In some ways this movie is the cinematic equivalent of artificial insemination using a dead man’s swimmers. A.I. had been on Stanley Kubrick’s back, front, and middle burners at various times since the early seventies. For a while, it looked like it wouldn’t see the light of day until development hell froze over and, when Kubrick kicked it after completing Eyes Wide Shut, it seemed inevitable that A.I. would forever remain as Kubrick’s great “lost” project.
If Fox’s 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! was a little too academic and dry, then Michael Bay’sPearl Harbor is simply all wet. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve rarely seen a movie find more ways to put the wrong foot forward. The tacked-on romantic triangle makes Titanic look like Jane Austen and Shakespeare combined. The historical accuracy is slightly more suspect than O.J. Simpson. The special effects turn one of the most solemn moments in American history into a video game.
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.
Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish anti-war epic Apocalypse Now actually began its journey to screen in the late sixties when Über-macho filmmaker John Milius attempted to meet the challenge presented to him when he was informed that no one had successfully adapted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, although several had tried, including luminaries such as Orson Welles. His original screenplay was true to Milius’s conservative, pro-military outlook, containing a great deal of praise for the warrior lifestyle and nothing but contempt for the hippies he saw protesting against the Vietnam War.
The first film of the Lord of the Rings trilogy had a tall order to fill. It had to establish the complex fantasy universe of Middle Earth and the peoples who inhabit it, while putting the story of the Ring into motion and accomplish this in the amount of time you could reasonably expect an audience to sit still for a movie. It probably would have been no problem to make a ten-hour film out of the first book alone.
The Royal Tenebaums is a masterfully-executed, unconventional little film starring some of our best actors, all at the top of their game, all playing characters I wanted to strangle by the middle of the picture. It’s an odd feeling to so thoroughly admire the craft with which a film was made, while still hoping for a Roland Emmerich-sized catastrophe to obliterate the city in which these characters live.