Monday, August 16, 2010

mooooovies (#2)

Howard's End (dir. James Ivory, 1992)
This was the first Blu-ray I watched on New Roommate Sarah's Blu-ray player (after the HDMI cable came in the mail I basically just bumped up the highest movie in my Netflix queue available on Blu-ray). The first shot, of Vanessa Redgrave walking around the titular, err, End, is maybe the best thing in the movie visually, but it never goes too far downhill. Emma Thompson is A+ great, and I found myself quite selfishly concerned with her Liberal, middle-class character's fascination with the Upper Class as it parallels my love of all things set in beautiful English country estates. I assumed (having never read it) that the book gives a few of the key plot elements (Margaret and Ruth's friendship, Henry and Margaret's courtship) a bit more time to breathe and, perhaps oddly, that assumption being available actually did a lot to make me accept how rushed those things seemed in the film.

Green Zone (dir. Paul Greengrass, 2010)
Greengrass is one of my favorite directors and I liked parts of this a whole lot, but I'm conflicted about it on the whole, mostly because of Brian Helgeland's screenplay and how much it spells things that it has very clearly illustrated out in the dialogue. For example, when, during a climactic scene, an Iraqi character tells an American character "It is not up to you to decide what happens here", it seems a bit much, considering how much a) the theme of how American involvement affects the local people we are "liberating" has been hammered home in the movie b) how much it has become part of the Iraq narrative in general. But then again maybe I'm wrong on point b.

Consider summary of the movie on Netflix:
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agent Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) doesn't want to hear what Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon) has to say about not finding the weapons of mass destruction -- evidence that could launch a war -- he's been sent to Iraq to unearth...
Considering that the movie starts with the invasion of Baghdad and then moves on to Miller and co. looking for the WMDs, "evidence that could launch a war" seems a bit of an odd way to put things. So maybe the story of what happened in Iraq in 2003 does bear repeating and hammering into the ground. And maybe I just wish it was done in a way that didn't introduce it very clearly in the subtext and then hammer it into you again in the dialogue.

Matt Damon is reliably great here, btw, and Amy Ryan does a decent job looking conflicted as the Embodiment of the Failings of the American Press. Also, the colors in the night-time action scenes are absolutely gorgeous, which actually made me feel a little weird in retrospect.

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