Tag Archives: 2006

Longford (2006)



Starring: Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton, Andy Serkis
Director: Tom Hooper
Screenwriter: Peter Morgan

Francis Aungier Pakenham, count of Longford, was certainly one of Great Britain’s controversial figures. Member of the labour party, president of the House of Lords, important figure in the government for some years, and a devout catholic, Lord Longford has made himself known to the public through his excentric character and numerous social projects, especially his work with prisoner rehabilitation and his attempts to ban pornography.

“Longford”, an original HBO production, follows the man’s activity (played by Jim Broadbent) since 1985, particularly his efforts to obtain a pardon for Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), sentenced to life in prison for the murder of several children alongside her boyfriend, Ian Brady (Andy Serkis), also serving a life sentence in the same prison. Though permanently discouraged by his wife, Elizabeth (Lindsay Duncan), his family, colegues and the press, Longford never gave up on Myra, his valiant efforts ultimately resulting in his exclusion from the House of Lords.

It can safely be said that Lord Longford was indeed an excentric person, but also a fascinating individual.  The friendship he offered Myra was something quite scandalous at the time, but it also brings up issues of forgiveness even when faced with unspeakable atrocities, his own system of beliefs being built around the idea that no person is beyond forgiveness. The endeavour of saving someone like Myra seems like madness, but for him, it is his duty, as is any good catholic’s duty, to do all in his power to save lost souls.

However, at some point, Myra betrais this friendship by officially admiting her direct involvement in the murders, thus destroying Longfords reputation, and bringing him face to face with a crysis of faith. Forced to withdraw from the public eye, he finds strength in his beliefs once more and continues to work with prisoners until his death in 2001 at the age of 95.

The film is just as good as many other HBO productions, with an impressive array of awards and nominations including Golden Globes, Emmies, and BAFTA TV. The acting is fantastic, Broadbent evokes not just the physical appearance and gesturing of the real Longford, but also the profound feelings, innocence and complexity of a man who does not believe in absolute evil. Samantha Morton plays Myra with a subtle, icy strength, a strange duality, split between apparent innocence, mistery and dignity, embracing her guilt and punishment while defying any kind of help. Andy Serkis, as Myra’s murderous boyfriend, delivers a commanding performance, sinister and menacing without overacting and in very short appearances. Overall, it’s a wonderfull cast that make the film worth seeing all by themselves. The interactions between the characters are the salt and pepper of the film, a duel of hearts and human spirit

A lengthier film might have been been a plus, because it feels as if there might have been material here for more that just 90 minutes, but I have to take into account that it is a TV production, so compactness is a virtue I guess. It might have made a handsome mini-series, but there’s still enough depth and complexity to make it a unique experience.


The Break-Up (2006)



Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Vince Vaughn, Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Bateman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Favreau, Cole Hauser, Judy Davis, John Michael Higgins, Ann-Margret, Peter Billingsley
Director: Peyton Reed
Screenwriter: Jeremy Garelick

“The Break Up” was ironically Jennifer Aniston’s first big screen movie after her real life break up co-starring Brad Pitt. Did she choose this script so that she could bank on the Brangelina scandal while the story was on its highest media frenzy? I have no idea, but if she did this deliberately, then she is a genius. Because there is no way that this movie would have scored half of what it has without the surrounding rumors and constant coverage of her divorce; it had free publicity in every tabloid, every magazine, on every corner of this planet.

Well, I’ve watched this movie on HBO on Friday. Of course I did not pay to see it: I knew it would not be anything good. I mean, it featured Vince Vaughn as Jennifer’s love interest. Not only is the actor unbearable and untalented, the script made his character a jack-ass and also, in the looks department, she was very much out of his league. Aniston plays Brooke, an art gallery manager, who lives with her boyfriend Gary (Vaughn), a self absorbed ass a Chicago guide who is very good at his job. So good, that nobody fires him when he crosses boundaries and acts like the  She seems to feel that he is taking her for granted, and he feels that she is nagging him too much, so they decide to break up, but their high mortgage leaves them no choice but to continue living together. I did not see the perpetual nagging, maybe because I too tend to be a little on the OCD side, but I definitely saw the taking for granted part she complained about. His behavior was unacceptable and even if, in the end, he started to muster some apologetic words, it was too little too late as far as I was concerned. You will have to see for yourselves if it worked on her.

“The Break Up” is not an entirely awful movie. There are some parts that feel real, it is obvious they had studied the issue first (maybe they asked Jennifer for some lines they could use), and some of the real life difficulties that appear when you break up with somebody you have lived with for two years are handled, instead of going for the easy “we can move wherever whenever, we can afford any place, we have shitty jobs and still afford way more than the average middle class American” way. They struggle with the real estate market (as shallow as it is presented, it is still better than what the typical romantic comedy offers), they try to hurt each other and they start awkward conversations in front of their friends. Even if you haven’t lived any of this, you still witnessed it first hand at a friend’s house. Because human nature makes us all petty and gratuitously mean when we start to realize we have lost 2-3-4 years of our lives or more next to somebody that is throwing it way too easily. In retrospective, the script was average, the acting likewise, but only if you make a combination of Aniston’s above average performance with Vaughn’s underwhelming one. If there were any secondary characters, please excuse me, I was too bored to notice, it was like watching a flat line EKG whenever the main actors disappeared, because I could not focus on Jennifer’s good looks or on the annoyance brought on by Mr. The-Last-Long-Lost-Wilson-Brother anymore.

But the fact that it is advertised as a comedy makes one wait for the funny part. For a joke, at least? For something that lifts the corners of one’s mouth more than a tenth of an inch, maybe? Well, I cannot say that there is anything remotely funny about this story. I did cringe a few times when I saw how she was still waiting for an actual sign of devotion or appreciation, and how he failed her every time. EVERY SINGLE TIME! During one of the most heart breaking scenes, she waits for him at a concert and I actually screamed at the TV: “Stop being a fucking doormat and move the fuck on, you fucking stupid woman!!!!” Not to mention that, towards the end, I kept hoping that somebody would finally explain to me (maybe using a pie chart? or drawings?) the charm of the tall always drunk looking Vince and his heartless deliveries. Please tell me if you saw it and if it’s just me being excessively critical because I’m Aniston biased.

Overall, a bland movie that struggles to be a drama and fails and is presented as a comedy in spite of the painful unfunny lines, all topped by unconvincing performances and minimal direction. 3 1/2 potatoes for two hours of my life I am never getting back. The extra half potato is due to the fact that I am very glad I did not buy tickets.

Volver (2006)



Starring: Carmen Maura, Penelope Cruz, Lola Duenas, Blanca Portillo, Chus Lampreave, Cobo Yohana, Antonio de la torre, Carlos Blanco, Maria Isabel Diaz, Neus Sanz
Director: Pedro Almodovar

Almoldovar’s “Volver” is one of my favorite movies of all times. I will try to explain why, but I am not sure that the feeling that I get every time I think about Penelope Cruz singing while her mother listens and cries could be explained or demonstrated, it is either there or it is not. To a movie expert such as Skellington (who you will be acquainted to on Thursday) “Volver” is a technically imperfect film, with flaws and the stigma of not having met the expectations of the critics accustomed with “Talk to Her” or “Bad Education”, which compared to this one seem more meticulous and better directed, better thought. But here, the heart is stronger than the mind. And the flaws make it perfect, especially for someone who, until this movie, did not know anything about its creator.

“Volver” is the story of strong women, three generations of a family torn by secrets and abuse. The main character is Raymunda, played beautifully by Penelope Cruz, who proved with this role that she is a force in the drama department as well as in the looks department. She has a teenage daughter, Paula, and a lazy good-for-nothing husband who feels that Paula has to be taught a thing or two about pleasing a man, being 13 and all. Her mother, Irene, is presumed dead in an accidental fire that also killed her father. Her sister Soledad is a divorced hairdresser that seems a bit too eager to believe complicated supernatural theories over simple life facts. They are a family composed of horrible human beings posing as men and a long string of iron women who took too little and gave back too much, and who, at some point, broke. Irene broke when she set the house where her husband and his mistress were sleeping, her house, with them embraced in her bed, on fire. She took the abuse of her daughter and her own abuse, and the constant cheating until one point, after which lived as a ghost, with the company of only her senile old sister. Raymunda broke when she married Paco to escape the hell of her home, and then, just like her mother, took the next 13 years of supporting and tolerating an awful man as what she considered to be well deserved punishment. Paula broke when she rejected sleazy incestuous advances with the help of a knife, killing the man she thought was her father. This is where the chain breaks, because Raymunda took it upon herself to dispose of the body, as penitence for not having the strength to cut the marriage while her daughter’s innocence was still intact. Irene helps because she was unable to help her own daughter, thus almost losing her. They are sinners, but their sin is not murder, but lack of reaction at the necesarry moment, and their redemption is creating a clean slate for Paula. They all are strangely unaffected by murder because they did everything right until that breaking point. They feel they did everything to avoid it, but they learn that all they did was to postpone the inevitable. And we are unaffected by murder because we see the victims as less than worms. I know I did.

This is a comedy, by the way, in case you did not see that coming. It is set in Madrid, and the European vibe alone makes this movie unforgettable and unique. The streets, the people, the non English language, the lack of clichés, the vacuum where the saving male figures should be, the lack of any redeemable XY human whatsoever, the genuine love and care between the related females and the twisted manifestations of it, the repressed sadness that is only allowed to surface in one song and the survivor gene that is passed on from mother to daughter shows us that, no matter how insignificant your little corner of existence may seem, you will do just about anything to preserve it intact, and no one who loves you could ever blame you the way that an objective person would, the way you deserve to be judged.

I do not know whether “Volver” deserves the ten potatoes I will grade it. I also don’t care. Because I will take real emotion over perfectly fabricated standards any day. And I hope you all have a movie as close to your hearts as this one is to mine.