I'm finally at a spot in my reviews where I can remember having rented these movies. That means I might some day get totally caught up. Then I'd be able to review the movies I am currently watching. Well, that isn't a totally good thing. I usually need a little while to think about a movie before I know what I liked or didn't like about it. Some take more thought than others. Usually, I can come up with something good if I just sleep on it.
Movie: Manor House
My Rating: 4 stars
Yay! Back to PBS's "House" series. I love these shows. This is the series that takes a modern family and sends them to live in a house that has been modified to be from a particular period. You will remember some of my previous entries: Frontier House, Colonial House, Regency House Party, 1900 House, 1940 House. They were all fantastic, and this one is too. Some of these shows feature one family living in an old-fashioned environment, and others feature groups. This installment features a group, but it is slightly different from past episodes.
While other seasons featured families that were all working together toward a common goal (Frontier, Colonial), this one is about hierarchy. This year's participants were taken to an English Manor house from the early 20th century. One family played the owner of this vast estate, and the other people played a whole range of guests, visitors, servants and near-slaves. Of course, there is a strict pecking order; even among the servants. It didn't take long for everyone to fully get into character. You would almost forget that these people started off as regular folks with modern jobs. For example, the lady of the house is a doctor in real life, but all it took was a couple weeks for her forget about important things and to become completely engrossed in bows and ribbons.
Of course, the strict hierarchy bred serious ill-will between the servants and the masters. Although the masters are good, liberal, modern people in real life, I found myself laughing at how quickly they started behaving as if they deserved to be waited on hand and foot. They started off as reluctant to order their servants around, but ended up taking the service for granted and lamenting the fact that they would have to give it up when the program was over. They had no clue that the servants were secretly plotting the demise of the family from their basement quarters. Seriously. I think the "servants" grew to hate the "masters" so much that they would have a hard time being civil to them if they were to meet on the street today.
This is a great series. Not only does it explore the difficulty of living in different eras, but it also serves as a mini psychology lesson too. Viewers really get to see how the participants cope with stress and fatigue. I really love it. Of course, it is a totally dorky show, and it probably doesn't have a very wide audience in the US, but it is fantastic and will definitely appeal to a very distinct set of viewers.
Movie: 12:08 East of Bucharest
My Rating: 3 stars
I've said it before, but I'll repeat it here: Romania is the hot new place for independent film. Lots of exciting things are coming out of that country, and all of it is very interesting. You'll remember my post on The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is also set to be released very soon, and it is already getting lots of positive critical buzz. Well, like I've said before, every country has its own cinematic personality. Romania's is definitely something along the lines of the beleaguered survivor trying to make his way through inhumanly difficult situations because it is better than just dropping dead right there. Romanian filmmakers deal with troubling subject matter, like disease, revolution, abortion, sunshine and rainbows. Wait, no. Replace the last two things with bureaucracy and Soviet-quality infrastructure. This may sound bad, but it is ultimately optimistic. They always keep trying. They aren't defeatist the way the Scandanavians or Mexicans are.
Well, against all odds, this movie is actually a comedy. Sure, it's dark comedy, but I still had a few chuckles. This movie explores the idea of collective memory - or how the public changes its perception of events to make them feel good about their culture. The protagonist in this film is a local TV station host who is interviewing a panel of local residents about the 1989 overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu's Communist regime. He is interviewing these people to determine whether an impromptu gathering of protesters in the public square occurred before or after the announcement of the regime change (to determine whether the gathering was a revolution or a celebration). Of course, his guests are hardly reliable. Each has his own version of events, designed to highlight his own importance. Hilarity ensues.
This is actually a pretty funny, multi layered movie. Like the others, it is a pretty good look into conditions in modern Romania. But it also works as a totally believable spoof on the politics of local television stations. Interviews of townspeople are always the funniest part of the evening news. These people know their family and friends will be watching them on TV, so they adjust their performances accordingly. Good stuff. I recommend this movie. But, here is the disclaimer. This is not a wildly funny movie. There are no jokes or anything like that. Viewers will find humor in the totally absurd situations that they can totally imagine happening in real life. But, if you are interested in watching a new film exporter develop, I suggest you get caught up on your Romanian movies.