Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Quick movie notes

Saw a rash of movies last weekend with SL and AM...

  • Collateral: Michael Mann brings us another slickly glittering, trashy thriller that nevertheless manages to surprise with bursts of lyricism. Also, great soundtrack. p.s. My brief experience with Los Angeles nurtured no love for that city in my heart, but Mann makes it look gorgeous, mysterious, compelling, even to this jaded expat New Yorker. Quite a trick.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Pretty visuals. Snappy dialogue. Acceptably entertaining story, which faithfully replicates the plotting of an old-fashioned pulpy comic book. Absolutely featherweight, with not an ounce of pretention to be anything else, and therefore unobjectionable in itself; however, I suspect that the movie's success augurs the rather odious prospect that writer/director Kerry Conran will be given free rein to produce a string of even more comic-book-geeky, obsessively detailed, and thoroughly empty reconstructions of his fantasies. One movie of this sort is harmless fun. Ten movies of this sort, without a single idea or even a genuine emotion among their pretty little heads, would be a colossal waste of animators' talent and labor.
  • Also caught the tail end of Seattle's first annual Independent South Asian Film Festival:
    • Autumn's Final Country: a deeply affecting documentary, shot in bare-bones style, in the format of four 15-minute face-to-face interviews with South Asian women. The women directly address the camera and matter-of-factly tell their stories of displacement, violence, abduction, slavery, etc. in Kashmir.
    • Above film was preceded by the short Battle for Blue Gold, a no-budget 20-minute short about how Coca-Cola's Indian subsidiary is illegally polluting and draining a local village's water supply. I found this film interesting but ultimately frustrating, as the budget limitations prevented the filmmaker from doing much research beyond interviewing the village women. The BBC and others have covered this issue in greater detail.
    • Indian Cowboy: the festival's closer. Most festivals reserve the closing spot for a film that's expected to be a big draw, to send the festival out with a bang. So it's probably understandable that they chose a rather conventional romantic comedy feature that allegedly sends up Bollywood conventions. (All the hipsters know that Bollywood movies are fun! It was in Ghost World!) Unfortunately, Indian Cowboy sucks. It's probably one of the worst movies I've seen this year, which is saying rather a lot, since I watch a lot of movies. Boring, interminable, predictable plot, triter-than-trite dialogue, sloppy pacing, lackadaisical and confused character development. Gaaaagh.
    • Above was preceded by Portrait of an American Hostess, a low-budget short that, although rather obvious at times, still had effective moments, plus a generally deft feel for character that was sorely lacking in the feature that followed it.

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