Sunday, November 21, 2010

127 Hours

"Bone..." One of the best quotes from Danny Boyle's new movie 127 Hours, uttered by a man running out of options to save his own life. James Franco plays the real life character of mountain climber and adventurer Aron Ralston, who finds himself trapped and isolated in a canyon wall. However, the isolation began long before he was in this predicament and the trapped aspect has now given him time to reflect. 

The realization from Ralston when he attempts to amputate his arm and remembers that the bone is in the way is comical the way Franco delivers the line, but also demonstrates the mechanics of the body and what you are willing to do to survive. Another one of this year's better movies, Buried, has a similar yet different scenario in which the protagonist is stuck in. From the point of view of the narrative Buried was much more difficult to pull off as we commence and finish in a coffin, and we are left speechless and depressed. 127 Hours on the other hand gives us a breath of fresh air and some sunlight with Boyle's direction, Anthony Don Mantle and Enrique Chediak's cinematography, which portrays the open landscape of "canyon land" beautifully. While in Buried our protagonist must rely on new media and cell phones, Ralston had to place his confidence in his shit knife, 300mls of water and a bit of food. What was so clever about Buried was the depiction of how frustrating daily technology can be with low batteries, signal upset, being put on hold etc..., while 127Hours concentrates on the bare essentials.

When Ralston gets his arm trapped between the rock and canyon wall, we recognise his initial reactions as for the average person there has been a time when you are stuck in a predicament that could possibly be life threatening, but it is generally over pretty quickly. Unfortunately for Aron Ralston it isn't just a flash of panic, but a tedious reality that gives him days to reflect on his life. Although we as the audience feel trapped with Ralston we are given commercial breaks (literally in an excellently executed soft drinks advertisement developed in Ralston's imagination) such as flash backs of his family, friends and ex girlfriend. The breaks are really what drives the story because we all know what he has to do to get out of there, but its his memories and imagination that give him the will to do so. 

A humorous and familiar example of Ralston's imagination is his daydream of attending a party that he was invited to by two girls he met a few hours before his fall into the canyon pathway. I thought this was a perfect expression of human nature and thought process, we do it daily when we are at school, work, Church so naturally we would practice it to the fullest if we were trapped. Another very interesting scene was when Ralston is contemplating masturbating to the video he took of the girls before he fell. At this stage Ralston has had a few days to reflect on his life and memories, which he must have considered to be a sacred and pure moment so he restrains himself from doing so. It would be like jerking off on Christmas day, it just doesn't seem right.

Overall, Danny Boyle has made an great movie, not as daring a movie as Buried, but a wonderful portrayal of human nature and reaction in a time of darkness. Visually stunning with ariel shots of the canyons and edited brilliantly, especially during the actual amputation, felt like the whole theatre was on the edge of their seat and THAT SOUND! If you havn't seen it you will defintly here it when you witness 127 Hours.

Local Hero

I really can't remember there ever being a more down to earth film than Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983). It could have easily been a formula drama narrative where a small community must fight off a giant corporation in order to retain their land, but Forsyth made a real movie that generates real characters, who of course welcome the corporation and are eager for money. This movie isn't about a struggle, but the portrayal of the variety of characters and the ambiance of the small Scottish village.

Peter Riegert plays Mac, who is sent to a small Scottish, coastal village in order to buy the land so it may become an oil refinery. Mac's employer Mr Happer (Burt Lancaster) seems to be more interested in the Scottish night sky than his oil business. Mac arrives to a great landsacpe scenery and an incredibly local community. So local that some have more than two jobs just to help out, which is cleverly expressed in a scene where Mac and his associate Oldsen (Peter Capaldi) meet Gordon Urquhart (Denis Lawson). The majority of the plot deals with Mac and Gordon trying to reach an estimate for the land, while we are introduced to small, but quirky personalities of the village and meteor showers.

Of course there is character development with Mac, who questions if his luxury life in Houston, Texas really makes him happy or if a life in the village would satisfy him more. While Mac considers giving up his money for the local's lives, the locals are attempting to get a life like Mac's. Local Hero isn't an environmental film as such, but a film that focuses on the lives of a small village with scenes of great natural phenomenon. Those scenes are enhanced through Mark Knopfler's superb soundtrack that reflects the atmosphere of the film. When we witness Mac back at his apartment in Houston we register a sense of depression, but when we hear that phone ring back at the village and Knopfler's saxophone rise we are filled with assurance again.

check out trailer here:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Communist Manifesto with guns and sunglasses

In New York now for nearly 3 weeks and besides Midnight Cowboy, John Carpenter's cult classic They Live (1988) is the one movie that keeps running through my mind.The idea that money is our God is suggested  in They Live as it depicts the declining economy of the 1980s and the strong consumer culture of America. This evidently couldn't be more relevant today with the current recession and enhanced consumer culture through the rapid development of new media. Since I am currently unemployed and highly jealous of all these douchepackers on Manhattan with their fancy jobs and internships, I can relate to Roddy Piper's character's frustration with the constant bombardment of advertismement when you can't afford the products. Obviously I can't relate completely to the film as I am not homeless or 6ft and built like a brick shithouse, but there are certainly aspects I correspond to. I found it similar to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead in relation to the portrayal of consumerism and the power it has over us. However I find that Carpenter delved deeper into the function of consumerism and advertisment suggesting that it keeps the public docile, especially the working class. Carpenter also focuses on the notion of subliminal messaging through advertismenmet with phrases such as "obey", "submit" and "watch t.v."

Besides of the obvious homages to the writings of Karl Marx there are other elements of excellence that complete this film and make it an 80s classic such as the best fight scene in film history between Piper and Keith David, the relentless gun action and the cheesy one liners: "I came here to do two kick ass and chew bubble gum...and I'm all out of bubble gum." It is difficult to say that this is Carpenter's best film when he has Halloween and The Thing in his cabinet, but it is clear that it is his most socially conscious.

They Live - Obey, Consume, This is your God