Archive for June 23rd, 2008

“I Live in Fear” of “The Happening”: The Art of Boldness, Kurosawa, and Shyamalan

June 23, 2008

I Live in Fear

It would be easy to point out Akira Kurosawa’s great films like Rashomon or Seven Samurai as examples of his work, but there’s something to be said about his lesser known films – films that speak volumes and contain moments that are difficult to find anywhere else. He makes as a director and storyteller and he has his actors make very bold decisions. More often than not these choices will make an otherwise mediocre or common melodramatic film quite remarkable and incredibly memorable.

Take for instance Kurosawa’s I Live in Fear starring Toshiro Mifune. Mifune plays Kiichi Nakajima the elderly owner of a foundry. Wanting to preserve his family’s lives he wishes to move them all, lovers and bastard children included, to South America so as to avoid a Nuclear holocaust in Japan. Needless to say this story takes place post World War II. But his children will have none of it and take him to court, so that they can prove their father incapable of handling the family’s fortune.

It’s an interesting enough idea for a film. Kurosawa introduces us to Nakajima’s family through one of the Domestic Court Counselor’s put on the case, Dr. Harada, a dentist played by another Kurosawa mainstay, Takashi Shimura. We follow Harada as he leaves his family dentist business and goes to the court. Next we’re introduced to the squabbling family members, who seem more concerned about how they’ll continue making money for themselves than they are about the wishes of their Father. They are quick to apologize for belittling Harada before knowing who he is. But you still don’t get a sense of who’s film this is. Harada is shot from behind, a silent observer…very meek, humble.

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“You Don’t Mess With the Zohan”

June 23, 2008

You Don\'t Mess With the Zohan

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan for all of its sexual absurdity and racial mockery is a movie that plays it safe when it doesn’t always need to. It’s a satire in need of something a little more scathing. It needs cahones of a Monty Python sketch and the willingness to offend some people to make it’s point, ala South Park or even The Simpsons, in its better years.

This flaw that makes the movie less of a masterpiece and more like the run of the mill comedies Sandler has become known for the last few years. That aside it also includes Adam Sandler’s funniest comedy creation since Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore and combines the lovability of his Wedding Singer character. Zohan is absurdity and cool mixed into a nice gleaming coated marketable package. There are moments of sheer inspired hilarity that makes you think its good to see that Sandler hasn’t forgotten his roots as other comedians turned serious actors have, like Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey. Sandler’s comic timing makes this movie tic.

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“The Incredible Hulk”: Fights the Good Fight

June 23, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk is savage, wildly so. Roaring at thunder and launching a rock into the sky, he’s ready to take on the elements! But he knows just when to pull back, as does the director and screenwriter.

Humanity remains in the title character, that big green monster that would rather smash than talk things through. And like many comic book characters from years gone by there are lessons we can learn from our hero’s dilemmas. What in Bruce Banner, Hulk’s alter ego’s, plight can we learn from? What relates to us as people? It’s a far more difficult question to answer than you think. How many of us are so angry that we have emotional breakdowns? Not many.

But on a smaller scale how many of us scream at a car that just cut us off, or want to punch the person who just cut in front of us in line or how many of us become angry at things we see in the news – unable to do anything about what we’re watching? or how many of us witness out children unable to take the bullies picking on them anymore unleash a torrent of anger, sometimes with fists…these days too often with guns. When I was in middle school a girl brought a razor blade to school to fight another girl! How many fights are started over petty things like this? The Hulk has a lot it can teach us and our children.

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“The Happening”: Meaning in the Mess

June 23, 2008

The Happening

My friend would argue that there is no meaning in The Happening. But a lot of people are stumbling over my little blog looking for the meaning. They want to know JM! (You can also check out my later post in which I talk about the boldness of directors like Shyamalan, and I continue to do some dissecting of this film.)

The reasoning for the events are given to us in the first ten minutes of the movie and repeated again later. The talk of the bees becomes a larger metaphor for the reaction of the foliage. The reason is…unexplainable. An act of nature. Sure people can point fingers, but they’re all just guessing. In many ways this movie is the same thing; we can guess and assume what Shyamalan is up to or why he chose to tell this story in this fashion, but when it comes down to it, none of us will ever really know. (more…)