The Virgin Suicides is my favorite Sofia Coppola and the main reason for that is the soundtrack. She truly is the female of version of Quentin Tarantino when it comes to music selection. The soundtrack for The Virgin Suicides is a timeless masterpiece, and Come Sail Away is the perfect closing track.
Hey there, enternechoplex. I liked and agree with your review of Higher Ground. I myself am religious (Catholic), but I've been through several different versions of this orientation and therefore also identified with the protagonist. If you're interested, I wrote a little piece on it for a Catholic magazine called America. I have a link to it in my most recent tumblr post.
After I fell in love with Midnight City I have been eagerly awaiting this album. After two listens I can say that it is a pretty cool, energetic and interesting album. I feel it’s going to take me a couple of listens to really, really like it.
I’ve been on the fence about PJ Harvey for a while now, but this song has completely made me jump on her side. Shame is such a thoughtful, beautiful, addictive, harrowing and amazing song. It’s been on a loop for 30 minutes already. I love it.
Moneyball starts off with the Oakland A’s losing a major game to the New York Yankees. As the Oakland A’s prepares for a new season with an extremely low budget and the loss of three key players, general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is attempting to find the answer to their ever increasing problems. After failing to trade a player with another team, Billy meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who proposes a different approach to their player scouting techniques. This new approach focusses purely on statistics and on computer analysis of players that while underappreciated by most teams do in fact get a lot in base. Convinced and open to something different, Billy Beane and Peter Brand set out to drastically change the game.
This film is a very unconventional sports film, in fact it is the most original one I have ever seen. Most sports films focus primarily on the lives of the players and the coach, but until now there has never been a sports film that showcases how a team gets managed and how it gets built. Moneyball is essentially about the behind the scenes aspect of baseball and about Billy Beane trying to convince people that this new approach will work. This is where the film’s title comes into full effect, it is all about money and how can one create a winning team with a very tight and low budget. All these behind the scenes elements are what make Moneyball such an incredibly interesting and compelling film to watch.
But the main reason why the film works so well is because of Brad Pitt. He gives a really great performance and has the added advantage of playing a highly interesting character. The film gives us glimpses of Billy Beane’s life as a teenager playing professional baseball and how those moments affected him considerably today. He is a very conflicted but highly determined character who has learned to take everything with a grain of salt. There’s an understanding that great things can be taken away really fast, but he also learns that sometimes you have to enjoy the little things. Pitt plays it perfectly relying on simple subtleties and creates a realistic portrait of a man trying to make a difference and to not repeat his previous mistakes. He excels at sentimental and thoughtful moments, but also manages to deliver the film’s funniest moments. Personally I don’t think his performance is Oscar-worthy, but I understand why a lot of critics do. Jonah Hill also gives a really great performance that is unlike anything he has ever done. He is very quiet and calm, and while he does provide a few laughs here and there Brad Pitt is still the funniest character in the film.
I was surprised by how great Moneyball is and awesomely enough, it is not as uplifting as most people are making it out to be. It is inspirational and very realistic in its depiction of how a winning streak doesn’t necessarily guarantee a happy ending. I really liked that unlike most sports film, Moneyball is very dialogue driven, which highlights the brilliance of screenwriters Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin. This film is unlike any other sports film out there and showcases a really great and interesting performance by Brad Pitt, and a window into a side of sports most of us aren’t familiar with. Moneyball is total win.
Are you feeling down or bored? Do you need to laugh a little? Then you should do yourself a favor and read this review. To say the dude annihilates Taylor Lautner would be the biggest understatement of the century.
Here’s some pure gold quotes for you:
“It [Abduction] should be called bad performance art for troglodytic, subhuman Caucasian bed-wetting females with a predisposition for shirtless, roundhouse-kicking dildos.”
“The kid [Taylor Lautner] is about as versatile as a blood clot and as charming as a yeast infection.”
And there’s so much more. God, I love when a film is atrocious, it brings out the best in people.
Even though I was raised Catholic, I personally never been a religious person. As the years pass I become less and less attached to religion and their beliefs, which I know see as almost pure bullshit. However, I am spiritual and do believe that there is a higher power surrounding us. There have been times where doubt overshadows everything else and I get to a point where I don’t know what to believe in, I don’t feel a presence or anything like that within me. To be honest, sometimes it all feels like false hope and as if I’m just deceiving myself. I think this is something many of us go through at some point, the concept of faith and of maintaining hope is a very difficult to fully grasp especially when we’re constantly facing adversity. Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground explores these notions and questions in what easily is one of the best films of 2011.
The film begins with Corinne (Vera Farmiga) being baptized and while she’s in the water the film moves on to how she got there. First as a little girl in church where she felt for the first time the presence of Jesus, but walked away from it a few days later after her mother (Donna Murphy) had a miscarriage. Then as a teenager, played by Vera Farmiga’s sister Taissa Farmiga, as she experiences love for the first time. During this time Corinne’s father, CW (John Hawkes), becomes an alcoholic which seriously damages his marriage, but she turns to God once again when she survives a terrible accident. Finally we return to the beginning of the film, in which Corinne is married and has three children. Struggles ensue as she starts to question the square-minded ideals of her church members and the terrible absence of God in her live.
Let me start off by saying that I really identified with Corinne’s spiritual crisis. I understood how she felt, her doubts and constant questions. One of the most heart-breaking things about Corinne is that she longs for God’s presence in her life, but no matter how much she believes and praises him she just doesn’t feel him. She keeps waiting for some sort sign to tell her that she’s on the right path, that these horrible situations she keeps facing are for a reason but nothing happens. Ironically enough, it is only when she fully steps away from God and her church’s frustrating and single-minded ideals that she finally finds some semblance of serenity. There’s a speech she delivers at the end of the film that will shatter the heart of every person who has faced similar existential hardships.
Vera Farmiga gives an Oscar-worthy and eternally beautiful performance in this film. Her facial expressions conjure up perfectly every single thought and emotion that goes through her mind. I think vulnerable performances are the most difficult ones to give, but Vera Farmiga makes it look effortless. She embodies the character so well and fills it with numerous subtle emotionally-charged gestures. There’s a scene at church in which the priest or father is trying to justify a terrible misfortune that occurred to a very close friend of Corinne, and you can see in Vera Farmiga’s face not only all the pain she’s experiencing, but more importantly the conflict of faith. She’s having trouble understanding the concept that everything happens for a reason and that’s when the hopelessness and doubt start surfacing. From watching her performance and also her direction, you get a palpable sense of dear and personal this character study is for her.
Higher Ground is Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut and her direction is quite remarkable, which completely took me by surprise. She doesn’t over-dramatize the proceedings and instead focuses a lot on performance subtleties between the actors. Like for example, there is a scene between John Hawkes and Donna Murphy that occurs at a birthday party that is one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen this year. There’s no dialogue between them but the camera lingers on their expressions and you can tell exactly what they’re telling each other. Farmiga approaches this film in a very intimate and personal matter, which in terms makes it that much more powerful. I found only two small instances where the camera movement falters a bit, but overall she does a brilliant job.
Suffice to say that I absolutely loved Higher Ground. The film isn’t so much about religion as it it about a woman’s spiritual journey into understanding her purpose in life. There are moments where one gets really angry and frustrated, because most times really religious people are so blinded and single-minded that they completely reject different ideals and thoughts. That’s when one witnesses how damaging religion can be, which is why I believe being spiritual is far more important than being religious. Religion, especially Christianity has too many constraints and paradoxes at their very core, like they say they love humanity but not if you’re gay or don’t follow their ideals. Higher Ground is a beautiful, deeply emotional and interesting character study film that proves Vera Farmiga is a great filmmaker. Her strength tips towards acting more so than directing, but her handle on the subject matter and the actors is quite impressive.
The Debt takes place between two time frames connected by the execution and apparent resolution of a mission. In 1966, Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) joined Stephan Gold (Marto Csokas) and David Peretz (Sam Worthington) in East Berlin for a mission to track down a Nazi war criminal. Even though their mission was accomplished, the actual truth behind it has been hidden. Fast forward 30 years and the aged trio’s (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds) credibility is at risk as the truth behind their mission threatens to surface.
This film has a lot going in its favor from the top-notch directing to the wonderful cast. The problem of it simply is the fact that there is absolutely nothing special about it. Everyone does an effective job, but the story itself is lacking in something. On paper it sounds interesting but I got bored by halfway through. It all felt so uneventful and my mind drifted to the surprisingly awesome trailer of Anonymous that played before the film started. Now that film right there looks amazing and the fact that they used Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead made it exciting, cooler and haunting. I honestly want to see Anonymous like right now.
But back to The Debt. The main reason why the film is watchable is thanks to the performances by Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain and Marto Csokas. They really dig deep into their characters and provide some much needed sentimentality, humanity and enjoinment. Sam Worthington on the other hand made me question yet again why he keeps acting. He is such a dull and emotionless actor, and even with a character that is supposed to be mysterious and enigmatic he makes him out to be the most boring person in the whole film. And there was absolutely no chemistry between him and Jessica Chastain, which seriously hurts the film especially because the film depends a lot on their relationship.
Suffice to say that The Debt is a disappointment. The film doesn’t suck by any means and it does provide few exciting moments. But it is extremely predictable, ordinary and ultimately really boring. I honestly blame the story, because while it may sound interesting on paper it needed more excitement or drama added to it. So in summary, I’d say rent or watch the film on a plane.
Among the first things in Contagion I fell in love with was the score. I think it is absolutely brilliant. This track plays alongside the opening sequence of the film and it gives it an eerie, ominous, energetic and rushed vibe. I love it!
In Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, we are taken around the globe as a new, fatal and highly contagious disease ravages the whole population. While the film is an ensemble piece, the focus shifts between four primary characters. First is Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) whose life turns upside down as his wife, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow), is the first to succumb and die of the disease in America. Second is CDC Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) who sends Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) out on the field and is also attempting to find a vaccine/cure for this disease. Then we have Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) who is send to Hong Kong to investigate the source of the disease since Beth Emhoff appears to have contracted it on her latest trip there. And finally there is Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) a journalist free-lancer who attempts to tell the world the reality of this disease, which is apparently being hidden by the CDC.
With Contagion Steven Soderbergh proves yet again what an absolutely brilliant director he is. He achieves such a great balance in the film that it all just glides effortlessly between the various characters, scenarios and issues. The film is brilliantly paced and there is never a moment where things feel disjointed or out of place, every scene has a purpose whether it is to instruct us about the disease or to show us the lengths humans will go to survive. Furthermore, Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns don’t dumb down the film at any point and aren’t afraid to throw terms and concepts that people aren’t familiar with. They treat the audience intelligently and expect us to keep up with them, and fortunately enough there is never a moment where you don’t know what is going on. Contagion has a lot of exposition, which makes sense considering the subject manner and that exposition actually not only helps the audience, but makes things much more exciting.
The film is also highly realistic in its portrayal of our world trying to deal with a new disease. Soderbergh doesn’t over-sensationalize the proceedings, which actually works in its favor because it is the realism of this whole film that makes it so effectively scary. There are naturally caused fatal diseases in this world and every time one of them surfaces things do get crazy, like for example when the H1M1 crisis happened. But what Soderbergh succeeds in the most is the whole look of the film and it will be a crime if he doesn’t get a nomination for Best Cinematography. I don’t know if it was the theater I saw it in, but Contagion is easily the best looking film I have seen so far this year. The blu-ray-like quality of the picture, the lighting and composition of the scenes is pure perfection. I love how the camera itself is a character, it guides you, suggests different things and it is always positioned in a way that you can grasp every single thing that is happening.
Then we also have the cast of the film, which is what will primarily draw audiences into watching the film. The actors and actresses I noted at the beginning aren’t even a quarter of the cast of this film. As the film glides through its different stories we get some highly recognized actors like Brian Cranston to rising stars like John Hawkes to fairly unknowns such as Jennifer Ehle. Every single cast member shines in their respective role and deliver an effective and at times heart-breaking performance. What really great is that thanks to high volume of characters and stories, people will connect more with some characters than others. For me the standouts were Jude Law, who steals every scene he’s in, and Matt Damon, whose story is the most tragic and compelling one. Contagion needs to get a nomination for Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards next year and as of now, it will win it.
Just as it was the case with Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, Cliff Martinez assembles another brilliant score for Contagion. The score is easily one of the films greatest strength’s as it manages to achieve a variety of moods and feelings. Depending on the scene it can be really frightening, but then it also adds layers of suspense and excitement to the scenes. Watching the film one also gets the sense that Soderbergh knows how brilliant the score is, because he over-imposes it during many sequences most notably the films opening sequence around the world. Martinez creates a score that perfectly blends with Soderbergh visuals and they complement each other beautifully, which then yields marvelous results. I really hope Martinez gets some recognition at the Oscars for both his brilliant score for Drive and Contagion, as they are both among the best score of 2011 so far. But either, you should add them to your iTunes as soon as possible.
While I was waiting for Contagion to start I had this feeling that I would leave the theater really loving this film and I did, especially because it surpassed all of my expectations. Contagion is a first-class thriller with a more than impeccable and outstanding cast. The film’s realism will at times scare the hell out of you and make you a bit self-conscious, because of the way it shows how bacteria and diseases get transmitted between humans. Very rarely do we get a film that portrays an end of the world scenario in a realistic manner, and more filmmakers should take into account that realism is much more effective. But the real outstanding aspect of Contagion is Steven Soderbergh. He succeeds in every single aspect of the film from his impeccable and highly balanced direction to his beautifully and Oscar-worthy cinematography. Contagion easily is one of the best films of 2011.
Hey, man! How have you been? It's been a long time!
HEY! I’ve been good, just started my new semester. It’s going all right so far and I have a class about sex, which is awesome and kinda random. But all the classes will get really intense come October so I’m trying to enjoy things before that.
It’s been forever since we last spoke/wrote-to-each-other. How have you been? How was your summer? :)
While I love her beautifully soothing, quiet and evocative tracks, I also love her more up-beat tracks in which she basically goes kind of crazy, loud and weird at the end. And here I was thinking 2011 would not deliver any more great albums. Strange Mercy is easily one of my favorites of the year.