Caught in the Web

caught-in-the-web2013 Golden Rooster Awards – Winner Best Supporting Actress.

US release date: November 27

Miss Ye Lanqiu, Director Shen’s pretty and weight conscious secretary on Situo, Shen’s highbrow company, is diagnosed with lymphoma. Distraught, she made a scene on a public bus, mocking an elderly in need of a seat, while a young trainee reporter captured the whole incident on her videophone. Yang Jiaqi, the young reporter gave the recording to her ambitious senior reporter and her unemployed cousin’s girlfriend, Chen Ruoxi. At Situo, Shen’s wife caught Ye crying on the boss’s shoulder, and later that night her footage is aired on national TV. In a matter of hours, it goes viral. She becomes an instant public enemy, “Sunglasses Girl”, “Boss’s mistress”, the news station makes a lot of money, while Director Shen receives a lot of hot air, at home and at the office.
The movie started as an interesting multimedia gossip era social satire, but gets weird when Ye suddenly insisting to hire Yang Shoucheng, Yang Jiaqi’s cousin and Chen Ruoxi’s boyfriend, a complete stranger she met only once in a follow-up apology interview and seen only once before when Shoucheng fought some cellphone pickpockets outside Situo office building, as a secret accomplice on her equally quite weird plan to borrow one million yuan of Director Shen’s money and disappear, buy a Mini Cooper, go bungee jumping, and hire a housemaid. It gets even more weirder when Director Shen decide to ride along, creating his own fabricated news to counter the situation. And now everybody’s life is all quite equally ruined. If only Chen Kaige can tune down a bit this everybody-knows-everybody-and-everybody-ends-up-paying-the-price rule of the story, the movie could be more intriguing, and therefore more memorable, instead of just being a concoction of quite improbable what-if scenarios.

My Rating: 5/10

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2014 Oscar Foreign Language Films: Le Passé (The Past)

past2013 Cannes Film Festival – Winners, Best Actress, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
2013 Durban International Film Festival – Winner Best Screenplay.
2013 Oslo Films from the South Festival – Winner Audience Award.

Separated by a thick glass in the airport terminal, talk to each other without actually hearing one another. They ride a car, a rented car, later illegally parked and almost get fined.  Ahmad and Marie, soon to be legally separated by law ex husband and wife, separated by everything. Choices. Nationalities. Fate.
In France with her two daughters, Marie is currently living together, and going to marry Samir, a young technically-not-yet-widower with a son. But her eldest daughter Lucie is all against it. Marie has her reasons, Lucie has her reasons, and they’re both probably right. Heck, even Samir has his own right reasons. And what could Ahmad do? A soon to be legal ex husband. Soon to be legal ex stepfather. He could even unintentionally make things worse in the middle of these layers of trouble. It’s a crowd in their old, beaten-up, in the middle of unfinished repainting, house.

My Rating: 8/10

>>>Check out my other 2014 Oscar Foreign Language Film Submissions reviews:
The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium
Gloria – Chile
The Hunt – Denmark
Renoir – France
More Than Honey – Germany
The Grandmaster – Hong Kong
The Good Road – India
The Great Beauty – Italy
Child’s Pose – Romania

2014 Oscar Foreign Language Films: Gloria

Gloria2013 Berlin International Film Festival – Winners, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury, Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas, Silver Berlin Bear Best Actress.
2012 San Sebastian International Film Festival – Winner Films in Progress Award.

Gloria Cumplido is a lonely middle-aged woman. Divorced for more than a decade, nobody seems to need her around anymore. Certainly not her grown-up daughter and son, they have their own lives now. They have their own problems. So she tries to meet new friends, new male company perhaps. Someone close to her age. Someone who might understand her. Someone who might need her. Someone who can make her feel needed. Someone sensitive. She is an 80’s pop music loving and dance enthusiast helpless romantic. But bringing a sensitive new boyfriend to family birthday dinner, with ex-husband and his cranky young girlfriend there, might not turned to be a bright idea after all. And the sensitive boyfriend’s ex-wife and only-call-dad-if-need-money daughters are not much helping either. And that annoying upstairs apartment neighbor. Love is just tiresome, isn’t it? Paulina García as Gloria is simply amazing!

My Rating: 8/10

>>>Check out my other 2014 Oscar Foreign Language Film Submissions reviews:
The Broken Circle Breakdown – Belgium
The Hunt – Denmark
Renoir – France
More Than Honey – Germany
The Grandmaster – Hong Kong
The Good Road – India
The Great Beauty – Italy
Child’s Pose – Romania

Everyday

everydayUS release date: November 22

Michael Winterbottom goes reality show style, starring the Kirk children, four of them, as the movie protagonists Karen and Ian’s children. Multiple cameras, multiple cameramen, very probably inspired by Jon & Kate Plus 8 and such, except this time the Dad is in jail. As the result, there are not much in the story on the first half of the movie other than their daily routines, and daily quarrels. Jail for the Dad, breakfast, commuting, job for the Mom, school and playtime for the kids, lunch, dinner, bedtime, culminating in periodic short and awkward prison visiting hours. The second half? Some temporary prison-leave, more mealtimes, more commuting, more quarrels, school fight, Mom and Dad fight, and Christmas shopping.  It’s not exactly boring, but “reality show”–especially since this is obviously a fake one, can be quite uninteresting and also very repetitive. Should we just watch this fictional family passing through their one and a half hour celluloid life?

My Rating: 4/10

A Letter to Momo

??????????????2012 Asia-Pacific Screen Awards – Winner Best Animated Feature Film.

Momo and her mom are moving back to her grandparents’ big traditional house at Shio Island. Everyone seems to be happy about it, except Momo. In her pocket, a page of very unfinished letter from her recently deceased Dad. And three mysterious droplets of water fell from the sky then followed her there. The droplets creep into a beautiful box in the attic (The attic is properly named ‘The Sky’) that contains an old illustrated book about classic monsters, and since that day Momo can hear strange voices, and see some mysterious shapes, three shadows, moving around the house, following her. The next day, they aren’t just shapes and shadows anymore. Now Momo can see them clearly. Three cowardly, lazy, daft, annoying, stealing, anything-but-fish eating, ghouls. Yōkai. And they aren’t the only supernatural thing going on the beautiful island. But, are they real true Yōkai? Weren’t they just some droplets of water before?
…Momo is Akira, Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, and Paprika‘s animator Hiroyuki Okiura’s first effort in drama screenwriting, and it really shows. The animation is exquisitely beautiful as usual, but the story does feel too Miyazaki-ish at times and drags a bit after a while with so few plot elements that would’ve been easily and swiftly resolved just keep on going and going.

My Rating: 6/10

Sunlight Jr.

Sunlight_JrUS release date: November 15

What is Sunlight Jr.? It’s a small and severely understaffed convenience store where Melissa earns her living. Her Eminem wannabe part-time drug dealer and full-time landlord ex boyfriend Justin keeps bugging her almost on daily basis, and the fact that her store manager is a dick really doesn’t help the situation much.
She lives in a cheap motel with her current boyfriend, a disabled ex-construction worker named Richie, and in current American economic situation it is just impossible for him to get a decent, or any, job. Melissa almost always late for her shift, and the next thing she knew she is also late on her period. Will there be a future, any future, for them and their unborn baby?
Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon are probably too old for their roles, but on the other hand with this type of drama, bare simple story and all acting, they surely can deliver a bit more edge than plenty of younger actors. Without them, and J. Mascis’ beautiful music illustration, this movie will surely crumble apart.

My Rating: 6/10

The Great Beauty

La grande bellezza2013 Golden Globes Italy – Winner Best Cinematography.
2013 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists – Winners, Special Silver Ribbon, Silver Ribbon Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound, Best Cinematography.

US release date: November 15

Can you see the sea on the ceiling?
The movie opens with swooning camera movements, a Japanese tourist drops (probably) dead, and then jump cuts to a crazy night party where all the beautiful, the not so beautiful, and the grotesque people of Rome dancing in ecstasy, until some of them are dead drunk. In the center of this circus is the birthday boy Jep Gambardella, an old dandy man claimed to be a writer.
What kind of writer? What does he write? The movie is a very long visual journey with torrent of mouthful monologues and dialogues. To answer the questions, to know who is who in the party, who exactly is Jep–what exactly is Rome, you have to open your eyes, and open your ears. Reheated rice is always tastier than fresh-cooked rice? The best people in Rome are the tourists? Is that true, Jep? Is that really true?

My Rating: 8/10