Reviews written by registered user
|6 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The visuals were beautiful, the characters endearing, and the story
uplifting. But this movie seemed to me to consist almost entirely of
carefully designed and staged pieces. Just a couple of examples: a) The
capture of the egret from the nest. It includes shots from multiple
angles, including a several shots from what seems to be a go-pro
mounted on the huntress's hat. However, in the wide shots, no camera
positions are visible, and there's certainly no camera on the huntress.
Staged. b) The "interviews" in which the dubious elders initially
express their skepticism, then their tolerance, then final grudging
acknowledgment, were all shot at the same time, one after another, even
though they're supposedly responding to events that happen at various
stages of the movie. The lighting, costuming, and staging are clearly
from the same recording session. c) The climactic competition sequence
includes multiple ground level closeups of the action, which would
require several cameras on the field. However, in the wide aerial shots
of the same sequence, no other cameras on the ground are visible.
I could go on, but you get my drift. It's a beautiful feature film: but when the scenes are faked, one can't help but wonder how much of the story is true.
I love fantasy and SF in film, from cheesy Japanese rubber suiters to
big budget Spielberg. Bad films have their own peculiar charm. It pains
me to report that "Westender" is a bona fide bomb that fails on just
about every level.
It's an attempt to combine several genres, which as we've all seen can work pretty well. The problem is, it does all of them badly.
The "Heroic Quest" forms the basis of the plot. Without giving too much away, the story line is as formulaic and generic as you can get...MINUS the final moment of resolution/redemption that usually caps this kind of film. It didn't really end...it just sort of...stopped. Roll credits.
But there are a few other film styles that waft through this stinker like farts on a breeze. They include:
- The "Metaphysical Journey of Exploration", exemplified (and much parodied) by directors like Bergman and Antonioni. This accounts for the interminable sequences of the sun-baked hero staggering across vast wastes. This is Symbolic, you see, of his Inner Emptiness: and the grass on the far side of the desert is Symbolic of his Newly Awakened and Heightened Spiritual Consciousness. Phew. Pretty darned mystical. With all due respect to the reviewers who found profundity in this excruciating exercise in undergrad angst...there isn't an interesting idea to be found in the whole nine hours of the film. (Yes, I know what the duration on the label says. But it FEELS like nine hours. At least.)
- "Revisionist Medievalism" (in the style of "Ladyhawke" or "Princess Bride") wherein people in Middle Ages costumes and settings exhibit contemporary characters and language. It can be funny. Here, it's just inconsistent and annoying.
- "Hommage", in which characters and situations borrowed from other films pop up, presumably to show us the director is aware of them. So we have little moments that resemble low-budget Kurusawa, Boorman, Fellini, and others. If the film worked, these might have been amusing. It doesn't, and they're not, except as a mild distraction on your descent into torpor.
And one final comment for folks who have commented on the "stunning beauty" and "epic grandeur" of the scenery: you know, if you take a camera somewhere beautiful and shoot a wide shot, you're going to have a nice looking shot. There's not much trick to it.
The most amusing thing about "Bad Santa" is the fact that the storyline follows a perfect "Christmas Movie" plot arc...the same narrative used in every Christmas film from "Christmas Carol" to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". A sad, twisted, misfit meets an innocent, is slowly redeemed through the encounter, is driven to commit a kind act, is transformed, and poof...happy ending. But Zwigoff pulls it off without making his strange characters, or the stock plot situations, any less twisted...in fact, they all stay quite unattractive. Quite the accomplishment.
Stephen King writes two kinds of books, both of which I enjoy. Some are
focused, tight narratives that follow a single thread...Cujo, Christine,
Salem's Lot, Carrie, Pet Sematary, and others. Then occasionally he
a multi-tier extravaganza like It or Tommyknockers, with dozens of
characters (often multigenerational) and plot threads. Dreamcatcher, the
novel, is one of the latter...it tries (with only modest success) to be a
horror novel, science fiction, coming-of-age story, thriller, conspiracy
theory, and a few other genres as well.
A director and screenwriter faced with the challenge of turning a stew like that into a film have two choices.
a) They can drop most of the plot threads and concentrate on two or three key narrative lines, or; b) They can try to keep most of the plot threads intact, and drop most of the character development.
Donner and Goldman have chosen plan (b) in this case. What's left is an almost incoherent roller coaster that shifts time, pace, location, mood and characters with virtually every scene, without strong characters to tie it together. I can't imagine in makes much sense to anyone who hasn't read the book: and those who have will be disappointed at the absence of everything that made the book worth reading...the well developed childhood friends, the psychotic Kurtz (Morgan Freeman is much too humane), and mostly, an interesting and credible Dudditz.
I confess I did not read the other 58 comments on this film (as of Sept.
2003) in detail. But one element of this film that appears to have
most peoples' attention is that it is, among other things, a very clever
parody of the D.A. Pennebaker Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back", with
several scenes and shots structured reflect scenes in the Dylan film.
chilling parody...in the Dylan film, Bob D. is typing lyrics in a corner
while Joan Baez sings "Pretty Polly"...in Bob Roberts, Bob. R. is
his stocks online while his girlfriend sings about right wingers Marching
There are dozens of other parallels (the "Bob on Bob" album cover, the parody of the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video, and the motorcycle crash)...rent Don't Look Back, then watch Bob Roberts again and enjoy.
Some friends and I used to gather every month with the worst movies we
find in an attempt to uncover the indisputable stinker of the ages. We
worked our way through most of the obvious ones...the entire Ed Wood canon,
Herschel Gordon Lewis, rubber suiters and bad creature features...and for a
while it looked as though The Creeping Terror might take the
Then we saw Microwave Massacre. It prompted more discussion than any film we had screened. We just couldn't fathom the truly astonishing depths of its awfulness. It failed on more levels than we could count. Technically inept (boom shadows in every shot, appeared to have been lit with a single weak fresnel, sound recorded on a used radio shack cassette recorder), funny when it tried to scare and horribly unfunny when it tried to amuse, pornographic without being the least bit stimulating...it led us to posit a universal theory of Anticulture, in which a parallel universe transferred particles of anticulture in our world. Microwave Massacre is one such particle.
The group broke up shortly after that screening. There was really no point in going on.