My Blueberry Nights (2007): Drama / Romance

A heartbroken young woman leaves everything behind her and goes on a journey across America in search of finding herself.

I was waiting for the whole year to write about this film. Almost no one knows about My Blueberry Nights and it saddens me.

Like a modern Odysseus, Elizabeth sets off for a journey of self-discovery where every stop is an experience and every encounter a new turning point in her life. That’s why with every “Ithaca”, what matters is not the destination but the journey itself.

First feature English-language film for director Wong Kar-Wai, and feature debut for Norah Jones who was the only option for the leading role in the director’s mind. Jude Law makes an excellent addition to the cast and the chemistry between him and Jones is fascinating. Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, and Natalie Portman complete the A-list cast of this unknown indie that, if you are not aware of it, it will make you ask yourselves how come you didn’t. Based on a short film that was made by Wong Kar-Wai in the beginning of his career, My Blueberry Nights is a pilgrimage of life, exploring our life’s decisions, our choices, and the way we let fear control both. Furthermore, redemption and find actual meaning and trust in people that are truly worth it and move us forward in life will leave a sweet taste in your mouth, almost as sweet as that long-anticipating for the denouement blueberry pie.

Thirteen years ago, in New Year’s Eve, I watched My Blueberry Nights at the cinema’s last screening of the day, with the girl working there. My last film of 2007. My last film review of 2020.

Stay safe and Happy New Year!!!

Sweet November (2001): Drama / Romance

A self-absorbed workaholic runs into a woman that her proposal will ultimately change his life.

Meet Nelson Moss! America’s typical self-aggrandizing yuppie asshole you wish he didn’t breathe the same air that you do. Well, don’t cast your stones just yet, Sara Deever is here. She comes into his life like an angel and, against all odds, sets the wheels of metamorphosis in motion.

Keanu Reeves, somewhere between The Matrix installments, gives a very convincing performance as that dude you wish you never become in your life and Charlize Theron is that angel you hope you one day meet. Now, here’s a fact: Sweet November, the remake of the homonymous 1968 film, got three nominations: worst actor, worst actress, and worst remake or sequel. John Wilson, the founder of the Razzie awards, lists the film as one of the 100 most enjoyable bad movies ever made.

Two things save the film. Firstly, the Keanu/Charlize chemistry; they were amazing in The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and they are very enjoyable here. By the way, Jason Isaacs is pretty awesome. Secondly, the film’s honest message: Seize the day, and make the most out of your life. Contrary to popular belief, life is a lot shorter than we think. But it can be sweet. That depends on the choices we decide to make.

No filmmaking technique stands out really and the story is quite flawed but, hey, watch it around this time of the year and forget about film theory for a couple of hours. It’s New Year’s Eve. Drink it in while thinking about your new year’s resolutions.

Stay safe!

Legends of the Fall (1994): Drama / Romance / War

In the early 1900s, in Montana’s vast wilderness, the retired colonel Ludlow and his three sons stand united in war but are torn apart by their passions.

There are people out there, academics or otherwise, who think too little of Hollywood or nothing at all. Personally, I don’t like labeling cinema or seeing it as black and white, i.e., world cinema, good – Hollywood, bad. Having reviewed numerous Hollywood films, I can tell you with certainty that powerful storytelling knows neither indie or studio level nor language or cultural differences.

Legends of the Fall is the undeniably captivating Hollywood style of storytelling that pins you to your seats and sucks you into its world. John Toll’s gripping, Oscar-winning photography stands out from the opening sequence, foreboding the magnitude of what lies ahead. Brad Pitt, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond, Henry Thomas, and the late Gordon Tootosis give Oscar-worthy, memorable performances with Hopkins’ been shockingly emotional.

Producer/Director Edward Zwick took seventeen years to get this project off the ground and the wait was definitely worth it. Based on the novel by Jim Harrison and written for the big screen by Susan Shilliday and William D. Wittliff, the chronicle of the Ludlow’s family sees the father suffering while his boys fall apart from what’s meant to be sticking them together but offers the closure the story needs, without necessarily being the one that the vast majority would want. James Horner’s music enhances those vigorous emotions and Steven Rosenblum’s masterful editing puts the non-chronological footage together, maintaining the continuity illusion but also creating montage sequences that travel us through time.

Definitely one of my favourite dramas growing up! Legends of the Fall is a dramatic Odyssey of love, a tale of revenge, a family’s legendary journey of courage, loss and sorrow…

Stay safe!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012): Drama / Romance

A lonely freshman befriends two seniors and gets to experience life for what it really is.

The epitome of modern American indie cinema! Watching it again eight years later, I realised the film hasn’t aged a day. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller make an incredible acting trio and their chemistry lies in the details. Just pay attention to the simplistic beauty when a “baked” Charlie unintentionally tells Sam about his best friend or when Patrick dances on Charlie’s lap during The Rocky Horror Picture Show scene. Even though not saying or doing much, Paul Rudd is inspiring and great addition to the cast.

Author of the book, screenwriter, and director Stephen Chbosky shocks his audience with his character-driven achievement. Each sequence amalgamates with the next and all of them masterfully compose an introvert teenager’s stepping into a life he once only dreamed of. If you’ve watched it, did you even notice that they have no cell phones or that they are not talking about social media? Did you wonder what the date is? Since the first time I watched it, I have learned how to “read” films in a more concise manner. Pay attention to the editing, for example. How much does it give away throughout the film about the ending? In the end, how much do you get to see and how much is left to your imagination during the shockingly culminating scene?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower could have been an entirely different film in the hands of the late John Hughes but, as it stands, it is a must-watch and a reminder that some times, less is more. Its powerful narrative does not try impress anyone. It just captivates everyone.

Stay safe!

P.S. Charlie is an older freshman. I totally missed it the first time as I haven’t read the book but pay attention to the cake’s candles and liaise it later on to the conversation he is having with his brother.

P.P.S My beloved Ioanna, you know this one goes out to you ūüôā

A Ghost Story (2017): Drama / Fantasy / Romance

A white-sheeted, nostalgic ghost, permanently resides in its home and everything that, in the passage of time, becomes after that.

A friend of mine called me, laughing at IMDb’s reviews on this one. So, even though I don’t really look at reviews before I watch a film, I only read the titles. I’ve seen cases before where reviews are either 1 or 10 and nothing in between, and since the titles were entertaining, I decided to give it a shot.

Let me be clear from the beginning. A Ghost Story is not for everyone! What we are dealing with here is an interesting yet peculiar storytelling with protracted steady medium and long shots that initially make little sense. The narrative unfolds though and life, linearly or not, moves on with just a few edits. Be patient with these shots and think that your life does’t have cuts either. It would also help if you perceived the narration as omniscient – being everywhere simultaneously. During this journey, I couldn’t help but feel the ghost’s loneliness and entrapment. The ability to manoeuvre in time and the inability to do nothing about it. Imagine yourself seeing the world spinning, confined by your questionable existence. An existence that is unknown to everybody as much as it is to you. But still you wait for someone to finally acknowledge this questionable existence you have become. Admittedly, after the ghost’s free fall, the convolution becomes also questionable. But please remember what I said earlier about the non-linear.

Have you ever wondered what the origins of d√©j√† vu are? Cinema is a form of expression. That’s why it’s art. The aforementioned protracted shots make sense somewhere halfway through the film while understanding the narrative and David Lowery’s subjective perception of time and space. Let the mise-en-sc√®ne inaudibly “speak” when the silence is deafening. You may be wondering where is she? Has she become a ghost too? Has she gone to a final destination? Is there a final destination? But then think of something that you can, potentially, answer. Who is waiting for you?

Stay safe!

P.S. A few days after I watched it, it came to light that one of the producers was accused of raping one of the film’s young girls. Hollywood’s depravity spreads like pestilence!

Marriage Story (2019): Comedy / Drama / Romance

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A married couple with a little kid decides to break up and both parties reveal their best and worst hidden sides of themselves.

Even though ‘it takes a village to make a film’ and every department plays a significant role in a film’s success or failure, five major ones (not in a particular order) need to become a solid one to guarantee Marriage Story‘s success: Directing, cinematography, editing, writing, and acting. Writer/Director Noah Baumbach, cast actors Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson during the script development and all three of them put the ‘FADE OUT’ in the end. As all three of them had been or were going through divorces, the film is largely based on their real-life experiences, and it is that kind of realism that is translated to the big screen and the film’s final cut. Everyone poured their souls in it and, as per IMDb, this is what happened: Top Rated Movies #171, nominated for 6 Golden Globes, and another 81 wins & 177 nominations.

The way editing controls the film’s pace and rhythm is remarkable. Without saying it’s right or wrong, the cuts during the dialogue – cutting from the person talking/crying/exploding to the other person’s reaction – make an interesting case as, me personally, I would expect maybe less reaction. I bet the drafts were endless though and, since the final cut works, I just take it as it comes. The mise-en-sc√®ne is flawless and Baumbach with director of photography Robbie Ryan have captured and framed only the essential to the story elements. Last and most certainly not least, Johansson and Driver purely unleash their thespian talents and, arguably, deliver the most hair-raising performances of their lives. Forgetting the high budget tentpoles they are currently in – Avengers and Star Wars respectively – they become part of a love story wrapped in self-absorption and insecurities. Interesting background production details can be found here: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7653254/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv

The labyrinthine nature of a human being knows no limits. When two human beings come together, the stakes and unpredictability are doubled and when a family is created a small society is born under the same roof. Hundreds of millions of these societies form bigger societies that constitute the world as we know it. And its intricacies and complexities can only be matched with the Universe’s mysteries.

Mr. Destiny (1990): Comedy / Fantasy / Romance

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Leading a repetitive life, Larry Burrows, on his 35th birthday, wishes his life was different, more exciting… and this is exactly what he gets!

How many times have I watched this film is beyond me… And I think I’m gonna grow old and grey and I’m still gonna be watching it. Yes, it’s very similar to the classic masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), but since I was a kid when it first came out, I grew up with it, and I couldn’t help but stop thinking about… what if my life was different? As I kept growing up, till this very day, till this very moment, writing this review right now after just having watched it (again), I am wondering why does this film age so well? What is it that makes it so diachronic that I can’t stop having enough of it.

I guess I wouldn’t watch it any other period other than Christmas/New Year time. It is the time when, if not all of us, most of us contemplate a bit more about our new year resolutions. It is that time where we look back and ask ourselves, what could I have done differently? What do I lack? What do I have in abundance? Why would I want my life to be different anyway? It might be all these would haves, should haves, could haves that loop in our minds with warp f@¬£$%^& speed causing this effect. I think I’m digressing…

Anyway, Larry Burrows is John Belushi. And not like a film poster kind of way. I mean that I can’t imagine anyone else portraying him and I kinda don’t want either. Michael Caine is visual poetry. Linda Hamilton is to fall in love with and proves, once more, to be so diverse actress that I take my hat off to her and bow. Rene Russo always had been and always be lighting up the screen when appearing on it. As for Courteney Cox, she is… a killer! Last but lost least, it is an absolute shame that we don’t see the amazing Jon Lovitz in many films anymore – series mostly.

Mr. Destiny¬†had a big impact on my life, and it has inspired my screenwriting in ways that I can’t begin to describe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have over the decades.

You can find it here:

UK: https://amzn.to/2SCYjve / https://amzn.to/2SIVp8e

US: https://amzn.to/2F2mhYP

Official Secrets (2019): Biography / Drama / Romance

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A British Intelligence whistleblower decides to leak information about an illegal NSA spy operation that would force the UN Security Council to authorise the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Based on the book by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell “The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion”, the script of Sarah and Gregory Bernstein, and the directing of Gavin Hood (also co-writer), make Official Secrets¬†as one of the most realistic espionage films of its time. The fiasco of the “weapons of mass destruction” that led to hundreds of thousands of people dying is seen through the eyes of Katharine Gun, showcasing her enormous courage and the incredible risk she took (both personally and professionally) to disclose the truth to the public. Subsequently, it stirs the focus towards the brave journalists and lawyers who backed her up, reinstating our faith that not all of them are government puppets and leeches respectively. All of us who served in the army at the time or were glued to the television, and saw the live footage were disgusted by both the war itself, but also our governments. I feel sorry for the ones who were actually there – fighting for either side. Here is an interesting fact: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5431890/trivia?item=tr4849190

The story is solid and the editing is beautifully crafted. Every actor pours their soul into their characters and Hood, side to side with cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister do a brilliant job behind the camera. Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, MyAnna Buring, Matt Smith, Ralph Fiennes, Indira Varma, Rhys Ifans, Conleth Hill, and all cast and crew deserve a round of applause for their achievement in front and behind the lens.

Highly recommended for all filmgoers as it will definitely rock your boat. Especially, in times like these where both the US and the UK suffer from the twin buffoons. Apologies for delving into politics.

You can find it here: https://amzn.to/2t9OISd

 

Blue Mountain (2019): Drama / Romance / Short

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A woman lies in bed watching the love of her life sleeping and can’t help but wonder if life is how she perceives it to be.

Watching Blue Mountain¬†you stop debating with yourself regarding whether a short film can convey the message as effectively as a feature can and start wondering if what you perceive as real is everyone’s reality or just yours. Translucent Film Studios, Congo Station Productions, and one (wo)man army Jasmine Brotzman produces, writes, acts, edits, designs, and directs life’s convolution, focusing on the antitheses of certainty and doubt, love and the perception of it, and the human mind’s complexity as it endlessly and relentlessly weaves our story’s should haves, could haves, would haves…

A proud addition to the Film Festival Circuit (www.filmfestivalcircuit.com), Blue Mountain deserves all the spotlight it can get, and so does Jasmine.

The Story of 90 Coins (2015): Short / Drama / Romance

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Love and aspiration battle in a young fashion designer’s head when the time comes to making the decision of her life.

If there is anything worse than something preventing you from achieving your dream, that is someone preventing you from doing so… 90 coins, in 90 days that will glue you to your seats for 9 minutes. Directorial debut for Michael Wong who hits the nail with a short drama portraying the gut-wrenching feeling of slowly losing love to an idle, utopic, pseudo-promising dream.

Brilliantly directed, edited, and acted, “The Story of 90 Coins” serves as a memory which comes and goes in waves blending two peoples’ lives the way they would like to remember them, and the way they actually were. A memory that will lead them to find eternal love or lose themselves forever.