Sunday, May 27, 2018

52 Movies from 52 Countries - #20 COLOMBIA

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 



PLOT: Manuel (Hernán Mauricio Ocampo) is a young boy growing up in a rural area of Columbia where guerilla soldiers and the military terrorize the locals while fighting for power. One day, an older boy kicks Manuel's brand new soccer ball into a mine field. Manuel and his friends now have to figure out how to get it back.



MEMORABLE MOMENT:  The boys work their way across the minefield by hopping from bolder to bolder. They climb a tree and rig a harness from the branches. Poca Luz (Genaro Aristizábal), a shy boy with glasses, is the smallest in the group. They convince him to climb into the harness and lower him to the ground. He has almost reached the ball when he loses his glasses. The branch breaks and he falls. Now the timid boy is standing hurt and blind in a minefield.


WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: Like Munyurangabo, the Rwandan film I watched a few weeks ago, The Colors of the Mountain shows a side of the world we rarely see from Hollywood. Yes, there are American films set in Colombia, but (like many US films set in other countries) they almost always  present the world from the American's point of view.
  
The Colors of the Mountain presents a community of peaceful individuals torn by the conflict between two opposing sides, but it is mostly told from the point of view of children. There is a great deal of innocence and delight in the film (with some moments that made me laugh out loud) but ultimately it is a dark film about people who are trampled despite their best intentions. While Manuel and his friends try to figure out how to get their ball back, his parents debate whether or not to help the guerilla soldiers. If they do they will be criminals. If they don't the guerillas will destroy them.

So who is this movie for? If you liked The Florida Project (a film that should have won best picture but wasn't even nominated) definitely check this movie out. They are both films that cover painfully tragic situations told from the point of view of children who maintain their innocence throughout much of the movie. Even if you didn't care for The Florida Project or have never heard of it, I'd suggest  The Colors of the Mountain to anyone seeking a story that presents a very painful situation through the eyes of innocent but complex characters.

RUNTIME: 90 minutes.

DIRECTOR: Carlos César Arbeláez

WRITTEN BY:  Carlos César Arbeláez

STARING:
Hernán Mauricio Ocampo
Hernán Méndez
Genaro Aristizábal

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Open to Submissions: GRIEVOUS ANGEL

I just wanted to give you all a heads up that the poetry/flash fiction publication GRIEVOUS ANGEL is accepting submissions!

They've published some very impressive works of fantasy and science fiction including MOONSHOT which is quite possibly the best work of flash fiction I've ever read. - Seriously, check this story out.

-Submissions shouldn't be longer than 750 words (yeah, you read that right).

-They pay at a "professional rate," six cents per word (and $1.00 per line of poetry).

-Publication qualifies for the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Their website includes this important note:
 "We've refined the emphasis of our SF&F genre-coverage to echo this site's overall focus on Weird Tales, Ghosts, Geeks, Urban Myths, and Folklore. Yes, we still want Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well Humour/Satire riffs on these genre, but we are looking to be intrigued!"

Of course you'll want to read their GUIDELINES in full.

Good luck!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Movies from 52 Countries - #19 Scotland

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 



PLOT: A devout Christian police sergeant (Edward Woodward) travels to a Scottish island in search of a missing girl whom the locals claim never existed. While there, he learns that the islanders worship pagan Celtic Gods and are planning a... honestly, the less you know going into it the better.



MEMORABLE MOMENT: When the "fool" of a police sergeant finally encounters the titular Wicker Man. I won't describe the scene or the context (because 1- it's too great of a spoiler and 2 - I wouldn't do it justice). However, I will say that Edward Woodward's performance transforms him into the human manifestation of misery. I am left dumbfounded every time I watch this scene.

ACCORDING TO IMDB:
  • The Wicker Man was intended as a vehicle for Christopher Lee who agreed to appear in the film for free. He considers the role of Lord Summerisle to be his favorite of all the characters he's played (sorry Saruman fans). Lee paid for his own press tour out of pocket and sat down with anyone who was willing to interview him about the movie.  Supposedly, there were some farmers in Iowa who were surprised to see him live on early morning public access shows.
  • A remake was filmed in 2006 and a sequel (The Wicker Tree) was made in 2011. I have seen neither but from from what I hear don't bother. 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?:  Despite the modest success upon its initial release in 1973, The Wicker Man has become required viewing for horror fans. In 1977, film magazine Cinefantastique stated that The Wicker Man was "the Citizen Kane of horror movies."

That being said, the film goes against many horror tropes.  Most of the scenes take place outside during the day and the majority of the music (a character in upon itself) is traditional folk songs.

In fact, impatient viewers might complain that the film's first hour is downright campy. Many of the scenes feel like something out of a comedic police procedural. There are no grisly murders or jump scares. We are given the impression that Sergeant Howie is in complete control of the situation.  However, the audience needs to see this movie all the way through to the end. The climax is one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever witnessed, completely juxtaposing the light-hearted nature of what has come before.

The Wicker Man isn't just a monument of a horror film, it is also a very unique horror film. Halloween and Psycho are slasher films. The Sixth Sense and It Follows are supernatural thrillers. The Wicker Man's unique plot structure and tone places it in a sub genre of its own.

So yes, this is a film for anyone who is a fan of horror or cult films or great movies in general. That being said, people who are sensitive to discussions that criticize Christianity and Paganism may want to tread lightly. Also (light spoiler) some animals do die very horrible deaths. To be honest, that was the part of the film I found the most unsettling...that's just the kind of guy I am.

RUNTIME: 88 Minutes (Although this varies slightly depending on which version you're watching.)

DIRECTOR:

WRITER:  

STARING: 
 
 
  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

52 Movies From 52 Countries - #18 Rwanda

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 






PLOT: Orphaned by the Rwandan Genocide, Ngabo (Jeff Rutagengwa), a member of the Tutsi tribe, sets off to kill his parents' murderer. He is accompanied by Sangwa (Eric Ndorunkundiye), who is Hutu. During their journey, they stay with Sangwa's family where tribal differences cause friction between the two friends.  



MEMORABLE MOMENT: The opening scene in which Ngabo steals a machete from a marketplace. As he holds the weapon we see there is blood on the blade. The camera pans to Ngabo's face and then back to the machete. We see that it is in fact clean, the blood is all in his mind. At this point we have been told nothing about Ngabo's backstory but we can guess what the young man intends to do with the weapon.

According to IMDB

  • Munyurangabo was the first feature-length movie filmed in the Kinyarwanda language. 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR? Munyurangabo is a movie for people looking for a quiet, intimate portrayal of the aftermath of one of the most brutal genocides of the second half of the twentieth century. It is as far away from Hollywood as one can get, not only in terms of budget and setting but also in its pacing. On the surface, Munyurangabo is a revenge story, a sub-genre that has always been popular in American films. However, the movie spends considerably more time on quiet, domestic scenes and friction between family members.

Had I come across Munyurangabo while flipping through the channels, I might momentarily mistake it for a documentary. The film maintains a grounded, slice-of-life quality, even as it portrays some of the characters’ worst moments.  

However, the film gives little history regarding the genocide itself. I’m assuming this is because it was filmed in a country where every member of the population is all too familiar with the events. If you aren’t familiar, though, you may want to watch a movie like Hotel Rwanda first to get some context.

(Then again, seeing as how the Rwandan Genocide has become known as one of the most overlooked travesties in recent history, I would suggest learning more about it anyway.) 

WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT?: The DVD is available through Netflix. It is also available to rent ($3.99) or buy ($9.99) on Amazon. I'm sure you could also borrow it from many public or university library systems. 


RUNTIME: 97 minutes

DIRECTOR: Lee Isaac Chung

WRITERS:
Samuel Gray Anderson
Lee Isaac Chung

STARING:
Jeff Rutagengwa
Eric Ndorunkundiye
Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka 


Monday, May 7, 2018

52 Movies From 52 Countries - #17 France

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 




PLOT: Like most works of surrealism, Holy Motors' plot is difficult to describe and is (in some ways) besides the point. The film follows an actor, Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant), as he travels through Paris in his stretch limo. Over the course of a day and evening he plays nine different characters. However there are no visible cameras or audience.


MEMORABLE MOMENT: I'm not the first person to say that the most memorable moment in the film is when Mr. Oscar dons the guise of a violent madman rampaging through a cemetery, pushing over mourners and devouring flowers. The gleefully bizarre sequence culminates with him terrorizing a super model's photo shoot. 

ACCORDING TO IMDB
  • Edith Scob, who plays the chauffeur, Céline, starred in the French horror classic Eyes Without a Face (1960). The mask Céline puts on at the end of the film is a direct reference to the movie.
  • The opening scene was inspired by a story by E. T. A. Hoffmann, about a man who discovers a secret door in his bedroom leading to an opera house. 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: Like last week's movie this is a film for fans of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky and other filmmakers who specialize in surrealist cinema.

Holy Motors does technically have a plot. It also has characters and a direction, but this is not a movie for anyone seeking logic. No matter how much we analyze the film, we're not going to find a down-to-earth explanation, and that's part of the joy of the ride. I enjoyed Holy Motors the most when I stopped trying to rationalize the events and accepted the film for what it is - a strange, funny, tragic, musical, and sometimes offensive odyssey into the absurd.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT?: You can by the DVD from Amazon or watch it for free as long as you have a subscription. Those of you with a Netflix subscription can request the DVD.

RUNTIME: 115 Minutes

DIRECTOR: Leos Carax

WRITER: Leos Carax

STARING:
Denis Lavant
Edith Scob

Monday, April 30, 2018

INFINITY WAR: Can we please talk about that ending?

(This should go without saying but the following contains major spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.) 

In early 2015, I realized that if I watched one Marvel movie every other month I would finish just in time for the release of Avengers: Infinity War.

So I typed up and printed off this movie schedule which has been on our fridge ever since.

Yes, The Princess Bride is an honorary member of the MCU, because why not?

As you can see the list is out of date. I made it before Spider-Man: Homecoming had a title, before Black Panther was scheduled and before How to Train Your Dragon 3 was pushed back to 2019. Also, while my wife and I watched Marvel movies on the odd months in 2016 we started watching animated films from our childhoods on the even months.

But enough of all this personal stuff, on to Infinity War:

A shot so bad ass it wasn't included in the film.

For what it's worth, I liked this movie. Yes, it is overstuffed, but I'd argue that it's exactly what most of us wanted. It's an over-the-top super hero bar brawl that included every major (and several minor) characters from the MCU, and while the movie as a whole could have used work on pacing, the filmmakers did an excellent job for such an ambitious story.

But about that ending. 

I was expecting a bleak cliffhanger.  I was certain at least one major character would fall in battle. In fact before we left for the theater my wife said, "Let's go see how Captain America dies!"

But we weren't expecting this. 

I don't think anyone was expecting this. 

Sixteen, that's right, SIXTEEN characters "bit the dust."

And while part of me wants to say good for the studio for being so ballsy, I'm not buying it.

The second the screen cut from Thanos' pleased face to the end credits, my wife and I turned to each other and said, "the Time Stone." And I know we aren't the only ones thinking it.

The scene in which Thanos temporarily brings Vision back even foreshadows what I am certain will happen in the fourth Avengers movie. Tony or Steve or maybe even Rocket will get their hands (paws) on the Time Stone and ctrl-alt-z the most devastating conclusion in super hero movie history.

Also, let's not forget Doctor Strange's little prophesy about how this is the only way they will win.


If you need any proof look no further than IMDB and Wikipedia which both state that Spider-Man 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 are in the works. Also, after Black Panther crossed the billion dollar threshold there is a zero percent chance they aren't making a sequel.

And part of me is happy that T'challa and Peter and Groot and Bucky and maybe even Gamora will be fine in the long run, but such a move also ruins the gravity of death.  There are some exceptions, but one of the major rules of storytelling is when a character dies, keep them dead. 

Harry Potter, The Song of Ice and Fire, Y: The Last Man, Locke and Key and even This is Us all have heartbreaking deaths. We want the other characters to be able to turn back the clock and make things right, but deep down we know that if they could death would become meaningless and the stories would lose their significance. Not to be that guy who compares the MCU to Shakespeare but would Romeo and Juliette be as powerful of a love story if they'd both been resurrected? What about Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows?

In fact, part of me is dreading what Avengers 4 will do. Why stop at bringing back those who were dusted? They could bring back everyone who has ever died in the MCU. The movie may turn out to be one of those notorious events in which the entire universe is "rebooted," a comic book trope that does not need to be translated into movies. 


What might help is if there is a true sacrifice at the end of Avengers 4. One way I could see this playing out is if Steve Rogers gives up his own life (Chris Evans is leaving the franchise after all) to bring back his fallen comrades . Then the Infinity Stones are destroyed, making his death permanent.  Then we will get a bunch of great heroes back while feeling the sting of dramatic loss. While part of me would still be disappointed that they rolled back on such a soul crushing ending, it will still make for a dramatic conclusion. 

At the end of the day, I really did enjoy Infinity War. Even after a three-year movie marathon, it actually managed to exceed my expectations. I just wonder if the future MCU entries will do the same. 

In conclusion, as as certain as I am that most of their deaths are temporary, thanks for the great stories Peter Parker, T'Challa, Gamora, Drax, Adolescent Groot, Mantis, Quill, Barnes, Maximoff, Vision, Strange, Wilson, Heimdall, Hill, Fury and even Loki. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

52 MOVIES FROM 52 COUNTRIES - #16 ITALY

This post is a part of an ongoing project in which I watch one movie from a different country every week. 




PLOT: The newest student at a prestigious ballet academy (Jessica Harper) realizes that supernatural forces are behind a series of murders taking place at her school.

 

MEMORABLE MOMENT: The film opens with a narrator telling us that a girl named Suzy Bannion has been accepted into a dance academy. We meet her walking along an airport hallway toward a pair of automatic doors. The audience has been told everything. The setting is well lit and populated. However, haunting music (composed by the band Goblin) plays at full blast in the background. The music, which is arguably even more haunting than the Halloween theme or "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist, lets us know that things are about to go very wrong for poor Suzy. 

  • Director Dario Argento originally wanted all the students at the dance academy to be younger than twelve. However, the studio and producer Salvatore Argento (his father) stated that a film this violent involving children would be banned. Dario turned the characters into teenagers but didn't rewrite the script, hence the naiveté of the characters and the childlike dialogue. (Honestly, this explains a lot of the bizarre interactions between women in their late teens.)
  • Director Dario Argento composed the creepy music with the band Goblin and played it at full blast on set to unnerve the actors.  
  •  Dario Argento was inspired to make this film by stories from his fellow screenwriter, Daria Nicolodi  whose grandmother claimed to have fled from a German music academy because witchcraft was secretly practiced there.
  •  The first of the director's "Three Mothers" trilogy, which continued with the films Inferno (1980) - not the Tom Hanks movie - and Mother of Tears (2007).  
 

WHO IS THIS MOVIE FOR?: If you are a fan of horror, Suspiria is required viewing, the same way Alien or Blade Runner is required for fans of sci-fi. Had this film been made in America it would be up there with The Shining and Rosemary's Baby as an intelligent horror film that's a household name. 

Even if you aren't particularly fond of horror this is a movie for anyone who enjoys films by David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, early Tim Burtin or any filmmaker that delves into the weird. Suspiria isn't particularly violent. Don't get me wrong, there are a some gory scenes but for the most part the fear found in this film doesn't come from serial killers or blood drenched knives (although one of those does make an appearance). 

Suspiria is set in a world where everything is a little...off.  The lighting, angles and colors are over the top (this is arguably the most colorful horror film ever made) and as I already mentioned the characters act in ways that don't fit their age or the situation.  There is an unsettling creepiness lurking in the shadows. We often can't put our finger on what is bothering us, we just know it's there. 

This is not a film for people looking for logic.  Even after the end credits roll, much of the story still doesn't make sense. However, Suspiria is such a beautiful film, we really don't care. 


WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT?: For some reason this movie isn't available on Amazon instant but you can buy the blue-ray and DVD. It's also available on Netflix DVD. I borrowed it for free from the Baltimore County Library System. 

RUNTIME: 98 Minutes

DIRECTOR:  Dario Argento

WRITER: 

STARING: