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Thursday, April 3, 2014

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: A Curious Oddity called NOAH- My take

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: A Curious Oddity called NOAH- My take: I never intended to go see Noah.  My curiosity got the better of me for two major reasons.  I'm a fan of the director Darren Aronofsky, ...

A Curious Oddity called NOAH- My take

I never intended to go see Noah.  My curiosity got the better of me for two major reasons.  I'm a fan of the director Darren Aronofsky, he had never worked on a such a huge, symbolically loaded canvas plus a mostly positive review in Salon tipped the balance in Noah's favor.

Noah is not a complete disappointment, some elements of the film especially the brutality of men,the destruction of the environment, the whole ecological message still resonate with passion and profundity. This is a serious, somber film because the destruction of planet earth by man made forces and then by divine intervention are not mere trifling matters.  These are survival issues and they are accorded the respect and treatment which they are due.

Russell Crowe returning to the passion of his earlier roles plays Noah a man destined for great things, Jennifer Connelley is equally excellent as Noah's resourceful wife.  The tale is the first well known apocalyptic tale but it's presented in the film without any sense of grounding in biblical times save for a brief introduction highlighting the fall of Adam and Even and their banishment from the Garden of Eden.  Other than that the word God is never mentioned, the word creator is used instead.  When the film opens Noah has witnessed the murder of his father after having been told by him of portentous things to come.  Later on an older Noah now played by Crowe is seen living a semi bucolic seemingly idyllic life with his family consisting of wife and three sons.  They are vegetarians one might even call them vegans since they only eat the greens and fruits which nature provides.  They do not eat meat.  They have retreated from the world of men whose punishing activities have slowly destroyed the earth and all its bounties.  At this juncture the script asks us to follow a somewhat tortuous path, machinery is glimpsed, mining is alluded to, the term industrial might have even been used.  It's obvious that the script is a mash up of biblical allusions and tales of modern man in the modern world.  For people who are deeply religious and consider the Bible to be gospel this might be viewed as offensive.  I didn't have any such problem, on the contrary, it was interesting to witness a novel take on such a well known story.

Noah and his family leave after one of Noah's visions.  He seeks the help of his grandfather played with a lot of panache by Anthony Hopkins.  A flood will come, Noah must build an ark big enough to house all of earth's creations. The ark is built with the help of a sacred seed giving rise to a bountiful forest and the Watchers, great lumbering stone giants who are pretty awesome in terms of the CG effect.

That's the story in a nutshell.  Here are some of the things which didn't work for me.  I kept being distracted by the costumes which I would term artistically deconstructed.  A lot of woolens, some leather, buttons, great coats with hoods which I could see myself wearing (haha), these distractions kept me wondering who was doing all the sewing.  It seems trivial but it took away from the seriousness of the message pointing out the fact that this was an ambitious work of creative fiction which fell short of igniting a debate about the ruinous path which man and woman, ancient and modern, had been set on.  The fakery of the clothes was merely symptomatic of the fakery of everything else.  All the animals in the arc, once they're in there they're put fast asleep by some kind of aromatic herb dispensed like incense via smoke.  That's all it takes for the animals to keep from eating each other.  The arK feels more roomy than it actually looks from a bird's eye view and not entirely convincing when you start to break it down.  Lastly I was appalled at the brutal choice which Noah was prepared to make , gender discrimination at its most disturbing.  I should have been more moved than I was yet in the end all I felt was a bemused indifference.  In closing I would also like to mention Ray Winstone as the tribal Lord Tubal cain.  He infused each scene with a ferocity which was palpable. For him the choice was always clear man is destined to put his imprint on the earth, the creator is an absent landlord. This is not an entirely misguided view of the creator since he's not much of a presence in the film, he is often invoked but seldom answers leaving Noah and us to puzzle things out on our own.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Travels are over- back to film criticism - Review ...

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Travels are over- back to film criticism - Review ...: Québec director Denis Villeneuve has certainly proven himself to be very eclectic in his choice of subjects so far. From Polytechnique about...

Travels are over- back to film criticism - Review of film ENEMY

Québec director Denis Villeneuve has certainly proven himself to be very eclectic in his choice of subjects so far. From Polytechnique about the University of Montreal massacre to Incendies nominated for an Oscar in 2011 to the recent very well received Prisoners  starring Jake Gyllenhaal and a scary Hugh Jackman to his more recent baffling offer, Enemy also starring Villeneuve's new muse Jake Gyllenhaal.
Honestly I still don't know what to make of Enemy.  I didn't dislike it but I didn't love it either. There are some things to admire about it and other things which are simply monotonous and frankly quite boring.  I would not qualify it as an entertaining film, certainly a challenging one which in this age of sugary confections which pass for movies can only be a good thing.  It reminded me of early David Lynch at his most opaque with a dollop of scary Cronenberg thrown into the mix.  Not a bad combination, certainly a very volatile one.

Based on Portuguese Nobel winner José Saramago's book The Double the story is a fairly straightforward one.  Adam Bell (Jake G.) leads a monotonous existence.  His life is an uninterrupted set of every day repetitive occurrences.  He takes the bus, teaches a course on history where he expounds on capitalism/power and how to maintain a stranglehold on the masses virtually verbatim with little passion or inclination to provoke discussion, walks back home, has semi-indifferent sex with his not quite live in girlfriend Mary and starts all over again the very next day.  It's your average mind numbing sad sack existence from which, seemingly there is no reprieve.  All this is filmed in a brown,beige,off white, sickly green palette accompanied by an ominous tonal music which portents of strange things to come.  As an aside I am getting very tired of this kind of sepia only tones creeping into so much of today's cinematography, I long for vibrant splashes of technicolor, in this film even the green of the grass or the trees is muted. It doesn't help that Toronto has never appeared this ugly or this forbidding. The endless towers dwarfing the life below them and the strange appearance of a giant billowing spider floating above the city do nothing to ease the spectator's unease.  Spiders and or a presumed arachnophobia are a component of the film which opens on an all male private sex club where spiders such as tarantulas are squashed by 8 inch heels, the act is suggested rather than carried out to its logical conclusion.

After viewing a film suggested by a colleague, Adam wakes up nagged by an image he has seen in the film.
Yes there it is, his exact doppelganger posing as a bell boy.  Adam is startled but at the same time suffused with unsuppressed excitement, finally something unusual happening in his life.  After some research he discovers the actor's name is Anthony St. Claire. Anthony has a pregnant wife named Helen.  The two end up meeting and their lives become entwined as each of their partners become pawns in a game of guess who this is although it's unclear if Helen knows or is just on a fishing expedition when she asks Adam posing as Anthony "how was class today?"  Personally I think that's a red herring meant to confuse and obfuscate.

There are a lot of shots of the actors pensively staring out into space.  The characters don't appear to react in what I would term "normal" ways.  Upon seeing Adam, Anthony's doppelganger  Claire doesn't immediately tell Anthony about it, instead she lies on the sofa mute, teary eyed and then finally accuses Anthony of "knowing about it."  It's all very meaningless and improbable as a reaction. Furthermore the characters don't actually talk to each other,they don't listen to music, they don't watch t.v. (how very mundane) they don't engage with any other characters (or ever so briefly) they don't eat, they have sex more as a penance than an actual joyful short they merely exist to be captured in front of the camera as static and unwilling participants in their own dull existences.  Gyllenhaal is fine in both roles.  He captures the lumpy,bored professor Adam  and the swagger and intensity of the actor Anthony very well.  He can be both handsome and ordinary, that's his physical gift.
The women are also captivating both bringing vulnerability and strength to their respective roles Sarah Gadon  as Anthony's wife Helen is an especially luminous presence.

The film pulses with a menace which is never completely realized or fulfilled, as such it's more style than substance but the style does carry it along for most of its viewing. The film can be summed up as metaphysical  horror, more intellectual unease than actually physically frightening.  The alluded too reference of spider as woman one squishing the id of the male psyche (Anthony) the other inhibiting and power draining (Adam) could have been better explored instead of being given a rather oblique treatment forcing us to put the pieces together in ways that aren't always satisfactory. The end is either a joke or a grotesque in your face punch line, as for me I haven't decided yet which it is but the image does stay with you long after the film is over.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A little bit of this and that in Melaque, Mexico

At this point I'm still not expecting a huge amount of traffic for my blog but do want to thank the two or three fateful readers, thanks sis, merci Johane et Tammy.  I have a few observations to share. If you are amongst those who might enjoy a relaxing, relatively inexpensive vacation in Mexico as opposed to settling for an all inclusive which does have its own advantages Melaque might be for you. First of all the positives:  As I've stated before nothing much changes here in some ways that's unfortunate because there's still a lot of garbage, crumbling buildings, defunct sidewalks etc...Recently we attended a fundraiser to supply Melaque Obregon and Coastacomate (a nearby village) with garbage cans, okay great endeavor but isn't that something that the city council should do as a matter of course???? We've been coming here for over ten years on and off and not one single garbage can has ever appeared on the beach, it's the same now as it was then.  True it's difficult to change well ingrained attitudes, Mexico is slowly coming around to the idea of recycling although stores still automatically dish out plastic bags unless you specifically ask them not to.  We have a little mountain of plastic bags on the kitchen table in our room, I don't have a specific shopping bag and we're just here for a short time...lame excuse I know, thankfully we don't do a lot of shopping since we're mostly sticking to eating breakfast and the occasional lunch.
Melaque has probably one of the nicest beaches in Mexico.  It's situated in a lovely bay with view of hills and rocky outcroppings.  The beach is around five kms. long and extends from Melaque all the way to the town at the other end called Barra de Navidad.  It's walkable and we have done it before but it's too hot right now and it's not going to get any cooler.  People who have been coming here a long time say it's one of the warmest they've ever seen and that includes the ocean which is downright tepid.  Speaking of the ocean there are these tiny fishes which insist on bumping into you and giving you a little dab of exfoliation....hey some people pay for that! Haha.  It's a little freaky at first.  They mostly bump against your thighs and legs they're tiny as I've stated but they're hard to see because the water gets churned up by the waves.  Some of the people at this hotel are so freaked out by them they won't go in the water.  We just consider it a little playful nudge plus they only do it at certain times of the day so you have to time your entries accordingly.  The people in this town are super friendly with Canadian flags galore much more Canadians, mostly from British Columbia and some from Alberta, it seems like they're the only players in town.  The anglo-Canadians stick together although they do spread themselves a little more thinly than the Quebecois do.  The Quebecois really stick together, nothing unusual there, it's something we've noticed in the past.  They like to do things as a group in general, I suppose they really do enjoy each others' company which is fine.  Quebecois discovered Melaque quite a few years ago and some of them even drive here all the way from Quebec which would be a hell of a trip.  We've done it from B.C. and it can get pretty harrowing especially weather wise.
It's difficult to believe that some people have been coming here to this same hotel for the last thirty years!  They're mostly all old timers know each other quite well from vacation time spent together.  It reminds me a lot of Lake Chapala and Ajijic where the same phenomenon occurred except with expatriates.  There's always a time for Pilates, bingo, dominoes, bridge, water exercises etc...we're not joiners hence we don't socialize that much although I'm a social creature by nature so do try and talk to the various people here.  It gets lonely when the other person in your life is not all that talkative.  It's a recurrent problem whenever we travel and I know with certainty that it will never cease to be a problem.
I can't say for sure whether this will definitely be our last trip to Mexico, we've said that before and here we are.  The beach is lovely and virtually empty, water is great, can't complain about the weather etc...the main problem is food.  There is and always has been a total lack of variety in what's being offered regardless of which restaurant you go to and regardless of the amount you pay.  It's mostly the same boring fare on offer.  We've tried high end and we've tried low end, invariably it's a huge disappointment.  There are hardly any vegetables used in the cooking except for some shredded cabbage, one or two slices of tomatoes and cucumbers and, if you're lucky, the odd avocado.  Living on tacos every day which most Mexicans don't seem to mind at all is not exactly an inspiring thought.  I could deal with it and have dealt with it but not everybody is built the same way and I do admit it does get tedious going out looking for a decent place to eat. It starts to feel like searching for the Holy Grail, okay slight exaggeration there and yes it's easy to get frustrated over the whole food issue.  I've already had three shrimp burgers, one of which in Puerto Vallarta, was very good  while the others were passable, that damn Bimbo bread it folds in on itself till all you get is a soggy mush.
Went to the market on Wednesday in Obragon, the market used to be a relatively small affair which has now morphed into something huge with gringos walking around sweating profusely and high fiving each other....LOL  Yes it's a very small community here and eventually you will run in into someone you know which can be either good or bad depending on one's point of view.  At the market I bought banana bread from a gringa and delicious lemon slices, felt bad about not buying something from a local but did taste the strawberries (watery) and blackberries (acidic) therefore did not buy them.  It really felt like they were commercially produced on a huge scale hence the lack of taste.  You've never tasted a more luscious strawberry than the white ones they grow in France, now those are mouth watering no doubt about that.
For a news junkie I'm feeling totally out of the loop.  Watching CNN is an extremely painful tedious experience with their endless self-promotion of shows.  Even shows which might interest me lose their allure after having seen the adds for them what feels like a million times.  The height of ridicule the CNN station broadcasts from Hong Kong I kid you not....Instead of getting news about Mexico, Central and South America we get news about China, Australia, Thailand, it's bloody ridiculous.  I don't understand why it's always touted as one of the greatest news network in the world.  In my humble opinion it sucks big time, we only watch it out of desperation for news of any kind.  There's going to be a huge celebration starting March 9th to celebrate the birth of San Patricio the patron saint of the town....expect lots of fireworks starting around 5 in the morning, should make for short nights and considering I'm not sleeping all that well, you get the picture.  I'll be blogging about that, it should be exciting.  Stay tuned adios for now.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Melaque,Mexico redux

My Travels And A Little Bit of This And That: Melaque,Mexico redux: New post, new time and more than two bars for the internet connection, must grab the opportunity and take advantage of it while I can.  Befo...