Posted by: Sally Ingraham | January 19, 2010

Movie Monday: Jan. 14th-18th

InvictusOne of my favorite things about opinions is their flexibility. I’m a fan of the ability to change your mind. I bring this up because I feel the need to revisit what I said about Invictus not too long ago. I wrote the blurb last week, right after seeing the movie, and I really did not have enough time to figure out what I found unsettling about it. I said that it was ‘suitably inspiring’ and a ‘decent movie all round’, but even as I wrote that I was aware that I was already disagreeing with myself.

There are a lot of things about the movie that bother me – days later I keep thinking back and feeling peeved. I must return to my original beef with Matt Damon’s casting. I don’t so much care about his bland performance or imperfect accent, so much as the fact that the story needed such an obvious WHITE character in which to focus upon. Sure, Morgan Freeman’s Nelson Mandela is the main character, and I will still maintain that he’s quite ably portrayed. There is something that clicks wrong with me, though, about the story needing to be channeled through Matt Damon in order to resonate with an American audience. It would have been cool if a man with the influence and clout of Clint Eastwood had stepped beyond what is essentially a sports film. He could have made a great film about Mandela – there are hints of greatness in Invictus – but the only real impression I came away with was ‘wow, that game of rugby is something else!’ Since I do like a good sports movie, in spite of myself, I was willing to get caught up in that aspect, but ultimately this movie irked me on many levels. (Don’t get me started on the often glaringly wrong choice of music and visual pairing…!)

I won’t dwell on this movie further, but I will add that I am really excited about a movie called Skin which we will be playing at the theater soon – it’s also set in South Africa, and it looks like it won’t be using any kind of filters to tell it’s, probably, uncomfortable story.

Anyway, moving on to other films…:

Iron Man – Jon Favreau – USA – 2008
When I came home from Atlanta, I found three new movies sitting on the coffee table – Iron Man, Star Trek, and The Dark Knight – late Christmas presents from my boyfriend. What can I say, but ‘Hehe!’ I love me some good action flicks – especially if the story is somewhat original, the special effects are fun, and the soundtrack has a lot of bass in it. Robert Downing Jr. is also a nice additive. Iron Man is definitely another comfort movie, with funny bits and action that keeps me mind-dullingly entertained. In spite of my somewhat more cultivated (so I like to think) movie tastes, there is always time for movies like these, mid-afternoon on a cold snowy day…!

Kikujiro – Takeshi Kitano – Japan – 1999
This, on the other hand, was a more difficult film. Kitano wrote, directed, and stared in it, with interesting results. I have not seen any of his other films before, but I am now intrigued. This one was about a boy who goes looking for his mother during summer vacation, accompanied by a not very willing neighbor, who was enlisted by his nagging wife. Divided into short ‘chapters’, the film is a series of somewhat sad misadventures, as Kikujiro gambles away Masao traveling money, acts out small cons in order to get rides, and bullies the majority of the kind misfits they encounter along the way. A change of heart eventually happens, and Kikujiro gains a legitimate affection for the boy. The movie was long and slow, but a perky score composed by Joe Hisaishi (who provided many of the scores for Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, including My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Ponyo,) on top of pretty Japanese countryside, and a cast of interesting side characters made for a movie that I liked fairly well.

In the LoopIn the Loop – Armando Iannucci – UK – 2009 (Movie of the Week!)

It is odd how really uncivil things sound better rolling off a British tongue. This has never been proved better, or more humorously, than by Malcolm Tucker, as played by Peter Capaldi. When I could hear what he was saying through my astonished chokes of laughter, I was blown away by a barrage of language that should have made me cringe. I could not possibly provide you with a quote – there would be far too many stars scattered throughout to make it worth it – but every line he speaks is chock full of clever references to literary or historical characters, mixed with the body parts of animals, and of course a great deal of political finagling. A satire about the workings of government, which hints at the unfortunate true proceedings of 2003 by bringing to life a situation involving an eminent war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, the movie is a probably very accurate portrayal of the pettiness of Democratic governance. It is full of characters who use their powerful positions to advance careers and feed their vanity, using moral compromise as a jumping off point. Normally, this type of story would be depressingly uninteresting to me. However, really sparky dialogue and an impressive handling of chaotic scene after chaotic scene totally sucked me in. A brilliant cast is simply the cherry on top. If your ears can handle the scalding, by all means dive into the festering hilarity of modern Democracy.

The Dark Knight – Christopher Nolan – USA – 2008
This was my forth or fifth viewing of this movie, and I still cannot get myself to fully engage with it. It’s an action flick, but it’s not a comfortable movie. It asks some difficult questions and what answers it provides are awkward and incomplete. As a movie it succeeds, visually, story-wise, but something about it continues to put me off. I’d like to say that it is Batman’s impossibly low voice, or Harvey Dent’s equally impossible lack of a face. The distressing creepiness of the Joker goes without saying… I want to like it, but I just…don’t. Can’t explain. I guess at this point I should stop trying?


  1. Excellent picks this week – some I’ve seen, some I haven’t, but all looked good. I also found your thoughts on Invictus really interesting; I’m not really a sports fan, so I didn’t really feel I was the target demographic for this one… but I could see renting it when it’s on DVD.

    So glad to hear you enjoyed In The Loop. We managed to see it in theaters and while it wasn’t as funny as we had been led to believe, it was still very funny indeed.

  2. Steph – I am genuinely curious to see what you will think of Invictus. Keep me posted! 🙂 We played In the Loop last summer at the theater where I work, so I’d seen a lot of it, but definitely not the last third, where it all comes together (falls apart??) It’s definitely one where on each viewing you can actually understand a little bit more of the dialogue!

  3. Man, you are on a movie-watching rampage these days, Sarah. I’m quite impressed! Don’t know if you’d be into it or not, but your Africa/sports comments re:Invictus reminded me of one of my all-time favorite documentaries: When We Were Kings, a 1996 release about the Muhammad Ali/George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle Fight” in Zaire in 1974. In addition to being super interesting on the fight itself, you get some eye-opening insights into how Africans viewed black American culture at the time (and vice versa). Great story, too. I have little interest in seeing Invictus, but I’d see almost anything with Morgan Freeman in it. So you never know! Cheers!

  4. Richard – This is a normal amount of movie watching for me! 🙂 That doc does sound really good. I’ll put it on my Netflix list!

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