Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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Texas are you my friend?

I saw Lost in Translation. It was very disapointing, considering the heavy dosage of hype it recieved in the press and the Oscar nominations. I wouldn't call it a bad film but neither would I say it's particularly good. Almost the definitive mediocre indie. That's not to say there weren't excellent aspects, the performances were excellent (and I usually dislike Scarlett Johansen) and the cinematography was beautiful. There were some funny moments and also some very touching ones. The problem I had with the movie was that it didn't really cohere and it seemed bogged down by the opening. The characters meet due to either insomnia or jet lag (it's not clear which) and the first 40 minutes are justifiably languid and washed out, giving that sort of pale detached feeling to the world that one has when sleep is a hard won commodity. However, once the relationship begins, Tokyo opens up and the leads start to feel better and explore eachother the movie still seems stuck in insomnia land for the most part. The pacing never really picks up, the dialogue remains sparse and often light, and there is no increased cinematic kineticism to match the uptick in the characters. There's also quite a bit left unexplored, which is a legitimate choice but leaves the whole exercise feeling sparse and light. Critics called this film an exploration of the human condition but you could sum up what it seems to say in a few short sentences. You can be successful or young and beautiful and still be lonely. Connecting with other people is difficult, unpredictable and complicated. Cultural customs are often silly when seen from an outsider's perspectives.

Deep huh?

I was also bothered by the fact that Johansen's character was a Yale philosophy graduate snob but never acted like it AND seemed to be completely oblivious to philosophy or depth. That might have been intended as ironic or funny but in an odd way it wasn't subtle ENOUGH for this film and I ended up feeling like it was just an aspect of the character that was dropped a quarter of the way through the screenplay. The film needed more bursts of concentrated dialogue or excitement to off-set the other parts and to develop things more fully. Being empty and vaguely depressing is no substitute for true depth (Adaptation being a movie that I feel has true depth.)

I have been amusing myself recently with an idea entirely of my own making. During my history class I made a comment that in terms of political representation and rights during the 1850's it wasn't just negroes who were getting the shaft, then I sang out "Shaft!" for reasons that still aren't clear to me. Since then I've been elaborating an idea of a Saturday Night Live skit placing Shaft as a free black man in the Deep South during the prelude to the civil war. For some reason imagining Richard Roundtree calling Jefferson Davis a 'Jive Turkey' or someone in the Southern legislature standing up and saying "We hereby pass a condemnation of John Shaft for being a bad motherf..."

Speaker: "Shut your Mouth! You are OUT OF ORDER!"

Legislator, sheepishly: "I was only talking about Shaft."

Blaxploitation+Confederacy. Someone has to do it. I think UPN did something somewhat similar as a TV show, but naturally they failed to bring over the 70's vibe and slang that is so critical to the humor, plus it would get old after awhile. SNL needs skits like that anyway, they've fallen off in the quality parody department.
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