This is a blog post equivalent of Febulights, where I talk about a movie about the emotionally draining festival weeks after the fact. And this isn’t even about Christmas or a non-Christian holiday that also coincides with it. Why can’t the channel I tuned into broadcast one about the Maccabean revolt? I’m sure there’s many of those. Instead, we get the pre-Shrek Dreamworks offering called The Prince of Egypt. It’s a curious title that also hints at the complexities within the Biblical hero, Moses (Val Kilmer) who also happens to be the adopted brother of slave driving Pharaoh Ramses II (Ralph Fiennes). Fiennes lends his voice to a villain contending against the laws of nature, the latter of which is a force powered by good. Ramses also wears a lot of make-up and campy costumes and is sexually and species ambiguous like every other Fiennes character. Anyway, they still have contend with their relationship despite of the ethnic division wedged between them. Ramses is still in close contact with Moses, allowing the latter in his son’s wake, a sign of compassion from both ends. But Moses’ presence is still a reminder of the transaction that must take place in order for his kind of racist God to stop ravaging Ramses’ country.
There are some conventionally sub par parts in the animation like how hair, as beautiful as it looks, is fashioned in clumps as opposed to of strands. How gold looks more yellow. When light or fire comes out of the sky, which looks awesome yet artificial. Speaking of artificial, how about when it’s trying to replicate camera movement? The same artificiality also affects the scene with the parting of the Red Sea, looking like a tenth grade computer assignment. However, that part redeems itself when we see silhouettes of a whale trapped in the water while the Israelites pass through, showing us what they would have seen in this moment. It doesn’t distinguish itself from Disney although Disney movies will almost never have a predominantly dark-skinned characters and will never have Jewish protagonists. There are some new touches like recognizing Orion or how objects touch light or vice versa. But I mainly like how old school the movie looks, where the rocks or buildings are rugged on the foreground but looking painterly as they recede. Or during the Exodus when the Israelites, their carts and tents placed within the picture through brushstrokes. This movie also features the greatest looking eyes ever.
I will always remember this movie for how Moses has more sexual chemistry with his sister Mariam (Sandra Bullock) than with his taller and skinnier wife Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer). The way their big eyes look at each other with the almost sighing expression, different from my experiences of friendly enmity that I see in other siblings. They are estranged and there have been other examples in other movies where people in that situation have the same reaction towards each other or more. Although personally I like the simpler looking Mariam better, Tzipporah looking too glamorous for me, even though her jewellery is a sign of class division within the enslaved Israelites. I don’t know what that says about my preferences about but enough about that.
And because this is an animated musical, Moses and the crew sing a song after being victorious against Ramses. Mariam and Tzipporah sing ‘When You Believe, made more famous by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, who are not the singing voices in the movie. The real character voices sing an octave higher than, what I imagine, the A-list actors would sound like. It’s not necessarily frustration and animation companies, under the veil of their drawn creations as opposed to real actors and sets, can hire as many people as they like to play a character. At the same, I never bought the ‘we chose a different singing voice to fit the character’ argument, even when MGM musicals of yore used the same justification. If they could express emotion through speaking, they can and should be able to do the same in music, and vice versa. I still want to know what Bullock and Pfeiffer’s voices sound like.
The movie ends with Moses with the Ten Commandments, bypassing the Golden Calf section because that scene would have soured the movie’s mood.
After watching some hard-hitting cinema at the Toronto International Film Festival I went home to watch a great movie in Paul Haggis‘ Crash 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.
- Director Paul Haggis wins Crash lawsuit against producer (guardian.co.uk)
Sandra Bullock is serious business at my guest post at The Film Experience.
TIFF just announced their Gala and Special Presentations line-up which had many lovers and some doubters, but over at Anomalous Material I chose around ten of the fifty films that they announced. I suppose I could have written about more films that I was excited for, but I believed that it wads better to write about the why as much as the what. Although I’m ambivalent about not including Eye of the Storm, the image of Chloë Sevigny‘s friend Charlotte Rampling is captivating enough as her character, Elizabeth, chooses everything about her life including her ‘society’ and her own death. I then hesitated because of that synopsis but a cast that includes Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush are good enough for me.
I’m equally ambivalent about Hick, a coming of age story where a young Chloë Moretz finally plays a real person in a movie and Blake Lively might become a great talent, as potential and hype about her was around for a TIFF release two years ago, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
- TIFF 2011: U2, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and more (thestar.com)