AICN-DOWNUNDER: Nottingham, Last King of Scotland, Miss Potter, Smokin' Aces
Published at: Feb. 10, 2007, 10:48 p.m. CST by merrick
If I could be from anywhere except Uganda, I would be a Scot! I love *everything* about Scotland!... Apart from red hair, which your women may find attractive but which in Africa is quite disgusting.
I know, it's been a long time between AICN-Ds. Blame Bazura. Damn show's taking up every second of my life.
Anyway, it's that time of the year again. The time where I start placing far too much importance and credibility on the Oscars. The problem is, there's really no other game in town. It's the biggest celebration of film in the world, and it's the closest thing we have to a demographic, all-inclusive awards ceremony.
I'll be doing my picks in the next column (which I'm planning to do in a fortnight, but it's far more likely I'll have it done by September), and I'm currently trying to divorce what I want to win from what I think will win.
Anyway, on with the show.
And by "show", I mean "one news item from the past few weeks that I thought was worth repeating". So, by now you've probably heard that Russell Crowe ("Spyforce", "Living With The Law") will be playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in a film that suggests Nottingham was good and Robin Hood was bad. Those of us who remember PRINCE OF THIEVES will have no trouble believing that Robin Hood was incredibly bad, but given Crowe's demeanour and physical appearance leave him more suited to a villainous role than anything else, I think this is going to be a hard sell. Unless you cast Steve Buscemi as Robin, cover his faces in scars, and feature him punching children repeatedly in the kidneys, I'm not sure that everybody's going to come on board. Until we get to see the finished product (which, by the way, is called NOTTINGHAM), may I direct you to the best "distortion" of the Robin Hood legend thus far: the terrific 1989 BBC series "Maid Marion and Her Merry Men". Brilliant stuff.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Two Australian films were recently added to the Berlin film programme. THE HOME SONG STORIES, a feature film by Tony Ayres, and a live action/animtion combination THE GIRL WHO SWALLOWED BEES, by Paul McDermott.
Oh, all of you can go to hell. I mean it. And if you're willing to sit through EPIC MOVIE and propel it to number one, chances are the place will look familiar when you get there. (I'm being facetious; I know the people who propelled it to number one don't read this column, but I have to let loose my frustration somewhere.)
1. EPIC MOVIE
2. MISS POTTER
3. DEJA VU
3. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
5. STRANGER THAN FICTION
RELEASED IN THE THREE WEEKS SINCE THE LAST COLUMN
Anthony Minghella misses the point of his own script, Jessica Simpson plays ditzy, I really hate everybody associated with this movie, this is the film you have to see before the Oscars this year, an unpopular film will be considered a tried-and-true classic in a few decades, Thomas Harris successfully demystifies a once-interesting villain, Gillian Anderson's in this if you didn't know, I can't hear Leonard Cohen's name without thinking of that "Young Ones" quote, easy Roman Polanski joke, easy Harry Potter joke, easy Calvin Klein joke (sorry, I'm totally on auto-pilot), BANG!BANG!BANG!BANG!, Marc Forster gives us another "meh", and I wouldn't even know this film was out if I hadn't read so on Moviehole.
BREAKING AND ENTERING
EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH
EPIC MOVIE FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION THE FOUNTAIN
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
LEONARD COHEN: I'M YOUR MAN
PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER
STRANGER THAN FICTION
TENACIOUS D IN THE PICK OF DESTINY
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
I'll keep it short: a brilliant film with the two best performances you're likely to see. Though my enjoyment of the film was affected slightly by the confusion as to what elements were real and what elements were made up, it was only a slight complaint. There are few more enjoyable films out at the moment. Recommended highly.
Anyone wanting an incredibly faithful, highly-realistic telling of Beatrix Potter's life may find this film a little saccharine. There are a lot of animated segues in here, both Renee Zellweger and Ewan Macgregor are a little too attractive, and there's something a little fantastic about the proceedings...
That said, it's actually a really enjoyable film with some very sweet moments. It's impossible not to love Ewan every time he's on screen. Renee Zellweger is also very good, as she is in most films. I've always considered her talents quite underrated, and as much as I'd be interested in seeing Cate Blanchett's take on the character (she was the original choice for Potter), I loved Zellweger's portrayal.
If the idea of quaint English cottages in the middle of green fields does nothing for you, don't bother with the film. If, however, you find those things really pleasant, then I think you'll certainly find something to enjoy here.
I'll say this for the film: you're not going to be bored. You probably won't be entertained either, but at least you'll be paying attention to every second of this incredibly loud and incredibly fast action violence bang bang bang film that seems to be either a cure or a cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. You know the twelve year old kid in this film? The one who, for some reason, sports an erection during one of his scenes? This film was designed for him.
I have a feeling that the reason for the style is that the plot was so thin (a bunch of hitmen trying to kill a Vegas magician), that we're overloaded with so many loud noises and scenes where people are talking quickly and over each other in order to distract us. At first, I thought the style was kinda cool, but after a while it became incredibly annoying.
As was pointed out to me, there are no sympathetic characters anywhere in the film. Nobody you particularly like or root for. This is an exercise in style over substance, and while I'm sure some people will like it (and there are some things to like: Piven's pretty funny, Jason Bateman's great, and it's pretty nifty seeing Ray Liotta and Andy Garcia in a scene together), I really wouldn't recommend it.
STRANGER THAN FICTION
The terrific, high-concept idea of a main character who begins hearing his own narrator is squandered almost immediately. There's a lot of great stuff in here, but it falls short of its own promise. Think of all the amazing things that this concept could suggest. He has to do everything his author instructs him to do? Imagine the places that this could go if it were under the control of a Charlie Kaufman or Michel Gondry or anyone with a degree of imagination.
Why does everyone assume that the author, played by Emma Thompson, lives in their world? My first thought was that the narrator was somebody who is almost god-like in their existence. The way that -- and I feel a bit foolish for explaining it to this degree -- authors do not live in the world of their characters. Why does this not occur to anybody? Why is Thompson not so amazed at the control she wields over this guy that she pushes it as far as it can go? Or even a little further than she takes it.
Will Ferrell is terrific, playing against type as a very boring taxman. Dustin Hoffman is marginally underwritten, but he's still my favourite part of the film, reminding us exactly why he's as good as he is. Marc Forster's direction, unfortunately, is as lacking as it was in FINDING NEVERLAND. Both of these films featured characters in the midst of emotionally-charged arcs, and yet it's all handled in an extremely perfunctory way, as if he's ticking off a checklist of "this scene he's happy, this scene he's sad, this scene he's angry". The direction lacks a lot of imagination, which is a pity given this film is crying out for imagination.
It's about halfway there. It's not a mind-blowing piece of brilliance, but it's not unwatchable shite either.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE BAZURA PROJECT
Yes, in an effort to continue my shameless self-promotion without letting it interfere with any of the "regular" parts of this column, I've created this little section at the end which you may ignore if you so wish.
Only two more episodes left, so if you haven't seen it yet, here are a couple of clips from the show. Every episode is available to watch online at www.bazuraproject.com.
The first the opening of our most recent episode. The second is part of the Bazura Guide To Cinephelia series. In this one, we instruct you on proper cinema etiquette.
- Dakota Fanning hires David Benioff to adapt I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE into a sequel to HOUND DOG
- Calista Flockhart to appear in the action-documentary FLOCKHART WITH A VENGEANCE
- Darren Aronofsky to direct Matthew McConaughey as a former Navy Seal who tries to follow impossible mathematical formulas in MAGNUM PI (give it a second)