Maisy ❤ January + February 2015

reading time: ca. 3 min

It feels like ages since the last time i did one of these monthly favourites, so i'm a bit out of step. I feel bad about it (especially since it is one of my goals from the Day Zero Project... cough cough), but i haven't been reading anything but the huge exhausting novel The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie because we analysed it at University, and i don't want to talk another single word about this bloody book, so instead i'll discuss 2 movies i watched and loved last month! The first one being Birdman.

Watched: Birdman (2014)

source: imdb
Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, features an assembly of Hollywood actors such as Emma Stone, Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, but it is not a Hollywood movie by far.

The Plot:
A washed-up actor and director, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), famous for his role as iconic superhero Birdman decades earlier, struggles to mount a Broadway adaptation of the short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" by Raymond Carver, whilst trying to cope with the loss of his faded Hollywood acting career and his dysfunctional family. Being constantly tormented by the voice of Birdman, who mercilessly criticizes him, Riggan battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of his Broadway play.

The Acting:
What happens if a bunch of excellent actors are all bundled up in the small area of a theatre stage... is art! Every single other actor in the production execute their roles with professionalism that most movies are lucky to see in just one of their actors. Each actor didn't wait for their time to shine to pull out the big guns; every moment of screen time was utilized to its full potential. There isn't a second where the audience's immersion is broken by an awkwardly delivered line or a slightly out-of-place facial expressions or emotion. 

I do admit, the script - especially the dialogues - seemed a little pretentious from time to time, and the pseudo arts use of a drum soundtrack was rather irritating as well as the lengthy hand held tracking shot (in a good way though), but the performances of Edward Norton (Fight Club *-*), Michael Keaton and Emma Stone as his daughter were just brilliant. A little over the top (sort of theatre-esque) but still very much authentic. 

The  plot took quite a while to develop though, and if the movie weren't filled to the brim with intertextuality, weird genre-bursting intermezzos and critical statements on the flawed Broadway world, it would probably be labeled "boring". But this way it comes as a layered story that confronts you with repetition, references and strangeness. It's all very meta.

The Message:
Let go of the past. Don't be such a harsh critic with yourself. Climb out the window and take off into the sky.

Capturing this movie in its complexity and absurdity is quite hard because the most gripping thing about Birdman is the fact that you can't really seem to grasp it as you are sitting in the cinema hall, trying to munch on your popcorn as quietly as possible and trying to make some sense of the weird dialogues and images being presented to you.

Overall this movie is one fantastic dissection of the entertainment industry and belongs to the genre of art house movies - but luckily without being one of those annoying, exhausting ones that make you feel super dumb and unintelligent in an artsy-fartsy way. Birdman manages to create a continuous flow; the entire film is shot - aside from a few shots near the beginning and end - in a cinema verité style and appears to be filmed in a single shot: a one-take illusion that resembles the quality of Broadway theatre. Perhaps the best thing about the film is the behind-the-scenes peek at the technical aspects of a Broadway theater production with a camera that maneuvers through narrow hallways and follows the actors from scene to scene. The brilliant choice of always having the camera rolling lets the viewer in on what happens before and after any given event. This added information creates a realism unknown to nearly every other movie ever made. What better way to capture the raw emotion and awkward stumbling of an angry outburst at your father than to show the immediate reaction of the ranter following her outburst; you get to see the anger slowly fade from her face as the reality of what she said sets in. Details like this are so often lost and these often-lost, immersive subtleties are what make Birdman the almost revolutionary experience it is. Not to mention some of the transitions and dolly shots are just damn impressive.

Like i said: It's not your typical Hollywood movie. If nothing else, it will make you twist a few thoughts in your head afterwards.

Maisy rates: 8/10

Watched: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

source: imdb
I've watched and enjoyed Django Unchained, but compared to 12 Years a Slave, which is based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom in the pre-Civil War United States, Tarantino's bloody disaster just fades away...

The Plot:
1841, African American Solomon Northup lives happily with his family as a free man in upstate New York earning a living as a violinist, until he is one day abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, brilliantly portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage Northup must survive and endure those 12 years as a slave under the name 'Platt'.

The Acting:
I love watching movies without knowing any of the faces. Of course, Brad Pitt (i thought it was so strange to see him in an antebellum role!), Benedict Cumberbatch (short but sweet) and Michael Fassbender (great as ever!) are well-known actors, but apart from them the faces were new to me and a pleasure to watch! Especially Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Solomon Northup did an amazing job in portraying the horror of both physical and mental torture. Due to his character's position as a slave he is mostly unable to speak his mind unless he is prepared to be beaten. As a result Ejiofor is forced to utilize body language and his eyes, which become enormous pools of emotion to express himself to the audience. Even though he is forced to endure terrible things (let me just say: the flogging), he always maintains a certain dignity and nobility that makes his plight even more affecting. The incredible subtlety of his performance (another thing i want to mention: the almost-hanging) leave you speechless and in complete awe.

Now Michael Fassbender is one of my favourite actors anyway (Shame, Inglourious Basterds, X-Men) and does not disappoint in 12 Years a Slave, but gives one of the best performances of his already extremely impressive career - i had no idea that Shame was also directed by Steve McQueen, who also directed 12 Years a Slave! He plays Edwynn Epps, a vicious and demonic slaver and perhaps the most loathsome and disgusting character ever put on screen. If alive today, he'd likely be a drunk with severe anger management issues. By turns pathetic and terrifying, he embodies the ultimate nightmare of a deeply flawed man given absolute power over other human beings, and through that absolute power finds only madness, which drives him to deeper cruelty.

Last but not least i want to mention Lupita Nyong'o, playing the pretty young slave Patsey - the object of Edwynn Epps demented and horrifying affections and the emotional epicenter of the entire picture - who has her first role in a feature film and gives one of the most devastating performances. A portrait of unbearable sadness, her character is a mirror image of Solomon. While Solomon is a man who refuses to break and give up the dignity which he's known since birth, she is one who has long since been broken. Forced to endure the "love" of Edwyn Epps and the brutal jealousy of his wife, she's trapped in a terrible triangle that she can't escape. Despite that, she retains a level of innocence that only heightens the tragedy of her character. It's a shattering performance.

The Message:
Silence speaks a thousand words.

One aspect of 12 Years a Slave that probably impressed me the most was the (silence? serenity? patience?...) "slowness" of the movie that takes its time to fully unfold, and by that only enhances the intensity of both stillness and cruelty in action. Not only does the director Steve McQueen have an uncanny eye for imagery and contrast - he is also a very patient film maker, utilizing long, steady single shots to emphasize various moments. When the events on screen become their most horrifying and ugly is when his camera becomes the most unflinching. At times feeling perhaps like we're seeing out of the solemn eyes of the ghost of some murdered slave, watching in sorrow and rage... I'll say it again: the almost-hanging (you can watch the scene here on youtube - don't worry, it's nothing brutal, at least not in a physical sense) versus the flogging (you don't want to see that).

A moving film with under-the-skin acting and stunning cinematography. I actually had to hold my breath at a few scenes...!

Maisy rates: 8.5/10

Listened toLover On The Sun (David Guetta ft. Sam Martin)

Other songs that i listened to this year so far:  

Here Now by Phon.o ft. Bass Sekolah 
Look What You've Done by Karin Park
Shine On by Jet
World On Fire by Slash
What Are You Waiting For by Nickelback
Lady In Black by Uriah Heep
Rather Be by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne
Love Me Again by John Newmann
Wes by Fritz Kalkbrenner
Hydroponic Garden by Carbon Based Lifeforms
Interloper by Carbon Based Lifeforms
No Limit by 2 Unlimited 
Hit It by GTA & Henrix & Digital Lab
Bubble It by LuuxX & Mr. Shammi


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