#316- City of God

Quick recap: Two boys grow up in the slums of Brazil. One has hopes of becoming a photographer while the other wants to rule the drug trade.

I’ll probably say it again, but this movie is bleak as HELL

Fun (?) fact: Almost all of the actors were recruited from real slums around Rio de Janeiro, including the actor who played Rocket. He actually grew up in the City of God. There’s a lot of great trivia about this movie but most of it gives away major plot points visit IMDb at your own risk.

Loosely based on a real story

My thoughts: Did I mention that City of God is bleak as hell? Not that I expected a comedy, mind you, but I was prepared for light drug trade,maybe a murder or two. Just enough so that I know I’d never want to go through that, but if for some reason I had to, I could make some serious bank (Is that a thing? Do people still say bank?).  Instead, I get a ridiculously sad, mostly true story about people who have no choice but survival, whatever that means. And I learned I wouldn’t last a day in the slums.

The plot was captivating and the cinematography had this brisk pace, kind of like Trainspotting does at times. I also loved that the story wasn’t straightforward, choosing instead to weave characters in and out. I’d get attached to them and then their story would be revealed and it was always tragic. Always. I’m surprised anyone survived in the film, especially towards the end when it was just a huge gun battle.

It’s really hard to write about this movie without giving anything away. There are a set of characters that pop up throughout the movie and at first they are just an annoyance. But as City of God goes on, they become more and more central to everything. But revealing who they are would reduce the impact of the film. So, just go watch it. But be prepared to be crushed. It’s a beautiful film in a way, and there’s a vibrant life to the slums. But it in no way glorifies the drug trade or glosses over how horrible it all was. And still is, in some ways.

Final review: 5/5. An essential film

Up next: Horrorfest!

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#301- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Quick recap: Benjamin Button is born an old man and ages backwards, from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 Fun (?) fact: There are several nods to the concept of ‘backwards’ in the film- a hummingbird, which is the only bird able to fly backward, and a hurricane which spins in the opposite direction depending on the hemisphere.

Even if I had hated this movie, I’d watch it again and again for young Brad Pitt

My thoughts: Before anyone else says it- logically,I know that 32 isn’t that old. I’ve never wanted to be one of those people that lied about my age or tried to ‘stay’ 25 until I was 50. But a few weeks ago, while in a hotel room getting ready to go out, I had a freak out about aging. I was blow drying my hair and noticed a (to me) huge patch of gray that had definitely not been there a couple of weeks ago. It was such a sudden change to my body and it took me by surprise. I don’t feel old but there was something about seeing myself age that terrified me. I’ve seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button before, back when it was in theaters, and at the time, all I remember was being impressed by the special effects. Had I watched this movie two months ago, I would’ve felt the same. But seeing it now, at this weird time in my life, it just means so much more.

By my estimation, the first 2/3 of the movie is largely forgettable. It’s not bad, but it’s also not profound. My main motivation for continuing to watch was to see how Brad Pitt would look next and when he would finally stop looking so old. The movie picked up towards the end as I finally understood the importance of the relationship between Benjamin and Daisy, his true love. I had grown tired of their ‘will they, won’t they’ issues and when they finally hooked up, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and both to realize that this would never work. But that’s not what happened. The last 1/3 of the film explores the true consequences of aging- the fear of being a burden and the regret of missing out on life. The way Daisy cared for Benjamin in his last few years, until he was just a tiny infant was beautiful and spoke to the longing most people have-for someone to love them no matter what. Aging isn’t going to stop, nor should it, but it also shouldn’t keep us from opening up to those who truly care.

 

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Braveheart

#275- No Country for Old Men

Quick recap: Llewelyn Moss is caught in a deadly cat and mouse game when he stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong.

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But, like, more violent

Fun (?) fact:  While filming in Marfa, Texas, shooting was halted for the day when a cloud of dark smoke came into view. It turned out to be a pyrotechnics testing for the movie There Will be Blood, which was filming nearby.

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Only the Coen brothers could find the most perfect haircut for a maniac

My thoughts: It’s no secret that I love the Coen brothers. Or maybe some people don’t know,but that would be a totally lame secret to have in the first place,tbh. Anyway, I love them and they can do no wrong, not even with Burn After Reading, which I think is underrated. No Country for Old Men is a different monster, though. Many of the same trademarks are there, but this film just feels different. It’s darker, more violent and less funny than their previous projects. And it is perfect.

I don’t use the word ‘perfect’ lightly, except for all those times I’ve used the word ‘perfect’ lightly. But that’s just what this film is. I can’t find fault in it, not that I’ve tried really hard to do so. Take the music, for example. There is none. At all. And with most other movies, this would bother me. Not this movie, though. No music really heightened the feeling of dread I got anytime Anton Chigurh was onscreen, and it felt as though he could be outside hunting me too. The scenery is another home run for me, not just because it’s in Texas, but it’s the most gorgeous part of Texas. I’ve been talking about a road trip to Marfa for years now and maybe subconsciously I’ve been thinking about this movie and that’s why I haven’t gone. It’s so desolate out there and perfect for just the sort of thing that played out onscreen.

But really, just like any good Coen brothers film, I’m in it for the characters. There isn’t a lot of dialogue, but there doesn’t need to be. I still don’t really understand the ending but I also kind of like that. It is what it is and it always will be that way. That’s good enough for me.

Final review: 5/5

Up next: the Sins of Lola Martès

#252- The Good, The Bad, The Weird

Quick recap: A train robber, bounty hunter and really bad guy are in a race to find buried treasure.

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He may be bad, but oh my god is he gorgeous!

Fun (?) fact: Although the movie is somewhat of an homage to spaghetti westerns, it more closely resembles a genre of Korean films called  a’Manchurian western’.

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My thoughts: Seeing as how The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is one of the best films I have watched lately, I was really interested to watch this one. I expected it to be somewhat of a parody with nods to the original version, but it’s really not. The two movies have a similar structure and plot, but, and I know this is blasphemy to some, I enjoyed this one so much more.

My favorite aspect of this movie is how complex the characters are. The Good guy isn’t all good, while the Bad guy is bad, but with reason to be. And The weird guy is funny and klutzy but also amazingly savage when needed. And these traits are seen mostly through the actions of the characters because there isn’t a ton of talking. There is a ton of violence in this movie which I loved watching because there is great mix of guns and martial arts. There were some ridiculous moments, but I think that is in line with the genres this movie was paying tribute to.

The Good, The Bad, The Weird is set in 1930s Manchuria but there is beautiful mix of modern elements as well as elements from the Wild West. The music is also amazing and blends everything together perfectly. Basically, I loved this movie from beginning to end and I’m a little disappointed more people don’t know about it. It’s kind of like the Amelie phenomenon, where that’s the only French film many people know so it automatically becomes their favorite. For Korean films, I think many people could identify The Host, but this one deserves just as much credit.

Final review: 5/5 of course

Up next: 12 Angry Men