The Official Review Thread of 2005

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Postby criddic3 » Sun Jun 05, 2005 2:25 pm

Cinderella Man

Well here's another film that so many on this board will love to hate simply because it was directed by sqeaky-clean, nice-guy former child actor Ron Howard.

I saw this film opening day with relatives and found it to be remarkably detailed, beautifully acted and directed. Yes, a lot of what happens is fairly predictable and "cliche" (as the NY Post claims), but it's based on a story that anyone can read up on over the internet if the were so inclined. There aren't many real surprises, but the film's authentic atmosphere and superb acting bring us in without hesitation. What does surprise is the excitement of the fight scenes and the emotion of the Depression Era troubles of Braddock and his family.

Crowe embodies Braddock effortlessly, bringing the audience along on the ride from failure to struggle to good fortune heartwrenchingly. It's a terrific performance.

Zellweger and Giamatti give able, solid support as Braddock wife and manager, respectively.

I think Howard proves with this film that he is a fine director, that his Oscar for A Beautiful Mind is more than justified and that there are reasonable chances here for a return engagement at the Academy Awards next winter.
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Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jun 05, 2005 11:53 am

Yes, Reza. I hated this film. :p

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Postby Reza » Sun Jun 05, 2005 3:42 am

The Original BJ wrote:So I endured Cinderhella Man . . .

. . . and the latest mind-numbingly awful, cringe-inducing film from Ron Howard was indeed as horrid as I had feared. I'll second the New York Post's assessment that this movie makes Million Dollar Baby look avant-garde by comparison. The moment I knew I would hate this film came early on, when a title card appears on screen reading the date, 1933 . . . and then below that the phrase '4 years into the Great Depression.' Um, no duh. Thanks, Ronnie. I've obviously been living under a box my whole life and I'm too dumb to know that in 1933, America was deep in the Depression, so I'm really glad you took the time to point out that obscure fact so I wouldn't be confused the whole damn movie. It's this kind of dumbed down obviousness that permeates the entire work, a painfully predictable bore that certainly falls far short of the emotional power and moral ambiguity of Million Dollar Baby, or heck, even Rocky!

I find particularly irritating the way the film, like Seabiscuit, depicts Americans during the Depression in an incredibly patronizing manner, painting them as naive, innocent buffoons who only need to believe in the fairy tale of a down on his luck boxer or an underdog horse to lift their spirits out of emotional turmoil. How insulting! Americans in the Depression were TOUGH, they fought hard, they worked together, and they never gave up, and films of the era, from Gold Diggers of 1933 to The Grapes of Wrath, showed the realities of the Depression far more than this nostalgic sanitization. This morning I watched Modern Times, and Charlie Chaplin's masterwork is a far more emotionally affecting portrait of the Depression-era struggle to make ends meet than Howard's saccharine cheesefest.

As far as the cast goes, Russell Crowe is fine, but he's stuck playing the most saintly, one-dimensional character it's hard for him to give anything than a shallow performance. I'm starting to think Crowe is a great actor who never chooses great roles (that's arguable, but I don't think he's had a great role since The Insider), and he always rises above his material, but with material this bad, who wouldn't? Mousy Zellweger's whiny attempt at a New Jersey accent sounds like she's auditioning for a guest stint on The Sopranos. (I almost expected her to break out with a "Christuffffffffffffah" or two, you know?) And poor Paul Giamatti. The last two years, Oscar be damned, his roles in American Splendor and Sideways were two of the funniest, most poignant depictions of humanity in recent years. And in this film, Ron Howard has turned him into a cartoon character, a neutered sidekick whose role in life is to spout goofy punchlines and hop on Russell Crowe's back with childlike (read: retarded) gusto. Paddy Considine, so touching in In America, has a ridiculously awful subplot involving his attempt to unionize: the less said, the better. And of course Craig Bierko plays Crowe's boxing opponent as nothing more than a villain with a stick up his ass, because obviously Opie isn't into that whole character complexity thing. (Heck, even Billie the Blue Bear had more depth!)

The fight scenes are tedious, and the last one goes on FOREVER. This is inexplicable, especially after Million Dollar Baby's gut wrenching fight sequences (I don't mean to constantly compare Cinderella to Baby, but, well, it's all I could think while watching the boxing matches.) I will credit Ron Howard's sheer ineptitude for the reason a fight between Crowe and a boxer who KILLED TWO MEN is an absolute bore, especially because, in Howardland, things only end predictably and with cheery uplift. A cheesy closeup of a stool only made me root harder for Crowe's Jim Braddock to meet a Maggie Fitzgerald-like fate. (Of course, that would have been interesting, and interesting is usually offlimits in Ron Howard films.)

What makes me hate this movie even more is the fact that so many people will love it, and the fact that critics have been shouting the 'O' word from the hilltops, when this movie should be NOWHERE near the Oscars in any category, is depressing. Like fellow acclaimed stinkers Crash and The Upside of Anger (both of which are MUCH better than this film), I feel like Cinderella Man's positive buzz rests mainly on the fact that, in today's lowest common denominator film environment, a movie about adults with pretty production values can dupe enough people into calling it intelligent counter-programming, when in fact, it is as shallow, obvious, and just plain dumb as any special effects extravaganza geared to ten year-old boys. (Honestly, I thought Revenge of the Sith was just as dumb but I'll admit I had more fun at that than at this absolute bore.)

When this movie gets nominated for Best Picture over The Best of Youth, I will groan. When Ron Howard's incompetent direction gets nominated over dozens of more visionary, innovative, and creative filmmakers, I will roll my eyes. When Crowe and Zellweger hog Oscar nods like they often do from stronger performances, I will scream. (I sort of want Giamatti to finally get his nod, even for one of his least impressive roles, just because he has been so cruelly robbed the last two years). Is there ONE interesting camera angle in this film? Of course not, but it will still get a cinematography nod, just like the absolutely boring sets and costumes. And I think Thomas Newman has written superb scores in the past few years (namely American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Finding Nemo), but his work here is a treacly sap-fest that made me cringe every time it overwhelmed the pathetic images of cute Depression-era kids and Renée Zellweger bawling. Finding Neverbland was pretty Oscar whorey, but I think this pic is the most Oscar-desperate film since Chocolat.

And I hate to say it, but Cinderhella Man makes A Beautiful Mind look almost like a good movie!

So are you trying to say that you did not like this film?

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Postby The Original BJ » Sun Jun 05, 2005 1:40 am

So I endured Cinderhella Man . . .

. . . and the latest mind-numbingly awful, cringe-inducing film from Ron Howard was indeed as horrid as I had feared. I'll second the New York Post's assessment that this movie makes Million Dollar Baby look avant-garde by comparison. The moment I knew I would hate this film came early on, when a title card appears on screen reading the date, 1933 . . . and then below that the phrase '4 years into the Great Depression.' Um, no duh. Thanks, Ronnie. I've obviously been living under a box my whole life and I'm too dumb to know that in 1933, America was deep in the Depression, so I'm really glad you took the time to point out that obscure fact so I wouldn't be confused the whole damn movie. It's this kind of dumbed down obviousness that permeates the entire work, a painfully predictable bore that certainly falls far short of the emotional power and moral ambiguity of Million Dollar Baby, or heck, even Rocky!

I find particularly irritating the way the film, like Seabiscuit, depicts Americans during the Depression in an incredibly patronizing manner, painting them as naive, innocent buffoons who only need to believe in the fairy tale of a down on his luck boxer or an underdog horse to lift their spirits out of emotional turmoil. How insulting! Americans in the Depression were TOUGH, they fought hard, they worked together, and they never gave up, and films of the era, from Gold Diggers of 1933 to The Grapes of Wrath, showed the realities of the Depression far more than this nostalgic sanitization. This morning I watched Modern Times, and Charlie Chaplin's masterwork is a far more emotionally affecting portrait of the Depression-era struggle to make ends meet than Howard's saccharine cheesefest.

As far as the cast goes, Russell Crowe is fine, but he's stuck playing the most saintly, one-dimensional character it's hard for him to give anything than a shallow performance. I'm starting to think Crowe is a great actor who never chooses great roles (that's arguable, but I don't think he's had a great role since The Insider), and he always rises above his material, but with material this bad, who wouldn't? Mousy Zellweger's whiny attempt at a New Jersey accent sounds like she's auditioning for a guest stint on The Sopranos. (I almost expected her to break out with a "Christuffffffffffffah" or two, you know?) And poor Paul Giamatti. The last two years, Oscar be damned, his roles in American Splendor and Sideways were two of the funniest, most poignant depictions of humanity in recent years. And in this film, Ron Howard has turned him into a cartoon character, a neutered sidekick whose role in life is to spout goofy punchlines and hop on Russell Crowe's back with childlike (read: retarded) gusto. Paddy Considine, so touching in In America, has a ridiculously awful subplot involving his attempt to unionize: the less said, the better. And of course Craig Bierko plays Crowe's boxing opponent as nothing more than a villain with a stick up his ass, because obviously Opie isn't into that whole character complexity thing. (Heck, even Billie the Blue Bear had more depth!)

The fight scenes are tedious, and the last one goes on FOREVER. This is inexplicable, especially after Million Dollar Baby's gut wrenching fight sequences (I don't mean to constantly compare Cinderella to Baby, but, well, it's all I could think while watching the boxing matches.) I will credit Ron Howard's sheer ineptitude for the reason a fight between Crowe and a boxer who KILLED TWO MEN is an absolute bore, especially because, in Howardland, things only end predictably and with cheery uplift. A cheesy closeup of a stool only made me root harder for Crowe's Jim Braddock to meet a Maggie Fitzgerald-like fate. (Of course, that would have been interesting, and interesting is usually offlimits in Ron Howard films.)

What makes me hate this movie even more is the fact that so many people will love it, and the fact that critics have been shouting the 'O' word from the hilltops, when this movie should be NOWHERE near the Oscars in any category, is depressing. Like fellow acclaimed stinkers Crash and The Upside of Anger (both of which are MUCH better than this film), I feel like Cinderella Man's positive buzz rests mainly on the fact that, in today's lowest common denominator film environment, a movie about adults with pretty production values can dupe enough people into calling it intelligent counter-programming, when in fact, it is as shallow, obvious, and just plain dumb as any special effects extravaganza geared to ten year-old boys. (Honestly, I thought Revenge of the Sith was just as dumb but I'll admit I had more fun at that than at this absolute bore.)

When this movie gets nominated for Best Picture over The Best of Youth, I will groan. When Ron Howard's incompetent direction gets nominated over dozens of more visionary, innovative, and creative filmmakers, I will roll my eyes. When Crowe and Zellweger hog Oscar nods like they often do from stronger performances, I will scream. (I sort of want Giamatti to finally get his nod, even for one of his least impressive roles, just because he has been so cruelly robbed the last two years). Is there ONE interesting camera angle in this film? Of course not, but it will still get a cinematography nod, just like the absolutely boring sets and costumes. And I think Thomas Newman has written superb scores in the past few years (namely American Beauty, Road to Perdition, and Finding Nemo), but his work here is a treacly sap-fest that made me cringe every time it overwhelmed the pathetic images of cute Depression-era kids and Renée Zellweger bawling. Finding Neverbland was pretty Oscar whorey, but I think this pic is the most Oscar-desperate film since Chocolat.

And I hate to say it, but Cinderhella Man makes A Beautiful Mind look almost like a good movie!

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Postby Sabin » Sat Jun 04, 2005 9:50 am

I missed Not On the Lips when it played at the Siskel Center a couple of months ago. Resnais fascinates me. I just got je t'aime, je t'aime off of amazon and will be viewing that soon.

In addition to Taste of Others (which is high up on my to see list), I'll also be checking out Un Air de Famille, which she cowrote.
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Postby Precious Doll » Fri Jun 03, 2005 5:45 pm

Sabin wrote:Look at Me -- ***1/2
...This is my first Agnes Jaoui film and I'm very, very eager to see what else she has written, directed, and acted in.

Sabin, you should seek out The Taste of Others, Agnes Jaoui's earlier film which is even better then Look at Me. I remeber Sonic Youth was also enthusiastic about it as well. My father raved about it when he recently saw it on DVD.

She also co-wrote and appearing in one of Alain Resnais lesser but neverthless worth seeing Same Old Music (I much prefer Resnais latest musical Not on Your Lips myself) and co-adapted Smoking/No Smoking also directed by Resnais. Smoking/No Smoking is screaming for the Criterion DVD treatment.
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Postby Mike Kelly » Fri Jun 03, 2005 4:56 pm

From Mister Tee re: Crash
I couldn't help being distracted by Howard's NOT MENTIONING the hijacker sitting in his car. [quote]

From a police perspective, this is one scene that rang false. I can't remember now WHY they stopped the vehicle, but S.O.P. would dictate that one of the officers would check the vehicle for passengers. It would probably be Phillipe, and even if you accept that Phillipe was distracted once he saw Howard was the driver, the senior officer with the shotgun would have told Phillipe to check out the SUV.

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Postby Sabin » Fri Jun 03, 2005 10:24 am

Look at Me -- ***1/2
...This is my first Agnes Jaoui film and I'm very, very eager to see what else she has written, directed, and acted in. The only thing holding me back from a ***1/2 rating is that a few months from now, I doubt I'll be terribly enthusiastic about what is just a very pleasant moviegoing experience. Visually, this is a fantastic film that never feels stagey (and man, it really could've), which only ripens the pleasures of the performances and script. I have a feeling once I see the other films Jaoui was involved in, I will remember this as a very pleasant introduction.
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Postby anonymous1980 » Wed Jun 01, 2005 9:05 am

SIN CITY
Cast: Jessica Alba, Devon Aoki, Alexis Bledel, Powers Boothe, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Carla Gugino, Josh Hartnett, Rutger Hauer, Jaime King, Michael Madsen, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Nick Stahl, Makenzie Vega, Bruce Willis, Elijah Wood.
Dirs: Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Frank Miller

Though cast seem to have a lot of fun with their roles and all give credible if at times over-the-top performances, they do not elevate the strictly style over substance adaptation of the popular graphic novels by Frank Miller. The film gets tired but the dark, lurid, darkly comic ultraviolent excercise in filmmaking is fun to watch nonetheless.

Oscar Prospects: Cinematography is a possibility. So is Makeup.

Grade: B

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Postby kaytodd » Mon May 30, 2005 10:34 am

CINDERELLA MAN
Grade B+

Several weeks ago, I posted the link to a trailer for Cinderella Man. One of the comments I made was that the film looked old fashioned, overly sentimental, hokey and manipulative but that I would end up liking it because of the talent and professionalism of those in front of and behind the camera. Speaking for myself, my prediction was correct.

Many people on this board will hate this film and I can understand this. A lot of my fellow posters hate films that so blatantly tug at the heartstrings, especially when the director is someone who has almost never shown a talent for anything else. If you are not a fan of "Ron Howard type films" you will not like CM.

But Howard knew what he was trying to accomplish and pulled it off big time. Crowe's and Zellweger's characters are, to me, impossibly saintly. But they have grit that comes through when they need it. (Possible minor spoilers below). Crowe will deserve the Lead Actor Oscar nom he will get. He dominates the screen as you would expect him to. He is convincing as a sweet-natured and devoted husband and father; you wonder where the rage comes from that permits him to be a successful boxer. But you see it in his eyes and face when he pulls it from himself when he needs it. And he is also convincing during the first hour of the film he spends as a good man struggling with the effects of the Depression. He is, not surprisingly, also convincing during the boxing matches.

The boxing matches! One of the things on my To Do List this week is to rent Raging Bull (I have not seen it in a few years), which to me is the gold standard of boxing matches on the screen (I am not a boxing fan or an afficianado of boxing films). Right now, I am of the opinion that CM has the best boxing sequences I have ever seen in a film. Not only are they realistic and the actors believable, but I was able to follow the action. Both boxers go to their corners between rounds, their managers give them advice, and you see the fighters trying to follow the advice. It may not seem like much as you read this, but I was impressed. Good work by the actors, the editors (Daniel Hanley and Mike Hill) and Howard. The matches are very exciting.

Speaking of managers, Paul Giamatti's supporting Oscar nom will be deserved. He follows in the tradition of Burgess Meredith, Burt Young, Joe Pesci and Everett Sloane as the tough little guy who is devoted to his boxer and provides comic relief in the film. Giamatti does this very well. But he also has a secret that makes his character more complex and interesting.

I do not see an Oscar nom for Zellweger, her part was just not that well fleshed out (though I do think she will get a GG nom). If she did not have so much screen time she could have a small shot at a supporting nom. She is supposed to be the saintly wife and mother devoted to her children and Crowe, the saintly husband and father. And she plays it to the hilt. One performance that came to my mind was Lesley Anne Warren's Oscar nominated performance in Victor/Victoria. Both Warren and Zellweger played characters that have become cliches, but both played them as if they had just been created (In Inside Oscar, Damien quoted a review of Victor/Victoria that made this point about Warren; this quote came to me while watching Zellweger). Zellweger is tender and loving but she shows grit when she and her children are taking apart a wooden billboard to keep their tiny decrepit apartment warm and during a memorable confrontation with Max Baer (the well cast Craig Bierko). And she also shows it when she confronts a character at his apartment. He will not let her in so she tells him off, standing on her tiptoes and shaking her finger at the peephole in the door. Corny, but I and the rest of the audience gave her warm, affectionate laughter. This is exactly what Howard and Zellweger wanted to us to do.

The Paddy Considine side story is a major clunker. He spouts cartoonish 1930's socialist dogma and Braddock, while understanding Considine's views and anger, will have none of it. To Braddock, America is the Land Of Opportunity And Freedom. The Commie Considine, while a sympathetic character, "gets what he deserves."

Besides Oscar noms for Crowe and Giamatti, I see noms for art direction/set decoration, editing and costumes. It is beautifully photographed but I think there will be at least five more deserving films in that category. I also see a nom for original screenplay. And I would not be surprised with a best picture nom, though I do not see one for Howard. His nom will go to the director of one of those films that just misses the cut for best picture, something that happens every year.
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Postby anonymous1980 » Thu May 19, 2005 4:41 am

STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Jimmy Smits, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Keshia Castle-Hughes.
Dir: George Lucas

Easily the best of the prequels. The previous two were over-the-top CGI overloaded eye candy (with perfunctory stretches of scenes with bad dialogue) redeemed by some engaging sequences (like the Pod Race in episode one and Yoda's ass-kicking is episode 2). The first hour or so is just like the prequels (the same ol' boring crap) but the second half is when things get truly riveting with Anakin turning into Darth Vader. The drama, the intense fight sequences is more than enough to overcome the still bad dialogue.

Oscar Prospects: Visual Effects is assured. Maybe Makeup, Sound and Sound Editing.

Grade: B

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Postby MovieWes » Mon May 16, 2005 1:35 am

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (d. Garth Jennings) ***
2. Kingdom of Heaven (d. Ridley Scott) ***
3. Sin City (d. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller) ** 1/2
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Postby The Original BJ » Sun May 15, 2005 8:04 pm

Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith

I think it's about **1/2. It’s actually not that bad. I wouldn’t call it good, but believe me, it is MUCH better than the last two. There’s nothing as flat-out atrocious as anything in Attack of the Clones, and nothing as annoying as in Phantom Menace, but this one still feels just sort of boring and pointless. There are a lot of nifty action sequences, and the visuals are marvelous (especially in pristine digital projection), but every time it starts to get good someone opens their mouth and the dialogue is so horrendous I will never understand why anyone could possibly call George Lucas a good storyteller. And don’t believe the rumors, the acting in this one is atrocious, too. But thank heavens the banal romance is toned done, and PRAISE JESUS that Jar-Jar Binks has not one line of dialogue. I’d even praise the movie for attempting to include political subtext, no matter how obvious, but it’s sad to be in an audience where an awesome Bush-bashing line like, “So this is how liberty dies, to thunderous applause,” gets no applause yet people somehow go wild every time Yoda says something weird. (Side note: Anyone else think Yoda’s speech patterns are not that funny? I mean, there’s a joke that’s 25 years old) Revenge of the Sith is darker, it’s more emotional, more serious than the first two prequels, and I think Star Wars fans will love it, but overall it felt sort of irrelevant to me. I’m just glad I caught a free screening so I didn’t have to waste any money on it!

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Postby kaytodd » Sun May 15, 2005 4:42 pm

Mister Tee, good post on Crash. I agree with most of what you wrote. It is certainly a flawed film, but I enjoyed it and I think it was because, IMO, all of the actors did a good job.

I thought your bringing up the name Capra was appropos. This seems to be an old-fashioned 1940's "message film" with 21st Century language. The language was rough but did not seem gratuitous; I thought this is how these people would talk. The heavy-handedness of the "message" reminded me of Gentlemen's Agreement. The incredible (I love the way Edelstein put it in his Slate review: "And when I say incredible, I mean NOT REMOTELY CREDIBLE.") coincidences did not bother me, for I knew in the first two minutes that this was like a fable. I liked it because the dialogue was sharp and the performances good.

SPOILERS BELOW

Like most people, I think the second Dillon/Newton meeting was the highlight of the film. Sure it was a wild conicidence, but this is that kind of film. But it was so dramatic and so well done by Haggis, Dillon and Newton. People think Dillon experienced a very unlikely change during the second meeting but I did not see it that way at all. He did what he did at the second meeting because he saw Newton in a totally different light from the first meeting. I do not think his character changed at all. If someone else had been in Newton's circumstances during the second meeting, Dillon would have done the same thing. And I guess that is the point. He was a good cop during their second meeting because of the situation. He was a bad cop (to put it mildly) during the first meeting because he thought he had to put what he saw as a foul-mouthed spoiled rich bitch in her place.

One scene that is not widely discussed but hit me hard was the Tony Danza/Terrence Howard scene. I thought Terrence Howard was wonderful in this film (probably not worthy of an Oscar nom, but I hope there is some buzz). You can see him supressing his resentment over what Danza was ordering him to do. I can see it in his face, but you could tell Danza did not. You can tell Howard has been hiding his resentment over things like this for a long time. But, considering what happened the night before, it was not a good day for him. And how that affected the rest of his day was heavy-handed, but it moved me and seemed right for this film.

I think the scene that made me roll my eyes the most was the Phillipe/Tate scene. Why didn't Phillipe just identify himself as a cop? But in this kind of film, something like this had to happen.
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Postby Mister Tee » Sun May 15, 2005 3:17 pm

Crash is the sort of movie many of us would LIKE to like -- it's a grown-up drama with a mainstream feel, and it certainly aspires to seriousness. And I think it starts off well (disagree with Sabin here). The first, say, 45 minutes have some strong scenes (Ludacris and Tate; Phillippe with Keith David; Cheadle with Esposito; Dillon with Loretta Devine); inventive, crackling dialogue (though, to be honest, part of the kick comes from hearing racist jokes smuggled in under cover of knowingness); the actors are pretty uniformly solid; and the fractured structure draws one in. But the closer the film got to its "big" moments, the more it lost me.

SPOILERS FROM HERE

I think the first time I dialed out was during the Cheadle/Fichtner negotation. It had the "look from all angles" tone of a Law and Order colloquium. Next, I found the Dillon/Newton second meet a wildly unlikely coincidence (people are complaining the film thrives on coincidence, but this was the only one that rubbed me completely wrong). The Ryan Phillippe/Terence Howard scene wasn't bad on its own, but I couldn't help being distracted by Howard's NOT MENTIONING the hijacker sitting in his car. (I kept thinking, ask the police to help. I suppose the rationale is, Howard's mistrust was so great he wouldn't, but I still doubted he'd get back into a car with a carjacker) The big moment in the locksmith/store owner story infuriated me twice over -- first, the crass manipulativeness of endangering an adorable child, then the hokiness of the outcome. Ryan Phillippe's encounter with Larenz Tate seemed there solely to offset Phillippe's otherwise admirable character (such meaningless balance is, in its own way, formulaic). Ludracris' good deed with the refugees seemed like something from a Capra movie. And, by that time, the film's rhythm had become utterly predictable. Once the first "sign of hope" occurred, it became clear that the film was shifting into redemptive-grace mode, and that everything that followed would be soothing, not violent. And the ending snowfall seemed just a pale echo of Magnolia's frogs. (I thought the frogs just about destroyed the end of Magnolia, but at least Anderson gets points for vivid imagination. Haggis' seems quite limited by comparison)

It's not there's nothing good in the latter portions. I liked that Cheadle's mother ASSUMES it's his brother who's done the grocery shopping. I like that I almost subliminally detected "9/11" written on the wall of the trashed store. I thought the acting generally held up (though you wonder if Sandra Bullock's role suffered cuts, or was simply a bad one to start).

In spite of my objections, I see the film has held up well at the box-office. It might well be the "hit" adult drama of the season, and could ease its way into the Oscar race -- at least in terms of screenplay and, say, editing. Everyone always says films suffer from being released early in the year, but I wonder if sometimes the opposite can be true: when there's so little around for grown-up audiences, people can become intensely loyal to those few films that make a feint in their direction. Moulin Rouge and The Full Monty are two films I think benefitted from audience gratitude during slack seasons. Crash and, maybe, The Upside of Anger, are candidates for the same treatment in this so-far dreary year.


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