Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reading a review of Redacted, and started thinking about controversial wars and the films they spawn. There have already been several films about Iraq; in addition to Redacted there are In The Valley Of Elah; Rendition; Lions For Lambs, and probably one or two I'm forgetting. All of them have been bombs at the box office, although Redacted, which is getting a lot of negative publicity, might end up doing some business when it is released. All of them got at least decent reviews, except Lions, and I wonder how much the reviews of that film were influenced by Tom Cruise backlash. Then I started thinking about Vietnam, and couldn't think of a single movie about it that was released when it was actually going on, except the jingoistic Green Berets. All those great films we think of with regards to Vietnam -- Full Metal Jacket; Platoon; Apocalypse Now; Go Tell The Spartans; The Deer Hunter; along with the lesser films like Coming Home and so on, weren't made until after the war was over (M*A*S*H is a special case, as it ostensibly wasn't about Vietnam, and further disguised its subversiveness behind a shiny veneer of comedy).

Why are there films, thoughtful, critical films, about Iraq rolling out now, when the war is still going on, when Hollywood waited until after Vietnam was over with to start making similar films about that war? It doesn't surprise me now, and shouldn't have surprised the Hollywood people, that these films have been box office flops, so why did they make them anyway? Genuine alarm about the direction of the country (my bet)? Bush hatred? Lack of other material to spend money on? Did other social movements, like the civil rights struggle, suck up all the liberal energy of the Vietnam era? Has Hollywood itself changed, become more liberal, more socialistic and America hating? Has Hollywood simply become more courageous? Did the success of Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 fool producers into thinking there was a market out there that didn't actually exist? It really makes me wonder. These are important films, discussing important topics, and in future years will probably be viewed as such, I just don't understand why they came out now, as opposed to in a few years.


And since we're on the subject of films, I see that Marion Cotillard won best actress for La Vie En Rose. It was well deserved, and in fact, I thought Rose was the best film I saw in 2007. It deserved its win for makeup as well, as Cotillard's transformation from waif to wreck of a middle-aged woman was a stunning achievement, but it was simply a brilliant film from start to finish, Kane without the grandiosity and murkiness, albeit without, also, the innovation and ambition. I would put it on my list of 10 best films I've ever seen. Of the ones actually nominated, I'll go with Atonement, although I didn't see Juno, so who knows. Javier Bardem was good in No Country, but I wonder how much of that was him acting, as opposed to him just being himself. I thought Tom Wilkinson, next to Cotillard, turned in the best acting performance I saw in '07. Swinton was excellent, but she usually is; I liked Ruby Dee in this slot, who reminded me of some aunts on my father's side. In the Best Actor category, Daniel Day-Lewis just reprised his role as Bill The Butcher; I didn't see anything spectacular. I kept expecting him to tap his glass eye with a knife. Clooney was very good, but nowhere near the best. Viggo Mortensen surprised me in Eastern Promises just by taking a role like that, but he was no better than Clooney overall, I thought, although both were certainly fine. I'll go with Tommy Lee Jones, an old guy who is only now doing his best work.