Tag: 2005

Movie Review: 20 centímetros (20 Centimeters) (2005)

20centimeters
Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

I found 20 Centimeters on my netflix queue a few weeks ago and wasn’t sure why it was there, but the summary sounded intriguing enough to bump it up. I didn’t really know anything about it aside from what netflix told me, but I’m glad I took the risk because it turned out to be a pretty cool movie. The story follows Marieta (Mónica Cervera) a trans sex worker who is saving up for reassignment surgery and trying to break in to the regular workforce. Unfortunately, her roommate Tomás (Miguel O’Dogherty), whom she supports financially, has made a bad investment with her money, and her friend and neighbor is in trouble with some mob, and her dreamy new boyfriend is obsessed with the huge penis she wants to be rid of. Through it all, her narcolepsy causes her to fall asleep at inopportune times, slipping into intense fantasies where she’s a musical star.

Ok, high concept, I KNOW, but somehow 20 Centimeters works despite its narrative busy-ness. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s colorful, and a little kooky. On paper this sounds like it could be depressing or exploitative but there is a balance of tone and subplots that presents a complex, human story. The central figure of Marieta grounds the film, with a fantastic and impressive performance by Mónica Cervera, who helps create a realistic character within this over the top premise. She is charismatic and sympathetic, and impressively changeable in her many dream-roles. Marieta’s experiences (good and bad) as a transwoman are explored, but she is not wholly defined by that identity. I found the general investigation of lower-class life in urban Spain compelling in itself, with a range of characters popping in and out of Marieta’s day to day.

As a musical 20 Centimeters is highly referential, pulling from Jacques Demy, Bob Fosse, Gene Kelly, and others in an eclectic offering of musical numbers. Some are really ridiculous and fluffy, some are sexy and romantic, and some are just kind of weird. I actually felt like there were too many songs, which is rarely a problem for me, but I was getting so interested in the characters and some of these irrelevant musical numbers took away from the story and certainly hindered its flow. Also their quality was a little hit and miss, but some I did truly love. I’ll admit I was enjoying this movie anyway, but then the final number happens as Marieta is finally getting her surgery, and for several days I only wanted to listen to Queen and dance around majestically because maybe things will work out in life. And it’s just really great.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: The musical-inside-the-protagonist’s-head thing of course made me think of Chicago, which would be a fun double feature. Alternatively, for another musical comedy-drama about a talented trans person there is the fantastic Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The film’s tone and themes are reminiscent of Almodóvar, so one of his films would be a good pairing too.

Machete Order Double Feature: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Seen: On dvd on my friend Rachel’s tv, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

Ok, ok, before you question my seeming lack of sane judgment, let me explain! A school chum and I have been watching the Star Wars series in the Machete order, which goes like this: 1) A New Hope, 2) Empire Strikes Back, 3) Attack of the Clones, 4) Revenge of the Sith, and 5) Return of the Jedi. There is no Phantom Menace because it sucks and according to this method it isn’t really imperative to the overall story. We also fit in Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars tv series between AotC and RotS, because that show is SO great! Genndy Tartakovsky is SO GREAT you guys, he should be making shit tons of movies. He should have made all the Star Wars prequels. Anyway. So I had already written about the original trilogy which is why I haven’t been talking about this, but now for the first time on this blog here are my thoughts on Lucas’s newest live-action Star Wars offerings.

Um so plot… Anakin (Hayden Christiansen) and Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) are fighting and going on missions for the Jedi Council, Anakin’s grown up to be a whiny asshole, the Trade Federation is seceding from the Republic and starting a war, Padme (Natalie Portman)- now a senator- is almost assassinated so Anakin becomes her protector, Obi Wan stumbles upon a clone army being built for the Jedi to use in war against the separatists, uuuuuuuuuum that’s all I can remember right now.

The main thing I remembered about Attack of the Clones was how goddamned boring Padme and Anakin’s stupid fucking romance is, jesus. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT YOU GUYS. At least she gets to wear some kickass outfits though. This movie is pretty dumb in general, really. The dialogue is the worst thing in the world, and the CG is already showing its age. Hayden Christiansen just sucks so hard, and I do not want to watch him whine for two hours. Sadly this is the only film where Padme gets something vaguely resembling a personality, and it’s nice she gets to use a gun at one point. Obi Wan has the more interesting storyline as he finds the clone making factory and fans learn the origins of Boba Fett, BUT I’m totally distracted by his weird mullet. Without all the awfulness, Attack of the Clones does have some cool world-building and interesting connections to the original trilogy. Plus I like lightsaber fights.

Aside from the tedious romance my main issue with this movie (and all the prequels, really) is that I am incapable of following any of the political subplots. Every time people are talking about the Trade Federation or the Senate or the Republic, I just sort of zone out without meaning to. It’s hard enough to care about most of the characters (aside from Yoda, Mace Windu, and Obi Wan), how the hell am I supposed to care about convoluted trade disputes and an old dude masterminding a war? Just get back to the fighting and flying around!

2/5

Here’s an image from Clone Wars to remind you that this show is awesome! It’s got badass lady Jedi and General Grievous and Mace Windu and lots of fighting and Jedi lore and rat people! The whole thing is only about 2 hours so it’s basically like a bonus Star Wars movie.

Ok back to the actual movies, blegh. Revenge of the Sith is definitely the most watchable of the prequels. Padme is pregnant, Anakin is having scary dreams about her death, the Republic is crumbling under the weight of the Clone Wars. Anakin gradually goes over to the dark side because he believes Sith power will allow him to save Padme from dying. Also because Darth Sidius is mad manipulative, it’s kind of hilarious how stupid Anakin is whenever they talk because it’s SO. OBVIOUS. Alsooo Obi Wan does stuff, I don’t really remember. Leading clones into more battles or whatever. Chillin’ with the Jedi council.

Hayden Christiansen still sucks and Natalie Portman has even less to do than usual, but Obi Wan’s hair gets better so it’s not a total loss. Also Yoda gets to be totally badass, which is everyone’s favorite thing even if I miss the puppet version (the CGI just doesn’t really sell it). Various characters and plot points finally come together in this one, including several things that will lead us into A New Hope. There are still a lot of inconsistencies and half-assed explanations, but for the most part things add up, if you sort of stretch it a little in your head.

The whole things gets better as it goes on, climaxing in very dramatic final battles and an unintentionally ridiculous moment when Darth Vader is unveiled. Watching them in this order I’m definitely able to see more parallels and in-jokes among the films, but mostly I’m looking forward to get getting back to all my old friends from the original trilogy when we watch Return of the Jedi this week!

3/5

Movie Review: The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up, from Miles’ collection.

I can’t remember the last time I watched a western, so Tommy Lee Jones’ theatrical directorial debut The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was a nice change of pace. Jones stars as Pete Perkins, a Texas cattle rancher who is crushed when his employee and close friend Melquiades (Julio Cedillo) is found dead in the desert. Local law enforcement doesn’t do much to investigate, but Pete is led to believe a border patrolman shot him down. He finds the culprit and forces him along on a journey to bury his friend in his small hometown in rural Mexico.

With a nonlinear mode of storytelling and an easygoing pace, Three Burials is an intelligent, beautifully-shot film but requires a certain amount of patience from the viewer. Several characters are downright despicable, and even the supposed “good” guys have questionable tactics and motives. I enjoyed Jones in the lead role, he seems weighed down by this unbearable sense of disappointment with the world, and goes a little nuts trying to make at least one thing right. Barry Pepper’s border guard is a disgusting asshole with little room for retribution but you know the film’s going to try it anyway, and even the kind and hardworking Melquiades is in doubt as questions about his past come to light. The women are a bit flaky, but I did like Melissa Leo as the gruff waitress Rachel. January Jones does her sad, pretty housewife thing and that’s nice, I guess, though so cliche. At least it passes the Bechdel Test!

This is a harsh film. The terrain, the people, the story: everything is gritty and mean, which fits in well with its western genre trappings. In many ways it is a blunt commentary on America’s approach to Latin American immigrants and the multi-layered issues those living near either side of the border face. It is also a grudging look at basic human understanding (and lack thereof) when set against deep-rooted selfishness and prejudice. The script is fairly strong (penned by frequent Iñárritu-collaborator Guillermo Arriaga) but the pace is so meandering that I wish parts had been cut down or shortened. I know that’s not the kind of movie Jones was trying to make but for my own tastes it lost me at some parts.

Still a solid film, though.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Oh I guess any of those journeys for revenge-type westerns. True Grit, The Searchers, The Proposition, etc.

Movie Review: The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Seen: On dvd at a friend’s house, from my personal collection.

My freshman-year college dorm room was known as a movie-watching hangout, and I always left my dvd collection accessible to friends who stopped by, even if I wasn’t around. One day I came home to find several of them watching The Brothers Grimm, and of course outrightly hating it. I’m pretty sure they were mad at me for even owning such a movie, and not warning them against it, though I assured them it’s something I would never recommend they watch. I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone who wasn’t a crazy Gilliam fan. The film is a strange combination of comedy, fantasy, and action that pits the eponymous German storytellers Jacob (Heath Ledger) and Wilhelm (Matt Damon)- who con small towns into thinking they have otherworldly intruders and then “eradicate” them- against an honest-to-goodness evil magic queen. The occupying French government assigns them to the small town of Marbaden to root out the cause of several missing girls, and generally keep the peace so that the superstitious German people don’t rise up against them.

I really liked this movie when it came out. It’s an interesting blend of “fairy tale update” and historical satire, with imaginative visuals and a fantastic cast. It’s got this sinister edge that’s so Gilliam-esque even in a primarily light-hearted comedy. Several of the child-snatching scenes are down-right creepy, but then the affectations of Heath Ledger (who is adorable in this) and Peter Stormare remind us it is mainly a comedy-adventure. And it’s got jokes about hoity-toity French people! Awesome! Seriously, every scene with Jonathan Pryce as the French general are completely perfect. He creates his own hall of mirrors in a basement! That’s hilarious, you guys!

But watching it now after several years I really see its flaws. The visuals are beautiful, but limited technologically and it’s just too noticeable to my spoiled eye. The blending of multiple fairy tales is well-done, but the script is pretty weak and it drags like crazy. I remembered Lena Headey as being this total hunting badass, and she starts out that way, but she spends way too much time being held captive by both Peter Stormare and then the Queen, and it’s pretty bullshitty. The script was written by the same guy who wrote both Transformers sequels, though, so… maybe I shouldn’t expect much.

Oh well, I’ll still defend Gilliam for everything. He’s my guy.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Several points reminded me of Stardust, another movie most people hated but I enjoy (and own).

Movie Review: Linda Linda Linda (2005)

lindalindalinda-2a

I wish I’d been cool enough to have a band in high school. But no, instead I was too busy reading British literature and feeling sorry for myself. Luckily I can live vicariously through the enterprising young women in Linda Linda Linda, a delightful Japanese comedy about a Korean student named Son (Doona Bae) who is unceremoniously dragged into an all-girl rock band. Despite her so-so grasp of the language, she quickly learns the Japanese lyrics to cover songs of 80s punks The Blue Hearts, while getting to know her bandmates Kyoko (the sweet one), Kei (the intimidating one), and Nozomi (the quiet one). Their school is hosting some sort of intercultural fair, which I guess means no one ever has class? But no one ever leaves? So they have to learn the songs and practice nonstop for a few days until the big finale rock show. Of course, they all have their own personal stuff happening but hopefully they can get their shit together in time. Yeah.

This is the type of movie that doesn’t really have much story, per se. These high school girls are in a band, they have to learn some songs, then they have to perform them. One of them got in a fight with a former band member, it’s kind of mysterious and never really explained. The new singer possibly has Asperger’s, and she’s adorable and enthusiastic and will try hard to not mess it up for her newfound friends. There’s a bit of romance thrown in here and there, but no mention of parents or family and little time spent away from school. It’s really just about these girls and their developing relationship with one another, interspersed with frequent awesome musical sequences. It’s a simple film, but a wholly enjoyable one.

The cast is great, with several supporting members hailing from actual Japanese bands. I was happy to see Doona Bae, whom I’d only known from Korean movies; she is hilariously offbeat here and I was very sympathetic to her language problems. I also enjoyed Aki Maeda as the smiley drummer with good hair. And as I understand it, all of the actors played their own instruments/did their own vocals, which led to the release of an EP by the fake band in the film. Which I totally got the day after seeing it, because guess what? The music is so freaking catchy! I was unfamiliar with The Blue Hearts but now I definitely want to get into their music. The girls’ covers of their songs are energetic and fun, and I cannot stop singing the title track.

Cool ladies, cool tunes, cool movie! Yay!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I had heard this compared to Kamikaze Girls, which I can see as a good pairing even if that’s a much funnier, weirder film. I actually think Linda Linda Linda would go well with El Calentito, a fun Spanish flick about an all-girl punk band in the 80s and the shy schoolgirl who joins them.