Saturday, September 11, 2004

Saturday morning

Okay, just reviews:


Written and directed
by David O. Russell

Okay, a stupid question: Why has no one ever made a movie version of "Plato’s Republic?" Because philosophy is unfilmable, that’s why. Okay, it’s not unfilmable. "My Dinner With AndrĂ©" is just two guys talking about life and philosophy and it’s works rather well, but in general philosophical dialogues tend to be boring as hell [Don’t believe me, check out "Mindwalk" with Sam Waterston and Isabella Roselini].

Which is why the guy who did "Three Kings" and "Flirting With Disaster" decided to give it a try as a slapstick comedy. Maybe that would work?


Okay, eco-activist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) has had a number of close encounters with an African immigrant and thinks that there’s something mystical about it, so he goes to two existential detectives named Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) and…what? You don’t know what an existential detective is? Come to think of it neither does anyone else. What one seems to be is a philosopher who sniffs out the meaning of existence for the customer. So Albert is analyzed by Bernard and investigated by Vivian.

However, there are complications: Jason’s old pal and rival Brad Stand (Jude Law) who is also a member of the eco-alliance, is an executive for Huckabees, a fictionalized version of Wal-Mart. Brad has everything, including a live-in relationship with Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), the Huckabees’ official spokesmodel. All well and good, but where does disgruntled fireman Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) and what about that evil French nihilist Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert)? Why does she come in out of left field to menace the Jaffees and seduce Albert?

Does this make any sense? Does the fact that Shenia Twain, the rightful queen of Canada, has a cameo as herself make the whole thing comprehensible? Noooooooooooooooo!

However is actually a fun movie to watch and is almost educational. Jude Law gives a splendid performance and the fact that it’s an astoundingly weird movie only adds to it’s entertainment value.

Beyond The Sea

Directed by
Kevin Spacey

I guess it was the success of the film version "Chicago" and "Moulin Rouge," because the musical’s comeback is gaining speed, if not force. However this doesn’t mean that this is all to the good. There is nothing wrong with this biopic of singer Bobby Darrin, but the structure is exactly the same as the recent "De Lovely" and whiff of plagerism, whether or not it’s deserved—and it probably isn’t, is clearly present in the atmosphere

Like "De Lovely" the plot is a show-within-a-show. . Bobby Darin(Kevin Spacey) is singing in what appears to be a nightclub when he sees his younger self(William Ullrich) staring out at him from the wings, unnerved, and this is where it gets slightly different, he shuts everything down and we see this for what it is.

The two versions of Bobby Cassotto/Darrin begin to argue with each other about the nature of their common life, especially where the beginning of the film should be. With the old deceit mingled with the new, we then go back to the beginning, to Brooklyn, in the home of Polly Cassotto (Brenda Blethyn) our hero’s supposed mother, his much older sister Nina (Caroline Aaron) and her husband Charlie (Bob Hoskins). He becomes sick and is loveingly tought music by Polly. He goes off with his friends Steve Blauner (John Goodman) and Dick Behrke (Peter Cincotti), and goes off to counquer the world of show biz…which he does of course. They wouldn’t make a film about a complete and utter failure, don’tcha know.

One thing that’s jarring are the "fantasy sequences" in which people, like musicals of old, just break out into song and dance. The younger Bobby complains about it to the older version and it has to be explained. The same thing happened in "De-Lovely" less than six months ago. I guess it’s because it’s a revival of a forgotten technique and it’s jarring in current cinema. It works, especially when we see Bobby courting his future wife, the notoriously virginal Sandra Dee(Kate Bosworth).

The marriage has it’s ups and downs, and Bosworth manages to be more than the wallpaper (she’s especially good in the scene where she confronts her mother(Greta Scacchi) over the nuptials). But it’s Spacey and his reaction to his character’s fading career that is most interesting. Darin managed to get to the very top of his profession but only rather briefly, and his attempts to cope with the downside of his career are rather poingent.

Also is his reaction to the mystery of his birth, but for that you’ll have to see the film.

Not a great film, but decent.

The Merchant of Venice

Written and Directed
By Michael Radford

Of the many plays in the Shakespeare canon, "The Merchant of Venice" stands out as the most unacceptable in our modern view. The reason is of course, the blatant antisemitism of the piece. Shylock is Shylock and thus the tragic villain. The bard makes him as sympathetic as possible, even though the disgusting stink of prejudice is in each and every frame. This is Shakespeare’s fault, not adapter/director Michael Radford, who does a really good job of bringing this to the screen. Other than that, it’s not one of the Bard’s better works…

It’s Venice: 1598. Young lord Bassanio(Joseph Fiennes) has heard a rumor about an extremely rich orphan named Portia(Lynn Collins) who is of age, and according to her father’s will has to marry the man who chooses the right box. So, being broke, he asks his old pal Antonio(Jeremy Irons) for enough money to put on a big enough show to get into the room with the boxes in order to play the game and win the big prize.

Antonio agrees. The only problem is that he’s currently broke as well. So he goes to Shylock(Al Pacino), the immortal Jewish loan shark, and asks him for the 16th century equivalent of a hundred thousand bucks. Shylock, having been spit on just the other week by the very same Antonio. This being the 16th century and all, vicious anti-Semitism is just normal and the fact that a Jew would have his FEELINGS HURT by being spat upon or thrown off a bridge never managed to cross anyone’s mind…except maybe Bill Shakespeare.

Antonio goes out to make the borrow the money and then makes the deal instead of interest, if he defaults on the loan he’d give Shylock the famous pound of flesh we’ve all heard about. Meanwhile Shylock’s daughter Jessica(Zuleikha Robinson) steals a couple of thou and runs off with a christian named Leonardo(Tony Schiena). We know that Shylock must be EVIL because his daughter wouldn’t do a thing like that to her own papa, right?

Pacino first did this on Broadway a few years back and was greeted with great acclaim. The acting is wonderful and the pathos he and Irons give to the film make the light comedy of the wooing of Portia all the more silly. The ending is rather ingenious, and Portia is the first lady lawyer in the history of literature. All in all one of the better Shakespeare adaptaions.

The best so far: Hotel Rwanda,of which I'll tell more, the Worst: The Rasberry Reich,hard core gay pornography of which I won't.


Larry said...

Actually, making a movie of Plato's republic seems like an interesting idea...

Anonymous said...

Hi there

Can I link to this post please?

ericl1 said...

sure. why?

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