Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

One of the best animated films ever made, hands down. A simple, personal story told with the kind of elegance that American animation has completely brushed aside in favor of gimmicks and pop culture references. I was surprised how well the rotoscoping actually worked, because the character design is so stylized and the backgrounds are so line-heavy, that the rotoscoping serves to give the characters a sort of physical depth instead of trying to make them look more human. It avoids that Bakshi-esque uncanny valley thing. The story matches the visuals; this is a great movie about people, not a movie about its technique. It's enhanced by its technique. This is also a fairly adult movie, and when I'm saying that I'm saying it's a mature love story about adult characters, not the anime fan version of "adult," which means enough sex and violence to grab a 12 year-old boy's attention. **** Too bad it probably won't win the Oscar it deserves. Neither did The Triplets of Belleville, Persepolis, The Secret of Kells or The Illusionist...

I liked it. I can't remember if I'm supposed to hate this one, or...? I don't know, I've yet to read the book or see the Swedish film, so I had no experience with the story. What I saw was a handsome, well-shot movie full of good actors that was something of a lower-key Bond flick (starring Bond himself) that was surprisingly well-paced for a David Fincher movie. I dug it, it entertained me, and that's all I can ask. And to be honest, I went into this fully expecting to despise this movie. So it was a nice surprise. I'd like to see Fincher make the other two. I'm sure I'll get to the non-American version that has more integrity or whatever the story is eventually. ****

Well, it's certainly no Bring It On: All or Nothing. *

Wow. What a dull, frustrating movie. And you can't really dismiss it, because it's a fairly well-acted film and it is absolutely beautiful to watch. The cinematography, the special effects, the music... it's breathtaking. But the story doesn't live up to it. Once you get past the thuddingly obvious symbolism (father = nature, mother = grace, the two are conflicted but equally important, the masks fall off of our life when we die) and shot after shot of watching Sean Penn meaningfully looking at buildings (you needed an Oscar winner for this?), there's nothing there to connect with. I wasn't engaged on any level other than the beautiful visuals. And even then, I kept thinking things like "Um, do we really need to literally see the creation of the universe in order to understand the scope of this kid's brother dying at age 19?" This movie is so caught up in its own sense of profundity, director Terence Malick's apparent belief that he's being very artistic and saying Very Important Things... it becomes windy and ridiculous. For something so big, I feel like I shouldn't be able to sum up the entire thing so simplistically. It's not really pretentious or dumb, it's just so simplistic in what it wants to say and so driven to say it that it doesn't show us anything else. It's not really bullshit, either, it's just... it's not a good or fulfilling movie experience. It also needed more dinosaurs. More dinosaurs and less creepy, David Lynch's Dune-style whispering on the soundtrack. I kept wondering if the kid was going to grow up into the Kwisatz Haderach. Sadly, he does not. A beautiful achievement on a technical level, but completely cold and detached in every other aspect. It's not human. **

With any luck, no. Zero stars.

WAR HORSE (2011)
Ugh. Look, you know just from the fact that Spielberg directed it what kind of shit it's going to be. I have seriously run out of patience with this man. Right away it starts with that signature shot of a kid looking at something and being REALLY AMAZED and FULL OF WONDER, and then it just goes downhill from there with Spielberg's trademark emotional pornography, manipulation, twee moments, and typical bullshittery. I mean, maybe it didn't work for me because I'm not one of those people who thinks that horses are the most specialist, most magicalest, most noblest animals on the earth, and that the connection of specialness is automatically there even when a director takes it as a given and makes no effort to portray it at all (oh, and they're at their most inherently magical when they're doing burdensome tasks for humans, also). But really I'm just sick of Spielberg's manipulative, pandering, misogynist, boy-worshiping crap. *

How does this movie get away with saying the key to winning is undervaluing players while totally ignoring that the Oakland A's also had, like, two of the best baseball players in the league that season? Barry Zito and the other guy... Hey, I'm a dilettante, and I know this shit. They won awards! *

Fuck this movie and everyone involved in making it. The only reason this seems to exist is so that War Horse wouldn't be the most manipulative, emotionally fake bullshit nominated for Best Picture this year. Extremely False & Incredibly Dull. Oh, and with the single worst performance by a child that I've ever seen in a movie, much worse than the kid in Where the Wild Things Are, even worse than that kid in Mac and Me. Zero stars.

THE HELP (2011)
White stereotypes meet black stereotypes in a heavily stereotyped version of the 1950s/1960s South. Every white person in this movie is a cartoon bigot, totally underdeveloped, or so naive that they come across as retarded. Every black person in this movie is a pidgin-English-speaking, kindly piece of magic who suffers valiantly through degradation. There is literally no more character development than that. Don't worry, though: Emma Stone (with hair so bad she should have sued someone to get out of this flick and acting at just-slightly-lower-volume-but-still-over-the-top-even-though-she-knows-this-isn't-a-comedy-right?) somehow manages to make the case that racism actually hurts white people more than it hurts black people, and gets a writing deal out of it, not exactly solving racism (though the movie seems to think it has, rather dismissively, in a feelgood comedy sort of way), but at least personally gaining something at the expensive of the dignity of everyone around her, and that's... something? And then somehow people feel warmed by this oversaturated mess, actually manage to not puke while watching the beleaguered black characters fawn all over this apparently special person as though she's saved all black people from oppression for ever, and pretend it's a triumph that Viola Davis can get an Oscar nomination for playing a maid in 20-fucking-12. Zero stars. Zero fucking stars.


Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

There is something about Black Maids that Hollywood loves to reward when they get the chance. That is why THE ARTIST will be best picture. You heard it here first.

SamuraiFrog said...

The Artist and Hugo are the only two Best Picture nominees I haven't seen and, frustratingly, they're the two I most want to see!

Roger Owen Green said...

I don't think the kid in Extremely Long and Incredibly Boring is necessarily a bad actor. I think he did what the script required - which was, well what I said.