Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Woman in Black

Today I saw The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Ciaran Hinds.

Arthur (Radcliffe) is a widower—his wife died giving birth to their son Joseph (Misha Handley) four years ago. He is a barrister now, who must succeed in his casework to stay employed.

He travels from London to a northern town in England to work on a case and is greeted in an unwelcome manner from the townsfolk. It seems that they believe a ghost in a nearby haunted house is killing off all of the children in the area, one by one.

Soon Arthur is swept up into this madness, befriended by the wealthy Daily (Hinds) and his wife. Because Arthur has to search for papers in the spooky home, he realizes that the superstitions have basis.

As far as horror films go, this one is very low on the scary meter. Though Radcliffe does a perfect job of conveying heart-pounding fear with every shadow he sees, there just aren't that many payoffs other than typical jumpy one-offs.

Hinds is also good at his earnest glances and cautious stares, but nothing inside the film made me worry about what was behind me in the theater, or rendered me unable to walk to my car, as other films have.

If this were marketed more as a psychological thriller/drama, perhaps I wouldn't have expected so much.

In any case, I'll see the mesmerizing Radcliffe in just about anything so this wasn't a total loss.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pina 3D

Last night I saw Pina 3D, a documentary directed by Wim Wenders.

Years ago, while on vacation in Venice, Wim Wenders girlfriend dragged him kicking and screaming to a dance performance. Instead of falling asleep, or being bored to tears, Wenders claimed he "cried his eyes out," because the dancers presentation was so beautiful. Of course, he was watching a creation by Pina Bausch.

Soon he became friends with Bausch, a celebrated German choreographer known for her avant garde theatrics and absolute joy for dance. Then, a few decades later, he convinced her to let him tell her story on film.

Sadly, in the early stages of production, Pina suddenly died (presumably of cancer) at the age of 68. Devastated, her dancers and Wenders proceeded with caution (after contemplating abandonment of the project altogether).

What resulted is a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman who had the passion and talent to get to the core of emotion in each of her dancers.

We see how she encouraged the artists to move following their spirit rather than sticking to stringent technique (though their technique is consistently jaw-dropping). We witness how much their beloved choreographer meant to them in a series of interviews paced between explorations of their performances.

About five minutes into the film, we also forget that we're watching 3D and feel as if we're in front of the actual stage where the dancers are performing. It's such an innovative use of the technology, one can't help but wonder why more documentarians aren't employing the same methods (Wenders said in a recent Q&A that he feels "documentary is the future of 3D").

The dance sequences may be too "out there" for those not fond of dance to begin with, but the respect and love demonstrated by all of the dancers is far too endearing not to at least appreciate.

This film is definitely worthy of its Oscar nomination.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

Tonight I saw the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts.

Rather than review all five, I'll just write three words to describe each of them based on my perceptions.

Pentecost (Ireland)

Funny, Relatable, Clever

Raju (Germany/India)

Depressing, Sad, Long

The Shore (Northern Ireland)

Comedic, Warm, Satisfying

Time Freak (USA)

Manic, Predictable, Exaggerated

Tuba Atlantic (Norway)

Silly, Ridiculous, Unique


Sunday, February 05, 2012

A Separation

Today I saw A Separation, starring Peyman Maadi and Sareh Bayat.

Nader (Maadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami) are a happily married Iranian couple headed toward divorce because Nader refuses to leave his Alzheimer-stricken father to move to a foreign country. Simin wants to go because she thinks better opportunities will be available for their adolescent daughter elsewhere.

Simin temporarily moves in with her parents as they negotiate, which forces Nader to hire help to take care of his father while he's at work all day. The woman he hires is pregnant and complains after just one day that the work is too much for her. They make arrangements for her currently incarcerated husband to take her place as soon as she can get him out of jail.

Unfortunately, he isn't released as quickly as hoped, so she continues to do the work of the house and take care of the elder.

Things take a turn for the worse with everyone when Nader and his daughter return home one evening to find the woman gone, some money missing and grandpa on the floor, having fallen out of bed despite being tied to it.

He is understandably furious, and when the woman returns he asks her to leave. She tries to explain she had to go somewhere just briefly, but the condition he found his father in shakes him up too much to allow her to continue care, so he again asks her to leave. She doesn't, and he also accuses her of stealing the missing money, which greatly insults her.

Finally, there is a physical scuffle (the audience only sees one side of it) and the next day, Nader and his wife find themselves at the hospital checking in on the woman.

I'll refrain from spoiling this any further, but the rest of the movie is a clever test of morals, religious faith and basic human decency.

It asks a question any of us could be someday faced with: when things escalate due the actions of everyone involved, whose fault is it when someone gets hurt?

The actors are fantastic in this film—if I didn't know better, I'd think they were all just folks from a typical Iranian neighborhood, giving us a taste of what life is like there.

As an American I found myself thinking about how the situation would've been different if it had taken place in an American household. As the daughter of an immigrant, I could relate all too much to the importance of honor, and traditional male and female roles.

At the end of the day, it's not the second-coming of film (as many have prematurely anointed it), but it is a phenomenal slice-of-life exploration in the same vein as 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days.