Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Movies

I saw For Your Consideration, the most recent Christopher Guest film, this weekend. While I certainly enjoyed the satirical take on Hollywood, I thought this was the slightest of his ensemble pieces. The film hits a number of Hollywood targets including the power of buzz, the idiot producers, the meddling suits, the brain dead press (Fred Willard is the best part of the movie) and the rising and falling hopes of the actors. I certainly laughed, but not as much as in the earlier movies.

I also finally saw Little Miss Sunshine. I think it is a tad over-rated, not as over-rated as American Beauty, but I'm not sure it was Best Picture material. It is certainly more effective than the above film in skewering its target, the obsession with success in American culture. I was glad to see Carrell go in a completely different direction and the rest of the cast was excellent as well. I wish Hollywood would make more of this simpler pictures that emphasize dialogue and the human relationships.

Which takes us to 300. I've not seen it, but I thought I would pass on Sven's thoughts:

What I liked:
1) Leonidas' character was unequivocal. No wavering between bad and good. No moral choices. He's just pure bad ass. It's nice to see a hero that some pansy-ass screenwriter hasn't turned into a crybaby who weeps for mama and feels guilty about what he has to do.

2) Pure unadulterated ass-kicking once they reach Thermopylae. No question about who is winning. No one in the Spartan ranks quivering or crying in combat. Just mean s.o.b.s with a job to do.

3) Visuals are amazing. I generally find computer-generated stuff a little tiresome, but this is extremely well done. I particularly liked a scene involving a storm just before the battle begins. The whole thing is dark and foreboding.

What I disliked:
1) Too much reliance on the grotesque to get the point across about how naughty the Persians were. The guy who betrays the Spartans looks like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The Persians have some giant they keep in chains, a guy with crab claws, etc. Xerxes is a little weird. They ride around on rhinos and elephants. Like the idiots who made Gladiator, they try to make it appear that in 500 B.C., armies had access to what amounted to grenades. I'd have much preferred a bit more realism from the Persian side, but maybe they were trying to
portray the Greeks as humans/humanizing and the Persians as representing barbarism. A little heavy handed treatment though. They make the point a little too much.

2) I suppose you have to accept that most viewers are around 17 and couldn't tell you where Greece is, let alone Thermopylae. But, I thought it could have had some references to Marathon or Salamis. They did mention Plataea, but unless you knew about the Persian Wars, you
wouldn't come away with any sense of anything other than this unnamed battle was truth, justice and freedom holding out against enslavement. I can't complain though. If they'd have bogged the thing down in details in order to be historically accurate, it would have been a
snoozer and people would have bitched that the details were even debatable.

3) The film reeks of manliness. One's testosterone increases while watching it. However, I thought they caved in to the apparent requirement that every film have a romance going on. There's a subplot occuring at the homefront in Sparta, but I thought that that element was
a bit weak. I guess it was necessary to make one sympathize with what they were fighting for, but it takes time away from the ass-kicking and I didn't pay to watch Love Story.

4 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

LMS was indeed an odd pick for a Best Picture contender, but I don't mind when a people's favorite sneaks in ... It is perhaps a little overrated, but the last 15 minutes or so of pure schmaltz just hooked me and melted my extremely cynical heart

Steve said...

Of course, the really cynical view is that films like LMS are nominated occasionally as proof of the Academy's relevance. Whatever. Any film that gets Alan Arkin an ascar is okay with me.

joanna said...

A little late to be weighing in on this one - just catching up.

Ditto what Steve said about Arkin getting an Oscar. So nice to see it go to someone so completely deserving.

LMS was simple and real, which is what makes it so good. The fact that it's not "Best Picture-worthy" is actually a compliment, considering which movies usually win that award. It totally kicks the ass, in my book, of recent winners like Titanic, The English Patient, Beautiful Mind and Shakespeare in Love. This movie seems in the spirit of the sort that used to be more lauded and awarded: Annie Hall, Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People - although admittedly not quite as accomplished as those films.

For Your Consideration... okay, so it wasn't Christopher Guest's BEST, but even his mediocracy is brilliant. What do you want? Home for Purim? Come on! What's not to like? Maybe the humor was a tad esoterically Jew-referenced, but I laughed my ass off.dwvfj

Tripp said...

Good points Joanna. Yes, more movies should be like LMS, and the stuff the direction Hollywood has been going is almost entirely bad, the good stuff is all along the fringes.

And I liked the Jew-themed jokes, and I liked the movie. But overall not my favorite of his. But yes, a bad Guest film beats the good films of most comedic directors.