A lot of people consider The Usual Suspects to be a great movie.  I don’t even consider it good.  Here’s why:

Imagine you were watching a movie (not hard to imagine), and in the vein of Citizen Kane, there is a question that keeps getting asked over and over and over again (E.g. What is rosebud?  Why Rosebud?).  That one’s a little more difficult.  Better yet, think about it in terms of a mystery–Who is the serial stalker?–and people keep asking “Who did it?” over and over and over again.  You expect that from some movies.  In the case of mystery movies, it really drives the plot, it’s the essential question that motivates why the story movies along and what goal the investigator has.

In a more complicated (not that most mystery movies aren’t complicated), movie like Citizen Kane where you have a guy at the beginning of the movie calling out “Rosebud!  Rosebud!” and people wonder what it is, the essential question works  a little differently.  In Citizen Kane, it was a starter to the almost epic biography of a man, his life, and what he most valued, which it turns out is Rosebud–this isn’t answered until the end of the movie, as a big reveal to explain what he really valued in life even though he couldn’t have it.

The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

Then there’s The Usual Suspects, which operates like a high class caper film.  It’s like a mystery, a mystery with the driving question: “Who is Kaiser Soze?”  (And, if you’re familiar with the restaurant Moe’s, which I love, then you’ll know the movie was popular enough for them to make a ‘Who is Kaiser Salsa’ salsa flavor after the movie.  That’s some pretty big stuff.  You know a movie has real popular weight when it’s satirized in restaurant food names.)  And, if you know the tricks of mystery capers, the solution will be one of three.

  1. Kaiser Soze will be a character we know, possibly the character we know the best in the film. (E.g. Fight Club)
  2. Kaizer Soze will be a minor character introduced at the beginning of the film with a small motive that is referenced at the end of the film with a big reveal.
  3. Kaiser Soze will be a character we don’t see until the last scene of the movie, a reveal that gives satisfaction to a something like a real life chase. (E.g. Zodiac)

But we know the answer before we start the film because the film was directed by Bryan Singer.  And Bryan Singer is a film nerd.  He’s actually a nerd in many senses (e.g. comic book) but he’s a film nerd.  He probably knows movie history in and out, has seen all the film noirs like Laura, The Big Sleep, and The Maltese Falcon that defined The Usual Suspects.  So he knows which way the pendulum must fall.  The greatest, and most personally pleasing solution for directors like Bryan Singer (please note any movie by M. Night Shayamalan).  The most pleasing solution is to have the answer in front of you the entire time.  He will always choose option one.  No questions asked.

This makes the movie, plotwise, almost boring to watch because we’re only introduced to one main character that plays through the entire movie–Verbal.  So the answer is staring (literally, staring) at us right from the beginning. Also, the plot doesn’t make much sense.  We are told a story from the beginning through Verbal, but I couldn’t not really keep track of the story.  At once we were in California, then New York, and characters saying things that should mean something but meant nothing.  They decided to kill someone.  I knew not who the person was or what their importance was.  I was bored.

Thank goodness Singer is an excellent filmmaker.  Because technically, the movie is quite creative and interesting to watch.  He sets his film shots up very well, does a lot with color, tone, and mood in his scenes, and though unevenly edited, has a good overall flow to his film.  He made a great film noir, in the tradition of The Big Sleep, and for that I can fault him nothing.  The Big Sleep is so twisted with its own plot complications that the movie itself doesn’t actually make sense–this is a pretty well known fact in the film community.

But, let me say this.  I think the movie is pretty good–if only for the knowledge that it does well what a filmi noir is supposed to do.  That being, confuse, confound, confirm the dearth of life, and potentially have an interesting reveal at the end.  But the plot isn’t there, and it should be there.  A movie is in essence a story in pictures first.  And if I like the pictures, but don’t really get the story, why should I care?

At least The Big Sleep flowed.  A movie I consider to be only a step below The Usual Suspects is The Black Dahlia, which is a pretty awful movie in its own right–a film noir like The Usual Suspects, with too much plot for an audience to care.  Usual Suspects is a far cry from the much more carefully laid out, and classier film noir, LA Confidential.   It does not, cannot compete.  So, while The Usual Suspects may have its thousands of die-hard fans, this guy here isn’t, and there’s a reason why: it’s just not interesting enough to be good, let alone great.

You judge for yourself.  6/10.

Advertisements

Precious Movie Poster I would not expect a movie starring Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, and Mo’nique to be very good.  I would expect it to be a slightly better version of Glitter.  But when I saw the previews for Precious, even the all star cast (with a not so great acting reputation) couldn’t convince me not to see the movie.  It was too relevant to a teacher in an urban area.  It was too exciting not to see, especially seeing the hype surrounding the movie, and a 90% ranking on RottenTomatoes. Watching the preview, I thought it would be a movie I would hate.  It would be a movie that had too much drama.  Too urban.  Too far away.  But it wasn’t, not at all.

The movie is about an overweight teenage girl, who goes by Precious, in New York City.  We first see her in math class in high school.  She likes math class, she likes her math class teacher.  She doesn’t do anything in math class, and her teacher doesn’t seem to notice.  Then she is called to the principal’s office, where we discover the real issue.  This movie is not going to be an inspirational movie about a girl who loves math and eventually goes to Harvard.  This isn’t Dangerous Minds, and it certainly won’t be Freedom Writers.

We find out Precious has a child.  We find out she is pregnant with another one.  And, a few minutes later, we find out her father is the father of both of her children.  And Precious’ mother hates Precious for being “given” more children by her husband than she was.  Precious lets it slide.  She lets a lot of things slide.  She feels a lot of things, and her frustrations with her mother are not the most important.  She is still dealing with rape, incest, being not only a teenage mother, but a teenage mother with two children.  Life for Precious, in other words, ain’t been no crystal stair.

And that’s the point of the movie.  We see her go to a new “alternative school,” where she does a little more work than she did before.  She meets new friends.  Has a nice nurse when she has her baby.  Has a lovely teacher who works for her to try and help her.  But her mother still throws glasses and potted plants at her neck.  She even hurls a TV down the stairs at Precious and her child.  And Precious loses her home (for the better).  Precious finds out her father, the one who raped her, dies, a small victory.  But it is immediately undercut by the news that he had AIDS.

Now Precious has two children, one with Down Syndrome, AIDS, and no home of her own.  And with that same expressionless face she keeps moving through her life, without taking anything for granted.  She revels in her children.  Reveals the truth of her pregnancies, begins to come to terms with it, but in the end, her life still sucks.

It sucked from the beginning, and it sucks at the end.  The film has a sense of uncompromising honesty and dissatisfaction to it that it hurts, in places, to watch it.  It is not an easy film to watch.  Precious is a girl who isn’t great to look at, but she is impossible not to watch.  When she is tripped, and falls flat on her face, it hurt.  The care for her child still in her was already a real concern in my mind.  The movie’s sense of brute force with so little hope attached is what I like most about it.  It makes no promises to its viewers, and I only promise to hope it is good.

It was good.  It was really good.

4/4

5/5

10/10

Sometimes I wish I had been born British.  I have a feeling my sense of humor is more British than anything else.  As I wander through some of the most hilarious movies moments that reel through my brain, they all tend to be British, not American.  I do not find many American (note: many, I did not say all…) comedies funny.  I don’t know why.  It might be an attitude issue.  It might be a preference.  It might be something else.

Regardless, the reason why I bemoan my preference for comedic style is because I went to the movie theater the other night (a rare gift of a mid-week Federal/school holiday) to see the movie “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”  I was excited for the movie.  It has an all-star cast, and a preview that promised a hilarious premise with some very good potential.

The movie begins with Ewan McGregor, a young newspaperman who interviews a supposed werido, and shortly thereafter (no connection in events) is dumped by his girlfriend for a one-armed man.  The fact that the man she is attracted to has only one arm seems to have been a significant focus of the filmmakers.  They obviously though it quite funny.  I didn’t really find it that funny.  Yes, she caressed it, fondled it, held it.  But it just wasn’t funny.  Even by the end of the movie, the camera found its way back to the fake arm, and I kept finding my way back to the idea that this just wasn’t funny.

Back to the plot.  In an attempt to not end up just another nameless, uneventful, laughable death, our newspaperman decides to travel to Iraq, to become a war correspondent, in hopes of leading a better life, and in hopes of wooing his lover back with his tales of daring-do.    This is where he meets Lyn Cassady (George Clooney, pictured above, staring at a goat) who was a part of a secret government cover-up.  Also, a dance instructor.  Currently on a secret mission–which remains a mystery for most of the movie.  While our newspaperman and our suspicious Secret Agent traverse the Iraqi terrain, Cassady recounts his adventures in the army as part of a secret brain trust, those men with special abilities.  He is particularly clairvoyant.

Along the way, Kevin Spacey’s character is introduced.  He is the force of evil in the film–as much as there can be.  He is also somewhat clairvoyant, but not nearly as good as Clooney.  So, he enacts his revenge against the group, in more ways than one.  That is all I’ll give for plot.

And, in my ongoing rant with movies, it’s as though the funniest moments in the movie are because of who is saying something, and not what they are saying.  Like in Anchorman, whenever you hear people quote it, you never hear people just say it.  They say it with the character inflections.  Probably because it wouldn’t be that funny without the particular character actors saying it that way they do.  A friend of mine doesn’t impersonate Will Ferrell, he does a great Ron Burgundy.

But what’s funny about saying un-funny sentences strangely?  If it isn’t funny in its own right, if it’s only funny because of how someone is saying it, why bother with it at all?

The lack of clever lines in this movie is about the only strike I would give it.  The acting is hilarious.  Clooney is a very competent actor.  Jeff Bridges, playing the role he was made for, plays it well.  Kevin Spacey is hilarious.  Ewan MacGregor engages in a very funny conversation about Jedi warriors.  And I’m sure the conversation would not have been as funny if he has not already played a Jedi warrior in the Star Wars films.  Again, funny in the context of who is saying it, but not funny beyond that.  Not funny at all.  Particularly weak as a script, although strong as a concept.

Judge for yourself though.  I am admittedly biased in a negative way.

I would rank it 2.5 out of four stars.

3 out of 5.

6 out of 10. (One of the lower grades I normally give.)

Good.  By no means great.  Somewhat memorable.  Maybe a good Christmas gift for a few.  A decent movie night movie.  Not too much beyond that.

Although the trailer was so good, they probably should have started with that and moved on from there to make the movie.  Alas, if only most movies would take that advice.

“One bed is not enough, one job is not enough, one life is not enough.”

I have loved the introduction to John Dos Passos’ USA trilogy from the moment I first read it.  It is striking, literary, feverish, obsessive, expensive, lyrical.  The quote above is merely one sentence that is mine.  Every sentence is mine to treasure, but that sentence is mine to hold onto.  I feel it, I think about it, I reference it, I idealize it, and I have now memorialized it in the most unholy and banal of places: my blog.  (Previously held in high esteem on my facebook profile.)

And now I’m living it out, but in reverse; I am unhappy about it.  I have been all-consumed by work lately, unsatisfied with my own performance, leaving work knowing I have not done enough to make everything work, knowing enough hasn’t been done to make changes for the students.  They are still pitifully behind where they should be, and it seems that no amount of magical happy time or two hours in my classroom will change that.  Who can say.  (Period purposeful.  No question there.)

I have taken to working at home more than usual lately.  I make phone calls to students.  I make phone calls to parents.  I make worksheets I don’t use.  I make powerpoints I only have time to use half of.  I ineffectually worry.  I pace.  I race my mind through series of useless, effortful, pointless imaginations of the next day and the day after.  I wonder how/why/when/where things will happen when the next day comes.

It was like that last year as a first year teacher, but this year is not marked by the worry of the scope of movement in class.  I am too confident to worry about that this year.  This year is also not marked by the dread of last year.  I have no class I truly am unsure I will be able to control during the day.  I have longer periods and shorter periods but that is only because of the schedule of the day. I have easy classes and trying classes.  Those things never change no matter the situation.  (What would suburban teaching feel like?)

What also never seems to change are the students who fell behind years ago and never seemed to make progress towards academic success again.  Those boys are what I worry about now.  Those are the ones I cannot forget.  They are taking all my time and energy.  I have lost all focus.

Well, they don’t take up all my time.  The guys on the other end of the spectrum take up a lot of energy as well.  On top of my two preps, the independent reading tracking, the lesson plans, the alignment templates, the unit plans, the tests, the assessments, I am now asking for more work in concern that the smartest we have are being dumbed down by my teaching to the middle (and sometimes lowest) common denominator.  Thus, those guys and I will be reading a book all our own.  I hope that goes well.  It’s going to be Slaughterhouse-Five, and I’m hopeful.  There are only four or five guys I’ll be doing it with.  I am excited about it.

It will be very low stress, as long as the proper amount of prep is put in ahead of time.

 

I’ve been surfing Dave’s ESL cafe.  I’ve been thinking about Alex.  She has her certification in ESL now, and why don’t I try that track.  It might be a nice change.  There are so many questions about what will happen next year, and where I will go, and I am only keeping my options wide open, thrown open, easily available.

Life brings on that most difficult decision The Clash knew so well.

 

I think the word I hate the most is “conversate.”  It’s not a word, but people seem to think it is.  I hear it from everyone every day, and on occasion, it even pops out of my mouth when I’m talking to my students, and I hate myself a little bit more.  I’ll be giving instruction, like “after you’re done silently reading you may turn to your partner and work through the guiding question.  This isn’t a time to conversate about your lives, this isn’t a time to avoid work, this is a time for you to get your work done in class…”  And as I’m standing there I know the students aren’t questioning me and the words I use (the ones they understand) and so I realize that whenever I use a word like conversate I am just encouraging the use of words I do not like.

This, however, is entirely out of character.  On any other given day you will find me extolling the virtues of the English language, and how malleable it is, about how its evolution is still going on to this day and will continue to change and grow and morph in the years beyond.  I will mention how google has now become a verb that means to search, and turns of phrase like “status update” are making their way out of the internet world into the human world.  My students will listen and not really understand (a) what I’m saying, or (b) care why I’m saying it, but I say it nonetheless.

But, starting with “conversate”, things have been going to far.

As I was working with my students on their projects this past Friday, I had them divided into the students who had chosen not to make a presentation, and the students who had chosen to make a presentation.  As I get to Malik (not his real name) I ask him what clips he will be using for his presentation, and he says he doesn’t want to make a presentation.

“Why?” I ask. “Didn’t you realize you chose one of the two options that required a class presentation?”

“Yeah.  But I don’t want to do no presentating.”

And I’m all for the malleability of the English language, but making up the verb “presentate” is going a little far ijn my estimation.  Can we not just converse and present?  Must we conversate and presentate?

I swear, as much as I appreciate the descriptive linguists who marvel in the changing shape of English today, what is bothering me even more is the fact that there are already words, shorter words, easier words, simpler words, for the words people are making up today.

And while is makes sense to turn:

  • estimation into estimate
  • education into educate

it does not make so much sense to turn

  • conversation into conversate
  • presentation into presentate, or
  • salvation in salvate

Although I might be wrong.  It could be salvate will be in the dictionary before the year is out, but I’m not willing to use it for the rest of my life.  (And I’m going to try and avoid conversate and presentate, too!)

 

In an exciting turn of events, my house has had some exciting developments recently.

Our landlord (pictured in the far right) has been arrested for (wait for ’em all): credit card fraud, real estate fraud, and auto insurance fraud.  How exciting!  While we always knew he was sketchy, and somehow managed to transform our old house into a decent modern house, we never expected him to actually be engaged in fraud, much less three different types of fraud.

Please read more here.

I could not be more surprised, or beleagueredly  amused by the situation… And still life must go on.

I bought Phoenix’s It’s Never Been Like That a year late.  When I graduated from college at the beginning of May, I found myself, for the first time, subletting my apartment for the summer, packing up all of my worldly possessions from college, and driving back home for the last time.   The album came out in 2006.   I picked it up in 2007, about one month before I flew to Philadelphia to begin my two year commitment to Teach for America.

It’s Never Been Like That was that perfect fresh blast of soft and pop music I needed for the summer.  I spent many nights driving down the canopy roads and thinking about the choices I had made up to that point, the choices that had gotten me to being back home in Tallahassee before I started a job I had no qualifications for, a job where people just told me, “It’s so tough.  You have no idea”–all the while Phoenix was playing in the background.  (So was MGMT.  But what self-respecting semi-hipster indie-fan didn’t have them spinning all summer long?)  I waited in Tallahassee for almost two months.

Look out--look at, look at me
Calm down calm down I said to myself this time

The nervousness of my impending future/disaster (…it’s so tough…) played in my head.  It reeled over and over again.  Possibility after awful possibility played in my head as I permuted the possibilities of the future my decisions had led me to the former here and now.

Where to go I had no idea about it
Most of the people do, they're only doing just fine
I don't wanna stay in place no more, see
Ain't doing well, well, well, I'm only doing just fine

TFA Induction Location

Then, all of a sudden, I was in Philadelphia.  Phoenix was still playing on my iPod, and I was desperately listening to anything to calm my nerves.  I was aloof in a place where people weren’t allowed to be aloof.  I was in TFA.  As a requirement you are asked to be social all the time, to participate, to be active, to meet people, to schmooze, to engage, to question, to discern, and to do a whole host of other verbs.  I walked in the crowd, headphones in.  No clue where I was going, but confident the group would get me to where I needed to go.

   Second to none, I wouldn't seriously get involved in a thing
   Bored of all the talking, you know it didn't change much
   I doubt your intentions are to make me feel any better today
   I even doubt tomorrow will be as easy as it was

I was ambivalent about TFA.  I didn’t exactly buy their sales pitch once I became a   member of their organization.  I doubted what they were really about, I didn’t want to get involved with them much, and it seemed as though the more I rejected them, the more they rejected me.  (NOTE:  This is only tacitly true.  Once I, later, began accepting them, they became more accepting of me.)

It started all in early September
When my godgiven little became a lot older

The rest, as I shall say, is history.  Last September came and went, and here I am a year older.  Phoenix is still with me.   And now they have a new album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, to sustain me and relate to my life.  When the lead singer Mars hits it, he hits it right.

The question is, which lyrics will define this year?

This really exists. I can’t believe this really exists.

My only question now:  Why did my idea for Slasher Sloth vs. Mutant Llama get rejected?

Are his movies even worth it?

Are his movies even worth it?

I keep waffling on the issue of documentaries.  I hate the, except when I love them.  There seems to be little middle ground, based on my own personal reactions.

The Evidence for the Prosecution:

1.  Documentaries can be boring.  An Inconvenient Truth – This has to be the worst quality documentary made.  I don’t like getting political when I rate movies.  Even when it concerns politics I agree with.  You cannot give me enough money to say a poor movie is interesting when it isn’t.  This is why this type of review is worthless. A perfect review of this type of movie is only a political move.  This movie is boring, and not boring in the deliberately slow-paced manner, which I typically enjoy.  It’s just not good.  It is a glorified PowerPoint presentation.  It is surprising, shocking, and meant to be moving; on most counts it fails because it does not engage me.  At all.  This first type of documentary is all too common.  It’s the reason most documentaries go on the shelves of stores…and stay there.  No one’s interested in being bored.  The coffee table edition is more interesting.

2.  Documentaries as propaganda.  Triumph of the Will – Probably the best example of propagandism, the film by Leni Riefenstahl (spelled right the first time!) about the rigid professionalism, determination, and divinely ordained nature of the Third Reich I have had to watch three times for classes.  The first time was in high school, just a clip of the beginning.  The second for a class called The World between the Wars in college.  The third was for another college class: The History of Film: Part II.  I’ll admit.  The film isn’t that engaging, but it’s one hell of an interesting movie.  It was interesting all three times.  Not exactly documentary, incredibly staged and all factual, but technically documentary.  Because we know it is propaganda, its value as a piece of recorded history is lost.  As a piece of fiction, presenting the fictionalized version of a true event is great.  As a documentary is cannot be taken with much seriousness.

3.  Documentaries as a time waster.  The Up Documentaries – This set of documentaries is amazing.  Other people know this. You should know this.  If you don’t–watch them!  But be prepared to waste a lot of time.  The problem is this series is well edited, but takes footage from people’s lives when they are 7, and revisit their lives every seven years, from 7 to 42.   This is the straightest set of documentaries I have ever seen.  I think they are revealing, interesting, and engaging on every level.  But be prepared to use up about 10 hours of time watching these documentaries.  Which is the problem.  As documentaries are generally a labor of love for the directors, there is so much content that they do not want to sacrifice that they should.  Information that seems unnecessary, out of place, or useless is included.  Why?  Because the director understands why it fits it.  The director has hours of footage for every minute in the films.  Why not include a little extra?  But still, 10 hours?

The Evidence for the Defense:

1.  Documentaries can be really interesting. Spellbound – I will never be able to get past this documentary.  I think this is the first documentary I truly thought was amazing.  It was shameful to watch because I saw glimpses of how nerdy I was as a child, I saw the way parents drive their children just to win, and I saw how cruel children can be on themselves.  But mainly I just laughed out loud at the absurdity of the nerdiest thing on ESPN–the fierce competition for the title of Spelling Bee Champion.  This documentary you must watch.

2.  Documentaries as understanding.  Hoop Dreams – I knew when I started working with disadvantaged youth, the realities of their lives were disastrous.  The problem was I never thought about it in the long term.  Even after the first year, I never thought about where those students I taught would move after I was done teaching them how to use a comma with nonessential information.  This documentary reminded me of what issues they face: standardized test bias, social pressure, rough neighborhoods, limited resources, poor education, and institutionalized practices that look a lot like discrimination.  The scene where, after a student has made it to college, but lives in a house removed from the main campus where other athletes live–all black, all removed, all separate–is shocking.  These events are not from the sixties, or seventies.  They are from the ’90s.  They could be from today.   The movie made me understand, again, what issues really plague urban youth.

3.  Documentaries as entertainment.  Super Size Me – The movie was done to entertain.  Without the cameras there, would the man have undergone his personal experiment to eat McDonalds every meal of every day for a month?  Doubtful. It was only done to be filmed.  A staged documentary, just not staged like Triumph of the Will, so I’m willing to go with it.  This movie is just funny.  Interspersed with interesting facts about the fast food industry, and one man’s body decline because of the food he eats, the movie was made to demonstrate a point.  It demonstrates that people need to eat less fast food.  It makes it’s point.  I still eat fast food, and will always go for a Whataburger Honey Chicken breakfast sandwich whenever I get into a town that actually has a Whataburger.  But the movie did make its point.

Verdict:

The drawbacks of documentaries are just too much to risk.  I have trouble enough finding a good documentary.  The semi-interesting facts of the History channel work like 60 Minutes reports rather than historical research.  And while I wanted to be fair by presenting an even number of documentaries for both side, the fact of the matter is I could come up with several more documentaries that I did not enjoy, and had trouble coming up with three that I did enjoy.  The sheer enjoyment factor should win, but I won’t let it.

Documentaries do one thing, generally, very well: they tell a good story.  When they fail to do that they are awful.  A movie, after all, exists to tell a story.

All of the bonuses of movies, like cinematography, direction, editing, acting, etc. are lost in the necessity of a documentary.  Almost never will a documentary be able to demonstrate artistic merit and the factual entertainment that defines its genre.  Because I stake so much of what a movie is based on what a viewer can see, I must dismiss documentaries, generally speaking, as a failed genre.  There are just too few good documentaries to make the genre worthwhile.

Feel free to point out an excellent documentary.  I have a feeling that means I’m not going to get very many comments on this post.

Your life will never be as bad as this movie.  And you can be happy about that.  Unfortunately, your life will never be as awesome as this movie.  Which sucks, but it’s reality.  Neither do you have the tragedy of living near or having to talk with Larry the Cable Guy.  Nor, on the other hand, can you be as good looking as Bruce Willis or Milla Jovovich while living a life of fantasy in the near non-existent future where aliens exist (and apparently look like armadillos) and Chris Tucker is…Chris Tucker. I’m not sure where I was going with that.  I could have gone a lot of places with that.  None of them would have been good places, though.  Regardless…

Anyways, to get to the point.  I constantly compare my life to the movies I watch.  I lament the fact that my life will never (A) be as interesting or (B) successful as The Lives of Others, and sometimes  wish Danny Kaye would Court Jester his way into my world just once.   Ever since moving to Philadelphia, and probably because I ride my bicycle everywhere (primarily because  I’m too cheap to buy a car, and in no way does my concern for the environment dictate my decision but it is nice that it is a benefit) with my iPod headphones in, I have had the insane hope that one, as I am riding home from work, two rival gangs will bust out into choreographed dance/fighting a la West Side Story, or maybe even a little basketball choreography…whatever gets the youth off the streets these days.  By the way, I did not know that movie won 10 Oscars.  Since Return of the King, Ben Hur, and Titanic are the big 11 Oscar winners they seem to get all the attention, but 10 Oscars is a darn impressive feat.  And until rewatching that YouTube clip, had never noticed that Bernardo wore Converse All-Stars.  That’s just classy.  Or maybe everyone wore Converse All-Stars in the ’60s and I’m just a little young to know or understand.  Either way, classy.  I stand by my opinion.

(Ever since writing this, I’m going to start pushing the theater department at our school to do West Side Story as the spring musical.  This year they decided to do The Wiz.  I’m ambivalent.  The Wiz is apparently done every year at one of the middle schools in Philadelphia.  I have a feeling it’s overdone in urban areas.  Personal opinion.  Although I have to give the theater department props for doing The Outsiders and moving the play from the middle of nowhere middle America in the ’60s to New York City in the late ’80s.  They’re good.)

I am constantly wishing the movies I watch pop up in my own life.  In case you hadn’t clued in yet, this is the MOVIES AS ESCAPISM philosophy.  This is what I believe.  This is why I particularly hate watching documentaries.  I don’t like the world enough as it is, do I have to watch it all over again when I get home?  (NOTE:  This movie is a rare exception to the documentary rule.  Moving on…)  Watching Hoop Dreams was painful.  Crumb?  Just unnecessary.

This is why I’m not convinced by District 9.  It’s a little to preoccupied with NOT allowing the audience member to hopefully ignore the fact that it is really about apartheid to allow the audience member to watch the movie without thinking.  I like movies that make you think.  I don’t like movies that do the thinking for you.  This is also why (but for a slightly different reason) I will never like the National Treasure movies.  The National Treasure movies, unlike District 9, just tell you the answer.  District 9, instead, hammers the obvious into you with a mallet.  Neither is very comfortable or easy to watch.

Clarification: Watching movies about the harsh realities of life is OK.  I don’t know why, but it is.  Watching Year of the Quiet Sun was much nicer than any factual movie I have watched about Europe post World War II.  It isn’t a happy movie.  It isn’t an altogether kind movie.  But because I know it is fiction, maybe it is easier for me to stomach and accept, because I know it isn’t reality.   The movie doesn’t have to be harsh to be hated.  It just has to be real.  Movies, to me, weren’t made to show the world.  They were meant to, at the most, mirror the world, echo the world, re-represent the world, meant to capture our shadows on the cave, not to show our true faces.

This brings be to the review of the article (a personal favorite): Sunshine (I’ll get to Solaris another day.)

I know this is really late.  I know this is two years late.  I’m going to start actually writing about modern and relevant movies when work allows me the time to go out to the movie theater and see relevant movies.  Until then, I’ll review old favorites.

This movie I think is quite wonderful.  I think it is quite wonderful because it was probably a movie made precisely for me.  Ebert got it right when he said the movie was made for nerds. But, it’s more than a movie for nerds.  It’s a classic movie in that it devotes nothing new to the entire subgenre of movies where a crew of people go into outer space, get on each other’s nerves, and grapple with the fact that they’re on a suicide mission all while trying to be both psychological and vaguely sexy.  It doesn’t add anything new because the genre exists solely for B-grade movies.  (The exception is Solaris almost exclusively.  I don’t like Alien or Aliens.  I’ll explain that one later too, I promise.)  I’m pretty sure this movie does not try to be anything more than the best it knows it can be–a B-grade movie.  This is why Ebert will give it a 3/4.   Because that’s all it should deserve.

Fortunately, it is more than that.  It is part Science Fiction, part horror, part drama, part diatribe.  It’s like an all style and no substance movie with a little bit a substance.  Not much, but just enough to be entertaining.  I won’t bother with the plot because the plot doesn’t really matter very much.   You’ve seen it before.  Until a certain moment in the film.  Then it switches genre with one fail swoop and moves into another type of movie you’ve also seen before.  It’s interesting to manage and understand the switch.  It’s not that interesting.  But it is interesting.  What’s more interesting are the visuals, which will always win me over storyline, although the storyline isn’t terrible.  It’s a joy to watch, the visuals will win any viewer over.

This, I admit is my major downfall as a moviewatcher.  Oftentimes I’m willing to allow my obsession with great visuals overtake my practical sense of plot, pacing, and acting, none of which is lacking in Sunshine.  Did I mention this is one of my favorite films.  I’m not sure why I’m trying to make it sound so bad.  It’s not.  It’s actually really good.  Give it a chance.  Put it on your Netflix queue.  I doubt you’ll be sorry.

If you are, let me know, and let me know why.  Like my students who all seem to think an opinion ends with yes or no, I will always respond in the same way: an opinion is no good without a valid reason.  Give evidence!  That’s usually when I start raving around the classroom like a lunatic screaming incoherently about the value of justification and evidence.  That’s when all my students stop listening.  Which is fine.  Everything is still fine.

Pages

Follow The Current on WordPress.com