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-scène 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.

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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.

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.

 

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.

Ashes in the Snow (2018): Drama / History / Romance

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In 1941, as Stalin’s army marches through Lithuania, a 16-year-old girl, her family, and thousands of men, women, and children who have been accused of treason, and are deported to Siberia.

A heartbreaking and soul-crushing story about a nation we know little and the same nation’s suffering that we know even less. A powerful drama based on Ruta Sepetys’ book “Between Shades of Gray” (Don’t you dare mix it up!), directed by Marius A. Markevicius, and with two actors leading strong: Bel Powley and Martin Wallström.

Shot on a moderate budget, it lacks the Hollywood flamboyance but the message is coming across straight through and expands to the rest of the Baltic people and whoever else faced the Russian atrocities. Shamelessness and misanthropy add to the film’s drama, history, and romance and clash the two forces that, in abhorrent times like this, are battling over the human soul: hope and despair.

A massive round of applause to Sorrento Productions, Tauras Films, Twilight Merengue Studios, and Vertical Entertainment which produced and distributed the film for the world to know. And then another one to the Lithuanian government for allowing it and supporting it.

People are often wondering how the descendants of the Nazis feel nowadays about their ancestors. How about the Russians’ ancestors? How about the current followers of the same regime that still exists and still oppresses, has surpassed the deaths caused by the fascist regimes, and competes with the deaths caused by theocratic ones?

Edward Scissorhands (1990): Drama / Fantasy / Romance

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Living on the top of a hill, Edward, having scissors for hands, is at first welcomed but then abominated by a conservative society.

Potentially, Tim Burton’s greatest fairy tale. One of Danny Elfman’s best film scores. Stefan Czapsky’s most wondrous cinematography. The film that showcased Johnny Depp’s true thespian skills. The film that Winona Ryder made me fall in love with an actress for the first time. Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin are amazing as gullible and naive parents and both the visual and sound departments deliver a truly mesmerising result.

As for the story and its development, please keep in mind that it is about Edward Scissorhands who is… different. And through his eyes, we recognise isolation, we seek self-discovery, and we find love. Similar, yet more sensitive than the story of Frankenstein, “Edward Scissorhands” could be more of a different take on the Beauty and the Beast through German Expressionism enhanced with Gothic constituents.

Try not to ask too many “whys”. Try not to rationalise actions and reactions. Try not to get too political or too scientific diagnosing Edward with autism. This is one of the best modern, love stories Hollywood has to offer. It is a magical love story…

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (2017): Drama / Mystery / Romance

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A young, talented writer becomes successful immediately after his first publication and inexplicably disappears into thin air.

I don’t know how to begin or even elaborate on my admiration and simultaneously my frustration on “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall”. One feeling at a time I guess…

Shawn Christensen, pens, produces, and directs an ostensibly simple story, which he develops intricately, unfolds beautifully, and delivers didactically. Sabine Hoffman’s editing is stupendous, Daniel Katz’s cinematography is mesmerizing, and Logan Lerman, Margaret Qualley, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, and Kyle Chandler are shinning in front of the camera.

So, that’s the admiration part. Here comes the frustration… Not even one nomination!!! I guess we have the critics to thank for that who ignorantly saw past it. Whose perceptual inability prevents them from conceptualising Sidney Hall’s depth, magnitude, and complexity. The Vanishing of Sidney Hall is poetry on screen. It is really a shame not to give it the chance it deserves. The chance the critics never gave.

London (2005): Drama / Romance

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Let me introduce to you writer/director Hunter Richards. Is he well-known? No. Should he be? Definitely. What for? “London”! Unknown too? It shouldn’t be.

Addressing mostly the Hollywood lovers, “London” focuses on three characters portrayed by two actors and one actress who are known to be action heroes and one of the hottest women alive respectively. Chris Evans, Jason Statham, and Jessica Biel have been fully humanized, “made redundant” to people next door, and deal with everyday issues that you and I are troubled with. No heroes, no celebrities here.

“London” takes place profusely in a house party’s toilet where:

  • Evans and Statham camp there as they are not welcome.
  • Expensive paintings are used as a flat surface for everyone to constantly snort cocaine.
  • Politics, religion, history, sociology, philosophy, drugs, human psyche, sadomasochism, and relationship issues are elaborated.
  • Finally, while the aforementioned is happening, everyone comes in and out to do their needs.

Statham and Evans steal the show. They look at each other in the eye, are not afraid to go berserk, and their characters find mental and spiritual/psychological ablution. A brilliant cinematic reflection on how real-life introspection can be turned into a liberating life’s unfolding.

Dirty Dancing (1987): Drama / Music Romance

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Ladies… Ladies… Ladies… How many times, in your youth, pending boring family holidays, didn’t you find yourselves daydreaming of being a Jennifer Grey… And that, during the tedious holidays, you would meet, dance, and fall in love with a – more often than not – half-naked Patrick Swayze.

Before Hollywood’s decadence in the Romance genre… Before millions of dollars were spent on cliche, “soppiness”, unnecessary CGI, and kitsch… there was “Dirty Dancing”! There was the Jennifer Grey and the Patrick Swayze. In a production that everything that could go wrong did, I dare anyone to challenge its success and dethrone it.

As for us gentlemen… we pay our respects to Patrick Swayze – dancer, bouncer, surfer, lover… who carved the path for modern actors like Ryan Gosling and Hugh Jackman… to take on multidisciplinary roles who fight, dance, sing, become superheroes and everyday people.

Regardless… ladies and gentlemen… we all hope he rests in peace…

For Petroula.