Archive for the “Jon watches…” Category

More a collection of interviews than a documentary, Examined Life brings together leading philosophers talking on subjects you’d expect such as truth, ethics and meaning and subjects you might not such as revolutions, our relationship with rubbish and the following segment about disability and gender that challenges our conception of the “normal” body…

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A film for the ironic generation with all the contrived whimsy and cuteness that you’d expect from Miranda July. Still, if you manage to avoid finding her character intensely annoying (and many people won’t), this is a film with a sadness that somehow sneaks up on you such that you leave the cinema feeling slightly bereft. This review does a better job than I can…

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To get the positive in first, this is a very pretty film with some very cool clothes and some nice moments of intimacy.

However, like many a film adapted from a book, it suffers from trying to pack too large and complex a plot into too little time (not that it’s a particularly short film at 134 minutes long) and ends up feeling like there’s not enough engagement with the characters and their inter-relationships to really explain what goes on between them. In the case of Norwegian Wood it ends up feeling like a number of ill-advised sexual pairings (one of which at the end comes completely out of nowhere) tied together by unconnected conversations interspersed with the occasional pretty landscape. As ever, this approach is fine for people who’ve read the book but feels very disjointed if you haven’t.

My other big complaint with the film is the music. It’s by Jonny Greenwood, most famously of Radiohead but also BAFTA nominated for his music for There Will Be Blood. I don’t really get what he was trying to do here though. The music was largely distracting and obtrusive during most of the film until in one of the final climactic scenes it goes into full-blown cheesiness as the main character retreats into his grief (along with some rather over the top visuals too) becoming the kind of soundtrack you might expect to hear on a silent movie to make sure everyone fully understands that this is a sad moment in the film! A bit more subtlety would have been good (actually I think silence would have been the best option for that particular scene).

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Toy Story 3 was good but after hearing so much about it maybe it lost some of its impact for me. That said, it definitely captures something of that feeling of the inevitability of growing up and the loss of the care-free-ness of childhood that brings pangs of nostalgia.

Seven is such a classic film. I wish I could watch it for the first time again. I remember how mind-blowing it was when all the pieces fell into place. Brilliant story, great cast.

Animal Kingdom and Archipelago are both quite subdued films though very different. Animal Kingdom was not really my kind of film so I enjoyed it but not much to say about it. Archipelago is about a mother and her two grown up children gathering together on the Isles of Scilly for a family get-together before the son goes to Africa to do aid work (“it’s not a gap year”). Though the Isles of Scilly are an archipelago, really the name refers to the disconnectedness of these characters who though together and doing the things families do are incapable of communicating with each other in a meaningful way, each an island with their own unspoken anguish. With some lovely cinematography which appears to be largely naturally lit, it’s very much a slow paced, brooding film with very natural dialogue. A film you probably need to be in the right mood for but I found it quite relaxing despite the discomforting undertones. All the way through it I was thinking of this bit of classic Izzard.

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This is documentary film-making at its best – with none of the cheesy stock footage of something like The Corporation or the manipulative personal stories and comedy stunts of a Michael Moore film (Moore’s own take on the crisis, Capitalism: A Love Story, was pretty mediocre), Inside Job relies almost entirely on well-researched interviews with some of the major players in the events of the last 20 to 30 years that brought the global economy to the brink of collapse, all tied together with a bit of narration from Matt Damon (presumably only chosen to add some Hollywood credibility).

Many of the key players in the crisis and aftermath “declined to be interviewed” but for anyone who read about the financial crisis and the commentary that was going on around it as it was happening there are some big and familiar names – French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, economist Nouriel Roubini, MD of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn, billionaire George Soros and a host more economists, politicians and ex/current bankers all pitch in with their thoughts.

For anyone still confused by how everything went so badly wrong – sub-prime mortgages etc, this is laid out quite clearly and simply. For anyone looking to apportion blame, this film spreads it around quite evenly between predatory lenders, greedy bankers (briefly mentioning their systemic cocaine-use and prostitution that was often charged to business expenses!), politicians and their advisors (many ex-bankers) who gradually eroded the regulations, and the economists whose “market is king” ideology helped them justify the de-regulation.

Some of the best parts of the film are interviews with the “bad guys” (and clips from their questioning by politicians) whose “um”s and “er”s and “can we switch the cameras off for a second”s say much more than their flimsy rehearsed justifications and blatant lies. We may not get our money back, but it’s a little bit satisfying to watch some of the people responsible squirm!

As a film, although it has a clear agenda and bias, it doesn’t bang the drum too hard and trusts in the viewer’s ability to deal with being presented facts (and to understand people well enough to know when they’re lying!).

The most worrying thing that comes out of the film is how little has changed. It’s still many of the same people in charge, very little regulation has been added back into the system and we all know the bankers have gone right back to paying themselves ridiculous bonuses. Perhaps we’ll see an Inside Job 2 in 10 years or so.

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Apparently a hit with audiences at Sundance way back in 1998, a nice little romantic film about two “soul mates” whose paths keep almost but not quite crossing.

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As I’ve said, I’m not really a big Coen brothers fan but I went to see True Grit anyway and was glad I did. Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon both put in good performances but 14-year-old newcomer Hailee Steinfeld turns in a pretty amazing piece of acting for her age – as some YouTube commenting wag said “every other child star can suck it”.

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