5 ideas about a movie: The Florida Project

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to the indie of this weekend. This is The Florida Project!

IMDb summary: Set over one summer, the film follows precocious 6-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Disney World.

  1. The Florida Project was written by the director of the film Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch. Baker has previously directed Tangerine (which was co-written and co-produced by Bergoch) – a movie that was both unique in its subject (it focused on a transgender sex worker) and in the way it was filmed (on 3 iPhone 5s). His follow-up picture is also centered around marginalized people, living on the fringes of society (both literally and figuratively – their motel is on the edge of Disney World). This type of social realism filmmaking reminds me of Andrea’s Arnold’s work, especially her last film American Honey, which focused on a traveling sales crew, hopping from motel to motel in the American Midwest.
  2. The Florida Project’s writing elicited mixed feelings out of me, like all films of this kind do. The picture’s message was clear – the society needs to attempt to understand and to help the people, living on its margins. And yet, how can the said help be given when the marginalized individuals don’t even seem to want it, act entitled (when they have no right to do that) or worse, are violent/abusive. What is the solution to this conundrum or the middle ground?
  3. The Florida Project’s story was mostly centered on the little girl and a single summer of her childhood. The movie nicely portrayed the joys of childhood – being wild and free. And yet, it also noted how that freedom of childhood might not be secure or healthy for a child. The mother-daughter relationship on display was also a complex one. While the mother obviously appeared to love her daughter, to love is not enough to be a good mother. The actual physical care and education are as important for the child’s development as the emotional connection. The movie also explored the idea of a community that the individuals on the fringes of society form. The said community was presented as a small society of its own: it had a structure and was held together by the inner relationships of its members.
  4. From the purely visual perspective, The Florida Project looked bright and vibrant. And yet, that was only the surface that hid the underlying problems from view. I loved how the camera juxtaposed the poverty and the prosperity in the wide shots, where the children would be walking past the endless dinners, gifts shops, and billboards. The whole setting was very well realized and was strikingly American. The mobile frame and the pacing were distinctly indie, while the pacing of the film was good too, even if a bit slow. Lastly, the ending sequence of the two girls running through Disney World was interesting. It made the movie seem as if it was pandering to Disney, by showing that the beloved theme park is the true magic kingdom and the land of escapism. But, maybe this positive portrayal was there so that the Mouse House would not sue the whole film, as that sequence was shot without the corporation’s knowledge or consent.
  5. The cast of The Florida Project delivered quite stellar performances. It was great to see Willem Dafoe (What Happened To Monday, Death Note, The Great Wall) in a more sophisticated/non-mainstream project and to witness his full talent on display. The newcomer Brooklynn Prince was delightful as Moonee – the girl at the center of the story. Bria Vinaite starred as Moonee’s mother – the now-actress was actually discovered on Instagram by the director. I really wonder how much of the dialogue between the children actors as well as between the characters of Moonee and her mother was in the script and how much of it was improvised.

In short, The Florida Project is an important piece of social realism that might infuriate or educate its viewers. Or both.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Florida Project trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: The Boss Baby

Movie reviews

Hello!

The newest DreamWorks animated picture – The Boss Baby – is currently in theaters, so, let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A suit-wearing briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year-old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co.

  1. The Boss Baby was written by Michael McCullers, based on the picture book of the same name by Marla Frazee.  The film’s story was absolutely ridiculous but nonetheless really fun. The movie focused on the theme of family – a common and classical topic for kid’s animation. The Boss Baby also found a new inventive way to answer a question – where do babies come from? – this question seems to be popular with the animators in Hollywood, as the recent picture by Warner Animation – Storks – also tried to answer it. This picture also highlighted the sibling rivalry and the sibling relationship. Lastly, I loved how the film celebrated the children’s imagination – a crucial part of any childhood.
  2. One of the strongest parts of d The Boss Baby was the picture’s humor. The film used both more adult jokes (like business and movie references, e.g. ‘Cookies are for closers’ from the trailers) and more child-friendly gags (e.g. the insane action and the fart jokes). The picture also had some callbacks to the stereotypical horror movie scenes which felt a bit weird in a children’s movie but were appreciated by me as a grown up viewer.
  3. The Boss Baby was directed by Madagascar trilogy’s Tom McGrath.The actual 3D animation was okay – good but not groundbreaking. I think that I and a lot of movie goers just got used to usually good-looking computer animation, so it does not amaze me/us anymore. The film also had a few months of 2D animation and this one montage which felt very old school because of the accompanying music – song ‘Cheek to Cheek’ from 1935 movie musical Top Hat. The character design was also fine, although one supporting character – Stacy – reminded me a lot of Wreck-it-Ralph’s Vanellope – a beloved animated character. Lastly, the film’s visuals also were cute enough to match its narrative idea of cuteness as a threat.
  4. The titular character of the movie was voiced by Alec Baldwin. Baldwin embraced the absurdness and the hilariousness of the story and the whole movie and just nailed his performance. He has a long history of voice acting: Baldwin has narrated quite a few documentaries as well as voiced a handful of characters in animated films.
  5. Shrek’s voice actor Miles Christopher Bakshi played the child version of Tim (The Boss Baby’s brother), while Toby Maguire lent his voice to the adult Tim. Other well-known actors/TV personalities like Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, and Lisa Kudrow also had roles of varying sizes.

In short, The Boss Baby is a perfectly passable animated picture. It doesn’t have the most original story or fresh visuals, but it definitely provides a fine time at the cinema for both kids and adults who can’t grow up (me!).

Rate: 3.3/5

Trailer: The Boss Baby trailer

Extraordinary Cinema Review II (The Shows of Shows + Persepolis)

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m continuing my series of indie foreign films that I’ve started yesterday. My previous post and the reasons behind me doing this review series are here.

The previous two films I discussed both belong to the narrative cinema genre, so they were fairly close the mainstream. However, these two are more outside the box: one of them is a stock footage documentary and the other – black and white 2D animated feature.

The first film I’m discussing today is The Show of Shows: 100 Years of Vaudeville, Circuses, and Carnivals. It’s an Icelandic director’s Benedikt Erlingsson’s musical documentary from 2015. The whole film is one giant found footage montage. Erlingsson just pieced together various National Fairground Archive clips of circus and carnival performances. The picture has no dialogue, no narrative – it just a spectacular combination of music and visuals and the upbeat tempo of the soundtrack really adds a lot of liveliness to the already spectacular video recording. The film is kinda divided into different sections – you get 10 minutes of dance acts at the start, then the movie spotlights the different animal performers, jugglers, gymnasts, clowns and all kinds of other circus personnel.  The Show of Shows ends with the sequence of people laughing and drives home the idea that circus wouldn’t exist without the spectators.

The feature is definitely amusing and entertaining (just like the carnival), though, the animal parts are quite hard to watch. The previously heard stories about animals being treated badly at the circus kinda ruined the enjoyment of the film for me just a bit.

Watching this film was not only a great experience because of its content – the location added some flavor to the mix too. I actually got to see this film outside during the night. During the summer, the Lithuanian international film festival Kino Pavasaris (eng. Cinema Spring) in partnership with the Kaunas’ Art Cinema Romuva put on a screening of this particular picture in the Old Town of Kaunas. The event attracted a lot of people and we all got a chance to spend a nice summer evening watching a movie underneath the stars.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Show of Shows trailer

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The second film I want to mention was made in 2007 but skipped my attention until two days ago. It’s the animated feature Persepolis, directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, based on Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name. I have read the novel – it was one of the first comics I have read – and absolutely loved it, so I decided to check out the movie as well.

To begin with, I loved the film because it was so close to graphic novel – the animated graphics looked exactly like the comic book panels. In addition, although all the characters were animated and lacked any coloring, they were so full of life and expressive.

I also appreciated the fact that the picture was respectful to the subject but also dared to make some jokes. The film revolves around a girl’s (Satrapi’s) life – how she lives through a war and through a revolution in Iran, how she eventually has to leave her native country and has to build a new home abroad. All of the facts are laid out neatly and clearly, the problems and horrors are showed unflinchingly, but the comic-relief and the everyday funny situations also find a place in the picture. In short, Persepolis is both heartwarming and anger-inducing. It kinda makes everyday problems of my own life seem unimportant.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film (and the original novel) was the concept of Westernization of Iran. It was interesting to see that Iranian people weren’t actually that different from people in the West – they liked the same music and films. It was also captivating to see the items of the Western world being sold as contraband on the streets – the situation was pretty similar in the Soviet block, where my parents grew up, so it was fascinating to see the same things happen in a different part of the world. I guess, for better or for worse, one cannot escape Westernization, be it a voluntary or involuntary process.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Persepolis trailer

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I hope you enjoyed this slight break from the mainstream films. I will return to reviewing them tomorrow with a post on Deepwater Horizon. In the meantime, let’s go back to binge-watching Luke Cage.

Movie review: Sicario

Movie reviews

Hello!

Let’s continue a great fall film season and review Sicario! Sicario means ‘hitman‘ in Spanish and if you want to read my other review of the Hitman film, you can find it here. BTW, this ‘hitman‘ is much better than that Hitman.

IMDb summary: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

Story and Writing

Sicario’s script was written by Taylor Sheridan. He is a TV actor and this was his first screenplay. For a debut script, this one was definitely not bad, however, not what I expected it to be. Trailers advertised this film to be an action/drama/thriller, but for me, Sicario felt like a very violent and realistic documentary. Let me elaborate. Hollywood action films usually have a 3 part structure – introduction/establishment, journey/test, and final/resolution – and their narratives have a deadline. Documentary’s, on the other hand, have no real structure and, as a result, no real resolution. And Sicario is that type of film – it shows the viewers only a glimpse, an episode of life on the U.S. – Mexico border. It also fights a small scale battle and does not try to tackle the bigger problem. All of these choices, made by the creators, to narrow down the huge theme of drug cartels, illegal immigrants and smugglers to a specific event meant that the film was very realistic – it didn’t solve a lifelong problem in 2 hours but it tried to move forward with the solution. I also liked how there was no real resolution in the end and no really happy ending. It’s an open ending and anything can happen after the credits start.

In my Anthropology class, we have just finished studying migration and one of the examples that we discussed was the problem surrounding U.S.- Mexico border. We watched a few documentaries, one of them – Which Way Home (directed by Rebecca Cammisa in 2009) struck me the most because it showed children trying to migrate and look for a better life. While their journey seemed dangerous to me then, now, after watching Sicario, I cannot even begin to imagine what horrors are waiting for them on the way. Sicario was extremely violent and it showed the raw, un-retouched and real violence. It’s definitely not an example of a highly choreographed action flick where no real damage is done. The character’s reaction’s to the violence and also very truthful.

Although this movie didn’t have a lot of action scenes, it’s had an amazing suspense. The viewers were held on the edge of their seats because the future was highly unpredictable and nobody knew what will happen next and what the final outcome will be. There weren’t a lot of clues in the film and the plot might have been hard to follow at times, but this was where the suspense and the feeling of a threat really helped this film, by keeping the viewers engaged even if they did not know what was happening.

Directing and Visuals

Sicario was directed by French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve who has previously worked on critically acclaimed Prisoners and who will also contribute to the currently untitled Blade Runner sequel. On a side note, I’ve only watch Blade  Runner for the first time last night and really enjoyed it, though it was quite hard to get used to the slow pacing since I’m used to science fiction movies to be action-packed.

To my mind, Villeneuve did a great job as a director of Sicario and his style really added to the suspense of the film. I especially liked the shots were the characters seemed to disappear into the horizon. The night vision scenes were also interesting – it looked like you were in a video game, actually trying to find something yourself. I’m guessing that that effect was achieved through green lenses either in production or through green filters in post-production.

Acting

This movie had lots of characters, but it mainly focused on 3 of them. I will also talk about a few supporting actors.

  • Emily Blunt as Kate Macer. With every movie I watch, I become a bigger fan of Blunt. She only popped onto my radar last year with Edge of Tomorrow and Into the Woods (that Oscar nomination should have been awarded to her and not to Meryl Streep). She was also really good in this film, you could feel her character’s hopelessness and desperation. I would say that her character had a negative development – everything went downhill for her, starting with the opening scenes of the film. Next year, Blunt will be starring in The Huntsman (Snow White and The Huntsman prequel/spin-off) and I’m still hoping that Marvel will choose her for the part of Captain Marvel. She has also been chosen as the new Mary Poppins.
  • Benicio del Toro as Alejandro Gillick was also amazing in the film, but that really was not that surprising. I loved the shadiness oh his character and felt kinda bad for him because Blunt’s character did not want to trust him based on his race/nationality. However, in the end, she might have been right to do that. Del Toro is also an MCU actor (on top of being in a bunch of other amazing films), so if Blunt becomes Captain Marvel, they can have a reunion! Benicio will also be a part of Start Wars Episode VIII.
  • Josh Brolin as Matt Graver. Only a few weeks ago, I watched another film starting BrolinEverest – and in that one he played a similar character – kinda douche-bag-y, kinda sinister and way overconfident and selfish guy. Brolin played that role well in Everest, so it was not surprising that his performance was believable in Sicario as well.
  • Daniel Kaluuya as Reggie Wayne was Blunt’s character’s partner. I loved their funny and back-and-forth banter. Kaluuya is not an actor that I’m familiar with, would love to check out more of his work.
  • Maximiliano Hernández as Silvio was a really small character who received quite a lot of silent development, though I still did not feel attached to him and, thus, did not care what happened to him.
  • Victor Garber as Dave Jennings. I was really happy to see Garber in this film because I love him on The Flash and can’t wait for Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Jon Bernthal as Ted. As with Brolin, I’ve also recently seen another movie staring BernthalWe Are Your Friends. He played similar roles in both films, however, he met a sadder end in this one while he succeeded in WAYF. Bernthal is amazing as The Punisher on Daredevil Season 2 and he is even getting his own spin-off show on Netflix.

All in all, Sicario was a great documentary-type film with a lot of suspense and a bit of action. It didn’t offer a clear resolution, but the amazing cinematography and splendid performances from the whole cast made up for it.

The last films, which I’m going to check out this month are The Walk and Spectre. Pan and The Last Witch-hunter will slip from my calendar because I’m getting a super strong The Giver/Seventh Son vibe from their trailers. Bye!

Rate: 4/5 

Trailer: Sicario trailer

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