Juni 02, 2019

Review Shadow of a Doubt (1943)


“SHADOW OF A DOUBT” (1943)
By Alfred Hitchcock | USA
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Hitchcock can really do no wrong. “Shadow of a Doubt” is yet another prove of this statement; a common display of his mastery in building tension and in this case, mystery, to a jaw clenching degree. His understanding of the cinematic language — as to how he uses his shots, editing and soundtracks — are impeccable and should forever be held in the same regard of his contemporary, the legendary Orson Welles or even some of cinema’s first innovators such as Albert Smith and Eisenstein.
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What’s unique about “Shadow of a Doubt” however, lies with the fact of how strikingly relevant the premise is. The story of a beloved public figure who secretly hides a dark secret waiting to be exposed is unfortunately, a common occasion in these recent times. Yet it is not the surface of such stories that raises the most concerns, it is the fact that it’s often harder to let go of the person we’ve come to love them to be in order to acknowledge the monster they are capable of being. Spacey, Louise C.K., and even recently, fan favorite superstar Michael Jackson, being some examples of such unfortunate cases. Where the question of legacy versus justice became scarily blurred and delivering the deft hand of the law carries the biggest weight. Uncle Charlie may just be a monster, but its too painful for his family to see to the truth of that fact. And as a family such doubt is certainly the right choice, is it not?
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The dilemma that the film brought works well as a reflection of the struggles that many victims of these heinous figures must’ve felt at some point. Similarly to the more recent film, Jennifer Fox’ “The Tale”, it discusses the topic of a predatory individual in a complete and rounded way. It doesn’t paint an easy picture and potrays all the complexities of knowing a predator personally; how much you are morally challenged and broken with disappointment. Especially — such as this case — that person is a figure you’ve based your persona on.
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“Shadow of a Doubt” is a film that cohere to our current social climate and epidemic of predatory behavior in Hollywood and, in every where in fact. Accidental or not, it is these values that made this 70 years old Hitchcock classic not only stood the test of time, but even rose through its age. Now it’s time for us to decide whether the same story shall goes on another 70 years from now, or shall we swallow our guilt and dilemmas in order to serve justice — the only thing that matters.
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Juni 01, 2019

Review Castle in the Sky (1986)


“CASTLE IN THE SKY” (1986)
By Hayao Miyazaki | Japan
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With Studio Ghibli now established and everyone’s attention pointing right at him, Miyazaki followed up his stunning breakout film “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” with an equally, if not more whimsical tale that surpasses in every department. “Castle in the Sky” is indeed bigger, more epic, and with much more characters to pack into one film, but it surprisingly do so well in nailing everything down to perfection. The animation is obviously astonishing (no question about that) but even in its design, detail, and world building — something that this film specially excels at — were all done in a flawless way.
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The story is a familiar one, especially in the works of Miyazaki. A young boy from a beautiful hidden village (check) meets a young princess (check) and has to embark in an adventure (check) to search for an ancient magical place (check) known as Laputa, a flying city thought of as mere legend. Pursuing them is a band of flying pirates and an army of soldiers, both faction equipped with a variety of bug shapped aircrafts, vintage weapons, and robotic machinery poured straight out of Miyazaki’s creative head. The results are possibly the best adventure film ever made or at the very least, certainly the most imaginative one. And it’s really that sense of wonderous adventure that really pulls you in with these movies. It makes you feel like a kid again, which is what Miyazaki is aiming for.
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Yet the common misconception is that the biggest strengths of these Ghibli films lays solely on its visuals, which though great indeed, still is only in service for the greater quality of Ghibli : the emotional journey. It’s no secret that anime is a master at jerking people tears, but it is most true here. “Castle in the Sky” elevates its every moment with raw emotion. Like the child protagonist of every one of its film, you will be thrusts into moments of immense beauty or sorrow, all even more heightened with Ghibli’s visual palette. In these other worlds, happiness comes as blue as the skies are, and the sorrow even greater when surrounded with its ambient night lights.
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“Castle in the Sky” is one in a long line of animated masterpieces made by Studio Ghibli and its creative head, Hayao Miyazaki. Though its easy to see this film as the gorgeous visual feast that it is; its outer beauty can only compete so much with the real mastercraft it hid within its cobblestone houses and mining cliffs. The journey to find Laputa is not a physical one, but more so an emotionally charge experience of finding oneself. Which makes that moment of discovery, as our two heroes stood just near a cliff looking down on the breathtaking view, such a cathartic release.
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Mei 31, 2019

Review Chungking Express (1994)

Review Chungking Express (1994)

“CHUNGKING EXPRESS” (1994)
By Wong Kar-Wai | Hong Kong
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Circa mid 1990s, Quentin Tarantino introduces his love and fascination for filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai in a UCLA screening for the film “Chungking Express”. The video made its way to the late great film critic Roger Ebert’s review on the film itself. He pointed out a statement Tarantino made about his experience of watching Chungking : “I just started crying,” he said. But as Ebert made clear, Quentin didn’t cry because the film is inherently sad, instead it is because “I’m just so happy to love a movie this much.” You see, as Ebert puts it, “Chungking Express” is one of those film that transcends its own media, and instead acts as a love letter to its artform. It is a film made by someone who adored film for people who adored film, in the same way the French New Wave (an apparent inspiration for Kar-Wai) is a statement of that love. Yet to me, Chungking works even beyond that. Saying that it exclusively appeals to those with prior love of cinema would be a diservice. For at the end, it ultimately becomes a film made for people who feel love. Love and loss.
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Through his heavily stylized direction (the appeal for the filmmakers side of the audience) Wong Kar-Wai gave us a kaleidoscopic look on his exploration of love. With two seperate stories we witness love and the different people struck or depleted by it entangled in a series of coincidental miracles and the cruelty of reality. These back and forth essentially become the crux of the film’s soul. As if the picture itself become the embodiment of the character’s conflicting feelings. And as we witness all of this unravels we started to question ourselves of the same questions that haunts our two cops, blonde drug dealer, and sandwich maker. A question that has never been made clear and will never will be. A question that leaves us wide awake at the middle of every lonely saturday nights; wondering what can it be. Should I love or should I hate? Should I hold on to what I long for or should I let go to welcome the new? Am I living in reality or am I simply sleepwalking through my days dreamin’ of California?
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“Chungking Express” is Wong Kar-Wai’s testament to the believe that those who love cinema, can make great cinema. That formalities and restrictions society has made about film is a rule we shouldn’t be bounded with. And at the same time it states also the same principles in regards to love. How easy it is to do fall for it and to break out of it. So long as we love the act of loving and everything that goes with it. Heartbreaks, loneliness, and delusions, they’re all only parts of the same wheel that keeps on turning. A cog in the everlasting journey of finding love, aboard the rails of the chungking express.
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This was a request from someone but I can’t seem to find the account who submitted it. Whoever it is you are out there, thank you for excellent request!
#MaratusanFilmReview #ChungkingExpress #WongKarWai #BrigitteLin #TakeshiKaneshiro #TonyLeung #FayeWong #MaratusanHongKong #hongkongcinema #MaratusanRomance #MaratusanForeign #MaratusanPerfect100 #filmreview #moviereview

Mei 30, 2019

Review Us (2019)


“US” (2019)
By Jordan Peele | USA
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Though it start off quite jarring with the jumps between comedy and horror, Jordan Peele’s latest child, “Us”, quickly exhilarate into both an entertaining adrenaline rush and a collection of thought provoking ideas, knitted together as if in mirrored opposite (sounds familiar?). Like his breakout film, “Get Out”, Jordan’s true sense of horror lays not on what’s happening on the screen, but rather the idea that it subtly suggests. These ideas were laid bear in the very opening text crawl : America is built on top of these mazes; these tunnels of secrecy, of discrimination, of violence all burried deep within the privilege it suggests to its people. Not realizing that for every small thing they take for granted, someone down there had to suffer for it.
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“Us”, in a social commentary context is indeed about the exploitation of consumerist culture. And like the title, Peele’s clear intention was indeed to put this mirror to the people of his nation — hence the title “Us” as in US. Yet, the genius of the film is that it works despite taken out of that context and how it fits a lot of messages both in a personal and societal level.
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When talking about the actual plot, the conceit is clearly meant as a personal journey. For the most part, we as the audience were put directly in the shoes of our protagonist, Adelaide, straight away from the opening. We followed her through the traumatic event of her childhood, an event that shaped her and the story of the film, and we see that repercussions seeping through her adult self. This is where Lupita Nyong’o acting brilliance comes to play. Nyong’o perform Adelaide always vigilantly, always reacting and observing her surroundings; thus inciting us to feel the unhinged and paranoid nature she is feeling throughout the film first act. Combined her performance with Peele’s eyeful camera work, they both managed to make scenes of a summer vacation on a beach becomes the most tension filled scene of the year so far.
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After these moments of characterizations, “Us” then finally live up to its title and turn the focus to an unexpected pairing. Though its easy to assume the title itself refers to our main family, I truly believe the Us we’re talking about is between Adelaide and the shadow of herself, Red. This relationship is the crux of the personal messages “Us” is bringing to the table. It is that old question of what makes us ourselves? It touches on nature vs. nurture, of how two same individuals raised in two polar environments will grow to become extreme opposites of one another. That particular question then echoes in the larger societal context. Are the qualities of a person is ultimately entangled with their class? Of their place in society? It asks us to ponder why there are these stereotypes of “the hood”, that refers to less fortunate african-american neighborhoods and whether that should’ve been taken as an issue of race or societal class. Putting an affluent black family in the center of “Us” strengthens that gap of economy and social class in comparison with their less fortunate shadow selves.
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It’s interesting to see how people is taking these ideas in. Some, seemingly thought that the film is too blatant in its messaging while others think of it as confusing. But to me, what many don’t realized is that that is the genius of Peele. Like “Get Out”, this latest addition to his directorial work is one that works in many layers. It works definitely well as the surface entertainment that it is. However it does offer a deeper look for those who are seeking for it. How deep you dig into these layers are all up to you. But the deeper you go, the deeper you are rewarded by the true horror Peele is hiding beneath. Like I said in the beginning : the horror of Peele’s work comes not on what’s shown on the screen, but what is hidden beneath its ideas.
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“Us” proves again of Peele’s vision as a horror auteur and a creative director. Entertaining at its most simple form, intriguing at its second layer, and builds into a scarier and scarier notions with every deeper level it uncovers, the film is one that will haunt you more hours after you watch it.

Mei 26, 2019

Review The Color Purple (1985)


“THE COLOR PURPLE” (1985)
By Steven Spielberg | USA
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Sometimes it can be annoying when a film plays a bit too much with your heartstrings. There’s just such a thin line between what we can call emotional and manipulative. “The Color Purple” threads on this line. Yet with a genuinely provoking story; one filled with moments of downfalls and triumphs, it still kept its own integrity that kept it away from cheesy territory.
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If anything, the story of this racially charged feminist story is actually rather harrowing on paper. Family friendly favorite director, Steven Spielberg (at least at that time), did not shy away from the horrific truth when potraying the early 1900 era south. In the first five minutes alone, every bit of disturbing normality is already brought upon as our protagonist is being introduced : Celie, the girl who would soon struck our upmost empathy, is already pregnant twice by the age of 14. What more sickening is, both child were of his father — a sexual abuser who sees his daughters as nothing but property. Just barely a teen, Celie was already sold on to an acquaintance of his dad, a farmer by the name Albert. Like most other men around her, Albert turns out to be an abuser as well; never hesitant when it comes to physically and psychologically torment his new wedded wife. Celie’s world seems lost and herself left unloved, if not for her only sister Netty who swore that the only thing keeping her love away from Cellie is death itself. Which essentially became Cellie’s only vain hope for the next fourty years of living as a tortured soul.
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Seeing the lessons of “The Color Purple” is easy. Like most of his work, Spielberg didn’t buried his intention deep within the story. On the contrary, “The Color Purple” is full of people spouting their belief. It’s a story of people who hold strongly on what they set upon as normal. This of course, reflects well the true difficulty in overcoming the real oppression within the world. Where the issue is not that these abusers and discriminators want to be evil by their own right. But it is because they think of their behaviors as normal
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Whether it be racial or gender, abuse and discrimination were normalize. It is clearer and clearer as we venture more and more into the past. “The Color Purple” reminded us of that. It acts less as a cautionary tale for the future as much as a harrowing reminder to the disgusting ways we used to held up. And how years of living with the established norm has left us ignorant to keep questioning what’s right. This is even more dangerous to the victims who out of habit, swept off the injustice done upon them rather than standing up. And that, is why the progress we have made of late felt so significant. We need to save more and more Celie; who never thought intimacy can ever be based on love. Celie who advocate for the abuse of her own kind because she simply couldn’t think off anything else. We need to let them hold their heads up high. Because that is what they deserve and not a single bit less.
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“The Color Purple” is a genuinely touching story of resilience. It is a story of overcoming abuse through the very qualities those abusers don’t have: and it is tenderness, patience, and resilience. A true classic that not only gave us Oprah and Whoopi Goldberg, but also tons of food for thought.
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