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Oakland, CA

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Summer in the Cinema. Posted on 07/11/2002.

A couple days ago I saw SUNSHINE STATE, and good Lord if that wasn't a breath of fresh air in what has proven for me to be a stale cinematic season. Clocking in at 152 minutes, you never feel that the movie is too long or dragging on--it's chock full of vignettes, soliloquies, and interplay that keeps it quite lively. Great acting and good dialogue go a long way--there's not much plot here, but it doesn't really matter. Sayles is great at capturing characters in transitional moments of their lives, and again and again we watch as people try to let go from a burdensome past and move on.

I was particular pleased with this flick after having seen MINORITY REPORT, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, and INSOMNIA, each of which felt worn out shortly after FADE IN:. They're all chase movies, which might be part of the problem -- the plot, such as it is, moves forward until whatever foregone conclusion (bad guy dies, good guy goes free) occurs. My problem isn't with chase films, though (a genre I'm actually a sucker for). It's not with formulaic plots, either--they're the bread and butter of Hollywood. It's with the lack of deftness in the execution, such that when you watch these films, you feel like you're on a ride at an amusement park, inexorably lurching forward from point to point. There's no subtlety, no story or characterization offered to provide a meaningful narrative to the chase... Just motion from point A to B to C etc etc.

6 comments so far. Add a comment.

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See the original version of "Insomnia," in Danish and Swedish with subtitles, starring Stellan Skarsgard. It's great.
Posted by Anne @ 07/11/2002 08:07 AM PST [link to this comment]

Any movie where I can't predict where it's going gets extra points from me. Sayles is usually very good in that way. There's no stunning revelations in Sunshine State as there were in Lone Star, but I certainly enjoyed it. (Poster isn't that good, though.)
Posted by Anita Rowland @ 07/11/2002 08:23 AM PST [link to this comment]

I still remember the men walking down the railroad tracks in "Matewan." Futility personified. Ain't that Dilbert but old?
Posted by Whit Andrews @ 07/12/2002 09:57 PM PST [link to this comment]

I agaree with your views on Bourne and Minority both realy disappointing movies. But in defense of the Bourne Identity I am going to drag up that old standby comment "The Book is So Much Better." Sadly for me I saw the movie before reading the book. It has so many twists turns and real empathy for the characters I can not put the damn thing down.
If you relly want to be ripped off at the movies go and see MIB 2 this is just a retelling of the first story.
Posted by Kevin @ 07/14/2002 08:47 PM PST [link to this comment]

Yeah. What Peter said. But, although films can be formulaic, that doesn't mean the lead character isn't allowed to think. The protagonist in these movies is getting bounced around by his environment, and not really doing anything himself. At least in BOURNE he had the excuse of amnesia -- when you have no information to work from, it makes more sense to flounder around a while.

Whereas MINORITY REPORT is a rehash of, say, THE FUGITIVE, except there's lots of futuristic premise and blue-tinted film to distract you from the thin story. When Tom Cruise is so crucified to the plot that he can't rationally consider the main plot catalyst, the movie loses me right there in the first act. It suggests that maybe _I_ shouldn't be thinking either, which is a big turnoff for me (though, I reckon, not for critics who use the term "roller-coaster ride").

Mamet wrote a piece for the NY Times today. He also has no problem with formula. It's a given that, given A, we'll get to B, cause it's a divine formula, but he's interested in what happens along the way, though he said it better. He said bad movies celebrate not the divine, but the ability of the uninspired to ape the divine. Bad movies are idolatry.
Posted by Trav @ 07/15/2002 03:59 PM PST [link to this comment]

Posted by BJMe @ 07/15/2002 09:54 PM PST [link to this comment]

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