Scene That I Love: The End of the World from Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia


Over the past few years, there’s been many movies about the end of the world.

A lot of them have been pretty bad.  I never did find the high heel that I threw at the screen while watching Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World.

And some of them have been pretty good.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and its sequels come to mind.

And then there’s Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia.  Von Trier is always going to be controversial filmmaker but no one has ever matched his brilliance when it came to capturing the end of existence.  In Melancholia, a depressed woman (played in a revelatory performance by Kristen Dunst) finds unexpected strength in the end of the world.  As can be seen in the scene below, it’s a beautifully sad film, one that ends on a note of triumphant apocalypse:

4 Shots From 4 Films: A Trip To The Moon, Moon, Apollo 18, Melancholia


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.

Happy End of the World Day!

(In certain cultures….)

4 Shots From 4 Films

A Trip to the Moon (1902, dir by Georges Melies)

Moon (2009, directed by Duncan Jones)

Apollo 18 (2011, dir by Gonzalo López-Gallego)

Melancholia (2011, dir by Lars Von Trier)

Lisa Marie Picks The 50 Best Films of The Past 3 Years


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As of this month, I have been reviewing films here at the Shattered Lens for 3 years.  In honor of that anniversary, I thought I’d post my picks for the 50 best films that have been released in the U.S. since 2010.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
  2. Exit Through The Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)
  3. Hanna (directed by Joe Wright)
  4. Fish Tank (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  5. Higher Ground (directed by Vera Farmiga)
  6. Shame (directed by Steve McQueen)
  7. Anna Karenina (directed by Joe Wright)
  8. The Cabin In The Woods (directed by Drew Goddard)
  9. 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
  10. Somewhere (directed by Sofia Coppola)
  11. Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee)
  12. Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese)
  13. Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan)
  14. Animal Kingdom (directed by David Michod)
  15. Winter’s Bone (directed by Debra Granik)
  16. The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
  17. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonagh)
  18. Bernie (directed by Richard Linklater)
  19. The King’s Speech (directed by Tom Hooper)
  20. Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig)
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Thomas Alfredson)
  22. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  23. Never Let Me Go (directed by Mark Romanek)
  24. Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
  25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
  26. Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman)
  27. Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder)
  28. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
  29. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  30. Melancholia (directed by Lars Von Trier)
  31. Super (directed by James Gunn)
  32. Silver Linings Playbook (directed by David O. Russell)
  33. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (directed by Edgar Wright)
  34. The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm)
  35. Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes)
  36. Easy A (directed by Will Gluck)
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (directed by David Yates)
  38. The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon)
  39. How To Train Your Dragon (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois)
  40. Win Win (directed by Thomas McCarthy)
  41. Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper)
  42. Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley)
  43. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  44. Rust and Bone (directed by Jacques Audiard)
  45. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
  46. Ruby Sparks (directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
  47. Brave (directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  48. Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin)
  49. Jane Eyre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)
  50. Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman)

If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees….


The Oscar nominations are due to be announced on Tuesday morning so I figured now would be a good time to play a little game that I like to call: “What if Lisa had all the power?”  Below, you will find my personal Oscar nominations.  These are the films and the performers that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for selecting the nominees and the winners. 

For those who are interested, you can check out my picks for last year by clicking on this sentence.

Please understand, as you look over this lengthy list of deserving films and performers, that these are not necessarily the films I expect to see nominated on Tuesday morning.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of a year in which I have disagreed more with the critical establishment than I have this year.  For whatever reason, the films that truly touched and moved me in 2011 appear to be the films that are totally and completely off the Academy’s radar.  These are not my predictions.  Instead, they are my personal choices and they should not be interpreted as representing the opinion on anyone else affiliated with this site.  So, if you’re angry that David Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo didn’t receive a single imaginary nomination, direct your anger at me and me alone. 

Best Picture

The Artist

Bridesmaids

The Guard

Hanna

Higher Ground

Hugo

Shame

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Young Adult

Best Actor

Michael Fassbender for Shame

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard

Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Michael Shannon for Take Shelter

Rainn Wilson for Super

Best Actress

Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia

Vera Farmiga for Higher Ground

Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Saoirse Ronan for Hanna

Charlize Theron for Young Adult

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks for Drive

Bobby Cannivale for Win Win

Jonah Hill for Moneyball

Patton Oswalt for Young Adult

Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Supporting Actress

Anna Kendrick for 50/50

Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids

Carey Mulligan for Shame

Ellen Page for Super

Amy Ryan for Win Win

Best Director

Vera Farminga for Higher Ground

Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Steve McQueen for Shame

Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Joe Wright for Hanna

Best Original Sreenplay

Bridesmaids

The Guard

Hanna

Shame

Young Adult

Best Adapted Screenplay

Higher Ground

Hugo

Incendies

One Day

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Animated Feature

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Rango

Rio

Winnie the Pooh

Best Foreign Language Film

(Please note that I do this category a bit differently than the Academy.  Whereas the Academy asks nations across the world to submit a nominee, I’m simply nominating the best foreign language films that I saw in a theater last year.  Those who follow the Oscars will note that I’ve both nominated and awarded the brilliant Canadian films Incendies, which actually was nominated for a real Oscar in this same category last year.)

The Double Hour

Incendies

Of Gods and Men

The Skin I Live In

13 Assassins

Best Documentary Feature

Bill Cunningham New York

Buck

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Jig

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Best Original Score

The Artist

A Better Life

The Guard

Hanna

The Tree Of Life

Best Original Song

“The Star-Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger

“Mujhe Chod Ke” from DAM999

“The Keeper” from Machine Gun Preacher

“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets

“Pop” from White Irish Drinkers

Best Sound Editing

Drive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

Best Sound Mixing

Drive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

Best Art Direction

Bunraku

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Cinematography

The Artist

Hugo

Melancholia

Shame

The Tree of Life

Best Makeup

Beastly

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Insidious

Sucker Punch

X-Men: First Class

Best Costume Design

Bunraku

The Help

Hugo

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Editing

The Artist

The Guard

Hanna

Hugo

Shame

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

List of Films By Number of Nominations:

10 Nominations – Hugo

7 Nominations – Shame, Sucker Punch

6 Nominations – Hanna

5 Nominations – The Artist; The Guard; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy; The Tree of Life

4 Nominations – Higher Ground, Young Adult

3 Nominations – Bridesmaids, Drive

2 Nominations – Bunraku, Incendies, Melancholia, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super, Win Win

1 Nomination – Beastly, A Better Life, Bill Cunningham New York, Buck, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, DAM999, The Double Hour, 50/50, The Help, Insidious, Jig, Kung Fu Panda 2, Machine Gun Preacher, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Moneyball, The Muppets, Of Gods and Men, One Day, Puss in Boots, Rango, Ressurect Dead, Rio, The Skin I Live In, Take Shelter, 13 Assassins, X-Men: First Class, White Irish Drinkers, Winnie the Pooh

List of Films By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Hanna

2 Oscars – Bunraku, Shame, Sucker Punch

1 Oscar – Beastly, Bridesmaids, The Cave of Forgotten Deams, Dam999, Higher Ground, Hugo Incendies, Melancholia, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super, Young Adult

So, will the Academy agree with my picks?  Well, probably not.  Indeed, it’s probable that they won’t agree at all.  And to that, I say, “Oh well.” 

The Academy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday morning.

Leonard’s Favorite Films for 2011


As we are all sharing our favorites films of 2011, here are some of my own off of the top of my head that stayed with me:

1.) Hugo (Directed by Martin Scorsese)

Of all of the films I’ve seen this year, Hugo was the only one that felt more like an Event than just watching a story. The story of a young boy who inherits an automaton from his father and is looking for a way to fix it, it’s simply a beautiful story of discovered paths, creative endeavors, and lost dreams. What makes the movie great is that the story centers on the birth of cinema. Any movie lover, once they see where the story moves is bound to end up with a smile on their faces. Strong performances by Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz help to move Scorsese’s film along, and the vibrant backgrounds are just beautiful. Hugo happens to be one of few live action motion pictures that really demands to be viewed in 3D. I’ve never seen a film use it better, and that statement actually includes James Cameron’s Avatar. Scorsese makes you believe he has a grasp of what the audience needs to see and it’s conveyed so well that I can imagine studios not making Hugo a Thanksgiving re-release next year. It truly is that good, and is my Best Picture Pick, though if Shame won, I wouldn’t be upset.

2.) Shame (Directed by Steve McQueen)

We all have our addictions (be it something that hurts or helps you) and it’s because of this that Shame hit a personal note with me. Sometimes you go into a film just expecting to see a story, only to find what you’re seeing has more to do with you than you previously thought. Last year, Black Swan was that film for me. Right now, with the exception of Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I can’t think of a better Best Actor nomination than Michael Fassbender. His Brandon Sullivan is a tortured soul who on the surface appears to be “normal” in every way, but is driven by his desires. The life he’s built for himself is thrown into turmoil with the arrival of his sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan, in an equally strong role), who suffers from issues of her own. Brandon’s sex addiction drives him to different avenues, and the hopes you have that he’ll somehow make it through are picked away by every instance where he falls. McQueen pulls no punches, as the NC-17 rating explicitly displays the life Brandon leads, doing so in such a way that the audience can’t feel any sort of amorous feelings over what’s on screen. Not since Requiem for a Dream have I felt so hurt by a film. Both films show just how far people can fall. Case in point: When the credits came up in the dark on my showing of the film, no one in the audience moved for nearly 3 minutes, and sit in silence. That was the impact it had. Long tracking shots carry the audience with the characters, and I find that McQueen didn’t care about lighting. There is one point where characters speak but the lighting is dim, but it comes across as just real. Other situations have locations that I’ve been to from time to time, so it was easy to relate to. You’re not even told how Brandon and Sissy got to where they are. It’s not necessary for this particular story. The movie basically says, “This is the important part, deal with it.” and damn if that’s not cool. Overall, it’s Fassbender who carries the film and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more films from this pair in the future (note that I haven’t seen Hunger, yet).

3.) Melancholia (Directed by Lars Von Trier)

I’m not sure how to describe Melancholia. I could say that it’s simply a beautiful story about a girl suffering from depression. I could also say that it’s an artful tale about the end of the world. When I really think about it, Melancholia is about reactions (to me, anyway). Kirsten Dunst’s Justine suffers from Melancholia and because of it, her wedding isn’t going as well as her family would like. On the surface, it appears that she is the one the biggest problems, but when a small planet (also named Melancholia) also threatens to collide with the planet, Justine becomes the grounding individual when everyone else around her appears to be losing it, and I found that to be mesmerizing. The one person who everyone seemed to have a problem with (save for her most patient sister and loving fiancée) becomes the person you’d want by your side at the end of all things. The opening of the film may seem a little off-putting with it’s slow motion overture, but these are the moments that as a viewer you should be paying the most attention to. Ironically, it isn’t until the end of the film that you may realize you want to remember what you saw in those opening moments. An easily recommended film that stays with you long after it’s ended. I saw it last week, and it’s still on my mind.

4.) Tinker Tailor Solder Spy (Directed by Tomas Alfredson)

Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy teaches us that the spy game really isn’t full of the fancy James Bond gadgetry. It lacks the Jason Bourne Jujitsu and freerunning. During the Cold War, we knew who our enemies were, they knew us and everyone moved like pieces on a Chessboard. Not willing to risk a third World War (which would undoubtedly be atomic), moves were quiet. Taking place in the early ‘70s, a botched mission that has the potential to reveal a mole within the upper echelon of a British Spy Network brings former spy George Smiley (a remarkable Gary Oldman) into the fray to find out who among the top four members could be the mole. While the film doesn’t move at a great pace (and given the time period, it really shouldn’t), it really deserves a viewing. Although Oldman’s Oscar worthy performance is bound to be noticed, I think that Benedict Cumberbatch also did really well here. Cumberbatch, who I never heard of before until the recent announcement that he’ll be in the next Abrahms Star Trek film, carries his own with the likes of Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and Oscar Winner Colin Firth with ease, and I’m sure he’ll be a picking up an award or two somewhere down the line for a future role. The film itself is a great thriller, but requires a lot of patience to be really appreciated.

5.) 50 / 50 (Directed by Jonathan Levine)

I already wrote a review for this film. The only thing I’ll add to what I said there is that for as simple as the movie is filmed, 50/50 gets its message out to the audience. The actors keep the film moving forward and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will have you alternately smiling and maybe tearful at some of the emotions he goes through. There’s very little I can say on that. This was just a great film to see.

6.) Sucker Punch (Directed by Zack Snyder) 

Sucker Punch is one of those unfortunate films where for some, the hype for it exceeded what the film gave the audience. I believe that this is partially due to the nature of the story. I think perhaps the audience may have been expecting to see girls kicking ass 24/7 throughout the movie but never run into any actual problems. The real world problems that the women in this movie endure are why the fantasies are made. The near rape sequence in the beginning of the film bothered me to the point that I couldn’t effectively write a review, but scenes like that and others helped to drive home the dangers the characters faced. This (their handling of things) was one of the elements I also loved about Sucker Punch. Viktor Frankl once stated that regardless of what happens to a person, they can choose how they react to a given situation. You can choose to let something hurt you, or choose to hold on your happiness. In Sucker Punch, Baby Doll chooses to hold on to her strength by using her imagination to her advantage. That’s all the fantasy sequences are really about. If it were shown without them, you’d basically have Escape from Alcatraz. Sucker Punch is stylish and in your face. No complaints here with that.

7.) Drive (Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn)

Drive is another movie I reviewed, and while I stand why what I said in that review, I have to note that based on Valhalla Rising, Drive is a stronger film than I previously mentioned. I’ll admit that I’m excited to be able see it again, knowing the tone of the film.

8.) Captain America: The First Avenger (Directed by Joe Johnston)

If you told me that Captain America was worth seeing, especially after I just walked out of seeing The Wolfman, I’d have laughed in your face. Truth be told, I saw Captain America twice in the theatre, I liked it so much. It was a great popcorn movie that didn’t take itself too seriously, yet cemented itself in the Avengers storyline stronger than all of the previous films before it (and that includes Thor). Green Lantern could have definitely learned something from this film.

Lisa Marie’s Picks For The Best 26 Films of 2011


Here’s the final post in my “Best of 2011” series, my picks for the best 26 films of 2011.  I’m just going to let this list stand for itself but I do want to make clear that these are MY picks and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the writers and editors on this site.  You can read Leon’s picks right here and I’m sure that my fellow writers will be posting their own picks over the upcoming weeks.  I’d also like to point out that I have limited my picks to films that I’ve actually seen this year — as opposed to just blindly jumping on the bandwagon of assumption as so many other film bloggers have done this year.* I have yet to see War Horse, Albert Nobbs, The Iron Lady, or We Need To Talk About Kevin, for instance.  However, I have seen both The Descendants and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and no, neither one of them is on my list because, regardless of what the jack-booted thugs of professional criticism may insist, I didn’t feel either one of them deserved to be listed as one of the best films of the year.  Ultimately, watching a movie is an individual experience and every individual opinion is legitimate.

(By the way, I’m doing a Top 26 list because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers.)

Without further ado, here are my top 26 films of 2011:

1)      Hanna

2)      Higher Ground

3)      Shame

4)      Hugo

5)      The Artist

6)      The Guard

7)      Bridesmaids

8)      Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

9)      Young Adult

10)  Sucker Punch

11)  Incendies

12)  Melancholia

13)  Super

14)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

15)  Win Win

16)  The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

17)  Martha Marcy May Marlene

18)  Jane Eyre

19)  Terri

20)  50/50

21)  Take Shelter

22)  Drive

23)  Soul Surfer

24)  Bunraku

25)  One Day

26)  Like Crazy

Hopefully, I should be posting reviews of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Incendies sometime next week.

—-

* You’d have to be made of Stone to claim to be a film critic and yet not realize how unethical that type of behavior is.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Melancholia (dir. by Lars Von Trier)


Let us take a moment to consider the career of film director Lars Von Trier.  Is Von Trier a visionary?  Is he a genius?  Is he an artist who forces us to look at the world in a different way?  Is he one of the major voices working in the world of cinema today?  Or is he just full of crap?  This is the debate that always seems to come up whenever one talks about Lars Von Trier and a pretty good case can be made that the man is both a genius and an idiot, an artist and a charlatan.  How, we ask ourselves, do we reconcile the fact that this man who has directed so many memorable films is also the same man who goes to Cannes and hints that he might be sympathetic to Hitler.  As a result, Von Trier’s films seem to act as both aesthetic statements and as evidence in the never-ending trial to determine whether or not Lars Von Trier is worth all the trouble.  Melancholia — which is currently both playing at theaters and available OnDemand — is the latest exhibit in a long trial.

Melancholia is both the story of the relationship of two sisters (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kirsten Dunst, who deservedly won best actress at Cannes for her performance here) and the story of what happens when a new planet called Melancholia appears in the sky and then promptly starts to move closer to the Earth.

The film is divided into two parts.  The first part takes place over the course of one long night.  Justine (Dunst) and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard who looks so amazing in a tux) attend a wedding reception at a mansion owned by Justine sister Clare (Gainsbourg) and Clare’s well-meaning but condescending husband John (Kiefer Sutherland).  While Justine and Michael, at first, appear to be the perfect couple, it slowly becomes apparent that the truth is far more complex.  The first part of the film takes its time establishing the characters and how they relate to each other but it never drags, largely because of the chemistry between Dunst and Skarsgard but also because Von Trier proves himself to be far more subtle director here than he’s usually given credit for being.  The first half of the film is full of details — some small and some not — that make us believe that these very familiar actors actually are the characters that they are portraying.  While Von Trier never explicitly show us what’s at the heart of Skarsgard and Dunst’s trouble relationship, he includes enough details that we, as the viewer, can figure it out.  Under Von Trier’s skilled direction, even such little things as Dunst’s constant struggle to keep her dress up take on an added and poignant significance.

In the second half of the film, a depressed Dunst is now living in the mansion with Gainsbourgh and Sutherland.  Despite the fact that Dunst is nearly catatonic, Sutherland has little sympathy for her and makes no secret of the fact that he’s not happy to have her living in his home.  However, things change rather quickly once it is learned that the new planet Melancholia is on a collision course with Earth.  While Sutherland insists that the two planets will not actually collide and Gainsbourgh panics, Dunst starts to find herself oddly rejuvenated by the prospect that the world might end…

If you were dismissive of Von Trier before this movie came out, I doubt watching Melancholia will change your mind.  In many ways, this film epitomizes everything that people tend to hate about his movies.  However, I loved Melancholia.  Visually, it’s beautiful and the film student in me loved the film simply for the many homages to Last Year at Marienbad.  Von Trier gets excellent performance from the entire cast but really, this is Kristen Dunst’s film and she proves that she’s capable of a lot more than just being a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.  Speaking of someone who has battled depression all of her life, I have to say that Dunst gets it right, capturing not only the pain of permanent sadness but also the odd moments of clarity that seem to come with it.  Finally, this is a unique film and it’s unique because Von Trier is a director that’s not afraid to be an egocentric asshole when it comes to telling the story that he wants to tell. 

I could spend hours debating what exactly Melancholia means and I’d probably change my mind several times during the conversation.  However, one thing is for sure: Melancholia is one of the best of films of 2011.