Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
This year, 64 of the greatest comedies of all time duke it out for the coveted title: Film Freaks' Best
Scoring system has been completely revamped. Details to come. But you'll love it.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
I have a 10-year-old son who begs to go to every kid movie that he sees advertised on TV. Most of them are crap, and in 2007, I got dragged to see films I'd never even watch when they arrive on HBO or Showtime. (In 2007, they included Underdog, The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, and Firehouse Dog.) I was thrilled with Ratatouille and Enchanted, so sometimes I get surprised.
The Water Horse is one of those rare films aimed at the younger set that I actually liked. I'll break it down a little:
Acting: Good, especially Alex Atel as Angus, Ben Chaplin as Mr. Mowbray, and Brian Cox as The Narrator (he's always damn good anyway, even with a heavy Scottish accent.)
Effects: The water horse emerges from his egg looking nearly real and remains that way as he grows into a very large monster in the loch.
Story: Fairly believable and totally enjoyable. I had a tiny quibble with the WWII Brit. troops on the watch for German uboats as the "bad guys," and the end was predictable, since it's a kid movie. My husband even leaned over to me and said "Free Willy!" right before Crusoe (the water horse) jumped. Yes, you can see that coming a mile away.
Cinematography: Beautiful wide shots of Scottish coastline are impressive.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Say what you like about vacuously hip exercises in emptiness like Babel, at least they don't threaten to make society unliveable for free-thinkers. That's the job of extremist fundamentalists of whatever stripe, in America represented by right-wing Christians or the sort portrayed in Jesus Camp, a documentary which looks at a Pentecostalist crusade to fire up children with the right sort of theocratic and political views.
The film was shown on A&E at the end of 2007, I learn, but it's been available on Google Video for months. I got around to it last night, and made it about 20 minutes in before I had to stop. I'm sorry, it's just too disturbing.
It's not that the views held by these people are overly wacky. They're not especially. It's amusing, for instance, to hear American Christians guffaw about the 72 virgins in Heaven thing, all the while wholeheartedly believing the world was made 6000 years ago, or that man and dinosaurs both boarded the Ark. Clearly, nutcase beliefs are not the exclusive province of one religion or the other (do Christians who mock Scientologists even realise how nutty their own space-cadet ideas sound to outsiders?).
What's scary about Jesus Camp is the very real possibility that such people could get close enough to real power to touch the hem of its garment. As I write this, Mike Hucksterbee has won some kind of caucus to put him on the road to the presidency. All right, it may not happen this time. But this is a death-cult which worships a man who was nailed to a tree. If you cut them in half they grow back twice as strong. They will keep fighting. Look at the glint in some of those eyes. This movement is something to fear.
I sat through the two hours of this 2006 film on DVD knowing my life was seeping away from me never to return, but sweet merciful sleep would not come, and I didn't do the obvious thing and turn it off. So I suppose I only have myself to blame.
I'd been attracted by the trailer, like a fool, because it seemed somewhat similar in feel to Steven Soderbergh's Traffik, in having a multiple POV and being filmed asynchronously in different places.
Not a bit of it. Traffik was cohesive in narration and there was a point to showing the various POVs. This film, on the other hand, only has a single narrative strand: boys given gun to guard goats loose off a shot in the desert that actually hits someone. That random act has two consequences, one immediate and one delayed, which takes place elsewhere. But it's all very plodding and literal. And there's never at any moment the feeling that these events have a wider meaning.
And excuse me, but WTF is the significance of the Japanese segment? Aside from getting a schoolgirl out of her clothes (the actress is in her twenties, but still) what was the point?
Babel was made by Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu, and it's also the dullest film I've ever looked at. Though shot in Japan, Mexico, the US and Morocco, it offers not a single arresting image. The characters are cyphers, not real people. Even although it's two hours of unremitting misery (the Mexican band is cheerful enough, but you're waiting for one of them to be murdered at any moment, as I believe is current on the Mexican music scene these days) there's no reason to be particularly troubled: I hadn't been given a reason to care about any of them, though I suppose the children acted well.
Despite that, the film won a slew of Oscar nominations (it won an Oscar and a Bafta for the score), as well as a nomination for the Palme d'Or at Cannes (Ken Loach actually won, which I think is actually French law) and a director's prize for Iñárritu at the same festival. I can only imagine they thought he was being mildly anti-American in portraying the US border guards as slightly unpleasant, and nobody else that year was being more overtly anti-American. In addition, it's all done in local languages, which must have delighted the jury.
We don't give out star ratings on this site, but that's not the reason I'm not giving Babel any.