Okay this is a long overdue post. But better late than never, they say. So here we are having accomplished our respective Movie Dares! And we are happy to report zero casualties. Nobody unfriended anybody…yet. Without further ado, we present the Movie Dare 2015 results post! (Finally!)
End of Watch (2012) by David Ayer
Upon learning that I got The End of Watch for my movie dare, I had no feelings. No disappointment or dread or excitement. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into. All I knew was that it’s a cop movie. I am not a big fan of such genre and I will gladly pass it up if given the choice to skip watching it altogether. But here we are, a dare is a dare and I’ve got to thank Prudence for making me watch something that turned out to be really good.
Let me begin by telling you how perfect Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña were for their roles.
Jake and Michael did a good job acting, they have chemistry together, I like their sense of humor and how naturally the roles come to them making it very believable. Although they’re boisterous sometimes, you root for them anyway because behind the playful facade lies the real dedication to work, the concern to their neighborhood to the point of risking their lives during the fire, and the love for family and colleagues.
I like the handheld camera trick, makes it documentary-style and more believable, telling the audience that this could really happen in real life. Overall, I really enjoyed End of Watch. It’s a gripping crime-drama and a touching buddy movie.
Wild Tales (2014) by Damián Szifrón
The best comedies are often those that mine tragedy for material. Four Lions made terrorism funny, Dr. Strangelove made nuclear annihilation funny, Fargo made kidnapping and murder funny. Wild Tales, an Argentinian anthology film from director Damian Szifron, is a dark comedy comprised of six short films with a common theme of violence, revenge, and subversion follows the same methodology as the previous three films I mentioned: mining tragedy for comedy.
When Fern dared me to watch the film, the film was already at the back of my head as I was thinking of watching it anyway. The film, being one of the nominees of the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film (eventually losing to Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida) was already in my watch list. Fern’s dare was the final push I need in watching the film.
Let me first start by saying that the opening short of the film perfectly sets up the mood for the insanity that will follow. Two passengers of an airplane, one is a model and the other a music critic, gets to talking during the flight and they eventually reach a moment in their conversation when they realize that they are connected to one person named Pasternak who was the ex-boyfriend of the model and also a musician that was savagely reviewed by the critic. The short continues and all of passengers of the plane realize that they are all connected to Pasternak and all of them have done this amazingly-named individual wrong. What follows is the conclusion to the revenge plot by this Pasternak (who we never see in the whole short except for his back), a fitting and insane end to the introductory short that would set the tone for the other five that follows.
Wild Tales is primarily the stories of men and women who are driven over the edge by a society and a government that does not care for them. In one story, a man takes umbrage at the extortionary policies of traffic regulations and decides to do something about it. In another short, the films shows the unfairness of Argentina’s judicial system in an allegorical narrative that shows how the system benefits the rich and disadvantages the poor.
The film’s execution was near perfect with all six shorts attaining a balance of pacing and storytelling despite their disparate narratives and characters. Szifron also manages to flesh out each main character so that we are given human beings to care about instead of cardboard approximations. If I had to point out one flaw in the film, it is that it is too funny. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the comedy and this film had me in stitches but I just felt that the film’s levity prevented me from taking some of its points seriously.
Still, my complaints are minuscule to the point of nitpicking when you consider the overall merits of the film. It is a film that I am happy to be dared with and a film that I would highly recommend.
The Thin Red Line (1998) by Terrence Malick
I’m not really into war films and I haven’t watched any Terrence Malick film prior to The Thin Red Line. But his The Tree of Life is in my watchlist so when Benny assigned this movie as his dare, I was curious and excited at the same time.
This film takes place during the World War II and tells the story of the battle of Guadalcanal based from a graphic novel by James Jones. Infinitely poignant, hallucinatory, and philosophical, as Benny said, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line is an art film disguised as a war film. Of course there are battles scenes which are okay but it takes things way deeper than most other stories about war. This is not about a heroic man and the accounts of his bravery. This is a story of every soldier. The different effects of war in each of them. And their waiting for fate to decide who will die and who will survive.
Watching the film, it’s impossible to not be struck by the musings of the soldiers. There are a lot of voice-over narrations and questions about war, killing, death, life, and humanity that really caught my attention. Let me share one of my favorites: “This great evil, where’s it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doing this? Who’s killing us, robbing us of life and light?” Poetic, right? I love how the cinematography shows the contrast between the beauty of nature and the evil of man. Also, the score, the sounds from nature, and the song sang by the natives in their language captivated me from the start.
One unexpected thing about the film is despite its large cast of powerful actors, the performances that stuck with me are of those that I’m not familiar with. Don’t get me wrong, those well-known actors did a great job in their roles but the performances of Jim Caviezel and Ben Chaplin are the ones that moved me most.
Others say that this is an inaccurate depiction of the battle in Guadalcanal. That it is pretentious. Yet this tale has its emotional resonance in me, and I believe holds the same for many people who already watched this movie. The Thin Red Line humanizes events that seem only factual in history. Thought-provoking and beautifully shot, showing deep feelings of mankind, the existence of films like this is one of the reasons why I love watching films.
The Departed (2006) by Martin Scorsese
Bliss is currently very busy running a mob but word has it that she liked The Departed better than the Infernal Affairs (2002), the latter is the Hong Kong crime thriller series directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, from which the former is based on. And she gives The Departed her stamp of approval with a rating just one star shy of five.
The Hunt (2012) by Thomas Vinterberg
This movie has been in my ever-growing To Watch list for quite some time now and so I was thrilled and thankful that Bliss chose to dare me to watch this film. Thanks, Bliss!
The Hunt is definitely one gripping film, it’s uncomfortable, in a way that it makes the viewers question that one thing we were always told, “children never lie”. The thing that set this movie apart from all the others with a plot like this is that there was no mystery, the viewers were told from the beginning that Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) was innocent, what was deeply explored was how the people around him, most of which are his friends, reacted. He was condemned, which was understandable, that was the realistic response, because, again, we were told that children never lie. Which brings me to this question, what prompted Klara, the young daughter of Lucas’ best friend, to do such a thing at such an early age? Are some people born with less innocence and more inclination for malice than most? I do not know, but those are some of the questions I asked myself upon seeing this film. You may ask, what was that thing that Klara did. Deriving on a memory of a pornographic photo her older brother showed her in jest, she made remarks that lead her kindergarten director to believe that Lucas indecently exposed himself to her. Then the adults in the community believed the director’s account of abuse, ignoring Klara’s later unclear testimonies as denial. Lucas was shunned as a sexual predator and pedophile. And it all just went way downhill from there. Things got better and tensions were reduced when Theo heard Klara apologizing to Lucas as she was about to sleep and Theo’s misgivings on Lucas’ innocence were settled.
Mads Mikkelsen did a splendid job which, to me, is probably what moored this movie. We were used to seeing him as the bad guy, and now he is the good guy wrongly-believed to be the bad guy, and he is still ace. The setting and cinematography and the music, which were all gloomy at the right timing, added to the depressing undertones and the intensity overall. I had a slight qualm with the ending though I still thought that may appeal to some. All in all, the praises this movie garnered were all justified and I highly recommend it, and not only to film buffs.
It Follows (2014) by David Robert Mitchell
When Kitty revealed It Follows as her dare for me, I admit, I was a little worried. I mean there have been instances where I cannot shake some grisly mental image from a mere trailer of a horror film. BUT I am well aware and accept the hazards of a movie dare. And I am happy to report that after having seen It Follows, save for the occasional looking over the shoulder, and scanning the horizon for anyone coming straight at me, there have been zero nightmares.
It Follows is quite different from your usual horror movie. You know, the ones populated with jump scares, and blood, guts and gore, and one fast cut after another. This one, on the other hand, is slow burn. The lingering long takes and slow panning shots create an eerie calmness that makes your skin crawl. The music plays a big role as well, there is this sort of synthesizer dirge peppered with drum beats that rev up the tension by miles. They’re going for atmosphere instead of visceral action, and I find that refreshing in a horror film. Another thing, this movie, for the most part, takes place in the daylight when most scenes in your run-of-the-mill horror are in pitch black darkness. And I can’t believe how much more terrifying daytime horror is.
The narrative however is much less involving than I thought it would be. I mean, the premise is interesting. A curse gets passed around via sexual intercourse. It’s like STD but instead of an itchy vagina you get a monster following you, which can appear anywhere and anytime without warning. You let them catch you, and you’re a goner. Now the only way out is for you to pass it on to someone else by doing the birds and the bees. Anyway I just feel like they seem to be going for something deeper, a commentary on promiscuity? On coming of age? But I think it’s trying too hard for something that’s too big for itself. And the final confrontation with the monster felt really absurd. I mean yeah they’re kids, but it was just absurd. But I liked the ambiguity in the final act. Did they kill the monster? Or didn’t they? Was the guy three paces behind them an “It” or just some random dude?
But all in all, I think it’s a refreshing take on the horror genre. Movies like this might just make me a horror fan. Okay fine, not really. But I’ll definitely consider seeing something along the lines of It Follows. Terms and conditions apply. Haha.
And that concludes our first ever Movie Dare, with favorable results! How about you? Have you been dared (or suckered) into watching a movie outside of your comfort zone?