Brief comments on film by Amy.
Some old, some new. Domestic films and foreign too.
Changeling — Recently, I concluded that there is an inversely proportional relationship between the amount of hype that Hollywood gives a film and that film’s actual quality. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Changeling is an exception. Having avoided this movie like one avoids “Toys R Us” on Christmas Eve, I finally caved and am so glad I did. The whole atmosphere of the film is spellbinding and, for the most part, even-handed. The bad guys are really bad but entirely believable; the good guys are good but not saints. Though the clear hero of this story is Angelina Jolie as the courageous mother of a missing boy, there are other characters along the way who follow their conscience against the pressures of corruption. There is the policeman who goes with his gut rather than following orders; and the pastor who desires justice for his community but cares for the individual as well as the collective. It is the sum of their efforts which result in justice being served, and though you aren’t allowed a perfectly happy ending, you certainly feel the world is a better place for their struggle.
Australia — Back to my theory on the relationship between hype and quality… If I was tempted to throw it out completely, the film Australiacertainly relieved the temptation. Now I will admit that the site of Hugh Jackman galloping across the plains of said continent is enough to make any girl inwardly swoon and, yes, Nicole Kidman looks really pretty in skirts and has great taste in head apparel. But that is where most of the charm of this “epic” sadly ends. It is as if they put Indiana Jones and Dances With Wolves into a blender, and the combination is none too tasty. Though easy to dismiss for being just bad, I think the most disturbing aspect of this film is its message regarding what it means to love. Love is not sacrificing your own happiness for someone else’s. Love is not committing yourself to their well-being. That is imperialism! Love is freedom, this film tells us—the freedom to be who you are, whatever the price to those around you. Certainly I don’t believe that love means conforming yourself entirely to the wishes and demands of others, but there must be something deeper holding love together than sex and emotional whims.
Half Nelson — I have a habit of putting off films that I know are going to be good but not easy. It’s like saving your green beans for last. Sometimes it is tempting to eat the rolls and mashed potatoes first because they go down so much more easily. After months of pushing Half Nelson around my plate, so to speak, I was rewarded for the effort with a great story. Despite the occasional jarringly misplaced political rant, this film is an authentic slice of life. Too often, when films depict relationships between characters of different ethnicities, there is a hyper-awareness of race that breaks the illusion of the film. In this film, though the main characters are of different ethnic backgrounds, racial issues are never really discussed outright. They are just there. The overall message of Half Nelson falls somewhere between Requiem for a Dream hopelessness and Remember the Titans optimism. Lean too far one way and you are a nihilist. Too far the other and you are Pollyanna. This movie stays right in the middle. You won’t even have to hold your nose while chewing.
Honorable (and Not-So-Honorable) Mentions: For the classics lover, check out Fallen Angel. Nothing life changing, but a great who-done-it. And, ethically speaking, I didn’t feel I could review a movie that I could only watch for twenty minutes, but I have to comment on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Ugh. How do you ruin F. Scott Fitzgerald? Ask these guys.
I just want to say that I agree with you Amy. Changling was a surprisingly good movie–like all movies directed by Clint Eastwood–it left me sad, but a bittersweet sad. His movies are like Sunday evenings…peaceful, beautiful and heartachey.
Half-Nelson is also a really great film and directed by two people that I hope to see more of (they have a new movie called “Sugar” coming out this summer). I have to say kudos to Ryan Gosling who is no longer a “poor man’s Christian Bale” in my mind…but a good (on his way to “great”?) actor in his own right.
I can’t speak to Australia or Benjamin Button because I haven’t bothered to watch them. Someday I will…
Okay, here are some recommendations I have–1. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas 2. The Visitor 3. The State of Play miniseries (by the BBC although the American film version is supposed to be good too)