...engaging and discerning culture, as a way of life...

August 31, 2005

The Silence - 5

Apparently this film is the most famous of Ingmar Bergman's, due to it pushing the limits of film censors/ratings in 1963. It is the third film in the trilogy of faith (Through a Glass Darkly - 7, Winter Light - 7). I found it to be the weakest of the three, story wise. The film follows two sister's, Ester and Anna, and Anna's son. Ester takes ill and the trip they are making is delayed as they stay in a hotel (mostly vacant beside a troupe of dwarves) so Ester can recover. The general gist is the jealousy of the two sister's who are longing for relationship. Ester's greatest fear is to die alone. The cinematography is well done, but was not able to carry the film.

Pleasantville - 7

"We're safe for now, thank God we're in a bowling alley." - Big Bob
This film is both entertaining and thoughtful. There are quite a few funny lines, like the one above. But the deeper themes of worldview are also prominent in the story. The story involves siblings David and Jennifer being transported through their television into a classic black-and-white show called Pleasantville. As they step out of the characters of Bud and Peggy Sue, they start to change the town, and people start seeing in color and the people start to realize that the world is more than just the predictable parts; that change is possible. It plays on the idea of the political polarization of liberals and conservatives. It does a good job of promoting outside-the-box thinking, while being a little harsh on the idea of tradition as valuable. It is also interesting how Jen stays behind, while David realizes the value of returning home. The ending also plays on the audiences assumptions that the show is not fictional. In other words, since most of the film takes place in Pleasantville, which is fictional, we forget about the reality outside of the show. As was pointed out to me, there is also an interesting allusion to Adam and Eve, when David and Mary are in a garden and she picks an apple and gives it to David to eat (she is in color, he is still in black and white). My one frustration with the film is that it doesn't really explain how the transformation happens. At first it is sexual liberation, then later is emotional and intellectual. This is probably playing into the idea that everyone is unique and has there own way to be free. I think this is faulty logic: communication requires some degree of similarity to function (to use one example). I originally rated this a 6, but am giving an extra point for being both the entertaining and thoughtful, and doing both cleverly.

August 29, 2005

Frida - 4

This film is an autobiographical sketch of the life of Mexican artist Frida Kohler (pictures shown are Two Fridas and What Water Gave Me). The film does a good job of integrating Frida's art into the film. She survived a bus accident which lead to back problems and eventually to being confined to a wheelchair and then bed ridden until her death. She married fellow artist Diego Riviera, who was constantly cheating on her. She traveled with him to New York but made here way back home to Mexico where she remained the rest of her life. As a history this film is interesting and I learned a lot of things about these artist, that I had not previously heard of. But as a story it is sort of random. It is the job of the writers and directors to bring some coherence to the story which they seem set against. There are quite a few characters who are really underdeveloped which makes one wonder whether they were needed in the film in the first place. The main point of the film is to show how liberal/ahead-of-her-time she was in her politics and sexuality. Along with this is the subtle argument that film should be taken as seriously as the historical artist are.

Layer Cake - 5

In a similar vein to Trainspotting it is a crime caper with a little bit of philosophical introspection. The story is about a character, who is too clever to reveal his name, that wants to retire from selling cocaine. His bosses think otherwise. He ends up needing to fight for his life because of the stupidity of others. This is where his cleverness comes in, well...that and a bit of luck. The film is complex enough to be hard to follow at points but then comes back around to make sense. The audience is in a constant guessing game of who is really conning who. The cinematography is really crisp and clear which makes the whole film very vivid. It almost makes you want to get into the crime business, but only for a second, until you realize you'd last about a day. The film is fun to watch and the ending is funny only because of the irony of the sub-plot (really just a fleeting moment) of the film.

August 26, 2005

Hitch - 6

This is a surprisingly good film. It takes into account peoples humanity and how that effects romantic relationships. This film is mostly a chic flick, but with Will Smith and Kevin James, it has plenty of comedy and courage for the guys. The story follows a date doctor who philosophizes and tries to put into practice his theories about love and dating. It soon gets complicated when he is hired to hook an accountant up with a supermodel, and soon falls in love with a gossip columnist. The story has trouble keeping both stories going, but the payoff is worth it as love is explained and then found to not have as sturdy of principles as Hitch thought to begin with. It is a good commentary on how our society views love, and even offers up its own alternative; which is that love is not random and completely planned either. The context and the character of people is important, but time and circumstance can rearrange feelings and facts and make for interesting stories. The film has a good balance of realism and hope, despite the cynicism that can result from heart break and failure. There is a slight lull and slow moving part in the middle of the film put overall a well executed and entertaining movie.

My Boss's Daughter - 3

This is an attempt at a screwball comedy. It only works partly; the audience doesn't have to be very creative to figure out that everything is going to go wrong, even if it makes no logical sense. The story follows Tom who thinks he's going on a date, but finds out that he is house-sitting for his anal-retentive boss. Random people start to show up and Tom is accused of killing, dealing drugs, and just generally being evil. But all turns out ok as he is eventually found ignorant ...I mean innocent of all charges. And he ends up with the daughter and the bad karma is passed onto the next shlubb. Some funny stunts and jokes, but mostly forgettable, which keeps it from being the next Dumb & Dumber. Save your time and watch something else (that doesn't have Ashton Kutcher in it).

August 25, 2005

50 First Dates - 5

I can see why a lot of people like this film. A romantic comedy that shows that love can reverse the effects of memory loss. Granted films are suppose to have the suspended belief of inaccurate science, but in my opinion the film just isn't funny enough to outweigh the cheesiness of the story-line. The animal humor (character development) is somewhat funny but shouldn't be relied on to carry a film. Sean Astin with a lisp and on steroids is pretty funny. For those who haven't seen this, the main character, Drew Barrymore (Lucy), only has the long term memory from before an accident, everyday is the day after the accident and for a year her family lives with deceiving her. Adam Sandler (Henry) to the rescue. He convinces the family that the charade is just hurtful, duh. And thus the romantic relationship starts, breaks and ends happily. The only somewhat interesting conversation to have is about the tension of the film with memory and faithfulness. Since Lucy has no short term memory, it requires extra commitment on the part of Henry and her family. It is a hopeful movie in that it pushes the audience away from the simple apathy that nothing can improve Lucy's life. It shows that tragedy can be a learning experience in which we change our understanding of the world and our actions in it.

Rififi - 7

Best heist movie ever? Quite possibly. This 1955 film was made by Jules Dassin (who also did Night and the City) in France following his being black listed from Hollywood (how's that for a Jeopardy answer). The story follows a recently released thief and his friends and hired safe-cracker as they plan a heist to steal jewelry worth over 200 million dollars. The 33 minute heist scenes are done in complete silence with only the noise that the thieves make, the feel is that you are right there, trying not to get them caught. It soon turns into a film noir when the technically excellent heist meets the human elements of humiliation and greed. The film shows well the fallibility of the characters as well as there moral stamina in trying to commit crime without hurting people, which may be impossible. The film is a classic that most contemporary heist films imitate.

August 24, 2005

Big Trouble in Little China - 6

For being made in 1986 this is really a good martial arts film. The story follows a trucker whose truck is stolen in a Chinese gang war in San Francisco. In the process he is teamed up with other misfits who infiltrate the gang headquarters. Most of the film is hilarious because it plays on the tough guy attitude of the main character, who couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag. His only real skill is his hand reflex for flying objects, but hey, you never know when that will come in handy. The ending is also great; rather than lowering itself into a cheesy romance, the film follows a more realistic outcome: back to life as usual. This film has a lot of similarities to the more recent Kung Fu Hustle.

August 23, 2005

Stripes - 5

An early (1981) Bill Murray film about two guys who join the army to have meaningful work and pick up chics. The film has its funny moments but is mostly implausible that they are in any army I've ever heard of. Murray's character John takes the lead for the platoon who accidentally graduate from basic training and get assigned to Italy to take care of a pimped out Winnebago, rocket-launchers and all. They save the day and score the chics. Besides some quotable lines and a pretty good performance by Murray, the story is rather mediocre.

August 22, 2005

The 40 Year-Old Virgin - 6

While the title gives you the general sense of the story line the film is actually rather surprising and incredibly hilarious. Steve Carell (Bruce Almighty, Anchorman ... Soon to be in the film version of Get Smart) plays a guy whose actually probably more normal than most guys in Hollywood films; he doesn't think about sex every two seconds. Which to his co-workers and neighbors just seems odd that he's missed out on all kinds of sex-capades. The jokes are pretty non-stop and the ending is a combination of the expected and the total unexplainable. The film seemed to me to be a sort of counter-cultural view of sex in contemporary life, those who view sex as meaningful are the ones who have some semblance of the good life. If you are looking for a good comedy this summer, skip Wedding Crashers and see this instead.

go scuba diving...

I just picked up the new album by Aqualung, Strange and Beautiful. Read a good article about him here. It is very easy to listen to. It is reminds me of Keane, although at times driven more by guitar than piano, softer and less electronic. I also found an rather obscure by the short lived band called The Normals, their second album, Coming to Life. A band with vocals similar to Bill Mallonee, and the music of U2/singer-songwriter sound. Both good albums that I would recommend.

live theatre...

This past weekend I went to NYC with some friends. My first time in the Big Apple, or what some call the "Rotten Apple." We took in some of the sites the Guggenheim, Times Square, Chinatown, Little Italy, Central Park, etc. On Saturday night we went to a play called Ivanov. It was written in 1887 by Anton Chekhov. It is an interesting Russian existential play where the main character, Nikolai, is searching for meaning and relationship in his life. The performance was very well done and covered the spectrum from hilarious to sad. It was interesting to notice the differences between theatre and film. Although both have acting it requires more work to draw the audiences attention to what you want them to see. Film has the constraints of making people see only what you want to. The set design for this play was not all that good, but the actors made the story easy to follow.

August 18, 2005

Winter Light - 7

Ingmar Bergman's second in the trilogy of faith. This film follows a day of services with a priest (Lutheran rather than Catholic- he was married) in a small town. The scenes in the church service are very well done (Bergman's father was a Lutheran priest in Sweden). The priest comes to realize that he is losing his faith since it does not make sense of his life and the lives of his parishioners. The dialogue is very philosophical and the film cannot help but engage the audience in dialogue about issues of faith. The trilogy chronicles Bergman's view of faith, from certainty to skepticism -a spider God- and ultimately ends with silence.

The Upside of Anger - 5

This film had a good amount of potential, but didn't fully take advantage of the story in order to give insight into the nature of anger. The film follows a mother and her four daughters who are dealing with a disappearing father, suspected to have run off with his secretary. It takes quite a bit of suspended belief, to enjoy the film, but the thematic payoffs are worth it. The film is good at pointing to some of the family dynamics that connect and disconnect relationships, without the hyperbole of American Beauty. One of the ways the film fails is that the narrator is the youngest daughter, at least in the beginning of the film and the end. But the story revolves around the mother dealing with her anger, and trying to love and be loved. In the middle of the film there are a few imaginary sequences from the mothers point of few. Maybe that is the magic of film as a medium, but in this case it made the narration with the theme and insights a little disconnected from the story. I think the valuable thing to take away from the film is that really seeing reality for what it is can be painful, but ultimately we are not alone with it, rather we can choose to relate to others through it and in spite of it. That is the redemptive process that this story is trying to tell.

August 16, 2005

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) - 5

This original is much better than the recent remake. The remake tries to turn the film into a conspiracy, while the original is pointing out the randomness, fear, and reality of gang violence. The characters are better developed because there are less of them. And John Carpenter doesn't direct himself into a corner by trying to explain everything through dialogue that no one would have in real life. In the remake the main character spends time with his therapist so the audience can figure out he hates his job and has nothing to lose in the politics of the police force. The body count in this film is high, and the survival mode of the characters is much more realistic than in most films of this genre. The nuances of the cops and criminals relationship after saving each others lives is well done. Because the fear is real, the tension in the film is high, and audience can fell like they survived.

August 15, 2005

What makes a bestseller?

Well, beside the obvious -whatever book sells the most copies in a given week/month etc. It seems there is a more fundamental theme than this. Over the last two weekend's I've read two books that are currently bestsellers. Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking, and Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. Another one I hope to read soon is The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. I have also been exploring the fiction bestseller list. I am currently making my way through Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down, and earlier this summer heard Ian McEwan's Saturday and read Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. The fiction books seem less related, they appeal more to people's like and dislikes and the development of characters than the commonalities of idea development in most non-fiction books. Back to the point, non-fiction bestsellers tend to aspire to be marketed as academic books. That is that they play on the consumers ego -"Your smart you can understand relatively complex ideas that just need to be taken out of obscure jargon that academics use to scare people off, buy this book." You've got to give the authors some credit for making things seem easy to understand and cutting through the bullshit,and even putting the ideas in the context of stories. The downside being that if you are even slightly a critical reader you are left wanting more, for the ideas to be taken further and some of the research explained so you can learn something about method. That leads to the fundamental principle of bestsellers the authors let the reader take the ideas where they want to go. Get a catchy title, a general thesis, an idea that has some legs and just let the reader do most of the work seeing the implications of them. For example, Blink uses the idea that we have both a part of the brain that works quickly and a part that takes some time- it's basically elementary biology, our hearts beat with out thinking, our fingers, on the other hand (pun intended), take purposeful action by our thinking. If we can just train our brains to be more like hearts then eventually we won't have to think at all. Of course, the Malcolm Gladwell never says this, but take the idea were you want and everyone will pretty much say its a good book (I'm willing to say its have decent, but the ideas aren't robust enough to actually make this a book, its more like a magazine article). Freakonomics is in my opinion a better book, although near the end the authors run out of steam, and end it rather than keeping the train of thought and making this a valuable book. The authors work under the assumption, which is in line with popular thought -which explains why it sells, that life is pretty fragmented and its really up to each person to fit some of the parts together for themselves, you can just imagine the incoherence of this. As soon as you discuss the book with someone else all hell will break loose, well maybe not, but you'll be a little pissed that no one else sees it your way. We read the idea books over the weekend and then mostly forget about them when we hit work on Monday, or maybe there is a more subtle influence. A possible good of these types of books is that maybe we'll actually have a discussion with others that is actually about things we hold to be true, but we tend to ignore this kind of discourse, and stick to the basic common denominator, which if I've succeeded in this post to do, then I may have an idea for a bestseller. Wait...a bestseller about bestsellers? How could I go wrong?

Citizen Kane - 7

This film is #1 (or very near the top) on most of the best movies of all time lists. It originally came out in 1941, but because it reflected the life story of William Randolph Hearst -the media mogul- his media empire refused to publicize it or even acknowledge it. It wasn't until 1958 that it was more widely known about and then started to be considered as one of the best films. It was co-written, directed, and starred Orson Welles (yes, the same Welles who read War of the Worlds on the radio in 1938 and scarred people). This was his first film, and he was given full artistic and technical control from the studio - all of this at the age of 25. The cinematography is very well done by Gregg Toland. I actually watched the film twice, the second time with commentary from Roger Ebert which was very illuminating. It helped explain how they made the film and how many special effects the movie employed. For its day, it might be compared to the use of special effects of Star Wars. It was actually made with very little money which is deceptive when you see the film. The story is told in a succession of flash backs after the death of Charles Foster Kane. So one gets the many different sides of Kane as well as some of the consistency of his character as perceived by friends. This storytelling technique seems to be the first of it kind, while the actual content is not that interesting and in some sense doesn't make sense (the over arching search for the meaning of Rosebud ends up playing a minor role in the theme of the film). The basic theme is Kane in search of his childhood, which he cannot buy or control, he ends up pretty lost and alone. In my opinion The Aviator is a sort of tribute to Citizen Kane. Overall, a very well made film.

The Machinist - 7

Twice in this film you see The Idiot -the novel by Dostoyevsky- this film story runs along the same lines as the guilt ridden characters in a lot of Dostoyevsky's works, especially Crime and Punishment. The film explores the physical effects of one's psychology, in particular the guilt and paranoia that we fell in life. The film is hard to get into at first because it requires the viewer to figure out what is going on, which takes at least the first twenty minutes. But the film progresses well and the ending makes the film worth your while (rather than bad films where you're either left hanging, or the ending makes no sense). The cinematography also helps create an atmosphere that helps to tell the story. The film stars Christian Bale (Batman Begins - 7) who had lost a lot of weight (he looks like horribly malnourished). It is a very well done psychological thriller.

Storytelling - 3

The synopsis sounded interesting, but the writing and directing only turned them into the ultimate cliche. There are really two stories and although they could have been connected, the writer decided to leave them separate, with the mere title headings, "fiction" and "non-fiction." You almost start to feel bad for the characters and then you realize that its there own lack of wisdom and integrity that conformed them to victims of the culture. It would be an interesting critique of culture if there weren't already hundreds of better films out there. Don't let the cover deceive you, avoid this film.

August 12, 2005

Coldplay in concert

Yesterday was the Coldplay concert in Pittsburgh. I didn't realize that I was taking a trip into the heart of "midriff" nation. Where most of the crowd was their to see a "cool" show. Despite that and the interesting smell it was a good concert. The opener was a band called Black Mountain, which played for about 45 minutes. They were half decent although they sounded like a pretty generic rock band with some female vocals on some songs. Then Coldplay finally made it to the stage (a bit long in my opinion, but then they can sell in the tens of thousands of tickets). Probably not the best concert I have ever been too, but I still have respect for the band and they are able to keep their egos in check (or can fake it really well). In the middle part of the concert they had an acoustic set where they played 'Til Kingdom Come, a tribute to Johnny Cash. The sounds and lights were also well done. They played a few songs from each of their three albums, while focusing on the new one. The band is also made the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone. This is the unofficial setlist for the concert:
Square One
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face
Speed Of Sound
The Hardest Part
Everything's Not Lost
White Shadows
The Scientist
'Til Kingdom Come (Acoustic)
Don't Panic (Acoustic)
Swallowed In The Sea
In My Place
Fix You

August 10, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle - 6

Hilarious. I was going to try to compare it to combinations of other films (ex. Forest Gump meets Wiley Coyote, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or The Godfather meets Tommy Boy, Kill Bill meets The Three Stooges, none of these really fit), and it just got too complicated. Basically Stephen Chow made a film in which he gets to be the super powerful hero who saves the world. Why? Because he is telling the story, and if you don't like it, too bad. He has a highly imaginative sense of humor which will make this film hilarious. Basically, the main character, Sing (played by Chow), wants to be a bad guy cause the bad guys always end up with the money and the women, doing good gets you nowhere. As luck would have it, he ends up accidentally doing the right thing, because he is, after all, the one in a million Kung Fu genius with the long lost Buddhist palm technique. It is a very entertaining film to watch, with lots of laughs.

August 09, 2005

The United States of Leland - 7

This film is about how states of mind get worked out in human behavior. It is a critique of growing up in contemporary society, in which young people are unable to learn and process emotions in a way that fits with social and moral norms. There are a few conversations about what is right and wrong, and the adults and kids are both equally confused about how to express themselves. The author tells this story to show that there has been a loss of moral meaning in our culture and it has left families fragmented and scarred. The dialogue is well written so that the lines don't feel contrived, but natural. The main characters talks about how he sees the world, and how that leads him to be pessimists, he doesn't realize that others also see sadness and pain in the world. While the film asks more questions than it can attempt to answer, the questions are worth some time to think them over and engage critically. It is an interesting commentary of culture, although at times a little extreme just to make the point. The title is more ironic than telling of the theme of the film, it should be the fragmented states of Leland. Recommended for those that enjoyed Donnie Darko and I heart Huckabees.

August 08, 2005

The Maltese Falcon - 7

This is the best detective/mystery film I have seen. It is riveting. Because it is from 1941 and made for a different audience it is hard to know what is going to happen next. The story follows a private eye, played by Humphrey Bogart, whose partner is shot and is drawn into the conspiracy for the ancient treasure of the Maltese Falcon. As with any treasure everyone is only as honest as they need to be for their own self-interest. The film has a few crosses and double-crosses, and a surprise ending. The dialogue is very well written and the characters are well developed. This is apparently the first of the film noir genre, although I think later films take this genre a lot further.

August 06, 2005

Constantine - 6

Another in the up-rise of comic to movie adaptations, although this is a pretty good translation. I hear that the story would actually take longer to tell, so some of the story was changed. The story works well though, and rather than having characters explain everything, the audience is just dumped into the action of seeing angels and demons. The film doesn't attempt to much by explaining evil away, but rather plays on the tension between good and evil in the world. It is a spiritual war that Constantine, as a gifted or cursed, man who can see into the spiritual realm. In the process he helps others from demon possession and tries to give people answers about the eternal destination of loved ones. The main story focuses on the latter, and, in the end, Constantine is able to deal with the devil in souls. It stays focused on the story, which keeps it from being cheesy.

The Thing - 6

This John Carpenter film from 1982 looks like it could have been made in the 90's, the visual effects are that good. It was made in the upswing of the horror genre following the release of Alien. The film follows a research station in Antarctica and the strange alien organism that seems to want to kill them all. It is not as corny as most films with this sort of premise. It shows more realistic fears and clearer thinking, and the science of the process is really interesting. In the end the film doesn't really explain the thing, but rather focuses on the dynamics of groups while reacting to mysterious events. It is, overall, an entertaining film.

August 05, 2005

Casablanca - 7

This film was nothing like I thought it would be, considering all the famous quotes and what I had heard. It is actually a complex story told really well. Filmed in 1942, during WWII, it tells the story of those trying to flee Europe to America via the town of Casablanca in Morocco, Africa. The director, Michael Curtiz, does a good job developing the story slowly and at his own pace. When the film is finally over the audience knows the story and realizes the implications of previous choices. It may be the time that it was made, but the story seems sort of un-Hollywood, the story focuses on the wisdom of choices rather than just individual emotivist based choosing. It also has a sort of anti-Nazi feel to it, although somewhat more neutral than post-war films. Another classic to add to your list.

a book and some listening

I just finished a book. Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It was an enjoyable read. To read a good review go here. Also read this, to get a good feel of the style. I also just got some CD's. Two rap albums, Jurassic 5's Power in Numbers and Blackalicious' Blazing Arrow. Both good, while I find Jurassic 5 to be better. I also have been listening to Gavin Degraw's Chariot, very top 40, but good, and not a one-hit wonder. Also the new issue of Paste Magazine is out, definitely worth reading/listening/watching.

Night and the City - 6

This 1950 film noir explores the theme of running. In the metaphorical sense, it is not a "learn how to jog, with the latest-winner-of-the-iron-man" film. Harry, a London man and hustler, with ambition and imagination has to keep running from the scams that he puts others through. In the process he alienates his wife and friends and death is really all that will stop his running. Near the end of the film he talks about his longing for rest to just stop, but his ideas have always end badly and he always has to watch his back. The DVD extras also explain the relationship between Britain and Hollywood following the war, and how this effected the film -having two musical scores and some different scenes. Definitely put this on your list of classics to see.

August 04, 2005

The Spanish Prisoner - 5

David Mamet wrote and directed this film about the "oldest con in the book." The title comes from a con described in the film, in which two con artist pretend to be rich and in trouble and need help, they then take the money and run, no favors returned like assumed by the victim. This movie starts off slow and then starts to mess with your head as the main character get "played for a fool." Knowing the film is about a con only makes the audience think everything is a conspiracy (oops, I just let you know so now, oh well, anyway...). It does have some interesting things to say about perceptions and how we see things, which in the end maybe just other peoples lies, but then can anyone be trusted? The film does have the aspect of being some what realistic, the audience my know how to cover up a murder but in real life we don't usually think about it in the panic of the moment. Living between wisdom and folly involves the right amount of trust and suspicion, and the development of discernment (in other words, a good bullshit detector).

August 03, 2005

Downfall - 7

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and written by Bernd Eichinger, using autobiographical books from the same period, this film portrays Hitler in his last days in a bunker in Berlin. The main character is Traudl Junge, Hitler's last secretary, who is one of the few to survive the war. The film begins and ends with actual footage from Junge that shows her struggle to make sense of her situation and feeling guilt for not trying to learn the implications of the Nazi's worldview. The film shows both the humanity of the Nazi's in charge as well as their loss of humanity as there ideology takes over their thinking. When compassion is lost, when the value of human life resides in the success and failure of nationalism, then meaning is lost, and survival is suffering. The film is very sad and violent because of the many suicides at the end, including Hitler, a lot of his commanders, and the Goebbel family. One of the great scenes is Hitler explaining his vision of the Third Reich to the architect Albert Speer -how Germany is going to rebuild Berlin into the greatest city on earth in the tradition of the Roman and Greek empires. In the end, the only success Hitler sees in his own life is that he has saved the world from 6 million Jews and millions of other "inferior" people. This film shows Hitler as a human being which he was (the film portrays him as one suffering from Parkinson's or a related disease), it also point to how he was power hungry and insane -he had lost touch with reality, lost a vision for what it means to be human.

The Final Cut - 6

Robin Williams plays a cutter -one who edits the life footage from a brain implant into two hour montages for memorial services. It then gets hairy as those who are against the technology are looking for a way to use it to there advantage use the deleted footage of criminal activity to show that it should be outlawed. The film is pretty good and deals with some interesting questions of memory and its connection with truth. But the movie suffers because it is to short (an hour and a half), and does not adequately explain things. A little retooling could have made a big difference. Anyway, the theme of the movie is the guilt and suffering involved in being a cutter -having to see all the good, the bad, and the ugly. In the end, the film allows for a glimpse of redemption amid the chaos.

August 02, 2005

Catch Me If You Can - 6

The lies become you. That is the theme of this film. Frank Abagnale, a real life con artist soon becomes so involved in the lies that he makes for his life that he ends up losing his base in reality. The con has so shaped Franks life that his very character is formed in the image of his con. When it is finally revealed he is left with nothing, a dream of what his families life was suppose to be. The climax of the film is near the end when he is convinced that Carl Handratty, the FBI agent chasing him, is lying about Frank's arrest, about his family, everything. It takes some time but Frank has to become someone who can once again know truth, and to be in trustworthy relationships. The film does a good job of developing the characters of Frank and Carl and the cat and mouse relationship that they have. The chase becomes the motivating force for Frank and when Carl stops playing the game is over and Frank is left wondering about the purpose of his life. He ends up working with the FBI to catch other forgers and con artist. In true Spielberg fashion the film ends with the characters having found themselves.

August 01, 2005

interesting qoute

I just found this blog with an interesting quote on it. The qoute: "Theaters are the new Church of the Masses—where people sit huddled in the dark listening to people in the light tell them what it is to be human." —1930’s theater critic

Narc - 6

An intriguing thriller about the mysterious death of an undercover narc (a cop who goes undercover to investigate drug trafficking). It is from the perspective of a cop on suspension who has only this case to work on. The events right before the killing are replayed through out as he uncovers more and more information from witness. It plays on the idea that we believe those we trust, and this can be valuable but can also lead to believing a lie if we trust the wrong people. The cinematography give one the feel of being in a very cold and lonely place and adds to the atmosphere of the film. And rather than having some trick ending to throw people it allows for the audience to put there faith into the characters and try to understand what actually happened. Which in some ways is more like real life with its doubt rather than some sort of absolute certainty about something one only has a few of the puzzle pieces, and can somehow intuit the big picture.

A Clockwork Orange - 6

Like a lot of Stanley Kubrick films this has the feel of being made more currently than its original release in 1971. The color and themes are more universal than most films. It deals with violence and its possible rehabilitation. It takes a while to get use to the English (slang) language that the main characters use. It is an interesting look at how societies view the human person- what is wrong and what the possible solutions may be. The movie is disturbing in its portrayal of social norms as well as the breaking of these norms. It tends to show only the extremes, but for the good of showing how societies have lost their way in the search for definitions of what right and wrong are. The ending is somewhat pessimistic in that good does not really win out in the end, rather mere friendliness and back scratching have the last laugh.

Soapdish - 6

This film shows how real life can often be more entertaining than the fiction any soap opera writer can come up with. It has very funny performances by Sally Fields, and Kevin Kline. It has the acting within the acting story going, the actors of the soap opera The Sun Also Sets are the main characters of the film about their real life. It shows the politics and drama of the TV business, the executives trying to sleep around and making totally un-thought out decisions based on audience perceptions. It is sort of an inside look at the craziness in the lives of actors and the separation and disconnection from reality that can occur in the process.