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January Movies At Saigon’s Alternative Film Venues

International cinema in 2014 was marked not only by a number of solid films, but also by exceptional performances. With ‘award season’ in full swing, Saigon’s alternative film venues have lined up a number screenings of movies up for commendation in addition to some recent classics and the latest Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece.


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7th January @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

St Vincent (USA 2014)

Bill Murray shines in first-time director Theodore Melfi’s bittersweet comedy. Vincent (Murray) is a flawed, grouchy Vietnam War veteran to whom everything and everyone is insufferable, except his Persian cat. Until one day, when he reluctantly begins to babysit his new neighbour’s son, impeccably played by newcomer Jaeden Lieberher and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) who finally has the chance to show her dramatic chords. True to form, the incorrigible Vincent takes the young boy to bars, the horse races and lets him hang around his ‘lady of the night’ (Naomi Watts). Melfi indulges at times in creating scenes that are too cutesy, but his film is permeated with hilarious cynicism and he gives all his actors great lines to deliver. St Vincent has been nominated for a number of Golden Globes including Best Musical or Comedy and Best Leading Actor, while Naomi Watts is competing at the SAG Awards for Best Supporting Actress.

 

8th January @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Gone Girl (USA 2014)

David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network) is in great shape and returns to what he does best: psychological thrillers. Gone Girl might be his best film to date and for anyone that has seen the superb Zodiac or Se7en, this means a lot. Based on the homonymous novel by Gillian Flynn, the story centres on the dynamics of a beautiful, sophisticated and a bit eccentric married couple Nick and Amy Dunn, played respectively by Ben Affleck and an outstanding Rosamund Pike. The two and a half hours of Gone Girl run fast while Fincher hooks his audience through a series of twist and turns during the investigation of the disappearance or murder of Nick Dunn’s wife. This is a thriller where nobody is who they seem and where it is more about discovering who the characters truly are rather than finding out who did what. Pike’s chilling and seductive portrait of Amy Dunn is one of the greatest points of this film, which has racked up four Golden Globes nominations – Best Director, Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Score.

 

14th January @ 8 pm – deciBel Lounge

The Theory of Everything (UK 2014)

“It was surprisingly honest about our marriage [….] At times, I thought he was me;” these are some of the comments that Stephen Hawking made about The Theory of Everything and Eddie Redmayne’s performance. The bio-epic by James Marsh is based on the book by Hawking’s ex-wife and follows the life of the world-renowned astrophysicist from his years at Cambridge University, through his diagnosis of ALS, his scientific discoveries and his divorce. Although mentions of Hawking’s ground-breaking laws of black holes and relativity are present in the story, this is a film about love, marriage in extraordinary circumstances and compromise. It is always hard to portray a real person, even more so if the person in question sits among the greatest minds of humanity and he is still alive, but Redmaune’s performance as Hawking is pitch perfect. The British actor captures both the ongoing physical transformation of his character and his emotional journey. The Theory of Everything has received multiple nominations including four Golden Globes for Best Picture - Drama, Best Leading Actor - Drama, Best Leading Actress - Drama and Best Original Score.

 

15th January @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Léon: The Professional (France 1994)

While Nikita might have tickled audiences’ curiosity, Leon: The Professional is the film that put Luc Besson on the international map as one of the directors to follow. Jean Reno is Leon, a cold-blooded, machine-like hitman. Underneath the surface, he appears to be a bit naïve (and at times dorky) and hides a soft spot for defenceless creatures, like plants and his 12-year-old neighbour (Natalie Portman), whom he is forced to take in after her family is brutally assassinated during a drug raid, carried about by an drugged-up and insane Gary Oldman. Besson plays with the duality of his leading character by creating a stylish film that is simultaneously a dark thriller and a platonic love story. 

 

21st January @ 8pm - deciBel Lounge

Nightcrawler(USA 2014)

In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain) delivers his best performance to date in the role of Lou Bloom, a man so desperate to work and achieve success that he appears to have memorised every Human Resource textbook ever written. Lou is willing to do anything and he is confident that his good work ethic and intelligence will allow him to succeed in whatever field will open its doors to him. Lou finds himself work as a ‘nightcrawler’ looking for accidents, car crashes and murders in the streets of a jaded Los Angeles. Meanwhile, he begins a work relationship with a desperate TV News executive (Rene Russo) who, for the success of her channel, is willing to go far in showing the horrific crimes that Lou records for her. First-time director Dan Gilroy patiently and cleverly builds up a crescendo through which Lou’s insanity is slowly revealed. Nightcrawler could be seen as an investigation into the mind of its sociopathic leading character or also as an accusation towards the cunning media, whose desire to shock with brutality will stop at nothing. What is truly chilling about Gilroy’s thriller is that there is not a shred of guilt or morality behind his protagonists and their actions.

 

22nd January @ 8pm - Saigon Outcast

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Japan 2013)

In 2013, when Hayao Miyazaki announced that he would retire from Studio Ghibli, fans all over the world mourned at the possibility of the closure of the most beloved and successful animation studio this side of Pixar. Luckily, they have been proven wrong….at least for the moment. Directed by Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko), The Tale of Princess Kaguya is one of the latest films to come out of the Japanese studio. Almost ten years in the making, the hand-drawn animation is based on an ancient Japanese tale, narrating the story of a poor woodcutter who finds tiny, doll-like girl inside a bamboo stalk, which, upon being brought back to his home, transforms into a human girl named Princess. Presented at the Cannes Film Festival, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a masterpiece.

 

28th January @ 8 pm – deciBel Lounge

Still Alice(USA 2014)

Terms of Endearment successfully portrayed a family dynamic while dealing with a terminal illness, 50/50 put a comedic twist on cancer and Love & Other Drugs proved that one can make a romantic comedy about Parkinson’s disease. But none of these films did what Still Alice does, which is narrating the world, the events and the emotions exclusively from the point of view of the patient. Julianne Moore has been praised all over (and nominated for nearly every awards on the planet) for depicting Dr. Alice Howland’s slow degradation due to a premature Alzheimer’s disease. The journey that unfolds for Alice and her family, (played by Alec Baldwin, Kirsten Stewart and Shane McRae), is shown on the screen with eloquence and made truly special by Julianne Moore’s performance.

 

29th January @ 8 pm – Saigon Outcast

Gran Torino (USA 2008)

Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a racist and disgruntled Korean War veteran who lives isolated from everyone and everything. Still haunted by the horrors of the war, he shows no sympathy for its neighbourhood and its inhabitants, whose selfishness, violence and criminality are an affront to him and to anyone that has fought for his country. Kowalski seems to care only about his antique car: a Gran Torino. The story revolves around the relationship that Kowalski builds with a Hmong teenager in his neighbourhood after he catches him trying to steal his beloved car. Eastwood, who also directed the film, touches on themes of racial prejudice, what it means to be a real man in the US and most importantly, the ultimate salvation of a hero estranged from a world that he no longer recognises. 

 

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