The Island

If I'm even reviewing The Dukes of Hazard and The Island back to back, you know Angie was playing tricks with me at the Hollywood Video...

The Island follows Lincoln 6 Echo and Jordan 2 Delta as they unmask their sterile, white protected world as an organ-harvesting clone farm for the well-to-do. Lottery winners do not go to the only contamination-free tropical island left after a global epidemic, they go under the knife and are disposed of. First, they escape. Having gained their freedom, they break back in to undermine the corporate plot.

I'm sure you all know how I feel about the Bay/Bruckheimer school of filmmaking. Not my cup of tea. Yet, this is the first one that I have viewed with a real critical eye. I have to say I am a bit conflicted.

Technically, this is a great movie. Every shot is a beautiful shot. Great cinematography. Great camera direction. So slick. So perfect. However, I have seen this movie before. It was called Logan's Run. It was called Coma. THX-1138. The Matrix. 1984. Heck, they even copped the speeders from Return of the Jedi. They took anything and everything that was great or unique about those films and glossed them up.

So, if the theft is so blatant, why am I conflicted? Because Logan's Run was horrible. Coma is badly dated (directed by Michael Crichton, BTW). It's not a terrible thing for them to get an update. THX and the rest are so iconic and influential, it's tough to avoid referencing them. I've done it myself. Some of the references are so direct (the rising Red sun form the end of THX), I'll give Bay the benefit of the doubt and called them homages.

So, at this point you might say it's a wash. A movie worth seeing once, but not worth owning. Writing breaks the tie, and that can be summed up in Lincoln's first encounter with the outside world. In a dive bar on the outskirts of Tucson, Lincoln tries to find his only contact in the outside world. He is told that he is "in the can," "taking a dump." "He's in a can?!" "Taking a dump where?" "I've got to go, he's in a can, taking a dump!"

Apparantly, so was Michael Bay when this movie was written.


The Dukes of Hazard

Did I actually just watch this movie?


The Interpreter

The promotional material was all emblazoned with the phrase "A Full-Throttle Thriller." That might be reaching a bit (there is one notable explosion). The Interpreter is much more of a slow-burning thiller, tightly focused on two characters and themes of loss and forgiveness, and all the better for it. There are plot holes, yes. No doubt the cumulative effect of too many screenwriters with their hands in the material. Yet, I believe these are more than compensated for in a number of good decisions that were made.

Kidman and Penn deliver superb and subtle performances, making up for any weak points in the script by not taking it over the top. The auxilliary characters are left largely undeveloped in favor of a more measured study of these two characters, the interpreter and the secret service agent protecting her, as they deal in their own ways with thier own losses.

The political intruige is smart, and takes us inside the guerrila political landscape of a small African country. Therein, liberators become corrupt dictators, opposition forces are branded as terrorists, and even the children are armed. It would be cliche at this point to insert Middle Eastern Islamo-fascist terrorists here. The approach here is a much more novel backdrop against which to understand the lead character, and one that lends itself to an interesting interchange of language and culture.

For the first time, the United Nations allowed a film to be made on the premises. This was an incredible production challenge, as they had only late Friday night until early Monday morning to work, including staging everything through the night on Friday and tearing everything down and getting it out by early Monday morning. They went through this process fix or six weekends from what I recall in the American Cinematographer article on the film. This was the challenge of director Sydney Pollack (Tootsie, Out of Africa) and DP Darius Khondji (Se7en, The Beach, and Wong Kar Wai's next film).

Great actors, great locations, great direction and photography, great use of language. The kind of film I'd be proud to make myself.



It has snowed on and off for the last two weeks, but today was the day the snow really hit the fan.

There were four inches on the car this morning on the way to work, and very little plowing had been done. It was a slow, dangerous commute.

When I headed out for lunch, I had to clear another four to six inches off the car, and just getting out of the parking lot was tough. By the time I was done cleaning off all of the windows, the first window was covered with snow again.

In the two hours after lunch, about six to eight more inches were dumped. The parking lot had not been plowed since the morning, and the cars were just jammed in. The parking lot was a mess, with people digging out their cars by hand and pushing each other out. We're talking about close to a thousand cars, and nearly everyone was stuck. I got out with the help of three people. I stopped on my way out to help an Asian woman get out of a snowbank. It took an hour to get home (usually twenty minutes).

It's wild. Just a cold, frozen world out there. A pain sometimes, but fun, too.

We met Jeremy at Teppanyaki for dinner. We shared two california rolls, one cucumber roll, a spider roll, and a spicy tuna roll. Jeremy added a Caterpillar roll (Eel w/ Eel Sauce) and a Spicy-something for his entree. Angie and I added full Teppan meals. We all had a little chocolate ice cream for desert (they were out of coconut). The highlight was Jeremy and Angie eating Uni (sea urchin roe, the pinnacle of sushi) on a dare. I feel like I'm going to explode.

After dinner, a snowfight in the shopping center parking lot where there are massive fifteen-foot high banks of snow. Icy!


8 1/2

Fedrico Fellini's 8 1/2 is one of the most outstanding films about filmmaking, and an outstanding film by any right. This is the first Fellini film I have seen, and is widely regarded as his signature film.

8 1/2 follows Guido Anselmi, a famed director who, in the thick of pre-production on a big-budget blockbuster, loses all sense of what he is doing. What kind of film does he really want to make? What kind of story does he want to tell? Does he even want to make a film in the first place? He's lost all sense of inspiration, vision, and personal motivation. Producers, critics, agents, lovers, family, cast, and crew are pressuring him from all sides.

Guido's breakdown is conveyed in a combination of narrative, flashback, and fantasy, all so seemlessly layered as to effectively cause disorientation in the viewer. Yes, from the opening scene of the film, in which Guido psychosomatically suffocates in his car during a traffic jam, then floats away only to be pulled to Earth by a dangling rope, we know to expect anything and everything to happen in this suureal world. Thankfully, it is a whimsical journey, not heavy-handed.

The direction and camerawork are superb. Nearly all scenes involve meandering camera moves where the points of interest shift from various layers of foreground and background and then back again, with characters constantly coming and going. It's dizzying and surprising and conveys the relentless demands put upon Guido, and his inability to stay grounded.

In the end, Guido finds redemption, and we are treated to one last bit of humorous cinematic absurdity.