Wednesday, December 10, 2008
welllll things have changed a wee bit since my last analysis a few weeks ago. slumdog's stock has inexplicably climbed even higher whereas milk has also picked up quite a head of steam. benjamin button has not garnered any sort of critics prizes but will likely garner some considerable support as its opening nears. ditto that for revolutionary road (which i have now seen, loved, and will be posting about in detail in the near future), and it's one surefire oscar nom in kate winslet's performance. and the dark knight - a film that continues to lower in my estimation with each screening (though the blu-ray is drool-inducing, and the ambient nuggets of the score continue to prove a genius touch... so glad the score is again eligible) - looks like it will ride its zeitgeist-y wave ride to the red carpet. which is really a shame.
now i really liked the dark knight. i love some of the choices that were made. unfortunately, the choices that i disagree with i feel were atrocious and robbed me of what could potentially have been one of the better films of the year. bummer city. so while i certainly don't mean to echo the sentiments of this hollywood producer: "If The Dark Knight, that piece of overblown crap, gets nominated for Best Picture it'll go down in Oscar history alongside Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth [which won the 1952 Best Picture Oscar]. Heath Ledger was great and ditto the effects, but the script was asinine drivel -- populist pablum and 'escapist entertainment' at its best and worst. And they could have saved Somalia for that budget." ... i do have some choice, scattershot, tip o' the brain words for the dark knight crowd.
here's a silly little article about how laughable the joker's plan is. http://www.cracked.com/article_16848_p2.html now, while i have no qualms with movie logic and find the scene to be interesting enough (if somewhat incoherently pieced together) to ignore the gaping holes in logic, methinks this issue brings up one of the movie's most damning failures: nolan is far too concerned with set up to be bothered with execution - incapable of separating character from ideology to create something with real emotional pull.
to wit, the first 30 minutes or so of the movie are silky smooth and establish a genuinely palpable sense of ominous anticipation. between the fantastic opening sequence and the sweeping introduction of gotham that follows (the helicopter shots and glowering looks of the city on the brink) one gets the sense that the seeds of a truly epic struggle are being sown. everything with the joker just works in the early going - heath is unforgettable and earns his oscar as he leaves the first mafia meeting. the introduction of harvey and re-introduction of rachel? like butter.
and then the effin party. ohhhhh the party. 5-10 minutes of set-up (discounting the lengthy character work that precedes it) and then a graceless bit of chop-socky and the scene ends prematurely. potential squandered. the joker and his goons apparently can't open a closet and find harvey dent. whatever. somewhat frustrating but i'll move on. and then... all this planing (on both the part of the P.D. and the joker) to set up the most pointless fake death in movie history (ostensibly to protect gordon's family, but... um... huh?) leads to things that make no sense which leads to that stupid chase scene that has some of the only kinetic flair of the film and makes ZERO SENSE GAAH. but who cares. as long as the story's foundations are strong, i'll allow it its frivolities. i mean, nolan and co. have established an atmosphere of present menace and imminently indelible mayhem (the notion of fake batmans, though slightly bungled, leaves quite the impression as to the collective state of the city), and that's really all that counts at this juncture.
and then the hospital scene. annnnddd the movie falls apart and in one of the most implosive third acts (if you can call the sprawling latter of the film a single act) in film history since... um... hancock? i was gonna say hitch, and then hitchcock... but i guess it's hancock. anyhoo, harvey dent's character makes a simplistic and completely implausible 180, the joker sets up another infantile prank that's fueled by dime-store philosophy that aims no higher than the lowest common denominator in much the same way that slumdog millionaire makes world cinema more palatable by blasting MIA on the soundtrack and dealing in the most boringly western of narrative tropes, and the final confrontation is an awkward series of platitudes and lame philosophical nuggets that are further deluded by the "huh?" moment of the year - batman's little cell phone radar thingy that makes lucius tingly in all the wrong places. a successful and resoundingly obvious nod that those with absolute power must not wield it absolutely? sure. completely unnecessary? also sure. the worst part? it's used to make what could have made for a potentially satisfying denouement - a conclusion that might have atoned for the film's various and snowballing missteps - into a silly and incomprehensible action set piece. a potent moment convoluted and obfuscated by ideas. ideas that the film's characters implicitly sewed into the tale - ideas nolan didn't trust his audience to understand. so rather than use the bloated running time to make gotham city a place with a beating heart, he simply allows his magnificent characters to square off in a tired war of exhausted ideologies - squandering their charms in a banal exchange of principles and reasons for being.
trust me, after 9 hours, we know why the characters are doing what they're doing. i may not understand why their plans are so effing complicated, but i know the true impetus behind their actions. i just want to see them do what they do - not talk about it ad infinitum so that my dad knows what's going on (note: my dad walked out when brucey goes to hong kong to go see mamma mia... for the 2nd time). effin hell this movie was frustrating. if you have wonderful characters inhabited by wonderful actors, LET THEM BE! jeeeez. you know that scene in family guy when peter says he didn't like the godfather because it insisted upon itself? he would have haaattteed the dark knight.
the dark knight is the most disappointing movie of the year. if only because it had such tremendous potential and i was so jazzed for it. oh well, i loved batman begins, so i'll still be more than primed to see the inevitable GOTHAM CITY or whatever the feck they call it. but oy. i'm somewhat sorry this is all so vague, but i just don't have the energy to do a close-analysis of this bitch. and all the dark knight love? i can't understand it, so allow me to rationalize. a perfect storm of hype (dead young actor + great director and lovely pedigree all around) and an incredible performance = people desperate to love this poo. people wanted this to be a masterpiece so desperately that they allowed the film's sweeping scope to wash over them, blissfully seduced by the gravitas of it all. and that's fine. but it ain't for me. and yes, i mean to say that anyone who disagrees with me is suffering from some form of mass psychosis.
give heath his oscar.
best pic guesses as of 12/11/08:
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (lock)
The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Revolutionary Road / Frost/Nixon / Wall-E / Doubt / Punisher: War Zone
KATE WINSLET (lock!!!)
SALLY HAWKINS (lock)
Melissa Leo (lock)
kristin scott thomas? (good work, poopy movie)
mickey rourke (lock)
frank langella (lock)
phillip seymour hoffman (no other good candidates?)
all tech awards SHOULD go to benjamin button, except for cinematography which in a just world would be a lock for THE FALL.
best foreign film? jeez, with the academy rules it's downright silly-frappy to consider, but the best foreign-language films of the year for my money were:
1. BLIND MOUNTAIN
2. WALTZ WITH BASHIR
3. STILL LIFE
4. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
5. A CHRISTMAS TALE
and soooo many i haven't seen! GAH-CITY!
and don't forget, kiddos, the golden globes mean nothing! ZOMG HOW GOOD IS THE WEST WING!!?!?