8 stars

Moolaade

dir: Ousmane Sembene
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Of all the films I’ve ever seen on the topic of female genital mutilation in Africa, this is the best of them. By a country mile of clichés.

Of course it’s the only film about genital mutilation in Africa I’ve ever seen, or am ever going to see. It’s the best by default.

And what kind of a person could find fault with such a film? Considering the subject material, you’d have to be heartless and genitaless not to sympathise with the women of the village of Djerisso in Burkina Faso, and the squillions of women this has been done to in the name of tradition.

Let’s be a bit more honest here: the words “genital mutilation” are too vague, and the phrase “female circumcision” is offensive in its dishonesty. What they’re talking about, when they refer to the action of “purifying” a girl, is the excision of her clitoris and labia, and the sewing up of the vagina to allow only for the urethra to do what it’s supposed to.

There are different “classes” of it practiced around the world, but they all amount to the same thing: stupidity on a grand scale, and the taking away of the basic human right of sexual pleasure.

What kind of a useless world allows crap like this to still happen in this day and age? What kind of a world produces people who believe something like this could in anyway be a good thing?

Rating: 

Million Dollar Baby

dir: Clint Eastwood
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Old Man Clint. It’s hard not to love him, especially when he makes films as good as this. Many will see this purely as an exercise in Oscarbait, but I disagree. I think Clint’s made plenty of films (I think about 25), has received a shitload of praise and awards over the years, and doesn’t need the added hassle of having to tailor everything to that end. I think he just likes making movies, especially since he’s 75 and isn’t really on the celebrity carousel for the column inches in the supermarket mags.

Lucky for us, he’s pretty good at it. He’s made a stack of duds as well, don’t get me wrong, but his great films more than make up for it. You can tote up Pink Cadillac, Absolute Power, Firefox, Heartbreak Ridge and those orang-utan movies as evidence of his crapness, but then my rejoinder has to be Unforgiven, White Hunter Black Heart, this here film and maybe Mystic River from the year before. If you take into consideration the great films where he just acted as well, it looks like an incredibly accomplished body of work for one man.

Add to that the fact that he’s a crusty old coot that’s reminiscent of the father or grandfather you never visit but wouldn’t mind seeing every once in a while to bask in the glow of his geriatric wisdom, and it makes him even more lovable.

Rating: 

Before Sunset

dir: Richard Linklater
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I'm not a fan, even remotely, of romantic movies. Romantic movies generally have the same effect on me intellectually as Draino would have on a human's gastrointestinal system upon consumption. I doubt anyone's going to be surprised by that. Hey, I'm not some stoic, repressed, unemotional automaton. I don't work in an abattoir nailgunning creatures in the head day in day out for a living or for fun; I haven't 'shut down' emotionally because of my second tour of duty in 'Nam where I put my hand in a pile of goo that used to be my best friend's face. I am, in short, a product of the current age, not overly apathetic about stuff, but not too interested in getting sweaty over anything either.

All in all, I am clearly not the demographic intended for anything explicitly shelved under the Romance section of the local franchise video rental chain. You know where I mean, be it your local Burstblocker or LeproZYDVD, where they have over fifty copies of the latest Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore flick, and no copies of any films by Federico Fellini. Yeah, I know, I'm a snob when it comes to movies, so sue me.

Rating: 

Primer

dir: Shane Carruth
[img_assist|nid=982|title=Primer|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=400]
For a contemporary sci-fi film, this is going to strike some people as downright false advertising.

There are no explosions, car chases, gigantic metropolises, shiny robots, Will Smiths or Spielbergs to be seen for miles around. So most regular muggles aren’t going to think it’s “real” sci-fi anyway.

For “real” sci-fi fans, that should be enough to pique their curiousity. Of course, when I mention time travel playing the central role in the story, they’re going to switch off and go back to masturbating over Japanese cartoon porn. God knows you’re not a real nerd ‘til you’ve done that.

Time travel has been used and abused by so many and for so long that it makes most of us role our eyes heavenward in disgust. Even nerds.

When it’s used well, as with Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, the details of the how and the why of the time travel are insignificant compared to what it adds to the story. Seeing Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, Sigmund Freud and Genghis Khan striding around the San Dimas mall and interacting with late 80s Californians is worth all the silliness and Keanu Reeveses involved.

Rating: 

Hotel Rwanda

dir: Terry George
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Ah, the cinema of guilt. Worthy movies that seem to chide audiences and make you feel bad for a) not having been more concerned when something really bad happened in history, or b) feel even worse for not having seen the film sooner. All your bullshit excuses count as nought in the face of it. So you sheepishly file into the cinema one day, prepared to eat your greens and say it tastes like ice cream even if it doesn’t. Out of stinky, middle-class guilt.

If the film’s actually good then it’s a definite bonus. Because that way you don’t have to endure watching the film like it’s a trip to the proctologist just so you can convince other people that you are sooooo switched on and overflowing with compassion. Hotel Rwanda is just such a film.

It’s not Schindler’s List, but nor would you want to be. We don’t need another epic like that just yet. It’s still Oscarbait of the highest order, mostly because when a film is about such topics (the Rwandan massacres from the 90s), it feels like the height of insensitivity to raise any objections to even the slightest flaw, to mouth the tiniest of criticisms, you inhuman monster.

Rating: 

Somersault

Somersault

She looks happy. I bet only good things happen to her in this film

dir: Cate Shortland

2004

Somersault has garnered rave critical reviews, buzz at overseas film festivals, and an unprecedented 15 nominations for the upcoming AFI awards. A person could be forgiven for being under the impression that this would clearly have to be one of the truly greatest Australian films made of all time, yea verily. An audience member going in with such expectations of excellence is surely going to start setting fires or engaging in self-mutilation as a violent kind of protest when they're inevitably let down.

Rating: 

Spider-Man 2

dir: Sam Raimi
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This is what big budget film making is all about. This is what sequels
are all about. Out of what I would call humble origins comes a story
writ large across the silver screen which makes most other examples of
high concept big budget type films look like the abject crap that they
are. There is no need to check one's heart, brain, balls or ovaries at
the door. Sam Raimi has made the absolute best film of his career, and
that's no small achievement when you've got an oeuvre that runs the
gamut from Evil Dead to A Simple Plan.

Where other, crapper producers, directors and screenwriters would have
been timid and delivered something safe and mindless, these people
banded together to make something that goes against the grain of
Hollywood's usual risk averse mentality, and it manages to deliver in
spades. There are so many great scenes ranging from elaborate action
set pieces to touching dramatic moments that singling them out does a
disservice to the whole. Not that that's going to stop me, but all the
same it is truly an example of something being substantially more than
the sum of its parts.

Rating: 

Collateral

dir: Michael Mann
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Collateral is genuinely an excellent film. For what it is. And it may
just be an extended episode of Miami Vice. I might be projecting
substantially, but much of what I saw over the film's two hour length
kept taking me back to the era of people wearing loafers without socks
and suit jackets with pastel t-shirts. Ah, sweet, sweet memory, what
an affliction thou truly art.

If you ever catch any episodes of Miami Vice on cable you might notice
that they look incredibly dated now even more than they did then, and
that's not just because of the clothes and hairstyles. As television
it really wasn't that different from any of the other cop based dramas
that preceded it. It wasn't a million miles away from Starsky and
Hutch
or Hawaii Five O or any other cop show where two cops with very
different styles aggressively pursue criminals and maintain that thin
tissue of lies and self-interest we call the fabric of society.

Rating: 

Machinist, The

dir: Brad Anderson
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This is a film about a pretty strange guy. Trevor Reznik (Christian
Bale), no, not Trent Reznor, who is a strange guy anyway, is an
emaciated insomniac who works a blue collar job and seems to be losing
his marbles. He leaves himself messages which he doesn't understand,
his only meaningful relationship is with an understanding and
supportive prostitute called Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and the
world itself seems to be working against him in exciting and new ways.

Bale's transformation into this sickly creature has to be seen to be
believed. I'd heard much about the fact that Bale had lost a lot of
weight for the role, but I could not imagine the lengths the guy would
go to in order to be remembered. It's staggering, it really is.
It's one of the most amazing examples of self-mutilation I've ever
seen for a job. Sure, womenfolk do it all the time and it's
considered par for the course in Hollywood, but he makes himself look
so emaciated that I imagine had they shown a picture of Bale as this
Reznik character to concentration camp victims in 1945 the poor
survivors would have shrieked in horror, and wept tears of pity and woe
in his honour.

Rating: 

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