Fair warning: there’s no structure to this review. I’m just going to jot down some thoughts I had about it.
With that said, what bothered me about this film is the same thing that bothers me about the National Inquirer and all those media outlets that profit from other’s misfortune. On some level, this movie just smacked of a couple smart, big city hipster types exploiting the misery of this Midwestern woman who was going through a mid-life crisis and had her fair share of problems. I’m sure that they would argue that she gave her consent and that since the movie’s release, she’s sold tons of artwork and the whole experience gave her life meaning. That may be true, but I still can’t help but feel that these guys are just so smugly happy with themselves and that she is the butt of an elaborate joke. What’s scarier: that you can create fictional personas and carry on a fairly sophisticated deceit with someone thousands of miles away, or that they can document the whole thing on film and out you to the world and come out established movie makers while your life remains relatively unchanged?
In a sense, there are two cautionary tales here: one is about the vagaries of the net, the other is about this new world of electronic media where you can be filmed without your knowledge or consent and your home and surroundings can be surveyed by someone in another state with the click of a button.
Oh and P.S., since this is Indosplace where I mainly deal with curvy women and that subculture, check out the thick African American waitress they meet once they arrive in Michigan. She’s a cutie.
Here's what I came away with from "Somewhere": Sophia Coppola is more concerned with mood and beauty and atmosphere than the details of laying out a structured three act film or tying up loose ends. She captures the essence of places and things by not only taking her time in shooting them, but by studying details that some might consider mundane (airport announcement system, elevator chimes, street signs, etc.) but that somehow manage to capture what we remember most about experiences in such places. Her lighting choices and camera angles are just spot on.
As a story, "Somewhere" is weaker than "Lost in Translation." There is probably no more than 30 pages of dialogue in the entire movie. But if you're willing to take your time and just let this movie wash over you, as it's meant to, "Somewhere" is a moving movie going experience. It will linger in your mind after you leave the theater, and any movie that can imprint itself in your mind these days is doing something right.
I should also point out that this movie has a great soundtrack.
Trust me, when you see this movie and the behind-the-scenes footage of Edwards and his three person crew filming this, you will want to know how much it cost too. You will immediately be consumed by thoughts of "how can I do this too?" But don't be fooled. Edwards was a CGI tech by trade, having worked on numerous documentaries and features before making his debut. Your average person would've had to hire someone to do all those nifty effects, thereby increasing the budget considerably. Still, the movie is quite an inspiration.
At the heart of this stark tale lies the axiom "live by the sword, die by the sword."
Beautifully shot by Anton Corbijn, The American so definitively places you in Italy you'll feel you need a passport to see it.
The film has a slow pacing; no quick cuts or cinematic gimmicks. Instead what you get are precise and beautifully framed panoramas and tight shots of Clooney et al.
One scene that stands out in particular is when George Clooney takes Thekla Reuten's character to his secret hiding place to test a custom-made rifle he's built for her. A fellow assassin, Reuten just feels untrustworthy and dangerous. Maybe it's her piercing blue eyes, strong nose and flared nostrils. Whatever the case, that scene is a testament to Corbjin's virtuosity and ability to set up a tense scene without overly relying on a heavy score.
This is not a feel good movie by any stretch, but in this age of "look ma, I shot this on a camcorder," The American stands apart as a true-to-form cinematic experience. This film was crafted by industry professionals and there's no faking that.
Not satisfied with just the book and the movie, I have now spent several hours watching (and re-watching) the behind-the-scenes material on the Blu Ray for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It seems like the cast really got along well and it is mind blowing the amount of preparation, training, and resources that went into this movie. Because the special effects in the film are played like comic book gags, you tend to take them for granted. But this film showcased some state of the art work.
Unfortunately, this review isn't all accolades. The one thing about Scott Pilgrim I wasn't crazy about is, well, how white it is. Sure, Knives Chau is Chinese, but she plays Scott's doormat, and her otherness is openly fetishicized in the movie. According to this film, there are no black or Latino people in Toronto - I mean literally, I don't think I saw a single face of color throughout this entire movie. You want to excuse all of this because: (a) Wright seems like a nice guy and I doubt it was intentional, and (b) the writer of the books is himself Asian American. But man, it's really kinda scary to see what happens when there aren't initiatives mandating diversity. Subconsciously or not, things just seem to gravitate to being exclusively white, both in front of and behind the camera. Of course, I'm not the only one who noticed this - type "Scott Pilgrim and racism" into Google search and see what comes back. Notably, white male film critic Sean Stangland writes:
[L]ooking back at the movie, I realize that every "good" character, for lack of a better word, is white. The other prominent Asian characters in the film are Scott's clingy, borderline crazy Chinese girlfriend, Knives Chao (Ellen Wong), and two of Matthew's fellow evil exes, Kyle and Ken Katanagi (Keita Saitou and Shota Saito). Latinos are represented by Clifton Collins Jr. as a vegan cop, and blacks are represented by ... uhh ... hmm ... no one. So perhaps the criticism that the film was made for and by white hipster douchebags carries a little more weight than I thought.
(Race and gender in "Scott Pilgrim") At any rate, I still highly recommend this film. Outside of "The Social Network" (which was far more socially responsible -- bravo to Fincher and Sorkin), it's probably the best movie of 2010.