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500 Nations (1995)
Wonderful historical detail, and well told. Very one (left) sided though.
Fascinating amount of detail on AmerIndian history.
It's also however extremely one sided.
We don't hear about all of the endemic massacres by Indians of whites from the get go, through the whole thing.
We also don't get any context. I.e., everyone believed in conquest against deeply foreign peoples not sharing the same religion/world view in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Certainly AmerIndians did, most of whom lived in states of endemic (as in yearly or more often) warfare, including often the extremely cruel torture of their captured enemies. E.g. the Hurons in common with many Great Lake tribes skinned alive their captives in ritual fashion back in their own home villages. For those not committed to reading source history, the movie Black Robe (which takes a quite neutral and or mutually critical cultural stance) is informative in this regard.
The current view that conquest is horrible and likely to be called genocide is unique, at least among winning societies (and usually among everyone), in world history.
The AmerIndians were the ones who taught total war to the whites early in the 1600s near the Atlantic coast, killing old women and children, as well as all men combatants (or not), and taking the younger attractive women as additional wives / concubines / sex slaves. This had been the form of warfare they had waged amongst themselves before first contact with Europeans.
Read Thomas Sowell in "Conquest and Cultures" on the Amerindian issues. Sober, balanced, and most interesting.
There's no question that Euro-Americans committed many atrocities against AmerIndians, as amply reported in this series. But to watch this series you'd think that Indians never killed their enemy's women and children or took them as slaves. In fact many tribes usually did one or the other as a matter of their avowed tribal political and religious policy whenever they had the chance whenever they were at war.
In contrast it was never or almost never the policy of the British or national American government to kill not only enemy men (combatants) but also women and children -- although it certainly sometimes was the policy of some local militia commanders, and later of some great plains and western Army commanders -- and sometimes in a winking way some frontier governors. However, shamefully, the "removal", i.e. "ethnic cleansing" of AmerIndians to points ever further to western semi or actual badlands was far too often official policy. This was partly in response to endemic guerrilla war and partly simply in response to endemic lobbying by land hungry whites (the only side of it we hear in this one sided, propaganda-lite series). Andrew Jackson's removal policy against the successfully settled, agricultural, for the most part no longer guerrilla raiding, and semi-assimilating Cherokee, known as the "trail of tears", is probably the most shameful of all instances of this. This is of course amply reporter here, though also of course, with the Cherokees totally and completely without fault or threat.
All history has some point of view. At a (desireable) minimus, one always has to edit what down to what is most important. Nonetheless, when the "victim" (under the approach of this series and many other works) is virtually completely without fault (a rare reference to increasing alcoholism solely of course as a response to victimization not really excepted), and certainly without any independent capacity for aggression other than belated and regretfully ineffective defense, a work may be hard to distinguish from propaganda.
Now if two competing propagandas on the same topic were aired back to back, that would have been another thing.
High Plains Drifter (1973)
Brilliant. Courage and strength, not just moral platitudes, are necessary for freedom and decency to prevail.
One of the best and most unique Westerns of all time, "High Plains Drifter" is probably the most interesting -- and controversial. Of course it's in the modern, non-mythological style, which neither glamorizes the old West, nor the moral codes of its protagonists. Yet this film is its own unique moral fable.
Clint is absolutely at the top of his acting game. Although there certainly is violence and dramatic shots of Western landscape here (particularly the stunning opening scenes), this is overwhelmingly a character drama. Nearly all the many characters of this plot become full real people. It's a tight, spare drama with little waste. You need to pay attention, or watch it several times. Or both, to get the most out of it.
What at first seems to be a shockingly amoral film, turns out to be one of the most thought provoking tales of social and personal morality and the need for personal courage I have seen. Like much of Eastwood's work, it's point of view is strongly Nietchzschian -- the extraordinary man surrounded by weaklings of various sorts. Yet this is no call for strong man rule -- it illustrates just what can happen when people are so weak as to need that. There are no pat answers here. Rather issues of right and wrong, survival and revenge, strength and weakness are dramatically played out in starkly different circumstances than most current day Americans have ever experienced.
What if an entire isolated town, a social system unto itself, is complicit in murder wholly to protect it's own illegally based prosperity? What if an entire town fears for its continued existence and physical safety in the face of hard and evil men -- who are returning to exact revenge for actual wrongs done to them by that town? What if this town, this social group, is filled with moral and physical cowards, who must look outside their own, to some strong individuals, for help? How far will they debase themselves in their need for external strength, and leadership?
Most shocking to today's audience will be Clint's early rape of the town's belle (and woman let's say of easily shifting alliances) Callie Travers. She clearly was trying to seduce the Stranger in her own game playing put down way, after she saw him establish dominance by blowing away the town's three gunfighters. But the Stranger then clearly takes her against her will, after he grows tired of her games. She's furious afterwards too, and tries to shoot him. An utterly clear case of rape in today's climate. No one will side with her, since this town needs this strongman. So she is defenceless, and without effective recourse. Further, the degree of her own moral compromise becomes clear when we see how easily Clint can seduce her once he has cemented his alpha domination of the town. It's clearly solely for that reason. "I don't eat with dogs" she says, at first resisting his request she join him for supper, still mad about her violation. "Oh, I think you might," Clint responds, "when it's the leader of the pack" and trains his steely gaze on her. She melts into his arms, and asks for thirty minutes, to make herself ready. This is fully believable; we've seen glimpses of the power games that make her tick from her first introduction. Her moral standing is even more compromised when in a flashback we see her next to one of the towns richest citizens (her lover?), an owner of the mine, looking impassively on as the town's paid assassins whip the town's Marshall to death. The upstanding Marshall had discovered that the mine, which is the reason for the towns prosperity and existence, is actually on government land, and felt he had to report it. Not just men, but women too can be guilty in this Eastwood film, and deserving of their own type of special punishment in this anarchic and unsocialized time and place.
In the end it's the townspeople themselves, and the assassins they had had unjustly imprisoned for something they didn't do, which destroy the town in an orgy of combat, cowardice, lack of leadership and self destruction. The Stranger steps back and has no part of this on either side, having already catalyzed it's fulsome unfolding. As the assassins look to be winning in destroying the town, belle Callie Tavers, rape "victim", switches sides again and professes her never faltering love and devotion to one of them, continued she says all the time he was in jail.
In contrast the hotel owner's wife, who Clint seduces rather than rapes, decides after their intimacy that she wants nothing more to do with the town or her marriage. She seems to have been ambivalent about the town's prior actions, had little direct role in them, and is now disgusted. Like the Stranger she stays out of the final melee, as she too prepares to move on.
You must be brave and strong, before you can be free and enforce some sort of moral decency, is one of the teachings of this most Clint of all Eastwood's movies. Moral platitudes and preaching, but the town's utterly ineffectual Preacher or others, is not enough. There is no big brother here to do it for these people -- these townspeople are on their own. And not up to the task. The degree to which the weak, including their women, will suck up to the strong and degrade themselves, particularly when they are moral as well as physical cowards, is another. Women are not always forces of moral good here (unlike in the vast majority of Westerns). Neither are they the worst forces of evil or cowardice. (And they don't get the worst revenge either.) This is a Western with an Old Testament feel to it.
As the film ends, what was earlier foreshadowed becomes crystal clear. The Stranger is the ghost or alter ego of the assassinated town Marshall. Whose grave is unmarked no longer.
It's a brilliant piece of work, and probably my favorite Western.
Definitely worth seeing.
I only saw the last half of this New Zealand film on Sundance cable this evening.
Of course I wouldn't normally comment after an incomplete viewing, much less only half. I'm only doing so because so far there are no comments on IMDb, and this one deserves them. But given my partial viewing, I won't venture any more comment than this:
It's a very well filmed, intense psychological drama among four women and one man. It definitely brings a fresh perspective. It's well acted, and riveting, for those interested in intelligent, as opposed to least common denominator, dramas.
I will definitely be viewing the whole thing.
The Bachelor (1999)
Calling this movie misogynist is a hoot!
"The Bachelor" is a pretty good light romantic comedy. Brook Shields does indeed have the best scene in the whole flick. It's well described below, and is wonderfully funny. Rene Zellweger is both very good and very charming, as is Chris O'Donnell. It's not the sort of movie that will stay with you for much, but its pretty good fun while it's going on.
There's one thing I have to say though, and the main reason I'm bothering with a comment to this flick. Those that claim this movie is unrealistic and misogynist because of it's depiction of O'Donnell's former girlfriends and the huge number of women desperate for 100 million dollars, are infected with a serious case of delusional feminist PC propaganda. I can guarantee you that if an ad (turned into a front page article) with a picture guaranteeing sharing in a $100 million fortune for marrying a guy who looks like Chris O'Donnell the next day in a big American city (and clarifying that he was deadline desperate due to the date of his grandfather's death and the will provisions, so that many would feel they had a chance and he wasn't necessarily an impossible loser), there would indeed be hordes of women lining up to do it. Many wouldn't of course. But there'd be legions willing to take their chances. One of the main things limiting the numbers in fact would be self selection. The cliché that women (especially after their early 20's) tend to be attracted to money (or its prospect), fame and or success, while men tend to be attracted to beauty, has more than a little truth to it. Of course there also has to be personal chemistry in the ordinary course, but with $100 million on the table, a great many women would take their chances. So the crowd scenes are indeed plausible (if so many managing the wedding dresses on a few hours notice isn't).
What's most unrealistic is the PC "balancing" rejection this centi-millionaire gets from all but one of his former girl friends. That of course is what takes up the bulk of the movie. That is what is impossible to believe in the real world. In other words, "The Bachelor" actually leans over backwards to pretend that a far higher proportion of women wouldn't be swayed by the $100 million than is realistic. But just imagine how a more accurate balance would be criticized by the American media (not to mention academic) pundits of the moment. There are endless dismissive allusions to men being unduly or primarily interested in women's looks in today's American films -- and that that is terrible. (Why -- well, because women tend to have different priorities, and women must be right not only for themselves, but for men as well, of course.). That sort of commentary (with some basis in truth, if not in how it is characterized), often clearly intended as a put down of males, is perfectly fine under the reigning Hollywood ideology. Whereas highlighting women's special attraction (often enough) to men with power of various sorts -- money, fame, politics or sometimes physical power -- is dangerous ground indeed. Gee, I wonder why that is.
Love Is All There Is (1996)
The only real reason to see this movie is for Angelina Jolie at 20 -- but that's a plenty good reason.
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** This Italian-American farce is one of those intentionally "so bad it's good" sorts of movies. It's a decidedly B movie, but it's campy fun. She radiantly plays an angelicly pure but smoldering 16 year old princess, more than ready to pop the cork on her sexuality, previously successfully guarded by her parents. Phew!!! It's her youngest soft, romantic type role. "I'm crazy in love with you Rosario". "My parent's don't like any man for me. Especially they don't like you. Because you are sexy, and dangerous." "Be tender with me Rosario. I'm a virgin." In what other movie will you get to see Anglina lose her innocence??? (Well, maybe in Cyborg 2. There she's a kick boxing sex assassin robot though, so perhaps it doesn't count.)
Of course "Love is All There Is" fully intends to be campy. It's a broad humor romp though 60's or 70's Italian working class bad taste, mixed with endearingly warm personalities and high sex drives. It's plot is a reprise of the Romeo and Juliette story, played with an in your face lack of subtlety. The unlikely 16 year old couple are the children of two rival NYC Bronx (City Island) catering families, brought together by their roles in a community play. It's staged by Gina's (Jolie) parents to attract the goodwill of the bedrock S. Italian working class (culturally, if not necessarily economically) community, which is crucial for their business success. They are titled Florentines, but economically reduced enough to be trying to make a big success in the same business and community where Rosario's (the Romeo) parents are better established, in a down scale sort of way. Rosario's parents' have decidedly working class S. Italian roots (like most of New York's, and America's, Italian community) and working class taste, although they have made good, if precariously, in the local wedding banquet business.
Of course the stage kisses that really bring this couple together become vastly overheated by their ripe sexuality and first love passion. Jolie's father is horrified, and the onlooking S. Italian women from grandmothers to teenagers become overheated in sympathetic excitement. Their impetuous, reckless romance then proceeds at a galloping pace in their real lives, while the two families try to keep the two apart for their class different but essentially similar reasons.
The humor is often too broad to feel just right, though it nearly always scores some sort of hit. You tend to wince through some of it. You also can't help but chuckle or laugh at other parts. There is no doubt that the direction in this movie was always to overact, to make characatures of all the parts, and that's just what the actors do. Paul Sorvino was at the time the big name here and is only so-so, but Barbara Carrera, who though stunning is usually a poor actress given limited eye candy sorts of parts, is actually very good here as a haughty aristocrat. (She's most famous as Fatima Blush in some Bond films.) Anglina Jolie is one of the few who doesn't overact -- though the others no doubt do so by design. She's absolutely radiant as a previously virginal but precociously sexually overflowing 16 year old. It's easy to suppose the whole farce was structured around her -- though at the time she was a little known fledgling actress.
The conflict between Northern and Southern Italian culture, often symbolized by the cuisine of these feuding catering families, is a running joke -- sort of. Jolie is seen holed up in her room at one point, with a plate of elegant N.Italian butterfly pasta, with a thin white sauce, left untouched. (It looks right out of countless Manhattan northern Italian restaurants.) Meanwhile Rosario's parents are given to roccoco four food wedding cakes, to impress their mostly seriously overstuffed clients. Their house is filled with elaborately awful 'sculpted' plastic objects, and the like. In one hilarious scene, Rosario and his buddies make good on their scheme to snatch Gina from her parents by staging a chaotic diversion at their northern Italian style catering hall. They sabotage the pale pink pasta sauce warming in a huge sliver serving dish by -- horror of horrors -- pouring in a huge cooking pot's worth of dark red tomato sauce!! The guests start gaging at the results, of course.
Well, it's all worth it for the still virtually teenage, way beyond luscious, Angelina.
The Highwayman (2000)
Only one reason to watch this movie -- but its plenty. Laura Harris.
It's absurd that she is billed down in seventh or eighth place. She completely carries the film. She also has the most face time and is what stitches its various threads together. It's about her.
She simply lights up the screen and those around her with the joy of being with her. Considering the situations she gets herself into in this flick, that's something -- and fun.
Love & Sex (2000)
"Sex and Love" is one of my favorite romantic comedies of recent vintage.
"Sex and Love" is one of my favorite romantic comedies of recent vintage. It may in fact be may favorite.
It is from a decidedly 30 something, as opposed to 20 something, point of view. There is no question that that helps define its sub-genre, and its maturity.
I adore (and lust after) Framke Janssen, and deeply respect Jon Favreau. I was introduced to both by this movie. I have since gone looking for both in other films -- and have been rewarded in that quest.
This film does indeed dispense with the sex wars stereotypes of the moment and deal with two individual characters. At the same time, neither is the polar opposite of the sex stereotype (which might itself actually be a play off of the expected). Framke is a semi-promiscuous, very sexy but also "too tall", somewhat depressive and quirky woman. Favreau is not very good looking (which women, especially more intelligent and more experienced women tend to not care so much about), intense, highly intelligent, and if anything too oriented towards early commitment. At the same time he seems to have a very strong and experimental sex drive. All in all, he is in many ways what elite level late 90's women say (at any rate) they want the most in men.
But Jon develops a problem. Though he fights against it, he is in fact life experience jealous of Framke's 13 (as I remember) against his (rather amazing 3). (Both are very suppressed numbers, if you ask me.) He stays with women he sleeps with for six years. She hasn't had a relationship that lasted longer than six weeks, other than her high school French teacher (with a vanishingly small d**k). So one thing leads to another and they separate in a most friendly and civilized manner. Only to....
It is the detailed and very honest character development which makes this movie -- what it is all about. In fact it is a very "French" American romantic comedy -- set within a quintessentially American idiom.
I'd love to see many more like this.
Kyra Sedgwick's utterly mannish, non erotic, cardboard character pulls the film down to just stylish, but worth seeing.
Montana is worth seeing, but flawed. It is indeed in the style of Pulp Fiction, without being so tight or erotic. It's at least as casually violent. But that alone doesn't carry it. There's no Uma Thurman here in a leading role.
The basic plot is fine, but not directed quite tightly enough. Sections in the middle drag considerably. Stanley Tucci does carry this film -- but so in a way does Robbin Tunney as Kitty, the gangster's moll. She does a fabulous job with her role -- and adds all the female sex appeal to the film, which is considerable. Tunney's role though is most unfashionable for the 90's -- a seductively submissive gangster's mistress. It becomes clear that the submissiveness is mostly an act, though her "role in life" cannot but remain 90's unfashionable. She proves herself plenty tough and resourceful when taking control is useful or essential to her (i.e. she blows away, and causes to be blown away, at least her share of bad guys.) One of the movie's big problems though is that there's nothing going on between her and the main male character, played by Tucci -- or anyone else on screen. (Actually, if there was between her and anyone, and it got any face time, she'd probably steal the movie completely away from Kyra Sedgwick. As it is, she actually almost does.)
As others here have noted, Tucci's performance is wonderful, but he isn't on screen enough to carry the whole film. He's tough, cool, intense and utterly competent -- and edgily sexually compelling. Tucci's got a signature magnetism, despite his bald, average at best static looks. There's something about his intensity.
The film's key problem is Kyra Sedgwick. She plays a tough as steel hit woman. But she's all business. But she's also about as emotional as steel. There's no erotic thrill to her. She's a cardboard character, without any real emotional vulnerabilities. But for her long curly hair, she's a thoroughly mannish character. I really haven't seen (or anyway remember) her in much else, but here she's thoroughly wooden. Of course because as-tough-as-any-man women are very much the 90's (and late 80's) fashion, this will tend to be overlooked by many.
Men who are the same, and don't show a convincing vulnerable side to a woman they are attracted to, generally aren't very likeable protagonists either (though they can make good villains). If we didn't see the even colder hitman Jean Reno's intense (though initially guarded) affection for the 12 year old Natalie Portman in The Professional (Leon) for example, we wouldn't much care about him and the movie wouldn't have been nearly as powerful. Sedgwick goes through the motions of affection and caring for Tucci, but it doesn't remotely ring emotionally true. There's zero chemistry coming from her. It's actually rather weird, since chemistry DOES seem to be coming off of Tucci towards her big time, just not the other way around. (Makes me suppose she's strictly gay in addition to not being very good. Or was it the direction?)
Anyway, for whatever reason, she simply doesn't work. I could care less what happens to her in this film, much less feel any sexual attraction whatsoever. Which is a big problem, since she's really the central character of the film, who stitches the various other characters together, and gets the most face time.
I sure would like to see Robbin Tunney as the lead character in a good and intelligently erotic movie. She's sizzling hot here, without any nudity (but a lot of lingere). Unfortunately she was given only a limited screen time supporting role, with no one to really erotically interact with. She nonetheless simply exuded sexual chemistry. Unfortunately, that will be overlooked or dismissed by many because of her unfashionable role.
The Devil's Arithmetic (1999)
Yet ANOTHER Holocaust movie, and a lousy one.
I essentially agree with Anonymous of Raleigh, NC below.
The Holocaust is of course the most saturation retold story of modern media history. This version is way weaker than many, and adds nothing to the genre. It doesn't succeed in making us care especially poignantly about the victims. In fact it's much weaker than many other Holocaust films in that.
The two strongest Holocaust films, at least of recent vintage, are the inimitable Schindler's List, towering above all, but also "Jacob the Liar". "Life Is Beautiful" is also poignant.
This one is dreck.
I only saw it for Kirsten Dunst. She too is disappointing here, probably largely because the character she is asked to play, a spoiled affluent brat, is fundamentally unappealing and unidimensional, until near the end.
So when are we gonna see this script flipped??
This movie has a fresh and intriguing premise -- or anyway, one which is carried forward and explored to an unusual degree. But unfortunately it both is and isn't very well done.
Visually, it's very well done. Kathleen Robertson, as the Victoria who can attract two hunky guys so much that they put up with living all together, is absolutely stunning. She's a blonde beauty to begin with, but as well her face positively radiates light in this film. She's got the glowing look of a woman first falling head over hells in love, and then pregnant at the same time. I'm not sure how they / she did it, but it's pretty compelling. As well the reckless young 20 something LA party scene atmosphere, which Araki used with even more (and darker) abandon in "Doom" and "Nowhere" (and I understand as well in the all gay "Totally F**ked Up" which I haven't seen), is colorful here as well. Veronica's jumping Matt at second sight, in the bathroom, is a memorably abandoned casual sex scene. Hot. Most of the movie is in high contrast, diffuse back lighted candy colors. The atmosphere is fun, fun, fun. All of which makes a good date movie.
Emotionally it only goes just below skin deep. Yeah, OK, the two guys have different personalities, sort of. One is the carefree musician / jock physical type. None too bright. But sweet. The other is the emotionally soulful writer type. But both soon seem to merge into hunky male dependency on her, financially and emotionally. Ah yes. The theme song of the feminist 90's. Actually, she digs it.
There are some interesting sex relations insights (gay world derrived -- natch for the 90's), such as that for a two hunky guys and one gorgeous girl threesome in the same bed to work, the two guys are gonna have to get off on each other physically as well as emotionally, at least to some degree. (Just kissing, the film pretends -- maybe.) But supposedly all are overwhelming hetero, if not entirely exclusively so. The relationship conflicts which would be sure to be there, to be dealt with successfully perhaps, are hardly seen at all in this film. In fact the guys look increasingly gay to me, but that is little explored.
Instead, the plot moves forward through a different conflict -- her perceived need for ANOTHER sort of man. A career and financially successful one, who can help her in the traditional ways -- once she learns she's pregnant from one of her happy go lucky, but femme submissive, hunks. The trouble of course is that she doesn't LOVE the successful guy. He too is a male submissive, but of the casper milktoast variety. I mean this guy convinces her to go with him on a weekend getaway to his condo in Maui with the promise of "only talking", and then when she's receptive to him after being blow away by the luxe, he remains "true to his word", the idiot, and doesn't do diddly. She was begging for it Earnest. Talk about a testosterone deficit!!!
Nonetheless, our heroine gets engaged to Earnest. He's so nice, and life with him would be so secure. This is getting pedestrian. As well, at this point the film loses any semblance of honesty. "Earnest is the kind of guy who would stick around, whether it was fun or not", she explains to her girlfriend. Of course the film never asks the obvious reverse question. Is she? Probably because you'd get the wrong answer. Next her lesbo girlfriend warns her against marrying someone she doesn't really and truly love. "I'm doing the responsible thing" she says. Her girlfriend counters: 'Even if it means ball and chaining yourself to him for the rest of your life?"
As if!!! Under today's feminist "reformed" divorce laws? What total dishonesty! Just what would be the downside to Victoria marrying Earnest? How long does she have to stay with him? What does she get if she splits after a couple of years? For that matter, what would keep this thinking-outside-the-traditional-box femme from shacking up with her two hunks three or four nights a week while she's married to her well off milktoast? And what would be the consequences for her if she did? Horrible, for such duplicity, right? Hardly. If Earnest decided not to put up with it after a while, guess who'd have to pay for the mistake, and the transgressions? Why Earnest of course!!! Welcome to marriage law in feminist America. Whatever emotional significance most people still attach to marriage commitments at least before the fact, legally marriage is now almost entirely a one way contract which obligates only men, and not women.
Was the possibility that Earnest could be viewed by Victoria not as an alternative to her dual action thing, but really as a supplement to it, touched on by this flick? Why not? After all, isn't it a natural line to explore, since she's trying to combine an edgy sexual relationship with multiple submissive men, with financial security for her child? Isn't it begging to be explored, after a line like: 'Even if it means ball and chaining yourself to him for the rest of your life?"
Maybe it's not because then the incredible bias in feminist "reformed" American marriage (divorce) law today would come into focus. We can't have that, now can we?
Oh, and another thing. When are we going to see a flick which flips this script? Two (or more) predominantly hetero women living happily with one guy? Where that is celebrated, I mean, rather than vilified. When in the last 1 1/2 decades has that been done? Anyone care to name the American film? It can't be done.