Monday, September 12, 2005

The monday morning batch

PRIDE & PREJUDICE

Directed by
Joe Wright

The better part of a decade ago, I saw a book in the “woman's studies” section about major female writers. Most of those listed were radical feminists from the latter part of the 20th century, but there were a few from before. Many of the entries were several pages long, but one in particular was surprisingly brief. Jane Austin.

Now while this was curious, it wasn't to be unexpected. For the feminists at the time despised the western cannon of literature, and Ms. Austin was one of only a handful of women to have actually made it. Therefore she must be downgraded to a footnote.

But that will never happen. Her work is classic, otherwise her stuff wouldn't still be widely read after two hundred years. It's her, Dickens and Mark Twain, who are the genuine immortals of western literature, not some Marxist theologian pontificating on the objectification of gender. That's why they remake movie adaptations of her novels all the time.

The story of the relationship between Miss Elizabeth Bennet (Keira Knightley) and the arrogant Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) should be known to pretty much everyone by now. It's not the twists and tangles of the plot which should be surprising, or the sumptuous sets [there are plenty of impoverished gentry out there who'd be willing to rent out their ancient estates], but the quality of the acting and direction.

This is one of the better adaptations. Brenda Blethyn is spot on as the mother and Donald Sutherland is also as the father. These are for the most part silly-yet intelligent people living life as it was in an age very different from today, but human character is ageless, and Austin was very good at capturing that sort of thing on paper. All the jokes still work. A perfect way to waste an afternoon with the girlfriends.

PROOF

Directed by
John Madden

I'm going to make a prediction and you can hold me to it: Gwyneth Paltrow is going to get an Oscar nomination. No ifs ands or buts. She's going to get one, and she deserves it.

David Auburn's play about madness, mathematics and misogyny is a perfect character study. It's about grief and belief, love and hate, sex and drugs. Just about everything.

When we meet Catherine(Paltrow), it's the middle of the night and she's mindlessly channel surfing. Her father Robert (Anthony Hopkins) arrives and they have a conversation about madness and how the mad generally don't question their sanity. Robert, who was famous for being quite mad himself, as well as being one of the great mathematicians of the late century, says that he can question his sanity now because he's no longer mad, just dead.

His top student Hal(Jake Gyllenhaal), now a professor himself, is looking at the old man's papers to find something of genius there. Kate thinks he's trying to steal something and he probably is. But she's a bit of a nutcase herself and irrational, something that comes into clearer focus when her sister Claire(Hope Davis arrives from New York. They're entirely different and don't like each other very much. Clair wants to take Kate back to New York, and get her on medication. Kate isn't that thrilled with the idea or of selling her house back to the University of Chicago.

Finally, Kate let's Hal and Claire in on a secret, a notebook containing a mathematical proof that will revolutionize the science. She claims it for her own, not her father's. Is that the case? Or is she a great mad genius like her dad. In flashbacks we get more insights and brilliant acting. This is riveting stuff. Paltrow gives the performance of a lifetime and everyone else does too.

Attendance is mandatory.

MARY

Written and Directed
by Abel Ferrara

If there was ever a heartfelt plea for censorship and intolerance in recent years, it's this film. It's the revenge of the Orthodox against the heretics. Those who would question Christianity precisely as it has been taught must be punished, and will. That's the message of this sad little film.

Tony Childress(Matthew Modine) casts himself as Jesus Christ in a movie version of some of the gnostic gospels discovered in Egypt in 1945. In it, Marie Palesi (Juliette Binoche) playing Mary Magdalene, explains secret knowledge given to her by JC, much to the shock and horror of some of the other disciples. Playing Mary has given Marie religion, and rather than return to the 'States, she goes to Israel, where the filmmaker shows constant pictures of dying Palestinians.

Meanwhile, superstar network journalist Ted Younger (Forest Whitaker) is doing a series on “the real Jesus.” We already know about the real Jesus from the Gospels, there's no other way to go. Thus he must be severely punished by God. This happens when Jesus sends Ted's wife (Heather Graham) to the hospital with severe labor complications. When this happens he's interviewing a Jewish theologian who explains why the Jews killed Jesus. At first he likes Tony's film, but turns against it at Jesus' behest.

Ted is made to be an evil monster who demeans God for the sake of mammon. A genuine villain, and the protesters are deemed right. Censorship and intolerance of others views are celebrated and this is genuinely horrid. If you're tempted to see this crock of shit, take a deep breath and rent “Dogma” instead. You have been warned

SORRY, HATERS

Written and Directed
by Jeff Stanzler

“As with many films, the true nature of the characters in “Sorry Haters” may defy your initial expectations. The filmmaker respectfully asks you to avoid revealing these twists as you write about the film.”-The press notes

Actually, my expectations weren't defied at all. I expected this to be a generally anti-American screed. America would be depicted as evil. All Americans would be depicted as evil, no matter whether they were rich or poor, liberal or conservative, black, white, Christian or Jew. That is what I expected, and that's what I got.

There were a few plot twists here and there, but they mostly came early on and most of the film was based on them.

Ashade, the totally innocent Muslim cab driver (Abdellatif Kechiche) is in a bit of trouble, his brother and nephew have been arrested by the evil American Government at Kennedy airport because the elder had sighed a lease witnessed by an alleged terrorist. Both have been sent to Cuba for torture and interrogation.

One night he picks up a woman calling herself Phillie (Robin Wright Penn), who asks him to take her to new Jersey so she could deface her ex's(Josh Hamilton) car. It seems that her kids Manderin teacher(Sandra Oh) has stolen her family and she wants revenge.

On the way back, she discovers Assad's plight, and decides to help. She's a bigshot with the Q-Dog TV network, which she hates because it makes young kids waste money on plastic surgery and bling. The biggest show on the network has the same title of the movie, and it doesn't make any sense there either.

It turns out that Phillie isn't who she says she is, and thinks that terrorism is just what should be done to help Ashade solve his problem. Then the torture begins. This is Evil America, and even the far left are irredeemable.

The haters are not sorry, and they're the one making this film. It's extremely weird, but not worth the money.

NORTH COUNTRY

Directed by
Niki Caro

If you've ever seen the reruns of Dragnet on TV Land, you'll remember the phrase “The story you have just seen is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” This is supposed to be something like that, but it's actually not, for the case which it's based on, Jenson v. Eveleth Mines, is much more interesting and involved than what we see here. It lasted 14 years before the investment firm holding out [the actual mining company caved almost immediately] was forced to settle for $35 million.

No, you can't have fifteen women fighting for their rights for the better part of a generation in an hour and forty minute movie, much better to have one woman, let's say a very good looking almost middle-aged blonde with two kids, better yet, make her a battered wife, coming up to live with her parents and start a new life….

Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) and her two kids(Thomas Curtis and Sage Coy) do indeed move in with her disapproving parents (Sissy Spacek and Richard Jenkins). Her Daddy hates her and thinks she's a slut who deserved to get beaten up. That part's pretty much unnecessary, but this is only the beginning.

Josey hears from her old schoomate Glory (Frances McDormand) that the mine has been forced to hire women by the federal government and Josey and some others(Michelle Monaghan, Jillian Armenante and Rusty Schwimmer), and they're greeted with the opposite of open arms.

Now razzing by and harassment of new workers by the old is a long tradition among miners, especially when work is scarce. But the woman's movement changed the rules, and changing the rules generally brings a harsh reaction. This is a particularly ugly film about ugly people, and this is the cleaned-up version. The way it was fictionalized is that all the plaintiffs complaints were boiled down to be those of one woman, whom everybody portrayed as a whining traitor, that would be Josie,and even her son turns against her.

Things get worse when she meets Bill White (Woody Harrelson), a former high school hockey star and failed attorney, who decides to help Josie set up the first ever sexual harassment class action suit. Then it really hits the fan.

What keeps this from being a glorified movie of the week is the cast. We've got three Oscar winners and a nominee, and everybody else is really good as well, especially the two kids. It's all rather predictable, but it works.

Caché (France)

Written and Directed
by Michael Haneke

This film is one long tease. There might be a solution, and it's hinted at, but Director Haneke makes the possibilities so ambiguous that one can't be sure as exactly who done what. It's really frustrating.

Geroges(Daniel Auteuil) and his wife Anne( Juliette Binoche) live with their son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky) in an expensive neighborhood in Paris. Life is good, with our hero hosting an intellectual TV show while his misses is an editor with a major publisher. You're typical lower-upper class family.

Then they start receiving tapes of the front of the house. They rightly suspect a stalker, but since it's only a person unknown videotaping the house from a public area, the police refuse to investigate. This both ticks them off and starts making them miserable. Who might be doing this? Might it be a deranged fan? A disgruntled author? A jilted lover perhaps?

They try to keep it quiet, but friends Pierre(Daniel Duval) and Mathilde(Nathalie Richard) find out during dinner. Pierrot gets postcards from the person in school. Georges' boss(Bernard Le Coq) gets a videotape too. It's all very disconcerting. The acting is terrific and the one can cut the tension with a knife. So far so good.

The thing begins to go wrong when Haneke decides to posit a possible solution. The stalker sends a tape of Georges' old house. This brings on a visit to his mother, and nightmares of an Algerian boy his parents were planning to adopt but he had underhandedly gotten rid of when he was six. Might the grown-up Majid(Maurice Benichou) be plotting revenge after all these years? Should Georges be held accountable for something he did as a little boy? Should a little boy be held accountable for the Algerian War of the 1950s and '60s? A trip to visit his mother(Annie Giradot) doesn't help anything.

The lead-up to the climax is rather infuriating. Pierre makes a pass at Anne, who is ticked off at her husband for keeping Mejid a secret. Pierrot runs away for a bit. Everybody begins to run raw. Majid and his son proclaim their innocence until the end and beyond. Only the violent climax is jarring. I'm told that this is a typical Michael Haneke film. I'm not going to become a fan.

2 comments:

Hoodia said...

Help me Dude, I think I'm lost..... I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw him in a car lot yesterday, which is really strange because the last time I saw him was in the supermarket. No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender". He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a San Diego cosmetic surgery doctor ,to fit into those blue suede shoes of yours. But Elvis said in the Ghetto nobody can afford a San Diego plastic surgery doctor. Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger. Then I'm gonna go round and see Michael Jackson and we're gonna watch a waaaay cool make-over show featuring some Tijuana dentists on the TV in the back of my Hummer. And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . . "You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on " Strange day or what? :-)

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