Sunday, March 01, 2009
The View from the Tank: Doubt (2008); Coraline (2009); The Class (2008)
A minor film with some fine acting, marred by an unforgivable ending. The smallness of the story surely must've seemed more momentous on stage. As a film, it feels tiny and claustrophobic. Viola Davis should've won the Oscar. Hoffman and Streep were doing their regular type of work -- very good, nothing mind-shattering. The preposterous and heavy-handed use of the building storm and popping light bulbs is just stupid. Just barely two and 1/2 tentacles.
A visual masterpiece. I've never seen anything quite like it, in the richness and intelligence of detail. The use of 3-D is so far from gimmicky that I usually actually forgot I was watching a 3-D film. Instead, I found myself admiring the detail on a dusty car windshield, the manner in which the movie screen was given what felt like miles of depth. The intelligence and thought here are all in the tiny details: the look of a blog post Coraline's mother is working on, the voice mail greeting on Coraline's father's phone, etc. The story itself feels familiar and predictable in a cute-creepy Tim Burton-ish way (i.e., rag-doll characters, creepy spider-like villains, metallic hands, etc.). It's hard to see why we would ever go back to 2-D animation films after seeing the world as revealed in Coraline. Four tentacles.
The Class (Entres les murs) (2008)
The impact of this film continued to grow as the days passed after I had seen it. At first, it struck me as a bit talky, but once the characters had established themselves, especially the students, the film became riveting. The film is not explicitly about identity, immigration, and assimilation in post-colonial France, but it also cannot help but be about those issues, with the classroom full of Arab, African, and Asian students. The young actors playing the students are superb, as is the actor playing their all-too-human French teacher. There's no Hollywood ending here, which I found frustrating at first, but now I'm left feeling haunted by the film's acceptance of the limits of what can be accomplished by imperfect individuals in an imperfect system. Four tentacles.