Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Case for Exorcisms

Well, I went to The Spirit, and on the way out, I imagined what the people who made the film had intended.

I imagined they thought the film was going to be humourous. I imagined they thought the cinematic style of draining most of the colours from the screen would be reminiscent of
Sin City without being quite so dark. I imagined the 1930s pulp hero style male character blended with some modern strong and sexy female characters would appeal to men and women alike. I imagined they thought there film would be edgy, but still accessible to a PG13 audience. And I am sure they imagined that letting Samuel L Jackson rant and rave with the ravishing Scarlett Johanssen as his sidekick would have to be a winner.

It's a good thing I have a decent imagination, because in reality, the Spirit sucked.

No, that is not altogether fair. It did have some things going for it: whatever one might think of her merits as an actress, one cannot deny that Eva Mendes has a spectacular butt. And the spectacular Sarah Paulson is always amazing value, though, in a bitch slap to audiences everywhere who thought she could rescue this film, she is criminally underused.

There is no point regurgitating the plot as it really didn't look that good going down in the first place. Slow, ponderous, confused by all the different types of film it tries to be, the Spirit looks glossy but is as vapid and empty as the movie's title would suggest.

Verdict: Guess what? This one is being panned. The Spirit doesn't stand a ghost of a chance before this judge. One and a half Caspers out of five.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Case for Aging Backwards

Never let it be said that the Judge does not listen to your pleas.

T'was with a large throng in a crowded cinema that I sat down to see the very, very long film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

As I think back over the plot, it actually seems a lot like a V.C. Andrews novel: a young abandoned boy finds mildly forbidden love at a young age with a ballet dancer, and then discovers a hidden fortune; and of course the main lovers are fantastically good looking, with not-so-good-looking mini-loves and colourful characters along the way. Luckily, there are no melodramatic cries of "Devil Spawn!" in this romantic drama though - it is all sentimental soppiness and soft focus lenses. In fact, the characters are all so nice that there is never even the possibility of b!tch fights breaking out, and interpersonal conflicts are rarely seen and never last.

And I really liked it. The ridiculously handsome Brad Pitt ages backwards, passing the luminous Cate Blanchett on his way down to infancy. The make up and digital aging effects are amazing, though I did wonder if the "old" Brad was a cross between current Brad and Gollum, so big were his eyes on his wizened head. I did love how Tilda Swinton's character was described as "very plain", as, while I concede she is not a traditional beauty, she definitely has an acute angular symmetry about her that would definitely take her looks into the "interesting" category.

Of course, the focus of the film shows youth as the more beautiful time in one's life, with age shown as sagging and wrinkly, but the way the film deals with life and death is touching, despite my best efforts to try and ignore the obvious ploys used. The montage of time spent by the love birds sailing about and spending life together is particularly saccharine, but beautiful and engaging (dammit!) nonetheless.

Overall, while the film is really, really long, it doesn't feel it (well, most of the time). The leads are always engaging, and the story mostly makes you forget how far-fetched a lot of it is - I kept expecting that Victoria Principal or a L'Oreal representative was going to pop up and feast on Brad's still beating heart to obtain his power of rejuvenation. And it is sweet, and soppy. And possibly Oscar-worthy.

Verdict: If you switch your critical brain centres off and wallow in the Southern sentimentality, you will probably love this film as much as I did. 80 Years out of 100.