luni, 18 septembrie 2017

Note on Ironweed by William Kennedy

Note on Hot Shots! writer, director Jim Abrahams, with Charlie Sheen, Ca...

Note on Step Brothers, with Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Richard Jenkins

Note on Flightplan, with Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean

Note on The Big Short, with Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, ...

Note on Lust for Life, directors Vicente Minnelli, George Cukor, with Ki...

Miss Sloane by Jonathan Perera, with Jessica Chastain

Miss Sloane by Jonathan Perera, with Jessica Chastain

This is a splendid film.
At least that is how I saw it.

Jessica Chastain is phenomenal as the powerful, smart lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, a complex, sensational woman.
John Madden is the man who has directed Shakespeare in Love and is doing an excellent job at the helm of this film.

Jonathan Perera, as the author of the script, deals with important themes- corruption, gun rights and control.
The narrative is told with mastery, there are flashbacks and we see Elizabeth Sloane in the present, testifying before Congress.

Lobbyists are one of the powerful forces in Washington and many think they control too many politicians.
And the presidential election of 2016 was won in part on the promise to “drain the swamp” and change politics.

Of course, that was empty talk, from a man who has no scruples and has demonstrated he is a con artist.
It is inconceivable that so many have fallen for such a lousy, the most unworthy of all American presidents.

People like me, who used to admire America, its values, democracy, system, accomplishments are left extremely disappointed.
One of the main subjects of the film is the right to hold arms as enshrined in the constitution that is so dated on this subject:

-          "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
As Miss Sloane explains exquisitely, those who have written this down lived in a different age, with antiquated views

-          They used to resolve their disputes, at dawn, shooting each other

Of course, when she uses this argument, with more or less these words, her supporters are horrified, because they know that attacking the constitution, or just appearing to be doing it is anathema and works for the adversaries.
The lobbyist, who used to work for the wrong cause, allowing the planters in Indonesia to extend their palm oil plantations, presumably by cutting down forests, or, in some worse cases by burning trees, an operation which has created catastrophes in the region, has now embraced a worthy, noble cause.

Mark Strong is marvelous in the role of Rodolfo Schmidt, the man who convinces Miss Sloane to join his team.
They try to impose some controls on gun acquisition, which, although sensible, it is met with fierce opposition.

The National Rifle Association is a powerful organization that fights any measure to “limit” the right to bear arms.
Even if the question is to control the buying of automatic rifles, which would make sense only in war, or lunatics who want to get and use them.

As shown by multiple massacres committed in schools, cinemas, involving so many innocents, children and bystanders, the initiatives to try and prevent mad men from getting machine guns and deadly weapons is more than reasonable.
And yet, with its financial wealth and the power to swing elections in favor of the candidate that favors no controls, the NRA has managed to kill any such bill.

-          “Dildos are illegal in Texas, but Joe Public can walk into a sports store and walk out with a shotgun”

This is the line that Rodolfo Schmidt has in the film and it is a brief demonstration of the paradoxes that we can observe in America.

Elizabeth Sloane is in many ways a role model, for her bright side shows a strong, intelligent, dedicated, focused, visionary, hardworking, resilient, brave, tough, unhesitating, determined woman.
She is also intriguing, her dark side can antagonize with her ruthlessness, cunning, readiness to use anything that will make her win, insensitivity, willingness to abandon personal life for her professional success.

Elizabeth Sloane appears to use pills to allow her to work more, up to or more than sixteen hours a day, using male escorts to deal with her desires and showing a lack of compassion and arrogance in the process.
The fact that she is so brilliant one moment and then cold and distant the next make the character ever more interesting and challenging.

This is a wondrous motion picture.

sâmbătă, 16 septembrie 2017

Note on Iris, with Judy Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet, Hugh Boneville

Note on The Awful Truth, with Cary Grant, Irene Dunne

Note on Diner, writer, director Barry Levinson, with Steve Guttenberg, K...

Note on Amelia, with Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor

Note on Les Possedes, director Andrzej Wajda, with Isabelle Huppert, Oma...

Note on Sahara, with Humphrey Bogart

Note on Moka, with Emmanuelle Devos, Nathalie Baye

Note on 127 Hours, directed by Danny Boyle, with James Franco

Note on Patriot Games, with Harrison Ford, Sean Bean

Note on And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, with Antonio Banderas, Ala...

marți, 5 septembrie 2017

Jerry Maguire, written and directed by Cameron Crowe

Jerry Maguire, written and directed by Cameron Crowe

Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr. And Renee Zellweger all perform excellently in this splendid film.
And one must admit to that, even if Tom Cruise, with his Scientology scheme, can be really unpopular, to say the least.

But this is a motion picture about values.
It is also about love, money, loyalty, grit, resilience, intrinsic goals and calling.

Jerry Maguire is lucky in that he has found his calling.
Psychologists have proved that in each profession, people are divided into three groups:
1. Those who come for the paycheck
2. Men and women who want a career
3. But the really blessed are those who have a calling

And Jerry Maguire is not just an agent who wants the money, he has people skills, dedication, resilience and most importantly...Values
In fact, he can share with his alas, only client the idea that money is not all there is.

Cuba Gooding Jr. Became famous for his role as Rod Tidwell, his line:

Show me the money!

And the acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
It is up to his agent to tell him, as a friend:

You are too obsessed with money...all the time you think about that, you are wonderful and use your heart off the field, but on the stadium, you only play with your head...
Use your heart!

And the friend is on to something: referring again to psychology, tests and research have proved that EQ is much more important than IQ.

Emotional Intelligence beats IQ hands down

There is a salesman who has some punch lines throughout the movie.
And he says something like- if you have no heart, the head is useless.

The other important story in this film is the relationship between Jerry and Dorothy Boyd aka Renee Zellweger, totally different from the present one.
When Jerry is forced to go from his old company, nobody wants to take the risk and join him.

Nobody except Dorothy.
And she becomes attached to him, and then in love.

In a smart script, their love story does not end when they are married.
Indeed, the Harvard Positive Psychology Professor Tal Ben-Shahar says that with marriage, most, if not all mainstream motion pictures end.

And they lived happily ever after...

But this is just the beginning of a long time relationship.
In the case of Jerry and Dorothy, he asked her to marry him because he felt he had to pay for her loyalty.

But at that point he was not overwhelmed with joy, not even in love.
And she can see that and she is so Emotionally Intelligent that she tells him that he is free and it was her mistake:

"I thought I loved you enough for both of us, but it wasn't "

There is the American football side of this story, with the gradual increase in performance of Rod Tidwell.
This is a very violent sport and president Barack Obama was right to say that he would not have allowed his sons to play the sport.

Concussion, with Will Smith is the film that reveals the dark side of this sport, which too often involves brain damage.
The bond between Rod and his agent is very strong...there is a funny moment, which is also emotional, when another player looks at the real connection and friendliness expressed by the player and agent and says to his own representative:

Why don't we have that kind of relationship?

To which the agent, fakes an embrace, only to be pushed away.

Jerry was betrayed by another player and his father, who abandoned him early in the story.

But he turned the stumbling blocks into stepping stones and became a role model...

duminică, 27 august 2017

Note on Manchester by the Sea with Casey Affleck

Note on The Academy Awards Nominated Hidden Figures

Note on The Bourne Supremacy, director Paul Greengrass, with Matt Damon,...

Note on Thursday, written, directed by Skip Woods, with Aaron Eckhart

Note on À Nous la Liberté, written and directed by Rene Clair

Note on Kill Me Three Times, directed by Kriv Stenders, with Simon Pegg

Note on Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, with Marlon Br...

marți, 15 august 2017

Note on Killing Them Softly, written and directed by Andrew Dominik, wit...

Note on Between Sea and Land, with Manolo Cruz

Note on 300, Zack Snyder director, Gerald Butler, Lena Headey, Michael F...

Note on L'Atalante, directed by Jean Vigo, with Dita Parlo, Michel Simon

Note on Fatal Attraction, with Michael Douglas, Glenn Close

United 93, written and directed by Paul Greengrass, 10 out of 10

United 93, written and directed by Paul Greengrass
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

United 93 is a gripping, tremendous drama.
The entire world has been shocked, alas some have cheered, when the terrorist piloted airplanes have crashed into the Twin Towers.

This film refers to that, albeit not directly, and the phenomenal account of the men and women aboard the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.
It is one of the most astounding dramas that describes the heroism, bravery, strength, spirit of sacrifice of a group of passengers.

Terrorists had taken flying lessons and then went on board civilian airplanes to crash them into important targets.
Tragically, two have hit The World Trade Center and one the Pentagon, the latter with fortunately fewer casualties.

The fourth plane selected gives the name to this fantastic film that describes passengers, relatives, communication with them and the accelerating pace towards the denouement, which is known but no less impressive and horrendous.
Tension is slowly building up, with people getting on the airplane together with their would be kidnappers.

Part of the plot involves the men and women on the ground, controlling the air traffic, who learned about the situation on United 93.
On a side note, air traffic controllers- and people in other jobs- are supposed to have a negative attitude, because those with a positive mindset see the big picture better, but miss on details and psychology research proves that negativity helps with the small parts- in positions like those of lawyers, policemen investigating crimes, etc.

At a chosen moment, the terrorists use knives to highjack the plane and take control of the cockpit, flying the plane.
After September 11th, a decision was taken to improve security on board airplanes and make access to cockpits more difficult.

The passengers have their mobile phones and some get in contact with the dear ones on the ground and keep talking throughout.
This is in fact one of the main sources from which we learn what happened on United 93, the narrative and all the acts.

The relatives or friends that communicate with people on the plane see the news and what happens to the Twin Towers and The Pentagon.
And the passengers on United 93 come to realize what the use of their aircraft would be, if they do nothing about it.

It must also be said that the United States government, learning about the three attacks and the high jacking of United 93 made some plans…only they were not put in practice
If they watched the plane fly too close to Washington, where it became increasingly clear that it would target Congress or another strategic institution, then they would resort to a drastic, dreadful decision:

-          Take the plane down

In effect, fighter planes were not given the order to shoot down a civilian air craft, for fear of accidental shoot down.
Only the people on the flight took action themselves, understanding full well the consequences, risks and odds.

A group has decided that the only option is to attack the terrorists, hoping to regain control of the plane.
With grit, courage and determination, these Superheroes, heroic men and women went to face the enemy.

They did not manage to avoid their own deaths, but with their sacrifice they have saved the lives of others…

“Todd Beamer: [to Mark Bingham after Ziad Jarrah on purpose causes the plane to lose attitude as it gets closer to Washington D.C]. This is a suicide mission. They are not going to land this plane. They are not going to take us back to the airport. We have to do something. I don't think we have much of a choice.”

United 93 is an outstanding motion picture, about extraordinary, unique, courageous, powerful, unforgettable heroes.

luni, 14 august 2017

Note on Auf Kurze Distanz aka Point Blank, with Tom Schilling

Note on After Love, with Bérénice Bejo, Cédric Kahn, Marthe Keller

Note on Jasper Jones, with Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Angourie Rice

Note on Paulina aka La Patota, with Dolores Fonzi, Oscar Martinez

Note on Welcome to the Dollhouse, written and directed by Todd Solondz, ...

Day for Night, written by Jean-Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman and François Truffaut, directed by the latter, 9 out of 10

Day for Night, written by Jean-Louis Richard, Suzanne Schiffman and François Truffaut, directed by the latter
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Day for Night or La Nuit Américaine is one of the most acclaimed films.
It is included on the All-TIME 100 Movies list:

The motion picture was also nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director and Writing.
It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Director and Supporting Actress.

The narrative is perhaps as complex as possible, with the problems of making a film intersecting with personal issues.
We learn how difficult it could be to handle the crew, sometimes –or most of the time- superfluous stars.

There are scenes wherein not only humans have to be persuaded, cajoled but also cats, which do not obey the script.
Many scenes are funny, in the beginning, the younger and middle aged stars are asked about the story of the film they making and the younger says “it is about a young man”, while the mature: “it is about a middle aged man”.

La Nuit Américaine is about the making of a film called Je Vous Presente Pamela and the effort involved…logistics, stuntman, stars and their idiosyncrasies.

In fact, I have learned from a stunning book called Adventures in the Screen Trade about what real stars can be up to.
Dustin Hoffman and his shenanigans on the set of Marathon Man, Robert  Redford and his bad behavior after Bud Cassidy and The Sundance Kid and preparing for All The President’s Men, Al Pacino and others.

In the film within the film, a woman marries a young man only to find that she really loves- or is just infatuated?-with the father.
The audience learns about the problems that one actress has with remembering her lines and the solution they resort to.

This happened in another way with Marlon Brando, who, at a later stage in his career refused to memorize any lines and asked to have them written, on the forehead of the other actors if need be…the last story might be untrue though.
In Day For Night the lines for the forgetful star are plastered around the set and she can read them as she moves around.

Jacqueline Bisset is beautiful, charismatic and at times ingénue as Julie Baker, an actress married to a much older man.
Jean-Pierre Aumont, fabulous at a tender age in Four Hundred Blows, is Aphonse, who has the role of the young husband in the film within the motion picture, but on the set, he falls in love with a woman who runs away.

So Julie Baker tries to comfort the young man who, after his lover had departed with the stunt man, falls into a depressive state.
Julie and Alphonse end up spending the night together and the older husband, an Anglo-Saxon doctor is called to solve the problem.

It is bizarre and outré to see how difficult it could be to manage- finally, the director looks like he has to be a good manager- a team in which one has a funeral and he has to go away, another two have sex on the way to the set, where the crew had been waiting for them to bring in props and whatever else was necessary…

François Truffaut has the role of a…director, Ferrand, who has to show Julie Baker how to keep her head or hand, but also to listen to various members of the crew and their chagrins and pains, anxieties.
At one point, there is a major problem with one of the leading actors, playing the father and the director says that there is always this worry that the film cannot be finished or is compromised by the inability to use the star to the end.

Many references are made to other classics: Citizen Kane, Godfather- which is in cinemas at the time of production and is all that people want to see.

A jealous wife is present on the set, as she needs to continuously supervise her husband and she delivers a wild attack on those who make motion pictures.

duminică, 13 august 2017

Note on The Terminal, directed by Steven Spielberg, with Tom Hanks, Cath...

Note on Cast Away, directed by Robert Zemeckis, with Tom Hanks

Note on Captain Philips, directed by Paul Greengrass, with Tom Hanks

Note on The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, with Steve Carell, Steve Buscem...

A Short History of Film by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, 10 out of 10

A Short History of Film by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

A History of Film is fascinating, even when short.
And the brevity of the work is relative.

At fifteen hours in audiobook format, it is not exactly an afternoon read, even if it would definitely be enjoyable at the beach.
It is not light and the subject matter is colossal in magnitude and scope, so in this sense it is appropriate to call it short.

It is a joy ride that is also instructive, for it will familiarize the reader with names that might have escaped him.
We hear about the evolution of the Coen Brothers, from their first film noir Blood Simple, moving to Raising Arizona, Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowsky and more recent hits like No Country For Old Men.

Werner Herzog is another of the many cineastes mentioned in this gem of a book, with his first production that was made with an apparently stolen camera, his collaboration with the edgy, haunted, magnetic, incandescent and uncontrollable- because probably somewhat mad-Klaus Kinsky on magnificent works like Aguirre- The Wrath of God, the adventurous Fitzcarraldo and what extraordinary that entailed.
In fact, in a documentary on his cooperation and frequent clashes with “His Dear Friend” Klaus Kinski, Werner Herzog explains and shows the wild territories were they filmed, the leading actor fought with colleagues, accidents and injuries, with the incredible transportation of a whole ship across the mountain, which takes place in Fitzcarraldo and was actually done in real life and not brought to screen with any special effects.

The list of important artists, directors, heads of studio, actors and finally various financial and multinational companies involved in the film industry and mentioned in this fantastic book is impressive.

The reader finds about Charlie Chaplin and his on screen and real life events, with his inclusion on the infamous black list, together with other celebrities- Trumbo, Edgar G. Robinson and others, sometimes named by their colleagues.
Neorealism in Italy and its influence on the so many other directors is emphasized with masterpieces as The Bicycle Thief- one of the best ten movies ever made on various lists- La Terra Trema, Paisan, with the latter mentioned by Martin Scorsese in the documentary American Cinema as one of the productions that have had a huge impact on him.

Some films that have marked a landmark, like the aforementioned Bicycle Thief have their story briefly narrated, with details once in a while, regarding the production, backstage or technological achievement.
Film makers from around the world are also mentioned with the homage they deserve- Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini and his affair with Ingrid Bergman, who had a child with the director, compromising their careers.

In more recent times, the ascension of Spike Lee is mentioned, up to his later achievements, like Malcolm X, which had serious financial problems, with backers pulling out afraid that the subject and hero will inflame spirits and cause riots, so that the director had to enlist Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby to support the film
Kathryn Bigelow is one of the women directors that have achieved great success, even if the book was completed before her crowning achievement in 2008 with the Hurt Locker; it touches on her success Point Break and K-19.

In the past, the studios have had a tremendous power over stars and staff who had been under contracts, up to the Olivia de Havilland ruling, in which the actress won, a victory that had eluded Bette Davis when she had tried years before.
It may be an exaggeration in the other direction today, when a few celebrities have an astonishing power to launch or sink projects, their name on the short list could send the film beyond the sixty million dollar budget, before any scene is even shot, for some stars have passed the twenty million dollar benchmark a long time ago.

Alas, many if not most are in a category that I have no desire to watch- Avengers, Transformers and stars that I personally do not like in any case, like Dwayne Johnson “The Rock”, fantastically nominated as the best actor of 2016, or 2015 and Melissa McCarthy, in the same spot for actresses.

It is exhilarating to read about a genius like Elia Kazan and his involvement in masterpieces like A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, with the latter now seen as a condemnation of trade unions.
At the same time, the director, John Wayne, Ronald Regan and others seemed to have been involved in fighting the communist influence in Hollywood and therefore Elia Kazan was cheered by some in audience and disapproved of by many who attended the Academy Awards ceremony at which an honorary prize was given to the latter.

On both sides of the barricades we could find Ayn Rand, Robert Taylor- as one of the first friendly witnesses- Walt Disney, Gary Cooper and opposing them Humphrey Bogart, John Huston, Gene Kelly and others who had to abandon their “committee for the first amendment”

Note on Hands Over the City, written, directed by Francesco Rosi, with R...

vineri, 11 august 2017

Note on Sleeping with Other People, written, directed by Leslye Headland...

Note on Thank You for Smoking, with Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello

Note on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with Andy Serkis, James Franco, ...

Note on Evan Almighty, with Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman

Note on Hoodlum, with Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, Andy Garcia

Paths of Glory, written by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb, 9 out of 10

Paths of Glory, written by Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Paths of Glory is a…glorious film.
The audiences have places it at number 58 on the list of top rated films, on IMDB and The New York Times has included it on its list of 1,000 Best Movies Ever Made:

Stanley Kubrick is one of the best five directors ever, with achievements such as:

-          2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Lolita, Barry Lyndon

And in the leading role we have the phenomenal Kirk Douglas- Spartacus, The Bad and The Beautiful, Lust for Life being just some of his memorable performances, after we include his role as Colonel Dax in this masterpiece.
From the introduction to this chef d’oeuvre the audience learns about the World War I and the situation on the front, where the battle lines have stayed in the same place for about two years, moving with only few hundred yards.

The cost of any maneuver, for any centimeter of advancement towards the enemy lines was measured in hundreds of thousands of lives lost.
General George Broulard is talking with another general, Paul Mireau about an operation that the commanders have in mind, which would be dangerous- actually will mean the death of many- but would gain a promotion for the latter officer.
In the first place, Gen. Paul Mireau talks about the eight thousand men that he is responsible for and that he would rather not let them down than gain honors, decorations, but pretty soon changes his speech and talks about artillery support.

On a visit in the trenches, this general meets with the effects of war, talking with a soldier who is evidently absent and unaware of what is going on and his comrades explain that he is shell shocked, an explanation refuted by Paul Mireau.
He has a conversation with Colonel Dax, who is the officer responsible for the planned attack that will result in more than half of his men being killed, according to ruthless estimations made in advance of the reckless manoeuver.

The Colonel appears to be the only superior officer that really cares for his men and does everything he can to protect them, throughout the battle and then in the court martial trial, quoting Samuel Jackson to his superior: “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”.
Lieutenant Roget is on a reconnaissance mission when he gets too scared to continue and abandons one man and is responsible for the death of another, sending the surviving soldier to be executed in the aftermath of the ill-fated attack.

The plan to attack the enemy was destined to be a catastrophe right from the start, the only reason for launching such a mass suicidal mission being the vainglory, desire for fame, power and applause that generals had.
When the vicious, murderous general sees that the some of the soldiers cannot even go out of their trenches, faced with a terrible barrage of artillery, he orders repeatedly that his own guns fire upon their own troops.

In a vicious manner, after the failed attack, instead of having the superior officers that designed the catastrophic “advance” taken to task and trialed, innocent soldiers are selected, most at random, to face a court martial.
Some of these “accused” have had to draw a ticket at a “death lottery”, since there was no way to distinguish between combatants, they had all acted with bravery in previous battles and now they all had to wait when faced with imminent death from a curtain of enemy fire that made it impossible to take a step ahead.

The inhuman general, when faced with the result of his orders wants ten men from each company to be executed for the fiasco that was his and his superiors responsibility and he talks about insubordination and their refusal to attack which his contradicted by Colonel Dax who says that they obeyed orders but could not make any headway.

A flash court martial is organized to demonstrate that the accused did not advance but retreated when fighting the enemy, which was the only possible thing to do, short of committing suicide and walking straight into exploding projectiles.
Colonel Dax is the only honorable, just, compassionate, positive, brave, decent, responsible officer and he is right when he expresses his disgust in court, as he defends the accused, a task that he had asked for:

“Gentlemen of the court, there are times that I'm ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion…The attack yesterday morning was no stain on the honour of France, and certainly no disgrace to the fighting men of this nation. But this Court Martial is such a stain, and such a disgrace. The case made against these men is a mockery of all human justice. Gentlemen of the court, to find these men guilty would be a crime, to haunt each of you till the day you die. I can't believe that the noblest impulse for man - his compassion for another - can be completely dead here. Therefore, I humbly beg you... show mercy to these men.”

Too Big to Fail, written by Peter Gould, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, directed by Curtis Hanson, 9 out of 10

Too Big to Fail, written by Peter Gould, based on the book by Andrew Ross Sorkin, directed by Curtis Hanson, 9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Too Big to Fail is one of the best films I know.
It is about the most dramatic events in recent history- and if The Donald and the other lunatic, the Korean leader will not decide to blow millions of people away it will stay at number one for decades- the financial meltdown of 2008.

I have noted a few days ago on an exceptional documentary about the same subject, Inside Job, here:
This motion picture has an all-star cast and furthermore, the protagonists of the film had been the most powerful men in finance, on Wall Street, at the Treasury and hence some of the Rulers of the World…

Big egos, narcissistic personalities- much like the egotistic man in the White House today-macho men, alpha males are walking around in this film.
From the failed Chairman and CEO of The Lehman Brothers, Richard “Dick” Fuld, portrayed by James Woods to Ben Bernanke played by the outstanding Paul Giamatti, all these personages are fascinating, if most are outrageous.

Henry Paulson aka the great William Hurt has been criticized for his activity and richness accumulated prior to his role as Secretary of the Treasury, but the image we get from the film is that of a man doing the right thing under pressure.
Timothy Geithner played by a talented Billy Crudup was president of the New York Fed and part of the team that was trying to persuade the head of the major banks to take the official offer, together with Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson.

In the first part of the this incandescent drama, frantic efforts are made to convince a British or Chinese bank to salvage one of the Too Big to Fail, but this attempt fails and it looks like a possible domino effect.

Jamie Dimon, chairman, president and CEO of JPMorgan Chase aka Bill Pullman, John Mack, at the time chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, John Thain, the last chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch, played by Matthew Modine, Vikram Pandit, the then CEO of Citigroup, Jeffrey Immelt, leader of GE, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, Christine Lagarde, the then finance minister in the French government and today head of the IMF, Warren Buffett all have a presence in this End of the (financial) World epic.

Some are trying to hide the extent to which their banks are exposed or outright bankrupt, while others are reluctant or totally opposed to getting involved since their operations are running smoothly…
“Ben Bernanke: I don't really understand why there needs to be so much tension about this. The country is facing the worst economy since the Great Depression. If the financial system collapses, it will take every one of you down.”

Still, some saw this intervention as a helping hand for their competitors, while John Thain for instance was hoping that Bank of America would offer the best terms and he will get ahead of Dick Fuld who was also in the race to save Lehman.
Richard Fuld: [on the housing crisis] You know, people act like we're crack dealers. Nobody put a gun to anybody's head and said, "Hey, nimrod, buy a house you can't afford, and you know what? While you're at it, put a line of credit on that baby and buy yourself a boat."

Some felt the need for pause and approval from Congress, while others saw the emergency, there were critics who said- why save AIG when Lehman Brothers was allowed to sink, invoking the “Moral Hazard”
“If we do not act, boldly and immediately, we will replay the depression of the 1930s, only this time it will be far, far worse. We don't do this now, we won't have an economy on Monday”

And the dialogue is brilliant throughout, with some involuntary, absurd or dark humor included and possibly the best explanation for the whole collapse that has affected almost everyone, including the undersigned, who has never gone out of the city ever since and still has not recovered financially, albeit in the meantime, with the help of positive psychology I understood that other aspects are much more important than material things, which anyway are offering only brief periods of satisfaction, after which the hedonic adaptation phenomenon takes place and we get used with whatever object we bought:

-          Jim Wilkinson: Okay, here's how you explain it. Wall Street started bundling home loans together - mortgage-backed securities - and selling slices of those bundles to investors, and they were making big money. So they started pushing the lenders saying, come on, we need more loans.
-          Henry Paulson: The lenders had already given loans to borrowers with good credit, so they go bottom feeding, they lower their criteria.
-          Neel Kashkari: Before, you needed a credit score of 620 and a down payment of 20%; now they'll settle for 500, no money down.
-          Jim Wilkinson: And the buyer, the regular guy on the street assumes that the experts know what they're doing. He's saying to himself, if the bank's willing to loan me money, I must be able to afford it. So he reaches for the American Dream, he buys that house.
-          Neel Kashkari: The banks knew securities based on shitbag mortgages were to control their downside, the banks started buying a kind of insurance. If mortgages default, insurance company pays. Default swap. The banks insure their potential losses to move the risk off their books, so they can invest more, make more money.
-          Henry Paulson: And while a lot of companies insured their stuff, one was dumb enough to take on an almost unbelievable amount of risk…Michele Davis: AIG.
-          Michele Davis: And when they ask me why they did that?...Jim Wilkinson: Fees!
-          Neel Kashkari: Hundreds of millions in fees.
-          Henry Paulson: AIG figures the housing market would just keep going up. But then the unexpected happens…Jim Wilkinson: Housing prices go down.
-          Neel Kashkari: Poor bastard who bought his dream house? The teaser rate on his mortgage runs out, his payments go up, he defaults.
-          Henry Paulson: Mortgage-backed securities tank. AIG has to pay off the swaps. All of them. All over the world. At the same time.
-          Neel Kashkari: AIG can't pay. AIG goes under. Every bank they insure books massive losses on the same day. And then they all go under. It all comes down.
-          Michele Davis: [horrified] The *whole* financial system? And what do I say when they ask me why it wasn't regulated?

-          Henry Paulson: No one wanted to. We were making too much money.

joi, 10 august 2017

Note on Heist, written and directed by David Mamet, with Gene Hackman, D...

Note on The Way Back, directed by Peter Weir, with Ed Harris, Dragos Bucur

Note on Enemy of the State, with Gene Hackman, Will Smith

Note on The Medusa Touch, with Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Lino Ventura

Note on American Gigolo, directed by Paul Schrader, with Richard Gere

City of God, written by Braulio Mantovani, based on the novel by Paulo Lins, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, 9 out of 10

City of God, written by Braulio Mantovani, based on the novel by Paulo Lins, directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Critics and audiences agree on Cidade de Deus.
The public has rated this violent, extraordinary film at number 21:

And TIME magazine has included this motion picture on its All-TIME 100 Movies list:

And City of God was nominated for four Academy Awards, in the year when Lord of the Rings took so many prizes.
In my book, Cidade de Deus is better than the winner of the Oscar for best motion picture and the director prize for that year.

Having said that, it must be added that this film is quite difficult to watch in many if not most of its scenes.
From the start, I think we are shown how they kill a live chicken on camera and if not all the blood and death dance, at the very least, the images of the seemingly still warm body and the plucking of feathers are gruesome.

Veganism is the way out.
One bird gets away and a whole band of children mostly runs after the animal, which escapes miraculously.
“What should have been swift revenge turned into an all-out war. The City of God was divided. You couldn't go from one section the other, not even to visit a relative. The cops considered anyone living in the slum a hoodlum. People got used to living in Vietnam, and more and more volunteers signed up to die.”

It all happens in the poor slums of Rio de Janeiro, where rival gangs fight with no mercy and apparently no mercy.
In one scene, Li’l Ze, perhaps the cruelest, most despicable of the killers involved, catches a few children.

True, there appears to be no lower limit to adhere to a gang or just start with a few buddies to rob stores.
Li’l Ze is the leader of most of the City of God, at least for a period, having killed rivals and leaders of various territories.

When he has the two kids in front of him, he is asking them to choose- leg or hand, for he will shoot them where they choose.
And not just that, after the children, who are no more than six years old, are shot in the foot, in spite of choosing the hand this Godfather has other ideas.

He picks one of his upcoming underlings, another child, aged twelve maybe, who wants to be part of the gang and says to him

-          Now it’s your moment
-          You choose and kill one of them

Being raised in this extremely violent environment, little boys become killers at a very tender age and they steal and fight.
“Filé-com-Fritas - Steak and Fries: A kid? I smoke, I snort. I've killed and robbed. I'm a man.” And most of the other characters have the same point of view.

Peaceful bystanders cannot stay of this all out, continuous war, for they get trapped and killed without any remorse.
In one instance, Li’l Ze and his band attack a young man and his girlfriend- the narrator explains that this is the only way the gang leader knows to get close to a girl and the general attitude is one of sexist, macho chauvinist males.

After he abuses and rapes the girl, beats the young man, the crazy mobster stops away from the scene of his crime and thinks- “why didn’t I kill that dude?!”
So he goes to his house, shouts that he wants the boy out, his brother comes and tries to reason with the gang of maybe 30 killers.

Unsatisfied, they kill the brother and start a shooting spree, covering the poor house in a rain of bullets, killing an uncle too.
The police are not just corrupt and involved in the drug trade and taking sides according to the pay off, but itself involved in killings.

miercuri, 9 august 2017

Note on Rabbit Hole, with Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart

Note on Waterworld, with Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn

Note on Ghostbusters, with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd

Note on Blame It On Rio, with Michael Caine, Demi Moore

Note on Swing Vote, with Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper

Chinatown, written by Robert Towne, directed by Roman Polanski, 10 out of 10

Chinatown, written by Robert Towne, directed by Roman Polanski
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Chinatown is one of the masterpieces that will remain in history and I have it included in my top twenty favorites.
It is also on All-TIME 100 Movies list:

Robert Evans, the producer of this film and the man responsible for other major motion pictures, one of which might be the very best of them all, The Godfather, writes about Chinatown in his book about movies:

-          The Kid Stays in the Picture

We learn from there how Robert Evans was involved in getting roman Polanski to Hollywood and how they worked on Rosemary’s Baby.
There is the funny aspect of Frank Sinatra, his request to have his wife, Mia Farrow, back soon and how she wanted to pay back.

Roman Polansky is the magician directing Chinatown, after the immense success and Oscar nomination for Knife in the Water…
And of course, the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby, for which the director wrote the screenplay, nominated for both Oscars and Golden Globes.

Chinatown was nominated for all the major Academy Awards and had to compete with Godfather II, but won for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

The magnificent Jack Nicholson was discovered by Robert Evans and that story is included in the aforementioned book.
He is a private detective called Jake Gittes and he is asked to work on what seems to be a usual case, the wife suspecting her husband of infidelity.

Jake and his associates follow Mr. Mulwray and they think they have found the very young woman with who he is involved.
The story gets in the newspaper and Jake is visited by Evelyn Mulwray, who informs him that he is being sued…

The woman who had hired the detective was doing so on false pretenses…the real wife is Faye Dunaway.
Chinatown is about human relationships, love and betrayal, greed and power, money and fame, but also about…Water.

It is notable that a long time after the time of the story, California and Los Angeles have a huge problem with water.
So severe that over the past few years, draconic measures have been taken in places where taking a bath instead of a shower was forbidden, watering the lawn- indeed many lawns had been painted green.

Hollis Mulwray is found dead, with salt water in his lungs and it becomes increasingly obvious that the water is the key to this murder and that the dead man found out that water had been dumped at night, in the middle of a…drought.
Enter the stage Noah Cross portrayed with outstanding talent by an actor better known as director- John Huston.

He is the rich former owner of the water supply, in partnership with his late son-in-law and he has concocted a plan to become even richer.
Noah Cross wants to hire Jake Gittes to find “the girl „who is actually the key of the investigation and the motion picture.

The hero is attacked and beaten in various circumstances, his nose is cut- by a hoodlum played by Roman Polansky.
The detective is doing an outstanding job, proving to be a real superhero, for he follows the trace of corruption into the orange groves, in the offices where the registers are, in an asylum for old people, supposedly owners of huge areas of land that would make them incredibly rich, onto to the salty pond at the Mulwray house.

This where he becomes too violent and the aura of superman is disintegrating for he is very aggressive with the woman he had an affair with and he suspects is responsible for murder, having the wrong evidence.
The glasses he holds as irrefutable proof had not belonged to the victim and therefore even the best of detectives can be wrong.

This is an exceptional film.

marți, 8 august 2017

Note on Exam, written and directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Note on The Invisible Woman, starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes, wit...

Note on Savages, directed by Oliver Stone, with Salma Hayek, John Travolta

Note on RED, with Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Bruce Willis

Note on The Edge of Seventeen, with Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson

Some Like It Hot, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond suggested by stories by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan,10 out of 10

Some Like It Hot, written by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond suggested by stories by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan
10 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

Some Like It Hot is one of the best films ever made, included on various prestigious lists, including my favorite top 50.
It is on the All-TIME 100 Movies list:

the writer and director Billy Wilder is also one of the best in the “Screen Trade”, winner of Six Academy Awards and responsible for masterpieces like:

-          Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Seven Years Itch, The Apartment and perhaps his best: Some Like It Hot

Leading the cast is the incredible Marilyn Monroe, also in one of her best, if not their top performance in this fantastic comedy.
Jack Lemmon as Jerry and then Daphne and Tony Curtis as Joe aka Josephine aka Shell Oil Junior have written pages of cinema history here.

Joe and Jerry are two musicians that are accidental witnesses of a bloody attack by mobsters led by Spats Colombo.
They are desperate to get out of town and remain alive, for they know what the mafia does to those who see their murders.

Alas, the only way out of town, in a band of musicians is to join a band of…women performers and they take the ticket.

They arrive at the train station and watch with infinite desire the passing Marilyn Monroe in a scene that is also included in cinema history.
Joe and Jerry have now become Josephine and Daphne respectively, but they both long for the beautiful Sugar Kane Kowalczyk aka Marilyn Monroe.

When they reach Florida, another historical moment is staged, where a line of men, all sitting on chairs, look after the all-girl band, moving at the same time- legs, necks and all…
Joe has an idea about how to seduce Sugar, who told him/her about her dreams of meeting a young, rich playboy.

So Joe is no longer Josephine, at least for a while, as he dresses again as a man, Shell Oil Junior to be more precise.
This rich contraption has a yacht and more importantly, a cunning plan to conquer the heart of any woman- maybe.

One could think of the greatest writer ever- Marcel Proust, who says in Remembrance of Things Past that we want what we do not have.
And Shell Oil- what a wondrous name- is not interested in women, although he has tried to see an analyst about that…

Meanwhile, Jerry stays in the shoes and clothes of Daphne and a real millionaire, Osgood Fielding III becomes infatuated with him/her.
The result is hilarious and the writers have been using comedy for what may be subversive themes for the time.

Behind all the laughter, there may be a message of tolerance and acceptance, in a period when homosexuality was illegal.
This is not a gay themed film, but the idea that a man can be attracted by another male, albeit dressed as a woman could be seen as advanced for 1959.

-          “Jerry: Have I got things to tell you!
-          Joe: What happened?
-          Jerry: I'm engaged.
-          Joe: Congratulations. Who's the lucky girl?
-          Jerry: I am!”

Well, how much funnier or subversive the dialogue can get? The answer is in the next quote form this magnificent, glorious comedy:

-          “Jerry: Oh no you don't! Osgood, I'm gonna level with you. We can't get married at all.
-          Osgood: Why not?
-          Jerry: Well, in the first place, I'm not a natural blonde.
-          Osgood: Doesn't matter.
-          Jerry: I smoke! I smoke all the time!
-          Osgood: I don't care.
-          Jerry: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I've been living with a saxophone player.
-          Osgood: I forgive you.
-          Jerry: [tragically] I can never have children!
-          Osgood: We can adopt some.
-          Jerry: But you don't understand, Osgood! Ohh...[Jerry finally gives up and pulls off his wig]
-          Jerry: [normal voice] I'm a man!

-          Osgood: [shrugs] Well, nobody's perfect! [Jerry looks on with disbelief as Osgood continues smiling with indifference…”