Jacqueline is seeing Serenity tomorrow. I’m stuck at home watching Enterprise.* Life isn’t fair.
* Actually, I’m going to be at baccalaureate on Friday night, so I get to dress up in a funny costume too!
Yesterday, a few of the first-year faculty (Suzanne, Kamilla, and Peter) and I went to see The Interpreter with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn; most thought it was a very good film. Although I don’t specialize in African politics, it seemed to be fairly faithful to the themes of sub-Saharan Africa—the semi-obvious inspiration for the film’s fake country of Mobutu is Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe was once viewed as the savior of his people but has spent much of the past three decades terrorizing his own population, but aspects of other central and southern African countries are present as well.
The broader point raised by some in the war party of the blogosphere (e.g. ☣ Little Green Footballs), that the choice to set the story in Africa instead of the Middle East somehow is a denial of the existence of Islamic-inspired terrorism, strikes me as rather stupid. For one, the terrorist attack in the story is a political assassination—not the preferred tactic of most Middle Eastern terror groups. More importantly, I think it’s easier to think seriously about the issues raised in the film if they’re not tied up in the 9/11 framework, especially since the film doesn’t want to make it as easy as “people with guns and bombs bad.”
The new version of Walking Tall says it’s 86 minutes long. Well, it is if you count the closing credits. The movie ends at the 73 minute mark and there are an additional 13 minutes of credits on a black background. I could have probably gotten a credit if I asked. I had to watch the movie twice to make it feel like a real movie.
Not necessarily a bad movie, just too little of it.
Brian J. Noggle on Bennifer redux:
Nothing says “I love you” like giving the second Jennifer a ring that’s 73% of the one given to Jennifer I.
The only thing I suppose Jennifer Garner might possibly see in Ben Affleck is a better script than Elektra.
Jeff Licquia finds that thieves are discovering something anyone who saw Demolition Man twelve years ago already knew: biometrics don’t do a good job checking whether or not the owner is still attached to the thing being scanned. For that matter, the Tom Selleck sci-fi flick Runaway showed biometric scamming in action 21 years ago. Do the people who come up with these things just not watch sci-fi films?
Since Mom “Beat Beifuss” (the Commercial Appeal’s movie reviewer) in the Oscar picks this year, she won a crapload of free passes to Malco movies, so we went to see Hitch tonight out in Collierville. We both thought it was a very entertaining and cute movie; I’d go see it if you haven’t already.
Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey has a mostly positive review of The Motorcycle Diaries. Politics aside, as I mentioned in my review at the time, the “buddy film” character of the piece makes it most enjoyable, and it’s fair to say that the film doesn’t really take much of a political stand beyond making young Guevara the center of the story—which, I suppose, is pretty much inherent in a biopic.
Previous discussion of the movie here and here.
Just got back from seeing The Motorcycle Diaries with my friends Kamilla and Chad; overall, it’s quite an enjoyable film, although I think that knowing where Ernesto Guevera’s journey ends—or at least what that journey was eventually perverted into, depending on your perspective on communism—made it slightly hard for me to feel a great deal of sympathy for the lead. Still, it’s a good rental, and enjoyable for the “buddy film” aspect of the piece if nothing else.
Will Eisner, inventor of the graphic novel, passed away. I’ve never actually read a graphic novel, but the movies based on them have been astounding, especially Road To Perdition. That movie managed to both look beautiful and have a great story. From Hell was a good movie, but not as well received. OK, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was an embarrassment storywise, but it looked fabulous. How could it not? The storyboards were done in advance. Here’s a bit from the obituary, which is in The Economist and I believe is a free link:
Mr Eisner’s first teenage comic strips were what most teenagers might produce: a buccaneer saga called “Hawks of the Seas”, and the six-inch-high “Doll Man”. This sort of pulp was churned out in various studio partnerships, including collaborations with Jack Kirby, who later devised “X-Men”, and Bob Kane, who would create “Batman”. Mr Eisner’s career did not take off until “The Spirit”, and even that was interrupted for three years during the second world war, while warrant officer Eisner drew a character called “Joe Dope” to instruct soldiers in the use of their equipment. After that came his corporate career, until the conversation in New York.
Towards the end of his life Mr Eisner tackled anti-Semitism, a subject which had dogged him from his boyhood. He wrote a sympathetic biography of Fagin, and his last graphic novel, “The Plot” (to be published in May), was about the forging of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Mr Eisner saw that anti-Semitism was returning in the 21st century, and believed that comics were strong enough to be ammunition against it.
It constantly bothered him that art critics would not put him in the same category as “real” artists, such as Jackson Pollock or Willem de Kooning. Cartoonists, he complained, “have lived with the stigma, or the mark of Cain”, because their medium was regarded as inferior. “You are now seeing the beginning of a great maturity in this material,” he told a journalist in 2002. “And it will achieve acceptance.” His words implied, however, that there was still some way to go.
In spite of a good deal of trivial knowledge on other subjects, I went into The Aviator knowing almost nothing about Howard Hughes other than he was involved in both movies and airplanes, and little more. Knowing a good deal more now, having seen the movie and read a bit on him, he seems like a fascinating figure with most of the qualities one expects from someone that accomplished so much.
He was eccentric, to put it mildly. He had an apparent mental disorder and he’s remarkably like the typical Scorsese protagonist. He’s tormented, he treats women like objects—though he needs them horribly to stay balanced, and his life becomes increasingly unbearable as he distances himself from them—but he doesn’t descend into violence (at least in the movie), unlike Travis Bickle or Jake LaMotta.
I’m surprised to say that this movie is better than Gangs of New York, but not by much. It took me a while to forget that Leonardo DiCaprio was playing Hughes, but after thirty minutes or so I had accepted it. DiCaprio did a really good job, but it’s hard for him to age as a character. He still has a boyish quality. Oddly, though, in spite of this, he got better as the movie progressed because the movie works well. In spite of its length (almost three hours), I never looked at my watch, which I did about twenty minutes into Ocean’s Twelve.
It’s a fascinating movie and, if you like Scorsese movies, you will love this one. Surprisingly little violence, almost no nudity (typical) but some bizarre dementia, like obsessively peeing in bottles and becoming reclusive.
[I said I would see it a couple of weeks ago, but obviously didn't since it only went into wide release yesterday.]
I just watched I, Robot (DVD, Book) and have a couple of questions for you sci-fi buffs out there. Not surprisingly, the movie is no better on its second viewing than on the first. However, it did make me want to read the book—which is one of my holiday to-do items—and it’s not bad as pure entertainment.
Having me question sci-fi logic is about as useful as watching a Hollywood movie discuss economics, which this one does—badly. Even so, I have a question: why not just modify Asimov’s first law to say that a robot shall not harm the life or liberty of a human? Because it might ruin the potential for future books pondering this dilemma?
Next question: one of the reviews of the copy of I, Robot (the book) says Asimov is part of the “ABCs” of sci-fi, with the others being Bradbury and Clarke. Why not extend it by one letter and have “D”, as in Dick, Philip K.? Is he not as respected as the other three? If not, why not?
People blog about their obsessions, and one of mine is Martin Scorsese movies. He has a new movie coming out tomorrow, The Aviator, and it will probably cut into my blogging time.
Here’s an excerpt from a NYT interview with Scorsese:
With “The Aviator,” the pressure is on, because assignments should be hits, to enable quixotic auteurs to win backing for the movies they really want to make. Mr. Scorsese’s labors of love – movies like “The Age of Innocence” (1993), “Kundun” (1997) and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988) – aren’t the kinds of projects studios line up for. His most recent film, “Gangs of New York,” released two years ago, was a 25-year labor of love whose box office returns weren’t overwhelming in relation to its $100 million budget.
Jay Cocks, a screenwriter who is Mr. Scorsese’s friend and sometime collaborator (on “The Age of Innocence” and “Gangs of New York”) explained the difference for audiences: “Movies like ‘Age of Innocence’ are what my wife calls eat-your-spinach movies. ‘The Aviator’ is not an eat-your-spinach movie. This is dessert.”
At least that’s the hope. As Hughes, Leonardo DiCaprio is meant to supply the sugar rush for the young moviegoers who make films into blockbusters. Mr. DiCaprio has been the driving force behind “The Aviator.” He is the reason it was made and the reason Mr. Scorsese, who directed him in “Gangs,” was offered the picture when Michael Mann decided not to direct.
I was apparently one of a few that really admired Gangs of New York
and I’ve generally liked everything Scorsese has done, with the exceptions of The Last Temptation of Christ
. Yes, I liked The Age of Innocence
My personal favorites are the troika: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas, but as I said above, I like pretty much everything he’s done, with the noted exceptions taken into account.
I just got back from seeing Garden State (brought to Jackson by the Crossroads Film Society) with some friends. It’s a great film with lots of laughs and a bit of pathos. If you can see it on a real movie screen, do; otherwise, it’s out on DVD in two weeks.
Finals are now mercifully over. Unfortunately, I forgot to use my Professorial Powers of Evil to ask my tuned-into-the-Zeitgeist students the question that’s been bothering me for the past two weeks: what’s the deal with Lindsay Lohan? No, really, I mean it. Anyone?
Free hint to the Palestinians: you’re supposed to hire the actor to pretend to be the guy before he falls into the irreversible coma.
It’s apparently Renee Zellweger day on the blogroll; Sheila O’Malley wonders why Ms. Zellweger has a career, while Alex Knapp thinks she* looks better with a few extra pounds on her frame.
This half of Signifying Nothing is agnostic on both questions.
* Zellweger, to avoid the potential antecedent reference problem.
One Fine Jay and the Backcountry Conservative note the passing of Superman star Christopher Reeve, who died Sunday at the age of 52 after a having heart attack and falling into a coma; a full story is available from the AP.
Curiously enough, Reeve was mentioned by presidential candidate John F. Kerry during Friday night’s presidential debate in response to a question on stem cell research; at least once, Kerry accidentally referred to Reeve in the past tense.
If you think you can stand the gore (and there’s a lot of it), go see Shaun of the Dead. It’s the feel good zombie movie of the year.
Actress Fay Wray, the star of the original King Kong
, is dead at 96
I went to the 11:10 pm show of Dodgeball last night, and found it hysterically funny. Ben Stiller as fitness magnate/doofus White Goodman is clearly the central comedic character (and parry to Vince Vaughn’s slacker straight man character), but I found the pairing of Gary Cole (as “Cotton McKnight”) and Jason Bateman (“Pepper Brooks”) as the ESPN8 commentary team the perfect send-up of sportscaster pretentiousness and inanity. Plus, you’ve got to applaud including a bar named “The Dirty Sanchez” in a PG-13 film.
Dan Drezner is having trouble figuring out why Nicole Kidman is going through a bit of a dry spell on the dating scene. My working hypotheses:
- Men think she looks like Virginia Woolf when not wearing makeup.
- She’s too young for Russell Crowe.
- Her gaydar is broken (insert your own Tom Cruise joke here).
Update: Xrlq in comments points to this Kim du Toit post, which blames the drought on her previous association with Lenny Kravitz.
As mentioned earlier, I rented Love Actually and Lost in Translation last week. Not surprisingly, the combined effect of the films was to make me want to visit both London and Tokyo.
I think Lost in Translation was the weaker of the two films, although I did enjoy it nonetheless. Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanssen both gave excellent performances, the film deftly avoids a cliché resolution, and the cinematography was outstanding, but the whole is ultimately unsatisfactory—although I can’t really put my finger on why. Perhaps the weakness is simply relative to the amount of hype the film received.
On the other hand, Love Actually was a supremely enjoyable film, with excellent acting, an engaging plot, and (also) outstanding cinematography. In terms of story construction, the obvious referent is Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, but Newell uses that framework in service to a more comedic story. A minor demerit for the use of Rowan Atkinson in a throw-away role; if you’re going to use him, put him in a real role (a sin also committed less egregiously by Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral).
The only other problem with Love Actually is that the widescreen cinematography used—on the order of
2.8:1 2.35:1—would make the film virtually unwatchable on a standard 4:3 television set (and thus seems inappropriate for a comedy). Luckily, as I mentioned before, it did play on my laptop’s 1.6:1 display, though even there was ample unused screen real estate at the top and bottom of the screen.