Synonymes

Sorry to interrupt, but Synonymes is outstanding. Might well be the best film I have seen this year. Simply hilarious, nonlinear, with no bounds and stupid morals. Go see if you have a chance. The director, Nadav Lapid, also has previous works that are of interest. Bertolucci‘s “The Dreamers” did come to mind, but Lapid‘s new feature is smart and funny.

Cinema: Aug–Sep 2019

  • Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Still showing in theaters around. So I am not late… Based on more than two months ago memories, it is full of typical Tarantino‘s humor. The main pillar is Brad Pitt who outplayed everybody by a margin. The most memorable scene is Leo being schooled by an eight-year-old girl (Julia Butters). I’m gonna go again, I guess. 8/10
  • Tel Aviv on Fire (תל אביב על האש). Very original, yet simple, and funny in a serious context. 8/10
  • One Child Nation. A documentary about past China’s “one child” policy. Difficult topic. A lot of pain. Numerous heartbreaking accounts. Seems honestly made. Very well received.
  • Luce. In the end, I was not sure what was that about, but Kelvin Harrison Jr. was ominously convincing. The other cast was also great (Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer). 7/10
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon. A warm fantasy story. I see, Shia LaBeouf grew up from a boy to a man. Maybe it’s the beard. They with Zack Gottsagen put some wonderful performances. Dakota Johnson as well. For her, of course, it is not even close to what she achieved in last year’s Suspiria (one of my favorite films of 2018), but it seems a good trend she follows. 7/10
  • Solaris (Солярис). It was again a classics screening. Before I only saw the film as a horrible quality video recording many years ago. As with Andrei Rublev, also this year, one can observe how unique Tarkovsky was. A familiar spiritual atmosphere and philosophical content is present in many of his films, but I struggle to find similar examples by other directors. Imagine if a scene like a five-minute noir Tokyo driving scene, ending abruptly, appeared in some modern film. I believe, the majority of popcorn eaters would just leave. (And it is good.) It is even unlikely any funding could be given for a surreal scene of this sort. Nonetheless, many echoes and influences on today’s cinema are evident. Both Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky‘s Solaris are monumental films on the topic. But in the end, and as before, my main memory of the film remains to be an immensely beautiful and mysterious Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk). The role, though theatrical, is unforgettable. 10/10
  • Good Boys. I understand, the film may raise some warm school memories for an American, but for me, personally, it made little sense. I guess, my impression from the film is a of a similar sort as from Booksmart earlier this year. Both were well received, but for me they are considerably inferior to school life explorations, such as Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, or even Jonah Hill‘s Mid90s (though only indirectly related). 5/10
  • Brittany Runs a Marathon. A wonderful comedy/drama with hilarious Jillian Bell. Based on a true story, which I found impressive. 8/10
  • After the Wedding. I mainly went to the cinema due to my favorite Julianne Moore. But it turned out quite boring. 5/10
  • Aquarela. Some impressive shots and atmosphere here. Cinematography is unbelievable.
  • Ms. Purple. This is a very beautiful, yet full of pain, poetic film, with a wonderful soundtrack, influenced by Clint Mansell‘s work. In some respect, it reminded me of Chloé Zhao‘s films. It is truly honest and simple, at times incredibly low key, but that corresponds to the story. Wonderful Tiffany Chu is unforgettable, and the director is Justin Chon. Remember a guy from Twilight? I need to watch Gook. 8/10
  • Official Secrets. An incredibly interesting film based on the real-life story of Katharine Gun. Keira Knightley‘s portrayal of the former is convincing. Ralph Fiennes‘s presence is acknowledged. Certain parts of the film raised intense euphoria due to the triumph of justice at an unbelievable scale. The surreal court trial is prominent. Yet, cases of this sort are only possible in a short list of countries with really strong democratic mechanisms. The story of Katharine Gun could have been really sad, had it occurred somewhere else (but still in the major part) of the modern world. Which says how undeveloped we still are. 8/10

This is coming in the next edition, but Monos, Ad Astra, and First Love (初恋) are highly recommended.

Cinema: July 2019

  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night (地球最后的夜晚). A wonderful effort from Bi Gan. The celebrated long take is indeed impressive. Did seem too slow-paced at times. At one point, the protagonist (Huang Jue) mentions that he fell asleep in the cinema and ended up in a cave. That did happen to me too (although the cave was on the screen). The Tarkovsky‘s and Lynch‘s influence seemed apparent. 8/10
  • Babylon. The sound quality was horrible, not sure if it is the fault of the cinema, or the film. The story seemed authentic and convincing. 7/10
  • Toy Story 4. Not as good as previous installments, mostly due to the creators’ decision to allocate little time to many of the original toys (that were great and funny). 6/10
  • Midsommar. Ingenious, atmospheric, humorous, psychedelic, and unique. Ari Aster is a new master of smart horror, directing one of the best films of the year the second year in a row. 9/10
  • Three Peaks. Omen in the mountains. 6/10
  • In the Aisles. There is something here. 7/10
  • Crawl. Kaya Scodelario is very convincing and impressive. One might think that this kind of alligators-eat-humans movie does not allow for a demonstration of acting skills, but the whole film is worthy mainly due to her. 7/10
  • The Farewell. This is an American film directed by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina as the main character (both are Chinese-Americans). Indeed, the contrast with Chinese films (some of which were “reviewed” in the previous months) is visible. The film, story, and actors are absolutely incredible though, especially the chemistry between Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen. All praise is well-deserved. 9/10
  • Wild Rose. There is nothing especially interesting about the story, and it is hard to sympathize with the protagonist, but some songs are very good and touching, and Jessie Buckley is amazing. 7/10
  • The Art of Self-Defense. This is a hilarious comedy that half-way turns into a satirical thriller. Alessandro Nivola steals the film, but all the cast are amazing. The line “I see now how her being a woman will prevent her from ever becoming a man.” (recalled from an article by Tom Philip) was indeed a memorable one and a good example of the film’s satire. 9/10
  • The Lion King. I don’t think I watched the original film, but this one is nothing special. The Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) were memorable though. 6/10

Cinema: June 2019

  • Non-Fiction (Doubles vies). Talking, talking. Always good to see Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet. 6/10
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters. The “original” film was already pretty bad (though the first part saved by Bryan Cranston), but this one is non-sense. There is some humor though. 3/10
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. The amount of violence and cheering from the theatre audience for various cunning killings is a diagnosis for this country, I think. But I admit that, as a work of art, this is close to the top of the genre. The story is not as good as in the second film, and there is a certain amount of self-plagiarism (not counting the killings, of course). The amusing interruption in fighting due to it being on the premises of “Continental” is not as fresh (the original scene with Common was the highlight of the second film for me). However, there are other original additions, lots of dark humor. Mark Dacascos does a great job. As with the previous films, I admire the “honest” fight choreography for Keanu Reeves, even though the “bad guys” are mostly helpless. Overall, noir action at its best. 8/10
  • Walking on Water. Interesting. Intense.
  • Dark Phoenix. Indeed, the weakest in the series. Unnecessary. Which is sad. 4/10
  • The Dead Don’t Die. Bill Murray or Jim Jarmusch appearing separately in film credits is already a “must see” sign. Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch appearing together now seems a recipe for brilliance. Indeed, I consider Broken Flowers as the finest work of both of them. Plus Tilda Swinton and Adam Driver—close to the film of the year. Humor is everywhere. With the political and social satire, numerous cinematic references, the overall incredible cast, and a typical slow-paced Jarmusch’s style—“must see” is rewarded with ease. (“The Haters Don’t Die”.) 9/10
  • The Last Black Man in San Francisco. A wonderful film about friendship. Beatifully shot. A great debut for Joe Talbot. Great job by Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors. The music is incredible too. 8/10
  • Late Night. Emma Thompson is so brilliant here. She is unbelievable. Simply the other league of acting. 8/10
  • Men in Black: International. Not that bad as ratings say. The humorous atmosphere of the series is present, the leads are adequate. Yes, the script contains some dull parts/conversations, but not bad. 6/10
  • The Souvenir. I struggle to find any reason I should recommend this film to anybody. It rarely happens that I become so bored in the cinema to start browsing on the phone. A young filmmaker. A drug addict. A pathetic boring love story. There are some glimpses of light occasionally, but overall… Well, the only reason is to see Tilda Swinton as a gray-haired old woman, which she is too young to play, after a sexy samurai-undertaker in The Dead Don’t Die. 4/10

Cinema: May 2019

  • Sunset (Napszállta, László Nemes). The story is mysterious, and remains so at the end credits. The cinematography and direction, hand camera style, varying focus from close-up shots to blurred shots, dark colors, the overall dark atmosphere—all is really wonderful. Juli Jakab, who you follow for most of the film, did a good job, I think, although the role did not require an especial emotional variety, mostly hidden and restrained. 7/10
  • Hail Satan? (Penny Lane). Highly recommended. About The Satanic Temple. The word “Satan” can be misleading to those unfamiliar with the topic; it was for me. The topic is important and relevant. I found their values align with mine to a great extent.
  • Ramen Shop (情牽拉麵茶, Eric Khoo). Vegetarians may have a hard time (I had a bit), but the film is very light and enjoyable, having a tragic touch. 7/10
  • Long Shot (Jonathan Levine). The story is too extreme to be true, but very funny most of the time. 7/10
  • Aniara (Pella Kågerman). Underrated. One of the best recent science fiction films. From start to end. Wonderful Emelie Jonsson. 8/10
  • Booksmart (Olivia Wilde). Overrated, but one of the best examples of the genre. Beanie Feldstein raises obvious associations with “Lady Bird”, but the topics and genres are different. A number of funny moments; stupid are present too. 7/10
  • My Son (Mon garçon, Christian Carion). Guillaume Canet doing things. 6/10
  • Photograph (Ritesh Batra). Too sweet to be true, but appreciate the ending. 6/10
  • Shadow (影, Zhang Yimou). From the master Zhang Yimou. The league of its own, so distinct from the “western” cinema. Visually stunning with unique atmosphere, “impressionistic” battles, original story, marvelous music (Zai Lao). Overall, another world. 9/10