J. & C.'s Movie Reviews

Our Notes on Movies Made Public

Archive for the ‘Brief Commentary’ Category

One Reason Why We Shouldn’t Esteem Actors

Posted by J on February 12, 2008

Because editors can make anybody look good, with enough takes. Surgeons, personal trainers, P.R. consultants, and make-up artists help too.

“How can Actor X be so good in one picture and so bad in another?” — Any performance is created from many random bits and pieces of film, carefully chosen and assembled from among hundreds of choices and many thousands of possible combinations. Actors may give several very different readings of the same scene, adjusting nuances and emotions or improvising something spontaneous that the director and the editor must put together from what would otherwise be incoherent scraps.

Any time an actor looks good, it’s in large part because the director and editor have made wise decisions about what to use and how to use it. Likewise, if the actor looks bad, it’s probably as much the fault of the director and editor as it is the performer. It could be that what you’re seeing is exactly the performance the director wanted to elicit from the actor — even if you don’t like it. Then again, the director may have failed to capture the footage needed for a cohesive performance during production — either because he/she didn’t realize everything needed was not yet “in the can,” or because of some kind failure of communication, or because, for whatever reason, the actor and director didn’t see eye to eye on what the performance should be. The full performance is recorded, somewhere, when an actor leaves the set. After that, it’s up to the director and the editor to choose and assemble the right takes, and to augment the performance with music, sound and visual effects. The actor can be made to look ridiculous — or much better than anticipated — at any point.


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On the Death of a Young Celebrity

Posted by J on January 24, 2008

We didn’t know who he was until we looked him up. “Oh yeah, that guy,” we said.

Other people were not ignorant. They showered him with accolades and paeans. He made the lead page of papers. They say it’s a tragic loss, a cute young guy dead in his prime.

Decades ago, another actor died young too. He grew up in a small town not far from where one of us is from. That town has a museum in his memory. It advertises this museum in tourist brochures and on highway billboards. The dead actor is this town’s lone claim to fame. It is a dying town.

Maybe this guy will get a museum. Maybe he can have a monument in the midst of a dead place too.

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2007 Ten Best

Posted by J on December 22, 2007

Our 2007 top-10:

1. King Lear, performed by our local theater company.
2. Ratatouille

Unfortunately numbers three through ten have yet to be filled in, seeing as how we didn’t keep up with the new releases and no other 2007 movie was memorable. Not only was time scarce, as it always is, but nothing seemed particularly worthwhile for us to rush out and watch.

The top honor on this list goes to a local performance of King Lear, put on by our city’s yearly Shakespeare festival and performed by no-name actors. It was both engaging and moving in ways that movie theaters never can be. We endured no commercials or previews, and didn’t have to view gigantic faces that have been surgically altered to look “movie star-ish.” We were also guaranteed one of the best scripts ever written, by a scriptwriter who didn’t have to conform his vision to the demands of major studio executives or the silly expectations of modern audiences.

Not that we entirely dismiss theater experiences or new releases. Ratatouille was not only very good, it was even better the second time. We have changed our earlier judgment on it: it’s easily the best of the Pixar bunch.

Should there be a 2007 movie worthy of this list, we shall add it eventually. Perhaps in 2009, or 2014, or 2020. Whenever we get around to it. There are plenty of old movies to watch, there are even more great books to read, and there is an even greater amount of family time to spend together unmediated by LCD screens and Surround Sound.

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And It Only Gets Worse

Posted by J on September 1, 2007

We read today that the umpteenth sequel to Halloween, directed by sadist and ex-rock star Rob Zombie, is the #1 movie this September. We also note that this Halloween version has the first perfect score we’ve ever seen at Kids-in-Mind. It is anticipated that the movie will make 33 million dollars this weekend, meaning that somewhere over 400,000 people will see it.

So it’s a sure bet: World magazine will pay someone to watch it, and the ensuing review will tell us that it depicts the results of the Fall.

There have been eight Halloween movies. Meanwhile, there remains only about five or so characters identified with Christianity and portrayed positively in the last thirty years of Hollywood movies.

Lastly, we wonder why those willing to continue waging a War on “Terror” should be more afraid of Arabs in Mesopotamia than the moral decay in their own midst. If the resulting freedom gained from such a war included the continued bombardment of world populations with America’s and Europe’s cultural filth, we’re not sure we want to be a part of that kind of freedom. We don’t really blame Muslim nations for not wanting it either.

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The Moral Minefield of Movies

Posted by J on August 14, 2007

We attend the movie theater twice a year at most. This is for a number of reasons, chief among them is that a $10 ticket is a vote in favor of Hollywood fare that may turn out to be at best idiotic and at worst immoral. DVDs, cost effective as they are, have excellent tools for the purposes of censorship — namely the STOP and EJECT buttons. A case in point is our recent trip to Ratatouille. The projectionist put the wrong movie through the reels, and so we ended up seeing previews for R-rated movies, featuring the graphic liaisons of a male gigolo (Good Luck Chuck) and the umpteenth sequel to Halloween. From what we could see, our matinee audience consisted of grandparents and children, none of whom seemed to flinch at shot after shot of half-naked females and the glorification of a resurrected murderer. (To be fair, one parent got up and left with a young child, though we debated whether they complained or went to the restroom.) We had a word with the manager, but the movie theater treated us merely like upset customers returning a broken TV. When Good Luck Chuck and Halloween XII debut, the theater will likely feature them.

Far from being the funhouses they’re marketed as, movie theaters and video stores are moral minefields. An honest Christian could not operate a movie theater in good conscience these days. He might run, say, a drive-in theater for families, but that would limit showings to three a year during the summer season. Otherwise, he would be forced into peddling current releases, the majority of which celebrate violence and pornography. The same goes for video rental chains and retail stores that sell DVDs. Retailers who profess Christ ought to get out of the movie-selling business altogether, not because if they limited their selection they couldn’t make a profit, but because little they could sell would edify their fellow Christians.

We therefore advocate two things: step as cautiously as possible in movie-watching, and know the Bible as well as you can. God’s story shows you how to examine man-made stories, and it will not let you be indifferent to previews for R-rated fare. We advise this knowing that, unless you are Amish, you will probably watch at minimum several dozen movies in your lifetime. Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.

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Death and Resurrection List

Posted by J on July 21, 2007

Here we keep a list of all the movies featuring the death and resurrection of a character. It’s a dynamic list; we’ll add to it when we think of more. Email us with your suggestions.

  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • The Matrix
  • The Iron Giant
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Star Trek II and III
  • Alien 3 and Alien:Resurrection
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (forthcoming)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Halloween
  • The Abyss
  • Contact
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Groundhog Day
  • Pirates of the Caribbean series
  • High Plains Drifter
  • Field of Dreams
  • Big Fish
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • The Prestige
  • The New World
  • Solaris
  • Ernest Goes to Jail
  • Any Frankenstein movie
  • Any zombie movie

And this is a list of “almosts.” E.g., people turn into ghosts, resurrections don’t take place due to a technicality (like Superman traveling back in time to revive Lois Lane).

  • The Princess Bride
  • Star Trek: Generations
  • The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
  • Superman
  • Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  • The Terminator series
  • The Sixth Sense
  • Stranger than Fiction
  • Beetlejuice
  • Ben-Hur (Christ isn’t resurrected in this one)
  • Star Wars series
  • Ghost

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