Love and Hate

Welcome to a new column that I’m going to get about two entries out of before I run out of steam called Love/Hate.  This is where I’ll be reviewing two movies, one that I love and one that I hate.  This started as me wanting to write a rant on how much I hated one particular movie, but I figured balancing it out with talking about a movie I love would be a good way to avoid (well-founded) accusations of excessive negativity.

Movie I love #1:

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Seriously, I cannot say enough good things about this movie.  For some the film might be a bit boring, but I enjoyed it all the way through.

The driving force of this movie is the CHARACTERS.  They are extremely well developed, well written, well acted and ultimately feel like real people.   The human element is really what anchors this movie.  Director Peter Weir really understands that the circumstances and events are not what drives a movie, it’s giving you people that you can identify with, that you genuinely care about.

Speaking of the direction, the attention to detail on this movie is phenomenal.  The ship, the clothing, the dialogue, everything looks at feel like it belongs in that time period.  This movie came out the same year as Pirates of the Caribbean, in which the main characters talked and acted like your average 2003 20-something adult, not somebody from the 1800s.

Like the best movies, there’s more to the movie than just what’s happening on screen.  Master and Commander is really about what makes men different.  What makes a man a leader?  Is it experience?  Is it knowledge?  Or is it rather the ability to inspire men?  What is it that makes one man a “Sailing Master” and another an “Able Seaman”, when both have spent their whole life on the sea.  These issues are explored extremely well, while still being underplayed.

Oh, and Russell Crowe is bad ass.

Movie I hate #1:

Rent

Normally, I love musicals.  I knew this film had some questionable morals, but I’m used to that in movies and musicals, so I knew it didn’t necessarily mean I would dislike it.

Firstly, I should say this: the music in this movie is excellent.  The actors and actresses all do a fine job, and you can tell they are having fun in their performances.  The choreography is excellent too, and the sets and atmosphere created are very well done.

So what’s my problem with the movie?

The fundamental message of this movie is extremely immoral, and flawed on a basic level.  The message of this movie can be summed up as follows:  “Screw you and your conservative ideals, I’m going to live my life the way I want to.  And when that lifestyle comes back to bite me in the form of, you know, AIDS, I expect your sympathy.”  The characters insist on living lifestyles that have a tendency to lead to AIDS (be it heroin, homosexuality, whatever), and then ask us to feel bad for them when it doesn’t work out.

Also, we are supposed to feel as though these characters are oppressed by THE MAN, who is cruel enough to turn off the power in their apartments on Christmas Eve.  Their power is turned off during the opening song, in which they sing about their refusal to pay rent.  Time out.  Why should I sympathize about their “plight”?  They refuse to pay rent, and their power gets shut off.  We find out a few minutes later that they were squatting illegally in those buildings.  So they were STEALING from the owner of the building, but we’re supposed to feel bad when their power is shut off?  Any time I don’t pay my bills, my service is shut off.  That’s how life works.  So, again, I ask you, why should I feel bad?

Furthermore, they don’t get jobs because (and I wish I wasn’t quoting) “it’s totally selling out”.  They are so committed to their “art” (music or film or whatever) that they cannot get actual jobs to pay bills.  They refuse to contribute anything to society yet demand our attention, sympathy and buildings to squat in.

I don’t offend very easily, but this movie made me legitimately angry.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.


Welcome to the second edition of Love/Hate.

Movie that I love #2:

Liar Liar

This, to me, is the ultimate Jim Carrey movie.  I liked him in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ace Ventura was hilarious, I don’t think anybody disliked The Truman Show and I even think he even gave it a valiant effort in the clusterf*** that was The Number 23.  But the lasting image to me when I think of Jim Carrey is his run as Fletcher Reed, a hot-shot lawyer in L.A. who cannot lie for 24 hours.

The plot to this movie is really just there to give Jim chances to make funny faces for an hour and thirty minutes.  And I love it for that.  There are so many hilarious scenes in this movie that every time I watched it I can’t help but laugh.  Whether it’s the scene where he gets pulled over, his car gets scratched at the impound lot, the final courtroom scene or the iconic line “I’ve had better”, this movie is a riot, start to finish.

Is the acting the greatest?  No, of course not.  Is the dialogue for everybody besides Jim somewhat stilted and unimpressive?  Yeah, duh.  But I don’t care.  When every other scene has me laughing until I’m short of breath, the problem areas tend to disappear.

Jim’s expressions, lines and everything he does sells this movie.  Watch it if you know what’s good for you.

Movie I hate #2:

Grease

Yeah, another musical.  I promise, it’s the last one for a while.

Let me start off with the positives.  The acting isn’t that bad, and it really nails the one thing that musicals need to do well.  That is, the effing music.  The songs in Grease are probably the catchiest of any musical I’ve ever seen.  I heard a parody of Summer Love on Sunday afternoon, and it’s been stuck in my head for 48 hours now.

That being said…..

I hated this movie.  Why?  The characters.  I wanted every single character in this movie to be punched in the face really really hard.  Now, it actually has nothing to do with the fact that the characters aren’t exactly upstanding citizens, and nothing to do with them doing immoral things.  The problem is that they are COMPLETELY unlikable.

Now, movies can get away with making us root for some horrible people.  Mr. Brooks made me root for a serial killer.  Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and George Clooney as Danny Ocean both gave us excellent examples of the lovable rogue, the character who does bad things, but has enough swagger and charm to make you like him while he breaks the law.  Hell, even There Will Be Blood showed us a man’s descent into becoming a completely evil person, but kept me interested because of the amazing acting and the ongoing hint that he just might redeem himself.

Conversely, while watching Grease, by the time I got to the 15 minute mark, I hoped that the entire main cast would die in a horrific car crash.  By the 18 minute mark I realized that this was an unrealistic expectation, so I instead watched it through, praying the movie would redeem itself in some way.

Instead of redeeming itself, the final scene of Grease gives us two of the worst life lessons imaginable.  Spoiler alert.

Two of the supporting characters have sex in the back of a car, unprotected.  They spend most of the movie worrying if she’s pregnant.  In the final scene, we find out she’s not.  Now, the movie wants us to think “Oh, great, it worked out for them.”  But it comes off a bit more as “Hey, guess what kids!  Actions don’t have consequences!”

And secondly, the female lead ultimately changes who she is for the male lead.  She starts dressing sexier, smoking and just in general acts different.  She does a complete personality overhaul for her HIGH SCHOOL BOYFRIEND.  What the hell?

I wondered why my parents wouldn’t let me watch Grease when I was younger, and then I found out why when I watched it.  The main point of this movie is one of the most horrible things you could possibly feed to a teenager.

Seriously, this movie made me mad.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.


Movie that I love #3:

Children of Men

Oh my goodness is this movie heavy.  This was probably the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen in my life.  And I loved it.

For those of you who don’t know, Children of Men is based on a novel by P.D. James.  It’s set sometime in the near future (as in the next twenty years or so), in a world where women for one reason or another stopped being able to have babies.  For 18 years nobody has had a child.

This movie does a lot of things well, but probably the one thing that it does the best is the atmosphere it creates.  The world the movie creates looks and feels uncomfortably familiar, like this really is what our society will look like in 20 years.  Also, the cinematography is perfectly suited to the story.  There are a number of scenes that are shot in long takes, some stretching as far as 7 minutes without a cut.  This puts the viewer directly in the events taking place, and makes us feel less like spectators.  In a world where every already feels uncomfortably familiar, the camera work brings an extra level of intensity.  Watching this movie in theaters, I didn’t realize it but I was clenching my armrest so tightly that my hand cramped.  It really is that good.

Also, the acting.  It’s not amazing, but Clive Owen brings a lot of humanity to his role and underplays the main character very well.  He feels like a real person, which augments the reality of the movie.

The ending of this movie is brilliant, too.  Rather than a true catharsis or a warm fuzzy happy ending, we are given an ambiguous ending.  While dissatisfying to a certain extent, it occurred to me as the credits rolled that the ending really fit what the movie was trying to say.

Watch this movie.  Just not alone.

Movie I Hate #3:

Million Dollar Baby

Massive, massive spoiler alert on this whole review.

Million Dollar Baby follows the story of Maggie, a normal everyday waitress who’s been deal kind of a raw deal by life.  One day she decides out of left field that she wants to try boxing.  Clint Eastwood reluctantly agrees to train her.  And lo and behold, she does really really well at boxing, even getting to the point of a title bout.

Three quarters of the way through Million Dollar Baby, I loved it.  Clint Eastwood is a great actor, Morgan Freeman was exceptional, even though I’m not a Hillary Swank fan she really is quite talented and Jay Baruchel had a small role.  The characters all have depth, the direction is well done and the story familiar enough to make it comfortable without being run-of-the-mill.

And then three quarters of the way through the movie, it all goes downhill.  An overly competitive and cruel opponent hits Maggie with a cheap shot.  She falls and breaks her neck and is paralyzed from the neck down.  While in the hospital, Maggie decides that she doesn’t want to live anymore and tries to commit suicide by biting her tongue in half, hoping to bleed to death.  After grappling with the decision, Clint Eastwood’s character gives Maggie a fatal shot of adrenaline, thereby fulfilling her desire to die.

So why do I have a problem with this ending?

The integrity of the characters was sacrificed for sake of making a political point about euthanasia.  Maggie’s fight in the ring was a metaphor for how she had been fighting her whole life.  She was born premature, and had to fight to stay alive.  A string of poor decisions put her in bad situations, but she kept fighting.  That tenacity she gained from fighting through life was what made her a good boxer.  She just refused to give up, refused to back down.

Until she was paralyzed, that is.  The movie tells us that Maggie wants to “go out fighting”.  By committing suicide.  What?  According to Million Dollar Baby, giving up and dying is “fighting”.  How the hell does that make sense?  Suicide isn’t heroic.  I can understand depression and suicidal thoughts in the wake of being paralyzed, but I don’t get why the movie tries to make it seem the heroic and “fighting” thing to do.

In fact, I found that quite offensive.  I recently watched Murderball, a very good documentary about a number of paraplegics and quadriplegics and how they dealt with their handicap.  What they struggled with, what they went through and ultimately their success in life despite the circumstances they were given.  THAT IS FIGHTING.  Suicide is not.

Million Dollar Baby is a good movie.  It’s very well made, and I know the Academy loved it.  But the movie is an artistic failure.  It completes changes who the characters are specifically to make a political point.  Tragic.

For Attebiz Movie Reviews, I’m the J-Man.

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