World Trade Tower
Though I prefer independent and foreign films, recently I’ve watched a handful of big studio productions. Here’s a quick rundown of four Hollywood offerings.
Let me start with Clerks 2, an execrable effort. Though there were interludes of clever writing, with the exception of Rosario Dawson and a cameo by Jason Lee, no one in this film can act. The content grows quickly tedious. The pre-mid-life crises of the protagonists, who are mired in extended adolescence, is never convincing and is rarely funny. Wait a few centuries before renting this one from Net Flix.
Barnyard is another story. This is what, in the parlance of the day, is called an animated feature film. I prefer to call it a long cartoon. Like a number of its predecessors, this is a marvel. Imagine the skill it takes to capture and maintain the attention of an audience that spans three generations. A film like this must be visually interesting and the story compelling to all ages. And the script must be simultaneously ambiguous and direct. The six year old must get it on one level and the sixty year old on several.
Barnyard succeeds beautifully in every department. It adroitly deals with the issues of death and survival, love and sex, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, even adoption. Because bovines are the lead species in Barnyard, and the cows are usually walking, like humans, on their hind legs, the illustrators had to figure out how to deal with the issue of
genitalia. Pardon the pun, but their solution was to homogenize the sexes, to endow each cow, male or female, with a set of udders. Perhaps it wasn’t the best solution. But that’s a minor complaint. And one could lament that coyotes, as a species, are uniformly the bad guys. For that matter, with the exception of the kindly vegan farmer who owns the barnyard, humans are not so well regarded, either. But all in all, Barnyard is a darn good long cartoon. Borrow a seven year old and a ten year old, as I did, and go to the Barnyard.
I also watched Miami Vice recently. It stars the over rated Colin Farrell as Crockett, and Jamie Foxx as Tubbs. The film opens in the middle of a planned bust as a team of high tech cops from the Miami PD Vice Squad are about to cut short the career of a lascivious bad guy, who is holed up in a bedroom with two presumably hired beauties. The deal goes wrong but before we know it, a new one has been hatched, involving every law enforcement agency known to man.
What makes this film interesting, when she’s on screen, is Gong Li. She has what is often called ‘presence’. It’s a rare quality, a combination of looks, intellect and style. She commands every scene she’s in. More of her would have been helpful. But the film is fast paced and the cinematography is excellent. For a few hours of empty entertainment, if you can tolerate the usual violence, Miami Vice delivers.
I save the best for last. World Trade Center is quite unlike anything Oliver Stone has ever done. The word is that movie goers are avoiding this film, that they ‘aren’t ready’ yet to revisit this open wound on the national psyche. Too bad, because this is a powerful film. I don’t mind telling you that it moved me to tears on more than a few occasions.
By focusing on the plight of two policemen, trapped in the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center, Stone artfully condenses and transmogrifies global politics to its most human dimensions. Who pays the price when large ideologies clash, instead of talk?
The answer is painfully clear in World Trade Center, a film we’d all do well to see.
For KUSP’s Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.