Wednesday, November 29, 2006

For Your Consideration

November 18, 2006
Uptown, Seattle


Christopher Guest makes me laugh. Waiting for Guffman kills me and I own a copy of Best in Show, a movie that I quote frequently. But that last couple of Guest's movies I've seen have been significantly less funny. This is my attempt to say that I failed to laugh at much of anything in For Your Consideration.

Sad since I love the cast and there were moments that elicited a chuckle, but most of those moments were featured in the trailers. Maybe after seeing some very funny comedies late, the bar is simply set too high, but I don't think this is the problem. I think the problem is the subject matter. The idea of a completely ridiculous movie being considered an Oscar contended isn't a very outlandish idea in the first place. So the film plays too little like a mockumentary and seems like it could easily be an actual documentary.

Oh well. I guess occasionallyl when you see as many films as I do, there will be the occassion bad apple.

The Fountain

November 26, 2006
Metro Cinemas, Seattle

Several years ago, I remember waiting with anticipation for Pi to open. Pi was Aronofsy's first feature and it wasn't a dissapointment. It quickly ranked among my favorites. Requium for a Dream didn't make me rush to the theaters and to this day, I have only watched some of it on cable. This can be blamed on my annoyance with the addiction plot line. Drug addiction doesn't interest me. I've seen plenty of films on the subject matter and haven't cared for any of them. Cest la vie.

But I did make a point to see
The Fountain. And I have no idea whether or not I could call The Fountain a good film, but I would certainly call it an interesting film.

I'm not going to bother to sum up the plot beyond saying that the film interweaves three stories, or maybe just one story in three settings, one involves a historic quest for immortality through seeking the fountain of youth, one is a modern day story of a researcher attempting to cure cancer and another, is set in some higher plane of consciousness where we witness the care of a dying tree. These stories share the theme of the striving for immortality.

What is particularly interesting about this film is that the action is entirely driven my symbolism. Very little happens in this film. Instead we are asked to interpret the meaning behind multi-layered symbolism.

I enjoyed this film, but it was challenging. I do not feel like I really understood enough to write in a coherent way about the film. I would like to see it again to further explore the depth of this project because unlike the subject of drug addiction, questions concerning the nature of like, death and the possibility of immortality is interesting. These are very philosophical questions, but it is amazing that Aronofsky was able to brining these philosophical questions to the screen in any kind of coherent movie.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Last King of Scotland

November 2, 2006
Pacific Place, Seattle

I was excited about this film as soon as I heard that Kevin McDonald was making a film staring Forest Whitaker. As far as I'm concerned, Forset Whitaker does not get enough good roles and after seeing a trailer for
the Last King of Scotland, I was even more excited about seeing the film. Forest Whitaker looked like a perfect choice to depict the
brutal Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin. And he didn't disappoint. Forest Whitaker gives an Oscar worthy performance.

The problem with The Last King of Scotland is the way the story is framed. We learn about Amin through the eyes of a young, Scottish doctor who is at first charmed by Amin until he slowly realizes how Amin rules. Unfortunately, the reveal is not as suspenseful as a slow reveal should be and not nearly as interesting as a portrait of the man's life as Amin's personal doctor was not aware of all of his affairs and actions, only those that either concerned Amin's medical affairs or that he felt like sharing with his doctor.

In other words, while The Last King of Scotland was an interesting film, I believe it suffered from being too much about a Scotsman in Uganda than about the more compelling subject of Amin's dictatorship. I would have been more interested to learn the details of his rise to power and the details of his ruthlessness once he was the leader of Uganda. Kevin McDonald has shown that he can make documentary film compelling and downright nailbiting with Touching the Void. I would have preferred this film to have been closer to a traditional documentary than a fictionalized account of Amid's rule.


Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhastan

Right after seeing Sacha Baron Cohen's film, Borat, I was disappointed. I didn't laugh nearly as hard as I had hoped and it wasn't quite as outrageous as I had expected. But in retrospect, I have to admit the comic brilliance of Borat. Sacha Baron Cohen has adeptly created a film about a fictional man, Borat, from a fictionalized Kazakhastan and used this creation to show the hipocracy of America.

Using tactics pioneered by reality television shows, Borat travels across America on a quest to find his true love, Pamela Anderson. On this journey, he meets numerous people who share their thoughts about a multitude of things, exposing the way some Americans really believe about race, class, homosexuality and the other sex. It is a very interesting film.

Sure, it gets laughs from ambushing Pamela Anderson with a wedding bag, traveling with a bear, and a bit of naked wrestling, but this film is also very smart in its sly portrayal of the wealth of prejudices that are alive and well in the USA.