Archive for March, 2008

Movie Review: Rude Boy

March 21, 2008
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Set amid the tumultuous political, economic, social, and racial unrest of 1978 England, Rude Boy follows Ray, a 20-year-old sex shop clerk who becomes a roadie for The Clash and falls prey to the forces of alcohol, The National Front, and life on the dole. While The Clash was strongly opposed to this movie when it was originally released, I found it to be an innovative and thrilling time capsule. The concert footage is some of the best I’ve seen, particularly the Rock Against Racism concert and some club footage wherein the band was basically chased off the stage by an aggressive crowd. The studio moments where Strummer records his vocal track for White Riot, though I’d seen them in Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, were the high points for me. And through it all, the filmmakers give us a subtly nuanced doomed protagonist who, like so many of his fellow youth, just doesn’t get it: He fails to grasp The Clash’s socio-economic messages, and descends into a self-medicated haze. An honest representation of tour life, street life, and the hopeless desperation that led to the rise of the monstrous Margaret Thatcher, Rude Boy captures public moments that should not be forgotten. Grade: B+

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Movie Review: The Darjeeling Limited

March 21, 2008

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As much as I wanted to love this movie as much as I loved Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, andThe Royal Tenenbaums, I ended up only mildly entertained. With The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson continues his unfortunate slide toward fashioning glorified mix tapes, dotted with quirky dioramas, masked as films. The feature kicked off with a lousy short film entitled The Hotel Chevalier, a horrendous bit of eye candy that seemed scraped from the cutting room floor. I will never forgive Anderson for inflicting Where Do You Go To, My Lovely? on me repeatedly. Finally, the feature film starts with obvious journey overtones and excessively boxy characterizations of the three lead roles, played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzmann. They’re all neurotic, secretive, and distrustful, on a train traversing India after their father’s death. Predictably, the three protagonists experience a spiritual awakening by film’s end, and all the difficult loose ends get neatly tied up. It’s a challenge to accept the rose-colored ending though after such emotional darkness amid Anderson’s trademark Technicolor set design. I also was a bit unsettled with the heavy hand Anderson took with injecting music into the film: he apparently listened to a lot of The Kinks and watched loads of Merchant-Ivory films while conceptualizing this one. The Darjeeling Limited is a light confection with deceptively depressing characters: it satisfies the sweet tooth while leaving the body malnourished. Grade: C+

Movie Review: This Is England

March 12, 2008

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Set amid the depressed and desperate suburban squalor of Thatcherian England circa 1983, this semi-autobiographical film details the misguided adventures of a lonely boy who falls in with a band of skinheads. With a dead soldier father, an overwrought mother, and a lot of bullies at school, outsider Shawn, portrayed superbly by Thomas Turgoose, responds to the kindness offered by skinhead leader Woody (played by the lovely Joseph Gilgun. More of him, please!) and slips snugly into the welcoming multicultural family-like group. All goes straight to hell when Stephen Graham’s hate-filled Combo gets out of jail and returns to what he sees as his rightful role as leader. His introduction of fierce racial hatred masked as nationalistic pride shatters the group and sends the film careening toward its ultimate (and fairly predictable) conclusion. With such powerful subject matter, it’s disappointing that this film wasn’t better. But this is the first film I’ve seen that marks the differences between what skinheads originally were (a nonviolent social group that evolved out of the Mods and dressed in boots and classic working-class details) and what they became once their image was appropriated and perverted by neo-Nazis. The film deftly shows the contrast between the mischievous semi-innocent skinheads playing boardgames and breaking windows versus the organized antisocial bigoted seriousness of the supposed nationalist future. Grade: C