Archive for December, 2013

Prom Night In Mississippi – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2013 in 2008, Documentary, X1/2

Kind of stumbled on a documentary that intrigued me a lot. In the hometown of Oscar winner Morgan Freeman there is a school that up until 2008 still had separate proms for white and black students. The acclaimed actor already proposed to pay for the first integrated prom in 1997, but the school board wouldn’t hear of it. Enter a Canadian documentary maker with his camera team and bam, the school agrees.

What follows feels like a school assignment. Badly filmed, even more poorly edited with the students themselves in charge of what gets on tape and what doesn’t. And one-sided.

However, more than the shocking fact that there are still communities in the US where children attend school together for their entire life and then need to celebrate finishing school together – apart, this is a great look into ‘prom’ culture.

It’s not like Europeans don’t know what ‘prom night’ is, but most only know the event from television series and movies. So it’s pretty interesting to learn about this essential part of American culture in a less glamorous (or horrifying) way – depending on what kind of movies you like to watch. The stress about finding a date, the stress about finding an outfit, the stress about getting to school in a fancy car (why not a limousine), …. It’s all there. But the kids in this documentary are more ‘real’. They are all obese or underfed, aren’t particularly attractive or concerned about their looks, drive a car at 17 and speak with a horrible accent that makes them sound less intellectual than they probably are. This is no criticism, it’s a comment. A documented fact.

So as a document on prom night, it’s good. As a document on intolerance and racism in today’s society it’s not.

In this High School in Charleston, 70% of the kids are black, 30% are white. It’s the white folk especially who don’t want to have an integrated prom. After all, the integrated prom would feel more ‘black’, them being in the minority and all. The documentary focusses so much on those who support the integrated prom that it loses any credibility. Yes, it’s silly to have separated proms, everyone agrees on that. So why not focus on those who don’t? That would have been more interesting.

There are only a few explanations on why there is still a separated prom organized for those white pupils whose parents forbade them to go to the integrated one. Some suggest that white parents are afraid of their daughter being wooed/drugged/raped/attacked when they hang with the black pupils after school. Several say it’s tradition. But only three come from the separating community. One girl say she doesn’t mind the integrated prom, but all her friends are going to the exclusive white one so she wants to be with her friends. Fair enough. A redneck father, whose daughter is dating a black guy, isn’t all too keen about it either, but doesn’t oppose to it. Whatever. Then finally you see a couple who give a more explanatory reason: God has made white people white so they would be different from others. And he made black people black for the same reasons. To mix white and black is to create uniformity and if God had wanted uniformity we would all be mixed. It’s all about religion again.

And what does the documentary maker do with it all these prejudices and beliefs? Nothing. Louis Theroux he is not. Some may say that you shouldn’t intervene and you should just record. Fine. Other will say that maybe he didn’t get the permission. Fine. But there are more questions after the end credits than answers. Missed chance.

Maybe Morgan Freeman should just throw a party for the parents instead as they are the ones who should have been the focus.

The whole documentary is on youtube:

Inception – ***

Posted: December 24, 2013 in 2010, Science Fiction, USA, XXX

A premiere since starting with this blog: Inception is the first movie I’ve watched twice since 2010! There was a time when I watched certain movies more than ten times. Those days are over. I don’t think i need to see Inception again either. It was still amazing, the second time around. I was less impressed by the visuals, but I was even more fascinated by the ascending and descending between the many dream levels. It all made a little bit more sense.

It’s still a mindfuck though. The end still doesn’t explain anything. But that didn’t matter the first time around, so it didn’t matter now either. But it’s strange how I remember the movie as a visual masterpiece and was disappointed now about the effects. Can’t really explain why. Still, a neo-classic.

Potiche – **

Posted: December 24, 2013 in 2010, Comedy, France, XX

Francois Ozon has made some remarkable movies in the past two decades. Even when they aren’t really all that good, they still fascinate some way or another. Potiche is one of the lesser of his work, even though Catherine Deneuve is excellent or excéllent as this is a French comedy set in a time when union workers start going on strike. Deneuve plays a housewife (a potiche) who has to replace her husband as the boss of an umbrella factory where there is social unrest. Suddenly she realizes that there’s more to her than just pleasing her husband and she becomes a symbol for female empowerment.

That sounds much more serious than it is. After all, it’s a comedy. But it’s a Ozonedy, so quite quirky. The period settings is kitschy. The (over)acting is camp. But the story lacks draaaamaaa!

Earth – **1/2

Posted: December 23, 2013 in 2007, Documentary, Nature, UK, XX1/2

For those who have no time to watch the entire BBC Earth nature series, there’s also the feature documentary Earth which scored well at the box office all around the world.

It focuses on our fascinating planet and quickly takes you from the north pole to the south pole (and back) showing nature and animal life in all kinds of different environments.

It’s a great movie of course. It’s all filmed in HD and the scenes that were selected are jawdroppingly beautiful and at times funny as well. (the paradise bird mating preparation is a youtube classic)

It ends with a very finger-pointing message: stop destroying our planet and the creatures that live on it. My personal belief is that we’ve already fucked up a long time ago. They should have warned us during the industrial revolution back in the late 19th century. But they didn’t and now it’s too late. So for the time being: let’s enjoy what’s left and let’s enjoy dvd’s like these.

So why only **1/2? Just focus on the word ‘quickly’ in the second phrase. It’s really just a collection of beautifully shot scenes that are somehow edited together as a journey from north to south.

I prefer watching the tv series.

The Big Bang Theory : Season 3 – **

Posted: December 23, 2013 in 2009, 2010, Comedy, USA, XX

There are still a few very good episodes in this season, but there are also some episodes that are annoying and boring. The producers somehow put the focus too much on Sheldon, who may still be the funniest and most interesting character of the show, but isn’t the only one. As a central figure, Leonard remains in Sheldon’s shadow. Penny is very present as well, but doesn’t get as many funny lines. Raj and Howard are funny sidekicks, but are still sidekicks. This should be about FIVE people, not about ONE person and the four people he sees the most in his life. 23 episodes of Sheldon and his ‘friends’ is too much.

The final episode is a good one though, making you look forward to the next season.

Starbuck – 1/2

Posted: December 20, 2013 in 1/2, 2011, Canada, Comedy

Both in France and the US there’s a new comedy being released about some loser who used to donate sperm for money and now turns out to be the father of more than 500 children, several of which gathered together to find out the identity of the donor.

I saw both trailers at around the same time. The story resemblance baffled me. But I was quick to learn that the two comedies are remakes of a little known foreign language comedy which topped the box office charts in its home country.

The home country is – surprise – Canada and the foreign language is québécois. I understand French very well, but I absolutely need subtitles of anything French-Canadian. Especially comedies. Where dialogues and remarks are supposed to be funny.

Alas. Nothing funny about this Starbuck, which is humorless, plotless and pointless. The ‘idea’ is interesting, the realization of it terrible. I’m sure both remakes suck too.

The American remake doesn’t look good:

The French remake looks bad too:

Mud – **

Posted: December 19, 2013 in Crime/Detective, Drama

Mud makes the 2013 toplist of many film critics. It’s easy to understand why. It’s the kind of art house movie that is directed well, set in a typical non mainstream setting, has two big names play atypical roles and bombed at the box office because it didn’t get a major release. 

Then somehow iTunes made it a .99 rental of the week! For a movie that is still up for awards! 

Okay,  the directing is really good. The way the camera moves over the river along which the story is set, fascinates. And the pace may be dull for some, but it just works for this kind of story. 

The story however didn’t do it for me. And the acting neither.

Two kids find a boat stuck up a tree on an island within a river delta. They claim the boat until someone else seems to be using it as a hideout. The guy is called Mud and befriends the boys, who bring him food and boat repairing gear. One of the kids, Ellis, learns that his parents will divorce and that the floating houseboat he’s living in will be torn down. The other kid, Neckbone, hasn’t met his parents at all and lives with his uncle. So according to art house movie logics they are the perfect kids to trust a criminal and do all kinds of illegal things for him.

Mud is played by Matthew McConaughey, who – just like Brad Pitt – tries too hart to be taken seriously as an actor. Sorry, you don’t see Mud, you see Matthew. Reese Witherspoon just has a cameo really, which is too bad, because she could deliver in an indieflic. And the boys. Well they aren’t professional actors and don’t act professionally either. 

So, no, it won’t make my top ten list. It’s not bad. It’s just not really that good.