LawrenceA

Films of 2018

611 posts in this topic

On 12/27/2018 at 8:12 PM, LawrenceA said:

So who's seen Roma, and what did you think of it?

I just finished it, and was highly disappointed. The subject matter was mundane and banal to the extreme, and the amateur performers gave amateurish performances.

This is a semi-autobiographical look at writer-producer-director Alfonso Cuaron's childhood in the upper class Roma neighborhood of Mexico City circa 1970/71. The film focuses largely on the family's housekeeper and nanny as she goes about her daily working life, later dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. 

It's a vanity project for Cuaron, who never passes up an opportunity to stage an ostentatious camera set-up, be it panning or tracking or even more panning. The busy images and sound effect tracks are overstuffed with detail that occasionally offers an interesting composition but often seems pretentious and unnecessary. Sometimes less is more. 

This is an art film first and foremost, and the narrative is certainly a secondary consideration to the imagery, resulting in an emotional distance between subject and audience that doesn't seem intentional. I think the Cuaron of Y Tu Mama Tambien, stripped of pretension and full of emotional truth, would have served the material much better than this overly staged exercise in self-indulgent navel gazing.

(6/10)

I saw it too. My thoughts of it are similar to my thoughts on Akerman's Jeanne Dielman. I understand the message behind the film but it's just so damn boring. Even a story as mundane as this could have been extremely moving but there is no emotion or feeling here. I did like the scene where the boyfriend learns she's pregnant at the theater and then bails on her. Probably the most emotional part of the film. If only more of the film was like that instead of characters staring off into space or odd attempts at comedy and sight gags that just fall flat. Despite my dislike of it, I expect this one to get a few awards though.

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8 hours ago, Gershwin fan said:

I saw it too. My thoughts of it are similar to my thoughts on Akerman's Jeanne Dielman. I understand the message behind the film but it's just so damn boring. Even a story as mundane as this could have been extremely moving but there is no emotion or feeling here. I did like the scene where the boyfriend learns she's pregnant at the theater and then bails on her. Probably the most emotional part of the film. If only more of the film was like that instead of characters staring off into space or odd attempts at comedy and sight gags that just fall flat. Despite my dislike of it, I expect this one to get a few awards though.

Speaking of which in that scene there really is very little to see other than a totally out of focus movie screen.  Annoying.  If there had been foreground action I could understand it but as is, it was just a very bad camera decision IMO.

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On 12/27/2018 at 9:12 PM, LawrenceA said:

So who's seen Roma, and what did you think of it?

I just finished it, and was highly disappointed. The subject matter was mundane and banal to the extreme, and the amateur performers gave amateurish performances.

This is a semi-autobiographical look at writer-producer-director Alfonso Cuaron's childhood in the upper class Roma neighborhood of Mexico City circa 1970/71. The film focuses largely on the family's housekeeper and nanny as she goes about her daily working life, later dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. 

It's a vanity project for Cuaron, who never passes up an opportunity to stage an ostentatious camera set-up, be it panning or tracking or even more panning. The busy images and sound effect tracks are overstuffed with detail that occasionally offers an interesting composition but often seems pretentious and unnecessary. Sometimes less is more. 

This is an art film first and foremost, and the narrative is certainly a secondary consideration to the imagery, resulting in an emotional distance between subject and audience that doesn't seem intentional. I think the Cuaron of Y Tu Mama Tambien, stripped of pretension and full of emotional truth, would have served the material much better than this overly staged exercise in self-indulgent navel gazing.

(6/10)

Can't agree with you about Roma, Lawrence. I loved every minute of this beautiful film. "Beautiful" aesthetically, in terms of the cinematography and mise-en-scene, and "beautiful" in its characterizations and its mood. What's wrong with a film director who loves movies, who loves the art of movie-making, taking delight in what the camera can do? I enjoyed all those long leisurely tracking shots, and I found the scenes, which you call "overstuffed", a feast for the eyes (but not an overly-stuffy one.) The same goes for the sound, which you seemed to think, again, was overdone. It's not very often we get a film that revels in the beauty of filmmaking , so why not enjoy it? I did not find these aspects of Roma pretentious or overdone at all, but rather, a  sweet celebration of the art of cinema.

As for the narrative, true, it's not really what you'd call a plot-focused film, more what used to be called a cinematic "slice-of-life". But I love "slice-of-life" movies. Some of them are my favourites (like "Amarcord", another movie which delighted in the visual and sound possibilities of film.) And contrary to your impression that Roma was "emotionally distant", I found it to be very moving. I thought there was much "emotional truth" in it.  Why was the subject matter "mundane and banal"? Because it's about a family that has the father leave? But the film is about so much more than that.  I know you cannot mean it's "mundane" because it's mainly shown from the point-of-view of the maid. Why should a servant's life be any less worthy than any other character's? (But I don't think that's what you meant, anyway.)

I wonder if, had you not already known Roma was semi-autobiographical, if you would have felt it was "an overly-staged exercise in self-indulgent naval gazing". I mean, aside from anything else, the film is NOT told from the perspective of any of the children, certainly not the oldest boy (who I assume is the Cuaron-type character), who's in the movie the least of all the family members (excepting the father.)

I'll say it again: I loved Roma. I think it's a film that celebrates the beauty of filmmaking, and the beauty of life.

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5 minutes ago, misswonderly3 said:

I'll say it again: I loved Roma. I think it's a film that celebrates the beauty of filmmaking, and the beauty of life.

I'm glad that it moved you. I just didn't feel it. I'm not against "cold" movies, either; Kubrick is my favorite director. I don't think Cuaron meant for this to be cold, and it seems to have connected with you (and many, many others) on an emotional level, so it's my failing, not the film's. I'm just a trash-loving philistine, anyway.

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1 hour ago, misswonderly3 said:

Can't agree with you about Roma, Lawrence. I loved every minute of this beautiful film. "Beautiful" aesthetically, in terms of the cinematography and mise-en-scene, and "beautiful" in its characterizations and its mood. What's wrong with a film director who loves movies, who loves the art of movie-making, taking delight in what the camera can do? I enjoyed all those long leisurely tracking shots, and I found the scenes, which you call "overstuffed", a feast for the eyes (but not an overly-stuffy one.) The same goes for the sound, which you seemed to think, again, was overdone. It's not very often we get a film that revels in the beauty of filmmaking , so why not enjoy it? I did not find these aspects of Roma pretentious or overdone at all, but rather, a  sweet celebration of the art of cinema.

As for the narrative, true, it's not really what you'd call a plot-focused film, more what used to be called a cinematic "slice-of-life". But I love "slice-of-life: movies. Some of them are my favourites (like "Amarcord", another movie which delighted in the visual and sound possibilities of film.) And contrary to your impression that Roma was "emotionally distant", I found it to be very moving. I thought there was much "emotional truth" in it.  Why was the subject matter "mundane and banal"? Because it's about a family that has the father leave? But the film is about so much more than that.  I know you cannot mean it's "mundane" because it's mainly shown from the point-of-view of the maid. Why should a servant's life be any less worthy than any other character's? (But I don't think that's what you meant, anyway.)

I wonder if, had you not already known Roma was semi-autobiographical, if you would have felt it was "an overly-staged exercise in self-indulgent naval gazing". I mean, aside from anything else, the film is NOT told from the perspective of any of the children, certainly not the oldest boy (who I assume is the Cuaron-type character), who's in the movie the least of all the family members (excepting the father.)

I'll say it again: I loved Roma. I think it's a film that celebrates the beauty of filmmaking, and the beauty of life.

Though it's a lock to take home Best Director-(Curan), F. Film & Cinematography   It's of course all subjective

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7 minutes ago, shannon said:

(NOTE: Think tcm got it wrong above, I personally have not seen ROMA yet?)

What?

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21 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

I'll say it again: I loved Roma. I think it's a film that celebrates the beauty of filmmaking, and the beauty of life.

I have a few more comments on my reaction to Roma.

1) I committed the cardinal movie-watching sin of going in with heightened expectations. I don't always, or even often, agree with critics, but if I read a preponderance of positive press about a movie, then I'll go into it expecting more. And more often than not, I'll go in with an extra-critical mindset, subconsciously looking for any perceived flaws and occasionally blowing them out of proportion. I'll fault a film for what I thought it should be, instead of properly judging it for what it is. Oftentimes, this is why I'll re-watch a film that was critically acclaimed but that I didn't take to, as my opinion is more tempered and reasonable after some reflection. But not always; I still dislike many after a re-watch.

2) I may have mentioned my personal breakdown of film plots on here before, I don't recall. But basically it's that stories have two components: characters and situations. And that these can broken up into two categories: the ordinary and the extraordinary. All films are a combination of these. For example, ordinary characters in extraordinary situations (many melodramas or thrillers fit this), extraordinary characters in ordinary situations (comedies), extraordinary characters in extraordinary situations (science fiction, action, or super hero films) and finally ordinary characters in ordinary situations. This last category is my least favorite of the four. This is the category in which I'd place Roma, as well as another 2018 film that came in for a lot of praise, Eighth Grade. I didn't care for that movie, either, even less so than Roma, since Roma at least had some aesthetic aspirations. The only thing that can raise my opinion on that last type of story is either the performances, which I found lacking in both films, or the technique, which Roma had in spades, but in an obtrusive manner in my view. Perhaps when/if I re-watch it, I'll appreciate it more.

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41 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I have a few more comments on my reaction to Roma.

1) I committed the cardinal movie-watching sin of going in with heightened expectations. I don't always, or even often, agree with critics, but if I read a preponderance of positive press about a movie, then I'll go into it expecting more. And more often than not, I'll go in with an extra-critical mindset, subconsciously looking for any perceived flaws and occasionally blowing them out of proportion. I'll fault a film for what I thought it should be, instead of properly judging it for what it is. Oftentimes, this is why I'll re-watch a film that was critically acclaimed but that I didn't take to, as my opinion is more tempered and reasonable after some reflection. But not always; I still dislike many after a re-watch.

2) I may have mentioned my personal breakdown of film plots on here before, I don't recall. But basically it's that stories have two components: characters and situations. And that these can broken up into two categories: the ordinary and the extraordinary. All films are a combination of these. For example, ordinary characters in extraordinary situations (many melodramas or thrillers fit this), extraordinary characters in ordinary situations (comedies), extraordinary characters in extraordinary situations (science fiction, action, or super hero films) and finally ordinary characters in ordinary situations. This last category is my least favorite of the four. This is the category in which I'd place Roma, as well as another 2018 film that came in for a lot of praise, Eighth Grade. I didn't care for that movie, either, even less so than Roma, since Roma at least had some aesthetic aspirations. The only thing that can raise my opinion on that last type of story is either the performances, which I found lacking in both films, or the technique, which Roma had in spades, but in an obtrusive manner in my view. Perhaps when/if I re-watch it, I'll appreciate it more.

SPOILERS ABOUT ROMA

Well, thank you for taking the time to explain the reasons for your opinion of Roma, Lawrence.

I agree, when you hear a film praised to the skies it can create overly-high expectations, one can go into the movie with a bit of an attitude, almost wanting it to not be good. Kind of a reaction to hype; I've done that lots of times myself.

And I found your ideas about "extraordinary vs ordinary" , and the various combinations of the two in film, to be interesting.

For me personally, neither a character nor a situation  in a film has to be "extraordinary" for me to appreciate or even enjoy it. Also, I imagine it depends on how you define "extraordinary". For instance, there's a well-acclaimed writer of short stories, Alice Munro, who almost always writes about "ordinary" people in more or less ordinary situations.Yet her stories are brilliantly written, exceptionally insightful,  and interesting. This is because (for me, anyway), "art", whether it's filmmaking or literature or something else - can make the ordinary extraordinary. It all depends on how the artist (writer, director, whatever) creates their art - - or entertainment -- and communicates it to their audience. 

I'd also like to point out that some of the situations in Roma are not "ordinary". For instance, all the political upheaval in Mexico City at the time the film is set, the student uprisings and the violence with which they were put down, was not an ordinary or mundane situation. Also, I would not exactly say that dealing with a forest fire at a family gathering - not to mention successfully extinguishing it - is an ordinary event.

Going into labour in the middle of a riot is definitely not an ordinary situation, nor is giving birth to a stillborn an everyday occurance. (But certainly a heartbreaking one.) Also, saving the lives of two children from being carried out to sea, especially if you do not know how to swim, seems pretty out-of-the-ordinary to me.

But even without these exceptional situations, I'd still like Roma, because to me,  the so-called "ordinary" protagonist, the maid, was sympathetic and interesting to me, which in a way makes her extra-ordinary. For me, mundane people and situations can become exceptional and provide food for thought, as well as audience (or reader) engagement, if the creator of these characters and situations has the talent to elevate them from the banal to the unusual. And, at the risk of sounding sickeningly Pollyanna-ish, everyone has a story to tell, and if it's told well, everyone can become interesting.

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BlacKkKlansman was pretty enjoyable, The Wife watchable, Black Panther made it about 3 /4 through, then shut if off at a battle scene of stuff you seen over and over again.

Watching halfassedly The Favorite as I type, not a favorite.

Got the Vice (2018) disc also but don't think I'll bother watching something that I lived through and didn't find interesting then.

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https://spectator.us/slavoj-zizek-roma-celebrated/

Slavoj Žižek: Roma is being celebrated for all the wrong reasons

It may be an instant classic, but it’s being widely misread

My first viewing of Roma left me with a bitter taste: yes, the majority of critics are right in celebrating it as an instant classic, but I couldn’t get rid of the idea that this predominant perception is sustained by a terrifying, almost obscene, misreading, and that the movie is celebrated for all the wrong reasons.

Roma is read as a tribute to Cleo, a maid from the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City working in the middle-class household of Sofia, her husband Antonio, their four young children, Sofia’s mother Teresa, and another maid, Adela. It takes place in 1970, the time of large student protests and social unrest. As already in Y Tu Mama Tambien, Cuaron maintains distance between the two levels, the family troubles (Antonio leaving his family for a younger mistress, Cleo getting pregnant by a boyfriend who immediately abandons her), and this focus on intimate family topic makes the oppressive presence of social struggles all the more palpable as the diffuse but omnipresent background. As Fred Jameson would have put it, History as Real cannot be depicted directly but only as the elusive background that leaves its mark on depicted events.

So does Roma really just celebrate Cleo’s simple goodness and selfless dedication to the family? Can she really be reduced to the ultimate love object of a spoiled upper-middle class family, accepted (almost) as part of the family to be better exploited, physically and emotionally? The film’s texture is full of subtle signs which indicate that the image of Cleo’s goodness is itself a trap, the object of implicit critique which denounces her dedication as the result of her ideological blindness. I don’t have in mind here just the obvious dissonances in how the family members treat Cleo: immediately after professing their love for her and talking with her ‘like equals’, they abruptly ask her to do some house job or to serve them something. What struck me was, for example, the display of Sofia’s indifferent brutality in her drunken attempt to park the family Ford Galaxie in the narrow garage area: how she repeatedly scratches the wall with chunks of plaster falling down. Although this brutality can be justified by her subjective despair (being abandoned by her husband), the lesson is that, due to her dominant position, she can afford to act like that (the servants will repair the wall), while Cleo, who finds herself in a much more dire situation, simply cannot afford such ‘authentic’ outbursts – even when her whole world is falling apart, the work has to go on…

Cleo’s true predicament first emerges in all its brutality in the hospital, after she delivers a stillborn baby girl; multiple attempts to resuscitate the infant fail, and the doctors give the body to Cleo for a few moments before taking it away. Many critics who saw in this scene the most traumatic moment of the film, missed its ambiguity: as we learn later in the film (but can suspect now already), what truly traumatizes her is that she doesn’t want a child, so a dead body in her hands is good news.

At the film’s end, Sofia takes her family for a holiday to the beaches at Tuxpan, taking Cleo to help her cope with her loss (in reality, they want to use her there as a servant, although she just went through a painful stillbirth). Sofia tells the children over dinner that she and their father are separated and that the trip is so their father can collect his belongings from their home. At the beach, the two middle children are almost carried off by the strong current until Cleo wades into the ocean to save them from drowning even though she herself does not know how to swim. As Sofia and the children affirm their love for Cleo for such selfless devotion, she breaks down from intense guilt, revealing that she had not wanted her baby. They return to their house, with the bookshelves gone and various bedrooms reassigned. Cleo prepares a load of washing, telling Adela she has much to tell her, as a plane flies overhead.

After Cleo saves the two boys, they all (Sofia, Cleo and the boys) tightly embrace on the beach – a moment of false solidarity if there ever was one, a moment which simply confirms that Cleo is caught into the trap that enslaves her… Am I dreaming here? Is my reading not too crazy? I think Cuaron provides a subtle hint in this direction at the level of the form. The entire scene of Cleo saving the children is shot in one long take, with the camera moving transversally, always focused on Cleo. When one watches this scene, one cannot avoid the feeling of a strange dissonance between form and content: while the content is a pathetic gesture from Cleo who, soon after the traumatic stillbirth, risks her life for the children, the form totally ignores this dramatic context. There is no exchange of shots between Cleo entering the water and the children, no dramatic tension between the danger the children are in and her effort to save them, no point-of-view shot depicting what she sees. This strange inertia of the camera, its refusal to get involved in the drama, renders in a palpable way Cleo’s disentanglement from the pathetic role of a faithful servant ready to sacrifice herself.

There is a further hint of emancipation to come in the very final moments of the film when Cleo says to Adela: ‘I have much to tell you.’ Maybe, this means that Cleo is finally getting ready to step out of the trap of her ‘goodness’, becoming aware that her selfless dedication to her family is the very form of her servitude. In other words, Cleo’s total withdrawal from political concerns, her dedication to selfless service, is the very form of her ideological identity, it is how she ‘lives’ ideology. Maybe explaining her predicament to Adela is the beginning of Cleo’s ‘class consciousness’, the first step that will lead her to join the protesters on the street. A new figure of Cleo will arise in this way, a much more cold and ruthless – a figure of Cleo delivered from ideological chains.

But maybe it will not. It is very difficult to get rid of the chains in which we not only feel good but feel that we are doing something good. As T.S. Eliot put it in his Murder in the Cathedral, the greatest sin is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

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