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*** Official "CITY OF GOD" Discussion Thread


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#1 of 55 OFFLINE   Colin-H

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Posted January 18 2003 - 04:25 PM

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT



What really struck me about this film was how it drew me into the world of Ciudade de Deus (the place). As the movie progresses, I became number and number to the Tarantino-esque violence. I can assume the residents must’ve felt the same way at that point.

I think this is a side effect of the nonchronological story telling. We see more violent crimes through Li’l Dice/Zé’s army than we would’ve had the story been presented chronologically, in which case the only major violence would’ve been Li’l Dice’s motel charade and the ensuing police pursuit.

There was no better choice than Rocket to narrate the story. He shared the same ambitions as his brother, Goose, and Li’l Dice, yet he knew that he wasn’t cut out for the thug life. (I thought the bit where he tried it on for size was humorous and excellent.) Had he had any less luck, he probably would’ve ended up selling fish like his father, but because of the breaks he got coupled with ambition and intelligence, he found his ticket out of the slum life. (He could’ve easily thrown away those opportunities like he did with Angelica and the girl from the bakery.)

Rocket also provided an outlet for our sympathy. Even though Bené and Li’l Zé were criminals, they were not unsympathetic characters. They were unhappy with their lives, and they were trying to do something about it. We have the objectivity and experience to know that what they were doing was wrong and would ultimately lead to their death, but to them, it was the best option.

I thought this was a great film, but I have a feeling that many people, as with Fight Club, will be unable to look past the violence, and that disappoints me.
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#2 of 55 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 18 2003 - 04:38 PM

This thread is now designated the Official Discussion Thread for "City of God" please, post all comments, links to outside reviews, film and box office discussion items to this thread.

All HTF member film reviews of "City of God" should be posted to the Official Review Thread.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


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#3 of 55 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 01 2003 - 11:44 AM

The look into human nature at its most primal, basic form is on full display in this film. Living life on the edge is the only way the characters in this film know how to live, and the choices they make to maintain their lifestyle are startling.

This is a really good film.
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#4 of 55 OFFLINE   Quentin

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Posted March 01 2003 - 05:25 PM

I saw this film some time ago. I thought it was being touted as a 2002 film, and as such, I listed it as my #1 film of last year.

The film speaks for itself - I've rarely seen a film so well made and compelling. But, to think it is Mareilles' first feature...and done with non-actors (he "discovered" and "cast" his film with people off the street, then coached them in a makeshift "film camp" until he decided who would play whom)...is just amazing.

This film is a MUST see.

#5 of 55 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted March 03 2003 - 03:23 AM

This is one of these films that (I think) opened only in L.A. and NYC in 2002. Most of the rest of us had to wait until recently to see this film. As I’ve already commented on it in the ‘2003 Foreign, Alternative and Independent’ thread, I won’t repeat them here.

But I was disappointed to see that City of God was not nominated for an Oscar. But then, I don’t know it was Brazil’s entry or not.

Great film—great cinematography.
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#6 of 55 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted March 03 2003 - 04:28 AM

Didn't even open in NYC/LA until this year - those of us that saw it last year were either in Brazil or at festivals.

And, yes, it was Brazil's entry, and its lack of a nomination is being ascribed to the older academy members who make up the nominating committee for Foreign Language Features being uncomfortable with the violence. Ironically, it will be eligible for consideration in every category but foreign language film next year.
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#7 of 55 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted March 03 2003 - 06:02 AM

Thanks for the info, Jason.
Quote:
And, yes, it was Brazil's entry, and its lack of a nomination is being ascribed to the older academy members who make up the nominating committee for Foreign Language Features being uncomfortable with the violence.

But not at all put off by death (by the thousands) and destruction in The Two Towers, the very graphic (and personal) fighting and killing in Gangs of New York, the random violence and killing, as well as the implied killing of the holocaust in The Pianist, the single (but sudden and graphic) murder in The Hours, or even the stylized murder of the husband (wouldn’t you have done the same?) in Chicago. Posted Image
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#8 of 55 OFFLINE   Jason Seaver

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Posted March 03 2003 - 06:20 AM

I gather the FLF nominating committee/group is much smaller and, if the charge is correct, skews older or some such than the ones nominating for the other awards. I don't get it, myself, but that's what I've been reading.

Personally, I think the FLF nomination process needs to be axed and the category subject to the same rules as the other categories - in recent years we've seen such absurdities as Taiwan having to choose between Crouching Tiger and Yi Yi, Talk To Her not being submitted because of politicking within Spain's nominating committee, City Of God not being nominated for some political reason in the Oscar committee, No Man's Land being nominated (and winning) despite a plurality of its dialogue being in English, and a fairly-acclaimed film being deemed ineligible because it was Palestinian and the Academy doesn't recognize it as coming from any country (what, is Israel going to nominate it?).

Of course, the downside to that would probably be the further Mirimax-ization of foreign film - everything released in the fall, kept under wraps unless it's nominated for awards, etc.
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#9 of 55 OFFLINE   Mark Pfeiffer

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Posted March 04 2003 - 07:55 AM

It's one thing to be uncomfortable with the violence. I think it's something entirely different when the violence is being carried out by children. I suspect that was probably the mitigating factor with enough Academy members. The scene with two of the Runts being wounded and one being executed could have been more than some could take. Powerful stuff and a great film.
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#10 of 55 OFFLINE   Lew Crippen

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Posted March 04 2003 - 08:12 AM

Quote:
I think it's something entirely different when the violence is being carried out by children.
True enough, but it is an accurate reflection of life in the favellas. It was not that long ago that the cops in Rio controlled the crime problem by systemically killing children.
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#11 of 55 OFFLINE   Phil Florian

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Posted March 06 2003 - 04:00 PM

Just saw this film last night (in a packed theatre full of senior citizens, no less!! Take that FLF committee!). I haven't been engrossed in a film this much in quite a while. The fact that none of the folks in it were "actors" (if I can believe the press) but were recruited from the neighborhoods that this movie was talking about was amazing to me. They had gritty, natural and moving performances. They really held the screen. I think the content is much more important that style in this case, but the film had a wonderful style too. The 60's looking like a spaghetti Western (many of which were shot in the decade), the 70's had bits of the the blaxploitation to it while the 80's was the only portion that felt "real" (in movie terms, that is). The way they told the story with storylines that crossed over one another back and forth. It was all some great shooting that, content aside, it worthy of notice.

Content is what sells this film. The scene with the Runts will be one of those that will haunt me for a loooong time.
The fact that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't completely hate Little Ze and I wondered why. The joy at realizing that someone made it out (so many of the 90's gang pics rarely showed any silver lining...it was nice to see a bit of that with this movie).

I am curious about how audiences reacted to the humor in the film. The humor was odd and it was intense counterpoints to the violence and the funnier the bit, the worse the follow up. The banana scene was a hoot but it was followed by another banana scene that was not. The "Why didn't he kill me?" scene started out funny the way it was shot but surely didn't end that way.

The reason I bring it up was the character of Tuba. He was in most of the movie and was almost always shoved aside by whomever he was with. Then when he is at his most annoying, he is abruptly shot. There were a few chuckles at this point and it was for me uncomfortable because I couldn't see anything funny about the scene. Just wondering what people thought about it.

I could go on (okay, go on more) but I will stop. If you read this and haven't seen it...go.


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#12 of 55 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 07 2003 - 12:52 AM

Unfortunately, I thought a lot of the film was funny (in a dark/black humor vein), but most of the audience wasn't in a chuckling mode, so I toned down my chuckling.

Lil' Ze gets to do whatever he wants with very little repurcussions (up until the end), and the scene with Tuba just yakking and yakking until Lil' Ze just pops him in the head, it's both disturbing, shocking and funny (because in the back of my mind, there have been many times that I've been in the same situation that Lil' Ze was in and would have loved to just shut the other person up for some peace and quiet). Ususally we see this played out in fantasy sequence in the movies, but here, it's played out for real.

That's the distorted reality of City of God, and how little other human life is regarded when a person, like Tuba, becomes of little use to someone (Lil' Ze) who has no fear of reprisals/punishment and treats the extinguishing of a human life as if they were squashing a bug that was annoying them at that moment in time. There is very little in terms of remorse within Lil' Ze because his only outlook in life is killed or be killed while cultivating his drug trafficking empire. People are expendable, and you are either on his side or you die.

Lil' Ze is the embodiment of what happens if someone grows up with no moral compass, no guidance, and no value of human life, plus no fear in giving into his impulses.
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#13 of 55 OFFLINE   Bryant Trew

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Posted March 07 2003 - 03:34 AM

Holy crap what a damn good movie. Funny thing is, for all the violence in City of God, the violence in Rules of Attraction was far worse to me. In COG the violence was par for the course (like watching a war movie). With ROT it was just blunt and in your face for the sole purpose of disgusting you.
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#14 of 55 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 07 2003 - 07:06 AM

Violence in City of God was just part of the vocabulary in the film.
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#15 of 55 OFFLINE   Phil Florian

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Posted March 08 2003 - 03:24 AM

Patrick, good points. Li'l Ze was the most difficult character to watch because even though we know who he is right the outset, I still found myself hoping he would "wake up" and get it together. His influence on the City of God was at times positive...violence was down (okay, because he killed everyone else) but people weren't robbed, murder was down, etc. One kept hoping he would see the benefit of that type of community but it didn't work. Then when Benny says to him, basically "you need to get laid" we hope for a bit that the love of another person would be enough, but that too got turned on its head. He was easily one of the most complex screen "villians" in a long while.

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#16 of 55 OFFLINE   Kirk Tsai

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Posted March 08 2003 - 05:16 PM

I am in agreement with most that City of God is a great film. A couple questions because it moves at such a fast speed, with so many characters and visual looks:

Were we ever told about Anjelica after Benny's death? I don't think so, but just to be sure.

What of the member of the Tender Trio that gave up the criminal ways? Was him calmly walking by the cops the last time we saw him?

BTW, I ask because I cared about these two characters, but I don't see their abrupt exit to be a flaw at all. Besides the juggling of different times and point of views, the use of a narrator here is completely justified. It is one person telling us a story; Rocket says several times that a character's story should only be told later, as if to hold himself back. That's the way we tell stories, going from one thought to another without having a complete vision of the long narrative.

Of course, this wouldn't have worked if the filmmakers didn't have a complete hold on the massive story.

#17 of 55 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted March 20 2003 - 10:53 AM

Kirk, IMDb and the film credits went by characters real names rather than the nicknames (it appeared/appears), and I can't quite remember their nicknames. But yes, the one kid walks by the cops and into the church. He is mentioned several times later as a kid that got out by going religious.

Of course Rocket's brother is shot by Lil Dice and the third member is killed running from the cops.


Anjelica is not mentioned after Benny's death. I thought that maybe she and Rocket still had a chance, but clearly the trauma of Benny's death superceded that. Similar to the Knockout Ned's girlfriend who drops from the story after the rape, he only mentiones her in the context of "I can't stand to look at her now".


So was that the real Knockout Ned in the credit's footage? I was pretty sure it wasn't the actor, although we saw the interview scene inside the film as well.


Lil Ze/Dice reminded me of two other characters, Goeth (Fiennes) in Schindlers and Tommy (Pesci) in Goodfellas. He was just flat out crazy dangerous and obsessed with violence as a means of self-definition and importance in his world. Because of that I never saw him coming back, and I thought he just might kill Benny even.


I didn't find the film funny, though it did utilize that lively, quirky style to keep the pace up (such as the "why didn't he kill me" reset). It wasn't humorous like Pulp Fiction for example. The humor was more like Goodfellas, which is the main film I would compare to City of God. Those 2 films share not only storytelling methods, but also the theme of "how did this gang come to be and how did I get to my place within it". The other storytelling methods I saw in the film were Pulp Fiction (it's focus on one person's storyline at a time from time to time) and Trainspotting (rhythm of the scenes especially). Casino could also be mentioned, but then its similarity to Goodfellas makes that obvious I suppose.


I can't imagine a fan of all of those films not loving City of God. It would have been my #1 film for 2002 had it been qualified, and it goes strongly to the top of my list for 2003 daring somebody to knock it off. If this were an English language film I think it would do pretty strong biz (in the violent gangster film BO range of course).

#18 of 55 OFFLINE   Quentin

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Posted March 20 2003 - 11:55 AM

Glad to see you finally saw it, Seth!

I saw it last year AND it qualified for a foreign language film Oscar this year, so I did rate it as a 2002 film...and it was my #1.

#19 of 55 OFFLINE   Kirk Tsai

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Posted March 20 2003 - 12:06 PM

I was wondering about the closing credits Knockout Ed too. If it's the real footage, the filmmakers almost replicated the entire thing, from little mannerisms to compositions.

I was also reminded of Pesci in Goodfellas Lil Ze and thought about the possibility of him killing Benny. Of course, in retrospect, it probably never would have happened. Benny was the only thing in the world he Lil loved.

From what I understand, because it was not nominated for best foreign language film this year, it is ironically eligible for any award in next year's Oscars. Is this correct?

#20 of 55 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted March 20 2003 - 01:13 PM

I would have to assume that the footage of Knockout Ned in the closing credit has to be the real footage because it'd be silly to shoot 2 segments of the same "interview" for the film.

I thought of another darkly funny bit (to me): in the 1st act when the young couple (the "gangster" and his girlfriend) decide to run away from the city to start a new life, and the "gangster" sees the cops show up, panics, and car-jacks the 1st car he sees, gets his girlfriend in the car with the owner still driving the car, and then shooting ensues, the driver stomps on the accelerator without the "gangster" in the car, and the "gangster" is running for his life all through the neighborhood. I dunno, I just thought the whole scene was played in a dark comedy way. That the "gangster" gets shot up by the cops is not even all that interesting, it was the chase, and the guy running for a new life, trying to catch up to his girlfriend in the car-jacked car that imparted the deep dark humor in the scene with the while energy of panic and adrenalin pumping as you realize this guy is literally running for his life, and he's going to lose that race spectacularly.
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