The Official Review Thread of 2008

Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:58 pm

It seems like someone should have had something to say about Che, but I can't find anything anywhere.

Then again, I'm not sure I have much to say about it. It's on some level impressive filmmaking -- immersed in the realities of guerrilla warfare, recreating the events of 40-50 years ago with seemingly complete authenticity. But it doesn't offer alot of context. The two parts are in some sense thesis/antithesis -- a campaign that's pretty much the gold standard for rebel success vs. a complete washout -- but Soderbergh's deadpan approach doesn't really suggest any larger feeling about either.

Nor does he give us much glimpse into Che's interior life, which would seem to be the sine qua non of such a film. This is a guy who devoted himself to revolutions in two counties, neither of which his own. And, after the massive success of the first, rather than reaping the benefits, he set off for the second. Does this suggest he was some sort of adrenaline junkie, hooked on the prospect rather than the reality of revolution? Or was he the classic gambler -- always ready to let his bet ride, which in a sense is staying in the game until he finally loses? Soderbergh is silent on all this.

And the lack of context finally anesthetizes the film. I was caught up in the narrative progression of the Cuban section, but, by the time the Bolivian thing was half-over, the actors and events all began to blend for me, and I just waited for the inevitable downbeat ending so I could be done with it. (And maybe there ought to have been better differentiation between the Cuban and Bolivian visuals. Last night I went by a re-showing of the film, and, though I'd watched the whole 4 1/2 hours in the past ten days, I couldn't for a moment figure which half I was looking at)

The film also fails to deal much with the political or moral implications of Che's actions in either country. There just seemed to be an assumption that "bad people" were running both Cuba and Bolivia, so therefore someone coming in from outside was perfectly justified in trying to overthrow the government by force. It was an interesting contrast to the fascinating Laszlo Kovacs/Vilmos Zsigmond PBS documentary this week -- though they were both progressive politically, I don't think they much appreciated the Soviets intervening in the Hungary of their youth, on (from a Russian viewpoint) a similar rationale.

Had I seen the film prior to last year's Oscars, I'd never had imagined del Toro was even a long-shot best actor candidate. His performance is practically invisible -- which may be admirable, but would never have attracted Academy attention. Take what most of us are saying about Jeremy Renner's recessiveness in Hurt Locker and multiply by five.

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Postby dws1982 » Sun Aug 23, 2009 2:27 pm

I hated Defiance. I was prepared to go easy on it, given my fascination with the Eastern Front of World War II, but it was worse than I could have imagined, a total trivialization of everything that happened to the Soviet civilians when the Nazis came through, reducing everything to action-movie cliches or shameless Oscar-baiting. No attempt to see things in any thing other than black and white (and no mention of the Naliboki massacre, which the Bielski partisans may well have been involved in), no insight, nothing. Awful, tasteless movie.

As far as films about Soviet Partisan Groups in World War II are concerned, I'll tell anyone to just skip this, and go straight to Elem Klimov's Come and See. I don't think anyone who's seen it can ever forget it. It goes places that Zwick and others can't even imagine, showing the difference between someone who read a book about something and someone who was actually drawing on things he had lived through, the difference between a hack Oscar-baiter and an artist.




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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Aug 23, 2009 1:24 pm

I finally put myself through Defiance (check off that score nomination).

Ed Zwick has something of a genius for inauthenticity. Also for banality, but it was the inauthenticity that leapt out at me from the start. Everything in the film seemed staged for our viewing: conversations were mapped out like ping-pong matches; big crowd reactions were so phony they brought to mind the "rhubarb-rhubarb" we used to do in high school plays. Here you've got an allegedly true story, but so many elements -- like the in-camp jerk who communicates his must-be-killed-eventually assholishness with his every scene; the over-drawn sibling rivalry -- are so fraudulent that when a big moment comes along, like the brother's return, I just assumed it was falsified. Oh, and Zwick loves his lump-in-the throat and also his violence to get the audience pumped; a real winning combination.

Oddly, I have slightly higher view of the Academy for nominating The Reader this year rather than this flm. The Reader had lots of Academy-whoring elements, but no film of 2008 stroked the older Jewish artistic erogenous zones like Defiance (it's like a weak clone of Schindler's List, only with some satisfying killing of Nazis). So, half a kudo to the voters for not succumbing to it.

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Postby Damien » Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:16 pm

Tee, I saw Bashir 2 weeks ago, and my reaction is almost exactly the same as yours, other than that you're a bit moreapproving of the picture being done as a cartoon, which to me seenmed like a gimmick, although as you say it probably made the flashback and "action" sequences easier to handle.
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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:13 pm

I belatedly caught up with Waltz with Bashir.

I found it generally engaging, but not terribly deep. The film's most striking element is its sheer novelty: the fact that it takes animation into the documentary zone. You can easily imagine the same film done as straight documentary -- I assume the voice-overs are mostly "real people" -- but then you'd have the is-it-truly-a-doc argument over casting actors as their younger incarnations. Animation resolves that problem in a unique way (it also allows us to more easily accept moments like the fictional discussion about the dog dream that opens the film).

When, at the end, actual documentary footage appears (in a way I probably would have thought devastating when I was 16 but which strikes me as gimmicky now), it gave me a feeling that, had this same story been told in standard doc format, I'd have found it considerably less interesting. All of which brings me to the conclusion that the film is primarily a triumph of form over content.

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Postby OscarGuy » Sun May 03, 2009 11:12 pm

Ikonboard suggested it was the member group that was being effected, not a particular thread. I have re-saved all the existing settings at their suggestion and I've asked Paperboy to re-try. Hopefully all will be mended.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sun May 03, 2009 9:48 pm

Maybe OG can have someone at Ikonboard look into it.

The problem seems to be affecting certain threads. I just checked a couple of others, found that the Nomination Elimination thread has had several successful edits by Hustler and Film Fan in the last two days.

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 03, 2009 8:46 pm

I just tried again, and still no dice. I also tried something in the current events folder, and got the same refusal message. Something's amiss.

Thanks for the offer, Magilla, but it was just an additional thought or two. If I really feel the need to articulate them, I'll add a new reply.

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Postby flipp525 » Sun May 03, 2009 3:36 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Okay -- I went to make a minor edit to my previous post, and I got "You do not have authority to edit this post". Any reason that'd be happening?

I had the same problem editing a post I had just made five or so days ago. I reported it to OscarGuy immediately. He said that I had all the permissions I needed to be able to edit and wasn't sure what the problem was.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sun May 03, 2009 3:33 pm

Is this your first attempt at an edit on the new board?

Is anyone else having the same problem?

This thread was corrupted as basically were all the threads with quotes in them. I just went back over all 23 pages of this thread and "fixed" the entries that looked like they had problems. All I did was hit "edit" and then "submit" without changing anything and they came back looking the way they should have. It may have corrected the problem. If not, if you'd like me to edit the post for you, Tee, I'd be happy to if you let me know what it is you'd like to change.




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Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 03, 2009 2:53 pm

Okay -- I went to make a minor edit to my previous post, and I got "You do not have authority to edit this post". Any reason that'd be happening?

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 03, 2009 2:07 pm

Nothing But the Truth is sticking to my ribs a little -- not for reasons of quality (though it's substantially better than The Contender), but because of issues it raises both narratively and thematically.

The Contender was trash because it posed as a serious-issue movie, but its outcome turned on the sort of extraneous twist more suited to an airport best-seller. Nothing But the Truth is structured the same way, with an out-there twist, but this twist both feels more organic to the central story, and played fair -- it was there to see all along, yet never occurred to me.

To get the positive stuff out of the way: the movie also had alot better dialogue than The Contender, and seemed better acted. Or, maybe, the acting was just more grounded -- I enjoyed the hell out of Jeff Bridges in Contender, but didn't take his character seriously for a second; Matt Dillon, Alan Alda and Noah Wyle, on the other hand, create more full-bodied presences here.

Beckinsale is fine -- solid but undistinguished. Farmiga, on the other hand, is superb -- I'd have to find a way to squeeze her into my supporting actress slate. I know others have been impressed with her in the past, but this is the first time she's knocked me out.

Now, my problems. First is a simple one: the script uses the Valerie Plame incident as a jumping-off point, but inverts it. Plame's identity was leaked to an administration-sympathetic journalist in retaliation for her spouse's work in opposition to administration policy; the demand for her source was an attempt to uncover official government malfeasance. Here, the journalist is attempting, along with fellow reporters, to discredit an element of administration policy -- so the story is about the government using its power to crush dissent. Floyd Abrams, Judith Miller's lawyer, is in the movie as a judge, and no doubt he sees the film as supporting his position. But if the film had to reverse the circumstances to make us sympathetic to the character, how much of a case is it making? It's like the movies about lynchings -- even good ones, like The Ox Bow Incident, and Lang's Fury, which was on last night -- that fudge the issue by making the lynchees innocent. As Pauline Kael asked, does this suggest if they'd been guilty the lynching would have been acceptable?

Second problem: as presented, the outing of the agent doesn't truly seem germane to the story's main bombshell, that the president attacked a foreign country under false pretenses. In fact, it's hard to see why Farmiga's name needed to be leaked at all. And it's frustrating that the script doesn't even deal with what ought to have been truly serious political fallout from a far more devastating allegation than any lodged against the Bush administration. At the least, one would ask how a president under such a cloud could manage to avoid accusations he was jailing his accusers a la Banana Republic leaders.

Finally, that ending -- which really was an interesting surprise, at least to me (and I'd put some effort into tying to guess it). It strikes me it raises issues more interesting than what I'd seen over the last half hour of the film, and I'd like to have seen at least some reaction to it, from some character or other. Granted, it ends the film on an interesting hum, but it begged to be explored just a tiny bit further.

Alltogther, not a film for the ages, but one that does have a bit of staying power, at least for me.

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Postby flipp525 » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:31 pm

Nevermind. I found the discussion...it's on this page!
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



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Postby Big Magilla » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:25 pm

Don't think so.

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Postby flipp525 » Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:28 pm

Is there a separate Frozen River thread? Finally saw and wanted to check in.
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell


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