Bicycle Thieves (1948)
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Writers: Cesare Zavattini, Suso D’Amico, Vittorio De Sica, Oreste Biancoli, Adolfo Franci, & Gerardo Guerrieri (Based on a novel by Luigi Bartolini)
Very good! Simple but effective. Surprised at the amount of credited writers. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was definitely inspired by this right?
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
I couldn’t tell you how excited I was for this movie but also really nervous. The trailers were great but looking at Scott’s resume he isn’t the most reliable when it comes to quality. Also Damon Lindelof was said to have a heavy influence on the script and given how bad he whiffed the ending of LOST I was a bit nervous. Prequels are also a very tricky thing. The Space Jockey and the origins of what is found in the original Alien never really mattered. To attempt to 30 years later go back and try and explain what all that was, if done poorly, couldn’t help but stick in the back of my mind when watching Alien next time “Oh thats what this was”. Now I understand that when making Alien that Prometheus wasn’t in the back of their mind. When they created the whole Space Jockey thing all those decades ago they didn’t necessarily have any back story to it, they just thought it looked cool.
Then reviews started to come in about a week ago and I definitely lowered my expectations. I really tried to stay away from reading to much and I mostly was successful. I have to say though in the end, while I definitely have issues with it, I did enjoy it more than I thought I would going on. It clearly does take place in the Alien universe but it isn’t really a prequel in the sense that everything that happens in this movie sets up the movie Alien. By the end of this movie it takes off in its own direction. Hopefully the movie does well enough that it warrants a sequel but I would be interested to see where this story goes given the ending.
I will say what probably everyone will say walking out that without a doubt the two strongest things about the movie are Michael Fassbender’s performance as the android David. The character of David doesn’t really make much sense in terms of his motivations, one of the big problems I have with the film, but Fassbender makes the most of what he is given and turns in the most entertaining performance of the film.
The second is the visuals. I know this was filmed in 3D and hyped to be really great 3D but even the really “great 3D movies” I have seen have really added nothing to the experience except for another pair of glasses for me to wear and $4 extra out of my pocket so for Prometheus I opted for the 2D showing. Holy shit though this movie is beautiful. I really can’t imagine seeing a better looking movie this year. Regardless of what you think of the movie this really can’t be denied and if you have even a faint interest in seeing it DO NOT WAIT FOR HOME VIEWING see this thing on the biggest and best fucking screen you can find. The effects, costumes, production design, etc are all spot on and if this doesn’t get a lot of love in the technical categories at the Oscars next year something is really wrong.
The movie is flawed no doubt but the movie seems to be reaching with its themes and its scope a lot more than Alien did, which was really just a Halloween type slasher movie but in space, so I give it credit for that. When I walked out of The Avengers, which I enjoyed, I couldn’t help but think just how flat and not very cinematic it really looked. Prometheus shows this is what a movie could and should look like when you’ve got hundreds of millions at your disposal.
I think that as time goes on and if I see the movie again I will probably just discover more flaws and my opinion of it will go down but for now having just got out of the movie I can say I was never really bored and the movie was great to look at. Flawed yes but entertaining. Looking forward to seeing more.
Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev
Writer: Oleg Negin
Elena is a different kind of thriller than you might be used to. It isn’t playing at your local multiplex, in fact as of writing this it is only playing in 7 theatres in the country, but is worth seeking out if you like your drama a little meaty and not particularly spelled out for you how exactly how you are supposed to feel. I saw this movie about a week ago and on my walk home I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. It was a kind of frustrating experience and one I didn’t totally feel comfortable reviewing right away. So I thought about it for a while and after a few false starts I started to write and what I discovered through writing about it was a movie that I had much more respect for and admired more than I had originally thought.
Nadezhda Markina plays the titular Elena, a widowed nurse who took fell in love Vladimir, played by Andrey Smirnov, a patient she was taking care of. The movie takes place in the present after they have been married for about a dozen years. Elena is from a different world than Vladimir. Though she is his wife she still has the caretaker mentality. She wakes up, cleans, makes breakfast, and then wakes up Vladimir as if he is still her patient. These long scenes, coupled with the long scenes of Elena traveling to the slums to visit her Son and his family, really drive home the duality of how she is living. These scenes also do a great job of setting up a lot of the characters personalities without doing any kind of voice over explanation like might be present in a more mainstream American movie. Just through their actions we get what kinds of people we are dealing with, the sure sign of great directing. Filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev has crafted a very real world type of thriller that spends as much time setting up characters and situations as he does with the actual thriller part so that when the last act rolls around you are much more invested in characters and the moral questions that are being raised than you would be other wise.
Elena is set in the gloomy, and seemingly always wet, Russia. Elena’s son can’t support his own family and is constantly asking her for money. Vladimir is sick of it and refuses to help Elena’s son and his family. Because of this Elena’s grandson will be forced to join the military. After a heart attack Vladimir’s own daughter comes out of the woodwork. The two have a strained relationship but after looking death in the eyes Vladimir comes to a realization that when he dies his estranged daughter will be the sole heir to his fortune forcing Elena to choose between her life as a meek housewife or going forth with a desperate plan to help her son.
Nadezhda Markina turns in a fantastic and naturalistic performance as Elena. Everything we need to know about her we can just see in her face. There are no tricks going on here. There directing is confident and that can especially be seen in the performances, and especially the lead. Famed composer Philip Glass also turns in a rather hypnotic score that does not over power the film but rather supports it the way great scores should.
Looking back at this review now that it is done nothing has surprised me more than what I wrote which is a good review. I remember being so confused as to why Elena had received such glowing praise from critics and won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year. All I saw was a story that I felt like I had seen in countless other thrillers, except this time it was set in Russia and with a lot of scenes of people not doing anything “important”. But in thinking about it I realized it was all important in terms of shaping the world and of course the characters. Elena is a smart and thoughtful film that presents realistic characters in a realistic and harsh situation but doesn’t force you to pick a side. If you are looking for a smart, stylish, and different kind of thriller Elena is one to check out.
Side Note! I really like the poster for this. More so than the drawn one that Sam Smith did. I do like Smith’s work in general though. I have a few of his things hanging in my apartment. Thats all!