Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel)

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“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility”.

Joyeux Noel (aka Merry Christmas), a heartwarming film set in the World War 1 trenches is a €19M joint production of France, Germany and the UK with star studded talented cast of Diane Krüger, Daniel Brühl, Brenno Fürmann, Guillame Canet, Garry Lewis and Danny Boon.

Merry Christmas is a very poignant film surrounded by beautiful Christmas carols and well written storyline. It is like the heartbreaking moments of Saving Private Ryan plus the uplifting energy of Love Actually combined together in a single package.

Christmas Eve of 1914, the English, French and Germans celebrated the Christmas Eve together in the war trenches singing, drinking and sharing their pictures from home. The film’s opening credit is pretty impressive; it begins with children of different nationalities talking about their understanding of war. Things like why they should get rid of one another to ease the danger and make this world a better place to live in, but the question is, do we really have defined or particular enemies?

In Merry Christmas, unbelievable but true, they have extended the fraternization for three more days to bury the victims of war in both sides. I found a very moving scene in the film where the officials are talking about Christmas, the day when Christ was born is the very same day when they are burying their comrades. In the end of the film, I have my teary eyes when they are all going back to war and forget about their so called “crime of fraternization” and then they sang the song “I’m Dreaming of Home”. History has kept this truth for years because on that time, they believed that it is a crime of disobedience and disloyalty for their countries. But I guess it is damn better to be loyal to the human race in general right? In one of the last scenes, an English bishop is telling the soldiers that the World War I is a crusade, a battle between good and evil, the English and French being the savior and the Germans are the evil ones. Well, I know it is pretty controversial but I never believe in the literal meaning of the word ‘Crusade’, the crusade that they are talking about that there are certain definite groups of people that would assume the word good and bad is just absurd.

Looking at Joyeux Noel, the most outstanding aspect of the film is probably the strong direction from Christian Carion, he is a very emotional director who can effectively show human reaction to the absurdity and hostility of war. The cast is also very powerful not only because of their acting skills (we know that already) but it features box office hit makers such as Diane Kruger. But the best performances from the movie came from Daniel Bruhl (not because I’m a fan), Guillame Canet (France’ answer to Tom Cruise) and Danny Boon, the one who played the role of the priest. The film score is fantastic, it features old recognizable Christmas carols and I just love the song I’m Dreaming of Home, it is so touching and nostalgic. This movie is definitely one of the best five movies of 2005.

Last night, there are just three people watching the last full show. But despite of this, I realized one thing, if it’s always Christmas everyday, may be those millions of people did not loose their lives in the series of senseless wars…

Monday, November 14, 2005

10 Best Performances by an Actor in the year 2005...

I am posting these 10 names because the year is almost over... The list of eligible actors for this year is based on their films shown from December 1, 2004 - November 15, 2005...

In random order:

Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside) – Javier as a quadriplegic in the Spanish film Mar Adentro is a very accurate portrayal of bravery, sadness, regret and most of all, dignity.

Jang Donggun (Taegukgi) – Obviously, he is the only Asian in the list. Donggun, in the next few years can be the Best Korean movie star that we have.

Gael Garcia Bernal (Motorcycle Diaries) – Gael’s portrayal of Che Guevarra makes the subject matter more intriguing, controversial and fashionable?

Daniel Brühl (Love in Thoughts) – Forget that he is my favorite actor in the world; his poetic, dark, possessive and twisted character in the film is the reason why he is hovering in the list.

August Diehl (Love in Thoughts) – He is my favorite fag in the recent years. August as Gunther is always crazy, jealous, drugged, good friend but extremely dangerous.

Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby) – Clint is the reason why I can’t recognize Hillary Swank as the Best Actress of the Year; he simply got more of my attention…

Bruno Ganz (Downfall) – He is Adolf Hitler and Hitler is an iconic figure in the world history. Because of Bruno’s demented, realistic gesture of his character in the film, I hate him even more…

Paul Giamatti (Sideways) – I can see bitterness in his face. Paul’s character is so complex but he let us know the hardship, pain and humor of his journey. He is simply one of this year’s best!

Ethan Hawke (Before Sunset) – Ethan’s pragmatic persona as a man who always maintains his heart under the power of his mind is really impressive.

Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog) – No wonder why he is here, I have never seen a rough performance of Ben even in the space thriller film “Species”.

Cream of the Crop: Based on the performance, I can already associate the year 2005 to three names: Javier Bardem, Bruno Ganz and Paul Giamatti but till now, I still can’t decide on who is the best… I’ll just post it on early December!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

2005 European Film Academy Awards

Another year has passed, out of more than 400 competing films in Europe annually, here comes the nominations in my favorite award giving body (major categories):

Brothers directed by Susanne Bier (Denmark/UK/Sweden/Norway)
Hidden (Cache) directed by Michael Haneke (France/Austria/Ger/Italy)
Don't Come Knocking directed by Wim Wenders (Germany)
The Child (L'Enfant) directed by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (Belgium/France)
My Summer Of Love directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (UK)
Sophie Scholl directed by Marc Rothemund (Germany)

Susanne Bier for Brothers
Roberto Faenza for Come into the Light (Alla Luce Del Sole)
Michael Haneke for Hidden (Cache)
Alex de la Iglesia for Crimen Ferpecto
Pawel Pawlikowski for My Summer Of Love
Cristi Puiu for The Death of Mr Lazarescu
Wim Wenders for Don't Come Knocking

Juliette Binoche for Hidden (Cache)
Sandra Ceccarelli for The Life I Want (La Vita Che Vorrei)
Julia Jentsch for Sophie Scholl
Connie Nielsen for Brothers
Natalie Press for My Summer Of Love
Audrey Tautou for A Very Long Engagement

Daniel Auteuil for Hidden (Cache)
Romain Duris for The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Henry Hubchen for Go for Zucker!
Ulrich Matthes for The Ninth Day
Jeremie Renier for The Child
Ulrich Thomsen for Brothers

Hany Abu-Assad & Bero Beyer for Paradise Now
Mark O'Halloran for Adam And Paul
Michael Haneke for Hidden
Anders Thomas Jensen for Adam's Apples and Brothers
Dani Levy and Holger Franke for Go for Zucker!
Cristi Puiu and Razvan Radulescu for The Death of Mr Lazarescu

In the Best Film category, I am keeping my eye on the two festival circuits favorites that will probably dominate the awards night...

Disturbing, Stunning, Daring and Dark… Georges and Anne is a happily married middle class couple who both work in the arts. The balance of their lives is suddenly disturbed when they begin to receive video cassettes seemingly surveying the exterior of their home. Anne is quite dismissive of the tape but immediately Georges believes there is a sinister element to the tape. Soon they receive more tapes and disturbing drawings. As Georges fears for the safety of his family he suddenly has to confront his past and allow his wife to learn the hidden secrets of his past.

Brødre / Brothers has two interwoven story lines: one about the relationship between two brothers, the other about the difference between comfortable Western civilizations sending out soldiers to various missions and the actual war zones. These stories mirror each other and both brothers change roles during the movie: One starts in prison, the other ends up there; one is a family man; the other takes over this role after his brother's death.

Here are the past Best Picture winners in the European Film Academy Awards:
2004: Head-On (Germany)
2003: Good Bye Lenin! (Germany)
2002: Talk To Her (Spain)
2001: Amelie (France)
2000: Dancer in the Dark (Denmark)
1999: All About My Mother (Spain)
1998: Life is Beautiful (Italy)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Downfall (Germany)

“Be ruthless. Life doesn't forgive weakness. This so-called humanity is religious drivel. Compassion is an eternal sin. To feel compassion for the weak is a betrayal of nature. The strong can only triumph if the weak are exterminated. Being loyal to this law, I've never had compassion. I've always been ruthless when faced with internal opposition from other races. That's the only way to deal with it.” – Adolf Hitler in Downfall.

When Adolf Hitler is delivering this line in the movie, I can’t help it but to feel so scared about the extent on how human beings can turn into an animal, corrupted by their powers and for being a prisoner of their demented reasons. Downfall, the film that was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film last year is a very cruel, dark and yet a very realistic portrayal of the last days of Adolf Hitler on his barracks, following the victory of the Allied forces to end the reign of terror in Europe.

Downfall, based on a book that was written by Hitler’s secretary on his bunker is a very controversial piece for giving answers for so many questions that were known to be buried together with the million lives claimed by the war. In this film, we can see Hitler’s compulsive, mad, and intelligent and sometimes naïve decisions before the Germans finally succumbed to the Allied. I won’t spoil the ending but it is definitely hard to perceive the images showed in the silver screen, thus the film is very successful in showing the adverse and demonic effects of war to the human beings in general.

“After the death of National Socialism, there will be no future to Germany and to the rest of the world”. This statement has just moved me into conclusion without offending the Aryan people, how arrogant can they be? I wonder why they want to give up even their children’s future because they firmly believe that once the National Socialism has ended, life and society has no meaning and the people have not considered their great plans for the human race.

Bruno Ganz, the actor who played Hitler, is excellent in portraying the role; I was really convinced and scared by his angry and manipulative character. The production design, cinematography and the rest of the technical aspects of the film are all brilliant. The script is clearly very sharp, intriguing and also well written.

During the production phase of this film, I thought that movie will be a piece of trash because of showing too much speculations and prejudices, but after 2 ½ hours of watching, I know why Downfall has been hailed by the critics around the world as one of the best WW2 epics ever made.