Sunday, November 27, 2005

Back With Intent

Bonjour! Salut! Guten Tag!

I'm back from a short spell out, having seen many more movies and pondered over many more Oscar hopefuls. The November Oscar predictions are available for all to see now over at The Film Lair

I Will be aiming to achieve some kind of parity, and so are starting here with a couple of blog reviews, which will shortly be followed by a couple of full reviews available tonight.

So here we go. Let's begin with Oscar hopeful Crash, the debut directorial effort from Paul Haggis, the writer of last year's oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby (ugh.. still hate to think about that). The story is about racial issues in Los Angeles and follows a hefty multi-cultural ensemble, featuring the likes of Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle, and Sandra Bullock as they cross paths with one another in the depths of the city. This is only a short review, so I'll try not to delve too much into the film's many sub-plots. What I will say is that if you're looking for a particularly enjoyable time, Crash isn't the movie for you. Haggis' aim was to expose the extent of racial prejudice in LA and cultural misunderstanding, and thus it is incredibly shady and brutally honest.

Matt Dillon has the most impacting role, and the most significant character arc, as a racist cop who picks on a young black couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton). His role is very remeniscent of Billy Bob Thornton's character in Monsters Ball, with a similar belief system, but Dillon brings a subtle depth to the role that borders on revelatory. In truth, Crash's strength lies in its incredible ensemble, with Thandie Newton also giving a breakout performance as a woman losing faith in her boyfriend, and in life, as well as the neutrality of the police force. Newton shines, letting rip at the world with the emanant anger of a woman without prejudice, who can't bear to see it go on any longer. The other noteworthy performance is from Sandra Bullock, not known particularly for her dramatic flair. However, her stunning short turn as a neurotic middle-class housewife leaves a lasting impression. Bullock makes every second of her running time count.

As a whole, Crash is phenomenal, flaunting the similarities of prejudice and exposing a lack of cultural understanding that forms the divide. Led by one of the finest ensembles in recent memory, and one of the most insightful scripts of the year, Crash is a film that simply must be seen to be believed.

From drama on the streets to drama in the air, and Flightplan, starring the ever-brilliant Jodie Foster as Kyle Pratt, a recent widow, who travels with her daughter Julia on a flight from Berlin. When Foster wakes from her sleep to find Julia missing, she trawls the plane looking for her. But when she is told that Julia was never on the plane and that she died several days ago, Pratt goes berserk, tearing anything and everything in her path to find the girl.

Foster is naturally brilliant in a role remeniscent of her Panic Room turn, a wronged and desperate mother seemingly taking on every man and his dog in her quest for answers. It's her that makes it watchable, in an hour-and-a-half-long onslaught that establishes her as a kick-ass heroine. A rebel with a cause. The first hour works very well as a thriller, while it's conspiracy theory Versus emotional instability question remains, to a degree, engaging. There are a lot of hitchcockian elements present here, however, there is something a little odd and profoundly ridiculous about Flightplan's final act that really doesn't hold water. A rapid flurry of information in the final quarter is tough to digest, and the whole thing ends with a dissatisfying whimper. There's promise there, but it sadly fails to deliver.

From one superbly talented actress to another, erm, superbly talented actress. Three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen stars in The Upside Of Anger, as a wife and mother of three daughters, who is left extremely bitter after her husband leaves her for his secretary.

Terry Ann Wolfmeyer (Allen) begins to drink 24/7, and consequently develops a pessimistic bluntness towards life, making her brutally honest and hilariously dry. Her three daughters are hardly angels, their naivety bringing Terry Ann to despair at times, but there is a soulful spirit about The Upside Of Anger that shows us how people can change their character for little or no reason. It's a movie that proves you need to let go sometimes and tell it how it is. Allen is refreshing, on the verge of a nervous breakdown she ceases to give a fuck, letting rip at whomever is in her path be it with the horrific concern of an unstable mother, or the sexual repression of a middle-aged soon-to-be divorcee, Allen is wickedly entertaining, and eternally resolute.

Realistically, there is always an upside to anger, blatantly present within this film. When we are angry there are things we'd say that we wouldn't otherwise. It embraces how it's ultimately better to let rip than to keep things bottled up, and is therefore very admirable.
Crash - B+ , Flightplan - C, The Upside Of Anger - B

1 comment:

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