★★★★ / ★★★★
Directed by Fredi M. Murer, “Vitus” tells the story of a boy (Fabrizio Borsani, age six, Teo Gheorghiu, age twelve) who had a natural gift for mastering anything he set his mind to. Having realized that their son was a genius, Vitus’ parents (Julika Jenkins, Urs Jucker) did everything they could to foster their son’s gift, specifically his skills in playing the piano. However, Vitus didn’t like the feeling of being forced to do something so he rebelled and took refuge in his grandfather’s home (Bruno Ganz) whenever he felt helpless over things that were happening around him. This film completely transported me; it gave me that overwhelmingly wonderful feeling that was similar to when I saw the masterful “Le voyage du ballon rouge” for the first time. There was a certain lyricism to “Vitus” that trancends the cinematic medium which was strange because the storytelling was (arguably) old-fashioned. At first I thought it was just going to be about a child prodigy who desperately wanted to be normal but it also turned out to be about parents who expected so much of their only child, a love between a child and his babysitter, the bond between a grandfather and his grandchild (it made me wish my grandfather was still alive), balancing piano and aviation (which reminded me of my love for medicine and movies), and having to choose to follow one’s destiny versus letting go. In a nutshell, it was about growing up and living in a world that’s not truly equipped in fostering people with IQs of around 180. One of my many favorite scenes includes the scene when Vitus and his friend were bicycling in a circle. Whoever was in front of the camera, we heard the music they were listening to–Vitus and his classical music (without earphones), the friend and his hip-hop music (with earphones). I’ve never seen anything like it (or perhaps I have but the others pale in comparison) and it completely took my breath away. There were many artistic shots like that dispersed throughout the film and they constantly took me by surprise. In fact, I felt every emotion in the emotional spectrum from anger toward the mother who crossed the line between helping her child reach his potential and pushing him way too hard, to feeling warm when Vitus tried to get the attention of someone from his childhood, to complete awe whenever he played the piano with such passion and confidence. I’m surprised not many people have heard of this film because I think it’s so much better than popular foreign pictures like “La vita è bella.” I loved the way this film wrapped everything up because I felt like it went complete circle without being too cheesy or sentimental. In the end, it made me feel like I could accomplish anything. Years from now, when I do have a children of my own, this is one of those films I’ll be watching with them because it’s nothing short of wonderful every step of the way.
★★ / ★★★★
Sam Rockwell stars as Sam Bell in “Moon,” written and directed by Duncan Jones, an astronaut who was sent on the moon by a company to gather precious gas that could solve the Earth’s energy crisis. Excitement came over him as soon as he realized that his three-year contract was about to expire in two weeks. However, his positive energy was quickly doused when he started hearing and seeing things that he wasn’t supposed to. I can’t help but feel very disappointed in this film because I saw so much potential in it. The feel of the picture very much felt like Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but I appreciated the fact that it tried to bring something new to the table with regards to man’s relationship with machine (the super-computer named GERTY voiced by Kevin Spacey). I hate saying this about science fiction movies in general but I’m going to: it just didn’t feel real. I’m not talking about the visuals (which wasn’t that inspiring), I’m talking about how everything started to play out. For instance, when Sam realized that there was a clone of himself walking around, his reaction was very underwhelming. I don’t know about you but if I saw a copy of myself without my prior knowledge of its existence, I would freak out, throw things at it and attack it in every way possible (basically act like a crazy person) to get the upperhand. I won’t just sit there and play nice with it, especially when the copy is trying to bully me around. I also had a problem with its pacing. For a film that’s supposed to be full of wonder, mystery and surprising twists, it felt strangely stagnant. Once the clone was revealed, there wasn’t much to drive the story forward. Even their interactions weren’t really that interesting except that they seemed to have opposite personalities. The second twist regarding Sam’s life on Earth was sad but ultimately empty because I didn’t care that much about Sam. I agree with critics and audiences that it was eerie and atmospheric but that’s about it. I don’t see it as being a classic because the elements it tried to tackle weren’t fully realized. “Moon” felt like the SparkNotes version of a really dense material full of complex story arcs and mythologies. And it certainly didn’t have that wow-factor that could be found in sci-fi greats.
★★ / ★★★★
I think a lot of critics and audiences alike have been way harsh on this film. I concur that this picture is not easy to swallow and digest since most of the story took place in one area. It definitely got suffocating because the audiences are subjected to see the same place for about an hour and fifteen minutes (the middle portion); the only things that changed are the increasingly disgusting living conditions of the blind and the dynamics among the wards. Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore lead one of the wards, a doctor and a doctor’s wife, one lost his sight and the other one kept her sight (though it must be kept a secret), respectively. It was interesting to watch their relationship change as the film went on because Ruffalo depended on his wife regarding pretty much everything. There was a brilliant scene when Ruffalo talked to Moore about not seeing her the same after she feeds him, bathes him, and cleans him up in ways that a nurse or mother normally does. There was this undeniable tension between them but at the same time they must stay together because everything around them is falling apart. I thought it was interesting how Fernando Meirelles, the director, chose to tell the story. In the first few scenes, we focus on this one man who suddenly goes blind in the middle of traffic (Yusuke Iseya) and slowly transition to other people suddenly going blind to the point where it becomes an epidemic. The epidemic and ravaged city reminded me of “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later,” only instead of zombies roaming the streets, it’s blind individuals. I also liked the slightly hopeful ending because the suffering was not entirely for naught. Still, by the end of the picture, I still wanted to know the source of the epidemic. That lack of explanation somewhat got to me (and I imagine as most people would). I don’t deny the fact that I saw some hints of great filmmaking here such as the stark contrast between certain images in the beginning and the end of the movie. I also liked the “Lord of the Flies” element in the quarantine zone when everyone had to decide who would get how much food, who the leader should be and who would emerge victorious between the wards. I’ve never seen Gael García Bernal so immoral so his character definitely took me by surprise. With a little bit more explanation and less saggy middle portion, this would’ve been a much powerful film. The acting was already really good and there were scenes that really tugged at my heartstrings. See this if you’re curious and hopefully you’ll see what I see in it: potential.