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Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Good dance numbers, interesting as historical reference
I only watched this movie because I am making my way through the AFI top 100, and it another one of those 50's movies that are cringe worthy by today's standards but it is interesting to watch as historical reference. Musicals are tough to get through normally, but 50's musicals are even tougher, especially Gene Kelly musicals.
It is important to remember that during this time America was trying to rebuild society both internally, and around the world, as well as trying to forget the horrors of WWII. Enter Gene Kelly with enough schmalz to kill an elephant. So much so that it seems like a parody. It is interesting to see a movie made at a time (the 50's) looking back to a *previous* time (the 20's) and portraying that as even MORE cutesy and "gosh gee wiz". After watching An American in Paris, I realize that this has a lot to do with Gene Kelley, As a dancer he is amazing, and Donald O'Connor is equally impressive, but that's about it. After a while it becomes more painful to watch a middle aged man falling for a late teens/early twenties girl (Debbie Reynolds was 19 in this movie). Also for all it's praise, the iconic singin in the rain dance sequence has some bad tap dancing overdubs.
What is interesting is as you read behind the scenes you learn about how difficult the movie was to make for everyone (Oconnor collapsed after he had to redo his famous make em laugh sequence and Reynolds was reduced to tears trying to learn the dance steps) yet they're beaming with big smiles. It is symbolic of America in the 50's, smiling on the outside while you are in pain on the inside.
Another thing that is hard to watch is all the garish costumes, so many ugly colors! Historical reference is import here as well since movies in color was a new thing, and it's painfully obvious that they really wanted to show it off.
So overall, some impressive sequences, some good songs and a reference point for what hollywood was before the neo realism wave of the 1960s and 70s, but not much else. If you like sugary sweet fluff, this is your film.
Good Directors do not (necessarily) make good writers
Some directors can pull of the feat of writing and directing, Tarantino comes to mind. PT Anderson is another. Even though this was co-written between Christopher Nolan and his brother, the Coens they are not!
This movies is a perfect example of how making a movie (as my amateur film maker friend put it) is like building a cathedral. Being good at making stain glass does not make you a good brick layer, and that task is best left to ones who know what they are doing. To whit, we have this monstrous piece of pretentious drivel which attempts, as so many big hollywood movies do, to gloss over hastily written sequences with flash and bombast. This is another movie that feels like it was written by a committee of executives who were barely aware of the history of film and watched a couple of youtube videos on The Grand Unified Theory and tried to write something all smart-like. This movie is so scattered and convoluted it's hard to begin, and many other reviewers have pointed a lot of the plot elements that are glossed over with yet another "yeah, that happened, deal with it". Here are some of the things that I audibly groaned over:
Why not explain what happened to Earth when every other part of this movie is explained like the audience is 5 years old?
If the technology is available to build spacecraft with cryogen chambers, how about producing new forms of food? Lab grown meat for example? Hydroponic greenhouses etc?
Why are the robots basically mechanical jenga pieces? How does that design make sense? The robot REALLY bothered me, especially how there was absolutely no effort to actually make it sound like a robot, it basically sounded like exactly what it was, which most of the time was just a guy inside a cheap plastic box. His voice didn't even sound like it was coming out of a speaker. HAL sounded like a person, but still had a creepy quality to him that sounded vaguely artificial ("what a moment, wait a moment").
And then there is the idea that you could actually get anywhere near a black hole (let alone wormhole) with relatively recent technology and survive. I have a rudimentary understanding of physics, but even I know that the radiation would turn you into goo pretty fast, space suit or no space suit.
And a guy waits in a spaceship for 23 years by himself and doesn't go insane and looks basically the same except for a few grey hairs in his beard? I could go on and on....
This movie tries really, really hard, there is a lot of balling actors showing off their chops and trusting that they are making a masterpiece, which I imagine every actor must do, but alas there is no saving this movie. It tried too hard to be all things, part 2001: A Space Odyssey, part Armageddon, part Inception and fails on all counts. Everything about this movies hints at greatness, the effects, the Phillip Glass like score written by Hans Zimmer, the tears swelling up at climactic scenes, but it is all empty packing around a bad story. This movie is a shiny car with hamsters on a wheel as the engine.
One positive outcome of this movie is that it has reminded me to read about physics out of interest, but not to discuss them like I know anything, as I will come across as pretentious as this movie.
I suggest everyone watches 2001 to cleanse their pallet and to be reminded of what truly great film making is about.
a group of people discover why civilization was invented
I am not a hippie, but I have a keen interest in the concepts of the 60s and what works and what doesn't. One of the 60s concepts was the commune, where like minded people could live completely "Free", albeit in a very primitive state. It's almost like a living experiment to discover why modern civilization was invented, as in government, marriage, medicine, agriculture etc. There is a reason why we don't live that way any more, because it sucks! Many of the stories are heart breaking, especially the children who are asked to make very adult decisions at very young ages. As much as these people tried, you cannot escape discipline, responsibility and deligence.
The machines are *US*(?)
I agree with a lot of what has been written about this documentary, but I think some people miss the point. The documentary starts out being almost a Terminator inspired sub-title "The rise of the machines" and describes all the evil machines, but at the end the conclusion is *we* are the machines, the our DNA is the program. Viewed in that light, computers are mere extensions of ourselves and in a way are an attempt to make the computational abilities of the brain more perfect. There are still many, many things the organic brain can do better than a computer, subtle things like social intelligence, body language, emotional intelligence. These are more difficult to encode in a computer because they don't follow the same rules as simply adding 1+1. It is clear evidence that we don't exactly understand the process ourselves, which is why we can't program it into a computer.
As I watched this documentary, I was floored by the similarities to a audibook I was listening to by the Dalai Lahma which talked about altruism and how it fits into the selfish gene model. Obviously Dalai Lahma takes a very different view on altruism, believing that it represents a higher function of human existence that cannot be explained by Darwinian view of the selfish gene. This documentary takes the counter view that altruism is just another way of preserving the gene, but it stumbles a little bit by only giving altruistic examples where the individual sacrifices itself for the continuation of it's relatives or the destruction of non-relatives. What about altruistic acts which are for the benefit of non-relatives? There is no adequate scientific explanation for this, yet it happens continuously throughout history. Then again, perhaps it is just another form of insanity.
In any case, this documentary is not about computers taking over the world, it is about the belief of HUMANS AS MACHINES and this BELIEF taking over the world. Curtis does not go back farther than Ayn Rand and the 1930s, but surely this idea started with Nietszche and Darwin. In fact then Rand said that Aristotle was the only philosopher that influenced her, I found that hard to believe, because her ideas sound very similar to Nietszche's. This struggle is often interpreted politically as right vs left, materialism vs idealism, capitalism vs socialism.
When Curtis ventures into the realm of the online world, here too he stumbles, he attempts to show that "cyberspace" was developed to try and imitate the stable natural ecosystem, but in reality was extremely chaotic. Yes, the online world of blogs, email, texts and tweets can be a mess, but if you look at the growth of illegal downloading, this is surprisingly stable, coherent and efficient. This system of peer-to-peer downloading arose completely spontaneously, and has developed into an extremely reliable way of downloading content, which has built in self regulating processes. This is surprisingly similar to the way a natural ecosystem might develop, including the existence of viruses and anti-viruses.
Even with all it's flaws, I can't help but be awe-struck by the Herculean and virtuosic editing techniques used by Curtis, and the unique and incredibly moving use of music to juxtapose against various images. It can be cliché to superimpose happy music over tragic images, but Curtis does it such a way that it just seems brilliant. It's like Tarantino meets David Attenborough meets Radiohead. I would be very surprised if Curtis chooses the music himself, it's hard to imagine someone with such a stuffy English accent could be so hip, but appearances can be deceiving.
I highly encourage anyone seeing this to watch his other documentaries, they are all done in his trademark style, which is unique and, at least artistically, unmatched in the documentary world.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Misguided interpretation of political history
First of all this movie confirms my belief that if you make a film flashy and fast paced with quick editing then you can get away with murder. It seems this is the preferred method these days with comic adaptations, keep it fast so people don't notice the plot holes and unbelievability.
I guess this movie makes attempts to have a message, but I was constantly reminded of it's comic book, sorry "graphic novel", origins because of the existence of the ever present male pubescent fantasy super hero who can beat all the bad guys and is impervious to pain, physics etc without any real explanation as to why. V for Vendetta seems to fail on both sides, there is not nearly enough action for it to be a true comic book movie, and the political commentary is so ridiculous that it can't be taken seriously either.
And for those who credit it as updating the old 1984 story of big brother to the present day war on terror really don't know their political history and i think we listening to too much Air America radio when this movie was being made. 1984 was written in 1949, and was a commentary on the Soviet State, NOT a capitalist democratic state. The ones who are truly pulling the strings TODAY are the corporations, not the government. Politics is essentially a game between these two forces as how best to carve up the world's resources. The people don't really enter into it except as consumers and tax generators. Some parties are more pro corporatist than the others, but let us never forget who is really in charge. George Bush didn't wake up one day in late 2008 and decide the banks needed 750 billion dollars, it is the banks that commanded that from him. Also, everyone who makes all these Nazi Germany comparisons don't really understand what Hitler and the Nazi party represented. The Nazis were both pro government and extremely conservative, these things don't really exist today, except perhaps in China. Most conservative people are extremely anti government, especially in the United States because of all the evil the government does with taxes, like build roads and schools and stuff. Bastards! Present day neo conservatism preaches that the only role of the government is to wage wars and have a police force, each of which performs essentially the same job, protect wealth and access to resources.
Anyway, back to the movie, even though it is shot beautifully it is really fairly empty in its heart, I never sympathized with any of the characters and every time it seemed to saying something interesting, something unbelievable would happen and all of a sudden we are back in comic book land. Everything happened so quickly that I couldn't grasp what was going on half the time, or if I did I was rolling my eyes. I also liked Natalie Portman, she at least redeemed herself from her horrible performances in the Star Wars movies (which I blame mostly on George Lucas) but I think Kira Knightly would have been better cast, at least she is British.
So in the end, not a bad attempt, but he rehashes the same old dead ideas about big government and anarchy and ends very similarly to Fight Club, which is not a good thing. It's message is pretty childish, when in doubt, blow everything up and it'll make everything right. Isn't that why were are in this mess in the first place?
Thrilla in Manila (2008)
somewhat biased towards Frazier
I think the biggest problem with this documentary, and most documentaries on Ali is that he's not in a state to talk about the events himself, so you get a lot of third hand knowledge. This documentary opened my eyes to some things, like how despicable the Nation of Islam was, and how they essentially messed up his career by making him resist the draft to Vietnam and making him think call Frazier an uncle Tom and "the enemy" as Ali puts it. There are some weird clips here, especially the part where Ali is making jokes about being on the same side as the Klu Klux Klan. This is especially strange considering all of the lynchings they performed in the south.
It's hard to say though how much of Ali's taunting were truly of a cruel nature and how much was for publicity, because Ali was brilliant at promotion. This is demonstrated by the fact that his name is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and Frazier is living in a small room above a gym. It could be that the Nation of Islam was filling him with hatred towards Frazier so he would be more motivated to win, after all they were friends in the 60's.
However, the part of this movie that is kind of messed up is how it portrays Frazier as being robbed in Manila. If you watch the fight, you will see that Frazier was clearly being dominated in the 14th round and could no longer defend himself. There are all these third hand accounts on the Frazier side talking about how sad it was and how he could have continued. Well, it's the reason they have trainer's in the corner is that most of the time a fighter doesn't know how close they are to being permanently damaged or killed. Futch knew that Ali was ahead in points anyway, so there was no point. There is a lot of people talking about how Ali wouldn't have gone back out there if Frazier didn't quit. I think this is bunk, if Ali came that far, there's no way he's sitting down in the 15th. He just would have gone out, scored so more points and then collapsed as he did when the fight was called (at that point your mind relinquishes it's control and the body takes over).
Ferdia Percheco comes off as a total jerk in this documentary, calling everybody stupid, including Frazier, who he says he doesn't want to step on. yeah right. At least Frazier had the brains to retire when it was time, instead of Ali who kept going way past his prime.
And as a side note, Larry Holmes can say that Ali was overrated when he fought him in '81 Ali was already washed up and his Parkinsons had already started. That's just pure ignorance.
Anyway, this movie is pretty good, slightly below "Facing Ali" but better than "When we Were Kings". Just take it with a grain of salt.
and people think the government wastes money....
2 Trillion dollars down the drain in 6 days? Just think what that money could do in the world. It amazes me how people jump all over the government for overspending and being inefficient, well at least they provide some kind of service, where did all that money go? This movie documents the rise and fall of a startup dot com company during the late 90's, much like the movie "startup.com" did (a far superior film). Kozmo.com was just one of the many companies that went bust when investors started to wake up from their dreamy fog and realize that, hey, businesses need to make money. What a concept! But I guess that's what investors do, they perpetually look for a way to make a lot of money by doing very little. How could they expected such a hair-brained idea as having everything delivered to your door in less than an hour and actually make money at it. Just because you can do it on the internet? Big deal, people could order stuff from the phone for a long time before that, and even order stuff through their TV. Just because you make that first step a little easier doesn't change the fact that you have an enormous infrastructure to support. Even I realized early on in the internet days that the only way internet companies could make money is if they delivered information only, not actual hard goods. That's what ebay does, that's what google does, yahoo etc. Other than that a website is nothing more than a sophisticated pamphlet. And I thought these guys were supposed to be smart? I guess greed can blind your judgement. There is a scene in the movie, just before Kozmo is supposed to IPO, where Joe Park is at a party (probably drunk) and yelling into a microphone about how great the company is. The look in his eyes is kind of scary, he just seems to be overcome with swimming in so much money. One thing he fails to see, and so did most of the other companies, that raising $250 million in VC funds is NOT the same as actually MAKING $250 million, which is much harder. Didn't they realize that these people were INVESTING in their company, not GIVING them free money? And I thought these guys worked at Goldman Sachs? Here's a hint guys, if somebody's idea seems crazy, it probably is.
More (and less) of the same
After a couple of forays into non-gangster genres to try and prove his worth as a director, Ritchie has returned to his bread and butter, the British gangster film. I was a big fan of Lock Stock, and even more so for Snatch, which I considered his greatest work but it seems Ritchie has become too far removed from his mean and lean years. Ironically he's like an old rocker trying to rewrite his early hit, only to put out an inferior work that is just a pale imitation of former glory.
First of all, this movie is a mess. A big mess. It makes you realize that what was great about Lock Stock and Snatch was not the intricate interweaving plot, but the characters. Characters make a movie, if you don't have that, you ain't got shinola. Sometimes you can gloss over this with snappy dialogue and good action, but sadly, this movie has neither. In fact, very little of what any of these people do makes any sense in this movie. People get shot but don't bleed, Russian gangsters shoot aimlessly into ceilings, or stop chasing somebody for no apparent reason. Some people found the whole chase scene with gangster amusing. I found it absurd, and not in a good way. I had a lot of promise, a really big dude, and a guy with a ridiculously cut body, but it's almost as if Ritchie just gave up on it and decided to move with the plot.
Oh yes, the plot. There's not much of one, something about a painting that you never see (clearly a ripoff - sorry "homage" to Tarantino) and some money and a really forced ending that comes out of nowhere. I think the script feels half baked, and probably could have used 3 or 4 more rewrites, removed some characters and tightened it all up. The funniest part is that Ritchie has the stones to assume he will be making 2 more of these movies before even finding out how well this one does. Well, judging from the box office results, apparently not very well. Sorry Guy, who took the jam out of your dough nut?
A documentary as mysterious as the band
Some people complain about this, expecting an episode of "Behing the Music" but none of that is forthcoming. Really this is just a live concert, but it is interesting to see the in between footage because almost nothing happens. For any other documentary this can be a hindrance but for these guys it is somewhat fitting, it is like watching a Jim Jarmusch movie or something, with those big wide open spaces of non event. It really makes you appreciate the truly great musical events on stage. They are all fantastic musicians, even if Deal is a little lacking on the technique on the bass, she has a beautiful voice and great bass lines.
There's no real revelations, other than the fact that it proves my theory that band reunions are mostly about money because of all the illegal downloading (the Pixies drummer confirms this). In the case of the Pixies, this seems to be a good thing because they obviously are as good as they ever were and other than Kim Deal, don't have anything really going for them individually. I would have liked to have learned more about the band but it's obvious that these guys aren't talking much about their past, they are seem way too cool for this (except maybe the drummer, who is great but kind of nerdy).
The title loudQUIETloud has double meaning, it is at one time about the movie itself, the loud on stage performances and quiet backstage areas. It is also about the grunge movement that these guys help develop, personified by Nirvana, play a quiet verse, hit a distortion pedal and then scream a chorus, then turn off the pedal for the verse (which, ironically, none of their songs do). If you think about it this way, the movie is actually quiet a profound experiment and needs to be appreciated as a gestalt and not picked apart for not revealing "secrets" of the band. Maybe there are no secrets.
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
This movie starts off strong, as it depicts the absolutely hellish city that Stalingrad became in probably the most horrific battle in history. Of course a lot of the events being portrayed did not actually happen at Stalingrad but instead were amalgamations of various events that happened during the German Russian war during WWII. At first the Russians were totally unprepared and under equipped, there were reports of soldiers being sent to the front lines without weapons or ammo. However, at this point the Russians were far better organized.
Then we have Jude Law as the frightened little Russian soldier being sent to war. Did not actually buy it, in fact I didn't buy hardly any of the characters, except for perhaps Ed Harris, who made a great Nazi, typical cold and efficient. Rachel Weisz may have the brows to play Russian, but what's with all the cockney accents? Anyway, the movie starts from somewhat realistic (forgiving the inaccuracies) and quickly goes downhill. The dialogue is terrible and is extremely blunt and unsophisticated. There are all these fake tensions that are created that don't really go anywhere. Everyone looks far too pretty and happy, with just the right amount of makeup dirt applied for that semi realistic look. These people were starving for pete's sake, they were in horrible conditions.
Anyway, back to the historical inaccuracies. I realize that a movie is a movie and not a documentary, yet if you making a movie about real people and real events then you have a certain duty to portray those events with some accuracy. After all, most people are not going to see this movie to see Rachel Weisz (as pretty as she is) and Jude Law make out, they are probably somewhat interested in the story of two snipers facing off against each other. At that level the movie is pretty good, but once again pretty far fetched and absurd. Ed Harris' death isn't even that exciting, for such a great sniper he dies in a really stupid way. In between we have a lot of inane dialogue and bad acting. Oh well, nice try.
romanticizing pain and mental imbalance
I don't know how to feel about this movie. A friend of mine recommended it and described as "life changing". She happens to a great musician and has similar challenges with life, as do I. I think there is a tendency to romanticize the mentally unbalanced artist. I couldn't help thinking of Kurt Cobain throughout this movie, even before I knew that Daniel influenced his music. Every decade is a reaction to the decade the preceded (or century, day, millennium, whatever) and the 90's was a reaction to the sickeningly sweet optimism and perkiness of the shiny 80's. The 90's was about angst and pain and suffering and ugliness. It seems Daniel was the poster child for these moping musicians.
Now don't get me wrong, I've done my share of moping, and I am a musician but I fight it every single day, it is a useless state to be in, and yet people like Daniel and Kurt wallow in it every single day, they practically bathe in it. It's not healthy, as demonstrated by the death of Kurt and of Daniels many breakdowns. The people that glorify this pain are doing more harm than good. I think the ones that do have a romantic notion of emotional pain, they must not know it, truly know it, because unrequited love might make for good songs, but it's a shitty thing to happen, I can't actually think of anything worse emotionally. At least Daniel turned these feelings into somewhat happy music (which might be where the bittersweetness comes from, the sad lyrics over major chords).
I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder (perhaps that is where the eye obsession comes from) and I agree that a lot of his lyrics are quite brilliant "following my broken dreams" is one hell of a line. I have to say though that his art work I don't understand, I suppose it's supposed to match the lo-fi music, but I don't think it's very good.
I guess if you are a fan of Daniel, this movie must be like a wet dream, similar to the Dogtown and Z-boys doc, which had buckets of archival footage, this movie has more archival footage and audio tapes than you could possibly hope for. It's almost as if Daniel was anticipating a film being made about him and was documenting his life in preparation. I feel as though these filmmakers are also probably big Cobain fans and probably secretly hoped that had such a treasure trove of his life. After seeing this movie I suddenly feel bad that I don't have similar archival material of my early days, in fact I recently through out a whole bunch of my early tapes I used to mail to my friend who lived in another city. Then again, I saved the good stuff, most of it wasn't any good.
Is Daniel Johnston a genius? Well the filmmakers and his fans obviously think so. I can only think of all the brilliant musicians I know that are 100 times better who are playing in bars or in their basement and never get to Scandanavia or have music execs battle over them and give them dream recording contracts. It seems that the myth of Daniel is stronger than the actual person, who actually seems quite sad really, much like Kurt was. I am happy that he was able to move out of parents basement though (as revealed in the commentary) and able to buy a house. And he is still playing music, which is important.
Oh well, i've run out of things to say. Pain is pain.
The Henry Rollins Show (2006)
stick to music
This show just came to IFC in Canada, and I must say I'm not impressed. Nothing interesting or radical and Rollins television personality seems incredibly stiff and awkward. He had Chuck D on as a guest and conversation made no sense. The soapbox part was weird and didn't seem to work, the musical guest tepid. He is trying to portray himself as a cross between Bill Maher and Bob Costas, and neither works. He had one "rant" where he talked about the difference between owning a gun and owning a car and he said, for one of them you didn't need a license. Huh? Oh well, I'll give it another chance, but so far not impressed. Listen to Air America Radio on the net instead, or mike malloy.
Meeting People Is Easy (1998)
what is this film really about?
This movie requires several viewings to appreciate. The first time I watched it, I thought it was pretentious crap, but then I watched it again and really savoured every moment. As others have noted, this moves beyond just a concert doc, or a "behind the scenes" look at a rock band, it is actually doing several things, primarily though it is chronicling the beginning of Thom's nervous breakdown he suffered right after this tour while working on Kid A. This movie is a lot about the media, about the absolute pummeling bands take from idiotic interviewers asking questions that are exhausting to answer over and over. I can't imagine what it's like to play such incredibly emotional music night after night and still function. And this movie shows that most of them couldn't function very well. Thom in particular.
I would say though, in Thom's case that his fretting and twitching does seem a little contrived, he often looks like he's behaving a certain way because he knows the camera is rolling. Often he strikes as a bit spoiled. However, if you are not in a very good place in your head and you are bombarded by all the attention that he was getting it can be a real "head f*ck" as Thom puts it. It seems very isolating for Thom, there is a good part where they show Colin milling about hobnobbing after a show, while Thom is backstage by himself. The old "lonely at the top" story. It seems that Thom is also wrestling with fame and money and exactly what that means, especially if you are a left wing type who despises all the trappings of the material world. Roger Waters, I'm sure, had the same personal crisis after Dark Side of the Moon, and Pink Floyd's next 3 albums are expressions of that.
The other part of this documentary is about the music of course, and there is some absolutely fantastic bits here, seen from different angles, so close to the band you could see into Thom's nostrils or very far back in the concession area of a huge concert hall. There is also a part I love of Phil Selway (a fantastic and underrated drummer) playing "Exit music for a film" from his standpoint. One night I watched Pink Floyd's Live at Pompeii right before this one, and I'll be damned if there isn't a similar technique for the song "One of these Days" that focuses on Nick Mason.
And of course, the exit music for the film is "Exit music for a film". And it is absolutely unbelievable, and it's only a sound check.
If you are a Radiohead fan, rent this film, and watch it with a good sound system. I also recommend the "The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth of all Time" from the W.A.S.T.E website.
tries too hard to be serious
I was not impressed with this movie. It seems that Mann and possibly Smith made a conscious effort to downplay the flamboyant side of Ali and make a serious film about one of the most entertaining athletes possibly of all time. The ironic thing is that move films go the opposite direction and exaggerate real characters. If you watch the real interviews with Ali back in the day, especially before the Sonny Liston fight, he was way over the top and Smith plays him much more subdued. I can understand that they wanted to show the serious side of Ali, but my make the interesting boring? Why take away from Ali, the very real very calculated showman? THis movie reinforced my belief that Smith is highly overrated and overpaid as an actor (and he can't rap either). Men in Black is probably the best he can do. The only thing he had going for him was his height and the extra muscle he put on, but he does not do a very good impression of Ali, and it has been commented how Ali's very pronounced Kentucky accent comes and goes from Smith and hardly seems to be there at all. Hell, I think *I* could even do a better Ali and I'm white! I also agree about the accuracy, the famous "what's my name" tirade of Ali was much more interesting if you watch the actual footage, instead they just had him punching Terrell yelling it, not nearly as interesting.
Overall, give this movie a pass, watch "When We were kings" instead for the real Ali or even search youtube.com.
When We Were Kings (1996)
Good doc, not enough of the fight
This is a pretty documentary of the legendary fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in 1974. Apparently a lot of this footage has been lost for over 20 years and there is some good stuff, good performances by James Brown and of course a lot of Ali talking his jive and poetry, and some of it is pretty good "yesterday I hospitalized a brick, i'm so mean I make medicine sick". Ali is mesmerizing, I was born in 1970 so I missed the whole Ali phenom, he was just a vague idea of somebody important, like Evel Knievel and Farah Fawcett. Lately I've become very interested in this guy, I guess because the legend has passed and Ali is more of a distant memory, the hype has died down and you can study the real man. I think a lot of the sports writers at the time had a romanticized view of boxing, it is not a pleasant sport, it's too men beating the hell out of each other. Now there is some skill involved and Ali proved that you can win brains and will power as well as brawn, but they seemed almost amazed that a black man would stand up and say he was the greatest, and when he said that you knew he meant of EVERYBODY, black or white. I think that's what annoyed them the most, he wasn't the quiet humble lap dog they wanted from a black athlete who just did his job, thanked everyone and shut the hell up.
Sorry, my reviews tend to wander. Ali truly showed has smart he was and Foreman was oblivious to how he was being played. Ali realized during his build up to the Norton fight that having a psychological edge was as important as a physical one. Telling everyone you're the greatest has two effects, if builds yourself up and it frustrates your opponent. It's one thing to see a man boast that he's a scientist, it's another thing to see him actually deliver on the promise, and it is a wondrous thing to behold. Also, the fact that monsoon rains held off until 20 minutes after the fight finished, what a story! My major complaint with this film is that there a lot of Norman Mailer telling slightly exaggerated tales of the fight and Plimpton pompous pontificating (two men who probably never got into a fight their whole lives) but very little of the actual fight. Did they lose some footage? I would have liked to have seen some more rounds of Ali getting pounded on. I'm amazed he could take that punishment, considering what Foreman did to the punching bag. But in the end he fell right into Ali's trap and the fight ended in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
The American Ruling Class (2005)
not that good
The acting is terrible, especially when normal people are told to "act". The only way using non actors works is if they behave naturally, otherwise it's high school play time. I also found the music very annoying, except for the Phillip Glass thrown in there, but even that is distracting, Glass works much better in "Baraka" and "Koyanisqatsi" because there is no dialogue. The final sequence is confusing and aggravating.
It is amazing though that people like James Baker can actually sit there and say the U.S. is a force for good in the world, in 2005! It's incredible the lies that some of these people tell themselves just so they can look at themselves in the mirror.
There are a few good bits, namely the the two economists (looking very much as economists do, stone faced and exceedingly dull) sparring with each other over realism and idealism. One of which seems to get his lunch handed to him when he suggests that there American wealth is more spread out than in 1950. In fact it is much more concentrated.
Lewis Lapham does seem a snooty old bore, looking smugly at this "case studies" throwing off pretentious quote after pretentious quote. Even though he seems to decry the wealthy he offers no other alternative than despair. This film is almost a long guilt ridden apology, almost to say "I'm sorry I sold my soul, but there really is no other way, have pity on me!".
war is insanity
I just saw this (short) documentary about the Vietnam war and I kept thinking of parallels to today. One thing that always strikes me about old documentaries is how eloquent people are, even the so called "grunts" can string a sentence together better than most people today. But anyway, that's a whole other topic.
This is a very good look at Vietnam from all perspectives, and highlights aspects that rarely get discussed, namely the effects on the average peasant, who really has no political affiliation or goals other than to plant his rice and till his fields. There are interviews with clearly well intentioned but delusional soldiers, trying to "stop communism before it comes to us". Gee, sound familiar? Makes me think about the whole terrorism threat just substitute communism for terrorism, also makes me think that the only thing these war mongerers learned from Vietnam was that you have to make the threat seem more reel and you have to control the media. But here they are in Iraq doing the exact same thing, stuck in a civil war trying to use a massive military to fight guerilla warfare. Sadly, this lesson they did not seem to learn, you CANNOT fight such a war. You will lose, it's only a matter of time.
Anyway, this movie is a very plain look at what has been described as the "banality of war". We have been so conditioned with years of war films that when real war is presented it seems too horrible, yet so plain, there's no fanfare no dramatic music, just sad people dying. The scene with the pilot gleefully talking about napalming what he thinks are VC, but who are mostly like just villagers is truly disturbing. In any other circumstance this pilot would be considered pathological and a murderer, yet here he is just doing is job and he's quite happy to do it. He will go home to his wife and kids and live a normal life.
But in the end it's all insane, yet we convince ourselves otherwise. We convince ourselves that we are doing good, we are doing justice, but it's all death, all murder, you cannot hide from that.
A Boy's Life (2003)
life just is
A beautiful documentary about a boy struggling with his mentally deranged grandmother. Many people have commented on the heart wrenching nature of this movie, and there is no doubt about that. At times I found it hard to watch and had to flip away, it was so painful to see such a dysfunctional relationship. At first you think that Robert is your typical video game addled, over sugared, under parented demon child and his grandmother is just doing her best to cope. Then you soon realise, after seeing the boy at school around normal people and given proper discipline and encouragement that he is a beautiful, intelligent little boy, and it is grandmother that is in fact screwed up.
This film hit home because I have a nephew who is in a very similar situation with my sister. She is not poor or uneducated (well fairly well educated) and my sister also has chosen medication to try and control his behavior. Like Robert, my nephew is very bright if a little hyperactive. I was close to tears as I saw the similarities.
There are some funny moments, like when the grandmother is talking about all of her guns and how she is going to use them to shoot a criminal and the boy (correctly points out) that with a gun on the wall, she is more likely to be shot by the intruder than be able to use it.
Anyway, at the end of this film I am not sure if the children are really in a good place, but at least they are aware of their messed up grandmother, who obviously lacks love in her life and has a disturbing dependant relationship with them. Just the fact they sleep in the same bed with her until they are 7 is creepy. They are left with their real mother, who serves them a steady diet of coca cola and who knows what else. She may not be Mary Poppins, but at least she doesn't smother them. I think that she is probably more capable than people think, but is obviously a little messed up.
Good job and I hope the bee-hive haired teacher lady at the end is smiling now, I felt so sad for her as she struggled to correct the seemingly insurmountable problems of poverty, neglect and poor life skills. There is hope.
a frank look at prison life
not quite "Oz" but similar. I think much of footage was "softened" by the fact that the guards and prisoners were on best behavior for the cameras. Many of the prisoners just seem emotionally messed up people, depressed and unloved, but other like the "Eddie White" guy just seems to actually enjoy playing the legal system and what you would call a "bad apple". For the others, it seems highly cruel punishment to lock up emotionally unbalanced people in solitary confinement, it is too bad that we can't somehow identify the Eddie Whites and somehow rehabilitate the others who just seem lost, desperate, poor and lonely. The female prison was especially sad since many of them were pregnant and one of the mothers gave birth in the prison. The other had a miscarriage although they wouldn't tell her why or let her see the body. Another male prisoner comments how he was "born in prison". At first you think it is a figure of speech but then you realize it really happens. What kind of life can a child like that expect to have, especially in the unforgiving United States?
Grizzly Man (2005)
wow life really IS stranger than fiction
What an odd and fascinating documentary on Timothy Treadwell, one of the most unlikely characters you would ever expect to live the longest among one of the worlds most dangerous animals. At first I thought the movie was fictional, because Herzog did a similar "documentary" of Loch Ness that was in fact fake. The movie is mostly an amalgamation of all of Timothy's own personal footage he took of himself and Grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness known as the "grizzly maze" which eventually lead to his and his girlfriends death. And let me tell you, Grizzly Adams he ain't! The reason I thought it was fake is that Timothy is one of most effete, emotional and sensitive and, I'm sorry but just plain "gay" sounding men I have ever heard as an outdoorsman. He reminded me of Cristopher Guests character in "Waiting for Guffman". However, this does not detract from the fact he obviously has a strong relationship with animals and a genuine love of the outdoors. Or does he? It is obvious after viewing some of his own footage of himself, however edited by Herzog, that he is clearly narcissistic, and seemingly borderline psychotic and in desperate need of attention or love. How many grown men still have their teddy bear? What is the relationship between himself, the teddy bear and the real bears? What do the bears really represent to him? Some hint that they were an adrenaline rush, a sense of danger, but I think there is more to it than that. His parents talk about his normal childhood, but it seems to be that something went on there they did not let out, or rather a lack of something.
Herzog makes his own comments on Treadwell's mental state and his views on nature, and much of it I agree with, but some I do not. Herzog portrays nature as being in constant state of chaos, death and aggression. I would tend to think that it is closer to the Yin and Yang idea, it is both in perfect harmony and total chaos, constantly flowing from one state to another. I also saw the "comments" film that followed the documentary which showed the reactions of friends to the movie. Sometimes I wondered if they saw the same film I did and had overly rosy memories of Treadwell. I don't think anyone said that they thought he deserved to die the way he did, but most indicated that they were not surprised of the outcome and that most people do not get so close to these dangerous animals for precisely that reason, they will KILL YOU. Treadwell clearly knew that, he talked many times of his own death on camera, specifically by the bears. Whether he had a death wish or a perverse need to be consumed by the bears, the part where he touched the feces of a bear was interesting, he seemed so excited to touch the "insides" of the bear, it seemed almost orgasmic. It was definitely weird. Reminded me of guy who answered the internet ad in Germany and consented that he be eaten by another human being.
Anyway, after watching "Project Grizzly", the bizarre doc on the Tory Hurtibuise, the Northen Ontario outdoorsman that tried to build a grizzly proof suit I am reminded that if you live in the bush, your brain starts to go a little "funny" and all of a sudden these bears become symbolic of some deep need or hole in your life. For Troy, the bear clearly represented his father. For Timothy, who knows? There might also be a similar relationship, but instead of trying to defeat it in a manly fashion like Troy, Timothy tried to become one with them, to be loved by them.
A fascinating film, this is why I love documentaries so much! I love how Herzog talks about the magic of the camera of what you can capture, and I would tend to agree, there is something about the act of filming something that creates incredible stories of REAL drama, not fake over blown Hollywood drama. For nowhere in Hollywood would you EVER have a feminine sounding outdoorsman! I love it, good job.
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
worth it for the claymation, story is a little long
This movie is worth seeing mostly for the brilliant claymation, which, in the present day computer dominated world of animation, is refreshingly old school. No doubt there is some usage of computers, but for the most part it's good old painstaking frame by frame manipulation of figurines. I can't imagine the amount of work involved in making a 90 minute feature film in claymation, and for that and the brilliant techniques I applaud this film.
The film is the third (fourth?) installment of the lovable Wallace and Grommit characters. The first few minutes will have you chuckling at the buck toothed British stereotypes, but after a while the chuckles fade slightly. There are no outright side splitting moments, but a lot of cutesy jokes. The story is pretty well told but i find W & G work better as a short film subject, there's only so many times you can laugh by seeing people with goofy faces smile.
not that bad
I didn't find this movie as terrible as the rest of the reviewers, in fact it was kind of touching in a primitive kind of way. The main actress ("Liisa", one "i" would suffice) does overact, but she has a hypnotic face, she straddles the line between stunningly beautiful and strangely ugly, I can't decide which. The movie does seem like an old lonely hippy's wet dream though, but I did buy it. The ending is also pretty cool, despite the "pointless POV" that people write about, it's not considering the ending.
Kind of amateurish, slightly above a high school project, but the leftist rants are worth exploring as we move into the new century and consider the effects of globalisation and how they effect our every day lives.
confused and awkward
Okay, I am one of those "they sucked after ...And Justice For All" fans, I really loved their music in the 80's, it was far above what anyone else was doing at the the time and actually are many of the songs are brilliant musical creations, in ANY genre.
Enter Bob Rock in the early 90's, who was brought in to make them money. That he did, but in the process I think they lost their purpose and their minds. I think what you are witnessing on film is a band that should have packed up years ago and gone out in their prime, like Zeppelin and Floyd did. As a live band they still kick anybody's ass (try playing Battery without losing a a kidney) but they should stop making albums.
There are a few fascinating moments in the documentary and I could relate to some of the problems they were having being in a band myself, but much of this movie is slow, dull and not that insightful. There are huge gaps and then things happen that should have been explored in the film. For instance, James suddenly goes into rehab. What? There is nothing up until that point to indicate that he has a drinking problem except maybe the bear hunting trip (btw, hunting bears just after hibernation seems pretty lame to me). A good film would have had some footage foreshadowing this momentous event.
Another thing is Lars Ulrich seems to be the fakest human being I have ever seen. He seems to be hamming it up for the camera all the time and him and James get upset about nothing and it all looks quite fake, obviously trying to create some "drama" for the movie, when in reality nothing is really happening, just a bunch of whiny guys discussing their feelings. Don't get me wrong, it's important to do this in a band, or in any relationship otherwise you get all kinds of passive aggressive head game bullsh*t happening and it eventually explodes, but do I really need to see this? Should I feel sorry for these multi-millionaires with unheard of musical contracts living ideal lifestyles?
Go find "Cliff 'em All" and watch that instead, it's far more real and much more entertaining than this film.
you wan't the truth? you can't handle the truth ....
... to quote the great Jack Nicholson. while it is true that in any conflict there are atrocities on both sides, not one of the negative commentators can refute any of the claims made in this series, they can only point out that it is one sided. well yes, that is the point, it is about the Christian crusades, if it was about the side of the muslims it would have been called "jihad" or something. it is very suitable that a python would handle this subject since much of it verges on farcical, if it weren't so utterly horrible. just the fact that when they finally get to to Jerusalem not only is it not occupied by the people that were supposedly oppressing it (the turks were already kicked out) that in fact everybody was getting along quite well. that's a python moment if there ever was one! i can hear the dialogue now
Christian: "We have to come to rescue you from the infidel blasphemers!"
jerusalem resident: "No thank you, we're doing just dandy actually, perhaps you would like to save the next city?"
Christian: "But we have travelled for years through untold hardship and struggle to kick out the infidels! God has willed it!"
jerusalem resident: "Look, it's not my fault we're not being oppressed, what do you want me to do, beat myself over the head?"
and so on .... and of course they end up looting and pillaging the "holy city". and you know, i don't think the Arab world has forgotten this period as much as we have, and we are still paying for those dark and bloody times. i'm glad this series was made, we must face the truths of history, no matter how ugly they are or how much they shatter our fragile myths we have created to shield ourselves from the true horrors of our past.
Live 8 (2005)
i have to join the cynical crowd
Other than seeing Pink Floyd play together probably for the very last time ever, this whole fiasco was a gigantic waste of time. I'm sorry, I know we all want to believe it was a great event helping people in Africa, that signing petitions online does something (I call this slactivism) but I'm afraid to say it wasn't and they don't.
What we have is a bunch of aging and not so aging rockers and pop stars patting themselves on the back and stroking their collective egos by playing for hundreds of thousands of people (live) and millions on TV and the web. Its a great big feel good fest, the musicians get to play for a large crowd, and the audience gets off the hook, they don't have to do anything but watch one of the most fantastic lineups ever. At least when the SARS-AID show in Toronto was going to help Toronto recover from the SARS epidemic. What did this event do? "Raise awareness" they say, well how many people really understand the issues in Africa? I do probably more than most, but I still don't really know why the hell Africa is such bad shape. I don't really know why the AIDS epidemic has hit Africa so hard. Is it just pure poverty? Was is the root cause of this poverty? Is it dictatorships? Foreign debt? That seems to be main focus of guys like Bono, but realistically what how does a concert help this? Do you really think that the leaders of the free world give a damn that bunch of people go together to listen to some music? I'm sorry, call me cynical, I do think music is important and effects our lives in a meaningful way but when I think Geldof has kind of lost his mind. He stands there so proud of himself, but is there any surprise that so many people would watch the most popular musical acts in the world? It could have had nothing to do with Africa, it could have been to celebrate sponges and people still would have shown up.
I am sorry, in 1985 it seemed magical, but it's a movie sequel, too polished, quite expected and simply a rehash of what we've already seen.