The Tree of Life wins Cannes 2011

May 25, 2011 at 7:53 pm (Festivals, Movies, Posters)

Great list of winners at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and, to my delight, one of my most anticipated movies of 2011 ended up with the Palme d’Or. Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life amazed me a couple of months before with an intriguing trailer and a perfect poster (that you can see above), and now this award can only contribute to the hype.

Other than pissing off Cannes by joking about Hitler, Lars Von Trier went home with an award for his new film Melancholia (best actress for Kirsten Dunst), while Nicolas Winding Refn’s first Hollywood film also impressed the jury, Drive winning the award for Best Director.

You can check out the full list of winners for Cannes 2011 here.

Next up on the awesome festival schedule: TIFF, in Cluj-Napoca, Romania – and only the second time I am not able to attend, in the last 9 years.

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Random thoughts

May 10, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Books, Festivals, Movies, Music, TV shows)

– First post in 3 months, yay!
– The reason for my silence: I recently moved to Canada, and the last couple of months have been hectic. Hopefully now that things have settled down somewhat, I’ll start writing here again.
– Many music releases lately. And So I Watch You From Afar’s new album is amazing, so is the new Explosions in the Sky, so is the new Mogwai. A trio of phenomenal instrumental rock bands. If you don’t know them, check’em out.
– Radiohead, however, released their worst album since Pablo Honey.
– Biggest musical disappointment: the new dredg album.  They turned from art-rock of the highest quality into a bland and boring pop-rock band. I can’t believe how atrocious their new album is. I have decided it’s the last dredg anything I buy, until they start writing music again. And now I’m also stuck with a t-shirt that came in a bundle with their CD that I preordered.
– Fave 5 movies of 2011 so far: Source Code, Hanna, Paul, Insidious and Rango.
– Cannes begins tomorrow – such a great line-up this year. Can’t wait for the first reports.
– Got tickets for Seinfeld this August, front row 😉
– “Fringe” ended Season 3 with a bang. And what an amazing season it was.
– “Community” can’t seem to do any wrong. All their episodes feel so fresh and inventive.
– “The Strain”, by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, is one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

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TIFF & Rock im Park echoes

June 14, 2010 at 9:15 am (Festivals, Movies, Music)

My 2 week holiday ended a few days ago – I apologize for the lack of posts, but seeing 20 films in 5 days at TIFF and then 15 concerts in 4 days at Rock im Park pretty much filled most of my time.

TIFF was great as usual, with the only exception that, because I had to leave for Nuremberg, I only stayed in Cluj for half the festival. However – I did get to see 20 films, and had a wonderful time all around. In terms of movie recommendations, my favorites were Korean drama Mother, directed by Bong (the guy who did The Host and the best part of Tokyo), Dagur Kari’s new flick The Good Heart, and Russian drama How I Ended This Summer, an impressive visual treat that deservedly won Best Cinematography at this year’s Berlinale.

Last Thursday, I headed to Nuremberg for Rock im Park, 4 days of rock awesomeness that ended with an absolutely brilliant performance from Muse. Without any doubt the best show I’ve seen in the last couple of years, maybe one of the best shows I’ve ever seen live (right up there with Radiohead and Tool), Muse rocked in front of a packed 60.000 crowd.

The greatness of the show was probably complemented by the fact that their opening act, 30 Seconds to Mars, was absolutely horrendous – one of the worst live concerts I have ever seen. Out of the 75 minutes spent on stage, Jared Leto used at least 40 to do nothing – just sit there and talk to the audience. They barely played 7 or 8 songs (in 75 minutes!), with Leto avoiding all the tricky vocal parts and ruining all of their great stuff that sounds so good recorded. I still can’t believe I missed Alice in Chains for this – hey, at least I got right up front, and watched Muse from the second row, so overall it was worth it.

Other than Muse, highlights of the festival included Them Crooked Vultures – who completely blew me away with a fantastic live performance, Stone Sour – who was really good but overshadowed by what came a few hours later (i.e. Muse), and We Are the Fallen – who played at noon in an unbearable heat and with a very small audience.

In terms of disappointments, other than 30 Seconds to Mars, I have to include Rage Against the Machine, who kicked off the festival with a lifeless performance that sounded like crap and didn’t get the crowd as involved as I thought it would.

Meanwhile – don’t forget about Sonisphere, next weekend in Bucharest. You’ll also be able to find me @ Sibiu for the Serj Tankian show, and @ Peninsula, for Korn.

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Worst Cannes line-up ever?

April 15, 2010 at 12:37 pm (Festivals, Movies)

The Cannes Film Festival just announced its official line-up for 2010, and, at first glance, it’s highly disappointing. Long gone seem the days in which most of the official competition films came from renowned directors – only a handful of films at Cannes 2010 are directed by household names. Last year’s extravaganza, with the brand new flicks from Von Trier, Tarantino and Noe, also seems far away: no controversial titles for 2010? Nothing pops out at first glance, anyway.

At least from a Romanian perspective, it seems to be somewhat okay: the new films from Radu Muntean and Cristi Puiu both made the festival. However, they’re not in the official selection, but in the smaller competition, Un certain regard.

Here’s the list of flicks for Cannes 2010 – judge for yourselves, but my first thought is, I’m glad I didn’t spend a fortune to attend this year’s festival. Other than Inarritu’s new flick Biutiful, there’s nothing in the line-up I’m really interested in.

As a comparison, TIFF is looking better and better each year – they announced just bits and pieces of this year’s films, and there are already a lot more flicks I’m looking forward to.

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Sitges 2009: Final days pics

October 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm (Festivals, Movies, Sitges)

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Zombieland photoshoot: Jesse Einsberg, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Reuben Fleischer

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Zombieland press conference: Reuben Fleischer, Abigail Breslin, Emma Stone, Jesse Einsberg

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Zombie Walk!

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People waiting for Zombieland

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Emma Stone

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Viggo Mortensen

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Sitges 2009: Final two days (aka Zombies!)

October 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Last couple of days in Sitges were hectic. I had no time to write pretty much anything – hence the lack of reports and this extremely short post. Saturday was Zombie Day, and that meant almost 10 feature films with zombies, plus the worldwide famous Zombie Walk – another huge success, almost 4.000 fans dressing up as zombies and roaming the streets of Sitges. The start of the walk was given by the Zombieland cast, meaning Jesse Einsberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and director Reuben Fleischer. All four of them also had a press conference at noon that I attended and that I’ll be posting shortly.

In terms of movies – I’ve seen another four: a good-looking but somewhat shallow drama (Accidents Happen), a good and tensed French zombie flick (La horde), a very bad attempt at another British zombie comedy that failed miserably on all levels (Doghouse), and a superbly fresh and inventive zombie comedy that’s totally worth all the hype and top 150 all-time rank on imdb (Zombieland).

Sunday started with the Viggo Mortensen press conference – useless, cause the man speaks fluent Spanish so – again – there was no English translation. At least director John Hillcoat spoke English. Then the award winners were announced – you can check it out here – and, to my total joy, two of my fave movies received the main awards, Moon and Enter the Void.

In terms of movies, I started with the Scandinavian thriller Millennium 2, that was surprisingly average. Maybe the biggest disappointment of the festival was The Immaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, which is a good movie. However I was expecting awesomeness, and, except for some breathtaking scenes, didn’t get any. The film looks terrific, but that’s it. I found the story surprisingly weak.

Last film of the festival was also one of its best. John Hillcoat’s The Road is cinema at its finest. It’s a very bleak and dark drama about a father and his son roaming the American wasteland after the world as we know it ended. Very faithful to the source material (Pullitzer winner Cormac McCarthy’s outstanding novel), the film is exactly as it’s supposed to be, and – Thank God – plays exactly as it should, without choosing the easy way of emphasizing the action, but playing as a character drama in a beautifully dark post-apocalyptic world. The acting is top notch from both main protagonists, while some of the scenes are nothing less than memorable.

In this report: Accidents Happen 6/10, La horde 7/10, Doghouse 3/10, Zombieland 9/10, Millennium 2 5/10, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus 7/10, The Road 10/10.

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Sitges 2009: Some more pics

October 14, 2009 at 3:03 pm (Festivals, Movies, Sitges)

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Duncan Jones and Sam Rockwell

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Me & Duncan Jones (sorry for the crappy quality)

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Sitges at night

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Sitges at day

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Me & Gaspar Noe

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Heartless press conference (2nd: Philip Ridley, 3rd: Jim Sturgess)

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Sitges 2009: The Romero dissapointment

October 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Another beautiful day here in Sitges. It’s Friday, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. The festival has been awesome so far – the films are great, the screening quality is impressive, and so is the audience. Pretty much every single movie at the Auditorium attracts huge crowds – there are at least 700-800 people even for the midday screenings, while the evening screenings are always sold out, and that’s not an easy task – the main theater has almost 1.500 seats. What I really love about the audience is the way they behave. I’ve already seen almost 20 movies here, and I never heard a phone ring during the screenings. Not once. Everyone applauds when it’s necessary, and people really get involved in the stories. After all of this, I doubt I’ll ever enjoy a horror film in Romanian theaters from now on.

No press conferences today – actually there are a couple, but with Spanish directors, the kind of conferences foreign journalists don’t even bother to attend to, because they aren’t translated.

So, as soon as I got to Sitges (around noon), jumped straight in for the first film: George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead. I’m a huge fan of Romero’s zombie flicks, their originality, their political and social commentaries. This one has nothing. It’s by far Romero’s worst film of at least the last decade. It looks and feels more like a sequel attempt by a beginner director, than an original film from the master himself. The story surrounds a bunch of guards (those who stopped the van of the kids doing the documentary of the last Romero flick, Diary of the Dead), and their attempts to find an area not infested with zombies. They eventually find an isolated island, but stumble in the middle of a useless war between two local Irish gang leaders and their silly feud. One of them thinks the zombies should be killed, the other doesn’t, and they each want to prove the other wrong by increasingly horrible means. Add a rebellious daughter (and her dead twin sister – in one of the silliest “revelations” I’ve seen lately) to the mix – and you get the full picture of a disappointing movie in which the only good thing is the variety of ways to kill zombies. However, if that’s all I’m gunning for, I’d rather wait for Zombieland. From Romero, I expected a lot more.

Cold Souls is another movie I was expecting more from. The premise is superbly inventive and original: a sad and hopeless Paul Giamatti, playing as himself, decides to use a service that gets rid of people’s souls, only to find out afterwards that his soul has been sent to Russia and might end up on the black market. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as interesting as the idea. Most of the time, the story feels hollow and meaningless, although all the elements were in place for something really fun and wild. Other than that, Paul Giamatti is as amazing as always, providing another proof of the great actor he is.

Next film, a Hong Kong thriller called Accident, produced by Johnnie To. A beautifully shot movie about a group of contract killers, that murder their targets by staging fancy accidents. However, things get complicated after a hit goes horribly wrong, and the team leader suspects he has been betrayed by his teammates. During a couple of the assassinations, I felt like watching a human Final Destination, with very inventive, but maybe a bit forced staging of accidents. The film looks great, with dark, convincing shots of the claustrophobic and busy metropolis. The story holds well together – the only thing that didn’t convince me were the characters, well underdeveloped. However, a good, fun watch.

Last film of the day, one of the most talked about low-budget horror movies of the year, Paranormal Activity. What, another film shot by the main character with a handy cam? Yep. But is it working? YEP. Just like Blair Witch, this couldn’t have been made otherwise. It works simply because shooting everything with a camera by the character makes everything look and feel real. And that’s the only huge asset this film has: it looks and feels real. That’s what makes it scary and intense, that’s what makes you feel for these characters. If your downstairs neighbor would buy a handy cam and start shooting his apartment, that’s how it would look like. The film is extremely effective, although most scares can be seen coming. There are however some that can’t, and they are really well done. The packed Auditorium (almost 1.500 people) literally screamed a couple of times, shrieked a few other times, and seemed really caught in the events. It’s hard not to – the film is very effective. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a very good flick for all horror enthusiasts.

In this report: Survival of the Dead 5/10, Cold Souls 6/10, Accident 6/10, Paranormal Activity 8/10.

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Sitges 2009: A trip inside a dying mind

October 11, 2009 at 11:55 am (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Thursday, another busy day here in Sitges. I started it with a couple of press conferences. First, Philip Ridley and Jim Sturgess came to present their new beautifully crafted fantasy-horror flick, Heartless, that I’ve seen (and wrote about) yesterday. Just like with Sam Rockwell and Duncan Jones, I’ll post their answers a bit later – I really don’t have any time right now to transcript everything. The second press conference was useless – Gaspar Noe is born in Argentina, speaks Spanish perfectly, and there was no translation, so I stood the entire 30 minutes not understanding anything. I’m glad I did stay, cause I got the chance to meet the man aftewards. Ever since Irreversible, he’s been one of my idols, so it was great to actually talk to him personally.

Thursday meant 4 more movies, again, all of them at the Auditorium. I’m not purposely planning to avoid the other 2 theaters, but the headquarters are here, the important movies are here, and there’s a 15 minute walk to the other locations, not very tempting with the hot weather outside.

I started the day with A Town Called Panic, an innocent Belgian stop-motion animation adventure, featuring a Cowboy, an Indian and a Horse. The film won the Melies d’Argent this year at the Rome film festival, impressive accomplishment for such a simple, chaotic film. Sure, some gags are funny, sure, the animation is well done, but everything gets old really fast, and the lack of a proper plot contributes to the downhill slide the film suffers after its fresh first half hour.

Dorian Grey followed – a British supernatural drama based on the famous Oscar Wilde novella. Directed by Oliver Parker (who visited TIFF a couple of years ago with his obnoxious comedy I Really Hate My Job), the film has plenty of good moments, especially for those (like me) who weren’t familiar with the original story. However, the film is too slow, and, despite some good acting performances, especially from Ben Barnes, it failed to attract me in any way. At least in my book, if a movie doesn’t make you feel anything, it’s a bad movie. This one didn’t.

But the next one, Enter the Void, sure did. It made me feel more than pretty much everything I’ve seen all year, anywhere. It made me feel amazed. Then shocked. Then angry. Sad. Hopeful. Shocked again. It stuck with me long after it ended. It’s the weirdest, least commercial, most shocking film I’ve seen here at Sitges. It’s Gaspar Noe all over again – think Irreversible, times ten. The guy has no shame to play with you, to toy with your emotions, to twist them however he sees fit. The film tells the story of Oscar, a young drug dealer from Tokyo, and his sister Gina, a prostitute. One day, Oscar gets shot. Stuck between life and death, his mind wanders, creating a puzzle of memories, hopes and fears, some of them real, some of them imagined. A dying mind’s final trip, when, in those final seconds of consciousness, you see your life, its best and worst moments, mixed together with your random thoughts, your biggest fears, your weirdest hopes and illusions. The film has some of the toughest to swallow scenes I’ve ever seen. It’s like a punch in the gut. Some walked out during the screening. Most stayed, and enjoyed a ride like no other. I’m glad I was one of them.

Last film of the day was 9, but it had the huge misfortune of starting only 15 minutes after Enter the Void ended. I was still too shook up to be able to get involved in its story. But it did look interesting – an animation I’ve been waiting to see for a long time, set in a beautifully created post-apocalyptic world in which Machines destroyed all Humans, and the only hope remained in 9 robotic creatures manually sewn by a scientist right before his death. Extremely dark and inventive, the world of 9 and all its characters surely deserves a second viewing.

In this report: A Town Called Panic 6/10, Dorian Grey 5/10, Enter the Void 10/10, 9 7/10

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Sitges 2009: Lazy Wednesday

October 11, 2009 at 11:53 am (Festivals, Movies, Reviews, Sitges)

Lazy Wednesday at Sitges. Got up really late (again) and barely caught the Sam Rockwell & Duncan Jones press conference, in advance of their movie, Moon (that I’ve already seen & loved at IIFF). I’ll post the conference later – it was fun and interesting, despite Rockwell being extremely tired and in a big hurry once it ended. Duncan Jones was much more friendly, I even got to talk to him for a few minutes. I told him about the Iasi film festival, he said he had no idea his film was screened at IIFF, and he would have gladly come to Iasi if he knew. He was also extremely interested in the audience reaction at Iasi for his flick.

A couple of hours later, I caught the first movie of the day, Kinatay. A very dark, realistic thriller from Brillante Mendoza, the film tells the story of Peping, a wannabe cop who unwillingly gets mixed in a kidnapping and murder. The very minimalistic shots, some of them dark, others shaky, or out of focus, add to the realism and build tension – not that this was necessary. The story itself is tensed as it is. (Spoilers ahead) It is practically a step-by-step guide on how to kidnap, rape, kill someone, and then dispose of the body – without any sugarcoating. Everything is seen through the eyes of the main character, a kid who can’t (or doesn’t want to) get out of the mess when he has the chance. Still, some scenes are unnecessary or a bit too long, and the overuse of the shaky camera becomes tedious and tiring.

Then came Heartless, the first film in 14 years for director Philip Ridley, a British flick starring Jim Sturgess as a scarred photographer with a wild, dark imagination, whose mind starts playing tricks on him, in a superbly gloomy and stylish London. Actually this was my favorite thing about this film: its look. The dark, grotesque London is sometimes reminiscent of Clive Barker, while the supernatural elements are imaginative and very well done. Sturgess’ character is as well interesting and well built. The story is intriguing until the very end, and the fact that the final twist is predictable and maybe a bit overexplained doesn’t hurt the very good feeling I had at the end of this movie.

That was it for the day – the hectic rhythm of the last couple of days eventually got the best of me. I would have gone to see Moon again, but the screening was already sold-out when I got there, so I decided to call it an early night.

In this report: Kinatay 6/10, Heartless 9/10

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