Tag Archives: seventies

El secreto de sus ojos (2009): March Blind Spot

Director: Juan José Campanella; Main Cast: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo RagoGuillermo FrancellaJavier Godino;

El-Secreto-do-Sus-Ojos

I was really looking forward to watch this film and my expectations weren’t disappointed! It’s an engaging, multi-layered story that intertwines events in the mid-seventies and in 1999, all connected to a homicide investigation. Benjamin (Darin) is a retired Argentinian federal justice agent in 1999, he’s writing a novel based on an old case with the hope of understanding it better and finding some closure. In 1974, Benjamín, his assistant Pablo Sandoval (Francella), and newly hired department chief Irene Menéndez Hastings (Villamil) were personally affected by the brutal rape and murder of Liliana Coloto, in particular after witnessing the extreme grief of her husband, Ricardo Morales (Rago). They doggedly pursue the investigation, notwithstanding the incompetence and the willful near-sightedness of the justice system, finally zeroing on Isidoro Gomez (Godino) as the real killer. I won’t add more details about the plot to avoid spoilers for those who have not seen this film but rest assured there are some interesting twists.

Campanella expertly juggles the past and present storylines, making the viewer slowly discover different sides of Benjamin while he builds up the case, in the past, or he revisits it, in the present. Through his eyes, we get to know the other key players and see different explanations of events he didn’t witness directly, which are especially intriguing since one of the main themes of the film is about remembering the past and being stuck in it. Although Benjamin is aware that historical accuracy is not paramount for the novel, the process of revisiting the case is a necessary step to be able to move on also with his personal life.

The director works flawlessly all the technical aspects of the film and keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish. There are some beautiful shots of interiors and of Buenos Aires that complement well the brilliant performances of the cast. Darin is the soul of the story while Villamil is the heart.

As a final note I must say that now that I’ve seen this film I appreciate even more the ambiguity of the title: “sus” means not only “their” but also “his” or “her”. Riveting —9/10

This post is part of the Blind Spot Series 2016, a blogathon organised by Ryan at The Matinee

blindspotseries2016

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Blind spot series, Seen at home

Fargo (season 2)

Creator:Noah Hawley; Main Cast: Kirsten DunstPatrick WilsonTed DansonJesse PlemonsBokeem WoodbineJeffrey DonovanZahn McClarnon;

FARGO

After a brilliant first season inspired by the Cohen brothers’ masterpiece, series creator Noah Hawley manages to outdo himself. Following the new fad in television of anthology series, this time around the story is set in 1979 between Luverne, Minnesota, Fargo, North Dakota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota with a brand new cast and another “true crime” tale.

A young Lou Solverson (Wilson), State Patrol officer and Vietnam veteran, investigates a multiple homicide case involving a judge and the disappearance of Rye Gerhardt (Kieran Culkin), the youngest son of  a local crime lord based in Fargo; helping him piece things together is his father-in-law, Hank Larsson (Danson), Sheriff of Luverne. The investigation will lead them to a colorful collection of characters that includes Ed (Plemons) and Peggy Blumquist (Dunst), a Luverne’s butcher and his wife, who are not exactly law-abiding citizens, and the Gerhardt family, kingpins of North and South Dakota. Led with iron fist by Otto (Michael Hogan) until his stroke and then by his wife Floyd (Jean Smart), they are ruthless and fearsome, in particular Dodd (Donovan), the eldest son, who has big dreams of building an empire and champs at the bit. However his big dream is thwarted by an encroaching criminal organisation from Kansas City with expanding ambitions of its own. When negotiations for a peaceful merger fail, Mike Milligan (Woodbine), is left to deal with the Gerhardt. He is skilled enforcer with plenty of street smarts, and aided by the Kitchen brothers (Todd and Brad Mann), slowly works toward his goal of wiping out the competition.

The stage is set for an interesting tale of intertwined stories with very engaging and well-rounded characters and it doesn’t disappoint. The vicious confrontation between the two criminal organisations is the perfect foil for the struggle of Lou and Hank, both decent reasonable men, to make sense of the blood trail they are following. Wilson and Danson have great chemistry and embody their characters wonderfully, giving them depth and humanity that make them very relatable. Durst and Plemons are equally great as Peggy and Ed, normal folk who are swept into a life-changing situation and become a little detached from reality. Special kudos go also to Nick Offerman as Karl Weathers, the town lawyer of Luverne, and Zahn McClarnon as Hanzee Dent, right-hand man of Dodd and enforcer of the Gerhardt clan. The script is strong and the few lulls in the pace are well repaid afterward. Moreover there are some very inspired cinematic choices that add charm to the already beautiful visuals. Engrossing —8/10

 

2 Comments

Filed under TV-shows

Network (1976): January Blind Spot

Director: Sidney Lumet; Main Cast: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter FinchRobert DuvallNed Beatty;

Network

Television is indeed a cut-throat world. Network and corporate executives exploit the mental break-down of a veteran news anchorman for the sake of ratings and monetary return. Summarised in this way, the film sounds like a jaded, cynic view of TV news in the seventies but it is so much more! It manages to introduce some surreal elements into a serious and realistic narrative that becomes one of the harshest criticism of television, entertainment and business world. Furthermore it uncannily predicts what happens to television in the next forty years: reality shows, exploitation of the worst gory events to improve ratings and such. Faye Dunaway show a wonderful combination of fanatical glee, workaholism and sheer determination as Diana Christensen, the producer who takes the reins of the news section of the network. She replaces Max Shumacher (Holden), an old-timer with integrity and also personal friend of Howard Beale (Finch), the anchorman in question. Beale’s ravings are illuminating and still actual (and downright hilarious) and Finch is fantastic to watch, no wonder he has got an Oscar for this role. To add more quality to an already stellar cast there’s Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett, face of the corporation, that recently bought the network, and ultimate shot-caller. His character might come across as one-dimensional, only driven by quarterly returns and stockholders’ expectations but Duvall manages to imbue him with some vulnerability that makes him more credible. The heart of the film is Holden’s Max: a man who is going towards his twilight years and finds himself fired, rather unceremoniously. He is viewed by Hackett as the past in TV news and he is considered both expendable and a threat to the network. All of this because Max refuses to use his friend Howard as freak-show to be paraded in front of millions of people. Max is the only silver lining of the film: someone who clings to his humanity (both the good and the bad) and doesn’t surrender and turn into a humanoid like Diana. Lumet’s directing is flawless and inspired and Paddy Chayefsky’ s script is pure gold. My favorite scenes are: Arthur Jensen’s (Beatty) speech about the primal forces of Nature and the contract negotiation between the far-left-wing revolutionaries, the communist activist and the network representatives; both are hilarious and amazing. Riveting —9/10

 

This is my first entry to The Matinee‘s Blind Spot blogathon. So far so good!

blindspotseries2016

5 Comments

Filed under Blind spot series, Oldies but goldies, Seen at home

Sound & Motion Pictures: TV shows nostalgia 2

Time for another trip down memory lane, this one is back to the seventies. The following intros are from some of my favorite shows of that period (again in chronological order).

M.A.S.H. – Suicide is Painless, Johnny Mandel (1970)

Humour in wartime and Alan Alda: great way to pass the time. The theme brings back so many memories. (The actual song starts at 1:08 of the video)

Kung Fu –  theme by Jim Helms (1972)

Wandering the American West and relying only on your fighting skills still feel pretty awesome, but never forget: patience grasshopper!

Happy Days – theme by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox (1974)

What’s cooler than being cool? The Fonz, of course!

Starsky & Hutch –  Gotcha,  Tom Scott (1975)

Well, for many year a Ford Gran Torino (red with a white swoosh, clearly) has been my favorite car. Clint Eastwood might agree, even if not with the colour preference.

Streets of San Francisco – theme by Patrick Williams (1976)

I was used to a regular dose of car chases on up and down the hills of San Francisco… kind of Bullitt on a low budget.

Charlie’s Angels – theme by Dominik Hauser (1976)

The first time I saw ladies taking the lead and kicking some asses, without ruining their fabulous hairdos I might add.

10 Comments

Filed under Odds and ends, Sound & Motion Pictures

Inherent Vice

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson; Main Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen WilsonKatherine WaterstonBenicio Del ToroReese Witherspoon;

Joaquin Phoenix in Inherent Vice

The lastest film by Paul T. Anderson is somehow a crossover between The Big Lebowski and Chinatown.  This slightly surreal and meandering story starts like a classic noir: an ex-flame comes back into Doc Sportello’s (Phoenix) life asking for help. Our hero is a private detective with glorious sideburns and a penchant for smoking pot. His ex, Shasta (Waterston), once a flower child with the same proclivities, has since moved on to greener pasture: her current lover is a real estate magnate.  After her cryptic visit, Shasta disappears and Doc begins a strange journey following weird clues, stumbling on the kidnapping of said magnate, searching for a phantom ship and dealing with all sorts of crazies. He’s helped by faithful friend and lawyer Sauncho (Del Toro), deputy district attorney and occasional lover Penny (Whiterspoon) and he ends up making common cause with Dirty-Harry like detective Bigfoot Bjornsen (Brolin). Set in 1970, this strange and rather convoluted tale, based on the eponymous book by Thomas Pynchon, might be slow-burning and very unlike Anderson’s previous film (The Master) but it’s captivating to follow. Doc is an oddball character and, most of the time, he’s stoned but, improbable as it may seem, he’s also pretty good at his job. In addition there’s Bigfoot, he starts out as a “benevolent nemesis” or “evil guardian angel” to Doc, but he reaches an understanding with him after their investigations  cross path. In a way, Bigfoot has similar traits to Doc: loner, determined and capable (with a visceral hate for hippies but that’s just a colorful side of his persona). This film with its eerie atmosphere and intricate plot turns out to be more  a character study on acid and it really works due to the superb performances of Phoenix and Brolin. Anderson has managed again the difficult task of keeping the viewer engaged with a star-studded, 2.5 hour-long movie based on a pretty wacky premise: chapeau! The cast in general is rather spectacular: curious, unexpected cameos and intriguing portrayals, it is clear that there’s a sure hand at the helm. The soundtrack and the photography complement the story and contribute greatly to the bizarre feeling that pervades the film throughout. Anderson’s style might not be everyone’s cup of tea and this film is even stranger than his usual fare so consider yourself warned. Mesmerizing –9/10

 

8 Comments

Filed under Seen at the cinema

The Last King of Scotland

last-king-of-scotland

Director: Kevin Macdonald; Main Cast: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker,Kerry WashingtonGillian Anderson;

The rise to power and violent regime of Idi Amin (Whitaker), real-life Ugandan dictator during the seventies, is seen through the eyes of a fictional character Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (McAvoy), young and a little naive Scotsman. Based on the book by Giles Foden, the story mixes well facts with fiction keeping the viewer engaged. Forest Whitaker goes above and beyond to give us a multi-layered portrayal of this larger-than-life historical figure. Well-trained by the British army, Amin happened to be one of the first two officer in the post-colonial Ugandan army; he raised quite fast in the ranks to Commander of all forces,thanks to his charisma and attitude to leadership, and brilliantly solved his years-long struggle with President Obote with a military coup. This is when young Nicholas meets him, cheered by the people as savior of Uganda. Amin has a great admiration for Scotland and he’s positively impressed by Nicholas, who is direct and self-confident. Nicholas is intrigued and charmed by this charismatic giant and let himself be convinced to become Amin’s personal physician. However, behind the lovely, colourful facade of life in the presidential residence, the blight starts to show: Amin is increasingly paranoid, ruthless and in more than one occasion shows erratic behaviour lashing out at advisors, family and friends alike. Amin relies more and more on Nicholas as he slowly turns himself into an absolute despot, ruling with iron fist and killing all his opponents. The viewer, together with Nicholas, is both disturbed and terrified by this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hide behaviour and begins to understand that things will only get worse. To complicate matters, Nicholas has the not very bright idea of having an affair with Kay (Washington), Amin’s second wife,  since she is lonely and shunned by the dictator due to the epilepsy of his son by her. Unfortunately for the parties involved and for the viewer, this will result in particularly gruesome violence as comeuppance dealt by the “wronged” Amin. I haven’t felt this much of empathic pain since A Man Called Horse.  Our so-called hero makes it out alive, unfortunately that’s not the case for many Ugandans, during his eight-year regime Amin managed to kill 300000 of them, in rather horrific ways. During the last confrontation between the two leads there’s a very illuminating exchange:

Amin: I am Idi Amin! President-for-life and ruler of Uganda. I am the father of Africa.

Nicholas: You’re a child. You have the mind and ego of an angry, spoiled, uneducated child. And that’s what makes you so fucking scary.

7.5/10

This post is my contribution to the second edition of The Great Villain Blogathon hosted by an amazing trio: Ruth of  Silver Screenings, Karen of Shadows & Satin and Kristina of Speakeasy. Go and read all the other entries linked on their blogs.

You can find my entry to last year edition here.

Banner

11 Comments

Filed under Seen at home

Aya de Yopougon

Directors: Marguerite AbouetClément Oubrerie, Main Cast (voices): Aïssa MaïgaTella KpomahouTatiana Rojo;

aya-de-yopougon

Set in Abidja (Ivory Coast), this animated film chronicles the life of Aya and her friends, Bintou and Adjoua. They grew up and live, along with their families and friends, in Yopougon, a rather poor area of the biggest city of the country. Like many other teenager girls, they have dreams about their future, want to have fun but also have to deal with their parents’ and society’s expectations. Marguerite Abouet (who is also the writer of the graphic novel) clearly knows well the subject and gives us a rich, insightful view of a seldom seen location and a rarely described period (the late 1970s, during president Houphouët-Boigny’s tenure), using the personal stories of ordinary but colourful characters. Aya is sensible, responsible and independent, quite unlike her two best friends, who are more frivolous and fun-loving. What is quite perplexing about this story is that, although Aya is the protagonist, she ends up being the witness and narrator of the exploits and escapades of the ones around her, being friends, family members or mere acquaintances. The directors seems to have much more fun regaling us with tales of foolishness, small-mindedness and ambitiousness. It is indeed entertaining and offers a biting social satire using the ample spectrum of human qualities. However it is not totally convincing, the well-known secret for a good movie is: don’t tell, show; unfortunately it is not always the case here. Furthermore I would have liked to know more about Aya and her dream of becoming a doctor in such a society, stifled by patriarchy and lacking opportunities but maybe it was a topic too tricky to explore. The animation per se is charming but nothing extraordinary, a good support to a nice story. Peculiar —6.5/10

Leave a comment

Filed under Animation, Seen at the cinema

American Hustle

Director: David O. Russell, Main Cast: Christian BaleAmy AdamsBradley CooperJeremy RennerJennifer Lawrence;

American-Hustle

Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a talented swindler and, after meeting his con artist soulmate Sydney Prosser (Adams), starts to make some serious money with financial scams. She gets pinched by Richie DiMaso (Cooper), an arrogant, ambitious and a little out-of-control FBI agent, who forces the pair to work for him. DiMaso’s plan is to catch Carmine Polito (Renner), Mayor of  Camden (NJ), for bribery, along the way he realises that he can get other politicians and find ties with prominent members of the mafia as well. Irving and Sydney have no other choice but to play along and use their wits and cunning to get through their predicament. Matters are complicated by Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Lawrence), who’s unpredictable, volatile and the Picasso of passive-aggressive (in Irving’s word). The great performances from the cast and the witty dialogues keep you engaged and curious to know what Irving and Sydney will come up with to save themselves. Russell has a terrific way to tell this story, partially inspired by real events, and gets back to the level of the Three Kings and The Fighter, after The Silver Linings Playbook (a glorified chick-flick). Special kudos go to Bradley Cooper for his slightly deranged DiMaso and to Jennifer Lawrence, who delivers the best lines and makes you laugh out loud. Maybe De Niro’s cameo as mobster is a little on the nose but it is quite funny. Captivating —8/10

Buy it from Amazon:

big_amazon_button_300x300

2 Comments

Filed under Seen at the cinema

Drift

Directors:Ben NottMorgan O’Neill, Main Cast: Myles PollardXavier SamuelSam Worthington

I like Aussie movies and surf movies and this is a nice combination. A bromance in the sixties/seventies and the origin of surf gear labels in Western Australia. There are all the cliches: strife and reconciliation between the brothers, the hot but tough girl for whom both brothers fall, the Man and living outside society, the hippie/spirit guide guy who ends up saving the day (kind of a long cameo of Sam Worthington), etc. It is not Big Wednesday but, even with all its flaws, it is quite enjoyable and the cast does an honest job. The scenery, the atmosphere and water scenes are compelling. —6.5/10

Leave a comment

Filed under Seen at home