…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “2005

HMWY Best Shot: Serenity’s Characters


It’s surprising that a “Buffy” fan like me – I’ve seen and love the movie too – wouldn’t catch “Firefly,” but I had my stupidity to blame. I wanted a “Buffy” 2.0 – so why didn’t I read “Fray?” – and it seemed too much of an outlandish concept for me. But Nathaniel, probably the only person guiding me through my schizophrenic viewing habits, chose “Firefly’s” movie adaptation for his best shot series, keeping in mind that creator/writer/director Whedon’s having a big year this year. So why not? Above is a shot of carnage fitting for the movie’s ‘space western’ genre mash-up and that although Joss Whedon isn’t on top to direct Blood Meridien but he should at least be in consideration.

This experience is making me regret that I didn’t watch the series, the logical reason should be Whedon’s sharp writing and I suppose it’s nice to see futuristic cowboys but it’s really because of the characters and casting, including Alan Tudyk, David Krumholtz and Sarah Paulson. Specifically, of Adam Baldwin of Full Metal Jacket fame. I wouldn’t say that this part of the movie’s premise is ludicrous, and that his character Jayne butts heads with the titular Serenity‘s Captain Malcolm (Nathan Fillion) a lot and wants to kill the mysterious River Tam (Summer Glau). But like come on guys, his tight, short-sleeved shirts makes me think that the show should have given him a love interest. Things would have totally been different if I was on that ‘boat.’ Looking at his iMDb “Firefly” isn’t the only show I should watch for him. Apparently he was in “Angel” too and fuck do I have to watch “Chuck” now too? What kind of fan am I?

The best lines and situations saved for Malcolm, or Mal for short (Why isn’t Fillion, this movie’s star, getting the Jeremy Renner roles? The guys look alike but he’s taller yet yes, more intentionally awkward). And there are some good shots of him being framed by the movie’s well-done mix of multicultural sci-fi punk ethos, contrasting yet perfectly complementing his character as this old school masculine gunslinger. Above is him moving a fan to see what River is up to and below is him being irreverent, mocking Buddha – one of the religions and ideals that he as a character questions – for his love interest Inara’s guilty pleasure. Kudos to the movie’s art director Daniel T. Dorrance and costume designer Ruth Carter for this awesomeness.

But the movie’s most visually compelling character is River, who only gets into and stays in the boat because she’s the younger sister of one of the newer crew members (Sean Maher) and because she’s psychic. She looks like a friend of mine here in Toronto who also blogs about movies, actually. My best shot actually involves the movie’s intricate opening sequence, a series of scenes that would get novices like me confused as to what the movie is about. There are wide shots of different planets followed by a teacher explaining ‘the verse’ in an outdoor elementary school – thank God the future has smaller class sizes, am I right or am I right? – which turns out to be a dream sequence, Matrix style. Her brother helps her escape her almost permanent comatose state, which is actually hologram-recorded by Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character, Javert looking at his Valjean and waify Cosette and trying to find out where they could be hiding.

But the fun of watching her doesn’t stop there. She has two kinds of entrances, one where her leg(s) and the seam of her flowing dress come into the shot and one where the camera zooms or shock cuts into her perma-startled face. She also climbs up the ceiling to hide sometimes. And the one below? Bad. Ass.

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Climaxes: The Paul Haggis Crash.


After watching some hard-hitting cinema at the Toronto International Film Festival I went home to watch a great movie in Paul HaggisCrash last Saturday night. Oh that’s right, I’m not supposed to like Crash, a movie I first saw as a summer film in 2005 and liked then. I started noticing the backlash in 2007, when people started questioning its premise that the anomic and diverse environments like Los Angeles, California encourages racism but also lets these characters overcome their prejudices. They’re all racist, which is pretty grim.

And I can’t necessarily divorce myself from the warped mind that guides racism. Take for instance, disgruntled Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon) unloading his issues on the stereotypically named Shaniqua Johnson (Loretta Devine), as if everything that’s happened to him and his father is automatically her fault. Like, are you fucking for real? Unpleasant topic aside, at least it’s not one of those movies or shows trying to pass racism or other people’s ignorance off as funny.

It’s also called by some bloggers as the worst during the 80th Academy Awards slide show, and this is taking into consideration that Around the World in 80 Days won the same award too. It also didn’t help that Brokeback Mountain made decade lists two or three years after and a movie that I still haven’t seen in its entirety despite being a Queer Cinema essential. Besides, what’s so wrong about a movie that has both Iron Man sidekicks and Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock, the most reviled cinema couple in recent history? And any Devine movie that isn’t a Tyler Perry movie is automatically passable.

A friend of mine has criticized the film’s premise, And I start seeing that now. Det. Graham Waters (Don Cheadle) has a girlfriend/coworker Ria (Jennifer Esposito) who snaps and tell him about stereotypes, and he says stuff back. Then another coworker, Flanagan (William Fitchner) fires off more stereotypes towards him. The movie takes place in two days and they are already saying fighting words, which is strange because Graham and Flanagan might have just met each other for the first time that day. I’m pretty sure there’s a long grace period between civil conversation and its exact opposite, right?

The first half of the  of the film shows these characters – or groups of –  encountering each other, race relations coming to the forefront. After the sixty-fifth minute mark, these characters will meet again. It’s pretty straightforward, but there are some variations. Character A, who might have had a clash or a crash with character B might either meet the latter again or with a character C or maybe A, B or C might meet together. I don’t know what I’m taking about.

From here on, this post will talk about these scenes in the dénouement and maybe I’ll talk about the actors in those scenes. Also, these scenes happen at the same time, which I find it difficult to believe but then I live in a big city. Weird stuff happens to me all the time. Some spoilers straight ahead.

John saving Christine Thayer’s (Thandie Newton) life makes it forgivable that he molested her the day before.

Officer Tom Hansen (Ryan Philippe) defends Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard), a ‘Uncle Tom’ character gone E.L. Doctorow. I cared about this the least because I became lukewarm towards Philippe after his post-turn of the 21st century fame. His ex-wife Reese Witherspoon won the Best Actress trophy the same year, making people think that she has the advantage in that doomed marriage, but he was in the film that won Best Picture. So I guess they were even. Hansen will later let a man hitch a ride, which won’t end well.

Look at Daniel’s (Michael Pena) face! This is the film’s best climax. Pena here gives nuance to a half stereotype.

The nobly named Jean Cabot (Bullock) talks to someone over the phone on how angry she is all the time. And then she falls down the stairs because she wears socks inside.

Say what you will about the writing but I give kudos to these actors who were known for anything but drama. It affirmed the positive side on my continuing ambivalence towards Bullock. It also reintroduced Howard – who also starred in Hustle and Flow which was released in the same year – to audiences before he went crazy and   introduced Pena who is one of the most underrated and versatile actors working today.

And I like how Haggis and crew shot this film, the blurred city lights at the background, the actors well framed within the screen. These visuals give the film both gravitas, warmth and hope and the rest of you can debate the legitimacy of those elements in the film.


Father: L’Enfant


ph. SPC

I should not read too much into the moment in the Dardenne brothersL’Enfant when one of Bruno’s (Jeremie Renier) contacts tell him ‘People pay to adopt, if you’re not up to it.’ The neon lights flicker from a bar across the street, as if subtly marking temptation’s introduction. The first fifteen minutes show Bruno exchanging objects for money and it doesn’t take long to attach that moral relativism towards another human being. Besides, his newborn baby can’t verbally object. Also, critics laud the film for its lack of judgement towards its unlikable protagonist. A notary agent just does his job quickly and tells them to fill their papers unlike the condescending lab technician in Juno. But talking to that with that woman is the first subtle judgment of these unfit parents and many more are coming.

I’d assume that the film isn’t sold outside the art-Cannes crowd because the premise of the movie might make a layman’s blood boil. Or maybe they’ll just be saying he’s a boy and stupid, the premise thus might be more contemptible and thus more challenging if it’s the child’s mother, Sonja (Deborah Francois) starting the bidding.

Anyway, to finish his goal, Bruno spends most of his time with his ‘mobile,’ waiting in rooms, waiting for other people or all the above. From the fourth minute mark the film is solely seen through his experience and the film sticks with that. Showing only his side and perspective of the conversation, we instead believe that money or the baby are going to show up or that his mother is on his side when the police might ask her questions about the infant. Sometimes his contacts asks for more but there’s no kind of shirking seen here. Despite being a callous liar, his trusting nature is admirable. There’s also a sense of community in the film, a shelter that extends their time to put a roof under a child, a hospital at arms when Sonja reports him to the police and Bruno in the end, through altruism, doing what’s right.


Thinking About These Two Movies…


Speaking of white people, Susan G. Cole‘s review of the film negatively pointed out that the NYT workplace depicted in the documentary is whiter than Obama’s dance moves. The rest of this paragraph will show my weird expectations about the film and the institution, the expectations being that it’s all ‘liberal’ elite kind of white. However, they do show it’s Iraq-war pushing history or David Carr looking like the kind of guys that hung out where I would shoot pool when I was in high school. I don’t mind white as long as it’s not vanilla.


The Lovers “The New World”


ph. Warner

Mother, where do you live? In the sky, the clouds, the sea. Give me a sign.

We rise, we rise. I’m afraid of myself. A god he seems to me.

What else is life but being near you? Do they suspect? Oh, to be given to you into me.

I will be faithful to you. True. Two no more. One. One. I am. I am.


Cold Hot: Constant Gardener


‘How’s…Gloria?’

ph. Focus

He says Gloria’s fine then asks Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) about Tessa (Rachel Weisz), which means he’s nervous but we won’t find that out why yet.

‘That’s bullshit. That’s bullshit. You have to take responsibility. You are being paid to apologise for this pathetic country of Britain, and he can explain to us why we burned our diplomatic credentials and why, why we’re killing, you know, thousands of innocent people…just for-just for some barrels of oil…and a photo opportunity on the White House lawn. Why?’ And more journalists walk out.

Not to take away from Weisz’ Oscar winning performance, but if this was the audition piece, Kate Winslet would have gotten a closer chance in becoming Tessa. I also wanna find out how her campaign went, seeing that one of Weisz’ competitors is Michelle Williams for Brokeback Mountain, another Focus Features release. Yes I’m the last gay person to see the latter film so of course I can’t compare the two performances, but I wonder if Focus went full engine on Brokeback or if they focused on getting acting wins in their other movies while paying more attention to getting picture and directing wins for Ang Lee.

And no matter, Tessa and Justin will make up eventually.

I love you.

Every other movie reminds me of every other movie. Like how Fernando MeirellesThe Constant Gardener differentiates some of the Britain scenes and the African scenes by showing the former with a grayish blue tint and the latter with yellow, just like Traffic did. But this movie does it better, more crisp, despite the shaky cam. And it doesn’t do the colours too often.

Or how the paid assassins riding into the village like apocalyptic horsemen, like the raid scene in The Searchers, but this time the focus is on the victims and not the horsemen. Like the John Ford film, white characters are mixed in with the natives but this time it’s paid African militia men killing their own kind, hoping to get Justin with them.


The Brothers Grimm


ph. MGM

The titular Brothers Grimm (Heath Ledger, Matt Damon) are quack exorcists, redundant as that is, who, by order of a conquering French military official (Jonathan Pryce), have to face a real enchanted forest and risk their lives in the process.

Sure, there are references to the Limbourg Brothers and the pre-Raphaelite movement, but The Brothers Grimm just has too much CGI and there’s nothing real and/or astounding about the film. Sure, that might be too much to ask for in a fantasy film, but director Terry Gilliam usually uses something concrete. Remember when Parnassus has painted cardboard or plywood trees, but even that was awesome? Actual sets in this film are unfortunately given some weird post-production finish. Even the gold lighting doesn’t help. Auteur hunter Damon and Gilliam regular Ledger do great work, settling for a ‘theatrical’ British accent, even if the plot takes them nowhere. And it’s kind of nice to see Gilliam regular Pryce combine his roles in The Age of Innocence and the Pirates series in one movie. Now if only he can do half-Brazil, half Peron. What is he up to, by the way?

I remember this film being advertised as a horror film, taking the Gilliam-esque comedy out of the trailer. It’s not like the comedy worked too well anyway. The most fascinating thing about this film is the strange surge of German nationalism in a Hollywood film. When was the last time that happened? It focuses the country’s folkloric history. The British or cockney-accented Germans are the good guys and the French-accented French are the bad guys. The film risks labeling Germans as hicks, but they’re not hicks if the tales they believe in are true. And the Red Riding Hood sequence was more haunting than the one in the Amanda Seyfried-Catherine Hardwicke movie that I will probably never see. But unfortunately, those are the film’s only redeeming values.