dir: Peter Weir
It is no wonder that the film hasn't set the box office alight. It's not a conventional film, with a conventional story and a 5 part structure. There's no love interest, revenge motivation, excessive one-liners, hyperkinetic coke binges in the editing sweet and no saccharine Hollywood ending. There is also little for people who are not anal retentive history buffs or at least fans of movies set in the Age of Sail (being the Napoleonic Wars between France and England et al) to be kept entertained by ultimately in this film.
It is satisfying for me, but then I'm one of the few reviewers that has actually read every one of the 20 Aubrey - Maturin novels written by Patrick O' Brian. And even then the film is satisfying more on an intellectual level than on the visceral / emotional level. Which is a damn shame.
Yes, I've read every book in the series by Patrick O'Brian. That has not, amazingly enough, turned me into one of those ubernerds of the same ilk as Tolkien obsessives that say Peter Jackson should be killed painfully for impugning the majesty that is the Lord of the Rings trilogy by presuming to be able to make it into a film that's not a thousand hours long. I very much enjoyed the tales of Lucky Jack Aubrey and naval surgeon and spy on His Majesty's Secret Service Stephen Maturin, in fact I loved reading them.
dir: The Wachowski Brothers
Wow. I mean, honestly, wow. This is a perfect picture. Actually, it's a picture perfect example of how even when people have a guaranteed hit on their hands, all the money in the world, complete creative control and the freedom to do whatever they want, people, in this being case the Wachowski Brothers, can still find a way to fuck things up seven ways from Sunday. And not in that
good way that your girlfriends like so much.
Now, just as something of a preamble, I'd like to digress from our agreed upon route and simply say
I know that in terms of the film reviewing universe, I tend to come across, my brethren and sistren, about as coherent and as film literate as the average lunatic poster on one of the Aint-
It-Cool message boards, with a similar grasp of swearing and general deportment. We're talking
about people that condemn a film outright two years before it gets made. Be that as it unavoidably may, it doesn't mean I am incapable of talking about film in an intelligent and less sailorish manner. Call it laziness, call it having read too many Viz comics at a young age, let's just agree to disagree that at least in my case it is much easier to simply ridicule the intellects of the people involved with crappy films, say 'fuck' a lot, and use off-colour humour regarding priest - altar boy jokes rather than actually having to analyse the films in the manner that would get your average Cinema Studies graduate wet in the pants region.
dir: The Wachowski Brothers
It's all about the sunglasses...
Even after watching the film twice, I am left perplexed and utterly confused. Not at anything actually in the film. No, what has managed to confuse me tremendously (to be honest, it's not hard to do that, microwave ovens still confound me) is the sheer abundance of people who are vehemently hating this film. In public and in private, in the sanctity of their own bedrooms and on street corners.
See, I've got not the slightest issue with anyone not liking the film and saying that it's a monumental bore. I've seen identical twins hold two diametrically opposed views on the same piece of music, and I often diverge strenuously in opinion with my closest friends regarding certain films. So I don't really get on a high horse about these kinds of things.
What I can understand is the people who hated the first film hating this one too. What I don't get is those who liked the first one hating Reloaded. I flat out don't get it. After all, it's even more like the first one than the first one is!
Too many fights? Style over substance? The sunglasses and the latex? PEOPLE, please! These films were ALWAYS about style over substance, and fighting, and people looking exceedingly cool in the Matrix when they're kicking three shades of fuck out of their enemies. Has anyone hidden the fact that these are essentially live action manga stories writ large across the big screen: overly colourful, loud acting for the cheap seats, oodles of action and convoluted and ridiculously
complicated plots that ultimately fall apart if you probe too deeply?
I've come to realise that practically every action sci-fi film is ultimately flawed in the plot department. I'm sure as shit not apologising for the kind of people that make sci-fi films with Jean
Claude Van Brain Damage in them. I mean even the decent stuff has plot holes.
At least for me there are the times where there may be plot holes, but at least I don't feel insulted by them ignoring something fundamentally flawed in their own construction of their story. Sometimes a film earns your goodwill so that you forgive some howling, gaping plotholes. Other times you just accept them without thinking. But everything, especially sci-fi big budget stuff has plotholes.
dir: Errol Morris
When you look upon the face of a man in his 80s, you tell yourself
that you can almost read his life in the lines and contours thereon.
At least that's the illusion I had watching this award-winning
documentary by Errol Morris about Robert McNamara. He's hardly a
household name around the world, but more than a few people should
remember the man who was the Secretary of Defense in the States during
one of the most turbulent times in the country's history. Although one
could argue the times were no less turbulent then than they are now.
One could almost say from watching this film that McNamara suffers
from a tremendous amount of guilt for his actions as the Secretary of
Defense. Surely he doesn't have deep regrets from his time as the head
of Ford, or his time as one of the highest paid executives in the
world. This fascinating glimpse into history almost seems to be an
extension of McNamara's search for redemption. In fact the method in
which he is filmed deliberately gives proceedings the appearance and
feel of a confessional.
dir: Gregor Jordan
Australia has a long and varied history of making movies its own citizens hate. Most countries obviously have their own film industries, none which match the economies of scale available to US production, or the rapid fire super cheap production levels of countries like India or Hong Kong. Australia makes comparatively less films than most industrialised countries, but is at least to my mind unique in that the main hurdle its films have to first traverse and generally stumble over is the idea of ‘cultural cringe’ and the antipathy of the local audience. Antipathy means more than just not giving a fat rat’s arsehole: it’s active dislike.
There’s a better and more expansive explanation out there for everything that cultural cringe entails. Essentially, it refers to the concept that representations of Australia and Australians are uniquely unpalatable to domestic audiences, and generally found to be embarrassing or, more obviously, cringeworthy. Some say it has to do with the explicit anti-intellectualism of mainstream Australian society, others point to the perception that, apart from being generally badly made, the way Australians are portrayed in our own films is hokey, parochial and distorted, rendering characters into nothing more than risible caricatures.
dir: Bryan Singer
Nerds. Does God love them? Or hate them? Are they the saviours of this world, or are they a plague upon the rest of humanity? Are they the result of unpopular childhoods, or a genetic mutation unto themselves, blessed with incredible memories for the most trivial of data and a pathological ability to hyperfocus on the most worrying of details?
At the very least, nerds and geeks in their pupal stage (where they are invisible and mostly benign) or adult stage (where they can be lethal: look at Micro$oft Overlord Darth Bill Gates, David Letterman and Henry Rollins) are friends to capitalism. Their pool of disposable income is vast and desirable, vast because we are talking about people that will spend their last hundred bucks on a DVD boxset of The Prisoner or a Boba Fett lunch box signed by Jeremy Bulloch instead of paying the rent. They have what is known in cognitive psychology circles as "low impulse control" and a yen for collecting. They want this geeky thing, they must have this geeky thing; no amount of arguing or sex can dissuade them.
So, it makes you wonder; if the ranks of the geeky are made up of the socially inept, the unpopular and the disenfranchised, why is it that there are so many films, books and magical bits of merchandise aimed at them, trying to fulfill their nerdy needs? If they truly are a section of society that is neglected and despised, then why does everything seem to be aimed at them? Truly, they must be the sustainers of markets, they make so many things possible. Without them the cinemas would be filled exclusively with films starring Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez and Freddie Prinze Michelle Gellar Jnr.
And the rest of you normals should thank us for it.
Honestly, for nerds this is a Golden Era. Spider-Man last year, Hulk this year, three Lord of the Rings films released over three years, two Matrix sequels in the one year, multiple adaptations of comic book licensed filth (Blade II, Daredevil, this film), a third Terminator film, Gulf War II etc. Who says that Hollywood doesn't love you? Excluding George Lucas of course, who whilst being a very powerful and technically proficient (and let's not forget immensely wealthy) nerd hates all of you. Hates you all with a passion that would melt the polar icecaps if we gave him half a chance.
dir: Len Wiseman
Read here, my people, read and weep...
It is certainly not worth the wait. Released here in Ostraya about four months after its Stateside release, instead of maturing in the interim like wine it has festered like a dead possum in some particularly inaccessible part of your roof. And whilst it's not so bad that it made me want to punch other patrons for being as dumb as myself for buying a ticket, it didn't leave me with a feeling of deep joy in my underpants.
Speaking of which Kate Beckinsale is certainly cute, and isn't too a bad actress, and despite the other critiques that I've read she isn't the problem with this film. She sells most of the scenes where she's
supposed to look nasty (in a hot way) and when she's emoting and stuff. Of course she mostly looks ridiculous in the action scenes, having absolutely no range of mobility in those tight fetish outfits. When she's running in so-called 'action' scenes she's looks about as convincing a mover as Stephen Hawking with none of the acrobatics that he possesses in comparison. But she's okay.
dir: Richard Curtis
This is a singular work of staggering banality. Now, that’s an achievement and a half. From the makers of such romantic classics as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill to make a film that eclipses those in terms of superficiality and mawkish sentimentality takes a phenomenal amount of skill, money and enough ham to cover the Tower of London three times over in order to achieve their goals. And goddamn them, they get there in the end.
I hate to say it, but this 2 hour commercial for whatever the hell it is that director Richard Curtis is ineptly selling made me want to destroy Christmas forever. If anything, despite the clear intention set out in the movie’s title to be a concentrated explosion of goodwill and love towards all men and women, this film, I believe, has decreased the amount of love that was previously available in the world. If you are a person for whom there is no more love, for whatever you thought was the reason you could get no love in your life, this crappy flick is responsible.
dir: Billy Ray
When you hear about the plot of a movie focussing solely on the exploits of a journalist, you immediately think that it would have to be a rip-roaring extravaganza to match the likes of All the President’s Men, or Michael Mann’s The Insider. How else could one justify devoting all that time, money and celluloid to a profession big on typing and drinking? It doesn’t immediately lend itself to the action formula until they leave the office and start getting involved in gun fights and car chases.
As well, anyone who knows even the least amount about the notorious Stephen Glass whose rise and fall is charted in this film knows that the idea of devoting a film to his exploits isn’t meant in a complimentary fashion. It’s not meant as praise, or to lionise him for his good works for the ages. In fact it’s the magnitude of his ‘crimes’ that seemingly justifies such a study of events as they came to pass.
And what is his crime, ultimately? Did he molest children, sell secrets to the Russians, murder his mum or punch an umpire in the face? Of course not, though with a sociopath like Glass anything’s possible. Instead, he committed the gravest sin a journalist can ever consider: he made stuff up in his articles and then lied about it.
Horror, you’re thinking. It’s one of the sure signs of the Apocalypse, you’re thinking. A journalist making stuff up for a magazine hardly seems to warrant a biopic for most of us. Journalism as a profession has been demonised so concertedly over the last century or so to the point where it probably ranks around the level of trustworthiness associated with ambulance-chasing lawyers, Catholic priests, politicians and prostitutes.
dir: Gaspar Noe
The film's tagline, one of the first lines of dialogue and the film's final epigram is 'Le temps détruit tout', or 'time destroys everything'. Well, even after watching the film in its entirety, I don't agree. In enduring this film, I think there is greater accuracy in saying that it is not 'everything' that gets destroyed, it is we the audience. And it is not 'time' per se that does the damage, it's this film and its sadistic director, Gaspar Noe.
dir: John Dullaghan
The likelihood of you seeing this film and enjoying it depends on whether a) you’ve heard of Charles Bukowski, b) you’ve read and liked the writing perpetrated by Bukowski, and c) you’re happy to watch a two hour documentary about a very damaged, eloquent bastard in a cinema.
You have to weigh this up against likely alternatives, such as instead of watching Bukowski: Born Into This, you could be watching a reality television program where one of the participants is called Hotdogs. How do you live with yourself?
On each of the three points, I am sold, so along I went to watch a flick about this deeply ugly man. Heroically ugly. Child-traumatisingly ugly. Anyone who has read the man’s work and did not know what he looked like might be both surprised and reassured. He looks pretty much exactly as he should. The real ugliness is on the inside though, and that is represented as well, because it cannot help but pour forth.
As a career alcoholic he clearly developed a way of speaking so that, whether drunk, really drunk, fall over drunk or sober, he always sounded the same. Speaking either conversationally or reading his poetry, you can never tell whether he’s drunk or sober. Just to clarify matters a tiny bit more, I doubt at any stage of the two hours that we ever see him completely sober.
dir: Andrew Jarecki
And I thought I came from a fucked up family…
What is true in life is rarely shown with such clarity in films: sometimes in the pursuit of ‘truth’, the more information we are given, the more sides we try to understand regarding a conflict, the more elusive that ‘truth’ becomes. No example is as representative of that essential conundrum as this film by Andrew Jarecki, who has managed to make a compelling and disturbing documentary on his maiden voyage.
I know, using the words “compelling and disturbing” about documentaries is about as usually appropriate as saying “intelligent and life affirming” about a film with Adam Sandler or Melanie Griffith in it, but at least in this case it is appropriate, or at least accurate as far as I’m concerned.
Cutting through the meat of the story to its bare bones: a father and son are accused of abusing some kids in a quiet, bourgeois suburb called Great Neck, in New York. There is much conjecture as to whether the people concerned were guilty of the horrific array of crimes they were alleged to have committed. This film gives us pause, as viewers, forcing us to question that which we’re shown on a continual basis. At least, for those of us who find the story and the way in which it is told interesting. Someone bored by it would probably find it excruciatingly dull, but that certainly doesn’t apply to yours truly.
dir: Ang Lee
Ang Lee's Hulk is an incredible achievement, but not so incredible
when you consider the films the man keeps making. Upon first hearing
that Ang was making a comic-book adaptation I thought, "Great, they're
trying to turn Lee into a John Woo. Soon he'll be making Mission:
Impossible films alongside Tom Cruise's healthy ego". I need not have
worried. Here he has made the film least likely: it's dramatically
compelling, it's incredibly well put together, it looks incredible
(which is kind of crucial for the film medium, I believe), and it
achieves a level of depth that is nothing short of amazing in a film
you were expecting to be nothing but action.
Essential to the story is the emphasis on various parent - child
dynamics, but central even more so than that is the idea that parents
can sometimes severely damage their own children unintentionally. Thus
the story focuses on two people whose fathers have left indelible
scars upon their psyches, and in one case the damage goes even deeper
dir: Patty Jenkins
This isn’t a story about the redemptive power of love. It isn’t a story where everything will work out all right in the end. It is, in essence, a sad love story all the same.
It would seem to contradict the advertising and many of the reviews already written about the film. Its two main selling points were the fact that Charlize Theron won the Academy award for Best Actress for 2003 in the role, oh, and she happens to play a serial killer. And seeing as it is based on the life and times of Aileen Wuornos, convicted and recently executed killer, you’d think the focus would be more on the killings than any other elements. At its heart, however, it’s about a horribly damaged woman and her desperate attempts at finding some happiness in a world that had guaranteed her thus far a life of ceaseless misery.
For all those people that claim the film excuses her actions and seems to justify them when it attempts to humanise the character that Theron embodies, I have to say, they’re trying really hard to be deliberate fuckwits. I don’t mean people who didn’t like the film itself. I’m never going to criticise a person for not holding the same opinion about a film as myself, that’s just idiotic because film, like everything else in existence, is so subjective. I mean those people that have tut tutted and clucked their tongues because they claim the film is an exercise in apologetics giving justifications and excuses for a person that doesn’t deserve them. I feel like asking them how they manage to read or write anything when their blinkers are strapped on so goddamn tight around their heads. Doesn’t it cut off the circulation?
By humanising her, by making her worthy of our pity it does not imply that we should absolve her for her crimes or her sins. I have nothing to forgive her for, and she certainly doesn’t need my absolution. Perhaps all she is asking for is my understanding, at least a moment’s consideration. That isn’t beyond me, and it certainly isn’t beyond the filmmakers and the performers involved in terms of evoking that remarkably well on the screen. But let’s not forget the apparent crucial facts: she killed seven men, one at least the film clearly imputes was in self-defence, but all the others were what we call “innocent”. We’re under no illusions about her actions, even if she is. We are privy to her choices, her decisions, and we see her for what she is. That doesn’t mean we approve of what she’s does. In fact whilst watching it, despite knowing what I knew about the story, I still desperately hoped at certain points that she wouldn’t do what was clearly inevitable. To watch a person do the unthinkable again and again, and to be okay with it, it’s shocking to any reasonable audience member, which is also why it’s so compelling.
dir: Chan-wook Park
What a wonderfully keen film this is that no-one will get to see. I mean honestly: who goes to see Korean films at the cinema? They’re hardly hot ticket items.
You don’t see people selling their own or someone else’s organs or offering oral favours for the honour of getting to see a Korean film, good or otherwise. Maven of the multiplexes that I am, doyen of the drive-in, still I can honestly count the amount of Korean films that I’ve seen on one hand.
People generally say that and it’s hyperbole, but I actually mean that I’ve only ever seen five Korean films in my life: Bichunmoo (which was fairly mediocre), Musa the Warrior, (which was beyond mediocre), Volcano High (which I love, despite its abject madness), The Isle (which has one of the nastiest scenes I’ve ever seen in any film or in real life) and Oldboy. Without a doubt Oldboy is the absolute greatest movie I’ve ever seen. From Korea, that is.
I don’t know enough about Korean culture to understand their cinema, which is to say that the way I generally get to ‘know’ about a culture is from their cinema, and if I haven’t seen enough of a culture’s films then I tend to know fuck-all about their people.
I delude myself into thinking that I have some greater understanding of Chinese and Japanese culture because I’ve seen so goddamn many of their movies and read so much about them through their fiction and their media. It hardly seems like a credible way in which to get to know a place, but honestly, how else is it supposed to be done? Apart from actually travelling there of course. That’s for people with more money and courage than myself, I’m sorry to say.
dir: Prachya Pinkaew
The main point that’s supposed to be in Ong Bak’s favour is that it’s a brawling action film which rejects the use of CGI and the wire-work that has become (apparently) sickening in its ubiquity. In other words, the fights are supposed to be more grounded and realistic; none of this airy-fairy floating on bamboo crap for our beef jerky munching friends.
When you think about it, on its own it isn’t really that much of a selling point. Are there lots of people hearing about or seeing the ads to flicks that are coming out, who see the edited highlights of people perched atop a mountain top or balancing on top of a lake having-at one another with swords, icicles and passing school buses, see the films and then say ‘Wait one gosh-darned moment: this prancing Asian malarkey ain’t my cup of Bonox?’
Surely if there’s a bunch of people that hate that style of genre filmmaking there’s also at least two other groups of people: a) the ones that are the market for these fantastical delights who are grateful and appreciative and b) people who don’t really go in for these kinds of films, and choose as consumers to exercise their George W Bush-given right to NOT purchase a ticket. It’s basic economics, by my reckoning. Niche marketing, even.
That being said, a flick like Ong Bak, whilst a throw-back to an earlier era of trashy cinema, is somewhat refreshing. The story has clichés so, um cliché that you wonder how people can still use them and face themselves in the mirror each morning.
dir: Terry Zwigoff
Take up all your misanthropy, your contempt and loathing for the world in general and people specifically, roll it up into a ball and squeeze it till it is diamond hard, and then release it upon the cinema screen in an explosion of orgiastic catharsis. You're still not going to be responsible for an expulsion this ugly, no matter how hard you try.
Willie, as played by Billy Bob Thornton, is possibly one of the vilest creatures ever put to screen. When I think of the most loathsome characters to ever grace a cinema or television screen, he is definitely up there, arm in arm with the Bad Lieutenant (Harvey Keitel), Frank from Blue Velvet (Dennis Hopper), Archibald Cunningham from Rob Roy (Tim Roth) and the right hand of Evil itself, Maria (Julie Andrews) in The Sound of Music. In the hierarchy of evil, he is
one of the darkest fiends. We're talking a Republican level of vileness. We're talking about a level of vileness that makes your mother cry herself to sleep each night over after praying for hours that it not consume you too.
dir: Takeshi Kitano
Do you remember the 80s? More importantly, before you get all
nostalgic tripping down memory lane remembering ra-ra skirts and dumb
haircuts that seem to be making a comeback, do you recall that classic
of the cinema called Blind Fury? It starred one of the undisputed
kings of the 80s; the multi-talented, extraordinary auteur Rutger
Hauer. He brilliantly played the part of a blind guy who could fuck
shit up old school with a sword. No-one could stand against him, but
then he would still confuse alligators with dogs due to his being
differently visually-abled. Blinded in 'Nam, if I'm not mistaken,
fighting for Truth, Justice and the Iraqi Way.
He didn't let his blindness mess up his life. He still got to be a
bad-ass, make stupid jokes and get laid. In fact he gets to lead a
better life than most of us schmucks. It's enough to make you want to
blind yourself in a rage just so that you too can sample the sublime
delights of what being blind must truly be like.
If you remember it, then you'd see what a shameless rip-off of Blind
Fury and Rutger Hauer this here Takeshi film is. It's an outrage,
without question. Despite not being dead I'm sure than Rutger should
be spinning in his grave. Perhaps he needs to be killed and put in a
grave just so he can spin in it. Perhaps that's going a bit far.
Kitano, who wrote, directed, starred and probably did the catering for
this film as well, even dyes his hair blonde so he can match the
rugged good looks of Rutger Hauer in that earlier film. It's both
shameful and shameless. And whilst I wonder how being full of shame
and being totally without shame are equivalent condemnations in the
same context, you'd think that Takeshi could come up with something of
dir: Rob Zombie
There was 1 retroactive laugh that I got out of this movie. At
its beginning, the onscreen credits read 'Written and Directed
by Rob Zombie'. That anyone claims credit for pretending to
write and direct this film is staggering, absolutely staggering.
Look, I knew going in that it wasn't going to be masterpiece
theatre. I mean it's called House of 1000 Corpses, for Christ's
sake. But people joke about how when something cinematic is so
crap that it's Z grade. This is one of the first pure examples
I think I've ever come across.
dir: Clint Eastwood
Such a film growing up in the shadow of Mystic Pizza necessarily must
have a hard furrow to plow.
Even in paying for my ticket at the cinema I inadvertently asked for a
ticket to Mystic Pizza. It's a film and a title hard to eradicate from
one's mind. Who can forget the horse toothed caterpillar eye-browed
Julia Roberts playing the town slut? Lili Taylor playing the same
character she's played in practically every film she's ever been in?
Vincent D'Onofrio not playing a psychopath for once? There's a lot to
recommend it. You could only hope and pray that Mystic River, clearly
trying to capitalise on its successful forbearer with the similarity
of its title, can match its artistic and commercial success.
dir: Jim Jarmusch
The amazing, contradictory nature of art is that much of the time it
is simultaneously crucial and pointless. Even at its best art is
ultimately superfluous. Blasphemy, you think. Hypocrisy, as well,
especially from someone who styles themselves an artist (by way of
being a writer). But hear me out: no-one having a heart attack ever
had their life saved by having the Mona Lisa applied to their chest
instead of those electrical things that they use yelling 'Clear!'
before they do so. I know they're called defibrillators, but I didn't
want to show off. No drowning child was ever pulled out of the water
using the Sistine Chapel. You can't put a fire out with Picasso's
Guernica. And no girlfriend ever chose not to leave you because you
had a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude in
your hand. Trust me it doesn't work. They just keep walking.
dir: Ed Zwick
Well, well, well, a film with Tom Cruise in it is a joy to review, surely. The review practically writes itself: "Flashes teeth a few dozen times, flicks his hair around, acts all good an' noble, show's over, nothing to see here".
Well, not quite. You see, in this film, Tom Cruise has a beard.
That's got to be a whole other level of acting right there. I can't remember another film where he's sported a real beard (which is why Born on the Forth of July doesn't count, that beard was as fake as a
pornstar's breasts). You can see his commitment to such a role by his decision to grow some facial hair. In fact, this film is a delight for people interested in facial hair. Of course it's not about facial hair explicitly, but, you know, subtext and all that.
What this film does have is wonderful locations, a formulaic script, and great big dollops of man-love. Not the sweaty, hairy, prison-inspired, Queer as Folk kind, but the brotherly "I can cry because you're dying and no-one's going to think I'm gay" kind of love. It's the kind of man-love that makes men consistently call The Shawshank Redemption one of their favourite films of all time. Here in Australia, whenever footballers are interviewed and asked what their favourite film is, 9 times out of 10 it's the bloody Shawshank Redemption. Men. Big Manly Men. Having relationships with other men untainted by the presence or existence of women. Rousing stuff.
Cruise gives what is for him something of a subdued performance for most of the film's duration. There aren't many sequences where he screams at the top of his lungs. He does have one of those scenes where he makes his face go all red and makes the veins stick out in his forehead, he loves doing that. But all in all he does okay in the film by not doing too much. For a man tortured by his conscience, though we hear about it many times, at least we don't have to watch him overact about it ad infinitum.
dir: Gus Van Sant
Some people walk around. The camera follows them as they slowly amble about. They meet people, or they walk past other people who are doing stuff or doing nothing. If they get to a destination, they do something inherently banal there, and the camera captures every scintillating second of it. Every now and then, there is a time lapse shot of a sky slowly darkening, or an approaching storm.
More shots of people walking around. Banal conversations. All of this action is centered around a school. We are given people's names as the camera follows them about. Each person seems to be given a 'story',
but nothing they say or do expands our knowledge of either what's going on or what's going to happen. They're not characters, or caricatures. They're just people. Doing not much of anything. After a while, you get to see the same situations repeated from other people's point of view.
In such a context, you could say that Gus Van Sant has made a meditative film, in the sense that we are given a lot of time to think about what's going on. Nothing is really rushed, and except for the crucial element of what the central 'event' is, you eventually give up waiting for something to happen, and just wonder how much more the film can ramble.
dir: Paul Hunter
People have different definitions of what a B movie is. People have different definitions of what a decent Friday night is as well, but that's another story. I've always known what a B movie is, but I had difficulty articulating it clearly. The IMDB defines the B Movie thusly:
"a low-budget, second tier movie, frequently the 2nd movie in a double-feature billing. B-films were cheaper for studios because they did not involve the most highly paid actors or costly sets, and were popular with theatre owners because they were less expensive to bring into their theatres while still able to draw revenue"
But the phrase 'B movie' has altogether different connotations for me as well. B movies can be cool, there's the odd B movie cult classic out there, but generally I like to think of generic B movies as being, as we used to say at the orphanage in between coughing up blood from consumption and fighting over rat meat, "shitehouse". As most films are mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst, you have to wonder how it's possible to have an entire other stratum of film which is worse than the vast majority of product that's out there simply by budget and definition.
Surely budget isn't the only decider. There must be some other dark arts at work. Personally, I think that there are certain actors and stories that can, regardless of and often in spite of the budget, be held up as the paragon, the quintessence, the nadir of B movies.
Bulletproof Monk is a stupid film with a laughable plot, bad acting, an overdose of cliche and a lack of innovation or original thought so profound that you'll think that you've been transported back in time
to the 80s. Remember the days of The Last Dragon, Double Dragon, anything with Dragon or Ninja in the title or with bad actors and worse fighting? This film remembers the love we have for those days, and brings it all back up in a manner reminiscent of watching a cat weakly throwing up its cookies all over your favourite rug. Which, in the words of The Dude from The Big Lebowski "Really tied the room together, man."
dir: Bernardo Bertolucci
Sure, Bernardo Bertolucci is an acclaimed director. But like every acclaimed director, he has a bunch of stinkers to his credit as well. In such a case, you greet the release of one of his new films thinking less "Great! Another film from a cinematic master!" and more "what have you done for me lately, prick?" And since my answer to him on that topic is "not much, chuckles", it's understandable that I'd have some trepidation walking into this film.
Also curiousity. I haven't liked a Bertolucci film since The Last Emperor. It's not that I've been avoiding his work, I haven't (much to my regret). It's just the only emotions that the films in between then and now inspire in me are boredom or downright irritation. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I outright hated Besieged, Stealing Beauty, Little Buddha and especially The Sheltering Sky. In fact I would go so far as to say my greatest difficulty is in deciding which of those four I hate the most, because they all anger me on different levels and for different reasons.
But I still admire and respect the man for the great films he has made. No matter how awful a run a director has, the great films they may have made stay just as amazing. I mean, my deep admiration for directors like Kathryn Bigelow, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola
and Abel Ferrara means that in loving some of their films, I have to ignore my deep hatred for some of their other works, in some cases
(like Ferrara) the majority of their films. Bertolucci is no different. I admire and adore the man for his early masterpieces like The Conformist, The Spider's Stratagem and Novecento (1900), to a lesser extent for Last Tango in Paris, and for his involvement with Sergio Leone and Dario Argento on Once Upon a Time in the West, but then his work for more than the last decade horrifies me. Just thinking about how much I hate his more recent flicks makes me want to track him down and punch him in the nuts until his face turns purple.