Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Weekend viewing

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise, 1951)
I'm a sucker for these Cold War-era sci-fi films, especially the ones with undercurrents of political commentary, so I enjoyed this one even though it's a bit slow and plays at times like an extended Twilight Zone episode. What's remarkable is how little Wise relies on special effects or action to tell his story - the main alien character is just a guy in a jumpsuit, and for most of the film he's not even wearing the jumpsuit, dressed instead like the average 1950s businessman. The anti-war and anti-nuclear proliferation message is pretty forward-thinking for a major film in 1951, and I kept thinking that this is a film that could really say something relevant if it were remade today, the way Jonathan Demme's Manchurian Candidate remake did. Even without remaking it, the film has deep resonance to today, and if you can get past some of the sci-fi cheesiness, it's quite touching.

Roger & Me (Michael Moore, 1989)
Honestly, the thing that struck me most about this movie is how thin Moore is in it. He's barely overweight at all! Seriously, that kept distracting me from the actual content, which is probably not good. In many ways, this is Moore's best film, because it's focused on a single issue and doesn't lose itself trying to address all the problems that exist in America. Moore is concerned with job losses in Flint, and that's what he deals with in the film. It's also got a much cleaner narrative arc - one of the things that bugged me about Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 was that they were so loosely structured, just kind of throwing out ideas until they stopped because they'd hit the 90-minute mark. This still has the standard Michael Moore problem of harassing people who have no control over the issue Moore is trying to address, using people like dumb celebrities and low-level functionaries (secretaries, security guards) for comedic value without conveying anything of substance. Still, for anyone who finds Moore overly bombastic, this film is worth checking out, since there's no way to deny the real, deep emotional hurt he felt over the destruction of his hometown, and the genuine desire to help people by making the film.

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