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The Tree of Life (2011)
whisper whisper Image more whispering Poem whisper Crying
I frequently travel internationally and this film has been making the circuit on various in-flight entertainment systems. Since it's so long I thought it would be a great opportunity to settle in and kill off a big piece of a 15+ hour flight. The first time I tried it I had to give up after about 30 minutes - the first 30 minutes of the soundtrack consisted of voice-overs speaking poetry and what seemed like Bible verses in whispered tones over discontinuous shots of tragic slices of life from a 1950's family, nature scenes, and astronomical shots of galaxies. Because of the airplane noise I couldn't make out what they were saying, even with the volume cranked to max. Since I was sure I was missing the gist of it turned it off and I resolved to try again. So yesterday, on a flight from Newark to Delhi I decided to give it another try, this time with my cool noise-reduction headphones, and I could actually hear what they were whispering. I lasted a full two hours before I gave up on it. I thought, "for sure, this will turn into something interesting." I mean, Brad Pitt? Sean Penn? Among my absolute favorite performers. Interesting cinematography, for sure this will become something to make an impression on me.
But it left me cold. I turned it off after two hours. I have no ill-will toward the filmmakers, and certainly wouldn't disparage their craft, which is entirely evident here. I honestly do enjoy all different kinds of films, even many non-liner ones. But this one, it's not for me.
Good Luck Charlie (2010)
A Laugh Track Sans The Jokes
I find it difficult to watch any show with a laugh track, but this one is particularly annoying because the lines proceeding each loud hearty laugh are not even jokes. I guess it is more cost effective for ABC/Disney to hire engineers to insert laugh tracks than hire writers who can write decent material.
The characters and situations are stock Disney channel fare, and the target audience is already well-conditioned to recognize these characters and thoroughly anticipate each plot line, so all that's left is to direct them when to laugh by inserting a laugh track after pretty much every single line of dialog.
Ulica Graniczna (1948)
A Child's View Of The Holocaust
The film presents the experience of the insanity of the late 1930's in Poland through the eyes of a child. It was produced in 1948, while the wounds were still fresh, and before much of the atrocities of which we are now aware became widely known.
As it is told through a child's eyes, it makes a good introduction to the Holocaust for sophisticated children. I say "sophisticated" because it is black and white, and it is foreign language with subtitles. It doesn't include any nightmare-inducing scenes that subsequent Holocaust films do, but does successfully present the bind which Eastern European families, both Jewish and Gentile, were gripped by, and the impact of fascism on this boy's life.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising scenes are especially inspiring - not a high-budget special effects sequence but you are really gripped by it.
I saw it when I was nine or ten and saw it again recently, and feel that it holds up very well.
A bit of Anti-Communist Agitprop
I recall the one weekend that this movie was in theatrical release. I was on a first date and there were absolutely no date-worthy movies playing. A bunch of well-dressed students (whom I later guessed to be Moonies)were lined up to see this one. Upon investigation I saw the producers were raffling off a Rolls Royce to all who bought a ticket. "Ooohh," she said. "Wouldn't it be fun if we won a car by going to see a movie?" OK, so I relented.
In retrospect even if we had won the car it wouldn't have been worth it. It wasn't even laughably bad. It was just pathetic, watching Sir Laurence's career spiraling down the money pit. Just a few short months after watching him flounder in "The Jazz Singer," here he was with an inch of pancake makeup spouting religious homilies.
It was a time when MacArthur was out of favor and the Cold War was in full swing, so the Reverend Moon was determined to use the latter to rectify the former. I am certainly not an expert on the military history of the Korean War so make no claims as to its historical accuracy. But with the over the top moralizing here I sat there knowing I was being manipulated, brainwashed, whatever.
And, on cue, the proselytizing for the Unification Church began as soon as the final credits rolled.
Uck, what a sickening experience. I never went out with her again.
Fortunately Sir Laurence rebounded shortly after with Clash Of The Titans and a few other not-quite-so-bad performances on made-for-TV movies so we aren't stuck with this as the last impression of this great actor.
The Cat in the Hat (2003)
Shame on these people
Audrey, I know you truly cherish your husband Ted's memory but PLEASE do his legacy justice and heed his wishes. Dr. Seuss refused to license his characters during his lifetime for a very good reason. We beg of you to please stop cashing in on his stories, images, fantasies and characters. They are getting disemboweled by the powers that be of Hollywood and Broadway. The children of tomorrow will be stuck with these histrionic and grotesque interpretations that will forever pollute the loving warmth and innocence of his books.
It is indeed your property to do with as you wish. I just wish you would listen to the advice of others for a little while. Save what is left of Dr. Seuss. Thank you.
Haunting and Beautiful
Last night, driving with a friend, she popped a CD into the player in her car and Jimmy Durante's voice sang a song I had not heard in about 35 years - "Hi-Lili Hi-Lo." The emotion of this movie that I saw as a young child, perhaps six years old, came rushing back to me.
I don't remember a lot of things from when I was six but I do remember being entranced and a bit haunted by the movie Lili. I was easily able to relate to Lili's encounter with the puppets that became her confidants and friends when the adult world became too hard to handle. The initial charm of the magician character that, as all too often became the case for people in my young life, turned to emotional unavailability. The course by which Lili's fear of the puppeteer gets dissolved through understanding. And most of all the hauntingly beautiful song and dance sequence.
I don't remember much of the plot but I am very much looking forward to seeing this movie again. If it was available on DVD I would immediately buy it for my own children.
As Good as It Gets (1997)
Watching this movie was a mildly amusing way to spend an afternoon, and the plot and characterizations are easily forgotten by bedtime. I am rather confused by the outpouring of emotion that some people have for this bagatelle of a flick. And how on earth could this win acting Oscars? I recall Robert Duvall in "The Apostle" was nominated and Nicholson won for this bit of fluff? I don't remember much of the individual performances or jokes to comment upon, but I do recall that it didn't suck and I stayed awake.
The Presidio (1988)
What a lame, shallow waste of time talent and money. I wanted the antagonist to kill the good guy after the first half hour and put all of us out of our misery. It's movies like this, with big production budgets promotional dollars that should go down as the worst movies of all time ("Men At Work" also comes to mind) instead of clearly underambitious drivel like Manos or Eeeeagh. It made me angry that this got made and released and that I actually paid to watch it.
About what one would expect
Ya gotta admit it's a great title and Tom Poston is rather watchable for the nine-year-olds who are the target audience. It's just a silly chase over a coin with silly magical powers, and if one can overlook the Cold War propaganda was a fun fantasy for playacting with my little friends afterwards.
Watching it again as an adult I found it rather charmless but not a total bore.