Solaris, out of all the work I've seen from Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky, is the most accessible and re-watchable out of his work. The paranoiac sensibilities of the drama in this tale is easy to comprehend. Unlike Stalker, Solaris has a very linear plot line. It deals with several thematic materials of death, memories, and even relationships. Some problems that I had with the films, is that the first half of the film, lacked in pacing and overall presentation, while the the second half is what you expect from Tarkovsky. Brilliant directing with a touch of ambiguity. If the whole film, was like the second part, we would most likely have one of the greatest films of all time. In fact, if there were more moments between the leads Hari and Kris, I believe we would have had one of the best character dynamics in any source of media, of all time. Solaris is a good film. It's not as great as Stalker, but when you put it in contrast to several other science fiction films of the 70's, there's not much of a competition (except for Close Encounters) Overall, I highly recommend this film, for first time viewers of Tarkovsky's work.
A24 is one of those companies in which you can trust there own end products. If there's any film distributed by them, I'll try to see it as soon as possible, just because of there unique and artistic decisions. So, when I heard A24 was making there first ever romantic comedy, I was pretty excited. The trailers looked great. The cast was stellar. But the end product was deeply lacking. The Lovers is a quick mindless piece of romantic slop. The characters weren't memorable, the directing choices weren't concise. Sure, there was some neat music choices here and there, but overall, I was unimpressed. Nothing stayed with me. The reason why films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Ruby Sparks worked was because they had great romantic chemistry. With the romantic chemistry in The Lovers, nothing stuck. It just felt lazy. This was a below average attempt from a great distributor. Just go back at what your great at A24.
Stalker is quite a mind blower when it comes to the science fiction genre. The way how Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky takes thematic material of depression and longing, helps make an incredibly dense and thought provoking plot. The shear amount of character logic, and storytelling put into this near 3 hour masterpiece is a stunner too any cinephile. Not only that, the amount of tension and atmosphere in the film took my breath away to the point where my own environment felt damp, like the film. My only problem's with this piece of cinematic art, is how some of the dialogue felt a bit exposition, and how some scenes and transitions weren't so clear. At times, it just felt like the characters were spitting out what they thought, and the transitions felt off and unclear to the point where it was hard to understand what happened in the time frame between two specific points. This can include the sepia to color transfer, which was strangely used at the end of the film (but it could be implying a metaphor, in which I still haven't realized), and as well, the conversation by the lake near the second act. Overall, this is a thought provoking master piece in which it deserves more credit. It's truly a work of art.
The Hero is one of those film, in which it feels semi-autobiographical and personal. Sam Elliot plays the role of famous western star Lee Hayden, in which it recounts his day in the life routine, at the mildly old age of his early 70's. It's an interesting concepts for a film, even though it's been done before. Performance wise, Sam Elliot does a great job, making the film feel like it's based on a real life character. The problem with The Hero, is that it doesn't have much of a focus. From one scene to another, plot descriptions and character motivations change, making the end product feel unnecessary. There isn't much to grab onto emotionally, which makes the film feel flat on it's own artistic merit. There's some nice moments here and there, and some great dialogue, but it just doesn't feel all that fleshed out. The Hero is a fine, yet flawed art house piece.
Beatriz at Dinner will now go on my letterboxd list of films which I found immensely entertaining, even though for the most part, it was mainly dialogue. Similar to Polanski's Carnage, this social satire on Trump's america is pretty interesting and intelligent. The performances, specifically by Salma Hayek, and the dialogue, were excellently crafted and deserves more recognition. However, when it comes to the overall direction of the film, that's when it loses track. Miguel Ateta deeply lacked in any understanding of character motivations and foreshadowing, which in the end, clashed into a blaze of fire. This is evident in the ending, in which it just feels more pretentious then memorable. As well, several audio cues and editing choices felt extremely unprofessional. Some moments even felt like a different director came into play and said "F-This, let's do this totally different and without purpose, like a student film!" Beatriz at Dinner was an entertaining effort though, and I do recommend it for a matinee price. See it, if you got time this summer.
The Cars Franchise will always be the most nostalgic thing about Pixar, right next to the Toy Story franchise. The tales of Lighting McQueen and Tow Mater have always resonated with me. Personally, on its own merits, Cars 2 is a pretty decent film. It may seem like an idiotic concept at first, and some character logic may seem off, but it's still a fun action packed thrill ride which still excites me to this day. Cars 3 on the other hand, is similar to the first film in it's tone. And although this may be my least favorite out of the trilogy, there's a lot of great material in the film which should be reconsidered. The ending was nicely put together and had emotional weight, the animation was gorgeous and as well as the soundtrack, and the over all atmosphere resonated. It's just that some characters needed more development. To this day, I still believe the character of Cruz Ramirez is 10 times more annoying then Mater. Mater, at the least, had some thought out character development, while Cruz just seemed like a one trick pony. An annoying one trick pony. Sure her so called cliche "back story" was relevant, but that still didn't stop me from disliking the character. Jackson Storm, was also a weak villain. Literally zero motivations except for "Fuck you McQueen, I'm going to beat your ass because I have better technology then you, so Ha!" To be honest, the character of Sterling could have made a decent villain. But even then, there wasn't enough motivation to fully flesh out his character. Therefore, Cars 3 is the weakest out of the trilogy, mainly because of it's weak character development. At least it was a decent effort.
*Also Smokey was the best character, and I'll fight anyone who disagrees
When it comes to surrealist film making, it's difficult to determine if something is pretentious or not. A film like 2015's Heart of a Dog, made people, like myself, think about the implications of human interactions with animals, while others, deemed it as pretentious trash. My Winnipeg, is a strange case. It's a semi-autobiographical dramedy documentary, with a distinct and odd style. But the thing is, what Guy Maddin does with his own medium, is that is re-invents the way self therapy can be used. My Winnipeg, is especially an extremely non-linear look at the psyche of a Canadian who lives in Winnipeg. My entire life.I must leave it.I must leave it.I must leave it now. It may seem like a tedious way for someone to view another person's point. Although some thematic material does feel redundant in a way, Maddin expertly manages to take a diary of his dull surroundings, and turns them into a whimsy and intriguing feature. We never really know, what is real or fake (such as the horses frozen in the lake.) But, that's the point. Maddin, wanted to create a film, which could tell the test of time. Spoiler Alert. It succeeded.