Hugo

Mediocre, oui monsieur Scorsese? –

Based on “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” a historical fiction book written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. Swooping from the sky through tumbling snowflakes, clouds of steam and crowds of travelers, Scorsese‘s camera whooshes joyfully through a labyrinth of ladders, shafts, cranks and cogs enchant our eyes into pleasure. Hugo’s exuberant opening shot glimmers at the very beginning of an adventure.

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan who lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station where he works as a clock keeper. His father (Jude Law) inherited an automaton, a mechanical man who is supposed to write with a pen. Convinced the automaton contains a message from his father, Hugo goes to desperate lengths to fix it but he is still missing one mysterious part. Alongside came Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) an orphan who lives with George Méliès (Ben Kingsley) an old man with a sour attitude. He runs a small toy booth in the train station.

After treated to a beautifully captivating opening, the film finally gets where it’s going. We see how Méliès took movies to the moon and back in 1902, how silent cinema’s filmmakers were magicians who can still make us smile and gasp, and how precious things are lost between the grinding gears of technology and time. But yet after the story gets deeper somehow you’ll see a gap around the story, and slowly you’ll be disappointed. While it was fine from a technical standpoint, the story was completely confounding.

The director are too focused on the visuals that the story and characters get left behind. The linkages between characters are lifeless and stiff, the dialogue are constrained to look poetic, and the plot is so slow moving that it trips over itself. It’s so superfluous that it loses it’s meaning and impact. Sadly, Scorsese aren’t quite enough to make this adaptation of Selznick’s novel as a wholly satisfying experience. Truly mediocre, what a shame.

Nevertheless, the film won the 84th Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. In 2012 BAFTA Awards the film won Best Sound and Best Production Design. In the 69th Golden Globe Awards Scorsese won Best Director.

Platoon

Hell in Stone’s perfection –

The Vietnam War was an unpleasant experience for everyone involved. Having served in Vietnam, Oliver Stone harnessed these experiences to make Platoon, he managed to made an astonishing Vietnam war film. Everything about it is as close to perfection as we are likely to see. And he unbelievably makes our feelings oscillated and takes us deeper into the gist of humanity.

Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) is torn between the sergeants. From his point of view, war is a hell without end, he also a naive young man who believes in the American objectives in Vietnam before all his beliefs destroyed. Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) is the battle hardened, brutal murderer, who uses the war as an excuse to tender to his sadistic pleasures. Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) is the other side of the spectrum, a soldier with high moral standards. We get the sense that he has wrestled with his inner demons, but he has successfully come through to the other side. He has compassion for his fellow man, and he uses drugs as a form of escapism from this brutal war.

The film is very honestly written by Stone and it is this honesty that makes the film so great. Platoon isn’t an anti war movie and it certainly does not glorify war in anyway, it is simply how war is in its entirety. And Stone perfectly captures war in details. The sheer horror of war is captured so well in everyway. The fear of death, compatriots dying, divisions in the platoon, guilt of killing. The shooting is frantic and impossible to follow. It’s all there and Stone doesn’t try to disguise it. We follow the war at ground level, and see the brutalities first hand.

For it’s brilliance, Oliver Stone won the 59th Academy Awards for Best Director, The Silver Bear in 37th Berlin Film Festival, 44th Golden Globe Awards and he also won 1988 BAFTA Awards for Best Director. A magnificent film in the hand of astute director.

The Manchurian Candidate

A riveting political thriller –

From the Golden Globe nominated director John Framenheimer, the film sets in the demonizing and political overtones in the middle of cold war paranoia that struck all over America.

A former Korean War POW Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) returns with the Congressional Medal of Honour, to his domineering mother Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury), who he tries to distance himself from. Lt. Raymond Shaw is not a person you would like. The Vietnam veteran and son of the conservative Senator John Iselin (James Gregory) should be in bad memory for his fellow war comrads as a sulky, self-opinionated character. That’s why it seems quite odd that they praise Shaw after they have returned home. His commanding officer Maj. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) has been having nightmares where he is seeing the troops were kidnapped and brainwashed by the enemy, while war hero Shaw killed two of his own men under hypnosis. Soon, Marco finds out that Shaw is converted into a will-less, deadly instrument without knowing of the actions of his alter ego.

I can’t think of another movie that induces paranoiac feeling in the audience as well. It is a grim, daunting film which imparts an irritating coerciveness of its happening on the screen with perfectly arranged and meticulously shots. The architecture of the images seems to be precisely sophisticated in various perspectives which are mutually commenting, contradicting and completing – as if the events on the screen are following a secret dramaturgy.

As in acting, you’d be surprised with the uniformly excellent acting. And Sinatra proves himself a great actor for the lead. The possible doubtful casting of Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw pays off, even with his accent but nonetheless he is wonderfully creepy as the controlled assassin. His account of his love affair is very moving. And Lansbury as his mother is amazingly good and very sinister, she has played unsympathetic roles but never like this. She is unforgettable, and scary. a very riveting conspiracy drama and psychological thriller.

The film was nominated the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Film from any Source. And Angela Lansbury Won the 20th Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress. If you’re looking for something to blow you away, something completely unlike anything you’ve seen before. It has aged well, still providing the same amount of suspense and drama that it did then.

Das weiße Band (The White Ribbon)

A dashing storytelling in an unimaginable conundrum –

Marinated in anguish, sexual humiliation, animal cruelty and death, Michael Haneke returns with his most challenging film, after US version Funny Games.Haneke shot this film in crisp black and white and set in a small village in northern Germany, 1913-1914.

Filmed like a miraculously preserved aging photograph and superbly acted, Haneke delivered the film despite the formality and thematic precision. He also serve it with rigorous compositions, measured pacing and potent symbolism. Although the pace is slow but the film density will endures you into the craves of curiosity.

Narrated by an old man recalling his days as the village schoolteacher (Christian Friedel), the story begins with a doctor (Rainer Bock) crashing from his horse by a tripwire. Then the baron’s (Ulrich Tukur) son Sigi (Fion Mutert) is missing and then founded hang upside down with bruises. Pets are killed. Cabbages are beheaded. Women are humiliated. And again, children are abused while being forced to wear a white ribbon of “purity”.

Haneke is here in his element, applying meticulously controlled technique to heated hostilities. The coldness burns, the smarts dialogue, and the regulated violence half-glimpsed. A scalpel slash to the mind’s eye. One subplot even offers a very modest romance betwen the schooltheacher and the young nanny Eva (Leonie Benesch). While the thoughtful and stark voiceover, shimmering visuals suggest dream and allegory. Lessons can be learned from this strange community cocooned in the mists of time and memory.

So it’s hard to fault this remarkable movie from Europe’s most revered modern director, a film that feels too superior to be called anything other than a masterpiece. Then again, superior is the word. The only thing that makes The White Ribbon gleam a little coldly is that you sometimes get the feeling that’s exactly what its maker thinks it is, too.

Haneke’s The White Ribbon finally won Palme d’Or in the 62nd Cannes Film Festival and won the best foreign language at 67th Golden Globe Awards. He marks the ascendance of a major filmmaker to the rank of greatness.

The Ides Of March

A Promising political drama from Mr. Ocean –

The film is based on the play by Beau Willimon called Farragut North. And yet Clooney has managed to weave this film into an enjoyable pleasure of a devious political drama.

Clooney’s fourth venture behind the camera is evolving into maturity. The film is gradually transforms into a modern morality tale about the price of ambition and the corruption of power. But just who is Morris – a centre-left people pleaser with sufficient charm to make his socialist sounding policies adequate to the masses.

As its Shakespearean title suggests, The Ides Of March has more on its mind than debate prep and process. It’s really about ethics and values, loyalty and betrayal, ego and hubris – the stuff, the drama, not just the sort that occurs on the road to the White House.

An idealistic campaign leader Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) whose success at propelling a Democratic candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney) towards the Presidency has made his Republican rival jittery enough to try and woo him to the opposing camp. Behind his success Stephen has a mentor, Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a loyal and experienced Morris’s campaign manager who had platonic relationship with wily journalist Ida (Marisa Tomei). Unfortunately in the opposite team there’s Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) a cunningly campaign manager whose trying to disrupt Meyers head in a deceptive way.

As i said before, it’s a modern morality tale of how much one must wrestle between doing things because he feels they are the right thing to do and doing things that will serve themselves better in the long run. It’s highly cynical, with its points driven home by a terrific cast, and yet it manages not to be heavy handed or preachy.

It’s clear that The Ides of March won’t be for everyone. It won’t leave you hopeful about, well, anything. It gives you no one for whom to really cheer and yet no one for whom to really despise. It offers realism in exchange of hope, and its goal of trying to explain the motivations of those who get involved in these campaigns is reached. It’s an effective, gripping melodrama.