Archive for June, 2010
3.5 Stars out of 4
Paranoid Park could have easily been the title for a B-Grade Horror slasher. Or at least a mediocre Al Pacino thriller (but he stuck with 88 Minutes). Instead Paranoid Park is a drama by Gus Van Sant, the director who loves scrutinizing the psyche of youth. The film is short, subtle, and glum. But the realism shatters as the film breathes languid emotion, remorse, and fear. As hard as it comes by, this director actually gets teenagers. Their insecurities, sense of status, and odd quirks. Paranoid Park unwinds on a careen arc, through a faint haze of emotions and scattered attrition. The boy, Alex’s (Gabe Nevins), life moves back and forth where spills come without anticipation. Like the motions of a skateboard. Did I mention he’s a skateboarder?
Alex and his friend Jared (Jake Miller) decide to take a trip to the foreboding Paranoid Park. The park is like some kind of cult, a monster that can never be tamed. As Jared says: no one is ever ready for Paranoid Park. I don’t even want to speculate if this macabre park is some sort of symbol for Alex’s downward spin into regret and depression. It’s all how Van Sant captures the movement of the film, as we watch the film regress in the nature of its characters but watch its style flux.
Van Sant hinders the perspective of the adult eye. Alex’s mother is hidden from long shots, his father is obscured through out of focus POV shots of Alex, and teacher’s pass the screen like street pedestrians. It’s a way to zone in on the teens. Well, more like one teen here – Alex. He’s in a transfixing bout of brooding. His parents are divorcing, he has trouble focusing in class, and his anxious virgin girlfriend awaits Alex to deflower her. Alex avoids these thoughts by moving in a sleepwalking phase, as if that will inadvertently shut out his troubles.
When an accidental death, possible murder occurs near Paranoid Park, Alex and various other skateboarders are summoned by Detective Richard Lu (Daniel Liu) to ask the kids some questions regarding the incident. This is the best scene in the movie. The detective comes with welcoming gestures, asking the boarders simple questions. But we notice the darker nuance here. These kids could very well be potential suspects but the detective denies it. “We want background on the skateboard community.” From this he makes Paranoid Park sound like a mosque. Oh the ignorance of adults.
Beforehand, Alex is individually interviewed by the detective. That is moment when the questioning should solely resemble calm, but we can’t help feel that fraught feeling of tension. Alex is really hiding something. The answer lingers inside his head.
Van Sant knows exactly what to capture. He slows down the camera into a slow-motion sedentary. We watch Alex twitch his eyes, wander down the hallway, nestled by a few of his fellow skateboarders. They strut all next to each other in a march – as if The Wild Bunch are now stuck in high school.
He’ll even resist the urge to inundate the film with music. At a time, Nina Rota’s number from Fellini’s “Juliet of the Spirits” to grab hold of the inert emotions that float indirectly on screen. Or the sombre acoustic at the end, that sounds like a Johnny Cash elegy, as we watch skateboarders find their paradise once again at the skatepark.
Okay, it’s not as good as Van Sant’s earlier work Elephant. That sense of silence, slowed-down momentum, and eerie energy was a brilliant way to outwardly define a typical school day gone horribly wrong. Furthermore, Van Sant’s connective tracking shots enhances the aspect of character association. And how that elongated tracking path eventually fell into destruction. Paranoid Park isn’t as so unconventional as Elephant, but it is as hypnotic. There’s this sense of dejectedness watching a character move across life, with his thoughts buried in his head. It took a dragging opening to propel Paranoid Park into that entrancing final half when Alex’s inner demons exacerbate his paranoia. It’s not until Alex writes it all down on paper and his brother, with a convoluted snark, retells a scene from a classic film.
It’s the anguish that Van Sant gets. The film is stripped of any form of objectivity other than Alex’s. His thoughts tremble inside his head, the camera swoops across locales, capturing the essence of confusion. After finishing Paranoid Park, Van Sant leaves us with neither peace nor unsettlement. It’s the urgency he calls upon. The key is that when the skateboarders ollie, jump, and perhaps fall – they will always get back up.
I SAY: SEE IT.
3 Stars out of 4
To enjoy Family Plot at its highest, one must angle their focus on Hitchcock’s final work as self-pastiche. Family Plot may be deadening with its over usages of puns, irony, and dampening wit, but Hitchcock’s style is not swan song finesse, it’s still him at his finest panache. The plot is so complex, talkative, and light that Hitchcock’s austere mannerisms almost rarely get room to breathe. But it’s how Hitchcock tells it, how he casts a spell on the story’s sense of wonder, mix of tones, and extrovert characters. Hitchcock was supposed to do “The Short Night” after Family Plot, but suddenly and without any anticipation, he called it quits after 55 years of filmmaking (he made 53 pictures). But for Hitchcock, who could have expected less? After all, he did state – “it is rare when a man’s past does not come back to haunt him. My [Hitchcock's] past is about to catch up with me.”
The opening is almost overwhelming with its verbosity. Blanche Tyler (Barbara Harris, of whom HItchcock highly admired) engages in a seance with an elderly woman trying to make contact with her deceased husband. From here, a shocking revelation is beheld: the elder woman has a missing son of which she will provide ten thousand dollars to Blanche, the pseudo-psychic, if she can find him. Afterwards, Blanche drives home with her lover George (the excellent Bruce Dern) and discuss the matter. What’s his name? George asks of the missing legitimate son. I don’t know, Blanche replies. Where is he? George asks in hope. Well, judging by the vagueness of the situation, I’m sure you can guess Blanche’s response.
But then George almost hits a pedestrian, covered in a dark suit. He drives on, but Hitchcock slides the camera to the point of view of this new character. It’s a genius transition into a new course of action, something very reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) and recently at Family Plot’s making, Luis Bunuel’s The Phantom of Liberty. Arising from this organic changeover, we are introduced to a less talkative character named Fran (Karen Black, who originally entreated Hitchcock to play Blanche but he firmly said no). She wears wigs and disguises to hold ransoms for jewels and escape with her lover Arthur (William Devane) without a trace. Together they accomplish illicit tasks, as some sort of lover’s plot. You see the parallel?
The irony starts to bubble when George realizes that Arthur is the legitimate son and that he has some great news for him. Arthur, most uptight about his sense of security, believes George and Blanche to be some sort of black mailers or spies. He wishes to dispose of them. That’s the key for all the action.
There’s so much to admire in Family Plot. The whole premise is irrefutably implausible but Hitchcock pokes (serious) fun at the plot by zoning in on the importance of accomplishing the implausible not exhaustingly explaining the rational (narrative). This film does stretch and pull, in which events seamlessly happen – some intense, some modestly clever – and then the story finalizes on a ditzy yet inevitable collision of all strings of the action. Are there contrivances along the way? Yes. Some characters do things that would only be expected of Three Stooges calibre but then Hitchcock quenches the tedium by literally winking at the camera.
There are two key elements of Family Plot that make it the perfect curtain call for the Master of Horror. One is Hitchcock’s impish appearance in the film. According to a documentary I watched after this movie, Hitchcock told his assistant director that he had no intention to appear in Family Plot. Instead, the director proposed that he wouldn’t appear (directly) but his image would appear. Alas, at a terrific scene, he can be seen in a silhouette pointing his finger at another silhouetted person through the window of a Registrar of Births and Deaths office. Like he said, we never saw him. If anything, we saw his iconic shadow – just like Family Plot, it was pure Hitchcockian representation. The other transcendent scene (well, I suppose there’s three actually) is the aforementioned wink at the camera to reveal the audience in the darkness and bring out that entity that had been watching Hitchcock for 55 years.
But the best one is the car sequence. George and Blanche stumble upon a nasty situation involving tinkered brakes and sabotaged exhaust pipes. Their car swerves, zooms past motorcycles, twisting and turning down the bending roads of a mountain. All while George cannot help but think: “Man, I’ve got to get off this road.” Apparently, Hitchcock laughed so loudly at this line, the cameras had to stop rolling. Following this set piece, there’s a succinct action sequence that reflects North By Northwest’s crop duster. Who could forget that?
There’s much to take pleasure in with Family Plot. Though it runs on at an elasticized two hours, Hitchcock had earned it. This film is dark when it needs to be, funny when it demands it, and simply brilliant when it’s asks upon it. Hitchcock’s overhead shots dominate the screen, which defines all his scenery as cornered in and infinitely contained areas. And, of course, this last film is a savvy pun. Indeed there are two family plots moving amongst this chaotic frenzy (no, frenzy is not the pun!) but the element of family plot actually underlies two gravestones of a son and father that are plotted in the ground. Those two objects catapult the action. As we know, Hitchcock was all about genius catalysts. From Psycho’s bird-talking scene to the mysterious stabbing in The Man Who Knew Too Much. Family Plot may not be genius but its style is an inadvertent tribute. Because when we least expected it, Hitchcock threw in the towel. But maybe he always knew this film would be his last. After all, he was winking at us.
I SAY: SEE IT.
2 Stars out of 4
Most people will find Elf to be a rare Christmas comedy that works. Though Elf, as for myself, may not have been as tedious as past Christmas schlock like Christmas with the Kranks and Unaccompanied Minors, it’s just as forgettable and passable. There’s this waggish image seeing classic comics play dress up. Robin Williams in Death to Smoochy, as a mascot that worked more as an elegy to Williams’ career than an actual comedy. Or watching Mike Myers torment his reputation as a love guru. I felt little love for that one. If there’s any comedian to tackle the childish persona, it’s Will Ferrell. He’s got that hilarious nerve to make us laugh in the most immature way. He could almost make us giggle if he played an infant, and we could almost believe him as so. So Will Ferrell is not the problem here. So what is? The concept, the supporting characters, and in a more fitting term: everything else.
I’m sure Will Ferrell had fun making this movie. He has the actor-director Jon Favreau behind the camera and talented veterans by his side – shouts go out to James Caan and Ed Asner. His character is charming (and self-prominently obnoxious), just like Will Ferrell’s character in Kicking and Screaming was. A film I kind of liked until the three-quarter point.
Elf tries to hurdle its emotions across so many platforms. For one we are supposed to be engrossed by the Elf’s eagerness to reunite with his birth family. Another this is supposed to be some fairy tale spinning of the Grinch story – How The Elf Saved Christmas. And on another thin piece of ribbon, this is a love story – between the talkative elf and the laconic, modest Jovie (the adorable Zooey Deschanel). If anything, Favreau loves igniting his films with a glowing charm and then nestling them close to characters held in check by their curiosities, personas, egos, and sentiments (as seen with Tony Stark in Iron Man). With Elf, we place a curious little fellow in a strange environment (milieu: New York City) and make him move amongst urban folk saturated under the feeling that Christmas is coming and he has much to discover.
But what comes as a disappointment is the character Will Ferrell plays, not how he plays him. Will Ferrell is definitely complacent with his wit, but it’s not the character that is innately delightful and comic, it’s what he does (and that’s not right; my rule of comedy is that we laugh at the characters not what they do). If you do laugh at something, it’s the fact that this elf simply does not know where he is. That Alice In Wonderland spin sputters fast, leaving further slapstick to come. I don’t know: did I laugh when the elf performed rhythmic burps in a waiting room or did I even chuckle to that awkward fight between elf and the pseudo-Santa Claus. If anything, I felt sorry for the children. They would now know Santa does not exist. I’m kidding kids, I’m kidding – keep reading!
So after Favreau pleads us to believe such a clueless, half-deranged elf could light the fancy of that cute femme Jovie, Elf tries to focus on the family ties. James Caan plays the extra traditional, extra uptight, extra bland Walter, the elf’s (named Buddy by the way) birth father. It was difficult watching this part of the film. Walter continuously rejects Buddy’s idiosyncrasies, leaving Buddy cold and us more so. When Walter is finally convinced by his other son (played by Daniel Tay) that he is too centred on his job, Walter’s gradual shift from loathsome to likeable fails to induce that sparkle Elf should emit. Because doesn’t Christmas do so?
By the time everything sputters to a finish, Elf closes its books with a benign The End and a blissful New York, absorbed by the fact that Christmas has been saved. How would it have left us? Well, Santa’s sleigh could not fly without Christmas spirit (how metaphysical), so he needs everyone to sing a carol to stoke the fire of ol’ Kris Kringel. Jingle, jingle, jingle. So I suppose the whole New York City defines spirit on a global perspective and Santa, despite his elongated delay, will still travel around the world in mere hours. Okay, I’m being harsh on Santa. After all, who wants to go on his naughty list?
I don’t want to call Elf implausible, because the obvious rebuttal would be mocking me for basically criticizing a film for promoting the essence of Santa. My concern is not on the film’s self-fantasy, it’s how it comes to that. At one point this is a story on the elf’s admittance into a family, the next he is saving a holiday. So see it for Ferrell if you must, because he is, well, young at heart. But the film will jump back and forth between silly, adorable, then too just unfunny. I usually leave my puns to my beginning catchphrases, but here I cannot resist: Elf is short with the fun, dwarfed by the humour.
I SAY: SKIP IT.
4 Stars out of 4
Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer is a creative and honest charm. It’s rare when you’d see me deliver a perfect score to a rom-com (dare I call it that granted its transcendence and purity), but it’s also rare when you see a movie like this be earnest about not only its characters but about its topic: ill-fated love. This is a story of fate. Or is it? Call it, define it how you want, but there is a simpler way to put 500 Days. According to its scholarly-spoken narrator: this is a story of boy meets girl. But best be sure, this is not a love story. Scratch what I just wrote. (continue reading…)
3 Stars out of 4
I’ve watched Lakeview Terrace at least three times, and after each trek through this suburban jungle, I’ve convinced myself that I’m crazy: I actually like this movie. Lakeview Terrace definitely croaks around the three-quarter point, but it’s one of those rare quasi-pot boilers that make you curious about its characters. And who wouldn’t be surprised? It’s got Samuel L. Jackson ruling with de jure rhetoric as an overly traditional cop and even Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington as his neighbours. The incandescent mode of topic: he’s caucasian and she is black. Ever wondered what Wilson from Home Improvement was like behind that face-heighted fence? Well here’s a film that provides the answer – but it should not be called Home Improvement but more like Home Devolvement. Or to spin off Michael Moore’s most recent Americana documentary – Suburbia: A Hate Story.
It’s all shining rainbows, blossoming daffodils, and smiling joggers at first for Chris (Wilson) and Lisa (Washington). They meet and greet with the neighbours and move into their nicely grand modern home. It’s not until they meet Abel Turner (Jackson) when the heat is turned up. He washes his car across the hedge, sits on his patio eerily, gazing his eyes over at the two. But Chris and Lisa don’t think much of it: it’s normal for birds to stare when new ones move into the nest.
But Abel turns out to be a grinning menace abut. He becomes passive aggressive of Chris and Lisa’s inter-racial marriage and just like that, things become difficult. Security lights from Abel’s house gleam into the two’s bedroom, Chris’s car’s tires are flattened, and Abel demoralizes Chris at a party. What happened to neighbour-neighbour communion?
Lakeview Terrace is irrefutably silly, arbitrary, and absurd when it should not be. Abel has the colour issue on his side – blue, he’s a bobbie – that he can corner in Chris and Lisa and wait for anytime to move in for the kill. Perhaps the character is too dumb for his own good at times. But Samuel L. Jackson makes us look at the character in a more ascertained way: he’s definitely the bad guy, but why? How can we turn the tables on his character, negate his past, his privileges, his inner conflict that he too can become as vulnerable as Chris and Lisa. Chris and Lisa were meant to escape to a family life but now they are cornered in. Lakeview Terrace, in a relatable way, can act as the marriage we’d never want to have.
Or maybe I worded it wrong. There is no problem with inter-racial relationships. Lakeview Terrace has this sincere maturity in coping with this subject. We deal with Chris and Lisa not as characters that yell and scream and quiver with fear, but as people not necessarily blaming Abel for their problems but themselves. It’s the human impulse. When things get bad, we may blame others at first, but ultimately we end up blaming ourselves. Intuitively. I was fascinated watching Wilson and Washington deal with their characters, in terms of having a baby, getting by, Chris smoking outside the house, and the competitive aspect between the two on who struggles harder being married to a racially different spouse. In a word or two, Lakeview Terrace is ostentatiously authentic. I know that’s an oxymoron.
Lakeview Terrace, for the first 90 minutes, moves at the pace of a Hitchcock film. Its gentle, it drops its hints like breadcrumbs, while in a subtextual sense, telling us the answer to the movie as a whole. We watch these characters with pity, an omniscient sympathy, knowing that things will inevitably move from push to shove. Pretend you are watching Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, in which you challenge yourself watching the movie to prove that the film will uncoil itself against the antagonist and prove his or her guilt. That way, you win and so do the good guys. There are no whodunits in Lakeview Terrace as it dares to centralize on its characters, establishing the problems that surround the goofy premise to make it almost seem, well, credible.
Are there elements that leave you cold? Of course. Take the tepid aspect of the forest fires nearby. They act in no way like some natural menace as The Birds did or Shyamalan’s The Happening, theoretically, tried to do. And there’s Abel’s two children, who are aging adolescents reticent towards their father, since the daughter is infatuated with a white boy. The ignorance of these side stories do reduce Lakeview Terrace’s significance as character drama, but watching Wilson and Washington perform is, by no means, scutwork. They aren’t just characters, they’re people too.
But the primary motivation is Samuel L. With his charisma, he could play Adolf Hitler and be believable and likeable. He’s humorous, haunting, complex, and taciturn. Lakeview Terrace may feel like a rip off in the end, but it can also show you how far things can go when neighbours don’t like each other. And no, it’s not because one uses pesticides.
I SAY: SEE IT.
3 Stars out of 4
Toy Story is more of an age than a piece of cinema. When it first began in 1995, Andy, the toy’s shadowed owner, was just a youngster (of whom, oddly, we never got to know). As Toy Story 2 kicked around in 1999, Andy was a little older. Now he’s off to college. Toy Story 3, now if anything, is a big bowl of nostalgia. Something to bring the adults back to the good young days and something to ignite the little one’s liking for the series.
I’ve always found the Toy Story franchise to be Pixar’s most passive invention. Its emotions are light, its humour is innocuous, and its characters are one hundred percent benign. Toy Story 3, without question, is the weakest of the three and definitely the darkest. The Pixar team gives themselves perhaps too much to juggle with. But Toy Story 3 works on its hereditary charm. The first two had it, granting this one it as well. I gave Toy Story a strong three star, the second a middle three stars, and this one, well, a a weak three. You get the pattern? (continue reading…)
2 Stars out of 4
It was the fellow in the pork pie hat (you guessed it, Buster Keaton) who said “just get an idea, and once you start on the idea it will lend itself to gags and natural trouble of any kind. There is no format.” His silent comedies were seamless exercises of physical comedy. It was the human motions, tics, and nuances that made us chuckle. His strongest work Sherlock Jr. was inundated with inventive site gags and implausible scenarios that tapped in to Keaton’s cartoonish fantasies. After all, this was a fantasy about a wannabe character trying to live the life of a shamus genius.
Micmacs, agree or do not agree, resembles aspects of Keaton quips and physical wit from a Jacques Tati film. It’s not so laugh-out loud funny as it is a snickering quirk. Micmacs, directed by the talented and adroit Jean-Pierre Jeunet, is more “qu’est ce-que c’est?” than “ah oui, c’est bon!” It’s premise, or in the best word, plot, is so ambitiously drawn upon that it undermines the characters, the visual gleam, and the sharpness of the subtle comedy. Micmacs clearly caresses a feel for fantasy in its outlandish world. The circus-like stunts come off self-aware and smug, so much as to taunt our suspension of disbelief. We are not believe this is real at all.
Cinema is fantasy. Or you could put it the other way. In Micmacs, it sparingly drops hints about its actual identity as pure photoplay. We see posters superimposing its shot, letting us know what we are witnessing is really a sketch of some art or medium. We even are first introduced to the adult Bazil (Dany Boon). He watches fastidiously a romantic scene from The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart. Bazil, the laconic that he is, is a purposely vague character who we respond to according to his mimicry. He engages in life through film, repeating verses from these film noirs and working in a video store (him and Tarantino would get along). This is how we respond to him – his wit is shown through his shy yet demonstrative obsession with cinema.
Micmacs surely will not be seen by many. It does not have the comedic explicitness like this summer’s Get Him To The Greek nor does it have a mainstream appeal (as in narrative) to obvious blockbuster meals like Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood. In fact, it only made 13 million worldwide on a 42 million dollar budget. I don’t know what that is in francs, but Sacrebleu!
Micmacs would have worked as a first-person fantasy accompanied by an inventive style, but its cat and mouse plot is beyond the heavy-handed. Starting with a silent yet expressive opening, Jeunet introduces the young version of Bazil perfectly. Succinct shots showing cutaways of his harrowing reality and without being abrasive in words, Jeunet conveys the character as a silent Chaplin, minus the furry moustache. When Bazil survives some form of divine intervention, he teams up a family of ageless waifs, vagrants, and contortionists. How so? Well, one of that family’s elders introduces him to their gang. For whatever reason, let the movies remaining jokes to decide.
From then on, Micmacs is an overly creative (better word: trial and error experiment) set piece extravaganza of Mission: Impossible standards that focus more on its smug inventiveness than quirky succulency. Jeunet, without realizing, distances us from the interesting characters, to such out-of-reach borders, that the idea of Micmacs relies on audacious stunts rather than a whimsical, first-person fantasy. In his much better work ‘Amelie’, Jeunet gave us one adorable character (played by Audrey Tautou) who was impish when we dared her to be and loving when we were at our most vulnerable. Jeunet cast a spell on the characters not the cumbersome plot.
It seems in Micmacs the comedy is incumbent on its invention. Watching one implausible scenario after a while does not reenact some impromptu satire but a desperate attempt to think that our eyes are at the display of a magnificent director. Hold on, it’s not to say Micmacs is self-indulgent because ridiculous scenarios and smug outcry is Jeunet’s rules of the game. But with a plot with ambivalent stamina, the chance that each set piece will become more and more original is a stretch even for the amiable female contortionist of which Bazil becomes infatuated with. What’s the french word for contrived?
If there’s any reason to see Micmacs, it’s for its innovative wit. But when a series of character sketches becomes a set piece pragmatism, Micmacs will only deliver in its looming, flying, tongue-in-cheek camera work. But if there’s one thing Jeunet is an expert at craving is the essence of irony. It is so ironic how Bazil gets penetrated with a bullet by a company that feuds with the gunrunning neighbour responsible for Bazil’s father’s death. These motivations attempt to propel the plot, but the contrived rivalry is unconvincing, making the propeller sputter to a stop. Okay so that irony is a little jinxed but Jeunet indulges us with other flaunt ironies. It is so ironic how a group of lower-class vagrants could outsmart the prestigious yet violently greedy gun runners. Hey, how odd and ironic it is that this whole obscure fantasy is in fact a movie in itself?
This brings the meaning of Micmacs hefty falter back in perspective. With Keaton brilliance (in Sherlock Jr), he displayed his story through the lens of a big screen. His character was vicariously living his dream through a movie character. It enhanced the character’s wondrous ability along with the director’s too. Was it about the plot? No. It was about the physical nuance, the silly stunts this character could amazingly pull off. As if entering a movie was the only way to access that would-be reality. But Sherlock Jr. also ended with a message, which snubbed at its character’s wishes and cinema’s aspect of censorship.
Micmacs examines nothing really, except for a tedious conclusion that tries to put Jeunet’s actions in a context of modernity. He does not pull it off. The sense of technology should not have been what stretched out Micmacs. It should have been the characters and how their ability to stir Jeunet’s quirky cauldron vitalized the film. Getting back to that opening quote, Micmacs works until it makes it all about format. One set piece there will allude to another one still to come. Micmacs may be art, but it’s uneven focus entitles it as tedious art. Don’t you hate it when you look at such a zany piece of art and don’t what the fiddlesticks it means?
I SAY: RENT IT.
.5 Stars out of 4
Okay, so I only slightly hated the first Twilight. The Twilight Saga New Moon is such a fan boys, er, girls magnet that it seems the whole thing is an inside joke. If you read the book, you’ll get it. And yes, it’s all a joke. New Moon is indeed a painful shaggy dog story, especially for non-readers of Stephenie Meyer, an author of this apparently verbose saga. New Moon is so drained of vitality, performance, substance, character, and visual that it would require a hardcore lover of the books to enjoy. They’d enjoy it because they enjoyed the book. Whatever.
Can I separate my anger from a more benevolent quotation. Too late, I’m going to: “I have learned not to think little of any one’s belief, no matter how strange it may be. I have tried to keep an open mind, and it is not the ordinary things of life that could close it … it’s the extraordinary things, the things that make one doubt if they be mad or sane.” You know who said this? Bram Stoker, the brilliant creator of Dracula. With that work, Dracula had this emotional heart to him; as vile as he was, he was a passive bloodsucker. The quote is inspirational. We accept other people’s beliefs or pleasures on the means of the normality of it. Transcendence, for Stoker, is questionable.
New Moon has this transcendence to it. It is just so obviously bad that we cannot help but question its vast audience’s sanity. Do they really enjoy this vampyr hogwash? I mean, it’s not like I try to hate movies everyone seems to favour, but New Moon struck me. Its characters were caught up in such a bedazzled frenzy of melodrama that all I really felt was more mellow than drama. On cognitive ends, New Moon lacks any sort of logic. Every scene that happens is implausible to the non-reader of the books.
New Moon relies on a lingering romantic bond between Edward (the terrific Robert Pattinson–ha ha, I make myself laugh sometimes) and Bela (the usually stellar Kristen Stewart, who took the day off from acting adequacy). The problem is Edward is such a creep, Bella is such a dumbed-down ignorant girl that the two’s chemistry never concocts. The film on every end of the string is shallow. Director (dare I call him that) Chris Weitz tries to convince us to like these characters based off their looks, not their attitude. When Bela cuts herself, instead of pampering it with his sleeve, Jacob (Taylor Lautner, the only breath of humanity here) has to take off his shirt, tighten his chest, and then come to her aid. If I was in a theatre, I’m sure I could have heard all the girls gasp. Heck, he’s that good looking, maybe all the guys.
New Moon needs to remember its audience – mostly young, adolescent females. The film detracts itself from any real message. Bela never sticks it to the woman, she clings to either Jacob or Edward throughout the entire movie. The fact is Edward is such an eccentric arsehole that it confuses me (and it should the audience) why a) we should care b) why Bela should bother with him and c) why is his harrowing abandonment of her more funny than sentimental?
New Moon, in all, fairness, is coated with this manipulative stardust. The whole premise of a hunky, shy, and eloquent (if that’s what you want to call it) vampire sweeping you off your seat is a real fantasy for some. Even though the events that take place are so played out, makeshift drama, and more accidentally humorous (when the film continually begs for dead pan) the audience will fall in love with the film’s ‘what if?’ factor. Fantasy is the channel to so many audiences’ hearts content. New Moon works on that end. What it does not work as is a movie. It has no acceptable message for the little girls, it’s surprisingly slow, uninteresting on every spectrum, and just downright preposterous.
Bela feels she needs to endure adrenaline rushes to elude the spirit of Edward. What? This adds nothing to her character, that we begin to believe that this agonizingly long movie (just over two hours) cloyed itself out for no other reason than to stimulate its avid viewers. What do business folk call that? An embezzle of epic proportions. I know Eclipse is coming out in a few weeks, I know it will ravish the box office. But what comes first is its dignity. It will sell loads but the franchise itself is flavourless. If you don’t read or care about Twilight, then watch The Twilight Zone. If you don’t enjoy sappy vampire side stories, see Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu (one of my favourite films). If you don’t buy in to the werewolf relationships in New Moon, check out An American Werewolf In London. Heck, if you want anything good, check out anything of Transformers quality and plus.
And I know Edward. You must be staring at me with those dark-red eyes right now, bloodshot with rage. And I know Edward: Bela is so ever stubborn. And Twilight deviants can call me the same. And you know what? I’m happy that way.
I SAY: SKIP IT.
4 Stars out of 4
“If you are listening to the film, and simply watching, you will find there is little reason for speculation about the film’s meaning. This is why I have said: No allegories, no metaphors, no symbols, nothing…” — Bela Tarr
Bela Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies is so taut, so profound, and so detailed that it should require a manual guide to watching it. Moving with a slow-yielding grace, the film is worth more than just briefly witnessing because of how it conveys its events without the flinching desperation to explain its course. (continue reading…)