So, it’s three months into 2010, and I still haven’t done all of my 2009 movie reviews…So, let’s get on with it.
But first, an update on Fij: Work has been stalled a bit recently. But I hope to get back on it soon. The next feature I hope to implement will be a bit difficult to…uhm…implement. Trees.
Alrighty then, on to the reviews…
So, I’m sure by now, everyone in the world and their mom has seen Borat. It was undoubtedly a great film, with an honest-yet-scathing look at the heart of America’s xenophobic culture during the last decade. Sacha Baron Cohen was deemed a comedic god, and everyone wondered what he would do next. So Bruno is a little of that, and a lot of something else.
Whereas Borat on the surface appeared to poke fun at Middle Easterners, underneath the surface of offensive Kazakhstanian stereotypes, the movie was really poking fun at Americans. Much of the joy that came from the scenes in Borat was the sense that the people Cohen was duping really just deserved what they were getting. They never seemed to see Borat as anything other than innocently uncultured.
The picture in Bruno is much different. Not only is Bruno a flaming gay stereotype which will quite easily offend the entire gay community, but as an audience member, you never really feel as if the people deserve what they’re getting. It’s mostly painful to watch, with little reward for your suffering. (I mean, what did Ron Paul do to deserve that?)
So, Bruno doesn’t just make homophobes uncomfortable, he makes everyone uncomfortable. This just makes Bruno into a rather unlikable fellow on-screen. In Borat, there were comments that the unwitting participants would make that truly shocked me. I couldn’t believe how ignorant people were, and I was amazed at how these people reacted to Borat in a natural way. But in Bruno, I can completely understand why everyone is freaked out or annoyed at Bruno. He’s annoying! He’s a prick. Of course you’re gonna be pissed off at someone who’s rubbing your back and telling you “Good job…” while you’re having sex with a girl at a swinger’s party. It’s not just homophobia, it’s just douchebaggery. The whole affair becomes more of a big prank, than it is anything else.
Sure, there are moments in the film that really work, but those aren’t the parts dealing with homophobia, which is certainly the main thrust of the film’s themes. The parts that work deal with the hollywood culture, and the desire for celebrity. Seeing parents eagerly sign off their infants to be covered in bees or exposed to dangerous chemicals, as long as their children will be seen in a photograph. That was quite telling. It’s not as if I needed someone to explicitly tell me that, what with Toddlers in Tiaras doing an excellent job of showing the seedy underbelly of Mom’s living vicariously through their daughters “beauty.” But it was still quite funny, and for a different reason that the majority of the film. Bruno himself is not a very humorous character. Borat was funnier and more likeable than Bruno, yes, but I don’t believe that that was the key to the success of the film. The film succeeded because of the performances of the everyday people. The reactions were really what made the film special. Bruno falls flat in this department, nothing is learned from this brutal homophobic escapade that I couldn’t have already guessed. Yes, rednecks don’t like gay people, this is a shame. But Bruno isn’t winning any points for the team. He’s just a joke.
It made me laugh. There were a few thought-provoking scenes, but the film never achieves it’s goal of showing homophobic America just how wrong it is. If anything, this movie has simply done a disservice to the gay community, by giving mainstream America another negative stereotype to add to their collective unconsciousness.
World’s Greatest Dad
Everyone else is way ahead of me. They all just download their movies off the internet, or rent them from Redbox for one night. They sit on the comfort of their couches and download their movies from Netflix, or grab the discs out of the mail. Well, this was the first time that I tried the “new media” model. I saw a trailer for World’s Greatest Dad while browsing, and I decided to download it on Zune and watch it.
So, simply enough, World’s Greatest Dad is about the world’s worst father, played by Robin Williams. William’s performance is really what carries this film. Without it, the movie would probably be nothing.
I can’t really say anything terrible about the film, the ending is good for not being depressing, without being terribly out of place. The overall story is dark and funny. There’s also a certain discomfort involved in watching the story unfold, as William’s character loses his grip on his own ghost-written infamy.
The story is interesting for it’s take on the perils of fame, and the eternal suffering of the starving artist. It’s not the most influential film I’ve ever seen. But it’s not a mindless teenage-sex-drive-fueled comedy either. It’s very adult, and very modern. It’s a movie that should be appreciated for what it is, but I’m not certain exactly what it is not. Either way, I can only suggest that you watch the trailer and just decide whether you want to watch it or not.
It won’t change your life, but you won’t regret seeing it. But then again, you most likely won’t regret not seeing it either.
The Princess and the Frog
When I was a kid, I grew up watching Disney animated movies. This is just a fundamental experience shared by many kids of my generation. As I got older, I sort of drifted away from those films, and Disney drifted with me. The only kids films that I’ve watched recently have been Pixar films. Apart from being stuck watching Monsters Vs. Aliens. So it was certainly refreshing to hear that Disney was going back to the drawing-board, literally. CG films are great for what they are, but there’s a certain charm to hand-drawn animation that I have missed for a long time.
I don’t really know whether it’s just nostalgia, or the actual merits of The Princess and the Frog that caused me to enjoy it. It’s certainly the former which encouraged me to see the film in the first place. The overall story is definitely rather predictable, but that doesn’t prevent the ride from being an enjoyable one. The cast of characters are all…well…characters. They’re quite memorable, and they each have their own quirks.
If there’s one thing that I found very odd about the film, it was it’s tone. Princess and the Frog is much darker than any Disney film that I remember seeing. As a child I was given nightmares by Disney films on more than one occasion, so I can’t imagine the horror that children seeing this film had to endure during their sleeping hours. There’s a lot of spooky voo-doo stuff going on in this movie, and there’s a tragic death. So, basically it’s fodder for childhood insomnia.
I had heard some rumors in negative reviews that the film was misogynistic, but I didn’t really get that out of the story at all. I mean, the main character is a girl, and it’s not like there’s some man in the story who’s beating her and holding her down. I guess whoever wrote that comment must’ve been a militant feminist or something, because the only potentially offensive thing I found was that she falls in love with a man and gets married. I guess that’s sexism these days.
It’s a good ride, and it fits quite well into the current line-up of Disney films. But it’s not terribly original, and doesn’t do a whole lot to differentiate itself from the classical Princessy Disney-fare.
Up in the Air
Now, I never saw Juno, or Thank you for Smoking. But I can tell you that I am certainly excited to see them both after seeing this film. George Clooney is superb as always, and the other performances are quite top notch.
The film is a dark comedy about a man who spends his life flying around the country firing people. However, as he’s getting older, he finds himself becoming obsolete. Technology is replacing him. The legacy is dying. The movie is a coming-of-age story for a generation which never really grew up. It may be a film which doesn’t quite speak to my generation. But it’s an honest story that feels very real. Clooney’s character is a real charmer, and it’s sad to see the way his life is going in the story.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t really end well, but then again it does. It’s more of an ending in which the main character has received all the tools he needs to be happy. Although he doesn’t actually appear happy in the film, and many sad things happen along the way. Clooney’s character is finally able to come back home and be part of his family, and he’s finally able to give up his life-style of non-attachment.
The movie is inventive and honest. The characters are interesting and feel very real. The story is quite reflective of reality, for good or bad. But underneath the mellow ending, there’s a message of hope for disenfranchised people.