Author Archive: shoomow

[s] Gora (Aleksandr Rastorguev, 2001)

Gora is a documentary film by Aleksandr Rastorguev about a woman by the last name Gora (‘mountain’ in Russian) and the environment she’s living in and considers native. The film is paired with another Rastorguev’s work issued the same year, Mamochki, on the grounds that both these movies tackle the subject of giving birth, as well as the relationships between parents and children, and that both are telling about the most wretched social strata of the Russian society.

There are also similarities in style and general approach to the people in the shot, which is empathetic and cordial one. Clearly, Rastorguev believes that such qualities as mental development or ability to make money have nothing to do with ability to love and be loved – genuinely and with passion. He is certainly right about that. His heroes attract sympathy notwithstanding the fact that their life decisions are often questionable, and their intellect allows them only to co-exist with similarly gifted. Film such as this one is a good way of reminding that people are all different, and no matter how much alcohol they consume and what they do under its influence, they are still people who deserve to be treated as such.

The execution is very decent. Just like in Mamochki, the director kind of plays a fly on the wall part, and manages to render the essence of the environment pretty much undiluted. The editing is an important part of the creative solution, and, though not yet fully developed, shows all the qualities of an independent (and quite powerful) point of view.

All in all, this is a very good movie, which I highly recommend.

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Offret [Sacrifice] / Zhertvoprinoshenie (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1986)

Offret aka Zhertvoprinoshenie is the last Andrei Tarkovsky’s film, and the only one he made in Sweden. It’s a story of a renowned journalist on the day of his birthday, and of his family and friends as they collectively go through a terrible ordeal. As the IMDB description states: “At the dawn of World War III, a man searches for a way to restore peace to the world and finds he must give something in return.”

One characteristic that came to my mind while I was watching the film was: it’s a Chekhov stage play perfused with the strobbing light of a TV screen. However, it should be noted that unlike Chekhov’s plays this story is much more symbolic and much less interesting.

What it basically comes down to is endless conversation that are actually more like a series of monologues coming one after another, each about something seemingly profound. The gist of the story is the reaction of people, members of the same little circle, to the news of the start of atomic warfare (presented very vaguely). One woman becomes hysterical; one of the men comes up with an insane theory, and another follows it and then burns down the house. All heavily mixed with elevated talks and symbolic parables.

As, I suppose, has become clear from the paragraphs above, I’m not a fan of this kind of cinema; I prefer earlier Tarkovsky’s works, like Andrey Rublyov and Stalker, which are much more humane; his european period seems way too arthousy to me – I think he went the wrong way in his evolution as a director. Of course, that’s only my opinion.

But the fact that this film is very boring I think is indisputable. One might argue that it’s about important things, but I believe that important things could be discussed with better placed passion, and without digressing into philosophical maze where no sane person could survive.

This film could be recommended to the fans of the director, and to the students learning the ways of cinema. Otherwise – not recommended.

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[s] Blood Cells / Kletki krovi (R. Mash ~ Nauchfilm)

Kletki krovi is an old soviet educational video about the types of blood cells – actually, it’s a sort of supplement for the medical students’ test designed to help them distinguish between blood cells types.

It’s really nothing all that special – not in the light of tons of documentary and educational resources available to everybody today – but it is sort of curious as to how such videos have been made back in the days, and in the USSR. Also, it shows macrosequences of the blood flow, and of the blood curdling in the wounds, which was kind of interesting to me.

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[s] Brady (John Heeg, 2013)

Brady is a short film about a paraplegic boy and his mother as she starts having feelings for a young man who helps Brady to develop his muscles in the swimming pool.

This is a meaningful, sensible story with context deep and wide enough to make it an important part of life and reality as we know it. It is simple, well though-out and sufficiently detailed. The execution is sublime: all the technical things are implemented in great professional level, and the acting is absolutely wonderful. Highly recommended.

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The Exes (s.04, 2014-15)

The last season of The Exes, that was finished prematurely, features a bunch of different stories, none of them very large. After Haskell blurbs out the words of love, he goes on a date with Nicki, and everything goes pretty fine, but the she sleeps with a random dude, and such is the way a story gets killed. Later Haskell and Nicki behave normally around each other, as if nothing ever happened. Later still Haskell comes up with a startup called Pee Harmony, and Nicky becomes the sole investor; the startup gets sold for a lot of money, – Nicki goes travelling, and Haskell enjoys wealth for a brief period before he looses everything. Holly finds out that she forgot about a pre-booked venue she wanted to get married in, and, instead of taking her advance back, she decides to get married in 6 month. She desperately goes through all the men she knows, and a bunch of them she meets for one time only. Near the end of the designated period she starts dating a congressman, and he even goes forward with her wedding plan, but then she gets taken aback with his overwhelming schedule, and calls everything off. Instead of looking for another guy, she decides to marry herself – an idea everybody around her consider weird, but eventually buy into it nonetheless. She gets through with it, and after that settles for friendship. Eden decides she wants more from life and goes to a law school. Stuarts discovers that he is in fact a terrible cook, but, in pursue of his dream, sells his dental practice and buys a restaurant, in which Holly becomes his partner. However, he gives up the idea of being also a chef, and settle for just management. Phil continues to be a successful sports agent, and as such gets invited to play a part of an agent in a movie opposite a big star – naturally enough, they start dating, but later Phil decides that such a life is not for him. Nicki (who is much less present in this season) comes back from her travels and brings a French girlfriend, which, however, does not last very long. The season’s ending is dedicated to Haskell, who finds out that his ex-wife is re-marrying, realizes that he still has feelings for her, and wins her over in the finale.

Perhaps, the weakest season of the show. The stories gradually become less and less plausible; the humor becomes more and more questionable; and the writing in general acquires absolutely unnecessary qualities of sentimentality and pretentiousness.

The utterly odd idea about marrying to a self gets an entirely separate place in the list of this season’s irregularities. Even though it was sort of used with effect, the writers still failed to completely smooth out its weirdness – on top of which it is also rather ostentatious. Frankly, though, it’s only one of the many inconsistencies this season is filled with.

The execution is normal – there is nothing particularly outstanding about it, but nothing unprofessional either.

It won’t be a terrible idea to watch it, for it does have some entertaining potential, and not one of its components is all that bad; but I get why it was shut down, or, at least, one of the reasons for that decision. All in all, if you were to skip it, while watching all the others, it’s won’t be a big loss.

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Sweet Bird of Youth (Nicolas Roeg, 1989)

Sweet Bird of Youth by Nicolas Roeg is the 2nd in history screen adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. It’s a story about an aging diva, who ran terrified from the premier night of her new film, because she thought everybody would despise her for not being young anymore. She picked a masseuse boy named Chance Wayne for a lover, and went travelling across the country. Shortly the two of them ended up in the Chance’s native town and settled in the most luxurious hotel. Soon enough it turned out that Chance has been using princess Kosmonopolis (after one of her ex-husbands) to get to his true love, a girl named Heavenly. But the reality of the matter was that she was about to marry another guy. Torn between the lost love, his own vanity, the townspeople who despised him for things he did in the past, and the princess who nearly got lost in her own mind, Chance was forced to see his dreams slipping away.

On the one hand, the play is evidently pretty interesting – it has great characters, and the tragedy of elusive youth explored by the author is atemporal, even though the border between youth and whatever follows the youth is gradually shifting over time. The situations described are all quite curious, and their combination seems to work pretty great – at least the story as a whole is internally consistent and produces an impression of a complete work of art. The dialogs are definitely great – after all, they were written by Williams.

However, there is a distinct taste of theater, – mostly in the dialogs, but some of the scenes also bear a subtle gauze of the sister craft. Also, I don’t think the time period was reconstructed by Roeg authentically enough, because some of the episodes look pretty weird – as if the 1920s got somehow mixed with 1960s or something.

And, to tell you the truth, this is not the most exciting story in the world. Although the drama is rather engaging, at times I felt like I’m falling out of the narrative, because it was too even. I’m trying to avoid using word ‘boring’, but it actually was. The drama is way to classical to my overly modern taste.

At the same time, the film is rather well-directed, and the acting is great, especially Taylor (obviously). All in all, it is a curious work, but I don’t think I would want to watch it again.

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[s] Dogmeat / Sobachatina (Kseniya Tischenko, 2017)

Sobachatina is a student’s graduation film based on Zakhar Prilepin’s short story. It’s about three friends from a small provincial town, who met a girl in a commuter train while on their way to another friend’s location. The girl, who turned out to be a student living in a residential project, promised to introduce a few of her friends to the guys, and then left. The boys came to the friend’s house only to find out that he has left; they found a jar of moonshine and decided to host a sort of party; the only thing missing was the meat, and so they started talking about killing one of the stray dogs wandering nearby and cook her on campfire. The youngest of the three didn’t take the possibility very well, and put himself out for a short time with a glass of moonshine; when he woke up the girls were already there, and the meat was already chopped.

This film turned out to be very good, much to my surprise, because it’s quite a rare occasion. The story consists of two primary components: the intended twist with the origin of the meat, which may seem unexpected only to the hero of the story, and the everyday existence of the poor young people in today’s Russia. The latter component is actually the most important one here, for it provides a window to the true reality of life in Russia. As such it is highly authentic and consistent both internally and with everything I personally know about the country (and I do know some things).

The story in general is not very complex, but it is sincere and truthful, which makes it a good one.

The execution is totally superb. The direction is amazing – I’m confident that Kseniya Tischenko has a great talent, and that we may see wonderful things from her. The camerawork is also really good, as are the technical parameters of the implementation (the sound, the post production, etc.). The acting is a highly professional work – there is not even a hint of amateurism anywhere; the casting is excellent; every member of the cast did an outstanding job.

All in all, this is a magnificent work of cinema. Highly recommended.

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Love/Hate (s.04, 2013)

Love/Hate in its 4th season finally started to resemble The Wire (which was why I fell for it in the first place), and at the same time retained its geographical identity. The plot of the season revolves around the struggle between Nigel’s criminal organization and police task force created to take it down. The occasion why the police entered the scene for the first time is Nigel’s operation that involved so-called ‘tiger kidnapping’, which is basically taking hostage a family of a cash-in-transit guard in order to get him to cooperate. Although the operation did not go exactly as planned, Nigel still profited, but more importantly, he draw attention of the police to himself. Which is why they were all over him when he made his next move. In the whorehouse, which Nigel used as an operational base (and whose mistress he banged on the side), he once bumped into a dentist named Andrew, an owner of his own dental firm that was in financial trouble. In a short while Andrew, who found himself in debt to Nigel as well as to the bank, suggested a partnership, and Nigel, who already had some prospects in mind, agreed. In the meantime, Tommy recovered after the severe beating Nigel gave him, but not completely – he lost a share of his cognitive functions, some memories (including that of the beating), and started behaving weirdly. Nevertheless, Nigel made him a part of the hit crew for the cash-in-transit job, but Tommy screwed up and was taken by the police, where he involuntarily mentioned Fran, for which Fran later almost murdered him. In addition, Nigel met the guns dealer, who built the pipe bomb for him, with which he killed Fran’s wife; Nigel panicked and attacked him, but the guy managed to get away. Also, Danno, who harboured a grudge, induced Lizzie to assassin Nigel; she failed to do so, but the occasion introduced her companion, a fierce and ruthless schoolboy, and later he briefly became part of Nigel’s crew. All these storylines intertwined creating a rather diverse and rich story.

Additionally to the police involvement into the story, the show acquired a sort of melancholic, meditative even, quality, which was the second thing that made it somewhat similar to The Wire. Other than that this is the same crude, brutal, violent tale of Irish crime life it was from the beginning, and pretty much as nicely executed as in season 3, i.e. better than in first 2 seasons.

I like the violence that seems to be an intrinsic part of the story, and the fact that it develops more or less logically (I didn’t quite get why Nigel decided to get rid of the kid, though). The police side is a timely addition, no doubt, but at the same time no very elaborated. There were some details, for sure, but the scale still worked in favour of the crime side, about whose players we know virtually everything. I sort of liked the turn Tommy’s story took, although some points were odd, and also it gave way for return of sentimentality, now emanating from Siobhan. I also liked the affair Nigel had with the madam and the fact that it ended with him coming back to Trish. Generally speaking, it seems like Carolan evolved significantly with his writing.

The execution is more or less the same, nothing even to talk about. I mean, it’s way better than in the first two seasons, but hardly any different from the 3rd, which was okay.

All in all, the season is pretty good; so far I see more reasons to continue (and finish it off) than to abandon it half-way.

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Zelig (Woody Allen, 1983)

Zelig is, perhaps, one of the first mockumentaries ever made. It’s a story about Leonard Zelig, a semi-famous person of the 1920s, who became a celebrity thanks to his ability to adapt to the environment: when put beside black people he himself became black, when surrounded by orthodox Hebrews, he acquired their traits, when put next to an overweight person, he gained hundreds of pounds of additional weight himself, etc. Medical specialists, Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher being the first among them, were fascinated by the Zelig phenomenon, and eventually came to the conclusion that it’s all about psychology, i.e. Leonard developed his ability as a means to merge with environment, sort of like a chameleon does – which is what Zelig was being called by the media. With time dr. Eudora managed to cure Leonard of his condition, and fell in love with him along the way – as did he with her. But it wasn’t until he fled to the nazi Germany from the numerous lawsuits that they were united in holly matrimony and lived happily till the end of their days.

The story, as well as the idea itself, bears the characteristic brand of Woody Allen’s humor – somewhat crude, silly, but funny and amazingly consistent. The film parodies documentary portraits of the time, imitating the genre with great precision and quality. It’s full of details that make the story seem plausible, including those related to the era under scrutiny, and it’s only the ridiculousness of the core concept that gives it away. I suppose, a suggestible person with little knowledge of physics and/or history could even believe the whole thing to be true.

The execution is absolutely superb. The film indeed looks like a collection of documentary evidence of the corresponding times, i.t. the 1920s, – there is even a couple of pieces of a 1935 movie based on the ‘actual’ events! Truly, the level of detail is astonishing, as well as other means of making it seem believable, like the styling of the image and the offscreen narration. The acting is pretty great also – although, to be frank, it doesn’t seem all that important of an element against the background of everything else.

All in all, this is a very entertaining movie, even now, almost 35 years after it was made, and it is also a highly curious work of cinema – and not just as the mockery of clichés ad wooden cinematic techniques, but as a progenitor of a genre that would conquer the world some 20 years later.

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[s] Whistle (Simon Berry, 2015)

Whistle is a short horror film about a woman who was doing her laundry in the basement, when she suddenly heard a whistle in the adjacent garage (or something). Not curious enough at first, eventually she does go there to check, which is where she gets jumped at – as expected.

Besides the 100% predictability of the story – if you even can call it that, – there is also another cliché in place – the unfathomable behaviour of the character. Why didn’t she get back as soon as the lights went off? Why didn’t she left the door opened and blocked? The science will never know. Plus, the ambiguity as to who jumped her – was it a maniac, was it a monster – does not play well into the general quality of the film. Not recommended, even though the execution is more than decent (especially acting).

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[s] Pizza Verdi (Gary Nadeau, 2011)

Pizza Verdi is a short film about a guy, who walks into an apartment holding a pizza in his hands. He takes an expensive watch lying on the stand, as well as the money, and then he hears a girl singing somewhere deep into the premises. He takes a kitchen knife and goes to check.

The director tries hard to cheat the audience into believing that the character is just a delivery boy, and then he suddenly turns out to be the host, which, I suppose, serves as a sort of story twist, although it’s hard to express how lame it is. Besides the fact that it’s shallow and uninteresting, it also provides for such inconsistency as the heedlessness of the kitchen knife. If the guy indeed was a host and knew full well about his guest, why would he even grab it?

On the other hand, the execution is not half bad: the camerawork is decent, the acting is pretty good, and the post production seems to be a good work also. Still, even combined those things do not make up for the silliness of the story.

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This is Desmondo Ray! (s.01, 2017)

This is Desmondo Ray! is a tiny series about an animated man named Desmondo Ray living in the world on non-animated people. He lived in the house with his father until the fire destroyed it and put the father in the hospital. He loves peeing in the rain, he hates magicians and smell of burnt hair. He’s 33 and 2/3 years old, and more than anything he wants to find love. He even made a dating tape – but nobody reacted to it, except for some pranksters. One time he met Clementine, his father’s nurse, and felt some connection between them. And then one day a girl named Chelsea called him, and they went on a date.

The concept seems a bit weird at first, but then you kind of grow into it – for it was ‘strangers in the house’ in the 2nd episode. The character – who is the basis for all the tiny stories – is quite cognizable: if you’re not that kind of person, you are likely to know at least one. He is weak, and kind, and soft, and non-threatening, even though he looks weird. His desperate quest for love is also something rather common – and yet the show is not at all banal, or hackneyed. In fact, thanks to the concept and the execution it is refreshingly original.

The animation, most of which is masterfully embedded into non-animated reality, is pretty great – I like how vivid and at the same time not flashy it is. There is a great deal of nice humor saturating the story – it’s not intrusive, truly funny in places, and also rather original.

All in all, this is a highly unusual cinematic project that is also interesting and amusing. I highly recommend it.

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[s] Long Live the Kings (Clement Beauvais, 2012)

Long Live the Kings is a short film that can be a documentary, or not, about three bikers friends taking up a journey from somewhere to somewhere else. As they drive through places, taking rest, having fun, etc, the offscreen narrator tells about how cool it is to ride a bike (or whatever).

The film seems to be of very little value, be that of documentary, or artistic. It’s not very entertaining, as there is no story; it’s not exactly enlightening, as it doesn’t tell anything everybody else does not know already; and its execution is simply alright – there are no particular blunders, but nothing special about it also. Not recommended.

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[s] Sausage (Robert Grieves, 2014)

Sausage is an animated comedy short about two local food vendor competing with mass production and eventually coming up with a brand new product.

I guess, it’s somewhat amusing, but to me it seemed utterly ridiculous and crude. The animation is childish, and the story is simplistic, if not primitive. Even as an entertainment it’s bound to be short-living. All these things make it not worth the time. NOT recommended.

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Stoker (Chan-wook Park, 2013)

Stoker by Chan-wook Park is a drama about a young girl named India. On the day she turned 18 her father got into an accident and died, but managed to leave her a mysterious key for a birthday present before than happened. A few days later, at his funeral, her uncle Charlie shows up out of the blue after so many years of absence than only the oldest servants in the house even remembered him. Gradually Charlie becomes an essential part of India’s life, sometimes imposing himself on her, as well as on her mother, a bit too much. But it’s not until later, when India finds the lock into which the key is supposed to go, when she finds out the truth about her father’s and Charlie’s childhood, a grave tragedy hidden in there, as well as the truth about the accident.

To tell you the truth, the description above makes me kind of sad – because although it reflects some of the story details correctly, it fails to convey the essence of it, the atmosphere and the beauty, anywhere close to the source; and I can’t get it better!

The reality of the matter is that this film is an absolute work of art, a breathtaking, immensely powerful story of life and death. The story, which might seem odd, if not weird, to many people, is actually a poem, with characters beautiful and strange the way exotic flowers could be; and not everybody can get a poem.

The execution of this beauty is astonishing to the degree where words cease to mean anything at all; the acting and the editing in particular deserve a Nobel Prize – if such a prize could’ve ever been given, of course. Everything in this film every component is not only perfect in and of itself, but also fits flawlessly with all the others. The combination of all the little pieces this movie consists of results in a work utterly impeccable.

There is no other way to put it: this is masterpiece. Chan-wook Park is a living genius, if the only thing he’d ever created was this film, that would’ve been enough to make his name immortal.

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[s] Mikhail Ugarov. Theater.Doc (Galina Sinkina, 2002)

Mikhail Ugarov. Theater.Doc is a documentary short about Mikhail Ugarov, a playwright and the creator and manager of Theater.Doc, a prominent phenomenon in Russia’s theater life. Mikhail himself, as well as members of his family, talks about themselves and, curiously, about their respective future deaths, which was a sort of project of his.

It’s not very good. Even if Ugarov was an outstanding personality, you won’t get this kind of impression from this film. He does seem like an interesting person, sure, but that is hardly enough, not in this case. The thing with future afterlife experience, an imaginary experiment, is curious and a little bit weird.

As per execution, the film also fails to correspond with the expectations: basically, it’s a collection of talking heads, which is the worst kind of documentary. All in all, it seems like Ugarov deserves better than this.

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[s] Billy Boys (Fraser Rigg, 2015)

Billy Boys is a short action story about a criminal interaction between a gunseller and a leader of a hit squad, during which the trader sells the gangster a bunch of 3D-printed guns, and subsequent hit with the use of those guns.

Basically, this film is about the future that is today, because the production of easy to get rid of plastic guns is not a distinct possibility anymore, but a very plausible reality. A rather menacing one, I might add, although I’m sure the reality would balance itself out as it usually does. But the Rigg’s take into the changing world is pretty impressive nonetheless. The film is very well-produced, with fine acting and great special effects that do not overshadow the story itself. All in all, I liked it a lot. Recommended.

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The Missing (s.01, 2014)

In the 1st installment of The Missing the story of the Hughes family is told. Tony, his wife Emily, and their son Oliver (Olly) went to France for a vacation, but on their way to the actual destination were forced to stay in the town of Châlons du Bois when their car broke down. A day later Olly disappeared. The narrative of the show consists of scenes from various timelines, most important of which the 2006 timeline, when the event took place, and the 2014 timeline, when Tony returns to Châlons du Bois after he comes across a new piece of evidence. Besides Olly’s parents, other major characters in the story are inspector Julien Baptiste, a famous detective who had only a few days left until his retirement, and who proved to be a tremendous help to Tony Hughes’ search, even though the initial investigation did not produce any significant results; Mark Walsh, an English detective, who had his holiday in Châlons De Bois in 2006 and got heavily involved first with the case, and later with Emily, when her marriage with Tony shattered; Ian Garrett, a wealthy Englishman, who offered a significant reward for anyone able to help with the investigation; Malik Suri, a career-driven journalist from England; Vincent Bourg, a convicted sex-offender, who desperately wanted to be cured of his disease; Khalid Ziane, an aggressive police detective with murky past; Georges Deloix, a judge and later mayor of the town; Rini Dalca, a Romanian expat with ties to a criminal organization; and others. As the story unfolds, many things, most of them ugly, come to the surface of reality, even if not exactly connected with Olly’s disappearance.

In many ways resembling the first season of Broadchurch, The Missing still manages to become its own thing: a thick mixture of English and French, finely cut into small pieces, often without any transitions, nor distinctive differences between the timelines, diving head first into some very intense and controversial issues, such as pedophilia and vigilantism, and seasoned with great writing and powerful acting.

The story, from its starting point to the outcome, with a crazy number of interim stops, is very well thought-through; moreover, it is presented in a way that the unfolding of the story is incredibly interesting to follow, because some new pieces are added to the puzzle with each episode. And in the end it all seems to sum up to something very coherent and plausible, which is of great importance also. The dialogs, of course, are fine, and the evolution of the characters, as well as of their relationships is absolutely astonishing.

The direction is rather great, which, I’m sure, was not an easy task – because of the bilingualism and everything. The execution otherwise is a highly professional work, with every component, every detail being on its proper place. The camerawork is particularly great, resulting in some truly great views. The acting, as was mentioned, is amazing; most of the actors had to show at least two very different states of a same character, and all of them managed it brilliantly.

All in all, it was a great pleasure to watch this series. I believe, it’s a wonderful work of cinema, and hope that the 2nd installment would be as good. As for this one, I highly recommend it.

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[b] Principles (Ray Dalio, 2017)

Ray Dalio “is an American billionaire investor, hedge fund manager, and philanthropist. Dalio is the founder of investment firm Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds.” In his book, titled ‘Principles‘, Dalio articulates the principles (surprising, right?) that allowed him to become the man he is today, as well as to build one of the most successful businesses in the world. The book includes three parts, the first is author’s autobiography, the second enumerates his principles related to life in general, and the third, the largest part, expounds the principles related to business and management.

Thankfully, both principles parts have a short and a long versions. Personally, I read only a part of the autobiography (then I got bored and moved on), personal principles completely, and the brief variant of the working principles.

The autobiography part is optional; the author himself encourages the reader to skip it if he sees fit. From what I managed to read some lessons could be drawn, but all in all there’s too much water.

The other two parts are the complete opposite: there is no water at all, it is basically a manual for a person to go by in life as well as in work, at that which principles to abide and which to ignore is entirely at a person’s discretion; it’s not a rigid system where you take all, or take none – it’s a flexible set of parameters that can be adapted to a particular person or particular situation.

All the things Dalio writes in the personal principles part I managed to come to on my own, meaning he makes a lot of sense all in all. For me it wasn’t much use, for reason stated above, but it would definitely be of great interest to many other people, for all the author’s statements are not only correct and useful, but well formulated and quite precise, too. That being said, I’m not sure they could be perceived fully by a person, whose life experience does not allow him or her to comprehend those things; I have a suspicion that simply reading those principles on paper won’t make a lot of difference by itself, other than, perhaps, providing the reader with a guidebook – but then again, it should be taken seriously for that to happen.

As for the working principles, most of them have to do with building a successful company, which in Dalio’s opinion, basically comes down to creating a proper corporate atmosphere, and chosing the right people. He writes a lot about both these things, as well as some others – this 3rd part is the largest in the book. I read only a short version of it, for I have nowhere to apply those thing at the current moment, but even from that I could tell that here Dalio, too, makes a lot of sense. In fact, I believe, this book can be generally used by achieving businessmen who want to build an efficiently working mechanism of a company.

At the same time reading this book won’t be a lot of fun – although written in vivid, breathing language, it’s way too practical to enjoy. In other words, it’s an instrument, not a source of knowledge.

P.S.: Russian translation of the book kind of sucks. Clearly, the translator was rushed into producing the result, and that affected the quality of the text very much negatively. It’s still readable, though, so – recommended (only to be used for intended purpose).

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[s] Black Sands (Dugan O’Neal, 2010)

Black Sands is a symbolical short film about some people in the desert and what seems to be their hallucinations. I think there is some implied deep meaning behind the nonsense I saw on the screen, but I didn’t get it.

So the story did seem like a complete rubbish to me, if there is a story at all. The execution is pretty impressive, especially all the special effects, but I do not watch short film for their special effects, and beside that there’s only a bit of acting, which is also alright, and that’s it. By the end of the film I felt tense and uncomfortable, mostly because I couldn’t comprehend what the hell is all this about. NOT recommended.

Names and figures

From Dusk Till Dawn (Robert Rodriguez, 1996)

From Dusk Till Dawn is a legendary film by Robert Rodriguez based on the screenplay by Robert Tarantino. It is a story of two brothers – Richard and Seth Gekko – who, while being fugitives from the law on account of committing multiple murders, ran into a family of three – Jacob, a former priest whose faith has shaken, and his two children, Kate and Scott, – and decided to use their house-on-wheels as a means of getting into Mexico, where they were supposed to meet with a man, who promised them safe and happy life in exchange for a percentage of their loot. Not without some adventures, but all five of them managed to cross the border after all, but it’s when they arrived to a rendezvous point, a bar called Titty Twister, open dusk till dawn, because it turned out to be a honey pot of the vampire nest headed by Santanico Pandemonium.

Over the years the acquired a cult status and, unlike many similar cases, this time there was a good reason for it. First of all, there is a story in the core of everything, that is not only extremely well-written, but is also curiously constructed: it consists of two parts that are stunningly different from each other, but with the second flowing directly out of the first without any friction whatsoever. For a mystical action it is highly unusual to allow for actual manifestations of the supernatural so late in the story, and, perhaps, this is exactly what makes the film so attractive – it seems to break some of the most important rules of film dramaturgy, and yet remains extremely interesting and coherent.

The dialogs – which are also a part of the writing – are light and easy, and filled with obscenities – and that is also sort of alluring, but of course wouldn’t be so if not for Tarantino’s masterful use of English language.

Then, of course, there’s the cast, – it’s what I call power cast, because it is basically packed with loud names: almost all major characters are played by actors whose achievements and skill earned them impenetrable reputation, which remains true to this day, more than 20 years later. Naturally enough, all of them do a great job.

Now, surely the supernatural component of the movie is a trashy one, meaning it was intentionally done to look cheap and gruesome, sort of resembling B-rate movies both Rodriguez and Tarantino are so fond of. And it does look unpretty, that’s true, but to tell you the truth, I would prefer this trash to the glamorous and revolting vampires of this story reincarnated in Rodriguez’s series (2014-2016) of the same name. At least this version seems to be vivid, full of life, as ironic as it may sound.

This is not the first time I’m watching this film – I was astonished by it many times, first of which was pretty early in my cinema game. Now I verified my impression, and can say with absolute certainty that this is an extremely worthy work of cinema that is bound to make an imprint on the history of the craft. Highly recommended.

Names and figures

[s] Revolver (Bergqvist, Ekstrand, Odell & Ohlson, 1994)

Revolver is a weird abstract animation about… well, it’s abstract, so who the hell know what it’s about. Some people say it’s about the flow of time, or something like that, but I’m not sure.

Quite frankly, it is pretty uncomfortable to watch. It consists of a number of looped sequences shaped under the same stylistic manner, which is minimalistic and a bit disturbing. Naturally, there isn’t any narrative, and the overall flow of the movie is somewhat unpleasant, albeit impressive at the same time. By the end of the film I felt like it does sum up to something, but that feeling went away almost immediately. I was left with my thoughts in disarray and no idea what I just saw.

Names and figures

[s] Dark Area: This Is Love / Rayon tmy: Eto Lyubov (Arseniy Gonchukov, 2016)

Eto Lyubov is the fist episode of the Dark Area horror webseries. It’s a short story about a family couple. He is weak and needy; she hates him for that. He wants them to stay together; she wants to get away from him. He begs her to come back; she blows off the fist stranger to show him how impossible it is.

It’s pretty much obvious from the start that one of the heroes would end up murdered by the other. However, the development of the story as well as its execution make watching the movie absolutely worthwhile. Although I do have some issues with the plot (husband’s being such a nonentity is slightly exaggerated; the outcome could’ve been more marked), I cannot but admire the boldness of the dialogs and the strength of the direction. The acting is totally amazing, too. All in all, the quality of execution is mind-blowing. Highly recommended (but not to prudes).

Names and figures

The Exes (s.03, 2013-14)

In the 3rd season of The Exes, which is as long as the two previous seasons together, Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Paul because of the mistrust that appeared between them on account of Holly’s too close friendship with the guys. She goes through a number of boyfriends over the course of the season, including a very young man, who was looking to find a substitute for his mother, her old professor (in every sense of the word), and a french guy, who treated her as a hooker. She also was promoted to a senior partner in her firm. Phil was fired from his job when he made a similar request, and went on to open his own company. Him and Eden started dating each other – secretly at first, and later in the open, – but that didn’t last very long, and soon they went their separate ways, both playing the field. Stuart’s sister Nicki divorced her husband, who turned out to be gay, and became a significant part of her brother’s life: at first she just crushed at his place for a short while, later she briefly worked as his assistant, but then found her own job as a bartender, and settled nearby. Haskell became very fond of her. Also, Stuart dated a devious woman named Sabrina, and later met her twin sister, an angel in the flesh, but blew it. Eden inherited a dog that was larger than herself. Holly went into on-line dating (after the push from the guys). Haskell reconnected with his ex-wife, who got into an accident and lost her memory. Stuart got a bad Yelp review and wasted a lot of time chasing the person who left it. Everybody attends Paul’s wedding. Phil got included in the Top 10 Most Eligible Bachelor list. Stuart said goodbye to his old house. Phil slept with a nun. Holly got sick. Phil went to the funeral of his old coach. Finally, Haskell and Phil did not get vasectomy.

This season gave a feeling that the show’s writers are able to produce only this much humor, and it will be more or less evenly distributed across the season no matter how many episodes it has. Which means, that a 10-episodes season would be generally funnier than a 20-episodes one. I mean, is generally funnier.

At that the overall quality of the show remained at give or take the same level. There are still a lot of moments that would make you laugh, albeit those that would make you only smile are more numerous, and a number of those that won’t produce any sort of effect at all have also increased. But at least the characters are still good and loveable, and the same goes to the guest stars.

The stories that last for longer than one episode kind of keep the show together, and it’s nice there were a decent amount of them, but I still wish each of them would last longer. I feel like Paul was removed from the show not because it naturally followed from the evolution of the story, but for some external reason.

The presence of Nicki, the Stuart’s sister, (played by Leah Remini) was significantly increased in the latter half of the season to compensate for Kristen Johnston’s absence – it was about that time that she was diagnosed with some horrid disease and had to receive treatment for it; at that it seems like she took her commitment to the show pretty seriously – you would barely notice that she’s gone, and in a number of episodes her illness was written into the show (although not always very subtly).

My general impression is that though the quality is still very decent, it is slowly declining – maybe dissolved in a large amount of screen time, maybe for other reasons. By the end of the season the cheerful disposition of the narrative was kind of giving me a headache, which ones again makes me think that doubling the number of episodes was probably not the best idea.

Names and figures

[s] Stray (Andrew Atteberry, 2012)

Stray is an animated short about an operator of the solar collection unit (a tiny island high in the sky gathering solar energy), and a weird mechanical dog that one day fell on the unit from above.

Although the story is clearly intended as cute and cheerful, for me it raises more questions than it gives answers. Why does the unit needs an operator in the first place? What does he do there all day? What does he eat? Where from did the package with the dog inside came? What is that dog? Who made it? What’s it purpose? Why the operator didn’t ask himself these questions? Why the operator was so stupid that to throw the wrench knowing how small is his island’s territory? Why does he use a wrench as his primary instrument?

It’s clear that the story is very poorly thought-through, and because of this is of very little interest. The animation is bright and rather well detailed, but, frankly, who cares. The film is an exploitation of the basic human appreciation of friendship, a very crude one. Waste of time.

Names and figures

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