Darrell, you saw Andre Rublev! Michael, you saw Spy Kids3D!
Posted 15 July 2003 - 03:52 PM
Oh, and having seen every Tarkovsky film except The Sacrifice, now, I must say, his obsession with leaves waving under rippling streams begins to wear thin if you see his movies close together, like I did. It's a great image, but given the sheer repetition of it, you begin to wonder if maybe Tarkovsky could have gone for a little more, um, variety.
There, I have spoken my heresies. Tarkovsky fans, grab your stones and have at me.
Posted 15 July 2003 - 05:28 PM
Was bored by the sequel.
Was dreading the third installment.
Color me surprised. Not that the third film is a major artistic achievement by any means. But I can't deny that it was entertaining. Acting was marginal. Special effects spotty. Story was simplistically stupid. But the attitude was great. Fun was the order of the day.
Lots of celebrity cameos. Lots of video game inside jokes. (The story takes place inside a virtual reality game - that's where the 3D effects are used.
I'm giving it 3 stars. Made me laugh a number of times and after a slow start, held my interest throughout. The kids in the audience loved it.
Sylvester Stallone (playing 4 parts - Sure, he doesn't have the range to pull it off. He knows it. We know it. We're all in on the joke. It works.)
George Clooney (playing himself except for one hysterical morphing scene. Stay for the credits for the behind the scene action of that filming.)
Posted 15 July 2003 - 11:14 PM
I did appreciate the vow of silence, since he has nothing to say in light of all that happened, and the challenge by one of his friends that he's not allowed to not use his gifts.
There is amazing brutality, but then at the end, the beautiful icons. How beautiful faith can be in a world of pain!
Posted 16 July 2003 - 12:55 AM
Posted 16 July 2003 - 01:50 AM
: There is amazing brutality, but then at the end, the beautiful icons. How
: beautiful faith can be in a world of pain!
I guess. I'm just a little unsettled by the possibility that beauty, faithful or otherwise, is little more than a self-serving distraction from the brutality and not something deeper. And I wasn't convinced that Andrei Rublev did go deeper -- especially because the filmmakers themselves perpetrated some of that brutality. Can you honestly INFLICT evil in the course of making a film that supposedly points BEYOND it?
Posted 16 July 2003 - 08:30 AM
If you liked I & II, you'll love this one.I'm seeing it tonight, but I'm still a bit apprehensive. Like Michael, I loved the first one but did NOT like the sequel. I hated the haphazardness of the plot, which randomly introduced things like the ancient temple of who knows what, where for no discernible physical or dramatic reason speech is impossible and telepathy happens, and animated skeletons of we know not whom come to life to fight for an artifact of we know not what significance. Even Steve Buscemi's monster creatures had no integral plot significance comparable to Floop's Fooglies or the Thumb-Thumbs from the first film. And I resented the way the theme of family togetherness from the first film was replaced by themes of office politics and inter-family rivalry, while the parents, who came off so well in the first film, were essentially sidelined in the sequel.
Rodriguez seems like a decent, idealistic guy. Here's hoping the first Spy Kids wasn't a floop, er, fluke.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 08:53 AM
I think we all take solace in the understanding that when we watch films things are not really what they seem. If Bess were actually raped and beaten in Breaking the Waves or if someone were actually crucified in a Jesus picture, we'd certainly be repulsed. OTOH, we want it to seem real.
I may have mentally cut AR some slack for being set in the middle ages when things may well have been a bit more brutal (although we've certainly found new [more civilized??] ways of being brutal.) AR is not very sanitized (I assume they didn't actually gouge people's eyes out making the film), for some that will no doubt ruin the film, for some it might give some bit of power to the film.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 09:30 AM
Oh, I dunno. I guess cut the guy alot of slack over the stuff that doesn't work because there's always some new Floopy thing coming from left field. As in, Who cares if the creatures didn't have anything to do with the plot? They were so cool and it was obvious Rodriguez has an abiding love for Harryhausen stop-motion. Something about the dopey haphazardness of a Spy Kids movie I find really exhilarating, like a kids' birthday party that degenerates into a food fight (which, granted, can turn bad, but when it's done right, ahhhhhh such a messy delight.)
Posted 16 July 2003 - 11:03 AM
Posted 16 July 2003 - 11:09 AM
Oh, I dunno. I guess cut the guy alot of slack over the stuff that doesn't work because there's always some new Floopy thing coming from left field. As in, Who cares if the creatures didn't have anything to do with the plot? They were so cool and it was obvious Rodriguez has an abiding love for Harryhausen stop-motion. Something about the dopey haphazardness of a Spy Kids movie I find really exhilarating, like a kids' birthday party that degenerates into a food fight (which, granted, can turn bad, but when it's done right, ahhhhhh such a messy delight.)Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the creatures -- and Juni's robot-bug Ralph, and the Magna-Men, and the magnet-hovercraft things. And I got a chuckle out of how the fighting skeletons turned out to be rather decent chaps after they got their artifact back.
But the first film, while equally goofy and freewheeling, was much more tightly plotted, so I don't think it's fair to generalize about the "dopey haphazardness of a Spy Kids movie." The dopey haphazardness of the second film stands on its own... at least, it did until now.
And, while I can deal with the creatures not having plot relevance, I have a hard time putting aside questions like "Whose temple? Whose skeletons? What artifact? Why telepathy / silence zone?" At least either tell me where it comes from, or else do something interesting with it plotwise, but when you do neither one nor the other the whole thing breaks down, at least for me.
The main thing that bugged me about the sequel, though, was the way that the first film's romantic / heroic portrayal of marriage and family went by the wayside. The first film had a vision of parents as cooler than their kids suspect, marriage as a thrilling adventure, and family unity as a mission as vital as saving the world. In the second film, the parents become quite irrelevant / ineffectual (first drugged, then duped by the villain, and finally useless in the climax), and the focus was on things like Gregorio losing out on the promotion and the corner office to Donnagon, Carmen and Juni losing out on the plum assignments and gadgets to Donnagon's kids, Carmen liking the bad boy and wanting to reform him, etc. Bringing in Ingrid's parents was a good idea, but their scenes were just as annoying often as not.
Posted 16 July 2003 - 11:23 AM
Posted 16 July 2003 - 11:34 AM
But anyway. In response to Darrel, yes, Andrei Rublev is SET in the Middle Ages, but the animals brutalized on film were brutalized NOW -- or at any rate, within your lifetime (but a few years before mine). I actually don't mind seeing animals killed in a film all that much (though it still takes me "out of the movie") if the slaughter of animals is an accepted part of the world as seen by the film, as with the sacrifice of the bull in Apocalypse Now or the slaughter of the pig for food in The Tree of Wooden Clogs. But when a film suggests that the harm done to animals is evidence of how WRONG the world is, and when the filmmakers themselves perpetrate that harm ... well, ordinarily, I would expect such a film to be made by a nihilist or something. But we are supposed to believe that Andrei Tarkovsky was a man of faith, yes? So what do we do with his treatment of animals in this film?
As for Spy Kids, I want to second Mike's comments about the "dopey haphazardness" therein; like I said in my review of the second film (click here for my review of the first one), "Populated by quirky robots and bizarre, quasi-mythical creatures, these films are not just James Bond spoofs for children; they are wildly imaginative fantasies that delight in their genre-mixing sense of play, like the stories children make up when they put their toy soldiers, toy sports cars, and toy dinosaurs together. Writer-director Robert Rodriguez -- who also edited the film and composed some of the music -- says he turned to his own children for ideas, and watching this film, you believe him."
Posted 16 July 2003 - 11:51 AM
Posted 16 July 2003 - 05:47 PM
Posted 17 July 2003 - 07:10 AM
In this film, Robert Rodriguez throws all semblance of narrative and emotional logic to the winds. Not only does most of the story take place within a video game, but human actions and decisions are as nonsensical as the video-game plot, and the plot makes much, much less sense than ever. Additionally, the pro-family theme has been reduced to a slogan. There are no actual human relationships in this movie, and only two moments of recognizable human emotion (both involving Ricardo Montalban), which rise to actual depth and poignancy. The rest is as shallow as a video-game framing story.
The transition from the first film's recognizable human children ("We are definitely going to be late to school") to the second film's somewhat satirical semi-adults ("I'm kind of looking forward to retirement; I can get back to all the dreams and projects I left behind") is now complete, as the third film opens with Juni doing hard-boiled film noir exposition in keeping with his status as disillusioned ex-spy loner now working as a private eye.
Later, in the video game, Juni's emotional responses go beyond mere precociousness into complete inexplicability. When a fellow player loses too many points and is expelled from the game, Juni acts as devastated as if the person had actually died. Still later, when he describes a female player as "my girlfr..." our jaws drop, because the movie has done nothing whatsoever to justify an actual emotional bond between them.
Even the loopy visual imagination of the first two films is gone. It still looks cool and there's lots of energy and flair, but no new creations to match the Thumb-Thumbs, the Fooglies, or Buscemi's beasties. Instead we get lots of big robots and a great big video-game world that's still fun to look at but doesn't offer new kinds of things to look at.
The production notes make a big deal of color, although since the 3-D effect relies on old red-blue glasses technology (rather than polarized 3-D, which would be prohibitively expensive in terms of providing theaters with glasses), the palatte is mostly limited to yellows and purples.
Another critic, coming out of the theater with me, commented that it was like watching an Ed Wood movie. I think that's about right. That doesn't make it unenjoyable; Ed Wood movies are camp classics, and I won't deny that I enjoyed the film on a visceral level. But I'm disappointed that Rodriguez settled for aiming so low.
Posted 17 July 2003 - 07:48 AM
Posted 17 July 2003 - 08:37 AM
In the case of Spy Kids 3-D, though, I can tell you that my kids would find it as disconnected and problematic as I did. Many of the issues I mentioned in my last post would occur to them as well. In addition, my five-year-old would surely want to know who was really "The Guy" (Juni? that other guy? somebody else? no one?) -- and who that other guy was, anyway. (Does Rodriguez know -- or care?) My eight-year-old would probably be nonplused at how Grandpa just instantly appeared in the game without even knowing how it had happened, when Juni had to be physically brought into the OSS, briefed, equipped, and jacked in. And both would want some kind of explanation why Grandpa was so invincible that even the Programmers were powerless against him.
I dunno, maybe it's because they're my kids.
Posted 17 July 2003 - 09:43 AM
Posted 17 July 2003 - 10:57 AM
: Isn't there some relation between the idea of actually hurting or killing an
: animal onscreen to a snuff film? Or to pornography? In R rated (or even
: in PG-13 sometimes) movies, when the sex scenes get a little too steamy
: I find myself feeling bad for the actress, thinking, man, these people
: aren't just pretending to be doing it anymore.
Just the actress? Not the actor, too?
The interesting thing about film is that it operates on both the level of the fictitious and imaginary (I am imagining that that man is really a British superspy who is about to blow up an enemy base) and the level of the documentary (wow, look at Pierce Brosnan run! he's in such great shape! and I bet the pyrotechnics guys sure had fun!). Or, as one critic once put it, "That really is Nicole Kidman's butt, and at the same time I accept it as the butt of the character she's playing."
So whenever a film draws our attention even to something as simple and innocuous as the way a character looks, I find I am pulled out of the film, albeit momentarily -- in Das Experiment, the main character makes some joke about the shape of his ears, and I wonder who came up with this line, and at what stage of the filming; I can no longer assume that they had the film written entirely in advance, and then they hired whatever actor seemed best for the role and then went with that.
Sex scenes begin to draw me out of films in the same way -- unless, I guess, part of the whole point of the film in question is to make us more self-aware of the film-watching process. But yeah, whenever people ask how I can enjoy on-screen violence yet find sex scenes so uncomfortable, I always tell them it's because the violence stuff is fake, whereas the sex stuff ... is not, not quite. (Perhaps Richard Dreyfuss and Madeleine Stowe are dressed from the waist down in Stakeout -- one of the very first films I remember seeing where that sort of thing happened -- but those are still her naked breasts pressed up against his naked chest, and that's the sort of thing that conservative Christian teenagers like myself tended to think should only be happening between married couples.)
Of course, sometimes you hear things, and you realize that the violence in these films is not entirely fake either. I think particularly of the scene in The Exorcist where Ellen Burstyn's character is thrown back against a wall and the camera rushes in on her anguished face -- Burstyn says she has had back pains ever since that scene was filmed, and she says it's all due to the director, who apparently lied to her about the amount of force with which she would be pulled back. That pain on her face is real, and it has never entirely gone away.
But generally, the death of humans on film is not an issue. The death of animals, however ... well, I would prefer not to see that -- not because I'm squeamish (though I am), and not because I believe it is wrong to kill animals (if God made us omnivorous, that's good enough for me), but because I think even animals deserve a little dignity, and I think filming their execution and effectively commodifying their death works against that dignity.
(BTW, about this imaginary-documentary duality, one interesting corollary of this duality is that many of the so-called "documentary" films that we see trick us into thinking that we are really seeing certain things happen when, in fact, much of what we think we see is actually taking place on that imaginary, interpretive level. Cue Michael Moore here.)
: Something about the line between fiction and non-fiction being crossed
: seems at some times to short-circuit the aesthetic experience, though at
: other times (like in Close Up) the short-circuiting actually powers the film
: to a new mind-warping hybrid level.
Haven't seen Close Up, but I've seen enough Kiarostami to know what you mean, yeah.
: I can't decide sometimes if my own occasionally negative reaction is
: culturally-created, or there really is some objective line between real /
: fiction (with possibly some connection to the line between art / porn)
: that shouldn't be crossed. And how do we identify the line?
How indeed. Especially since what would once have been considered "porn" is now increasingly a part of "art" (cf. recent films like Romance, The Idiots, La Vie de Jesus, Intimacy, Pola X, Ken Park and The Brown Bunny, as well as older arthouse "classics" like In the Realm of the Senses).