Sunday, February 25, 2007


Last night Dara and I shared in viewing one of tonight's Oscar nominated Best Pictures, Babel. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Kôji Yakusho, and Gael García Bernal, this multi-narrative drama completes his "death trilogy," which also consists of the critically acclaimed Amores Perros and 21 Grams. In this film, the narrative is woven together with intense character portaits taking place in Morocco, Japan and along the border of the United States and Mexico. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama, and has also been nominated for 7 Academy Awards this evening, including Best Picture and Best Director.

We were both struck early with how somber and apparently political the film's constructive elements play out. There is no mistaking the messages conveyed in this film, but discussing them was no less challenging or rewarding. Inevitably, our conversation returned to the themes linking the characters, and by token the humanity of all. The distance between experience, empathy, cultural mores, sense of security, sense of purpose, perception of events, perception of self, interpretation of media, the barriers of language, the call to duty, the socio-political significance of ethical action, the platonic absolutes of truth and beauty - all of these forces align and invite the viewer to ponder, "Why Babel - What does that mean?"

The performances (save those of the perhaps deliberately uninteresting Pitt and Blanchett) are brilliant. The editing, pacing and narrative construction are spectacular. The cinematography is appropriately arid and stifling. And finally, the score (which undoubtedly should garner an Oscar) unites the entirety. It's one of those films that I wouldn't see again - and that's a compliment, really.

4 out of 5 stars

Monday, February 12, 2007

March's Film Discussion

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a 2004 romance film by director Michel Gondry. The film employs equal parts of science fiction and philosophical inquiry to explore the nature of memory and love. In addition to winning an Academy Award, the film won praise from critics and has developed a cult following.

The screenplay is by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), who worked on the story with Gondry and Pierre Bismuth, a French performance artist. The film stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet and features David Cross, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson and Elijah Wood. The movie's title is taken from the poem "Eloisa to Abelard" by Alexander Pope.

View the trailer:

A Dozen Recommendations Say...

The movie to see this Oscar season is Pan's Labyrinth. It's an animated story (but not for kids!) of a young girl who travels with her pregnant mother to live with her mother's new husband in a rural area up North in Spain, 1944, after Franco's victory. The girl lives in an imaginary world of her own creation and faces the real world with much chagrin. Fascist repression towards the end of World War II (1944) is at its height in rural Spain as the girl must come to terms with that through a fable of her own.