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More trashing of Star Trek Into Darkness

Richard Corliss' review in Time also trashed it.  Here are my favourite lines:

But with its emphasis on its hero’s adolescent anger, the movie turns this venerable science-fiction series — one that prided itself on addressing complex issues in a nuanced and mature fashion — into its own kids’ version: Star Trek Tiny Toons. At times, the viewer is almost prodded to mutter, “Grow up!”

Read more: http://entertainment.time.com/2013/05/13/star-trek-into-darkness-the-young-and-the-reckless/#ixzz2TwV1QWiz


Gatsby film not gay enough

Last week it was The Great Gatsby which I was criticizing -- though I enjoyed watching it; I did not hate it, like Star Trek this week.  

Late in the week I read, but didn't get a previous chance to blog, an article at the Atlantic on the lack of the gay theme from the novel in the new film.  This author things missing this important element meant the Luhrmann completely misunderstood and misrepresented the story.  The take was different than that I'd read in other reviews, but I found it very interesting.

I clearly need to (and intend to) re-read the novel.

"As a homosexual man..." Froelich says, "Nick understands the necessity of deceit in a society that defines one's desire and agency as illicit."

This is also, I'd argue, why Nick is attracted to in Gatsby. It's not that Gatsby is, as the movie Carraway insists, the "single most hopeful person" he's ever known. Rather, it's that Gatsby is a momentous, glorious, incandescent sham. If Jordan is deceitful, Gatsby is even more so. And just as he falls for Jordan and her dishonesty, so is Nick riveted by the transformation of poor, nobody from nowhere Jimmy Gatz into the wealthy somebody Jay Gatsby. Nick and Gatsby are alike not in their innocence, but in their capacity for subterfuge.


Star Trek Into Darkness

StarTrekIntoDarkness_FinalUSPoster

***Spoiler Alert***

The structure was poor.  The pacing was off.  The editing was bad.  The score was ridiculous and distracting.  The characters and moments were wasted.

I liked the reboot with the new cast in their first film.  This one I hated.  It left me wondering if these filmmakers really understand story, for they don't seem to grasp, at least in this film, how to tell a story.

For one, there is too much in this one film.  The original cast took three films to tell the parallel story to this one.  And did it much better, of course. (Oh, and this film also has to mix in elements of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

I was annoyed with the constant and uncessary climaxes.  When Steven Spielberg used that technique in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark it was out of homage to the old serials and was done tongue-in-cheek.  He did not intend for all action films to become like that, wasting moments.  Even something like the fight with the Klingons can't be enjoyed because it is edited and shot in such a way that the coreography of a great fight scene is completely lacking.  I think more filmmakers should be forced to go back and watch the sword fight between Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood -- it well-paced and a delight to watch (or any gunfight in The Wild Bunch would work as well).  

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan one of the great sequences is when the two ships slowly and quietly stalk one another in a nebula.  That is much more engaging than this over-the-top nonsense.

Another complaint, at the close of the film much of San Francisco is destroyed, in what would have clearly killed tens or hundreds of thousands of people.  Yet, there is no moment for any emotion connected to that.  It was most unncessary for the plot of the story.  It was simply masturbatory destruction that really appals me.  Can we watch hundreds of thousands of people being killed and simply rush on to the chase scene?  This shocked me for its amorality, maybe immorality.  I feel the water circling the drain of the nihilistic nadir of our moral tradition.

But what actually angered me -- and I mean angered me, really pissed me off -- was the ruining of a sacred moment.  In my lifetime there were onlly two films which completely emotionally overwhelmed me to the point of being almost numb when I left the theatre.  One was Schindler's List, the other was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  I quite vividly remember that experience--people, including adults, crying in the theatre, the quiet numbness of the room when the film ended, the way people shuffled slowly out of the darkness, mumbling to themselves and their friends "He can't be dead, can he?"  Our beloved Mr. Spock was dead and it was such a shock.

And the moment had been written, directed, and played beautifully -- with emotion, but not sentimentality, but most powerfully with a clear moral conviction.  It was a lesson in the virtues for myself, and I know many other young boys.  It is a scene which has remained with us.

This was not homage.  It was a pale shadow that missed everything of value in the original scene.  And to overcome its vacuity, it had to complicate it.  Instead of the simple moral and physical struggle Spock endured, Jim has to climb and kick and act foolishly, turning a simple moment into some agon.  It is not the courage of moral conviction, as in the original story, but physical exertion.  Disgusting.

What appals me is that these filmmakers have watched and enjoyed and discussed and debated and imagined these stories and these characters throughout their lives just as I and my friends have done.  And given the chance, the wonderful, amazing chance, to shape the characters and the stories themselves, this is what they give us?

I enjoy these characters and the new actors portraying them.  And Benedict Cumberbatch was a delight as Khan, even if the character's power and force was wasted in this piece of trash.

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1 popcorn kernel 


42 & Gatsby

I used to blog a lot about films.  Film, as a category, used to be one of the largest in that category cloud down there on the lower right side.  When I was single I saw more films, for one thing.  Now even when I do see them, I often don't make the time to write about them.

Recently I saw both 42 and The Great Gatsby.  Here are my thoughts.

42

I loved 42.  One way to tell -- I was teary-eyed throughout.  The story and the way it was portrayed were beautiful.  Chadwick Boseman was a convincing, powerful, and beautiful Jackie Robinson.  Harrison Ford was a delight to watch as Branch Rickey.

The compassion, justice, and equality messages of this film were wonderfully well done, without being too sentimental or heavy-handed (though if ventured into those terrains slightly).  I highly recommend it to everyone, and particularly to young audiences, as a way to learn.

3 1/2 film reels
5 popcorn kernels

The Great Gatsby

First thing: almost all the negative reviews are accurate.

Second thing: I still enjoyed it.

The film does seem to miss the central point of Fitzgerald's novel -- the critique of decadence and the loss of good, traditional midwestern values.  Nick Carraway seems to long for the glitzy, decadent days, rather than be glad to have escaped them.

I've never thought the story was this over-the-top, thinking it was a gentler novel.  Though the version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was one of the most boring films I've ever seen.

I understood that this was Luhrmann's take on the story, and I enjoyed his take.  Could have done without the cgi effects, like floating words and Daisy in the heavens, that pulled me out of the story.

DiCaprio and Maguire are very fun to watch, as is most of the supporting cast.  Some scenes are a delight, such as the tossing of the shirts in Gatsby's bedroom.  Others are finely crafted scenes with mesmerizing performances -- particularly the climactic fight between Gatsby and Tom Buchanan.  

2 film reels
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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina poster

**Spoiler Alert** And not just the ending of the famous story.

 

First, this film is quite beautiful.  The art direction and cinematography should win awards, because it was a pure visual delight.  Oh, and the costumes were marvelous as well.  In one scene I found myself staring mostly at one pair of Anna's diamond earrings.

This is not distracting from the story, because Tom Stoppard's screenplay (best adapted Oscar I think) and Joe Wright's direction have placed the story within a theatre.  At first I both enjoyed the conceit and found it distracting from actually settling into the story.  But, then, as the film proceeded one rests into more, and the conceit becomes less dominating as well.  My husband Michael interpreted it for me -- Imperial Russia was about the spectacle and being on display.  All the public moments occurred on stage and most of the private moments occurred off-stage, where characters could be more authentic.  The scenes in the country were outside and expansive, away from the spectacle.  Ah.

The film has that lush attention to detail that I've always appreciated -- Scorsese's Age of Innocence or most Merchant-Ivory films come to mind.

I had read that one of the virtues of this adaptation was its full inclusion of the Constantin-Kitty plot, as it helps to round out what Tolstoy was doing in the novel.  This becomes even more fully apparent when the film does not end with train scene.

Keira Knightley makes a good Anna.  She lacks the sharp bitterness of Vivien Leigh, but I found her more well-rounded and fully-developed than Leigh's Anna, who was always a little distant from the viewer.

Jude Law's Karenin was difficult to view as someone Anna would have ever loved.  This seemed strange, because I thought there was genius in casting Law as Karenin, as everyone in the theatre would imagine that a dozen years ago he would have play Vronsky.  We have images in our heads of beautiful, passionate, younger Jude Law; this should have been used to effect.

I am unfamiliar with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, but I thought he made a superb Vronsky.  Sometimes Vronsky is difficult to find anything to like about.  And here that is the case at the beginning, when he is dashing and strutting like a peacock.  But we also know why someone would be tempted by a seducer like this.  Reason is not involved.  Over the course of the I appreciated that he became more likeable.  I particularly felt for him in the final scenes with Anna.

The scythes were probably my favourite part of the movie.

4 popcorn kernels
4 film reels 


Beasts of the Southern Wild (and Moonrise Kingdom)

Last night we went to see the well-reviewed Beasts of the Southern Wild.

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I wasn't sure what to expect before we went.  Someone, ahead of time, asked me what the movie was about, and I didn't really know how to answer.  I actually expected something with a little more fantasy and magic.

The film powerfully conveys a feeling of responding to the end of one's world.  It is set on an island in south Louisiana, belowe the levee.  This is a land doomed in real life.  The local people are their own fascinating, unique culture and here they are embodied by fun characters.

I enjoyed the film; it was a delight.  And it was very unlike anything I'd ever seen before.  But I did not think it great as so many of the reviews have.  Do go see it, you'll enjoy it.

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Recently we also saw Moonrise Kingdom, and I just realized I never blogged about it.

Images

I had seen so many reviews that it was the best film of the year, and it didn't quite live up to that quality for me.  I found it a true delight, an enjoyable comedy, well-written, and enjoyably acted by the children.

4 film reels
5 popcorn kernels 


Magic Mike

After a difficult week and a weekend of two funerals, I needed mindless entertainment, so we finally went to see Magic Mike last night.  And it delivered.

220px-Magic_Mike

Clearly the main attraction for many is the very good looking men and their often bare torsos (and butts).  But the film is so much more than the spectacle, which actually somewhat tires over time anyway.

This is a smart script.  It thought some of the flirtatious dialogue between Cody Horn as Brooke and Channing Tatum as Mike was reminiscent of old Barbara Stanwyck films.  It sizzled and zinged.

The plot had some predictable elements, but I still enjoyed the overall story.

Soderbergh shot the film well too (though there were some editing and sequencing issues, I thought, in the second half).  There is great comedy in the way he structures the strip shows and the training and rehearsal sessions.  He later exposes the downside.

This is a good movie, and I recommend it to more than its obvious target audiences.

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3  film reels