Kate’s out of town, and as part of the decadent, bachelor lifestyle that I’ve adopted while she’s away, I went out to the movies. Ok, it doesn’t sound particularly decadent, but maybe it does when you realise that I bought a chili-chocolate choc-top icecream at the cinema. Alright, maybe not. Anyway, the movie’s what I really wanted to write about.
Michael Moore’s most polished doco yet, again showing America is a scary place.
Yes, he’s done it again. Another documentary examining the United States, hoping to affect the political debate over there. This time the theme is universal healthcare and the effects of turning the hospital system over to the private sector. The title, rather than referring to patients, appears to refer more to the system itself.
Moore looks around his own country, then heads around the globe to look at some other Western countries. The intent is to ask “if they can do universal healthcare, why can’t we?” But, while he effectively (and amusingly) shows that people there are making good use of their health systems, he fails to identify the cost of universal healthcare or whether those countries are trending towards a more American model.
Certainly here in Australia we are well on our way towards the scary situation he documents in America. Moore has developed a more balanced technique here, as he moves between American examples and foreign examples, and although he shows us emotional moments, he doesn’t linger on them as much as in previous films.
All up, it’s Moore at his most effective. I enjoyed the soundtrack, got sucked into the story, and left with concern for our own country’s future (and America’s present).
Last night, we went to the movies. I thought we were going to see the French comedy My Best Friend. It seems I was the only one who thought that. The rest of my friends, and indeed the whole cinema, was there to watch the latest Australian film…
Romulus, My Father
Beautiful tension in rural Australia
This is Eric Bana showing how he can be the Everyman. You’ve seen him in Black Hawk Down, Hulk, Chopper and even The Castle. But here he’s not comic nor an action hero, simply the title character. Told through the eyes of Raimond Gaita, the young son of Romulus, who is trying to cope with life in the country when his family is quite insane.
Not quirky insane, actually insane. It’s quite tragic at times, and there are periods of sustained tension where you really don’t have a clue what’s going to happen next, but the whole film is quite beautiful. Australia (specifically the state of Victoria, or even the town of Maldon) is shown off very nicely indeed too.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Raimond, pulls off an impressive performance. The whole cast handles the themes with a dramatic yet sensitive touch. Expect some award nominations here.
If you want a comparison with another recent film, it is probably closest to Richard E. Grant’s Wah-Wah, which is also about a boy living in the bush and having to deal with some crazy family issues, although its setting is Swaziland rather than Victoria. It’s a good film too.
Why are we so interested in royals and Royalty? Is it their power, prestige or inbreeding? Certainly they live in a different world from the rest of us, and a couple of recent films make this point quite well.
A watchable new take on the death of Diana.
This fictionalised biopic shows the early weeks of Tony Blair’s government in the U.K. and the development of his relationship with Queen Elizabeth II in the context of the death of Lady Di. The events of this film date back to 1997, so we’re talking almost 10 years ago now, but the impact still resonates today.
There are still unresolved conspiracy theories around Diana Spencer’s death. Blair is still in power and his government has led significant changes in the U.K. and on the world stage. The health of the monarchy in the U.K. continues to be debated. All of this stretches back to the material in this film, that weaves together fact and fiction seamlessly. We can really believe in this version of the characters.
The film also presents the massive contrast between the worlds of the U.K. Prime Minister and the U.K. Head of State. However, this is done with balance and a respectful touch. Both royalists and republicans will find something to enjoy in this.
I was surpised to find myself feeling considerable sympathy for Queen Elizabeth by the end of it all. Credit for this has to go in large part to Helen Mirren who carries the title role admirably.
Cinematic but slow.
Sofia Coppola casts Kirsten Dunst as the last Queen of France before the revolution. No, really. However, it’s quite clever, and together with a modern soundtrack lifts the historical Marie Antoinette character out of mythology (“let them eat cake!”) into a place where we can relate and almost empathise with her. This is the principle achievement in this period drama filmed entirely on location in France.
Coppola has based the movie on a book, but it could have been a picture book. There is little dialogue, but an emphasis on stunning visuals. Initially, I found this helpful to maintain the same sense of wonder than Marie Antoinette was clearly feeling at the same time. But as the film wore on, this feeling wore out. It all became rather dull.
Lost in Translation, Coppola’s previous film, has a similar feel, but it wasn’t as sparse and not as long. Marie Antoinette runs for two hours, and I was fidgeting a bit by the end. I think I would’ve preferred to flick through a coffee table book with photos of Versailles, clothing, shoes and food, rather than sit through a showing of the same images at the chosen pace.
I’ve read Ian Fleming’s original story, and I’ve seen the (really, really bad) Peter Sellers film version, so I was keen to cleanse my memory of that by watching the most recent movie adaptation.
A bad Bond at his best.
This is not like most other film Bonds. Bond is less gentleman and more psycho, and the plot has definite “love story” overtones. It’s a bit of a re-imagining of the Bond film, rather like Batman Begins gave us a new take on the Batman film. And also like Batman Begins, it gives us an insight into the origins of the main character.
However, this results in some strange “series” continuity issues, with this film set after the Cold War, but a prequel to the other Bond films that clearly occurred during the Cold War. This is made light of in the film, but requires a bit more of belief suspension that in your usual Bond film, particularly if you’ve seen most of them.
On the other hand, there’s a fantastic Parkour running-and-leaping sequence near the start. It seems pretty unbelievable, but it’s performed by Sebastien Foucan, so it’s probably real. Daniel Craig, who plays Bond for his first time, has a fair go at some Parkour moves as well. It’s very cool.
Craig (I can sympathise with someone having a first name as a last name) is a rugged, and not traditionally handsome, Bond. He’s as different from Pierce Brosnan as you can get without having a Scottish accent. Given the richness of his version of Bond, I think we’re going to consider it one of the classic ones.
We’re heading to India for a couple of weeks early in 2007, and trying to get a little into the culture before we go. And what better example than Bollywood, which has more viewers than the movies coming out of Hollywood? Not counting more Western-oriented films like Bride & Prejudice or Monsoon Wedding, I’ve never seen a Bollywood film, and this was my introduction to them.
Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
A surprisingly entertaining musical romantic-comedy.
It’s in Hindi, it’s got music, it’s got dancing, it’s got laughs, it’s set in Mumbai and there’s romance. Can this be any more stereotypical Bollywood? Well, anyway, it was enormously entertaining.
It was quite long, at 155 minutes, but I enjoyed it all. Similar themes to any Western romantic-comedy, but enhanced by the Indian angle. And gangsters always help. Also, the male lead’s father is actually his father in real life, so the tension and emotion they display together has an extra edge.
The “M.B.B.S.” of the title is similar to the “M.D.” suffix in Australia, and indicates that the character is a doctor. Or is he a gangster? Can he change? Will he make his father happy?
Given the length, the rather flimsy premise used to set up the plot, and the unknown (to me) Bollywood aspect, I wasn’t expecting much. But, I loved it! Maybe I’m just a sucker for a romantic-comedy. Or maybe it was the gangsters.
This is distributed in Australia by MG Distribution who seems to be the major Bollywood DVD distributor here. I’ll have to check out more of what they’ve got.
When we go out to see a movie, Kate prefers not to have to sit through a heavy issues piece, and so we usually compromise on something more entertaining. However, as Kate’s out of town, I was able to easily go see a non-fiction film at the movies, and chose to check out Al Gore‘s call-to-arms on climate change. Better know for his U.S. vice-presidential role or his close loss to George W. Bush in the U.S. presidential race of 2000, here he takes on a humbler role trying to save the Earth one movie cinema at a time.
An Inconvenient Truth
A worthwhile film for intelligent, concerned citizens.
Al Gore has been presenting his views on climate change to audiences for the last 15 years or so, and this is probably his most effective presentation yet. It covers both the development of Gore’s personal devotion to this cause, as well as the scientific evidence that supports the claim that climate change has been caused by humans and now presents a real threat to our way of life.
I consider myself moderately well informed on this topic, having read Tim Flannery, Michael Crichton, and other less famous commentators, so the scientific material wasn’t new to me. However, it was presented very clearly and so effectively that most people would be left with little room for doubt on the issue.
One might be tempted to think that there was a team of researchers and writers behind Gore’s presentation. However, we only ever see him present, and there are many shots of him using Apple Keynote to develop the presentation, so we are obviously meant to think this is pretty much a one-man show.
That aspect, together with the very personal accounts of Gore’s life and development, tended to slightly shift the focus away from his message and onto him. It would not take much of a cynic to view this film as building a platform for him to take another stab at the White House. He himself says “political will is a renewable resource”.
If you are concerned about these issues, then you can probably skip the film and spend the time more profitably reading books that convey the scope and complexity of the problems. (Or better yet, spend time actually addressing the problems.) If you aren’t concerned about these issues yet, then you should probably see this film. Don’t worry – it ends with some positive things.
There is a good web site of the movie that also gives a taste of the material.
The last couple of films I’ve seen happen to have been both good-natured, gentle, character-driven comedies. They’re a nice change from the recent trend towards unsubtle humour, of which recent examples are Borat or Nacho Libre.
Little Miss Sunshine
A quirky road-movie
Although this film is fundamentally a road movie, with a journey that is more important than the destination, and characters who make self-discoveries through overcoming adversities, the plot is not what this film is about. It’s really about the characters.
The family that jumps in a car together is not defined by their disfunction (a la the Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Vacation) but by their individuality. They are an improbably diverse set of characters.
There’s the average-looking girl that dreams of winning a beauty pageant (the Little Miss Sunshine of the title), the boy that doesn’t talk, the father who’s a motivational speaker, the practical housewife, the suicidal uncle, and the drug-addicted grandfather. It’s a totally delightful mix, and each is pretty well rounded.
Don’t expect deep insight, but the bizarre characters reflect back to us the bizarre nature of parts of modern American society. I enjoyed it.
A mockumentary full of toilet-humour
The central character of this documentary-style movie is Kenny, brought to us through the skills of actor Shane Jacobson, who also edits the film and is one of the writers. The other writer, Clayton Jacobson, is also the director, and also makes an acting appearance. So does Ronald Jacobson and at least one other Jacobson. It’s very much a family show.
The show is something like a week-in-the-life of a port-a-loo plumber. We get to experience his honest perspective on the everyday activity of using the toilet, while meeting his family and colleagues. Kenny feels fully rounded and believable. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the creation of a new Australian comic personality.
There are some fantastic lines, and many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s also a tale of family and acceptance. I hope we see Kenny again.
I saw the shorts and I heard the raves about it. It’s a satirical look at political lobbyists and the smoking industry in the United States, directed by an American, based on an American book. (The American director is Jason Reitman, son of Ivan, no less). My scepticism and curiosity evenly balanced, I went to the movies and saw …
Proof that evil industries have their fun side
The film begins by introducing us to the “evil” smoking-industry lobbyist, Nick Naylor (played excellently by Aaron Eckhart), who promptly faces off against a child with lung cancer on a TV talk-show. We know who ought to win, but it’s great fun to see it from the other side. Throughout the film, we barrack for our hero, while trying to ignore the moral conflict that this presents.
However, the film sneakily brings the moral conflict to the foreground, through Nick’s conversations with his family about his job. It’s a comedy with an intelligent side. Although, the fact it is a comedy allows you to laugh away the keen philosophical points without really dealing with them.
Perhaps this is the sort of movie that improves with a repeat viewing, when the farce is reduced to expose more of the irony. This means you can choose to enjoy it for the laughs or for the points it raises about the implications of a free society, the meaning of integrity, and the idea of safety. Good stuff!
I tried to follow the principles I’ve outlined here in writing this review. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded.