Saturday, May 26, 2012

Innkeepers of Blood and Shame

     Today at The Movie Frog we shall be discussing a movie that left me truly horrified, another movie that left me completely horrified in an entirely different way, and another movie that....yeah again left me completely horrified in a wholly different manner.  Let's start with the one that left me completely horrified...

Shame - If you have ever experienced addiction, I believe you will see your former (and/or current) self somewhere in this NC-17 rated tale about a man whose vice is sex.  This is the second feature from British director Steve McQueen.  I have not seen his previous feature Hunger, but I am now convinced that I should.  Shame (and shame) is hard to watch, and impossible to turn away from.  Just like addiction.  Along with co-writer Abi Morgan (hard to believe the same woman worked on this screenplay that wrote the Iron Lady) McQueen delivered a script so full of deliberate, insightful choices that it is absolutely amazing how naturally and believably it all unfolded.  Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt must also be congratulated on rendering a film that is visually bleak and beautiful simultaneously shot by shot, where light becomes almost a character unto itself.
     But this is not a film that you leave thinking about the people behind the scenes.  You leave it thinking about its subject Brandon, and the career defining quality performance Michael Fassbender brings to the role.  As a predator, his gaze is piercing, his tongue honeyed, his need palpable.  In situations of intimacy he is skittish, angry, or ineffectual with eyes that dart more like prey.  He embodies lust, fear, desperation, longing, loneliness, and of course, shame.  Every line is delivered perfectly, but it is through watching Fassbender's face and body language that the careful viewer gets to know Brandon best. 
     Carrie Mulligan, who plays Brandon's sister Sissy and is already on a streak of great performances, gives what is probably her best effort yet.  She is just as messed up as Brandon, in wholly different ways.  Just keeping up with her co-star would be impressive, but she is definitely an entity in the film unto herself.  Her much applauded rendition of New York, New York is lovely and heartbreaking.  So is Sissy.
     I try to find something to criticize about every film, but I'm really coming up empty on this one.  It is not for children, or those with delicate sensibilities of a sexual nature.  Otherwise, you are really missing out if you don't ignore the rating and check it out.   Available on DVD. 5 of 5*

The Innkeepers - The most horrifying things about this ghost story:
8.  It returns the horror genre to the days when the heroine of the film was a weak, dumb girl who screamed a lot and never fought back.
7.  It returns the genre to the days when the heroine of the film was a weak, dumb girl who does exactly what she is told is the most dangerous thing she can do, more than once, after she knows this is real.
6. The lead ghost looked like the an extra from a Netherworld Haunted House.
5.  She was only as scary as said extra is when you accidentally catch them on a cigarette break behind the building.
4. I was never scared once.
3. Leading lady Sara Paxton's acting.
2. People paid money to see this.
1. I paid money to see this...Available on DVD.  1 of 5*

In the Land of Blood and Honey - Sure, its a cliche that every actor wants to direct.  Sometimes, though, a respected performer actually turns out to be just as, if not more adept, behind the scenes.  It's too early to say for sure about Angelina Jolie, who makes her screenwriting and directorial debut with this movie.  However, as the Magic Eight Ball says:  "Signs point to yes".
     In the Land of Blood and Honey is the story of a love affair between a Muslim prisoner and the Serbian officer who is her captor set against the backdrop of Bosnia in the early 1990's.  It is historically relevant and emotionally charged.  Just when you think you've pretty much got the story figured it out, it teaches you another thing or two.
     The film is led by relative unknown Goran Kostic and Zana Marjanovic, who is relatively unknown even by comparison to her co-star.  Both do phenomenal jobs of managing believable chemistry in the most unlikely of romances, but the characters that they play go so much deeper than that.  These people face moral quandaries that shake their worldviews, and will make you give serious thought to your own.
     On a final note, I couldn't help thinking that ten years after the Bosnian War, the Internet would have changed the game.  Twenty years later, and every indecency perpetrated in the racial cleansing would have been on Twitter minute to minute.  As it was, many of us had to wait for Ms. Jolie's highly impressive work to enlighten us to the full scope of what went on there.  Available on DVD.  4 1/2 of 5*

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