Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movie Reviews-Supernatural Season Five, Amelie

Supernatural Season Five
created by Eric Kripke
In Season Four Sam (Jason Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) sniped and feuded all season long about Sam's use of strange psychic powers, the disgusting things he was doing to maintain these powers and his closeness (that kind too) with the demon Ruby (Genevieve Padalecki) who claimed to want to help Sam kill the demon Lilith. Dean and Bobby (Jim Beaver) took drastic steps to try to "cure" Sam, including locking him in a supernatural detox tank, from which he escaped. The bad blood culminated in an ugly, vicious, lengthy knock-down dragout no holds barred sibling battle royale which the bigger, stronger and by now much angrier Sam won. Despite Dean's final warning Sam chose Ruby over his brother and went off to kill Lilith with Ruby's assistance.

Well it turns out that sometimes big brother Dean really does know best. Trusting demons is never wise. Sam killed Lilith and got revenge for all the evil things she had done. But as Ruby triumphantly revealed to Sam, Lilith's death was the final seal to unlock the key to Hell. Ruby was a secret agent who was ordered to manipulate Sam into killing Lilith. Lilith was a willing sacrifice. By killing Lilith Sam unwittingly opened the path for Lucifer to invade the earth and set off the Apocalypse. Dean learns where Sam is and with Sam's help, kills Ruby. But it's too late. The Morning Star himself is entering our plane of existence

The brothers mysteriously escape Lucifer's arrival. They don't know how they did it and the angels or demons don't know either. The brothers get more bad news. As things are in Earth so are they in Heaven. Just as Sam and Dean have a fractious relationship with Sam being a rebellious son to John Winchester while Dean was a dutiful son, Lucifer and Michael have the same exact relationship with each other and God. In fact each Winchester brother is destined to play a part in the Final Battle, on opposite sides! When Dean broke under torture in Hell and agreed to torture others, that was the breaking of the first seal and Sam's killing of Lilith was the last.



Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino), who has temporarily taken over a hapless human, is convinced that Sam is his true vessel. The angels also believe that Dean is the vessel for the Archangel Michael. The only drawback from Lucifer's and Michael's standpoint is that a human must willingly agree to possession by an angel. Sam and Dean vow never to agree. But eternal beings, whether devil or angel, have all sorts of tricks to wear down human resistance. Lucifer has near eternal patience. He is immortal after all. He confidently tells Sam that eventually Sam will say yes to letting Lucifer possess him. It's only a matter of time. It's a question of fate. And fate can't be denied, something that the angels and demons seem to be very insistent upon. Each side scoffs at the notion of free will. Neither bears much love for humans or cares that the Final Battle will at the very least wipe out half of humanity.

So the brothers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The angels (with the notable exception of Castiel) are eager for the Final Battle to take place. As Zacariah puts it "We like our chances".  God has evidently left the building. There are only a handful of angels who have ever seen God. Word on the celestial street is that God is dead. Castiel (Misha Collins) finds this impossible to believe and offensive to even imagine. Castiel starts a quest to find God since he can't accept that God would want the Apocalypse to occur. During this search Castiel angers his angelic superiors so much that they cut off his access to Heaven's powers.
This season was a bit uneven. I believe this was originally intended to be the last in the series. The ending certainly made it seem like that was the plan. Supernatural simultaneously gets caught in a bit of a rut but also takes some pretty big chances with maiming or killing off critical characters. The Winchesters are not only bad news for the bad guys but also often unfortunately bad news for their friends. Sam and Dean even split up for a while. Dean won't stop needling Sam about the Ruby situation and finally says he can't trust his brother. Sam is tired of Dean's snide comments as well as taking orders from big brother. Sam doubts he still has the judgement to be a hunter. And he's dealing with guilt both over setting Lucifer free and over his inborn rage. If you have a sibling, you've probably argued with him or her on occasion. Imagine that turned up to 10 here. The brothers do spend most of their waking moments together and that can be irritating. Nobody knows better how to get under your skin than a family member does. Sam and Dean illustrate that perfectly. The pressure is incredible. Only all existence is at stake.
Lucifer releases the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Pestilence, Famine, War and Death) to bring further misery and suffering to the world. And they all do just that. The thing is though, the Winchester Brothers still think it's their job to save the world. And when they put their mind to something, if you're in the way, you better duck. Even if you are one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or Old Scratch himself. There are ways for humans to fight angels or other immortal beings. And with the help of old friend and paternal figure Bobby Singer, mother figure Ellen (Samantha Ferris), her daughter Jo (Alona Tal), the irascible Rufus Turner (Steven Williams) and a few other hunters the Winchesters intend to make their last stand. As they frequently remind each other over Season Five, they're all they have. This is even more the case when other once friendly hunters learn of Sam's and Dean's role in bringing about this chain of events.
Supernatural is or was popular with some fan fiction writers and live action role playing people. The series gently mocks those folks and itself here with the depiction of a convention of Supernatural fans who have come to listen to Chuck (Rob Benedict) speak of his Supernatural series. Chuck is an amiable and nervous weasel of a man who just happens to have written down all of the adventures of the Winchesters in his best selling "fictional" series. He even knows what will happen next. Chuck is a prophet of the Lord. In the future the deeds of the Winchesters will be the basis for a new religion. But for now Chuck is content to preside over groupings of basement dwelling adults who are eager to dress up like the Winchesters, start online flame wars over what sort of leather jacket Dean wears or discuss "homoerotic subtext in the Supernatural books". Yeah. Sam and Dean aren't very happy with Chuck. But Chuck does become something of an ally when a real supernatural danger is revealed at the Supernatural convention.
The Winchesters travel from town to town, dealing with new threats brought on by the Apocalypse, resisting increasingly angry angels or demons who want their favored brother to say yes to their master, searching frantically for a way to stop or kill Lucifer, eliminating run of the mill supernatural threats in their spare time, and of course, trying to get some. This last was somewhat muted in Season Five as horndog Dean decides not to go pick up women on Valentine's Day, something Sam finds incredulous. Valentine's Day has always been ladies' man Dean's favorite holiday. He calls it "Unattached Drifter Christmas". There's a Terminator shout out. The angels decide if Dean won't say yes to possession by Michael, the best way to stop Lucifer is to go back in time and kill Sam and Dean's parents so that Sam will never be born. The angel tasked to do this just happens to be the female angel to whom Dean introduced the pleasures of the flesh. Other episodes give nods to HP Lovecraft. The brothers also run across the Antichrist, encounter pagan gods who want to stop the Apocalypse, and have the first of many chats with Death (Julian Richings), a charming cane bearing fellow with a dry British sense of humor, total disregard for all life, and a fondness for stuffed pizza. 

Season Five Trailer
Season Five Fan Trailer(mixes images from Constantine)
Season Five Intro




Amelie
directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet
Amelie is a French language movie with English subtitles available if you are so inclined. I took French way back in grade school and later high school but outside of school trips to Toronto never had an opportunity to use it in real life and so forgot almost all of it. So it was fun to occasionally turn off the subtitles and see if I could follow the storyline. I usually got lost after a few sentences. Anyhow I had purchased the music soundtrack ages ago and loved the songs. But I never got around to watching the movie. My brother sent me the DVD a few months back and here we are. The story is incredibly predictable but I mean that as a description and compliment, not a criticism. It's about a woman (the titular character) who, if she doesn't take steps to change the path she's on, will become an old Eleanor Rigby type who really will die in the church and be buried along with her name. She's completely, almost painfully aware of this but is too scared to change. Her shyness and introversion prevent her from living life to its fullest. Amelie is a person who mostly reacts to decisions that are made by others instead of seeking to change her own destiny.

We see how some of her passivity got started in her childhood. Amelie (Audrey Tatou) had eccentric somewhat standoffish parents who misdiagnosed an issue which Amelie had as a young girl and as a result crippled her self-esteem and confidence. This was made worse when her mother died in a freak accident which Amelie witnessed. Both Amelie and her father are people who just want to be left alone in life. Amelie has a very active, almost hyperactive imagination. Amelie works in a cafe where a number of like-minded, well , losers, hang out. There's an oh so cool writer full of pathos and wisdom but who has never run across anyone who's read his (unpublished) work. There's a plain looking slightly overweight older woman who despairs of having love and hides this by claiming to suffer from every disease or condition ever discovered. Most humorously there's a bitter trollish fellow, who having been romantically dumped by another waitress, shows up every day in a jealous seething rage to tape record her imagined flirtations with other customers and dictate his own incredibly offbase insights about women's nature. He sees two women talking, assumes it's about him and records himself sneering "2:30 PM. Obvious female plot taking place. But I'm onto them.". All of the characters are introduced by the narrator who quickly details or shows their little quirks or activities in which they find pleasure, like skipping rocks across ponds or tasting roasted chicken fresh from the oven or arranging items in their proper order or a million and one different things which make us all so unique and human.

On the day that Princess Diana died, Amelie finds an old box containing toys, mementos and letters that belonged to a boy who lived in her apartment back in the fifties. Impulsively she decides to try to return these items to the man, wherever he might be, in the hope that by doing so she will bring happiness to the man's life. If she's successful then she will continue to try to help others (and live vicariously through them). Showing resourcefulness and grit she doesn't normally display in her day job, Amelie does find the man. She anonymously arranges the return of his childhood belongings. Amelie discovers that the man was indeed made incredibly happy by this act of kindness. In fact the man intends to try to make up with his estranged daughter. Amelie enthusiastically decides to take it upon herself to become a righter of wrongs, a sort of female Zorro. She sets things up so that the hypochondriac woman and the bitter man start to think of each other as attractive, tries to convince her withdrawn father to take some trips around the world, stands up to a bully and generally does her best to spread some joy among the people she knows, or even most memorably among people she doesn't know. There is a scene where she carefully leads a blind man to his destination, all the time telling him of all the wonderful things that are going on around him. After she leaves the shot of joy and love on his face, shot from a crane, is really something to see.

But while Amelie is watching others and trying to see how she can improve their lives, someone else is watching her. An older man with a degenerative bone condition who is known as the Glass Man, Dufayel (Serge Merlin) befriends Amelie. He paints original work of his own and reworks Renoir paintings. He's having difficulty finding the correct facial expression for a girl in a painting. Amelie gives him suggestions on what the girl might be feeling or thinking. Over time the girl in the painting becomes the vehicle by which Amelie is able to haltingly and with plausible deniability express some of her own deeper feelings. When Amelie sees a man her own age lose a photo album, she gets the book and intends to return it. But Amelie is physically attracted to the man, Nino (Mathieu Kassovits), which is partly why she was watching him in the first place. She starts a complex flirtatious but anonymous cat and mouse game with Nino that will involve long searches around Paris and disguised visits to Nino's workplace to casually inquire if Nino has a girlfriend. Her shyness keeps tripping her up though, even as Dufayel shows he knows more than he lets on. You can guess the rest I'm sure.

You might say this is a romantic comedy. Obviously there are romantic elements but actually that's really a very small, though critical part of the story. It's really about doing what makes you happy, trying to help people and make the world a better place, as none of us knows when we won't be here any more. Rather than a romantic comedy Amelie is really more of a magical realism type story. We see people's hearts beat more quickly when they are happy. Pictures and photographs talk to people looking at them and discuss the person after they've gone to sleep. When someone's heart is broken they turn to rainbow colored water and suddenly crash to the floor. This was a fun movie to watch and an excellent example that people are all the same no matter where you go. As I mentioned the soundtrack is sublime. I also enjoyed the director's use of color, which can be described as psychedelic and wondrous. The ending is superb. If you haven't seen this film, you're missing out.

English Language Trailer
French Language Trailer with English subtitles available
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