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Why the actors/talking heads?
I was looking forward to watching this documentary with great anticipation, but was surprised & disappointed to see the storytelling element where many historical figures are reenacted/represented by actors. I was looking for cited quotations, a more detailed narrative, historic illustrations, & maps. I instead felt like I was watching a "history-lite" documentary that dwelled too long on the entertainment value of dressed up actors. I guess I'll have to find some books to read, because this documentary felt like too little substance for the length of the documentary. My sense was the "living history" actors took something away from the gravity of the narrative & history. "Liberty! The American Revolution" was produced after Ken Burns' "The Civil War." One would think these documentary filmmakers could have learned something from Burns devices for telling a story when one can't rely much on photography or video. Marginally recommend as a supplement to reading histories of the American Revolutionary War.
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)
Don't waste your time. Karan Johar has Sold Out the Soul of Bollywood.
This movie is ridiculous...in fact, ridiculously bad. I just saw Swami a few days ago & it is disheartening that an industry that once produced lovely films on shoestring budgets, now produces this expensive schlock. While the musical numbers in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai reminded me of a music video on MTV, this entire movie reminded me of a music video & had as much depth. Nothing takes the place of good story writing & editing: not sets, costumes, hairstyles, number of extras, etc. I know none of the Americans were depicted realistically & probably none of the Indians either-- since all the characters were acting like idiots. If the plot & dialogue are not good, nothing can stand in for them. The American slang was also a looong way from being current...& came across as bizarre, so perhaps it should be left out altogether, since it seemed out of place? Back to the drawing board, Karan Johar. Perhaps a sabbatical from the entertainment world would cleanse the artistic palate. The fans of your movies know you are capable of better. In the meantime, Aparna Sen, please create films more prolifically.
Superman Returns (2006)
Style over script subdues what could have been a substantive installment.
I found Superman Returns to be quite a conscious homage to Christopher Reeve & the early Richard Donner Superman movies. Brandon Routh is a convincing facsimile of Christopher Reeve's Superman, but, in my opinion, fails to put his own stamp on the role. Kate Bosworth, even though physically frail, portrayed a steely & complex Lois Lane. I enjoyed the retro 1940s set & costume design that was reminiscent of the original Superman comics setting, but because of it & the presence of current day technologies I kept feeling the story was taking place neither in the past, present or future, which distracted me from the storyline. The sets also needed extra lighting. I periodically asked the friends I was watching the movie with, "Can you see that? Can you make out what that object is?" It felt like half the lights were out in every room. It seems like the cinematographer did not have enough time to put together a good lighting plan for the movie. The lighting is noticeably dim throughout & the movie partially feels subdued because of it. The costumes were all black, gray, brown, mostly dull green, & pale beige which didn't help. There's also not much music except for the original theme song, so hence there's not a great deal of momentum propelling the action. It would also could have been compelling to see more scenes set in the newsroom & to have more interesting incidents for Superman to intervene in. Alter ego Clark Kent, who adds to the appeal of Superman, was given short shrift in this script. There also really wasn't much humor to speak of in the movie, which would have added some relish to plot. One (more) thing that bugged me about this movie is there wasn't a lot of dialogue. How many scenes are there where characters say more than five sentences to each other? A few would be nice. The establishment of characters was abbreviated. The presence of the Pomeranian dogs was also creepy. Why not spend that time setting up more of a relationship dynamic between Lois & Superman or Lois & Clark? Ditto for the 5 minute destruction of the train set. In the final analysis, Superman Returns played like the introduction to another movie & the characters did not undergo much change. However, SR made me want to watch Superman I again, which more effectively introduces Superman & where Superman & Lois Lane show discernible emotions.
Berkeley Square (1998)
Soapy, soapy, Victorian soap
This miniseries takes place in Victorian England during 1902. While the costumes and setting were interesting, the plot line was pure soap opera. The various character moral decisions and plot lines by no means accurately reflect the end of the Victorian era. The series starts out somewhat slowly, but completely manages to jump the shark in the episode "When the Bough Breaks". For a better BBC miniseries in just about every way check out the Duchess of Duke series. The writing is far superior.
Wag the Dog (1997)
Eleven Stars - Wag the Dog is a Modern Masterpiece
Alfred Hitchcock once said, "The audience is like a giant organ that you and I are playing. At one moment we play this note on them and get this reaction, and then we play that chord and they react that way. And someday we won't even have to make a movie---there'll be electrodes implanted in their brains, and we'll just press different buttons and they'll go 'ooooh' and 'aaaah'' and we'll frighten them, and make them laugh. Won't that be wonderful?" This movie, Wag the Dog, asks: "Is that...wonderful?"
Beyond this motion picture, Wag the Dog has entered the national dialectic as a concept; some pundits have alluded to this movie Wag the Dog as being eerily prescient about U.S. domestic and foreign policy issues in the last half of the twentieth century. Wag the Dog depicts how media, governments, advertising, and political figures manipulate emotions to garner public support or make money.
Regardless of the extent to which you, the viewer, think that a "Wag the Dog" scenario could occur, this movie encourages critical thinking and reflection about propaganda and the manipulation of emotion during times of war, the manufacturing of media, and yellow journalism.
Robert Evans' "The Kid Stays in the Picture" docudrama (Evans was the model for Dustin Hoffman's Hollywood producer, Stanley Motss) led me to the movie "Wag the Dog" and both movies complement each other well.
Too bad Motts wasn't given the line "Nothing beats good writing. Nothing." And writers often receive little more credit than producers (and are probably paid a whole lot less). So here's a thanks for the great writing, screenwriters. And thanks to the editors, director, and producers, too. : > Eleven stars.
The DVD version recommends other politically satirical movies and has other fun bonus features.