Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Orange Revolution

This compelling and absorbing documentary gives insight to the 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine. The drama behind the scenes gives this film enough material that other documentaries dream of. The most dramatic evidence we come to witness is the transformation of Victor Yushchenko from an handsome to a severely scarred face man as he's poisoned with Ricin. Revolutions still happen and this film proves it. You can't stop to admire the passion and determination of the Ukrainian people and wish something like that should have happened in the US in the 2000 elections. YRCinema's coverage of the AFI Fest 2007.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Smiley Face

This hilarious comedy maybe the most accessible of all Greg Araki's films. It features Anna Farris as the pot head blonde and she nails it. As she has shown previously, she's a great comedian and this film definitely marks her best work as well. I was reserved to see this film but it won me over. With the right marketing the film should cross well to the mainstream audience. YRCinema's coverage of the AFI Fest 2007.

Irina Palm

Marianne Faithful stars as a grandmother with a secret in this dramedy which starts well but ends implausible. In order to save the life of her grandson, Maggie (Marianne Faithful) becomes a professional wanker of the title in London's Soho. The film feels somehow false and the sick grandchild with the mysterious disease as a gimmick to send the character into the direction which the film feels to focus more. The romance between Faithful and Miki Manojlovic totally derails the film at the end. YRCinema's coverage of the AFI Fest 2007.

Chop Shop

The latest film from Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart) is a winner. A charming portrayal of lives in the fringes of the American Dream. The setting in Queens, NY looks more like a third world country than the United States.
Everything looks and sounds right in this film, including the amazing lead performance by Alejandro Polanco. YRCinema's coverage of AFI FEST 2007.

Afghan Muscles

An accurate and honest documentary from Danish filmmaker Andreas Mol Dalsgaard about body building in Afghanistan. It follows a group of hopeful body builders from Kabul to Mr. Asia Competition in Dubai.
Despite the familiarity of war ravaged Afghanistan and total absence of women, the filmmaker shows a clear focus with compelling characters and depiction, even the subtitles are accurate. Lately it seemed that any foreigner with a camera could get a documentary made in Afghanistan. Though I had my reservations about this one, I was pleasantly surprised but my heart broken that not much has changed in Afghanistan. YRCinema's coverage of AFI Fest 2007.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Christian Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days offers an unflinching look at illegal abortion in the last days Communist Romania. Yet it’s a tale of friendship and sacrifice that's simple and profound. Mungiu takes no prisoners and gets your attention from the first minutes like a thriller that lasts till the final frame in the film. The setting and characters look the part and the entire film takes place during one day when two friends prepare for an illegal abortion. Both get more than they bargained for. The director doesn't takes any sides which could have derailed the film instead it works both as pro or con abortion. The film's chances for a wide release and getting a nod for the best foreign film category are good due to the fact that it won the Golden Palm at this year's festival in Cannes. YRCinema's coverage of AFI Fest 2007.

The Flight of the Red Balloon

When you put the forces of Juliette Binoche, Paris, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, master of observational cinema, you get a classic homage to a classic film "The Red Balloon" from 1956. The film is about real people in Paris rather than a cliche of a postcard that you get in most films.
Hsiao-Hsien infuses Paris with his Chinese flavors and lets you in the lives of Parisians who have other problems than the city they live in. Juliette Binoche creates another real character that you care about and her integrity is flawless. Anybody not familiar with the films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien maybe warned since his films are not about action but about life the way a balloon might pass a street and a city. YRCinema's coverage of AFI Fest 2007.

The Last Mistress

Controversial French director Catherine Breillat leaves behind controversy with this period drama. A courtesan who has been abandoned by her lover makes sure she's not forgotten before his wedding to a wealthy aristocrat. The film is less shocking than what you would expect from Breillat but has all the elements of feminism she's known for. While Asia Argento is perfect as the hot blooded courtesan, Claude Sarraute as the Marquise de Flers steals the film with a terrific performance. 1001 Films' coverage of the AFI Fest, 2007.

The Kite Runner

The adaptation of the bestseller is a good and solid "Hollywood" film rather than a great "Foreign" film due to its budget and storytelling, then again the book was targeted to the West. The film is faithful to the book and won't disappoint most of the readers. The film marks a departure for Hollywood studio films which takes risks and won't shy away making films in foreign languages specially a rare language as Dari. If any flaws, it will be visible only to Afghans or anybody who has seen Kabul in the 70's such as myself. The non-Afghan actors do well despite language problems. The kids are the best in this film and Marc Forster knows how to work with child actors as he proved with "Finding Neverland". YRCinema's sneak preview.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lust, Caution

The latest film from ace filmmaker Ang Lee is a stunning homage to Hitchcock. It's a clever take on "Notorious" set in China. In the hands of a master there's not one mistake here and the film will hold your attention till the last minute. It's a distinctive Chinese film, specially in its ending which will turn off some. The ending is what makes the film Chinese and not American but the film is more about the journey than the destination. The film's success rests on the main character which is played played the newcomer Tang Wei and she's phenomenal. Tony Leung (In the Mood for Love) shows range and proves why he's one the best actors in the world. Definitely one of the best films of the year. 1001 Films' coverage of current releases.

The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson's latest film is charming and stylish but ultimately pretentious. Three estranged brothers travel to India to find themselves and reconnect with each other. Instead of leaving the talented cast and exotic locations to do their magic Anderson interferes to put his seal of style which cuts short the substance. In film school we had several discussions about his films (Bottle While his visual style can be stunning, his stories suffers because of it. The talented cast includes Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzmen. 1001 Films's coverage of current releases.

1001 Films: Introduction

1001 Films was created to keep track on the films I am watching since watch up to 30-40 films in a month, I will be posting short insights on the films without giving away much to allow room for discovery.

Unlike the rest of the world, in the US the cinema business has a strict structure that falls into three seasons which keeps changing slowly but surely.

Between January and May is the award season of overflow or failed expectations, not that films are bad but it failed to impress the studios to launch them in the summer or award season.

The Blockbuster season, the most important season for the business with the biggest budgets ever spent on a film starts with Memorial Day (Last Monday in May) and ends with Labor Day (First Monday in September).

The Award season starts in September until the end of December which allows the studios and talent to get prestige. Prestige is important to lure talent and recognition. Without prestige the studios have to dig deeper into their pockets to attract talent.

The reason the seasons exists is that everything in Hollywood calculated down to a science and has been working and will be modified when it deems it necessary.

Anyway the award season is on and the field is wide open so far. Like every year it seems a strong year but it remains to be seen...