Blue is the Warmest Color vs. Shame (an R-rated/NSFW post)

*disclaimer: For my students who follow this blog, I would advice that you guys skip reading this. Most of the stuff I’m talking about here doesn’t concern you guys, and I also wouldn’t want to be directly responsible for your deformation of character, so please STAY AWAY FROM THIS ENTRY!!!

I don’t usually disagree with James Berardinelli as much as I disagree (albeit in a charming way) to Armond White, but my goodness a part Berardinelli’s review of Blue is the Warmest Color goes like this:

“Watching Blue is the Warmest Color provides viewers with that rarest of motion picture opportunities: the ability to lose oneself in the life of another for three hours and to emerge having felt something.” (Berardinelli, 2013)

Yeah, I sure felt something after browsing through that tripe: DIRTYAnd I seriously couldn’t figure out what warrants the 3 hour running time of Blue is the Warmest Color. Heck, Shame was roughly less than 2 hours, had the same amount of sex and nudity, but while I did feel dirty watching  it, it sure is nowhere near as shameful (no pun intended) as Blue‘sIs it because Blue‘s lesbian sequences are ultimately the only reason for watching it, unlike Shame? Is it because despite its shallowness, Shame actually features decent storytelling unlike Blue‘s preachy nature, where we are explicitly told that love chooses no genders, sexes, etc.?

What do I mean? Remember that scene is Shame where Michael Fassbender‘s character invites his girlfriend over at a motel room for some shagging? Nothing happened; Fassbender and the girl didn’t bone. Rather, the implication goes that Fassbender couldn’t get an erection, or he couldn’t bring it to himself to have sex with a girl that he seems to genuinely love. The girl leaves the room. You know the scene which follows, right? Fassbender banging a prostitute, finishes, and again feels sorry for himself. Absolutely no words explicitly saying that Fassbender’s character couldn’t make a decent relationship with another person because of his sexual addiction. This is good storytelling, we see the effects on the person, we are not told. This is probably why I felt less dirty watching Shame over Blue.

Of course, I’m not wholeheartedly in agreement with Shame. If anything, the explicit sexual content of the film makes it almost as bad as Blue is the Warmest Color. it just so happened that Steve McQueen is a far more superior director than  Abdellatif Kechiche. That, however, doesn’t entirely justify the existence of these two films. Both are basically sexploitation in nature that you’re pretty much better off watching porn instead of these two arthouse films pretending to be profound because of their use of shock. In Shame, it’s showing off Michael Fassbender’s flaccid willy. In Blue is the Warmest Color, it’s the lesbian sex scene between the two girls.

Besides, while I do acknowledge that sex is a completely natural and necessary human act, there are other things art can talk about, you know? What exactly? Here’s the top three things that come to mind: a boy meeting his first crush, a boy who wants a cookie but couldn’t get one because he already way too much earlier on, and two best friends, a guy and a girl, who need to break their friendship because the guy’s romantic relationship is already suffering.

The Year Ender Post of 2013

Hey, it’s the end of the year and my gosh has it been a year; the year when I left the singlehood despite my geekish and grumpy tendencies, the year that I finally got to teach literature among high school students despite poetry being my “math”, the year that I finally got to record podcasts with friends, the year that… “Okay, Evil Dr. Bok! We appreciate the fact that all these things happened to you, but what about the movies?!”

Oh yeah, sorry about that. Yes, I acknowledge that I was not able to update this blog as much as I wanted to because of life stuff; don’t worry, nothing too serious happened, but there are just too many stuff happening at work and at post post-grad school that I wasn’t able to review that many films this year. Regardless, here’s my Tops, my Bottoms, and my Honorable Mentions. As usual, my Honorable Mentions aren’t necessarily the movies I loved or hated, but rather these are the films which I thought should be mentioned for the sake of exposure. As for my Tops and Bottoms, they aren’t arranged in any particular order.

Top 5 for 2013

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1. Pacific Rim: My mentor complained that this film is plagued by the Transformers syndrome, that is “too many humans, too little Transformers”. While I do acknowledge that problem with Pacific Rim, that the human story isn’t entirely too impressive, and that there were certain plot-holes that could have been ironed out some more, it doesn’t change the fact that this film is quite possibly one of the most stupidly fun and entertaining films of 2013. Sure there were more human drama than giant robots and monsters fighting, but at least in the latter category, this film delivers.

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2. Prisoners: Man was I unprepared for this movie. Sure it takes its sweet time for the story to unfold, and there were scenes which, arguably, went on for too long, but I stand by my argument that if this film were paced faster than it already is, it would have been one of the most tiring films to see for the year. The timed and tested premise of a father taking matters into his own hands to look for his missing daughter and the cop assigned to solve the case works in this thriller. The police procedural took a backseat for this one; instead it focused on the effects on the individuals affected by the tragedy. Once more, the examination of the human condition put in extraordinary circumstances makes for great stories, and Prisoners is definitely one of those great stories for 2013. And speaking of extraordinary circumstances…

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3. Gravity: This again is one of those films: an astronaut gets stranded in space and has to get back home safely even if Fate (or Providence) had been quite shitty to her. While some praise this film for being deeply profound (it’s not, I’m telling), I enjoyed this because of the direction. For a film to be able to hold your attention for 90 whole minutes with minimalist casting is an achievement.

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4. Olympus Has Fallen: This could have been Die Hard 5 as it follows the classic Die Hard formula: a group of lowlives hijack a place, and a lone meathead kills them one by one. Okay, maybe that’s an oversimplication, but it still delivers some solid action set pieces.

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5. The Last Stand: Are you serious? Do I really need to explain why this film is in this list? Isn’t the poster enough? Okay, fine: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sheriff who has to prevent an escaped drug lord from heading back to Mexico because… Oh screw it, it’s the Governator killing bad guys and Peter Stormare, and that’s awesome!

Honorable Mentions

1. The Conjuring: I feel bad that James Wan is leaving the horror genre because The Conjuring is proof that despite having the most cliched horror script (minus the more obviously stupid characters which plagued horror films), atmosphere, build-up, and the ever important human element is what makes horror movies terrifying.

2. Ender’s Game: This is a film adaptation of one of the most influential science-fiction novels of all time. Despite Gavin Hood‘s rather lackluster direction, at least shadows of Orson Scott Card‘s brilliance found its way into the film.

3. Man of Steel: This is neither a Christopher Nolan film nor script; this is a film directed by Zack Snyder and written by David S. Goyer. As such, you can expect certain issues in plotting and even logic, but where a solid story fails, Snyder and company make up for it in the spectacle. Yes, this is a “sound and fury” kind of film, but at least we finally get to see the Last Son of Krypton slug it out with ridiculously overpowered bad guys.

4. G.I. Joe Retaliation: This could have been side by side with Pacific Rim, the only issue being that I didn’t have that much with this. Regardless, the film fixed certain issues with Rise of CobraRetaliation is a live-action cartoon, nothing more, nothing less.

5. Thor: The Dark World: While I wasn’t too impressed with Iron Man 3, at least this film managed to put on some pretty impressive worldbuilding. It’s still nothing compared to the first one by Kenneth Branagh, but it manages to expand on the world of Thor. That and Tom Hiddleston once more steals the show.

Bottom 5 for 2013

1. Evil Dead: I really wanted to enjoy this film, I really do. But the one thing you do not do in a film about blood, dismemberment, and gore is to take it seriously. Put stupid characters, but wink at the audience; let them know that this is a whole joke and we’re just having fun. You do not tell the story of a recovering addict and make the possession a metaphor for the distrust friends have towards a junkie, most especially if the title of the film is Evil Dead!!!

2. Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters: This would have been more forgivable, but again it committed the same mistake Evil Dead did; it took itself more seriously than it should have. Plus, I don’t see how Hansel and Gretel turned out to be the best witch hunters in the country, considering that they spent most of the time being thrown around by the witches. “But surely the action sequences are fun?” you asked, to which I reply, “No. They’re generic, they’re boring. Pirate this film some more.”

3. The World’s End: Now take note that this movie isn’t as badly made as the first two choices in this list. Rather, I’m placing this here because this is one of the BIGGEST LETDOWNS of 2013. The charm which made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fun is gone in this installment. Simon Pegg’s character is one of the most unsympathetic characters around, unlike Shaun and Nicholas Angel from the first two Cornetto films. And my goodness, that argument with Bill Nighy’s voice is one of the preachiest dialogues in recent film history.

4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: Same complaints with no. 3, as this is a pretty big letdown. You’ll know something’s wrong when all I can remember from the film while watching it on 48fps is that the higher frame rate isn’t as distracting as it was in An Unexpected Journey.

5. Blue is the Warmest Color: Just watch porn. I’m sorry, but if this film happens to be the best movie of 2013 according to the Cannes Film Festival, then I wouldn’t be surprised if some  actress wins awards for her extremely believable facial expressions during coitus. “Wait, Dr. Bok; didn’t they award Halle Berry an Oscar for his performance in Monster’s Ball?” … … … Yup, Western Civilization’s going down.

Happy New Year, fellow minions! 😉 Here’s to the film industry for 2014: may the bubble that is superhero movies not burst yet. 😛

Thoughts on “The Desolation of Smaug”

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Yes, I understand that Peter Jackson will never capture the lightning from The Lord of the Rings films, but that shouldn’t give him an excuse for a bloated, extended, and poorly plotted film that is The Desolation of Smaug. And for the record, I think the liberties taken in this film are a bit too distracting that to call this The Hobbit would be somewhat a disgrace to the source material.

But first, is this film worth watching? Right now, I would say, “Yes but not entirely.” Fans of the LOTR films (that is, those who just saw the films and not read the books) shouldn’t find anything wrong with this movie. Peter Jackson manages to keep things engaging with his direction and, admittedly, creative staging of the action sequences. Visually, the picture looks really pretty, and the HFR (high frame rate) isn’t as intrusive like it was in An Unexpected Journey. The 3D isn’t much though so I guess this is still something you’d equally enjoy on non-3D cinemas.

My biggest issue, though, is the pacing in between the action sequences. There are long moments where nothing happens. We have character developments and info dumps which doesn’t contribute much in advancing the plot or in the storyline whatsoever. More time was spent on the new character, Tauriel, which could have been used more in depicting the Bilbo/Ring dynamic. There was one scene which showed the Ring’s corrupting effect on Bilbo, and it was brilliant. We could have needed more scenes like this because this is a story about Bilbo; The Hobbit. I’m guessing these problems are inherent in STRETCHING a single book into three different movies, but it could have been fixed by focusing on the novel’s themes, and choosing the APPROPRIATE events from the Tolkien legendarium in developing and creating the cinematic Middle-earth.

Like I said early on, I wouldn’t go so much to say that this is an atrocious film. It isn’t a bad film, nor is it a good one. At its worst, this is a mere fantasy flick; a decent presentation of sound and fury, but not something which sticks to you, unlike The Fellowship of the Ring.

Prisoners: Really Late Impressions

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Yes, I understand that Prisoners was released last September, but that’s why this is categorized under the “Really Late Impressions” tag. And my goodness, how I wish I saw this on theaters.

I will be brief for this one as I’m still reeling from what is quite possibly the best movie of 2013. Everything about this film, at least what I can remember, is well done. Some might argue that the film moves too slowly, and that some of the events seem a bit arbitrary, but I would have to say that the pace was deliberate as moving this film on a typical Hollywood pace would exhaust the audiences. I would compare the exhaustion to that of Inception, particularly the scene where the van falls from the bridge; yes, this film is indeed exhausting, nail-bitingly tense, and cathartic by its end.

Acting wise, Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal do what is expected of them, and it is fantastic. Plot wise, this is one well-plotted thriller. There may be some scenes which seem contrived, but if they are, it just shows how well the direction goes. Cinematography wise, it looks magnificent; unsurprising for a film photographed by Roger Deakins.

All in all, I would really have to say that Prisoners is a damn good film, and if you still haven’t seen it, grab it on DVD or Blu-ray; it’s that good.

Additionally, the comparison with Inception is no accident; this film contains an Inception-y ending.

A Case of Double Standards: A Homophobe and a Child Rapist

English: Roman Polanski in Paris at the lunch ...

English: Roman Polanski in Paris at the lunch of the César awards nominees Français : Roman Polanski au déjeuner des nommés des César du cinéma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Ever...

Orson Scott Card at Life, the Universe, & Everything at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I present to you the case of Orson Scott Card and Roman Polanski, two controversial artists of today. Card is the author of the absolutely fantastic Ender’s Game (which was adapted quite properly recently by Gavin Hood), and Polanski is the director of Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist. While both are admittedly good at their craft, both have been put under fire for their actions.

Card is controversial for his views on gay marriage. He is not a supporter of this issue and was (take note, WAS) a member of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization which heavily campaigns against gay marriage. Obviously these views have made Card very unpopular, and almost immediately, upon hearing of a film adaptation of Ender’s Game, vocal critics as well as members of the LGTB community have called for a blacklist of the film, as well as every work of Orson Scott Card. Even the news of him being a writer of a new Superman series was met with fierce opposition, eventually forcing DC to cancel the project. As such, we have one artist who is practically anathema to most members of the mainstream media because of his political views, a novelist who wrote one of the best science fiction works of all time, and created of one of the most memorable protagonists in sci-fi history.

On the other hand, we have Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski. He came under fire in the 70s when he was convicted of drugging and sodomizing an underage girl. Let that sink in for a while; Roman Polanski was convicted of drugging and sodomizing an underage girl. I cannot remember the exact details but Polanski eventually found a way to fly out of the United States and has been living somewhere in Europe, never to return to the States as his arrival would mean his arrest. In other words, the guy’s a bloody fugitive.

In 2009, however, Polanski was finally arrested, but the reactions that followed are nothing short of bewildering. Several people actually rallied for his release. Polanski’s supported mentioned that it was quite unfair for him to be arrested in his 70s. Take note, “unfair”. It is unfair for a wanted fugitive to be arrested; a fugitive who, in the 70s, drugged and raped a minor. And it wasn’t just any rape, mind you, Polansky sodomized the girl, a minor, somebody below 18 years of age. And this man actually pleaded “guilty” during his initial trial. And this man actually has people rallying behind his release, a man whose actions are far worse than one who simply believes that it is wrong for two men or two women to marry one another.

If this isn’t considered as a case of double standards, as well as hypocrisy to the highest level, I don’t know what is.

Hitting Two Birds with One Post (mostly Catching Fire and an underrated James Bond film)

First of all, I have finally seen Catching Fire on IMAX with my girlfriend a few days ago. For now all I have to say that it was pretty good. It is certainly an improvement over The Hunger Games, but overall, it’s at best just another YA film adaptation. It doesn’t break new ground, nor does it offer something life changing. At its best, it’s a pretty entertaining film, though a bit overlong at times.

Additionally, the Arena sequence was shot in IMAX so you can really see the screen filled up. I have reservations about this as the image quality isn’t that all impressive. At most, the IMAX resolution seemed to highlight the obviousness of the CGI so, yeah, it wasn’t all that impressive. I’m guessing the benchmark would still be Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (at least for the Burj Khalifa scene) for IMAX feature presentations. Still, check it out; it’s definitely sorth the Php401.

Secondly, I’ve been going on a James Bond marathon of sorts. So far I’ve seen Dr. NoFrom Russia with LoveGoldfinger, and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (I’m planning to skip all but one Roger Moore flick). For films made in the Sixties, I definitely expected to see how certain aspects of the filmmaking have aged, especially the first three Sean Connery Bond flicks. However, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (OHMSS) was one which surprised me: while I admit that this film seemed to have aged, it didn’t age as much as compared to the first three ones.

Now, I don’t want to delve too much, but I really think that OHMSS is one of the best Bond films ever made next to Skyfall and Goldfinger. The character development is top-notch (though not necessarily George Lazenby‘s acting), and the action sequences are actually quite modern. There is a reason why Christopher Nolan did an homage to it in Inception; the ski-chase is indeed a well-photographed sequence, and despite certain aspects of it being aged, still hold up till now.