Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

I finally figured out what was wrong with this movie.

First, it was a great movie. It was fun. It held my attention every single moment from the beginning of it until the end. But even so I have to admit that some of the less than fabulous reviews have a point. The movie is missing something.

Mostly, it seemed to me that it was missing a big payoff at the end. It was great while it was happening, but when it was over it was just over. Some critics said it could have been Cowboys vs. anything... that the aliens were pointless.

Anyhow, I figured it out. I figured out where the essential mistake occurred when they made this movie.

They failed to identify whose story it was.

It was Ella Swenson's story. It was the alien's story. In the trailers they have her explaining that the aliens killed "her people" and you suspect that she's Native American. She's not. Her "people" are an alien race.

But because they did not make it her story, the pay-off when she sacrifices herself to destroy the alien ship has no emotional oomph. Is is not, actually, a pay-off at all. There is no real reason for her to want to protect the humans at so dire a price, other than not wanting the aliens to win another one. But since she only stops one scouting group from destroying one planet instead of revenging herself on the entire alien race, it sort of lacks strength.

Doc and Jake and Woodrow have wonderful stories. As I said, it was riveting.

But Ella was just sort of there. How did she get to Earth? Did she have a choice? How long had she been here? Why didn't she have any technology? Why was she willing to sacrifice herself for humans?

It was her story, and we had no emotional investment in her at all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Proof Lileks is Brilliant

He agrees with me. :-)

It's amazing how brilliant someone sounds when they say something that you've said yourself a million times, but with new and different words.

The movie Silent Running is a "peaty slab of crap" he says. And I'm all... that's brilliant! "Peaty slab of crap" is exactly the phrase I've been looking for all of those times when I wanted to express just how stoopid that movie is. How often can you use the word "stoopid" without it getting old? Peaty slab of crap!

Or it could be that the movie itself is brilliant, if you look at it from the right direction. The proper direction. If you look at it as a skewering of the modern environmental movement it's got every single thing it needs. Lileks mentions the most egregious detail...

"Gosh: you’re orbiting a planet beyond Jupiter, and there’s insufficient sunlight to keep trees happy. Who could have seen that coming."

Because Silent Running is a movie about the environment that was written, produced, directed and acted by a cadre of self-righteous gaia lovers who had never in their entire lives so much as attempted to plant a tomato. These are the Earth Lovers and Tree Huggers that condemn "factory" farms and scold us all to buy organic and think it's beautiful when third world people undertake "sustainable" hand labor and live in mud huts in harmony with nature and see themselves as virtuous for buying a few of these products while they live with modern convenience, flush toilets and air conditioning.

I wasn't much past my teen years when I saw the movie Silent Running, but it left an impression. I knew that plants needed various light levels, among other things. I knew the tomatoes wouldn't grow under the trees. I knew that the shaded understory had different trees growing in it than the sun drenched canopies. And I could not conceive of any adult person competent to get through their day without assistance not knowing what I knew.

And yet, they exist.

They walk among us.

Oh, and did you hear Al Gore is back to lecturing us about the planet? Do you suppose that HE has ever grown a tomato?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Movie: The Eagle

Has anyone seen this and want to discuss it? I watched it last night and although the movie itself wasn't disturbing, I kept on trying to figure out what they'd done wrong, why it didn't work as well as I thought it ought to have worked. I woke up in the middle of the night with a bug in my head trying to figure it out.

To start with just one tiny nit: This was a good example of why you should put your skeptic in the movie instead of on the couch watching the movie.

In The Eagle, Marcus and Eska travel northward through the non-Roman parts of Brittan keeping Marcus's Roman identity secret. Both my husband and I were waiting for someone to cry out "Roman!" and point at the tack on the horses as evidence. Neither of us knew that they hadn't changed Roman tack for what would be normal in the area they were traveling but there was nothing in the movie indicating that anyone had worried about it. (My husband thought that the fact that they even had horses would have made everyone suspicious of them.) They weren't shown making efforts to disguise Marcus's sword or his patrician's haircut. He didn't even let his beard grow. The only thing done, as far as was mentioned in the movie, to hide Marcus's nationality was to have Eska do all the talking.

Someone in the movie should have worried about the horses, the saddles and bridles, hiding the sword, and Marcus's hair cut. If someone had worried about those things, my husband and I sitting on the couch wouldn't have had to, even if not a single wardrobe element in the movie was changed.

My "issues" with the production go on from there, mostly having to do with storytelling, narrative and symbolic elements.

Anyone seen it? Have any thoughts?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Combat Hospital

I finally got my nerve up to watch the three episodes of Combat Hospital that are on Hulu.

I dreaded even trying to watch them, knowing that there was no way that either the US military or our presence in Afghanistan could possibly be subject to a television show without the producers making sure they didn't come across as uncritical of either of them.

Joy of joys... the show is Canadian.

The main characters/doctors are Canadian. One is a civilian Brit. One is American. The head nurse is American and a number of other characters are American but probably the same number are Canadian or British. The "gone native" special ops guy is American. The shadowy unidentified (CIA, undoubtedly) is in the back-ground (I don't care about that as the special ops guy is obviously a hero).

What being Canadian does is allow them, in one of the very first episodes, to have a situation where a soldier is shot in a friendly fire incident and the good guys *cover it up*. I didn't catch if the squad involved were Brits or Aussies. In any case, because this isn't US, the show seems able to explore some of the realities and ambiguities of what is right and wrong (the new doctor didn't think there was any question that if someone was shot by one of ours that someone had to pay - and the show portrayed her as idealistic but naive.)

There is no way a US show could do this. And there is no way that this show, with it's "coalition" of various nationalities, can be seen as not speaking to the American presence in Afghanistan and the character of the *good* people in OUR military.

MASH was a Korean commentary on the Vietnam war.

The is a Canadian commentary on America... and from three episodes it seems to me that the commentary is positive.

It would be great if this show got an audience.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Watched lots of movies this week

The Warrior's Way - I liked this a whole lot. Very stylized. Very Eastern. Thoughtful, too. Still, if you're put off by the thought of mystical ninjas, cowboys and a cast of circus people, you probably shouldn't challenge yourself.

Unknown - Good enough. I sort of hate to be so tepid over it, because there wasn't anything wrong with it. About half way through, though, I leaned over to my husband and whispered into his ear (since we were with friends) "Bourne Identity."

Sucker Punch - I suppose this was interesting and supposed to be artistic, maybe Sin City-ish or something. I didn't see the problems that the critics complained about. But I can't complain about what bothered me without spoiling the end... Oh, what the heck. I'll spoil the end. Right at the beginning we see the girl getting a lobotomy. We then spend the entire movie in her multi-layered fantasy world hoping that she doesn't get the lobotomy. She gets the lobotomy. The End.

Battle: LA - I bought *shoes* to wear to this movie and we never made it to the theater. Extra high spiky heels, bright yellow with black polka dots and turquoise trim. I have never owned such awesome and totally impractical shoes. And then we watched it on On Demand and I forgot to wear my shoes. Which is really sad, because I wouldn't have had to walk in them or anything.

This movie had me the moment the young guys call out taunts as they sprint past the MSgt, who up until that point was looking mighty fit indeed. My husband called it a Marine recruiting commercial, and I can't disagree. But lets not say that like it's a bad thing. The Marines were individuals and well drawn... and thinking about the strategic situation. The gal from the Air Force didn't use a two syllable word when a three syllable word would do. Best, they pushed through to victory. I don't know why people think that a downer ending is more valid than one that makes you feel good.

I Am Number 4 : This was fun. About what I expected. A lot of Roswell. A bit of Kyle XY. Maybe even a shade of Edward and Bella. My husband said it played like a pilot, which is true. Apparently it's based on the book, instead of the book being based on the movie, so I may check it out.

Adjustment Bureau : Meh. The best thing about it was the Scooby-Doo "come out a door you didn't run in to" chase scenes. Those were rather fun. Whatever larger theological question of slavery vs. free-will that was meant to be explored, and I could see it was meant to be there, sort of got lost somewhere between the Scooby-Doo doors.