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 Beguiled

Movie reviews

Hello!

A festival favorite and one of the strongest summer contenders for the awards season – The Beguiled – has premiered, so, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls’ school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal.

  1. The Beguiled was both written and directed by Sofia Coppola, latter of which was awarded at the Cannes Film Festival – she became the second woman ever to the Best Director Award. I’ve seen some of her films (The Bling Ring and Lost in Translation), but I’ve always had her other pictures on my ‘To watch’ list. I really need to do a movie marathon consisting of not just hers but of The Coppola’s family tree films.
  2. The movie’s script was based on a book A Painted Devil by Thomas P. Cullinan and the main topic being explored was the taboo issue of female sexuality and, especially, the repressed female sexuality and its dangers. Thus, all the character development mostly revolved around this issue, with not much attention being paid to anything else. The actions of the women did not make them into likable characters, while their choices at the end of the film were really quite shocking, which, I guess, was the intention. I did like the jab at the ‘Southern Comfort’, though – it’s the food that kills you. Literally.
  3. The writing for the lone male character was the best and he was the most well-rounded individual. His slay manipulations could really be seen in Colin Farrel’s (The Lobster, Fantastic Beasts) performance: he knew what each of the ladies wanted him to be and fulfilled that role. He was the older brother and an adult of the world to talk to, he was someone to impress and a potential suitor. Mostly, though, he was the personification of the budding sexual fantasies. These type of manipulations in his demeanor and the bursts of anger made me kinda see his demise as weirdly justified.
  4. Coppola’s directing was full of classical elements, like the steady camera, the old school ratio, and the long shots. These long shots really dictated the pacing of the film. The Beguiled was slow but carefully crafted, however, I did feel that, on a few occasions, some shots were lingering for too long without any intensity in them to make up for the lack of literal action. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the way Coppola realized the setting of the Civil War, with the noises of the battle going off in the background, but never allowed it to overpower the romantic drama happening within the house. The Beguiled wasn’t a Civil War film but a romantic thriller set during it. For the first hour, it was quite innocent (flirty and cute), while the last half hour was full of unforeseen cruelty and insane choices (all those repressed feelings were just bubbling over).
  5. I’ve already briefly touched upon Farrel’s smooth performance, so, now let’s look at the female cast. Nicole Kidman (Genius, Lion), Coppola’s usual partner Kirsten Dunst (Hidden Figures, Midnight Special), Elle Fanning (Trumbo, The Neon Demon), Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys, Spider-Man), and Oona Laurence (Southpaw, Bad Moms, Pete’s Dragon) all starred in the picture. The sexual tensions and frustrations were palpable in all of their performances with the exception of the youngest cast member Laurence.

In short, The Beguiled is a beautiful and slow art-house cinema offering that focuses on a theme that is still not as widely discussed as it should be, in the year 2017.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: The Beguiled trailer

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Movie review: Okja

Movie reviews

Hello!

When the international release schedules fail me, Netflix provides. Let’s review their newest original picture Okja!

IMDb summary: Meet Mija, a young girl who risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend – a fascinating animal named Okja.

Writing

Okja was written by the director of the film Bong Joon-ho and the author/journalist Jon Ronson. The narrative they crafted was just extraordinary. At a glance, the film appeared to be a live-action family adventure. However, in addition to being very entertaining all ages film, Okja was also unique, different, clever, innovative, and very topical. The premise, given in the opening, sounded insane but also sort or realistic (honestly, humans have come up with crazier solutions to the global problems). The familiar family film elements, like the child-animal bond (which sorta reminded me of The BFG), were mixed with the concepts of the corporate world, like bureaucracy, advertising, social media impact and public image, and GMOs – the ideas usually found in dystopian movies. On top of it, the distinct shades of the Korean culture, starting with the Korean language being used alongside English (I loved how the language barrier and translations were part of the plot), added another layer of uniqueness to the picture (it might not seem that out of the ordinary for anyone familiar with the cinema of the Far East).

Okja’s relationship with the vegetarian/vegan movement was super complex too. The film definitely placed the horrors of the mass meat production to the forefront and destroyed the barrier that the supermarkets have created between the production of meat and the consumer. The animal abuse was also hard to witness (tbh, now I am wondering whether animal rape is a thing) but it helped to prove a point that Okja was going for. The ideas expressed through the inclusion of the Animal Liberation Front were also fascinating. It is important to note that the screenwriters wanted to portray this group as peaceful yet still found ways to show its radicalness (beating one of their own for betrayal, starving to not leave a carbon footprint). I also appreciated the partially ambiguous ending of the film: while the personal win was achieved, the broader battle was lost. And yet, as the post-credits scene suggests – the fight continues.

Even though the movie was quite serious, it still had a few chuckle-worthy moments. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the poop jokes in Okja were adorable rather than annoying. The company’s driver, who was completely done with his job, was also a hilarious addition.

Directing

The South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho directed Okja and did an excellent job. He is probably the most well-known to Western audiences for Snowpiercer – another topical and unique film that is still accessible because of its cast of well-known Hollywood actors. While I liked Snowpiercer a bit more, I still have plenty of good things to say about Okja. First, the tone – a weird mixture of satire, theater, and realism ( a less kooky version of A Series of Unfortunate Events). Second, the action – the chase sequence through Seoul was was both fun and entertaining yet still had a lot of heart to it. The score, which accompanied the said sequence, was also magnificent, from the trumpets in the instrumental score to the usage of the song ‘You Fill Up My Senses’. The design of the Okja animal was good too – she was a cross between a hippopotamus and pet pig. The CGI was okay too – not super photo realistic but good enough for the movie.

On a side note, the story of this film’s release is almost as fascinating as the film itself. Okja was first booed at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival for being a Netflix film and then received a standing ovation for being a movie of extreme quality. Not only do the festival goers can’t seem to make up their minds, they also appear to be living in the last century. The film release practices are changing and they should catch up to that or risk becoming irrelevant in their field.

Acting

The movie had an ensemble cast, lead by a young actress Ahn Seo-hyun, whose performance was so pure: full of innocence and wonder. The Hollywood heavyweights like Doctor Strange’s and Hail, Caesar!’s Tilda Swinton (once again, completely transformed for the dual role) and Life’s and Nocturnal Animal’s Jake Gyllenhaal (in an eccentric and cartoonish performance that still somehow worked) provided the support. Swiss Army Man’s Paul Dano also starred (he is always really good in non-mainstream/indie films), while Lilly Collins also had a small role – she is actually headlining the next Netflix original film – To The Bone.

In short, Okja is a delightfully smart and entertaining picture that you can watch from the comfort of your own home. The best Netflix film so far!

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: Okja trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Captain Fantastic

Movie reviews

Hello!

With the awards season in motion, let’s review one of the earliest contenders for this year’s awards. It’s Captain Fantastic!

IMDb summary: In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

  1. To begin with, Captain Fantastic was written and directed by a longtime TV actor Matt Ross. This was only his second feature film and it is the movie that he got the most recognition for so far (mostly in the festival circuits and less so during the main awards season). I did like his directing but I mostly gonna focus on his writing, as the script is the most interesting part of the movie.
  2. I really enjoyed the unique premise and the out of the ordinary narrative of the film. The living in the woods/far from the society idea has become really popular lately with The Lobster and Hunt for the Wilderpeople also exploring it. However, I think that Captain Fantastic is the best film out of the three when it comes to the commentary on the modern world. I like the fact that this film could be used as a kick-starter for conversations on themes such as the cultural clashes (especially the cultural clashes at home) and the legitimacy of the education system (multiple vs singular way(s) of achieving intelligence). I also appreciate the fact that the movie spotlights a different way to deal with loss.
  3. Captain Fantastic also has a lot to say about capitalism. I, personally, don’t really think that capitalism is the ultimate way to structure the lives and the relationships of people but it still the best system out there. Still, it is good to talk about its flaws, so I believe that movies like Captain Fantastic should exist. And yet, knowing that this film was made in Hollywood by a big business (even if not by one the giant studios) as a product to be consumed kinda undercuts its critique on capitalism. How can one be part of the machine and also go against it? Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? I also find it funny that the movies audiences are basically the complete opposites of the film’s characters. What does that say about us or the film?
  4. Where Captain Fantastic felt short for me was in its lack of appreciation for the middle ground. I felt that, at times, it just went too far to the extreme side and, frankly, turned into a really pretentious picture. Some scenes were definitely cringe-y and uncomfortable and not in a good kind of way. In addition, even though I’m not the biggest fan of society’s norms, even I can admit that there are some great things about the human society. And even though the modern world has its problem, giving up and running away from it is not a suitable option.
  5. The one thing about the film that almost everybody can agree on is the quality of Viggo Mortensen’s performance. It took me at least half of the runtime of the film to figure out that he was the same Viggo Mortensen from Lord of the Rings and I can quite the majority of LOTR. His performance was truly transformative and I’m happy to see that he got a least a few nominations from the major awards. The film had quite an extensive supporting cast as well, as the main character had a lot of children. Young and up-and-coming TV actors took on the majority of the kids’ roles and did quite a nice job. George MacKay was definitely a stand-out performer, but all of them (Samantha IslerAnnalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, and Charlie Shotwell) deserve to be praised.

In brief, Captain Fantastic is a great conversation-starter of a film that has some flaws but overall is very enjoyable, especially because of the amazing performances by the lead actor and the supporting cast.

Rate: 3.9/5

Trailer: Captain Fantastic trailer

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Movie review: The Lobster

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before the year comes to a close, I’m catching up on a few films that I’ve missed and I’m reviewing them on this blog. Today, we are talking about The Lobster – the highly regarded indie flick that had a limited and festival release last yeat, but only premiered in the majority of countries in 2016.

IMDb summary: In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

Writing

The Lobster’s script was written by Efthymis Filippou and the director of the film’s Yorgos Lanthimos. In a sea of dystopian mainstream films, The Lobster stands out as a dystopian indie picture. It’s an absurdist story full of unique, original, funny, entertaining, uncomfortable, disturbing, and, of course, thought-provoking moments. It has a great narrative structure: the story starts without a warning, the viewer is just dropped into the world of the picture and left to figure stuff on his/her own. The surprises come in the first minute. The rest of the story is told organically through the great dialogue, however, the voiceover is also present and very effective. Its existence kinda makes the movie feel like a documentary, meaning that the events happening on the screen appear to be real, and, thus, even scarier.

The movie has some great themes and explores them in an interesting and fresh way. It basically takes the world’s obsession with love and perverts it to the max by making the process of falling in love into a mechanized rather than natural and organic thing. The film really succeeds in showing the radicalized absurdity of love and dating . It also asks the question of what is a real and what is a fake relationship. In addition, The Lobster accurately presents the contemporary view on the single people (the single people are still seen as less valuable members of society – we haven’t get rid of some conservative ideas just yet). The film also exaggerates the divide between the singles and the couples, by only presenting the two possible extremes without a middle ground. It also examines the taboo topics by making them appear as even more taboo than they are.

All of the characters in the film are reduced to a single feature and turned into ironized stereotypes not only for comedic but also for intellectual purposes. The animal symbolism is also very telling in the film, as lobsters are supposed to represent deep emotions while the film’s world seems to be completely emotionless. The Lobster also takes a subtle jab at today online dating culture which aims to match people up based on the percentage of their likeness and similarity. What happened to the ‘opposites attract’ idea?

Lastly, The Lobster’s ending is great: both satisfying and unsettling. It is definitely not a Hollywood type of a happy ending with the destruction of the dystopian world and the uncertain but hopeful future for the society. No, The Lobster ends with people stuck in an unfortunate situation, trying to make the best out of it.

Directing

The greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, with whose previous work I’m sadly not familiar with, does an absolutely stellar job with The Lobster. He presents the dystopian ideas in a very old-school, tradiotonal looking settting and really plays up this contrast between the normality and the absolute weirdness. He also gives the film a feeling of stagnation through the usage of the steady camera and the unmoving frame. The grim color palette also adds to the overall atmosphere. The great score by Johnnie Burn compliments the visuals really nicely. I especially enjoyed the mundane sequences which were accompanied with over the top epic and suspenseful orchestral numbers. The contrast was jarring and incredible.

Acting

All of the cast does an absolutely amazing job, bringing their nameless (for the most part) characters to life. Colin Farrel (Fantastic Beasts) is stunning in the lead, Rachel Weisz (The Light Between Oceans) absolutely nails her emotionless and actually quite scary voice over, while Ben Whishaw’s (SuffragetteThe Danish Girl, Spectre, In the Heart of the Sea, A Hologram for the Kingstiffness and monotony are jarringly appropriate too. Léa Seydoux (Spectre) and Olivia Colman (Locke) also deliver amazing performances.

In brief, the experimental art pictures (High-Rise and even The Neon Demon) are really hard to rate. I cannot put its worth into a number but I can tell you that The Lobster is a surreal, bizarre, and funny in that WTF kinda way film.

Rate: ?/5

Trailer: The Lobster trailer79027645349865d432662d9e4e919a6c.jpg

Ed Sheeran concert| Vilnius Siemens Arena, Lithuania| February 15th, 2015

Music

Hi!

I feel like I am starting all of my blog posts with an apology. Yes, I said I would blog daily and failed again. Yes, I’m sorry. Yes, I will try to fix my time management issues and will post more. Someday. Anyway, let’s move on, shall we?

So, last Sunday (February 15th), I traveled to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, once again to attend another concert! This time I went to Ed Sheeran’s acoustic performance! The only acoustic show I have ever been to before this one was Lana Del Rey’s concert a few years ago. I had a great time back then and even better time now!

A couple of hours before the arena was due to open its doors, there had already been a massive line of people! I came at around 5 pm., the doors opened at 6.30 pm and the concert started at about 7.30 pm. I usually stand much closer to the stage than at Ed’s concert. I guess he has bigger fans than me;) although, I still stood in line for almost 2 hours, then for 2 hours inside the venue and for almost 3 hours during the live performance. Best workout ever.

But back to the concert: firstly, Ryan Keen took to the stage to open the show. His songs were really nice and interested me to get to know more about him. Ryan communicated with the crowd nicely too. I especially liked his last song, the cover of Bruno Mars’s Uptown Funk (I have a personal connection to this song because it brings warm memories of my senior prom). Video of the performance.

At around 9pm Ed Sheeran started his set-list. I don’t know how can he sound better live than when recorded.! Ed sang both his older hits from + and newest songs from X. He also did Stevie Wonder’s and Iggy Azalea’s covers. Talk about versatility!
Probably my favorite song of his is Drunk (video of the performance). But I also love Sing, I See Fire (I also love The Hobbit series and that song was featured in the movie), One, and The Lego House (video).

I was quite sad that he didn’t perform All of the Stars from TFIOS. Nonetheless, I had a superb time and would definitely like to attend his concert one more time in the future.

Of course, I bought a poster to commemorate this event on my bedroom walls. Picture of it bellow:

IMG_3658Next concert I am thinking about attending is Swedish singer’s and 2012 Eurovision winner’s Loreen concert in my hometown during the month of April. Until next time. Bye!

P.S. Posts about my other concert experiences: Kylie Minogue| OneRepublic| Enrique Iglesias

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