A View From The Handbasket

Sunday, September 17, 2006
Film fest
Posted by neros_fiddle at 1:59 PM
I don't make it to the theater much, and am far too disorganized to watch movies as they are released on DVD. So, by the time I see things, no one wants to talk about them any more. Well, too bad. Today, Nero's Fiddle reviews the movies of several months ago.

Crash -- This looks great and boasts some fine performances by the likes of Matt Dillon and the always-impressive Don Cheadle. Unfortunately, all that is in service of a script that reads like a tenth-generation Xerox of Magnolia (which itself was second-hand Robert Altman). Featuring an ensemble cast "connected" in the most hackneyed and belief-beggaring ways imaginable, we are asked to constantly be surprised by the "unexpected" ways these characters behave. After the opening, in which Ludacris complains about being treated as a criminal by whites and then commits a carjacking, we are pummeled senseless by more of the same. Racist people aren't totally evil! Good people can do bad things! Stereotypes are sometimes right! And sometimes wrong! Wow! Crash is a film that shallow people think is deep, which might explain its Best Picture win.

Good Night And Good Luck -- I have to give George Clooney credit for pursuing an artistic vision at the expense of commercial appeal. This black-and-white movie consists almost entirely of pasty white guys smoking and talking. And it's riveting. David Strathairn spookily channels Ed Murrow, while Joseph McCarthy plays himself and ridiculously overacts the part. The filmmakers are guilty of some oversimplification here, making the Murrow/McCarthy feud appear to exist in something of a vacuum, which is perhaps inevitable in reducing such tales to 90 minutes. But the importance of the events depicted can hardly be overstated, which makes the impact of this understated film all the greater.

V For Vendetta -- I have not read Alan Moore's graphic novel, so I cannot accurately judge Moore's complaints about the movie. Moore's beef, in a nutshell, is that his work was specifcally about England, fascism, and anarchy -- and if the Wachowski brothers wanted to make an allegory about America, neo-conservatism and liberalism, they should have made up their own characters and situations with which to tell it. Moore accuses the filmmakers of cowardice in using his work as cover to attack the US government. While he may have a point, the movie is still a hugely entertaining and gripping one on its own merits. Hugo Weaving gives a memorable performance from behind a Guy Fawkes mask, which ought to be an awardable achievement.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy -- This adaptation gets some things right -- the deisgn (and emphasis on practical vs. CGI effects) is excellent, particularly the inspired Marvin costume, and Bill Nighy is a delight as Slartibartfast. Sadly, it gets more things wrong. Sam Rockwell seems to be under the impression that he was hired to do a half-assed Bush impersonation, portraying Zaphod as a drawling semi-coherent dimwit instead of a jerk whose narcissism overwhelms his brilliance. Its worst offense, though, is treating Douglas Adams' words as secondary. Lines are mumbled and rushed through instead of delivered. Memorable monologues are edited into pale shadows. Gags are started and then abandoned. In all its previous and varied incarnations, Hitchhiker's great strength was Adams' inspired wordplay. For some reason, the makers of this great-looking film decided to go in a different direction, and made a curiously pointless movie.

Stay tuned! I'll soon be analyzing the 2004 elections.

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