Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)

So today was the day I went to see "The Dark Knight", and though I would love to say that I loved it I can't. I'm not saying that I dis-liked it too. So what Karl, which is it? Either you like something or you don't. No in-between. That's not what reviews do. So maybe I won't call this a review. An observation, and leave it at that.

First off Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is really good, and I love the dynamic between Batman & the Joker. Both are two sides of the coin, and one can never be without the other. Christian Bale as Batman works for me. Bale gives Batman depth, and underneath Batman's exterior lies rage. I think when Bale dons the costume he is sort of channeling Dirty Harry. I think it's a bit over played. The snarling and the teeth seem a bit over the top. Ledger gives just the right amount of insanity that the Joker is and should be.

Okay, okay so what's not to like about the movie? Well it seems a bit over-produced to me. What do I mean? Well Christopher Nolan the director loves to work the camera, and he does so a bit too much. Nolan loves to circle the camera and give us a 360 view of the scene, and he does this a bit too often for my taste. Again there is the over the top performance of Bale which distracted me. For me Batman is a vigilante who enjoys what he does. His hate, and disgust for his enemies drive him more then the duty he says he owes Gotham city. That's what makes Batman such an interesting superhero. The movie touches on this a bit, and in the end leaves us as Batman becomes a so-called out-law, but it isn't done as effective as I'd like.

Also the technology that Batman has seems a bit far fetched. Batman or Bruce Wayne is the man who creates all of Batman's toys. Here it is Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, the scientist who designs those wonderful toys. I love Freeman, and enjoy seeing him, but again it doesn't seem right. Maybe I'm nit-picking, but when a movie makes me think for a moment about the reality of the scene then the movie fails to entirely captivate me.

The movie does seem a bit long to me, and though I have no problem with long movies it just seems to put everything in it. Maybe what I'm most upset about is that Batman is rated at a PG-13, which in reality should be closer to an R. There are dark themes and dark elements in this movie. Batman has become the "Dark Knight", and is no longer the Batman of the 60's and early 70's. I like what they've done to the character. It's more in line with what Bob Kane wanted for his character. I just think that marketing to kids younger then 13 is wrong, and that's what Warner Brothers seems to be aiming at. I guess I'm pissed because I can't take my 6 year old who loves superheros. I've been a fan of Batman for as long as I remember, but every time I go into a Kmart, or Target store I'm looking at toys aimed at my little one. It sucks that I can't take him, but I do hope when he is older we can sit down and see it together, and maybe I'll feel different. It's just that I hate the duality of corporate greed. Sell the movie yes, but not to a young audiences that aren't ready for such images, but that's what they are exactly doing. .

Yes, yes I know the MPAA rating is just a guide for us parents, and I thank them for it, but really people do we have to sell the violence also. I know they have out cartoon versions of the dark Knight series, and I think I'll be looking at them with my son, but for now the "Dark Knight" is off limits to the boys for now.

Merchandising. It's all in the merchandising of the film, and that's where I feel studios have failed us, and created less then stellar products. Oh! what I wouldn't give for such filmmakers as Selznick, Griffith or Chaplin. It's all corporate now, and the bean counters have taken over the studios, but that's another problem all to itself, so maybe another blog entry for that

So there you have it. Did I enjoy myself at the movie. You bet. I always do, but when I finish digesting it I wasn't too thrilled. Is "The Dark Knight" a good popcorn flick? I have to say yes indeed. Is it great cinema? It has it's moments but I'd have to say no. Is it good summer escapism? Absolutely.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Writing & Musings, and a new beginning!

I've been writing a bit more then usual in the hopes that something catches fire. I downloaded the screenwriting program Celtx and am trying it out. It's a free program, and I wanted to see how the program preforms. I usual write my screenplays in Final draft, but wanted something new.

I'm actually re-writing an old script while getting a feel for the Celtx program. So far so good, but I'm still getting used to the script formatting shortcuts. There's a lot I want to do over the Summer, and as usual the day job takes a lot out of me, so after all is said and done there seems to be never enough time for the things I love.

Over at John Oak Daltons blog he has some interesting insights about microcinema, and grass roots filmmaking. If you get a chance take a look over there and read what he has to say.

The one thing I love about the Internet is that there are people out there who are going through the same thing you're going through. Their interests and desires are all out there, and it's a bit invigorating to know one is not alone. Hey misery loves company I guess, but at least there are people who get or who are trying to get the bigger picture. I've never been a follower or a member of some clique. I subscribe to the theory that Marx subscribed to. That is Groucho Marx , and he said "I never would be a member of a club that would have me as a member". But it's nice to hear and read about others who aspire to create movies that have a meaning, or that are just plain fun to watch. Sure I'm a fan of the French "new wave", but I love a good old B movie. Some of my fondest memories were going to see movies about monsters, boogie men, or zombies.

So no highfalutin aspirations for me. Just some fun and anarchy that filmmaking can bring, and maybe someday I'll make that film that will speak to others. Till then I need to write, write, and write. Maybe something will click.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

There will be Blood (2007)

It took me awhile to finally see this movie. The movie is based on an Upton Sinclair's novel entitled "Oil". The film is a good representation of how those early years of oil prospecting were. Better still is Daniel Day-Lewis' performance of Daniel Plainview an oil speculator who is driven to obsession about the black crude stuff. The cinematography in the film is barren and beautiful. One understands the plight that these men had and how alone they must have felt in their obsession. The landscape was unforgiving, and people did die. Fortunes were made, and better men were broken by their failures as well as their success. If you like character studies you'll enjoy "There will be Blood". Lewis' performance is stellar, and I believe he his performance is academy award worthy, but does the film stand up as a whole? That's the question I posed, and for me it didn't.

Take away the performance and all you have is some really stark visuals. I also felt that the length of the film seemed more then it should have been. Ultimatly was I interested in this man's obsession? I must confess that I lost interest mid-way through the film. I was more interested in how Plainview (Lewis) became the way he was. I understand that oil was his obsession, but why did he always have to win? What was the root to his obsession, and for me that distracted me from the rest of the film.

The ending also wasn't fully satisfying for me. I know Paul Thomas Anderson is a good director. I love most of his films, and I find him to be a gifted director and writer. I also would love to see how he rehearses his actors. It seems that in every film he does he gets a lot out of his actors & they give good performances time and time again. I just felt that in the end the film could have gone on some more, and that Anderson decided to end the film there because of it's length. I understand the theme of Plainview always wanting to win is what Anderson wants to nail home to us, and his final act does do that. But, again I've still learned little about Plainview's character except for his unnatural obsession for winning.

Maybe I'm asking too much, but I do think another interesting film would be how the man was created in the first place. There must have been significant events in Plainview's life to shape him the way he was shaped. What I did like was the relationship to his son or his supposed son. In the end we find out the truth, but at one point he disregards the son, and tosses him aside. His guilt for doing so never rings true to me, and the way Lewis plays it he seems racked with guilt when in actuality he isn't. Like I said the performance of Mr. Lewis is astounding, and well done. But it seems a bit overplayed too. Especially when the end comes and we find all that we've seen were false, and that the man we followed is a soulless bastard. Maybe that's the films best trait, but half way through the film I just don't buy it, and lose interest in the character. Maybe that's why I didn't like it as much as the critics liked it. In the end I felt I had wasted my time on this man, and did not care what happened to him.

If you see the film on DVD make sure you get the wide screen version, and see it on a big enough screen. The cinematography is outstanding, and like I said the performances in the film are interesting. I can't wait to see what Anderson does next. For me Anderson always delivers even when it's a bit uneven.