Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth. - Oscar Wilde
Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Recent Films Haven't Let Me Down
It's always nice when a film that you've waited a long time to see live up to your expectations.
The first film is Hero, which I finally caught on Sunday night was excellent. Definitely one of the best films I've seen this year. It's a beautiful film, the fight scenes are art, and everything about it is like looking at a painting. Jet Li is given a chance to finally shine. It's nice to hear him speaking in his native tongue, because as much as I love the guy, whenever he speaks English I always find it somewhat painful, but in Hero he's great. The fight in the rain between Jet Li and Donnie Yen (of Iron Monkey fame) is phenomenal. All in all its a beautiful film.
Embarrassingly, the other film that I finally saw was The Silence of the Lambs. It's one of those films I've heard so, so much about. I decided, to feed my collecting bug, to get the Criterion Collection version, which is out of print and a nice collectible. So, finally tonight I sat down to watch it. What with it winning so many Oscars, and having Hopkins performance being so hyped up, I was prepared to like it, but to be underwhelmed. However, in the end the film is so good I was won over. Jodie Foster is excellent. Hopkins was excellent. Just to see that one conversation between the two was worth it. Demme builds the suspense excellently. I can see how ever serial killer film since it has tried to ape it in so many ways. It really is great.
So it's nice when those things happen and films exceed your expectations. Hopefully it'll continue for a while.
Well, I just finished watching the final episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. It was actually quite sad. From 1999 to 2004 Craig Kilborn graced televisions nightly with his own unique take on the late night talk show phenomenon. I know that a lot of people don't like Craiggers, but for me, his show was something special. I loved Craig's arrogance, his confidence, his goofy self-assured charm. I liked how he bucked the age-old late night traditions. On his show you'd find no band, a limited monologue, and a unique set. Also, who can forget such great elements such as "5 Questions", "Yambo" and "In The News" (a hold over from Craig's days on The Daily Show; yes, we have Craig to thank for the greatness that is The Daily Show).
Here's to you Craig. Cheers! I hope we see you in something again real soon.
P.S. To anyone from CBS, if you need someone to take over hosting duties, I'm free.
Well, the work on the film is now in full swing, as it will be for the rest of the week. We have rooms booked here (click on the link to see where we're staying, as well as an idea of what kind of landscape we'll be shooting in). We went out to Value Village and purchased costumes for the film, as well as did some work on props, fake arrows, blood, that sort of thing.
We also sucessfully hunted down and found a tripod for the camera, as well as an extra battery. So everything is falling into place. In a few days this is where we will be:
Well, for starters, I'm busy. Actually, that might be an understatement this past week. Basically, I was working three, yes, three, jobs, though two were for the same employer, but different payroll. That sort of thing.
Firstly, I worked my job at Sport Chek, which I'm beginning to somewhat dislike. It's not that it's such a bad place. It really isn't. But, I'm becoming more and more sure that retail is not where I belong. The pressure to sell is too much. Plus, I broke a pane of glass on one the containers. That was no fun to clean up. The second job I did for my employer from Gateway Newstands. It was to cut imported tile from India into smaller pieces for use on sample boards. Sounds facinating, doesn't it? Let me tell you it is far less glamourous than I make it seem. Though learning to use a wet saw (for cutting stone) was interesting, I also realized that I'm not really made out for manual labour. As a person who thinks far too much, I have a tendency to let my mind wander. That can be dangerous.
Finally, the newstand. I quite like it there. It's nothing special. Basically I just sell people pop, drinks, and cigarettes. However, we also sell Cuban and Dominican cigars, and learning about those has been interesting. But the thing I like about the newstand is its simplicity. It's not about selling people something, but about creating a pleasant environment where people know they can come to get their essentials and confections. Also, it consists of long periods where I just get to sit and read magazines and listen to whatever CDs I own. Heh.
So that's what I've been up to lately. This week will consist of an excursion to Grasslands National Park to film Anton's western screenplay. Should be exciting.
Also be sure to check out some of the new trailers at apple.com, one of the best sites on the entire web. In particular, I Heart Huckabees looks particularily bizzare. Should be a good fall for movies.
This weekend, in between parties, tennis, and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, I managed to catch both the big films that came out: M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, and Jonathan Demme's re-imagining of the political-thriller classic, The Manchurian Candidate. One wouldn't think that they don't have much in common. Shyamalan's film is very much in the same vein as his last three movies (few people know that he also directed two films prior to The Sixth Sense, Praying With Anger (1992) and Wide Awake (1998) neither of which I've seen). A 19th Century farming community is surrounded by a woods filled with creatures which keeps them isolated from the the rest of the world. It relies on wonderful cinematography and clever suspense to keep the audience tense. The Manchurian Candidate is a political thriller, based on the 1962 classic with Frank Sinatra, that is suspenseful, entertaining and remarkably relevant to the present times we live in.
One wouldn't think that a 19th Century village would have anything to do with a plot to assassinate a presidential candidate, but the truth is that both films are exploring something that is very similar:
A nation's fears and how they deal with them.
In The Village we learn that the creatures (again I warn ) are merely created by the elders of the village (which in reality exists in our modern world, hidden in the middle of a nature preserve. Yes, it seems like a cheap twist, but this review isn't interested in that element of the film, but what it reveals about our society). The nature of this ruse is to keep the younger generation protected from the violence and evil of the society they left. Every one of the elders has a story about a murder or other violent act that precipitated their desire to keep the village isolated. It's the classic use of fear to protect people from a danger which they don't even realize exists.
The allegorical meaning of this is obvious. It could stand for religious orders whose stories keep their adherrants fearful, but safe from the corrupting influence of "the world." The lesson for Christianity is clear, in a time when so many in the faith have attempted to form "ghettos" where their youth will be safe, but at what cost? Or, the village could be America, kept safe from the terrorism and violence of the outside world, but with "Amber Alert" systems, media hysteria, and the abolishment of civil liberties. Like the elders in Shyamalan's village, the government keeps the truth from us, scaring us into believe there are terrors out there. But what the truth is, we can't be certain. The monsters in the woods are there to protect us from other more frightening realities.
The Manchurian Candidate likewise is interested in a nation that is in the grip of fear. A presidential election while the nation is embroiled in the war on terror. Conspiracy is all around. Perhaps Manchurian Global belives that putting a sleeper agent in the White House will afford everyone safety. Perhaps it's better the monster you control than the one you don't.
There's a speech during the first half hour of the film, by the Senator Eleanor Shaw, could have come straight out of the national convention of either political party. Her assertation that America is under attack and that her son is the answer to its salvation sounds similar to assertations I've heard from both Republicans and Democrats.
And that's what American's are feeling right now. Like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Demme's Candidate is about an American that doesn't know exactly what is wrong, but is scared none-the-less. Both The Village and The Manchurian Candidate are films about societies in the grip of fear for their own protection. But what is most frightening is that in the end neither one has found a better solution.
ANDERS BERGSTROM has been writing, talking -- and blogging -- about movies, music and culture for some time now. In the past he has contributed movie and concert reviews to The Sheaf, the University of Saskatchewan student newspaper, and maintained a strong circle of film and culture loving friends.