Sunday, November 20, 2011

Five movies: not bad, weird, and appalling

Since I've finally sent Hild on her merry way, I've been consuming entertainment: mostly books and films. And, wow, there's a lot of rubbish out there.

Today I do film. Tomorrow books. I'll start with pretty good, move on to a couple that are head-scratchingly weird, and end with comedy that made me lose all hope for women in this culture.

So. Hanna was enormous fun. Great soundtrack. Great display of female ruthlessness. Wonderful unexpected interlude with the English family and a splendid take on sudden friendship--and possibly more--between two very different girls. With lots of chase scenes, some nifty snow, and bloodiness thrown in. The whole film was surreal, in a good way, though the story arc wobbled alarmingly here and there. Definitely worth seeing. Turn the sound up and the high-pucker-factor left brain off.

Attack the Block was great. The first few minutes were difficult: they didn't pull any punches showing how a young woman is threatened, mugged, and knocked down by a bunch of semi-feral kids. (Youths as my parents might say.) But then we watch the redemption of the redeemable, the come-uppance of the irredeemable, and an uplifting ending that isn't unbelievably happy and tied in a bow. The music is good. And the depiction of class. It's been prettied up a little for the commercial palate of course, but that palate is a European one, not American, so while it pulls a few punches it at least lives in the same neighbourhood as realism. Much of the humour is generated not despite the class consciousness but because of it. I liked this film. It's much more representative of England than all that boring interwar costume drama public television likes so much. Go watch it.

The first half of Limitless was a fairly standard riff on the Flowers for Algernon notion of a drug that makes the user smarter. The protagonist of this one, though, wasn't dim and earnest and likeable, he was a morose, self-absorbed wannabee novelist with no work ethic (no ethics, as far as I could tell) and low self-esteem. Oh, yep, a really lovely personality--but played by Bradley Cooper, so probably meant to be attractive. I'll spare you details of the plot (I use the term loosely) but the second half of the film fails. The story points and pivots are spectacularly stupid: he's meant to be world-challengingly smart and he forgets to pay the mobster back his money? He didn't think to stash emergency supplies of his drug in several places when any meth head, crack addict, alcoholic and stoner would know better? He does the most interesting, paradigm-shaking stuff, i.e. learns to stay smart while weaning himself from the dangerous drug, offstage?? This one's worth watching for about the first third, because the director does a couple of nifty blended multiples-of-the-protagonist shots, and someone (DP, SFX?) does a great job lighting Cooper's eyes when he glows with smarts. But throw the rest away. Life's too short. They missed some wonderful opportunities with this one, storywise and actorwise (they hardly used Abbie Cornish). I would love to rewrite it.

The Advocate is a very odd duck indeed. A 1993 indie production starring Colin Firth, Ian Holm, and Donald Pleasence, it's original title was The Hour of the Pig. And I can believe that. It begins with a donkey being threatened, in all seriousness, with a judicial hanging, and delves deeper into weirdness as it proceeds. It's confusing on more than one level--for example, it calls the fifteenth century the Dark Ages--and strangely lit, but it's oddly endearing. My viewing was interrupted about a third of the way in, but I might pick this one up again. Lots of casual nudity of real-looking bodies (non-plucked and primped and smoothed) is a plus.

And then we come to Bridesmaids. The most important thing I have to say about this one is: it's not funny. It is pathetic, in all senses of the world. I felt pity for main character, pity for all the women, whose notion of a good time, of humour, of relationship is feeling bad about themselves and lying. I managed twenty minutes, without cracking one single smile, never mind laughing out loud, and simply couldn't bear watching another second. These women are sad sacks with low self-esteem and zero self-assertion. They all hate themselves. They hate and fear men. I know I'm not exactly the target audience for this film but watching even the bit I did made me long to wash this culture off and leave. This is a terrible film. It appalled me that women find this kind of thing amusing. I literally don't understand it. And I'm glad.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some books I've read (mostly worth reading). Meanwhile, please recommend a comedy in which the protagonist doesn't hate her or himself. I need a palate cleanser, stat!

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