Author Topic: March 2013 MDC: Epics  (Read 6927 times)


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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #50 on: March 16, 2013, 05:07:11 PM »
Hooray!  I finally got a chance/excuse to watch "The Last Emperor."  Now I know what all the buzz was about; it was a tremendously good movie.  Konnel was teasing me because I was taking notes throughout, though to be truthful, I really suck at history so most of the notes were for my own memory than for anything else.

I guess the first thing to say is that though the movie starts out in a tragically cute way (I mean, a 3 year old emperor?  How cute is that?!), it was difficult to watch an entire lifetime of sorrows in three hours.  Granted, this wasn't "Schindler's List" by any means possible, but the feeling of claustrophobia and loss was quite a bit to deal with.  But, that was the point of the movie.

I can understand why the film won so many Oscars, but was disappointing to find that the actor who played the Emperor at age 8 (Tsou Tijger) did not get any awards since I felt that his acting was so multi-layered for a child his age.  It goes without saying that the film had beautiful cinematography, exquisite costumes, and wonderful set design.  On a side note, I got to see an exhibit about the Forbidden City a few years back, so it was kind of neat to see how everything fit together in my memory and in the film.

Since I am a self-avowed history idiot, a lot of the plot either went over my head or I just did not understand what was happening or why.  Peter O'Toole did a wonderful job (which is to be expected).  I just did not understand who made the decision or why the decision was made for a Western tutor to be appointed to the Emperor.  Now I  want to read the book that the warden was reading ("Twilight in the Forbidden City") so I'll understand what was going on both in history and in the movie.

I really did like the way in which the movie was set up, almost like a set of parentheses or brackets.  *Spoiler Alert*  In the beginning of the film, everything that Pu Yi loves is taken away from him (physically taken away, taken away through death, or through his own destruction/decisions), and as the film winds to an end, the same happens with his Royal Consort, his wife, and his sense of control of his country and self.  The scene in which he throws the mouse against the gates of the Forbidden City made tears come to my eyes (again, why this kid did not get best actor, I'll never know).  There was also the irony that he was able to escape from the Forbidden City, then becoming an exile who could not leave his palace, becoming the ruler of Manchukuo under total Japanese control, and finally his life within a prison.

There was a lot of symbolism that I did not understand, so if someone could explain to me why the strung-out Empress was eating flowers, I'd be grateful.  I think that I figured out the symbolism of the mirrors since they came at the end of the movie and mainly were around the Empress -- a representation of the reflection of her former self or an hollowness/emptiness that she ultimately became.  Just thoughts, there.

I will say that I hated how the movie ended.  I mean, really.  I know that a lot of history was left out of the film, but geez, *spoiler alert* just having some woman saying, "...and he died in 1967."  ARG!  How?  Why?  Illness?  Old age?  Suicide?  Murder?  The rest of the film was so intriguing that to have it end so abruptly was really annoying.  It pissed me off, actually.

So, I give it a 4 out of 5 stars.  Highly recommended, but be prepared to get pissed at the ending.

Thanks for the recommendation!



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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #51 on: March 16, 2013, 06:29:17 PM »
Hooray!  I finally got a chance/excuse to watch "The Last Emperor."  Now I know what all the buzz was about; it was a tremendously good movie.  Konnel was teasing me because I was taking notes throughout, though to be truthful, I really suck at history so most of the notes were for my own memory than for anything else.

I guess the first thing to say is that though the movie starts out in a tragically cute way (I mean, a 3 year old emperor?  How cute is that?!),

I still say the shot when they wheeled the Old Buddha out for her death scene was straight out of Lynch's Dune when they wheeled out the Navigator. That and Bertolucci's Felini touches.  ;D


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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #52 on: March 16, 2013, 06:38:06 PM »
Hi Tater0091/Jeanne!

What a film to start your reviewing hobby! You could have gone the easy route like Identity Thief or Safe Haven, but no, you jump into the deep water and swim like a pro. This movie is so visually and historically big, no wonder you were taking notes. I couldn't hold onto it all when I saw it, but you bring back so many memories, especially the cuteness of this:

Which automatically brings back memories when my boy was that age and that's always a fun walk to take. So thanks for that. :)

Wonderful write up, can't wait to read more from you.


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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #53 on: March 16, 2013, 10:29:25 PM »
Great write up Tater!

There are some men who are so unequivocally different than me I swear that they are a different species. Patton represents the hard nosed, gritty tough guy that we may not want to be friends with but who we need commanding our military. I'm more of the cut that gets slapped around by Patton for not being tough enough. This movie is all about George C. Scott and his astounding acting portraying the four star general. I'm not sure how much of a stretch it was for Scott to transform into Patton since he seems like he was cut out of the same mold. which is to the benefit of the film. I never doubted the authenticity of the role for a second.

Given that the entire movie is focused on this one man, he had better be interesting. And he is. There is a lot to his character. Yes, he is a addicted to war and born to lead, but there is a lot to his character. You get the sense that he doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. He does what he wants, especially if it ruffles some feathers. His colorful language isn't used to impress anyone. His rough forceful character is cut with a seemingly softer side that likes writing poetry and dogs. I'm not sure I ever got a sense of what really motivated Patton, except war. And perhaps that was all there was for him, as the movie alluded to. He truly loved combat. He didn't relish the death and suffering, but it was part of the duty. He viewed war as a sort of sport, and he knew it best. He was all about the glory of war, elevating it to something almost religious and more than anything he wanted to be seen as the greatest there ever was. To go down in history with the great military leaders that he read about in history texts. For as much as Patton was pragmatic and focused on winning battles, he also wanted to do it in style and be lauded for his success.

I'm not convinced that Patton was the greatest general of the war. He probably wasn't. It seems that he needed short leash or he'd hurt more than he'd help. That being said, it was always fascinating watching Scott dominate every scene and Patton trying to navigate the politics of his position just long enough to get back out on the battle field. On the flip side, most of the story beyond the Patton character is pretty weak. There are lot of scenes of the Germans fearing Patton, but they didn't add much to the narrative. Scott's performance is great, but given that this is a three hour movie, I wished there was a bit more to bite into. It started to drag a bit and ultimately just kind of fizzles out with a fairly anticlimactic ending. I wish that they choose to end them movie with Patton's death, which seemed prime for cinematic depiction. I cannot deny that based purely on a depiction of Patton as a character, this is superb.
Rating: 7/10
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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #54 on: March 16, 2013, 11:57:22 PM »
Glad you liked it so much Jeanne! The shot of the young emperor running through the curtains to see the crowd gather before him is one of my favorite ever I think. Really need to revisit it myself to be able to comment on your review much, but the look of the film, the cinematography, costumes, so great. I can't believe they were able ti shoot inside the Forbidden City, it must have been such an experience to be a part of the filming of it; it was a great experience just watching it.
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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #55 on: March 17, 2013, 09:21:13 PM »
I just finished Fitzcarraldo and its accompanying documentary Burden of Dreams.

Dear god, Herzog is a madman.

Will put up my review of it here later.


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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #56 on: March 18, 2013, 09:38:06 AM »

Fitzcarraldo (1982)

It's such a fascinating thing to see a character completely consumed by the desperate pursuit of an insane idea and what lengths he would go to in order to reach this dream. In Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, Klaus Kinski brings the titular character to life with such reckless abandon that I believe his crazed obsession every step of the way. When I saw Burden of Dreams, the accompanying documentary to Fitzcarraldo, I felt that the portrayal of Jason Robards (the original actor for the lead role) was so hammy that it was bordering on laughable. I would never wish ill on anyone, but I consider it a blessing in disguise that he was unable to continue, forcing Herzog to find a replacement, thus landing him in his fourth partnership with Kinski.

Equally fascinating is the fact that, as also shown in the documentary, Herzog's pursuit of filming Fitzcarraldo exactly as he envisioned it is just as crazy as Fitzcarraldo himself. So after seeing these films, one couldn't help but question if Herzog and his fictional counterpart are men to admire for the passionate pursuit of their goals; or, men that should be dismissed as a crazed fools who are completely detached from reality.

Unfortunately, the legend behind making the film is greater than the film itself. Other elements of it outside of the central plot and Kinski's performance were not nearly as interesting. Having been filmed deep in the Amazon, the jungle setting and its native Indian inhabitants become as much a character in the movie as any of the film's actors. This gives the movie a wild, raw and visceral quality. However, it's a visual that's lends itself better to a nature documentary rather than a feature film, which is intriguing considering that Herzog has in fact been leaning more towards documentary work in recent years. Maybe that's what he was meant to do, and I feel that it shows in terms of how he paces his story and frames his shots in this film.

The camera tends to linger in a lot of sequences as Herzog takes his time assimilating the untamed environment and its native culture. He has long shots just panning across tribesmen's faces, he integrates some of their rituals into the story, he's sometimes almost lost in shots of trees and rivers, and he documents at length the process of building the contraption to pull the boat over mountain. It feels like the film could have been tighter and more economical, which would have let the strength of the story and Kinski's performance shine even brighter.

Towards the end of the film, Fitzcarraldo tells a story: At the time when North America was hardly explored, one of those early French trappers went westward from Montreal, and he was the first white man to set eyes on Niagara Falls. When he returned, he told of waterfalls that were more vast and immense than people had ever dreamed of. But no one believed him. They thought he was a madman or a liar. They asked him, "What's your proof?" And he answered, "My proof is that I have seen them."

Society would not be same if dreamers didn't exist. If there were never any people who thought outside the box and pursued their ideas in the face of extreme odds and ridicule, we wouldn't enjoy the pleasures we take for granted today. Yet for every one successful and revolutionary dreamer, there are a hundred other similar visionaries who have had legitimately foolish and useless ideas. So what really separates brilliance and madness? How do we weigh an ultimate goal versus the sacrifice made for the pursuit of it? Seeing Fitzcarraldo means struggling with these very questions... and then eventually realizing that the answers don't matter in the end. All that really matters is the fact that there are men who dream, and that they believe in their dreams enough to bravely chase it wherever it may lead.

Rating: 7/10


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Re: March 2013 MDC: Epics
« Reply #57 on: March 23, 2013, 04:26:11 AM »
I don't know if I can review the enormity that is Downfall without viewing it at least one more time. I certainly don't know if I can get into the criticism of humanizing Hitler without offending someone. So I'm going to try something different: I'm going to give a few first impressions, and comeback in a week or so and flesh it out. If things seem especially cryptic and/or disjointed it's because I am assuming that everyone knows how it ends and I'm just sloppily stitching ideas together.

First let me make the observation that Downfall is as much about Hitler as Othello is about Othello. I mention that because part of the criticism of humanizing Hitler was turning his "downfall" into a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. I don't necessarily think that's the case and it's the main reason I want to view it again before committing. Hirschbiegel's agenda is twofold: humanize Hitler in the beginning so he seems all the more monstrous in the light of his physical/mental/moral degeneration; and leave it ambiguous as to whether Hitler really was in charge and surrounded himself with incompetence or whether the generals (with the war) and Himmler's SS (with the concentration camps) were successful as they were despite Hitler's madness.

Second, let me praise Bruno Ganz's performance. Pitch-perfect. I got a sense of it from watching the angry Hitler parodies, but watching him move effortlessly into Hitler's highs and lows was nothing short of some of the best and most effective method I've ever seen in cinema. I'd like to see the shooting schedule so I know in what order he worked. The supporting cast was also phenomenal. Goebbel's uniform was made over-sized so it swallowed him up and he owned just be a void - a true believer who just sucked energy and charisma he could never have.

Third, I am going to hunt down everything that Rainer Klausmann has done as cinematographer/DOP (I actually saw Invasion and was not impressed at the time). The lighting was beautiful. Going from the artificial light with no fill of the bunker (no grain, except for one scene) to the natural, practical outdoor lightning without jarring the eye; the smoke was as good as Saving Private Ryan or Barry Lyndon, with well-defined edges and curls and depth of field. I only have one beef with the camera and that is when Hirschbiegel went hand-held - still he did it better than Tom Hooper so I mention it only to have something negative to say.

That's it for now. I had to break in in the middle because it was too exhausting to watch. I was so busy admiring the mise en scene I couldn't keep track of the subtitles and characters. My score (1 to (1)0 objective score - 1 to (1)0subjective)
0 - 9 (a nearly perfect film)

Thanks Antares for putting in in my hands (so to speak)