Category Archives: Movies

The Year of Living Dangerously

I really enjoyed this movie, The Year of Living Dangerously. I have never heard of this story, and it was nice to see familiar faces in the movie along with some new faces. I liked how there were diverse personalities within the characters. One of my favorite characters was Billy.

Guy Hamilton, played by Mel Gibson, enters Jakarta as an Australian reporter on assignment in politically unstable Indonesia. Billy, a dwarf and photographer, takes Guy under his wing, and they soon become partners. Billy comes across as a nice guy, however I had my suspicions that he had ulterior motives in the beginning. When Guy finds out that Billy has kept a file on him, it made me question whether Billy was a good guy or a spy. However, my suspicions were subsided when Billy went to visit Ibu, a lady he has adopted who has a child. He gives her food and money because the child is sick. This is when I knew that Billy really does have a good heart, and he really does believe in the good of people. His compassion for others is so strong, and although he is a dwarf, he doesn’t let that get in the way of helping others. My likeness towards Billy grew strong, and when he died, it left tears in my eyes. It was sad to see him go, and I wish he was on the plane with Guy and Jill in the end.

Overall, I was very pleased with this movie. Even though it was a movie based on war, I felt it was also a good representation of love and friendship. The relationships that Guy made with Billy and Jill are realistic interpretations of life. I would definitely recommend this film to others, and it is a movie I would like to watch again.

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Whale Rider

I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to Whale Rider. I was hooked from the very beginning when Paikea, the main character, was born. As the movie progressed, my admiration for Paikea only grew. I also liked learning about the Maori’s culture and traditions throughout the movie. Paikea went against some of these traditions to prove herself a worthy leader. Although her grandfather, Koro, disagreed with her becoming a leader because she was a girl, there is much love and warmth within her family.

One part that I really liked was when Uncle Rawiri was teaching Paikea how to use the Taiaha, a traditional stick used as a weapon. It was humorous because Uncle Rawiri made funny faces and was very into what he was doing. It was also touching because he was willing to help Paikea and didn’t give in to Koro’s belief that girls shouldn’t learn the Maori ways.

One part that made me emotional was when Paikea invited Koro to be her guest of honor at her concert. I was proud of her that she won the speech contest. I was rooting for her and hoping Koro would show up. I doubted he would based on his stubbornness, yet there was a glimmer of hope as it showed him getting dressed and ready to go. However, as she began her speech and tears began to well in her eyes, I began to empathize with her. She has such a deep respect for her grandfather, but she never let Koro get in the way of proving herself.

Towards the end of the movie, I anticipated her becoming a leader. However, I became hesitant when she was mentioning that she wasn’t afraid of dying as she rode the whale into the ocean. When she ended up in the hospital, and Koro came to visit, I knew from that moment that she was going to be ok. She is such a strong, young child and even though she is just a character in a movie, it is still an inspiration to watch her achieve her dream.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. It is one that I wouldn’t mind watching again. I wish some of the Maori language was subtitled because I was interested in knowing what they were saying. However, I don’t think it detracted from the overall story. Paikea is a character that I think many people, especially females, can learn from. She shows that one can be strong, independent and not let anything get in the way of their dreams no matter how young one is. I would definitely recommend this movie!

Manufactured Landscapes

Sadly, I was a little disappointed in Manufactured Landscapes. While I thought it was an educational documentary to learn about the examination of industrialization and globalization, I thought the way it was presented could have been more appealing. I thought the shots that Edward Burtynsky captured were interesting; I have never seen art like that before. It definitely was strange to find beauty in such large industrial places. I have a deep appreciation for what he does. However, I wish there was a way for the documentary to be more engaging.

Although it was a long introduction of showing the mass of workers in the factory, I was both a little bored and fascinated at the same time. It was a bit monotonous watching the camera filming down the rows of people, yet I was curious to keep watching because I couldn’t believe how many people worked in one building! I timed the video footage, and the camera filmed for over five minutes of this one scene! It was also fascinating to view such massive landscapes next to a person. They were huge! The masses of waste and recyclables amongst the people were overwhelming, too!

While this documentary was mostly about the landscapes, I was more interested in the workers. Throughout the film, I rarely saw anyone smiling or showing a spark of light in their eyes. They all looked so serious and worked so diligently. It was almost like watching robots. The factories seemed like a terrible job to me because I don’t think I could do the same thing day after day. I felt that Burtynsky did a good job of capturing the conformity of these factories and the expressions of the people.

This is not a documentary I think I’d watch again. However, I felt it was a good film to be exposed to because I was not aware that this type of industrialization and globalization occurred. It is hard for me to grasp the concept that something so drastically different than what we are accustomed to is going on somewhere else in the world. I think documentaries are a good way to educate people. Even though it was not the most engaging film, I am still glad I had the chance to watch Manufactured Landscapes.

War Photographer

War Photographer is a documentary about photographer James (Jim) Nachtwey, whom I have the utmost respect for and admire. He is not your typical photographer as he delves deep into the heart of war and poverty; Jim conveys the impact that violence has on its victims. He captures the truth of those who are suffering to communicate their stories to the rest of the world. I believe this takes an abundance amount of dedication and courage. I was shocked to see the horrors that some people experience and the hurt and hardships they have to endure. I agree with Jim when he mentioned that this kind of hatred is beyond one’s understanding. I thought this documentary was brutal and beautiful at the same time.

One story that moved me was the family who lived within inches of the railroad tracks. It was crushing to hear how the father had his arm and leg torn off by a train. Having to live in undesirable conditions already, I can’t imagine how this traumatic event must have affected the family. However, it was inspiring to see how the father continues to support his family despite this tragedy.

Another moving moment was viewing the photos from Africa. The extreme famine these people face is almost unbearable to see. These poor skeletons are on their hands and knees struggling to survive. This is something I believe nobody should have to experience. Not only do these people of skin and bones look as if they are living on their last limb, they also tell a story of excruciating pain and misery through their expression. I think Jim captures these honest portrayals of poverty and genuine emotions.

I am glad I have been exposed to War Photographer. Through his photographs, Jim Nachtwey has opened my eyes to the realities and effects of war and poverty. He has pushed the limits so far as to risk his life to give people a voice. His devotion and intense passion is inspiring. I think his abilities to keep his composure and stay focused during times of distress and danger are qualities that are rare and admirable. I recommend this documentary to teens and adults because some material may be too graphic for children. However, I feel as if everyone should watch this film at one time because some people are unaware of these catastrophic events. I think Jim’s dream of using photography as an antidote to war is very ambitious, and I believe it can happen.

Shall We Dance? (Japanese & American)

I thought both versions (Japanese and American) of Shall We Dance? were good in their own way. However, I am glad I saw the Japanese version before the American version. I felt the Japanese one had more meaning, and I gained a deeper understanding of the story. Although it required a bit more effort to capture the emotions and passion while reading the subtitles at the same time, I felt the characters had more depth to their personalities. Both films contained humor and had touching parts that I enjoyed. There were a couple of parts I didn’t care for and a couple of scenes that I liked.

I thought the supporting actors added humor to both films. For example, I liked Mr. Aoki/Link who wore the wig to disguise himself. Although he was humorous—like in the dance scenes and the bathroom scene—he also provided a universal message to be oneself and not hide one’s identity. I also enjoyed watching Toyoko/Bobbie with her outrageous costumes and vibrant personality; her character was very similar in both movies. She seemed a bit overwhelming and on the border of obnoxious at times, yet I gained a new appreciation for her character when she was in the hospital and found out how hard she worked when she was not dancing. Along with the humor aspect of this movie, I admired the fact that all of the characters were so passionate about dancing.

Tanaka was one character I particularly admired from the Japanese film. He put a smile on my face because one could see how much he was enjoying himself. I was torn when Toyoko criticized him and made him cry. It was heartbreaking when he was describing that Toyoko’s criticism brought back memories of the first girl he liked. Tanaka said dancing made him feel good: all cares were gone; he felt drunk; his heart was singing; it was like fireworks were exploding; he loved dance. I was glad to see that he still stuck with dance despite the rude comments from Toyoko.

Although I wasn’t too thrilled about the reason both men initially enrolled in dance lessons (because of the beautiful dance teacher), I was more considerate toward Mr. Sugiyama. In Japanese culture, it was improper for a man to take part in such an activity like dancing. In the American version, I was a little disturbed when Mr. Clark and Paulina had a very sensual dance scene. I felt like there was a little more than dancing going on and that he was being unfaithful to his wife. However, that thought of being unfaithful to his wife changed for me towards the end of the movie.

Two of my favorite parts were in the American version towards the end of the movie when Mr. Clark was getting ready to go to Paulina’s farewell party. I thought the gift from his wife was a very sweet gesture and very clever because it related to the beginning of the movie; she was able to give him something that came in a box. Also, when Mr. Clark bought the rose, I had anticipated it was going to be for Paulina. However, when he arrived to his wife’s job and presented the rose to her, I thought it was very romantic; it showed his loyalty, faithfulness, and love towards her.

I believe both movies were enjoyable to watch. I liked watching the American version after the Japanese version because I already knew the storyline. The American version is more fast-paced, includes more contemporary music, and has familiar characters, which makes it an entertaining film. I appreciate the Japanese culture and feel that film is more proper and refined. If I want to watch a movie for depth and content for a good story, I would definitely recommend the Japanese version. However, if I want to watch a movie for entertainment and light-hearted humor, I would recommend the American version. Regardless of which movie one chooses, the dance scenes in both were phenomenal! Having never taken dance lessons of any kind before, this movie makes me want to get out of my comfort zone, and try it one day!

Billy Elliot

I really enjoyed watching the movie Billy Elliot. I thought it was a touching film that can inspire people of any age to follow their dreams. Billy had such determination to strive for what he was so passionate about, I felt inspired that he had a strong sense of who he was at a young age. Although his father, Jackie, and brother, Tony, did not approve of Billy doing ballet at first, it is evident that towards the end their relationship with Billy grew stronger. Also, Mrs. Wilkinson was a driving force that helped push Billy to his fullest potential. I think these are some of the factors that captured my emotions in making this a great movie.

To have a deceased mother and a family that was struggling to make a living, Billy was trapped in the middle of a family crisis. He needed an outlet to express his feelings. Although his dad insisted that Billy become a lad and take up boxing, Billy had another idea in mind. He went against the tradition of becoming another miner in the family and went on to pursue his own dream. He described that dancing was like electricity. There were some parts that reminded me of his electricity moments. For example, during some dancing scenes where he was bouncing up and down and clicking his feet, it was entertaining and put a smile on my face that he was doing something he loved. He reminded me of what a child should be doing, not having a care in the world and just having fun. However, his father and brother could not see that at first.

Although his father wore a hard shell on the outside, I think it finally cracked when he saw Billy dance in front of him for the first time. This was a very emotional part for me as I could only imagine what Billy’s father must have been thinking. After all those feelings of frustration turned to shock, I think he realized he had been taking out his aggression on Billy. However, it was at this moment that I think he realized the potential Billy had, and he was going to do everything he could to help Billy’s dream come true even if it meant going against the strike. This was where he ran into Tony on the other side. I thought these two scenes were very touching.

I became very emotional when the father was going back to work and Tony met his dad on the other side of the strike. Tony embraced his dad. The bond between them showed their true feelings and love of the family. Although in the beginning, Tony seemed bitter and angry towards the strike and Billy, I believe his hard shell cracked as well. Another emotional part was towards the end when Tony mouthed the words, “I’ll miss you” to Billy when he was on the bus. It hit home for me, and I felt that it was the beginning of a new relationship between them. Along with Jackie and Tony’s support for Billy, Mrs. Wilkinson also played a vital role in helping Billy.

I really like Mrs. Wilkinson’s character because she was so real. She didn’t treat Billy like a child, but rather like a man. She believed in him and pushed him to his limits. The relationship between Billy and her was quite humorous at times, and it made me laugh. Her intense training and positive reinforcement gave Billy the confidence to pursue his dream. I really enjoyed watching the bond between them, and I couldn’t have imagined a better cast for this movie.

Billy Elliot was a moving film that I would definitely watch again. It captured many emotions of joy, anticipation, and tears. I was rooting for Billy every step of the way and was glad to embark on the journey to his success. His father, brother, and dance instructor played vital roles in helping him to achieve his dream. As a side note, I also enjoyed watching his nana and his best friend. They were also factors that I think helped Billy get into the ballet school and make his dream a reality. I would definitely recommend this film.

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision

I thought Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision was intriguing, interesting, and inspiring. Watching her at age 20, it is evident that she was not your average young adult. I was surprised to learn how much research, time, and work—not to mention creativity—goes into making a work of art. For example, her essay for the Vietnam War Memorial took about two months to write! She didn’t think she was going to win because it focused more on the people and not the war. I thought her piece looked very simplistic at first, yet after she explained her thoughts and reasons for doing so, I was very impressed.

After dealing with the controversy over the memorial, I really admired the way she handled the situation. She had such composure and courage to stand up to those who disagreed with her design. I feel that she was well beyond her years and very ambitious at such a young age. Her determination and focus continued as she got older. To me, A Strong Clear Vision represents Maya Lin perfectly. She is a strong woman who has a clear vision, and her artwork is bold, meaningful, and timeless. I would definitely recommend this documentary!

Buena Vista Social Club

Originally, I was eager to watch Buena Vista Social Club. I usually like documentaries that tell about people’s lives, especially when it comes to music. However, this is not a film that I feel as if I would watch again. While I appreciate the Cuban music and culture, this documentary did not hold my interest the entire time. For the first thirty minutes, it was hard to stay focused on the film as my mind was wandering elsewhere in between parts. I am not quite sure why it wasn’t that interesting to me. I did like the architecture and scenery throughout the film, and I think that is one contributing factor that disengaged me from the actual documentary. I felt the beginning was kind of slow, however it did pick up later on. I did enjoy the music when the musicians started playing. They played with such passion; I could feel their emotion that went into it. They came together so well with their different instruments that it looked effortless. I didn’t really understand the point of the lyrics while watching the documentary, but after visiting the PBS website, I gained a deeper knowledge that they were metaphors and symbolically represented deeper meanings.

One of my favorite parts was when Ruben Gonzalez, the pianist, was introduced. The piano is one of my favorite instruments, and it was amazing to watch and listen to him play. On the PBS website, I learned that he had a severe case of arthritis, yet he still decided to play with the band. I can’t imagine what that must feel like to strike the keys with a case of arthritis. It goes to show that they are not only musicians, but music is a part of who they are as a person. To me, they live through their music, and that is very inspiring.

I wish there was a way I could think of to make this documentary more interesting for me, but I have no suggestions. Director Wim Wenders and American guitarist Ry Cooder did their job in bringing together the Cuban folk musicians; I thought some parts were boring, and some parts were entertaining. Overall, I don’t think I would recommend this film unless I knew someone interested in Cuban music. It is not a movie I would watch again, but I do appreciate these men and the music they have created.

Stomp Live

I felt that Stomp Live was an entertaining musical performance. I was glued to my seat and occasionally moving to the rhythms and beats. There is so much creativity that went into making this musical performance. I thought the different instruments the performers used were original and loved how they used everyday materials to create such eclectic music. The choreography left me speechless at times. While this performance went for about 2 hours, I was surprised when it ended; it left me engaged the whole time wanting more. The parts I liked best were when the performers added humor and audience participation. I felt the humor added to the overall performance, and I was always looking forward to it. It seemed like the performers and audience had a good time interacting with one another during the handclaps, and as a viewer, I enjoyed it as well. Some of my other favorite parts included when the performers threw the brooms in unison to each other and the basketball scene. The difficulty and skill that goes into dribbling a basketball while passing in unison and keeping the beat takes talent. I loved watching that part, and I also liked when the performers were playing with the water jugs. I couldn’t believe how they could throw, catch, and play on someone else’s water jug at the same time! The overall performance was very lively, and I am glad I had the chance to watch such an upbeat, electrifying performance.

Songcatcher

I was very pleased after watching Songcatcher. It was a movie that I would watch again. I enjoyed the music and felt it had a good story. While it was a story primarily about how Dr. Lily Penleric tries to preserve a mountain culture, I felt it was also a story about how she finds herself through the ways of the mountain people. The music moved me, and I was very intrigued by Lily’s character.

I thought the music was raw and refreshing. I have rarely heard anybody sing that “yodel” sound, so this movie was very entertaining for me. The songs seemed happy and light-hearted. Yet, when one listens to the actual lyrics, it goes much deeper than that. The music has meaning and purpose. Also, I admire the way they sang and played their instruments with such passion. Lily described the mountain people and their music as, “Music is the air [they] breathe.” I think she summed it up perfectly. When Lily was crying by the river after all of her hard work was burned to ashes, Tom had sung a song, “When the Mountains Cry.” There is a lyric—“the rivers of sorrow”—and upon hearing that, it reminded me of that part when she was crying. The music was inspiring, and Lily was also an inspiration.

I thought the characters were well developed, particularly the main character, Lily. In the beginning of the movie, Lily was very refined and seemed “uptight.” Although she seemed professional and seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the story progressed. I admired her determination and ambition to gather the music of the mountain people. Her character was so talented in her area of expertise, but even the most professional people can lack certain qualities. Upon meeting Tom, I instantly saw the connection between the two. As the film continued, the relationship between the two blossomed, and Lily began to loosen up. She danced and drank with Viney when the town had a get together. She embraced and kissed Tom when she saw him; she was even in her undergarments while doing so (though this was because she had shed her clothes due to the panther cat legend.) She literally began to let her hair down. It was humbling to watch her character unfold, and it was even more enjoyable to see her and Tom still together in the end.

Having a love for music and happy endings, I felt Songcatcher was an overall “feel-good” kind of movie that captured my attention throughout the course of the film. It opened with the song “Barbara Allen” sung and played on the piano by Dr. Lily Penleric. It was interesting to me how the same song was sung in the beginning and at the end. I liked how Lily sang it in the beginning, which showed the refined melody. However, I also liked how in the end it was more raw and edgy, which was sung by Deladis. Whether it was the director’s intention to do this to show how the mountain culture lives on—or it was just my interpretation of it—I think it was an appropriate way to end the film.