Movies: Hurt Locker

This is the first year in a long time that I didn’t watch the Academy Awards as they aired and treat it like a national holiday. Part of the reason for that was A) I hadn’t seen many of the nominees and B) The ones I had seen were not spectacular.

Tonight I watched the Hurt Locker, because I thought, hey — Best Picture. It’s a must see. I have to admit, I’ve had the DVD from Netflix lying around the apartment for weeks. I watched the first half hour a few weeks ago and wasn’t hooked. So I kept it hoping I’d hear something that would amp up my interest. The Best Picture Oscar definitely did that. So I finished it tonight.

It was good. But in my opinion, it was not Best Picture material. It may have been an honest look at the Gulf War situation (who knows?), and that is valuable historically. But. In watching it, I didn’t feel much. This is saying a lot because I am one of the most emotionally sensitive people on the planet. If there was something big to get, I would have gotten it and probably cried.I felt numb.

Even during the most emotional parts of the movie, I felt numb. And perhaps that was part of the point. That these guys get so desensitized that they are numb. I kept wanting to feel the same type of thing I felt when watching Full Metal Jacket or even Good Morning Vietnam. But what I felt overwhelmingly was detachment. I think that’s unfortunate, because I want to understand this war on a level that is beyond the evening news. I want to know what they’re going through. I want to sympathize. But maybe they also feel detached and that was part of the point of the movie. I don’t really know.

I think one’s perspective rests on your political view. I personally think it’s a pointless war, waged on the notion of the U.S. needing oil and anchors in that region. I think we really were not all that concerned with the way Sadaam treated his people. It was a happy coincidence that us invading helped some of them. I would bet that the years long occupation has not been all that much better. And I would bet that we are fostering a hostility that will come back to bite us in the ass. And this is common sense type of thinking that doesn’t even require intelligence knowledge or any real super powers of deduction to figure out.

I’ll admit that I”m as much in the dark as everyone else as to the conditions over there. What people must go through. I think one of the big differences in this war is that we have not had a draft, and everyone who is there is there of their own accord. I know as well as most people that there are certain segments of the population who are more likely to enlist than others. And I think it’s unfortunate that some people are made to feel that’s their only way out of American society where they come in close to last.

I had a conversation once with a dear friend in Asheville who lived through Vietnam and also had a child in the military currently. I asked her why she thought people were so much more adamant about protesting that war than this one. She said she thought, simply, it all boiled down to the number of casualties. In Vietnam, so many people participated and so many died. It was hard to find someone on this continent who had not been affected by it. She said we simply hadn’t lost enough people in this war yet for the nation to be up in arms. That’s partly due to technology.

But at what point is it enough to matter? I personally know people who have fought and died. They thought they were helping to defend their nation. But does that really have anything to do with it? I pleaded with one friend not to enlist, holding on to him in the parking lot of the grocery store when he told me he was leaving. I said, “So many people are dying over there. Please don’t go.” He said, “I have to do something. I have to go.” I can’t fathom what makes people think it’s a winnable situation or that we can really accomplish anything.

At any rate, The Hurt Locker was not what I would have voted for for Best Picture. There were at least six movies I would have chosen over it.

At the very least, I thought they should have included a disclaimer that we are not at war in Iraq over 9-11. Unfortunately some of the best 9-11 movies about that day have falsely alluded to the notion that we invaded Iraq over the World Trade Center. Not true. They had nothing to do with it. It was all about the oil. It’s usually about a commodity. Nowadays people are too stupid to put two and two together unless someone else (Brian Williams, Glen Beck) does it for them. And they won’t.

I guess one of the overwhelming things about the movie was that watching it, you’d have no idea why we were there. And that’s pretty accurate.

Personally I would have voted for District 9. I thought it had way better things to say about society and how we react to those who are different from the norm. And how we think we’re on the right side until we aren’t.

Movies: District 9

District 9 is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. I only realized yesterday (Oscar Night) that it was nominated for four Academy Awards. Unfortunately, it didn’t win anything. But, as they say, it’s an honor just to be nominated! I was a huge fan of the unknown cast, because I think it helps the viewer concentrate more fully on the story. And the story in this movie is so layered and thought-provoking.

Sara Vilkomerson of The New York Observer wrote in her review, “District 9 has the aesthetic trappings of science fiction but it’s really more of a character drama, an examination of how a man responds when he’s forced to confront his identity during extraordinary circumstances.” It’s one of the most important questions in life, and one we seem to have much difficulty with — this notion that it’s not the situation that defines your life, but your response to the situation.

I feel like the movie is more enjoyable the less you know about it going in, so I’m not going to say anything else. But I highly recommend it!

Friday Film Fest: The Reader

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I have loved Kate Winslet ever since the moment her perfectly pale face appeared from underneath that ginormous hat in Titanic. She is so very underappreciated as an actor. Along the same lines as Rachel Weisz. Love her. And y’all know how much I love Ralph Fiennes already. The Reader is the best movie I’ve seen in quite some time, and I personally think it should have received Best Picture for 2008. I was hesitant to watch this at first, because the previews made it look like such a downer. And even though there was sadness and it involved stuff about the Holocaust, I didn’t find it to be depressing. I was captivated by the performances. I really liked how philosophical, moral, and ethical questions are raised but the viewer is left to think about the answers on their own.

Film Fest Friday: Slumdog Millionaire

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I always feel bad, like a big snob, when I diss movies that have been officially categorized as excellent. I know it’s all subjective. And I’m not one of those critics who will diss a movie simply because it has been popular. Popular has its place. I feel the same way about music. I am not above yelling out some N*Sync lyrics in my car while doing the accompanying hand motions. I am less forgiving about books. There are a lot of books that are just not worth your time. I don’t care if it was a best seller.

But I watch A LOT of movies. And while I enjoy the occasional mind oreo, I really appreciate a truly great film. Every once in a while, Stephen King (etc) is okay, but there are so many Pulitzer Prize winners and so little time! Slumdog Millionaire was entertaining, had a good story, is definitely worth watching. The story is told mostly in flashbacks from childhood. I found the performances of the children who acted in the movie to be much more compelling than those of the adults. I was sort of disappointed whenever the childhood flashbacks would cut back to the present.

I never really connected with any of the characters on an emotional level, and maybe if I had cared about them more, I would have enjoyed it more. I didn’t love any of them, but I didn’t hate any of them either. I mean, of course you’re pulling for the underdog to win, but I found myself not really caring about the main engine for the plot, which was the love story. Freida Pinto, while very pretty, is not that impressive as an actress. My heart did not ache with theirs in their quest to be together. Apparently Freido Pinto and Dev Patel actually are dating in real life. Which is surprising, considering their lack of on-screen chemistry.

Watch it, but don’t go in with high hopes. It was not, in my opinion, Best Picture worthy.

Film Fest Friday: Once

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I don’t know why it took me so long to watch the movie Once. It got great reviews, won an Oscar (Best Original Song 2007), and involves musicians, Ireland, and a love story. What the hell was I thinking? Perhaps I was thinking, “argh, a musical?” Actually, I don’t hate all musicals. I enjoy them occasionally and tolerate them when necessary. Secondly, when I saw these people perform the song for which they won an Academy Award, I was fairly unimpressed.

But this is one of those movies that no review or description can do justice. And those are my favorite kind of movies. I could sit here and tell you all about how the music is amazingly powerful, how the personal dynamics portrayed are authentic and touching, how it takes the concept of a musical to an entirely different level and just when you realize how much you’re starting to like it, it ratchets up another notch. But none of this will mean anything to you until you experience it for yourself.

I have a real affinity for underdogs, and this was a low-budget, independent film that didn’t make much money but won a ton of awards. Even better: the two main characters actually were falling in love during filming and are still together. And they wrote all the music that they performed in the movie. Must download soundtrack.