Charm and Nostalgia Take Over: The Artist Review

This year, if anything, we’ve been given a common theme throughout film, especially those who are attacking the Awards scene.  There’s nothing like being sent to the past, especially those that can connect to the specific time period or similar memories.  Films like Hugo and Super 8 are examples of creations where we are sent back to those “good ole” days of yesteryear.  The Artist is no different.

The Artist, envisioned by the French director Michael Hazanavicius creates this small little film about silent era, where sound is not an element in Hollywood.  it focuses on George Valentin, wonderfully acted by Jean Dujardin, a prominent silent film actor who is one of the biggest draws in the film industry, and his coincidence in creating a star in Peppy Miller, who is brilliantly played by Berenice Bejo, and create this strong connection and bond.  But the focus is not on a love story, but on the rising of the new and trending and the falling of the old and unchanging.  Sound is the future of films, but Valentin refuses to adapt to this new innovative creation for the industry, and he leaves his studio to create his own film, a silent one, while Hollywood shifts their entire focus and emphasis to sound.  Miller, on the other hand, is a rising star with her delightful dancing, a young and attractive face, and what I’m assuming, a decent voice, where she eventually becomes the talk of the town.  She eventually replaces Valentin in their fight for fame, and as time progresses through the stock market crash, Valentin begins to lose everything he has, mainly because of his unwillingness to accept the new, and the pride that clenches on to what he believes is the best and correct way of creating movies.

Sounds simple enough and it honestly is.  But what we experience here is also a silent film.  It’s the first silent film I’ve ever seen, and it something that I had to get used to, I’m not going to lie.  As an impatient viewer who has constant knack for making sure audiences are continuously entertained, at times, it seemed like this was too much of a gimmick, and as the film progressed, it was tough for myself to actually make a connection and understand the whole purpose of this.  But what seemed like a gimmick plays out as an extremely charming and playful film with a lot of heart and wit.  Yes, there were times where I was sitting in my chair, hoping to hear some sound effects, a line of dialogue, or something other than an orchestra (and we do by the way, no spoiler intended), but you what is provided on screen is so much more than just a different style or an innovative and creative idea that really isn’t that innovative or creative.

It’s a tribute to the past, but not just in film, but in every individual.   It provides us a time where innocence and enthusiasm is what it took to make it in the industry, and that a good smile shows the individual at heart.  The story is extremely simple, obviously, but as I think about The Artist more and more, it is a look back at a time where we saw film as a blessing, an exciting experience where we all gather to enjoy the latest from Hollywood.  You get a sense of genuine motives, and a tribute to times where success was measured by how much the audience enjoyed it.  All actors and actresses wanted to do was to make good films that people of all ages could enjoy, and we don’t just see it from what’s on screen, but we feel that passion and heartfelt in every scene as the director, is trying himself to send us into that kind of still moment in time.  Though I am only 23 years old and really have no clue about that time era in film, there’s a sense of youth and love through every scene, and all you can really do is smile.  I mean, the last time I laughed at such innocent things like a goofy face, a dance or a dog and an owner’s connection, I can’t even remember, but that’s the whole point: is to send the audience to a place where we can be the person at heart where those things were enjoyable and entertaining.

Allow me to mention the great performances by Dujardin and Bejo.  I mean, wow, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to really display emotions, subtle feelings and distinct mannerisms without saying word, especially in a time where words mean more than actions, but they do a heck of a job in making the audience believe in what they’re doing.  They are the reason this movie works so well, and both should be nominated for Oscars for their roles.

But this is not a perfect film.  I had some issues, especially with the pace and timing of the film, I mean, how long can a silent film really be?  And though I loved the first act, the second moved very slowly and thought it got the point across very early on, but stuck with this tone for a long time, and I thought it hurt the film.  But in the end, The Artist achieves its goals, and succeeds in the only way it wanted to succeed.  It provides something not many films can provide, and from the young to the old, it’s a tribute to a time where we could enjoy such innocent pleasure.

The Artist is worth: 3/4 of a clock (3 1/2 stars).

Week Full of Award Candidates

In this past week, I’ve seen Another Earth, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Artist and still need to take in Shame, My Week With Marilyn, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Young Adult, etc. Who knew awards watching would be so tiring? But with this comes much perspective and understanding during the awards season. So far though, I have made one conclusion.

No performance is better than Rooney Mara’s.

Been There, Done That. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Review

Sherlock Holmes does a great job in being nothing special. We’ve seen A Game of Shadows before. Yes, it was called Sherlock Holmes from 2009.

Under the same famous detective written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, we find the intelligent and very observant Holmes, Robert Downey Jr., in some sort of, crap, I don’t even remember how the movie started because it’s all one big mess. Oh right, there are big bombs…in the 1890’s. Random acts of terrorism has frightened all across Europe, and tensions between France and Germany has risen as both have accused one another on the random acts of violence. Obviously, Holmes knows all of this and understands that it is not the work of any European countries, but from Professor Moriarty. Teacher at day, terrorist mastermind at night, he creates a chain of companies and organizations to create these powerful and destructive the 1890’s, to sell to these European nations so that even though war would completely annihilate the European continent, Moriarty would profit all of it considering that he would be the weapons provider for both sides. As this all unfolds, we get the Holmes and his trusty sidekick, Dr. John Watson, played by Jude Law, combo to figure out how to stop this madman and end what could be a massive European war (If they waited 20 more years, Moriarty wouldn’t have had to do anything).

Obviously, there’s more to the plot and story than the brief overview above, but that’s honestly all I could remember. The first Sherlock Holmes was a decent surprise. Obviously, the chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law is clearly what ties this movie together. Without them, there is no sequel, and likewise in the first, A Game of Shadows only works because of their ability to put a dull movie into the not-so-dull movie category. I like Guy Pearce too. He creates some great actions sets in A Game of Shadows specifically in a train and in the forest (one of the best actions scenes I’ve seen this year). But two actions scenes do not complete a movie. The problem I had with the first Sherlock Holmes is that everyone except Holmes and Watson, you don’t care about. In this one, you wish they all died. Okay, not really, but the audience has no ability to share any emotions with any of the characters on screen. Even with Holmes and Watson, we see them doing the same exact thing time after time, from either bickering and arguing or Holmes doing that crazy recollection of all the little important things he notices. If there’s one thing I hate about mysteries or twists, and this goes to all films, not just Sherlock Holmes, is that providing a twist that the audience would never have seen, is actually, not a twist at all. There needs to be some sort of evidence within the audience’s realm to make it more twisted and shocking. Pulling a rabbit out of the hat just makes us feel like we were all part of some dumb trick.

I didn’t hate this movie. Not at all. I did find myself enjoying bits and pieces of it, but my issues has nothing to do with hate. My issues is the fact that with this cast and this talented of a director, you could create something really special. But all we get is a decent action film with quick dialogue. Nothing daring, nothing new and definitely nothing special. I know I shouldn’t compare films, but I look at the Batman series by Christopher Nolan. Pearce is no Nolan, obviously, but Nolan understands that okay, I did something good with the first one, but the next chapter cannot have the same exact elements and equations or else I’ve done absolutely nothing with the characters. What are we getting in the second installment in Sherlock Holmes? Honestly, nothing. They could’ve just projected half of the first Sherlock Holmes and it’d be the same, exact thing. Instead of really trying to do push the series into a new level, all they did was try to get an easy dollar.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is worth: Half a Clock.  (2 1/2 stars)

Andy Serkis: The Performance You Don’t Know About

Andy Serkis is renown actor, except you most likely don’t know who he is.  But I’m pretty sure you know some of his roles like Gollum from Lord of the Rings to King Kong from…King Kong.  Well, if you were as big of a fan as I was on Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, you will understand that no, Caesar was not all computer generated images.  There had to be a performance still, and yes, it was Andy Serkis who provides one of the best this year. Oscar consideration is necessary.


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Must Be Experienced

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher, is an experience one must fulfill.  Based off the novel written by Stieg Larsson, it is encircled by two characters, Mikael Blomkvist, a shamed economics journalist who was accused of libel against Erik-Hans Wennerstrom, where he accuses the later of corruption and fraud.  As he takes a leave of absence from his magazine, Millennium, he is hired by Henrik Vanger, the owner and head of the Vanger Corporation, to investigate the murder of his niece, Harriet Vanger.  For 40 years, no one could figure out the mystery to her disappearance, though officially in Hedestad, Sweden to write Vanger’s biography, Blomkvist is trying to uncover who in the Vanger family killed Harriet.  As the data and information increases, Blomkvist is referred the other major character, Lisbeth Salander, who he hires as a research assistant.  She’s smart, thorough but also has a strong persona to her character.  But besides all of this, the plot is surrounded by the sex crimes that has been invested in Sweden.  Larsson himself witnessed a woman getting raped in his country, and his guilt that lived inside him for not doing anything pushed him to write a novel about the dark topic.  With this though, Larsson created, in my opinon, one of the greatest characters in modern literature.

A lot has been made about the fact that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo comes one year after the Swedish film was released.  Why make a remake after only a year?  Well when you got Fincher and Steve Zaillian (writer of Moneyball, Gangs of New York, Schindler’s List to name a few), yeah, you make the remake.  And the results are invigorating.

There comes a time in film, though very rare, where the film is better than the original work.  There aren‘t that many movies that are better than the book (The Godfather, A Clockwork Orange, maybe all the Dennis Lehany novels) and we are witnessing the next example.  Though I am a fan of the novel, I do not ignore the many flaws and issues from its inconsistency in focus on the central plot, the problematic pace and continuity within the novel and just Larsson’s overall writing, there are problems.  And overall, I had large concerns over how this story would translate into film.  Not seeing the Swedish version, I couldn’t grasp how Fincher would be able to keep the story in tact and it’s major components in unison while respecting the audience’s integrity and patience.  But the film is better than the book.  It improves upon the novel in many ways, and overall, it is a much better experience.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the book is great, but the film is a masterpiece.

Fincher is a visionary.  An artist at heart.  And how he works with the camera and delivering images is just captivating, and his work in the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo mirrors his earlier films like Se7en and Zodiac.  I mean, the opening title sequence alone is worth the ticket price.  But what some people don’t realize about Fincher is his mastery in pace.  He moves the film with flawlessness and from the dialogue to the progression of the story, it gracefully moves along without a hitch.  This was so in the Social Network and also here.  The movie moves so quickly.  It’s speed is relentless, and for some, this may be a problem considering this is a confusing story with a lot of characters, information and elements to all process, and for those who have not read the book, this can get very confusing and frustrating.  But I loved that aspect of the film.  I hate it when directors assume that the audience is full of incompetent idiots who have absolutely no ability to use its own mind during a movie, and it really does ruin the experience at times.  Fincher does not do so.  He has no regard for those who need training wheels, and unless you give the film your complete undivided attention, you’re going to be left behind, and I love that about Fincher.  And even though the film clocks in at about 2 hours and 40 minutes, it is a fast 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Like the novel, the film covers some pretty dark material including rape and some sexual immoralities.  The overall thematic elements of the film is disturbing, and some of these images are really tough to witness.  But Fincher does not shy away from it.  He uses it the catapult his film into a grander tribute to the novel by focusing on it more.  His style is unmatched, and in some of these scenes, he really translates the material into a successful darkening hole.  He knows how to deliver important scenes.  In a movie, there are a few sceenes that a director will say, “this needs to be remembered”.  I think Fincher does this better than any director working today.  When something needs to be bold and emphasized, he goes for it all, and he pushes the boundaries.

But all set aside, this film runs on Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth.  I mean, wow.  Who knew the girl who played Erica Albricht in The Social Network could pull out such profound work.  Salander is not an easy character.  From her dark past to her subtle but large emotional mannerisms, Mara nails this role down.  This is the most important element of the film: making sure whoever plays Salander does it justice.  And Mara does this in an unbelievable way.  Everything from her simple facial expressions to the way she works her magical fingers on the computer, it is exactly how Salander would in the book.  And this is no easy character to play.  Salander her such a mysterious but projective personality, and her confidence is just as strong as her insecurities, and to be able to translate that into the screen is a remarkable achievement.  This movie runs with Salander, and though Mara turns in an Oscar worthy performance, credit must be also given to Fincher who pulls out these amazing performances from his actors.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is something to be seen.  This film is not for everyone.  It’s violent, very disturbing and the way the movie unfolds won’t appeal to all audiences, but it is one of the most enthralling experiences you will see in 2011.  And for me, it is definitely one of the best films of 2011.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is worth: (A Full Clock!)

Man, I’m being too nice with my reviews.  Need to be douchier.  Well, Sherlock Holmes will come in handy.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Best Film of 2011?

Just watched “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by David Fincher and came home patiently trying to collect everything I saw. It’s too late and I’m too tired to write a full review, but the excitement I have after watching a masterpiece can be so overwhelming and difficult to withhold, I had to write something down. There are so many good things in this film. So much art and beauty, and if anyone knows the book, beauty doesn’t go in hand with the story. I will just say, right now, it is a must see. Can I call it the best film of 2011? Not yet. Not with so many other films to see like War Horse, The Artist, My Week With Marilyn, Shame, etc. but just like what Fincher did with The Social Network, he could repeat as the best film of the year.