Archive for August, 2009

I Am Legend (2007)

“I Am Legend” (2007)

i-am-legend-bigposter

IMDb

Wayne meets Harry Potter

I confess i had put some expectations on this. I haven’t seen the old films that supposedly this one references, but still i have a great sympathy for films constrained in space and characters. This one had a great set up: New York, completely abandoned, regained by Nature after the collapse of mankind, and used by one single man! The visual possibilities of this are great, and the dramatic arc as well, even though here the success would depend greatly on what the actor did. Will Smith is a craftsman, not an artist, and what might be done with such a character is way out of his league. It was also out of Tom Hanks possibilities, and even Nicholson only came close to doing it right.

I admit, the visual result was satisfying, they resisted the temptation of exaggerating in the special effects and creating a wilder city than it deserved. Some pieces of city were really nicely imagined. But than again, they might just have done that, show us in an exhibition, and they needn’t wrap it around the crap plot, story, so on…

The major problem is the goofiness of a half-crazy character, who starts alone, and ends up the hero of all mankind. In they way he (1)finds out the cure for the virus, all alone! and (2)physically saves that discovery so that the remaining humanity might live on and learn from his example. What a hero! He suffers, he survives, he has moral, he is a scientist, he is a martyr. I think this might sound a little bit exaggerated if placed in a pre-Leone western, but right here, right now, it aches. It is a kind of straight forwardness that i may put up with in old films that have other qualities, but i just won’t take here.

So, the virus not only kills, but in reduced percentages turns humans into vampires, so that we can have the city free during the day, and so that we can have scary faces and physical challenges for Smith, as well as exploding numbers. It’s just too forced, and out of focus.

Mike Patton sounds for the vampires are nice (i read somewhere he made their sounds).

My opinion: 1/5

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He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

“He’s Just Not That Into You” (2009)

not into you

IMDb

fulfilled paths

Transversal to wide audience popular comedies (Love Actually), to serious bankable work (like Babel), to author films (like Almodóvar), there is has been a growing tendency to invest the film world with a certain idea of tiny links that bind people beyond their understanding. The idea that we are all connected with heavier or lighter degrees of intensity to many people we don’t know. Other than having any kind of God above us to control us and decide our fate, the divinity in this world is coincidence. Random unpredictable actions drive our lives, like Johanson winning the supermarket prize because the other guy let her go first. The narrative result is that these constructions make us, audiences, be the charters of unknown territories, since we always see whatever new connection comes up (many times things the characters themselves are not aware of) but we are also constantly finding out new things. It’s a strategy rich and full of possibilities.

I like the mold, i like this kind of construction, because it allows for infinite dramatic possibilities, and mastered well it may (and has) become a sort of neo-neo-noir, where we move steps further in throwing characters into unthinkable situations. From that perspective, of the narrative construction, this is not a specially interesting example. All the links exist here to justify the presence of so many different characters, without that meaning that they will be confronted, later in the game, with those links we get to know. Instead it works here as a way to weave at us several different stories, which don’t have to be necessarily connected or connectible. It’s like an exhibition on relationships or, in this case, seduction skills.

The story in itself is about empty lives, looking for emotional fulfillment, here represented by having a boy/girlfriend. The ultimate example is the life of the very girl who narrates us the story, arguably the one who is more lost, and certainly the one who more desperately seeks the “other half”. All the affairs are distinguished in how the character faces them, and in they outcome, from the narrator girl who as the popcorn selling affair, to Johanson, who willingly decides to be alone.

It’s shallow and not particularly interesting, but i like the coherence between the not so interesting lives we have here.

My opinion: 3/5

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009)

potter

IMDb

of narrative space

Who saw and keeps seeing the Harry Potter franchising and thinks a little bit about it knows where it is going to (or supposed to). The franchising is unusually long, for films that work a single story-line, even more when the evolution of the age of the characters matters. It started 8 years ago, it will finish its release (we suppose) in 2 years. So a decade with the same characters. But more, a decade with the same viewers. That’s the trick, each film does not attempt to target new audiences, instead it attempts to get the ones who saw the previous films. Of course new publics are welcome, but picking up the regular one (that started in the books) seems to be the main purpose. That’s why every film is ‘darker’ than the previous one, because if the first one was to be seen by someone with, say, 10 years, than the last one should be watchable by someone with 20. It’s a clever idea, and which apparently has allowed all the new films to be bankable despite the long duration of the characters. Also, i suppose, that’s why Chris Columbus got out of the boat after the third one, he has his imagination shifted into targeting children, and “families” in the way. When Columbus got out, they had trouble replacing him, and i think the two previous films are absolute cinematic disasters. The last one, specifically, is a total mess in every respect. Well, Yates must have seen it plenty of times, and made it partially up in this one.

What we have in this new episode better than in the previous two is a certain building of the tension from scene to scene. They understood they don’t have powerful drama in their hands, the books are funny depictions of appealing bits of mythology but rooted in teenage fantasy and adventure, and that can’t be changed. So they wrote the film accordingly to the possibilities they had. It makes it watchable in those terms. Well, the large form is absolutely inexistent. The film is a collection of loose chapters, the thin links the book (i suppose) provide are absent here so the film works as an illustration of certain moments in the story. But generally speaking, each episode is competently made.

But something is really great here. It’s the depiction of space through the election of the framing. What i mean is that space is present, it is used as an important (the most important) bender of dramatic dynamics, meaning that every scene has a life because of how it is framed, In the space. I collect examples of how space is used in cinema and this is a good catch, which does use space in a rare way, through the frame. It’s in the exact positioning of close and far elements (objects, elements of the architecture such as walls or doors) as well as in how characters come up in the space (and where) that the magic happens. This film does it well enough. The true tension of the scenes is in how they are spatially used. As spectators, we are dismissed into believing it is The story, the dialog the characters that make us feel uneasy, or driven away, but it is the space, here bended by the frame.

So now, in the 6 films we have, there are 2 which matters for what they do with space: Cuarón’s Azkaban and this one. Cuarón is someone who ostensibly moves in and through the space, hanging on characters or rootless for the sake of the space itself. This version depends on the staging of space, and finding the meaningful frame (in this case in a space which can and is previously thought up). I personally prefer what Cuarón does, but i really enjoyed this version, and it positively surprised me. (Orson Welles masters both types of space exploration, and can deliver both of them in the same film, changing the mood of space exploration! that is unique).

My opinion: 4/5

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