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quinta-feira, 31 de março de 2016

Review: In ‘H.,’ a Fireball Sends Things Spinning Out of Control

A scene from “H.,” a film directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia. CreditHelen Horseman
A movie that raises more questions than it answers lends itself perfectly to a review that starts with a quiz:
1. Which of these phenomena can be seen in the movie “H.”?
a. Large ovoid snowballs that may contain fetuses.
b. The violent smothering of a helpless inanimate object.
c. Barware that shatters spontaneously.
2. Who is craziest?
a. A woman named Helen who sets her alarm to wake her at 4:50 a.m. for an intimate feeding session with her creepily lifelike baby doll.
b. Another Helen, this one pregnant, who embraces her partner in art and life with a brutality that leaves them both bloodied.
c. A guy, probably not named Helen, who explodes into maniacal laughter upon seeing a mammoth disembodied head (presumably once part of a classical statue) that was pulled from the Hudson River.
Troy, N.Y., in terminally crepuscular winter, is depressing enough without broken glass or dismembered statuary. And this being a Troy replete with Helens, the equine cameos that rear their heads should be no surprise. But “H.” would have you believe that an enormously bright and completely unexplained explosion sets off a series of equally inexplicable events when it’s clear that these Trojans were (how to say it kindly?) atypical from the start.
A clever film written and directed by Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia, “H.” keeps the viewer watchful, waiting for it to splatter into a familiar horror plot or spin off into an alien abduction.
Lucky for us, the hyperlocal TV news reports every sneeze, disappearance, group coma and seeming violation of the laws of physics, providing a wealth of clues. Making sense of them as a whole, however, might not be desirable or even possible.
Oh, and all the quiz items do appear in the movie, but the craziness question is your call entirely.

Review: ‘No Home Movie,’ of Love and Melancholy

A scene from “No Home Movie,” a documentary directed by Chantal Akerman. CreditIcarus Films
The last time the filmmaker Chantal Akerman appears in “No Home Movie” she’s tying her shoelaces. Seated on a bed in a dark, sparsely furnished room with a single window, she doesn’t say anything. She just ties her shoes, draws the curtains and exits, letting the shot linger on the empty room. Her mother, Natalia, has been failing and Ms. Akerman’s melancholy hangs over the scene like funeral crepe. The first time I watched it, her heavy silence was painful to see; the second time, watching had turned into raw feeling because Ms. Akerman is now gone.
Ms. Akerman died in October, apparently a suicide, at 65. One of the most influential filmmakers of the past several decades, she leaves behind two-dozen features, including “No Home Movie,” which serves as a conceptual and emotional counterpoint to her early masterwork, “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” (1975), which she made when she was 25. Her death makes “No Home Movie” even more of a memento mori than perhaps it might have seemed when she finished it, given her mother’s impending death. Yet this makes the movie sound far too bleak, especially in light of the love — the love that Ms. Akerman has for her mother, who returns it in kind — that suffuses it.
Yet the first image in “No Home Movie” is of a tree in a desert. It’s an old tree by the looks of the spindly, half-bare branches shuddering violently in the wind. It’s a simple, seemingly artless and largely stationary shot — Ms. Akerman adjusts the framing, always keeping the tree on the left — and because she holds on it for more than four minutes, you either look at it, really look at it, or leave. If you stay, you notice the wire (telephone?) across the bottom right corner, the road that bisects the image horizontally and the distant hills capped by the pale sky. Mostly, though, there is this resolute, trembling tree perched on what looks like an abyss. How, you wonder, does it survive?
Much of the rest of this two-hour movie takes place in Natalia Akerman’s pin-neat, middle-class apartment in Brussels. For the most part, Ms. Akerman simply records her mother in this apartment, fuss-budgeting about while murmuring to herself or talking to visitors like Ms. Akerman, whose camera often sits on a surface like another household appliance (which it is). The conversations between mother and daughter span the continuum from light to dark, present to past, from the young Chantal’s untied shoelaces to the Holocaust. Sometimes mother and daughter talk via Skype and you can see Ms. Akerman, who often seems to be calling from a new location, pointing her camera at her laptop, her tiny image in the window that lets each caller see how she looks to the other.

Movie Review: ‘No Home Movie’

The Times movie critic Manohla Dargis review “No Home Movie.”
 By ROBIN LINDSAY on Publish DateMarch 31, 2016. Photo by Icarus Films.
These Skype talks charm you with sweet declarations (“kisses”) and some gentle comedy (Maman is a bit technologically challenged), although mostly with their unguarded intimacy. Like the rest of the movie, they have the spontaneity and ineffable fascination of real life; it feels as if Ms. Akerman had turned on the camera seconds before she and her mother began talking. In time, though, her mother grows increasingly frail, they also assume an undertow of sadness. Ms. Akerman’s filmography, which sent her across the globe, from the Baltics to Mexico, has turned her into one of cinema’s nomads, as have the festivals (Berlin, Cannes, New York) in which her work has been presented. There’s a rootlessness to her, as even her meanderings through her mother’s apartment suggest.
Midway through “No Home Movie,” Ms. Akerman cuts to a succession of traveling shots of a desert. They cleave the movie in two. There’s no overt explanation for them; there’s no voice-over commentary and none of the traditional documentary time, date and location markers. Again, as she does with the image of the shuddering tree, Ms. Akerman lets you read the image for yourself, even as she has also carefully laid out the movie’s meaning in every previous edit, shot and word, including her mother’s remembrances of the family’s history, about keeping kosher, about the flight from Poland, the Nazis and the war. In your head, these mother-daughter conversations — “We thought we were safe here, in Belgium,” Natalia says at one point — become one with the thrashing desert wind.
And, just like that, the title of “No Home Movie” takes on piercing meaning. Like any number of Ms. Akerman’s other movies, this one revisits some of her preoccupations — home, exile, memory, identity, bodies, specifically the female body, on- and offscreen space — through the prism of Natalia, long one her most ineluctable subjects. Ms. Akerman’s movies are unmistakably personal in the rigorousness of their formal design but also in their motifs, with each informing the other. That’s true of “Jeanne Dielman,” an unblinking three-and-a-half-hour look at an outwardly impassive Belgian homemaker (Delphine Seyrig) who turns tricks in her immaculate, sterile apartment amid other quotidian activities like folding sheets and making a meatloaf for more than three deliberate minutes.

A feminist touchstone, “Jeanne Dielman” has often been discussed within a theoretical and political framework (voyeurism, the male gaze) that can feel as mechanical as a 101 intro to cinema studies. With its long takes, silences and emphasis on the kinds of everyday moments that most movies tend to ignore, the film isn’t obviously inviting, perhaps particularly for viewers whose rhythms are calibrated to those of dominant cinema and its three acts, ping-pinging shots and counter-shots, inciting incidents and tidy ends. You need to meet Ms. Akerman on her terms, although even when you do, her work may not completely open itself up to you, even after repeated viewings. Its difficulty (or mystery), which can feel like her stubborn persistence of vision, is part of its pleasure.
If you let it, “No Home Movie” invites you in first with its intimacy and then its deep feeling. It’s filled with Ms. Akerman’s signatures, like images of doorways, halls and obliquely shot rooms, which can make her seem like a spy in her mother’s house. This is not, as the title reminds you, a home movie in the usual sense, and yet it is. The deaths haunting it as well as some of its themes — the Holocaust, the Jewish diaspora, that far-off desert and the refuge we find in another’s embrace — can make it unbearably sad. The moment that I keep returning to occurs during a Skype talk when Ms. Akerman shows her reflection in her laptop screen, her face floating over her mother’s like a ghost. She’s away yet she also feels home.
“No Home Movie” is not rated. It is in French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

domingo, 27 de março de 2016


por Iara Vasconcelos
No Oscar desse ano, Spotlight - Segredos Revelados levou a estatueta de melhor filme ao retratar a história de um grupo de jornalistas doBoston Globe, que trouxe à tona milhares de casos de pedofilia envolvendo membros da igreja católica. Agora, Hollywood aposta novamente em um drama envolvendo o mesmo tema com Conspiração E Poder.
Na trama, Cate Blanchett vive a produtora daCBS Mary Papes, que junto com o âncora Dan Rather (Robert Redford) e a equipe do jornalístico60 minutes, resolve investigar se o ex-presidente dos EUA, George W. Bush, teria sido privilegiado para não lutar na guerra do Vietnã.
Eles entram em contato com diversas fontes que serviram na mesmo época que Bush e reuniram material suficiente para levar o caso ao ar, mas isso desperta a ira do poder constituído, que faz de tudo para tirar a credibilidade da matéria. E conseguem. Depois de ir ao ar, a matéria é criticada e a veracidade dos documentos apresentados é posta em xeque. Não demora muito para que a equipe seja acusada de estar envolvida em um jogo político e sua carreira na CBS começa a corroer.
O filme questiona até que ponto o jornalismo consegue ser imparcial quando os principais canais de televisão, que detém a maior parte da audiência, precisam do dinheiro de grandes corporações para manter-se sempre no topo. Em uma das cenas, Dan Rather revela que o jornalismo se tornou importante quando descobriram que ele podia render dinheiro. A face mais obscura da profissão também já foi mostrado anteriormente, como em O Abutre e 118 Dias.
Outra boa sacada de Conspiração e Poder é que ele mostra três jornalistas com dilemas diferentes: Mary Papes é uma jornalista que precisa enfrentar o machismo da indústria; Rather é o veterano competente, mas idealista, que tem um olhar inocente sobre a profissão. Já Mike Smith é um jovem libertário, que recusa a se vender ao jornalismo comercial.
Mesmo sendo comparado a Spotlight, o filme aborda um lado muito mais crítico sobre o jornalismo, seja na precariedade das condições de trabalho, seja na falta de parcialidade - ou pela escolha do "aliado" errado. Com atuações competentes, e um roteiro preciso, sem enrolações,Conspiração e Poder mostra como a informação tem o poder de mover massas e mudar situações - como quase acabar com uma eleição - assim como a capacidade de criar mocinhos e vilões a seu bel-prazer.

Tone-deaf Marguerite hits all the right notes - review

A spectacularly untalented socialite becomes an opera star in Xavier Giannoli's elegant, pathos-laden period comedy
Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot) is a grande dame of the 1920s Paris arts scene, the patron of a prestigious recital society, and a coloratura soprano of some note. There’s only one problem: that note could probably shatter double glazing. To say Marguerite can’t sing would be selling her short. Her vocal cords produce the kind of tones that would more often be heard from an orthopaedic bone drill. 
But like the blushing subjects of Hans Christian Anderson’s naked emperor, no-one can quite bring themselves to point it out. Her support of the arts is too generous, the concerts raise money for war orphans – and besides, why spoil the fun.
At the start of Xavier Giannoli’s elegant comic drama, crowds are gathering at her country mansion for a private concert. The loudly miaowing peacocks wandering the grounds are an omen. A talented chamber orchestra and a promising young soprano from the city called Hazel (Christa Théret) are the warm-ups. But Marguerite’s oblivious massacring of the Flower Duet from Lakmé is the main event.
“Did she always sing like that?” asks Lucien (Sylvain Dieuaide), a young journalist who’s sneaked inside to see if the rumours are true. “No,” grumbles a regular. “She’s come a long way."
Giannoli’s film has been spun out of the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins, an independently wealthy socialite whose performances in New York clubs and salons of the 1930s and 1940s were celebrated for their almost total lack of musical merit. This May, Meryl Streep is playing Jenkins in a more straightly autobiographical version of the story directed by Stephen Frears, but Giannoli’s version counts as more than a warm-up.
Last month, Frot won a César award (the French equivalent of a Bafta) for her beautifully calibrated performance, which skates addictively between loopiness and pathos. Early in the film, Lucien and his friend, an artist-provocateur (Aubert Fenoy), who run an ambiguously worded review of Marguerite’s recent recital in a Paris newspaper - and they in turn introduce her to Atos Pezzini (Michel Fau), a scandal-smudged opera divo who wincingly agrees to coach her for a public concert.
Giannoli has a ball with Marguerite’s lack of talent. There’s a glorious sustained shot of Pezzini’s face as he hears her sing for the first time, and silently goes through the entire Kübler-Ross model of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. But he also takes it deeply seriously: early 20th century Paris was, after all, the time of Dadaism and the classical avant-garde, and music no longer had to sound melodious to make its mark.
In a subtle parallel narrative, we watch Hazel’s own singing career burgeon slowly but surely, as she performs the kind of vocal lines that caused riots at Stravinsky premieres to an initially small but always growing crowd. Even Marguerite’s hobby of collecting opera props has a surreal edge: in the middle of her lawn, for example, lies an enormous, staring, papier-mâché eyeball.
She’s supported faithfully in all this by her butler Madelbos (Denis Mpunga, superb), a keen photographer whose own artistic fame and legacy - deadpan portraits of his mistress, dressed in a range of theatrical costumes - depends heavily on Marguerite’s own.
Madelbos’s complex motives are delicately withheld until the film’s arresting epilogue, although it’s immediately clear that he disapproves of Marguerite’s husband Georges (André Marcon), whose romantic neglect of his wife (he is of course having an affair) is the film’s blunt rationalisation for her all-consuming need to perform.
For me, this felt psychologically reductive, as if the film was trying to explain away Marguerite’s ambitions like a plot hole. As Frot plays her, Marguerite is beyond all rational explanation. That’s what makes her so much fun.

Don't RSVP to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 - review

Some might say 14 years is too long to wait for a sequel to Nia Vardalos's hit 2002 romcom. But they'd be wrong
Back in 2002, My Big Fat Greek Wedding was the sleeper hit that absolutely no one saw coming. In fact, it was the very definition of a sleeper: making $241.4m at the US box office alone, it was the highest-grossing film in history to spend not a single weekend at #1, and hung around for a whole year at cinemas achieving this impressive feat.
Fourteen years seems a long time to wait for a sequel – as it turns out, not nearly long enough. If you thought the first film depended on some fairly broad ethnic stereotyping, checking in with this complete cast reunion is akin to being trussed from the ceiling of a dubious taverna, having sky blue stripes painted down you lengthways while encircled by mad lute players, and force-fed moussaka until it starts oozing from your ears.
Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of the first film, is back in both capacities as Toula, now a harassed mother with the dating woes of her 17-year-old daughter Paris (Elena Kampouris) to worry about. Grandpa Kostas (veteran character actor Michael Constantine) already thinks Paris should be getting on with the whole marriage thing, and has a falling out with his own wife (Lainie Kazan) when it transpires no one signed their wedding certificate.
Elena Kampouris and Alex Wolff in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Elena Kampouris and Alex Wolff in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2Credit: George Kraychyk
Meanwhile, Toula struggles to rekindle the magic with her husband Ian (John Corbett), and for very good reason: as they stand next to each other approximating a series of human conversations, the two actors click about as naturally as Gérard Depardieu and a bowl of quinoa.
Perhaps by virtue of being the newcomer, Kampouris is the one person in this cast you have a bit of time for. There’s a very fine line, though, between playing the awkward teen stricken and embarrassed by Greek matriarchal tradition, and merely being the actress added to this thing: her constant facial signalling of “get me out of here” is hardly a tough route to audience empathy.
It’s too disposable a film to get especially huffy about, but the laziness of the writing and acting takes a creeping, spirit-sapping toll. Honestly, not one joke lands: not the one about a wizened gran hiding under the table with spanakopita, not “Greek don’t creak”, certainly not the constant stream of oversharing from Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) about one of her ovaries “pinging out eggs” and having a concealed mole the shape of Mykonos.
When Toula teaches her father for an entire scene how a mouse works, on an incredibly antiquated-looking desktop computer, the idea has no point except for its intended hilarity – old people! So behind with technology!
Like most other scenes, you somehow yearn to put it out of its misery, maybe by draping a black cloth across the projection window and simply calling it a day.

Eddie the Eagle flies again - review

A wonderfully silly Hugh Jackman and flying scenes more thrilling than anything in Batman V Superman help Dexter Fletcher's Olympic skiing biopic soar
Forget caped crusaders and men of steel for a minute. Watch a Dexter Fletcher film and you’ll really believe a man can fly.
The best scene in Wild Bill, Fletcher’s quietly beautiful 2011 directorial debut, involved a man and his boy throwing a paper aeroplane from the balcony of their tower block flat. After the plane leaves their grip, the camera tracks its flight for 20 seconds – it shoots out into the tawny sky, then stalls, swoops, circles back on itself, and just keeps going and going, further than either father or son could have guessed.
It’s a moment of pure antigravity in an otherwise stoically grounded film. Five years on from that glorious shot, here’s its feature-length spiritual sequel.
Fletcher’s new film is a biopic of Michael 'Eddie' Edwards, the Olympian ski-jumper who in the late 1980s became an emblem of a very British kind of earnest haplessness, after finishing last in the 70m and 90m events at the Calgary Winter Olympics. He was the perfect hero for a nation that, until recently, spent its Friday nights in front of It’s a Knockout – and Fletcher’s film, scripted by first-time writers Sean Macaulay and Simon Kelton, does make the shrewd connection between the two.
Eddie is played by the Kingsman actor Taron Egerton in a very studied performance that replicates Edwards’s clenched smile, jutting chin and wobble-board eyebrows perhaps a little too faithfully. It’s well-meant, but causes the character to continually veer between endearing naif and pantomime dope, and you can sense the gurning spectre of Ricky Gervais’s Derek lurking in the corner at all times.
That’s why Hugh Jackman is so welcome as Eddie’s reluctant, whisky-swilling coach, Bronson Peary: Jackman’s natural movie-star effortlessness often serves as an antidote to Egerton’s capital-A acting. There is a terrifically funny scene in which Jackman’s character likens ski-jumping to making love to Bo Derek, before mentally walking through the various emotions with a throwaway silliness only an A-lister with nothing to lose could pull off.
The real Eddie the Eagle
The real Eddie the EagleCredit: Rex/Rex Features
Christopher Walken also makes a brief and fantastically odd appearance as Bronson’s own (long-retired) coach, bringing his trademark stony gravitas to the world of winter sports.
The plot follows Eddie from the streets of Cheltenham to a Bavarian training camp and thence to Calgary, while his bemused parents, sweetly played by Jo Hartley and Keith Allen, take varying degrees of interest from the family sofa. Throughout, Fletcher grinningly plays up to the underdog-sportsman-movie tradition he’s working in, referencing both Chariots of Fire (via Matthew Margeson’s juicy, Vangelis-channelling score) and Jon Turteltaub’s Cool Runnings – another unlikely true story that sprung from the 1988 Games.
It makes sense of Edwards’ unlikely stardom and its connection to the class tensions that doomed him to being a sporting outsider in broad but effective strokes. But it never quite gets a handle on his drive, and you leave the cinema still unsure what the Eagle’s flights actually stood for or where they took him, other than the bottoms of ski-slopes and, occasionally, hospital.
Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman in Eddie The Eagle
Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman in Eddie The EagleCredit: Larry Horricks
Still, the jumps themselves are glorious: Fletcher has a brilliantly attuned sixth sense for what his audience wants to see at any given millisecond, and Eddie’s final flight, from the 90-foot ramp at Calgary, is a mini-masterpiece of intuitive cutting.
We get the close-up, the wide shot, the point-of-view, the spectators’ reactions, the glimpse of the folks at home – all scrupulously timed and building to the most obvious-in-retrospect but perfectly detonated music cue imaginable.
Perhaps the moral of Edwards’ story is no more complicated than that: you might as well jump.
Eddie the Eagle is released in UK cinemas on April 1, with previews from Easter Monday

Zootropolis is the Chinatown of talking animal films - review

Disney's ridiculously inventive anthropomorphic animation could be the most existentially probing family film ever made
In the new film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, the animal kingdom has evolved into an animal republic. Welcome to Zootropolis: a glinting, Corbusian utopia where the old predator/prey distinction no longer applies. 
Giraffes and big cats stand happily side by side on the escalator. Hamsters and wolves share a morning commute. The lion doesn’t just lie down with the lamb, they run for City Hall on a joint ticket. It’s the diversity dream come true.
Or is it? The film’s trailers promise a peppy, Richard Scarry-toned escapade, with bunny police officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) teaming up with streetwise fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to track down a missing otter.
But as the investigation draws Judy and Nick into Zootropolis’s underworld, the film’s shadows lengthen, its ears prick up, and we find ourselves unexpectedly – but by no means unwelcomely – in the twilit domain of film noir. Think Busytown by way of Chinatown. It’s almost certain to be the most existentially probing talking animal cartoon of the year.
It begins in bright sunlight, with Judy fulfilling her childhood ambition of becoming Zootropolis Police Department’s first ever rabbit recruit. Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), her sceptical buffalo superior – and in one scene, the deliverer of a spectacular Frozen diss – puts her on parking meter duty. And it’s here she crosses paths with Nick, a wily conman whose morals are even slacker than the tie around his neck. 
Like Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs., albeit considerably cuter, Judy and Nick make a hilariously strained but effective double act – not least thanks to Goodwin and Bateman’s tremendous vocal work, which trips along with the effortless swing and snap of great bebop. 
Bateman, who’s still riding high from a career-topping performance in last year’s psychological thriller The Gift, slips into the role in that delicious way only an ingenious piece of against-type casting can. And Goodwin gives Disney a non-regal heroine for the ages: naive but quick to learn, impulsive and lightning-witted. 
She’s first able to exercise her talents in a cross-town chase on the (literal) tail of a weasel shoplifter, which is one of the many opportunities the film gives its artists to let their imaginations run wild. Each district of Zootropolis is modelled on a different habitat, and springs from a mishmash of real-world influences: for instance, Tundratown is Moscow’s Red Square crossed with Seattle’s Pike Place Market. 
Judy’s pursuit takes her through Little Rodentia, a mousey enclave with toy box-sized tenements and a monorail that might have been engineered by Hornby. The film’s vision of a place where lemmings and elephants live comfortably cheek-by-toe is so whirringly inventive, and so crammed with visual puns and goodies, you just want to climb inside and see how it ticks. 
Perhaps that alchemy of heart and wit is rooted in the film’s directing team. Byron Howard is a long-time Disneyite, who worked as an animator on Pocahontas and Mulan and co-directed Tangled, while Rich Moore is a graduate of The Simpsons and Futurama who joined the studio to direct Wreck-It Ralph. A soon-to-be-legendary sequence with the all-sloth staff at the Zootropolis equivalent of the DVLA strikes a perfect balance of both – and features a character, Flash, whose facial expressions I’d bet are at least partly modelled on Disney head honcho John Lasseter.
Chief Bongo (Idris Elba) in Zootropolis
Chief Bongo (Idris Elba) in ZootropolisCredit: Disney
When Judy and Nick’s investigation gathers pace, it becomes clear this idyll isn’t as frictionless it’s cracked up to be, and is still riven deep down by inter-species fears. (The film’s original American title, Zootopia, has an ironic tang its British replacement lacks.) 
You could read a blunt racial equivalence into this – and there are moments in which the film openly invites us to do so. (“Go back to the forest, predator!” a sheep shouts at a cheetah. “I’m from the savannah,” comes the weary reply.) But the allegory is far from rigid, and one of the film’s great strengths is the trust it puts in its young audience to decode its complex, nuanced message about the value of difference.
“Turns out real life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker,” Judy sighs after a few days on the beat. “Real life is messy.” Yes it is – and all the more funny, chaotic and beautiful because of it. So too, in the best possible way, is this film.