Thursday, January 29, 2009

Plucked From The Air

I'm feeling quite scatterbrained tonight- my mind is all over the place. (Did you need me to define that? No? Oh well.) I won't bore you with the details but they are an explanation for the random collection of thoughts on the recent releases you can see in the sidebar that are completely off-the-cuff. Right here, right now.

My experience of Nick Broomfield is limited to the second of his documentaries on Aileen Wuornos (I do have the first waiting to be watched) and his first fiction feature, Ghosts, which was one of 2007's more underseen and underrated efforts. Battle for Haditha, which debuted on TV just a couple of weeks after an almost non-existent cinema release over here (and was also released in the US), is again fiction, and it's yet another film about the Iraq War (once you open the gates, you apparently can't close them). I suppose this one's inherently interesting because it looks at a tragic incident between American forces and Iraqi civilians but it's from a British filmmaker's perspective. Trouble is- and I can't state this any less bluntly- it's just bad. It really is. I'm sure it's supposed to carry over the documentary aesthetic (something Ghosts achieved so well), but it all feels horribly fake. It's badly written, the characters are horribly stereotyped, the acting is shallow and forced, and Broomfield engages in some techniques, particularly near the end, that are so overwrought and cliched it's hard to believe someone actually thought this was a good idea. I mean, it's just dreadful. Utterly. D

I liked The Wrestler. I really did. But I think it suffered from the unfortunate consequences of 'hype'. Built up to be amazing... ends up slightly disappointing. Which is not to say it was in any way bad. Mickey Rourke was fantastic, easily running away with the Best Actor kudos so far, and Marisa Tomei (who I'll be writing up for StinkyLulu's blog-a-thon; did I not mention...?) and Evan Rachel Wood (yes) were really great too. I think part of my enjoyment of the film was always going to be limited because wrestling doesn't appeal to me in any way whatsoever, and especially with all the stuff they showed us (which, yes, points up the character's masochistic nature, etc.) I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to either do or watch that stuff. But it was never boring and always involving and I really liked it anyway. Even if I would rather Darren Aronofsky made more beautiful bonkers films instead of generic (because it is generic, essentially) ones like this. (Although that doesn't prevent this from being his most successful film so far.) B+

I don't really have much to say about Summer Hours other than it's very peculiar that Olivier Assayas- who I have great love for after Clean and Irma Vep- even bothered with it. The Musee D'Orsay paid towards it and it shows: the film has no clean objective other than to somehow manoeuvre itself round to getting the museum itself into the film. There's some guff about what value possessions hold- sentimental or monetary, etc.- but after the mother (Edith Scob, who's rather good) snuffs it (um, spoiler?) you're left with her selfish whining adult children and give up giving a toss. The winding plot expresses no definitive interest in any one character and yet what else does it leave you with? C

Waltz with Bashir is a strange one. I think the first thing to say is that I just don't like this style of animation- I didn't like it when Richard Linklater did it (I know that was slightly different, yes) and I don't like it now. It's cold and smooth and unexpressive. There's no texture in it, no depth. Animation can be beautiful, but this style is not for me. I won't go into the politics of the film, because god help me I don't really understand, but I will say this: ending with actual, live-action archive footage of the mourning mothers devalues everything we've just seen, because you're suggesting that what you've ostensibly been pouring truth and feeling into is all worthless because it's not real. And if you don't believe in it, why should I? C+

Thoughts on Defiance will appear next week, hopefully in the form of a photograph because I will, assuming it's acceptable, finally have something printed in the university newspaper. It only took me two and a half years...


Cal said...

I must say I liked that Waltz With Bashir's animation was different. It didn't amount to as much as it promised, though.

The Wrestler - I was debating A-/B+ and decided A- but I realised by how much it was nagging me that I had to give in to the parts of the film I didn't like. Unlike you I watched wrestling quite a bit back in the day and so that aspect of it was really interesting. I think Tomei's late about-turn was too much. I didn't get the impression she was as committed to Randy as that.

Can't wait for the Smackdown.

Dave said...

I agree about Tomei. I mean, she still played the scene the best she could, but it did seem a bit sudden and out-of-character. But it rescued itself with the final moments.

Me either- is it weird to be nervous? (Plus I haven't seen any of the rest yet.)

Cal said...

I cheated by watching Penelope online. But that was when the film was apparently coming out in April here? I wish they'd make up their minds...

but anyhow, 30 words (or whatever the limit is) is totally not enough to summarise Mrs. Bardem. (Are they married yet? If not then what is she playing at? :-P )