Observations on the Road to...

Friday, December 19, 2008

What needs to be seen: A few choice reviews.

I was able to catch preview screenings of Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The protagonist in both films undergo very fascinating experiences through different means, but the themes in both films are similar in ways as well. I won't tell you what they are, because that'd be telling.

Clint Eastwood's Walt Kowalski and Brad Pitt's Benjamin Button reach certain viewpoints of the world, with the main crux of each film is particularly focused on unlocking the untold and mysterious aspects of both protagonists.

Walt Kowalski is such an engaging character. That despite being as old and old-fashioned as he is, his mind and heart are as strong as ever.

Benjamin Button is the kind of character who lives such an extraordinary life that you have to wonder if a person like this actually exists.

Both films are well written, produced, and directed, but it's leads in Eastwood and Pitt that bring an energy and magnetism to their roles that really pushes their respective films over the top. To that end, both films must be seen.

Tomorrow, I plan on seeing Gus Van Sant's Milk. Which is another film with a primary focus on a very magnetic protagonist, except for the fact that it's based on a real-life person. I've been wanting to see this for the longest time, in anticipation, and I don't think it'll disappoint. I'm sure I'll post a write-up on this in the next couple days.

Also, another recommendation to pass along: Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #1. This bad boy came out last week, but haven't had a chance to plug this. If you love music, dig magic, and think comics are cool, then you really need to read this comic book. By all means, you should pick up the first Phonogram series, but you don't necessarily need it to enjoy what's going on in this second series.


Fad23 said...

I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Sunday after finishing my read of the Fitzgerald story a few days before. They're really quite different from one another.

I think that the Fitzgerald story is essentially an exploration of alienation, a very simply written, almost kid-lit story. It's very much about Benjamin Button who was born as a full-sized old man and went through life with no one believing the truth about him or understanding the realm of his experience. With the Fincher film, which in some ways is much richer yet missed so many opportunities, the story focuses intensely on the relationship between the Benjamin and Daisy. In retrospect it seems to me to be about the things that keep two people from truly connecting, a form of alienation to be sure.

Fad23 said...

As for Gran Torino, I saw it before the holiday season. I knew I would in general dislike the acting from what I had seen in the trailer. Given that these are all unknown actors except for Eastwood and that this is a relatively small film, I can forgive that. Eastwood's performance wasn't much better than what I saw in the trailer.

In general I hate that Asians in movies are most often portrayed as some kind of alien race. I know that the film had the goal of showing that all people can get along, and in reality there are many Asians who choose not to assimilate to American culture, but I resent the fact that more often than not Asians are portrayed as "the Other" rather than as just normal folks.

As for the script, I did not find it to be as well written as you suggest. It's a film about racial tension, and about being a man, but overall I found it really predictable (from miles away) and kind of dumbly brutish. That said, I did find it a bit moving.

For a bit more on my thoughts about Asians in Hollywood, make sure to check out my recent entry: Hollywood feels like this to me.

Joey JP said...

After watching Benjamin Button, I’ve wanted to get my hands on the book, but the bookstore is taking a while to get in the copy that I had special ordered (there’s a chance this version is out-of-print, so, yeah, I don’t know). There’s always something to fill into the screenplay when you’re trying to adapt a story from a different medium.

I was driving home from my sister’s place last night, and listening to Loveline in the car. Dr. Drew was actually talking about Benjamin Button, and how hard it tries to be like Forrest Gump. While it does try hard to be Forrest Gump, I wouldn’t go so far to say that it tries as hard Dr. Drew had suggested.

Perhaps Gran Torino’s screenplay might not be as great as I initially thought. I don’t know, I’d probably have to see the film again. Sometimes, the endings to stories can be seen from miles away, but I think if the story is executed well enough, then yeah, the ending that can be seen from far away can be forgivable. (My belief is that stories in any medium –and I guess in anything else really– almost always lies in the execution.)

As far as Asians portrayed as “the Other,” I can’t get the image of "Dragon: the Bruce Lee Story." Where Bruce and his eventual wife are watching some Jerry Lewis movie (was it a Jerry Lewis movie? I can’t really remember, it’s been a while since I’ve seen Dragon), and Bruce walks out because as you said, categorizing Asians as “the Other.” But I do appreciate that there is a dialogue that’s opened up with this film. Off the top of my head, I can’t remember a recent American film that talks about Asian or Asian–American cultures and/or experiences.