Tag Archives: Emmanuel Lubezki

Terrence Malick’s SONG TO SONG

It is getting more and more difficult to quantify Terrence Malick as a filmmaker, particularly with his abstract and introverted narratives with his last three features.  TO THE WONDER, KNIGHT OF CUPS, and now SONG TO SONG are a trilogy of films that are visual interpretations of fragmented memories that Malick holds within his psyche.  The picture (filmed back to back with his previous film KNIGHT OF CUPS) centers on three major characters woven within the music scene in Austin, Texas.  Rooney Mara is the wannabe musician, working her way up through the ranks of Michael Fassbender’s production company, and Ryan Gosling is a musician who falls deeply in love with Mara.  A tragic and tangled love story ensues, and we watch as these three people zigzag throughout each other’s lives.

Michael Fassbender Song to Song

The film is very much a natural progression of Malick’s previous two films.  It is as if you’re trekking through a reflection of someone’s memories.  We see prominent moments, with a slurry of small, yet important details that bridge together a kaleidoscope of a narrative.  Where KNIGHT OF CUPS was playfully sensual and very erotic, SONG TO SONG is brutally perverse at times, seeing and experiencing a very dark portrayal of sexuality.

The actors assembled are remarkable.  There are a few carryovers from KNIGHT OF CUPS, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman in particular, but the bulk of the cast is a new Malick ensemble.  Michael Fassbender is nasty as ever as the record producer who is without emotion.  He constantly pushes himself in transgressive ways.  He forces threesomes upon his acquired lovers, he experiments with drugs, and he undercuts anyone whose support he has gained.

Natalie Portman Song to Song

Ryan Gosling is very different than we’ve seen him in a film before.  He’s very sweet, he’s very romantic.  While he maintains his stoic cinematic image, he sheds the mystery and hamminess that we’ve become too used to.  His interactions with Rooney Mara are wonderfully beautiful.  He gives a very touching and soft performance, a clear contrast to the menace and dirtiness of Michael Fassbender.  Natalie Portman gives yet another completely vulnerable turn as a young woman distracted by Fassbender’s charm and monetary value, ultimately suffering from it.  Val Kilmer and Holly Hunter briefly show up.  Kilmer is a singer, who greatly plays off his Jim Morrison persona, and Holly Hunter is the mother of Natalie Portman’s tragic darling.

What separates this from the previous two people twirling features, is that for the first time Malick has used popular music, while still using classical numbers.  Del Shannon’s RUNAWAY was prominently featured in the trailer and in an important scene in the film.  Along with his use of popular music, the film also features cameos from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Rotten,  a significant scene between Michael Fassbender and Iggy Pop, and a narrative affecting performance from Patti Smith who acts as a mentor to Rooney Mara.

Ryan Gosling Song to Song

The collaboration between Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is a pairing that is cinematic nirvana.  It’s a match that tends to not be talked about nearly as much as it should be.  The picture looks and feels organic, it doesn’t look like a movie, nor does it feel emulated; it is real life.

If you haven’t been with Malick on his last two pictures, it would be difficult to recommend this film to you.  Yet the film is powerfully filled with beautiful and transgressive emotions.  The film is an experience, it’s as unorthodox as one might think.  The film is challenging, it is an experience that is worthy of anyone’s attention.  If that album cover of Pink Floyd’s WISH YOU WERE HERE were a film, it would be SONG TO SONG.

 

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“Half of America just lost their Facebook.” – A Gravity review by Josh Hains

I love Gravity. Love, love, love it. L-O-V-E IT!

I mean, the unseen force that keeps us pinned to the ground so we don’t tumble about and float away into the depths of space. That Gravity. So thankful for it. As for the film, I love it too. You don’t even know.

Now let’s be perfectly honest with ourselves and admit, Gravity is kind of a difficult film to write a review about because there isn’t much of a story or plot for me to pick apart meticulously.

Russians blow up one of their own satellites and the fallout causes debris to collide with the several other satellites including American ones, as well as the Explorer space shuttle and its crew who are working on the Hubble Space Telescope. Two crew members, biomedical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a newbie to space, and veteran astronaut Lt. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), are the only survivors, and must make their way back to Earth without the assistance of Mission Control in Houston, who has gone offline thanks to those satellites getting trashed. That’s it. I’m not kidding, that’s all there really is to it. That’s so simple a caveman could write a review about it. No offence to cavemen.

I’m actually pretty glad there’s not much plot to the film. There was a time when a lack of plot could get a film places, when people didn’t care if a film had the most intricately layered plot, as long as it entertained the hell out of them, and they’d put it upon a pedestal high above other films, giving it some kind of a legendary status in cinema history. Like Blade Runner. Today, a film without much plot often gets ripped to shreds by critics before the audience has even seen the film, automatically creating a negative aura that engulfs the flick and rapidly builds an unwarranted bias and stigma toward the film. Just look what’s happened to Disney’s Tomorrowland. Original ideas aren’t enough for some people, blah, blah, blah, the film looks amazing if you ask me.

Wait…Gravity was one of the best reviewed films of the 2013 season? And it won Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects at the 86th Annual Academy Awards? Oops. Guess I’m late to the party.

Gravity might not have much plot, but that isn’t even the slightest of a hinderance for this full throttle space thriller. In fact, the lack of plot actually works in its favour, allowing ourselves the opportunity to take in all the wondrous sights and sounds, rather than shovelling mountains of unnecessary exposition and plot-stuffings down our throats. Right from the first frames of the film, it’s evident moviegoers are in for a visual treat, thanks in large part to Emmanuel Lubezki’s uber-detailed cinematography, and the all-to-real CGI effects that make up I’d say about 98% of the film’s visual content – only the actors and their suits are real, to my knowledge. Again, this isn’t at all a hinderance, although at varying moments through the course of the film the two leads had a CGI sheen to them. I can only assume this was entirely intentional, given that this obscure look found its way into the final cut. The film is rich with detail, from the finest stubble on Kowalski’s chin that can be made out perfectly despite the camera being several feet away from the character, to the awe inspiring other-wordly view of our home planet; the detail is pronounced, immaculate, and gorgeous. Seriously, Gravity couldn’t look anymore beautiful than it already does. Can you believe me that their visors are CGI? Neither could I, they look so damn real.

In space, no one can hear you scream. In Gravity, sound is everything. From the thunderous score enhancing the urgency of the thrill-a-minute perilous sequences, to the subtleties of the character’s breathing as their oxygen levels dip. Between the stunning cinematography melded with the extremely lifelike visuals effects wizardry, and the moody music and pitch-perfect sounds effects, Gravity becomes an elevated immersive cinematic experience you have to see to believe. Simply hearing about the film or watching it’s then-popular trailer is not enough, you genuinely have to sit back and allow the ride to envelop you completely. If you’re into that sorta thing.

In terms of acting, in several elongated sequences strung throughout the film, we don’t get to see the actors faces as much as we get to hear them. Bullock’s Stone leans toward the panic-stricken side of things, being that she’s a space newbie and all, and she’s distressed enough from early in the film until the final frames to have next to no oxygen for an albeit short duration of the film, which is a bad thing in case you were wondering. Anytime something goes wrong, and believe me, the shit hits the fan (Murphy’s Law is in full, vibrant effect here), she goes into panic mode and can’t seem to keep her cool or maintain some semblance of self control, which again, is expected because she’s a…newb!On the other hand, Clooney’s Kowalski is the calm, cool professional. He maintains as much control as is feasible within the confines of their situation, but never overreacts or panics. He’s always cool, calm, collected, and does his absolute best to assist Stone and help calm her down at various points so she doesn’t use up all her oxygen. I couldn’t help but notice at a later point in the film, when Kowalski gives a motivational push to Stone, that George Clooney has possibly the most soothing male voice I’ve ever heard from a mainstream Hollywood actor. After the rigorous endurance test that is the early portion of Gravity, he actually calmed me down with his inspirational words of wisdom, I shit you not. In three noteworthy moments I don’t want to spoil for anyone who might not have sen Gravity, both actors, with little dialogue and very little of their faces available for our viewing pleasure, convey melancholic aspects of themselves without diving headfirst into sentimentality. These moments feel genuine and organically constructed, never once ringing falsely, and thus constructing raw moments of compassion we feel for their respective characters.

A hot topic surrounding the film has been the scientific accuracy of the picture, with everything from zero gravity to deceleration being scrutinized by the general public (why are people who know nothing about space given the time of day?), along with astronauts and Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Tyson, after his viewing of the film, took to twitter to debunk some of the film’s key aspects, some of which were scientifically accurate, and some of which were simply movie mumbo-jumbo. The film’s director, Alfonso Cuarón, as stated that he is aware the film is not always scientifically accurate, but that these inaccuracies were necessary for the sake of the story. That’s something I can abide by.

As a whole, sure, Gravity has zip for a story. Nada, nothing, right?. But sometimes, watching a film isn’t about whether you’re sucked in by the story or not, but how the film affects you on a visceral, deeply psychological and emotional level. Sometimes, the best films don’t require the brains to navigate through overlong dialogues and meticulously crafted story lines, but rather, the sight to bear witness to the greatness being displayed before your very eyes. But a great film can’t be measured by such things, even though I’ve taken the time to acknowledge them. That’s what I love about cinema, it’s not about how great the story was, or how terrifically riveting the performances were, or how the special effects looked or the way the music rings through your ears. No, a great film is measured by how it makes you feel deep down in those places you don’t talk about at parties. A great film is measured by how deep it reaches you. How deeply it hits you square in the gut like a shotgun blast at point blank range, or how it sinks into the furthest recesses of your heart and makes you long for its company. Or how intimately it affects your mind, and resurrects your love for fine filmmaking. A great film can push the world and all its complications to the side, put you at ease, and take the time to entertain the living shit out of you, if only for a short time.

In Gravity’s case, it took just one incredible moment in a tremendous motion picture to make my jaw hit the floor with its beautifully rendered view of the Earth and the astronauts working near it.

And I’ve gotta admit one thing: can’t beat the view.

ALFONSO CUARON’S CHILDREN OF MEN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Prophetic. Speculative. Provocative. Chilling. Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is one of the best films of my lifetime, a totally immersive experience where ideas and action coexist in an effort to tell a deeply human and thoroughly harrowing story of mankind’s last hope for survival. Clive Owen was fantastic in the leading role of a lifetime, while the supporting cast including a stony Michael Caine, a mysterious Julianne Moore, the shifty Chiwetel Ejiofor, the slimy Danny Huston, and the scene-stealing Peter Mullan all get a chance to shine. The blunt, forceful, incredibly streamlined screenplay (by four credited writers) is all forward narrative momentum, while Cuarón and cinematographer of the century Emmanuel Lubezki plunge the viewer into the middle of any number of violent spectacles, including large scale military battled, close-quarters combat, and vehicular mayhem, all shot with a constantly roving camera that’s prone to some very, very long and elaborate sequences without any noticeable edits. The film is a technical knock-out, a marvel on a story level, and it’s a total embarrassment that one of the most ambitious and challenging action pictures ever made wasn’t given any Academy recognition. Cuarón would later get his trophy for his spectacular thrill-ride direction on Gravity, and while that film is certainly accomplished in ways that very few other movies have ever been, Children of Men is an absolute all-timer, and a reminder that big, bold ideas can still intermingle with overwhelmingly visceral action.

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