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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
During Leo McCarey's acceptance speech for the Academy Award for Best
Director he walked up and thanked the Academy then said "
you gave it
to me for the wrong picture." The picture he won the prize for was The
Awful Truth (1937) which was also nominated for Best Picture, Best
Actress, Supporting Actor and Writing. The movie he claimed he should
have won for was Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) which got a big goose egg
that year. Since 1937, Make Way for Tomorrow has grown in stature to
become one of the most revered American movies and certainly among the
best films depicting melancholy in old age.
Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi star as Barkley and Lucy Cooper, an elderly couple who despite a lifetime of happiness and five children to prove it, are in dire straights. Their home is in foreclosure due in no small part by the depression. They summon four of their five children and try to come up with a game plan deciding that Barkley is to move in temporarily with Cora (Elisabeth Risdon) their impatient daughter in town while Lucy lives with eldest son George (Thomas Mitchell) and wife Anita (Fay Bainter) in his Manhattan estate. Of course as the temporary situation becomes less temporary, the couple long for each other while the kids look to move them out.
Make Way for Tomorrow is arguably the saddest movie ever made; certainly the most tragic of the 1930's. It isn't a classically tragic story like "Oedipus" but a subdued, somber film that gently settles into its wistful conclusion. I say this without caution. Those who feel that cinema provides much more than idle entertainment and happy feelings should waste no time in watching this absolute gem. It brings to mind the classic Tokyo Story (1953) and the recent Amour (2012) in its touching yet unsentimental portrayal of the elderly.
The film doesn't demonize the children who push their parents out of their lives for various reasons. One can easily identify with one or more of the kids due to the exemplary acting on the part of Thomas Mitchell, Elisabeth Risdon, Minna Gombell and Ray Meyer. They have their own problems both financial and social which are further complicated by the parents. Anita helps support her family by teaching bridge to socialites yet finds her young daughter running off with older men. In an effort to form trust with her granddaughter, Lucy keeps her social life a secret which understandably insights Anita to say, "What right have you to keep secrets about my daughter from me?" Yet while we as the audience can identify with the children and their own myriad of problems, we know the couple is left with little prospects for the future. The final elongated day-walk through New York City is a particularly bittersweet fifteen minutes. The couple walk hand-in-hand, being provided niceties by strangers who find their love quaint and adorable. Yet while their long-awaited day together is joyous, deep in their minds is the thought that they're still separated and likely to be so for the rest of their lives.
Living in a culture that values the young, the new and the adaptive over the old, it's easy to see how this movie may one day disappear into the ether; even if it was submitted into the Library of Congress's National Film Registry. Like it's characters, the film was out of step for its time and likely even more so with today's hustle and bustle. At least the aforementioned and immortalized Tokyo Story was released by a culture that dichotomizes old vs. new instead of shoving its aged things onto the proverbial ice flow like we do. Hopefully with our median population getting ever older we'll reach an understanding where the elderly achieve a little more dignity than decades past. If not, I suppose there are pleasant things to be said about making way for tomorrow.
You have to give it up for a director like Ridley Scott. Since the late
seventies, Scott has managed to make a handful of contemporary classics
that have managed to enhance and elevate the medium of film. Yet for
every Blade Runner (1982) there's a mediocre A Good Year (2006); a
Prometheus (2012) to every Alien (1979) if you will. So what of his
2005 effort Kingdom of Heaven? Failing to make a killing at the box
office, not even reaching its $130 million dollar budget, the question
must be asked; is it really that big of a misfire? The answer may
The director's cut of the film challenges its audience to accept a depiction of the crusades that is over three hours long and helmed by a milquetoast Orlando Bloom. Balain, a lowly blacksmith (Bloom) is given the chance to redeem his wife's suicide (among other things) by joining his newly found noble father Godfrey de Ibelin (Liam Neeson) on an odyssey to the Holy Land. The Crusaders plan on making their way to a land where everyone speaks Italian. "Then keep going until they speak something else." The journey and destination however is fraught with dangers, seductions and intrigue.
While Bloom's command of the movie slips under its lofty premise, the crux of the film remains a testament to Ridley Scott's detailed depictions of history. The same eye he used to recreate the Roman Colosseum in Gladiator (2000) or the Santa Maria in 1492: Conquest of Paradise Scott recreates a stunningly exotic Jerusalem which alone is worth the rental price. While my medieval history is a little rusty, Kingdom of Heaven's 1187 siege of the fabled city is likewise breathtaking and somewhat accurate. There was no mention of selling anyone into slavery after the films impressive climax and I doubt Sibylla Queen of Jeruselem (Eva Green) was that drop dead gorgeous but let's not split hairs here.
There are some wildly off the mark portrayals of famous Crusaders yet I doubt Scott was going for imitation. No his, thankfully spiring ambitions go much further than simply putting a history textbook on the screen. Like Karen Armstrong's book "Holy War", Scott wants to juxtapose the geopolitical and religious conflicts of the 11th century and those we're faced with today. The movie exposes many conflicting worldviews from the religious tolerance of Messina, the moral torpor of Christian occupied Jerusalem, the absolutism of religious fanatics both Christian and Muslim and the ambitions of the power-hungry.
Loyalties are forged for different reasons much like they are in today's world. Yet many times moderation, prudence and compromise are sacrificed in the face of what is politically expedient. In 2005, during the film's release the United States was dealing with sectarian violence in Iraq. Back then there were only hints of our tragic misstep in the region many of us too blinded by our zeal to see the bigger picture. Today Russia is forcing a stand-off in Ukraine upsetting the established peace of Europe. It's politics but its also religious, also personal and also ancient history in repeat. As Balain shouts before the battle "We fight over and offense we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended."
Presently do you feel Islamic terrorism is a symptom of a larger economic problem or the subterfuge of millions of years of aggression by outsiders? Do you think the west's emphasis on the region is due to an unquenchable thrust for world domination and influence or misplaced idealistic fervor from centuries past? Your answers to these questions will ultimately inform your perspective on Kingdom of Heaven. Yet while the huddled masses might assume the film is serviceable if overlong and gain no insights from it, others who know their history and their current events will be rewarded by arguably Ridley Scott's most underrated project to date.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lifeboat (1944) is considered one of Alfred Hitchcock's minor films.
Much like Vertigo (1958) there are well defined and brilliantly acted
characters, like Dial M for Murder (1954) the setting is tight and
confined, in this case a sole lifeboat and not a London apartment. Also
like Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Saboteur (1942), the movie has a
blatant and obvious political purpose. It's a propaganda film through
and through, myopically grappling on the zeitgeist of WWII. But just
like all the aforementioned films, Lifeboat is likewise a well made
The film begins just after the torpedoing of an allied ship by a German U-Boat (which was also destroyed). A single lifeboat carries an assorted crew including reporter Connie Porter (Tallulah Bankhead), millionaire Charles Rittenhouse (Henry Hull), crew members John, Gus, Joe and Stanley (William Bendix, John Hodiak, Canada Lee and Hume Cronyn respectively), Nurse Alice (Mary Anderson), solemn passenger Mrs. Higgins (Heather Angel) and a German U-Boat officer the rest dub Willy (Walter Slezak). At first the group is suspicious of their fellow German survivor. Will the group be able to get out of their predicament? As you can imagine in an adapt-and-survive tale like this there are a lot of man versus the elements moments which up the suspense. The group faces raging winds and storms, a lack of potable water, navigation without a compass and illness and injury. If solely taken for a survival story, Lifeboat may just be among the best the decade had to offer. The fact that the entire movie takes place in and around a mid-sized dingy is a testament to Hitchcock's singularly brilliant direction. Of course the well drawn characters were made whole by John Steinbeck who distanced himself from the film for its "positive portrayal" of the Nazi character.
The fact that many critics at the time dismissed the film for being too pro-Nazi is an attestation to the fear and hatred shared by the allies, particularly the British towards the Germans. In newsreels, magazines and comic books the enemy was seen as subhuman and bloodthirsty. In Lifeboat the character Willy was sneaky, untrustworthy and manipulative and for that he was considered not villainous enough? Who were they expecting; Beelzebub? Sauron?
I was half-expecting the survivors of the shipwreck to be more symbiotic. The other half was hoping that if and when things do get all "Lord of the Flies", when the survivors are rescued there'd be a moment of contrition. Neither of these things happens and we're left with a little too much chest-pounding for my taste; the voice of reason and law muted by mob rule.
Of course I am too far removed from the realities of the time. Hitchcock wanted to represent a group of squabbling allies who mobilize to confront a seemingly invincible foe; a microcosm of the larger conflicts of WWII. The animosities of the time were due to perceived stakes and luckily I have never had to experience the cruelties of the Third Reich first hand so who am I to talk? Transplanting a modern perspective on an aged piece of art is like putting a CD player in a 1965 Mustang; it diminishes the art.
Lifeboat ultimately is a masterpiece of the highest order. Engrossing, technically flawless and thematically brilliant, the movie about a band of survivors faced with the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean is yet another feather in Hitchcock's derby. More than that, it's a telling piece of cinematic history that accurately sums up the frightening uncertainty of a world consumed by war. Do yourself a favor and set sail for Lifeboat.
Imagine you live in Germany. Only a decade has passed since the end of
WWII. The Cold War is in full swing and your country is separated by
east and west. Infrastructure is back to normal but the scars inflicted
by the war have only begun to heal. You were an SS officer who used to
have a job that was unpleasant, yet in your mind necessary. Now you're
a lowly night porter for a swanky hotel in West Berlin.
Thus starts the story of Maximilian Aldorfer (Dirk Bogarde) a man who lurks in the shadows along with a small cabal of surviving Nazis. They quietly meet to conduct "trials" to conceal any inkling of their past before the authorities find out, going so far as to kill possible witnesses. Max's life is unassuming and guilt-ridden; "I want to live like a church mouse" he says. That is until the arrival of Lucia (Charlotte Rampling), a former concentration camp prisoner whom he had a sadomasochistic relationship with and was her pseudo-protector. They recognize each other right away and the question becomes what will they do about it? The movie devolves from its tension inducing premise to a sensationalistic exploitation film. Don't get me wrong its leaps and bounds above Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975) but the intention is artistically the same and the fact that director Liliana Cavani tries to claw for deeper meanings beyond its trashy premise makes the film more manipulative than engrossing. There are references to the book of Mark and John the Baptist, a near naked ballet sequence of Mozart's Die Zauberflote and comparisons between Pelleas and Melisande all of which amount to a bucket of filth. It a film that attempts cultural literacy but makes the fatal mistake of being alienating, unpleasant and ultimately wearisome to watch.
The Night Porter (1974) is not so much a movie as it is a forceful invitation into the minds of two severely damaged people. As the relationship between Max and Lucia turn into a despairing echo of what it used to be we see the extent of Lucia's Stockholm syndrome and the depths of Max's depravity. Yet what is forced upon us is the notion that this sordid love story 1: matters and 2: is tragic in a saccharine Romeo and Juliet kind of way.
There is an uncomfortable, long-running juxtaposition between sadomasochism and Nazis. Perhaps it's because even today we equate Nazism with death, destruction and absolute authority. In some circles it's hard not to get aroused by staring death in the face (especially when it's carrying a whip). But while I'm sure this sexual predilection pre-dates The Night Porter, Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) and The Producers (1967) I can't help but feel this kind of treatment makes light of the Nazis and their resoundingly negative contribution to world history. Perhaps instead of dressing up in black leather and swastikas it would be wise to downgrade to a Vichy Greatcoat and Kepi, you know, just in case a friend goes rummaging through your closet.
Ultimately while the premise is intriguing and there are touches of artistic merit, The Night Porter is an insipid, opportunistic treatment of history. It makes menial attempts at making its characters believable and relatable but sequentially removes them from a realm of reality within the films final, grueling half hour. What should have been a movie about history, human frailty or lacking that credible love, became a kinky provocation offering little other than cheap thrills.
Ah James Dean. Before Heath Ledger, Brandon Lee and River Phoenix
became hagiographical symbols of what could have been, James Dean
reined supreme as king of his own morbid death cult. Adorning the walls
of many a young women's bedrooms since his tragic death in 1955, James
Dean is still immortalized today despite that fact that he only been in
three movies before his fatal car crash.
Yet out of those three films, Dean garnered two posthumous Academy Award nominations for Elia Kazan's East of Eden (1955) and George Steven's Giant (1956). This in addition to gaining heartthrob status in the stupefying Rebel Without a Cause (1955) a film about a troubled teenager arriving in a new suburban town. Before Giant, Rebel Without a Cause was the only James Dean flick I had seen. I honestly thought his work in that film was over-the-top to the point of parody. I understand without Rebel we wouldn't have teen movies along the lines of John Hughes but do you really expect me to swallow Dean's conniption fits in front of his parents? Giant sees the capable actor putting much more depth into his character Jett. The film starts with Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) and Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) falling in love and marrying each other. Jett is in love with Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) Bick's sister and fellow stakeholder in the Benedict family fortune. After Luz's tragic death, Jett is bequeathed land which becomes profitable through oil. As the extended family matures and becomes embittered by rivalry, both Jett and Bick become richer through oil and cattle ranching respectively.
The movie spans generations with the closing scenes taking place with Bick and Leslie in their 60's. The rivalry between Bick and Jett remains the focus for the first part of the film while the second part is dominated by Bick's frustration toward his three children played by Carroll Baker, Fran Bennett and Dennis Hooper who go their separate paths instead of becoming ranchers. Hooper desires to become a doctor while Baker would like a small modest place with her high school sweetheart. The young Fran Bennett who lights up the screen seems to be the only one interested in life on the ranch but things get complicated when it's revealed her character is dating the much older Jett.
They all don't want to be ranchers like generations before them which highlight another theme in the film; the changing attitudes and customs of younger generations. Bick is forced to accept the changing attitudes of his family and society sometimes unwillingly but nevertheless looks to provide everything he can to his family. At the beginning of the movie, Bick treats the Mexicans who work on his ranch with indifference and inflexibility to the chagrin of the more socially enlightened Leslie. By the end of the film Hooper's character falls in love with a Mexican girl whom he later marries.
Jett on the other hand becomes consumed with animosity towards the Benedicts after the death of his beloved Luz. All of his actions serve not to destroy them necessarily but to show them he's better than they are. A perfect example of this is when he confronts Bick to allow oil exploration to help the war effort (WWII). While they're technically working together at this point in the film, Jett looks to lord his patriotism and later his wealth over the Benedicts heads. His plans to live better however are undone by his alcoholism and greed.
Throughout this review I have made little mention of the film from a technical point of view. That's because the film is for the most part technically flawless; as is the story. George Stevens adapted Edna Ferber's novel brilliantly and the set direction is rich, elaborate and gorgeous to look at. I can see how this sprawling epic can be Texas's unofficial official film. They're obsessed with big things down there so it only makes sense the movie of their choice is called Giant.
Yet it's the films size, or rather length that can be too much for some viewers. 3 hours and 20 minutes plus an intermission is a daunting proposition to generations of filmgoers used to 90 minute movies. I was put in the embarrassing position of having to watch half the movie twice because I didn't realize the DVD I was watching was two sided and accidentally watched the second half first. Derp. If I had to choose one sweeping epic film to sit down and make a day of it, I'm sorry to say it wouldn't be Giant.
Still Giant is a sight to see and one of Hollywood's greatest epics ever made. The acting on the part of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, Dennis Hooper and Mercedes McCambridge is absolutely outstanding. Yet the real draw here is Dean who for better or for worse is the quintessential Hollywood "they died too young" stories. While East of Eden is still on the ever expanding Must See List, Giant remains in my mind the best example of Dean's method acting mastery.
There have plenty of director/actor partnerships throughout the years.
John Ford had John Wayne whom called him Pappy; Martin Scorsese had
Robert De Niro to help define his artistic talents and the obsessive
Werner Herzog had the equally unbalanced Klaus Kinski. But if any
partnership typifies the dynamic in today's modern Hollywood it'd be
the peculiar Tim Burton and heartthrob Johnny Depp. Over a twenty year
association the two have made eight films together from the much
celebrated Edward Scissorhands (1990) to the much maligned Dark Shadows
(2012) with seizures of creativity in between.
Arguably the best film the two have ever made together was the little seen early ninties film Ed Wood (1994). The film depicts the life and times of Edward D. Wood Jr., a film director commonly dubbed the worst auteur who ever lived. Since his passing, his paltry eight full feature films have become the stuff of legend, finding fandom among schlock-horror fans and sci-fi film buffs who laugh at their cheapness and incompetence. His opus, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) includes ineptitudes from switching daylight to night in seconds, plainly visible film equipment and priceless lines like "Inspector Clay is dead, murdered and somebody's responsible." Ed Wood's script is written by oft writing collaborators Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski who subsequently wrote The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Man on the Moon (1999). Clearly they have a talent and enthusiasm for writing about oddballs. Their script lays the foundation for an intimate portrayal of Wood and his loyal band of misfits. It's solemn yet offbeat and quirky leading to some inspiring moments, many of which involving Johnny Depp and Martin Landau's infamous Bela Lugosi. There is one scene where the heroin addicted former horror star contemplates suicide aiming a pistol first at himself then at his good friend Ed. "Buddy, I don't know if that's such a good idea" says Wood. "If you give me the gun, I'll make you a drink. What are you drinking?" "Formaldehyde," says Lugosi. "Straight up or on the rocks?" Johnny Depp once described his characterization of Ed Wood as a mix between Ronald Reagan and the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz (1939). The man's optimism in the face of rejection drives the film with the quickened pace of an energizer bunny. His wits are matched by the supporting players which include Bill Murray, Jeffrey Jones, George 'The Animal' Steele, Patricia Arquette and Sarah Jessica Parker who can only swallow the fact Wood is a hack for so long.
The real draw of course is Martin Landau whose interpretation of Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula (1931) is astounding. It isn't mere impersonation which, lets face it, everyone has an impression of Dracula; no its pure stagecraft. His stellar performance ranks in this writer's mind as possibly the best and most accurate depiction of a real personality ever put to film. Landau would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and God bless him for that.
The movie is shot in black and white which might deter some viewers. Yet for those who ever wanted to reward themselves with a gratifying story about the foibles of filmmaking, or amerce themselves in Z-Movie lunacy watch Ed Wood. It exhibits shrewd writing by seasoned professionals and features some top-notch performances including one of the best Depp has ever committed to celluloid.
(1989) is one of those rare late-eighties, early-nineties
romantic comedies that can appeal to both men and the fairer sex. You
know the type: When Harry Met Sally
(1989) Pretty Woman (1990)
Sleepless in Seattle (1993) et al. Yet Say Anything
is one of the few
exceptionally good and mature love stories that takes place in the
torrid-love-affair-overload land of high school. Well maybe not, it
more takes place in the insular time between high school and college
but let's not split hairs for the sake of the kids.
John Cusack plays an eccentric yet well-meaning goofball whose been pining for the school's valedictorian for a good long while. His friends played by Amy Brooks and a singularly jejune Lily Taylor think she's out of his league; "brains stick with brains," she says while strumming her guitar. Yet Lloyd Dobler takes a chance anyway and to his great surprise gets a yes from Ione Skye's ethereal ingénue. They then are given the summer to bond before she goes to college in England.
The start of the movie lulls you into a false sense of knowing. Of course Lloyd Dobler is going to end up going out with Diane Court. Everyone including her father (John Mahoney) doesn't think it's going to work out. Their names are even phonetically at odds. Diane? Lloyd? Might as well call them Joe and Princess Ann. Yet this movie isn't about falling in love, it's about being in love and believe me there is a big difference.
Dobler and Diane grow to love one another by relating to each other and have a mutual interest in learning about each other. Lloyd looks out for her and accepts the goals she has made for herself and adapts accordingly. While we do see less adaptation from Diane it's hard for her to accommodate Lloyd when his life plans are so up in the air. Yet even with his tacit inkling towards a career in kickboxing you can tell Diane would be there to support him when push comes to shove. They have a good thing going and quickly shed the clique dynamics of high school in exchange for something more real.
Real and less volatile as evidenced by the juxtaposition of Lily Taylor's obsession with a two timer named Joe (Loren Dean). That single relationship informs her worldview and is the impetuous for her songwriting yet at first glance he clearly isn't worth the heartache. It's a childish obsession at odds with Lloyd's commitment based interconnection with Diane. When Diane describes her first sexual experience with Lloyd to her father, it wasn't a decision wholly based on a whim. She put thought into her adult decision and Lloyd was right there, chomping at the bit like guys would, but still being an adult about it.
Diane is given abundant support by her loving father who is displeased with her choice in boyfriend. Lloyd might be sincere but his ambitions are nebulous which would concern any protective father. Yet don't think for a moment John Mahoney's Mr. Court is the bad guy, even if the subplot involving money laundering feels skivvy. The very fact that Diane could confide in him when she loses her virginity should be evidence enough of their special bond. Even Lloyd picks up on the supportive relationship saying "You two are amazing, you know? The way you talk I'm not even like that with anybody." Say Anything is a romantic comedy in the classical sense. In one exchange Diane says "Nobody thinks it will work do they?" to which Lloyd retorts, "No, you just described every great success story." Yet director Cameron Crowe probes deeper than frivolity. It's a love story that examines love through sacrifice, commitment, compromise and growth. There are many films that express the elation of falling hear over heals, the serendipity of forming close bonds and the promise of romance. But few ever give you the true meaning and consequence of love. Ultimately it's not about a sentimental letter or sending flowers, mostly it's about holding someone's hands and telling them things are going to turn out alright.
The Fountain, the fountain, the fountain; the fountain of youth, the
tree of life. Biblical piety, the natural world and the beauty of life
through death. Lo the f***ing fountain. I hate The Fountain (2006).
There's no getting around that while the film tries so, so hard to make
a statement about grief and death and the cyclical nature of the
universe there's no helping this pretentious, overlong bore is a
stifling jumble of Philosophy 101 prattle made by a maddening
The film overlaps three narratives each with the same actors (Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz) playing different characters. The main story takes place in modern times; Tom Creo (Jackman) works in a biology lab where he's trying to find a cure for cancer. He has extra motivation to find answers as his wife Izzi (Weisz) is slowing dying. He works tirelessly yet ignores the precious little time he has left with Izzi. Jump a few centuries in the past and we have a narrative supposedly created by Izzi in a book she's writing. Queen Isabella of Spain is being politically questioned by the Grand Inquisitor (Stephen McHattie). Her solution: find the fountain of youth/tree of life by sending conquistador Tomas into the jungles of Central America looking for it. Then a few thousand years into the future (I think) Astronaut Tommy is nearing a dying star in a self-enclosed bubble containing a tree and the ghost of his dead wife.
If this all sounds confusing to you, you're not alone; though that isn't the reason I despise this movie. The reason why this film is a waste of your time lies in the false correlation between its supposedly hopeful message and its sad, depressing emotional core. We're meant to suffer through mysticism, biblical and Mayan origin myths, Buddhist and Taoist symbolism to tell us what? Death is a natural thing and we should accept it? By not accepting death, we're essentially dooming the human race? Death is life? Thanks movie for that uplifting message, and thank you for convincing me of your worldview by showing me a suffering couple who love each other but can never be whole.
At least 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) attempted to give an unabashedly hopeful agnostic message and kept its emotions in check. On the other side of the philosophical spectrum The Tree of Life (2011) was emotionally engaging and gave a deeply spiritual monotheistic account of everyone and everything. The Fountain's emotional core is as soapy as an overloaded dishwasher and its philosophy is contrived. It has the audacity to be utterly pointless.
Now I'm not saying the message is just flat out wrong. We all do have to die some day and when faced with the great abyss, being at peace would help. Yet the assumption on the part of the filmmakers' is the value of life is muted by cosmic forces beyond our control. Life is nothing but clouds of grey dust, so wrap yourself around a dusty chair a light a damp cigarette because we're all doomed anyway.
When this movie is at its most philosophically cogent, it's nihilistic and brooding. Otherwise it's a sorry assemblage of microphotography and fake set dressing. It's enough to put anyone in a soporific stupor. May I suggest instead of watching The Fountain, you go outside and enjoy the rest of your existence? Go do something that gives you joy instead of being held captive in front of a darkly lit screen awaiting eternal sleep.
In the unconscionably long list of unnecessary sequels, Sex and the
City 2 (2010) ranks among the worst the American film industry has to
offer. While the first feature treatment of the long-running HBO series
was bland and serviceable, this outing is downright offensive to its
audience, the LGBT community, the Muslim community and Helen Reddy's
song I Am Woman. The fact that the movie is largely set in the exotic
locale of Abu Dhabi (really Morocco) and 146 freaking minutes long
leads me to believe that the creators were aiming at a kind of Bob Hope
road movie but settled comfortably next to Ishtar (1987) as one of the
largest Arabian misfires since the Kuwait invasion.
While dealing with the aftermath of an ideal happy ending, Carrie is excited to see her gay best friend Sanford (Willie Garson) and Samatha's (Kim Cattrall) gay best friend Anthony (Mario Cantone) get married. Or is he Miranda's (Cynthia Nixon) gay best friend? These vapid forty-plus-year-olds wear their friends like interchangeable accessories so I can't really keep track. We as the audience have to endure a wedding more flamboyant than the Village People getting married at the Grammys, promptly followed by a movie premiere featuring pre-twerk Miley Cyrus. After meeting a sheik amused by Samantha's Samantha-ness, the four are whisked away to Abu Dhabi to enjoy the comforts of the sheik's new hotel; and maybe cause an incident or two.
Based on the episodes I've seen and now the two movies I've had to endure, I can safely say that Carrie and her crew of selfish, petty, permanently malcontented Real Housewives of Saks Fifth Avenue need to disappear. They simply are no longer characters worthy of consideration and contemplation. They've become parodies of the fairer sex and themselves; no longer endearing in any way. Please go away.
Okay, now that I have gotten that off my chest, let's address the vexing antics the foursome get into while in Abu Dhabi; a country with laws on female modesty. Samantha is arrested for getting jiggy with it out on the beach forcing the Abu Dhabi trip to come to a merciful end. Of course that ending doesn't arrive until after the four are almost strung up by their thumbs for wearing revealing clothing and having condoms in their purses. There's another scene where Arab women wear "the spring collection" underneath their burqa; because, you know, it's not hot in the UAE. Then there are repeated scenes of the "good-natured" ladies abusing their status before a pod of butlers. The whole treatment of the Arab world is just frightfully ignorant. You'd think college-educated women from the multitudinous island of Manhattan would be a little more culturally sensitive.
I hate this movie. I hate the story, I hate the characters, I hate the episodic flow of it and I hate the offensive mentality of it. Sex and the City 2 is a broad, grotesque spectacle that can't hold sway with a seasoned fan let alone anyone who didn't grow up with HBO. It's scary to think that the best thing that one can say about a movie of this caliber is it features a 64-year-old Liza Minnelli singing a Beyonce Knowles song. Avoid this film like a pair of counterfeit pumps.
Shortest review ever: Incredible.
You need more? Fine. Pixar continues an unheard streak of high-quality storytelling and captivating creativity with 2004's answer to the question, "is there happiness in the world?" The Incredibles takes place in a world where super-strength, super-speed, super-cool superpowers exist and heroes are adored by the masses they protect. Yet because of impending lawsuits and municipal damages, the government has stepped in to insure our heroes' secret identities are now their only identities. Bob Parr aka Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is struggling with his new "normal" life married to fellow superhero Elastigirl aka Helen (Holly Hunter). His job sucks, the kids have superpowers of their own they're itching to explore and he desperately misses the thrill of crime fighting. In comes a mysterious benefactor who just might be his ticket to a better life.
The Incredibles is Pixar's first real attempt at a completely human world populated by four limbed humanoids as opposed to toys or fishes or bugs. Instead of opting for close-to-human features, which most people find creepy, the characters are exaggerated and cartoony. But don't let that fool you into thinking the details of this marvelous film aren't spectacular. The settings range from Tropical Island to bustling metropolis and exhibit a unique feel and personality. The animators must have taken years out of their lives to complete a film of this caliber.
Yet even if the film wasn't as technically brilliant as it is, it'd still have a great story populated by great characters. Each main character is a new spin on the typical nuclear family with Bob being the lovable but unrealized provider who needs help with his priorities. Helen is the overworked mother, wife and voice of reason yet unlike the valium-taking housewives of the 1950's she can kick all kinds of butt. In tow are three precocious, bickering children: Dash (Spencer Fox) who possesses super-speed, Violet (Sarah Vowell) who has the power of invisibility much like many young teenagers feel they do and Jack-Jack a toddler seemingly lacking superpowers. Also in the mix is the nefarious villain Syndrome (Jason Lee) who reeks of abandonment issues and riotous Edith Head parody Edna Mode (Director Brad Bird) who nearly steals the movie.
I'm honestly surprised that a story like this hasn't been done before. There might be some serials back in the day that expounded on similar themes but I cannot recall any. Sure there are elements of superheroes turned unsanctioned vigilantes in Batman-lore and The Watchmen and The Fantastic Four does have familial ties. But mixing these two themes and adding in a cottage industry in superhero costumes; that's not just new to film but to superherodom.
If on the off-chance you were trapped underneath something heavy for the last ten years and haven't seen The Incredibles, I recommend that you go and see what you've been missing. It's a brilliant original story, artfully crafted to perfection by the dream-makers of Pixar and voiced by smartly casted actors. Did I also mention it's a non-stop thrill ride unlike any other? Well believe me when I tell you that it truly is.
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