Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Films, before I forget

Two weeks ago I saw "Babel," and it's almost out of my head. You know, that should be the real test for a movie's affect on me: whether or not I can remember it. Although in this case it would be doing a disservice, because I did really like the movie. It's one of those multi-story films, with characters who have some relationship with one another, but whose storylines don't really cross, at least on screen. The fact that this structure is in vogue lately doesn't diminish the fact that it can be a powerful way to present interlocking stories, and I think (with one exception) Bable works the structure to its advantage. There are quite a few very intense scenes in the film, and just when they become unbearable, the action switches to another, momentarily calmer plot. I don't know if I could have sat through an entire film of Brad Pitt cradling a bloodied Cate Blanchett, playing his critically wounded wife.

Two other stories dovetail with this: the story of his children and their Mexican nanny, who takes them across the border to her son's wedding; and the story of two Moroccan boys whose lives become tragically entwined with that of the white couple played by Brad & Cate.

And the last is... wow. Not even in the same league. It's like a quirky sad independent film, centering on a deaf Japanese teenager who has the most tangential relationship to the Brad & Cate story you can imagine. It's bizarre, and made more so by the fact that the tone of this last story is so very different from the tone of the others, who do have some related themes and imagery. And, while I might be convinced to plunk down $10 to watch an entire movie about the deaf girl (the actress is haunting, and the story heart-breaking), it just feels like a different film and so it threw off my perception of the whole.

But I'd still recommend seeing it, which is sadly not the case for Film #2. I am a huge Christopher Guest/Eugene Levy fan, having loved all of their collaborations to date. "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show" are brilliant, worth watching over and over again for a laugh. I also really liked "A Mighty Wind," although I recognize it's not as strong as the prior films. I still wound up paying to see it twice in the theater; part of what I like about it is the music, and if you hate folk music than that would impact your ability to sit through it, even for the laughs.

So you can imagine how excited I was to see "For Your Consideration," which I went to on Thanksgiving Day. This is painful to say, but it's just not very good. It's not very funny. I think every single laugh was for a joke that was in the trailer, although at least in the trailer they came at you fast and furious. In the full length film, there were long dull periods where the audience just sat.

I think part of the fault is in the way the film is set; the others are all pseudo-documentaries, or at least have the pacing and intimacy of them. ("This is Spinal Tap," of course, being the granddaddy mockumentary of them all.) When "For Your Consideration" starts, we're on a film set, and it takes a long time to settle into the moment and realize that we are in a scene, not behind a camera observing one, if that makes any sense. In the mockumentaries, the camera has a point of view, in this film, it's just quietly taking it all in. It's a hard adjustment if you're used to the pacing of the other movies. I kept waiting for it to pick up, but it doesn't (except maybe in a few scenes where Jane Lynch and Fred Willard play Entertainment Tonight-like hosts, but that's probably because Willard speaks so fast and Lynch is so damn funny.) It drags, the whole film drags, and no matter how much you want these people to be as funny as they have been in the past, they simply aren't.

I'm still depressed about it.


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