Monday, May 25, 2009

And so it ends...

The prizes have been handed out and another Cannes Film Festival enters the history books. Even though I am not sure when I will get to see his latest film, I am glad to see Brillante Mendoza's name as winning director. I still think fondly of his two 2007 films Slingshot and Foster Child.

For the last week or so, most North American publications have been only talking about the "gore" and "blood" in the films at Cannes so it shouldn't be a surprize that talk is clearly apparent in Manohla Dargis' headline and article. The headline "Violence Reaps Rewards at Cannes Festival" and the comment "Despite the on-screen carnage that was amply rewarded by Ms. Huppert and her jury..." certainly seem to indicate disdain rather than report something as a matter of fact.

My problem with this view is that I have never seen the NY times have this headline:

Trash Reaps Rewards at American Box Office

If the paper were to have that headline every year, then I would be fine with the "violence" headline. Sure there have been times that A.O Scott has questioned the validity of critics to influence American Box Office revenues but it seems that a lot more is forgiven when considering big banner Hollywood trash films. But when it comes to Cannes, the swords really come out. I had expected to see negative comments about this year's Cannes even before the film lineups were announced but it is clear there won't be much good written about Cannes in this year's North American film magazines.

Will any film magazine bother to analyze the trend that why so many different directors narrowed in on such dark topics? Could it have anything to do with the bleak global situation caused by lies (from governments and corporations) and pure greed (bankers and the like)? On the other hand it appears to be so much easier to criticize Cannes and only praise darkness when shown via Hollywood's formats, be that of a bat, a serial killer or a greedy oil man.


I had no idea that Mendoza's Kinatay had generated such strong reactions. As per Roger Ebert:
"Here is a film that forces me to apologize to Vincent Gallo for calling "The Brown Bunny" the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

And so it begins...

The Cannes Film Festival officially kicked off today and another year of debates and mud slinging can start. The festival started with an uplifting film but a few recent articles have talked about the gore that is doing to be dished out in the coming days. Robert Koehler and David Hudson talk about this aspect and it seems even the NY Times jumped on this. Although I have some other issues with the NY times piece.

The opening paragraph contains words that appear lazy and thrown around just for the sake of it:

Every year Cannes appears, alluring and forbidding, a haunted palace that knows better than to open wide its doors, become democratic or user-friendly — leave that to the North Americans.

So breaking things down...


Yes, beautiful things are often seductive and charming.


well often beauty is forbidden or kept away from the masses. And likewise, the festival is only open for a select few. Nothing wrong with that.

a haunted palace that knows better than to open wide its doors

Huh? In terms of cinema, Cannes has had its door open wide for ages. So not sure what the complaint is about. And if it about the general public, yes the festival is restrictive, but that's how it is.

become democratic or user-friendly

No film festival is truly democratic! Every film festival consists of decisions executed by a few, often usually against the grain. The back room situations that exists in Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, Montreal and Sundance aren't very lovey-dovey either. In fact, no film festival would ever exist if each film was democratically selected.

And user-friendly? No film festival can ever be 100% user friendly. In fact, each user or audience member has to accommodate themselves to the festival's rhythm and only then can one have a true festival experience.

leave that to the North Americans

Honestly, what does North America have to do with Cannes? Moreover, this infers that North Americans and their festivals are open and democratic. Ha! In fact, at times one would be hard pressed to find international films playing in most locations across North America. If North Americans were so open, then wouldn't the powers that be pack their multiplexes with great cinema from around the world as opposed to shutting out the world's cinematic works? If America's Hollywood was so open, then why would it want to remake successful foreign films?

After a poorly prejudiced opening paragraph, I take further issue with these words:

Hired to rejuvenate Cannes, Mr. Frémaux does not have an easy time of it: with few American entries, and many old-timers with films ready to compete, the selection this year smacks of yet another family reunion — with a few surprises sprinkled in.

Let's see now..

with few American entries

Since when did Cannes have plenty of American entries? Indie American cinema targets the Sundance film festival while serious Hollywood films target TIFF and the fall line-up. Summer is saved for loud explosive Hollywood flicks. Unfortunately, in the last few years some of these loud movies made it to Cannes but thankfully that is not the case this time around.

and many old-timers with films ready to compete, the selection this year smacks of yet another family reunion — with a few surprises sprinkled in.

So, what's wrong with that? It is a fascinating prospect that this year some of the best names in the global film industry are going head to head against each other. On the other hand, did it occur to anyone that these director's works were worthy to be put there? Which films have been shut out from the competition so far? The only name that keeps coming up is Francis Ford Coppola. As per the NY Times piece,

This year, Francis Ford Coppola’s "Tetro" was rejected for competition at Cannes; rather than be relegated to Un Certain Regard, Mr. Coppola preferred to open the Fortnight.

Most people think that if something is not in the Competition, then it is an inferior film. But the truth is that some of the best artistic cinema can be found in Un Certain Regard. This difference between the artistic levels of films exists in other parts of the world as well. For example, excellent American films such Wendy and Lucy will never be nominated for the Academy Awards which appears to be reserved mostly for the big Hollywood films. So in a similar manner, the Un Certain Regard can be considered as an alternative category which may contain better quality works than the Competition. Ofcourse, the big difference is that the Competition gives out prizes which will certainly help boost a film's distribution chances.

I am sure more complaints will start filtering in as the festival goes on and I can already anticipate most film magazines and newspapers talk about how "substandard" Cannes was this year. Still, I look forward to seeing these films for myself to decide.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

London out, Manchester and Barcelona in

Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona

Both London clubs exited the Champions League this week in different circumstances. Arsenal were lucky to have been only 1-0 down going into the second leg. But it seems lady luck decided to turn her back on Arsenal and within 11 minutes of the second game, Arsenal's season was over. Two goals by Man Utd in 3 minutes (8 & 11 min) ensured that the remaining 80 minutes of the game were rendered useless. Still, Man Utd got a third and Arsenal got a lucky penalty, via an incorrect decision, to atleast get on the score-sheet. Chelsea on the other hand were on their way to the final after a beautiful 9th minute strike by Essien. But as the game entered stoppage time Andrés Iniesta scored a beauty to take Barca into the final.

Unfortunately, all the talk surrounding the game was around the number of penalties that the referee didn't give Chelsea. Although, Barca were a bit unfortunate with their sending off as well.

Overall, both games featured quite a poor level of officiating. Both games had incorrect red cards handed out and in the Arsenal game, a non-existent penalty was given while in the Chelsea game, existent penalties were not given.

In the end, this season's two best European teams will meet in Rome for the Champions League final:

Barcelona vs Manchester United

Hopefully the final will be decided by good football and not by the ref's whistle!

note: all pics, ©Getty Images, from

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Beautiful game, Barcelona style

Real Madrid 2 - 6 Barcelona

©Getty Images,

Vintage football! The El Clásico in La Liga was everything that it was billed to be. Even though Madrid took the lead, they were never close and if it weren't for the brilliance of their goal-keeping hero Iker Casillas, Barca could have had 3-4 goals more.

Xavi was the genius at the centre of Barca's creative moves with Henry and Messi providing the sublime gorgeous goals. On top of that, Barca's final goal came courtesy of Gerard Piqué who was solid at the back and provided perfect tackles to keep Robben and Madrid at bay.

pic: ©Getty Images,

This is how football is meant to be played. Not the ugly disgusting thug like football that Chelsea played a few days ago. But Chelsea don't think about the quality of football and only care for lifeless trophies. So for the good of football, hopefully Barcelona can defeat the ugly negative anti-football of Chelsea on wednesday and advance to the final of the Champions league.