Reviews

4 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Love Actually (2003)
8/10
actually loved it!
12 December 2003
I had braced myself for disappointment. After all, what movie could ever live up to the promises of such a stellar cast? Emma Thompson, who may very well be the perfect actress...if not woman. Colin Firth, my not-so-secret latest crush. Liam Neeson, who always makes me think of naked guys since seeing him as Oscar Wilde on Broadway in The Judas Kiss. The always brilliant Alan Rickman. And no matter what his failings, I can't long resist the charms of Hugh Grant...often to my chagrin. Yet, even with Richard Curtis at the helm, good romantic comedies are hard to find, so I dared not hope too much.

Imagine my surprise. Love Actually actually is a delight. As the opening monologue relates, the prevailing wisdom in our world is that hatred and greed run rampant, overshadowing anything decent about humanity and its intricate relationships. But when we stop and look around us, it's amazing how much love there really is- among friends, partners, family, and even colleagues. Just watch the arrivals at the airport to see the joy we bring one another. When faced with corporate scandals, bullying nations, and desperate terrorists, we too often we overlook the daily graces of life. Yet they continue...and even abound...for many of us. This film explores such graces through a multiplicity of relationships: a man (Neeson) and his stepson; an aging rocker and his manager; the new Prime Minister (Grant) and one of his staff; an aging, successful businessman (Rickman), his wife (Thompson) and his would-be mistress; a cuckholded man (Firth) and his cleaning lady; an artist struggling to adjust to his best friend's marriage; a woman (Laura Linney) torn between her commitment to herself and her commitment to family.the list goes on and on. Like the intricacies of our lives and commitments, many of these plot-lines overlap.

Admittedly, in spite of the challenges of their relationships, these characters spend vast amounts of time in the lap of luxury, enjoying privileges unknown in large sectors of society. Without a doubt, they're delightful eye-candy. Even so, like the rest of us mere mortals, they face personal challenges, disappointments, and even griefs...none of which are trivial...or trivialized. But somehow these characters survive...with plucky courage, humor, and even joy. In a world full of despair and degradation, Love Actually offers signs of hope both for creative transformation and for good's triumph - at least for those who can afford it. Julian of Norwich would've loved it: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

And a number of things in Love Actually actually are well. Near the beginning of the film we witness a wedding between a white woman (Keira Knightley) and a black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and no one even blinks. Undercurrents abound around this wedding, but they aren't about race. How nice. And while the film doesn't demonize (or, god-forbid, glorify) Americans (thankfully), it does dare to poke fun and even point-out some of our worst failings at present...in an oh-so-polite-but-stalwart British way. How refreshing.

But ALL is not well in Love Actually. For a film of 135 minutes, there are an inordinate number of fat comments-an indication of laziness on the part of the writers who opt for cheap laughs at the expense of any woman larger than a size 6. Driving the film's excessive attention to weight is its sexist undercurrent. Perhaps that's part of the film's appeal - it doesn't threaten or challenge or call to accountability in any way the "traditional" world where men wield power in the public sphere and women are subordinate to them, both in the office and in the home. In spite of the vast variety of relationships explored and the vast talent of the women in the cast, not one of the plot-lines is about a relationship between or among women. Ultimately, all of the stories revolve around the needs, wants and problems of the men in them - the women serve only as foils. Important as the needs, wants and problems of men are, I suspect the women in their world have needs, wants and problems of their own. Sadly, in this film, we'll never know about any of those except the ones that revolve around the men. So although Curtis and Co. envision a world in which persons are judged by the `content of their character rather than the color of their skin,' they fail miserably even to question a world ruled exclusively by men with full support from `their' women.

Like most romantic comedies, Love Actually abounds with the implausible and the outrageous. Such circumstances are part of the fun and easy to forgive. Would that its sexism had been portrayed as equally implausible and outrageous....still, for solid performances and reliable laughs in a romantic comedy, Love Actually actually can't be beat.
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5/10
more story, fewer action sequences
18 December 2002
while the fellowship of the ring paints a fair picture of the spirit of tolkien's work, the two towers might as well have car chases and buildings exploding...and in every scene. and unlike the first part of the trilogy, the departures from the book GREATLY detracted from rather than enhanced the story. why did faramir come off looking like an evil boromir? not his role....and why do ents have knees and never go to rohan? such departures seemed pointless -- and i found myself wishing about halfway through the movie that the struggles in life to determine the right vs. the wrong course could be as easy as jackson depicts them in this movie. if only evil looked like an orc, we'd all know to flee or fight it! but only the really shallow or uninformed -- or inexperienced -- ever think any of the struggles between forces in this world are as clear-cut as this movie makes them seem. quite a disappointment -- especially considering my love of the first part. i can only hope the editing of the 3rd part focuses more on the dynamics of the story than the dynamics of the special effects.
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10/10
the fundamentalist takeover of southern seminary
5 May 2002
lipscomb documents the takeover of southern baptist theological seminary in louisville, ky, in 1995 by the fundamentalists whose ascension to power in the southern baptist convention began in 1979. including scenes from candlelight vigils, peaceful protests of board of directors meetings, interviews with students, faculty and board members, as well as scenes from significant sbc meetings, the documentary gives a broad look at the ways fundamentalist control continues to demean and dismiss women by appealing to select verses from scripture. again and again, men interviewed in the documentary quote timothy -- "the pastor must be the husband of one wife" -- their proof that a woman can't be a pastor. (of course, they don't seem to consider transgendered ways of subverting that interpretation -- but that's for a different documentary.) for those who've heard of a "controversy" in the sbc for the last couple of decades, "battle for the minds" shows clearly the effect that controversy had in the lives of students, alum and faculty at sbts.
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Dogma (1999)
9/10
simply fabulous--kevin smith rocks!
15 May 2001
While both funny and frightening, this film is more than just a comedy with gratuitous violence and (bad)-language. It's a theological reflection...and a call to the Church to focus on things that matter (like living life to the fullest, helping those in need, honoring and respecting all, expecting respect in return) rather than those that don't (like...well, dogma [doctrines/church laws] or any belief that causes us to "draw a line in the sand," condemning to hell or perdition any who disagree with us). As I watched it (the first and all subsequent times), I felt sure that the movie was written by someone who really loves his church -- but is smart and aware enough to recognize its shortcomings, its blindspots, even its failures and hypocrisies. Rather than simply leaving or ignoring or dismissing it, Smith chooses to enter into dialogue with it, using the potent medium of film to do so. One can only hope that the church--not just Roman Catholic but all branches of it-- takes him up on his call to conversation.

Not to be missed in the film, on a lighter note, are the introductory disclaimer and the "Thank Yous" at the end. Smith thanks Elaine Pagels, for God's sake -- who knew anyone in Hollywood read contemporary, feminist theology? What a welcome revelation....
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