Sunday, February 11, 2007

Movie Catch-up

I finished watching "Jesus Camp," but didn't feel much better about it. I suppose there is a liberal point of view, in the guise of regular commentary by a christian radio deejay who has major issues with the behavior of the current evangelical movement, and who challenges the actions of the children's minister near the end of the film. They don't come to agreement on anything, of course, although she does admit that she's "building an army" of young christians. Oh, joy! Nice to have more evidence that god-fearing, self-proclaimed "moral" people are ready to fight the rest of us to force us to follow their god. (During one scene at the camp, children are asked to scream out if they are willing to "die for jesus" - how far is that from suicide bombers dying for their religious beliefs?)

Enough of that. I hope Al Gore's movie wins.

Last weekend I saw "Pan's Labyrinth," which I had avoided because I don't like fantasy. It bores me. I never saw any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and never want to), never read the books, etc. The trailers for "Pan's Labyrinth" turned me off - weird creatures offering rewards for completing a challenge? A mystery involving a hidden world and a lost princess? Yawn.

So I would have skipped it, if it weren't 1)the only movie playing in my neighborhood theater I haven't seen, for four weeks running; 2)nominated for an Oscar (for Best Foreign Film); 3)recommended by someone whose opinion I trust, who promised it's not really about the fantasy. And he was right. The fairy tale story (literally, I'm afraid, as there really are fairies) was only one part of the movie, which is set against the backdrop of Spain just after WWII (and their own Civil War.) That is the real story of the film, which is violent and bloody and scary, and presents an evil more terrifying than any that exist in the fantasy world. It's a really good movie (although I had to cover my eyes during several of the more graphic scenes.)

"The Pursuit of Happyness" is another I had decided to skip, as it looked too sentimental and predictable. Happily (or is that "Happyly"?) it wasn't. Yes, there is a protagonist who faces incredible obstacles, but thankfully the standard (boring) story arc is ignored - things happen haphazardly, sometimes getting worse when you thought they would improve, sometimes surprising you with small victories at unexpected times. Nothing about the adversity he faces seems manufactured for the plot, nor do his successes seem out of left field. Throughout, Will Smith plays the character as someone who is smart, likable, and skilled at connecting with people, and so when he does succeed, it's clear that it's because of his easy charm and his smarts.

It's hard to explain why I liked the movie without giving much away, but here's just a small spoiler: Smith's character is sharing a cab with the man who he needs to convince to interview him for an elusive internship. The man is unsuccessfully attempting to solve a Rubik's Cube, and Smith offers to show him how to do it, which he manages to do after several sweaty minutes. In a lesser movie, the executive would immediately announce that Smith has the interview, and the audience would feel rewarded. But not in this film - the guy is impressed, but gets out of the cab, leaving Smith's character with a fare he can't possibly pay. So we have a character who does everything that movie logic tells him he needs to do to reach his goal, but the film chooses to follow real-life logic, in which things are much more complicated. Does Smith eventually get the interview? Yes. But not when we expect it, which is what I found so refreshing.

I also have long had a crush on Will Smith; I was an early fan of "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" (which is currently syndicated on at least 4 cable channels.) It was easy for me to fall for his charm again. I don't think he's deserving of the Oscar for this role, but am glad he was nominated.

My pick is still Ryan Gosling in "Half Nelson," who has absolutely no chance to win, but is at least in the running. My opinion is skewed, though, as the other Best Actor contenders are in films I haven't seen: "Blood Diamond" (Leonardo DiCaprio), "Venus" (Peter O'Toole), and "The Last King of Scotland" (Forest Whitaker.) For the Oscar pool, I'll go with the odds-on favorite (Whitaker.)

(Blogger spellchecker really wants me to capitalize "christian" and "jesus," which just makes me not want to more.)


Blogger madabandon said...

I think it is "happyly." :-)

11:02 AM  
Blogger medusa said...

Oops. See, I can't even spell incorrectly without screwing it up.

4:04 PM  

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