This column is much later than I planned, but technical issues and precursor distractions forced me to put it off. It was a busy week, but over the weekend I finally had time to sit and enjoy some 2010 releases that I’d been missing. Here are the films I saw last week:
The Secret in Their Eyes (2010)
Grade: A | 1st Viewing
There are more ideas in Jose Juan Campanellaâ€™s Oscar winning Argentinian film than in many filmmakersâ€™ entire career. Itâ€™s an homage to film noir with a dark mystery within, an art film with some of the best cinematography of the year, and a beautiful story about requited, but never fulfilled love. When a brutal murder is committed the film challenges our very idea of justice and if the concept of justice can even really exist. It is brilliantly told from the perspective of a retired detective reflecting on a case that forces him to reflect on his own life decisions.
The film was also a technical marvel from the cinematography to the makeup design. The actors play both younger and older versions of themselves and they execute it masterfully with the subtleties of their performances and the makeup design. There is also one of the best tracking shots that Iâ€™ve seen in a while that follows a fantastic chase through a crowded soccer stadium, starting at the top of the stands and finishing on the field.
I just finished watching A Prophet (next weekâ€™s Quick Takes) and after seeing this and The White Ribbon I actually might be in the minority that believes that The Secret in Their Eyes actually deserved the Oscar win for Best Foreign Film.
Children of Men (2006)
Grade: A | 4th Viewing
Speaking of tracking shots, I decided to re-watch the brilliant Alfonso Cuaronâ€™s Children of Men last week and the film proved itself an excellent viewing experience once again. Cuaronâ€™s camera is essentially a character within the movie dancing a fantastic ballet around the characters and scenery. The level of blocking and choreography that must have gone into some of those shots is absolutely remarkable.
Beyond the beautiful cinematography, the story is poignant and brilliant. It is among the best dystopian films ever made and continually moves up my best movies of all-time list. Itâ€™s been too long since Alfonso Cuaron directed a feature film and I look forward to his next project Gravity which is slated for release on 2012.
Please Give (2010)
Grade: B | 1st Viewing
After the rather unique opening montage, this film offered exactly what I expected without any surprises, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The film was about karma and guilt with every character existing on different planes of morality. Nearly all of the conflicts are internal with each character having their own lack of fulfillment, filling the void with sex, blue jeans, tanning, or, in the central story arc, charity work.
Nicole Holofcener does a nice job using the camera to tell the story with some clever shots including a sex scene with a golden Buddha judgingly watching in the background. The film was a sort of neo-realism and it felt like only Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall grasped the script while many of the other actors relied on cartoonish, surface-level archetypes. The film is not a waste of time, but donâ€™t feel the need to rush to rent it.