but it fares much better than most forgettable animated films. As I understand it, the script tried to condense a trilogy of books into one film. It seemed pretty obvious watching the film with critical turning points in the film happening far too quickly and unnaturally.
Narrative problems aside, the best thing the film has going for it is its visuals. This film features some of the best use of animation that I’ve ever seen. Snyder’s keen eye for visuals and the photorealism of the animation studio (the same studio that produced Happy Feet) result in some absolutely gorgeous and breath taking work. I know people easily write off Zack Snyder but I think he’s a genuine talent – one of the most underappreciated directors working today. As a director he’s fantastic at tapping into the visual and aural senses that dominate cinema but his weakness lies in his capabilities as a writer, evidenced in the abhorrent mess that is Sucker Punch. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Sucker Punch looked outstanding. Snyder’s style, however, is a perfect fit for animation.
Like Wes Anderson, (yes I’ve just made THAT comparison, please don’t condemn me!), the garish qualities of Snyder’s aesthetics are enhanced by the power of animation. Scenes where you see the owls flying are captured with awe-inspiring beauty. One particular scene towards the climax of the film reminded me so much of the heroics of Superman that I’m keen to see just how Snyder’s implementation of slow motion will translate over into Man of Steel.
I honestly do think that Guardians is better than what most people say about it and think that it’s a tad underrated as far as kids’ films are concerned. It’s a lot better than most in its genre and has a particularly darker edge to it (think Nazi Germany/World War 2 meets The Lord of the Rings… with owls) and I think if there was more care put into the script it could’ve been something of a classic in animation but that’s just one opinion.
J.J Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the Star Trek franchise yielded some great results that made Star Trek popular again and became a huge hit with audiences. Abrams returns to the series four years later with Star Trek: Into Darkness but instead of being a rip-roaring space adventure that revolves around interdimensional travel, the sequel takes a more simpler and controlled approach towards its narrative. This time around, we have a terrorist who causing chaos to Star Fleet and it’s up to Captain Kirk and his merry crew to bring the criminal to justice.
This sequel, while still very enjoyable, is a pretty ordinary follow-up to the action-adventure thrills of the first. While there certainly are some impressive set-pieces to the film, if I’m being completely honest, most of the film feels like it’s being spent repairing a space ship. Star Trek: Into Darkness doesn’t feel as exciting as it should which is probably why I think this sequel is rather mediocre compared to the first. Although, if you look past the fact that this is a Star Trek movie, it becomes fun once you realize that this film is essentially a show-reel/audition tape for Abrams’ eventual directorial gig on the new Star Wars films. And when you think of it like that, it probably makes Star Trek: Into Darkness seem all the more fun and enjoyable. Star Trek: Into Darkness can best be described in one word – underwhelming.
And that will be all this week. Here's hoping I get back into a regular funk with these posts. Anyways to cap of this post, this post's title belongs to a song by Field Mouse. They need to hurry up and release an album that I can physically own. Fairly sure I've posted about this group before but they're a rad up and coming group that ya'll should get into.