Thursday, October 19, 2017

Blade Runner 2049



When Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” came out in 1982, it was not an immediate hit, but to us who saw it in the cinemas back then, it was evident that this was going to be significant within science fiction film history. The film was very loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and set in a dystopian 2019 Los Angeles where former police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) worked as a blade runner, i.e. he tracked down and eliminated bioengineered beings known as replicants.
Since 1982, “Blade Runner” has been released in several versions, where the Directors Cut (1992) and the Final Cut (2007) were remarkable as they omitted both the happy ending and Harrison Ford’s voice over and instead included Deckard’s unicorn dream that is seen as proof of Deckard himself being a replicant.

“Blade Runner 2049” directed by Denis Villeneuve takes place thirty years later where Los Angeles is even more dystopian due to a global blackout and a following famine. A new company, Wallace Corp. headed by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), has solved the global food shortage and become a massive super power, reviving technology, replicants included.
Among the replicants is K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner, who tracks down and kills old rogue model replicants. On one of his missions, he finds something that could alter the future of humanity, and K now tries to uncover the truth behind his finding.

So far so good, except… it isn’t good at all! Although “Blade Runner 2049” is quite spectacular visually, the narrow plot doesn’t justify a runtime of two hours and forty-four minutes and when in the end, it turns out that everything you thought you saw is a lie, you can’t help but feel a bit cheated. Besides, where the original “Blade Runner” was an American neo noir science fiction film, or rather a future noir that leaned heavily on classical film noir elements such as a hardboiled, emotionally distant detective with questionable moral outlook and a shady but strong woman who upended his life, “Blade Runner 2049” has nothing of the wit and whims of its predecessor.
K is boring and as dry as a cracker and it is very hard to sympathise with him, especially as he has the same warped outlook on women as the rest of the “Blade Runner 2049” universe. I know, this has been mentioned before in other reviews, but I am going to mention it again: “Blade Runner 2049” has a huge problem with the depiction of women.

It seems that in 2049 women have been reduced to artificial beings who are to do whatever men want them to. The only “strong” female character in the film is Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), so of course she doesn’t last long. The two main female characters are K’s pleasure hologram Joi (Ana de Armas) who submits to his every demand and Niander Wallace’s right hand replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who only does what he tells her to do.
“Blade Runner 2049” totally fails the Bechdel test, which requires a film to feature two named female characters talking to each other about something other than a man, but of course, so did the original “Blade Runner”. The difference is, however, that there was no lack of strong women acting on their own behalf in “Blade Runner”, where there are none in “Blade Runner 2049”. Furthermore, sexualised images of women dominate the cityscapes of “Blade Runner 2049”, emphasising that women are merely sex objects in this world. It’s a man’s world, for sure and the storyline of the film is driven entirely by men. No wonder, that so many women are boycotting the film, making it flop at the box office.

Harrison Ford repeats his role as Rick Deckard in “Blade Runner 2049”, but just like the futuristic world is no place for women, it is no place for old men, either. Deckard is now an old, almost helpless man who has to be rescued by K – just like a woman!
Edward James Olmos cameos in his old role as former police officer Gaff and a CGI version of Deckard’s love-interest Racheal (Sean Young) can be seen as well. Olmos is by far the most interesting and funny, as where in the original “Blade Runner”, he made an origami unicorn to imply that Deckard was a replicant and that Gaff himself had access to his dreams, in “Blade Runner 2049” Gaff makes an origami sheep while talking to K, thereby answering author Philip K. Dick’s original question, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”

All in all, “Blade Runner 2049” is way too long (both my cinema companion and I struggled to stay awake), too misogynistic and with too many plot holes to be a decent sequel to its masterpiece predecessor. So, unfortunately, I’m only able to give it two out of five stars, one for Gaff and one for Jared Leto, who is scary but hypnotising as the blind but seeing Niander Wallace.
Two out of five stars: **

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It


One week has already passed since I saw the new movie-version of Stephen King’s horror novel ”It”. I should have written this review days ago, but I haven’t been able to, as I don’t know what to write! It’s not that this Andy Muschietti directed version of “It” is a bad movie. It isn’t. But if you have seen the 1990 “It” miniseries, it’s not a good movie, either.

Why, you ask? Compared to the 1990 miniseries, the movie is clearly superior when it comes to special effects and in my opinion the young cast is better too, especially Sophia Lillis as Beverly Marsh, Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben Hanscom, and Chosen Jacobs as Mike Hanlon, not to forget Finn Wolfhard, who is brilliant as Richie Tozier. Together with Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie Kaspbrak, Wyatt Oleff as Stanley Uris, and Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough they make up the Losers’ Club that sets out to investigate what happened to Bill’s younger brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott) who has disappeared after meeting the dancing clown Pennywise in their hometown of Derry, Maine.

And now we’re at the core of the problem, because the problem is It. It’s Pennywise. When Pennywise is introduced, fans of the miniseries agree: although Bill Skarsgård isn’t bad as the clown, he’s just not as good as Tim Curry was in the series. I expect nobody could be as Curry is a tough act to follow especially in this, one of his best roles.

Besides, the new Pennywise doesn’t make sense. He looks too scary for a little kid like Georgie to ever talk to him and too ridiculous for an adult movie audience to take him seriously. Where Tim Curry’s Pennywise looked like a modern-day clown, his humour, sarcasm, and amazing voice were dangerous and deadly, whereas Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise reminds me of the white rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland” – but with very few lines and a bad temper!

Because Pennywise himself isn’t scary, the movie relies heavily on cheap tricks like jump scares and loud noises to frighten its audience. Some of them are quite efficient, others are not. In any case, you shouldn’t see “It” if you need a good scare. It’s not scary, but a rather funny and touching coming-of-age movie, a bit like Rob Reiners movie-version of Stephen King’s “Stand by Me” added a young version of John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club”. The movie-makers are aware of this, for sure, as Beverly is compared to Breakfast Club’s Molly Ringwald.

The scenes in the movie differs quite a lot from both the scenes in the miniseries and in the book, but the plot as such is the same. Changing the time from the original 1957-1958 in the book and the miniseries to 1984-1985 in the movie, is not a good idea, though. Sure, the movie makes use of a lot of funny 1980s references, but only a mature audience (like me, he-he) is likely to get them. Among people my age in the audience, they got the loudest laughs along with Finn Wolfhard’s Richard Tozier jokes.

No, the problem is, that although the story now takes place in the 1980s, the entire town of Derry still seems to be stuck in the 1950 when it comes to Afro-American characters like Mike and female characters like Beverly. 1980s-Mike has been robbed of all his 1950-intellect and is now just an orphan farm boy, who is treated as if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 never happened. In the same way, the women in the movie are all pre-feminism characters, even Beverly, who is a strong, independent character in the 1950s version, but in the 1980s she ends up as a damsel in distress, who has to be rescued by boys. Tut-tut! Luckily, the infamous sex orgy scene between Beverly and the six boys from the book has been omitted in the movie like it was in the miniseries.

Still, what ruins the movie the most is the new Pennywise as we have all come to love (and fear!) Tim Curry’s portrayal of the clown so much that he can’t be replaced. Even Pennywise’s most iconic line has absolutely no impact when it comes from Bill Skarsgård. What a shame. Let’s see if Pennywise improves in the sequel as this 2017 “It” is only the first of two movies. Until then: “Beep, beep, Richie!”

Three out of five stars: ***

P.S.: SPOILER ALERT!! How can Pennywise be next to Georgie in the flooded basement, when Pennywise is Georgie? He’s a shape-shifter, damn it! It doesn’t make sense!!!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

OFF17 – Odense International Film Festival

For the 42nd time Odense International Film Festival took place here in Odense, Denmark. This year from August 28th to September 3rd.
The International Film Festival (called OFF17 this year) consisted of 104 short films, animations and documentaries placed within three competitions: the main competition, the Danish competition, and the animation competition. There used to be a documentary competition as well, but not anymore, so now the documentaries are placed within the other competitions.
Up to seven films were shown at each screening, the screenings taking place in different theatres within the Brandts Cultural Centre complex in Odense City. The screenings were free of charge, but you had to book tickets in advance to be sure to get a seat and you had to do it fast. I booked tickets one day PRIOR to the release of the final programme, but even then, all tickets to the screenings of Danish short films were gone, so I only saw the Danish films that were also included in the main competition and/or the animation competition.
Very many school classes take advantage of the booking system, and of course it is great that the kids and youngsters are able to see modern short films and animations, but especially the teenagers are usually sooo noisy, disturbing the rest of the audience with their mobile phones, talking and throwing objects in the theatre, that there ought to be special school screenings, in my opinion!
Anyway, the festival also includes what is called “OFF Focus” events, which this year was everything from free of charge screenings of films by up and coming film directors, animated music videos and short films for young children over open-air screenings of top notch feature films, David Lynch short films and electronic goth concerts to film quiz nights, talks with film directors and expensive film music concerts by Odense Symphony Orchestra.
Last year in my review of OFF16 I complained that although there were no really bad films, there were no extraordinarily good films either. This tendency had increased this year, as there were no good films at all amongst the ones that I watched, but several really bad.
Don’t get me wrong. Technically, most of the films were of a very high standard, but the contents sucked. Most of the time, there was no REASON for making the films. They didn’t tell a story, they didn’t illustrate a feeling or mood, they didn’t do sh*t except displaying the craft, the technical ability that went into the production and to me that is not quite enough.
The jury of the main competition wasn’t particularly international this year as it consisted of the Danish film producer Stine Meldgaard, the Danish actor Christian Tafdrup and the Danish actress Marijana Jankovic. They chose the following winners:
Winners of the main competition: The HCA Award (the International Grand Prix): “Written/unwritten” by Adrian Silisteanu, Rumania, about a Roma family.
The OFF Storyteller Award: “Domesticated Wolf” by Elad J. Primo, Israel, about a father trying to protect his daughter from growing up.
The OFF Artist Award for the film with the strongest artistic expression: “Red Apples” by George Sikharulidze, Armenia, about having to be a virgin when marrying.
The jury of the Danish competition was a bit more international as it consisted of the American Vimeo senior curator Jeffrey Bowers, the Danish film director Peter Harton and the Danish artist Gudrun Hasle. Their picks were:
Winners of the Danish competition: Best Danish Short Film: “Übermensch” by Jesper Dalgaard about childhood demons.
The FilmFyn Talent Award: ”In a Month” by Jonas Kjærup Hjort about a group of factory workers’ journey into meaninglessness.
The jury of the animation competition consisted of the Danish film director Claudia Bille Straede, the Danish directorTobias Gundorff Boesen and the French animation filmmaker and visual artist Juliette Viger. They chose these:
Winners of the animation competition: The Borge Ring Award for the best animated film: “Nothing Happens” by Michelle and Uri Kranot, Denmark, about being seen.
The Animation Talent Award (Danish filmmakers only): “Related” by Ida Andreasen about living with anger.
Other winners: The Audience Award as well as The OFF Youth Award, where the jury was an 8th grade school class, went to “Abu Adnan” by Sylvia Le Fanu, Denmark, and was about Syrian emigrants.
As you can see, the winners this year were at least as political correct as the winners last year, whereas the artistic and imaginative short films had very little impact on the juries. Had I been the jury, I would have selected quiet different films, as I would have picked winners based on their artistic and cinematic merits and nothing else.
As winner of the main competition, the International Grand Prix, I would have picked “Home Swim Home” by Valérie Préel-Cléach, France, a funny and endearing story about a swimming champion without a pool.
The OFF Storyteller Award I would have awarded to “Before The End” by Chenghua Yang, France/China. It didn’t have a chance in the real competition, because at first glance you just think, “What the heck just happened?” If you look a little deeper, though, it is actually a great story about self-fulfilling prophecies. Still, I guess “Home Swim Home” would have had a better chance to win this category as well or maybe “Fry Day” by Laura Moss, USA, about the night of mass murderer Ted Bundy’s execution.
The OFF Artist Award for the film with the strongest artistic expression I think belonged to “Mr. Sand” by Soetkin Verstegen, Denmark, but as it would be my winner in other categories as well, I think I would pick either “The Absence of Eddy Table” by Rune Spaans, Norway, or “Lilac” by Carlin Diaz, France to win the OFF Artist Award. The first one is based on cartoonist Dave Cooper’s work, the second is a music video made for the Norwegian band Kakkmaddafakka.
 As winners of the Danish competition, I would have picked “Mr. Sand” by Soetkin Verstegen as Best Danish Short Film, as it was a both technical and narrative highlight about filmmaking, storytelling, and E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman”.
The FilmFyn Talent Award I would have awarded “Night Witches” by Julie Herdichek Baltzer, Denmark, which mixed real film and animation in telling the story about a Russian all-female night bombing squad during WWII. A special mention should have gone to “Cream” by Lena Ólafsdóttir, Denmark – real WTF?? animation!
As winners of the animation competition I would have picked “The Burden” by Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden for The Borge Ring Award for the best animated film. It’s an animated musical with apocalyptic undertones consisting of five scenes. Admittedly, it was a bit long, but had it omitted the three middle scenes, leaving only the first and the last, it would have been just PERFECT!
The Animation Talent Award I would have awarded to “Mr. Sand” by Soetkin Verstegen, Denmark, because of the aforementioned reasons.
Listening to the audience reactions, I thought that the Audience Award would have gone to the subdued family drama “Merry Christmas” by Héctor Rull Bel, Spain, or to the poetic childhood drama “The Dress On Her” by Chih Yi Wen, Taiwan.
The OFF Youth Award I thought would have gone to the dystopian short film “Anime” by Arnaud Brisebois, Canada, but the youth jury couldn’t even vote for as it wasn’t included in the youth screenings!
Had there been a documentary category, I would have awarded “After Life” by Prisca Bouchet and Nick Mayow, New Zealand, the best documentary award, as it was a both uplifting and pragmatic insight into the daily routines in a funeral home.
Like last year, I was only able to attend one “OFF Focus” events due to my bad health and I had a hard time choosing just one among the many interesting event. I ended up choosing “The classic featurette” where OFF’s grand old man, film expert Ulrich Breuning, presented six featurettes from 2003 to 2011, which had competed in OFF in previous years. I had seen most of them before, so I came mainly to hear Mr. Breuning, but to see these films again, reminded me of how imaginative and great the films of previous festivals had been compared to the ones this year. Is there any hope for a return to former glory? We’ll see next year at OFF18.

Blade Runner 2049

When Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” came out in 1982, it was not an immediate hit, but to us who saw it in the cinemas back then, it was...