Sunday, August 23, 2009

Movies: District 9 and inglorious Basterds and other things

Well it has been about two weeks since the last time. I know you missed me. Anyways, I've been to the movies twice in that time. Saw District 9 and Inglorious Basterds. I enjoyed both immensely while I was watching them and immediately afterwards. They are both very different films and therefore cannot truly be compared, which I will not do, however I did like one more than the other. Let's get to it:

District 9

I really, really liked this film. The story was good, the FX were wonderful, and the action was great. My Sci-Fi geek was completely satisfied. My action junkie was totally pleased. My social conscious was not so easily appeased. And my social conscious is a rather strong part of me so I couldn't even switch it off while I was watching the movie. The most I could do was put it as far back in my mind as possible and let the other two enjoy themselves.
First: The aliens looked GREAT! The CGI used for them was absolutely phenomenal. Their social behaviour not so much. The story begins after they have been on earth for twenty years. A bit of backstory in the form of interviews tells how they got here and were established on the land alloted for them, designated District 9. Well after twenty years these aliens seem to have become the stereotypical sloppy, nasty, uneducated, and violent inhabitants of a slum. (Being an american of African descent these stereotypes strike a particular soft spot. Not so long ago the collective white populace thought this way about all non-whites. Some of 'em still do.) It's inferred that they were just workers on the ship they came on, so, I guess that is the reason for their apparent unsophistication. Personally I don't buy it. I don't care if they are just workers, they are workers on a SPACESHIP! That alone, to me, tells me they are more advanced than us. This intelligence I know should be there is exhibited in three of the aliens. THREE! And one of them is a child. These three for the entire twenty years were the only members of their race stuck on this planet trying to get off. For real?
Second: The humans were shown pretty much the way they needed to be with one exception. The Nigerians, the human criminal element among the aliens, were stereotypically and quite offendingly completely uncivilized. To properly explain this I gotta reveal the main movie plot so, you know, SPOILER ALERT for those of you who haven't seen this or don't know the story yet. Basically the main character, Wikus, is supposed to get the aliens ready to move to a new location. While going in and out of their 'homes' he finds something of interest in one of them with some liquid in it. Moron sprays himself with it. Begins turning into an alien. For the majority of the movie the extent of his transformation is his left arm has become an alien arm. And here's the rub. The aliens weapons are basically genetically coded so only they can use them. The company Wikus works for is private not gov't and they want to dissect him once they prove he can fire the aliens' weapons. Typical corporation. He gets away. Only one place to go. Distrct 9, of course. Things happen while he is hiding out. He needs weapons, goes to the local criminal element, the Nigerians. His arm is discovered. The Nigerian warlord wants to cut his arm off and EAT IT to grow one like it so he, too, can use the weapons. DOES THIS MAKE ANY FUCKING SENSE?! Now, to Neill Blomkamp's (screenwriter and director) ignorant credit, he ESTABLISHES this scenario a bit earlier by showing the warlord taking the advice of his, I guess, female spiritual adviser/witchdoctor and eating killed aliens raw to absorb their power. Oh realllllllly asshole. Don't get me wrong. I know those beliefs existed and still do. BUT this is a man who runs a rather SUCCESSFUL criminal enterprise, has the presence of mind to stockpile a cache of the aliens' weapons even though he can't use them, just like the big evil corporation, so there has to be some above primitive intelligence here, yes? And when his solution walks right in his front door, UNLIKE said corporation, his solution is to eat the arm. WHAT THE FUCK? You couldn't come up with anything MORE INTELLIGENT than that. I came up with a very usable and more intelligent solution as I was watching the damn movie and was DUMBFOUNDED though NOT surprised at what was used. Real simple: cut the arm off, hollow it out, and use it like a glove. I mean COME ON! Wouldn't that have been more intelligent not to mention more FUCKING BELIEVABLE! I mean, it's not like the warlord was going to achieve his goal anyway, right? He just gets to blurt out his intentions before they get thrashed, right?! So where is the harm in making the man sound just a little bit intelligent as befits his status as a warlord running a SUCCESSFUL CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE! Can you tell I'm completely disgusted about this? (Don't get me wrong. I understand that people like this probably exist but it wasn't necessary to put them in this supposedly intelligent sci-fi flick.) I shouldn't be surprised as this tale comes out of and was filmed in the land of apartheid. I'm not saying Neill Blomkamp is a bigot or racist, but certain stereotypes and old cultural norms have a hard time dying. American cinema is not much different, still, and we know the history of this country, don't we? The excellent movie Alien Nation and it's even better television series did this scenario much better.
Otherwise, though now it doesn't seem like it to you, I did enjoy the movie. I've been dealing with shit like this in movies my entire life so I know how to roll with it. But I don't view quietly, so to speak.

Inglorious Basterds

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Quentin does the damn thing once again. Let me open with this: I went to see this in the daytime, early afternoon. When I see new films the day they open I like to see them then because most people are still at work or wherever and not at the movies. Opening nights are a hell I can't stand. NO patience for waiting in line for tickets, only to wait on another line inside just to get into the theater I JUST bought a ticket for. I find that obviously annoying. Also, the theater is FULL, which isn't bad unless you are at the back of the second line. And if you're with someone it's worse. Anyways, I like the afternoon. So I buy my ticket an hour early, go burn about fifty minutes and get inside about ten minutes before, like I usually do. I almost didn't have a seat. Imagine my surprise! That has never happened before, and I've been doing this for a while now. SO, I get my seat and I'm looking around and I notice a LOT of white hair and old faces. I'm still oblivious until I hear the couple on my left speak. The woman has a bit of an accent and it dawns on me: There's a LOT of old Jewish people here to see Quentin's re-imagining of WWII. My brain continues to work. They've been WAITING for something like this FOR A LONG TIME! I understand. They've never had a conscious communal catharsis of the massive amount of fear and anger they must harbor within. I mean, look at how they've protected the memory of what happened to them as a people. Every film dealing with their holocaust has been so meticulously dour, melancholy, and damn near depressing. Even the recent film, Defiance, which was about a small band of Jewish resisters, was not really a catharsis of negative emotion. Just another factual reminder of how little resistance was given. Who wants to see that ALL THE TIME! I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with those true to life factual depictions of such a horrific period, but something has to give! And to be perfectly honest there was no one better to open the floodgates of such emotion than Mr. Quentin Tarantino. Talk about catharsis! It's human to want revenge, even if it is fictional. TRUST ME! I know. My own ancestors had their own holocaust right here and to be perfectly honest there is no way to take revenge for such things other than fictionally, other than educating those that follow so that the same things don't happen again. Back to the movie. Yeah, brilliant. No one could have played the part of the leader of the Inglorious Basterds better than Brad Pitt. I guess that's why Quentin wrote the part just for him in the first place. Brad is hilarious in this. (SPOILER ALERT) Especially near the end when he's pretending to be Italian along with two of his Basterds. I was cryin' I was laughing so hard! The one thing I really, really liked about this film was that Quentin didn't make the nazi's evil caricatures. They were people, misguidedly evil yes, but they were people with real human emotions and real human reactions. The main antagonist, Col. Landa was wonderfully acted and developed. He was a detective and his main job in the beginning of the film is to hunt Jews in France. And he is good at his job. This, among other things, is why I think the catharsis truly works. You see the monsters are just people and can be dealt with. And they were dealt with! Col. Landa, upon finding out a woman he actually likes is a traitor, is crying as he kills her. That scene was really well done and acted by Christoph Waltz. You could see and feel the betrayal he felt when he jumped up and wrapped his hands around her neck, and the tears running down his face as he strangled her to death. Another nazi, Zoller, is portrayed as a regular young man who wants a girl, Shosanna, to like him. At the end, the nice guy role drops as he gets tired of being rejected. He's a nazi war hero, the film she's showing in her theater is about the event that made him a hero, and his arrogant superiority comes out because of his frustration of being turned down by this girl who should be flattered he even gives her his attention at all. The nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who made the film about Zoller, is given the highest compliment he's ever received from the man himself, Adolf. Adolf tells him as they are watching the film that it is the best work he's ever done. Joseph actually breaks out in tears and can barely thank Adolf for the compliment, he's so overwhelmed. See? Human. Just really had fucked up views of the world is all. And they needed to get dealt with. And in this film they get DEALT WITH! In particular Quentin style the story is told from the multiple viewpoints of the protagonists. With the exception of Lt. Aldo, played wonderfully by Brad, all of the Basterds are Jewish soldiers except one who's German. And though the title of the movie is the name of their little group the film is not just about them. It's very well fleshed out and well done. The story of Shosanna is set in motion because of the actions of Col. Landa. He kills her family and almost kills her, so, when she is presented with the opportunity to take out a bunch of nazi's, including Landa, she takes it. It's the opening scene and you get to see how intelligent Col. Landa is. The Inglorious Basterds are terror style shock troops and they do their job well! I'll leave the rest alone, just go see it! I will repeat though, Jewish people have been waiting for a film like this for a long time and they needed it. (They were all clapping at the end so I feel confident in my assessment.) I'm happy for them and I'm happy with them.

Now to the other things. My blogging anniversary passed and I didn't even notice until my best friend David mentioned his was coming up. Since I started mine before his I realized my anniversary had just passed. Well, I'm actually glad I got to do this post for my blogging anniversary. I'll be starting classes again at Fordham University in about a week. I'm dually looking forward to it and dreading it. But I'll be fine. I always am. Things are moving along. I'm still looking for a new place to live but I'm good. That all for now. Thanks for checking in. Until next time, LAter.

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