Every list has to have an outcast – the film which divides. There are a few films out there which I often refer my friends to when they are becoming fledgling cinephiles. There are the regular choices (the Blade Runners, The Eternsal Sunshines, The Being John Malkovichs) But recently I have realised that there is a minuet gap between film curiosity and film fandom. There is a catalogue of ‘gateway’ cinema that will either make or break an up and coming film enthusiast; films such as Lars and the Real Girl, United 93, Grano Torino, and also my 3rd entry to the Shoe Box Classics series – The Beaver. Now The Beaver has become something of a marmite for critics. Some praise it up, whilst many poo-poo its ‘feeble’ attempts at reviving the careers of its director and lead actor. For me, The Beaver is a real leap for classic independent American cinema. It sits comfortably in the cannon of films such as Thomas McCarthy’s Win Win and Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Films that prove outsider entertainment does not always have to be amateur or lacking in odes to classical cinema. And although the ink is barely dry on The Beaver’s promotional material (only recently has it finished theatrical release worldwide), I think a classic is a classic regardless of how new or old it is. The Beaver is destined to sink into obscurity. But for me, it will always be the sort of film id happily lend out to friends tweaking for something different. This is what makes a Shoe Box Classic.
To a certain-“that’s an interesting story”-extent, I have always been intrigued by serial killers. Not in a creepy-avid-fandom sense, but rather from the perspective of psychological curiosity. I have always felt the need to somehow understand society’s monsters; to find some rationality in their chaos of thought and action. From a reflective standpoint, one might assume that I somehow seek to understand the irrational and illogical in an attempt to feel at ease. Maybe by deciphering the enigma of the modern maniac, I can in some way seek ‘the pattern’…’the purpose’. Which I suppose is true. In my mind, I just feel that everything can be boiled down to a core – a central spark of principle. By seeking to dismantle the carnage and context, I feel that I can, in some way, ‘get’ these people. And in turn I feel safer; I feel that I can protect myself and my family from the crippling irrationality of fear and confusion. Or maybe I’m just like everyone else, and carry a warped fascination with gore. Regardless of this, I recently stumbled upon a documentary which I feel maintains a similar purpose as my own; to deconstruct the mind of evil.
I like Dr. Seuss books. I enjoy reading them to my kids, so going to see The Lorax with my son Max was a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, especially for him. The visual effects are, as we take for granted now with animated and especially 3D movies, stunning. I have no doubt that Dr. Seuss would have been thrilled. The film is true to his visual style and to the spirit of the book. Children will like The Lorax, it is pretty, it moves fast and has lots of cute songs and a semblance of plot.
Despite the visuals, on the whole I was underwhelmed. I realize most movies come laden with a moral or social agenda, but unless it’s a documentary, it doesn’t make it better to have the “message” hold you against a wall with its fingers up your nose holes for the entire two hours. The Lorax hits you hard and fast from beginning to end with the messages that A. the Earth would be better off without people and B. corporations kill trees and harm small animals.
So yes, the guilt trip is a little disappointing. If you think about it though, most of Dr. Seuss’s books are pretty preachy. The Cat in the Hat–be good when mom’s out. The Grinch–don’t be stingy at Christmas. Green Eggs and Ham–try new food, etc. Taken in that context, The Lorax is par for course and rather than complaining I should just be glad that all the pretty pictures and fun songs make a great sugar coating for the sermonizing.
I also really appreciate the fact that The Lorax doesn’t seem to be affected by the Shrekification of animated films. It wasn’t tarnished by a single body humor joke. That said, after an hour or so with hardly a chuckle, I was kind of yearning for a good loud fart to liven things up. Rather than Shrek, The Lorax takes its queues from Tom and Jerry. Fuzzy creatures are flung mercilessly in all three dimensions at every turn in the name of humor. I’m sorry, but after movies like The Incredibles and Rango, there’s just no excuse for relying on such wanton violence to our furry friends in the name of a cheap laugh. It’s cruel and it’s just not that funny.
Still, the Lorax isn’t a total miss for adults. There are a few tender moments, some very creative animation, good music, an opportunity to spend some time with your kids and maybe even a chance to teach them that “Unless” they do their part the trees will all disappear and the Earth will be overtaken by corporate overlords in blimps.
This is not so much a review which encourages you to avoid or to see this film; it is predictably tense, Daniel Radcliffe is predictably average and all the supporting cast are predictably more engaging than he. It is an average film.
Yet there is one strange and ( at least for me) unpredictable feature of the film that made it quite interesting. It is simply this Continue reading
Brad Williams returns with another guest post
With doodies like Moneyball and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close managing to bag a few Oscar nominations, it seems appalling that so many other great films missed out on any real award recognition for the Oscars 2012. What follows are some films which I feel lost out in some way this Oscar season, with suggestions where they could have got a nomination or two. Continue reading
Another review from Brad Williams; an inveterate film buff who also writes for WhatCulture.com
These will be films which I loved, and still do, but which seem to be forgotten by most people – the type of films that sit in the DVD wall of a minority, sparingly loaned out and shared with close friends. But films none the less, which deserve true recognition. Some are reasonably current, others slightly older, but each and every one, in my view, a modern classic.
Gone Baby Gone opens like a documentary, on the sweeping yet claustrophobic streets of a Boston neighbourhood known as Dorchester. Throwing us into calm and surprisingly visceral realisms, sophomore director Ben Affleck leaves no misconceptions about his intention to ground the film in an urbanised pragmatism one comes to expect from low budget independent affairs. The two hours that follow, are not only a consummately empathetic depiction of dark human drama, but also the blossoming of a true talent in Ben Affleck. Continue reading
Brad Williams is an inveterate film buff who also writes for WhatCulture.com
Matt King (George Clooney) is a man with a lot on his plate. Sole custodian of the proverbial family gold mine, all eyes are on Matt as the deadline approaches to sell off a massive plot of Hawaiian land. To make matters worse, one month ago his wife was in a boating accident, leaving her in a coma ever since. Life before the accident was rocky and unfulfilling, but now Matt has to become the father he never knew how to be, the husband he always should have been, and the man his father always intended. Continue reading
We haven’t yet done our usual year end “best of” list for music or movies or TV of 2011, so I thought I’d do a combined list to kick off a discussion of all these categories. I’m a big fan of Metacritic, so, along with giving my own biased opinions, I’ll reprint some of their year-end lists here. Continue reading
I unfortunately was so ridiculously busy this year that I didn’t see that many movies, listen to that much music or do much at all except work. However in the spirit of new beginnings I’m hoping this year will be quite different. In that spirit I’m going to list my top anticipated films of the new year.
Feel free to call me an idiot for my picks. Or just add in your own.
Ever since I saw Orlando Bloom listed as “Legolas” on the IMDb page, I have been a bit worried, and seeing the now-released trailer further substantiated my growing concern: The very thing that made The Lord of the Rings films so great is being abandoned, and puts The Hobbit at risk of suckitude. Continue reading