(These movie reviews were published on October 18, 2006 in my university's newspaper in the "film supplement".)
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Directed by: Mel Gibson
When I went to see "the Passion", I went truly not knowing what to expect. As a Christian, I had attended, many years prior, a chat by a physician on all the physical ailments Jesus went through on the cross, and leading up to it. But a movie depicting all that would be more suitable to be directed by John Carpenter or George A. Romero. But the movie business being what it is, you really don't know what to expect anymore. And rumors that Mel Gibson, a catholic, was basing his vision on an 18th century catholic nun's, well.. visions, as opposed to just the Bible, was anything but encouraging. However, I went and saw it, like most people, out of curiosity. What I encountered was a very intensely graphic movie. The Passion is that sort of movie that leaves you thinking, "wow, I really won't be able to eat or speak for the next few hours", mostly because you are trying to digest all that you just saw. It's one thing to hear something being described, and quite another to see it depicted realistically. As a Christian, I understand that Jesus did this out of love for, bearing the sins of mankind so we don't have to in the all supreme act of atonement, which with Yom Kippur just a few days past should have an even greater meaning. But, after having done said digestion of the movie, I was left wondering where all this had been explained. It was a powerful movie, but it didn't say much more than "Jesus was beaten up pretty gruesomely". And all the controversy over it being anti-semitic was baffling to someone as pro-Jewish as me. Unless of course you remember that the guy being flogged by the Romans is a Jew. But then again, it's just the retelling of a historical event, which is also foretold in Isaiah 53, in the Old Testament, so the offense taken remains unexplained.
Ignoring whether the Roman guards would have been speaking Latin (as opposed to the Koine Greek that was spoken in the eastern Roman Empire at the time) or not, the movie was quite a historical immersion as well, and based solely on the attention to wardrobe and the films gritty style, it was quite an experience. However, what will most people walk out of this movie saying? "OK, we get it, Mel.. Jesus suffered.. but why??"
by [my name]
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
There are some movies that are just easy to watch over and over again. Memento is one of them. Imagine you are just sitting there, and you realize you don't know how you got here, what you were doing, or why you are here. What would you do? Well, that's Leonard's problem. Now imagine your wife has been murdered, and you are seeking revenge over her life, but every ten minutes, someone presses the "reset" button, and there you are, not knowing where you are. This film is quite unlike any other. Based on the original short story "Memento Mori" by his brother Jonathan, Christopher Nolan takes us on an incredible trip in amnesia. The film really captures the essence of being an amnesiac, and really authentically manages to convey what this experience would be like by the simple editorial decision to tell the story backwards. That's right, you watch the movie's ending during the first few minutes of the film. And then we are taken to the previous few minutes, and so on, repeating. By the end of the movie you are left wondering, "wow, what just happened?" where, in some weird way, you already knew the ending. And yet, despite this unnatural chronology, the story has a natural flow when going in reverse, with the only chronological part of the movie being the story of Sammy, another amnesiac, that accidentally kills his wife due to his condition. It is Leonard telling the story of Sammy that threads together the whole movie in a very elegant fashion, keeping us at least partially sane as we are allowed to understand part of the movie chronologically. And it is the supreme performance by Guy Pearce that really brings this movie above others. While this could have just simply been a really creative movie, it is the nuance in how his character tries to deal with his disconcerting condition as he attempts to identify the nature of people he meets in his life, that truly brings a lesson in superb acting and filmmaking. For some ironic reason, I always forget the ending of the movie, and every time it's on TV, I find myself watching it again and again. "Memento" is one of a very select few movies I can say that about. I truly recommend this movie to anyone who wants to know or can relate to what it is like to try to live life normally while dealing with a disability. And if you liked "Run, Lola, run" as much as I did, this is the movie for you. "Ok, I'm sitting at my computer. My hands are on the keyboard. Now, what was I doing?"
by [my name]
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Let's face it, Charlie Kaufmann is insane. But instead of tapping into the palm of his hands with his finger, whispering unintelligible words, he writes movie scripts. And Hollywood is all the better because of it. Can we really stomach another Pearl Harbor? While Hollywood was busy selling out, blowing things up while the cameras were rolling, Charlie Kaufmann was busy exploring what it would be like to be John Malkovich. Why? Because he is Charlie Kaufmann. Few actors could inspire someone else to make a movie about them, but John Malkovich is just the guy. With his background in theater, the intensity he injects into every role, great or small, is just stunning to watch. But, how do you play yourself? So, if you wanted to be John Horatio Malkovich (and really, who hasn't wanted to?), which, incidentally is not his real middle name, how would you do it? Well, leave it to Charlie Kaufmann to find out.
This film is as creative and weird as it is interesting and enjoyable to watch. And what is a good movie without good acting? Cameron Diaz gives the performance of her lifetime, accompanied by the always incredible John Cusack, who play Lotte and Craig Schwartz, a troubled married couple that can only be described as, well.. weird. Craig is forced to find a job, landing a position at LesterCorp on the 7 1/2th floor of the Mertin Flemmer building where he finds a small tunnel behind a filing cabinet. Most normal people would find this odd and either report it to management or tell someone about it. Not Craig, who climbs right in and finds himself inside John Malkovich for 15 minutes, after which he gets dumped at the New Jersey turnpike. At this point, the movie might sound too fantastic perhaps to be considered a serious movie, but the stunning performances convince you that not only is this possible, but it is also not all that shocking to find, as it becomes a profitable venture for Craig and his manipulating coworker Maxine (played by Catherine Keener). The fact that John Malkovich is starring in it, playing himself makes this film all the more interesting, adding a certain level of depth to the story that could not have been achieved otherwise, and the scene where he enters his own portal will forever be a classic movie moment. If you are tired of bland movies with no plot, this is the movie you should plan to watch next. This is truly the most "Malkovich" movie of all time. Malkovich?
by [my name]