All About SaintLeonidas
So wow...it has been a while since I've posted on this site. Before logging in the other day, I believe it had been February that I had last logged on. Not sure how long I plan to post, probably a few times here and there, but what better way to mark my return than a review
?Moonrise Kingdom?, Wes Anderson?s newest feature and easily one of his best, is a delightful, colorful and flat out beautiful depiction of young love, seen through the eyes of a director with a youthful heart. Sure he might overindulge in terms of visual style and whimsy, a passion and uniqueness I personally love, but in the end his mastery behind the camera and tenderness for his characters and the stories he tells make for wonderful experiences.
Not everyone always feels the same obviously, many are completely turned off by his work, but I think in this case even the most anti-Anderson crowd will have a hard time not falling in love with this story, these characters and the touching, charming and often hilarious situations they find themselves in. That is because this time around, more so than in his previous film, the line between reality and fantasy is extremely thin. In his previous films, and this is coming from someone who has loved EVERYTHING he has done (yes, even ?The Darjeeling Limited?), the worlds he creates, with their overtly intellectual, quirky and often pompous characters, are often interpreted mostly as shallow and even more harshly labeled as pretentious and annoying because they are drowning in an ocean of visual grandeur. Although I personally love it, I cannot say I blame people for thinking it. The story, emotion, pain and humanity of many of his films can be lost and viewed strictly formalistically in his attempts to stay grounded while also throwing a very thick layer of style over everything. The difference with ?Moonrise Kingdom? I believe has to do with the perfect blending of that passionate and fine eye for detail, color and design and the central human story below the surface. Here we have the joys and passions of young love, juxtaposed with the hollowness and pains of adulthood in a way that feels more like a fable than an actual depiction of real life. It is in that way, how this feels more like a story out of one of Suzy?s fantasy novels, that makes it work so well.
This fable takes place over the course of a few days in the summer of 1965, on a fictional island off the coast of Rhode Island. It follows Sam Shakusky, an orphan and Boy Scout who has trouble making friends; and Suzy, a smart but depressed young girl whose parents think is ?troubled?. After meeting a year before, and becoming pens pals, the two decide to run away together. When the Scout Master (Edward Norton) finds out he goes to the local police captain (Bruce Willis) to start a search party with Suzy?s parents. As Sam and Suzy?s love blossoms in their adventure across the island, the adults have secrets and personnel issues that begin to get in the way with their search for the children.
Visually intertwined with this story are everything one would expect from a Wes Anderson film. Those fantasy elements and overall tone I mentioned above are really driven by the use of tracking shots, almost always consisting of layers of action, with things happening in the background that could be easily missed on a first viewing; and set and costume design that not only capture the era (the late 60?s) but also a very fantastical and specific melancholy-summer atmosphere. The house where Suzy lives for example feels more like a doll house, with the characters just puppets under Anderson?s guidance. In this way the entire film really feels like a live action version of a story that would normally take place in the world of ?The Fantastic Mr. Fox?.
As for the performances, which are just as important as the visuals and designs because of Anderson?s writing and humor, are all around just wonderful. For the adult cast this comes as no surprise. Bill Murray for instance is no stranger to Anderson?s films (this being the sixth time he has appeared in one). The rest fit in nicely, with Willis and Norton seamlessly blending into the world and dead pan humor. What really blew me away was the performances by the two child leads, Kara Wayward (Suzy) and Jared Gilman (Sam). Now these performances were not perfect, I felt like they stumbled over a few lines and their delivery was flat at times, but it worked in their favor making the performances feel very natural, never forced and their missteps felt more like children trying, and at times failing, to sound smarter than they really are which was in line with the personality and background of both.
Overall this definitely ranks up there as one of Wes Anderson?s best, probably right behind ?The Royal Tenebaums? (my personal favorite of his). As for its place amongst the rest of the films this year? I can easily say that it is the best, and my favorite, filmso farin 2012. And although there are still many more to come, I think I?ll be hard pressed to find another film that was as all around beautiful, charming and fun as ?Moonrise Kingdom?; and even if it doesn?t turn out to be the ?best of the year?, it will most likely be the one I revisit most often.
"We're not bad people. We just come from a bad place."
"Shame", Steve McQueen's stark and uncompromising exploration of the devastating effects of sex addiction, is a powerful glimpse into the dark parts of the human soul and how it can consume us. It stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon, viewed by his colleagues as a polite, well-kept business professional, who is secretly struggling with a sex addiction that causes him to seek out sexual release through either girls he meets at bars, escorts or masturbation often in public bathrooms. In essence he lives in his own erotic world, though the sex is not for pleasure but simply to help block out some deep-seeded pain, which he tries to control with daily routines to keep focus. This world is disrupted when Sissy, his wayward sister with no other place to go, arrives and requests a place to stay. Brandon reluctantly agrees which appeared to be one of a few attempts to change his habits; the other being starting a real relationship with a beautiful young coworker. Things seem to be going well, but Sissy's intrusive and erratic behavior, though often not intentional, quickly disrupts the rituals that held his psyche together and he begins to break. Her presence makes him feel constricted and bring back those feelings and memories he seemed dead set to repress with his sexual behavior, causing him to spiral downward with his sexual exploits becoming more extreme as the resurgence of his past and inability to cope with her needs boil to the surface.
It is important to understand, because the story relies so heavily on their interactions, that Sissy and Brandon share similar pains, though they go about suppressing them in different ways. Sissy is outgoing and wants everyone to love her; whereas Brandon is reserved and prefers to be on his own. When "living" becomes too hard they give in to harmful behavior. For Brandon it is sexual stimulation and for Sissy it is cutting herself, as pointed out by Brandon's coworker after noticing her scarred wrist. It is this conflict in their personalities that creates the most drama. They are not suited for one another, Sissy's intruding in Brandon's sheltered existence and Brandon's refusing to give her the attention and love she needs are the sparks that lead to destruction. It is not long before their clashing reaches an unbearable limit and they are both so terribly damaged, and heartbreakingly so, that when they both hit bottom it is a tragic moment. Especially for Brandon who finds himself under the pain of both the shame he places upon himself and his sister.
McQueen plays coy on what exactly about their past has had this effect on them but clearly there is a lot under the surface that has left them scarred. Many have complained about this lack of back story or an outright explanation to Brandon's behavior but McQueen is less interested in a thoroughly develop story, and more concerned with peeking into the lives of these individuals. This is honestly all we need. It is sometimes too hard for people to accept that this is just the way we are. Humans have their demons. Films have already thoroughly gone through the scenarios that could lead to this behavior. All that matters is the now, how technology and New York help him to indulge in his addiction, and how he copes with the present.
As Brandon Michael Fassbender gives one of the most haunting and courageous performances in a very long time. His willingness to bear all, in scenes the audience can barely sit through let along imagine being a part of, along with his ability to open himself up physically and emotionally and relay so much pain, in a way that feels so human, was just outstanding.
Carey Mulligan also shines here in a roll that is unlike anything she has ever done. She plays Sissy as a woman who clearly has her own demons, and although she might seem more outgoing and capable or connecting with others, she also has a hard time coping with the past and the rejection of lovers and her brother. One of the film's most stunning moments comes when Mulligan, in a close up, sings 'New York New York' in a powerful, raw and emotional rendition that really mirrored her whole performance.
The result of it all is a dark and unsettling portrait of self-destructive souls, driven by some unknown torment, so lost and damaged, struggling to mask one great shame with another in an attempt to feel something; not pleasure but rather the physical and moral pains of the acts they commit. Alone this is challenging stuff, but with the addition of exquisite long shots, beautiful photography adding a sort of poetic grace all set to a hypnotic score by Harry Escott, it becomes not only an emotional but also visually mesmerizing experience.
So with it being the last day of 2011, I decided to post my picks for my favorite films, performances, directors, etc. of the year.
- Hall Pass
- The Change Up
- Battle: Los Angeles
- Crazy, Stupid, Love
Best Music - Score or Song:
- "Theme Suite " by Roger Neill, Dave Palmer and Brian Reitzell (Beginners)
- "Brandon " by Harry Escott (Shame)
- "Rivers " by Alexandre Desplat (The Tree of Life)
- "Night Call " by Kavinsky (Drive)
- "It's a Process " by Mychael Danna (Moneyball)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- The Tree of Life
- The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
- Meek's Cutoff (Chris Blauvelt)
- Melancholia (Manuel Alberto Claro)
- Hugo (Bob Richardson)
- The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
- Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
- The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
- The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
- A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
- Moneyball (Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin)
- Beginners (Mike Mills)
- Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
- Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
- Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
- Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
- Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy)
- Steve McQueen (Shame)
- Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life)
- Serah Bayat (A Separation)
- Carey Mulligan (Shame)
- Melanie Laurent (Beginners)
- Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
- Leila Hatami (A Separation)
- Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
- Albert Brooks (Drive)
- Brad Pitt (The Tree of Life)
- Shahab Hosseini (A Separation)
- Jeremy Irons (Margin Call)
- Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris)
- Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur)
- Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene)
- Rooney Mara (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
- Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy)
- Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia)
- Jeong-hie Yun (Poetry)
- Michael Fassbender (Shame)
- Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur)
- Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
- Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
- Ryan Gosling (Drive)
- Peyman Maadi (A Separation)
- Le Quattro Volte
- 13 Assassins
- Meek's Cutoff
- Martha Marcy May Marlene
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
- Jane Eyre
- Like Crazy
- The Trip
Top Ten :
- The Tree of Life
- A Seperation
- Certified Copy
- The Artist
- Midnight in Paris
My Recent Reviews
May 11, 2013 5:35 pm GMTSaintLeonidas joined the union FAU: Film Appreciation Union