Random Factoid #436

7 10 2010

Hooray for memes!  It’s been a while since I’ve been tagged in one of these … good to be back on the circuit!  Thanks to Sebastian for tagging me.  Here’s the pitch:

The idea is that you list off the first 15 directors that come to your head that have shaped the way you look at movies. You know, the ones that will always stick with you. Don’t take too long to think about it. Just churn em’ out.

Here are my 15:

  • Woody Allen
  • Judd Apatow
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Alfonso Cuarón
  • Clint Eastwood
  • David Fincher
  • Sam Mendes
  • Fernando Meirelles
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Sean Penn
  • Roman Polanski
  • Jason Reitman
  • Martin Scorsese
  • Steven Spielberg (no, it isn’t cliched)
  • Quentin Tarantino

In case anyone was wondering, I got to about 10 and then had a major pause.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 6, 2009)

6 11 2009

This week’s “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) is one that I fully believe has the power to change the world.  “The Constant Gardener” is so emotionally compelling that it can force you to question every opinion you have about helping those in poverty.  I have seen firsthand the poorest people in our hemisphere during a mission trip to Nicaragua this summer, but this movie hit me at nearly the same level.  Director Fernando Mierelles (“City of God“) doesn’t treat their indigence as some sort of spectacle.  He treats them with humanity, willing to feature them as real people with hearts and feelings just like the diplomat played by Ralph Fiennes.  Mierelles almost does for the poor in movies what Dickens did for the poor with literature.

“The Constant Gardener” gained some prestige from Rachel Weisz’s Oscar win for Best Supporting Actress, an award that she unquestionably deserved.  But don’t be fooled by the word “supporting.”  She may not have a great deal of screen time, but the character Tessa, who she plays with brilliance and compassion, is the dominant focus of the movie.  Tessa is a crusader for justice investigating a pharmaceutical company using the destitute in Africa as guinea pigs but possibly treating them like flies, unafraid to alter results of their tests for the betterment of their company.  Her inquiry into the potentially corrupt dealings of the corporations leads her into dangerous territory, unwittingly drawing her husband, Justin (Fiennes), into the fray.  What ensues is a startling portrayal of the consequences of one man trying to do the right thing for the people who don’t have aren’t given a voice.

While “The Constant Gardener” may not exhibit Mierelles’ directorial prowess quite like “City of God,” it is still a breathtaking achievement.  It is unlike most political thrillers, which are usually entangled in plot twists, and conveys a simple story with huge moral implications.  The movie will make you cry for its content, but on a grander level, it will make you weep for the people that Justin and Tessa try to defend.  How much is one life worth?  How far would you go to save a life?  Should help be given to the individual or the group?  “The Constant Gardener” grapples with those questions, but ultimately leaves you to ponder how you feel about the issues.

F.I.L.M. of the Week (September 25, 2009)

25 09 2009

I literally mean what I am about to say: drop what you are doing, get in a car, drive to Blockbuster, and go get “City of God,” the “F.I.L.M. (First-Rate, Independent Little-Known Movie) of the Week.”  With just his first film, director Fernando Meirelles creates a breathtaking world of crime and greed with the narrative poise of an old pro (I’m talking the level of Scorsese and Mike Nichols).  Set in a slum outside of Rio de Janeiro, the movie chronicles the history of drugs, gangs, and murder in the city through the eyes of Rocket, a boy with a knack for photography.  It is this gift which provides the opportunity to escape the vicious cycle of violence and retaliation which has claimed the lives of many of his friends.  For those who like comparisons, think “GoodFellas” crossed with the gritty world of poverty in “Slumdog Millionaire.”

After seeing the movie, I was compelled to find out more about Meirelles and what led him to make such a bold film.  I discovered Meirelles received a movie camera while living in Brazil at a young age, and it became a hobby.  It then made obvious sense to me why he was drawn to this project because he was clearly drawn to the character of Rocket and the parallels between how art saved them.  The painstaking lengths to which Mierelles goes to make sure that his vision hits you like a sucker punch the chest is incredible, yet it is even more incredible how hard he lands that punch.  I was in tears as the city’s crime lord forces a new recruit to slowly kill an innocent child.  The bleak, unsparing city that Mierelles is able to put on the screen before you is tough to watch.  But at the same time, he is able to bring such a vibrant and eclectic stylistic angle to the environment that I think “City of God” is a movie that I will want to watch over and over again.

So seriously, what are you still doing reading this post?  Get up NOW and get “City of God.”  (Although I do issue a disclaimer, this is once again not a movie for those who cannot handle brutally realistic violence and the gloomy world that Meirelles creates.  I would liken the violence to the level and power of “Schindler’s List” … at times, it really is that hard to watch.  And as for the gloomy world, he often cuts to shots of emaciated dogs that are literally just skin and bones scrounging for food.  That’s just a sample of what lies in store for you.)