Posts Tagged “7.1”

2009

February 27, 2010
Cinequest 20
Norway
Norwegian / Polish / English
100 Minutes
Drama
Sara Johnsen

Terrific film about the nature of fate. And love, of course. Axel is an advertising executive in his 20s with a completely dicky demeanor. He is Asian, but was adopted at a young age by a Norwegian couple. He treats women poorly, is reckless and handsome and snobby. His adoptive parents live in a large, expensive house, and it’s clear he’s the most important thing to him. His family hires a new maid, Maria, a sexy woman from Poland, whose own son lives with her mother back in her home country. They are immediately attracted to each other, though when not having sex, he treats her as if she were his family’s maid–which, of course, she is. Maria works a second job washing dishes at an Asian restaurant in a not-so-great part of town. A co-worker, Anne, is quiet and thoughtful and was also adopted by a Norwegian, though her mother has a blue collar job working as a coat check woman in a hotel lounge. Rounding out the cast is a blond farm boy named Per, just back from the Gulf War, after being photographed brandishing a rifle in the face of a small Afghan boy. The publicity from the photo resulted in his being discharged from the army, and sent back home where he is anxious to begin his college studies. His first apartment is across the street from the restaurant. The four will become two couples.

There are several things going on in this film and not all of those things work. The film opens with night vision shots of a war zone, but Per’s military story is by far the least compelling one. He has an embedded photo-journalist (a hot one, to boot) follow him around as he goes about his army business. A car speeds through a roadblock, he kills the driver and screams at the kids in the back seat to get out. A photo is taken and he becomes a scapegoat. He has trouble sleeping afterward, but is polite and smart and ready for college.

The more successful theme is one of class distinction. Axel is spoiled and wealthy and handsome and entitled and works in a high-priced ad agency. Anne is beautiful and sweet and is a waitress at a local restaurant. Maria is in Norway on a worker’s permit, lives in a different country than her son, is both a maid and a dishwasher. That’s our hierarchy. But what caused them to reach the class level they’ve reached? Maria came to Norway looking for a better life. Axel and Anne were adopted as children from their homeland by two vastly different families. One a single mother working in a hotel, the other a well-to-do couple who throw lavish parties, support liberal causes, and think nothing of their mid-20s son coming home to live after a work suspension (for inappropriate language towards a female, of course).

Add to this the relationship that Maria and Axel enter into–she is employed by his family, how can any love affair be equal? When he’s mean to her, his barbs are always aiming towards her domestic servant status.

What if the situation were different? The girl was adopted by the wealthy couple and given all the advantages that Axel now enjoys.

I must say that as someone who was adopted as an infant, this sort of what if discussion is never far from my mind. What if the family before the one I ended up with had decided to take me? How would everything have been different–or the same? Biological children probably don’t go through this, but we “chosen babies” do. So this film hit quite close to home.

Beyond the plot, the film is populated by good looking people of various backgrounds. Axel walks around completely nude–and why shouldn’t he with that body. Anne is striking in her poise and posture and quietness. She has a first kiss that will make you swoon. Maria is louder and demonstrative and sexy. And Per is buff and handsome and as Norwegian as apple pie. Each does a fabulous job with their characters. The music and photography is great.

If you forget about an incredible coincidence for a moment and just let it wash over you, you’ll be in for a great film experience.

Notes:
Coincidence aside, fabulous story of siblings, adopted from Asia to Norway…the son is an affluent advertising creative type who is just an asshole to everyone he meets…his adopted family is beyond wealthy…clearly he’s had everything he’s ever wanted…we see him as the film opens paying his buddy to sleep with his girlfriend, thus proving her unworthiness–it’s a loyalty test she fails…sent home on a semi-suspension (for inappropriate language), Axel meets his family’s new maid, a Polish hottie who he treats like trash…Maria also works as a dishwasher at the Vietnamese restaurant where her best friend Anne works. Anne was also adopted from Vietnam, but her mother is a coat checker at a posh hotel…An ex-soldier, who becomes infamous for a photo of him aiming a machine gun in an Afghan boy’s face, moves into Maria’s low-rent building to being his college studies…the soldier finds comfort in the restaurant and the advertising exec finds comfort in the maid…there are some interesting things being said about the luck of life’s draw…both Vietnamese young people seem smart, one was adopted by affluent parents, the other by a working-class woman…how does this adoption lottery affect those involved…the cast is magnificent, and the Norway we see is less fancy, clean, and healthy than divided, racist, and full of class divisions…not sure if the soldier’s story is as compelling as the others…the scenes of war seem a bit out of place…they are good, but the vibe is different…the film is all about how big events can affect everything that follows, whether it be an international adoption, a child left in another country, or an act during wartime…

7.1 IMDB

UPPERDOG

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2007

June 9, 2009
PBS — P.O.V.
USA
English
84 Minutes
Documentary
Katy Chevigny

7.1 IMDB

Election Day @ Amazon

ELECTION DAY

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2007

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
Indonesia / France / Netherlands / Sweden / Switzerland
Indonesian
98 Minutes
Drama
Nan Triveni Achnas

An actress named “Shanty” plays Dita–a supernaturally beautiful girl raises a rather pedestrian story higher than it probably deserves. Dita has a child back in the village with her grandmother. She pretends to work in a factory but is really a karaoke singer and occasional prostitute/companion. Losing her place to live, she rents the attic above a photographer’s studio. He believes he is dying and begins looking for an apprentice. Dita cleans up after him, cooks for him, and assists him with the running of the studio. Why she can’t simply take over is explained by her gender. Add in an evil pimp (is there any other kind?) and we have drama. No surprises, except how the man lost his wife and son. He goes to the train tracks each day to leave and offering and pray. Shows us a part of the world not often seen in western movie theaters.

7.1 IMDB (73 Votes)

THE PHOTOGRAPH

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THE MARKET: A TALE OF TRADE
2008

March 1, 2009
Cinequest 19
Germany / Turkey / UK / Kazakhstan
Turkish
93 Minutes
Drama
Ben Hopkins

Notes:
Clearly has a Turkish sensibility. “God-willing, I’ll make a lot of money on this deal.” Everyone wants a deal. Gambling and drinking man doesn’t want to be part of any larger group of shady businessmen. His wife is supportive of most of his business efforts, though she shakes her head at the gambling and drinking. When a local doctor asks him to find some much needed medicine, he is off across the border in search of it. He is embarrassed to tell his wife of the no-profit deal. She tells him heaven will reward him for his good deed.

He risks his life to go get the medicine. And he hopes that when he gets back he can open the mobile phone story which he feels will be his ticket to wealth.

7.1 IMDB (41 Votes)

THE MARKET

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The Star Maker
1995

Netflix DVD
Italy
Italian
113 Minutes — March 8, 1995
Drama
Giuseppe Tornatore [Cinema Paradiso; Malena]

In Sicily in the mid-50s, a traveling con man offers townspeople the chance of stardom if they give him money to make a screen test.

Another Tornatore story of a small Sicilian village and the quirks that thrive there. This time, a van drives in to small village after small village announcing that for one day only, screen tests will be administered in the tent by a world-famous personal friend to American movie stars. For only 1500 lira, of course. This is an opportunity for Tornatore to have unique Italian faces recite monologues about all manner of subjects. Some are too frightened to speak on camera, some use the opportunity to right a wrong or lobby for a husband. Some have faces that glow–others are cold and blank. Then he packs up his worthless film and heads to the next town. Everyone comes out–smart judges, dumb farmers, the local police chief, the mafia don–all hoping for that elusive stardom that our hero is quick to never promise. Because it’s Italy and the lure of fame is so great, our hero–while ridiculing the simple people he is rooking–only occasionally takes a beautiful woman up on her offer of non-currency payment for his services.

We also get a genuine beautiful discovery. This time, a simple milkmaid, who is obviously the most beautiful girl in Sicily, is played by someone named Tiziana Lodato, who after a bit of eyebrow plucking, is more than ready for her closeup.

Tornatore has his signature unbroken shot sweeping through alleyways and near fishing villages and around townspeople as they congregate outside of the screen test tent. He also finds these fabulous faces of people we assume have never acted before. And like Malena, there is a savage beating that seems to take place from a different film altogether.

But the travelogue aspects of a man in a van traveling around Sicily will keep you entertained throughout.

* Halliwells — “A road movie about people’s dreams and disappointments, too schematic to be entirely successful.”
7.1 IMDB

The Star Maker @ Amazon

THE STAR MAKER

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2008

August 13, 2008
Reno NV — Century Riverside
USA / Germany
English
107 Minutes — August 13, 2008
Action / Comedy
Ben Stiller [Empire Of The Sun; Fresh Horses; Next Of Kin; The Ben Stiller Show; Reality Bites; If Lucy Fell; Flirting With Disaster; The Cable Guy; There’s Something About Mary; Your Friends & Neighbors; Permanent Midnight; Keeping The Faith; Meet The Parents; Zoolander; The Royal Tenenbaums; Along Came Polly; Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story; Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy; Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny]

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TROPIC THUNDER is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 58. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 TROPIC THUNDER DISCUSSION
• Break
• 14:21 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 14:46 The Last Five®
• Break
• 24:20 Listener Last Five® (Michelle in Sydney)
• Break
• 30:48 From the Queue: TOKYO STORY
• Break
• 36:11 Tassoula’s interview with ALAN BALL
• 55:33 Credits and Outtakes

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Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black.

Not as good as the non-stop hype would suggest. The trailers at the beginning are by far the funniest moments. Nothing satirized here hasn’t been the target of a better film or skit before. Downey better than the rest.

7.1 Metacritic
7.7 40 Critic Consensus
8.2 IMDB

TROPIC THUNDER

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2005

Man Push Cart Photo

June 12, 2008
Netflix DVD
USA
English / Urdu
87 Minutes
Drama
Ramin Bahrani

7.1 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

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Written by Michael W. Cummins