rev-ewe 32: Baran

Majid Majidi
A charming and beautiful movie.  Don't like foreign films?  Don't worry, this movie isn't heavy on dialogue.  It's much more about the interactions between characters and the sounds throughout the movie.

Background information I found that I think is relevant to appreciating the movie:
The Hazari are an ethnic group from Afghanistan who fled to Iran when the Taliban took over Afghanistan. While the Hazari can be traced to living in Afghanistan as long as any other Afghan ethnic group, they have distinct facial features that set them apart (generally looking very 'Asian' by American standards).  Because of this, many consider them outsiders.  As well, they're mostly Shi'ites, which differentiates them from the overwhelming majority of Sunni Muslims.  In 2001 (when this film was made), the Taliban openly targeted the Hazari people and burned down villages across the Hazarajat region.  When this happened, Hazari people fled where they could, and many went to Iran.  Since living in Iran, many Hazari have complained of being mistreated and taken advantage of (much like the immigrants of USA).  Many work difficult manual labor jobs for extremely low pay.  That's where this film comes in.
[if you're curious, read this National Geographic article: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/02/afghanistan-hazara/phil-zabriskie-text]

The movie takes place in Iran at a worksite where a boy, Lateef, is working the easy job.  Once a younger boy comes along, however, he is made to do the harder work and the younger boy takes his tea making and cooking job.  He tries to sabotage the new boy's work but soon realizes there's more to the situation than he originally thought and changes drastically in how he chooses to interact.  He realizes the magnitude of his actions and that people face bigger problems than he does.  I don't want to reveal what I didn't know at first (even though it's written in almost every quick plot synopsis) so ... I would say just watch it.

Definitely a coming-of-age story as well as a love story.  I didn't realize the first time through who the characters were exactly, but after round 2, it becomes more apparent and the story gets even better.  After watching it a second time, it seriously gets waaay better.  So it's certainly a movie worth watching just because it's an investment in good movies to watch over and over.

It's got a wonderfully slow pace, which may be difficult to watch at first, and is comforting in its beauty.  It was a great way to look into specific groups of people that I had no idea had such a complex relationship in society.  If you really need another reason to watch this movie, watch it to see how Afghan (specifically Hazari) and Iranians interact together as well as apart.  The Iranian setting is beautiful in every scene, and the emphasis the movie puts on sound is really unique.  I'd definitely have to watch it again to catch on more of the importance in the soundtrack, but it was noticeable enough to pick up on the first time through.
Gender is a very interesting part of the movie that is brought up.  I don't really want to talk too much about it because there's too many cultural and situational things that I'd rather not comment on, but simply found interesting.

Best part of the movie?  In the last scene, there's a great and very subtle combination of visual and audio that was extremely successful in what it had to express.  Subtlety is this movie's greatest asset, truly.

So .. total?  About a 9/10.  Though I probably didn't really understand what was going on, it was so beautiful and gets better each time I watch it.

** Might I also add that Baran means 'Rain' which is pretty important to the last shot in the movie (or really.. the whole movie).


rev-ewe 31: Tears of the Black Tiger

Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร)
Wisit Sasanatieng

I have two things to say about this movie:
LOL. wtf?

So, there's actually a whole lot more to say about it.  It was hilariously exaggerated, beautifully put together, and strongly stylistic.  While the storyline was a bit mundane, it was presented in such a way that I could never have imagined a Thai movie would be like.
I guess I'd give it  8.5 out of 10?  Really, really well-done, though the story is pretty bland.  Beautiful to watch, the supporting roles MORE than make up for anything it lacks.  The first 15 minutes I could not stop laughing.  Watch it for Thai cowboys!!

The plot is basically that of a love between a poor boy and a rich girl, per usual, and of course their love is restricted.  Womp womp.  Truly, though, the best part is that it's presented like an old Western.  At first I thought the color scheme was just because those were the colors of old TECHNICOLOR! But, the whole movie uses mostly just two colors- fuscia and teal.  Beautiful!  The Western feel of it is hilariously done as the supporting actors are over-the-top and the sets are intensely designed.  Plus.. I mean, c'mon.  Thai cowboys?  Yes, please!  Why hasn't this been done before!  I could go into a whole analytical bit about the aesthetics of the film, but really all I wanna say is the fact that it was a Thai Western that was so beyond anything I could have expected!

*Fun Fact: the lead actress isn't actually Thai.  She's an Italian model who... happens to be fluent in Thai.  lol?


rev-ewe 30: The Thief and the Cobbler

The Thief and the Cobbler
Richard Williams
I first saw this movie as an unfinished group of animatics and half-finished scenes in one of my animation classes.  The style was totally interesting though, as the director was the same guy who did Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  Unfortunately for this movie, the story is almost identical to Aladdin, so it's a bit redundant to watch it for that reason alone.  The animation style is so interesting, however, that it makes it pretty worthwhile.  Dialogue?  Meh.  Character concepts?  Meh.
But seriously.  Beautifully done.


rev-ewe 29: And When the Sky Was Opened

Episode 11: And When the Sky Was Opened
"Twilight Zone"
Rod Serling

I'm pretty sure I meant to review only movies on this blog, but dammit this episode was too good. I'm also sure that many, many people have seen this show before, but somehow I slipped through the Twilight Zone until recently. I've been going through the show from the beginning and am constantly being amazed at this show's social commentary, direction style, command of irony and ability to surprise me with an ending. This episode in particular is simply exquisite.
I feel like I don't even want to talk about the plot, only what was absolutely amazing about it. I'm gonna write a bit about my film analysis and plot analysis. Really just my favorite aspects of the episode.

The chronology of the episode was wonderfully chosen. To start with Forbes asking Gart if he remembers Harrington is the perfect way to set it up. It already causes the question for you, is Forbes just crazy? Is this memory his way of dealing with going through something so traumatic as to crash land back on Earth after being shot into space? This really kept the ending a surprise from me, because I'm already used to the psychological issues the Twilight Zone is so apt to present. I was entirely thrilled by the way they used light, angle and good acting to present exactly what's going on at the end. When Forbes suddenly looks up and light comes from below him, after switching from an eye-level angle to a low angle, we all realize he's about to disappear. That there really was a Harrington, and soon there won't be a Forbes or Gart. The angle change reveals a change in perception and suddenly Forbes is aware. He is above where he was before and sees the truth. That was pure genius. They didn't have to say anything out loud or even hit you over the head with it, it just became so obvious. Truly, Gart's acting the moment he realizes it, too, is on point. The absolute shock and dreading on his face is perfect. Knowing that he's about to disappear from existence translated well.

The plot of this episode brought up so many interesting issues I never thought I'd see in a TV show, much less one from the oppressive decade of the 50s. About space travel and most importantly about the media's ability to cover up anything and everything. The fact that they use the newspapers to not only express what the reality of the moment is, it also is our reference point for the disappearance of a character. In addition to the newspaper, Forbes attempts to use a wire he sent to his girlfriend/wife to prove the existence of Harrington. This makes a point about the information we receive and how we receive it. It shows how any form of written communication can be altered and can suddenly create reality. The fact that we look to all written documents as truth. The closing commentary truly reiterates the idea that suddenly, information can just simply be wiped from human memory, whether it actually existed or not. Those men existed and suddenly they didn't, because the newspapers said so. Obviously, the reality in the episode is that something didn't want them to return, and the science fiction cover is beautifully kept intact. However, the use of newspapers really makes the episode about control of information, perhaps mostly by the media. The beauty of this episode is that people can find what they want to find in it. I guess at the time, people were not fond of the idea of space travel, so they could see it as a comment about how we shouldn't go into space because some supernatural force will make you disappear if you do. Serling was always so good at playing into the social thought at the time, while still saying so much more against it. Either way, people could get from it what they wanted. Truly and absolutely brilliant.


rev-ewe 28: Tulpan

Sergei Dvortsevoy

Real life Borat! No, not really at all. This movie was probably created as a response to that movie's poor representation of a truly interesting culture. It was obvious how much of the movie was intended to show Kazakhstan's political importance, cultural uniqueness, and physical beauty.

Plot? Nah. This movie is just about a guy who needs to get married and has trouble since, on the steppes of Kazakhstan, there is slim pickings. Plus, he's kindof an awkward character.

The pace is incredibly slow, which I've found I'm quite a fan of.  Movies that can keep me interested while having little to nothing happen for five minutes are my fave.  The analysis of family dynamics is equally as satisfying as the wife (protagonist's sister) has to struggle between two stubborn men in her life that she loves equally.  In the end, it is more of a film of realizing the important things in life than it is about seeking love. There are funny moments (which at first I wasn't sure were meant to be funny), but it is indeed mostly a cool insight into a country I'm sure almost everyone thought was what Borat presented it as.  If you love seeing a culture you didn't know about, this is a really great one.  Also, this is another one of those films that gets better each time you watch it.

Noooot to mention, it's super interesting because when I first saw the characters, my mind thought - Chinese?  Then when they didn't speak any Asian language I knew of...  Mind blown.  

rev-ewe 27: Afghan Star

"Afghan Star"
Havana Marking

Now THIS documentary was really worth watching. It was absolutely and completely eye-opening to a culture that I knew so little about. This was so much more about revealing cultural norms than it was about the actual competition. Very, very interesting

This follows the contestants of the first season of 'Afghan Star' (Afghanistan's American Idol) and how the culture is finally learning to accept 1) television and 2) music. Neither of which I knew was illegal in the country. Perhaps the most interesting contestant is a woman who chooses to dance in front of her whole country as well as take off her headscarf. The reaction and her interviews are so interesting.

MUST see! As an American, I feel it's important to know about this kind of culture, and it really shed some light on things for me. Plus, the music is great.

rev-ewe 26: All About Eve

"All About Eve"
Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Like pretty much all of these classic films, so much about it was absolutely on-point. Acting by Bette Davis was beyond anyone I've really seen in today's films (Meryl Streep aside), and while the film was slow at a few points in the movie, it was chock full of great plot, great writing and great cinematography! They really don't make movies like this anymore.

About this on-top-of-the-world actress (Davis) who suddenly comes upon a lowly star-struck fan who idolizes her. She takes her under her wing, only to realize that slowly things are starting to fall apart around her and it might have something to do with this girl.

I really appreciated almost every aspect of this film, from the small insights into the times (like married couples sleeping in separate beds.. lolz I can never get over that) to the great character developments. Totally worth watching for a good, classic movie. Not an OMG storyline, but still fantastic!