It was a rainy, cloudy day at Iwo Jima, and we didn't think we'd get much chance to site see. The weather lifted for a few moments as we made our final approach, so we asked for and got permission to fly a circuit around the island before we landed.
I am so glad I saw LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA before I came here. As we flew over the beach at which the Marines landed, looked down on Mt. Suribachi, and continued around to the north side of the island (where the Japanese were deeply dug in), I could see the battle in my mind's eye. When we landed and I walked to Base Operations to get a weather update, I felt that I knew the people who were commemorated with the stone monuments I saw there.
It was such an extraordinary experience, I thought I'd share my photos here. Enjoy.
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
THE NATURAL is so archetypal that it borders on parody.
The story itself is rather simple: gifted but older man makes good in the world of professional sports, overcoming temptation and injury to step up to the plate for the crucial at-bat in the crucial moment of the crucial game. The magic is in the execution: Which bat does he swing on his way to the top? One he fashioned by hand from the wood of a tree struck by lightning. Who personifies temptation? Kim Basinger as the Call of the Big City. Who personifies redemption? Glenn Close as The Goodness of Rural America.
There's this scene toward the end, in which star Robert Redford tells manager Wilford Brimley that he'll play in the big game regardless of the risk to his health, that encapsulates everything the movie's about. As Redford pokes his head in Brimley's door to deliver the news that he'll play (and, by so doing, save the team, escape the temptations of the flesh and the pocketbook, and generally redeem America), he's backlit with a key light so intense that his blond hair forms a no-kidding halo. This is a movie that knows exactly what it is and exactly what it's about, and it's a movie that's gloriously, ridiculously shameless in the pursuit of those objectives.
This leaves the viewer with two options. One can either laugh with it or laugh at it. I chose to laugh with it, allowing it to take me on its magic carpet ride through the mythic landscape of an impossible America.
And I had a wholesome good time.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Y'know what I liked best about the structure of SMOKIN' ACES? It finished act one during the opening credits, spent about ten minutes going through act two, then used the rest of the movie to give us one long third act. From the beginning of that third act, it's non-stop jokes, gunshots, and chain saws. What's not to like?
SMOKIN' ACES reminds me of SNATCH in that it isn't so much about story as execution. This movie tries to dazzle us with playful, snappy and memorable characters, and general quirkiness. Overall, it succeeds, though I agree that the film could have done without its twist and the ending is a bit of a letdown. Had I seen this one in a theater, I would have been disappointed. As a time-filler during a long overwater flight, it was just the thing.
THE BLACK DAHLIA, drawn from a riveting James Ellroy novel, is a slow, tedious slog of a police procedural that’s done in by its combination of flaccid acting and jarring set design.
Several of THE BLACK DAHLIA’s key roles fall so resoundingly flat that it’s hard to believe professional actors performed them. Two of the Dahlia’s friends land with thuds, as does the femme fatale and her mother (!). The friends may have been a masterstroke on director Brian DePalma’s part, of course: they’re supposed to be bad actresses, and they’re played by bad actresses. Oh, the meta! The femme fatale, VALLEY GIRL’s Hilary Swank, manages zero chemistry with the man she’s supposedly seducing, and the mother can’t decide if she’s trying to channel Margaret Dumont or Dame Edna Everage.
In the middle of this mess, we have Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart - one of whom seems not quite innocent enough for the role he’s supposed to be playing, and the other not quite crafty enough for his. They’re both in love with Scarlett Johansson, a normally intriguing actress who delivers a performance so lacking in enthusiasm that’s it’s hard to imagine her own mother falling in love with her.
No one brings much in the way of life to this movie, and the shortcoming gets reflected in the set design, which is either another meta-joke or a poor choice to rely on CGI landscapes and studio back lots to create a world that feels just a little too fresh, a little too clean for Los Angeles in the ‘40s.
But you know, I could forget these issues if the story itself were engaging. Unfortunately, such is not the case. While Ellroy breathes life into this story, the movie never sells me on its characters’ actions, priorities, or dilemmas. I just didn’t care about any of these people, and that’s death for a whodunit. If you’re interested in the Dahlia case, read the book. If you’re looking for a good detective movie, rent CHINATOWN again.