movies, music and everything else

This blog is about pretty much what the title implies... movies, music and everything else.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I like movies, music and everything esle... ; ) oh... and i can't spell, so, please, no comments

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

TORONTO - day 4 (part two)

So the other movie that I was able to see tonight was the directorial debut of actor Liev Schreiber called EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. The general plot of the film is as follows… Based on a book of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer, ths story follows a young jewish man (Johnathan) as he travels to a Ukrainian village to find out more about his recently deceased grandfather. On this journey, he meets colorful characters that serve as his guide in the Ukraine, the translator (Alex) and the driver that believes that he is blind (Alex’s grandfather). There is more to the story, but I don’t want to ruin the joy of discovering the past and it’s impact on the present.

This is a strong directorial debut and Schreiber demonstrates a confidence and steady hand as he leads us through this world. There is a lot of humor to be had by the worlds colliding culturally, and there are many times in which it could have gone over the top, but he stops just short. I think that the strongest part of the movie is the look and the masterful work of cinematographer Matthew Libatique (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Tigerland). In talking to Schreiber after the screening, I had the chance to talk to him about the look of the film and working with such a talented D.P. The look of the movie essentially came from the title, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED.

The colors pop, the film stock changes, the whites blow out at times, and the movement of the camera is smooth and dreamlike, creating a dreamlike world that the lead character is going through. When asked about how it was working with Libatique, Schreiber just laughed. “Are you kidding? He is amazing. I was so lucky to get him.” Libatique is quickly becoming one of the premier D.P.’s in the business and is one of the few that I will go and see a movie just because he shot it. Now for the rest of the film.

The acting… Elijah Wood stars as Jonathan and is the perfect fish out of water. His eyes are endlessly expressive and he naturally possesses a vulnerability that make you love him from the first shot. Being in a movie as big as “Lord of the Rings” at such a young age can kill your career if you are not careful. One thing that Wood has done is pick really interesting and different roles to follow up the blockbuster. Movies such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Sin City” really show different sides of Wood as an actor. Also, this is his first lead performance since he left middle earth and he really carries this film with not much dialogue or expression. He is really good in this film and I look forward to what ever he chooses to do in the future. He is more than just a hobbit.

The other actor that I must mention is Eugene Hutz, who plays Alex, the translator. Hutz has a fantastic energy that is a great opposite to Wood’s stoicism. This is his first film and I was really impressed by his natural energy that came across. Hurz is the front man of a gypsy punk band called Gorgol Bordello, and while his music is good (several of the band's songs are in the film) I really believe that he has a bright future on screen. Alex is a fun character that is the light of this film. In a lot of ways, this is his film. The narration that begins and ends the film is his, and he is the engine that keeps this film going. Just the way that he dressed made me laugh. He also handles that cultural barrier well and is able to get some great laughs out of it without going too far.

Overall, this is a good movie and I recommend it. Look for Liev Schreiber as a new talent in the director’s chair. Impressive debut…

Since I only have one screening to report on tonight, I am going to talk a little about a world premier of another movie. NORTH COUNTRY premiered tonight at the Toronto Film Festival. As soon as the credits rolled, the crowd rose to their feet for an enthusiastic standing ovation. From what I am told, this is the kind of reaction that you read about at festivals. The reason that I wasn’t there at the premier? I saw the movie six weeks ago. As far as what I thought… this is a extremely well handled film, filled with extraordinary performances.

Charlize Theron delivers an Oscar worth performance, as does Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins. This is a powerful movie about an important subject (the first class action sexual harassment law suit in the United States). Since I didn’t see it at the festival, I won’t go into a full review, but I have to mention the director, Nikki Caro. She does an amazing job of balancing the tone and powerful performances. She does an incredible job for her second film and I hope that she gets the acknowledgement that she deserves.


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