Archive for May, 2010

The Pianist

I remember wanting to see this movie when it was out in the theater. I also remember making a point to try to see it when I heard about Adrien Brody winning the Academy Award. Both times it simply didn’t pan out. I would get distracted by something, as per usual for me, and the memory of the movie and my desire to see it would fall into the back of my brain. Waiting for something to bring it back to the forefront again.

I had recently seen Adrien Brody for the first time in the movie “Summer of Sam” when the Pianist was in the theater. From that moment on, I have always thought of him as one of those actors with incredible potential to be a phenomenal actor someday. Well that day came when he made this movie, “The Pianist”. Luckily, a conversation with my uncle recently brought this film, and my desire to see it, back to my mind. I’ve been checking out several movies from my local library lately since I am fortunate enough to live right down the street from it. Since it’s free, I made to decision to try to watch as many movies as I can that I’ve wanted to see but have never gotten around to. In fact the credits to this movie are still playing on the television across the room as I type this. And, for the sake of documentation, it is 12:30 AM. I don’t know if I have enough steam to complete this tonight but I’m going to try. I appreciate that some reading this may not find the preceding portions of this review particularly interesting considering I have yet to say very much at all about the movie. I’m afraid that if you plan to read this blog with any frequency that you will have to get used to it as this is the way I write.

This is the incredible true story of Polish-Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, an incredibly talented and famous pianist from Warsaw, Poland, and his amazing story of surviving the Nazi occupation of that area during World War II. Adrien Brody does a brilliant job in the lead role, many times carrying the story completely by himself with no other actors to play off of, and definitely earns his Oscar. It’s truly remarkable how so often real life stories can be so much more surprising, shocking and rich in depth than anything even the most creative minds can think up. If someone had decided to make up a story that took their audience step by tragic step though the entire process of the deterioration of the quality of life for the Jewish people under the Nazis, they could not have done better than this true story. From average citizen or even well-known well-off citizen to barely hanging on to life while hiding from the Nazis, who could bring death at anytime, and still considering yourself one of the lucky ones by comparison. There is so much more revealed in this story than just the idea of being caught and sent to a concentration camp, though there is that too.

This movie grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. It shows that through abuse, humiliation, tragedy and even death threatening you every moment, that life and hope can still somehow survive. That even when we have lost absolutely everything, that life still goes on. And also that life is not as black & white as we sometimes make it in our minds. That those we think of as evil are not always purely so and vice versa. This is a film that I definitely recommend watching if you have yet to. Even if you’ve seen a great deal of films about WWII, I believe you will find this one very surprising and beautifully done. It is definitely worth your time. It is one of those movies that is so emotionally intense that it actually drains you. So, though I’d definitely have to be in a certain mood to make it through it again, I am very glad I watched it and I gladly give it my highest praise.

Rating: 5 Stars



Originally written on 12-20-2009

By now, you’ve no doubt heard so much about how incredible Avatar is that, even if you were considering it, you might now be having second thoughts about seeing it. I’m here to tell you not to be dissuaded. You may be at the point where you think that this movie couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. I went into to Avatar with very high expectations, and they were not only met. They were exceeded.

Here’s what happened. I didn’t know very much about this movie. I’d heard good things about it. I’d heard that their was a lot of buzz. Which is actually usually cause for me to disregard it. At least initially. I love to go to the movies. But I like to appreciate movies on their own merit, not because everyone is going nuts over it due to heavy promotion. I probably WAS NOT going to see this movie. I’d seen a couple of trailers, but nothing that got me excited. Then I saw this.

That got my attention. One line spoken in the entire trailer. Incredible visuals. Music that builds perfectly from calm to intense. Add that to a pretty interesting plot, I was now probably going to see this movie. If I could scrape together the cash and the opportunity. Then I got a few bucks for Christmas, I had Friday off and AMC theaters have $5 admission for movie showtimes before noon on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So I went. My showtime was 9:50 AM opening day. There were about twenty other people there when the lights went down. For the next 2 and a half hours, I was glued to the screen. When it was done, I was speechless.

Don’t worry, I won’t give any spoilers. There are plenty of places that you can find those. Though I’d advise against it. The story was great and so was the cast. Perfect. That alone would have been enough. But this was a computer animation movie. This usually inspires some eye-rolling if it’s a film trying to be taken seriously at all or going for realism. And rightfully so. Though I enjoy Pixar and Dreamworks, this isn’t anything like that. This is way further down the road. This is new ground in computer animated films.

Lots of people would give you lots of different problems they’ve seen with recent attempts for realism in computer animated films. The two that always jump out at me are facial expressions / mannerisms and the eyes. Facial expressions and general subtle mannerisms tend to lack a lot realism. The eyes also tend to look kind of dead. They’re usually glassy, too dark and just missing realistic movement. Polar Express is a good example of a great effort for it’s time creating computer animated humans, but it still had the same problems in these areas.

Now, obviously, this film did not create realistic computer animated humans. Or any computer animated humans for that matter. But with the new technology innovated for this film, I believe they could. The natives of the alien world in this film appear completely real in a way that has not been achieved to date with animation or creature effects. The filmmakers, in addition to using a brand new type of camera to shoot the film, also came up with a rig that would read the expressions and mannerisms of the actors as they played out their scene. This translated into, from what I could see, completely accurate facial expressions and mannerisms transferred from actor to computerized character. In addition, the eyes are finally ALIVE! Mind you they’re not human eyes, but it’s there. When you watch these characters you get the feeling of watching a real person, not a cartoon or animation. You eventually lose yourself in it.

Between the beautiful landscapes and characters, the wonderful story and the new advancements that tie it all together, this is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. If I can help it, I WILL be seeing it again and purchasing it on DVD.

Rating: 5 Stars

And so it begins…

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