Guilty Pleasure: Happy Feet 2
That time when you show your kid appropriate, child-friendly films and then ten years later, he or she decides to dive into art house cinema and admits years after that “Hey Mom/Dad, some of the effects in Terry Malick’s The Tree of Life remind me of the marine life scenes in George Miller‘s Happy Feet 2!” and you shake your head in dismay because you have brought up a Philistine, spreading his mashed potato cultural knowledge into this God-forsaken world.
Yes, I’m stupid enough, comparing those movies not because of some overlapping aesthetics but also because they share the same themes. Childhood, resentment, self-reflection. Both films star Brad Pitt. Instead having a wife or eldest son to reach out to the universe beyond them, his character, Antarctic-residing Will the Krill does all the questioning. He’s resentful of being second to the bottom of the food chain, he’s frustrated by the limits of the swarm, he’s not your regular krill. And instead of stasis, he takes his questions to a further level and explores life outside the swarm. His intelligence is proactive instead of an introvert’s tendency to just contemplate. He decides to live with the motto of “I want to eat something that has a FACE!” which Pitt says with his comically Southern bravado. His friend Bill the Krill (Matt Damon) reluctantly joins him in his voyage.
And it’s with his adventurous eyes that we see this movie’s depiction of the lush marine life, the krill transparent, the jellyfish luminescent, the ice shards glinting. These scenes show the greatest use for the 3D medium, letting us go deep into what’s on the screen instead of it splashing on to us. I can imagine some of the younger members of the audience sympathizing with these krill, the discovery more magical because they’re so little and the world so large it envelopes them. It’s a bit scary but it’s also a lot of fun. Pitt and Damon play second-fiddle in an all-star voice cast,working as intermission acts to what’s happening to the larger land birds. But these scenes makes us almost forget that there’s another world above them, a world with the titular happy feet.
Over sea level, things are more inconsistent when in comes to tone. The movie actually begins with a crystal-like green iceberg, menacingly drifting from one section of the Antarctic coast going eastward to the Emperor penguin land, where Mumble (Elijah Wood) and the rest of his song-and-dance colony live. This movie is one of the few instances where I preferred a simpler arc from peace to a disequilibrium. I didn’t need the iceberg prologue. It was enough to see the penguins behaving erratically when their coastline – and therefore, their food supply – gets blocked. The second half of the movie containing these troubled scenes also involves penguins from other colonies/different species coming towards the crisis zone, most of these new characters leaving the scene because they’re found to be quite useless.
But what counts here are the characters, the movie’s saving grace. For some reason, Mumble and his wife Gloria’s (Pink) kid Erik (Ava Acres) do his own exploring where he inadvertently sees older penguins try to mate, the movie incorporating that adult subject into a universal theme of belonging that the young penguins yearn. As Mumble, Wood adds his eternal youthfulness, brave as a young father who’s perpetually learning and making unconventional friends along the way. Pink, replacing Brittany Murphy as Gloria is a more mature and altruistic presence in the colony, encouraging her family – and the young audience – to persevere in hard times. These characters teach kid-sized lessons but if that doesn’t satisfy you, at least it’s still a visual treat on the big screen.
- Happy Feet Two – review (guardian.co.uk)
Crazy, Winslet Links
Well the links lead from me to me. Let me begin with the new character posters for Steven Soderbergh‘s Contagion, which I talked about for Nathaniel R’s The Film Experience. Blythe Danner has seen her daughter’s poster, apparently. The comments went beautifully, as people remembered the Gwyneth and Winona frenemy situation and surprisingly, Matt Damon‘s poster is competing to be the second favourite along with Laurence Fishburne‘s.
Speaking of Kate Winslet movies, she’s playing the role of She-Hulk in Roman Polanski‘s new film Carnage, a movie I won’t shut up about until its release. I didn’t like the poster, but it’s a surprise hit for the commenters at Anomalous Material, where I’ve also been busy writing news and reviews. I think that John C. Reilly has the best colouring here, while I’m not into Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz‘ orange so much although yes, there are loathsome orange people out there.
I also reviewed Crazy, Stupid Love at YourKloset, a website that I write for when movies and fashion collide, which thankfully happens often enough for me.
Late Thoughts on Contagion’s Trailer
Minutes before watching Crazy, Stupid, Love, I saw the trailer for Contagion, a trailer that, at first viewing, was for your typical Oscar season blockbuster. But I guess seeing it on the big screen made me see stuff more like oh hai, Bryan Cranston, playing Haggerty, a suave man in uniform again beside Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne). Other actors appearing in this film are John Hawkes and Enrico Colantoni, an uncredited Soderbergh alum who’s known here in Canada for being the lead in the cop show “Flashpoint.”
I also really like this shot well, because of the flowers. Seeing the daisies I assumed that it was a child bringing it to someone’s grave, but then it’s obviously someone working on the mass burial grounds. It’s a mix of the personal and professional an adult, possibly jaded because of the recent events, trying to bring an innocent time back. Over-read!
Now, the stars! It sounds sadistic but I’m relieved Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) dies early instead of the disease being the wedge between her and her healthy husband Thomas’ (Matt Damon) marriage. But Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) will analyze Beth throughout the movie, being the first to fall to the disease. How is there even an HD camera surveying her before her death, anyway? Here’s Jude Law, meh. There’s also Dr. Erin Mears’ (Kate Winslet) voice dominating the trailer, but why is her nose red? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
…My Posts Keep Chasing Pavements!
I’ll tell you first about The Film Experience, where my DVD review of George Nolfi‘s The Adjustment Bureau is. It’s just about adjuster Harry’s (Anthony Mackie) struggle as it is protagonist David’s (Matt Damon), as David tries to defeat the adjusters from stopping the latter to stay with his one true love Elise (Emily Blunt), and they run around NYC, hands together. Link’s below.
Speaking of a movie where people run around a big city, I might have just written the whitest review for Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block ever. Here I am talking about the symbolism, treating the movie like a 19th century novel. I wonder if other online film critics have moved into the neighborhoods like ones I grew up in, ones where gang fights happen, making them go like ‘believe,’ ‘allow it!’ and ‘MERCK!’ But then I’ve always been the most square boy in the block. And I come from the same people that birthed the JabbaWockeeZ. Oh where oh where did my swag go? Anyway, when Basement Jaxx hits the right notes and the kids in the hoods of South London blow up that first alien, that’s where the fun begins. I hope you have fun watching the movie – after its early festival and UK release, it’s out in selected cities in North America like LA, New York, Seattle and Toronto. Image for Attack the Block from Anomalous Material, where my review is. Bitch.
- DVDs. The greatest film I… (thefilmexperience.net)
The Brothers Grimm
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.
Visually, Inside Job, the documentary about the 2008 economic collapse that has led to a worldwide recession, could be broken down into three parts. The scenic Iceland. The glamorous glass infrastructure that houses our contemporary financial institutions and the mostly American men who have made this stratified section possible. The consequences of these individuals’ greed, mostly damaging the working class. The fourth part is just like the second, returning to the greedy dicks who still think they can dictate the terms of this investigative documentary.
As most films, it’s all about inclusion and exclusion. Why we see a black screen with caption about Timothy Geithner and others who declined to be interviewed for this film, instead of the same caption accompanying an unflattering picture of them. Why we see a young, good gal Brooksley Born and not a young, baddie Henry Paulsen. The faces of those people who got huge severance that could buy islands, and that those faces don’t necessarily belong to white men. Graphs! Charts! That if Errol Morris was doing the interviewing, he would kill these people on the spot.
Yes, the film still feels like reading an article of Newsweek or another ‘intellectual’ weekly that I don’t buy off the stands. Not even Matt Damon could help me decipher what complicated of a mess the people in power has made the world’s economy into. How does credit and property turn bad? How do these people bet on mortgages and make their sadistic wishes on those mortgages come true? All these questions help generate a discussion and/or make the ones who know remember. Economics has never been my strong suit.
The film also has the potential to be interactive. At the parts I actually understood, I flailed my arms and was this close to yelling at the screen. When one of the lobbyists interviewed kept saying ‘um’ while trying to defend the criminal activities of the men he defended, some guy behind me kept yelling ‘um’ back, taunting the lobbyist. It’s like a smart, literate man’s Rocky Horror.
The third act shows that this movie isn’t just about watching grown men squirm and actually exposes the damage is more extensive that previously thought. Do you want a glimpse of how a $13 billion country is in trouble? Greed’s Reaganite roots? Where the residents of foreclosed houses go, where the jobs of both the American and Chinese manufacturing industry end up? The stratification of education as well as the amoral education that the rich get? This is your movie. And this movie doesn’t help me wanna get an adult job at all, seeing the consequences.
Coen’s True Grit
Mattie Ross’ story is back on the movies again, and this time we hear her adult voice first while blurry yellow lights shine somewhere within the centre of the screen. Eventually the audience gets an image of her father, Frank, lying dead in front of a porch.
The camera shows Frank’s body from a safe distance. Eventually the film shows dried skin from cadavers in a mortuary where young Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld) has to sleep, hollowed out eyes, a man (John Goodman?) shot in the head, bodies that become exposed on the snow, men who die because their heads will fall on rocks, a man who has long passed with a snake living where his stomach has been.
Do you want me to count the injuries too? The multiple gun wounds, the ranger Laboeuf (Matt Damon) mangling up his mouth and teeth, Mattie getting spanked, getting a boot on her head and a gun pointed at her, threats of rape directed at her at least once. And that’s not the end of her suffering. As a frank depiction of the Western, the beautifully shot True Grit honestly show the corporeal effects of a violent civilization where the dead are disrespected, some of whom deserve that fate.
We’ve seen this realism in the Coen’s No Country for Old Men, but what makes the violence more shocking is that it’s seen and experienced by a girl. Mattie, who backs up her claims in knowing the legal aspects of 1870’s Arkansas, behaves as if her father’s death has always been a possibility. In his passing, she aims to take care of his business matters, since her mother’s apparently not so good at those things. She also looks for a hired Marshall to hunt for the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father.
The sheriff gives her three choices for her Marshall and she chooses the meanest one, Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges). The men she encounters already brand her as a headstrong, young woman in pursuing Chaney and going to the country with him despite Cogburn’s advice. Yet in hiring Cogburn, she concedes that she can’t do the job alone. The film exposes other symbolic manifestations of her shortcomings. A hat that’s too small for her that she modifies with a newspaper, her oversized clothing. Buying a pony instead of a horse – although she doesn’t ride side-saddle. She asks Cogburn or Laboeuf what should they do in instances like gunner showdowns, her question actually meaning what are the men going to do for her.
Going back to being unable to do the job alone, that fits not only Mattie but the rest of the major characters as well. Mattie and Laboeuf successfully petition to Cogburn and each other that they’re necessary in the journey, even if they have to do so repeatedly. Laboeuf, who has investigated Chaney, his other crimes and his whereabouts, convinces Cogburn that it takes a two-man job at the least to take Chaney. Mattie is the ethical heart of the journey, her presence in the trek a reminder of Chaney’s crimes.
Along the way, there are some pauses and silences within the film that eventually leads to Coenesque humour. Mattie’s encounters with the men in town, their awkward if not mean-spirited treatment of her greeted with laughter and not of the nervous kind. Cogburn’s encounters with Native kids [ETA] made me feel uncomfortable. And of course, the dentist with the bear suit, taking us away from one-note solemnity that the rest of the journey could have been.
I saw this film with my sister, who lauded Mattie for being a feminist hero and Steinfeld’s fast yet smooth talking performance, besting veterans like Bridges and Damon in the Coenesque dialogue. There are also racial dynamics minimized here. Strangely enough, the black and Asian characters having fewer lines within the narrative compared to the John Wayne vehicle 40 years ago. She lastly pointed out Chaney, as Brolin adds paranoia and vulnerability to his irrational villain. 4/5.
Bourne Identity: The First One
Matt Damon is, as David Edelstein says, an ‘intensely focused‘ actor, and in my opinion, the best actor of his generation. Here in The Bourne Identity he can fake his way through German, can rust his through French, sex appeal, agile, kicks ass. Remember that with the afterthought that in the same year, he came out with another movie where all he does is just walk.
Despite that, the more I watch this, the more I realize how cheesy this is. Jason Bourne/John Michael Kane (Matt Damon), we know that you don’t know who you are. If you beat up five security guards in one minute we’re sure unconvinced that you’re in the shipping business with martial arts training. Why can’t the guy from Lost get a break? Why are you picking up that girl with the weird red hair (Franka Potente) when you could have easily just done this movie by yourself? Why does she say ‘scheisse’ all the time just to remind us that she IS German? Why did that guy jump off the window? Why is Julia Stiles barking that ‘I don’t know’ and ‘It’s impossible’ and not fired from the CIA yet?
Why is that other six-footer assassin (Clive Owen) being mopey when you shoot him instead of being either tough or gross? Why did you hesitate in doing that thing you were told to do whereas more – I assume – complex narratives would have the heroes doing the bad things and regretting the hell out of it?
‘Jason Bourne is the typical white subject position who can’t remember his own atrocities,’ as said by my Imperial film professor. From Connecticut. There are ideas about ethics and…first-world identity in this movie that apparently are better expanded within the next two films. I’m looking forward to them.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
ph. Paramount Vantage and Miramax
The Talented Mr Ripley is playing at the Toronto Underground Cinema today at 6:45, followed by Amadeus at 9:30. This part of their Seven Deadly Sins Film Festival. Today we get to the fourth sin, Envy.
Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith – the same author who wrote “Strangers on a Train”- the centre of class-based resentment and guilt resides within our anti-hero, Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). He wears a Princeton blazer for a performance for rich folks on a rooftop facing Central Park. He is mistaken for a rich boy’s college friend, the rich boy being Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law). Dickie’s parents then ask Tom to get Dickie home from the latter’s self-exile in Montebello, Italy.
Tom’s a quick study, as Freddie Miles (Philip Seymour Hoffman) would say. He is an all American boy who’s always wanted things he could never have. He can crack jokes that can amuse Dickie and his girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Gwyneth Paltrow). He tells Dickie that his talents include ‘telling lies, making forgeries.’ He tries to like the same things and live the same lifestyle as Dickie, a premise as dangerous as it sounds. Tom a classical fan, sees Dickie, a jazz fan. He wants to like the same things Dickie likes and to become Dickie. And he can charm women like Meredith Logue (Cate Blanchett) and convince her that he is Dickie.
Anthony Minghella is probably the closest our generation will get to a golden age Hitchcock. The movie doesn’t oscillate with valleys of Hitch’s thriller side nor the peaks of his surprisingly cheerful Grace Kelly side. We get both fear and harmless beauty at the same, evenly mixed concoction. Minghella here is trying to beautify and exoticize the Italian beach country as well as the diasporic upper class Americans living there. Minghella dresses the gang in New Look outfits and summer whites. There’s a lot for Tom and for the audience to covet, and the coveting is what helps the cloud of intrigue to come in.
Despite of the embarrassment of riches that the characters have, the actors playing them give unflashy performances. I’ve applauded Blachett’s interpretation of her character in a previous post. There’s also Damon, whom Courtney Young praised for standing up to the same levels as Jude Law. This movie was my introduction to Hoffman, who plays someone opposite his characters. Gwyneth Paltrow also amazes in her final scenes, although some critics like Amy Taubin don’t like her performance here.
Green Zone vs…
I hate comparing one movie with another, but genre theory kind of makes it inevitable. A movie fits a certain canon and either adds to it or does nothing.
Take “Green Zone,” for instance. It’s Hollywood’s rendition of war realism with its share of above average acting and characters, especially with the Middle Eastern players. In other films they’re either raving, invisible, or emasculated. Here, they’re still yelling as loud as the American soldiers, but their anger’s is more intelligent and articulated. General Al-Rawi’s (Yigal Naor) scene with Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) especially powerful since it notes the miscommunication on both sides. The movie also introduces an Uncle Tom with a twist in Freddy, a man who ends up being Miller’s interpreter and has his own motivations. The movie also shows the cat and mouse game that’s perfect for urban areas like Baghdad.
The problem in this movie? The yelling. And the gunfire. And the explosion. And the loud score. We get it, invading a Middle Eastern city is loud and messy. But you gotta pace it. In a way, I understand what Iraqis went through just because of the use of sound in this movie. Roger Ebert was all for it and manages to make me feel old, thanks. It was like an hour of gunfire and loud vehicles before I got some rest out of this movie. John Powell should also calm down in the music department. I can already understand how tense the sites are in 2003 Baghdad through diagetic noise, we don’t need synthesized guitar to accentuate that. There’s also no need for the synthesized violins whenever somebody gets preachy. Another thing is the use of digital footage, making the night scenes grainy.
“The Hurt Locker,” on the other hand, is a better example of the Iraq war movie although the treatment of characters aren’t perfect. The Iraqis are always two arms length and aren’t the most verbose people. But then again the Americans aren’t either. The closest thing this movie ever gets to reciting three acts of Hamlet is Sgt. Sanborn (the snubbed Anthony Mackie).
Will James (Jeremy Renner) on the other hand, has this superhuman zen calmness while trying to diffuse a bomb. I guess I had to bring up “The Hurt Locker” because of the sound because it helps characterize James’ demeanor despite of the tense situation. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but the closest comparison I can come up with is “Jaws.” There were like these long, deep notes playing in the background in the bomb scenes. Without these I’d assume that I wouldn’t hear a pin drop in these scenes, especially since there’s so much cerebral musculature involved in James’ job. He would probably want to concentrate on as few things as possible.
Both movies use puzzles and mazes as metaphors to describe the invasion in Iraq. For “Green Zone,” it’s finding a general in the streets of Baghdad. For “The Hurt Locker,” clipping the right wire in a bomb. Both are easy to execute, but like they said in Serious Film, those missions don’t solve anything.