Friday, October 16, 2009

The Round-Up #12


Film review: Lions for lambs:
A commercial and critical flop, Lions for lambs is the kind of film that makes you wonder. After watching it I had to ask myself if I had ever watched anything remotely similar to it in the last few years (a studio-produced, star-studded drama that is politically daring and, for the most part, subtle). The answer was no.

With Lions for lambs, director/star Robert Redford attempts to make a film that doesn't preach - although it comes close to doing just that - but, instead, makes you think about what's wrong with the world nowadays. In short, according to the filmmakers (and for the most part I have to say I agree with them), what's wrong with the world today is apathy on a disastrously grand scale. The majority of the world's population today knows that a lot is wrong with the world, how it is being run, and who is running it. Through three separate but interrelated story lines, the film reveals, slowly, that the world is being destroyed and corrupted one day at a time by a group of ultra-conservative, materialistic, power-hungry con-artists, and that we, the citizens of the world, are allowing these people do it by looking the other way.

Through assured - if conventional - direction, solid performances (by a charming Meryl Streep, a showy, but effective Tom Cruise, and an earnest Robert Redford), and a mostly solid script Lions for lambs succeeds in making the gears of your brain turn, and your heart move; not a small feat considering that audiences today are so desensitized by the noisy and vacuous junk filmmaking they get exposed to throughout the year (especially during the summer season), that it would take a piece of very potent cinema to get through. Lions for lambs, in my very humble opinion, achieves just that.

And, oh, I forgot to mention that the plot centers around the War On Terror.

Book Review: Midnight in the garden of good and evil By John Berendt: You've probably heard of this non-fiction book or its star-studded film adaptation directed by Clint Eastwood. Although the film is a modestly effective piece of cinema, the book is another experience altogether. The story contained within these pages is colorful, mind-boggling, suspenseful, frightening, and, most importantly, true!

John Berendt, a journalist from New York, spent several years in Savannah gathering facts, conducting interviews and investigating the death of a disturbed young hustler who was allegedly murdered by a gay, rich antique dealer. Throw in vignettes focusing on a charming transvestite, a witch, a honey-tongued con-artist, among others, and you have an irresistible, endlessly compelling tale that is stranger than fiction.

Although Berendt occasionally plays around with facts and tampers with the time line of events, it is still a brilliantly written piece of non-fiction that drips with atmosphere and unforgettable dialogue.

Extra! Let's scare Jessica to death: This edition's Extra! selection is the 1971 psychological chiller Let's scare Jessica to death, a haunting, unforgettable independent film that manages to do wonders with a low-budget, mediocre performances and atmosphere. It is undoubtedly dated, but thanks to director John Hancock's mesmerizing visual style and an intriguing story focusing on mental instability and lurking evil, this little chiller delivers the goods. It also has something to say about the underlying tension that simmered just beneath the surface of the free love movement in the late sixties and early seventies. Stylish and memorable, this is a must for fans of obscure, weird cinema.

That's it for me. Till next time, keep browsing those shelves.

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