Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I liked it. It was funny. It was also really strange. I don't know it's numbers, how well it did in the theater and how the DVD sales are going but I'm gonna tell my older sister to buy it for her kids. I think they'll like the singing goat and the frantic squirrel and the snowboarding grandma and the hip treat-delivery girl Red. They probably won't be so much into the thespian woodcutter but that's okay, the dective frog makes up for it.

Entertaining, different, and not saccarine. A good film.

Monday, May 15, 2006

BAD SANTA -- by naudy (6)

BAD SANTA was one of those movies I wanted to see but always forgot about. Fortunately Comedy Central showed it several times yesterday and so I finally remembered to watch it. Well, I watched most of it since the film was edited for content and a majority of the film was silent due to bad language being deleted out. Which was okay 'cause the only reason I watched it was to see Billy Bob Thornton sit around in a Santa suit and drink. If that's the reason you're wanting to watch this movie, then you're in luck 'cause that's practically all he does. Drink and pick up on girls and look sweaty. Fortunately he also manages to crack safes, beat up on skateboard punks, accuse a mall manager of discriminating against his African-American little person partner, and steal a pink elephant. And drink.

It's not exactly heartwarming but I liked it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

PAHELI -- by naudy (3)

The lesson for the weeks is this:

"Release yourself from expectations."

PAHELI was the movie sent to the Academy of Motion Pictures as Bollywood's entry for the "Best Foreign Film" category and I don't know why. I admit that I had high hopes for this film. I came to it expecting it to be good. Anything that India felt would be worth an Oscar should be magical, or at least pack a social punch.

PAHELI completely let me down. It's well shot, has actual special effects, beautiful costumes, nice songs, and is utterly irrevocably shallow. Based on a novel by Vijayadan Detha, it's supposed to be all folk tale and lovely-quaint. Instead it's a Sha Ruk Khan movie. You can tell because he's shirtless. Add a pretty girl with green eyes and a complete lack of moral/emotional depth and it's a hit!

I'm going to go back to high school English here, but isn't drama based on personal growth? Isn't that why we watch it, to experience the struggles of a character's choices and consequences? We enjoy seeing people learn, watching folks make decisions, sitting back and looking at people fight though the mess of their lives, be those lives real or imagined. PAHELI dosn't have any character development. No one learns anything. Really. I would explain the story to you but there's no point.

I do have to admit that if you watched PAHELI fully expecting it to be lousy, you might like it for the oversaturated visual beauty that defines the film. Unfortunately, I couldn't. Next time I will seek to release myself from all expectation and perhaps I'll actually enjoy myself.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

SOLARIS -- by naudy (8)

So, random Russian space movie. Apparently the filmmaker watched "2001" right before making SOLARIS and decided that he didn't want something that visually stunning and morally empty. Which was a good decision 'cause the Russian film bureaucrat decided that his budget would be less than half of what they agreed to so there's no way he could have made a movie that was visually stunning and morally empty. Instead SOLARIS is a quiet long study of the morality of science, the bittersweet pleasures of nostalgia, and the unspeakable intricacies of human relationships. It also has practically no special effects, some amazing camera work, a cavalier disregard for traditional narrative form, and a lot of hand-knitted clothing. There is also about five minutes of mind-numbing footage shot in Tokyo of the "City of the Future." Apparently they were allowed to go to Tokyo to shoot this city of the future but they didn't get there in time for the Worlds Fair. (Which would have looked cool.) Instead there was some problem with the visas going through on time so we get five minutes of someone driving around Tokyo to justify the cost of going there in the first place. To westerners it's skull crushingly dull. To Russians, who didn't have overpasses and long tunnells and multi-lane highways in 1970, it was the future. Pretty sad, really.

Anyway, it's an interesting film. I'm becoming more and more accostomed to Russian cinema styles and all of them seem to involve a lot more time, a lot less editing, and a willingness to leave the story up to a series of still-life images. I suppose it's only natural considering the regime these films were made under. Far easier to contine working if one dosn't actually say bad things about the folks currently oppressing you. It's a lot better to imply them with complex symbolism in order to sneak it by the censors.

Apparently there was a remake made starring George Clooney. I can see why he was selected to do the American remake. It's pretty much perfect casting cosidering the original. I'm curious now to see this remake. Will it be as obscure, as opaque, as impossibly confusing as the original? Is that the reason it didn't do so well in the theaters? Americans don't like ambiguity so much and that's all this film is.

It will be interesing to see.

Monday, May 01, 2006

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA -- by naudy (6)

When this movie came out there was some controversy in my office about the casting. Everyone was all up in arms about the (pretty nearly) all Chinese cast of a film about Japan. During the resuting brouhaha, I defended Rob Marshall's decision to cast whomever he wished. After all, movie makers aren't making films just to meet the needs of political correctness. They're making movies people will pay to see. And, since the average cost of seeing a movie, after getting a babysitter, paying for gas, parking, and food, runs around $50 for two adults, you'd better get some sort of star in the picture that the husbands won't mind seeing. Since the three main stars in this film -- Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, and Michelle Yeoh -- are better known for their action films, it makes economic sense. And it shouldn't matter anyway. Actors aren't paid for being themselves. They're paid to portray characters. It shouldn't matter if you are a Chinese woman playing a Japanese woman any more than it matters if you are a straight man playing a gay one.

And then I saw the movie. It wasn't Japanese. Sure it was set in Japan and the girls wore kimono, but it was as Japanese as Luciano Pavarotti singing Schubert. (Which is to say, it isn't.) Everyone talked too much. (WAAAY to much.) Everyone knelt in small rooms and actually looked at each other. (Which is weird.) No one had black laquered teeth. (Which is flatly impossible.) There wern't any spaces, any inferences, any of the
thousand small gracious non-events which define and describe Japanese life. I found myself watching these very Chinese women's hands, missing the delicacy of wrist which all the Japanese girls I know actually have. Geisha may be artists, be creatures exclusively dedicated to beauty, but this movie wasn't and didn't give us anyone who was.

I was disappointed.