Sunday, January 3, 2010

First Films of 2010

In keeping with my promise to myself to create documentation about everything I see this year and to write about it for the upcoming blog, here's my take on the first few moving images of my year.

When I arrived in San Diego for New Year's, the first thing we did was watch THE COVE. I had heard that this doc was as drama-filled as the best of narrative films and mind-blowing as an environmental exposé. That is was, but frankly the main thing that stayed with me from the film was it's ethnocetricism. Why did these powerful monied white American dudes not have a single Japanese person on their crew, or at the very least someone who spoke Japanese? That's mind boggling to me. It would be too paranoid to think that they couldn't find any number of Japanese folks who would have been interested and willing in working on the project, and it would have helped their understanding of the situation, not to mention their on-the-ground comprehension of Japanese, tremendously. In that sense they came across as pretty stupid to me. Perhaps particularly because of the outright cultural accusations made in the doc, that the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji is perpetrated solely because of tradition and a stubborn refusal to succumb to international pressures to stop this practice because it is inhumane and wrong.

That said, THE COVE was powerful and heartbreaking, as dramatic as promised, cohesive and fast-paced. I liked it a lot, except for that serious bad taste in my mouth from the major cultural ignorance flaw...

The next day, on New Year's Eve, along with my cousin and my parents and millions of others, we went to AVATAR. Ugh. This blog posting by Gilad Atzmon helped clinch our decision to finally go see it. And we all regretted it. Amend that- we didn't regret it, this is something everyone has to see simply because it will be praised and referenced for years to come. And I was indeed impressed with the special effects. But I had better be impressed, considering the 15 years and millions and millions of dollars and manpower of hundreds of people on crews all over the world that went into creating this.

This is not the kind of movie I get excited about. But the interconnectedness of nature and humans and life is a compelling topic and imagining a world like that of the Na'vi and what exists on Pandora should have been much much more exciting and original and thought provoking. As Jenn (and many) pointed out, so many of these ideas have been explored in hundreds of books and films before this one. What really bothered me was how UNimaginitive this film was. With all of the resources available to James Cameron and his crew THIS is as good as you can do in imagining a futuristic society? I was so disheartened when the kick-ass and invincible woman that Jake Sully (the character meant for everyman to relate to) meets in the forest slowly loses her power after meeting him, becomes...a woman. Indeed how could we tell that she is a female character except for her breasts and her lulling comely female nature and her sexy come-hither voice. She must be vulnerable, fertile seeming. Is that it? I just lost any interest I might have had, which was also true as Sigourney Weaver's bad-ass scientist is revealed as a save-the-children type earth mother anthropologist that I won't even get into. Jenn had a spot-on analysis of the problematic racism at play (and she shared these blog posts:When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar? and Avatar: Totally Racist, Dude on that note). Obviously, there are dissertations to come out of this, but I'll stop here.

Andrea and I picked up BLACK HAWK DOWN and watched it the night after our other 99 cent video store pick, THE PROPOSAL. I watched this diligently for the first hour or so, expecting some insights into Somalia and the situation there. But by an hour and a half of this film, when Andrea told me that we still had 45 minutes to go, I was long tuned out. Bang bang bang I do not care.

We had both been wanting to see this film, having heard the hype about it for years. Of course, when it came down to it, neither of us could quite remember why it had been so hyped. I thought this had happened because it was the only mainstream filmic depiction of US involvement in Somalia, something too few people probably knew anything at all about. Andrea thought it was because guys like war movies a lot and this is apparently a good war movie. Surely, its acclaim was due to a combination of these things. But I'd love it if anyone can tell me why they liked this movie. I am curious. I don't have patience for American war movies, or war movies in general I'm sure, particularly when almost all of the 2 hours and 24 minutes of the film are spent in battle. Andrea seemed to have been prepared for this, but for some reason I was expecting a film about Somalis and insights into the situation there, touched by Americans yes. But this film, shot in Morocco, didn't even involve Somalis, they were barely peripheral. I think this fact would be all the more disturbing to me were I to give it more thought, but I don't plan on it.

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