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The Cider House Rules (1999)
Just plain not cinematic enough.
John Irvings novel is a long book. This is a simple fact which i think is why the book did not translate well to the screen. Too many scenes just seem iconic. Don't get me wrong I am not one of those elitist snobs who always says the book was better, quite the contrary, and all things considered this is a very polite, nice movie. Too bad it never really hit me thats all.
Holy Smoke (1999)
interesting premise no follow through
it all has to come down not being able to keep ones c... in ones pants, is that what they are saying. a joke of a writing job does nothing to show how kate is broken or anything else for that matter. instead of a film about how and where we get our ideas for campion has presented a farce with no bite...castle like cariacatures of australians without the comic intelligence. poor show, why did it all have to come down to the obvious sex thing, and just sex...boring and not at all convincing.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
the only horror is in the editing...
surely this film was hacked up by the studio? perhaps not but i feel there were serious flaws in the storytelling that if not attributed to the editing process could only be caused by grievously bad, criminal indeed, writing and directing.
i understand the effect burton wished to achieve with the stylised acting similar to the gothic fairytale atmosphere of edward scissorhands, but here unfortunately it falls flat and achieves no mythical depth of tropes but only the offensive tripe of affectation. ie bad acting and shallow characterisation even for a fairytale.
finally not that scary, indeed only mildly amusing in its attempts. the use of dialogue as a vehicle for plot background was clumsy and unnecessary. the mystery of who is the headless horseman would suffice, no need for the myth about a german mercenary, although christopher walken did cut a dashing figure but not that menacing - seeing the horsemans head makes him seem far friendlier that a decapitated inhuman nine foot tall spirit as in the original legend.
no real rhythm or universal tone was ever established and not a classic in burtons oevure. stilted and clipped as my parting shot...
not that clever, even if it is french...
sorry i abhor elitism and anyone who feels a film being in a different language means it is necessarily sassier gets my proverbial goat (everyone needs a pet).
to my ear the dialogue is not that character driven, often it is glib and a trifle shallow. secondly the premise of the movie for me is flawed, if not to say highly deriviative. too many structured coincidences...you can see the scaffolding and for me that renders the intellectual point less shattering, more sophomorish... a glib "what if" story of highly unlikely ifs... far more disturbing would be the same premise using more mundane, more real, everyday what ifs and more complex relationships to boot. too broad and general were the strokes used to build these characters, at no point did the relationships, the connections between the characters engage me, i felt a detached observer of plot machinations...grinding ones at that. sorry this is on the level of "sliding doors"
La vie sur terre (1998)
Political and Sensitive, Heavy and Light. A Souffle.
I would disagree with anyone that thought this film is not held together by anything...thematic connections can be just as strong (and certainly more meaningful than) as those of a plot driven film. In this film the western hype surrounding the millenium is used as a contrast to the static of west africa. on the brink of the 21c it is sobering (but also joyful in its vitality) to see the reality of most of the worlds population. As we begin to feel we have discovered so much and advanced so far it is then that mans work really begins to improve social systems...to politically empower on the micro level... it is all there in the radio station, the poor farmer waiting for the government man to come and do something about the birds that eat the wheat in the fields but which they are not allowed to kill, the parade of people using the postoffice phone all rendered equal (including the military) by the fact that no one can be contacted by phone.... this all may sound very heavy but it is actually very light, full of mirth and colour.
Cookie's Fortune (1999)
A dry visual and cinematic comedy.
This is a solid effort from Altman but it is anything except a mystery. This is where I think the film may run into problems as it is an exercise in cross-genre film making, one I found damn funny and would classify as a dry comedy but not everyone in the audience I viewed it with felt the same way. We had quite a few walkouts which I can only put down to misplaced expectations. This is not a serious drama, it is not a crime mystery, it is not even a straight comedy...I think this threw a lot of the audience off balance. But if you like that kind of thing or can let go of your expectations it is a fun ride watching Altman play with you.
what was George Lucas thinking - SCHMALTZ!!!
I love Star Wars. Don't get me wrong. I am a fan. I know the original films very well. The Phantom Menace is an insult to their memory and more insultingly to mine as well. The Star War films are part of my childhood but they were never childish, this is something that cannot be said of The Phantom Menace. It is a cliched downgraded mix of the plot of A New Hope with a few elements of Return of the Jedi thrown in (thing annoying supposedly amusing aliens far removed from the menace of the Mos Eisly Cantina "I'll be careful", "You'll be dead" repartee). When I stop feeling sorry for nmyself and other educated fans out there I will feel sorry for the kiddies who although they may like this film now will equate it with the merging masses of action films they have seen in their youth, they will not carry a distict Star Wars memory with them into adulthood like so many of us did with the first trio of movies.
Chinese Box (1997)
It is akin to watching the ponderous antics of amateur actors who think they are doing "intellectual" stuff just because they are pausing in all the "right" places as they struggle through the bare script down at the local y. Poor showing Wang, his previous sucess at making intelligent films hinges on not being so self aware...and Jeremy Irons has done this before just better and in more substantial movies. It is almost as though the non event of the actual handover stunted the artistic juices when they were creating the virtual handover - if that is the case I would prefer to not see art imitate life quite so closely...it just leaves me bored and in drastic need of reinspiration from other sources. Wang himself must have needed to eat a bowl of tea after this impotent showing.