2008: A Cinematic Odyssey

Film Reviews and Other Pop Culture Happenings

Posts Tagged ‘funny games’

Film Update – 20 July 2008

Posted by Jesse on July 20, 2008

This is my first film update on this blog. In these film updates I will be talking about the films I have seen in the past few days, what reviews are coming soon and some brief thoughts on the week film-wise and otherwise. Lists will undoubtedly be common to these posts, too.

This past weekend (18 July – 20 July), I’ve seen some very amazing films. Some new ones and some that I decided to re-watch.

On July 18, I went to the local Cineplex to try and buy tickets for The Dark Knight. I knew I was going to be unsuccessful, but I thought I’d try anyways. There was over 1,000 people in line and it was way passed the sold out point. So I just bought tickets for the Saturday night show (10:30). I came back on Saturday and waited in line for forty-five minutes. I must say it was worth the wait. The Dark Knight is not only the greatest film of 2008 thus far, but one of the best films I have seen. It had everything I was looking for and it blew my expectations right out of the water. It was brilliant and I will definitely be seeing it again very soon.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Apparently The Dark Knight has set two box office records, also. It has the highest opening day numbers with well over $67 million and the highest three-day weekend numbers with well over $155 million. It just surpassed Spider-Man 3‘s numbers by a few million dollars to take the record. The Dark Knight was also successful on www.imdb.com. As of July 20, it has been voted by its users to be the #1 film of all time. Naturally, it will drop back down on the list, but this is quite the achievement. The Godfather has been holding that position firmly for many, many years and only one film has come close to dislodging it; The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in early 2004 (which peaked at #2). I wish the film good luck and I hope it will break more records and be successful not only in North America, but worldwide.

I also have to mention the late, great Heath Ledger. His performance in the film as The Joker was absolutely phenomenal. Talks of a posthumous Oscar are undeniably possible. He makes Jack Nicholson look like Betty Boop and brings a new meaning to “comic book villain”. I will write more on Heath in the upcoming review of the film (which I am very excited about).

So far, this year has been good. Not as impressive as 2006 or 2007 yet, but we still have Awards season to get through which I have high hopes for.

My ten most anticipated films of 2008:

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, USA)
  2. The Dark Knight (Nolan, USA)
  3. Revolutionary Road (Mendes, USA/UK)
  4. Blindness (Meirelles, CAN/BRZ/JAP)
  5. Burn After Reading (Coen, USA)
  6. Vicky Christina Barcelona (Allen, USA/SPN)
  7. Changeling (Eastwood, USA)
  8. Australia (Luhrmann, USA/AUSL)
  9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Yates, UK/USA)
  10. Iron Man (Favreau, USA)

Also, here’s a list of what I consider to be the ten best films of the year so far. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen many films. I’ve only seen a few, but these ten stood out.

Top 10 of 2008 Thus Far:

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. [Rec]
  3. Funny Games (U.S.)
  4. Kung Fu Panda
  5. Iron Man
  6. Wanted
  7. Be Kind Rewind
  8. The Life Before Her Eyes
  9. Charlie Bartlett
  10. Then She Found Me

I also re-watched the following movies this week (and updated some ratings):

  • Fight Club (1999, Fincher) [10/10] ♥30
  • The Usual Suspects (1995, Singer) [10/10] ♥50
  • Paris, je t’aime (2007, various) [9.5/10] ♥150
  • Hable con ella [Talk to Her] (2002, Almodóvar) [10/10] ♥30
  • Goodfellas (1990, Scorsese) [10/10] ♥20

* s indicate the placement of the film on my favourite films list (eg., ♥50 means the film is in my top 50 of all time)

That’s it for this update. A review of The Dark Knight will be coming soon along with reviews of Taxi Driver and The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite).

-j.taylor

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Criticism on Media Violence or Just an Examination of the Self?

Posted by Jesse on July 20, 2008

Funny Games (1997)
director: Michael Haneke
starring: Ulrich Mühe, Susanne Lothar, Arno Frisch, Frank Giering, Stefan Clapczynski

Arno Frisch and Stefan Clapczynski in Funny Games (1997)

Arno Frisch and Stefan Clapczynski in Funny Games (1997)

After a few months, I’ve finally come back to review this film. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the easiest film to watch or the easiest film to understand at first, but after reading about this film and watching it two more times, I think I finally understand what the point of this film is. This film wasn’t made with intentions of generating a fan base or hitting it big at the box office, it was made in order for director Michael Haneke to show us how disgusting we, the viewing public, are.

Haneke shatters film conventions and presents us with material that we normally would not see in a movie. Violence is used, but we don’t see it on the screen. People are shot, killed and tortured, but we never see it happen. We hear it, we see the aftermath and we resonate as the characters do over what just happened. It’s so real and comprehending why something so vividly disturbing is in a film makes us want the scene to be over with. Haneke uses techniques such as breaking the fourth wall, the real-time method and, most famously, a reverse effect to contest our regular film experiences. What we expect to come from this film is not what we get. I don’t mean there is a twist ending or some surprising character reveal, but we get exactly what we don’t expect: reality. People die in this film. There isn’t a dramatic rescue scene and the protagonists do not win in an epic finale. This film is brave and it lets its audience see the opposite side of formulaic thrillers.

This film is not hypocritical. Many have accused this film of being hypocritical in its depiction of violence, but it’s exactly the opposite. This film is ultimately a criticism on the use of violence in contemporary culture and media. Why the violence in the film then? The “violence” in Funny Games is used to satirize all other films that exploit their characters and their situations by showing blood, guts and nakedness. This film is like a kick in the face in terms of its bravura, it’s saying “Watch this!” to its American counterparts and shows everything that we usually don’t see, but cuts out everything we normally do see. We are shown the raw emotional impact that is thrust upon the victims in this film. We don’t need to see the gruesome deaths when such emotion lets us know how bad the situation is. The actors in Funny Games (most notably Ulrich Mühe and Susanne Lothar) omit such painful emotions and this is Haneke’s way of countering the exploitative violence from other films of this nature. We are shown a side we normally wouldn’t see and this shocks us, angers us and, for a select few, pleases us.

Haneke presents situations in this film that normally would result in a bloodbath or nudity, but holds back when given the chance to show such content. One scene in particular, perhaps the most famous scene, involves a shotgun and a remote control. The violence isn’t shown, it’s out of the frame, but the result we do see. One of the antagonists has been blown away by the shotgun. But this isn’t supposed to happen in this film, the antagonists aren’t supposed to win or even be granted a speck of hope. The remaining antagonist picks up the remote control from the table and quickly rewinds the film to right before the incident occurs and prevents it from happening. Now everything is back on course and the hope for relief is diminished.

One of the antagonists in this film constantly breaks the fourth wall (the fourth wall being when a character from the film gestures or talks to the audience). This brings us, the audience, into the film even more to experience the torture and pain this family is going through. At one point, Paul addresses the audience saying, “We’re not up to feature film length yet” and we know we’re still in for more torture.

This film was made to shock us, torture us and make us realize who we are and what we have grown to expect from a film. When Schorschi is killed, we do not see it on screen. The viewers probably sighed for they don’t get to see any blood in this movie. When Paul makes Anna take her clothes off, we don’t see it on screen. The viewers probably sighed again, for they don’t get to see any nudity in this movie either. As a film-going audience, we have grown to expect certain things from films. If someone is going to be shot, we expect to see it. If someone is going to have sex, we expect to see it. With Funny Games, Michael Haneke literally laughs at us because with this film, filled with violent happenings, we don’t see anything violent on the screen, but only the emotional lapse that follows.

People can either view this film as a pointless exercise in attacking violence in films or a masterpiece that has shattered conventions, played with our minds and presented something brave and new to the cinematic table. I agree with the latter statement and I know I am not alone, but I also know how many people despise this film. It’s a shame that Funny Games isn’t widely appraised, because I do think that this revolutionary approach is not only audacious, but artistic, too. I have only good things to say about this film and Michael Haneke. He has presented something to us that everyone else fears to. He is a fantastic director and doesn’t have to rely on formula to make a film work. He has stepped up to new extremes and his originality and bluster has made him very well respected by myself. I highly recommend this film, even though I know many of you will not like it. However, I do believe that everyone should watch this film and experience the masterpiece that is called Funny Games.

Theatrical trailer for the film:

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