Author Archive: shoomow

[s] Heart (Erick Oh, 2010)

Heart by Erick Oh is a surreal animated short about a fierce competition of humanoid creatures for a heart.

Whatever symbolism there may be, it quickly dissipates under the pressure of the action, which is wild and weird and absolutely awesome. I can’t even imagine how a person could come up with a story like this, and develop all the fine details of it so elegantly. Although it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the traditional meaning of the word, it is internally consistent and stylistically impeccable. The animation is extremely interesting – it is very well done, of course, and has its own, very strong character.

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[s] Vicious (Oliver Park, 2015)

Vicious is a short horror about a woman, who comes home to find that her door is unlocked. She checks the house, but doesn’t find anything unusual. Then she gets haunted by her recently deceased friend (or relative.)

This is a dumb kind of horror. For one thing, there is no kind of substantiation for the story – things happen just because. Secondly, it remains unclear whether it is ghosts we’re dealing with, or some sort of monsters, or maybe something else entirely. Finally, the main heroine behaves like a stupid fucking moron, which, naturally, adds a specific allure to the whole thing. It may be a little scary – but only because some things happen suddenly, while the context is too poor to make any difference.

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The Tree of Wooden Clogs / L’albero degli zoccoli (Ermanno Olmi, 1978)

L’albero degli zoccoli is the story about several families living in an Italian village at the end of the 19th century. It focuses on the challenges of rural life, details of the everyday existence in the context of pre-industrialized village, telling stories that, although small and seemingly insignificant on their own, sum up into a complex and intricate narrative of life. A family is compelled to let their son to go to school at the cost of him not helping around the house anymore; a young girl gets courted by a young man from a neighbouring village, an outsider; all the villagers gather together in the evening to listen to fairy tales one of their dwellers comes up almost in process; a man has to cut down a tree that doesn’t belong to him to mend his son’s broken shoe – this last one results in quite a profound conflict, for another man gets blamed for the deed and is threatened to be expelled.

At first the narrative seems like a mash of everyday circumstances and minor details that create a consistent and comprehensive of the picture of the corresponding community and the corresponding time period, but don’t seem to constitute a story per se. However, as the narrative develops, certain storylines do start to appear, the further the clearer, with a double culmination first in the storyline with the courtship that progresses to a wedding and subsequent trip to Milan and return home; and then in the storyline with the schoolboy and his unfortunate shoe (clog). In other words, the film gets more interesting as the story evolves, which happens rather slowly, I might add.

Authenticity is, perhaps, the strongest side of the movie, for the people, their relationship, events happening to them – all these things look incredibly plausible and consistent with the era described. The acting is completely matched with the concept – there are no particular bright performances as there are no bright personalities, but the combined effort of the cast creates a powerful and meaningful picture.

Although it seems a bit odd in the beginning that this film received Palm d’Or in 1978, by the finale the merits that allowed for it do not raise any doubt anymore. This is, indeed, an outstanding work of art, a rather uncommon and powerful movie.

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[s] One Please (Jesse Burks, 2014)

One Please is a surreal horror short about an ice-cream van guy who accepts only human fingers as payment for the popsicles.

This one is pretty weird, and no so much scary as impressive. Not least because the execution is so perfect – both the technical side of things and the acting produce an impression of highly professional, fascinating in its quality work. Of course, some additional context would’ve been nice, but even as such the story offers some deep and sinister implications, which seems to be enough. All in all, this is a very curious movie.

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[s] Next Door (Drew Mylrea, 2014)

Next Door is a sci-fi short film about the version of the US future when martial law has been declared over part of the country’s territory due to heightened domestic terrorists’ activity. A young man happens to live next door to a very beautiful girl, who turns out to be a member of the rebellious organization called Destiny: after her partner has been killed right in their front yard, the young man joins the organization simply because he has a huge crush on the girl. Together they prepare bombing device, but on their way to the mission target the girl gets shot. Now the young man has to finish the mission – but would he really?

This is actually a really great movie. The story is interesting and strong; the incentives of the characters are plausible and easy to buy; the development and – especially – the finale is quite tremendous. The context to it is wide and deep enough to create a comprehensive, full-fledged picture of the state of society and circumstances of life in it. The film in general produces an impression of thoroughly consistent through-out.

The execution is superb. The acting in particular is wonderful, as well as the special effects and the general organization of the action; in other words, the direction is pretty great here. All in all, it’s a great story – entertaining and artistic at the same time.

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A.P. Bio (s.01, 2018)

A. P. Bio is a comedy show about Jack Griffin, a scholar and philosopher, who had an incident on account of his lack of self-control, was fired from his job and basically banished from profession. After that he returned to his native town of Toledo, Ohio, where he found a job as a biology teacher in Whitlock high school. He made it clear to his students that he’s not going to teach them any biology; instead, he dedicated most of his time, personal as well as working, to various plans aimed at disrupting life of Miles Leonard, a successful philosopher and head of corresponding department in Stanford, whom Jack considers his nemesis. Over time, however, and his destructive attitude notwithstanding, Jack comes to care for the children he becomes responsible for – even though he only shows it occasionally and only in his own, uniquely insolent way. The reflections of his existence, as well as participation with other characters, constitute the narrative fabric of the show, which characters include his students (Heather, Sarika, Devin, Marcus and others), fellow teachers (Stef, Mary, Michele), the school principal Ralph Durbin, Jack’s ex-girlfriend Meredith, whom he continuously tries to win back, and some others.

Totally loved it. Refreshingly alive and provocative comedy with a great number of amazing characters, the best of whom are the children (my personal favourite is Heather), and extremely interesting network of relationships between them, fascinating not only on the conceptual level, but in development as well. The common plot is a bit jerky in a sense that the primary story driver (i.e. Jack) constantly lashes from one extreme to another, but it doesn’t make the story any less consistent or entertaining. Most of the small stories stay within the general concept while being complete and full-featured at the same time – although, I have to say, I wish some of the minor characters that only appeared once, would be used more, – then again, it doesn’t really influence the quality of the show as a whole.

The execution is just wonderful. There are, of course, no problems with the technical side of things – it all looks pretty much flawless. As for the cast and acting – everything is absolutely amazing. Howerton is a 100% hit, perfect for the part; all the children are awesome (but some are awesomer); all in all, there is not a single mismatched character, and not a single miscasted actor.

To put it shorter, this is an amazing comedy, and I enjoyed it very much. I don’t think everybody would be able to fully appreciate it, but if the first episode would hit your funny nerve, you would surely savor it as much as I have.

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[s] Alone Time (Rod Blackhurst, 2013)

Alone Time is a short film about a girl, who gets overloaded with her job, and decides to get away for a weekend. So she goes camping somewhere on a distant lake; she puts up her tent and takes some photos, she swims in the lake, and spends the night there. After returning home and having the photos developed, she discovers something disturbing.

Frankly, the film is way too long and way too slow for a twist that subtle. Moreover, I saw it coming from miles afar, so there was nothing really surprising there. The execution, however, is pretty good – unfortunately, it doesn’t bring up the value of the story, which remains mediocre even if taking into account the feasibility of it.

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[s] Brentwood Strangler (John Fitzpatrick, 2015)

Brentwood Strangler is a horror short about a serial killer by the nickname of – you guess it – Brentwood Strangler, who almost gets caught while burying his most recent victim. He manages to flee, and breaks into a house of a man, who looks roughly like him, and who happens to be getting ready for a blind date. The strangler knocks out the master of the house and goes to the date instead of him. Things go weirdly well with the girl, and their night ends in her bedroom, the actual intercourse brings to the surface the darkest essence of both partners.

This is a pretty great story – dark and at the same time refreshingly original. Apart from some minor drawbacks (like the implementation of the eyeballs being squeezed out) it is incredibly well done. The dialogs, for one thing, are quite amazing – and same goes for the acting, and the direction in general. All in all, a wonderful, strong specimen of the maniac murderers genre.

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Family Business (Sidney Lumet, 1989)

Family Business is the story about representatives of three generations of one family: son Adam is a highly promising young man with talents in science, but interest in elsewhere; his father Vito, a successful businessman running a butchering company, who, however, hates his job; and grandfather Jessie, a petty criminal and con artist. Adam received a very good education, but recently bailed out of a certain scholarship because his heart was in a different place. He comes by a scheme – a fancy burglary, basically, – which in case of success could bring him $1 million, but, seeing that he can’t pull it by himself, brings in Jessie, who has been estranged from his family due to multiple past issues, and, later, his father Vito as well, of whom he learns that he had a criminal career also. The three of them devise a plan, but things do not go very well – because of Adam’s inexperience he makes a mistake that leads to him being captured. The following development brings to the surface all the old quarrels and mutual grievances, and it bound to change the history of this family forever.

I really loved it. The story is pretty deep and also quite original, it was truly interesting to watch it unfold – at that, some of the developments were quite surprising, or better say unexpected, because this film is not about surprising with twist and turns, but about deeply ingrained family issues, and pain and suffering related to them.

The execution is superb: the direction is smooth and professional, as can be expected from Lumet, but not without his personal style, although it could be hard to detect because it’s pretty subtle. The acting is one of the strongest suits of this movie – both Hoffman and Connery are doing mind-boggling job here, and Broderick does not fall far behind. If anything, the cast and their acting should be a whole reason to watch the film, for they are highly enjoyable even without taking the story into consideration.

All in all, this is a strong, powerful in places, film, that seems polished and mellow on the outside, but is filled with high quality drama.

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[s] Lagomorph: The Destructor (John Fitzpatrick, 2009)

Lagomorph: The Destructor is a trash action short about a pizza delivery boy who once encounters a weird person dressed as a bunny puppet. He (or she?) offers him large amounts of money for driving him (or her) to specific addresses, where the bunny slaughters everyone he could find.

There is not a lot of sense to the story – things just happen, for no particular reason, with no particular consequences. Basically, it’s an ode to sheer violence. The execution is quite lame – the direction is unbalanced, the acting sucks, and all in all the film produces an impression of a low-quality amateurism.

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[s] Mack Blaster – The World in the Crosshairs / Die Welt im Fadenkreuz (René Schweitzer, Sebastian Utech, 2014)

Mack Blaster – The World in the Crosshairs is a trash action short set in some kind of post-apocalyptic universe with definite notes of western. Mack Blaster is a ruthless headhunter and murderer; when he comes by a reward ad for one of his competitors – Mack Man aka The Butcher – he gets enraged and does everything to prove that he is better, – by eliminating everyone who stays on his way.

The film is some kind of parody on Mad Max (maybe) made by the german-speaking team. It’s a kind of trash that tries to also be funny – there are moments there obviously intended as jokes here and there. However, none of them are very funny. The action component is a little better, although belongs entirely in the trash genre, which makes it second-grade (at best). The story is, of course, half-ridiculous and half-nasty, not to mention complete lack of taste. The execution is corresponding, even though it looks quite professional.

All in all, may be good to kill off a few minutes, but this is definitely not my kind of treat.

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The Americans (s.01, 2013)

The Americans is a period spy drama. It is set in the 1980s, and tells a story of struggle between the US counterintelligence (corresponding department of the FBI) and the soviet spies, in particular – the couple of deeply planted undercover agents, Elizabeth (original name Nadezhda) and Phillip (original name Mikhail) Jennings, who pose as an ordinary american family couple for several decades already, and have provided themselves with children over this time – daughter Page, now 13 years old, and younger son Henry. The story takes off when, together with a third sleeper agent Robert, kidnap a soviet defector. Due to certain complications, they failed to dispatch him overseas as planned, and were forced to kill him; the act resulted in president’s special order giving the counterintelligence unit in the FBI some extraordinary powers. Approximately at the same time a newly appointed agent of that unit, Stan, moves in the house next to the Jennings, and the two families eventually become friendly. From that moment forward a dangerous and extremely complicated game commences, involving not only the already mentioned characters, but many others, including Elizabeth’s recruit and long-time lover Gregory, who takes part in many delicate operations with his gang of drug dealers; Nina, a soviet embassy employee recruited by Stan; Claudia, a newly appointed handler for the Jennings, with whom she does not exactly get along; Martha, a secretary in the FBI’s counterintelligence field office, who gets seduced by Phillip; Arcady, the resident of the Soviet Union in Washington, Nina’s direct boss; Amador, one of the FBI agents, who fancied Martha and got killed almost accidentally by the Jennings, which became a significant factor in the development of events. At the same time as they did various assignments as to their duty, the Jennings are living through a difficult period in their lives, when they suddenly started re-thinking the essence of their marriage: it was a fake from the get-go, for both of them, but their attitudes towards each other were different, and started further changing under the pressure of circumstances. As the situation around them evolved, things became more and more complicated, including with their children, who were deeply hurt when their parents separated (but kept on working together). The finale of the season is build around the special operation of the american agency aimed at uncovering the sleeper agents, a highly threatening situation for the Jennings.

As far as I can judge – and I think that my experience allows to judge quite objectively – The Americans is a quality period drama with nearly all components of its composition being authentic and /or executed on high level of professionalism. The story is an exquisitely balanced patchwork of drama and action that makes it deeply engaging and extremely interesting to follow. The russian aka soviet people are an important part of this narrative, and most of the related stuff is not only good but quite amazing; of course, the speaking skills of the lead actors are not exactly great, but that unfortunate trifle is compensated more than well with inclusion of actual russians in the cast – and important parts, at that, – as well as people, such as Annet Mahendru (Nina), whose russian language knowledge is pretty close to perfection.

Another important thing about this story is that there is no wooden dualism here, as was characteristic for the hollywood perception of the Eastern European nations for many decades: instead, the conflict of the forces is shown with an idea in mind that both sides did (and were willing to do) horrible things in the name of their respective missions, and that people on both sides are just that – ordinary people, who make mistakes and, though extremely smart and skilled, can let their emotions drive their decision-making at certain points. This approach is truly laudable, for it makes the narration seem and feel inherently plausible.

The execution is really good. There are no mishaps to be mentioned on the technical side of things – it all looks very good, very professional. The image seems to be somewhat discolored, probably to fit the ‘period’ in question (but it also may have been a technical peculiarity of the quality of the video files available to me.) The cast, as was mentioned, is quite outstanding – many and many of the actors deserve high praises, maybe even all of them, but in particular I would like to single out Keri Russell, who is just mind-blowing; of course, Matthew Rhys – however, he reminds me of Zach Braff, and that kind of disconcerts me a little bit; Annet Mahendru, who is just as talented as she is beautiful; and Noah Emmerich and Margo Martindale, neither of whom require addtional introductions.

All in all, this was a tremendous pleasure, and I’m really looking forward to the following seasons.

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[s] Lone Walker (Benjamin Nelan, 2014)

Lone Walker is a philosophical short, set presumably in The Walking Dead universe of discourse. It’s an attempt to recreate the thinking of a dead walker, a girl strayed from her family and injured by a zombie.

Kudos to trying: the attempt is surely curious and original enough – that is, if you believe that any kind of thinking is even possible in a situation presented. The problem is that the idea is not exactly plausible (which matters for me), and that the execution is also far from perfect. Specifically, the acting is quite mediocre, but more importantly – the overall mood and tone of the movie is close to melodramatic. All in all, not the most interesting and not the most worthwhile movie.

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[s] Infinite Nightmare (Domonic Smith, 2013)

Infinite Nightmare is an existential short film about a man suffering from recurring nightmare, where in his search for his girlfriend he is pursued by a monster, as well as by a number of persistent images and situations.

This is 3rd Domonic Smith’s film about the workings of a dying mind – obviously the subject is of great interest to him. Of the three attempts (other two are Eye of the Storm and Van) this one is the most boring and the least balanced. It is way too long and, due to the lack of the attractions variety and groundlessly delayed unveiling, is unable to maintain viewer’s interest for the whole time, i.e. it quickly becomes dull. The acting is relatively okay, but the direction is very far from being perfect – the lack of experience is obvious, and same goes for the directors’ ability to work with actors.

It’s large and cumbersome, and without a lot of meaningful sense – at least the original kind. Not worth the time.

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The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)

The Wicker Man is the story about a police officer by the last name of Howie, who received an anonymous tip about a missing child in the isolated community of Summerisle (famous for their apples). He goes there to investigate, and immediately his strict christian beliefs come into conflict with the rites being practiced on the island. Turns out, the community has turned pagan quite a long time ago – all the inhabitants of the island without exception are the adherents of some sort of pantheism, where animals and fruits of nature are worshiped, and the essence of things is ascribed to all things nature. Sergeant Howie follows the lead and gradually comes to a conclusion that something terrible has happened to the girl in question. But the further he proceeds, the stranger it all proves to be.

First of all, I have to mention that contrary to most of the film’s descriptions there is nothing mystical contained in its story. It’s about the practices of man, with no supernatural forces  of any kind involved. Also, this is not exactly a horror film, for only the last part of it can be perceived as frightening, while the rest of the story is a one-man investigation with peculiarities.

The story is pretty well thought-through and in places even ingenious; should it be re-adapted with modern technical capabilities but without changing anything in the script, it would’ve been a magnificent spectacle for sure. However, the current direction, although professional and relatively interesting, could’ve been much more: I felt like Hardy’s approach was not strong enough to make the best of the story.

The technical execution feels severely outdated by today’s standards, which is bound to have a significant impact on the viewer’s perception.

The acting is good enough – within the bounds of the implementation, that is, because I can totally imagine much more powerful performance. The film has a lot of songs in it, some of which are highly curious – at least one of them could’ve been a heavy-metal hit.

All in all, this was definitely interesting. I believe, the film is quite worth watching, of course, not without some reservations, but still.

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[s] Fist of Jesus (Adrián Cardona, David Muñoz, 2012)

Fist of Jesus is a trash short film shedding light on the actual events of the Jesus Christ’s path. As the story goes, the process of resurrecting Lazarus didn’t go exactly as planned, and he turned into a zombie, and so Jesus and Judas were forced to fight their way through the hordes of living dead Jews and Romans, and Cowboys.

The film is quite fun, I have to say, – it’s not without humor, and explores the details of the Nazarean’s story quite ingeniously – the use of fish, the death of Judas, etc. However, this is absolutely definitely trash, which was totally intended, of course, but doesn’t change the fact that this film’s purpose is to have fun and to mock, rather than to create a work of art. Seeing that the objective is achieved (the mockery is pretty decent), I believe the film fulfilled its purpose; but for me, such cinema would always be second grade.

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[s] Ballot Boxes / Urny (Zosya Rodkevich, 2018)

Urny by Zosya Rodkevich is a documentary short about certain aspects of the presidential election process in Russia in 2018. The gaze of the author is directed on the election committees members visiting the elderly in their homes so that they could vote, as well as on the ballot boxes and their handling on the election stations.

This film does not try to uncover the irregularities of the election process, nor does it support any of the political agendas. Rather, like any good documentary should, it depicts the life and its processes as they are, uninfluenced by the interference of the filmmaker – at least, as much as it is even possible. The execution is truly subtle and excels in wonderful sense of rhythm and harmony. Although the subject is not the most interesting one in the world, the way it is presented make it quite curious and sometimes even fascinating.

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The Drew Carey Show (s.05, 1999-2000)

The 5th season of The Drew Carey Show is built around 2 major developments. The first is that Drew’s relationship with Sharon ends very soon, and then Kate realizes that she has feelings for Drew, same as he does for her. After a bit of dancing around, they commence their relationship taking it slow – the sex did not happen for a number of reason until the very end of the season. Certain hiccups notwithstanding, things go rather smooth in that storyline. The second development is that natural evolution of the relationship between Steve and Mimi leads them to getting married, after which they start trying for a baby, which concludes successfully also by the end of the season. Apart from that: Mimi gets herself a fan – mini-Mimi; Buzz Beer gets a website, which only results in busting of Lewis and Oswald for selling to minors – the gang temporarily gets sentenced to staying apart; the gang goes to their high-school reunion; Drew tries to fake a physical; gets arrested for attempted murder of Mimi; holds the voting in his house because of the pothole; becomes a star of his own promotion show alongside Isabel; Mimi reveals to be married once before – to a rock-star; Drew hosts rehearsal dinner for Steve’s wedding, after which uncle Alfred dies; Mimi gets dragged from her honeymoon; Drew tries out a trench coat; Lewis tries to date mini-Mimi; the store gets the new owners; Drew gets an assistant; the gang wins a new car in a contest after Lewis totals Oswald’s old one; Lewis starts dating Leslie; Mimi gets fired; Drew strains his penis; and hires his ex (Wendy) for an assistant; Kate almost becomes a court-recorder; Drew gets tasked with hiring a new regional manager; and gets promoted to manage the store – but only until Mimi sabotages his so that he gets denoted back to his old position; Mr. Wick briefly gets fired, but comes back rather soon; Drew almost sells the Buzz Beer; Kate gets job at catering; the gang gets temporarily allergic to alcohol; Oswald and Lewis share a son – Robert; Kate competes with Speedy for control over Drew; Drew organizes a softball team; and Kate learns that there is a club of her ex-boyfriends. The season features 3rd installation of the ‘What’s Wrong With This Episode’ format, as well as the 1st instance of ‘Drew Live’. The final episode is a farcical representation of the show’s team’s frustration at not being nominated for Emmy.

The overall level of the show remains more or less the same, i.e. medium funny. I felt that the transition to Kate being romantically interested in Drew was artificial, forced, which feeling comes from this development not being nurtured long enough. The rest, however, is quite alright – pretty much the same thing that’s been going on from the beginning, only with new turns and, sometimes, faces. The errors episode seems just as silly as before. The live episode seems a little less so, but not entirely free of silliness also – I think, it wasn’t a good idea at all to introduce on-the-spot improvisations, for it only showed that most of the cast members are not very good at it.

I can understand why Drew and his co-stars were so disappointed with not being Emmy-acknowledged, but I understand why they weren’t, too. The show, although fun and funny, was never brilliant – not once since it started there was an episode that can be deemed outstanding; season 5 continued this unfortunate tradition.

So, yes, the show keeps its ground – and on the one hand not getting worse is good, but this also means that they are not getting better, either. And considering how many episodes have already been made, I fear this might never change.

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M. Butterfly (David Cronenberg, 1993)

M. Butterfly by David Cronenberg is the screen adaptation of David Henry Hwang’s play, which is based on actual events. It’s about a french diplomat, René Gallimard, and employee of the french consulate in Beijing in the 1960s, who once visited Madame Butterfly performed by local talents – and fell in love with the lead singer, Song Liling. He made acquaintance, and continued sustaining friendly relationship with her all while his career evolved up to a point when he was promoted to consul with a particular task of gathering intelligence. Little did he know Song was actually using him from the very beginning for the same exact thing, and continued to do so even after he was denoted and sent back to France. However, there was more to their relationship than his eye was ever able to meet – and that eventually became his undoing.

In the end this story turns out really sad. And even though there are rather obvious cues scattered across the film, the final development is still quite surprising; the overall structure of the story is subtle enough to make it fascinating. This is a pretty strong movie, but also a little bit odd. It may through you off balance – which in this case may not be the best thing.

The execution, though, is superb. The Maoist China seems pretty authentic to me, as well as the Paris disturbances of the 1960s. The level of professional implementation is indisputable on all levels. The acting is amazing – especially that of John Lone (Irons is okay as well).

This is a strong, consistent and dark movie. I liked it quite a bit, even though it’s not the easiest one to find a place for among the Cronenberg’s works. Names and figures

[s] To Fetch a Bike / Hämta en cykel (Roy Andersson, 1968)

Hämta en cykel is one of Roy Andersson’s short early short films. It’s about a young couple: they wake up in the morning, and the girl is upset with something; the boy is trying to figure out what’s bothering her, but she evades talking about it. Later they go to the attic to fetch his bike.

This is pretty much it. A piece of some random couple’s everyday life, with no actual conflict and no story. All goes on for 17 minutes. The execution is nothing special, and neither is the acting. Seems like a complete waste of time to me, – for it is both empty and boring.

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[s] Scary Endings: There’s Something Out There (John Fitzpatrick, 2017)

There’s Something Out There is the 5th short film of the 2nd season of the Scary Endings horror anthology. It’s about a woman, who sits in her car somewhere in the wilderness, trying to drive away, but fails to do it quick enough.

This one is a very mediocre film. The concept is relatively clear – but only because it is based on stereotypic and unoriginal idea that the director probably intended to bring to a new level, but didn’t. The context is, of course, lacking – which, considering the length, is not surprising. All in all, it looks awkward and groundless, and not scary at all.

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The Blacklist (s.01, 2013-14)

The Blacklist is an action drama about Reymond Reddington, also know as the concierge of crime. He was a law-abiding citizen once, until a tragedy befell his family, after which he disappeared to reinvent himself as high-profile criminal. He has been engaged in illegal activity of all kinds all over the world for more than 20 years, and then he showed up at the FBI headquarters and gave himself up. Under the condition that he would only talk to a young FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen he promised to give up a number of dangerous and magnificent criminals, most of whom the authorities didn’t even know they exist. A task force was created consisting of FBI agents, as well as CIA and other agencies, operating out of so-called black site, and through Reddington’s intelligence, for which he eventually received immunity, and the agents’ efforts, a lot of terrorists, murderers, thieves etc. were apprehended, and some – killed. Over the course of the season it becomes clear that Reddington and Keen are somehow tied through a pre-history only Red knows about; that it has to something to do with Elizabeth’s biological parents, as well as her foster-father; and that there is something bigger going on than Reddington lets on everybody to believe, and that is where the reason for his cooperation with the authorities truly lies.

I didn’t like it. The show is almost pure action with inserts of questionable drama; the intensity of the action, which is almost entirely shoot-outs, chases and stuff like that, very quickly becomes tedious – I suppose, the show isn’t cut out to be binge-watched. The drama is mostly based on mystery – it allures in the beginning, but  not for long, because the density is rather low, meaning not a lot of events in that department; by the end of the season the situation becomes slightly better, but considering how much time has already been wasted (at least, it feels that way), it turns out not enough.

Tha plausibility of the story (and stories) leaves much to be desired: most of the characters used are some kind of super duper professionals, who act flawlessly and are capable of unimaginable things, including (but not limited to) genius pretending. I get the idea about people lurking in the shadows, and that we know only of those criminals who managed to get caught, but it seems to me that the authors of this show take it a little bit too far and turn into some kind of action fairy tale.

The authenticity is not that great either: I can only judge certain elements, such as the Russian characters, the Ukrainian passports and so on, but if everything else is done with the same level of accuracy, it’s not good at all. It’s a real shame the directors don’t give a damn about these details, because the trust of the audience depends on them directly. Then again, considering that there’s already been 5 seasons of this crap, the audience seem to like it, so ultimately they are probably right not to care.

The casting is merely okay to my taste. Megan Boone is quite pretty, and acts really good, too; the rest of the characters are more like placeholders and can be substituted with anybody else without a lot of difficulties. As for Spader – well, he’s a great actor, and I suppose he does a good job here, too, but I hated the laid-back manner of his character, as well as his overall demeanor and background, with friends and interests across the globe, genuine devotions and attachments, all mixed with profound personal tragedy and unrivaled will power – this combination is very promising in theory, but his specific execution seems off to me, seems somehow forced.

All in all, there’s way too much action for me, and way too little drama. The secret agencies angle is way too domineering; and the execution, including the acting, is not good enough. For all these reasons and more I’m not gonna continue – it’s just not worth it.

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[s] The Lamp / Lampa (Roman Polanski, 1959)

Lampa by Roman Polanski is yet another of his student shorts. It features a doll-maker’s shop, where the owner works long days under the light of an oil-lamp. Then the footstep of progress changes the lamp to electrical illumination, and, ironically, the electric counter and not the old lamp becomes the source of fire that ruins the shop entirely.

As many other early Polanski’s shorts this one is without words, which makes it hard to understand what was the author’s idea. I think it is, like I noted in the description above, about the irony of change and that not all new things are necessarily good things. Nevertheless, the film is awkward and cryptic; there are no heroes here, except for the unnameable forces of history, and there is no story, only a concept, which is far from being interesting or compelling. All in all, it’s not worth the time – not even the 7 minutes it lasts.

Names and figures

[s] All the Roads Lead to Efrin / Vse dorogy vedut v Afrin (Arina Adju, 2017)

Vse dorogy vedut v Afrin is a documentary short by a film school student Arina Adju. Arina is Russian on her mother’s side, and Kurd on her father’s. As it happens, her father left their family quite a long time ago, moved to Syria and started a new one. Arina takes up a journey to visit him in the midst of the civil war, illegally crossing the turkish border and spending some time with her half-siblings in the city of Efrin.

It would seem that with such a compelling story that joins a personal drama (Arina’s family issues) with extremely complicated and dangerous external circumstances (Syrian war state), it’s not very hard to create a film, a report that is deep and fascinating at the same time. Yet, Arina somehow failed to do so. Her work is not only boring as hell (with many instances of unreasonably long shots where nothing of relevance happens for minutes in a row), it also demonstrates the lack of certain qualities she’d need as a director, such as the ability to arrange a frame (this becomes painfully obvious from the very first minutes of the movie, when she films upper parts of people’s heads and tree-tops in passing).

It hurts me to say, but this is not a good film at all. Judging from this one example, I have great doubts that Arina can become a decent filmmaker.

Names and figures

To Live / Zhit (Yuriy Bykov, 2010)

Zhit by Yuriy Bykov is a TV movie about an ordinary guy Mikhail, who went hunting with his dog just for fun, and stepped right into the middle of a bloody shoot-out between the 4 ex-friends, 3 of whom tried to kill the 4th. As it happened in the middle of nowhere, Mikhail’s helping the guy turned out badly for him – in the result of a hours-long pursuit he lost not only his car, his dog and other things he had on him, but also a piece of his soul, for his desire to live turned out to be stronger than his compassion.

Notwithstanding obviously low budget, this film turned out a relatively good one. It has in its core a very strong and very basic conflict – one might argue the most basic of them all, – the conflict between living and dying, in which the true nature of a person could easily be revealed regardless of his or her intentions. In essence, this is a powerful story, no doubt about it, with finale totally fitting the concept.

However, the execution is far from perfect. And it’s not just about the lack of money for proper scenery and so on – some of the episodes seem to be arbitrarily designed (like when the car of the pursuers stops right in front the place the escapees are hiding), which spoils the impression, plus the music, being so darn tragic and sad, is way too descriptive and corresponds with the narrative way too much thus overly amplifying it.

In short, the movie isn’t perfect, the lack of directorial experience is quite evident, but it is still a genuinely fine story that may be worth checking out.

Names and figures

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