jamie goode's wine blog: Films

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Films

Non-wine related: some brief film reviews.

First the good. Children of men is a science fiction thriller with a difference, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who directed the best of the Harry Potter films. Itís set in England, 2027, as society is close to collapse. A fertility crisis has meant that no children have been born for 18 years, and the government is clamping down on a tide of illegal immigrants. Cuaron has injected a wonderfully gritty realism which brings a credibility that films of this genre often lack. From the dramatic beginning to the ambiguous ending, Children of Men will probably hold your attention.

Next the average. The Queen is a film I was looking forward to seeing: would there be any substance behind the hype? Of course, the events portrayedóDianaís death, the response of the British public and the (eventual) reaction of the royal familyóare fascinating in themselves, and itís these that really carry the film. I thought the writing was effective, the pace just about right and the treatment of the main subjects, our Tony and Liz, reassuringly sympathetic without ducking the difficult bits. But with actors taking on the roles of such well known figures, it was a bit like watching Alaistair McGowan, Rory Bremner and Mike Yarwood (remember him?) rolled into one. Impressionists united. Overall verdict? Good without being terribly stimulating.

Now the poor. I mentioned a while back that you can filter out a good portion of rubbish films simply by learning the names of a few actors you must always avoid. If a film has among itís cast members the likes of Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston (or anyone else from Friends), Will Ferrell or Sarah Jessica Parker, then it should be shunned. Add to this list Owen Wilson. For some bizarre reason, Fiona hired out You, me and Dupre, an Owen Wilson vehicle. Utter rubbish. But she was on a losing streak, and later that week hired out Click, an Adam Sandler vehicle. It was a genuine mistake, she reassured meóshe picked up the wrong box. Still, we tried watching it, and lasted approximately six minutes before we had to press eject, fast.

Also in the poor category is Sixty six. Itís one of those British films where the plot sounds imaginative níall, but the writing and execution let it down badly. Itís 1966, and a football-hating Jewish boyís Bar Mitzvah is scheduled for the same day as the world cup final. Lots of potential there, but it turns out stale, formulaic and, in the end, utterly predictable. Actually, it reminded me a bit of East is East. I find this with a lot of British films: the writing lets the whole thing down.

And I almost forgot - Borat. Side-splittingly funny in places; appallingly crude and vulgar in others; pretty racist and negative throughout. We didnít finish this one either.

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14 Comments:

At 8:38 AM, Anonymous Cru Master said...

Have you watched 'The Last King of Scotland'?

Great acting.

And 'The Departed' - Jack Nicholson is one person I would love to have a glass of wine with....and Di Caprio coming of age role in the movie.

 
At 10:04 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Thanks for the tips. Always useful. Anyone else got some reccos?

 
At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Ah - Two films I've been itching to see...

(LKoS and The Departed, that is)

We don't get out much, and when we do, tend to prefer a meal to the cinema. I'm not that keen on watching DVDs at home, either!

The last film we saw - and it was a cracker - was Munich.

 
At 12:22 AM, Blogger ~ Phyll said...

I couldn't finish Borat either. It's a movie of pranks on a grandeur scale, but pranks nonetheless.

Switched DVD to...

Casino Royale, which was good and refreshing for a James Bond movie.

 
At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Borat is emphatically not racist - it's taking the piss out of those who are (and out of those - principally Americans - who dsiplay all sorts of other odious traits).

 
At 10:13 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Hmm, I know the term 'racist' is one we don't want to throw around lightly, but what about the anti-American racism that Borat seems to be blighted with? - you can find unpleasant, small minded and absurd people in just about every country - not just in America.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

It's nothing to do with racism; it's about credulity insoafar as the vast majority of people will swallow any old bilge and the more grotesque you are and the more you pander to the gullible side of human nature (the willingness to believe the worst about people) the more they will lap up anything they are told. Chris Morris realised this perfectly in Brass Eye; Borat is an "all licensed" foolish-clownish take on satire which is a cross between Candid Camera and Candide. He can say or do anything because he is cloaked by a seeming veil of vulgar idiocy.

I think, Jamie, the film targets Americans because 1. It's aimed at opening a new audience for Sacha Baron Cohen 2. Many Americans don't travel and wouldn't have a clue whether Borat was from eastern Europe or Mars; 3. America prides itself on being a tolerant democratic country when in fact it is still largely dominated by Christian fundamentalists (notably lacking in humour)

Having said all that the film riffs on the same themes for far too long. If Chris Morris is a haiku Borat is a load of doggerel.

 
At 4:43 AM, Blogger ~ Phyll said...

Doug said:
2. Many Americans don't travel and wouldn't have a clue whether Borat was from eastern Europe or Mars.

Do you? Because Kazakhstan is not in Eastern Europe (sounds like you think it is).

America prides itself..bla bla bla (notably lacking in humour)

Them's fightin' words

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

Phyll,

I do know where Kazakhstan is, but I suspect my metaphor was a trifle confusing. What I should have said is that Borat under the same persona and with the same shtick could have pretended he was an alien or from any country on the planet (including England) let alone an obscure former Soviet republic and people would have swallowed it hook, line etc. In the film he babbles in Hebrew with a faux Russian accent and peppers his language with Polish phrases such as Dzien Dobre! and Dzienkuje! Yet this absurd, unlikely concoction can get away with anything because he encapsulates exactly how small-minded people might view "foreigners" as behaving.

The question I was answering is why was Borat targeted at Americans and is it racist? To which my supposition is that it is easy to lampoon certain people: those who do not travel or wish to travel and are consequently insular in their world-view and have a simple lack of information about what goes on outside their immediate community. The real underlying satire is not about the American people themselves but the imprisoning triple whammy of a shallow and (socially divisive) education system, a largely right wing media and a bunch of hypocritical, morally bankrupt, self-styled tele-evangelists: this is the fertile soil for satire.

As Jonathan Swift famously wrote: Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own. Which leads to my point that America, or rather its government and the majority of its people, regards itself as a tolerant, democratic country. Liberty and equality are frequently invoked along with America, God and One Nation most nauseatingly by their excuse for a government. Nothing could be further from the truth: the difference between the rich and poor is still growing and if you dare to express intellectual political views which are considered anti-corporate you might as well wave your career good-bye. Any mocking or satirical viewpoint acts as but a minor corrective to the propaganda that is being peddled 24/7.

The last time I was in the States someone who was talking to me, paused, and exclaimed: Do you know what? Your accent is really different! To which I replied: So is yours.

The empire-building British used to regard the United Kingdom as the centre of civilisation and everyone else was necessarily inferior, uncouth or a savage. In the face of institutional piety and smug self-satisfaction a nicely barbed satirical pamphlet or poem pricked the pomposity of the rich and powerful. As for Borat virtually everyone under the sun has been trying to sue Baron Cohen - so he must be doing something right!

By the way, I am American.

 
At 7:13 PM, Blogger ~ Phyll said...

Doug, I swear I am capable of seeing things like you do out of Borat's movie. But all I could think of is that nude wrestling scene. Let me try to coax out some deep meaning from that scene. Need a moment here...

Can't.

"those who do not travel or wish to travel and are consequently insular in their world-view and have a simple lack of information about what goes on outside their immediate community."

In many ways, I agree that a large % of Americans don't travel outside...and their worldview can be myopic.

(Dude, you an Americano? Don't we write humour humor? :)

 
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