The Vaguest Ideas
12 February, 2009
07 February, 2009
Surfin' Multiplex: Revolutionary Road, Bolt 3DAgain in the spirit of the awards season, I thought I ought to see Kate's other BAFTA nominated turn:
This is where language will fail me utterly. There are not words enough to describe the sheer depth of loathing I have for this film. Every time I try to focus this bile upon the keyboard, I get dizzy as another flood of hatred tries to incoherently stream forth.
I have to admit I was already predisposed to dislike this movie, I started to find the characters, their trite and clichéd dialogue and situation, annoying from just watching the trailer. But I wanted to be fair, and as I noted, now to my chagrin, I had decided to be completist about the major nominations.
From a very brief twenty something meet cute at a studenty New York City party for Kate and Leo, we are suddenly propelled a few years later to Kate in an Am-dram production on a suburban high-school stage. Kate's character is such a prima-donna already that she has her own dressing room to sulk in! in the backstage of a high school auditorium (they must have great teacher pupil/ratios there!). In no time at all Kate and Leo are having an argument about how trapped they are (not even ten minutes in). She tells him to "be a man!" He can't even muster a five o'clock shadow.
They long for an escape from their suburban ennui, perhaps to Paris, so that, get this, Leo can finally figure out what he wants to do with his life (he's not an unfulfilled artist, poet, or writer, trapped in suburbia, he's a genX slacker stuck in the 1950's).
I spent the first half of this film stifling, out of respect for my fellow filmgoers, my snickering at the inept script. I think there ought to be a button you can press, so that if the consensus is unanimous that the film is shit, the whole audience can openly heckle. I might have enjoyed my own MST3K episode of this movie. For the second half. I settled down as the clichés had become so pervasive, my trite detection had become calloused from over use.
Complaining as they do about being stuck in suburban family life, strangely, we barely ever see their children. Perhaps the child labor laws that limit their number of shooting hours per day also provides that they be kept away from toxic bad dialogue. The way the children are wheeled on and off, seemingly only an occasional presence in their own home, underlines the artless artifice of the piece. In a similar way the character of the "madman" son of their friendly estate agent, is carted out to speak the "truth", although this consists of agreeing with their pretentious plans to relocate to Paris, and turning extremely mean spirited when they don't follow through. He's also a little too loquacious for someone who's had, as he claims, 37 rounds of 1950's style ECT. Unsurprisingly Michael Shannon who takes this role is nominated for supporting, but this is just the sort of showy bullshit part that gets awards for actors. At one point in his masochistic verbal dissection of Kate and Leo's lives, he states that he can't decide which of them to feel most sorry for, I half expected him to turn to camera and tell us he felt even sorrier for the audience having to endure this rubbish.
The acting itself, is fine all round. The direction is adequate, and weakest as it indulges the more pointlessly overwrought parts of the script. The choice of material is awful. There's probably a lot here that you might get away with in a literary novel (sorry haven't read the source material, so I'm guessing), but it doesn't bear dramatization which probably has robbed it of any tone or point of view that might have made the story worthwhile.
I have great respect for Sam Mendes as a stage director, but his films, so far, have been completely over-rated. The critical bombast for American Beauty is probably the worst thing that ever happened to him. Perhaps it made him confident that this choice of similar material, the trope of suburban angst, with far less intentional humour, humanity or warmth, was a good one.
The only conclusion the film seems to make is that happiness in marriage depends upon agreeing to certain lies, or tuning each other out, if you have a hearing aid. Clearly Kate Winslet has acted very well, particularly when she told Sam, "oh yes, this a good script, a great role for me...." Yes, some marriages can only survive with certain lies....
It's rare that I actually hate a movie. Revolutionary Road annoyed me so much, seeing a Disney movie afterwards, from the team that produced the purposely ugly and annoying Chicken Little (Walt Disney Feature Animation), seemed a bit risky, with the slight salve that the latest 3D viewing might at least be diverting.
However, I loved this movie.
OK. Granted, their is a certain lack of originality here, the situation / plot borrows heavily from both Toy Story's with a few nods to both The Truman Show, and Incredible Journey. Bolt the titular pooch, with his "person" Penny are stars of his eponymous spy action adventure television series, only he doesn't know it as all the action is filmed to seem real to the canine actor, and he's never allowed to leave the set. So he believes he has superpowers, but doesn't know how to behave like a normal dog. Of course, as soon as this situation is established a mishap occurs which sends him across the country into the real world.
Cue Buzz Lightyear like delusions, and eventual realizations. An alley cat sidekick brings the possibility of abandonment by a "person", challenging the bond that Bolt feels for Penny. This smacks of the owner relationship issues of the toys in Toy Story II, but in a sense, for me, a dog owner, this rings even truer here. This, is of course, what really got me, and by the end had me misting up behind my 3D glasses.
The 3D really does shine here, but certainly, ever since Pixar started modelling their animations in a 3D cyberspace stylee, this form of animation has simply been waiting for a decent, non-headache inducing way of showing that 3D model mapped world as it might actually look. All along, many of Pixar's, and others in the CGI animation field have given nods back to the 2D animation, usually in the end credits, now they can literally seem to stand out from their 2D rendered origins.
For those that think this means that 3D is the wave of the future, I'd add a proviso: 3D is the perfect marriage with these 3D modelled animations. I also look forward to the stop-motion sourced efforts in this realm. 3D complements animations that are trying to create a world for the viewer. I still think that where live action is involved 3D will remain a pointless gimmick. Live action and drama aren't trying to develop an illusion of a world we already recognise (or even in the case of sci-fi or fantasy genre, worlds similar to what we know). 3D in these instances is at best a pointy surprise tactic, at worst an unnecessary distraction. So roll on CGI 3D, but let's keep in the cartoon ghetto, where they get to have all the REAL fun anyway.
Back to Bolt... engaging, apart from acting as a feature length test case for application of 3D, not breaking much new ground (although kudos for the pigeon character animation, which manages to be amusing and uncanny at the same time). Enough cosy cynicism to allow for the inevitable sentimental conclusion. You may not get into as much if you don't love your dog (or have a dog to love).
(of course, it may have benefited by comparison with Revolutionary Road).
06 February, 2009
My annual BAFTA annoyance 2009Last year I had a small email argument with BAFTA personnel over the barely eligible "There Will Be Blood" (disregarding the merits of the film, which amongst other things contains a "spoiler" in its title).
This year I've decided to take my beef to a higher authority, I've sent an email to the BBC Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode BBC Radio Live 5 Film Review show, in the vain hope that they'll give the argument airtime and publicly bollock BAFTA for their weaselly unprincipled distributor led inclusion of films up for OSCARs(tm) but not properly released in the UK within the awards year.
The letter reads as follows
Dear Charters & Caldicott,
As you no doubt remember a few years ago the BAFTA's were moved to occur after the Golden Globes but before the Oscars, in a desperate/transparent/pointless (delete as appropriate) attempt to seem more relevant and boost their profile as a supposed predictor of Oscars (the position queasily held by the Golden Globes). Along with that BAFTA then bent the eligibility rules to include films that were released theatrically in the States (i.e.. up for Oscars), but which hadn't actually had a proper UK release within the awards year:"Films that open between 1 January and 6 February 2009 inclusive may be 'qualified' by Distributors by being screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Thursday 18 December 2008."
That means that films released two days before the actual ceremonies may qualify. However, another eligibility rule states:"To be eligible, a feature film must be exhibited publicly to a paying audience within a commercial cinema in the UK for no fewer than seven consecutive days."
By that logic the following three nominated films should be disqualified, as they won't have fulfilled this obligation by the time of the awards ceremony:
(UK Release Dates according to IMDB:)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (6th Feb)
Doubt (6th Feb)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (13th Feb -- this actually fails both tests)
Now we all know that the timing and use of the BAFTA's by the distributor's is merely to give these films a marketing bump. They probably will have had small pseudo releases in some small cinema for a preview week to qualify.
The real point of all this nitpicking (which leaves the merit of these films in the dust): Nominated films should have received their release in the year in question in the UK. The public, including idiots like myself, should have had a proper chance to see the films, so that there is interest in the supposedly laudatory outcome of the awards, not an opportunity to have trailers for coming attractions foisted on us. By bending the rules to account for the North American release schedule, the BAFTA's seem less relevant, more like a "me too" exercise. If the distributors wanted their pictures qualified over here as well, they should release them at the same time in the UK as in the US.
Meanwhile on the other side of the pond AMPAAS, are allowing Brad Pitt his Best Actor Nomination for Benjamin Button when they denied Andy Serkis a chance at the Best Supporting for Gollum on the basis that his performance was altered through digital manipulation. I may enjoy Benjamin Button when I can finally see it if I just imagine Gollum in the place of Pitt (theory: is every other film by Fincher rubbish/genius?)
Perhaps Pointlessly Pedantic,
Brian Tarnoff, the New Forest.
PS. This is the whole eligibility bit from the BAFTA website:
Films must be released theatrically in the UK, within the Academy awards year,
1 January to 31 December 2008. Films that open between 1 January and 6 February 2009 inclusive may be 'qualified' by Distributors by being screened to Academy Film Voting Members by Thursday 18 December 2008.
To be eligible, a feature film must:
* be feature-length, i.e. with a running time exceeding 60 minutes;
* receive its first public exhibition or distribution in the UK as a theatrical release;
* be exhibited publicly to a paying audience within a commercial cinema in the UK for no fewer than seven consecutive days.
Whether this reaches the airwaves is to be seen....