Archives for the month of: November, 2012

“Cloud Atlas” is written by David Mitchell.

I sat there, after seeing the movie, thinking “I missed something.”, so I figured I better go and read the book.

So. The book.

The book is structurally beautiful – 5 stories are told half-way in historical chronology, a sixth story completes and then the 5 stories are completed in reverse historical chronology, so it ends with the first story. I kept think “like a rose unfolding”, but is actually more like a multi-layer sandwich.

Mitchell is obviously very talented and has an ease with language – this books encompasses 6 different genres, 6 different types of writing, 4 different historical periods, 2 imagined historical periods and many, many different characters’ voices.

I enjoyed all 6 of the stories and the connections between them are interesting and the break-up of each narrative make more sense in the book when compared to the film. It also works as a book, as most of the characters are reading to find out about the story and character in the previous story.

Look, I have to question the excerpts of reviews from the likes of The New York Times and the Guardian UK, I can’t believe that they have never read something like this book before, where things and people interconnect and where an author offers up so much in a novel.

Mitchell doesn’t challenge or inspire, he entertains and entertains masterfully. His structure and words are beautiful, yet he doesn’t offer any new insights in the human condition or reveal any new truths. It is a beautiful experience, but there are moments while reading that I could only think that he was trading style over substance. I get the feeling that the reviewers may have been distracted by the beauty of the structure and the narratives of each story that they assumed that they were treated to something deep and meaningful.

I don’t know, maybe I read too much philosophy to really appreciate this book or maybe I’m just looking for something more challenging.

The book put some of my issues with the film to rest – the motifs don’t carry through all the stories, the theme of reincarnation is only suggested once, and the book suggests more about interconnectedness – the failings of the film aren’t the film’s, they are from the book!

So, yeah, this book is 6 really fun reads, but as a unit this book is decidedly lacking.

At least now I know.

 

“Cloud Atlas” is directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, screenplay by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, based on a book by David Mitchell.

This movie is one of the highest production value movies I’ve ever seen – it is beautiful, sprawling and the make-up for the actors is incredible.

Oscar-winning  make-up, actually. Part of the pleasure of watching this film was trying to figure out what actor was playing which role.

The acting is very good as well.

Which doesn’t explain why, after seeing this movie, I could only assume that I missed something really critical.

This is an unusual feeling, I see a lot of movies. And I’m comfortable with films that aren’t straight-up narrative. I can follow obscure themes and make connections and I can find motifs quickly and easily.

I mean, I see a lot of films. And all kinds of genres.

And this film. This “Cloud Atlas” film that I’m talking about – it fails as a film.

Sure, it is beautiful and challenging and each section of the story is visual candy and offers up a different look and genre, but. The premise doesn’t hold. The film falls apart amidst style and slickness.

This film on IMDb is described as “An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, of one soul is shaped from a killer to a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

But, the film doesn’t seem to do this at all. There are themes and motifs, but none carry through all 6 stories in any meaningful way. There are suggestions, but the film can’t make up its mind if it is about re-incarnation or interconnectedness or both, if it underlines the way humans struggle with the same evils over and again throughout history or if it shows how human history evolves and decays or…both. The motifs are muddled in terms of carrying through all the stories and what clues they give about insight into the characters’ lives and narratives.

Except for production value, this film was completely unsatisfying, especially after 3-hours.

“Flight” is directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by John Gatins.

I had no plans to see this movie until Dad talked about it and we decided to go out and see it together. Excellent choice.

Denzel Washington’s latest film casts him the role of a pilot who saves most of the lives on a malfunctioning plane during a crash landing, only to have an inquiry reveal his addiction issues.

Another complicated and challenging character for Washington who is perhaps the bravest leading man working in film today – he never chooses “nice guys” or characters who are heroic or kind. His characters are deeply flawed, bordering on unlikable and more often than not, fail at what they try to do.

Washington delivers an incredible performance in this film as he plumbs the depths of addiction.

This film is unflinching in both the depiction of addition and the consequences of having an addict in one’s life. We want Washington’s character to be redeemed, to learn, to overcome the addiction, but he never does and this keeps us spellbound both in the story and in the textured performances.

I need to clarify something here – this film isn’t an inspiring story about overcoming addiction or alcoholism, there isn’t a “happy ending”, it is about being an addict, being an alcoholic and how addiction takes a life away, piece by piece and ultimately shatters.

The cast is stellar, including John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Peter Gerety, Tamara Tunie, and Melissa Leo who always give their very best work. I heard a rumour that this film was made on a smaller budget, but with the caliber of the cast and the performances it is first class.

If you want a film that is challenging, well-acted and written this is the film for you to see. Deeply satisfying without being sentimental and honest without being cliché. Nicely done.

“Three Voices – Discovery. Recovery. Hope.” is a documentary produced by Ontario Shores in the hopes of inspiring young people dealing with mental illness to seek help.

I found out about this film and the première screening from a colleague of mine who has a background working with people with mental illness issues.

The film introduces three young people – a dancer living near Toronto, a photographer in Halifax and a social worker/activist in Toronto – and explores their lives and journeys dealing with mental illness.

This film gives all 3 are ample time to express themselves and explain about how they see their journey from the start of their mental illness to the process of trying to get better and looking to the future.

They map out for the audience how they believe their struggles began and their struggles in finding help.

Although the struggles of the people are moving and emotional, the film isn’t sentimental. It also doesn’t seek to make a political statement about mental illness, only explain how asking for help can help. It asks that those who are dealing with mental illness to continue to ask for help.

At 50 minutes it is a dense, information packed journey. It was made in the hopes of offering young people hope.

I think it was a great film and although the 50minute version isn’t going to be shown again, there will be an online version to run at 15minutes that has some slightly different footage.

I also think that it is a hopeful film to watch if you know a young person who is struggling with a mental illness. Actually, if you know anyone who is struggling with mental illness, this is a hopeful film.

“Seven Psychopaths” is directed and written by Martin McDonagh.

The censors’ warnings for this film is “extreme violence” and they aren’t kidding. The violence is horrific, bloody and graphic.

That being said, I also think that the violence is something of a necessity – it serves to reveal character, move plot and prove points. Some of the violence boarders on stomach turning but it always does something besides just be gorey.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I saw the previews for this movie, so everything was a surprise.

Especially when the violence gave way to a very cool middle section of the film where the violence gives way to meta and three characters converse about film conventions and possible ways to end a movie called “Seven Psychopaths”.

The actors are all bang-on and every main character gets a moment to shine.

This film could have easily been a straight-up gore fest filled with senseless violence, but the middle part plays like an art-flick. I’m not sure exactly what the intent of the film was, but it was thoughtful and surprising and a great way to spend some time.

“Argo” is directed by Ben Affleck and written by Chris Terrio (screenplay) and Joshua Bearman (article).

This film is based on the true story of a joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to get 6 US diplomatic staff from Iran in 1980.

I’m not a fan of Ben Affleck, although I really enjoyed this film.

The key to this film was how Affleck borrowed liberally from real pictures and moments during the hostage crisis. The film had a solid look to it and never appeared cheesy or unbelievable in terms of how people really looked and behaved.

The writing and acting were solid and the film was tense, like “on the edge of my seat” tense.

But, the thing is…it wasn’t particularly creative. At the end of the film, a bunch of pictures were shown and the corresponding shots from the film – they are almost exactly the same! I’m not sure if it good direction.

But, very enjoyable film.