Poor old Michael Mann. Here he was getting ready to make what was going to be the Lawrence of Arabia/Citizen Kane of cops-and-robbers movies, and he thought he had the legendary Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino working together for the first time. What happens? They pull a switcheroo on him and stick him with the world’s worst Pacino impersonator. Continue reading →
You have the power to kill but not negotiate. In Somalia, killing is negotiation.
Ridley Scott’s fact-based epic is probably the most patriotic anti-war movie ever made. It successfully honors the men and their mission, while simultaneously acknowledging the politics that ultimately made their sacrifices rather futile in the end. It may be the first modern war movie about a truly modern war and watching it now, I realize that the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue have either not seen this movie or have at least never internalized the lessons from the events depicted. The prior tenant may have learned the wrong lesson from the Battle of Mogadishu, but at least he was paying some attention.
Nine Lives is the movie equivalent of an anthology of short stories, incorporating the tales of nine women whose lives have trapped them inside personally untenable situations. It’s also a stylistic experiment, because each story is filmed in a single, unbroken eleven to fifteen minute take. This unique approach turns each episode into a one act play. It also gives the stories an immediate, fly-on-the-wall quality that heightens the sense of reality onscreen.
The stories themselves lack any grand, life-changing arc that you expect from more conventional movies. These are moments out of nine lives (natch) captured voyeuristically. The script by writer/director Rodrigo García captures the natural rhythms of the way people talk (rather than the way movie characters talk). The characters are sharply etched portraits of largely unremarkable, but compelling people we might know, but in shoes we’re glad we’re not walking.
The team behind Paul Haggis‘ Crash said they were out to polarize people and, well, mission accomplished. This film made its share of both “ten best” and “ten worst” list for last year. You don’t divide critical opinion to that degree without swinging for the fences and, if Crash is not quite a home run, it definitely has warning track power.
Crash takes an Altman-esque look at the often bumpy interrelations between persons of different ethic backgrounds living in Los Angeles. Using a large, diverse cast, the film examines how they are all, in turn, victims of other people’s preconceived notions about their particular ethnicity and then turn around and, without thinking, inflict the same treatment on others.
Contact is a nobly intentioned but ultimately unsatisfying adaptation of Carl Sagan’s only novel. It details the circumstances surrounding the first clear sign of intelligent life in outer space and their effects on the life of a young and idealistic radio astronomer named Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster).