Way back in 2011, I kept a running log of films I watched throughout the year. Combining movies I saw for class and movies I saw just for fun or out of curiosity, the list took up two pages of my Moleskine. I got a little lazy in 2012 and opted for casually blogging about the movies I saw on my now extinct Tumblr. This year, I’m doing the list again.
At the top of my list in 2013 was Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, A Separation (which I talked about briefly here), Deep Blue Sea (which I’ll write about below), The Foreigner ( about which I wrote a hilarious response but unfortunately got deleted with my old blog), A Prophet (see below), Sunset Boulevard, Rashomon, A Trip to the Moon, The Grand Illusion, and Battleship Potemkin.
I had mixed feelings about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. One one hand, it portrayed an Arab character in good light, casting him as a wise, patient man of God (shocking, I know). But on the other hand, the rival tribe was portrayed as conniving and belligerent. The audience has the tribe to blame for impeding the progress of the dam project. I was expecting that turn of events in the film, but I was disappointed in yet another Orientalist portrayal of non-white persons in cinema. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is anti-Arab propaganda nicely gift wrapped for the ‘well-read’ global politics enthusiast. Thomas Friedman fans, I’m looking at you.
This still in particular caught my eye from A Prophet (dir. Jacques Audiard, 2009) for the same reason.
The story of Deep Blue Sea (dir. Terence Davies, 20122) is depressing as hell. I chose to watched this because Weisz and Hiddleston are two of my favorite actors, but as the movie progressed I got more and more absorbed in the story. The performances were strong. Hiddleston’s angry outbursts are terrifying to watch. Collyer’s mother is a snarky old hag (nothing compared to the Dowager Countess of Grantham from Downton Abbey though). And you can’t help but feel bad for Hester’s husband. But Weisz’s performance was killer. The movie depends on her every emotion. Every eye movement. Every sigh. Every whimper. She doesn’t communicate through words as much as gaze, posture, and facial expressions.
The beginning of the film is slow. Prepare yourself for that.
127 Hours (dir. Danny Boyle, 2010) based on the autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. With James Franco and Clémence Poésy.
I was drawn to this movie because of the setting. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with hiking and landscapes. I picked 127 Hours over The Tree of Life to watch that night. It was a tough decision, but I figured that because 127 Hours is a survival story, it might inspire me to endure my final exams that I was taking at the time. The Tree of Life is for a day when I feel really, really happy.
I was taken back at how reckless Aron (played by Franco) was at the beginning. After the accident where he gets his arm stuck between a rock and the canyon, you begin to see his transformation. The climax of the film was when he amputates his right arm. It was truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever watched.
I googled Aron Ralston after I finished the movie. It turns out we both lived in the same city in Colorado and we even attended the same school. Although the accident happened in Utah, this movie hits home because I knew a few people in Colorado who got into mountain climbing and skiing accidents. There was a boy I knew who was out of school for a few months because he crashed into a tree while skiing and broke his ribs.
The movie also brought back memories of when I used to rock climb. I learned to tie more than fifteen kinds of knots, how to belay, and how to inspect harnesses among other things. You would think watching a movie about an accident would have scared me, but no, I really love rock climbing and being out in the mountains. Even just seeing them is enough for me.
The one thing I didn’t understand (or that I found amazing) is that Aron didn’t pass out from the pain of the amputation. If you remember in Castaway, when the Tom Hanks character used an ice skate to remove a rotten tooth, he passed out immediately.
I thought the original music by A. R. Rahman did not only add intensity to the film, but also made the audience feel the pain, elation, and exhaustion that Aron went through. I couldn’t shut up about the movie to my parents. My parents both perform surgery for a living, and even this story was too much for them.
Watching this film reminded me why I should never take my health for granted, to take advantage of my young age, to fear nature and God’s creation, to travel, to explore, and to love.
I never cry in movies. I came very close to crying. Very close. Please watch this.