Loft

YEAR: 2008

WRITER: Bart De Pauw

DIRECTOR: Erik Van Looy

BUDGET: €3,200,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $7,075,161 (Belgium)

i found Loft during one of my browsing-through-netflix movie days. Except for the very brief synopsis i knew nothing about the movie besides the fact that it was a dutch-language belgium film. then it started playing and although there were subtitles, i understood what the characters were saying. did i speak dutch all of a sudden? was i like george in that episode of Sienfeld when he stops having sex and becomes a genius and is able to learn portuguese in a few minutes? nope, i hadn't somehow osmosised the dutch language into my vocabulary... they were speaking french. for some reason, netflix is presenting this dutch-language film, dubbed in french with english subtitles. go figure.

now back to Loft...

Loft is a mystery/crime/thriller about five married friends who share a loft that they use as a place to take their mistresses and female encounters. one day they find a dead women in the loft... what happened? well, i could tell you, but i won't.

the story is told mostly through flashbacks as the men are questioned by the police and the film does a nice job of revealing enough, but not too much too soon. and i will admit that i had certain suspicions, but until all was revealed, i wasn't able to figure out how it had played out. you will be trying to figure it out though.

the story is well put together and it isn't, as is sometimes the case with mystery/thrillers, so convoluted that when certain things are revealed you feel cheated. although, i wasn't sure who had done it, or why, as the pieces came together, i saw that the clues had been there and i had ignored them (actually, i had picked up on a few of them, but then dismissed them and allowed myself to be misdirected). the film builds nicely and the director does a good job of creating an ambience of tension with the score, the editing and the cinematography.

ridiculous language/dubbing issues aside, Loft is worth a look next time you are browsing through netflix wondering what to watch. although, if you could find it in it's original language with subtitles than of course go for that one.

p.s. it looks like there was a 2010 remake of the film made in the netherlands. and an upcomming, 2012, american remake that is being directed by the director of the original film, erik van looy

The Final Destination Series

FINAL DESTINATION: 2000, BUDGET: $23 million GROSS: $53,302,314

FINAL DESTINATION 2: 2003, BUDGET: $26 million GROSS: $46,455,802

FINAL DESTINATION 3: 2006, BUDGET: $34 million GROSS: $54,098,051

THE FINAL DESTINATION: 2009, BUDGET: $43 million GROSS: $66,436,248

FINAL DESTINATION 5: 2011, BUDGET: $47 million GROSS: ?

 

WRITERS:

1: Glen Morgan/James Wong (screenplay), Jeffrey Reddick (screenplay & story)

2: J. Mackye Gruber/Eric Bress (screenplay & story), Jeffrey Reddick (story & characters)

3: Glen Morgan/James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick (characters)

4: Eric Bress, Jeffrey Reddick (characters)

5: Eric Heisserer, Jeffrey Reddick (characters)

 

DIRECTORS:

1,3: James Wong / 2,4: David R. Ellis / 5: Steven Quale

 

up until a couple weeks ago i hadn't seen any of the Final Destination films, but with the fifth one on the horizon i decided this was going to be my next series discussion so i started watching them all leading up to number fives release.

i remember when the first one came out in 2000 and i saw the trailer and i thought, "huh, that looks like a kinda interesting premise, maybe i'll check that out." well, i didn't, but why that is important is that skip ahead to 2002 and the release of the second film and there i am watching the trailer for that one and thinking, "hold on a second. isn't that the exact same premise/story/idea as the first film?"

the same thing happened with the release and trailer of the third, fourth and fifth films, but i didn't believe my eyes. as much as each film, based on the trailers, appeared to be the exact same thing, just with different actors/characters, i couldn't imagine that was actually the case. as lazy as hollywood is and as unoriginal as much of what they give us is, this seemed to take it to a whole other level. so i went in to this marathon viewing of the entire series really curious to see how different the films actually were and how wrong my trailer assumptions had been. now, having seen all five films i can tell you that i was soooo NOT wrong! and when trying to think about how to discuss the films, the first thing that came to mind was mad libs!

the film Final Destination __(film number)__, begins with a __(type of huge accident)___. after witnessing the accident we are brought back to the present moment and see that it was all just a premonition seen/felt by the main character __(name of premonition-having main character)____. however, as the their premonition begin to occur for real they start to freak out and warn people what is about to happen. no one believes them, but in their freak-out they end up saving a few of the others from certain death.

in the days that follow the first couple of survivors end up getting killed by some pretty random chains of events, like ___(random chain of events, another random chain of events)___. at this point the remaining survivors figure out that death is coming after them in the order in which they were supposed to have died in the __(type of huge accident)___. the rest of the film is them racing around trying to stop it from happening while figuring out how to get around deaths plan as more of them are killed in even more random and gruesome chains of events, like __(random and gruesome chain of event, another random and gruesome chain of events)___.

as i watched all five films i had taken notes about things to talk about. things like how the second film makes reference to the accident in the first one. and how, the way the characters figure out how to get around death's plan isn't the same in all the films. also, in some of the films the "premonition" character gets clues as to who the next victim will be and how they will die, but in the other films there are no hints at all. i was also going to mention that the fourth film, called The Final Destination seemed very much like it had been set-up as the last film in the series (the opening credits recap all the various ways people had died in the previous three films. the use of "The" in the title The Final Destination). and there was some more. but to be honest after watching all five movies i couldn't get over how they were basically all the same film.

i talk sometimes about "big cojones" film making. the idea of a film maker taking some real risks with story or characters or style. and how they trust the intelligence of the audience to go with them, when it's done well, and appreciate not being talked down. well the makers of the Final Destination series have shown big cojones, but in the complete opposite way!

rather than do something new or different or go against the grain in some way, they gave us the same film five times! actually, that is going against the grain. i can't think of any other film series that has produced such replica films. they made one movie five times and what makes me even angrier is that it worked. none of the movies were huge hits, but they all made a profit - obviously enough of one that they kept making them.

and its not like they tried to hide what they were doing either. The trailers put it all out there. like i said earlier, i hadn't seen any of them and yet i knew, based on the trailers, that the films were all copies of each other. they were brazen and incredibly obvious about it. now that takes balls!

i picture the film makers/producers/studio like the two old guys from Trading Places making a bet over how many of these Final Destination movies they can make before people realize what they are doing and stop going. then when we, the audience, have wasted our money and time watching the same thing for the fifth time we overhear them talking and laughing about it as one of them hands the other a one dollar bill! (if anything, this should make you want to avoid seeing anymore Final Destination movies and should make you want to go watch Trading Places again).

Wrecked

YEAR: 2011

WRITER: Christopher Dodd

DIRECTOR: Michael Greenspan

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $4,821

 

Adrien Brody is a man who awakens to find himself in the passenger seat of a wrecked car at the bottom of a steep cliff. his leg is injured and there is a dead guy in the back seat.... it sounds like one of those brain teaser questions. you know the ones with answers like, "the doctor is his mother" or "he was standing on a block of ice.".... so, what happened? well, that's what we are going to find out over the course of the movie.

what i really liked about the film was how simple it is. the movie is basically brody and the forest. there are some flashbacks/flashes, but mostly we are in the present, in the woods crawling around as brody makes his way about trying to figure out who he is, what happened and just trying to survive.

before we even get to the crawling/limping around in the wood though we are in the car with him and we are there for awhile. the director michael greenspan and the screenwriter christopher dodd (i assume it was part of the script) make a pretty ballsy decision to spend the first 30 minutes of the film in the car with pretty much one solitary character.

while you might expect five or ten minutes like this, just to set up the character and the situation, 30 minutes is really taking a chance - and it is a chance that really pays off. i didn't even realize it was half an hour before he got out of the car until i went back after and checked the time. it really feels that it is as long as is has to be. and not as long, or should i say short, as they assume our attention span is these days.

to trust himself, the script, brody's ability to carry it and to not speed things up for a short-attention span audience i gotta give greenspan a nod to, what i like to call, some big cojones film making (check out my discussions of Hunger and Greenberg for definitions of "big cojones film making").

the end of the film does present us with answers and a bit of a twist on our assumptions, but not so much so that it feels ridiculous or forced. which is another way in which i meant the film is simple. amnesia/who-am-i films often feel the need to present us with this big elaborate story that the main character slowly figures out over the course of the movie with a bunch of twists and turns.

not to say that is always a bad thing, but in the context of this slow and quiet, basically one-man-play, it works so much better the way they did it. Wrecked isn't Unknown. and i appreciate the restraint. it makes the "ah ha" moment at the end of the film completely satisfying.

El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill)

YEAR: 2007

WRITER: Gonzalo López-Gallego (screenplay), Javier Gullón (screenplay & story)

DIRECTOR: Gonzalo López-Gallego

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: ?

nope, this isn't a spanish live action movie based on the animated tv series. There is no football or chubby little kids or neighbors who talk in a mumbled speech. however, what happens to the characters in the film, while it might seem very surprising to most everyone, would probably not come as a shock to dale gribble - the most paranoid character on the show - who always thinks people are after him.

El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill) begins with a man stopping to get gas. he goes to the bathroom while he is filling up his car and in the bathroom he meets an attractive woman and they have sex. i know, it sounds like a good thing right? well, in this case it begins a chain of events that lead to him, and said woman, running through the woods being stalked by unknown snipers.

who are these snipers and why are they after them? we don't know (i guess calling them "unknown" snipers in the previous statement kind of implied that didn't it?). eventually we get a little info about what is going on, but it really is just cursory. and that's enough.

this is a thriller that gets its thrills from throwing these characters into a very scary situation and putting us there with them. until near the end of the movie we are just as scared and confused as they are. where do we run, how can we hide, what do we do? that is what creates the tension and it works.

for awhile i thought that maybe we would never know who the snipers were or why they were doing what they were doing. and part of me was kinda hoping that was the case.

many times films spend the bulk of their time building questions and giving away very little, only to throw it all at you near the end. i just find that, often, when not done properly, this leads to disappointment when the explained is bigger than the movie or when the explanation seems to negate a lot of what we had seen throughout the film and looking back it feels like they were even hiding the clues from us and the big "surprise" was all that mattered.

however, in the final act of El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill), we do get a look at it from the sniper's side - and while this threatened to diminish the movie for me, it ended up being alright. just like the rest of the film that was simple and didn't rely on lots of back story or character development beyond what they go through because of the situation they are in, so too is the "sniper's story/explanation."

once you see the film you will probably immediately recognize the scenario/story from a number of other films that have done it (i would name them, but in so doing it would be a little spoiler). and i would have to say that El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill) is the one that has done it best!

Narc

YEAR: 2002

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Joe Carnahan

BUDGET: $7,500,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $10,460,089

about 3-4 years ago on the podcast/website i talked about a film called Blood, Guts, Bullets And Octane. it was director joe carnahan's first film, and with Smoking Aces having just come out, i decide to go back and see where he had started. however, none of that would have happened if it hadn't been for his second film - and the first one of his i saw - Narc!

it was because of Narc that i recognized his name when Smoking Aces was released and it was because of Narc that even though i wasn't that enthused with Smoking Aces, i wanted to see what else he had done. i recently watched Narc again to make sure it was as good as i remember it from back when i saw it in the theatres years ago. and it was!

The film is about the investigation of the murder of an undercover police officer. the investigation is stalled and the higher ups are desperate to put the case to bed. the investigation is passed to the cops partner (ray liotta) and an undercover narcotics officer (jason patric) who had recently been let go from the force after an incident during his last operation.

the film reminded me a little of the movie Training Day (it was released prior to that film though) in how the main characters are presented - at least initially. like ethan hawkes character in Training Day, jason patric appears to be the moral center of Narc. and like denzel, liotta is the larger-than-life, do-what-needs-to-be-done cop. however, unlike Training Day, Narc isn't as black and white (no pun intended).

although carnahan may present the characters to us that way in the beginning, you can't take them for granted. because the truth isn't so easy. using the cinematography, the colors, the characters and a strong script, carnahan creates a film that lives in the grey. whereas Training Day likes to think it presents the grey. but really, when it comes down to it, it's pretty black and white.

and one can't talk about this film without mentioning ray liotta's performance. he has done some great work, but this is one of, if not his best. he owns the screen. he is a force and a physical presence. not to dismiss jason patric, who is also great and more than holds his own against the force of liotta's character.

2011 Oscar Predictions

 

WILL WIN are in bold

DID WIN are  big

MY SCORE: 18/24

despite anne hathaway's efforts and enthusiasm, the 2011 academy awards will go down as one of the worst i have ever seen. not because of who won or lost, but i'm talking the show itself.

besides the funny put-the-hosts-in-the-movies opening, there was barely a laugh or moment of excitement to be found (except when i won the pool i was in of course). the remixed songs was fun and the bob hope part was nice (although, seeing billy crystal out there to introduce it just made it more obvious what a great host he was and how anne and james just couldn't match up). but other than that the show was pretty dull.

as for my predictions: i did ok this year. 18/24 isn't bad and i did get 2/3 in the shorts categories which is where many pools are often won or lost. however, there were a few categories that, looking back, i'm not sure what i was thinking. i think i got a little too into the idea that The King's Speech wave would sweep up other categories that i missed, the now-obvious, Alice In Wonderland in art direction and costume design. and those of you who listened to the prediction episode of the podcast know how close i was to going with the winners in editing, documentary feature and foreign film (but, alas i didn't). so 18/24 it is. one better than last year and my second best showing since i started doing the podcast. how did you all do?

 

BEST PICTURE
The King's Speech
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The Fighter

 

 BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams , The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Christian Bale , The Fighter
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo , The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

BEST ACTRESS
Natalie Portman , Black Swan
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Nicole Kidman , Rabbit Hole
Michelle Williams , Blue Valentine

BEST ACTOR
Javier Bardem , Biutiful
Jeff Bridges , True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth , The King's Speech
James Franco , 127 Hours

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Another Year , Mike Leigh
The Fighter , Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
Inception , Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right , Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech , David Seidler

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours , Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network , Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 , Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich
True Grit , Joel and Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone , Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini

BEST FOREIGN FILM
Biutiful
Dogtooth
In a Better World
Incendies
Outside the Law

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King's Speech
True Grit

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Pamela Martin, The Fighter
Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, The Social Network

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
Adrien Morot, Barney's Version
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, The Way Back
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey, The Wolfman

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech
A.R. Rahman, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Coming Home” from Country Strong, Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from Tangled, Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours, Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Inception
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit
Unstoppable

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

Exam

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Stuart Hazeldine & Simon Garrity(story)

DIRECTOR: Stuart Hazeldine

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: ?

 

recently netflix made its way across the border to canada with its one-monthly-fee-stream-all-you-want service and i immediately singed up only to find that the selection was not even close to what it is for my neighbors to the south. however, there is still some good stuff and a few weeks ago i decided to let netflix pick a movie for me.

i have rated over a hundred films and checked off how much i like certain genres and based on all those criteria netflix provided me with some suggestions of movies i might like. one of which was Exam. now, generally i am not impressed with these suggestion services, but in the case of Exam, netflix did good.

the film begins with eight strangers competing for a job, entering a windowless room and sitting at their assigned desks. then an invigilator enters the room, tells them the rules of the exam, puts 80 minutes on the clock and walks out, leaving behind the eight applicants and an armed guard.

the movie brought to mind a film called Cube, which had strangers waking up in a cube and trying to figure out why they were there and how to get out. in the case of Exam, they know why they are there, but figuring out how to answer the exam isn't easy. and with the various personality types brought together in the room, working together will be even harder.

for much of the film it all feels pretty detached from reality. not that it isn't believable, but in that it is all very self contained within the exam room without any idea of the world outside. i really liked this and it kept it very psychologically thrilling - kind of like in a horror film where you never see the monster.

however, that changes as the film progresses and the specifics of the company they are trying to work for and what is going on in the world are discussed. while at first it worried me that this would cause the film to lose its edge and the originality of the world it had created in the room, it really didn't.

i wonder what netflix will suggest to me next.

The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus/Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

YEAR: 2009, WRITER: Terry Gilliam & Charles McKeown, DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam, BUDGET: $30 million (estimated), GROSS: $7,689,458

YEAR: 2010, WRITER: Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall (screenplay), Bryan Lee O'Malley (graphic novels), DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright, BUDGET: $60 million (estimated), GROSS: $29,267,130 (as of Sept. 5th 2010)

while photography is pretty singularly a visual medium and books are a medium very much completely reliant on the words, film is an art form that spans mediums. the words are just as important a component to the success of a film (i mean artistic success - not commercial) as is how the film looks and what it does visually, both large and small (people who talk about film tend to sometimes forget that a low-budget film, or one that forgoes large sets and special effects, is still making a visual statement).

what is often the case though - and one of the reasons why i think so many pretentious film people tend to look down their nose at big-budget films and movies with lots of special effects - is that many film makers focus their attention on the visual aspect of film making but forget about how important the words/story/script are - which leads to films like The Transformers I and II, Terminator Salvation, Ecks Vs Sever and i could go on, but you get what i'm saying). i bring this up, because i recently watched two films with strong artistic visions that also remembered how important the text was as well: The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

no one familiar with terry gilliam's work could ever accuse him of not having a strong vision - but it could be said that sometimes that vision just doesn't always work beyond looking good - yes, i am talking about Tideland (having not seen it, i can't comment on The Brothers Grimm). what about Brazil you ask? well, that is another one of gilliam's visionary works, but it can be a little confusing to some.

however, with Dr. Parnassus, he has created a gorgeous film that is a feast for the eyes and doesn't alienate the audience either. when characters are in the imaginarium it actually makes sense. you understand what is being represented and how it ties into the story. and speaking of the story, it is grand and interesting. gilliam isn't scared of grand story themes and here he takes on the classic deal-with-the devil scenario (in The Fisher King - my favorite of his films - he went with the holy grail).

what struck me about Scott Pilgrim, in regards to the graphic themes and ideas, was how well it used and stuck with the pop-up words and the video-game and comic book visual cues throughout the film.

there are so many movies out there that start strong when it comes to that sort of thing, but as the film progresses it fissiles out like it was just some kind of gimmick. but with Scott Pilgrim it is a core feature of the film and the vision of the film makers and they use it to full effect. and beyond that, the film is very funny, original and really fun.

although Scott Pilgrim and Dr. Parnassus are two very different films without any real connection, i couldn't help but think of them in the same discussion of visual ideas and the good and bad use of said ideas in movies. and these are two cases of good uses in very good films.

Five Minutes Of Heaven

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Guy Hibbert

DIRECTOR: Oliver Hirschbiegel

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $13,217

between 2001 and 2005, director oliver hirschbiegel made four films in his native germany - two of which were the pretty good Das Experiment and the great Downfall (i haven't seen the other two yet). then in 2007 he faltered with his first english language film, the not good movie that was The Invasion (check out my discussion of all four Invasion Of The Body Snatchers versions here).

thankfully he got back up on the horse and in 2009 delivered Five Minutes Of Heaven, a film about truth and reconciliation that in a way is a reconciliation of its own with fans of hirschbiegel who had had to sit through The Invasion - okay, so that's me being a bit over dramatic, but i liked the metaphor so i went with it.

Five Minutes Of Heaven begins in northern ireland in 1975. alistair little is 17 years old and a member of the uvf and he is getting ready to kill his first catholic. the problem is that when he gets to the house to do it, the victims 11-year old younger brother, joe griffin is outside and alistair does it right in front of him.

cut to 33 years later and both boys (now grown men) are being driven separately to a house where a television show has promoted and arranged for the two men to meet for the first time since that night. the crew is there and everyone is ready to film the meeting and that first handshake leading to truth and reconciliation.

in the ensuing years since the incident, little did serve 12 years in prison and since then has traveled a lot, had many speaking engagements, has been involved in helping other reconciliations and has become a bit of a celebrity. the way his driver and the tv crew all talk to him with almost reverence is a little eerie.

on the other hand, griffin has never got over it. his mother basically blamed him for what had happened - saying that he didn't do anything to stop it - and never forgave him. he has lived for 33 years with the image of what happened and the guilt and anger from his own mother weighing on him. while the tv crew and cameras are there to capture the truth and reconciliation, joe griffin wants revenge.

both neeson and nesbitt give strong performances and guy hibbert's script is allowed to shine as herschbiegel takes a very simple approach to the story telling. the film almost feels like a play as it plays out in but a few locations - thus putting the dialogue and the performances front and centre.

although things don't go as smoothly in the film, after having watched Five Minutes In Heaven i would be more than willing to meet director oliver hirschbiegle in person and shake his hand and reconcile with him and forgive him for the pain he caused me - and every other theatre goer - that had to sit through The Invasion.

The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos)

YEAR: 2009

WRITER & DIRECTOR: Juan Jose Campanella

BUDGET: $2,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS (USA): $6,207,191

if The Secret In Their Eyes sounds familiar it may be because you watched the academy awards earlier this year and saw this film win the oscar for best foreign language film. it beat out my pick, The White Ribbon and at the time i was a little surprised because i thought The White Ribbon was a good film and it seemed to have all the "hype" behind it (what with also getting a cinematography nod and having a director with a name behind it - michael haneke).

well don't call me surprised anymore. having just seen The Secret In Their Eyes i can tell you that the academy voters definitely made the right choice.

the film takes place in buenos aires in 1999 as retired argentinian federal justice agent benjamín espósito is writing a novel, using an old closed case as the source material. the case happened 25 years ago and it is one that he has never been able to forget. the film cuts back and forth between present day (1999) and the mid-70s as events unfolded.

while the case is at the heart of the film, this isn't a whodunit. in fact the mystery of the crime isn't that complicated nor is it the focus of the movie. really the crimes effect on the characters is what matters here. from esposito to his friend sandoval, their boss irene (who he has been in love with for 25 years) and the victims husband.

it was interesting, because it doesn't take them that long to figure out who actually committed the horrific crime. and as i watched, part of me wondered what the rest of the film was going to be about once they caught the guy. how would they drag out the rest of the film and what would be the point. well, the point was these characters and their relationships to each other and their search for some kind of truth and justice. there is no dragging here. and the film is also just so wonderfully put together.

from a pure technical view point the direction and editing are brilliant. the way campanella made many of the transitions between the scenes from the 70s and 1999 was sublime. in one scene irene and esposito are talking on the phone late at night in 1999 and he asks her is she wants to talk some more. she replies that no, she will just make some tea and try to fall asleep. cut to her hand stirring a tea cup in 1975.

that is just one obvious example and it might sound a little corny, but trust me when i tell you it is seamless and beautiful and it would sometimes bring a wry smile to my face in appreciation of some edit or transition that worked perfectly while also kind of being a little wink at the audience asking, "did you catch that?" the great direction and editing brought to mind another film that also does the back-and-forth many years apart thing so well. the french canadian film Le Confessional from director robert lepage.

juan jose campanella co-wrote, directed and edited The Secret In Their Eyes and he obviously had a strong vision (no pun intended) for this film, which he beautifully managed to capture in what has been presented to us, the audience, in the final product up on screen.