Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: Beneath the Harvest Sky


My Tribeca Film Festival experience came to a close today with a VOD screening of "Beneath the Harvest Sky". Here are my thoughts on this moody teen drama:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: The Bachelor Weekend


I'm no longer in New York, but I'm still very much in festival mode. Using Tribeca's VOD service on iTunes I'll be reviewing two more films from the festival selection. First up is "The Bachelor Weekend".

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: Pocahontas


This week's film for Hit me with your best shot is an animated one - 1995's "Pocahontas". This tale of forbidden love had the unenviable position of following "The Lion King" from the year before and it proved to be a tough act to follow. As a Disney fan myself, I take no pleasure in admitting that this is one of my least favourite Disney films. Among a slew of memorable musicals from the studio's renaissance period, this one only managed to have one good song ("Colors of the Wind"). Furthermore, something about the character animation always falls flat for me.

However, the environments surrounding these characters are very lovely. In retrospect it makes sense perhaps, considering the pro-nature themes of the film. The beautiful setting was therefore the focal point of my favourite shot this week.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, April 21, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: Zero Motivation, Incident Urbain & Karpotrotter


My day at the Tribeca Film Festival took on a decidedly foreign spin, as I sampled a trio of films from world cinema. These included "Zero Motivation" (Israel), short film "Incident Urbain" (France) and "Karpotrotter" (Slovenia). Read on for reviews of these films below:

Sunday, April 20, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: Alex of Venice, Every Secret Thing & Boulevard


The Tribeca Film Festival got into full swing for me today with my first set of actual theater screenings. It was a long day, as I watched a trio of films - "Alex of Venice", "Every Secret Thing" (yay for "rush" lines) and "Boulevard. Here's what I thought of this diverse set:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: Peepers & Scratch


I decided to skip "About Alex" today in favour of more online screenings (don't worry, I'll get into the real screenings tomorrow). Instead of a full-length feature however, I took a peek at two of the shorts. Here are my brief tweet reviews of "Peepers" and "Scratch":



Friday, April 18, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: Ice Poison


My Tribeca Film Festival started bright and early today with an online screening of "Ice Poison". Due to my limited free time available for this trip, these free screenings (part of the festival's online competition) proved to be very convenient. Here's what I thought of this Burmese drama:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TRIBECA FEST: Preview

It's time! The 2014 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival kicked off last night and I'll be joining in on the fun starting tomorrow (Friday, April 18th). It looks like it will an exciting week ahead! For my personal schedule I've lined up a number of world premieres, in addition to various films that played other festivals (the ones with trailers below). Also, many of these are from debut directors, so maybe we'll be witnessing the arrival of new talent. Here's what I'll be watching:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT: The Letter


This week's pick for Hit me with your best shot is the classic film noir "The Letter". Directed by William Wyler and starring the great Bette Davis, it bears many of the traits of the genre - devious woman, murder and crime-solving. It thus makes for compelling viewing, albeit slightly facile and a tad overdramatic in parts. The main draw however, is the star quality of Bette Davis, who gives good face as the femme fatale. For the purposes of this best shot challenge though, I decided to highlight another actress who also does strong work in the film.

Click below for my favourite shot...

Monday, April 14, 2014

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Take My Eyes


This week's top film is a Spanish film of significant social relevance - "Take My Eyes". Directed by Icíar Bollaín, it tells the story of a wife/mother who suffers through domestic abuse. As she nears her breaking point, the film takes us through her harrowing ordeal. Will she rise up and liberate herself?
The film opens with a seemingly critical scene. Our lead character Pilar (Laia Marull) has had enough. Distraught and trembling with fear, she packs up her stuff (young son included) and runs away in the middle of the night. She soon lands on the doorstep of her sister, finding sanctuary at last. It's the ending we all want for such women but of course, life isn't so simple.
Indeed, this lack of idealism is the most fascinating aspect of "Take My Eyes". Unlike the more triumphant stories of female empowerment in the similarly-themed "Provoked" and "Enough", this film shows the harsh, complex (and often cyclical) nature of abusive relationships. This strikingly even-handed script shows rare insight, as we learn about both sides of the struggle between this man and woman.
In order to create empathy for the devil, the script smartly ensures that we get an equally thorough portrait of the husband Antonio (Luis Tosar). Pilar's departure frustrates him, driving him to anger management therapy and persistent grovelling for her forgiveness. As he fights to win her back, his hidden insecurities emerge - mainly his failings as a husband and provider.
Most importantly though, the film helps us to understand why Pilar would tolerate his aggression in the first place. Despite the violence and psychological torment, the truth is that Antonio is a passionate lover. This realization forms the basis of the film's title. The phrase "take my eyes" is taken straight from a sex scene when Pilar goes back to her husband. In a feat of intense seduction, Pilar declares that every piece of her is now his possession, including of course, her eyes. Everything you need to know about how this relationship - and the film itself - works, can be summed up in these scenes. Palpably erotic, the raw intensity is a great credit to the phenomenal acting by Marull and Tosar, as well as Bollain's direction. It so perfectly captures the level of selflessness that marriage requires. It's why I believe that the literal translation of the Spanish title "Te doy mis ojos" would be more apt. To translate directly, it means "I give you my eyes". This phrasing gives Pilar the true agency that she displays in the film. After years of willingly giving herself over to a man, she now has to reclaim her sense of self. By opening with that scene of self-liberation, only to bring her back into the mud with Antonio, we are therefore more able to invest in the complex nature of her decisions. Will Pilar 2.0 include Antonio in her life? The answer is neither obvious nor easy to explain.
Everything leads to the film's powerful conclusion, leaving Pilar at a crossroads after finally coming in to her own. The final scene therefore leaves us with food for thought, posing the question - Who is the weak one? Pilar or Antonio? After viewing the events of this film, the final answer may surprise you. It's evident that vulnerability and weakness manifests itself in many forms. Tyler Perry's several man-hating films may give you the Cliffs Notes version of this, but "Take My Eyes" is the real deal.