CHILDREN OF MEN (2006):
Children of Men is possibly the most ballyhooed look at the future
since Blade Runner. It was directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who has quickly
assembled a solid reputation and a very impressive resume with
żY Tu Mama Tambien? and a Harry Potter film. It was taken from
an incisive dystopian novel called "The Children of Men," from P.D.
James, the noted mystery writer.
Frankly, I don't like what they did to form a script from Lady
James's novel. She writes detective stories for the most part, which
means she has a natural inclination to make her plots sensible and
logical, and to give some real thought to the consequences of her own
assumptions and the actions of her characters. The book is about a
future in which the human race has become infertile, so Lady James
tried to think through what would really happen to our race in such a
case. Some examples:
With no more young people, no more strong backs to swing the
sledgehammers, essential services would gradually decay. Roads would
no longer be maintained; oil rigs would be left unmanned, etc.
With no more young minds to innovate and
try new things, life would become repetitive and downright routine.
Think about it. Where would the internet be today if everyone had
been at least fifty years old when it was introduced?
With the end of the human race no longer than a few decades
away, people might lose interest in progress. Even if you had the
young men to do the heavy lifting, would you create a new World
Trade Center knowing the end of the world was nigh?
Governments and charitable organizations
would begin training people to survive as well as possible after the
loss of critical services like the electrical grid, sewage
treatment, and trash removal.
Religions would gain even a stronger hold
upon the populace, as people sought an answer to their despair.
Sadness and a lack of energy would
overwhelm us, as the memory of children's voices faded. Schools and
playgrounds would be constant reminders of our sorrow.
Without males aged 16-35, there would be
very little petty violence or street crime. There would be no
unwanted children to wander the streets and turn to delinquency.
Scientists would be working feverishly for
a solution to global infertility.
I could continue, but you get the point. It is
a thought-provoking concept, if a somewhat academic one. If you're
interested, you can read
In the novel's vision, England is basically
the last bastion of civilization, owing in large measure to its island
status. In order to maintain order, and to defend its borders against
all the refugees who would like to move there, the government
basically transmogrifies into a fascist regime ... and ...
Well, again you get the picture.
The story has an excellent ending. In the new world order,
the remaining men and women who might possible re-populate the
planet are constantly being poked and prodded and studied by the
fascist government and its scientists. The weak, the infirm, the
undesirable, and those with major handicaps are basically ignored.
Then a miracle baby is finally conceived, and the father turns out
to be ...
Well, you'll just have to read it, dammit.
Man, that would have made a great movie.
Children of Men is not that movie. It basically
bears no resemblance to that hypothetical film except in the general
premise (mankind is collectively infertile) and in the names of a
few of the characters. One must remember that future fiction is
never the future, but the present. The present of 2006 is very
different from the present of 1992, when the novel was written. While the book
tried to think through the premise coldly and objectively, the filmed version
of Children of Men is basically a hysterical, shrieking allegory to
2006. Instead of the populace trying to cope with boredom in
a quietly despairing world, the urban streets have degenerated into
war zones. The British government is basically a fictionalized
version of the Bush administration, trying to fortify the
country's borders, criminalizing immigration, and clamping down on
civil rights in general. Illegal immigrants are placed in cages and
stripped of their dignity, ala Guantanamo. In reaction to this,
various groups of fugitives and sympathizers are continually engaged in
armed insurrection against the government.
You know, pretty much the opposite of what
would really happen if there were no young men in the world.
Oh, well, I suppose a cerebral, academic
approach to the premise wouldn't have done anything at the box
office. It would have ended up in the arthouses like the
similarly-themed Canadian film Last Night. In order to fill the
seats, the film needed to add passion, visceral impact and, of course, plenty
of explosions. That it did.
thirty minutes or so of this film basically consist of Clive Owen
being nearly shot in combat, nearly shot face-to-face, nearly killed
in explosions, nearly hit by shrapnel, nearly crushed by rubble, and
so forth. That sounds trite, and I suppose it is in a sense, but
it's also downright harrowing. The film creates a wartime
environment as realistic as the opening scenes of Saving Private
Ryan or Enemy at the Gates. The scene was shot in a single take with
a hand-held camera to create Owen's own P.O.V. It's so effective
that if you're lost in the movie you may well find yourself
flinching and ducking, and getting as involved in the action as you
would be if you were playing a particularly absorbing video game and
controlling Owen yourself.
the world-weary guy who pretends not to give a crap about anything,
but deep inside is a man of absolute integrity who harbors great
idealism, and merely uses cynicism to cover up the pain of
disillusion. You know, the usual bullshit. It's the familiar
"neo-Bogart with a British accent" routine that has become Owen's
stock in trade. Of course one must concede that he does this
character well. He ought to. He's had plenty of practice. The thing
I like about Owen's take on the character in Children of Men is that
he's basically not a bad-ass in any way. He differs from Bogart in
that you always knew if you got into a fair fight with a Bogie
anti-hero, he'd calmly kick your ass without breaking a sweat.
Owen's character, on the other hand, would calmly get his ass
kicked. As he proceeds through the war zone at the end, you can tell
that he's scared witless. He's flinching. He's retreating. He's
closing his eyes. His hands are shaking, He doesn't shriek like a
girly man, and he probably doesn't pee his pants, but you can
believe that he might, and he does react the way any unarmed
non-combatant would really do if trapped in an urban military battle
where both sides are heavily armed and assume him to be an enemy.
Why doesn't he run away? He manages to get the job done, not out of
any superhuman effort, but simply by continuing to move forward
because he doesn't really have any other good alternative.
The central story of the film was not in the
book at all. Owen plays a bureaucrat who has abandoned his ideals, at
least superficially, until he is contacted by his ex-lover (Julianne
Moore) to do the most important thing any man will ever be asked to do
in this dystopic future world. He has to figure out a way to get the
one and only pregnant woman in the world - from a pregnancy which came
out of nowhere after 18 years of human infertility - into the hands of
some apolitical scientists and medical professionals who wander the
seas on a ship which has been converted to a floating laboratory. This
is mankind's last hope, and he must do this before she can be killed
in street combat or captured by one of the warring factions and used
for their political purposes.
I ended up
liking this film very much, but if you want to follow me on that
path you will have to give the script a lot of latitude. While Lady
James tried to think through every detail of what her imaginary
world would be like, the authors of this film have not sacrificed
one moment in trying to make the film make sense. You could spend
the entire film picking at the assumptions they got wrong, the
things they forgot, and the internal inconsistencies of the plot.
You can fly jumbo jets through the plot holes. I very often focus on
inconsistencies, and they irritate me, so this film irritated the
hell out of me for a long time, but the filmmaking is so good that I
finally gave in and decided to just accept it.
In other words, while this is not the film that
might have been made from the book, it is also a very good one. Just
very good, not great.
Alfonso Cuaron is yet another victim of the "auteur mentality." Back
in the sixties or seventies, some intellectuals decided that a truly
great director must also be the screenwriter. This made some sense
in the context of rebellion against a studio system in which
directors were merely hired hands, but now that the studio system is
dead, directors are crippled by the principle. A great director can
create dozens of brilliant films in his lifetime, but not if he does
his own writing. How many people can you name who have more than one
good story to tell? Well, let's see, there was Dickens, and ... um
..... See what I mean? A good director is always a co-author even
when he works with somebody else's screenplay. Even if he never
changes a word of dialogue, he is adding an interpretation to every
scene and essentially re-writing it. Even the mere act of selecting
which script to film is part of the authorship process. And if he
does make changes to the script, fine. The final product is his
vision. But directors should really focus on direction, and should
leave writing to writers. By believing that they should be authors,
a lot of promising young directors have hurt their own careers. That
is precisely what happened here. If I were to evaluate this film on
the basis of the direction, this would be a glowing review. The
filmmaking techniques and the details coordinated in that process
are absolutely magnificent, as good as any film you have ever seen.
There is one car chase shot with a single
camera take which involved innumerable actors, explosions, other
vehicles, fires, gunshots, and stunts, all performed in real time.
The camera crew was placed on the roof of a specially modified car
and the camera itself was rigged to function as a handheld camera
and constantly change its point of view. In the final battle scene
which I mentioned above, also shot in one take, Cuaron not only
managed to rival Spielberg and Annaud for the most harrowing
battlefield scenes ever filmed, but he even managed to top
Tarkovsky's "Tatar invasion" scene in Andrei Rublev for the title of
"most complicated continuous one-camera take in a major movie." He
co-ordinated hundreds or maybe thousands of actors, tanks,
high-powered rifle shots, and other elements of urban warfare as the
hand-held camera follows Clive Owen through a couple hundred of
yards of city streets, up a flight of stairs, through a building
under heavy assault, down the stairs again. And all while the actors
continue to deliver dialogue.
Brilliant stuff! Truly brilliant. Based solely on the sheer
virtuosity of the photography, you have to see this movie if you
love film, or even if you are interested in filmmaking. I would be
surprised (and shocked) if three-time Oscar nominee Emmanuel Lubezki
is not nominated yet again for Best Cinematography.
Unfortunately, the script is just not that good. Alfonso is yet
another great director whose success is limited by his desire to hire a
mediocre scriptwriter - himself.
Runner is a great film because Ridley Scott did exactly what he was
supposed to do: he found the right concept, hired the right
screenwriters to do the writing. He brought it all together. That's what Cuaron should have
done here. He and Lubezki should have concentrated on the vision,
and left the thinking and the dialogue to someone else. If he had developed Lady James's book the way Ridley
developed Phil Dick's, Children of Men would be a flat-out
masterpiece. As is, it's a very good movie that should have been so
Wow. All that writing for this
one little picture (and
zipped .wmv) of Clair-Hope Ashitey. (Although it is a nice one.)
Gabrielle is a lifeless, sterile, icy French talkfest which was
adapted to the screen from The Return, a novella by Joseph Conrad.
Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Gregory play a prosperous
bourgeois couple who seem to have a good relationship within a good life, at
least superficially. They are actually just going through the motions, as if
performing in a ballet. Conrad himself summed it up in this way: "'They skimmed over the surface of life hand in hand, in a pure and frosty
atmosphere, like two skillful skaters ... disdainfully ignoring ... the hidden
stream of life, profound and unfrozen." This choreographed routine is
disrupted when the husband suddenly discovers that he has misunderstood everything about his
wife's feelings for him. It comes as a complete surprise to him one day when his
life leaves him a letter saying that she is leaving him for another man. It is
equally surprising when she shows up at home four hours later, saying "never
mind." Although she chose not to leave, the incident, and the repressed feelings
it exposed, has a profound impact upon their relationship. As you might well
The dramatic tension, if that is the right word here, derives
from the ultimate outcome of their reconciliation. Will he choose to maintain
appearances knowing that his wife doesn't care for him? Will she make an effort
to make things work, or will she just go through the motions of being there?
Will they try to understand each other better now and become more aware of one
another's emotional needs, or will their relationship be doomed by the knowledge
of years of deception?
Although the director made some effort to open the film up
with some flashbacks and party scenes, and some interaction with household
servants, the story plays out essentially as a two-character stage play, and the
only essential elements of the drama consist of two passionless people
conversing in a single confined space. The film is handsome, and undoubtedly has
truths to tell, but the leaden atmosphere, too-subtle reliance on nuances and
glances, and the entire too-constricted concept will quickly put you to
sleep unless you are a truly devoted member of the turtleneck set.
THIRD PARTY VIDEOS:
Immoral Tales: Part 1. The first of a series of film clips from
Walerian Borowczyk's famous multi-story milestone in the history of Euro-sleaze.
Here's Charlotte Alexandra (Zipped
Kirsten Dunst hasn't done any
meaningful nudity in her career, but she
did play a stripper in Luckytown! (Zipped
BEST NUDE SCENES of 2006:
Balloting is finished
Catch the deluxe version of Other Crap in real time, with all the bells and whistles, here.
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
DEAD CALM (1989)
Billy Zane's original sinking ship film, the first of four such.
Dead Calm (1989) is a terror-at-sea story. Nicole Kidman is on her way to
pick up her naval officer husband at the train depot when she crashes her car,
killing their infant son. Cut to a yacht somewhere in the Pacific in dead
calm, where husband Sam Neill us trying to help her get over the tragedy. They
spot another boat, obviously in trouble, and Billy Zane shows up in a dinghy
with a tale of food poison and a damaged boat. Sam doesn't believe him so,
with Zane napping, he checks out the other boat himself, and discovers that it
was the scene of a mass murder. Neill rows as fast as he can to his boat, but
is too late, and finds that Zane has taken off with his boat, his wife, and
even his dog. Neill must try to repair the sinking boat and give chase, while
Nicole tries to figure out how to gain the upper hand.
The tension is mostly there, although there are lapses in logic.
Bottom line, it is a good enough thriller.
- Nicole Kidman shows her right breast and buns.
- IMDb readers say 6.9,
- It won several Australian Film Institute awards in technical areas.
- Ebert awarded three stars.
The Time Machine goes back to 1990 for "The Hot Spot."
The luscious topless Jennifer Connelly.
Jennifer with a likewise topless Debra Cole.
We haven't tied any body up in a few days so we dropped in on 1970's
"Blood Castle" and a tied up and stretched out topless
A sample cap and
2 crappy zipped .wmv clips.
Notes and collages
The Supernatural Ladies
...this is the beginning of a new collage series: "The
This film about witchcraft, "Spellbinder," has one of the sweetest
(If you like unexpected endings I also recommend the films "No Way
Out" and "Witness for the Prosecution.")
Open Water 2: Adrift
A quartet of old high school friends reunite in Mexico for a birthday
weekend on a luxury yacht, with a girlfriend, a husband, and a baby
daughter in tow. Soon all six adults are in the open water for a quick
dip - even severely aquaphobic Amy (Susan May Pratt), pushed in as a
prank by their host Dan (Eric Dane) - but nobody had thought first to
lower the boat's ladder, and the slippery hull proves impossible to
climb. They must contend with the freezing water, cramps, dehydration,
exhaustion, and the audible crying of baby Sara on board, not to mention
each other, as they confront their own hidden strengths and weaknesses
in a life-and-death struggle to keep their heads above water.
Christine Spasojevic and Dawn Frendo provide real nudity, but far from
Susan May Pratt, Ali Hillis and Cameron Richardson show various amounts
of skin, but they cover the good parts with other body parts or by
The latest celebrity to join the
limousine snatch club: the UK's
Antonella Costa in this year's Today and Tomorrow
Pat's comments in yellow...
Wednesday on "The View," Rosie O'Donnell blasted Donald Trump for giving Miss
USA Tara Conner a second chance, calling the pageant a model search in which
women say they want to end world hunger and then go do some crack. She called
Trump a "snake-oil salesman" who went bankrupt ; got ahead thanks to his dad's
money; and left his wife, had affairs and now acts as a moral compass for young
girls, ending, "Donald, sit and spin, my friend." Trump replied with a long
diatribe on "The Insider," saying he's never gone bankrupt and he'll enjoy suing
her and taking "lots of money" from "her fat-ass pockets." Trump called her
crude, ignorant, unattractive, chubby and a big loser whose talk show and
magazine failed; then he threatened to send one of his friends to steal her
girlfriend, which he said would be easy if she had any other choice.
* Watching these two go at it is like trying to decide
whether to root for
Godzilla or Mothra.
No sooner did wild child Miss USA Tara Conner get a second chance and rehab than
another beauty queen is in trouble. Some raunchy photos have emerged of Miss
Nevada Katie Rees, who will compete in Donald's Trump's Miss USA pageant in the
spring. In the photos, taken at a party in Florida before she was crowned, Rees
is seen kissing other young women, simulating oral sex with women and a man,
exposing her breasts and dropping her pants to show the camera her thong-clad
bottom. It's unclear what the repercussions might be.
* First of all, I think we know who Miss Congeniality
The Associated Press reports that in Spain, a traditional Nativity figure is
growing more popular and increasingly appearing on mantels and in yards. It's
"El Caganer," which is Catalan for "the great defecator." He's a peasant
squatting behind a rock near the manger with his pants down. The figure goes
back to 17th century farmers, who associated defecation with health and
fertility. It's inspired holiday sweets shaped like feces, and a Christmas Eve
tradition in which children beat a hollow log full of gifts, singing a song that
urges it to defecate presents out the other end.
* They're not good presents; just a lot of crap.