Review of District 9

November 2, 2009

This review is…

DISTRICT 9 REVIEW

TAKE 1: Wow this is really sensitizing me to aliens. So, this is how the E.T. generation felt!

Near perfect CGI juxtaposed with shaky, embedded-reporter-style camerawork makes District 9 (lovingly: D-9) a cinematographic hallmark with the alien presence looking and feeling real. I heard whimpers from the crowd when the lead actor Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) was insensitively killing infantile aliens to collect souvenirs.

On my way to Broadview station on the 87A I saw a streetcar crossover and go downhill with the “Non-humans banned” D-9 advertisement flat across its belly – the red-white color combination of the billboard matching the Toronto streetcar seamlessly. This epitomizes the charisma of D-9! District 9 is an event; it is not a film alone.

D-9 sets the notion of the other (aliens) in perfect harmony with the notion of the known (humans) by creating a distance from the conventional alien movie setting (using Jo’burg as opposed to NYC or Chicago). Moreover, the introduction of a sensitized third party – aliens – makes the political statement on the other stand out vividly.

Possibly a classic of our times, District 9, will stay in the memories of moviegoers, critics, filmmakers. artists and social thoughtspeople for a long time coming. As a genre film it is the new benchmark in science fiction. D-9 with its simple plot appeals to the widest and most universal audience and might make life very difficult for B-rated sci-fi makers. The weakest point of the script is the pivot of the storyline, when Wikus mutates and gets an alien arm.  This having said, many sub-plots and sub-themes texture the film tastefully. Wikus’ character development is thorough with ups-and-downs and ranges from thoughtful and warm to cold and self-centered. The projection of his character also varies from farcical to intense and back.

TAKE 2:  What is Borat doing in a serious, thought provoking alien film with territorial allegories, which everyone is talking about?

Debutant director Neil Blomkamp makes the important choice to give the lead actor Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) a comical, thick Afrikaans accent to match his borderline comical Afrikaans name. The accent is a relief considering Wikus’ dialog-driven role. But Sharlto Copley does give away his Sacha Baron Cohen influence at times.

More importantly, Neil Blomkamp leaves well-known faces out of the film as that would have definitely spoiled the imaginative process and challenged the film’s hallmark status.

TAKE 3: This is a brilliant platform for the next big first-person-kill-em-all video game.

This production is not a film alone. It’s advertising, branding, promotional website altogether makes it a complete entertainment product. I suggest you check out http://www.d-9.com to get a taste of D-9’s holistic play on reality.

AND CUT.

Original post: http://www.cbff.ca/2009/07/23/featured-movie-critics/

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Snatching Private Ryan

November 2, 2009

A Review of Inglourious Basterds

The first scene is a beautiful set up scene. We already know that Christoph Waltz will do a great job playing the most developed character of the story – Col. Hans Landa. The switch from German to English was abrupt. What? A Black Forest farmer/ logger can speak English? What? This language switch was blunt, unnecessary and very “Hollywood”.

“Aurevoir Shoshanna!” Brilliant haunting dialogue, echoes throughout the following scenes and the whole film. The dialogue in the film, in general, is very rich, tailored and Tarantioesque.

Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine? Who is the casting director?This was a terrible choice. To add to the agony, weak acting on Brad’s part. Furthermore, he is an unlikely choice considering the kind of stars Tarantino usually casts. Pitt’s acting was terrible, and the character sticks out like a swore thumb. You can expect that if a band of Nazi-scalping American Jews is headed by a blonde haired Jew – poor casting decision.

Similarly, casting Mike Myers seemed outlandish as well, but showed the Tarantino Power as a people’s choice director, a cult director  and an auteur. Myers popping up on screen in this movie is an inside joke shared between Tarantino and the audience/ his followers. It was a joke about taking cinema too seriously. It closes the gap between the screen and the audience and makes the film interact with the audience in a very informal manner –reminiscent of the fire-farting puppets in Ancient Roman puppet theatres.

The action scene shots are a few milliseconds too short. Tarantino’s Japanese influence definitely shows through the edit. Nonetheless, the slow-build-up-split-second action is intriguing and keeps viewers off the popcorn. Contrary to Tarantino’s trend on minimal on-screen violence, Inglourious Basterds revels in blood and on-screen skin-peeling. Yet, there are many beautiful elements to the film as well. Such as: Shoshanna; Shoshanna running; Shoshanna in red; Shoshanna being shot with the rose petals blowing in the air (Magnificent!); the pie Landa gives Shoshanna (looked delicious when Landa ate it like a sexual predator); finally the name: Shoshanna!  The centrality of a small neighbourhood cinema also adds a beauty to the film that the SAW-like, on-screen Nazi scalping takes away.

The screenplay feels like an adaptation of a graphic novel: Simple, yet trying to come off as complicated; unreal, yet forcing real-worldliness. The complication is brought about by thick, verbose dialogues superimposed on a fairly simple dual revenge plot. By the way revenge is a regular theme in Tarantino flicks. Whereas, the real-worldliness is brought about by Col. Hans Landa’s post-war negotiations. That was an awfully realistic and detailed scene considering what comes before and after.

Like butter and guns, a film is very much a consumer product as much as it is art. And the question must be asked, who is the film made for? Who is he trying to please with the story? Who is he trying to impress? Without conspiracy theorizing, it is safe to say he pretty much made  the movie for himself. We get to pay him for his efforts because we love him.

And since it is a political topic, a sensitive topic that Tarantino is dealing with the film seems a bit careless about social repercussions. Not that anyone should take the film seriously, or cite Inglourious Basterds in academic papers, but it does show Tarantino to be slightly irresponsible as a screenwriter. Doesn’t really matter. A filmmaker has the right to create any monster and surely Tarantino can defend himself. He can brush off such criticism.

To conclude, sadly, the movie proletarianizes Tarantino a bit. It does not fall in the same league with any of his other films. The title choice was horrible too. Maybe, it shows a bit too much that he was working on this for years, over thinking it a bit. Inglourious Basterds is flawed yet enjoyable. Entertaining throughout yet not worth watching again, unless if you want to breakdown the action cinematography of course.

Final Words: The film looked like a Guy Ritchie take on war films.