Into the Wild: The Poll

Into the Wild: The Poll

****
7
25%
*** 1/2
11
39%
***
7
25%
** 1/2
0
No votes
**
3
11%
* 1/2
0
No votes
*
0
No votes
1/2 *
0
No votes
0
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 28

Sabin
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Postby Sabin » Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:03 pm

Every once in a while a movie is nominated for the Oscar and I just want to ask Joe Average Oscar-Voter a compare/contrast question:

"Did you really like 'The Thin Red Line' more than 'Waking Ned Devine'?"

"Did you really like 'Munich' more than 'Walk the Line'?"

"Did you really like 'Master and Commander' more than 'In America'?"

I personally like those three films much, much more than the more obvious replacement, but I like my universe to make sense. 'The Green Mile' over 'Being John Malkovich' and 'The Talented Mr. Ripley'. 'Chocolat' over 'Almost Famous' and 'Wonder Boys'. Good stuff, crimes and against cinematic humanity, and whatnot.

"Did you really like 'Atonement' more than 'Into the Wild'?"

I find that impossible to believe. Even considering that the first third of 'Atonement' would rank no less than my top five of 2007, I find it hard to believe that voters were half as emotionally invested in those characters than 'Into the Wild'. Nix that: impossible.

Some omissions I can understand: I can see how the writer's branch saw this movie as assembled in post-production and didn't have a great screenplay, and I can understand how the music branch saw the songs are interchangeable even though they're not. But were I to predict the nominees today, I would predict that 'Into the Wild' would lead the field with Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Song, Song, Song, and Film Editing. And were it nodded for Sound Mixing or Cinematography, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. I could easily see it winning the Screen Actor's Guild Ensemble Award as well as Penn is so generous with his actors and not often to a fault.

It's not without its flaws. Much of the nature cinematography of Emile Hirsch in the Alaskan wild reveling in his paradise is indulgent stuff: circling, slow motion water pouring onto him, etc. I don't care for the writing on the screen. I don't care for the half-assery of the depiction of the parents. He is deified at the end to a fault...

And yet these only distract because the rest of the film is so ridiculously enjoyable. All my initial reservations about Emile Hisch have vanished. The guy brings it in every capacity. It's a beautifully physical performance. He gets that McChambliss is a joyous loon. Vince Vaughn, Brian Dirker, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart, and beautiful, beautiful Hal Halbrook create characters with entire lives, the kinds of characters that in this travelogue of a film create an irresistible spectrum of encounter for the viewer. It's great, personal essay filmmaking, very indulgent but for what it allows its flaws have to remain somewhat testament to its power.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Zahveed » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:09 pm

Steph2 wrote:Zahveed, do you dislike any movie? :D

I do actually. I'm told by my friends that I don't like enough movies. I just don't voice it as much as some people because I'd rather talk about the movies that I do like.
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Postby Steph2 » Tue Jan 29, 2008 7:48 pm

*** stars, and mostly for the performances.

Zahveed, do you dislike any movie? :D

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Postby Zahveed » Tue Jan 29, 2008 11:42 am

**** The scenery is beautiful and the acting is great, but this is a film meant for the theatre for how grand it is. I can't see this having too high of a replay value on DVD, but it's still an amazing film.
"It's the least most of us can do, but less of us will do more."

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Postby Sabin » Tue Jan 29, 2008 8:47 am

Couldn't say how well it holds up on repeat viewings, but loved it.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Jan 28, 2008 4:35 pm

Vote and discuss
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Postby Penelope » Tue Nov 20, 2007 9:44 pm

You know, I didn't love this movie; I liked it, but I didn't love it, because though the good stuff was often very good (Holbrook and Keener and Vaughn, the landscapes, the music, the overall sense of wanting to escape), the bad stuff was often very bad (the broad characterization of the parents, the excessive deification of McCandless, and Emile Hirsch's shallow performance). It left me wanting.
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Postby The Original BJ » Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:16 pm

Continuing my review catch-up...

Into the Wild is definitely one of the better films of the season (and Oscar nominations wouldn't disappoint me), but for me this was another film that didn't quite approach the level of greatness promised by some of the reviews. (Of course, it can't help that I saw this an hour after Jesse James...how could I not be let down after that?)

For starters, let me slightly disagree with some of you on one point: I don't think the film is as ambiguous as it's been made out to be. Or, to put it a little differently, (if this makes any sense) it's ambiguous in a way that I think is somewhat simplistic. I found McCandless's parents (especially the Marcia Gay Harden character) to be pretty broadly drawn -- who WOULDN'T want to escape their rigid plans? -- and, as dws said, that scene with the young man Chris sees himself becoming was terribly obvious. (My mother actually told me she had little desire to see a film that celebrated throwing your college education away and aspiring to nothing.) I don't think the film flat-out worships Chris -- he does, after all, die at the end -- but it doesn't paint anywhere near as complex a portrait of contemporary society (and what Chris is leaving behind) as I'd have liked. In other words, the film's ideas about the superficiality of society struck me as rather conventional and old-hat.

Along those lines, I had another larger problem with the film that Mister Tee got at obliquely: I think Chris's story isn't all that much more than anecdotal. This isn't to say that the anecdotes aren't compelling -- far from it. But for me, Into the Wild felt an awful lot like other road movie/survival tales, and I wasn't surprised at all by any narrative or thematic element of this story. (To bring up mom again, when I recommended the film to her, and described most of the narrative, she asked, after all that, what was unique about this story that I hadn't told her...I didn't have much of an answer.)

By now of course it sounds like I didn't care for the film, which is definitely not the case. I love films that celebrate the natural beauty of the world, and this film has such deep respect for the land and every delightful character Chris meets along his journey. As others have said, the film meanders a bit too much, but I enjoyed the byways, both the humorous (Vaughn), and deeply felt (Keener). Hirsch isn't quite a revelation, but I liked him a lot in the role -- the character he creates is exactly the kind of charming, appealing, care-free person who would attract so many friends from different walks of life. And then there's Hal Holbrook, whose heartfelt eleventh-hour monologue is as moving as any scene in recent memory.

The end falls apart: as Sabin says, the ending is way too much. But in the end, I found myself very moved by Chris's saga, the joys he gave to the people he touched along the way, and the pain he caused plenty of others. Into the Wild didn't resonate as deeply with me on an emotional or intellectual level as much as I'd have liked, but it's a worthy enough effort that's quite endearing, flaws and all.

Lovely soundtrack, too.

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Postby Steph2 » Sat Nov 17, 2007 3:54 pm

This was my favorite film of the year...until I saw No Country for Old Men.

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Postby Sabin » Tue Nov 13, 2007 4:24 pm

Penn has established himself as a fantastic visual stylist, far more so than we had any reason to expect from his previous ventures, but there were just a few too glaring flaws in this film for me to (like Daniel) feel totally comfortable labeling it a masterpiece. Prime offender no. 1 was the ending which was just so painfully overwrought I wanted to scream. I would say Fire that editor! but really no editor in his right mind would let that pass. That's all Penn, and his film is full of flourishes that just don't entirely work; however, on some level, I think it's because his passion for McCambliss is so genuine that his missteps are almost as endearing as the young man.

I've isolated one of the reasons why I love this film, which concerns itself with a young man who is fairly ignorant, brazen, and naive: so many people just talk about running off into the wild, but this guy really did, and tonally the film follows suit. It has just the right vibe, it stays on just the right same-minded level as McCambliss. So is the cinematography. So is the soundtrack. So are the little detours along the way. This movie IS McCambliss; I want to look at both of them and sneer, shake my head, and say no. But I just can't. They're both too charming.

Catherine Keener does some of the best work I've ever seen her do. Hal Halbrook, I think, might very well win the Oscar. He does not appear to be acting for a second and his last scene with McCambliss is such a heartbreaker. Vince Vaughn is also blissfully restrained and real in his scenes. I did not want this movie to end.

This is the year of the Unnecessarily Literate Voice-Over That Shouldn't Work and Doesn't Work But Does. With this film and 'The Assassination of Jesse James', we have two movies that use voice-over as a crutch, yet they both find just the right notes to keep from being entirely cloying. To ditch Jena Malone's voice-over is to lose the child inside that McCambliss is clearly running from, which would turn him into a slightly emptier jackass. They film could not work without it. It would turn into a soundtrack in search of a film.




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"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby dws1982 » Tue Nov 13, 2007 1:23 am

Some spoilers below...

I've watched this twice now. It's one of those movies where I fundamentally want to throw out the flaws and just call it a masterpiece--there's something about it that resonates so deeply with me that it's hard to be objective. And the strange thing is, I'm not sure what it is. I'm not an adventurer or daredevil like McCandless was, and like you, Mister Tee, I'm not much of an outdoorsman (allergies--especially a very severe poison ivy/oak allergy--prevent it). Maybe it has something to do with a guy, who went out and lived as fully and completely as possible---just went for broke and tried to live the fullest life he could imagine. That his ended with an early death--and, as the film shows, a too-late realization that what he was looking for wouldn't be found alone in the wilds of Alaska--made it an almost overwhelmingly powerful experience.

Emile Hirsch has never made a huge impression on me in the past, and he was never an actor whose career I've followed--now I can't wait to see what he does next. Not many actors have to anchor a film the way he does here--not only appearing in nearly every scene, but also carrying what probably amounts to 45 or so minutes of the film without any other actor to play off of. But most of all, he's able to convey the contradictions of Chris McCandless--friendly, likeable, and social, but also capable of cold, abrupt cruelness (the way he brushes Hal Holbrook's character off in the end); we can see that he's disillusioned with a lot of things, but that he hasn't really become cynical (except towards his parents). I've read some people who disliked the movie, thinIking that the McCandless character was smug and superior to everyone and that the movie seemed to approve of him...I didn't see that at all. I liked that the movie didn't shy away from showing his superior attitude, his idea that he had it all figured out at 23. His attitude can be distasteful at times, and Penn and Hirsch don't shy away from that--Chris McCandless was a likeable guy, and the showed that, but he also did real damage, and hurt a lot of people who didn't deserve it, and they show that too. The movie may depict him as a tragic hero of sorts, but it certainly doesn't (implicitly or explicitly) endorse all of his behavior.

I wasn't crazy about a few of Penn's directoral choices--the Chris stands on top of the mountain with his arms outstretched scene was unfortunate, and the scene in LA where Chris sees the yuppie whom he fears becoming was spelled out a bit too clearly that it probably needed to be. But he really is excellent with his actors, and his handling of the final sequence was about perfect.

About the supporting cast--I'm glad you mentioned the Social Worker, Tee; the actress who played her was excellent. I was speaking of smugness above, andthat's one thing that Keener generally seems to bring to all of her performances, but her work here was fantastic. With just a few scenes, Jan is a fully formed, sympathetic character. And Holbrook, of course, is great. He's been a favorite of mine ever since I saw his performance as Abraham Lincoln back in the early nineties when the Disney Channel aired the Sandburg's Lincoln miniseries from 1975. No one--except Henry Fonda, although they play Lincoln at totally different periods, so there's no real way of comparing--has ever come close to his performance as Lincoln (ditto Sada Thompson's Mary Todd). I'd love for him to get a nomination for this. I think Penelope said that in A History of Violence you could see William Hurts entire life story in just a few minutes. I didn't agree there, but I think that's an apt description of Holbrook here.

I'd like to come back and add more when I have time, because I find a lot to talk about with this movie.

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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Nov 01, 2007 1:09 pm

Are people not seeing this, or just not finding anything to say about it?

I wouldn't be considered a target audience for a film like this -- camping (or any leisure that doesn't include air-conditioning) holds little appeal for me -- but I found the film really compelling. It's a week and a half since I saw it, and it's stuck with me. In a year when I've seen little I've much cared about, this makes it easily one of the top efforts so far.

What's most interesting is the clear-eyed, genuinely balanced view Penn and company have of the McCandless character. Chris's robust rejection of materialistic society -- with echoes Kerouac and the 60s -- has a primal appeal, but the film isn't shy about showing the immature side of it...nor how this revolt against his family inflicts deep wounds on people who don't entirely or at all deserve it. Penn's probably made a different film than he would have a decade ago -- McCandless' cocksureness would have dovetailed with his own, then -- and I was ready to credit this more mature view to the fact that Sean is a parent himself now. But, based on what Penn said on Sundance's Inconoclasts, an even bigger factor may have been the loss of his brother a few years back. Certainly the film's deepest sense of pain comes in the Jena Malone voice-over -- the person Chris didn't mean to hurt, one he truly loved, suffered right alongside the parents he fully intended to wound. (And with other characters, Keener especially, expressing the pain of losing touch with their children, the parental side of this situation is given ample sympathy)

The film is too long, a fact underlined by the loose structure, but I can't think of a segment I'd cut (a general trim around the edges, shortening things 10-15 minutes, would have helped). What's fascinating is how a character like McCandless, going off to long-term solitude, is actually the most social of beings. He meets a plethora of interesting characters, and though they cover a wide range of types -- Vince Vaughn and Hal Holbrook are, culturally, a mile away from Catherine Keener and hubby or the Scandinavian couple -- he seems to generate genuine affection from all. Does this mean he was an exceptionally likable human being? Or is it that, in the period covered by the film, he's asking for nothing (monetarily, socially, sexually) from anyone, and is thus easier for anyone to tolerate?

I will say this is the rare film that might actually have erred by not touching more on a character's sexual side. Here's a guy at an age where hormones are popping, and, not only does he turn down the one easy opportunity offered, he seems to make no other effort along those lines for a lengthy period of time. I'm not saying that's unbelievable...just that I'd like to have explored a bit what may have been eminently justifiable reasons (family-induced) why he'd be so uncharacteristic of his age and gender.

You do get a sense, as the film winds down, that the fact that McCandless dies (not a spoiler, I hope) is the only thing that makes the story more than anecdotal. Penn makes a strong case -- with the name business, particularly -- that Chris was ready for re-integration into his life, so the hideous mistake that ended up killing him seems a grotesque jest of fate aimed at a guy who deserved better. All of which I think works well for a film that locates man as just as small cog in an immense entity, over most of which he has little control.

The actors are all quite good. I'd agree Holbrook is the standout -- a very different part for him -- but this is really the sort of film for which you'd think the SAG ensemble category was created: everyone, from leading man Hirsch to throwaway parts like the woman in the shelter, is fine but hardly anyone jumps out at you. Bet almost anything it doesn't happen, however.

I can't say I've loved Penn's directorial work prior -- his work has always seemed too in love with crushing tragedy -- but I think he strikes just the right tones here. Not, for me, a great film, but a truly worthy and memorable one I hope most people get to see.


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