Monday, December 31, 2012

Books on my Christmas holiday

Paul Krugman: Satunnainen teoreetikko (The Accidental Theorist, 1998). Translated by Heikki Eskelinen. Helsinki: Tietosanoma, 1999.
Paul Krugman: Lama (The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008; 1999 and 2008). Translated by Jyri Raivio. Helsinki: HS Kirjat, 2009.
Paul Krugman: Lopettakaa tämä lama nyt! (End This Depression Now!, 2012). Translated by Anni Lassila. Helsinki: HS Kirjat, 2012.
Niall Ferguson: Rahan nousu: maailman rahoitushistoria (The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, 2008). Translated by Kimmo Pietiläinen. Helsinki: Terra Cognita, 2009.
Niall Ferguson: Sivilisaatio: me ja muut (Civilization: The West and the Rest, 2011). Translated by Kimmo Pietiläinen. Helsinki: Terra Cognita, 2011.
Markku Kuisma: Rosvoparonien paluu: raha ja valta Suomen historiassa [The Return of the Robber Barons: Money and Power in the History of Finland] . Helsinki: Siltala, 2010.
Tommi Uschanov: Mikä vasemmistoa vaivaa? [What's Wrong with the Left?]. Helsinki: Teos, 2008.
Tommi Uschanov: Suuri kaalihuijaus: Kirjoituksia yhteiskunnallisesta tietämättömyydestä [The Great Cabbage Hoax: Writings on Ignorance about Society]. Helsinki: Teos, 2010.
Fred Halliday: 100 Myths About the Middle East. London: Saqi, 2005.
Henrik Meinander: Suomen historia: linjat, rakenteet ja käännekohdat [The History of Finland: the Trends, the Structures, and the Turning-Points]. Helsinki: WSOY 2006, 2010.
Moshe Lewin: Neuvostoliiton vuosisata (The Soviet Century, 2005). Helsinki: Like, 2008.
Timo Heinonen, Arto Kivimäki, Kalle Korhonen, Tua Korhonen, Heta Reitala, Aristoteles: Aristoteleen Runousoppi: Opas aloittelijoille ja edistyneille. Mitä Runousoppi sisältää ja miten sitä on tulkittu sekä Aristoteleen käsitys onnistuneen runouden sisällöstä, muodosta, historiasta ja päämäärästä).  [Aristotle's Poetics: A Guide to Beginners and to Advanced Students. What Poetics contains, and how it has been interpreted, and Aristotle's conception of the contents, the form, the history and the intention of successful poetry.] Aristotle's Poetics / Περὶ ποιητικῆς, 335 BCE, translated by Kalle Korhonen and Tua Korhonen. Helsinki: Teos, 2012. - An inspired book of lasting value, one of the books of the year.
Rafael Koskimies: Kymmenen tutkielmaa Juhani Ahosta [Ten Studies on Juhani Aho]. Helsinki: SKS: Tietolipas, 1975.
Rafael Koskimies: Novellin teoria ja muita tutkielmia [The Theory of the Short Story and Other Studies]. Helsinki: Otava, 1958.
Jarl Hellemann (ed.): Amerikkalaisia kertojia [American Storytellers]. Helsinki: Tammi, 1959. An anthology with short stories by Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Henry James, Bret Harte, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane, O. Henry, Theodore Dreiser, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Katherine Anne Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Erskine Caldwell, William Saroyan, Eudora Welty, J. D. Salinger, and Truman Capote.
Mirjam Polkunen and Pekka Tarkka (ed.): Novelli ja tulkinta [The Short Story and the Interpretation]. Helsinki: Weilin + Göös, 1969. Short stories and interpretations by Guy de Maupassant / Kai Laitinen, Anton Chekhov / Pekka Suhonen, James Joyce / Paavo Lehtonen, Franz Kafka / Jouko Tyyri, Ernest Hemingway / Vilho Viksten, Teuvo Pakkala / Pekka Tarkka, Maria Jotuni / Irmeli Niemi, F. E. Sillanpää / Pekka Tarkka, Joel Lehtonen / Eila Pennanen, Pentti Haanpää / Juhani Niemi, Veijo Meri / Vesa Karonen, Antti Hyry / Vilho Viksten, Eila Pennanen / Eila Pennanen,, Paavo Haavikko / Pekka Tarkka and Vilho Viksten, and Hannu Salama / Vesa Karonen.
Pekka Tarkka (ed.): Novellin parhaita [Great Short Stories]. Helsinki: Tammi, 1971. An anthology of short stories by Heinrich von Kleist, Edgar Allan Poe, August Strindberg, Guy de Maupassant, Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Junichiro Tanizaki, Ernest Hemingway, Octavio Paz, Jean-Paul Sartre, and J.D. Salinger.
Hannu Mäkelä (ed.): Suomalaisia novelleja 1 [Finnish Short Stories 1]. Helsinki: Otava, 1973. Short stories by Minna Canth, Juhani Aho, Teuvo Pakkala, Arvid Järnefelt, Aino Kallas, Volter Kilpi, Joel Lehtonen, Maria Jotuni, F.E. Sillanpää, Pentti Haanpää, and Toivo Pekkanen.
Hannu Mäkelä (ed.): Suomalaisia novelleja 2 [Finnish Short Stories 2]. Helsinki: Otava, 1973. Elvi Sinervo, Eila Pennanen, Juha Mannerkorpi, Veikko Huovinen, Veijo Meri, Marja-Liisa Vartio, Antti Hyry, Paavo Haavikko, Hannu Salama, Marja-Leena Mikkola, Eino Säisä, Samuli Paronen, Timo K. Mukka, Alpo Ruuth, and Antti Tuuri.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cahiers du Cinéma: Le Top Ten 2012

1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
2. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg)
3. Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola)
4. 4:44 Last Day On Earth (Abel Ferrara)
4. In Another Country (Hong Sang-Soo)
4. Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols)
7. Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara)
8. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
8. Faust (Alexandre Sokourov)
10. Keep The Lights On (Ira Sachs)

Cahiers du Cinéma, décembre 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Life of Pi 3D

Piin elämä / Berättelsen om Pi. US/CN © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Dune Entertainment III LLC in all territories except Brazil, Italy, Japan, Korea and Spain. © 2012 TCF Hungary Film Rights Exploitation Limited Liability Company, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Dune Entertainment III LLC in Brazil, Italy, Japan, Korea and Spain. -- Fox 2000 Pictures presents A Haishang Films / Gil Netter production. -- P: Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark. D: Ang Lee. SC: David Magee - based on the novel (2001) by Yann Martel (in Finnish: Piin elämä translated by Helene Bützow, Helsinki: Tammi, Keltainen kirjasto, 2003, fine book jacket design). DP: Claudio Miranda. Post-production: Twentieth Century Fox. DI: Technicolor Hollywood. 3D Technology Provided by CAMERON | PACE Group. PD: David Gropman. AD: Dan Webster. Set dec: Anna Pinnock. Cost: Arjun Bhasin. Makeup and hair: Fae Hammond. Replica and Animatronic Animals Created by Legacy Effects. Visual Effects & Animation by Rhythm & Hues Studios. VFX Compute Provided by CAVE. Visual Effects by MPC. Visual Effects by BUF Compagnie. VFX: CAVE, Moving Picture Company (MPC), BUF Compagne, Crazy Horse Effects, lola | VFX, Rhythm and Hues, LOOK! Effects, Halon Entertainment. SFX: Legacy Effects, Christov Effects and Design. AN department: huge. M: Mychael Danna. S: Philip Stockton. ED: Tim Squyres. C: Suraj Sharma (Pi Patel), Irrfan Khan (adult Pi Patel), Ayush Tandon (Pi Patel at 11-12), Gautam Belur (Pi Patel at 5), Adil Hussain (Santosh Patel), Tabu (Gita Patel), Ayan Khan (Ravi Patel at 7), Mohd Abbas Khaleeli (Ravi Patel at 13-14), Vibish Sivakumar (Ravi Patel at 18-19), Rafe Spall (writer), Gérard Depardieu (cook). - 14.000 jobs were involved in the making of the movie. - Loc: India: Munar (Kerala), Pondicherry) - Taiwan: Kenting, Taichung - Canada: Montréal (Québec). 127 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by XXX [somebody's shadow obstructed the view to the screen while this credit fleeted by] / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed on 3D, XpanD, at Kinopalatsi 2, Helsinki, 28 Dec 2012.

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Arri Alexa, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, PACE Fusion 3-D - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA (prints), Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate), Technicolor, Montreal, Canada (dailies: Montreal). - Film length: 3473 m (Portugal, 35 mm) - Cinematographic process: Codex - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema (also 3-D version) - Aspect ratio: 1.33:1 (some scenes), 1.85:1, 2.00:1 (some scenes), 2.35:1 (one scene).

Official presentation in the pressbook: "With Life of Pi, director Ang Lee (“Brokeback Mountain”; “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) creates a groundbreaking movie event about a young man who survives a disaster at sea and is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery.  While cast away, he forms an amazing and unexpected connection with another survivor… a fearsome Bengal tiger."

"Based on the book that has sold more than seven million copies and spent years on the bestseller lists, Life of Pi takes place over three continents, two oceans, many years, and a wide universe of imagination.  Lee’s vision, coupled with stunning 3D visuals, has turned a novel long thought un-filmable into a thrillingly audacious mix of grand storytelling and powerful and provocative themes."

"Since Mr. Lee came aboard the project almost four years ago, he has worked to create a singular vision of author Yann Martel’s unforgettable tale of courage, perseverance, inspiration and hope.  The film takes us through a young man’s incredible adventure – at turns thrilling and spiritual; harrowing and triumphant; humorous and inspirational."

"In telling Pi’s story, Mr. Lee pushes the boundaries of cutting-edge motion picture technologies.  Life of Pi represents a moment when the science and art of filmmaking have jumped forward, as it did with the visual effects of “Titanic,” the 3D revolution of “Avatar,” and the CGI work in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which brought unprecedented emotion and depth to the character of Caesar.  And like Caesar, Life of Pi’s Richard Parker is a fully-realized, accessible character, whom you’ll believe was actually on that lifeboat with Suraj Sharma, who portrays Pi."

"Life of Pi is Mr. Lee’s first foray into 3D filmmaking, which he envisioned for this story long before “Avatar” hit theaters.  He uses that tool to expand the scope of the film, immerse us in Pi’s physical journey, and envelop us in the story’s emotional hold. “I wanted the experience of the film to be as unique as Yann Martel’s book,” says Mr. Lee, “and that meant creating the film in another dimension. 3D is a new cinematic language, and in Life of Pi it’s just as much about immersing audiences in the characters’ emotional space as it is about the epic scale and adventure.”"

In Ang Lee's work I love most his early, tenderly satirical "father knows best" trilogy: Pushing Hands, The Wedding Banquet, and Eat Drink Man Woman. Of his later works I have been most impressed by his intimate stories such as Brokeback Mountain.

But I'm full of respect to a film-maker who is always pushing boundaries, surprising us constantily with something unexpected and filming unfilmable books such as Life of Pi. I have not read Yann Martel's novel but I like the philosophical spirit of the film version. I like the ecumenical spirit (Pi has experimented in many religions) and the spirit of tolerance and understanding. Life of Pi the movie has been an incredibly difficult exercise in state-of-the art digital animation, and the result is photorealistically successful. I could not tell the CGI Bengal tiger from a real one.

I was not looking forward to this movie because of the over-sweet stills and the preview trailer the visual quality of which looked corny.

The film is much better than I expected, and it is full of delightful visual insight. Ang Lee and his team celebrate the possibilities of the 3D, and I like the witty and impressive visions such as - The swimming pool - The thunderstorm - The jellyfish - The starry sky - The swarm of dolphins - The staggering high angles at sea - The luminous animal dreams - The tiger alone on the boat - The luminous fruit opened.

Even after seeing the movie I don't like the stills. They don't convey the visual sense of the movie.

In the conclusion we learn that the story about the Bengal tiger and the other animals supposedly surviving on the boat was apparently a fairy-tale, a blanket memory for the true, horrible story of survival and cannibalism on the boat, Pi, himself, being the tiger. 

The visual quality was excellent, and the restrictions and limitations of the digital technology had been used as means of expression. Life of Pi represents 3D aesthetics at its best. Qualities emphasized here are the clarity of the water, the oceaning feeling, the infinite universe, sunlight, luminosity, and incandescence. The unrealism of the digital 3D is used as an aesthetic mode, with influences from Indian visual qulture: the richness of colour, and the delight in naivism. The colour palette is warm (not  cold, not garish unlike often in our early digital transition).

Metsän tarina / Tale of a Forest

Ville Suhonen, Kim Saarniluoto: Metsän tarina / Tale of a Forest (FI 2012).

Sagan om skogen.
    FI © 2012 MRP Matila Röhr Productions. P: Marko Röhr.
    D: Ville Suhonen, Kim Saarniluoto. DP: Hannu Siitonen, Mikko Pöllänen, Teemu Liakka - helicopter shots: Helican Services - additional spring footage: Antti Mikkola - the cuckoo on the tree top: Mauri Koski. Post-production: Generator Post. DCP mastering: Mihkel Mäemets. VFX: Tuomo Hintikka. SC: Ville Suhonen. M: Panu Aaltio. S: Juha Hakanen. Sound studio: Kalevala Studio. ED: Kim Saarniluoto. Narrators: Turkka Mastomäki (father), Christian Ruotanen (son).
    76 min.
    Released by Nordisk Film [I don't remember Swedish subtitles in this screening].
    2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 28 Dec 2012 (day of premiere).

Dedicated to the memory of Pekka Suhonen (1938-2011).

Starring: the bear, the elk, the viper, the owls, the ants, the frogs, the flying squirrel, the Siberian jay, the black woodpecker, the hawks, the lynx, the fox, the European badger, the mouse. I think I saw also the wolverine, the wood grouse (Western capercaillie), the long-tailed duck, the common goldeneye, common wasps, butterflies, the common cuckoo, the viviparous lizard, the slow worm, the European pine marten, the goldcrest, and the long-tailed tit. The grown-up lynx was photographed at Kiteen Eläinpuisto / Kitee Zoo.

Excerpted from the production information: "In a central role are also the trees which are hundreds of years old. Primeval forest is still an awesome experience. In ancient days Finns worshipped forest gods and believed in forest spirits. Assigned by MRP Matila Röhr Productions the nature photographers Hannu Siitonen (Parikkala) and Mikko Pöllänen (Simpele) started a collaboration which resulted in this documentary film. They spent four years preparing the film and of their material 20 hours of pre-edited film were compiled. From this huge source the editor Kim Saarniluoto honed the final movie of 75 minutes. The screenplay was written by Ville Suhonen, and Ville Suhonen and Kim Saarniluoto were the co-directors. The Saga of the Forest is the third documentary film by Hannu Siitonen and Mikko Pöllänen, and the most magnificent of them. One could call it their lifework."

AA: This is a wonderful documentary about the Finnish primeval forest which hardly exists anymore in reality but to which we still have access via tradition and certain national parks. This movie has permanent value because of its many precious sequences, because it covers the four seasons, and because it is an overall review of the inhabitants of the forest. Side by side with the factual documentation there is the mythical dimension conveyed in the narration with references to ancient legends and the pantheistic imagination of great authors. The makers are top experts with a long experience.

The score is fascinating.

The film starts well, and yet some of the most rare and wonderful sequences are at the end: the chick of the goldcrest for the first time alone outside the nest, the long-tailed tit with its ten chicks, the lynx cubs at play, the owl before the time of the autumn colours. - The footage on the bears and the elks is majestic. - The sequence with the ten badgers must have been incredibly difficult to shoot. - Among the wonders are also the shots of the flying squirrels. - I know there are great nature shows every day on television, and I have lost touch of the genre since I don't watch tv. - The Saga of the Forest is the first Finnish theatrical nature documentary feature in 50 years, yet there have been substantial documentary elements in several fiction films by Markku Lehmuskallio (The Raven's Dance) and Raimo O. Niemi (The Boy and the Lynx).

The cinematography is great by its virtues of capturing so many extremely difficult shots of shy animals that we hardly ever get to see live in the forest - and also thanks to a great sense of composition, including in long shots.

The visual quality: compilation quality from different formats, including apparently also video. Occasionally the colour has been sweetened too much in the digital post-production.

Ella ja kaverit / Ella and Friends

Ella och hennes vänner. FI © 2012 Journalist Films. © 2012 Snapper Films. EX: Joseph Scarpinito. P: Juha Wuolijoki. D: Taneli Mustonen. SC: Aleksi Hyvärinen and Timo Parvela - based on the novel Ella ja Äf Yksi (2008) by Timo Parvela. DP: Daniel Lindholm. AD: Sarah Bowen-Walsh. Cost: Henna Saarivuori. Makeup: Saara Räisänen. Song: "Pop Goes My Heart" pres. Isaac Elliot. S design: Kimmo Perkkiö. S mixing: Dan Brennan, Soundtrack NY. ED: Aleksi Raij. C: Freja Teijonsalo (Ella), Artturi Auvinen (Tuukka), Emilia Paasonen (Hanna), Aki Laiho (Samppa), Aura Mikkonen (Tiina), Eetu Julin (Pukari), Jyry Kortelainen (Pate), Eero Milonoff (teacher), Armi Toivanen (headmaster, Pate's mother), Oliver Kivi (Äf Yksi = F1), Kari Ketonen (Isä Yksi = Father 1), Eerika Patrakka (Anna Yksi = Anna 1), Ville Myllyrinne (headmaster of the new school), Pamela Tola (the aunt at the office), Ville Virtanen (the uncle at the office), Tiina Weckström (police sergeant). 81 min. Released by Snapper Films with Swedish subtitles by Saliven Gustavsson. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 28 Dec 2012 (day of premiere).

The F1 in the title of the novel on which the movie is based means Formula 1.

Ella and Friends is a hugely popular children's book phenomenon in Finland. There have been 17 Ella novels by Timo Parvela since 1995, plus Ella friend books, compilation volumes, and sound books. This is the first film based on the book series.

Official synopsis: "I am Ella and I am on the second grade. We have a nice class and a nice teacher. Except that we haven't seen the teacher lately because our old school has been closed down and we have been transferred into a new school". (My translation)

Freja Teijonsalo as Ella and the other young performers of her schoolmates and friends are good, and there is a fine, sunny sense of humour in the movie. The Ricky Rapper movies are phenomenally successful, but I prefer the more sober approach in this movie, including the more human performances by the grown-up actors. The story focuses on the children's project to save the old school, and the decisive battle is conducted on a "Formula 1 track". Ella and her friends are woefully incompetent as adversaries, yet they are finally saved thanks to the mysteerimöykky [mystery blob]. A nice feature is the "spoiled scenes" montage during the end credits.

The visual quality, too is more pleasant than in the Ricky Rapper films: no garish colour schemes here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Film Comment: 50 Best Released Films of 2012

Film Comment, 13 Dec 2012: "over 100 North American colleagues ranked their favorites in two categories: 1) those that received theatrical runs and 2) those viewed this year but not receiving U.S. theatrical distribution in 2012 or 2013. For each ballot, a first-place choice was allotted 20 points, 19 for second, and so on."

Holy Motors. Leos Carax, FR/DE
The Master. Paul Thomas Anderson, US
Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson, US
This Is Not a Film. Jafar Panahi & Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, IR
Amour. Michael Haneke. FR/DE/AT
The Turin Horse. Béla Tarr. HU/FR/CH/DE
The Kid with a Bike. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne. FR/BE
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia. Nuri Bilge Ceylan. TK
Lincoln. Steven Spielberg. US
Zero Dark Thirty. Kathryn Bigelow. US
Tabu. Miguel Gomes. PT
The Deep Blue Sea. Terence Davies. GB
Bernie. Richard Linklater. US
Beasts of the Southern Wild. Benh Zeitlin. US
Cosmopolis. David Cronenberg. CA/FR
Barbara. Christian Petzold. DE
The Loneliest Planet. Julia Loktev. US/DE
Silver Linings Playbook. David O. Russell. US
Oslo, August 31st. Joachim Trier. NO
Neighboring Sounds. Kleber Mendonça Filho, BR
Django Unchained. Quentin Tarantino. US
Almayer's Folly. Chantal Akerman. FR/BE
Magic Mike. Steven Soderbergh. US
Argo. Ben Affleck. US
Attenberg. Athina Rachel Tsangari. GR
The Color Wheel. Alex Ross Perry. US
Rust & Bone. Jacques Audiard. FR/BE
Killer Joe. William Friedkin. US
Looper. Rian Johnson. US
Life of Pi. Ang Lee. US
A Man Vanishes. Shohei Imamura. JP
Skyfall. Sam Mendes. US
The Gatekeepers. Dror Moreh. IL
Elena. Andrei Zvyagintsev. RU
Haywire. Steven Soderbergh. US
Damsels in Distress. Whit Stillman. US
Abendland. Nikolaus Geyrhalter. AT
Two Years at Sea. Ben Rivers. GB
How to Survive a Plague. David France. US
Keep the Lights On. Ira Sachs. US
A Burning Hot Summer. Philippe Garrel. FR
Miss Bala. Gerardo Naranjo. MX
Footnote. Joseph Cedar. IL
Compliance. Craig Zobel. US
Alps. Yorgos Lanthimos. GR
Kill List. Ben Wheatley. GB
Farewell My Queen. Benoît Jacquot. FR/ES
In Another Country. Hong Sang-soo. KR
The Dark Knight Rises. Christopher Nolan. US
The Day He Arrives. Hong Sang-soo. KR

Film Comment: 50 Best Undistributed Films of 2012

Film Comment 13 Dec 2012: 50 Best Undistributed Films of 2012

Our Children. Joachim Lafosse. BE/LU/FR/CH
Memories Look at Me. Song Fang. CN
First Cousin Once Removed. Alan Berlier. US
When Night Falls. Ying Liang. KR/CN
Bwakaw. Jun Robles Lana. PH
Gebo and the Shadow. Manoel de Oliveira. PT/FR
differently, Molussia. Nicolas Rey. FR
Peret in France and Algeria. Heinz Emigholz. DE
The Extravagant Shadows. David Gatten. US
Three Sisters. Wang Bing. FR/HK
Dormant Beauty. Marco Bellocchio. IT/FR
Far from Afghanistan. John Gianvito, Travis Wilkerson, Jon Jost, Minda Martin, Soon-Mi Yoo. US
Camille Rewinds. Noémie Lvovsky. FR
Greatest Hits. Nicolás Pereda. MX/CA/NL
small roads. James Benning. US
Everybody in Our Family. Radu Jude. RO/NL
Shepard and Dark. Treva Wurmfeld. US
Hannah Arendt. Margarethe von Trotta. DE
Araf: Somewhere in Between. Yesim Ustaoglu. TK/FR/DE
Thursday Through Sunday. Dominga Sotomayor. CL/NL
Goodbye. Mohammad Rasoulof. IR
After Lucia. Michel Franco. MX
Reconversão. Thom Andersen. PT/US
Tiger Tail in Blue. Frank V. Ross. US
Traveling Light. Gina Telaroli. US
Sun Don't Shine. Amy Seimetz. US
Postcards from the Zoo. Edwin. CN/DE/HK/ID
28.3. Pablo Stoll. UY/AR/DE/CL
The Invisible Ones. Sebastien Lifshitz. FR
Everyday. Michael Winterbottom. GB
Twilight Portrait. Angelina Nikonova. RU
Age Is... Stephen Dwoskin. FR/GB
The Strawberry Tree. Simone Rapisarda Casanova. IT/CA/CU
Here and There. Antonio Mendez Esparza. ES/US/MX
Louise Wimmer. Cyril Mennegun. FR
Outrage Beyond. Takeshi Kitano. JP
Back to Stay. Milagros Mumenthaler. AR/CH
The Final Member. Jonah Bekhor & Zach Math. CA
Kinshasa Kids. Marc-Henri Wajnberg. BE/FR
The War. James Benning. US
Nights with Theodore. Sébastien Betbeder. FR
The Minister. Pierre Schöller. FR
Celluloid Man. Shivendra Singh Dungarpur. IN
Gangs of Wasseypur. Anurag Kashyap. IN
The Dead Man and Being Happy. Javier Rebollo. ES/AR/FR
The Invader. Nicolas Provost. BE
Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang. Laurence Cantet. FR/CA
Donoma. Djinn Carrenard. FR
Me and You. Bernardo Bertolucci. IT
Miss Lovely. Ashim Ahluwalia. IN

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Village Voice Film Poll 2012

Long lists are best. This one is copied from the Village Voice website; there are some inconsistencies, as certain films appear twice.

The Master    333    46
Zero Dark Thirty    296    43
Holy Motors    295    46
Moonrise Kingdom    233    38
This Is Not a Film    186    28
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia    174    26
Amour    168    28
The Turin Horse    128    18
Lincoln    121    19
Tabu    115    19
The Deep Blue Sea    102    20
The Kid with a Bike    92    16
Beasts of the Southern Wild    92    17
Oslo, August 31st    92    17
The Loneliest Planet    88    15
Cosmopolis    83    14
Django Unchained    80    13
Bernie    73    14
Silver Linings Playbook    65    12
Rust and Bone    58    8
Argo    51    10
Barbara    51    8
Almayer's Folly    48    8
Neighboring Sounds    41    7
Magic Mike    40    9
Keep the Lights On    38    9
Attenberg    37    7
How to Survive a Plague    36    9
The Cabin in the Woods    33    6
Goodbye First Love    31    5
5 Broken Cameras    30    5
Looper    29    7
Wuthering Heights    29    7
Life of Pi    28    6
Killer Joe    28    5
Kill List    28    5
Elena    28    5
It's Such a Beautiful Day    25    5
The Gatekeepers    24    4
The Imposter    24    4
Your Sister's Sister    24    5
Abendland    23    4
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present    22    4
Alps    21    4
Miss Bala    20    3
Oki's Movie    20    4
The Grey    20    4
Compliance    20    5
The Color Wheel    20    6
The Raid: Redemption    17    3
Killing Them Softly    17    3
The Perks of Being a Wallflower    17    5
A Burning Hot Summer    16    2
God Bless America    16    2
Two Years at Sea    15    4
Sister    14    3
Les Misérables    14    2
Dark Horse    13    4
Safety Not Guaranteed    13    4
Anna Karenina    13    5
The Dark Knight Rises    13    4
Girl Walk//All Day    12    5
The Queen of Versailles    12    3
Haywire    12    3
Not Fade Away    12    2
Resident Evil: Retribution    11    2
Room 237    11    3
The Comedy    11    3
Generation P    10    1
The Hole    10    1
4:44 Last Day on Earth    10    2
Bachelorette    10    2
The Day He Arrives    10    3
Take This Waltz    10    3
Jiro Dreams of Sushi    10    2
Skyfall    10    3
Footnote    9    3
The Invisible War    9    2
The Waiting Room    9    2
Wreck-It Ralph    9    2
Caesar Must Die    8    1
Domain    8    1
In Another Country    8    1
Max et les ferrailleurs    8    1
The Forgotten Space    8    1
The Secret World of Arrietty    8    1
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning    8    1
Detropia    8    2
The Sessions    8    3
Unforgivable    8    2
Searching for Sugar Man    8    2
Middle of Nowhere    8    2
Las Acacias    8    2
Keyhole    8    2
Brave    7    1
Casa de mi Padre    7    1
Dark Shadows    7    1
Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters    7    1
Headhunters    7    1
Margaret: Director's Cut    7    1
Damsels in Distress    7    3
The Hunger Games    7    2
Prometheus    7    2
Farewell, My Queen    7    2
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry    7    2
Far from Afghanistan    6    1
Perfect Sense    6    1
Cloud Atlas    6    2
Goon    6    2
I Wish    6    2
Klown    6    2
The Paperboy    6    2
Starlet    6    3
Photographic Memory    5    1
ParaNorman    5    1
Only The Young    5    1
John Carter    5    1
Found Memories    5    1
For a Good Time, Call...    5    1
End of Watch    5    1
El Velador    5    1
Boy    5    1
Bestiaire    5    1
Planet of Snail    5    1
Raiders of the Lost Ark: The IMAX Experience    5    1
Side by Side    5    1
Dredd    5    3
Ted    5    2
Sleepless Night    5    2
Only the Young    5    2
Wanderlust    5    1
V/H/S    5    1
The Tall Man    5    1
The House I Live In    5    1
The Avengers    5    1
The Amazing Spider-Man    5    1
Crazy Horse    4    1
Detention    4    1
Girl Model    4    1
In the Family    4    1
Sleep Tight    4    1
Vamps    4    1
Beasts Of The Southern Wild    3    1
Damsels In Distress    3    1
Laurence Anyways    3    1
Let The Bullets Fly    3    1
Monsieur Lazhar    3    1
Red Hook Summer    3    1
Savages    3    1
The Three Stooges    3    1
21 Jump Street    3    2
Samsara    3    2
A Royal Affair    2    1
Bonsái    2    1
Chronicle    2    1
Ginger and Rosa    2    1
On the Road    2    1
Project X    2    1
Ruby Sparks    2    2
This Is 40    2    2
Promised Land    1    1
Liberal Arts    1    1
It's the Earth Not the Moon    1    1
Flight    1    1
Beyond the Black Rainbow    1    1
Beloved    1    1
Quartet    1    1
Robot & Frank    1    1
Tchoupitoulas    1    1
The Flat    1    1
The Kill List    1    1
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth    1    1
This Must Be the Place    1    1
United In Anger    1    1
You Are Here    1    1
Bad Fever    1    1

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ekspressioita / Expressions (exhibition at Sara Hildén Art Museum)

Ekspressioita / Expressions. Näyttely saksalaisesta ekspressionismista [An Exhibition on German Expressionism], [1907-1923], 15.9.2012–13.1.2013. Curator: Riitta Valorinta. Commissioner: Raimund Stecker (LehmbruckMuseum), Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, viewed on 22 Dec 2012.

Catalogue: Sarianne Soikkonen, Riitta Valorinta (ed.): Ekspressioita / Expressions. Writers: Riitta Valorinta, Jari Martikainen, Raimund Stecker, Denise Wendel-Poray, Christian Meyer, Lars Holmström. Capsule biographies of Alexander Archipenko, Ernst Barlach, Heinrich Campendonk, Otto Gutfreund, Erich Heckel, Oswald Herzog, Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Jacques Lipchitz, August Macke, Franz Marc, Otto Mueller, Emil Nolde, Hermann Max Pechstein, Christian Rohlfs, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Arnold Schönberg. Full colour illustrations of the entire exhibition and a lot of bonus illustrations. Tampere: Sara Hildénin taidemuseo, 2012.

Official introduction: "The autumn exhibition of the Sara Hildén Art Museum presents the works of the major German expressionist artists from a century ago. The museum held an exhibition of graphic art by members of the group Die Brücke in 1993. The present Expressions exhibition shows the works of the most important artists not only of this group but also of the group Der Blaue Reiter. The artists exhibited include Wassily Kandinsky, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Franz Marc, Heinrich Campendonk, Erich Heckel, Alexej von Jawlensky, Käthe Kollwitz, August Macke, Otto Mueller, Hermann Max Pechstein, Christian Rohlfs, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Arnold Schönberg and Emil Nolde."

"One of the gems of the exhibition is Franz Marc's famous masterpiece Three Cats (1914). The expressionists favoured subjects taken from nature and animals, through which they strove to express the lost connection between Man and Nature. Their yearning for Nature is manifested in their works in the form of animals, landscapes and gardens. Emil Nolde, in particular, painted many lusciously coloured garden scenes, several of which are on display in this exhibition. The tone for the exhibition as a whole is set by Wilhelm Lehmbruck's Kneeling Woman, one of the major works of expressionist sculpture."

"A collaborating partner for the exhibition has been the Arnold Schönberg Center in Vienna, which has loaned paintings by the composer Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951) as well as supplementary material related to his music. The Expressions exhibition has been assembled in cooperation with German art museums, in particular those of the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen. The main collaborating institution has been the Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, and loans have also been received from Tampere's twin city Essen."

"In the 1930s, the Nazis declared expressionism a degenerate form of art; they confiscated works of art and banned painters from working. Many of the expressionists fought in the First World War, and some of them fell at the front. Thus the oeuvre of many of them remained rather small, and these works of a major period in the history of art often form part of the core of art museums’ standing exhibitions. They are loaned only in exceptional circumstances, and for this reason, too, this exhibition is a unique event. Altogether about a hundred paintings and sculptures will be on display, and the Sara Hildén Art Museum is producing a richly illustrated guide to the exhibition. An English-language audio guide will also be available."

"The exhibition has been supported by the Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen and the German and Austrian Embassies in Finland."

This excellent exhibition on expressionism alone is a sufficient reason to visit Tampere. Expressionism is a central and winding concept in art (it can be argued that it exists everywhere in all periods), but this exhibition focuses on the core of German expressionism as manifested in Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter and their contemporaries in Germany.

They were among the first great German revolutionaries of modern art. Die Brücke (Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde, etc.) brought an original inner vision to images of nature and the naked form, also emphasizing visions of society and political protest. Der Blaue Reiter (Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Klee, Arnold Schönberg, etc.) withdrew from society and sought spiritual and cosmic values, their manifesto being Kandinsky's book Concerning the Spiritual in Art.

The selection is versatile and provocative. We get to see the elements of nature in the sensual nude sunbathing views of  Die Brücke and abstract forms in the watercolours of Wassily Kandinsky. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner impresses with bold strokes and unrealistic colours. Hermann Max Pechstein's acrobats have been selected as the poster motif of the exhibition. Franz Marc's cats are among the most memorable paintings.

A striking feature of the exhibition is the sculptures: by Otto Gutfreund (Don Quixote), Ernst Barlach (The Walker), Käthe Kollwitz (Mother and Two Children), Alexander Archipenko (The Sitting Woman: A Woman with a Cloth), and Jacques Lipchitz (The Sitting Man with a Guitar).

Special emphasis is given to Arnold Schönberg, the great composer, pioneer of new music, and teacher of other great composers. Schönberg, a close friend of Kandinsky, also exhibited with Der Blaue Reiter as a painter. There are many of his drawings and oil paintings on display in Tampere. Schönberg's series of self-portraits, visions and Blicke [looks / gazes] belongs to the most haunting in 20th century art. His abstract art is original and compelling. Schönberg, always obsessed with numbers, also created brilliant sets of bridge card decks with watercolour. Schönberg was a professional in everything he did. If these card decks would be put into production, I'd be a buyer.

The Sara Hildén Museum, surrounded by its sculpture park, always elevates the artworks on display. Today was a bright and sunny day in snowbound Tampere, and from the large museum windows there were beautiful views towards Lake Näsijärvi. Alas, some paintings were covered by reflecting glass. For those studying the exhibition via the catalogue only: the catalogue illustrations do not do justice to the haunting colours of the paintings and the watercolours. The extraordinary radiation of the images is not conveyed via the catalogue illustrations. But the photographs of the sculptures and the black and white artworks are very good.

The catalogue is worth reading. It examines expressionism as a crossover phenomenon in the arts, mostly visual art, literature, music, opera, and theatre.

Cinema is mentioned but fleetingly. Also in the cinema expressionism was Germany's first breakthrough into the forefront of modern art. Although there was only a handful of purely expressionistic films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, there was a continuing haunting expressionistic dimension in German cinema until 1933 (The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse, still a direct reflection of Caligari). The impact continued in the French cinema of the 1930s, in the film noir in Hollywood in the 1940s, and in world cinema to this day (The Dark Knight Returns, Tim Burton, Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust, etc.).

The National Rifle Association blames Hollywood

The Newtown shooting in Sandy Elementary School (Newtown, Connecticut) on 14 December, 2012, with 28 casualties, including 20 little children, has shocked the world. There have been strong and responsible reactions from the U.S. government.

The most perplexing reaction is the one from National Rifle Association yesterday: the NRA attacks Hollywood and demands armed guards to schools.

Violence has been a central and disturbing theme in drama since Greek tragedy. It is a mission of artists to face the most difficult conflicts of existence, matters of life and death. Certainly it is always a good idea to fight glorificiation and trivialization of violence, ideas that violence and revenge are solutions to life's problems, concepts of violence as cool and entertaining, and views of killing as fun.

But it is interesting that genres like horror have been banned in countries such as Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia with appalling records of actual everyday violence.

In Japan there is a culture of media violence and little real violent crime.

NRA's reaction is a paragon of hypocrisy.

I copy as a historical document Variety's article on the NRA reaction.

Variety 21 Dec 2012
NRA blames Hollywood for Newtown shooting
Org's exec VP blasts the media, calls for armed guards at schools
By Jill Goldsmith, Rachel Abrams
Posted: Fri., Dec. 21, 2012, 9:12am PT

The National Rifle Assn. broadsided Hollywood at a press conference Friday, laying the blame for the Newtown, Conn., school shootings on violent entertainment and singling out videogames as "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry."

"In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes," said NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre. "And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"

The MPAA declined to respond to LaPierre's comments directly, but directed reporters to Thursday's statement from topper Chris Dodd, who said that the industry was "ready to be part of the national conversation" about gun violence.

In the wake of last Friday's shootings, Hollywood has canceled various events and altered the scheduling of some television programming. Paramount delayed the Pittsburgh premiere of "Jack Reacher," 20th Century Fox canceled festivities around its preem of "Parental Guidance" and the Weinstein Co. axed its red carpet event and afterparty for Tuesday's premiere of "Django Unchained."

The Demand a Plan campaign -- an advocacy group launched by Mayors Against Illegal Guns in response to this summer's shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado -- released a 90-second PSA on Friday that included the participation of dozens of industryites, including Beyonce Knowles, Jessica Alba, Jon Hamm and Chris Rock.

Friday's attack reignited the rhetoric as the nation searches for answers after the murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including 20 children, at the hands of a gunman who took his own life. The issue of the nation's gun control laws emerged as pressing topic in the immediate aftermath, but the NRA did not respond publicly until Tuesday, when it issued a statement saying it was "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

In light of Friday's press conference, that statement surprised some observers. Among the org's proposed solutions is the suggestion of having armed guards in the nation's schools, which the org described as the "only way" to stop gun violence in that realm.

LaPierre directed much of his vitriol at the vidgame business.

"There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent videogames with names like 'Bullet Storm,' 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Mortal Combat,' and 'Splatterhouse.'

"Here's one, it's called 'Kindergarten Killers,' " he continued. "It's been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?"

His words -- and suggested remedies -- sparked outrage and ridicule on social media, and disappointed those who had hoped for some concession on gun control from the agency that's had an iron grip on national policy for decades.

LaPierre wants more guns, not fewer, calling for a police officer in every school: He said the NRA will develop a model school shield program with former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) leading the effort.

"Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them," he said. "They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."

"The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun," LaPierre concluded.

National debates on gun violence and the media have yielded mixed results on capital hill.

After the 1999 Columbine shooting, the Federal Trade Commission ordered a number of inquiries into the marketing of violent entertainment to children.

The first, issued in 2000, called for the industry to stop advertising violent content to people under the age of 17 and suggested sanctions for non-compliance. By the following year, the FTC commended the film and gaming industries for changing their advertising practices and found a "general" compliance in the film biz not to run trailers for R-rated movies ahead of G- and PG-rated films.

But reviews of the music industry were less glowing, and the FTC found "virtually no change" to the marketing of explicit content in its third report in 2002.

Media orgs have long maintained that links between real and fictional violence are weak and inconclusive at best -- a view contradicted by the American Medical Assn., the American Psychological Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatrics. After Columbine, for instance, the AAP issued a statement that cited "well over 1,000 studies" that made a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.

"The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children," the org said.

The MPAA's ratings system has been evolving since the 1980s. In 1984, the MPAA created the PG-13 label in response to outrage over the PG rating assigned to "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." In 1990, the org introduced "descriptors" -- explanations for any given rating that accompany each one on a film's advertisement. But there have been numerous calls for changes to the volunteer system since.

Contact Jill Goldsmith at

Jim Emerson, 20 Dec, 2012: great memo of facts. The links below are also from Mr. Emerson's site.

Spinsanity 19 Nov, 2002, fact-checking Michel Moore's Bowling for Columbine

Poynter 21 Dec, 2012, fact-checking the NRA comments

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nine foreign language films shortlisted for Academy Awards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, press release 21 Dec 2012

Austria, "Amour," Michael Haneke, director;
Canada, "War Witch" / Rebelle, Kim Nguyen, director;
Chile, "No," Pablo Larraín, director;
Denmark, "A Royal Affair" / En kongelig affære, Nikolaj Arcel, director;
France, "The Intouchables" / Intouchables, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, directors;
Iceland, "The Deep" / Djúpið, Baltasar Kormákur, director;
Norway, "Kon-Tiki," Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, directors;
Romania, "Beyond the Hills" / Dupa dealuri, Cristian Mungiu, director;
Switzerland, "Sister" / L'Enfant d'en haut, Ursula Meier, director.

Rakkauden rasvaprosentti / Body Fat Index of Love

Eukonkanto (wife-carrying) is a sport originating in Sonkajärvi, Finland. Mikko Nousiainen (Stigu) and Miina Maasola (Elisa) as the partners doing their best to avoid a meaningful relationship.

Kärlekens BMI.
    FI © 2012 Matila Röhr Productions. P: Ilkka Matila.
    D: Mikko Kuparinen. SC: Laura Immonen, Hannamaija Matila. DP: Jani Kumpulainen. DCP mastering: Tommi Gröhn. AD: Antti Nikkinen. Cost: Johanna Lehtinen. Makeup: Kata Launonen. Hair: Taina Mansner. VFX: Sami Haartemo, Eetu Niininen. M: Pessi Levanto. S: Pekka Karjalainen. ED: Jukka Nykänen. Casting: Tutsa Paananen (as Tutsa Virtanen), Pia Pesonen.
    C: Mikko Nousiainen (Stigu), Miina Maasola (Elisa), Kristo Salminen (Karri), Johanna Kokko (Saara), Hanna Vahtikari (Maisa), Jarkko Niemi (Nicke), Antti Virmavirta (Stigu's father), Kaija Pakarinen (Stigu's mother), Mari Perankoski (Susanna), Emilia Sinisalo (Anna), Sanna-Kaisa Palo (Raija). Loc: Helsinki, Sonkajärvi. 99 min.
    Released by Nordisk Film with Swedish subtitles by Hannele Vahtera.
    2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 7, Helsinki, 21 Dec 2012.

The official synopsis from the production information: "Timo 'Stigu' Mertala is an award-winning and acclaimed designer at the advertising agency Ilmiö [Phenomenon]. Women have come and especially gone from his life since Stigu is always at work. Lately Stigu has been struck by the strange feeling that something is missing."

"One day Stigu meets Ella Sadeoja and has an instant crush. Since Ella, too, seems interested, Stigu believes everything will change at once. The hope lives but for a moment since Ella does not want commitment, openness or even Facebook friendship but merely sex. Stigu agrees because he believes that Ella is not being serious. Stigu is in the wrong. Ella's only passion and destination is to establish a vintage clothes boutique. Ella's dream has already been shipwrecked once because of relationship tangles, which is why she has decided to stay clear of them by all means."

"Ella and Stigu have a regular date on Wednesdays. Ella is satisfied, and Stigu lies to her that this is what he wants too, although he is pondering frantically how to tell about his feelings without scaring Ella away. Suddenly Stigu receives a boost through his job. Ella and Stigu land into a joint advertising project for
Väestöliitto / The Family Federation on durable relationships."

"The task is challenging since Ella does not believe in the subject and Stigu does not know anything about it. To achiveve her goal Ella wants to get the project over and done with as soon as possible, while Stigu sees in it an opportunity to wake up Ella's dormant feelings."

"During a voyage everything is possible because the quest into the secrets of relationships leads Ella and Stigu to the most beautiful spot in the summer of Finland, to the place where the measure of the man and the woman is finally taken: to the Sonkajärvi wife carrying (
eukonkanto) world championship contest. The time is running out, and Stigu goes too far in his attempt to win Ella on his side... " (My translation.)

AA: The screenwriters are experienced professionals of Finnish daily soap operas. The concept is familiar from recent romantic comedies: a man and a woman commit themselves "to sex only" but this solemn commitment is soon doomed to fail because they fall in love. There is no harm in the familiarity. Many comedies are based on well-known concepts, and only the general framework in this movie is familiar.

Mikko Nousiainen and Miina Maasola are talented actors, but in this film they do not seem to have committed themselves to anything. They go through the motions but do not seem to believe in their characters. Neither do we in the audience.

The best performances are by Antti Virmavirta and Kaija Pakarinen as Stigu's father and mother. Their scenes convey a true sense of humour and love. Their contribution to the story is essential and believable.

The other best aspect of the movie is the satire – the satire on advertising – on instrumental sex – and on utter egoism as personified in Stigu.

Memorable features:
– The advertising business: tulos tai ulos (results or out)
– Recycling and stealing as the modus operandi in the advertising business
– Sex as as a chore: 45 minutes a week seems to be enough to satisfy a woman
– The sex scenes are sexless
– Stigu's standing among his friends: his neglect of his girlfriends is legendary
– The biggest laughter is when the friends hear about Stigu's current project to create an ad spot for The Family Federation on durable relationships
– Stigu gets to face his utter egoism and lack of empathy.
"Mitteepä sitä ehjee korjoomaan" ("Don't fix it if it ain't broke" in the Savo dialect).

No problem with the digital presentation in close-ups and interiors, but the nature looks denatured, and long exterior shots in general do not look so good.

Take This Waltz

Take This Waltz / Take This Waltz. CA/ES/JP © 2011 Joe's Daughter. P: Susan Cavan, Sarah Polley. D+SC: Sarah Polley. DP: Luc Montpellier. DI: Technicolor Toronto. PD: Matthew Davies. AD: Aleksandra Marinkovich (as Aleks Marinkovich). Set dec: Steve Shewchuk. Cost: Lea Carlson. Makeup: Leslie Ann Sebert. Hair: David R. Beecroft.  SFX: Laird McMurray. VFX: Rocket Science VFX - Robert Crowther. Daniel's art: Balint Zsako (water colours). M: Jonathan Goldsmith. S: Jane Tattersall. ED: Christopher Donaldson. Casting: John Buchan, Jason Knight. C: Michelle Williams (Margot), Seth Rogen (Lou), Luke Kirby (Daniel), Sarah Silverman (Geraldine), Jennifer Podemski (Karen), Diane D'Aquile (Harriet), Vanessa Coelho (Tony). Loc: Canada: Cape Breton, Louisbourg (Nova Scotia), Little Portugal in Toronto (Ontario). 116 min. Released by Cinema Mondo with Finnish / Swedish subtitles [I failed to notice the translators credited]. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 8, Helsinki, 21 Dec 2012.

Now in Vienna there's ten pretty women. There's a shoulder where
Death comes to cry. There's a lobby with nine hundred windows.
There's a tree where the doves go to die.
- Federico García Lorca

The name of the movie refers to the song (1988) by Leonard Cohen written to the poem "Pequeño vals vienés"/ "Little Viennese Waltz" by Federico García Lorca (1930).

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Panavision Genesis HD Camera - Laboratory: Technicolor, Toronto, Canada (dailies) - Source format: Digital - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate - Printed film format: 35 mm, D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Official synopsis: "When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. Swelteringly hot, bright and colorful like a bowl of fruit, Take This Waltz leads us, laughing, through the familiar, but uncharted question of what long‐term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves."

Sarah Polley: “Life has fantastic moments of absolutes, moments where you believe absolutely something, and those moments should be really enjoyed. My general belief is that every decision is ambiguous and it is rare that a decision is clearly right or wrong. Sometimes it can feel that way and those are interesting moments that stand out for me. But I think we are all just muddling through. You never know how a decision will end up so you never know what the right one is. To me, the only real truth is in ambiguity.

A happily married woman is inexplicably drawn to her lover. Everything has been fine, but there is something inside that has been unfulfilled.

There is an assured approach in the film to the elusive nature of instincts, feelings, and emotions. It's about tenderness and love. It's about a woman's two loves, but it's not a triangle drama (even less a triangle tragedy).

This is a performance-driven movie, and the performances are fine. Especially Michelle Williams is truly radiant here, at her best. This is one of the finest performances of the recent years.

I like the score by Jonathan Goldsmith. There are exciting passages in it.

Memorable features: - The historical enactment of the flogging of an adulterer - The marriage of the couple has turned into camaraderie in five years, and perhaps something of the erotic tension has disappeared - The struggling artist working as a rickshaw man - The martini scene ("I want to know what you'd do to me") - The naked shower scene is a beautiful anthology piece - "The storm": the sudden revelation about the state of the marriage ("I'd thought you'd be there when I die") - The practical joke about the cold water in the shower was supposed to be revealed when the couple has turned 80.

Luc Montpellier's cinematography is ambitious (see the lengthy report beyond the jump break), much of it based on available sunlight, with different modes of stylization. In the scenes of falling in love and making love there is a gliding, waltzing camera movement.

The visual quality: the sweetening button has been slightly overused in the digital post-production to my taste.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

National Film Registry of the Library of Congress: the selections of 2012

The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress has been reinforced with 25 fresh selections from the entire history of the American cinema (excepting the last decade). It is perhaps the most inspired of such endeavours anywhere and a model for everybody.

From the official news bulletin: "The excitement of national football; the first black star of an American feature-length film; the visionary battle between man and machine; and an award-winning actress born yesterday are part of a kaleidoscope of cinematic moments captured on film and tapped for preservation. The Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today named 25 motion pictures that have been selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. These cinematic treasures represent important cultural, artistic and historic achievements in filmmaking."

""Established by Congress in 1989, the National Film Registry spotlights the importance of preserving America’s unparalleled film heritage," said Billington. "These films are not selected as the ‘best’ American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation.""

"Spanning the period 1897-1999, the films named to the registry include Hollywood classics, documentaries, early films, and independent and experimental motion pictures. This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 600."

There are acknowledged masterpieces and hit films such as 3:10 to Yuma (1957), Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Born Yesterday (1950), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Dirty Harry (1971), The Matrix (1999), Sons of the Desert (1933), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), and The Wishing Ring (1914).

There are other highly regarded films that have stood the test of time like A Christmas Story (1983), A League of Their Own (1992), and Slacker (1991), and landmarks of the African American experience: The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973), and Uncle Tom's Cabin (1914).

The wide variety of American non-fiction and experimental cinema (and film experiments!), as well as films made outside the normal distribution channels, are represented by The Augustas (1930s-1950s), The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight (1897), Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2 (1980-82), The Kidnappers Foil (1930s-1950s), Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922), The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair (1939), One Survivor Remembers (1995), Parable (1964), Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990), and They Call It Pro Football (1967). I had not even heard of all of the films in this group before, but having read the newsletter, I would love to see them all.

The well-written newsletter is beyond the jump break in its entirety.

3:10 to Yuma (1957)
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
The Augustas (1930s-1950s)
Born Yesterday (1950)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
A Christmas Story (1983)
The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Title Fight (1897)
Dirty Harry (1971)
Hours for Jerome: Parts 1 and 2 (1980-82)
The Kidnappers Foil (1930s-1950s)
Kodachrome Color Motion Picture Tests (1922)
A League of Their Own (1992)
The Matrix (1999)
The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair (1939)
One Survivor Remembers (1995)
Parable (1964)
Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990)
Slacker (1991)
Sons of the Desert (1933)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
They Call It Pro Football (1967)
The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1914)
The Wishing Ring; An Idyll of Old England (1914)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Den skaldede frisør / Love Is All You Need

DK © 2012 [seven companies]. PC: Zentropa Entertainments29 Aps. In co-production with: Lumiere & Co., Slotmachine, Zentropa International France, Film I Väst, Zentropa Entertainments Berlin, Zentropa International Sweden, DR, Sveriges Television, Arte France Cinéma, Network Movie, ZDF, Arte and Longride with support from The Danish Film Institute, 60/40, The Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages, Nordic Film & TV Fund, Canal+, Cine+. P: Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Vibeke Windeløv. D: Susanne Bier. SC: Anders Thomas Jensen - story: Susanne Bier, Anders Thomas Jensen. DP: Morten Søborg - filmed on ARRI Alexa - Codex - 2,35:1. Digital colorist: Peter Hjorth. PD: Peter Grant. Cost: Signe Sejlund. Make-up: Daniel Parker. VFX supervisor: Lars Werner Nielsen Lalo. M: Johan Söderqvist. Theme song: "That's Amore" by Dean Martin and others. S: Eddie Simonsen, Anne Jensen. ED: Pernille Bech Christensen, Morten Egholm. C: Pierce Brosnan (Philip), Trine Dyrholm (Ida), Molly Blixt Egelind (Astrid), Sebastian Jessen (Patrick), Paprika Steen (Benedikte), Kim Bodnia (Leif), Christiane Schaumburg-Müller (Tilde), Micky Skeel Hansen (Kenneth). Loc: Sorrento (Naples, Campania), Sant'Angelo (Salerno, Campania), Herlev (Copenhagen). Original in Danish and English. 112 min. Released by Atlantic Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Maria Wiren-Malo. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 9, Helsinki, 15 Dec 2012.

The official presentation: "Love Is All You Need is a warm, funny, life-affirming meditation on the birth pangs of starting a new life. Set at a wedding in the fantastically beautiful surroundings of Sorrento, Italy, Love Is All You Need stars Golden Globe nominee Pierce Brosnan as Philip, father of the groom, and Trine Dyrholm as Ida, mother of the bride. As the union of their respective children bumpily approaches, the clashes, collisions and pratfalls among the wedding guests force Philip and Ida to reconsider the true significance of family, love and happiness."

"The Academy Award and Golden Globe winning team of director Susanne Bier and writer Anders Thomas Jensen has delivered yet another triumph with a masterly blend of humour, sensitivity and sincerity. Love Is All You Need is the fifth entry in their unfailingly successful collaboration, following ‘Open Hearts’ (Elsker dig forevigt - 2002), ‘Brothers’ (Brødre -2004), Academy Award nominee ‘After the Wedding’ (Efter brylluppet - 2007) and the Academy Award and Golden Globe® winning ‘In A Better World’ (2010). Love Is All You Need marks Bier and Jensen’s return to their respective roots in the comedic tradition, but with the tempered and profound approach that has become the trademark of these two masters of the emotional drama."

A feelgood entertainment movie in the tradition of Avanti!, Under the Tuscan Sun, Mamma Mia! and so on, with explicit tributes to the models and predecessors. Robert Altman's A Wedding may also belong to the models.

The new twist in this life-affirming entertainment film is the fact that the female protagonist Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is battling against a malignant cancer. In the beginning she is bald (the Danish title means: The Bald Hairdresser) and she has lost one of her breasts.  But life goes on and in Italy there is the wedding of her daughter. The father of the groom is Philip (Pierce Brosnan) who is also rethinking his life.

Love Is All You Need is yet another example of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. The wedding is cancelled at the last moment because it turns out that the groom is gay. (Like in A Wedding.)

It does not bother me that much of the material is recycled. But I'm not totally confident that the film-makers themselves find the story irresistible.

The Sorrento landscapes would offer rich possibilities for enchanting cinematography. There is, however, a low definition video approach in the visual quality. Surprisingly, even in close-ups the definition is low. The nature looks unnatural, the eyes are too electric blue, and the sweetening button has been used too much in the digital colour manipulation.

Step Up Revolution 3D

Step Up 4: Miami Heat / Step Up Revolution [FI] / Step Up Revolution [SE]. US © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. P: Erik Feig, Jennifer  Gibgot, Garrett Grant, Adam Shankman, Patrick Wachsberger. D: Scott Speer. SC: Amanda Brody - based on the characters by Duane Adler. DP: Karsten Gopinath (as Crash). Technocrane operator: Joe Cuzan. DI: Technicolor. PD: Carlos Menéndez. AD: Charles Daboub, Jr., Caleb B. Mikler. Set dec: Helen Britten. Cost: Rebecca Hofherr. Makeup: Whitney James. Hair: Patricia McAlhany Glasser. SFX: Bruce E. Merlin. Montage sequence & graphic design: Café Noir. VFX: Piastro VFX. Additional VFX: Wildfire VFX. Main title sequence: The Ant Farm. M: Aaron Zigman. CH: Jamal Sims, Christopher Scott, Chuck Maldonado, Travis Wall. S: Michael J. Benavente. - Sound editorial: Soundelux. - ED: Matt Friedman, Avi Youabian. Casting: Joanna Colbert, Richard Mento. Loc: Miami Beach. Filmed in Florida. 98 min. Released by Nordisk Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Nina Ekholm. 2K DCP in 3D viewed with XpanD at Kinopalatsi 10, Helsinki, 15 Dec 2012.

Cast from Wikipedia:
Ryan Guzman as Sean Asa, Emily's love interest and the leader of the MOB.
Kathryn McCormick as Emily Anderson, a gifted dancer
Misha Gabriel as Eddy, Shaun's best friend who co-leads the MOB with Sean. He and Sean work as waiters at Dimont Hotel during the day, but he gets fired for being late to work one day.
Peter Gallagher as William "Bill" Anderson, a real-estate tycoon and Emily's father, as well as Sean and Eddie's boss.
Stephen "tWitch" Boss as Jason, a member of the MOB and The Pirates as he was in the 3rd movie and had returned to Miami after being in New York.
Chadd "Madd Chadd" Smith as Vladd
Tommy Dewey as Trip, Bill's protege
Cleopatra Coleman as DJ Penelope
Megan Boone as Claire, Sean's sister who is a single mother with a young daughter
Sean Rahill as Iris
Seyfo in the MOB
Adam Sevani as Robert "Moose" Alexander III. He makes a cameo in the film, Moose gets a call from Jason to come to Miami and help him and The MOB which he does and brings some of The Pirates.
Mari Koda as Kido. She makes a cameo, her character appears with the rest of The Pirates along with Moose.
Brendan Morris as Neighborhood Kid/Dancer (also part of the MOB)
Phillip "Pacman" Chbeeb in The Mob
Justin "Jet Li" Valles in The Mob
Glenn Mataro in The Mob
Celestina Aladekoba in The Mob
Angeline Fioridella Appel in The Mob
Mia Michaels as Olivia
Bebo in the MOB
Darlene Vee De Ocampo as Vee, Member of AUSS

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Red Epic, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo DP Lenses - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA, Technicolor, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate) - Film negative format: Redcode RAW - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Redcode RAW (5K) (dual-strip 3-D) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), D-Cinema (also 3-D version) - Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1.

Synopsis from Wikipedia: "The Mob sets the dancing against the vibrant backdrop of Miami. Emily arrives in Miami with aspirations of becoming a professional dancer and soon falls in love with Sean, a young man who leads a dance crew in elaborate, cutting-edge flash mobs, called "The Mob". When Emily's wealthy father threatens to develop The Mob's historic neighborhood and displace thousands-of people, Emily must work together with Sean and The Mob to turn their performance art into protest art, and risk losing their dreams to fight for a greater cause."

In the history of the musical, Step Up Revolution belongs to the Gene Kelly - West Side Story tradition.

The plots of musicals are usually conventional, frameworks onto which one can hang brilliant production numbers. Step Up Revolution is based on the rich girl, poor guy formula. There is a reconciliation that stops the revolution in the end: the rich dad promises not to demolish the Miami quarters important to the people, and Nike offers a lucrative deal to the innovative dancers.

Step Up Revolution is dynamic, energetic, anti-realistic, electrifying, and full of bold compositions. There are instances of slow motion and jump cutting. Most importantly, the production numbers are vigorous, original, and each one is different, while there is a common flash mob identity: in each happening, a new artwork displaying the mob logo is created. The flash mob numbers are produced always in a new and different situation in the city. They are recorded instantly on mobile phone cameras and sent to the web. The first number is a dance on top of the cars on the coast highway. Other situations include an art gallery opening, a top restaurant, a board meeting, and a demolition site.

There is a division of labour among the Mob: Eddy the hacker, Penelope the DJ, Jason the FX, Mercury the street artist, Iris the video, Sly the stunts, and one for parkour.

Memorable dance production concepts include: painted camouflage dancers, fiber optic ballerinas, pirate dancers, business suits with the shower of dollar bills, gas masked dancers, the extremely dangerous trampoline number, the RoboCop dance, and a beautiful romantic number. Fusion dance may be one of the keywords.

Beneath the conventional plot and the wish-fulfillment ending there are strong ideas: "sometimes it's good to break the rules", "guys like us are invisible in our own city", "enough with performance art, it's time for protest art", "we were born here; give us a voice", "it's not about the contest, it's about giving the voice to those who are not heard".

The visual quality of the 3D was very effective and assured in XpanD. The creators of this film take advantage of the fantastic and anti-realistic features of 3D.

Nightmare - painajainen merellä / [Nightmare at Sea]

Nightmare - en mardröm på havet. FI 2012. PC: FremantleMedia Finland Oy. P+D: Marko Äijö. SC: Tiina Tanskanen - story: Teemu Salonen, Tiina Tanskanen. DP: Antti Takkunen. PD+cost: Kristiina Saha. Make-up: Jenni Aejmelaeus, Karoliina Viinikari. M: Karl Sinkkonen. Theme tune: "Kyynel kuuluu mereen" ["The tear belongs to the sea"] by Vague Musik, singer: Karoliina Kallio. S: Sami Kiiski. ED: Marika Sahlman. C: Sara Säkkinen (Peppi Kuula), Venla Savikuja (Heidi Aaltonen), Tero Tiittanen (Sergei Kuula), Mikko Parikka (Jiri Viitamäki), Markku Pulli (Joonatan Sievinen), Karoliina Blackburn (cruise hostess Tessa Nylund), Sara Lohiniva (Oona Kiviranta), Sampsa Tuomala (Sampo Kaukovaara), Patrik Borodavkin (Miro Holm), Kasimir Baltzar (Max Grigorieff). Loc: MS Princess Maria cruise ferry (St. Peter Line). 74 min. Released by FS Film with Swedish subtitles by Markus Karjalainen. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 6, Helsinki, 15 Dec 2012.

Excerpts from the production information: Marko Äijö: "We set off to break immemorial petrifications of movie-making". "Whom can we trust when we cannot trust anyone". "There is only one studio-shot scene in the movie, and it has been divided into two". "It was beyond the means available to stop two happily smiling Japanese tourists who walked in the middle of a perfect set-up as the camera was rolling and the actors were giving their all. Fortunately digital post-production has been invented." "The schedule from the story idea to the premiere was eleven months. During the same period of time we also realized 180 episodes, each of 21 minutes duration, of the Salatut elämät [Secret Lives] series. Thus we can state that the schedule for the feature film of 75 minutes was downright sumptuous."

Excerpts from the remarks of Tero Kartastenpää on his Lily site: "A person can experience many feelings simultaneously, derision and sympathy." "When the leading babe Peppi Kuula panics in a jacuzzi about her missing travelling companion Oona one can't help but laugh at Peppi and simultaneously worry with her." "Salatut elämät could not have been successful in the 1970s. Such social trash pumped on overdrive would have been discarded as unconvincing and depraving. The old generation would not have understood an ambiguous way of seeing." (The excerpts have been copied from Kalle Kinnunen's article "Peppi Kuula merihädässä" in his blog "Kuvien takana", 7 December, 2012).

The Finnish Wikipedia's plot synopsis: "The newlywed 21-year-old Peppi Puolakka embarks on a cruise with her fresh husband and friends. During the sea cruise she meets old friends who bring to mind unhappy things from Peppi's past. Then strange things start to take place and members of the entourage start to disappear. Peppi realizes that the disappearances are a revenge for the drug-related death of Tobias Nylund in which Peppi had a share. The situation gets sticky when even the best friends seem to have a motive to hurt Peppi."

The Finnish Wikipedia's summary of the critical feedback: "The critics have mostly endowed it with one star. It has been characterized as 'insanely bad' and 'unconvincing', and its screenplay has been called 'indifferent'." (All translations are mine.)

Salatut elämät (known as "Salkkarit" among the fans) is the first original Finnish daily tv soap opera drama. Its first episode was transmitted on 25 January, 1999, on the MTV3 channel. On 28 December, 2012, the 2385th episode was transmitted. There have been 15 seasons so far. The production house since 2002 is FremantleMedia Finland Oy. (Information from Finnish Wikipedia).

There was anticipatory laughter in the audience even before the film started. Although the ambiguous way of seeing may be new, this movie also belongs to an old tradition in Finnish cinema, starting with the Pohjanheimo films in the 1910s, continuing with the Kivimäki productions in the 1940s, the Aarne Tarkas conveyor belt in the 1950s and the 1960s, and the Visa Mäkinen productions in 1979-1991. Ponterosa I have yet to see. The production is based on the quickie approach, and the handling is lacking in depth and psychological realism. The spiritual hollowness is pervasive, but there is an energic, dynamic drive in the storytelling.

Memorable features: - The satire of the rampant alcoholism on board. - The wooden, somnambulistic performance style, going through the motions. - The satire of the PowerPoint presentation of the Jardin marketing event. - The scene with the do-it-yourself zombie film viewed on a laptop. - The centrality of drugs: the past drug tragedy gives the motive for the horrible events on the ship. "Without drugs we might not exist". - The love story: "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me". Peppi and Sergei bring out the best from each other, but the other couple, "we bring out the worst in each other". - "You are stark raving mad". "Determined, I would say". - "It is hard to believe that all this has really happened". - "I will always save you". - The plot is like from a teenage splatter movie minus the splatter: nobody dies. "You can't trust the waves" are words in the concluding song. The last image: we see the hand of the killer emerging from the water and grabbing the lifeboat.

Digital video look.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 3D HFR

Peter Jackson: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (US/NZ 2012) starring Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins).

Hobitti: odottamaton matka / Hobbit: en oväntad resa.
    US/NZ © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. (US, Canada & New Line Foreign Territories). © 2012 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (All Other Territories). PC: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and New Line Cinema present a WingNut Films production. P: Peter Jackson, Carolynne Cunningham, Zane Weiner, Fran Walsh.
    D: Peter Jackson. SC: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro – based on the novel The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937) by J. R. R. Tolkien. DP: Andrew Lesnie – filmed in 3D using Red Epic cameras & 3ality stereo rigs – shot in 3D 48 fps – released in HFR (High Frame Rate) 3D, other 2D and 3D formats, and IMAX. PD: Dan Hennah. Conceptual designers: Alan Lee, John Howe. Cost: Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor, Bob Buck. Makeup and hair designer: Peter Swords King. Armour, weapons, creatures, and special makeup: Weta Workshop / Richard Taylor. VFX: Weta Digital / Joe Letteri. VFX supervisor: Eric Saindon. AN supervisor: David Clayton. M: Howard Shore. "Song Of The Lonely Mountain" perf. Neil Finn. ED: Jabez Olssen.
    C: Ian McKellen (Gandalf the Grey), Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield), James Nesbitt (Bofur), Ken Stott (Balin), Sylvester McCoy (Radagast), Barry Humphries (Great Goblin), Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Ian Holm (Old Bilbo), Christopher Lee (Saruman), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Elijah Wood (Frodo), Andy Serkis (Gollum / second unit director), Aidan Turner (Kili), Dean O'Gorman (Fili), Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Adam Brown (Ori), Peter Hambleton (Gloin / William Troll), John Callen (Oin), Mark Hadlow (Dori / Bert Troll), Jed Brophy (Nori), William Kircher (Bifur / Tom Troll), Stephen Hunter (Bombur).
    Loc: New Zealand, studios: Miramar, Wellington. Post-production: Park Road Post Production (Wellington).
    Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Eeva Heikkonen / Emilia Nilsson.
    2K DCP in 3D HFR in Dolby 3D viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 14 Dec 2012 (week of premiere, the first 3D HFR movie).

Technical specs from the IMDb: – Camera: Red Epic, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses – Film length: 4647 m (9 reels) – Film negative format: Redcode RAW – Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Redcode RAW (5K) (dual-strip 3-D) (source format) – Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (also dual-strip 3-D) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version). – Aspect ratio: 2.35 : 1.

The official synopsis: "From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

"The three films tell a continuous story set in Middle-earth 60 years before “The Lord of the Rings,” which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”"

"The adventure follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug.  Approached out of the blue by the Wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary warrior Thorin Oakenshield.  Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer."

"Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the Goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum."

"Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities... A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know."

I'm jotting down these comments on 4 January 2013, three weeks after seeing the film. The Hobbit continues its phenomenally successful run. Already when I saw the movie I was familiar with the mostly unkind reviews it has been getting.

I am not a Tolkienist and have not even read his books (when I became aware of them I found myself outside the magic circle and could not even find anymore the back door in the wardrobe leading to Narnia). But I belong to the admirers of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy: it is the greatest achievement in the current golden age of fantasy cinema, a vastly better film than the Chronicles of Narnia series (judging by the first Narnia episode: I have not seen the rest). I selected Ian McKellen as Gandalf as the cover image to my book MMM Elokuvaopas (MMM Film Guide) of the 1100 best films of cinema history.

I have seen the The Lord of the Rings movies only in the cinema. We the fans were happy that Peter Jackson had pulled it off. He had made his lifelong dream come true. But the cinema version of The Lord of the Rings was not flawless. There were aspects in the chopped narrative that made us sense that the true, full version to be released on dvd would be definitive. The visual world was too dark and bleak on the screen, perhaps to cover up problems in the design.

Now critics complain that The Hobbit is too long, deliberate, and thorough. But I feel that this is the rhythm and the approach that Peter Jackson has wanted all along, even for the The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In The Hobbit he was able to spread his wings as he wanted.

Of the visual world the complaint has been that it looks unnatural, plastic, and artificial. I agree, but this is my general view of the entire digital cinema. Perhaps these qualities are enhanced in The Hobbit, but fundamentally I don't find it worse.

Memorable features: – The battle of the stone giants. – The invisibility effect of the ring. – The butterfly messenger. – The cones as fireballs. – The tree on the edge of the abyss. – The life-saving eagles. – The score is magnificent. – I like the sense of humour in the dialogue. – I like the Bildungsroman aspect: how the little Bilbo grows up to become a hero. – I like also the turning-point where Bilbo refuses to kill Gollum.

The visual quality: I sat on the first row on the huge Tennispalatsi 1, and for the first time in that cinema 3D looked bright and clear, more so with the glasses on than without. But I cannot review the HFR effect because there were other changes in the presentation, as well. Instead of XpanD the Tennispalatsi 1 was now equipped with Dolby 3D. I suspect there were also other changes to make the image look brighter (lamps, windows, etc.). Anyway, even the magnificent landscape panoramas looked bright and clear with the detail, and the 3D impression was flawless. Unnatural and uncanny, yes, but not more than has been habitual in digital cinema.

Worth reading: Kristin Thompson's blog article, 16 January 2013
And J. Hoberman in The New York Review of Books, 19 December 2012

The Master (2012)

The Master. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd.

    US © 2012 Western Film Company LLC. Presents: The Weinstein Company. PC: A JoAnne Sellar / Ghoulardi Film Company / Annapurna Pictures production. P: JoAnne Sellar, Daniel Lupi, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison.
    D+SC: Paul Thomas Anderson. DP: Mihai Malaimare, Jr. – 65 mm Studio Camera – Kodak Motion Picture Film – Filmed in Panavision – Fotokem. Fotokem 65 mm Lab Services. Negative cutter (65 mm): Simone Appleby; negative cutter (35 mm): Rick Gordon). Digital film services producer: Jason Pelham. DCP colorist: Walter Volpatto. PD: Jack Fisk, David Crank. Set dec: Amy Wells. Cost: Mark Bridges. Makeup: Kate Biscoe. Hair: Miia Kovero. SFX: Michael Lantieri. VFX: Method Studios: Dan Glass – Gregory D. Liegey. CG supervisor: Nordin Rahhali. M: Jonny Greenwood – London Contemporary Orchestra – conductor: Hugh Brunt. Woodwind Ensemble Trio. Jazz Trio. Score mixed at: Abbey Road Studios. Soundtrack listing: see beyond the jump break. S: Christopher Scarabosio. Post prodcution sound services: Skywalker Sound. ED: Leslie Jones, Peter McNulty. Casting: Cassandra Kulukundis.
    C: Joaquin Phoenix (Freddie Quell), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Lancaster Dodd), Amy Adams (Peggy Dodd), Laura Dern (Helen Sullivan), Ambyr Childers (Elizabeth Dodd, Lancaster's daughter), Rami Malek (Clark, son-in-law of Lancaster Dodd), Jesse Plemons (Val Dodd, Lancaster's son), Kevin J. O'Connor (Bill William), Christopher Evan Welch (John More).
    V.A. Hospital – Capwell's Department Store: Salinas, California – The Boat: Lynn, Mass. – New York – Philadelphia – Band: England. Loc: California, Hawaii, Vallejo, Mare Island, The USS Potomac.
    137 min (production notes) - 144 min (IMDb).
    Released by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Staffans. 2K DCP at 137 min viewed at Cinema Andorra, Helsinki, 14 Dec 2012 (preview).

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Panavision 65 HR Camera, Panavision System 65, Hasselblad and Kowa Lenses, Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision Ultra Speed Z-Series MKII and Zeiss Jena Lenses, Panavision Panaflex System 65 Studio, Panavision System 65, Hasselblad and Kowa Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA (35mm processing and photochemical timing), FotoKem Laboratory, Burbank (CA), USA (65mm dailies, processing and photochemical timing). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219), 65 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 200T 5213, Vision3 500T 5219). Cinematographic process: Panavision Super 70 and Spherical (some scenes). Printed film format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (partial blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 1.85:1.

Production information: "In the wake of World War II, a restless America emerged. It was a time of unprecedented national growth and aspiration, but also of rootlessness and lingering disquiet – and the combustion of these contrasting elements sparked a culture of seeking and questing that continues into the 21st Century. Young men returning home from the incomprehensible darkness of war forged a shiny new world of consumerism and optimism. Yet, many longed for to find more from life, longed to grasp onto something larger than themselves, something to halt the anxiety, confusion and savagery of the modern world."

"Paul Thomas Anderson’s sixth feature film, The Master, unfolds a vibrantly human story inside this atmosphere of spiritual yearning on the cusp of 1950. The film follows the shifting fortunes of Freddie, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, a volatile former Naval officer unable to settle down into everyday life, and the unpredictable journey he takes when he stumbles upon a fledgling movement known as The Cause. Coming to The Cause as an itinerant and outsider, Freddie will ultimately become a surrogate heir to its flamboyant leader: Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd. And yet, even as The Cause probes the mastery of human emotions, the camaraderie between Freddie and Dodd will mount into a fierce and intimate struggle of wills."

"The first feature film shot using 65 mm film stock in several decades, The Master is brought to life by a devoted cast and crew who have crafted a visually alluring and emotionally provocative portrait of three people pursuing a vision of betterment." (Production information).

More from the production information: "With The Master, Anderson became intrigued by the birth of a new kind of patchwork American family that arose out of the upheaval of World War II: those of alternative spiritual factions and newly established religions. From Eastern asceticism to Dianetics, the early 1950s became a time when many began to build grass roots communities devoted to realizing grand visions of human potential."

"“It was fertile ground for telling a dramatic and engaging story,” Anderson says of his fascination with this time of cultural upheaval and spiritual adventurism. “Going back to the beginning of things allows you to see what the good intentions were; and what the spark was that ignited people to want to change themselves and the world around them. Post-World War II was a period when people were looking forward to the future with great optimism but, at the same time, dealing with quite a lot of pain and death in the rear view mirror.”"

"He continues: “My father came out of World War II and was restless his whole life. It's been said that any time is a good time for a spiritual movement or religion to begin, but a particularly fertile time is right after a war. After so much death and destruction, people are asking ‘how come?’ and ‘where do the dead go?’: two very important questions.”"

"“It became Freddie’s tale,” says JoAnne Sellar. “In a sense, Freddie is the classic outsider who comes into a community and changes it – and what results is a kind of tragic love story between Freddie and Master. Freddie longs to be part of something bigger than himself, yet can’t commit. And Master yearns for Freddie to be the son he never had, yet can’t quite make that work.”"

Editor Leslie Jones: "We had to prepare the finished film for both a 70 mm and 35 mm release, which was like working on two separate movies. And because Paul likes to do a film finish we were cutting negative and timing photo chemically, so it was very time consuming.

When I write these remarks on 4 January, 2013, three weeks after seeing the film, The Master has been voted as number one in many polls of the best movies of 2012.

I like Paul Thomas Anderson's first films, such as Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and I look forward to seeing at last his debut movie Hard Eight. We will screen it at Cinema Orion this spring in our tribute to Anderson.

I found Punch Drunk Love hard to digest and found myself appreciating There Will Be Blood at a certain distance, recognizing its wonderful cinematography and innovative score - but as a whole it was not a very compelling experience for me.

The Master is also hard to take. Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) is a war invalid of the psyche. He has lost his direction of life, he is an alcoholic, he is volatile, violent, and dangerous. It is difficult for him to commit to work, and his capacity to form relationships is seriously deficient. He is a deranged, deeply disturbed man. Joaquin Phoenix's performance is magnificent.

Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is leader of a spiritual movement ("The Cause"), a charlatan who according to the confession of his son "is making this all up as he's going on". In the cinema similar figures have appeared in Frank Capra's The Miracle Woman, starring Barbara Stanwyck, and Richard Brooks's Elmer Gantry, starring Burt Lancaster, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is one of his best. He avoid the slimeball mode and plays Dodd as a businessman with colourful but always well controlled characteristics.

Paul Thomas Anderson is at his strong, familiar ground portraying "The Cause" as a family, the actual Dodd family at the center. As others have noticed, Amy Adams as Ms. Dodd is the Lady Macbeth of this story.

Psychologically, Freddie the drifter is a lost son looking for a family into which to belong, but also hoping to establish a family of his own (he comes too late to propose in a touching scene where he is informed that his sweetheart has been married three years ago). Lancaster is a father figure who starts to see in Freddie a son figure, but Freddie is an unpredictable, violent, and skeptical son, and their ways must part.

I find it hard to relate to The Master. I don't expect to relate to any of the characters (neither the madman nor the swindler), but I'd look forward to relate to the viewpoint of the director, and this I fail to find.

Memorable features: - The sand woman in the beginning and the conclusion. - The Rorschach test. - The factual aspects in the account of the veteran's hospital, inspired by John Huston's Let There Be Light, among others. - The job as a photographer in the 1940s. - The outrageous bluff in Dodd's "spiritual movement" which is also a kind of a spoof and a game for grown-ups. The spiritual hunger is so great that there is also a demand for surrogates. - "The time travels" under hypnosis. - The dignified ladies strip their clothes in the spiritual sessions. - Ms. Dodd to her husband: do what you want as long as I don't get to know. - Ms. Dodd on Freddie: "perhaps he's past help or insane". - The self-spoofing dimension of the movement: in the rock in the desert there is a casket with the Master's unpublished work. - Although the Master is a fake, he is not wrong all the time. He does touch spirituality for instance in the motorcycle test in the desert. - Lancaster to Freddie: "you can't take this life straight".

Jonny Greenwood's score is very interesting, and besides, there is an evocative period song compilation score. I did not know previously or had not paid attention before to Jo Stafford's interpretation of "No Other Love", a beautiful song arrangement of Frédéric Chopin's Étude No. 3 in E. I didn't even recognize the Chopin source at once, although it is one of the most popular music themes in the cinema. The tune has later been called "Tristesse", but it was interestingly used by Robert Youngson as the music theme of his series of tributes to comedy classics, starting with The Golden Age of Comedy. Perhaps it was the contrast that made the music theme selection so effective. In Anderson's film the song conveys the sense of something familiar that has been lost, or a sense of loss in general. Freddie has lost his mind and his grip on life. He loses his illusions on Lancaster Dodd, the swindler's counterfeit spirituality, and the family based on a fake. Dodd's world is like the woman of sand, an Ersatz creation that feels exciting only in the lack of the real thing. Freddie is deranged, but perhaps he'll find his life again.

The 2K DCP presentation conveyed much of photochemical feeling of the cinematography. There is a sense of grandeur in the period scenes and the nature scenes. The choice of the magnificent 65 mm format in the cinematography has not directed the film into a spectacle mode, on the contrary. Much of the movie has been shot in close-ups.