SOCIAL VOX

My thoughts on the world around me

Films You Need to See: Earth, Good

Here are some more movies I think you should see.

Earth:

Not sure if this is March of the Penguins revisited, but it looks like a great, great movie. I love nature films, anyway.

Good:

The struggle between good and evil has always fascinated me. Sometimes external circumstances force you to make difficult choices. When the time comes, will you make the right choice? Will you choose to be good?

Nine:

This film is visually stunning.

Tokyo Sonata:

I love a good family drama. This film was at Cannes, too.

Blessed is the Match:

A heroic tale. There is always the hope that someone better than us, braver than us, will rescue us from what troubles us.

Coraline:

From the director of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” this type of film isn’t for everyone. The innovation behind a film like this, however, is something to be respected.

State of Play:

While any movie with Ben Affleck is an automatic red flag (Good Will Hunting excluded), I’m hoping that Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren will continue to have a good taste in movie selection. I’m betting against it, though.

The Last House on the Left:

While I’m not a terribly huge fan of horror movies, I did like the question this film asks: if someone hurt someone you love, what would you do? How far would you go? Those questions, at least from an artistic/dramatic perspective, intrigue me.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Political Institutes and the Dystopian Future of Film

Films advancing political views are as old as films themselves.

In 1915, “The Birth of a Nation” provoked controversy by suggesting that the Ku Klux Klan restored order in the post-Civil War South, allegedly endangered by abolitionists, freedmen, and politicians from the North.

However, it is striking to learn that there are institutions that actively use films to advance a political ideology.

What is the Moving Picture Institute? From their “History” section:

Founded in 2005 by human rights advocate Thor Halvorssen, the Moving Picture Institute is unlike any other foundation dedicated to promoting the ideal of liberty. At MPI, we believe that film, more effectively than any other medium, can bring the idea of freedom to life. In keeping with that belief, we are working to ensure that film becomes a center of genuinely democratic art in the coming years. Our goal is to guarantee that film’s unique capacity to give shape to abstract principles—to make them move and breathe—is used to support and promote liberty. Toward that end, we fund films from development through post-production, support up-and-coming filmmakers, and serve as a high-level intern placement service.

Historically, the film industry has been largely unconcerned with developing a distinctive and nuanced portrait of deep-seated American values such as free speech, freedom of association, and the free enterprise system. Such values have been defined and defended almost exclusively in print and through oral argument. But as visual media become increasingly prevalent, we depend more heavily upon movies for our philosophical, moral, and social guidance. If the ideal of freedom is to endure—if it is to maintain its vitality and relevance in our society—it must find its way into film, our most vital, relevant, and far-reaching art form. Freedom must be seen to be believed.

If the masses truly are relying upon movies for guidance in these critical matters, then this may be the beginning of a very slippery slope within the film industry: what stops an institution, or even a government, from producing films that attempt to brainwash? While this may seem like a topic reserved solely for a science fiction novel, let us not underestimate the influential power of the motion picture.

The problem is that media, in recent years, have become battlegrounds for partisan politics. “Outfoxed” tackled this issue with respect to the news media:

This is not to say that the Moving Picture Institute’s films, which have a right-wing slant, are invalid. Here are two of them:

The foreseeable problem is an unnatural escalation of left- and right-wing films being produced — not unlike a nuclear arms race. Both sides of the political aisle would compete for your attention, your loyalty. For two hours, while fact blends with fiction, you become their social experiment.

Keep your eyes open, and be wary of the political propaganda. Films are likely the next frontier.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film, Media, Politics, TV | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Foreign Films (Maybe More) Show Hollywood’s a Bit Soft

Below are the five nominees for the Golden Globes Best Foreign Language Film. After seeing all five trailers, a couple issues came to mind:

(1) Why are these foreign language films not competing against the likes of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Frost/Nixon” for Best Picture contention? If my memory serves me correctly, “Il Postino” has been the only foreign film, at least in recent years, to be among the five nominees for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. These films are, in my opinion, far more raw, intense, provocative, and ultimately more gratifying to a film lover. While there are exceptions (“Scent of a Woman” and “Brokeback Mountain” to name just a couple), I feel that terms like “grittiness” and “beautiful,” while commonplace among foreign films, are still not usually associated with Hollywood pictures.

My final thought is that Hollywood is much too safe; it focuses on the bottom line rather than on satiating our appetites as human beings.

(2) How was “Il y a longtemps que je t’aime” nominated over “Entre les Murs” (“The Class”)? “Entre les Murs” won the Palme d’Or (Best Picture) at the 2008 Cannes International Film Festival, and it’s France’s official entry to the 2009 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film! Interesting…

Going back to the movie trailers, I’ve arranged them from worst to best based on my own personal preferences.

Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (“I’ve Loved You So Long” – France):

I will say this about Kristin Scott Thomas: she’s perfect for this kind of role (the character who carries pain silently, or has a mysterious or troubled past). There is a melancholy look to her blue eyes, most emblazoned in my mind by the movie “The English Patient.”

Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick (“Everlasting Moments” – Sweden):

For other artistic works based on female liberation or empowerment (at least that’s what I got out of the trailer), I particularly find relevant Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (“The Baader Meinhof Complex” – Germany):

Gomorra (“Gomorrah” – Italy):

Vals Im Bashir (“Waltz With Bashir” – Israel):

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Yahoo!’s Most Anticipated Movies of 2009

Yahoo! Movies released its list of the most anticipated movies of 2009.

From that list, here are the ones I’d actually pay to watch:

Watchmen — I’ve been lucky with graphic-novels-turned-movies. I loved Sin City and 300. I haven’t seen The Spirit, but I’ve heard it’s terrible. Besides, I’m a big Billy Crudup fan.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine — Maybe. The trailer does look good though.

Terminator Salvation — “Salvation” is what the Terminator series needs. Terminator 3 was a disaster. However, if Christian Bale can resurrect the Batman series, what makes you think he won’t deliver again in Terminator Salvation? I bet on Bale.

Public Enemies — No trailer available for it. However, I’ll sign up for any movie with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp.

Shutter Island — No trailer available for it. Right now, can you think of a better director-actor combo than Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio? I can’t.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Films You Need to See: Waltz With Bashir

I’m beginning a new section titled, “Films You Need to See.” Whenever I find a potentially great film that’s foreign, still in production or post-production, produced independently, or for any other reason is just beyond America’s radar, I’ll post it here.

The first film below, “Waltz With Bashir,” is an animated documentary film that captures the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon War:

I don’t think it’s been released into American theaters yet. So, in the event that I hear of anything, I will be sure to post it here.

After watching “Waltz With Bashir,” I’m reminded of another animated, auto-biographical feature that everyone should see…”Persepolis”:

Here’s another foreign film that you must see – “The Class”:

Perhaps the French version of “Dangerous Minds” or “To Sir, With Love,” this film is a microcosm of present-day France, its school system, and the clash between cultures and attitudes.

When I saw Mark Ruffalo in “Zodiac,” my immediate thought was that here was a young actor in Hollywood with a bright future. Since then, I’ve decided to follow him no matter what project he pursues. His latest film, “What Doesn’t Kill You,” looks to be worth seeing:

Here’s a film currently out in theaters that you should see, “Slumdog Millionaire”:

January 4, 2009 Posted by | Art, Education, Film, Français | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments