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War of the Worlds

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The decline in great American films isn't new, though. You act as if this is a recent phenomenon, but American cinema has been in a state of decline ever since the 70's faded into obscurity.

Which is kind of my point: Star Wars and Close Encounters marked the beginning of the end. I am a little pushed for time, so I will just quickly add that Woody Allen hasn't made anything worthwhile in years, but I agree with you about the Coens' O Brother Where Art Thou and The Man Who Wasn't There: they are terrific.

Edited by The Invisible Man

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FWIW, anyone who thinks Spielberg's film is "escapist entertainment" is either ignorant (i.e. hasn't seen the film) or stupid (i.e. saw the film and doesn't "get" it):

- - -

'War' Versus the War

Box office analysts were mulling the effect of Thursday's London terrorist attacks on the fortunes of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds this weekend. After it became obvious that aliens were not required to set off the kind of confusion and havoc depicted in the movie, several analysts questioned whether the film could continue to be regarded as escapist entertainment. As Kathy Dzielak, the entertainment editor of the Asbury Park(NJ) Press, observed, "In a post-9/11 world, feeling scared isn't quite as much fun as it used to be." The movie was also mentioned by other columnists in their commentaries today (Friday) about the attack. Michael Paul Williams wrote in the Richmond, VA Times Dispatch: "After the latest act of terror to rock the planet, you have to ask: Why would the aliens bother to do an extermination job humans are ably achieving on their own?" Still others observed that the Londoners under attack in real life behaved far better towards one another than the selfish, angry survivors depicted in Spielberg's movie.

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so I will just quickly add that Woody Allen hasn't made anything worthwhile in years

Agreed, but many reports from Cannes have suggested that's suddenly changed this year.

Edited by Titus

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Which is kind of my point: Star Wars and Close Encounters marked the beginning of the end.

I really don't know how to respond to this. Obviously you're tastes run completely contrary to mine.

However, the fact of the matter is that regardless of whatever personally dislike of Star Wars you harbour, many articulate arguments have been made defending it. I don't have the time or energy to get into it here.

But since we're talking about Spielberg in particular, I have to ask if you've seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind? This is a film that is NOT typical Hollywood dreck. It's thoughful in a way few films these days are. If I had to compare it to another science fiction film, I would say it's more like 2001. It's a powerful and skillful film that deserves it's place among the greats of American cinema.

I'm currently reading the Hitchcock/Truffaut book, and many of the comments I see about Spielberg remind me of comments critics made of Hitchcock back in the day. When I have time I'll dig up the comments that Truffaut makes to explain why Hitch (and ergo, Spielberg) is both populist and important.

Edited by Anders

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Fun excerpt from the review by Devid Denby in The New Yorker:

Almost imeddiately father and daughter wander into an abandoned house in which bug-eyed Tim Robbins, clutching a shotgun, has holed up in the basement.  I think it might be stated as a general rule that no one in a movie should ever enter a basementwhere Tim robbins lurks; and certainly this movie, suddenly static, begins to die at this moment.... Who are the aliens? What is their chemical make-up and how might they be vulnerable? What does the attack mean? Nobody raises any of these issues.  The movie is given over to a family in flight, the primal survivalist drama. It's as if the aliens landed and everone died so that Tom Cruise could grow up one more time.

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It's as if the aliens landed and everone died so that Tom Cruise could grow up one more time.

Well, whatever it takes...

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It's as if the aliens landed and everone died so that Tom Cruise could grow up one more time.

Reminds me of observations from our discussion of Shyamalan's Signs!

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Heh. It also reminds me of my favorite comment on Contact (1997), courtesy of Premiere magazine's Libby Gelman-Waxner, AKA Paul Rudnick: it went something like, "Contact is the kind of movie where all the world's religions agree on a single God, just so they can gang up on Jodie Foster."

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Give it thirty years and some Hollywood whizz-kid will serve up an actual 9/11: The Movie, with special effects even more spectacular than the real thing and a love story at its centre (a la Pearl Harbor and Titanic). Movies like War of the Worlds, that reduce history to popcorn and our minds to mush, turn my stomach.

Apparently we won't have to wait 30 years.

Director Stone making 9/11 film

Oliver Stone is to direct a film starring Nicolas Cage as one of two police officers trapped in rubble after the 11 September attacks on New York.

Oscar-winning actor Cage will play Sgt John McLoughlin, who was trapped following the collapse of the twin towers with officer William J Jimeno.

Paramount Pictures said it expects to release the film in 2006.

"It's an exploration of heroism in our country - but it's international at the same time in its humanity," Stone said.

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Mark Steyn's two bits:

This is the pitiful state Hollywood's been reduced to. The Tom Clancy novel
The Sum of All Fears
was about Islamic terrorists, so naturally the film version made them neo-Nazis. The Nicole Kidman snoozer
The Interpreter
was about Islamic terrorists attacking New York, so naturally they were rewritten into terrorists from the little-known African republic of Matobo. But [in the case of
Stealth
] doubtless some studio exec panicked that, what with all this Live8 business, it might look a bit Afrophobic to have any more Matoban terrorists. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let's make the plane the bad guy. In the Eighties and Nineties, upscale Brits like Jeremy Irons and Gary Oldman made a nice living playing the exotic foreign evildoer in Hollywood, but, unless Jeremy's been practising going brm-brm and taxi-ing down the garden path with outstretched arms, I don't think he's going to be getting many roles as the psycho aeroplane. That's my theory on why the box-office is down: in 'interesting times', Hollywood is making films about nothing.

That's also why
War of the Worlds
is such a damp squib. Unlike H.G. Wells, who wrote his novel at the height of Mars fever when various observers were reporting 'canals' and strange lights on the Red Planet, Steven Spielberg seems to be using Mars as a refuge from anything topical or 'relevant'. Wells realised the power of the story lay in its sudden devastating demolition of normality: hence, his decision to set it in the epitome of stable, placid, tamed English civilisation, the Home Counties. 'What I Saw of the Destruction of Weybridge and Shepperton' is one of the all-time great chapter titles -- because of that juxtaposition of 'destruction' and 'Weybridge'. Orson Welles certainly understood. His famous 1938 radio adaptation found an aural equivalent in its dramatic, supposedly 'real' opening, with its urgent announcer cutting in: 'We interrupt this programme of dance music...'

I don't know whether you can create that same sense of disruption in a visual medium, but nevertheless Spielberg and his journeyman screenwriters make two decisions that doom them from the start: first, they begin the movie in New York; and, secondly, they cast Tom Cruise. We've seen New York getting walloped by monsters a gazillion times, and the minute you stick Tom Cruise in the lead you're telling everyone relax, it's just a piece of Hollywood product. Spielberg works hard at making Cruise a regular working stiff, a bluecollar schlub, a hard-hat unloading cargo at the docks: the director brings on the bluecollar stiff's ex-wife's wealthy yuppified exquisitely tailored second husband mainly to underline just what a regular Joe the $25 million leading man is. But it doesn't help. Without verisimilitude in the earthlings, you don't buy the aliens.

FWIW.

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In the Eighties and Nineties, upscale Brits like Jeremy Irons and Gary Oldman made a nice living playing the exotic foreign evildoer in Hollywood

They weren't/aren't the only ones. We Brits always seem to end up playing the nasties in Hollywood movies lol. Here's a small selection:

Conspiracy Theory (Patrick Stewart)

Spiderman 2 (Alfred Molina)

Die Hard (Alan Rickman)

Passenger 57 (Bruce Payne)

Lethal Weapon 2 (Joss Ackland)

National Treasure (Sean Bean)

Last Action Hero (Charles Dance)

Sneakers (Ben Kingsley)

Mission Impossible 2 (Dougray Scott)

Beverly Hills Cop (Steven Berkoff)

Raiders Of The Lost Ark (Paul Freeman)

Rush Hour (Tom Wilkinson)

Sleepy Hollow (Miranda Richardson)

The Rocketeer (Timothy Dalton)

Tron (David Warner)

Planet Of The Apes (Tim Roth)

Red Dragon (Ralph Fiennes)

The Silence Of The Lambs (Anthony Hopkins)

As for the Oliver Stone 9/11 movie, I fear the worst.

Edited by The Invisible Man

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I caught War of the Worlds tonight, and enjoyed it. There certainly wasn't much substance, but it was nice to see a film that took itself seriously for once. That's the one thing I can rely on Spielberg for... serious films.

All that said, not much happened. Run, hide, scream, run, get creeped out by Tim Robbins, run more, hide more. Good craftsmanship, but not much to work with.

Edit:

Alright, more comments after reading the previous thoughts.

There was some great camerawork in this movie, which is nice to see. It makes it rise a level above special-effects crapfest (unlike Lord of the... oh nevermind).

I didn't find the ending to be a cop-out. Sure the son's survival was unlikely, but so was the survival of everyone on the planet. I don't think it would have been a better or worse movie if he'd died. It wasn't particularly played up for sentiment either... those that suggest so have probably not seen much crappy U.S. theater fare lately.

I liked Cruise's character pre-invasion. The man knows and is friends with everyone in his neighborhood. He's a bad father, yeah, but a good person.

I didn't find the movie to be particularly influenced by the events of Sep 11, 2001. Both kids asked "Is it terrorists?", but that was it. If you want to see a film that panders to post 9/11 sentiments, go watch that mess of a Spider-Man movie.

I find it amusing that people on this board picked up on a minor line about the son's paper but completely missed Tim Robbins' speech about being an ambulance driver. smile.gif

And Tom Cruise is a decent leading man. Some survey I read said a ton of people weren't going to go see his new movie because he's vocal about scientology. That's pretty lame.

And I suspect people (in general) are amplifying complaints about this film because it's trendy to bash Spielberg.

All in all, it didn't really suck. There just wasn't much there. It's a film I'll probably enjoy watching again in a few years due to the superior craftsmanship, but not one I'll watch for intellectual stimulation anytime soon.

Edited by theoddone33

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This was the second feature for our annual trip of the drive-in. I saw it a few weeks ago, but my wife was skeptical, and I dragged her to see this (how cool it would be to see those big explosions on a big BIG screen!)

Left half-way thru. She couldn't contain her laughter.

She thought the alien tripods were the silliest spaceships she'd ever seen. (But it was faithful to the source, I countered. Then the source was faulty, written at a time before flight).

The funniest part was when the folks were getting vaporized, having the clothes fly off.

"So... the laser gun disintegrates the people, but not the clothes?"

She couldn't wrap her head around that one. I suggested that perhaps cotton was like the skin on an onion.

"Then why didn't the army stop by Bed Bath & Beyond, purchase an entire inventory of quilts, and just drape it over the tripods?!?"

I'm just happy we left before we got to the whole Tim Robbins sequence.

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Nick Alexander wrote:

: The funniest part was when the folks were getting vaporized, having the clothes fly off.

: "So... the laser gun disintegrates the people, but not the clothes?"

: She couldn't wrap her head around that one. I suggested that perhaps cotton was like

: the skin on an onion.

Or maybe cotton isn't 65% water like the human body is. (Ponder the word "vaporize".)

FWIW, in the book, the Martians used heat-rays of some kind. I can't recall if the bodies were vaporized or merely burnt.

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The bodies weren't vaporized in the book; they simply burst into flame. If the film had utilized Well's heat-ray, it would've been worthy of an R rating. That's gruesome stuff.

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It was pretty gruesome anyway. Though I guess if I had to pick, I'd rather be vaporized than have my blood sucked out.

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So much for the cuddly-wuddly Spielberg.

I caught up with this spectacular film during my vacation week, and I

Edited by Christian

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