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Things people don't think about or know about
I was recently involved in an online discussion about prostitution - despite never having visited one or knowingly talked to anyone in this line of work.
People can't get their ideas straight about the subject. There is societies apparent contempt for the profession (mixed with great interest).
Then there is the idea that the nature of the work is necessarily going to ruin a woman's emotional world. Of course - there are a number of other things that could ruin someone's life - the profession's link with drugs, the contempt of the world, the uneasy interactions with the police. Is it the job itself or the associated life that is so hard?
Just once in a while someone like Belle du Jour speaks - usually as anonymously as possible - about actually enjoying the job. They know exactly what people's attitudes are going to be if they own up to having enjoyed it... So it takes some courage to say.
But when discussing paid sex-work, the question always comes up: what if your mother, sister or daughter were a prostitute? All these questions are worth looking into, yet you'll seldom see them explored in such a good film.
Slight spoiler: ---------------
The 'twist' - some claim to have seen this coming a mile off (have you noticed there's often a film buff who claims to have "guessed the twist"?) I saw it clearly only a short while before all was revealed - as the client's plan took shape - it was very moving, as is the moment when he finally gains Naomi's trust
American Beauty (1999)
Deep film. Still beautiful after several views
Watched this again recently. Now I'm nearer Lester's age, I look at the film from a different angle (you could say) and it's still marvelous.
Plenty of comedy here, but there are also lots of subtle points about "normality", meaningless jobs, beauty.
Each one of these ideas could take up a film in themselves. We could spend all day in the forums discussing different sorts of normality - how people tend to all think their family is uniquely crazy, how Angela is terrified of being normal, how Ricki is comfortable with not being normal, how the Burnhams *pretend* to normality. But one film can only say so much in a few brush strokes, and AB does it wonderfully.
The film has a strange take on beauty, which Ricky sees in many unlikely places, including in death - as he tries to explain. I occasionally think that - though, as we get older, we're incredibly bored with this world and hardly see things properly at all - if you look at things in the right way, or for the first time, every moment is quite incredibly breathtaking. I expressed that poorly, but it's a powerful message for me.
You're left wondering about these people. How did they get that way? What happened next? A sequel or prequel would perhaps spoil it.
Finally, the soundtrack is one of the best I've heard - very important to me from a film.
I wish I could erase all memory of this film, and watch it anew in a big, hushed cinema with excellent sound, sitting next to someone I loved.
Here come the nerd squad..
It's an exceptional, vibrant opener. Already with the high level of acting & scriptwriting that has set this show apart. In fact, to get someone interested in this show, I think you could do a lot worse than to say "start with the pilot"
A newcomer, Holly Gribbs, joins LV CSI team, breathes some life into them as she meets each personality. She has an eventful day ... of the wrong sort. Warrick is meanwhile busy trying to go off the rails, and he and Nick make a bet on which one can solve the next case quickest...
From an addicts point of view:
We get to see a different Grissom to the one we know in later seasons. Perhaps the makers of the show weren't sure which way to take him at this stage. He certainly gets pretty pompous fairly soon into this season: the smiles disappear and he starts giving Zen koans when people ask him for advice, and small lectures at the end of some episodes. Much is made - particularly by Catherine - of his less than gregarious existence in a later episode. But here he is mischievous, cheeky, and compares notes with a lab worker he went on an unsuccessful date with. They banter and she says as an aside "You're slipping!"
I rather like him this way :)
Nick and Warrick seem to interact much as will they do in the remaining series. Sara isn't here yet. Brass is plenty meaner than he is later, and picks on both Gribbs and Warrick, who decides to answer back and pays for it.
There are also lots of plot lines to be picked up later, Nick meets a lady of the night who is doing "trick-rolls" (if I remember right). While investigating an apparent suicide, Grissom meets a gentle, enigmatic designer of toys who we will meet again..
How much is there in all these early episodes? Anyway, so glad I foud this :)
Stand-out early episode
3 cases this time :)
A list of the CSIs' various breaches of department policy through all the seasons would make good reading. A sizable number of these rule- flauntings can be traced to Catherine Willows. Here she is at it again. Her ex-husband is accused of rape. She is instructed to hand the case over to Warrick because of conflicts of interest, but decides not to.
Warrick is on form (is it me or does he tend to repeatedly inflame relations with the Police Department?) Here the CSIs decide they are going to accuse a police officer of murder. There's the predictable tension between Brass and the others. All good stuff
There's also a bit of decent acting from George Eads, Terri Millar appears for the first time and plays with Grissom's pet spider. She tries to re-create a face from a desiccated body for the third case, they reveal a very sad, and murderous tale. Storming episode
A treat ...for the established fan
Perhaps this is for the the established CSI aficionado...anyway it's a treat. Sandwiched between some overly serious episodes (I find the trials of Sara and Warrick a little bit tiresome) this is one of the great CSI comedy episodes.
Hodges has dreamed up a board game based on the work of the lab rats (and CSIs/detectives) and tries it out on Wendy. The result is utterly different from the usual CSI formula - that's why it's fun, but maybe if you're already a fan. With great glee the lab rats imagine each other's murder, and investigate it. For some reason Bobby the gun man always gets a roasting from Brass in every scenario they 'investigate'
There's a little 'development' in the interaction between Hodges and Wendy, but, as with the early Grissom/Sara relationship, it's wonderfully understated - which is exactly the way to do it. I don't know how this particular storyline pans out but like it just fine SO FAR.
Real cracker of an episode. The CSI team do seem to excel when they have a case that runs over several episodes. This is the "blue paint" mystery, connected with the killer John Mathers - which was one of the rare cases where Grissom and the team had previously been completely flummoxed.
There's a very good build up of tension here, but the high point is when you finally get to see the serial killer. This is superb acting - in just a few minutes this guy steals the show. There's nothing unusual or immediately menacing about the guy - he looks like a small, not very successful and perhaps frustrated man, who constantly sketches as he's being interviewed; as though the conversation with Grissom is a side- issue. He smiles ruefully, aware that it's game over, and says the last few things he wants to say...
He's not particularly scary - except for the casual way he talks about his murderous exploits, his little secret. But there's something missing in his manner, as one imagines there would be with such a person*. As he chats away, one is acutely aware of the monstrous nature of his crimes, and the sort of ghoulish goings on inside his mind that must have led to them.
(We might use the phrase 'psychopath', but that doesn't help us understand these people on it's own - rather the cool emotional detachment of an otherwise ordinary person that is sometimes reported on encounters with serial murderers)
Great acting, great research, great writing, great photography. The series bear watching over and over again. I can't think of a better crime drama.
It is however a tiny bit formulaic from time to time. SO on a light- hearted note I thought I'd distill the formula as much as possible.
a) Either boys playing around, or lovers having hot sex (with essential undies inexplicably still on) chance upon, become, or walk by a disembodied head/skeleton
b) Grissom is suddenly there, quoting Confucius at the puzzled CSIs. David is taking the liver temperature (unless it's a disembodied head or skeleton)
c) Sara picks up a cigarette, then gives an explanation for any thick viewers out there "This was not a hit and run!"
d) Grissom says "evidently he didn't run enough", or some other wise- crack, and ...
e) TITLES: "Who are you do do do do". Never get tired of 'em
f) on the other side of town, Catherine's progress towards a crime scene is impeded by a dumb male jobsworth. Because she's smart and has the facts at her fingertips she sets him straight, squashes his ego in fact. Squish
g) she strolls haughtily in on a crime scene and points a torch at a racing track, nods sagely and says "Testosterone!" as if that explained everything
h) meanwhile back at the lab, Grissom and Doc Robbins are having a chat over a dead body, usually one showing signs of "petechial haemorraging". Their conversation is useless to them, but might be useful for anyone who happened to be watching who hadn't yet drawn the 'correct' moral conclusions about the scenario,
i) Nick and Warrick make an unspecified and probably inappropriate bet about the new hot chick in DNA lab,
j) cut to the Cool Science Scene. A CSI does a week-long experiment in 2 minutes, accompanied by booming Radiohead/Sigur Ros/etc
k) Greg eloquently (for a nerd) explains how many jobs HE did in that 2 minutes,
l) Grissom and Sara flirt in much the same tone of voice as nerds call out blindfold chess moves to each other. Same facial expression too.
m) they close in on the killer who is Not Who You Thought It Was. Brass' wisecracks at this stage provide 50% of the show's pleasure
n) Catherine's killer turns out to be either a 12 yr old girl who smiles back uncaringly, or a mother who has just killed her daughter. Catherine, whose daughter is the same age, looks disillusioned and world-weary.
o) Nick solves the main case for the 100th time. Grissom explains to him that he's not quite good enough yet
p) more "The Who". Warm feeling inside, tempted to watch another...
Not one to watch if you feel unwell..
So we go, in a few episodes, from "Gum drops" to - for me - one of the worst CSI episodes for a while.
The episode is certainly informative - one of the things I love about CSI (you get pretty good on what petechial haemorrhaging and what it means if you watch enough of this show, also other indicators of strangulation/drowning/bruising/lividity/time of death etc). I knew nothing of the condition affecting the hypothalamus that the poor fellow in this episode suffered from.
That said my stomach was not absolutely constant BEFORE I watched this episode - with the man's 6 litres of distended stomach contents being somehow sorted into different jars by food-type - and surprisingly I did not notice a big improvement during or after. As well as scientific info, we get another CSI staple - revolting fluids. Lots of them.
SPOILERS: The other story I find quite meaningless. A guy breaks back into his OWN HOUSE, after his ex has changed the locks. He's already stolen back his Beatles records (she was going to spitefully sell them) and now he wants his dog back (she cheated in a love-competition by handling bacon before they competitively called the dog to them). When he breaks back in, she shoots him. Bang. Gone. Just like that. Then one of the dogs kills her too. So that's nice!
I mean this is nonsense. I guess if they are trying to show us the pointlessness of some crimes (another CSI theme) then OK - but the episode doesn't work for me at all.
Easily one of the best of the lot
I think the only CSI episode I rate as highly as this is "Unfriendly skies" - a quite different type of story (the Milander and Miniature killer episodes are other favourites that come to mind)
If true, it's fascinating how 'Gum Drops' was originally written with Grissom in mind. I wonder if it could have possibly been as good as what we got here with Nick and Sara leading (ironic after both actors had disputes with the shows makers). Certainly one of the good things here is that we're breaking the mould, abandoning the standard formula.
(plenty spoilers from here on)
There is another experiment with the girl's voice speaking at the beginning. Is she alive or is her spirit talking to Nick, the only one able to hear it, although distantly.
On the same theme, we get one of those archetypal moments* where a character (unconnected to the rest of the plot) comes in and tells the hero an insight. In this case, a 'spiritual' hippy girl appears and tells Nick that his 'third eye' (Hindu idea of the eye that provides perception beyond ordinary sight) is predominant at that time. This is perhaps because of his recent ordeal, still fresh in his memory (the producers rightly left this open to the viewers interpretation)
Anyway Nick and Sara mull over whether the little girl is still alive, the evidence unfolds, and the resolution is VERY moving indeed. Quite beautiful I think. My partner and I watched this again recently and both had tears in our eyes, though we more or less remembered what happens.
The CSI series is consistently superior to any other crime drama I've seen for years, and this particular episode stands out from all the others in quality.
* this reminded me of the Big Lebowski, though I know there are better examples
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This is the film
What can I add to all the other reviews here? Just my own feelings about this.
I now realise I watched the film in one of the hardest times, emotionally, I can remember in my life. Thoughts chasing themselves around in my head, heartbroken, paranoid and not well physically. Total mess.
My dear female friend who got me through it all told me this was a film to watch. I initially resisted, thinking it was going to be lightweight, PC fare. I don't know why I thought that.
There's a lacklustre opening sequence -I think. Then you get to see what kind of performance Morgan Freeman is going to turn out this time, and you start to be interested. Then this extraordinary scene flying over the prison, and I think by then you're hooked.
This scene is deeply moving, not least because of the music. It's difficult to see how Thomas Newman's music for this film could possibly be bettered - perfectly listenable to in it's own right, but when you do you're reminded of the boys on the roof in the sun, enjoying their first beer for so long.
They've been touched by Andy's kindness. Sometimes a kindness is thrown back in one's face, but other times a gesture of gratitude is given back - like Haywood getting up and offering Andy one of his beers - and a powerful connection is made.
The film is full of great hardships and unbearable sadness - surely scars that can never completely heal or be forgotten. But it is also full of joy and fun and hope. To capture all the above in a film is a triumph. I started watching the film fairly closed to feeling, but as I watched the end I could not contain my tears, unusually.
So a moment when a film came along at the right time for me, and no doubt for many others