Saturday, August 29, 2009

Some Additional Thoughts on District 9

I've been a little on the fence about the movie District 9, but nonetheless went to see it a second time earlier this week. The first time I'd seen it to make sure that it was fine for Aidan and Brennan, the second time with them. Yes, people and aliens blow up, language is used, but we make a habit of talking about what we watch and the decisions that are made; those boys are learning to use their critical faculties when watching movies or TV, which is damned important.

Some friends have expressed concern or even dismay about the film. Tobias Buckell had an interesting response that I used later to talk with the boys, and Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor responded to a lot of problems she identified with the movie, especially the treatment of the Nigerians, which as you might be able to imagine was a subject somewhat close to her.

My take? Simply put, District 9 is not the astonishing and complex take on apartheid that many reviewers say it is, ("Jo'burg," Lisa? You've spent so much time there you can call it that?) and coming from a middle class white Canadian background, I can't very well speak to much of the background that leads to complaints from elsewhere about the director being a racist. But based on some concerns I've read (often in comment threads, and not necessarily in the two links I supply above) I can point out some of the things I did see:

All that said, I still enjoyed the film, although it isn't the highlight of the movie year. Not even the highlight of the SF movie year, which at the moment is Moon, with Avatar still to come.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

"William Shatner left dog poop on my lawn. And he doesn't even own a dog."

More from the Bloggess. It turns out she's been blocked on Twitter by William Shatner, and many (many) people have taken up her cause on the same network. Her silliness and slyness know no bounds, and I admire the insane places her mind takes her, and us.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Another fun one from the Bloggess, A series of helpful post-it notes I left around the house for my husband this week. As usual, some language warnings, but well worth sharing.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Bomb (in the best sense)

I usually contain my movie notes until my end of year wrap-up (see here and here), but I had to make mention of Kathryn Bigelow's new movie The Hurt Locker, which Jo and I went to see today. Bigelow is probably most famous for directing Point Break, but for me she stands out with Near Dark, the other vampire movie of 1987 (who can tell me what the other one was?). The Hurt Locker stars Jeremy Renner, who we quite liked in the short-lived TV series The Unusuals, as a bomb tech in Iraq. It's been getting great reviews, and with justification, I might add.

I'm not going to go into a lengthy review, but I did want to single out a couple of things that Bigelow did right. At the very beginning of the film, when the first explosion takes place, Bigelow does a very stylized slow motion take that includes a frankly incredible view of some of the road rising into the air, as if on a snare drum. Later in the film, Renner's character makes a decision to go a little bit rogue, sneaking out of camp to investigate the death of someone he allowed himself a moment of closeness with.

Both of these moments could have completely derailed the film, I think, but Bigelow shows admirable restraint. Yeah, she has that geeky coolness that I still love, but as wonderful as that first explosion is, more of that would have taken away from the film's true focus, its heart. Renner's decision to chase after the killers would have done much the same, dragging the film down to the level of a standard Hollywood procedural thriller, but again, Bigelow pulls back.

Instead, what we see is a supremely damaged individual who feels safest viewing his world through the lens of the bombs he defuses, even literally at one point through the mask he wears. This characterization, coupled with the slow burning tension that never lets up makes for an astonishing viewing experience. Hell, even the appearances by three somewhat more famous actors (Guy Pearce, David Morse, Ralph Fiennes) doesn't take away from the focus of the movie, and I'm glad for the fact that Bigelow chose a lesser-known name actor so that we could concentrate on what we were watching, not who.

I hope the film does well. It obviously won't need to make Star Trek-type money to make back its nut, and I would naver expect it to. But it deserves an audience, and has to be my leader for best film of the year, as well as best war movie of this still-young century.


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