Mar. 11, 2007 – What Joe’s Been Watching

A few more films passed in front of my jaded eyes this week…

300

My review of this much-ballyhooed blockbuster can best be summed up by your choice of the following phrases:

*crickets*

or

*tumbleweeds*

I’ll talk about the film in more depth on the next show, but my biggest problems with it were:

1) As with A Bronx Tale, we’re forced to deal with voice-over narration for absolutely no reason. A Cinemaslave listener posted a message on the forums, offering his opinion that the narration is intended as propaganda… but then why is the narrator infusing his propaganda with information that his audience would already have known, like the fact that each Spartan child is inspected at birth to determine if he’s free from defects?

2) At no point did I ever believe I was looking at a living, breathing world. There was no feeling of reality. We see a few glimpses of city streets, but no sense of a populace actually living its life — nor did I ever feel that the nation was truly being threatened by the actions of the Persians. Nor, indeed, that there was actually a world out there at all. Everything seemed to end at the edge of the frame.

3) The red-and-sepia color scheme didn’t do it for me. It just made everyone look like they had scurvy. I wanted someone to hold up a sign during the big battle sequence saying “Will Surrender for Vitamin C.”

4) The king’s position in his final scene. He might as well be wearing a big ol’ sign that says “Jesus” around his neck. Very heavy-handed.

5) I liked the movie better the first time I saw it… back when it was called Braveheart. Big violent battles, a bit of love and sex, and stirring speeches about freedom… that’s everything a growing boy needs.

I didn’t dislike the film… I just was indifferent to it. The second half is better than the first, but this is another example of the “style over substance” genre. Sin City impressed me more, as an example of a Frank Miller “green screen” film. Feel free to hate me now.

Black Snake Moan

A stunning exploration of pain and remorse, masquerading as a grade-B exploitation film. Don’t be fooled by the trailer, which makes the movie look like a cheap comedy — there’s surprising depth to these characters. Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci are both phenomenal, and Jackson demonstrates a real knack for delta blues-style singing. He also communicates just as much with his haunted eyes as with his perfectly delivered dialogue. After the twin punch of this film and Hustle and Flow, Craig Brewer has officially earned a spot on my “Directors to Watch” list. I can’t recommend this one enough.

The Last Picture Show

Yet another film in which conservative prudes turn consensual sex among adults into something to be maligned and feared. Although the black and white cinematography is gorgeous, the characters in Peter Bogdanovich’s much-loved movie are consistently aloof, remote, and largely unlikable. One could argue that the film accurately represents small-town life in pre-rock and roll America. If so, thank God I wasn’t around.

With that said, there are some phenomenal performances here, especially in the second half of the film. And I dug the “classic” country/bluegrass soundtrack. Eat your heart out, Coen Brothers.

-CSJ

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