Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Round-Up#13

Film Review: Gran Torino: Ah, Clint Eastwood. What can one say about the man? Starting off in the 50's as an extra in B-pictures for Universal Studios, Eastwood's star kept rising till he became one of the most popular movie stars in the world. Then, when people least expected it, he released his first film as director, Play Misty for me. The film became a hit and his career as a successful filmmaker was launched.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, could prepare any of his fans for the kind of filmmaker he grew into as the years went by. After a brief slump in the late 80's and early 90's, Eastwood bounced back with the award-winning Unforgiven, a masterful western with an elegiac feel that proved that Eastwood had become one of the Masters.

Gran Torino is another film that cements his reputation as a masterful actor/director/producer. With his laid-back, confident, so-good-it-looks-easy-to-do style, Eastwood tells the tale of a retired old army veteran who, after losing his wife, becomes a bitter, emotionally repressed man with nothing to do and nothing to live for. That all changes when a family of Korean-Americans move next door to him. To tell you anymore of the story would be unfair to you and the film. Suffice to say, this is the kind of film they just don't make anymore. This is a film that relies solely on story and character. And as told with Eastwood's deceptively simple directing style, this is a touching, compelling and ultimately haunting story about having no place in the world and about standing up for what's right. Like many of his films, Eastwood imbues the film with an elegiac tone that is emotionally effective, yet not manipulative like many other films if its type. And the performances by all the cast (including an appealing, touching performance by Eastwood) help make this a near-masterpiece of storytelling.
Eastwood released this film along with his other directorial effort Changeling in the same year. And considering the quality of both films, it is a testament to the kind of artist he is. Unmissable.

Film Review: This is it: It doesn't matter if you're a fan of Michael Jackson or not, This is it is a must see. Although marketed as a documentary chronicling the rehearsals for Jackson's last ever world tour which was supposed to start only days before his tragic and untimely death, this is not really a documentary at all. This is a performance film. Pure and simple. And what a performance film it is. It shows Jackson perfecting the choreography of the shows, fine-tuning musical arrangements, overseeing the making of short films that were supposed to be rear-projected during the concerts, and more or less lost in the joy of creating art. This is Michael Jackson like you've never seen him before. Up close and full of passion about his music. He comes across as a passionate, obsessed, gentle, courteous, world-weary artist who is truly a genius. As for the performances themselves, they are a wonder to see and hear, showing Jackson improvising dance moves, interacting with younger dancers with charismatic ease, and they all leave you mourning his death and the tour's along with it.

As a testament to how unique an artist Jackson was, this is a perfect film experience that honors him and his art. He truly will be missed.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves!