Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Five More Films from 2008- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Still Life, I've Loved You So Long, Quantum of Solace, Body of Lies

June 3, 2009

Five More Films from 2008- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Still Life, I’ve Loved You So Long, Quantum of Solace, Body of Lies

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) ***1/2

Directed by Mark Herman

You gotta love Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly. She called the Holocaust film The Boy in the Striped Pajamas one of the worst films of 2008, shockingly re-titling it “Honey, We Gassed the Kids.” Presumably, she was disgusted by the cheap way kids are used in order to wrench our emotions from deep in the confines of our guts and gore. It’s hard to argue with that except to say that I was deeply affected by the film’s profoundly distressful conclusion. Months after seeing it, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has stayed in my psyche, and it’s not often that this happens especially with the amount of films I’ve been watching over the last year. I feel it’s my responsibility to say that this isn’t for young children, despite the fact that the main characters are both under ten. So maybe the better title ought to be, “Honey, We Gassed the Kids and Made a Good Movie.”

Labels: 2008, Three and a Half Stars, Drama

Still Life (2008) ***1/2

Directed by Jia Zhang-ke

Like Up the Yangtze, Still Life shows the sadness that exists on the banks of the Yangtze River in China. The film’s patient pacing helps tell the calm story of a simple coalminer in search of his ex-wife whom he hasn’t seen for 16 years. A parallel plot centers around a young nurse seeking out her estranged husband whom she hasn’t seen for two years. The town of Fengjie, which has been submerged underwater because of the fury of the Yangtze, struggles to keep going similar to those whose stories are shown so beautifully. There are moments of odd absurdity, like when a building actually takes off into the sky like a spaceship, which helped keep me from being bored… which is good since Still Life came very close to losing me on account of its dullness. I’m sure many truths from all our lives are mirrored in the lives of those on the other side of the world, giving Still Life a significance beyond its touching narratives.

Labels: 2008, Three and a Half Stars, Drama, Foreign Film, Mandarin

I’ve Loved You So Long (2008) *1/2

Directed by Philippe Claudel

What a crock! I’ve Loved You So Long easily takes the title of the most overrated film of the year, appearing on many best of 2008 lists and receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Perhaps everyone has been myopically overtaken by Kristin Scott Thomas’ fine performance as Juliette Fontaine, a woman recently released from prison who was charged with murdering her son. There’s a scene towards the end which shows Thomas breaking down completely which contains some of the best moments of acting all year. That being said, every single other element of I’ve Loved You So Long absolutely blows, most notably the performance of Elsa Zylberstein as Juliette’s kind-hearted sister Lea. Go back and watch the false ways in which Zylberstein delivers every single one of her lines and tell me that I’m wrong! Blame ought also to go to Claudel’s screenplay, which copiously offers the most ridiculous scenes that can’t help but hit audiences over the head concerning characters’ emotional quandaries which are able to understood long before. Also, the “surprise ending” is the least surprising thing I’ve ever seen! This movie is grade-A crap, and it irritates me that more people haven’t reached the same conclusion on their own!

Labels: 2008, One and a Half Stars, Drama, Foreign Film, French

Quantum of Solace (2008) ***

Directed by Marc Forster

Is there anyone in the world that knows (or cares) less about the James Bond franchise than me? Before Quantum of Solace, I saw only the first Bond movie with Sean Connery, and I’ve got to admit that I don’t even remember its name. Therefore, I had little expectations going into this one, and I’m happy to report that I had a good time watching this silly exploration into revenge for a death which occurred at the end of Casino Royale. The action scenes are pretty cool, especially the one involving the plane. Sure, there’s no way in hell that they would have survived that crash, or at least they wouldn’t have emerged still looking as pretty as they did. Still, this movie works as mindless enjoyment, and because of this fact, I judge the criticisms over the authenticity of whether or not James Bond would really behave the way he does here to be moot. Sip a martini and calm down!

Labels: 2008, Three Stars, Action

Body of Lies (2008) ***

Directed by Ridley Scott

It’s refreshing to see Leo DiCaprio in a film that’s not striving to win Oscar gold! Body of Lies is a violent, intense conspiracy thriller in the vain of so many other violent, intense conspiracy thrillers. DiCaprio’s performance ultimately holds Scott’s relatively forgettable flick together, and it single-handedly makes up for Russell Crowe’s silly, over-the-top turn as a CIA official who holds perhaps a bit too much power over DiCaprio’s terrorist infiltrator. This is satisfactory, run-of-the-mill stuff right here… perfect for a rainy day viewing.

Labels: 2008, Three Stars, Thriller