without a definite route

film flam: babel, marie antoinette, letters from iwo jima, the presige, little miss sunshine (redux)

on February 27, 2007

first of all with some business, i’m searching for a name for my mini-movie review thingies. so if anyone has any suggestions, i’m open. josh suggested “film flam” so i’m trying it out.


how’d i do with my predictions? not great. the only thing i was absolutely right about was that i suck at guessing the oscar winners. although milkshake took my predictions and came in 2nd in her office pool, for whatever that’s worth.

i thought ellen did alright, although i wonder why they have the host be so hosty (vacuuming? really?). i don’t think the host affects the show’s time, overall, but there were some other things that could have been cut to speed things up a bit. examples? celine dion for shore, maybe one of the film clip montages (the salute to american cinema was really good, but felt strange in a show that was, otherwise, so very international). i really geekily get into the montages so it’s saying something when i suggest cutting one. the sound effect choir thing was neat, but whatever. the modern dancer/body art/shadow puppet people were interesting and it was cool what they could do with their bodies, but if it has to go, it has to go. overall, it’s not that it was too long, but i thought the show lacked rhythm, if that makes any sense. seems to me that they should get rid of the host like other shows have already done. with that said, i loved ellen’s interactions with martin scorsese and clint eastwood.

i felt disappointed that children of men was completely shut out. and shocked that pan’s labyrinth was beat by the german movie, the lives of others, for best foreign language film. it better be damn good. and pan’s should have definitely won for best score. the music in that movie was so very hauntingly pretty. i’ve been humming it for 2 weeks. i was impressed at how the major musical theme was incorporated into the story of the movie (ofelia asks mercedes to hum her a lullaby). so lovely. i can’t really remember babel‘s score.

there was part of me that wasn’t surprised when eddie murphy didn’t win. i mean, have you seen those norbit ads? they’ve served as a near constant reminder the past few weeks that his oeuvre really kinda sucks.

and what was up with phillip seymore hoffman? i certainly like it when someone bucks the whole hollywood oscar glamor thing, but clean hair would seem like the very least you could do. i felt like helen mirren couldn’t get away from him fast enough when they went backstage after her acceptance speech. it doesn’t seem like too far a stretch to imagine a not very attractive smell emanating from him.

what i watched last week: 

babel – i expected not to like this movie, but then i kinda did. there were many moments of utter beauty in the landscape and the acting, but the parallel stories felt a little mish-mashed together. the title implies that the film is about the difficulty of human communication and it makes a valiant effort to support that theme with varied stories that unfold in 4 countries and 5 languages (english, arabic, spanish, japanese and sign), but it isn’t successful in showing language as the principal barrier. instead, it excels at the exploration of how perceived differences keep people from finding a connection to one another.

marie antoinette – more like cotton candy than a movie. very very pretty with the dresses and the hair and the pastries. i actually liked kirsten dunst, which i don’t always, but i yearned for a deeper connection to the characters. very little substance. light and fluffy like the very best eye candy.

letters from iwo jima – superbly acted. wow. a really good counterpart to flags of our fathers, but with more emotional honesty. does an impressive job erasing the concept of “other.” rather than many traditional rah rah war movies, letters from iwo jima has a sense of meloncholoy for the waste of it all.

the prestige – i kind of want to watch it again, as soon as possible. without giving too much away, there are several reveals and switches and surprises. and just when i thought i’d figured out the Big Twist, it shocked me again! totally absorbing even though it was emotionally pretty hollow. part of what creates the ability to surprise is that we don’t really get to know the characters even though we think we do on some level. much of the success of the film has to do with the charisma of wolverine and batman, er, hugh jackman and christan bale. also supergood are michael kane and (yay!) david bowie.

little miss sunshine– it seems that i am one of the few naysayers about this movie, although i must point out that josh is with me as is my friend kellie (unless she was just too skeered to interrupt my rant while we were watching the oscars). i feel the need to re-review it…

what i said before– cute, but one of the best movies of the year? i don’t know. i liked the repeating gags, which i thought would annoy me, but they got funnier each time. i was pleasantly surprised that steve carell could keep it toned down. i so love alan arkin.   

redux– a mildly diverting film about being a loser. for some reason, some folks feel a sense of hope at the movie’s end, but all i feel is failure – personal failure, public failure, professional failure, romantic failure, car failure, eye failure, even heart failure. although the film is quite perfectly cast and the actors did wonderful jobs inhibiting their characters, there was only so much they could do. josh read a screenplay writing book that says what drives any story is that the characters have to want something. there’s the major overriding want, but also the small wants that propel them to the major want (i’m obviously paraphrasing). in each scene, you should be able to ask and answer what each character wants. to me, little miss sunshine fails at that. what exactly does grandpa want? i mean, why oh why would he teach olive a strip tease? and don’t tell me because he doesn’t know it’s not appropriate. a lovable racist homophobe junkie, he might be, but there’s no other evidence that he’s that out of touch. there’s no doubt that he loves her and their scenes together are sweet, but i won’t ever believe that he would put the little girl that he loves so very much in that kind of situation. it’s not funny to me. it’s gross. and some might say the filmmakers are making a statement about how society objectifies little girls, but to make that statement, they objectify a little girl. again, gross. ultimately, the biggest problem that i have with the movie is that it never rises above its sitcom premise: dysfunctional family on road trip. there’s nothing deep or lasting about it. i’m just so happy it didn’t win best picture. i would have screamed just like cute little adorable chokeable moppet olive.

good examples of quirky indie movies about dysfunction i’d rather watch again: garden state, royal tenenbaums, american beauty, um…anything else.


6 responses to “film flam: babel, marie antoinette, letters from iwo jima, the presige, little miss sunshine (redux)

  1. Diane says:

    Okay, here are some possibilities, some silly, some maybes:
    1. Screen Screed
    2. Cinema Censibilities
    3. Movie Munchies
    4. Film Fluff or Film Fried Tomatoes
    5. Digital Dialogues
    6. Oh, dear God, whatever is wrong with me that my brain just cranks these out . . .

  2. lmb says:

    There was a slate.com article entitled “Why all the hating on Little Miss Sunshine?”, so you’re definitely not alone.

    I actually really liked the body-dancer-shadow-art people and the sound effects choir. But—and this surprised me more than anyone—I kind of loved the Jack Black et al. skit. And although I liked Ellen just fine, for some reason these Oscars fell kind of flat. Maybe it was just the lack of the crowd at our place…

  3. jen says:

    I was also shocked Pan’s didn’t win best foreign language film! Although it’s the only film I’ve seen in quite awhile, Mike and I were just blown away. And the Long, Long Time Ago song is SO beautiful I can’t get it out of my head. I also chose to see the ending as happy even though the tears were flowing…

    jaq says:
    oh! oh! i’m so happy that you feel the same way i do. i was trying to explain to someone who asked me about pan’s that the end was kinda both happy sad, depending on how you see the rest of the movie. josh was devastated after it was over, but i – although emotionally way affected – thought it was, in some ways, the happiest ending it could have been. it was what ofelia wanted so how could it be sad (i’m totally tearing up just thinking about it!). is that the name of the song? long, long time ago?

  4. GJ says:

    I love Josh’s film flam! Also gotta say that if there was a contest for creative grams, the other gram is definitely winning with her creative mind!

  5. dumbtourist says:

    i can’t make it through all this, but i did read your notes on marie a, which i just watched. the ny times a couple months ago drew comparisons to the lifestyle of paris hilton and her friends – parties, pretty clothes and nothing too much going on below all that. while they thought the film was interesting to gaze at, wasn’t there something more that could have been said? my paraphrasing of the article..completely.

  6. dumbtourist says:

    though all that said, i did find myself thinking that this was the life that was given to her and that she was (of course) completely unprepared for any sort of leadership role. that said, i know nothing about the historical figure herself.

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