The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988) Blind Spot Review

The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Based on The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie

Music by Peter Gabriel

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Like the novel, the film depicts the life of Jesus Christ and his struggle with various forms of temptation including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust.

My Opinion:

I’ll keep this short & I’ll be totally honest – The Last Temptation Of Christ was on my 2017 Blind Spot list mainly because I wanted to see David Bowie’s role in it. So now I can say I have! All five minutes (at most) of it, toward the end of the 2 hour & 44 minute film. I suppose I also wanted to add another Martin Scorsese film to my ranked list of his films that I’ve seen (it doesn’t quite make it into the top ten, out of the 12 I’ve seen, nor does it make the list of My Top Ten Harry Dean Stanton Movies). Not gonna lie – out of almost a year & a half of doing this Blind Spot thing, this film is easily my least favorite & was the biggest struggle to work my way through.

I won’t get into the film’s story and religious beliefs. I watched this because I’m a film fan & it’s a movie by a very respected director with some big name stars (and because: David Bowie). No, “biblical dramas” are not at all the type of genre I go for (give me sci-fi) so that wasn’t going to help but it’s definitely overlong and it didn’t feel as, I don’t know… As well put together as most of Scorsese’s other work? I know nothing about filmmaking but this just isn’t up there with the likes of something like Goodfellas (also a genre that’s not at all my type of thing but a good film is a good film, whatever the genre). Not that this isn’t a good film… It must be a decent piece of filmmaking considering that Scorsese was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for it, the film’s one & only nomination. Hmm. It’s very hard to review respected films that just really didn’t speak to you personally! That’s why I’m keeping this very short for a Blind Spot review. I’d love to instead hear from fellow bloggers who, unlike me, have strong opinions one way or another about this film. I do know it was & still is very controversial & hated by some while there are others who think it’s another Scorsese masterpiece.

The acting is solid and Dafoe does a good job but I also felt that the acting let the film down a bit. I didn’t think “Wow – so-and-so was brilliant in this film!” the way I’ve thought some of the actors were pretty amazing in the majority of Scorsese’s other films. Some felt very miscast (Keitel) while some are actors I’ve never been particularly impressed with (Hershey). Okay okay – and my beloved Bowie! I fully admit that acting was never his biggest talent… 😉 However, he did okay in his very small role & didn’t feel as out of place as some of those in larger roles. Harry Dean Stanton was a highlight, though – he’s such an underrated actor.

Overall, I’m sorry to say that this is one of those films that I won’t remember much of a year or so from now. There weren’t really any specific scenes that stood out in my mind (we all know the story already anyway so I saw pretty much exactly what I expected, although this is a somewhat alternative version). I was especially disappointed that the acting didn’t stand out for me and it seriously felt even longer than it already was, especially at the end when we’re given a long look at an alternative life for Jesus? Sorry. I didn’t love it. It’s not a bad film but I’d only recommend it to those interested in religious dramas or to serious Martin Scorsese fans who want to see all he’s done. Ugh. I feel like a bad blogger for not loving a Scorsese film.

My Rating: 6/10

Only I would review The Last Temptation Of Christ & Smurfs: The Lost Village in the same week… Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Black Swan (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Jia Wei of Film & Nuance. Thanks for the review, Jia Wei! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on Black Swan, IMDB rank 177 out of 250 on 01/01/13…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Black Swan: Reveries and desires

Ask me to name a list of movies that have profoundly disturbed me for the longest time and you will find Black Swan gracing the very top; Oh you know because swans are graceful and all. Did you find that funny? Because that’s the only funny thing you’ll see from this review and from the movie. Darren Aronofsky’s dark reverie of a film proliferates ideas of duality, the yin-yang of human nature and it’s inherent dichotomies between good and evil. An opening shot of Black Swan is a memorable dance sequence involving Natalie Portman’ as she performs the Swan Lake where the princess Odette is cursed and transfigured into a swan by the devilish Rothbart. It is hauntingly choreographed by Aronofsky whose brilliance we see throughout the film. What’s particularly symbolic here is how the ‘swan’ persona, which becomes the crucial metaphor throughout the film, is at once both graceful and cursed; A little something to note when interpreting the film. Black Swan is like art that slowly unwraps itself with every deliberate attempt to shock and traumatize, revealing the tragic poise it so gracefully holds.

Aronofsky is definitely the artist who isn’t afraid to show. In fact, his philosophy here is that if he could expose everything, he would. Psychological elements flood the film till the point where truth and reality are bent to fit the style. Potraits would come alive (think sinister version of Harry Potter talking paintings) and mock Nina’s increasingly blurry perception. Hallucinations allow Aronofsky to feed the emotional conflict and mental delusions. Black Swan is not for the faint of heart because around every dark corner lie monsters of the mind.

Black Swan’s methods may be extremely explicit but it’s themes are cuttingly profound. Some call it a passionate melodrama which I think doesn’t do the film justice. Melodrama connotates dragging…the kind of dragging that irritates but sure perhaps it’s also artistic. I beg to differ. For as much as Black Swan has deliberated it’s hypnotic sequences and emotional conflicts, it has also haunted my senses and heightened my anticipation for the tension that would ensure. That alone is enough to dispel the idea that it’s a tedious and melodramatic affair. Yes, it’s hyperactive and yes it’s visually unrestrained but damn, it’s one hell of a movie.

In my view, Friedrich Nietzche’s book on philosophy titled ‘The Birth Of A Tragedy’ is somewhat linked to the film in the sense that Black Swan’s interpretation lie in the way that nature and tragedy are set up to be. To be fair, there will be endless interpretations of the film and mine is just one out of many. But I think that in order to fully appreciate the beauty in what Natalie Portman has portrayed in Nina is essential. It is only through her flaws that I also see her complete beauty and only through the film’s depressing moments do I appreciate the fixed balance dichotomy between light and darkness, desire and repression, id and ego. Black Swan’s entrancing dance sequences relates somewhat to Nietzsche’s notes on greek tragedy and music; Notice how the ballads in the film rise and fall periodically, with crescendos and dimineundos that mirror Nina’s oscillating state of mind. Natalie Portman and her double do well to convey the the polar opposites of effeminate grace and unbridled release that torment Nina during her performances. She battles not her inner demons but her conflicted nature. I read that Aronofsky had many takes and rehearsals for his dance sequences. It’s no wonder that he was able to surface the raging tempest of the mind so well. Everything from flawless acting to musical lyricism to contrasting imageries of black and white pour out in perfect yet painful harmony. As each dance progressively becomes more challenging and demanding, so too do the lines between the black and white swan.

What is more powerful than pleasing the audience? Shocking them. I’m inclined to name a few more films like Under the skin and Mulholland Drive. It might just be my taste but there’s no point shocking someone without telling them why. Though the abovementioned films have got me jumping right out of my seat, Black Swan does it with brutal simplicity. It’s not abstract which is why I like it so so much. You don’t spend time wrecking your head thinking why Nina did this or that and instead are left to mull over the lasting consequences of the character’s actions. Black Swan’s may range from being a psycho-sexual study to a director’s symphonic masterpiece, but in the end, it’s destructive melancholy is a psychedelic look at our unresolved natures.

P.S. This was my second best movie of 2010 behind Inception. The Social Network is third. And The King’s Speech is nowhere to be seen 😉

Insidious (2011) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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Insidious (2011)

Directed by James Wan

Starring:
Patrick Wilson
Rose Byrne
Barbara Hershey
Lin Shaye

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Insidious is a 2011 American supernatural horror film. Written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, the film features Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, and Barbara Hershey in starring roles. The story centers on a couple whose son inexplicably enters a comatose state and becomes a vessel for ghosts in an astral dimension.

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For my Halloween Horror Fest, I’ve mostly chosen to watch films that I’ve seen reviewed by bloggers I follow here at WordPress. At some point I’d like to do something where I take recommendations from people on films I should watch & review but I worry that I’d not like some of them and wouldn’t want to hurt those people’s feelings. I mean, I feel bad for not liking Insidious even though it was entirely my decision to watch it after reading these reviews on these great blogs:

Insidious reviewed by Celluloid Junkie HERE and an Insidious 2 review from Silver Screen Serenade HERE

So I’m sorry I wasn’t crazy about Insidious but those are two awesome blogs that all of you should follow! There’s also a (potential?) November blogathon at Silver Screen Serenade if enough people would like to join in. It would be called NOOOOvember and you’d get the chance to vent about a movie that really could and should have been good but ended up a huge disappointment. Anyone interested should check out her post HERE. 🙂

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My Opinion On Insidious:

I can’t say I really liked the look of this one when it was out but, after being impressed by James Wan’s The Conjuring (my review HERE if you’re bothered), I decided that maybe I should check out Insidious after all.

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Things do start out fairly promising in Insidious. A nice young family with two young sons and a baby move into a new house (Ha! I know I know – they all start that way, don’t they?). Pretty soon things go bump in the night and stuff gets weird and, naturally, the husband is often away at work in the evenings. So all your basic supernatural scary movie stuff is there at the beginning. I didn’t have a problem with any of this – it was all a bit cliche and predictable but I kind of like that with these kind of movies anyway. And they still manage to make me jump even when I KNOW something is coming. I still jumped when the red dude/beast/evil devil person thing was suddenly behind Patrick Wilson even though I’ve seen that image a million times as it’s all over the Internet! So I don’t think this is much of a spoiler – Here you go:

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Anyway, it was all going along fine and the little kid ghost thingy dancing around to Tiptoe Through The Tulips (which has always been a creepy song) was a bit unsettling but then the movie took a turn for the worse. This is where modern horror movies & I part ways. Seeing TOO MUCH of the scary thing(s) just isn’t scary to me. I’m always much more frightened by the unknown and the things that we don’t see as the imagination is a powerful thing. Plus, I just don’t find a silly looking Darth Maul scary.

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And I do love supernatural stories but you have to do things just right to get the audience to buy into the story. You see, the kid in the coma is actually stuck in this mysterious place called “The Further” and demons or whatever are trying to possess his body or something? Okaaaaay. Well, that’s fine – I can handle these sorts of stories. Hell, I love me some Stephen King and the first few seasons of Supernatural. But it just didn’t work for me in Insidious. I think it didn’t help that I didn’t really like Lin Shaye (sorry Lin Shaye fans!) as the “medium” type woman (or whatever she was called) who tries to help the parents save their comatose child from The Further. She has nothing on the lady in Poltergeist. And then the movie really goes downhill once we enter The Further – The people (dead people/demons/whatever) standing around and making funny faces were just silly and then we had that stupid Darth Maul dude dancing around like an idiot. And then we get the typical “we’re leaving this open for a sequel!” stupid ending. Meh.

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Summary:

Insidious starts out as your standard “predictable but fun” supernatural story with some decent eeriness and a couple of things that should make you jump. The family are sweet enough so that you like them plus they don’t do TOO many stupid things like those in horror movies always do. But then the movie turns into a pretty silly mess, especially once we enter “The Further”. Disappointing – Especially when watching this after The Conjuring, which is far superior.

My Rating: 5/10

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