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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Joe: 2013

I am very glad that David Gordon Green has found a film formula that he can proudly call his own. I think this particular style began with Prince Avalanche released earlier this year. At first glance it looks to be very independent, however, the simplicity of the story and atmosphere merely act as an outer wall for deeper, more emotional film making. And this works to Joe's advantage; taking a simple idea and a small-town sort of an atmosphere, and expanding it to reveal it's fantastic (albeit deep-seeded) secrets. 
Joe is about the arguable main character, Joe (Nicholas Cage) an ex-con, attempting to start his life over by running  his own "tree poisoning" business. However, the plot gives way to another story about a boy named Gary (played by Tye Sheridan) a child of abuse, who despite the odds, tries to make a living working for Joe. These two stories compliment each other with their own share of development and attention, and it's not too clear as to which of the main stories we should be focusing on. But that's not a bad thing. Each character feels just as interesting as the other, regardless of their situations, and this segways gracefully into a greater connection between Joe and Gary. 

Joe takes it's time with development, and it really seems as though the sub-plot of Joe's shadowy criminality is passed over for a more heart-ached father/son story. I did like the development of Joe the most, and even though this had something to do with the writing and direction, I could clearly see that the genius behind Cage's character, was Cage himself. All I can say is that I have almost never seen this side of Nick Cage before. He is simply wonderful, in execution, in delivery, and he almost wins me over (and I can see that he's trying) but the scenes where he gets angry could use a little work. Or maybe they don't and I just can't take him seriously when he gets angry anymore. However, Cage has come a loooonnnnnggg way in terms of flipping out on film. Trust me. 

David Gordon Green's characterizations are best parts of Joe and while the kind of film that it is at the center is good in its own right, it's the character's that shine through. Everyone is very real and this may not fair well against the parts of the film that play like an action flick, the final product holds up well. Joe fall in between emotionally realistic, and so close to camp enjoyment (even though it lies closer to the former). Every actor is wonderful, and Nick Cage has certainly turned a new leaf in terms of his acting career. For Joe's sake, I hope it works out. 


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Misery: 1990

   There's this weird treatment that Stephen King novels get when being adapted to film and television. While his novel adaptations into "Mini-Series" have become infamous for their lack of direction, laughable production value and terrible acting, his other films have become cinematic classics. A couple really good Stephen King novels that have been made into movies include The ShiningCarrieStand By Me, and The Shawshank Redemption. The great thing about each and every one of these films (not excluding this one) is that they all are really good, and each have their own style while still retaining the same essence of fear and suspense that King so often adds in his writing. Although Rob Reiner's Misery is not graced as the greatest Stephen King adaptation, it is certainly an honorable mention, and truly a classic from the horror category. 

   Misery is about Paul Sheldon (James Caan), a writer who has just finished the final book in his series entitled, "Misery". After getting into a car accident during a blizzard he is rescued by a die hard fan (and deranged ex-nurse) named Annie Wilkes (Cathy Bates). When Wilkes finds Sheldon's final book she is horrified to read that he has killed the main character of the series as a finale, and forces him to write a new book. Throughout the film, there is this underlying theme of isolation. Paul Sheldon spends almost the entirety of the film on the Wilkes' farm, which is planted significantly far from any means of help, or any hope of escape.

Like I said, most of the film takes place in the Wilkes' farmhouse where Paul Sheldon is held captive, isolated from the rest of the world for close to the entire movie. And that's the key word here: isolation. Rob Reiner does a great job of making you feel like you are alone with Sheldon. You do get to look outside of the house to see the lazy, but fortunately keen sheriff, Buster, played by Richard Farnsworth attempt to solve the case of the missing writer. I didn't think about it at the time, but I now find it very clever the way that Buster concludes Wilkes to be the kidnapper and killer. Cathy Bates' performance as Annie is the first and foremost reason why this is a good film. Her sweet and tender outer shell lures you into a false state of security, so when she snaps for the first time it's actually scary. This "ticking time bomb" of sorts is built up perfectly from beginning to end. The film has a wonderful way of taking you through different kinds of fear. I can't explain this without spoiling what happens in the end, but I will say that whatever you thought was going to happen...It's much worse than that.

"Misery" is surprising. As soon as you're comfortable with where the film has established itself, it has an abrupt way of changing the game, setting new rules, and escalating the tension and fear till the apex. Reiner's filming can get away with some corniness here and there among the torture and bloodshed, but at the core "Misery" proves to be cold-hearted in tone, and incredible in execution.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Inside Llewyn Davis: 2013

Enter the year 1961, Greenwich Village. Hole in the wall clubs and bars house an open mic for starving folk artists. The streets and sidewalks are woven together with the wealthy and the less successful. And here, slid in between the record sleeves of his past and present, stands Llewyn Davis, a folk singer struggling to make a living in New York. Being homeless, his trek to find shelter at the mercy of his friends mimics his trek to become recognized by the public of the Chicago and New York night life. The film is complimented by its own soundtrack composed by Oscar Isaac as Llewyn, Carey Mulligan as Jean Berkley, and Justin Timberlake as Jim Berkley. Jean and Jim, who appear as a saving grace to Llewyn, are only characterized by their ability to keep him out of the gutter for a couple of days. Not much attention is put on them as respectable characters, and this might have to do with Davis’ callous and sarcastic attitude which has keep him distant from his close friends and even his father. 

Oscar Isaac is wonderfully cold in his role as Llewyn, however, there is overwhelming beauty among the awkward and inconvenient tone. This in a way provides a sort of contrast between the main character's journey and the main character himself. This works in the same way that the music does. It sets a very sad but relaxing and calming tone. It feels to me like the blissful thought of losing all hope; terribly bitter, but terribly content. I've been playing around with this theory that llewyn's music has lost all meaning to him. He needs to sing to make a living, but he doesn't care about what he's singing (at least anymore). And there's sort of an irony to that because he needs to care in order to sell what he's singing in order to sell his new album, entitled, "Inside Llyewn Davis". But I don't think there's anything inside him. Or at least that's what I think. I haven't seen any admiration or thanks or anything good come from him, besides his music. I don't think there's anything inside him worth selling, or worth buying. But that's just my theory. 

The film is directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, in my opinion one of the most versatile film makers to date, and “Inside Llewyn Davis” is no exception to their unwavering talent. The film is a tragedy, but it isn’t sad. That is to say that nothing good ever happens to Davis or anyone ever. He isn’t a kind or caring person in the least, and one could make the argument that he deserves every slab of misfortune served to him. However, nearing the third quarter of the film we begin to understand the basis for Llewyn’s constantly contemptuous disposition, and you start to feel bad for him. You don’t want him to overcome these obstacles because he is deserves to, but because you are the only person that understands the cause for his unhappiness.  “Inside Llewyn Davis” is an honorable mention for one of the Coen brothers’ best films.