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Wild Tigers I Have Known (2006)
One of the worst indie films I've seen in a long time
Visually disjointed and full of itself, the director apparently chose to seek faux-depth to expand a 5 minute plot into an 81 minute snore-fest.
The moments that work in this film are VERY limited, and the characters don't even feel real. How could you feel invested in a main protagonist who was made so surreal?
Substantively AND stylistically, it all feels like a quirky dream sequence. Jarring irregular camera work, awkward silences and gaps in action, and what's with the little spider image crawling across the screen? Whoever thought of that needs to go back to film school. It added no meaning, just cheese, and didn't even stylistically work with the rest of the film (assuming the film even had a style, which is a close call). What a flop.
Trembling Before G-d (2001)
It Broke My Heart
It isn't an unfamiliar mantra, but that doesn't mean it loses its power.
Look, glbt people of faith have been told for a long time that they should either "straighten up" (pun intended) or leave their faith traditions. I've experienced that myself by identifying jointly as lesbian and Christian. But is it really the place of any community of humans to dictate the status of my relationship to G-d? Well, I suppose that in the Jewish tradition it is even more complex, where faith, culture, ethnic identity, and family are more tightly intertwined than anything. And it pained me... the thought that anyone would be forced out of their faith community or even their sense of relationship to G-d by human reaction to sexual orientation.
I have great respect for the history and theology that underlies orthodox Jewish observance. But I want there to be a space for all people who share that bond with G-d and who want to observe, just as I want that for myself in Christianity. Is that REALLY too much to ask? And is the consequence worth it? That is the question of Trembling Before G-d... a wonderful film.
The L Word (2004)
Faithful viewer but willing to acknowledge the mediocrity
Sure, I watch it. I never miss it, pretty much. It entertains me, makes me laugh, makes me cringe. Once in a blue moon it contains material that reminds me of my own life, but not often. But seriously, are people REALLY suggesting that it is quality television? That it can compare to the high end work of Six Feet Under, or Huff, or Weeds, or the Sopranos? Let's not kid ourselves. It is a glorified soap opera which sadly reads like a high school play. If you can enjoy it as camp for our community, then have fun. But a current rating of 8 on a scale of ten? I can't claim to understand that. I suppose the acting is as good as it can be given the cartoonish quality of the material. And every season is just a bit worse than the one before. I assume that like its predecessor, the similarly horrific Queer As Folk (which I also never missed, so I guess I'm a hypocrite) it should rap it up after 5 seasons or so.
Les triplettes de Belleville (2003)
Unusual, mesmerizing, and definitely something different
I can honestly say that this is one of the most unusual movies I've seen in recent years. Virtually without dialogue, in sepia tones with an art deco aesthetic that makes it a tad gloomy, and with music that haunted me for days later. Yes, it is comic, but the comedy is a tad dark. Also, because of the unusual aesthetics, lack of dialogue, and the darkness of the comedy, I'm betting most kids would be bored. Kinda like how kids never liked Fantasia as much as their parents did. The Triplets of Belleville is ODD, almost "trippy," and isn't for everyone.
The plot has been summarized well elsewhere on this site, and I won't repeat it here. But the sacrifices of Grandma for the sake of Le Champion are touching. From the days of raising the young boy, she sought to give everything for his happiness. First a puppy, then a bike. Then her slaving away as his personal trainer and would-be rescuer. Question: Why does Le Champion never look happy? There are definitely aspects to this film I do not understand, but I can watch it over and over.
Vertical Limit (2000)
A Fun Romp for Those Who Can Suspend Belief and Enjoy It
I'm surprised that some viewers have been so hard on this film. Sure, the plot is formulaic, and for those of us who are experienced mountaineers, the events and stunts rise occasionally to the ridiculous. But this movie was far superior to some of the mountaineering films made in the early 90s (K2, Cliffhanger). It is also visually beautiful to watch if you enjoy the mountains or are a climber. Other perks for the armchair mountaineer include a cameo by Ed Viesturs (as himself).
The plot is a simple one. Accomplished young sibling climbers become estranged after the death of their father in a climbing accident, but are reunited in the K2 death zone after one becomes trapped with her climbing party at high altitude and her brother forms the rescue party. From there, all that's required to enjoy the unfolding events is an ability to enjoy the stunning vistas and not take the details too seriously.
The movie was well cast, with an earnest Chris O'Donnell as a young hero, Scott Glenn as a mysterious, menacing, yet fundamentally well intentioned old school climber, and Tom Paxton as a hard-charging self-absorbed businessman.
Also, when this film was first released the plot had some timely elements in the wake of the 1996 Everest disaster. The notion that wealthy clients could "guarantee" themselves a summit via high-priced guides--often with tragic results--was most certainly not fiction. No doubt the Everest story, although much more serious than this enjoyable bit of mountaineering fluff, influenced the writer of the screenplay here.
Urbane and hip romantic comedy that avoids a trite conclusion
Although this isn't a textbook romantic comedy, that's the genre that most closely approximates this tale of urban relationship angst. It addresses a number of issues peripherally: interfaith dating, dating across a significant age gap, disparate interests in having children. Each of those issues is dealt with in a way that I found humorous and thought provoking.
The trailers give away the movie's main plot twist: the recently-divorced main protagonist (Uma Thurman) undertakes a fling with a much younger man, who turns out to be her therapist's (Meryl Streep's) son. Some of the best gags are wrapped around that plot line, and the movie loses a little steam after the big "secret" is out in the open.
I respected the fact that the movie could indeed be very very funny without lapsing into "There's Something About Mary" territory, and that it could wrap up in a fulfilling conclusion without seeming trite, contrived, or unrealistic. In that way, I found this movie entertaining and satisfying.
"Angels in America" taught us that Meryl Streep could do "deadpan Jewish" in a way that provokes a smile, and this movie showed hints of Meryl's Ethel Rosenberg gag from "Angels." She's terrific as always, though this flick won't ever be one of the truly memorable movies in her catalogue.
Women will probably enjoy this more than men, and I think the women who will enjoy it the most will be the 35-55 crowd... but I watched it with my 67 y/o mom and she laughed out loud.
A horrifying jolt of reality about recent history
We remember the generalized imagery of the pre-integration South, but as a person pretty well educated in such matters (or so I like to think) it was still horrifying to be confronted not only by the viciousness of the lynching and murder of Emmett Till but of the Mississippi attitudes that resulted in the acquittal of his killers. Truly, my jaw was open.
Some details received short shrift. Perhaps that is because the film was about the emotional impact of the murder, and the political outcome from it. But if Beauchamp wanted to also cover the "whodunnit" details as he suggested, there were some interesting omissions. Gone was any discussion of the forensic evidence, and although a mention was made that a "confession" was published a year later, why did Beauchamp not tell us what it said? It would have also been interesting to know what the assailants (and the accuser, the woman in the store/wife of a killer) had to say, if anything, before they passed away.
But setting aside what was "missing," what was there is really worth seeing, even if you think you know the story.
Protocols of Zion (2005)
A promising, yet disappointing film
This documentary has a promising start: a report on the current day use of the discredited anti-Semitic fraud, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Levin is at his best when he's covering how this silly false text is still being cited by anti-Semitic political activists, white supremacists, and the like. Actually, he could have spent even more time describing the theories regarding the document's source and history.
Unfortunately, he loses focus. After giving his main topic too abbreviated a treatment, he takes a scattershot approach which is ultimately a superficial analysis of 20th and 21st century anti-Semitism and the politics of Israel. Covering the issues of anti-Semitism and Roman Catholicism (and more pointedly, anti-Semiticism in the "Passion of the Christ") for example, could have been its own documentary. Instead, it is just a misplaced digression in this movie. Next, a presentation of anti-Semitism among Arab-Americans and Palestian-Americans, their motives and their views, takes up about 30 minutes of film.
In reality, each of these major themes: the current role of the Protocols in anti-Semitics politics, the tension between the Christian church and Judaism dating back to the Crucifixion, and the Arab-Israali conflict could take up its own proper treatment via documentary. Levin does each a disservice by trying to cover all in one modest film.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
A timeless charmer
EVERYTHING in this movie just works. Fannie Flagg's storytelling, the gentle southern breezes, the span of interwoven events, and the juxtapositioning of the modern-day friendship between the Bates/Tandy characters with the depression era saga of the goings on in Whistle Stop.
It just gave me a whistful desire to wander the Natchez Trace, watch for lightening bugs, and visit ramshackled old towns and think about the stories they had to tell. And for those uncomfortable with the lesbian overtone of the relationship between Ruth and Idgie, it was subtle enough that you could even take the kids.
Mary Stuart Masterson outshined herself... she's never again been this good. Mary Louise Parker's accent occasional rang hollow, but the two women certainly had chemistry. Kathy Bates is always a master, but particularly has good comic timing... a talent she does not show near enough.
Truly a movie that I could watch a dozen more times without growing bored.
Interesting in a voyeuristic way, but not compelling drama
... and most certainly not comedy, which was how this film was marketed.
Knowing a fair number of transgender folks over the years, I do think that Felicity Huffman was credible, and credibly reflected the unfortunate-yet-common way that male-to-female transgender women can adopt a prissy and melodramatic persona is a well-intentioned effort to find a feminine identity. But that didn't make her character any more likable. All her prissy persnicketyness just made this viewer want to grab her by the neck and say "get over yourself!" It is very difficult for me to ultimately like a movie where I do not find the lead characters likable. In this case, that would true for both Bree and Toby... neither particularly likable, both self-absorbed and dysfunctional.
Nor did the misfits on the road theme work for me... this movie is no Rain Man in that regard. In fact, it didn't even get interesting until the two travelers arrived in Phoenix.
Given how few films have tackled gender identity issues, this movie is worth seeing on some levels. But having a novel subject matter and a knockout performance from Felicity Huffman still does not make it a great movie .