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Angry_Arguer

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454 reviews in total 
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Elephant (2003)
2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
The Illusion of Cheap Intelligence, 17 December 2004
2/10

Ay caramba, if I had a dollar for every bad studio film I've seen I could retire in Florida. A nickel for every bad independent film and I could buy an island in Tahiti.

American cinema has aged and grown enough in the last forty years where we laud the underdog and secretly hate the "studio-meddling flicks." Sadly, if you've seen enough "indie" or student films, you know that they can be just as bad--if not worse--than their bigger comrades.

Make no mistake, I love Ridley Scott's expensive pains as much as David Lynch's. Money is no item when it's done right. But 'Elephant' is just a tremendous gaffe.

This movie got me further incensed at Cannes. I started wondering why this slow, non-linear film was so celebrated...when the smug 'MASH' won over the wonderfully similarly constructed 'Catch-22' some thirty years ago. I guess Cannes cares more for making grand statements than actual cinematic form, but sobeit. I'm just surprised they haven't given Oliver Stone an award yet.

Everything is all about the characters (and something about inevitability and fate), but it's been done better before. Do we need cheapskates like Van Sant to strut around like they are smarter than everyone else by pretending they are realistic? I'm giving up on films that try to be "realistic." This movie certainly isn't. Any "average" American high school has at least ten times more kids wandering the halls. There would be five times more profanity in the conversations. If a film is such a large, complicated endeavor (even "small" ones like this) with so many nuances, why waste it on characters? Why spend five minutes following someone around instead of exploring on your own?

Sorry, but Mike Nichols already did everything right in 'Catch-22:' same content, more intelligent form, and a big smiling budget.

Alexander (2004)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Conquest of Paradise, 26 November 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Another mammoth epic relying on Vangelis to hold it together.

Potential Spoilers ahead...

Yet another epic, tackled by the most daring director yet. An epic this scale requires a visionary, not a "people-person."

Obviously, Stone draws common traits from his id. There's his usual misogyny, some aspirations of power, serpents, and history obsession. Add some drug-induced panic. Let simmer. Pray for the best. Looks pretty silly now, didn't in 'Born on the Fourth'. I'll skip acting and story comments. If you want to know more about Alexander, read a book. Besides, I don't want a story getting in the way of the vision.

The battles--especially in India--are better than what we've seen this year; more confusion than 'Troy', but without the energy that Ridley brought to 'Gladiator.' Stone's problem, once again, is not finding a distinct vision in his chaos. Before this I watched 'Spy Game' and found a continuous vision inside all the gee-whiz editing so this isn't impossible on a larger scale.

Sure, we get the usual beheadings, some new (I guess trendy) cruelty to animals, parades, and grand sets. All to be quickly forgotten--only the India battle registers. The only place really left for the genre to go is the sexual dimension.

Here's where Stone throws his trademark controversy engine, but his sexuality (literal and implied, hetero and not) has always been the dull sort. Maybe Ridley will get it right next time.

Like 'Alexander', Stone probably outdid himself in the wrong areas.

(As a side note: Vangelis gets to wrap things up nicely.)

Excalibur (1981)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Mental Joust, 18 October 2004

This movie challenged me in how to appreciate it.

The Good: When Boorman gets his visions right, he gets them right. From the first five minutes I could understand why Ridley Scott chose Alex Thomson as the photographer for 'Legend'. Any other weaknesses aside, those are enough for me. I also thought the animalistic armor designs were apt given how much Rome/Greek inspired stuff we've seen in the last five years.

The Bad: Watching this right after 'Monty Python' will wreck your appreciation. In 'Python', the fights are intentionally cheesy. Here they are just awful. Thankfully, I wasn't paying attention to the acting--I don't believe it's important in film--so I couldn't tell you how good/bad it was. Production values here also get hurt in the realm of scope and environment. Natural settings are gorgeous, but the manmade ones reek of artificiality. Also, the hippie 70s-style titles contradict the tone of the film.

The Quirky: Because the violence is so fake, the sex seems more outlandish.

Also remember that sex is one of the most underdeveloped elements in the sword-sorcery/sandal genre...so almost any entry that tries to be frank with it will get some noticing. Refer to the recent 'King Arthur' to see what happens when all the focus is put on fighting instead--instantly forgettable. Since 'Gladiator' (and even 'Braveheart') it's been a constant attempt to one-up all the predecessors in bloodshed, but nowhere else.

There's the Holy Grail for the next brood of filmmakers.

Evita (1996)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Revolting System, 19 September 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is the most bizarre of the Disney princess movies. Perhaps a mix of 'Barry Lyndon' with 'Robin Hood'.

Spoiler minefield ahead...

I've lumped Peckinpah, Bakshi, Parker, Stone, and Tarantino in my "cinema excess" category. They are identifiable by their montages, stereotypes and social commentary--often through the use of violence. Each has had his grand moments ('Wild Bunch', 'JFK', 'Pulp Fiction', etc.) but have become either sanitized or repetitive.

'Evita' is one example that was doomed from the start. After all, when it's rooted in Webber & Rice--two chaps reliant on lyrics, not melody--and "starring" the Queen of Accessories herself, how can Parker win?

Simple, he grabs his king editor (Hambling), a daring photographer (Khondji), and an old friend to write the script (Stone). Since they sleepwalk through their efforts, Parker loses. He couldn't have made a more sanitized and boring movie if he had tried; just as daft as 'West Side Story' and 'The Sound of Music'.

I'll give him some credit. The idea of the montage springs from Eisenstein and Lenin's appreciation of the revolution and 'Evita' tries to latch onto those principles. But nothing connects, disappointing since Khondji had just finished 'Se7en'.

This is especially frustrating after 'Pink Floyd' where Parker's images could carry the tone. He also had more daring music (in both form and lyrics) with 'The Wall' than this sonic trash. Safe versus dangerously edgy.

This failure done, the torch passes to Luhrmann.

Final Analysis = = Cinematic Dud

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Patient Depth, 19 September 2004
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Kubrick was possibly our most mature filmmaker in both form and ideas. He proved that story was not necessary in '2001' and 'Barry Lyndon'. His artistic and technical perfectionism is still relevant today (compare the grandeur of spacecraft in '2001' to Lucas' cartoons in 'Episode II') and, despite what anyone will tell you, his stuff is_not_boring.

OK, so 'Spartacus' was a bunch of moralistic hoo-ha and 'Shining' was too safe. Big deal. Let's get to the good stuff.

Spoiler minefield ahead...

Kubrick works in a very contemplative mode. He doesn't have the penchant for editing that those in my "cinematic excess" category do. In this respect, Kubrick is one of the most personal directors I have experienced. He doesn't create characters by having them spout lines in a cut-and-paste fashion like most directors. He wants them to exist, hence the mountains of laborious takes.

Of course, characters themselves are irrelevant in Kubrick's work (again with the '2001' reference). They are about situations and tone. Is it fear? Passion? Insanity? Why do you think his work hits some emotion/psychological bells in our heads? It's not because it's Jack Nicholson.

Watch this and notice how Kubrick rewards our patience. You might enjoy it.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The Sudden Stop at the End, 10 September 2004

I'll keep this short. I really do not like Zwick's style of film--reason being that he sees the story and characters as the most important elements. In his films we are supposed to watch characters work the plot out. Boring.

People alone does not make good cinema. If you want people, read a book because you can imagine the person in a better context.

That's why Zwick's images fail. Real artists like the Scott brothers or Kubrick think in images first, all else comes second. Zwick thinks that people drive films and so emphasizes the importance of the actors. He can only make his work "so beautiful" before it detracts from his requirements for the story. That's where he loses.

Compare the boredom of World War I here with what Gilliam did in '12 Monkeys'; a thousand times more interesting on less money.

Why we don't notice this (and why his stuff has had three Oscar noms for photography) is beyond me. Everything here is primetime TV drama-grade material from the music to the editing. So abysmal.

Panic Room (2002)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Metroid, 31 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Fincher certainly makes my film experience more stimulating. I think part of it is because, like Kubrick, he has become so selective of his work that he won't do mainstream. That makes no difference to me, I'll back on whatever visions he comes up with next.

Spoiler minefield ahead...

The home-invasion genre has gone through hoops in the last half-century. From 'Living Dead' to 'Straw Dogs' to 'Home Alone' (just to name a few) we've gotten so many different perspectives on the subject. Since all "plot" ideas have been used, Fincher must innovate in some technical or artistic manner.

And innovate he does! Whereas Peckinpah was stuck positioning the characters in relation to one another by editing around the house, Fincher goes the next step. So we get a camera not constricted by walls. Despite having a less-polished look to it, I admire CGI in instances like this where the idea exceeds simple amazement like, say, a thousand battle droids.

My bigger problem is the so-called battle between "style" and "substance". Often the argument is used to belittle a film like this: "it has loads of style but no substance to back it up." I believe that there is no real criterion for "substance". Is it story? character development? "Feel good" moments? All that is subjective.

Since we have a criteria for style, and boy does Fincher invest in it, it's easier to judge something like 'Panic Room' on that level. I'm convinced now that style_is_substance. Kubrick helped push the notion, just look what he did. This is, in part, why the documentary-style is dying.

All in all, a great recovery from 'Fight Club'. This is far more interesting than 'Unbreakable'--which was Shyamalan's equivalent.

High Art (1998)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Dreams for the Means, 28 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The thing I love the most about film is how there are so few absolutes, perhaps even fewer than any other art form. Everything is open to interpretation, so let's not get bogged down in nitpicks regarding acting. That's not important.

Spoiler minefield ahead...

This film had some meaning to me because it is about photography and images. I've been doing photography as a hobby since fifth grade ("way back when") and I can say it's very hit-and-miss, mostly interesting failures. Half the art is in the meditation and examination. Too bad today's journalism philosophies don't allow that.

It's amusing here. Our narrator is Syd. All our perspectives come from Syd except those seen through the lens. Those come from Lucy. And what are those images of? Syd. When I first saw this, I thought the editing needed more individual cuts to emphasize the quickness of photographs. Then I reexamined it and found the examination to be almost complete. It's not very accomplished cinematically, but the photos themselves are interesting.

Let's expand on what this is about. Superficially, it's 'Ed Wood' meets 'Salvador', but that's not the case. I think it's about Cyd imagining Lucy ala 'Fight Club'. Hence the only thing Cyd would think about is herself, so all the images point back to her.

Meditative narcissism, this is almost Kubrick-level material. I wonder what he would've said about it. "Self-destructive" maybe.

I have only two complaints. Did we need the silly rant about "industry work"? Also, the music is awful. Forget bad acting, bad music is even more destructive to our minds.

0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Ethereal Discovery, 15 August 2004
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Braveheart' meets 'Thin Red Line' meets Don Quixote

Beauty is an amazing cinematic element, possibly the most enduring. Performances get lost in forgiving nostalgia and changing styles. Violence outdoes itself each summer. Commentaries get heavy-handed and irrelevant. Even sex has become ersatz. By comparison, beauty knows no expiration date.

'Days of Heaven' will outlast 'Midnight Cowboy'. 'Catch-22' lives while 'MASH' dies an unforgiving death. So too will this eventually get its vindication.

Spoiler minefield ahead...

If you want to avoid the mile-long review, just read this paragraph. This movie is everything Mel wanted for medieval Scotland, heavily cinematic but lacking some poetry. Oh well, I put this in my Top 5 List for Ridley Scott's work, better than 'Gladiator' even. In fact, I can give this my highest honor.

It's been eight years since I first saw this. When I revisited it to prepare for 'Alexander', I had some questions on my mind.

1. What_was_significant about Columbus if he didn't discover "America"?

2. Is Scott a "has been" post-'Blade Runner', is he a "never was", or is he still powerful?

3. Why has this been used as a frequent flogging victim against Scott's work?

I think it's because the search here is for beauty, not gold. Religious institutions (Muslim, Catholic, and Native American) are brushed aside in favor of transcendental harmony. Also, a good 30 minutes could've been excised but it's more interesting than 'White Squall'.

So Scott places himself in Columbus' shoes to decide how to manage the film.

Like Columbus, he is stuck using cheap trinkets ('Black Rain', 'Thelma & Louise') to finance his enlightenment. He even tries to be trendy and gets some benevolent producers.

Where Scott goofs here is pacing. He can get fascinating work from his photographers (though 'Someone' was ugly), but sometimes his editors don't understand him. Scott thinks here in individual shots--not ensembles--and it's hard piecing them together. Here we get one of his better photographers (Biddle) and a horde of editors who can't form a rhythm. Frequently I was reminded of Malick's war opus, trying to tie meditative images together. By comparison, Michael Bay thinks in lifeless montages reliant on noise, not art.

Of course, Vangelis is the biggest feather in Columbus' cap, can he do wrong? Scott has a musical ear and I'd love to hear him work with Vangelis again or Morricone before he dies, especially now that Goldsmith has left us.

As a chaser for this delicacy, I recommend 'Apocalypse Now'. 'Apocalypse' is classical writing with revisionist images. This is revisionist writing (ala 'JFK' and 'Braveheart') with classical images. Both are still imensely beautiful while using aquatic journeys as self-discovery.

For further information, I also suggest looking into the Church's suppression of science in this time by emphasizing the pagan Greek culture. Sort of like today where we hammer Scott and Stone while celebrating the lifeless Friedkin and Howard Hawks.

Oh, and as some others have felt, photographers are often robbed of Oscars because of misunderstood stories. No more true than here and 'Catch-22'. I couldn't agree more. At least the Brits are more open-minded. With such cinematic power, is it any wonder Scott had four works in the IMDb Top 250?

Final Analysis = = Learn from this...

Hidalgo (2004)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Pirates of the Arabian, 14 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoiler minefield ahead...

Disney has an interesting hold on the cinematic world. I saw 'Alive' right after this and was struck by the difference in derring-do. Disney takes popular, trendy ideas (here it's 'Seabiscuit') and creates a flat, open-and-shut, linear story. As an afterthought, Dreamworks then pirates Disney's work into an anti-Disney message. This reminds me why I look elsewhere for something to get me going.

This film is constructed entirely out of theft. Ironically, the director substitutes for the protagonist. Johnston could have been great--he had the interesting 'Rocketeer' and 'Jumanji'--but he's been in a rut since. This is dull: it takes more than color filters, silhouettes and sunsets to make good cinematography--so few understand that. Here the camera has no character, only duplication.

As far as humdrum content goes, everything here from the massacres and fights to the scenery and culture clash is painted with silly political correctness. If you aren't brainwashed already, it should make you vomit.

On the side note, never trust blond women with British accents because they are plotting to kill you. In the meantime, Disney needs to make another cannibalism movie.

Final Analysis = = Cinematic Dud


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