June 16, 2004

Batman: Prodigal

This is a distinctly old-school book, and not in a particularly appealing way. The dialogue can be downright laughable--there's nothing that says "old-fashioned comics" like a teenage boy shrilly analyzing his partner's emotions with! constant! exclamation points! The plot isn't incredibly well-put-together; there's no true plot arc, and the most complicated story ends in a puzzling manner. The art ranges from the silly to the embarrassing.

However, the ending is pure, sweet Bruce & Dick heroin, straight to the vein. If you want to know these characters, you really do need to read this book, for that reason alone.

Posted by Sarah T. at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2004

Kill Bill, v. 2; The Godfather; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Catching up on (fairly) recent viewing...

Kill Bill: If I tell you that my favorite Tarantino film isn't Pulp Fiction, or even Reservoir Dogs, but rather Jackie Brown, you'll probably be able to guess that I found Bill overrated. As for the gender roles, I was discussing them with a friend:

FRIEND: You didn't like his portrayal of women as cold-blooded killers?
ME: No, I actually found that rather inspiring. What bothered me was that they had no agency of their own; all that killing was for their men or for their kids, never for themselves.
FRIEND: *edges away*

Still, there's no doubt that Tarantino has a gift for crystallizing a visual of ineffable cool out of the older styles he pillages. David Carradine was a delight, even if his ramblings could have been trimmed a bit. Occasionally, Tarantino even slips into humanizing the characters; the sequence of the Bride punching her way out of her coffin had a surprising emotional resonance for me--enough that I went to see it twice during finals.

The Godfather: A review of this movie seems superfluous, and I don't have time for a longer meditation on the way its enduring popularity makes me despair as a feminist (the film itself is not misogynist, but the way the male audience has embraced it as a patriarchal fantasy is deeply depressing). What struck me this time through is that though the subject matter is now well-worn (and one can't fault Coppola for originating ideas that became so popular as to turn into cliches), the film-making is still fresh, vivid, strong, accessible. For all of his saturated color, there's still a tremendous subtlety to the direction that I really appreciated as I tried to figure out how he achieved various effects.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: The first of the HP films to attempt an actual adaptation. The more I think about it, the more the structure of the film seems excessively loose to me, and there would be a million perceived loose ends for someone who hadn't read the book. The film finds the emotional truth of the book, however, and the cinematography offers gloriously melancholy support. Daniel Radcliffe continues to grow into his role--I find Harry's wordless but clearly very deep affection for Hermione to be particularly touching--and Gary Oldman and David Thewlis have trawled through the odd material Rowling offers them to produce appealingly coherent characters in Sirius and Remus.

I'm at a loss as to how they're going to successfully film the next book, nearly three times the length of Azkaban, but at least I'm back on board with the franchise, after dropping it out of sheer boredom after the first one.

Posted by Sarah T. at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2004

Grand Illusion

This is a difficult film to evaluate if you don't simply take it as read that it's a classic. Film ended up developing in a direction different from Renoir's, and so his techniques can seem dated. His characters, for all their strikingness, are broadly-drawn types rather than individuals realized in detail; this approach to characterization meshes oddly with Renoir's gentle, intimate camera, which insinuates itself into a scene rather than commanding it. Except for a handful of memorable shots, scenes drift to a close rather than being punctuated. The soundtrack is sparing, and though sometimes this silence is effective, sometimes it's simply an absence.

Nonetheless, Grand Illusion is a sad and lovely piece in its own way. Its very mildness conveys its anti-war message without shrillness. Its view of war is at once timeless and immediately of its moment (1937). You feel the futility and inevitability of war, the endless cycle of modern European history, and at the same time you feel the change in the air. Watching it now is a singular exercise in historical irony; the aristocratic characters lament the war's (that is, WWI's) overthrow of a centuries-old gentlemen's code of battle; I believe Renoir meant us to understand that the code itself was nothing more than an illusion, but here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, it's an illusion we don't even recognize except as a historical artifact.

In these times, I think it's worth peering into older views of war. You just might learn something.

Posted by Sarah T. at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Eh. Sorceror's Stone was sufficiently mechanical that I never bothered to see this til now. CoS has the same flaws--it's not a horrible movie, just relentlessly uninspired. Director Columbus has a remarkable skill for blunting the impact of any notable moment; he somehow manages to film it at just the wrong angle, or from too far out, or with a flat delivery from the actor, or with poorly-chosen soundtrack.

A few notable points: Kenneth Branagh is hysterical as Gilderoy Lockhart. Dan Radcliffe shows some real flashes of talent--or at least good inhabitation of the character--at various points. And, of course, Alan Rickman's Snape continues to be a delight, if not the Sex God of Slytherin that fanfic mysteriously turns him into.

The class and race implications of the books are even more painful on the screen. Like The Talented Mr. Ripley, CoS comes across as mostly a cautionary tale about the failure of the upper class to properly assimilate the most talented members of the lower classes, only, as Livia points out, "with less gay sex." And how tone-deaf do you have to be to name a race of slaves house-anythings?

Posted by Sarah T. at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)