Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Case for Fine Print

After the failure to obtain tickets for the session of The Reader we wanted to see last week, the NotKate and I got to the ticket counter at Readings just that wee bit earlier and, though all we could get were some of those “too close to the screen” seats at the front of the cinema, at least this time, we got seats.

Of course, what everyone had come to see was an Academy Award winning performance by Kate Winslet. She planned German deflowerer Hannah, teaching young Michael lessons in love-making, if not love. Winslet has never been a shy one, and she was out of her clothes, proudly displaying her gloriously womanly curves, for the better part of the first 45 minutes. In fact, once past the initial disrobing, it was almost a European film in its skin-baring candour.

But then the second part of the film kicked in. 20 years down the after Hannah abandoned Michael, Hannah is exposed as an ex guard at Auschwitz and Michael is there with information that could reduce her sentence.

And… well, how do I proceed from here? If I over analyse the plot, the storytellers juxtapose the failure to speak out against the killing of Jews at the concentration camp with Michael’s dilemma in coming forward with what he knows, which is meant to show… well, here my problem begins.

Hannah’s decisions while she was in the SS were based on her character. She is portrayed as a fairly self contained, self-interested person, who does what is expected of her and does not really question the morality of her choices. She is fiercely proud and, if not educated, not unintelligent, but sees things in very straightforward, practical ways. The revelations about her activities during World War 2 are therefore not pleasant, but make sense given the context of her character. I have met a few people who have personalities similar to Hannah’s, and one always knows where one stands with them precisely because you know how they will interpret things: in relation to themselves first, in relation to what they are expected to do second, and there isn’t really anything further than that.

On the other hand, Michael, the lead character in the story, is portrayed as an intelligent, thoughtful person, who goes into law but gets lectures on morality by his almost purely “exposition” professor. He goes through lots of hand wringing, even visiting Auschwitz in some sort of inspiration finding mission, balancing his abandonment with his love and… well.. doing what he does. In the end, I found his complete dithering more outraging than Hannah’s confessions to fairly heinous crimes. Hannah at least did not see her actions as wrong, and was willing to admit to her actions; Michael (and his ilk) could see what the right thing to do was, but farted about for a long time rather than doing anything about it – the kind that made the “few real Nazis” (and we are always told they were in the minority) able to do what they did.

And so, as unimpressed as I was with the lead (and the older Michael… well, he had a fairly pointless presence, with some boring subplot about his daughter, even if older Michael was played by Ralph Feinnes), the film (for me) floundered whenever Winslet was not around to keep me riveted.

Reviews of the movie I had read indicated the story was “not all that”, and it wasn’t. The film did contain an amazing performance by Winslet (though personally I preferred her less “sensational” role in Revolutionary Road), but the story itself seemed overly muddied – and possibly the director got bored once everyone had to put their clothes back on again.

Verdict: The Reader demonstrates how a great actor can lift a fairly mundane plot. Of course, I am sure there are others who would disagree with my assessment completely, and I do like to think I am open to persuasive persuasion, so convince me otherwise, if you can… 6 books out of 10.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Case for MisReading

Well, the lovely NotKate may have accompanied me, but her presence was not enough to stop the session of the Reader we had intended to see being sold out.

So instead, a poetical interlude inspired by a recent day at work:

Opening of doors,
tapping of glasses,
still shaped water.
A flurry of fingers,
voices brought in from the wilderness,
the squeal of felt pens on cold white plastic.
Getting somewhere slowly,
consensus comes with time.

Verdict: Not terribly inspiring; Pam Ayers I definitely ain't. 2 stanzas out of 5.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Case for Rialto Rat Commentary

No movie review this week, but I found this in the Capital Times today and found its message quite sad and true - we lost a cinema for... well, not much thus far.

I had heard that the penthouse had already been sold, and the continued lack of progress did cause me some concern each time I passed by it, but I assumed the gods of urban development were just doing things in their usual unfathomable fashion. Now it seems more like an economic downturn kind of thing.

My original post on the demise of the Rialto is here. And here is the link for more Jitterati.

Not much else to say really!

Verdict: Sometimes, some things just seem like a waste. 1 council plan out of 5.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Case for Kiddie Nostalgia - Part 4

Right, now that I am up to number 10, I felt the need to devote this entry to a TVNZ institution of the past. This show is actually still on television right now, but (and perhaps this is just a sign of my changing demographic) it is now but a pale shadow of its former glory.

10. What Now

Despite a revival five years ago when Shavaughn Ruakere, Jason Faafoi and Anthony Daniels took the helm and brought back a sense of insanity that adults could share (rather than just gunging everything in sight), What Now? was a viewing institution in my youth, in particular the Simon, Catherine and Michelle days. Those were the days where the team mercilessly lampooned TV series of the time, and where the team obviously really enjoyed working together. Simon Barnett was the cool guy, in a not-afraid-to-make-a-tit of himself attitude, and wasn't intimidated by the fact he was surrounded by the razor sharp wit of Michelle A'Court and the obvious intelligence of Catherine McPherson. Together, they were a great combination and made getting up early Saturday mornings totally worthwhile.

I do not think that I could credit my love of lampooning on this show, but I can definitely say that this show contributed to my appreciation of the art.

DVD: Not sure if this would really fare well on DVD, though the 20 year anniversary special of What Now? (hosted by the aforementioned Shav, Jason and Anthony) was a triumph of the retrospective - even bringing back Danny Watson and Steve Parr briefly - and a fitting tribute to childhood memories.