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115. Roma – This Just In (#–)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and with special guests Aine O’Connor, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.

At time of recording, it was not ranked on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Roma

There’s a lyrical beauty to Roma, a decidedly intimate and personal project for director Alfonso Cuarón following on from his triptych of more mainstream fare.

Roma is a very different beast from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men and Gravity. It is much smaller in scale, focusing on the life of a maid who works for a slightly-above-middle-class family in early seventies Mexico city. Shot in black and white, often favouring quiet scenes and still shots, there is an observational aspect to most of Roma, a sense in which the movie very gently and very elegantly watches life unfold in slow motion without any sense of hurry or panic. For most of its runtime, Roma is content to just be.

This is not a surprise. After all, Cuarón has been candid about how much of the film is drawn from his own childhood. Even without that outside knowledge creeping in, Roma seems to tacitly acknowledge it in the central role that the cinema plays in the story. At one point, the young children take a trip to the picturehouse to see the space thriller Marooned, with Cuarón making a point to showcase a sequence that evokes his own work in Gravity. As much as this is a story about a young woman who works as a maid to a privileged Mexican family, it is undoubtedly filtered through the lens of childhood.

Although nominally set against the backdrop of early seventies Mexico, Roma repeatedly suggests that the larger world is but the echo chamber for the uncertainty and tumult within a family unit; when earthquakes happen and revolutionaries march, they are simply expressions of more intimate traumas and challenges facing these characters. In the world of Roma, it is as below as above, reflecting the way in which a child might see the outside world as nothing more than an extrapolation of the home life that they know so well.

This lends Roma an almost magical quality. Although the film and its characters are complex and developed, there is something poetic in the way in which Cuarón chooses to tell this particular tale. Cuarón never rushes or hurries his characters, instead giving them room to breath. He finds a zen-like calm in the stability of the everyday, the safety of routine against the backdrop of larger anxieties and uncertainties. The characters in Roma repeatedly navigate life-changing events, but underscored with a childlike certainty that they can survive them.

Roma is a genuinely moving piece of cinema.

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My 12 for ’13: Gravity & Good Old-Fashioned Simplicity

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 4…

One of the more interesting aspects of blockbuster cinema over the past decade or so has been the way that bigger movies tend to have become more complicated and ambitious in their storytelling. This isn’t a bad thing, by any measure. The Dark Knight is a plot-driven blockbuster with no shortage of plot complications, reversals and reveals. However, not every blockbuster is as deftly constructed.

There’s been a surge in overly complicated and excessively convoluted blockbusters over the past few years. It’s not enough to have good guys and bad guys and spectacle. There’s a sense that there needs to be more crammed on in there. Double-crosses and triple-crosses, betrayal and redemption, shock reveals and game-changing twists. Bad guys no longer plan to simply destroy the world or kill the good guy, everybody has competing agendas, and big epic blockbusters often struggle to smooth those into a cohesive narrative.

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From this year, for example, Star Trek Into Darkness – while still an exceptionally enjoyable film – suffered from an over-complicated plot and a surplus of villainous motivation. The Wolverine featured a fiercely convoluted middle act where it seemed like half-a-dozen bad guys were all trying to kill our hero for different reasons. G.I. Joe: Retaliation featured an evil plot that was not only brilliantly stupid, it was also unnecessarily convoluted.

Gravity serves to buck the trend, offering something of a sharp contrast to this convoluted storytelling. Gravity is a celebration of old-school visual spectacle, guided through a decidedly old-fashioned plot.

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Non-Review Review: Gravity

Gravity is a phenomenal piece of filmmaking, and one of the highlights of the year. It’s a bold and visually stunning survival movie, built around the most simple of premises with incredible craftsmanship. It’s a lean and well-constructed thriller that manages to effortlessly capture the impossible isolation experienced by those flying in the void. Never over-wrought or over-strained, Gravity is an absolutely beautiful accomplishment for all involved.

Floating in a most peculiar way...

Floating in a most peculiar way…

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Watch! New Gravity Trailer!

Gravity is easily one of my most anticipated movies of this last third of 2013. The talent involved is enough to attract attention, from two wonderful lead actors through to a visionary director telling a story which seem intriguing and ingenious at the same time. Early word on the film has been pretty strong. I’m particularly reassured by the revelation that the explosions and such were only effects added for the trailer – so much so that the introductory text here seems to have been added to sway other skeptics. (That said, this trailer still features its fair share of noise in space.)

Warners have released another trailer for the film, and it looks – as one might expect from Alfonso Cuaron – absolutely stunning. Check it out below.

Watch! Gravity Teaser Trailer!

Warner Brothers just released the teaser trailer for Gravity, from director Alfonso Cuarón.  Cuarón has developed his own unique sensibilities. He’s responsible for the most visually distinctive of the Harry potter films, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and produced and underrated and oft-overlooked science-fiction masterpiece with Children of Men. I am very eager to see Gravity, which looks to be a rather wonderful change of pace.

 

Non-Review Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

“Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”

– Hermoine, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Truth be told, before I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was easily my favourite instalment of the series. It’s the perfect balance between the lighter start of the series and the much darker end of it, straddling the two distinct tones with ease, and managing to walk the line between it’s under-plotted predecessors and over-plotted successors. It’s still not quite perfect, but it genuinely feels like things are changing and world is lot more vast than the earlier films had led us to believe.

The series is finally firing on all cylinders...

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