Posts Tagged ‘2004’

Director: Bahman Ghobadi

The first film to be made in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the devastating Turtles Can Fly is set in a Kurdish refugee camp on the Iraqi-Turkish border just before the US invasion in 2003. Director Bahman Ghobadi concentrates on a handful of orphaned children and their efforts to survive the appalling conditions. It is a powerful cry on behalf of children caught up in war and tyranny.

Ghobadi immerses the viewer in the nightmarish realities of daily existence in this makeshift community that’s located within a forbidding natural landscape. There’s no running water or electricity, the fear of gas attacks is palpable, and kids use their bare-hands to defuse land mines in the surrounding fields, which they then trade for machine guns at a market.

One of the central characters we meet is a young boy named Sorano, who goes by the nickname ‘Satellite’, being the only one at the camp who knows how to install TV-satellites. A leader of sorts amongst children, he helps everyone. One day a girl named Agrin arrives at the camp, together with her brother (who has lost both his arms to land-mines) and a little baby. During the first days, Sorano and the other children don’t  care about the newly arrived strange family. But after a while, Sorano wants to help them, especially after he is smitten by Agrin and finds out her brother foresees the future.

Using an entirely non-professional cast, Ghobadi doesn’t ignore the gestures of tenderness and humanity displayed by his brutalised characters. There is no overt political message in the film, yet the hundreds of parent-less children in the film, many with broken limbs from exploding land mines, tell a story of war that transcends politics. This is a powerful, disturbing, yet ultimately beautiful film that deserves everyone’s close attention.

Director: Martin Scorsese

‘The Aviator’–a biopic of Howard Hughes– is clearly one of Scorsese’s lesser works. Still, a lesser work from Scorsese is far superior to the greatest work of your average director. Here’s the rundown.

The first quarter of the film is a total triumph, showing the young Hughes’ bold endeavors in film when he produced what was at the time the most expensive and lavish film ever made. Scorsese tipping his hat to old Hollywood is the most fun he has had since “Goodfellas.” The costumes, set designs, and pacing of this portion of the film are stunning and suck the viewer in.

Scorsese’s direction is brilliant; he captures the spirit of the time, from the vibrant colors to the lush costumes, to the garish and (almost scary) club performers. “The Aviator” is as close to an epic as one can get. Scorsese has also experimented with some special effects too in “The Aviator”, something that he hasn’t played with too often. One scene in particular, where he is in a plane filming scenes for his film ‘Hells Angels’ is absolutely breathtaking. The sets in “The Aviator” were huge, the party and premiere scenes were electrifying, and some good actors headlined the cast of hundreds.

DiCaprio is brilliant as he portrays Hughes’ gradual descent into insanity. At first, as the movie opens, Hughes displays mild eccentricities. DiCaprio manages to subtly show us Hughes becoming worse and worse until eventually he loses all touch with reality, managing to return to normalcy for a monumental battle with a Senate Committee over his airline’s desire to begin transcontinental flights. Alan Alda was quite good in his role as Senator Brewster, the chair of the Committee, and someone in the pocket of the head of Pan Am Airlines (played by Alec Baldwin). The depiction of the Senate hearing was brilliant, and left no doubt that Brewster – knowing of Hughes’ fragile mental state – was an utterly beaten man, obviously taken completely off guard by a totally in control Hughes.

The women in the film are wonderfully well cast. Cate Blanchett has the task of playing Katherine Hepburn, who was herself so close to caricature that to play her accurately involves some risk. Blanchett succeeds in a performance that is delightful and yet touching; mannered and tomboyish, delighting in saying exactly what she means, she shrewdly sizes up Hughes and is quick to be concerned about his eccentricities. Kate Beckinsale and Gwen Stefani play notable roles as well.

Shot and edited like the way Hughes lived, it has a frenetic, implacable chemistry, jumping from extreme excitement to terrifying emotional scares. A credit to Leo DiCaprio as an actor, the sequence at the Coconut Grove bathroom is one of the film’s finest, and sloppiest in a way. And that’s the way the whole film plays.

What a sad man. What brief glory. What an enthralling film, 166 minutes, and it races past. But, in the end, this isn’t a love story — it’s a war story — a war between Howard’s unstoppable will and his fierce inner demons battling for Howard’s soul. It is the major relationship in the movie and the true heart of the film — one that fuels his eccentric genius and yet constantly threatens to rip his life apart. He tries to ignore it by sleeping with every beauty in town. He tries to outrun it, building faster and faster airplanes. Yet, it is his one constant companion from early childhood to his ultimate, inescapable end. And it is this relationship that leaves you devastated at the end of the film.

And while I won’t stay up too long lamenting Scorsese’s fifth loss at the Oscars, I will note that he went down with another of his best films. The Aviator is one of Scorsese’s best, and please look into it more closely before you blow it off.