Tom's Excellent, Random, and Enlightening Film Reviews

Brokeback Mountain

Finally saw this on the academy screener - feh.

John suspected through my descriptions that it was written by a woman. Turns out that it was co-written by a woman as well as being based on a short story by a woman. So, you can imagine what that means. What women think "real" men (cowboys) might behave like. Ridiculous.

Virtually no sex frankly (or even kissing), which is odd considering.

It had some okay moments...very professional, etc., but nothing that you could go crazy over especially. If you made it about a man and woman, you probably would have heard absolutely nothing about it whatsoever.

There is one "flashback" scene (one of the characters dies), and I can't for the life of me tell whose flashback (if it IS that) it is. I know that sounds crazy, but it is either something that really happened, or what one person imagines may have happened. Very odd cutting on it, which is what made it obscure...and I am not 100% sure that obscurity was the intent. Though that is possible of course.

It's well made...but we've seen it all before frankly. And though has some emotional moments, and some touching scenes, it really in the end doesn't add up to too much. Yeah, can't be with men without danger, etc., especially in the 60's and 70's, and among cowboys...the story of mankind, you know? So what. A LOT of people can't get together for an infinite number of reasons. That's life. Maybe I'm just jaded, or too old, but I don't care. I want a movie to USE the medium...instead we get people proclaiming a film like this is a masterpiece when in reality that means comparing to Kurosawa, or Welles, or Murnou...have we lost all touch of what is art? What is good? I mean, it's not a bad film, but what's all the commotion? Same with History of Violence. Hasn't anyone seen Straw Dogs? There's NO comparison with what the intent is and the effect in that film and History of Violence which seems to touch slightly on similar issues - though Peckinpah's film is MUCH deeper in all respects - and much more creative as film-making.

There is an article in the Sunday NY Times on Blue Velvet (a new print is being shown somewhere in Manhattan - it's 20 years old!), and the article rightly says, that in spite of all the explicit horror and gore and madness and "daring" of films since, they don't hold a candle to Blue Velvet. Excess doesn't mean creative art, or daring, or originality. Same with History and Brokeback...its pretensions kill them both dead as far as being objects to be held up to critical scrutiny.



Caught up with as much of A.I. as I could stand...was flipping the channel back to a Harryhausen film in-between monsters (in the latter)...I looked desperately for signs of Kubrik in A.I., but oh how pathetic it all was. A Simpering, boring, uneventful, manipulative, condescending pile of shit. What happened to Speilbug in his childhood that makes him so puerile? Really...astonishing. The vague Kubrick-commissioned set designs were wasted and watered down. He had a sin city where giant buildings were made in the shape of women with their legs open and you entered through the vagina...and one where you entered through the ass. These designs, while still in the film (though altered), had no impact, were kept in the background and watered down so as to not "offend" the reason for them to exist was made irrelevant.

Tedious and boring...with only some nice effects shots here and there...but who fucking cares. And the assholes need a map of NYC. When the young robot boy jumps off the upper floors of a partially submerged Radio City...he suddenly seems to find himself in Coney Island (underwater...the whole city is underwater save for the tops of the big buildings)! The same thing happens later, when ALIENS appear two thousand years later...the camera swoops past the trade towers going uptown and then past the Chrysler building, hangs a sort of a right and once again we are in Coney Island (this time encased in ice with aliens digging out the frozen boy)!!!!

Avoid at all I know you will. Jude Law was good in a small-ish role...though he had little to do. Simpering gibberish.


Gangs of New York

Well, I just got home. This [review] is complicated. It is certainly an epic - but one that gets lost, as I am not sure what story they are trying to tell. Other than an uncomplicated one of revenge - which isn't in and of itself enough to keep it viable. The settings are spectacular - and there are a few, but not a lot, of mind-blowing scenes of spectacle. The director keeps trying to let us in on individual details of gangs (names, clothing, etc.,), but we never really get a chance to see them, let alone understand them. When they do attempt to show individual elements of some of the gangs, the details, which he is intent on you noticing, are sadly lost in the camera moves, and the MASSIVE amount of other things going on in the scene. My eyes were all over the place, when they should have been on the detail she was explaining [during a] voice over, and which my eyes couldn't find (example: he talks about a gang called the Shirt Tails, and says they were being laughed at, or something, because they looked like "China-men" in their gear - well, I sort of knew what he was talking about, but as I said I was looking all over the frame, and it was distracting. Most people, not knowing how Chinese may have dressed in America at that time, will have NO idea what he is talking about). DiCrappio is just that...there are acceptable moments - but these are when he is not talking, just glowering. Which he doesn't do very well. Absurd. His accent flucutates wildly, and though I think they attempt to explain it (absurdly so), it is just annoying.

Daniel Day-Lewis certainly is odd in this film, but at least he inhabits the character, and there seems to be more than meets the eye, though we don't always see that. It is MORE than likely that lots of this stuff is cut out - it seems like that. In any event there is certainly every opportunity to cut things out. They make a big deal, off and on, about Catholics (though the word is never used actually - the Pope is mentioned often however), vs the Protestants, but it seems to come and go - and again, I don't think the word Protestant ever was mentioned either. The draft riots, while spectacular, don't seem to have the impact that is warrented by such a traumatic event in US/NY history - they seem to want to make it so.

The final confrontation between gangs comes during the riots, a really fine idea, but the build and interaction of events doesn't have the impact it clearly is striving for. The build to the draft riots just doesn't seem to be there. There is a lot of voice-over about it, and some short scenes, but does not permeate the ultimate playing out of the scenes. I am pretty sure the scenes of firemen killing blacks was cut out - I heard rumors of it.

Anyway, some very, very nice things in it, but it misses the mark at greatness which it really should have been. And for those New Yorkers...just where is that cemetery supposed to be at the end? Calvary? I think its in the wrong place.

Okay, that's enough of my boring review.

Saw some amazingly bad shit on TV...worst of all was   Star Wars: Attack of the Clones....though not quite as bad as the previous shit, this was reprehensible in virtually every way. The acting sucked as well...even Ewen MacGregor wasn't very good, and if that was his real beard then he needed a fake one...or visa versa. The teenage Darth Vader was a whinny brat (and only slightly less annoying than the baby brat in the first one), and the girl (from the first film) was hardly a princess of the universe...unless that universe was Beverly Hills. Even Christopher Lee as one of the main villains was luke-warm. It wasn't them of course (Ewen and Lee), but the non-directing and the wretched "script"...the effects sucked, and he, Lucas, substituted computers for people whenever possible...and it showed. Actors CANNOT act in a vacuum, no matter what that jerk thinks. Really one of the worst things I have ever seen.

Saw  The Wire...a Baltimore based cop TV series on HBO - which was not bad. Nothing new, but well done.

Saw  Spiderman. Nothing brilliant, but watchable and not too embarrassing. The effects weren't too annoying but the whole thing in the end left me without any emotional impact whatsoever. Faithful to the comics, more or less...and at least Stan Lee let Steve Ditko get some credit...though the real story seems to be that Jack Kirby created Spiderman, as he most certainly did the Hulk. But never let it be said that some folks take credit where credit just isn't due...not totally anyway.

Men in BlackII...the usual shit. God, I NEVER want to see a computer effect ever again!!!!!!!!!! No offense.

Did manage to catch up with  Lord of the Rings, which of course was very fine. I liked the way they mixed up the effects to keep you off balance (so to speak): mixing old-fashioned in-the-camera stuff, like forced perspective and set-sizes (scenes with Gandolf and the Hobbits in the shire were done like that...Gandolf in the foreground, small-ish actors in the background - using deep focus it pulled the illusion together nicely. And then mixing in children dressed as hobbits in long shots, and then matte-shots, etc. I didn't mind the CG at all mainly because of the way it was used, and because of the art-direction and design of the stuff...though the giant in the mines came close to being annoying. That said, the Fire Demon who chases them moments later across the bridge was very nicely done, and the fine atmosphere of the mine design made a big difference as well. Acting was very fine, and directing well suited to what was necessary. I like the tree dwellings of the Lady of the Wood (towards the end). Anyway, thank God Hollywood never got ahold of this! And though I dread the thought of a remake of King Kong, as least Jackson and his New Zealand crew will do as much justice to it as can be done I hope. "The bigga monk, he'a mak'a you cry"